Ponds, pots and pensioner power

With the lockdown being lifted, the hub has decided that Mr and Mrs C snr are allowed around again, thank heavens, so I’ve got pensioner power to help me out again.  I’ve missed these guys so much over the last few months, and not just because I can exploit them for garden labour.

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So they came over and helped me out with a job that was taking me forever and a day.  Our wildlife pond dries out in the summer which is a shame, we’re hoping to fix that in the future, but for now it’s a bit of a wasteland during the hot months, and I’ve neglected it, and when I neglect things round here they go from looking lovely to weedy mess in about 25 minutes.  So weedy mess it was.  I’d cleared about half of it, then the cavalry arrived.  MrC snr whizzed about on the tractor mower, MrC himself got the strimmer out and tamed the bits that couldn’t be mowed without gravity kicking in and dumping the tractor into the pond and MrsC snr grabbed all the nettles so they could be turned into snacks for Louis.  What had been taking me weeks to complete all done and looking good in just a day

Whilst it’s great having the in-laws back, I’m still employing Levi to do the lawns and he does a fantastic job.  Last time he hit a wasps’ nest while mowing the large lawn at the front.  With admirable self-preservation, he was out of there in seconds after hitting it, like a startled gazelle, very impressed, I think he’ll go far that lad.

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It’s quite a large nest, but they’re not doing any harm, we’ll just have to remember to do that bit of the lawn last and very quickly in future.

Ponds have been a bit of a theme recently.  Not so long ago my Boss gave me a lift home and I showed her around the gardens (she is a fantastic horticulturalist , I don’t think there’s a question I’ve asked her {and I’ve asked a lot} that she’s not been able to answer).  She noticed that the fishpond was looking a bit weak and very kindly dug me up a load of plants from her pond to spruce it up a bit.  This spurred the hub on as well and we had a trip to the local garden centre (not the one I work at, we don’t do aquatics) and a pump and special pond plant pots were purchased.

I then cleaned out as much of the disgusting sludge from the bottom of the pond as I could, dear lord that smells so bad, it makes comfrey tea or sewage smell like roses, pulled out a good lot of pond weed, much of which was dying anyway and now we have a fountain!

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The water is still pretty green but hopefully the pump and the plants will clear that over the next few months.  It’s strange but previously, that garden (called the cat garden as that’s where we let Maggie roam when we first let her out) was a bit of dead space really, never used, but the addition of a water feature and somewhere to sit and now it’s a desirable place to be.  It still needs some work but such small things can make a huge difference in how a space feels.

The veggie plot is finally producing enough for each meal to usually contain at least one home grown ingredient, and this pot of fasolakia is entirely home grown produce (the beans were grown by MrC snr as the bloody pigeons ate all mine).   I realised when serving it I’d accidentally cooked vegan, so we made up for it by slathering plenty of butter on bread rolls to accompany it.

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I’ve also ventured out into pot planting, no, for the last time, I am NOT growing cannabis plants, anything that looks like a tomato plant, IS actually a tomato plant!

I’ve never really been one for plants in pots, they’re a lot of work, pots are expensive, and it never really occurred to me to bother having so much garden to play with.  However, I was able to purchase very cheaply from work lots of pots that were damaged in one way or another, so pot planting is now a thing for me….

I’ve also branched out a little in the tropicals, the pots in the conservatory are, seemingly all by themselves, multiplying……

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This pot I did plant a couple of years ago, I’m not really bothered by the flowers, I like the fleshy foliage of the sedums and then the razor sharp juxtaposition of the gladioli leaves.

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When my Stepmother Judith passed away last year, Tim and I travelled home to the Forest of Dean for her funeral, it was sad time, but somehow happy too, I don’t often get to see my father and sisters so even though it was desperately sad, reconnecting with family made it special, which I guess is the whole point of laying to rest.

We were there in my Father’s rather wonderful garden (he’s had more years practicing than I have) in a time of year when everything is dormant, very few flowers bloom, but there in the heart of winter were camellias with bright flowers and glossy green leaves, I’d never really come across these bushes before and for me, at that time, they took on a special significance, they came to signify Judith , a happy smile in a sad time, a flower when there were no others.  So I’ve collected a few in her memory.  At the moment, they are mostly in pots as they need acidic soil, which I don’t have, but I’ve prepared a few spots in the front garden with the correct conditions for them, this coming winter, I hope she’ll smile at us with beautiful flowers.

Although both of my Sisters are in the Forest of Dean with Dad and look after him wonderfully, it was a worry him being alone, especially after so many years with Judith.  But worry no more, happily Dad has met someone new to share his life with.  As lockdown wasn’t really conductive to a relationship, they’ve moved in together (bit of a silver fox my Dad…).  So welcome to the Isaac family Linda, you don’t HAVE to be crazy to live here….  Who am I kidding, yeah you do, utterly bonkers would be best really.  Dad and I are cut from the same cloth, so expect to hear things like “seemed like a good idea at the time” and “I had NO idea that was going to happen” a lot as you pick up his battered and bruised body from the latest misadventure,  my hubby can provide advice and counselling if you need it.

I asked hubby to take some pictures of things looking lovely around the gardens, I think he did a good job!

 

 

 

 

 

Harvest begins, and it’s joy to the tastebuds, less so on the back muscles.

Summer is a busy time, Autumn will be even busier, Winter is still busy because we don’t actually have winters anymore and spring is, you’ve guessed it, a busy season, that’s the way it is with large gardens, sometimes it’s overwhelming, but mostly its joyous, if weedy, and it’s productive.

After weeks of soaking in brine and then a few days to blacken up properly, the pickled walnuts are finished, they just need 6 months to mature and then they’ll be ready to eat.   So delicious and not something you can buy (the ones in the shop are actual walnuts not the whole fruit, completely different).

We’ve had our first (of many to come) home grown tomato, this is a gigantimo, they taste like holidays abroad, incredible flavour and I’m staring at the next one that is ripening, urging it to get on with it.

