Friday, 30 December 2016


Starting at dawn here are three miserable images from the kitchen door, well, the first one is not so bad.

To move on to the garden where shapes are the thing - like this spreading cherry tree silhouette. 

There's a dead rat under the Magnolia stellata - a very long dead rat - shovel out and shift somewhere away from the house.
So how are we to come to terms with poseurs at the helm in both USA and Russia. There they are ranting away at one another and increasing nuclear arsenals and world instability when they should be getting together to engender world peace and saving the natural world.
Said my bit for the nil effect it will have.

Move on - it is Christmas, it is dark and gloomy outside albeit mild - 10C. Inside it is coloured lights, too much food (that is both inside the house and inside me), Mr Claus has been, the sherry and mince pie have been consumed (have, has?) and the carrot shows Rudolph's teeth marks. The presents are clustered under the tree, the grandchildren have opened their stockings. (They were told that they could wake etc when it was light enough to see the pond. Unfortunately with the ambient light in the sky this meant our grandson could see the pond at 3 am!)

And suddenly it is all over, all gone, the house quiet as a church woodlouse. R gave me a gardening book with lots of labour intensive ideas :-( .

This is not of now but an old photo I discovered - and not used before. I thought it would cheer us up in days of dreary winter.

We woke this morning (Tuesday) to skeins of geese flying east from the Duddon to Morecambe Bay, their cries always seem to call us to the window to watch.
Talking of looking, DNA is a funny thing - looking in the mirror this morning I was surprised to recognise the lower half of my face as that of my Great Grandfather at the same age!

So, after the gales, it is back to pick-up-sticks time again in the garden - ash trees are dreadful shedders of dead twigs.

Wednesday and a still, cold morning, woken before 6 by a parliament of tawny owls in the ash trees. Later the dawn was greeted by a mistle thrush - a harbinger of the new year to come.

Went for a walk across the River Leven at Greenodd and round by Mearness Farm (where they were shooting pigeons and pheasants). Coming back along the old disused railway the gorse was in full flower. 
(cyssan - O.E. - a kiss)

Gold gorse,
the kiss thorn,
with soft keels
and knives drawn,
spikes doused
in flaxen fire,
branches bound  
with barbed wire,

Gold gorse,
the wild whin,
one flower
and kissing’s in
but no bloom,
kissing’s out
and love drowns -
a kiss drought -

but kiss of life,
kiss of death,
saw, saying,
Kiss the rod?
Scourge the punner?
Kiss the daughter
of the gunner?

Gold gorse,
the crackling shrub
with brittle pods
and bodkin scrub,
with linnet nests
of woven grass
wrapped in shards
of broken glass.

Gold gorse -
paper of pins,
that’s the way
it all begins,
that’s the way
to love and bliss,
one flower -
one kiss.

Friday, 23 December 2016


Have a good Christmas/midwinter festival etc and a better New Year.

One thing I have always liked to do is to put a small vase of flowers from the garden on the Christmas table every year and this year we have the usual roses and so on but a lot of calendulas.

And we have the yellow rose Golden Showers plus the red rose we call the AndrewandPutzi Rose as they gave it to us.

To move on to gardening matters - by where the stream tumbles out of the wood and sometimes breaks its banks watercress has responded by carpeting the banking. I am not sure what to do about it if anything.

And we have two fatsias in the garden. The one by the oil tank looks healthy enough but the huge one by The Wendy House, though flowering well, left, is also not looking so good at the top, right. I think a little judicious pruning is in order.

The darkness is getting to us - light going low at 2pm and out by 4. I said to R it is time I won the lottery and we could have a place in New Zealand for the winter. She replied - that is all well and good but as I would not go what's the point. 
Perhaps we could fill the house with daylight bulbs instead?
So here is Christmas, trains and post on strike, war everywhere, goodwill to all men (and women of course)(in fact more to women)(just saved my bacon.)

The stream comes in from the bottom right, the arrow points to the new spring sending water both sides of the tree. This runs down to near the pond, here in winter. You would think that it would be pretty lifeless by now but there is life like this toad disappearing into the undergrowth. I was too slow to get a good shot.

 There is red as well as yellow in the garden and from the garden. The quince is starting to flower - the whole thing is crazy - who knows what season brings what, is this global warming, just a slight variation on normal or what?

And then I get up and blood is leaking into the sky over the bay, shepherds have their warning. 

Then move on a day or two and thick cold fog comes top from the bay which never really clears. Time seems to stand still - the garden waiting for me - to do something!

