Wednesday, 23 October 2013


This is the garden a week ago before the ash trees started snowing pale yellow leaves. It looks like high summer but you can see the first telltale leaf colouring on top of the cherry tree.
Now I do not have a blower, just a rake, though I have just pressure washed the paving around the house as I nearly went toe over tonsure on the slippery stone. Whilst washing away the debris I found it was an effective way of blasting away the fallen leaves.

Of course, this morning it had leafed again and I will now wait for the last ones to drop. Then they can be picked up and put in a large sack I have - to make leaf mould - a slow process but good for the soil.

Our dog has been nodding away in the gales (and rusting away) but seems to appreciate the pansies.
The pot is subplanted with bulbs and I now realise I have done the usual thing and ordered too many. Where to put them to advantage? Where to put them at all!
Add to that the 20 small box plants - Mmmm!

Our garden has hidden corners (apart from the grandchildren's den) where I can surreptitiously dump mowings without going all the way to the compost heap. There is one as shown concealed behind the flowering currant (the one adorned with a huge Rambling Rector rose) by the old well. The latter is capped and fenced in and so on to avoid anyone falling down it.

Apart from the stream and two small ponds there is plenty of water in the garden - it springs up all over the place after heavy rain.

You can see from the photo that not quite all of the scruff has been cleared. The dead brown things were wild angelica which seeds itself widely across the garden.

The weather remains very mild, no frost yet, and so the slugs are out clearing up the last of the courgettes - it has got to half for us half for them. The Cardoon shown below has only just ceased flowering but its heavy architectural flower heads are still standing - tomorrows gale might deal with that.
Nasturtiums flourish on and have not gone slimy from the cold, there are a few roses and cosmos on a cosmological scale.

Berries survive as the fieldfares and redwings are still absent.

Incidentally the BBC TV programme Autumnwatch is coming from Leighton Moss next week - not far way across the bay.
Yesterday went north to Carlisle and though they are but one and a half hours up country they were definitely more autumnal.

Ah! Yes - The Confession - I am a lazy gardener. Not an everyday with the Wellies on one. Plants that give ground cover, need little management are great. I know the great clear up is almost upon me, the great manuring, and am steeling myself for that but tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow and so on.

What Ho! Molesworth - can you not invent a garden machine like your fantastic lines machine?
What Ho! indeed - more of a Huh! at the moment.
Wot? Not heard of nigel molesworth the curse of st custard's, creation of geoffrey willans and ronald searle, every boy should have one, young or old.
After all nigel says boys are Whizz! (except his brother molesworth 2 and fotherington-thomas who are utterly wet and weedy.)

That beings me back to gardens, does it not - weeds, Huh!
Time for tea.

Sunday, 20 October 2013


In fact today is mainly Marrow and Ginger jam (preserve really as it does not set). Recipe later.

There are still flowers in the garden. As a photographer I know we used to say that the third week in October was the best for autumn colour but that has definitely changed over the last few years. Yes the bracken has turned but the trees are a week or two off yet. I would have said we have moved two weeks later - first week in November then.

The white Japanese anemones, right, are mostly over but still giving a lift to the flower beds as are the cosmos. 
It had been difficult to get into the garden because of heavy rain which makes the lawns a no go area. The stream is burbling loudly and full.

We are 120 metres up from sea level here and you would not think that would make a big difference but down by the bay they have almost 2 weeks less of winter at each end. We seem to often be just above the winter snow line here (which is a nuisance as I have a BMW with rear wheel drive and it is USELESS in icy conditions) (I have to use R's aged Toyota Yaris which is much better).

Now R has a thing about grasses. She does not like my Miscanthus and Stipa. Especially she does not like the wild wood millet which inhabits the banking by the stream.
We had the pendulous sedge by the small bridge near the pond - BEWARE! - it is a thug and not only very difficult to get rid of (impossible to dig up) but seeds itself all over the place as long as the ground is damp.

Back in a minute - just going to check on the jam . . 

Ow! Just picked up the jam pan without gloves on! 
It is not reducing as fast as I would like - need something between the cooler plate (where it boils) and the simmering oven where it doesn't (simmer much).

Oh! And no sign of ratty so either he has found pastures new, someone else has got him or he is just too clever for mere mortals like us.

Some plants seem to love the autumn - look at this lot below, taking over the back bed. They will have to be moved though I might retain as small piece there. 

However, that will be too big by this time next year. It is suffocating a rare berberis I got from Cally Gardens a few years ago - amazing place at Gatehouse of Fleet in Scotland. He travels the world hunting down new and unusual species. If you are anywhere near it is worth a visit.

Now, I know that is a stupid comment for my Russian and Kazakhstan readers but you never know. Anyway some of the plants may have come from your countries (though I think he often goes to China and the Far East).