I’ve started to crop the veggie garden, the onions are ready, they just need a few days to harden off in the sun before I can store them.   I’ve also dug up the last of the first and second early potatoes, likewise they’ll get a few days curing in the sun and these will keep us going for about a month, by which time the  maincrop will be ready to be harvested.

Not everything has been a success in the veggie garden however, all my beans were eaten, either by deer or pigeons, I’ve replanted them 3 times now and hopefully we’ll at least get a couple of meals worth.  Aphids have attacked pretty much everything, I made a homemade aphid spray of soaked tomato leaves, which the internets said was much better than anything chemically.  Utter rubbish, so I’m back with bug sprays, which in fairness, are also utter rubbish.  I fought the aphids and the aphids won.

Strangely, I’ve been completely unable to grow courgettes this year, something is eating them, normally the mainstay of early summer, they’ve been utterly ravaged and I doubt I’ll even get one.  Next year, I’ll put them in the polytunnel instead.

I decided that I really really needed to muck out the haystore.  I don’t know what happens, one day it’s neatly swept with bales tidily stacked, then the next instant, not even a year later, it’s a festering craphole that’s probably a hazard to health.

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As Princess Rosie has decided that she’s allergic to everything, up to and including air, she’s being fed hayledge instead of hay at the moment (it’s about 4 times the cost of hay).  I shall feed her new hay for a few months this winter before it gets dusty, but right now, they’re both enjoying the hayledge, which as far as I can figure out is the horsey equivalent of cocaine, they’re both choosing to eat the hayledge over grass.  Rosie is fine at the moment, no cough or difficulty breathing, it took a long time to bring her back to full health.

The shape of the gardens has changed a little, we had a massive willow branch come down, not due to storms, it just became too heavy to support itself I think.  The ponies were very happy about this, as they got to eat a tonne of the stuff before it started going brown.  I had a fire to dispose of the rest and the big logs will go to the local farmer.

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The wildlife has been taking the complete Michael recently, we have flying ants that refuse to leave in the boot room, we also have a blackbird that likes flying ants who hops into the boot room for a snack, a crow fell down the chimney and had to be herded out by the cat, the deer no longer run away and I’m fairly sure the squirrels are planning to kick us out and move in.

This area has been annoying me, every week I weed it and every week it grows back and it has no function apart from being a storage area for the compost bins and the leaf mulcher.  Time for action and weed suppressant…

 

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My handsome hubby also wrestled out the rotten metal storage container, that served no purpose other than to annoy me, yay, it’s going, gives me room for another composter!

And even better, he managed to remove the one in the greenhouse that has been annoying me since we moved in.  More room to store pots, a few years ago, I’d have said you can never have enough pots, this  is no longer true, I have reached saturation point on the pot front.

 

I also gave the compost bins a good stomping down, I have to be honest, this really isn’t the most flattering photo of me I’ve ever had taken…

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Over the years, I’ve posted many a picture of either MrC or MrC snr, in the winter, up to their thighs in the stream trying to clear a blockage under the bridge between us and the woodland next door.  Not this year!!  The tiny pipe that runs under the bridge is being replaced with this beauty, it’s actually wide enough for a person to crawl into!  So this year, expect photos of MrC or MrC snr in scuba gear trying to clear a blockage under the bridge…

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In our conservatory, I have a number of houseplants, I’m not that great with houseplants, I have a green thumb outdoors, but with houseplants it can be a bit hit or miss (and if it’s African Violets, it’s pretty much instant, violent death, they hate me).  About 6 months ago, I repotted a mostly dead Swiss Cheese Plant that had been given to me by a friend about 15 years ago, it was a last ditch effort to keep it alive, and boy, has it repaid me in spades (using that well known marker of scale, a box of after eight mints) it’s thrown up enormous new leaves and seems to be a very happy plant now, and if they’re happy, I’m happy.

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If I’m honest, I’m feeling a bit worn out, without the Casey’s snr help, it’s been a struggle trying to keep on top of everything and I’ve failed in a few areas, which I’m now just labeling as “wild” and can hopefully get back to next year.   However, the bits I’ve managed to keep on top of, they are a joy and I’m really proud of my lavender hedge round the veggie patch.  I grew this from seed, it’s taken 3 years to reach maturity and as a “deer deterrent” it’s a complete failure, but I love it, and the bees love it and it’s a thing of beauty.

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Happily, in a few weeks I have 2 weeks holiday coming, and I’m looking forward to getting on top of things in the garden and maybe a few day trips to Centreparks for a swim and time with family, possibly mojito’s on the patio and naps, lots of naps, many many naps, with a few dozes and the odd afternoon snooze thrown in for good measure.

 

 

Weeds everywhere, I’m even weeding in my dreams, my fantasy life needs help.

So what have I been up to the last few weeks, that’s pretty easy to sum up, I’m either weeding, working or picking up horse crap.  It’s almost as boring to read as it is for me to do it.

This time of year, the gardens are a challenge, keeping the veg plot and the flower beds mostly weed free takes up every spare minute I have (and I don’t have many).  Thus far, I’ve been mostly successful, but as I can no longer exploit pensioners (I really miss my in-laws) I’ve turned to child labour for getting the lawns mowed.  The lovely Michelle is lending me her eldest for a few hours and he whizzes round with the push mower, while MrC does the same on the ride along.  Which frees me up to yank up whatever weed is flavour of the month (it’s mostly nettles and burdock at the moment).

It’s impossible to start any “projects” at this time of year, although I have several in mind, maintaining what I’ve already done is a full-time job.  (If anyone out there has large leaved Gunnera plants and wouldn’t mind digging up a couple of chunks for me, I have plans that involve Gunnera…  watch this space)

The soft fruit and veggie gardens are starting to produce a nice steady harvest and I’ve been making jam for Christmas presents, so far I’ve raspberry, tayberry, loganberry and gooseberry jams tucked away in the cupboard.