I have just been out top get logs and sticks for the fire and was greeted by a high pitched din. I am glad I do not live next door - their trees were crowned by over a thousand starlings in full chatter. For many years starlings have been scarce but this year they seem to have made a resurgence, at least here.

Friday, 16 December 2016


Brock is back, well it might be Mrs Brock, can't tell from the night video.

Poem - not one of mine - Anon. wrote it -

It's dogs' delight to bark and bite
and little birds to sing
and if you sit on a red-hot brick
it's a sign of an early spring.

And the world is crazy - it is early December and the snowdrops are pushing up through the leaf litter, daffodils under the magnolia. At this moment, outside my window, the cock pheasant is searching for seeds dropped from the feeders on the shed - blue, great and coal tits hard at work with finches - gold, green and chaffinches pushing their way in. A buzzard is crying in the sky. Last night the tawny owls were hooting through the darkness. And I have just heard that there is a flock of over a hundred waxwings down in the town. Yes we get fieldfares, redwings and starlings - but as yet no waxwings.

There is still colour in the garden especially in the grasses like the stipa gigantea or the miscanthus. The now dead grasses rustle in the breezes. Another three months and then time to cut ethan down and begin again.

There is colour in leaves too - the geranium on the left and the strawberries on the right as the green chlorophyll disappears.
Neither were planted for this purpose but now we have a bonus lighting up a drab time of year.

Some shrubs, too, are doing well - the beech hedge on the left, of course, and the Cotinus on the right. The beech will keep its leaves through the winter.

Even the dying agapanthus leaves are a blast of yellow.

And finally the honesty seed heads, left where they grew rather than taken in and sprayed with gold paint for Christmas light up a dark corner near the bay trees.

All in all there is much still to see - if one bothers to go out and look.

Have just trimmed beech hedge, cut back vicious Rambling Rector rose and put compost on asparagus and rhubarb beds. Despite a face mask got a bit of hedge in my eye - sore.
R hacking away at the dead plants clearing the rubbish.

And so to finish on a rather distorted pic from the inside of the Wendy House down by the pond where R creates her masterpieces.

Saturday, 10 December 2016


So to start with evening and a crescent moon, cold night ahead - that was last night. Today - out with the scythe and cutting the overgrown grass on the banking and alongside the stream - I only nicked myself once checking to see how sharp the blade was after sharpening. I should have raked the grass off and taken it to the compost but will have to do it tomorrow. Usual blood blister on my left hand.

Back to the useless rat trap - this pheasant cannot understand why it cannot get to the bait inside. 

I am making rhubarb and ginger jam with the frozen fruit from 2015 to try and make space in the big freezer. It is a bit of a fiddle what with muslin bags of ginger root and so on.
Then as I chopped the crystallised ginger I was reminded how much my father used to love eating it - and he has been gone nearly thirty years.

This morning there was a splendid sunrise over the bay and the Forest of Bowland. It was cold but rain is on its way and warmer weather.

A recipe?
3 lbs rhubarb and 3 lbs sugar in a bowl - stir up and leave overnight for the juices to come out. Put in jam pan.
Wrap 1 oz root ginger sliced in a muslin bag and hang in the mixture, add juice and grated peel of 3 lemons, simmer till reduced and thickened a bit.
Take out muslin bag, add 4oz chopped crystallised ginger, boil till thicker and stuff in hot jam jars.

Do not eat at bedtime as may keep you awake.

Made some bread too but R making butterscotch sauce (to go on ice cream and sticky toffee pudding)(interestingly sticky toffee pudding was invented by a Canadian I think!)(Not John Tovey).

All this has nothing to do with gardening - one labours on at this time of year trimming and tidying. The days of frost look to be over for a while which is a pity - I would much rather have a sharp sunny day than a dour dark dismal one when the lights in the house never go off and going outside is a chore rather than a pleasure.

Off to pick up windfall sticks and shove them in a heap in the wood for creatures to inhabit.

Now some call these bullrushes (are where the old top pond was by the hedge) but they are actually reedmace and do dry - except I keep forget to cut them.

Thought I would end with this pic across Morecambe Bay from Birkrigg to Heysham Nuclear Power Station - we can see it from the house. The bay is about 15 miles across, 23 km, and a haven for birds as the tide comes in and goes out at speed - in places faster than a galloping horse - hence the many drownings when it used to be the main way to get to us from the south. In the pic you can see some small spots on the lower left - these are shrimpers with their tractors!

You can also see that we are on a main aeroplane corridor by the contrails in the sky.


I can see thirty miles to Bowland -
imagine the million waders on the Bay.
Out there at low tide, shrimping,
you can hear conversations at Cark,
talk from Bardsea and Morecambe - 
but your own voice is dead,
smothered by the absorbent sand.
Under the shifting surface
coaches, horses and corpses lie,
caught by the race, trapped,
buried.  Even tractors sink,
ambushed by liquified sediment.

