I can finally open my knicker drawer without wincing.

Hurrah, fully vaccinated and the waiting period over, I was grabbed by my wonderful friend Michelle for a long long overdue shopping trip.  After two years of no shopping the state of my underwear drawer was, frankly, tragic and a little disgusting.  There wasn’t a strip of elastic in there that wasn’t desiccated, I think the fact my knickers stayed up at all was due to prayer and a large bum.

We had a lovely time, we are both the same type of shopper, list at the ready, get in, get stuff, get out (although we did have a little mooch about in the homeware department, I bought cushions I didn’t need).

We had a dirty burger in McDonalds for lunch (that’s that itch scratched for another 6 months) and were home not long after lunchtime with enough shopping bags to club a whale to death.  So that’s over, won’t need to go shopping again for another 6 months until I need big thick socks and thermal underwear.

It was a bit strange being out and about in the City after 2 years of nothing but work and home, but I didn’t feel unsafe (although Shell kept yelling at me for touching doors and handrails).  Here’s hoping we can return to something approaching normal soon.  

Speaking of work, I’ve a story that makes me smile, I shall never take catnip for granted again.

I work in a garden center, mostly the customers are happy and it’s a nice environment and I basically get paid to talk about plants all day, which in fairness, I’d do for nothing, but it is nonetheless, retail.   I’ve been sworn at a few times, which really doesn’t phase me, I’ve a mouth on me like a navvy when the occasion calls for it, and often, when it doesn’t.  Swear all you like, I’ll be silently judging you on vocabulary, inventiveness and delivery.  Once a chap tried to nail me with a two fingered jab to the shoulder, but, I’ve got a gypsy cob and I dealt with him in exactly the same way I deal with Rosie when she’s being an asshole, I sidestepped his attack, shouted NO at the top of my voice, pointed at him with a shaken finger and accompanied it with the cob death stare “do it again and I will punch you in the snout”.   He abandoned  his trolly of plants and literally ran away.  The one thing I struggle with at work is stupid….  And I’m going to share with you my latest encounter with stupid.

Customer:  I’d like some catnip plants

Me: No problem, we’ve got several in stock, I’ll show you where they are

Me:  Here we go, Nepeta, also called catnip or catmint

Customer: No, I want catnip

Me: Nepeta is the Latin name for catnip

Customer: I don’t want Latin catnip, I want English catnip

Me: {gazes into the void behind the customers eyeballs realising that any kind of discussion of Latin naming conventions of plants would take 47 years to make a dent in the stupid}

Me: (and I’m not proud of myself, but, needs must….)  I’m very sorry, we only have Latin catnip in stock just at the moment

Customer: takes a deep breath to begin rant

God of Retail:  I’ve got your back Mrs Casey

My walkie talkie:  Hello Becki?

Me to Customer:  Apologies, I really must answer this

Me: Power walks to the yard and hides for 10 minutes

My husband, on hearing this, thinks the customer had a valid point, this is what would happen if you go around giving your cat Latin catnip…

Back at Purbeck, it’s weeding and planting season, weed and plant, weed and plant, sometimes for variety I plant and then weed, and I spend a lot of time walking around with a watering can or hosepipe.  Sometimes it’s hard to see where work ends and home begins, it’s all very similar, I’m basically owned by plants and ponies.  No ponies at work sadly.

I’ve been going on about a new reading garden for ages and ages, it needed deer proof fencing and I thought I’d got everything I needed except the actual skill to put it up.  What I needed was someone who wasn’t a hopeless idiot .  I needed Mr James.

Although he’s a busy busy man, he agreed to come over and rescue me.  Taking a look at the bit’s and pieces I’d bought for the fencing, I didn’t have even half of what I needed so he spent a morning taking me to builders merchants and fencing shops and we got what he actually needed to do the job!

He then cracked on putting in fencing posts, putting up trellis and then the chain link to create a safe space for my plants.  It’s perfect, we have trellis at the two ends so I can grow climbers and chain link at the sides so light can still get into the greenhouse and most importantly, the deer can kiss my ass, my plants are not your snacks this time.

Fencing complete, it’s time to play place the plants!  I’ve been hoarding this lot for more than a year, begging them from neighbours, fishing them out of skips, bagging the 50p bargains at work and tending to them in the polytunnel.  Had a lot of fun moving them about getting the right feel, channelling my inner Titchmarsh.