We’ve been feasting on potatoes straight from the ground, along with peas (they don’t really make it as far as being cooked) and broadbeans have been blanched and chucked in the freezer.

I had just finished giving the veggie patch a hoeing, when I realised that I’ve not been in the stumpary for a week or so, so I trundled along with wheelbarrow and a trowel in case it needed a bit of a weeding.

 

What the hell???

Some of those nettles are about 8 foot tall, this would never have happened on MrsC snr’s watch…

So yeah, it needed a bit of a weeding…

It does look stunning when it’s not a weed strewn mess.   It’s missing something though and I haven’t quite figured out what it is, it needs something a little more to round it out and it’s driving me nuts trying to think what it might be, suggestions on a postcard!

I’ve also tided up the hosta mound, they’ve transplanted really well and seem to be happy, happy hostas, happy me.

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I’m really pleased with this flower bed down the side of the house, it gets very little sun, but I seem to have got the correct mix of plants in the right place to take advantage of what we do get and I think it’s turned out a bit special.

It’s not all work, we had a thoroughly lovely albeit socially distanced BBQ with Matt and Michelle and their brood, so nice to just sit and eat and chat with friends, thanks to the hub for doing the cooking.

I’m trying something new this year, we have 6 mature walnut trees at the far end of the property and every year I lose the entire crop to squirrels.  So this year I’m picking them green before the shells form and making pickled walnuts (they taste amazing on a bruchetta) and I’m trying my hand at Nochino (walnut liquor), can’t wait to try it, so at least I get to use a small number of walnuts this year.

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Had to include this picture that the hub took, goldfinch on my cornflowers in the front garden, there were 3 of them feeding on the seed heads, which gives me a bloody brilliant excuse never to deadhead a cornflower again!

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So if you need me, I’ll be weeding, working or picking up horse crap…

I’m not bonkers, I’m thrifty, I think…

For the last few weeks I’ve mostly been pottering about in the veggie garden (it’s looking pretty good) or planting out either bargain plants from work or things I’ve grown from seed in the greenhouse.

Here in the raised beds we’ve all sorts of brassicas  (including Brussel sprouts for Christmas dinner).  celeriac, radish, rocket and all sorts of delicious things.

We’ve got onions and potatoes in the main veggie garden, some of the onions are already folding over and will be ready soon, which is absurd, they shouldn’t be cropping till August or September, but with the strange weather we’re having, lots of things I “knew” about gardening are being completely rewritten.

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The fruit garden is looking fabulous, raspberries will be ready in less than a month and the bush covered over with netting is for gooseberries, the birds got the lot last year, not this year my friends, not this year.

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IMG_1684I spent some time planting up the poly tunnel, in here I’m growing a special variety of tomato called Gigantamo, they taste like holidays abroad, along with melons, chillis and sweet peppers.

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I see lots of people at work leaving with a car full of plants, and all I can wonder, is how the hell are they getting them in the ground.  Mine is like concrete, I have to soak it with water before I can even slightly get my trowel in the soil.  It’s turned  what is normally a pleasurable (if time consuming) job, into a complete pain in the bum, and if we don’t get some rain soon, they’re all going to die anyway.  As much as I might like to, there is no way I can water everything, the greenhouse, the polytunnel, anything in pots and veg that’s looking thirsty I look after which takes about ¾ of an hour every day, but everything else takes it’s chances.

One thing that is definitely thriving, is the nettles, normally, nettles are the domain of MrsC snr, a nettle had the temerity to sting her beloved granddaughter many moons ago and she declared war on them and since then can often be found yanking them up by the handful.  Because of this, I tend to ignore nettles knowing that sooner or later MrsC will have at them.  This somewhat laissez fair approach has slightly backfired on me with the lockdown….

They are completely out of control and they’re everywhere and they’re about to seed any moment now.

So I pulled my finger out and chopped them down.  Nettles are vey high in iron and trace minerals, however the ponies won’t eat them, because they sting, obviously.   But, if you dry them out, the sting goes away and you have nice healthy free pony snacks (the words free and pony do not often appear together in close proximity).  Anyone seeing my washing line at the moment will assume that I’ve gone completely barking mad.

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Louis in particular loves these, he actually shoves Rosie out of the way to get to them.  I also pull up armfuls of cleavers (goosegrass) and feed that to the ponies, they love it.

Another pesky weed that I use as a crop is comfrey, it grows all over the place, the roots can be 3ft deep or even longer and impossible to get up, so I let it flower because the bees love it and it’s an attractive plant, but I don’t let it seed, I chop it up and it makes the most excellent nutrient filled compost.

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This little area next to the summer house needed a good weeding.

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I’ve planted out some of the sweetpeas I’ve been growing in the greenhouse, so you get the lovely scent as you walk by (the wilted plants in the background are cowslips that have flowered and are very much past their best, but they’ll come back next year and be beautiful.)

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I had to have the vet out to see Rosie (again) I came home from work one evening and she’d cut her nose.  I tried to examine it to see if I could treat it (general cuts and bumps I can deal with) but she wasn’t having any of it and this time of year any wound, no matter how slight needs to be treated to prevent fly strike.

For people without livestock, that happens when flies lay eggs in a wound.  The eggs hatch within 24 hours of being laid, and turn into maggots, they then start eating your animal, alive, it’s absolutely horrible.  There is a feeling that if you let an animal get fly strike you have neglected your livestock, and that’s really really not true, the wound can be tiny and you may not even notice it and it happens fast, really horribly distressingly fast.

Although Rosie is a “pony” that doesn’t means she’s biddable or can be forced to do something, if she says NO then no it is, she’s strong (bred to pull gypsy wagons and people up hills and down dales), she’s big and armed at each corner and at the front.  So despite suspecting this was an easy fix, I had to have the vet to sedate her so we could get a proper look at the wound.  As suspected, it wasn’t a serious injury, a clean and application of silver spray to keep out flies was all that was needed.  Bloody drama queen.

