Friday, 17 April 2015

Progress, at a price

The weather continues to be lovely and we continue to make progress on the landscaping.  LP did not get the job which he interviewed for last week, so for now we continue 'as normal' although he's applied for something else and I have a strong suspicion that this time he'll be successful.   Cutting the grass has become a priority because Daisy has, once again, reacted to something and the bare skin on her tummy was red, inflamed and very itchy.  We think it's buttercups so she is on a very low dose of steroid to calm things down and a herbal 'nutria-ceutical' which is mean to be anti-allergenic.  Whilst I'm sorry to behead the buttercups just as the bees are starting to forage, Daisy has to take priority.

So, onto the litany of "look at me, haven't we made good progress in the garden" which at present it feels like an endless refrain and I'm fed up with it.  I can't quite work out how to say this without sounding extraordinarily ungrateful and deserving of a good slap, which is why there's not been much on the blogging front for the last week or so.  I am thrilled with how, generally, the garden is shaping up (conveniently ignoring the Cottage Garden which is rapidly going feral!)  I am more than thrilled to be in such a fortunate position, and actually to have the time and resources to do all this.  But, it's now been seven endless years and I want it to be over.

I don't want to have a continual list of construction work that requires someone else who is bigger, stronger and fitter than me to actually implement.

All I want is to garden; to grow things, to tend our plants, to wander around and weed or dead-head, to plan what needs splitting, propagating, pruning.  But the price I must currently pay for all the landscaping progress is to struggle to find the time to do the fun stuff, although I am staying sane by telling myself that this is the last season (hopefully) we will be doing groundwork.  "Just keep telling yourself that, honey".

So, after a bit of childish belly-aching and whinging, what's happening at Bag End?

Well, I've planted out the first section of box hedging, I already love how it looks.  Apparently box responds well to a good seaweed feed every couple of weeks and doing so can keep the dreaded blight at bay - got to be worth a try.

I also moved far more logs than is probably good for me (or my shoulders).

We hopefully no longer have a drainage problem going from the nursery area to the Cottage Garden.  LP collected and moved a ton of "sub-base" which, when compacted, should give us a firm and water-permeable surface.  Eventually all our paths are going to be finished like this but this little section couldn't wait.

LP and I had a major clear-out of the area behind our shed where the compost bins used to be.   Daisy is included in this rubbish photo for scale - LP excavated around the edge of a huge tree stump.

The big tarp?  That's for tomorrow.

An extremely silly picture of Daisy is included because I love the way the light falls on her ear :-)

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Easter holiday

Including weekends, Management has had ten days off; I can't remember when he last had that long without being interrupted by work.  It's done us both a lot of good and although we didn't go away, it feels like we've had a proper break.  The first few days presented thick low cloud low - definitely inversion conditions - and typically we couldn't go walking.  Appointments with the "usual" Bag End procession of plumber, window fitter and goodness what else kept us at home so we cooked.  The freezer gained 14 portions of the best Chilli I've ever made (it would have been 16 but I've already had it twice!), the same amount of Cottage Pie, and a large quantity of Chickpea and Aubergine curry.

LP had been away over Easter but his route back enabled the collection of two more IBC tanks . . .

He came in on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday afternoon but this week his task was to help Management, not me. M. was extremely busy with his welding gear over the Bank Holiday, re-purposing a steel frame which had been fitted next to the house but turned out to be in the wrong place.

It is already filled with water (syphoned from the greenhouse tank) but will be connected to the adjacent downpipe.  Later in the year the bushes in the fruit cage will thank us for all this work :-}  Once the Clematis montana discovers there's additional 'trellis' to clamber over it won't be long before the tank is camouflaged a little.

M. then extended the metal frame next to the greenhouse to accommodate two tanks.  Last year one 1,000 litre tank was barely enough during a dry spell, and the surface area of the sheds and log store is more than enough to fill two IBCs.

Whilst they were in "metal mode", a casual comment from me was acted upon and the nursery area gained a small frame to support two ordinary water butts.  These will take the water from the greenhouse roof.  If the strawberry cage and cold frames need more water in the summer I can always bring a hose across from the two big tanks.