The rest of the gardens are full of colour and flowers and I wanted something a little different for my little secret garden.  This garden  is all  about foliage, soft grasses and  beautiful leaves and the star of the show, the wonderful Cercis tree my darling hub bought me for Christmas.  This is such a beauty of a tree, in early spring it flowers on bare wood, tiny but gorgeous pink flowers, then the leaves come in and they are heart shaped.  This variety is called forest pansy, over the year, the leaves turn pink and then in the autumn they go a vivid bright purple, then they drop off and it’s a twig for the winter, but I don’t expect to be sitting out here in the winter, so that’s not a problem.  It’s spent the last 6 months in the conservatory with me whispering “please don’t die, we’ll get you planted out soon” every time I watered it. Other feature plants are fatsia, bottlebrush bushes, a huge cordyline and lots of heucheras.

It took two days to plant this lot, and that was with Hubby helping, I definitely felt it in my back once it was all done, that was a lot of holes and a lot of digging.

I’m really happy with how it’s turned out, it looks a little contrived at the moment, but once the plants get going, I think this is going to be a really special space.

So reading garden, check, thank you Darren.

MrC has also been doing projects, there was this giant rock (that broke the trolly we tried to move it on, Tim made a new one with the old wheels, it’s a lot more sturdy)

And then he made a frame for my beautiful, but slightly monstrous Monstera plant that had got a bit big for it’s boots and collapsed under it’s own weight.

He also had to sort out the latest tree disaster, I’m not even sure what is going on here, it’s a bit of a mess, but we’ve chopped enough of it off it’s not resting on the floor anymore, I don’t think it’s going to be feasible to save it, but we’ll see.

The Caseys Snr come over every week and mow lawns and pull up weeds with remarkable efficiency, the ponies appreciate their efforts, they often get dried nettles, goosegrass or milk thistle as a treat.

Sadly Penny the duck didn’t make it through last winter, but her daughter flit and her little entourage regularly sit outside the backdoor and quack until someone feeds them, not my ducks, but I love having them about, which is why the boot-room is full of duck food.

The veggie garden is looking awesome, we’re eating new potatoes, broadbeans, cabbage, carrots, onions and all sorts direct from the plot, all delicious, all powered by horsepoo.

Now that I’ve finally planted out my giant plant hoard, the polytunnel and greenhouse have returned to their proper job, growing crops.  Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, chilies, melon and new for this year, loofas, these aren’t for eating but will hopefully help me wash some off the dirt I’m always covered in.  I’m quite proud that all of these are planted up in homemade compost.

From this…

To this…

The flower beds are looking amazing, when I think back to what we took on and where we are today, it’s such an astounding difference, I can only thank all the people who’ve helped us and still do, we’ve created something wonderful.

The ponies and cat are both fine, although they all seem to spend most of their life asleep, I kinda envy them, just a little.  

Wherein, I hire a willy washer…

Sometimes I feel the urge to write, mostly I don’t, writers block predominantly caused by the need for a nap, a glass of sherry or pony cuddles, but sometimes things happen here at magical Purbeck I want to remember and out comes the quill pen.

Happily, as we’re both knocking on a bit, Mr C and I have both had our first Covid injections and with the lifting of restrictions Mr and Mrs C snr are once again allowed to come and toil the land, I don’t even pay them peanuts although I do palm off rather a lot of rhubarb on them, I have 3 huge very productive crowns that were here when we moved in, and I don’t really eat the stuff.   It’s a bit chilly sitting down for lunch outside though, I think I need to invest in some heated blankets and long extension leads.

I love the fact that even in the middle of winter there are still bits and pieces about the place for harvesting, I was eating leeks and Brussel sprouts till the middle of March and this knobbly looking specimen is a horseradish root, it made a lovely sauce to go with our Sunday lunch.  Yes that is a glass of sherry, stop judging me…

As Spring is here, the birds are once again nesting, it had a hive of tree bees in it last year, this year it looks like we’re having blue tits in the bird box.  We also have crows nesting in the eves of the house, right next to my bedroom, they are extremely vocal, especially at about five in the morning.  Every year I mean to block off the entrance so they can’t nest there anymore, and every year I forget until I get a raucous early morning alarm of million decibel screeching.  This year I WILL block it off, I am not a morning person, I’m not really a night person either, the sweet spot is about 11am to about 3pm, before that, just don’t speak to me unless you’re bearing a cup of tea and after that I need a nap, preferably a 12 hour one.

Mr C had a bit of a project, every now and again something utterly random will irritate him and he’s off on a mission, that usually involves power tools.  This time it was the house sign (which to be fair to him was a rusty mess) the sign is horribly ostentatious and not something we would have chosen, but it’s part of the character of the house so it stays.  One of the ladies in the village said it used to be even more ostentatious as it was mounted (Dallas style) on an arch at the end of the drive (shudder).

Mr C wrestled it off the front of the house, it’s been there a while, it was quite the battle and lo, he set to with the powertools to remove the rust.  Then he painted it gold (not ostentatious at all) with a black border.