I have been asked several times why I don’t use a whip to control her when she’s being a pita, well, when I first got Rosie, she was very bargy on the ground.  After she’d body slammed me into the stable a few times, I did get a whip, waited for her to do it again and when she did, I gave her 3 not too hard smacks of the whip on her rump.  What happened next will forever be with me, she went from being bargy and opinionated, dropped her head to the floor and trembled.  Somewhere in her past someone had beaten the living tar out of her.  I held her head and there was a tear in her eye, I promised her that she’d never feel the touch of a whip again and I threw it away.  Since then, we’ve worked on her ground manners and she’s come along really well, but sometimes she says NO and we work around the no’s until they’re a maybe or an OK, but with blood coming out of her nose, I didn’t have time for persuasion, so vet it was…

Slight caveat on whips, I do use a lunging whip with her, but you never use that to actually hit a horse, although I have poked her with it a few times when she’s decided she’s a bit out of puff and would rather eat grass instead of running round in circles.

Here’s a pic for MrsC snr, there aren’t many foxgloves in the wood this year, but a few have popped up.

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Although I talk all the time about weeding and seem to spend half my life removing unwanted plants, the garden does surprise me with a few treats, this is a beautiful cuckoo pint a lovely native wildflower, in the autumn this will have stunning black (and extremely poisonous) berries.

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Our wildlife pond has completely dried out and our resident but wild ducks (Penny and Tucker) are forbidden in the fishpond (not that they take much notice of the rules, we’re forever shooing them away) so I set her up a duck bath.  It’s not as good as a pond, but I think she likes it.SONY DSC

And finally, soon, oh yes soon…

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Don’t stand, Don’t stand, Don’t stand so bloody close to me!!

Sometimes, it’s difficult to know where to start with my blog, and I put it off, and off and every day I do, makes it more difficult to get going.

So, I shall start with beautiful things, because I am surrounded by beautiful things.

This bird box (made by our talented friend Roger) that has become home to a hive of tree bees.

This laburnum that for 3 glorious weeks of the year is so stunning it makes your eyes ache to gaze upon for it too long.

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The rock garden, that really only came into being because I was sick and tired of looking out of the window and seeing a giant pile of rocks that I had no clue what I was going to do with and being annoyed at a blank space that was ugly.

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This lovely saxifrage, newly planted just a few months ago that is starting to spread and conquer in the rock garden.

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This crow (or possibly a rook) that has made a nest in the eves of the house.

This hawthorn that is bursting with flower and smells divine.

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I am blessed, this place is so amazing, it soothes the soul, delights the eyes and drives me utterly bonkers with all the bloody weeds.

I returned to work last week, now don’t get me wrong, I really love my job and the people there, but it’s emotionally draining, I know I’m in danger.  For me, when in danger (having horses is intrinsically dangerous), I either punch it in the face, or run away really quickly, I can’t do either of these things at work, I’m fairly sure punching customers in the face or running away when they ask for plant advice would make the general manager “disappointed in my performance”.  So I slap on a smile, suggest hostas and ferns for shady areas, enthuse about the beauty in foliage and try not to tremble when someone gets too close, which they do, ALL THE BLOODY TIME!!!

This is the new normal and it’s ugly and harsh and frightening.  There are several people at work that I am hugging friends with, and that’s gone and God that’s hard because we’re all scared, and a hug would so very much help us all.  But it is what it is, so I shall suck it up and try to do the best I can.

So I’m back at work and things have slowed down a little at home, but we’re still getting stuff done.  MrC and I had a FIRE, we burnt all the accumulated garden waste from the last 8 months.  We store all the broken trees, dropped branches, piles of weeds that won’t fit in the green waste bins under the willow trees.  I have tried, and failed in the past to do before photos of the sheer amount of rubbish under there,so I didn’t bother this time, I do, however, have an after photo that brings me joy and will mean a lot to Mr and MrsC snr, who usually do the “BIG BURNS” with me.

Clear!!!

This is (until I start filling it up again) my new favourite place in the garden.

I gave the shed a good clean out, boy that was nasty and involved evicting about a dozen mice. IMG_1620

In a property this size, you have to have a junk area, you just do, there is unattractive stuff that I can’t really tidy and this is ours.IMG_1655

Here we have the giant pile of junk we’ve dug up that needs a skip to remove (aka, I can’t burn it), the pile of hardcore that will, at some point, be useful, the pile of large Purbeck rocks that will, at some point, be used around the wildlife pond, once we can afford to get it dug out and lined with clay, the asbestos outbuildings which just contain “stuff” wood that will be useful at some point in the future, things we’ve dug up that need to be restored, just “stuff” as well as somewhere to keep the agricultural equipment we need to keep ticking over, seed spreader, harrow, roller and so on and so forth.  It is therefore, not the most attractive part of the gardens.  It’s faced by, what we call the gate bed, called that because, someone, many moons ago, leant a metal gate against the fence, and then the trees all grew through it, and the only way I could remove it, was to chop down all the trees, so I painted the rusted gate with hammorite and called it a “feature”.  In about a month this will be glorious with a swathe of lupins in flower.

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There is history behind the creation of the gate bed, involving, the thing we don’t talk about, a lump hammer and man with a large machine, if you missed it the first time around, you can catch up here:

https://countrysideinsanity.wordpress.com/2016/08/14/its-lump-hammer-time/ 

So this area, does get neglected, it’s not beautiful, it’s functional and over the years, the couch grass and other weeds have been encroaching on the road.  Time for some reclamation, no weeds, you may not take over the road, time for me to spend some time on my hands and knees and sort this out.

It’s not easy work this, in order to get all the roots, I couldn’t really wear gloves I need to feel what I’m  doing, and weeding road plainings  is rough on the fingertips, so It’s a case of 2 days on, 1 day off to allow some skin to regrow.