Easter was already looking like I'd received more gardening presents than half a dozen Christmases rolled up together but there was still one more surprise to come.  A neighbour was having some tree work done, and as is my way, I "just happened to wander round with Daisy" and asked, pretty please nicely, if there was a chance of any proper bark chip for the paths.  The answer was more than "yes" - the tree surgeon brought us a trailer of not bark chip but pure wood chippings, not a single leaf in it.  Later the same day he arrived with a trailer of logs - THREE TIMES.  The neighbour doesn't have a woodburner and was desperate to get rid of the timber.  Two leylandii, a similar size to the giants we got rid of, had been felled and there was a lot of wood!  Someone had asked if he could have "the small stuff" so we got everything else.  I had to force a couple of bottles of wine on our neighbour, and the tree surgeon had to be bullied into taking petrol money.

Whilst the boys were welding, I moved about two-thirds of the bark to refresh the path which had been washed away, and before LP left on Thursday, he and Management sorted the log pile for me.  I may never get a chance like this again, so I am going to use the straight lengths to finally finish the edging on the Big Pond, and to renew the path edging in the Coppice.

In the New Garden, I haven't been completely idle.  Last week LP raked the soil again, and I've moved paving slabs into roughly the right position to give us an idea as to whether this really is where we want the path.

It really has been a very Happy Easter :-)

Monday, 6 April 2015

That will do for now

A promise is a promise, but clearing all the photo back-log wasn't going to happen over Easter if I wanted to do anything else.  Looking at the pictures left to sort out, I realised that it wasn't going to take long to just focus on the garden ones.

So here goes:

An indication that our "big build" was just about over - two trailer loads of rubbish taken away.

LP doesn't mind using the angle grinder, so he cut metal plant supports to length for me.

Moving briskly to September, there was a lot of carpentry.  Some of it from LP, some of it from Patersons

October - more progress in the New Garden

Despite what seemed like endless rain, we had a good tidy-up in early November.

The remainder mostly feature Daisy and various walks, with a rare and occasional visit to the sewing machine.  I'll get to them next time it rains :-)

In the meantime, during one of the many sunny March days we've just enjoyed, Daisy perfected the art of sleeping sitting up :-}

Friday, 3 April 2015

I must be mad, stark staring bonkers ...

Catching up like this was never going to be easy, but it's the only way it will get done.  I'm more than halfway through now, slightly punch-drunk but really pleased to have made so much progress. 

Bag End Cam in the veg patch.

Papaver somniferum

Can't build a wall without foundations

Starting to build our wall

A break from building, time for some 'pretty stuff':-

Bag End birds

Floral stuff in the side garden

Pond watching


After the wildlife and horticulture interlude, we're back to heavy-duty stuff:-

I found I had already documented the next stages in "The Wall"

One very hot afternoon a fence was finished.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Wednesday's back-log blitz

Much, much time was spent yesterday just getting organised.  Hundreds of JPGs were renamed and sorted into date order.  For a while I thought about only processing those which related to stuff LP had done here but eventually I decided that wouldn't work.  I'll do all the catching up - which will make me feel great - and creating a sub-set for LP will naturally fall out of what is completed, so it's a win-win.

Planting asparagus
A short story about poultry poo
Squirrel visits

May saw huge progress with our 2014 'big project' - creating the "New Garden":

* An afternoon with an angle grinder

*   Writing about our new windows was hard - just like childbirth I'd managed to forget the pain and misery.  Those special memories are right back now though!

*   It was a joy to see the demolition of those horrible steps.

*   A couple of days later, we re-united the unbeatable 2011 team of Tipsy-Dipsy and Laa Laa.  Oh what fun we had . . . or rather, what fun they had whilst I stood around and took photographs as Part Two of the demolition took place.

*   After demolition there was excavation.  Goodness, we know how to have fun at weekends.

And that is quite enough for one day.  265 JPGs dealt with, only another 812 to go . . .

And finally, here's today's gratuitous Daisy-picture on a visit to Windermere last September with M's Mum.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

A small start

So why bother, some of these pictures are nearly a year old, what's the point?