The plan had been to stain the boards behind the sign, but we suspected that there might be bats living behind them, so that’s a job for another day.  I think it looks rather nice!

As far as the ponios go, Little Louis is basically made out of love and rainbows and generally he expresses his happiness with dangly manparts.  I’d noticed that he wasn’t hanging as free and loose as much as normal which is a general indication that he probably had “beans” in his sheath (this is a build up of smegma, a combination of grease, sweat and general “that area” fluids).  As it’s been about 30 years since I last did a sheath cleaning, I decided I’d let someone else deal with crusty horse dick and hired a professional to come and sort out his dangly and not so dangly manly parts.  I was right, he did have sheath beans, so that’s another annual job on the pony maintenance list.  Owning horses is definitely a bit weird at times, that fact that someone has an actual job driving round the countryside cleaning horse willies is an indication of just how bloody weird we are! 

A big thank you to my friend Gillian who came over to hold Louis as I got rescheduled at work and couldn’t be there, we might be weird us horse people, but we look after our own.

Louis, seemed to rather enjoy himself, definitely no signs of stress or upset whilst he was being “sorted out”.

When I planned on getting a couple of ponies (sorry hub, that was one pony, just one pony, of course), I went to a great deal of expense to build them a pony palace that I stuff full of fluffy straw and tasty hayledge, and they do this!!!

Rosie has nothing to report except a moustache that could probably win awards.

In the garden work on this years veggie crop has started in earnest, the first early tatties are in, the onions/garlic and shallots are looking good and behind some fencing that seems to be keeping the deer out thus far (thank you Michelle, your cast offs are my treasure!

The raised beds have been weeded, netting restored and some limited planting started and the bean cages are up!

It’s that time of year again, the annual cutting and burning of the Miscanthus, I had help with this!

I’ve got a bit of a project going on too, I’ve been going on and on for ages about the new little reading/deer proof garden I’m planning on and work has finally begun.  I had a couple of weeks holiday from work and rather than sitting about napping (alright, there was a certain amount of napping, and sherry and more napping, I have made a good start on the reading garden. 

I’ve lifted the turf (hard work that with just a shovel and a wheelbarrow).  The soil has been rotavated, raked and then stomped down.  Mr C did the rotavating (I’m not allowed to play with powertools due to being an idiot who is capable of causing significant damage  to myself with a packet of tissues…) and then Mr and Mrs C snr helped with the stomping, they have much previous experience at this!

Then the weed suppressant fabric was laid, I love gardening, but anything that cuts down on the amount of weeding I have to do, I’m totally going to take shortcuts.

Work then came to a bit of a halt as the next step was to remove the conifer that was leaning over the greenhouse and the new garden.  Although Mr C has become skilled with his chainsaw, this was a job for the professionals (mostly due to if it did squish the greenhouse, they’d have insurance!).  The conifer has been safely taken down and chipped (I will use the chippings to cover the weed suppressant fabric once planting is complete.

Next to do is the fencing and the planting and then the reading and relaxing!

I wish we could get past the frosts, I have much planting to do and I need the space in the greenhouse and polytunnel for summer crops!

Hopefully next blog you’ll get to see the reading garden completed.

It’s not all huge undertakings round here, I find a lot of joy in the little bits and pieces that make the place look nice, really happy with these little planters I did to brighten up the garden tables.

I’ve been listening to the radio as per usual, it keeps me company while I’m digging and grooming and weeding, today there was an article about bloggers and Instagram and what not and how they’re influencing people in the wrong way, so listen up peeps, if you, even slightly, feel I’m in anyway influencing you, give yer head a wobble, unless your deepest desire  is to be covered in a patina of horse detritus and general dirt, I am definitely not influenceable in any way shape or form.  (Underpants by M&S, eggs by my mate Michelle, veggies sponsored by Mother Nature and a large smothering of horse crap, sherry by Croft – this latter is of no importance, but if you were thinking of popping by….)

Winter, get thee behind me, I have bulbs to admire (hopefully).

I know, I know, it’s been ages since I wrote anything, in honesty I feel as if I have done nothing for the last 3 months except go to work, clear up horse crap, pull up weeds and drink sherry, hardly going to set the blog world alight with that…..