And there is a thought - to someone in China surely, though we in Europe might be the west, is not the USA the east? And is Europe not the East to the USA and the Far East the west?

Or is it all to do with we British imposing our stuff on everyone else - including latitude 0 deg. at Greenwich.

It is about to rain on my waterproof trousers which are hanging on the washing line so I will have to rescue them.

So to a Recipe : -

Marrow and Ginger Jam (Preserve)

4 lb Marrow (overgrown courgette (zucchini)) after peeling and coring (keep some seeds for next year - wash and dry on kitchen paper and store in a paper envelope)
3 lb sugar
2 oz root ginger
3 tablespoons lemon juice.

You will notice I have gone back to non metric measurements so -
1 lb = 4.448 kg, there are 16 oz in a lb (don't ask me why), 1 tablespoon is near enough the same as USA and 15 ml. 
I note that 1 Roman quart is 136 ml!

Back to the recipe - Peel marrow and cube, pop in jam pan and cover with the sugar. Leave over night.
Next day stir up the mixture as the sugar may have got stuck to the bottom. Bash the root ginger with a hammer and tie in muslin. Suspend in jam pan. Add lemon juice and stir. Cook slowly till reduced to equivalent of 5 lbs. (How do I know that comes the cry?) Before you start take a 1 lb jam jar and empty 5 jars full into jam pan. Take wooden spoon and stand in pan. mark with pan surface level of water. You can use this to measure depth of jam and when down to marked level and syrupy it is ready.
This is not really as "jam" so it will not set just be thick and syrupy.

But yum!

It is raining again so I leave you with a few liquid jewels on alchemilla leaves.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013


Today we have going to the gym - we have had going to the gym - we are glad it is over.
Today I - well in a minute.
Today R went into the garden and picked flowers for I and L who are coming to lunch tomorrow.

The cosmos are still bursting with colour and fill vases in the house. They do have one snag and that is that they shed pollen as they age and make a bit of a mess of the surface they are on.

I trundled around the garden with my new little Sony camera (the canon G9 is dead) and admired the work of our strimmerer up in the woodland.

In the spring it will be a sea of red campion, woundwort, pignut, bulbs and so on

Oh! Yes, R has cut back the pink Japanese anemone so now I must go a-digging and reduce its domain.

And moi?
In order, I saw there was a big digger, tractor and trailer at the horses below the house. So I nipped down the track and he agreed to leave me a wonderful heap of well rotted manure.
Hooray! No 47 wheelbarrow journeys down the lane this year. I can pop out of the gate across the cattle grid and fill up as I wish.

Then the gym. After that lunch and a post prandial snooze before I went ditch digging by the copper beech hedge, plunging the spade into the turf and opening up the overgrown channel.
OW! Yarroo! I say chaps! I stuck my spade into a wasp's nest. I have not run so fast for years! Only two stings - one on my left hand and the other through my shirt on my tum but Ooooh! They hurt so much more than a bee sting.

So off to the garden centre for some foam I can spray at them from 3 metres away - I know, not the Buddhist thing but I want to dig that ditch without pain.

I bought a bag of bulb fibre as well for the Sarah Raven and J Parker orders have come. Hyacinths potted up in the famille vert bowl, lilies in  another pot and two deep red amaryllis - now all in a dark cupboard upstairs till mid November.

Finally I have made a load of green tomato chutney - it is in the Aga bottom simmering away at this moment. I hope to sell it at the Church Christmas Fair (if it is edible) and raise some money for R.

Recipe derived from Delia S. Great one Delia (up Norwich Football Club). (Or as I am a vague Liverpool supporter up Norwich FC.)

1 kg minced up green tomatoes
1 kg peeled and roughly chopped baking apples (including 3 off our Bramley)
about 800g peeled and chopped onions
Bung in a big pan and add 6 crushed garlic cloves, 0.5 kg raisins, 600g soft brown sugar, 0.5 tablespoon cayenne, 1 heaped dessertspoon ground ginger, 1.75 litres malt vinegar, 0.5 tablespoon salt.
Give it all a good stir.
Wrap up 25g of pickling spice in muslin and tie up - hang in pan.
bring to boil, simmer 3.5 hours stirring well especially at end.
It is done when thickened, almost all vinegar gone and spoon leaves a trail in surface.
Bottle into hot jars.


I hope you noticed the modern me full of decimals and metrics
It is probably a side effect of the wasp sting.

Hello! Bell has gone - time to stir and stir, 1 hour gone (and put in the salt as I have forgotten it).

R has just said I am a wimp - re wasp bite - she has just been bitten by an earwig!