Well the point is that first and foremost, the blog is my garden journal (with other stuff creeping in).  It's a public blog second and whilst I love the visitors and connections it gives me, even if no-one apart from Management ever looked at it, I would still maintain The View from Bag End.  It's going to be quite a bit of work over the next few days to get up-to-date but if I don't do this, in future years, I'm the one who will feel short-changed  over the missing months.

No-one else needs to feel they have to go and look at 'old stuff' but because these entries are too old to show up in Feedly or Bloglovin, then here's some links so that, if nothing else *I* can see what I've caught up with!


Red Squirrel

Cottage Garden in June

Fruit Cage

The weather - again

Daisy on Sale Fell

Despite all the garden work this month, which has been much more than we might have expected, and some fairly horrible weather on occasions, just to prove a Certain Small Person has not been neglected and is still getting out about about!

Nine days

I have just nine days in which to get all last year's photo back-log sorted, processed, and blog-ready . . .

There's only a few of them . . .

It goes like this:  the novelty of working for himself has worn off and LP applied for what he calls a 'proper job'.  Over the years I have given LP copies of all the garden photos which he proudly takes to family parties to show people what he's been up to.  The work he has done at Bag End is very relevant to the job application and I promised him that I would have all the photos sorted and up-to-date in time for an interview, should he be selected.

He's got an interview on 10th April.

So I've got nine days . . .

Nothing like a bit of pressure to make me get off my backside!  In truth it's absolutely the last thing I feel like doing right now but a promise is a promise and he's a good friend without whom I wouldn't have a garden. 

Expect an awful lot of blog updates over Easter :-) 

This little one has nothing to do with anything but I like the picture :}

Friday, 20 March 2015

Just a glimpse

Although it has been a good week in the garden it's been remarkably frustrating in other ways.  I don't want for much in my life, but I am desperate to see the Northern Lights for myself.  With a huge solar flare at the beginning of the week the likelihood of a good display was getting the sky-watching community more than a little excited.  The KP-index was almost off the scale and the sky seemed clear, so on Tuesday night I set off.  After packing the car with every camera in the house, every spare (fully charged) battery, every memory card I could lay my hands on, tripod, warm clothes and a couple of flasks of hot drink I headed north for our usual beach on the Solway Firth.

Long story short:  I arrived.  I sat and waited, and waited, and waited.  I wandered around and looked at 360ยบ of very dark sky.  I got increasingly freaked out about being in a pitch dark, isolated spot by myself (M. was in London, although he knew where I'd gone, and Daisy was at home) even though I knew perfectly well there was no-one around and absolutely no danger.

I came home around 1.30am.  What I probably should have done was sit in the garden.  What I did was come inside, talk to Daisy and look online ... to find jaw droppingly gob-smackingly beautiful images of the aurora taken at Whitehaven harbour - 10 miles south of here.  I don't know if I was too early, too late, or just plain unlucky.  I do know I was bloody tired the following morning.

Friday morning was the eclipse.  After two days of wall-to-wall sunshine we woke to thick cloud.  Daisy and I went for a short walk as the eclipse approached totality and although we couldn't see anything we certainly experienced it.  Lack of light, temperature dropped dramatically and the world just felt so different.

The astronomy Gods took pity on us a little later as the clouds parted briefly.  Using 'proper' safety glasses we were able to watch as the clouds came and went, and came again.  Towards the end I grabbed a camera and pointed it to roughly the right part of the sky.   Given I wasn't looking through the viewfinder I'm quite pleased.  It's not much but certainly better than nothing :-}


Thursday, 19 March 2015

To Do List

LP is back, thankfully, and on ‘light duties’ although what passes for ‘light’ with him would knock me out for a week, but he is (allegedly) an adult and capable of knowing how much he should be doing.  So, forbidden by me to shift soil, he was meant to be spending yesterday and today engaged mainly in carpentry tasks.