It’s not entirely true, I have done a few bits and pieces (most of them start with and end with horse crap though)…

For once, neither of the hairy idiots have injured themselves in any unusual or expensive ways, the winter has been miserable with the weather, it’s been incredibly wet, they’re covered in mud and pretty grumpy at not having any grass.  January is when they get their teeth done, I am lucky that I have one of the best horse dentists in the country to take care of them. As we were in lockdown, I left him to sort them out while I stayed in the house.  Little Louis, good as gold, in and out of the stable in 15 minutes, then I looked out of the window to see the unedifying spectacle of my big fat hairy idiot giving Mike the slowest speed chase ever round the paddock, she couldn’t be arsed to actually break into a trot, so she just sort of trudged slowly away with a grumpy face with Mike following behind waving a headcollar.  Thankfully, she’s incredibly lazy and gave up the farce of a chase after about 60 seconds, mostly due to utter apathy. God, I want to pressure wash the pair of them so very very much…

A few weeks ago, I came in from sorting out the ponies, wet to the bone, freezing cold, covered in mud finished off with a light patina of hay, pony snot and poo.  The hubby takes a sniggering look at me and comes out with “so how’s the childhood dream of having horses working out for you?”.  I would like to say, that I am now definitely and officially an adult, because I didn’t stab him in the neck with a fork.

I did picture it though….

It is hard, horses in winter, but I love them with all my heart and they’re worth every bruise, back strain and mud splattered incident and summer will be here soon enough and then they are a joy (a wheelbarrow full of horse crap everyday kinda joy, but hey…).

Before then, we had Covid Christmas….  Hubby treated himself to Twinkly lights that were programmable to each individual bulb, and got to use a chainsaw in the living room, which I think he enjoyed and we had a new light display everyday, from the sedate to the migraine inducing, only MrC could geek up a Christmas tree…  For the last 20+ years we’ve spent Christmas day with Mr and MrsC snr and various family and friends, they fill me up with equal measures of turkey and sherry and I gossip with Pippa and I try not to snore as I nap.  This year was a Zoom Christmas, and although I terribly missed spending the day with them, in a weird way, I actually got to spend more time with my Dad and sisters and their partners and children, usually, it’s just a quick phone call with Dad, this Christmas we spent an hour talking on screen and seeing each other which, without Covid, we wouldn’t have done.  Silver linings and suchlike…

In the garden I’ve done a bit of a project, the mound that runs around one side of our gardens is a bit dull, nothing really grows there apart from the odd weed as it gets very little sun in the summer because of the trees.  I generally don’t like yellow flowers but I’ve made a few exceptions here…  I planted 100 daffodil bulbs, which only filled a few feet of the mound, so then I bought 500 bulbs and put them in, again this didn’t even slightly cut the mustard, so with gritted teeth and muttered oaths I went to the on sale at £1 spring bulbs with a “this is it, this time I will fill the rest if it kills me” and I bought another 800 bulbs, so I’ve put in 1400 daffodils in here.  Have you ever dug 1400 holes???  It took me 4 days, even with my trusty hole digging tool,  if I don’t get a bloody Wordsworth worthy display here in a month or so, there will be an epic sulk and even more sherry drinking than normal going on….

In the engine room of the gardens, my beloved greenhouse,  I have set up a “hot bed”, I read about the Victorians doing this, and thought I’d give it a go.  You dig a big hole, line it with rotting straw and then top up with some nice fresh horse crap (something in ready supply round here).  Really, you’re supposed to dig down about 3 foot, but as my greenhouse is basically derelict and I was a bit worried it might collapse if I dug that far down, mine is somewhat shallower, but it seems to have worked, it’s only raised the temperature in there by a couple of degrees, but that’s enough to get started on seeds early and for my resident plants in waiting to thrive when they might have died or been stunted in growth over the winter.  They knew stuff the Victorians…

I have made a start on my seeds for the year, soon the greenhouse will be full to bursting with seed trays and then they’ll start to encroach in the conservatory, the porch, the boot room, the windowsills and finally everywhere that’s flat and gets some sun, which my incredibly tolerant husband will studiously ignore…

I can’t really put any seed trays in the conservatory yet, because it’s already full of chitting seed potatoes….  The first earlies will be ready to be planted in about 3 weeks, that’ll free up a bit of space.

Every year I try to grow something edible that I’ve not eaten or not grown before, last year was a write off as you couldn’t get seeds for love nor money, this year, my new crop is going to be Hamburg parsley,  a worthy plant, you can eat the leaves and the roots, and I can’t wait to try it.

I have a big project planned for March this year, I’m going to create a reading garden, a little space that will be deer proof where I can grow anything I like and it won’t be eaten, and to that end I’ve been hoarding plants, and trees to plant out, it’s getting a little out of hand…..  These are plants given to me my neighbours and friends, the 50p bargains from work and some I dug out of a skip (I have no shame when it comes to plants, thinking about it, I just have no shame in general), I’m excited to start work on it and I dearly hope Mr and MrsC snr will be allowed to come around and be part of creating it.

I’ve also finally planted out my onion, shallots and garlic for the coming year, it was bloody hard work digging over the plot in the muddy conditions, but it’s a big tick for the gardening year to get them in, grow strongly my little friends, for I shall turn you into stews and soups and you will be delicious.