Out in the wet desert
fishermen go in pairs,
stretch nets across shallow rills,
rock for cockles - their boards
suck the shells to the surface.
Some still push hand-nets
through the water’s edge,
drown shrimps in air, boil them pink,
pick them at the kitchen table,
pack them in butter.  Eat,
make the cycle complete. 
In the Bay the tide slides on.

Sunday, 4 December 2016


Grey wagtail hunting on the lily pads, big black carrion crow sitting in the big ash watching me as I walk up the garden, chaffinch with a diseased foot under the feeders where the squirrel is stealing peanuts - it is all on the go today.
I put the camera on the useless plastic heron by the pond in an attempt to capture something other than a black cat or grey squirrel. In the end all I got was a black and white cat and myself doing a final light mow of the lawns.

Here is the result of some pruning - see the last blog - a light clip unlike what R the assassin does when she gets the shears in her hands.

Signs of frost everywhere - ice on the pond, roads slippery, colours in the crystals.

This is a mid morning shot from one of our bedroom windows before the lawns were tidied - blue frost in the shadows.

Of course the wildlife plods on, eating and surviving, though this robin better watch out or the rat will get it.

So the official winter is here - at least according to the Met Office - December begins 3 months of winter.
R is steadily cutting back dead stuff, the lawns are done for the duration, we are still having flowers in the house - mainly calendulas and roses. 
All in all the last two weeks have been very dry, only the dampness from frosts, no rain. Last year we were flooded everywhere - a storm called Desmond (at least they could have called it something more appropriate like Armageddon or Gomorrah!)

Just watched Now Voyager with Bette Davis - don't make weepies like that any more.
(And trap out for ratty. What I do if I catch him/her/both I don't know - lack the killer instinct.)(Probably just as well as I was a doctor.)
Actually came home and I had caught something in the trap - a robin!

Clearing old nasturtiums, it is always amazing how many seeds there are. These I save for next year but may just self sow.
Much to do as the weather forecast says rain is on its way for next Wednesday.

But for now cold night on the way - this was taken at 3.45 this afternoon.

Woodburner lit, central heating on, still have cold hands and feet.
Summer can't come soon enough.

Friday, 25 November 2016


The rain as stopped - it is hailing.

I have pruned back the rosemary - a travelling shrub. By that I mean that any branch bent low and touching the soil roots resulting in a spreading bush. Some of the prunings are now in the cutting bed, the rooted bits by one of the paths.

It is frosty and cold, still 5 apples on the tree, roses out. The light through the white birches is splendid (do not look at the scruffy overgrown stream in the foreground.)

I have trimmed back the willow around the compost heaps and dumped the lot on the bonfire - too late to light it now without dismantling it and rebuilding because of wee animals seeking shelter, even hibernating. (Wee! Must be my vague Scots blood.)

With age my eyesight is not what it was so R made this carrot cake to help me see in the dark. (Actually the made it for some church do and I did not get a bite.)

 The Great White Cherry is in fine autumn colour - a good buy - blossom in the spring and this in the autumn.

Even the leaves fallen on the ground are a delight. (Even if I have to remove them from the grass and paths (of course with my new blower).)

The cherry is not the only colour now with the beech hedge good too - and it will keep its leaves through the winter - but needs trimming - overdue.
Time to get out and do it (along with a thousand other jobs). It its not that I am lazy but I am sleeping about 10 hours a day at the moment. Perhaps I am in partial hibernation? Or perhaps I am running away from this mad world? D Trump seems to be back-peddling on his pre election promises, realises reality means he cannot do what he said. But in that case surely the election should be declared void as he got where he is on false pretences? Or is that just politics - a mixture of lies, half truths and power complexes.
If I played bridge I would be wanting to bid a grand slam in No Trumps. 

So to the bee in my bonnet.
We hear continually that the NHS, Police, care services, armed services, prisons etc etc etc are underfunded, that the country borrows trillions. Pardon me but does the not mean that we need to pay a little more tax to resolve this?
Of course this is politically unacceptable, I mean, the party in power might lose the next election.

Back to gardening - these lovely items are damsons and plums that got fungal infections and then dried out on the twigs. I would remove them but they are high up and, as R would say, I would be certain to fall off the ladder.
And after the hard frost, gales and rain, I stroll down the garden, watch the cock pheasant scurry into the undergrowth, and find the passion flower is blooming on the fence by the veg beds.
There are still small corners of heaven even though it is November.