I’m about halfway round the road so far, an ongoing task  (that will probably take the rest of my life)…..

I spend at least 1 day a week hoeing weeds in the veggie patch and the herbaceous  beds, it’s tedious, but if I didn’t, I think they might actually eat me.

I’ve also started to plant out all the seedlings from the greenhouse, I’ve done about 100 so far, I think I’ve another 600 to go.

My wonderful other half has done the job I most hate, mowing the lawns and it makes such an incredible difference to the place, the ponies are also contributing to this chore and giving it their all.

I had a craving for Pizza, not the frozen sort which are inevitably disappointing, but with proper chewy dough and the tang of fresh herbs, so with MrC instructing and me kneading, we made one from scratch and my goodness, it certainly satisfied the craving, absolutely delish and we’ll definitely be trying this again!

A thought on relationships…  Has mine with my beloved hub changed at all after being cooped up together  well nope, we put up with each others eccentricity just as we always do, laugh at each other a lot, and while I’ve been back at work, MrC has been so tolerant when all I can do after getting home is sort out the ponies, water the greenhouse and then go to bed at 7 in the evening to read and drink wine because it’s the place I feel safe, when I have no appetite because I’m so stressed at being exposed to the virus all day, he brings me bread and cheese to pick at because he knows I can’t resist it, being together 24/7 for months hasn’t changed our relationship, it’s strengthened it.

So there’s a round up, panic, joy, fear and love, I’m not alone in how I’m feeling, so if you are there too, I am here for you, send me a message or give me a call and we can talk, one day, we’ll have a hug and it will be wonderful.

 

 

 

 

I can squeeze another seed tray in there, Can’t I?

As the weather was a bit unpleasant, and I don’t like being rained on, I retreated into the greenhouse for a couple of days for some serious pricking-out, potting-on, seed sowing and general faffery.  The greenhouse is a time thief, I go in there at 11am for a couple of hours and suddenly its 6:30pm and I haven’t fed the ponies, the cat or the husband…

Before I could get started I needed some compost.  When I sow seeds, I buy general purpose compost and add grit and sand to make a seed mix.  For everything else, I make my own compost, so it was time to get harvesting.  I produce about a ton and a half of compost a year, and it all gets used.  I’ve got 4 compost bins and they’re always full to bursting.  The only downside is, my compost isn’t sterile, so it does contain some seeds, which is why I buy compost for seed sowing.

Black gold!

The greenhouse is getting a bit full, this lot will be ready to plant out in about 3 weeks and I can fill the flower borders and veggie garden full to bursting!

This is my haven, it’s not work pottering about in the greenhouse, it’s heaven for me and I’m so lucky to have such a wonderful place to indulge myself.  Yeah, it’s falling down, there is glass missing, the wood is rotten and the guttering leaks, but I love it.

Once the weather perked up a bit I tackled a job I was going to do last year, but the drought hit us and made it impossible to get a fork into the ground.  This bit of garden between the paddock and the stream is riddled with bramble, 2 days of rain had softened up the ground nicely making the job a bit easier.

2 trips with the wheelbarrow, I think not!

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Something I struggle with in my blog, is how to convey scale.  This doesn’t look like much, but it’s 4 or 5 times the size of the garden we had in Norwich and digging up the bramble took me the better part of a day.  Now it’s safe I can put my hairy lawnmowers on here to complete the tidy up.

Perhaps if I show this “little” bit from another angle, at the back here we have a row of massive poplar trees, their trunks are about half a meter across at the base, 2 mature walnut trees and an apple tree.

We’ve also a recent addition to this bit of the gardens, the back part of the paddock, often had standing water in the winter when the rain gets insane, so last winter my wonderful hubby dug this drainage channel leading to the stream and it works brilliantly, no more standing water.  Back breaking work digging that out, bless him,  I think he loves the ponios too.

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Next job was to tackle the other patch of miscanthus we have, I’ve been meaning to do this for ages, just in time, new growth is already emerging.  This too, took the better part of a day to complete…

Apart from that, I spent a morning digging up ragwort (that’s a given, every week at least a morning, sometimes a whole day every week is spent getting rid of the damn stuff to keep the ponies safe).

And weeding, I weed constantly, I don’t even know I’m doing it, I have to keep a trug by the back door, because whenever I arrive there, I usually have a handful of weeds I’ve absent mindedly  pulled up as I walk about the place.

MrsC snr was asking about the foxgloves in the wood, well, there aren’t that many and I don’t think they’ll flower this year, but it’s looking good in there.  Here’s a fix for you xx

Despite my best efforts, not even I can ignore what’s going on in the world, as I write this more than 30 thousand people in the UK have lost their lives to COVID19.  I don’t really know how to process that, 30 thousand families who’ve not been able to have a proper funeral for their loved ones, 30 thousand gaping holes in the lives of their friends and loved ones.  Thus far, I am fortunate, I’ve not lost anyone that I know, and with the lockdown still in place, we are kind of safe (for those of you braving the outside world everyday, putting your lives at risk, I thank you for the bottom of my heart).

However, lockdown will soon end, and we’ll emerge into a changed and still dangerous world, the virus hasn’t gone, it will still be killing people and devastating families, and I’ll be honest, I am not looking forward to returning to work (not because of work, I love my little job and the people there and usually the customers).  The last day I was at work, was terrifying, there was a huge stream of customers, families, the elderly, hardly anyone adhering to social distancing, it was a horrible horrible day.  I have every confidence that the management at work will make it as safe as possible, and as I’m working in the horticulture section, I am mostly outside all day which diminishes risk, but I’m still nervous about it, as I suppose, everyone else is too.

My wonderful hubby, knowing I’m trepidatious about what’s to come, purchased for me, a confidence boosting “return to work kit” from Espa, my all time favorite supplier of all things pampering (their facial oils are like being kissed by angels), I haven’t been able to afford anything from them for years (I have ponies, I might not have expensive face creams, but I get pony snuffles on a winter morning so I’m definitely winning).   I love you MrC, I have made many poor decisions in my life, but marrying you, was not one of them.