For the first time since we’ve been here in this wonderful property, I am content with the gardens, don’t get me wrong, there are a plethora of jobs to be done and weeds to be routed, but as I look around, it’s mostly beauty I see rather than work to be done, and that’s a happy place to be.

My happy place, seeds, compost and a glass of sherry. I may have dirt under my fingernails, I smell a bit odd and am covered be in things that mean I really shouldn’t leave the property lockdown or not, it’s not a bad life.

Oh yeah, I also turned 50, it was a bit dull, but at least I go up to a more urgent vaccination group….

All you need is fluff.

I am blessed, today I have received a (her) belly floof (my) face snuggle with Maggie which actually resulted in a purr rather than complete outrage and a withering look, Little Louis gave me a cuddle for about 20 mins and even my aloof “I don’t do cuddles” mare presented her nose for a kiss without bribery or coercion.  They are my life these fluffy idiots, the first thing I think about when I wake and the last thing I think of before I sleep.

I finally have a plan to reduce Louis exploding bum from defcon 5000 to hopefully a nice place to be around again.  Hayledge, as it turns out, often turns ponies into shit missiles, so there’s an add(ative) for that and I’ve 10 bales of hay to pad out the hayledge until he adjusts.   The hay was delivered by my local farmer, whom I adore, and he allowed me to snap a pic of his ingenious use of old tarp and baler twine to share with you, I’ve used baler twine for many many things, but this is just fabulous and I can only stand in awe at his ingeniousness.

Last time I wrote about the work to clear up the poor willow tree that had fallen, and Roger did an amazing job, however, there was still the enormous trunk to be dealt with and Roger felt, that needed a BIG chainsaw, so our reinforcement, called in his reinforcement, Howard, who has a, frankly, terrifying large chainsaw.  Sadly I wasn’t here when he came in to clear up the last of the debris, but Mr C has taken some pics of the work he did, which was amazing.  The area is now clear and it’s been seeded with grass, rolled by Mr C snr and after we have a massive bonfire to clear the left over bits, we can plant some of the branches we’ve saved and get a new willow tree (or 3) going.

The really large pieces of trunk have been turned into a nice socially distanced seating arrangement round the fire pit, with little tables for your glass of wine and baked potato.  It’s not rubbish, it’s rustic, that’s my story and I shall be sticking with it.

The rest of the logs will be collected by our local farmer for his eco burner heating thingamajig.  We try not to waste things round here, which is why the garage looks like an extreme episode of hoarders…

Elsewhere about the place, the veggie garden has been adorned with large amounts of pony poo, the muckheap is almost at manageable proportions again.  This lot will be raked over, left over the winter for the worms to work into the soil and rotavated in the spring ready for next years potato, onion and other assorted crops.  Thank you to MrC snr for digging out and ferrying this lot from the poo pile.

As often happens in village life, there is a certain amount of barter going on, I had grown (because my friend gave me a free plant) a huge pumpkin, which I had no idea what to do with, it has been sat in the greenhouse for a month getting in my way and it’s finally found a home, my neighbour (a few doors down and up the road) loves them, so we traded some plants for a pumpkin, she gets soup and I don’t have to step over the bloody thing anymore when I’m working in the greenhouse.  Win win…

The In-laws have made a start on a job that will last a few months, gathering up leaves for the leaf mulcher, I used the last of my leaf mulch last year, another year to wait before I can start harvesting this lot.

As for me, I’ve been sitting around eating bon bons and sipping wine, not.  I’ve been weeding, today I finally finished the gate bed (this bed is approximately the size of our entire garden in the previous house).  Looks empty now I’ve weeded it, I shall be keeping a close eye on the rescue section at work for some plants desperate for a bit of love and a new home.

I’ve also noticed some unusual things going on in the garden, this ceanothus is in flower, it really shouldn’t be until April next year, I appreciate it’s efforts but I worry what will happen to it in the spring. 

And then there is this teasel, I think these are seedlings, actually in the old flower, I will be taking them out and potting them on to overwinter in the greenhouse, never seen this before, but hey, free plants!

This lockdown doesn’t really affect Tim and I, the garden centre will be staying open (quite how a tray of winter pansies or a box of shortbread is a necessity escapes me, but at least I’ll be earning enough to pay for vets bills and fodder) and Tim has worked at home since March so nothing really changes for him.  If you’re struggling and need a chat, don’t call me, I’m hopeless with phones, but message me and I’m totally there for you.  And my advice, if you’re bored or frustrated, grow something, chuck some parsley or basil seeds in a pot and watch and wait for nature to work her wonders, it never fails to lift my spirits and my cooking!

I love the smell of chainsaws in the morning.

