Tuesday, 25 September 2012


The only problem with the Ark was the two rabbits, two grey squirrels, two slugs, two snails - you get what I mean.

On the other hand if it keeps on raining - well?

Our small stream is usually pretty dry by now.
It tumbles out of the wood through a bank of wild flowers - at this time of year especially wild angelica.

Apart from a very brief respite it has rained for 48 hours and is not due to stop before 5 a.m. in the morning. Being on a hill the house is okay but the garden is suffering. The grey poplar that fell over earlier in the year has broken its ties and has had to be pulled upright again and retied to its stakes. I did clear the watercress from the stream so the flood rushes through and off to bother someone else.

The small bridges are either washed away or under water. Leeks stand in puddle filled trenches and the lawns have to be forbidden territory.
Fortunately a friend came and left us some wonderful beetroot to add to my one root.
Consequently I have been making Borscht.

Recipe - Ingredients -
2 lb beetroot, large onion, medium potato, 2 oz butter, veg. stock 4 pints, cider vinegar 6 tablesp., (I like to add a couple of teasp. of Agnes Rose Raspberry Vinegar), Marmite 2 teasp., Salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.

Chop veg, fry onion in butter till transparent, add other veg and stock, bring to boil - 5 mins, simmer 1 hour (bottom oven of Aga), let cool, whizz in blender, add rest of ingredients (plenty salt and pepper), put in plastic pots and freeze.
You can freeze in plastic bags in square containers and then remove from the container. The soup can then be stacked in the freezer like bricks.

Talking of manure, this is the mountain in the paddock next to the house from where I can take free supplies. In fact the more I can take the more grateful they are.

I wonder how they managed in the Ark. Perhaps they threw it over the side?

They must have had the same dilemma and solution that the astronauts will have on the way to Mars. Recycle and grow veg from the stuff.
But on an Ark where there are 2 of everything?!


Thursday, 20 September 2012


The skies weep, my garden is a hankie.

And the rain it raineth,
still falls the rain,
it’s raining, its pouring,
the old man is snoring -
enough of the quotes
and I am told on good authority that I have been known to snore occasionally (every night!)

Giant Despair is at the door.
It has rained for 10 hours and is forecast to do so for another 24.
The lawns are waterlogged and unmown - 'Keep off the Grass' definitely applies - not that there is much grass left in many places, just moss, mud and reeds.

On a better note the blackcurrants, rhubarb and watercress (we cannot eat it because of the danger of flukes) have thrived,
all else is crop flop.
The asparagus failed, leeks have bolted, beetroot and parsnips would not germinate and, go away to Herefordshire for 5 days, and slugs, snails and caterpillars have stripped the sprouts and kale.
Wooden steps and fence posts rot and the boardwalk is unsafe - the BOG garden is superquaggy.
This is the worst summer I can remember - and it has been cold with far too little sunshine - figs and squashes - Ha!
We do have four damsons, eight plums, three apples, no pears, no greengages and no figs.
There is mildew on the purple prunus - so it looks pink, the leaves have fallen off many of the roses, three amelanchiers are dead and the oak in the lawn is turning early.

Weeds thrive, long grass is unstrimmed so bulbs are not being planted.

So I will make blackcurrant jam with fruit from the freezer - but I am on a slimming diet so cannot eat it!

Moan, moan, moan!

So only one cure - go to Avanti in Kirkby Lonsdale for lunch with wife, sister-in-law and her husband. (Must take a brolly).

Salad for me - (the chives have done well.) 
The wellies are at rest.

Sunday, 16 September 2012


We have been away enjoying some sunshine (it rained as we arrived back) (and is still raining) firstly in Herefordshire and then Oxford. The garden has been left to its own devices, and those of the grey squirrels.

In Oxford went to the Botanical Gardens where they are experimenting with meadows and prairie like planting. This looked interesting and great for wildlife.
There was also and aged Betula utilis var. jacquemontii. Now I know how big ours will get - but after we are gone.

Just as we were leaving a load of bulbs arrived - you know the cheap sack from the wholesalers - but they do well when naturalised. (It means that I cannot cut the grass there till July.)
This is a wonderful hideaway for frogs and toads and voles and mice. The voles and mice make tunnels at the soil level and have a network of highways where they can travel unseen by the kestrel.

Having been away and having had a little time to think - it was a little as we were staying with the grandchildren (and their parents) - big plans materialised. There will be a fence and gate here, steps there, part of the stream will be tamed, the lower pond will be let go and become bog (this frees me from of digging it out), divide and replant this and that, put Camassia bulbs in the woodland shade . . . .

Talking of septic tanks the experiment of planting buddleia to hide it has worked. We did one side first and now I have put rooted cuttings on the other side. It is serviced in early March so they will be cut back every year just before that. It does mean the plastic monstrosity will be on view for a few weeks before the new shoots come but the butterflies will love the flowers.

