Friday, 17 September 2010

If only dogs could climb trees!

This is Cassie on guard duty, she has taken to sitting here for several hours a day. So what is she guarding, the answer is the tree or more accurately the Walnuts. It is actually a two part exercise, part one is to try and deter the squirrels, of course squirrels being squirrels they work 30 feet up and take no notice of her. The second part of her duties come when a nut falls, that is rapidly collected, taken into the living room and broken open, the nut is eaten and the fragments of shell left all over the floor, (not good if you step on them in bare feet). What she doesn't realise is that the season hasn't really started yet, in a week or two there will be more walnuts on the floor than she can imagine, it will be fun to see how she manages and more importantly if she lets me eat any!

Thursday, 16 September 2010


I am always amazed at how fast things change in the fields around here. A couple of weeks ago this field was covered in wheat, now it is all prepared ready for next year.

Last winter was pretty hard and one of the benefits of that usually means bumper crops of hedgerow fruit. The blackberries this year are fantastic and I have been enjoying blackberry and apple crumbles and will be making some jam in the next week.

The haws are doing really well too, which is good news for the birds, the Fieldfare and Redwings will be arriving in the next few weeks and will take full advantage of them.

I am hoping to get back to work in the garden in the next week or so. I want to get the veg patch and herb garden dug over as soon as possible. The problem is finding the time, at the moment I am feeling really trapped by work, you would think that being a homeworker would make it easy to down tools and get outside, in fact the opposite is true. over the last few weeks I have been on conference calls 4-5 hours a day. Much of the time I come away from them feeling totally drained, stressed and trying to catch up with the rest of my work, by the time I finish I am far to tired to do any digging.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Dawn Walk.

I took the dogs out for a walk just after sunrise this morning. The light at this time of year is just amazing for a photographer. I think it is summed up beautifully summed up by the poet John Clare in the opening lines of his poem Rural Morning.

Rural Morning by John Clare

Soon as the twilight through the distant mist
In silver hemmings skirts the purple east,
Ere yet the sun unveils his smiles to view
And dries the morning's chilly robes of dew,

John Clare was a native of this part of the world and also shared my birthday 13th July.

I love walking the fields around here early in the morning, it clears your mind for the day ahead.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

A misty morning walk

This morning was the first really misty morning of the autumn. It was really magical walking the fields with the dogs at about 6:30. There is no one around at that time so I can enjoy the walk without worrying about running into other dogs.

At this time of year everything seems to be covered by spider silk, as autumn approaches the young spiders spin long threads into the air which act as parachutes catching the air currents and carrying them aloft and spreading them over great distances. The result is these threads get caught on the vegetation and look fantastic when covered in dew.

The Sloes or the fruit of the Blackthorns are looking really good this year. I will be harvesting some in the next few days to make this years Sloe Gin.

As I return home for breakfast the mist has begun to clear as the sun burns it off, today should be a lovely autumn day.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

New Plants

It's funny how things work out, within minutes of posting my last entry a friend in the village contacted me asking if I wanted all the Perennials and shrubs she was digging out of her new veg patch. So I spent a couple of hours round at Julie's digging and came back with 2 barrow loads of plants, including a lovely Hydrangea and a Daphne. I then spent much of Sunday afternoon planting them. I would have liked to have put the Daphne in the front garden so that people walking past or to the house benefited from the scent in the spring but someone in the past 'landscaped' it 6 inches deep in pebbles so it has had to go out the back. I don't know if it was fate or what but it was just the lift I needed over the weekend.

I took the dogs out for a walk early this morning, the fields look lovely now they have been harvested and the straw is waiting to be baled. After the last couple of weeks of rain it was nice to be out in the morning sunshine.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Time to fess up

I alluded to the fact in my first update that the garden was in a bit of a mess and that this was mainly down to the weather, well if I am honest that isn't strictly true. I had big plans for the garden this year ; I wanted it to look really good for my birthday party in July. Unfortunately it got away from me, the large flowerbeds I have created were impossible to keep weed free. I think this was partly due to the fact that the perennials I have been planting haven't got established well enough to provide ground cover along with the really good growing conditions early in the year. The same was true in the veg patch and the herb garden, as fast as I cleared them they returned. Then I managed to miss a couple of weeks weeding duty and chaos ruled. Those of you you who have been following this blog for a while will know that I do suffer from bouts of depression and I think I went into one about this time and gave up.

I did manage to get it looking reasonable by July but after the party I gave up on it again. The thing that has made me want to get going again was when a Pear Tree arrived in the post, this was a birthday present from some friends and was a total surprise. Having a tree to plant meant that I had to plan the future of the garden as trees are long term things. So I have now decided on what I am going to do. I am going to get some more perennials for the beds in the autumn and plug the gaps. The veg patch and the herb garden are going to be re dug and the soil refreshed to try and break down the heavy clay a bit. I am also going to do some work on the garden studio as I feel if I spend more time in the garden it will help me.

I am actually sitting in the garden as I type this having a coffee break. I have been securing the boundary hedges to prevent the dogs escaping. So at least I am getting some of my motivation back. I know I am going to be have a very hard autumn and winter trying to sort things out, but a bit of hard work never hurt anyone.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Rain, rain go away, come again another day

We have had about 2 days of non stop rain up here in East Anglia, not that we haven't needed it but it is very depressing in what is meant to be the height of summer. Our poor hens have suffered the worst of it, the do have cover but the rain and the mud in their run makes them very bedraggled. I have put down loads of wood shavings to try and improve conditions but really it is only token relief.