So in pony news, Rosie is once again plagued with feather mites and this close to the winter I don’t want to shave her legs, so I asked the vet to give her an injection which should give her 5-6 months protection (it’s done in two injections over 2 weeks, one to kill any active mites and the second to kill any that may have hatched in the interim).  So vet comes over with a needle the size of a rolling pin and inspects Rosie’s bum whilst I insert an apple at the head end for distraction purposes.  After a moment the vet says…  “Do you have a brush?  There’s so much mud I can’t find a needle site”.  That wasn’t embarrassing at all and a very expensive way to get your pony brushed….

Last time I wrote I was feeling all smug that the winter hayledge was in and Rosie wouldn’t end up this winter sounding like an old man with emphysema.  But no, this is ponies we’re talking about, it’s never that simple, the hayledge is so good and rich it’s given Louis the worst case of projectile wet farting I’ve ever seen.  Standing behind him is like being in front of a bloody firing squad.  The neighbour who comes over to fuss and brush him, took a hit, just after she’d washed his poo laden tail.  So now I suppose I’ve got to give them a 50/50 mix of hay and hayledge until Louis little tummy adjusts to the rich food and hope it doesn’t trigger Rosie’s allergy.  I love them, I really do, but they seem to just know when I’ve that “everything is good” vibe and then poo all over it.

The raised veggie beds are looking good for winter, I’m cropping cabbages and leeks right now and have enough to last until about March, and there are  broccoli, cauliflower, Chinese onions and succession leeks planted for spring cropping and soon the celeriac and swede will be ready to eat.

With Mrs C snr’s help, the polytunnel has been cleared down of tender summer crops swept clean and ready for me to fill up again.  Well I can’t see the space unused…  For ages I’ve been planning a new garden, just a small one that will feature foliage as the stars of the show, it will have a snuggly seat that I can curl up on to read and be screened and private.  Unlike my normal, what’s cheap, free or easy to take cuttings from scattergun approach to planting, this one is actually being planned!  So I’ve started collecting the plants I want for the foliage garden, a swathe of grasses at mid level is featured and I saw a huge chunk of Miscanthus discarded in a skip, which I’ve rescued (with permission), split, potted up (and given words of encouragement) and with luck they will start flourishing in the spring.  We have some blue conifers which will be dotted within the grasses and some heuchera which will be at the front of the garden.  A long way to go before I’ve hoarded enough to fill the garden I plan on, but I’m patient, you have to be if you’re gardening on an epic scale with no budget.  These (and others soon to come) will overwinter in the polytunnel and hopefully I’ll have prepared the ground ready for a spring planting.

The herbaceous borders at the back of the house have been weeded and planted for the winter, considering that 2 years ago they contained little more than sticks they are looking a lot more herbaceousy now.

Sometimes, Maggie likes to assist with the digging…

Although it is looking increasingly like Christmas won’t be anything approaching normal this year, I can report it’s business as usual in the Christmas Cake department, over the next few days I will create 4 delicious concoctions that will, over the next 6 weeks, be force-fed brandy to within an inch of their lives ready to give alcohol poisoning via the medium of mixed fruit to my family in the Forest of Dean.

When we first moved here, the trees we’ve taken custody of were at the very heart of the reason we fell in love with the place, over the years we’ve removed 100’s, some dead or dying some too big for the place they were, some self seeded in the wrong place and sycamores and elder by the dozens because they’re basically huge weeds. Those that remain we love dearly and this week we lost one of our favourites.  Alas, one of the weeping willows just became to large to bear it’s own weight and was uprooted during the winds we had a few days ago.  This is a huge loss to the gardens, a real hole in our landscape and where the heck are we supposed to hide the massive pile of rubbish we accumulate for burning now?

Not only is it a loss, it’s also a massive clean up job that needs doing to make the place safe, the tree took itself out, but also on the way down it took out an enormous branch of the willow next to it.  It was a mess, a dangerous and unstable mess.  Now my hubby has, over the years we’ve been here, become very proficient with a chainsaw, but this was a bit of large ask, so the in-laws called in the cavalry. 

If you’ve been reading this from the start, you’ll remember Roger and his chainsaws, and tractors and indomitable will to get stuff sorted.  He came over many times to help us with things we were too inexperienced or quite frankly frightened to tackle.   And so it was again, he might not be wearing a cape, but round here Roger is a bit of a hero.

With Roger wielding the big chainsaw, Mrc Snr on the little chainsaw and Mrs C snr and myself armed with loppers and on dragging duty, we’ve broken the back of the job.  There is probably another days work here but the area is safe once again.  It’s a terribly sad thing to see such a beautiful tree reduced to it’s component parts and we’ll need a big bonfire in the future.  The logs won’t go to waste, they’ll be given to people with wood burners, or people who create lovely things with logs.  A lot of the foliage has been collected for friends to feed to their horses or livestock and my two have been helping out where they can.