Sunday, 13 October 2013


Before I get onto Ratty and related difficulties, I am sure you can stand the suspense, here is a photo taken from the kitchen doors looking south to Morecambe Bay over my pots. They are planted up with tulips and yellow pansies.
I went to the Manonthemarketstall, garden centres all over the place but yellow pansies I could not find. There were mixed selections and yellow with white blotches and small yellow but not big yellow ones - until - I went to get the groceries at the local Booth's supermarket and there they were outside in trays of 6, much cheaper than the garden centres too!
The pansies will flower all winter and spring - the yellow flowers contrasting well with the dark tulips I have chosen. 

A few crocks are put in the container bottom and then a 5 cm layer of compost. Then one layer of bulbs, a little more compost and a second layer of bulbs alternating with the one below. Finally there is topping up, planting of pansies and a good watering. We should have a splendid display in the spring. 

P. the strimmerer has been! Is coming back for half a day! 

However he is thinking of giving up gardening and going off to a rig off South America, 6 weeks on, 6 weeks off and some dosh. He could charge a lot more for his gardening but won't - well he has a bit as I insisted.

So, the place looks a lot tidier, at last.
One consequence of the strimming is that it has revealed many sticks fallen off the ash trees. Some have been collected and will be used as kindling for the wood burner, the rest went on the bonfire which I lit and fumigated next door with acrid smoke - whoops, sorry.

The leaves are falling like yellow snow and littering the lawns. The easiest way to collect them is to put the mower on a high setting and vacuum them up. They can then be put into a plastic sack with a few holes in the bottom and left to make leaf mould.

Before I rat on a bit - it is surprising how some plants, after virtually dying back after early flowering, do so again. The oriental poppy below is lighting up a dark corner.

All right - Ratty time.
Have we caught him (her) (it) ?
The clear answer is NO! and I have given up because, no matter how I tried to prevent it, robins got to the trap and two died!

Now I have done R's bidding and tried to catch cuddly Ratty but I will not sacrifice robins in the cause.

So there!

R took my biggest marrow to the Harvest Festival at her church - and brought it back - no one wanted it. So, I have bought 100 little jam jars and will make marrow and ginger jam for the church Christmas fair. I will also make some green tomato chutney as they sit in the drawer and remain stubbornly unred. Then there is still fruit from last year in the freezer so that will be a jam session though the only music will be on the CD player.

It is time to sort out the veg beds - the sweet peas have all but stopped flowering and the rest is winding down. Clear them, weed them, manure them and fork over, then leave to settle down. The winter frost will break up the soil. 

Time to get some kindling in and light the burner. It is getting more chilly.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013


So, you are all an tenterhooks (or asleep) for news of the hunt for Ratty. The trap was set - a giant mouse(rat)trap called Big Cheese. It was primed with Twix and we have caught something every day - mainly mice and a small robin caught by a wing feather which flew off when released.
This is NOT what I had intended. The beast is at large and has not been seen again. I suspect it is a wise rat and is not going to fall for a big mousetrap. After all perhaps it feels it deserves something grander.

I mean, if we manage to erase the human race from the earth then who else better suited to take over than rats. They have hands (yes, R, paws - I know) but they do have opposing thumbs, are omnivorous and are survivors. And they have a reputation for leaving a sinking ship so if we really mess up the earth they might build space ships and get the hell out as fast as possible. The dolphins might go too.

The tomatoes have been brought in and stuffed in a drawer with a banana. If they do not ripen it will be green chutney time again.

I have spent the afternoon potting up bulbs which are arriving in their cardboard boxes. Every year I say to myself, "Did I really order all these tulips?"
So far I have potted Florentine tulips, 4 sorts of dark tulips (go so well with orange ones and yellow pansies) - Muriel, Black Parrot, Ronaldo and Havran.
The orange are Princess Irene (on an offer) and I have some double patio tulips as an experiment.

The ranunculus and scented lilies (Casablanca, Muscadet and Regale) are still in the box and there are more to come - I know I ordered some very dark hyacinths which will be potted up for Christmas and flower in March.

Colour is splendid now with the leaves of the Euonymus elatus and Rhus (that I called a Sumac the other day) (which is also right R has said) exceptional. From top to bottom - Euonymus, Rhus and Liquidambar.

The pelargoniums have been repotted too so they can be brought in at the first sign of frost. Arctic winds expected later this week. 
Also, I hope, some dry weather and I can tidy the garden a bit, last mow and so on.

Just been listening to Don Maclean, The Everlys and The Big O - Ah! Nostalgia - Starry, Starry Nights! Ebony Eyes! In Dreams!
I need waking up so here we go with Howling Wolf and Spoonful, Smokestack Lightning and Evil.
Supper and then The Great British Bake Off on the TV - Wheeeee!