Finish edging on front of willow bed: ✔︎

Cut some extra re-bar for raised bed hoops: 

Finish emptying the trailer and put the remaining bark chip in the greenhouse, with enough to freshen up the path by the Top Pond:  ✔︎

Fix a timber edge to divide what will be our 'wild flower meadow' from the yew hedge ✔︎

So that was Wednesday.  He returned on Thursday morning in a particularly good mood, apparently having had no physical effects from the previous day's labour.  I thought he was going to build the small beds inside our fruit cage - he had other ideas.  Some days, it is best not to argue, although I did insist on lots of breaks.  Our meadow is a step closer . . . The strip on the left will be dug once we've set out a new path down the middle.

I haven’t been completely idle this week :-}  More seeds have been sown and the First Early potatoes are in pots.  I was going to leave it another week or so but the sprouts on “Swift” were definitely ready to be in soil.  Some are in the greenhouse for the earliest meal, the rest are outside with a little cover.

I did a little shopping. Firstly, Vinca to cover this small bed.  I was looking for spring-flowering heather but there was none to be had.  The Vinca might be even better - longer flowering season, really good for bees and will still create shelter for froglets as they leave the Top Pond.

And because, once again I didn’t sow seed in autumn, some beautiful looking Foxglove.  I grew Excelsior Mixed in the Coppice a couple of years ago and it was spectacular, fingers crossed these will perform as well.

And then I went back to the nursery and bought a significant quantity of box plants. I have a mad idea to create some box hedges (whilst praying we don't get the dreaded box blight) and maybe even put some topiary shapes in whilst we're about it.  If all these plant purchases seem extravagant, they're not.  For the past few years a local nursery (that's proper growing-plants-nursery, not a garden centre) has treated me as a 'pro' and not a regular, amateur gardener, and I get all my plants at wholesale.  This amounts to about a third of the cost of going to Dobbies, or Hayes, or somewhere with a huge overhead.  The range is often limited but the plants are generally tough and well-suited to our conditions.  It also means we've been able to afford to stock the garden much faster than we otherwise could have done.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

I never want to have to do this again

There are lessons to be learnt here.

For sometime now it has been fashionable not to straighten up the garden at the end of the year.  Apparently we’re meant to leave everything for ‘wildlife’.  That might be a good thing in an urban garden, but we have fields on two sides, log piles, ponds, untidy hedge bases and goodness knows what else, and we’ve definitely got a thriving and varied selection of wild things living in the garden.  With no chemicals and lots of sheltered places for hibernation I don’t think I need to leave all the knackered perennials until the following year.  I’ve never been intentionally fashionable in my life, but for the third year in a row I didn't manage to get the garden tidied up as Autumn turned to Winter.  For the third year in a row I’m starting the new season on the back foot and am already behind.

You would think I might have learnt my lesson the second time this happened, but the eternal optimist, I am always convinced there will be a decent spell of bright weather in January and I can do the cutting down and clearing up then . . . I may have finally learnt that 10 miles from the coast in West Cumbria I am not in charge - the weather is in charge (I may have mentioned this previously, it seems like the message is finally getting through!)

Falling out of love with the garden last summer and letting everything get on top of me didn’t help,  And this is why I have had spent an entire week clearing up the fruit cage.  Multiple sessions outside to the exclusion of all other {much more attractive} gardening tasks, including working on in the rain (hey, I was already wet and muddy, a bit more wasn't going to make any difference).   There are no ‘before’ photos because the horrible mess of the most profligate strawberry plants ever to grace a raised bed is not something I want to see again.  I adore the Marshmello plants which produce some of the best tasting fruit in the whole strawberry kingdom but they create runners like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

It's all been worth it though, each bed has had a feed of chicken pellets, a top dressing of peat and a mulch of composted bark, the fruit bushes are pruned and full of new buds and it won't be long before they are in leaf.

Once the paths have had a new covering* and additional “little beds’ built at the end of each row it will all be so smart I’ll not recognise the place:-}    Sadly, that will all have to wait.  I’m reliant on LP for all the heavy work and shifting of bulk supplies.  He’s poorly and we don’t know when he’ll be able to come back.

*  a decision has had to be made - the bark chip is rotting down far too fast and replacing it every couple of years is just too much work.  It looks like we'll be trying stones.  Oh goody, tons of stones to move . . .