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Convert?? Captive Audience?? Mwwhahaha

It’s been kind of a boring week, doing dull jobs that seem to take forever and don’t make much difference because once they’re done, the place looks like it should.

I spent two days clearing and burning the mess from the conifers that came down in Storm Dennis, I then raked the grove and burned all the droppings from the last year or so.  I do love the grove, it was one of the very first jobs I did in the gardens when we arrived.   It was a mess, I spent about a month lopping my way through a myriad of dead branches to reveal something a little magical.

This was what it looked like in September 201512032016_10207483729150138_8271272082348803510_n

Before I got jiggy with a rake

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And now, all clear like it’s supposed to be.

The storm definitely did a lot of damage, we’re not sure exactly what we’re going to do here, possibly replant with some leylandii.  The logs have been claimed by our local farmer, he’s already said I can put the ponios on his field out the back of our paddock once he’s taken a hay crop from it, so it’s nice to give something back.  He runs the most enormous woodburning contraption I’ve ever seen (I think it might power Thetford) so they’ll get good use.  (The greenary you can see is wild garlic which I’m encouraging to spread to give ground cover in the grove, and also, pesto).

 

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Once that clean up was finished I gave the veggie patch and the raised beds a once over, that took 3 days.  I might be chancing my arm a bit, but with the warm weather we’ve been having, I’ve planted most of them up already.  We’ve got broccoli, khol rabi, cabbage, petit pois, brussels sprouts, leeks and carrots in the raised beds (along with a perennial bed of horseradish and strawberries).  In the other half of the veggie garden potatoes are in, the first earlies are already showing (OMG , there is NOTHING as good as new potatoes, dug up, washed, cut into rounds and chucked straight into the deep fat fryer, I can almost taste them, still, not long to wait).  The onions and garlic are all doing nicely, if we get a bit of rain, I think we could be in for a bumper crop.  I need to do a bit of research into storing onions, last year they rotted really quickly before I could use them all, I don’t want any waste this year.

I owe a thank you to my Auntie Carolyn, a few years ago she gave me this rather vicious looking hoe, it’s just the best thing ever for getting weeds up, without this it would have taken me twice as long to get the veggie patch weed free.  Best present you ever gave me AuntieC.

Then I gave the stable a good mucking out.  I do a system called deep litter, as the ponies are not confined to the stable at any time, mucking it out entirely every day would be a complete waste of time , straw and energy, so every day I remove any poos and leave any wet, and top up with straw to give them a nice bed.  Then you clear out the whole lot every month or so.   Luckily for me the local allotments (aka Chelle) are happy for me to muck out into a trailer and they take it away.  Unhappily, the winter has been so wet they couldn’t bring a trailer round for nearly 3 months, it was a little acrid in there when I got down to the concrete…  I’ve chucked a few buckets of Dettol around (as apposed to injecting it, which apparently is a thing now) and they’ll get a lovely fresh bed in there once it dries out in a few days.

I decided that Rosies feather had to go, she’s got feather mites which are impossible to treat with all that hair, she poos down her legs and I can’t get them clean no matter what I do, so she got the chop.  I did not miss my calling as a hairdresser, she’s a bit butchered but now I can get to her scabby bits and give her a proper clean.  She does look a bit top heavy without her hairy legs, but I love her anyways.

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For the last few years, we’ve noticed that a beautiful flowering cherry in the cat garden has been struggling, and this year there were almost no signs of life, just a very few branches at the top of the tree with any buds at all.  So MrC has taken it right back to see if it can recover at all.  It’s unlikely, but we’ll give it a year before we fell it completely.  Even if it does have to be felled, it won’t go to waste, we have friends that make beautiful things with wood and cherrywood is gorgeous, so we’ll find it a good home.  MrC is getting very proficient with a chainsaw, it makes me smile when he heads off to London in his suit, I bet his colleagues have no idea this is a man who can operate a myriad of saws, band saws, chainsaws, something called a miter saw (I have no clue, don’t ask), jigsaws and when it comes down to it, the humble handsaw.

 

 

Finally, I got to do something nice, because of the Coronavirus, our little community on Snow Street has set up a whatsapp group and people are picking up shopping and helping out where they can.  One of my neighbours said she was going to make some raised beds and had a greenhouse on order, but was very new to gardening, so I put together a “grow your own” kit for her with lots of seedlings and some seeds and let them have a wander round our gardens to get some ideas.  Gardening is a passion for me, being able to spread it around is not a favour, I’m hoping for a convert I can chat interminably with about weather and seasons and germination rates and other such things that often make other peoples eyes glaze over….

Piriton for everybody.

I sit here writing this, with itchy eyes, itchy face, itchy throat and a cough (not a Covid cough, but a rapeseed cough, the fields round us are in full bloom and it’s making life miserable).

I’ve not been the only one with a cough, poor little Rosie has been coughing like she’s got a 40 a day fag habit.  I noticed she was also a bit wheezy after she’s been running about with Louis, so I asked the lovely Eduardo to check her out (we stayed indoors while she was being examined and bless her she was good as gold with the vets, although whilst she was being lunged Louis was going bonkers and the vet assistant was almost crying with laughter at him).

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I was really worried she might have something serious as she usually gets a winter cough, COPD or persistent pneumonia were rattling about in my brain.  Turns out we’ve got matching allergies.  Piriton for all then.  She’s got some horsey Piriton to try for a couple of weeks, and hopefully she’ll improve quickly, I hate it when they get sick, I just want them to be healthy and happy.

When I was researching pony breeds prior to buying one, gypsies were billed as a “hardy, low maintenance breed” well yeah, apart from mine, who gets feather mites and mallenders, is allergic to carrots and now, as it turns out, air….