We will replant, Roger has selected several branches that will be perfect for clone trees, so although we’ve lost the parent, we will refill this part of the garden with it’s children.

I speak often about how much I love village life, I’ve put my back out, it’s getting better, but I was having a moan on facebook about it and said, jokingly, “send Codine” and they did (Tim was quite surprised and asked if I was drug running…), I love not only this place but the people we’ve met and made friends with too.

Goodbye dear friends, you served me well, an epitaph to my boots…

I know, I know, it’s been a while, I’ve been busy.  It feels like summer has passed in matter of moments.  And now, I’m doing all the jobs to bed down the place ready for winter.  I predict it’s going to be a cold, hard winter, due to an abundance of berries this year, the Yew, Hawthorne, Blackthorn, Rosehips, Rowen, Holly and Crab Apples are all bending under the weight of their fruits.  I hope it is a cold hard winter rather than the soggy fiasco we had last year.   I’m still not sure how the ponies survived the horrendous mud without their feet falling off, I don’t think I could cope with a repeat performance this year.

I can’t believe that I haven’t given the ponies a bath for over a year now, don’t get me wrong they’ve had legs, manes and tails washed, but a full on bath takes 2 people. Ever tried to socially distance whilst trying to rinse off ¾ of a ton of agitated soapy equine? Trust me, not possible, or advisable. 

Louis has become somewhat of a communal pony, there are several people in the village who come over to give him a brush and a cuddle, I love this, I was once the pony mad girl with no pony, sharing mine is a joy and a privilege.   Louis loves being fussed over and brushed, he’ll stand all day for it and then rejoin the queue for another go, Rosie is a bit more standoffish, there is one lady who likes to brush her, but I’m not trusting her with young children, I think she quite likes the peace and quiet to have an undisturbed nap while Louis gets loved on.

One little project I took on, with the help of Mr and Mrs C snr was to tackle the area of the garden where Storm Dennis had felled a whole bunch of conifers.  Hubby had chainsawed the remains of these a few months ago and as ever, if you turn your back on anything in this place for more than 5 minutes it turns into a weedy bloody mess.

Weedy bloody mess:

Mrs C snr and I cleared the weeds, I gave it a rake over and then we chucked some seed about then I raked it again.  The area was too tight to get the tractor and roller in there so my In-laws (love them so much) stomped all the seed in (this needs doing to ensure the seed has good contact with the soil for germination and to stop the pigeons from stealing it all).  I didn’t manage to get a picture of this, sorry, but I can still see them in my minds eye, stomp stomp stomp, stomp stomp stomp….  The things they do for me, honestly.

This is it today, looking pretty good I think.

Still not entirely sure what we’re going to do with this in the long term, I’m not sure that replanting more conifers is the answer, I don’t think they’d get enough light to thrive, or actually to stay alive unless we could get some that were about 30ft tall and I’m not even going to think about the logistics of that…  More thinking needed, but at least with the grass down it won’t be a weedy bloody mess again (in theory).

One of the big winter preparations is fodder for the ponies, and this was becoming a worry, since Rosie has developed a severe allergy to dust, I can’t feed her hay and hayledge is about 3 times the price of hay and I can’t just pop up to the local farmer and ask him to drop 20 bales off.  Hayledge comes in 4 sizes, round and Heston sizes, which you need a forklift to move, so not an option, then conventional and small bales.  Small bales are what I’ve been feeding them through the summer and they are eye-wateringly expensive, I needed conventional bales which are still expensive, but way more cost effective.  I must have phoned 30 hayledge suppliers, and not a one makes conventional bales, they’re not easy to prepare, they need fairly specialist equipment and frankly, I’d have had more luck trying to source a unicorn.

I mentioned this to my friend Matt, who just happens to be an engineer who repairs farm machinery (the big stuff, combines and the like).  Fret not he tells me, I will find you some.  And he did.  I’ve got 100 conventional bales paid for and reserved thanks to the fact he knows just about every farmer in the East of England.  I honestly can’t thank him enough for this, I know my ponios will be fed and happy for the winter and that’s a huge and important thing for me.  He hauled round the first load of 34 bales and they’re now stacked in the haystore and ready to go.  It’s gorgeous stuff, smells amazing and both of the hairy idiots love it.  Even though these bales are conventional size, they weigh 30 kilos each, and there were 34 of them that needed hauling out of the trailer, onto our tractor’s trailer, out of the trailer and then stacked in the haystore.  I couldn’t actually lift one on my own, they’re slippery, heavy and bulky and the bottom layer were covered in sheep poo from the trailer.   My Father in Law lifted the majority of these ON HIS OWN,  that’s just over a tonne in weight he picked up and moved TWICE, I can only pray I’m even slightly that fit when I’m in my 70’s, thank you Mr C snr.   We both had to strip off and chuck our clothes directly into the washing machine due to the poo, the stripping off was, for the sake of modesty, done separately.