Going to the 
Botanical Gardens did make me
think about the uses of plants - not just medicinal ones. In the bed by the house where the soil is poor and dry (well, not so dry this year) grows Roseroot, an old favourite of my mother. The sap in the roots smells strongly of roses and can be used to make rosewater even if you do not have a rose in your garden.

Which brings me to horseradish, digging up some of the root, peeling it and grating it. You may think onions are tearful but you ain't cried nothing yet. It can be stored for the winter roast beef, to have with fish and so on.

It is also time to collect mint, chop it and store it - I do this in jars with vinegar. Then it can be used when needed with a little water and sugar for the mint sauce. You can put the leaves in a plastic bag and freeze them. Take the bag and crush the contents - they crumble in the hand. A plant can be dug up and kept through the winter on a kitchen windowsill or leaves can even be frozen in ice.
In fact freezing a small piece of lemon with a borage flower in a cube of ice is a great way to decorate you winter sloe gin and tonic.

The roses are heavy with hips. I suppose no one makes rose hip syrup now, just uses the insides as itching powder.

Time for a scratch.

Sunday, 9 September 2012


But slowly.
Go away for a while - and the grass is a bit longer, some new weeds grow, some flowers go over but the wild garden is unchanged in such a short time.

I have extracted the watercress from the top settling pond - built in a vain hope that the silt and mud washed down the stream would stay there and leave the bottom and larger pond unclogged. The last of the candelabra primulas have been dead-headed and the seed sown - best when fresh. I would like the whole hedge ditch full of them (sort of Harlow Carrish).
The land between our track and the field fence belongs to a local Town Trust and is rented to a local farmer. Though the lambs escape earlier in the year and dine on the grass, later a lot of it is taken over by thistles and nettles - but not all. One banking by an elder tree is covered in yarrow and harebells. I have been out with the sickle cutting down the nettles and thistles - but too late as usual - seed is set.

The House Martins are still returning to the nest for the night. This is above one of our bedroom windows and in the early morning, cup of tea in hand, I can sit in bed and watch them flying in and out. Yesterday I filled in their details for the BTO survey. Up to now they have always nested at a nearby house but last year they painted their walls and woodwork destroying the old nests. So a search was made for alternative accommodation and we were chosen.

On the path to the Wendy House we have an old log pile - this has been unused and is now some 7 years old - a wonderful habitat.

If the paper says once more that the heat wave will be soon over I shall scream. What heat wave. True we have had a little less rain and it has been warmer but heat wave?!
Even the pheasant has been bedraggled and birds have had to shelter where they can.

Now I am planning winter jobs - not just muck and digging but more the paths will need rechipping (is that a word?), some repairs will be needed to walkways and the stream needs revising. I will also have to think about drainage. (I would not have to if it had not rained so much this year.)

Plans are afoot for transplanting crocosmia thinnings onto wild bankings to keep grass down and for variety. When I dig up overgrown perennials I cannot just throw away the unwanted material - it goes somewhere - or other - a remote overgrown corner where suddenly the grass is topped by japenese anemones or sidalcea.

The sky, so blue this morning, is darkening again.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012


The garden I mean, not the gardener. He wound down about 66 years ago.

As I watch a coal tit take seed from the feeder outside my window (and probably burying it)(and forgetting where it is)(yes, they do that just like jays and squirrels) I note that the weather is set fair(ish) for the next few days.
R weeded, D planted 17 buddleias grown from cuttings on the top banking. There have been so few butterflies this year.
The coal tit is back, has chased off a chaffinch, and is throwing out any seed that is not perfect - until it finds one just right. No wonder the feeders empty so fast.

The winter broccoli is planted - for harvesting in early spring - yet the leaves on some of the raspberry canes are yellowing - put on lots of manure and stuff to make sure no mineral deficiency.

The wood has been quiet but this morning I heard the rooks - they have returned to the tall trees next door. (The Archers can go up on Lakey Hill again.) (English radio programme).

There is a sense of autumn in the air - some leaves are starting to turn, teasels are in seed (can tell by the goldfinches feeding on them).
The Magnolia grandiflora has not flowered again this summer and neither has the Eucryphia - which did last year.

This morning dug out a ditch by the copper beech hedge (young and growing) as the surrounding area is waterlogged - phew!

The raspberries are actually looking decidedly ill - leaves curling and yellowing. I think we have the virus. They may have to be dug up and burned and then new canes planted somewhere else. We love our raspberries but they may have to go. Now the dilemma - do we wait or get on with it?

The house martins are still returning to the nest though well fledged - a bit like children?

A huge box of cheap grade z daffs arrived today for planting under the grass in the bankings. I have tried the bulb planters but find the best way is to roll back a good turf, scatter and roll it back. The turf does need to be thick enough.

The forecast is dry so we need sun and wind to ease the wetness - in fact we need a dry three weeks at least - Ha! Ha!

I often end with time for a cuppa tea but as I am going out - time for a pint of Wainwright.