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With MrC’s help, we finally finished the driveway, that was a Herculean task, but my goodness, it looks lovely.  Gives the place a cared for feel.  I hope that it holds for a couple of years, my back is still aching from hours of hoeing.  As part of tarting up the place, the pampas grass was given a haircut, it’s not really the right time of year for it, but it’s impossible to kill a pampas, it will be back to mugging passers by and consuming small mammals in no time.

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Most of the trimmings of the pampas have been put in the leaf mulcher, I rather like the way the strata of the mulcher shows what we’ve been doing in the gardens, at the bottom are all the leaves I raked up in the autumn, then we’ve got a layer of miscanthus and then pampas on top.  Give it 6 months this will have reduced by at least half and be ready for autumn leaves once again.  (All credit goes to MrC snr for rebuilding the leaf mulcher earlier in the year)

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I can’t be full on all the time, so I had a day off, bit of a BBQ and lashings of Pimms, there might have been some napping too.  It was a little bittersweet as BBQ’s round here are usually a raucous affair, with family and friends, kids running everywhere and overexcited ponies trying to get in on the action.  This was somewhat more sedate, but delicious nonetheless.  There WILL be a family BBQ this year, it may be in December and we’re all in wooly hats gathered round the fire pit albetit 2 meters apart, but it will happen.

My oh so clever hubby got going in the garage and created a raised bed frame and a bench to hold our wine rack in the garage.  This involved using some frankly terrifying powertools with whirling blades and loud noises, I prefer a nice quiet handsaw myself.  The end results are fantastic though, I’m not handy at all (in fact I’m utterly and completely hopeless when it comes to making things), so it’s a good job the hub is a bit of a creative genius.  I spent ages attaching net to the frame, and it’s been partially planted up with broadbeans, sugarsnap peas and petit pois.

I turned my hand to a job that’s needed doing for about a year, time to muck out my disgusting tack room, not my favorite job, there were spiders the size of bloody dinner plates lurking in there, they were persuaded to relocate, I swept up a year’s worth of mice poo and various assorted filth and now I can find what I’m looking for.  I’ve noticed that the ponies have about 14 different types of shampoo, conditioners, stain removers, and detanglers and despite regular baths, they’re both still filthy.   I have 1 shampoo and conditioner and despite regular baths, I’m generally filthy too….

Look at these beauties, of all the fruit and veg I grow, I think the asparagus is my favorite, these went into a chicken risotto and were delicious.

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With MrC’s help we managed to get the skin back onto my polytunnel, storm Dennis had completely uprooted it and blown it into the paddock, much to the disgust of the ponies who had a full on freak out session.  I’ll be growing melons and aubergines in here over the summer and overwintering purple sprouting broccoli.

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I’ve also sorted out the weedy moss laden path outside the greenhouse and moved my cold frame, time to start hardening off the veggies in the greenhouse so I can get them into the raised beds.

I’m obviously not the only one growing my own  I realised I didn’t have any sweetcorn seeds and I wanted to try growing Hamberg parsley this year (every year I like to try something I’ve never grown before), but all my normal seed suppliers are completely sold out, so it looks like no sweetcorn this year.

So another week in lockdown has passed, there is no denying that life is very strange and nervous at the moment.  I’m grateful to the vets for coming out to see Rosie and all the other key workers out there keeping things ticking over, they are very brave.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dick Pics and Hoeing mostly…

Strange times we live in, strange times indeed.

As tempting as it is to grab a bottle of wine and a pair of sunglasses and lounge in the sun while the weather is so fine, Hubby is actually working from home and I think he might murder me if I treat this as a holiday.  So I’ve been keeping busy, stupidly busy, there is always so much that needs doing round here.

For 3 days I ragworted the paddock, one of the most boring, soul destroying, tedious jobs on the planet.  The ponies have half of the paddock to play in, and that is now ragwort free.  The other half is fenced off, full of ragwort and will shortly be sprayed to kill it off.  The ragwort weedkiller is called THRUST!!!  I’m guessing a man named this…

In other pony news, during the day, they’re currently working their way round the lawns (I’ve got far too much to be getting on with, I’m happy to second the lawn mowing to such willing and efficient helpers).  I had noticed that recently, Louis manparts were often a bit descended, not full on swinging free but a bit dangly.  Now I’ve always looked after mares, boy ponies are a new experience for me, and as I can’t do my normal “something even slightly off call the vet” as they’re only attending emergencies, so I had a bit of a fumble, no heat, no swelling, all felt OK, so I snapped a pic and sent it to the lovely lady who bred him asking, “is this normal??”  Yes ladies and gentleman, I sent a dick pic….  This is the sort of thing that happens with horses, or is this just the sort of thing that happens to me,  I really don’t know…  By the by, yes the dangly is normal, just means he’s happy and relaxed (unlike me after just writing this!) and I am very grateful that his breeder, has a sense of humour and actually welcomes dumb questions if it means Louis is properly cared for.

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So after I finished the interminable ragworting I started sorting out the driveway, which is a mossy, weedy compacted mess.

I have recently done a similar job to this at work, replacing all their gravelly bits, however, they had nice fresh new gravel to put down, I needed to reuse what we had.

MrC helped me out, he decided to try fire to get rid of the moss, whilst spectacular and somewhat terrifying (the flame thrower doesn’t have an off switch as such, just a “burns out really bloody slowly while you worry if it’s melting the floor” option), was completely hopeless, the moss remained pretty much unscathed, unlike my anxiety levels.  Earth didn’t seem like an option, being as how we were trying to clean things up, so water was the next element to try.  This worked like a charm, moss and the woody debris from trees and hedges floats, gravel sinks, so the worst affected bits were scraped up, dumped in a bin with water and given a stir.  Voila, mostly clean gravel.

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Methinks any references to hubble, bubble, toil and trouble are fairly spurious at this point.

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Progress so far, is looking good.