Ponies/winter fodder, check.

In the picture, the white bale is a small bale, and they cost the same amount as the conventional, so you can see what a huge saving conventional bales will make.

Second bit of pony prep for the winter is the paddock, where the ponies were last winter, was a, wait for it, weedy bloody mess.  It’s been sprayed to kill off the dock, buttercup and ragwort, that brown stuff, is dying dock.  Once all the dying had completed, my rather fabulous husband, harrowed, seeded and rolled the paddock, he’s a good man my hubby, not sure what I did to deserve him, I must have saved the planet in another life and now I’m being rewarded. 

Ponies/winter paddock, check.

My ponies have a nice little life, I expect good manners when I’m amongst them, feet lifted without argument when I pick out their hooves and noses presented forward and correct for the purposes of kissing and no crowding when I feed them (that will get them a tap on the nose and a yelling at), I expect them to move where I tell them to without argument and to be haltered without fuss if I need to present them to vet or farrier, they are, generally, polite and responsive to my requests.  Otherwise, they are free to be who they are, neither are, and probably never will be worked.  I’ve been asked so many times why on earth I have them if I don’t “use” them.  That’s an easy question to answer, they are here for me to love, to kiss, to dote upon, to care for and to watch, endlessly.  I lose many hours just watching them interact, eat, play, argue and sleep (there is nothing and I mean NOTHING cuter than a flat out pony sleeping and snoring).  The plan was, that Rosie and I would ride about the local countryside having adventures and we did try that, unfortunately, my dodgy hip, total lack of riding ability, confidence and balance combined with Rosie’s general antipathy towards being ridden changed the plan, and I couldn’t care less, I am so wonderfully happy with my large, expensive to run, incredibly labour intensive hairy pets, and I think they’re happy with me.

THIS! THIS is why I love them so much, no matter how many times I see this, I still cry with laughter.

Harvests have been coming thick and fast, some I preserve as jams and chutneys, some I freeze, some we eat and the thousands of apples I give away mostly.  Windfalls go to Michelle’s pigs, various horsey friends come and gather the ones on the trees, I took some into work, MrC and I baked a few pies to go in the freezer (apple and scrumped blackberry, delicious).  There are still more apples than I know what the heck to do with on the trees, if you’re lacking in apples, pop round, I’ll see you right and will save me from chasing cars down the road begging people to take them….

Mr C snr has sorted out the logan and tayberry bushes, removing growth that fruited this year and tying in and tidying up the branches that will bear next year’s harvest.

I’ve spent a lot of time tidying up and planting up the raised veggie beds and the main veggie garden, I actually managed to keep on top of these this year, I would pat myself on the back, but Mr C snr and I hauled 34 bales of very heavy hayledge this morning and I don’t have that much flexibility at the moment.

The job I’ve been working on for the last couple of weeks is weeding and planting up for winter the flower beds, doesn’t sound like much, but it takes about 10 days to do them all (Not including the borders at the front of the property).  They are looking lovely.  It goes a bit like this at work…

Boss: Can you reduce the trays of leggy pansies and violas to £1.00?

Me: Sighs, then spends entire days wages on pansies and violas.

I think there is something about Autumn that encourages the wildlife to check out the house as a possible winter habitat.  I hoover up about 300 spiders a week, there was a toad in the kitchen and one evening, as I headed to bed, all sleepy and happy (there may have been beers involved) HOLY SHIT!!!  There were 6 hornets buzzing round my bedroom light.   I love most of the wildlife we have in abundance around here, but hornets are really scary.  I dispatched the husband to corral the hornets, which he did, but sadly we did have to get the nest destroyed.  I can’t be doing with hornets in the bedroom..  

I do have some sad news however, my beloved Toggi work boots developed a hole and the sole was coming away on one of them, which I mostly ignored, they were part of me, the leather had formed itself to my leg, they supported my ankles and I wore them every day for at least an hour, sometimes up to ten hours a day, even though they were utterly trashed, I couldn’t bear to throw them away, they were so comfortable.  Then it started raining, I ignored the wet feet and muddy socks for a few days.   Then, it got really really rainy and I was on the muckheap tidying up and I could feel cold wet liquified horseshit seeping into my boot, that did it, sorry old friends but it was time for us to part.  I miss them, I miss them a lot (tear creeping slowly down my face). 

It’s hard work this place, never once in all the years we’ve been here have I ever thought, Hmmm everything’s done, I think I’ll take a nap, and I probably never will think that, but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world than right here.

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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