Saturday, 5 October 2013


And there it was on the peanut feeder, a beautiful brown rat - cue wobbly from R and off to the WC Farmer's shop for a trap - now baited with piece of Twix bar (personally I prefer Kit Kat but ain't got none) in a brick tunnel under feeder.

We have voles and wood mice, squirrels (grey) and rabbits but only recently dear ratty. It does not look at all like Samuel Whiskers. (has no jacket on).

Actually if you take this image of a rat and squeeze it a bit it begins to resemble a cuddly bunny. Sweet is it not?

R, I am sure, would find it preferable if the animal, Rattus Norvegicus, went home to Norway.
My nephew and I have just had a lateral conversation on Facebook pondering on images such as rats wearing helmets with horns and wielding giant hammers. Such is life!
(We all know that the Vikings never wore helmets with horns but, you must admit, a rat in such attire does have a certain piquancy, does it not?)

R has been out dead heading (not rats) and picking up sticks to use as kindling. I have mown a lawn or two but the place is a quagmire after yesterday's torrential rain.

Liverpool are leading 3-0 after 60 minutes - hooray!

I have received some bulbs, more to come, ordered seeds and seedlings to be delivered in April. No that is a really lazy thing to do but what the rat!

This is a Robin's Pincushion (also known as the Bedeguar Gall) caused by the tiny wasp Dipoloepsis rosea. It is a good 3 cm across (over and inch for the oldies) and turns up on wild roses.

Making soup - Cauliflower to come (not ours but as a big one's 50p in the supermarket how can one refuse.) However have made Borscht with veg from friend and used one of our two big marrows to make Marrow and Mint soup - really yummy.
Bananas are only about 15p each too but banana soup - ?

Being eternally hungry I really fancy a Twix - I wonder if I could substitute soup for it?

Also, now we are eating dairy free (nearly) and with a definite vegetarian bent there comes a time - we have gammon in the fridge - I admit it the temptation has got me (us) and one can eat only so many lentils and beans before exploding - with the desire for meat. Still on the soya though.

Mr Pheasant is looking in the window at me with a mournful expression. The feeder under which he like to forage is empty and he is plodding around in dismal circles.

Time to go out and top up the feeders.
Cannot let him go hungry.
Or Ratty
But that twix - ???
My mouth waters.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013


Nothing to do with Spirituals - (that was Sinner Man) - but P came today and I have help with the manky jobs.  (Actually in the murky past you could have found me lying on my back on a stage playing a very cheap organ and singing OSM where you gonna run to etc! Now I could get down but would need help to get up again!)

So, to start with a flop - the Chelsea flop, not the Chelsea Chop. Perhaps I did not chop enough? This is  Sedum spectabile but it grew so fast after the chop I need not have bothered.

So to success and not all fruit in the garden are fruity/veggy.

These are rose hips and the Rosa rubifolia is wonderful this year. The fruit are bending the branches down with their weight.

And so to a failure - of brain.  I thought I would prune the Conference pear back a little as I collided with one of the lower branches every time I passed with the mower - AND - I pruned off the branch bearing our only decent pear!  

And to success - the green tomatoes are ripening on the kitchen windowsill. The orchid is also flowering again - it sits on its north facing windowsill in the kitchen (nice and warm with the Aga) and thrives. In fact it is getting so tall we will have to lower the window to accommodate it. (Not serious).

And more success - we cannot cut the cut flowers fast enough. Fortunately a friend came for lunch (you know who thou ist) and she loves sweet peas so she got a gert bunch.

The cosmos have fallen over and the calendulas are setting seed. I love the white and deep pink cosmos but the pink ones leave me a bit unenthused. However as the cosmos were a gift as seedlings who am I to complain. 
I have just pulled up some more multi legged carrots and cut off another courgette but the dark hours are closing in and anything gathered from now on is a bonus.

And to more success -

Damsons, figs, courgette, butternut squash and MARROWS (big courgettes). We also have a secret dolphin shadow on the right.

A man came and attached a small round yellow arrow to a post by our fence to indicate where the bridleway runs, my small Canon camera died and I am reading poetry tomorrow in the library - National Poetry Day and the vague theme is water. I have made some borscht with beetroot from (you know who thou ist) and R's iPad is plinking every time a message arrives. Cawthwaite is getting tense with Gretchen's dad being trouble, Joe Pickett is freezing in Wyoming, my golf is dreadful, a wheel broke on my trolley and is held on with garden wire - so there you are, forget the BBC News, this is what is happening in the real world.

The garden is still, the chimes are silent, we are waiting for the rain that is moving north - not everything that comes from the south is good!
Whoops getting a bit provincial there.
Sorry(ish) (a bit) (ish), nay, I am a northern lad and real proud of it (ish) (a bit).