 

For a bit of a change from hoeing and raking the drive, MrC and I decided to give the garden furniture a bit of TLC, everything has been given a powerwash, and the bench a good couple of coats of teak preserver.  Then we ran out of preserver, so we’re waiting for some more to be delivered, in the meantime, the chairs and tables need sanding.  I think I prefer hoeing and raking if I’m honest.

I’ve planted up one of the raised beds with some Brussel Sprouts for Christmas dinner (and winter pony snacks) and second early spuds are in (first earlies went in about a month ago).

I had a call from work, asking me if I would like some plants that would otherwise have to be skipped, they’d got a bit leggy and untidy, bulbs that had gone over and were not fit for sale, or things that wouldn’t survive another season in pots and needed to be planted out as soon as possible.  Having considered this for a microsecond, YES PLEASE!!!  Later that day, my bosslady rocked up with a carload of wonderful things, (it was strange, not offering a cup of tea or a hug, talking from about 5 metres away, the new normal is very weird)  As things are at the moment, I’m trying to be a good person, so I divided up the plants and gave half of them to the Bressingham allotment society (Chelle is the chairperson of the society), who also didn’t get a cup of tea or a hug when she collected them.

Among the plants were a pair of camellias that needed potting on, they’ve been given a couple of posh pots and are in pride of place at the front of the house.

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The next bit was something that happened about a month ago (before I got writing again and before the world went tits up) but I found the pics on the camera and thought I’d write about it.

I was heading with a wheelbarrow of various garden detritus to the brown bins at the end of the drive, when I noticed a van driving quite slowly down the road, they clocked me (at that time wearing thermals, covered in horse hair and dirt, hair akimbo, business as usual), then a few mins later, they returned and came down the drive.  “Hi, we’re tree surgeons contracting in the local area, would you have any use for a load of woodchip, it’s free”.  As he was still in the van, I was unable to rip his arm off, but said yes I would very much like a load of woodchip pretty please.  They left and returned about 20 mins later with a couple of tonnes of woodchip which I’ve used to refresh the old chippings in the soft fruit garden.

Hmmmm, now let’s see, I’ve got 4 tree surgeons here, with chainsaws, and I’ve got a tangled mess in the conifer grove which storm Dennis left behind and MrC was petrified of tackling.   “Do you do any private work at all?”

45 mins later, the tangled mess has been demolished, mostly logged and all for £20 per chap, plus a free load of woodchip, happy days!

Obviously boredom is always a spectre hovering (sarcasm alert!!) so I’ve signed up to do an online diploma in gardening and landscape design, from what I’ve read so far, I seem to do most of it instinctively, but there are some bits and pieces I’ve picked up that will come in useful.

So that was my week in lockdown.  I am fully aware how privileged I am to have such a wonderful playground whilst so many others are in tiny spaces.  I love my hubby very much, we generally don’t annoy each other too much and I have the ponies and sweet Maggie to snuggle.  So I am not moaning, not even slightly, I thought, being a fully paid up introvert I wouldn’t be affected by social isolation.  I was wrong, I miss my In-laws, I miss Chelle popping round for a coffee and a bitching session about the weather.   I miss the people at work, hell, I even miss the actual work itself.  If I’m completely honest, Boris being sent to intensive care made this very real, and very frightening, please stay safe people, stay at home, stay away from people who you don’t live with as hard as that may be, the virus doesn’t move, we move it.  Most importantly, stay in my life, if you’re reading this, you matter to me.

 

 

 

Sneaky peek

I though I’d take a few pictures of the gardens which are just starting to spring into life.  A virtual tour of what’s looking good (and studiously ignoring the weedy neglected areas that look horrendous).  I know Mrs C snr is missing her wanders, so these are for you Ann xx

This glorious pyracantha looks like a firework exploding.

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I’m quite pleased with this little bed, it’s maturing nicely, I keep digging the euphorbia at the back up and transplanting it too the woods.  The woods are now full of euphorbia, but it keeps coming back in this bed no matter how hard I try to get all the roots, I’ve given in, it can stay.

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Over Christmas at the garden centre, we sold little sarcococca plants, they smelt amazing, the fragrance is beautiful, and I was determined to get one for the garden (when they go on sale obviously).   Then a couple of weeks ago, I smelt that lovely fragrance again, and as it turns out, we already have a sarcococca , it’s about 20ft high with a similar spread, easy to overlook….  And I’ve been totally lying to customers at work saying they won’t really go over 2 metes tall, mind you, you’d have to neglect to prune it for a good 20 years or more for it get to this size.

This is a viburnum, those flowers are going to be staggeringly beautiful when they open.  Goodness only knows how old this specimen is, usually, these are shrubs, but this is without doubt a tree.

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A pretty snowball bush intertwined with the arc ‘d treeomph

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Our little woodland is looking pretty, the fritillaria aren’t quite out yet, but they should flower in a few weeks and in the summer I am hoping for a wealth of foxgloves.

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A plum tree already in flower, plum jam is one of my favourites, plums in brandy, plum crumble and best of all, just warm and fresh straight from the tree.

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These herbaceous borders, doesn’t really look very herbaciousy yet, but give it a few years and I think it will mature nicely (mostly weed free!)

I bought this wallflower last year as a rescue, I think it’s rather happy where I’ve plonked it.

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The rockery has turned out nicely, aubretia and heathers flowering now, with sedum, lily of the valley and broom to come.

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Weed free front borders!  In a couple of months when the lupins flower these will be amazing.

And finally, in the engine room of the gardens, the greenhouse is starting to look a bit serious.

I am especially pleased with these.  These are onions I’ve grown from seed, I got a packet free with some gardening magazine or other and thought what the heck, why not give it a try, I’ve always grown onions from sets before, so new territory for me.

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I am still reaping the benefits of last years work, roast parsnips for dinner yesterday, fresh from the raised beds, we’re also still eating brussels sprouts, sprouting broccoli and leeks fresh, although these are nearly over now.

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