Thursday, 25 January 2018


This weekend is the Great British Garden Birdwatch 
so get counting.

One of the arts of wildlife photography lies in good timing!

Whilst much pecking and feeding goes on above, blackbirds, chaffinches, bramblings
 and our resident mice scavenge on the ground.

Meanwhile above their heads we have a plethora (like that word) of visitors.
 Bullfinches and Greenfinches

 House Sparrows and Cock Chaffinches

Starlings and Goldfinches

 Woodpeckers and more Goldfinches

Hen Chaffinches and Siskins

Blue Tits and Great Tits

Tree Sparrows and Nuthatches

And then of course the dreaded Grey Squirrel, not to mention Pheasants and Moorhen and Jays and Magpies and so on.

So to other visitors at or near the feeders -

Wood Pigeons and Linnets

Robins and Rabbits

Pheasants of both gender 

Thrushes and Jays

Foxes and Rats

Even big toads.

So to the pond - no, enough! I hear. (And what about the videos of Badgers and Deer and so on.)

And the digging over and weeding and compost spreading goes on, when I can . . . 

Thursday, 18 January 2018


Before the sweet bit a little comment on the joys of the garden and otherwise - watching a flock of long tailed tits on the feeders, standing by the cutting bed admiring my work having weeded and prepared it - versus doing it. 

Marmalade made, 

rhubarb and ginger jam with the last of the frozen rhubarb done. 
As regards Sadie's recipe for marmalade here it is though I did give it a while back, enough when done to last a year -

9 Seville (bitter) oranges, one sweet one and a couple of lemons, squeeze out juice, put pips etc into muslin bag, put peel and pith through a mincer. Shove the lot into a big jam pan with bag of bits hanging in it. Leave 24 hours.
Bring to boil and simmer till ring soft - say a couple of hours.
Add 8 pounds sugar (I warm it in the bottom range oven first) and stir over low heat till all sugar dissolved, Boil hard for 10 minutes and begin testing by taking off heat and putting a small spoonful on plate chilled in fridge. Push with finger and when ripples - done. You may need to repeat this a few times if not yet ready, boiling for a minute or two and then testing again.
You may need to do it in 2 batches depending on pan size. 
Put into hot jars and seal, label and eat.
(Actually I left out the sweet orange this year as an experiment.)

Just been out cutting back the buddleia around the septic tank for something to do - too early really - should be left to end February or March. Snowdrops continue to come.

Then I cut away the Miscanthus, not the Stipa, and I know all this is early but I have to be ready for moving the rose bed and so on.

The photo below shows the bed between the two paths that will have to be cleared to give the builders access when they come - not yet done so still scruffy. The self sown alchemilla can go in the woodland edge or somewhere.

When we arrive at our back door - the one at the side of the house, not the front door which is at the back, we are now assailed by the perfume from the winter flowering sarcococcus.

And the dawn still reminds us that it is only January and winter has a distance to travel. You can just make out rooks flying behind the trees after being fed by the ladies with the horses in the paddock next door.

And so to the campaign to eradicate alien grey squirrels and preserve the reds. This involves trapping and killing the greys (who breed like rabbits?) It is all a bit tough on the greys who were brought to the country in the second half of the 1800s and then there is a part of me that finds it hard to kill. (Just as well as I used to be a doctor!) The greys are bigger, more aggressive and carry squirrel parapoxvirus virus which rarely kills a grey but to which the reds have little defence.
Well, I suppose men made the mess so . . . . 

Today I braved the bitter wind cutting in off the back field and put six new asparagus plants in the bed where old ones had gone.
Of course no shoots from them for a couple of years - but then!

Friday, 12 January 2018


Peeling three Bramleys from the shed for a bit of stewed apple and cinnamon I was reminded of my father who would always regard an apple as a challenge - get the peel off in one go without breaking it. As far as eating eating (as opposed to baking) apples go I eat the lot, skin, core, pips (they have a slight almondy taste).
I am also looking at a large bowl of Seville oranges waiting to be turned into marmalade.
  To move on - we have had a gardener visit, after eleven years some help is at hand (perhaps reluctantly by me).
  We talked about replenishing the slate chipping paths and moving the rose bed with a view to the new upsizing and new siting area. Terms acceptable and he is the son of parents who were at school with me. (I hope that does not put him off?) So I have been weeding and clearing the rose bed until my fingers go dead. It is not the coldness but when they come round that is painful. Some of the roses are surprisingly feeble, perhaps underfed in too shallow soil, that will be remedied and we will see if we can revive them.
  First snowdrops in an egg cup in the kitchen, first blood blister of the year from my secateurs on my thumb. Bulbs coming through everywhere. Winter still with us but Spring is nudging the garden.
  Going out this morning (Sunday) and the farmer with his big tractor has snapped off the post with the electric gate button. I can tell it was he by the tyre tracks. Not a word of sorry, not a thing - just plain unneighbourly. I have cobbled some sort of support with a post and wire but will have to get it repaired. I have considered sending the bill to the farm but it would not do much good. Sigh!
  Just been out beginning to cut back the roses before transplanting later in the year - early spring best?

  There are certain objects that have moved around with us for some years - the rhubarb forcing pot, alas no lid, bought for a pound at an auction, a big lump of quartz carried down a mountain forty years ago, a sundial that belonged to R's grandmother and a small stone trough that belonged to my mother.

The trough has a small drainage hole in the base which is blocked and I will need to clear before planting up. I like the effect of the moss that has grown on it.
There are still some errant plants in the garden like this passion flower which continues to bud up, not die back and the primroses by the stream.

To change subject - some birds like robins are very territorial but recently I have noticed cock chaffinches at it too.

So tidying and a dry day leads to potash production - well, a bonfire. (Still smouldering a day and a half later.) The ash will go on the blackcurrants and such.

Having a one-armed wife (wrong arm)(broken wrist) leads to all sorts of surprises - cooking, ironing (the mystery of ironing a shirt), cleaning and putting in earrings. 

Currently making Cottage Pie (the one with beef not lamb (Shepherds' Pie)) for the freezer.

  And now it is time to cook the smoked haddock.