I also feel sorry for some of the farmers around here, the weather has been so erratic this year that there are still unharvested fields of wheat out there. At a time when wheat prices are going through the roof it must be a nightmare for them. If they harvest it while it is wet they need to dry it using huge diesel powered driers, this of course not only cuts their profits but is very un-environmentally friendly.

The rain has also stopped me from securing the boundary of the garden for the dogs. They managed to escape earlier in the week through a hedge and fence I thought was secure, quite why you would want to go head first through 2 foot of bramble and hawthorn is quite beyond me but who knows what goes on in a dogs brain? Anyway they have been restricted to the concrete area at the top of the garden since which in fact does also have the advantage of keeping them relatively mud free as well. Hopefully over the weekend I will be able to patch up the escape tunnel.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Update Pt2

Harvest started around here in July and due to the weather it is still going on. The picture is a watercolour sketch of the combine in the fields behind the house. I tried to capture the vast amount of dust that it creates. They run day and night when they can, it is quite strange to see the bright lights out in the fields late at night it looks like something out of a Sci Fi film.

The garden at the moment is a real mess, the weather recently has caused havoc. I did manage to get it looking nice for the party in July but the weeks of drought followed by torrential rain has made a real mess. We have had a good crop of apples off our small Discovery tree, but the veg patch has really suffered. I have also had an attack of Botrytis on the Tomatoes in the greenhouse which has been a real pain, I think I helped cause it by over watering the other crops in there and getting the humidity to high, oh well will know better next time!

It has also been a real battle this year trying to get rid of the Red Mite from the hens. Last year we lost 2 birds to Red Mite so I have been really careful this summer, I have been disinfecting the coup about once a week but they keep coming back, my guess is they are coming from the wild birds that have been nesting in the garden.

The other big thing that has been going on in our lives is a joint effort to loose a bit of weight and get fit. To this end I have started cycling again. I used to cycle a lot but I had a couple of accidents which really knocked my confidence. I am now really getting back into it and am trying to get out for a ride of at least 20 miles each weekend and if possible a couple of shorter rides during the week. I have also setup a new blog to record my trips called Travels with the Pink Panther the Pink Panther is what I call the bike!

Life in the village goes on with the usual round of coffee mornings, church suppers etc but I will fill you in on them in the future.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

I am back. An update of the last couple of months Pt1

Hi everyone, I am back. I am sorry for the long extended summer break, basically it's been a combination of computer problems and pure laziness so I thought I would spend a couple of posts updating you all on what you have missed. I have now replaced my aged iMac which had all but given up the ghost with a lovely new Macbook pro so I have no excuse to ignore this blog any longer.

My last post was back in May when we were having some major work done on the house. We needed to get this done we could press on with decorating the utility room.

In June the Tennis season begins which means Sharron goes off to various tournaments and friends fly in from all round the globe. Earlier this year I had started dabbling with watercolour painting so I spent a fun weekend with a great friend called Meg who like myself is a Tennis widow. Meg who is an artist came to stay while her partner was working in Eastbourne, the visit had been well planned as her mission was to teach me to paint abstracts in acrylics. I must say these was quite a culture shop for me and took me way out of my normal comfort zone.
This is one of my efforts which I have called "Inner fire" I am not claiming any great talent or for that matter any great insight into my inner soul! I just like it!

Also at the end of June I held my first exhibition of my photo's at a local gallery which was really exciting. It went really well and although I only sold one piece the work was very well received.

We were really busy at the beginning of July as Sharron had Wimbledon on and I was preparing the house and garden for a major event, my 50th Birthday party. The actual event fell on the 13th but we had the party on the 17th, I am not sure how many people we had here 70 -100 I think and it was a fantastic day. Lots of friends and family came from all over the country and an awful lot of folk from the village were here. We opened up our 'bar' with a barrel of beer and erected a large marquee for the food.

So this is the first part of the update, in the next part I will tell of the new fitness regime and what's been happening around the village.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

The view from the roof and Birdwatching made easy.

I am very pleased with this picture, not because its a particularly good picture (it isn't) but because I took it. Anyone who knows me may find that hard to believe as it meant I had to be on top of the scaffolding to do so and ladders are really not my thing. Anyway I decided to go for it as I thought it was to good a chance to miss.

The work on the chimney is progressing really well and the results are looking great.

It is amazing how many bricks go into a chimney, about 350 in this one. We have tried to make it look more in the period of the house than the one it has replaced which was put up in the last 30 years. We know from an old photograph that the original one was actually much taller and was matched by one on the other end of the house which has since been removed (vandalism in my mind!).

Birdwatchers like to tell tales about the hours they spend in a hide waiting form something to appear. Actually all you really need to do is leave you binoculars on the utility room table!

Monday, 17 May 2010

Major works begin

We had a lovely weekend, I managed to get a lot of weeding done in the flowerbeds on Saturday before going down to London on Saturday evening to celebrate a friend getting his doctorate. Congratulations again Dr Howell, it was a really good evening, seeing lots of friends and making new ones.

We have some major works starting on the house today, The brickwork of the chimney is totally rotten so the whole thing needs to come down and be rebuilt. We are going to use reclaimed local bricks so the result will be more 'original' than the existing one the seems to have been built from a mixture of whatever was laying around! I will feel a lot happier once it is done as every time it has been windy since I have known the state of the brick work I have been scared the whole thing was going to fall down.

We have also got to replace the roof on our utility room as well, the roof we had put on after we moved in has been leaking really badly and was clearly not suitable for the job. We have bitten the bullet and decided to start again, once it is done we will have to decorate the utility room due to the water damage to the ceiling.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

New growth and learning to see things differently

I am sorry that I haven't been updating my Blogs recently, I have had a lot going on but that is no excuse.

At least the garden is coming to life properly now. One of my favourite plants is now in full bloom, this perennial cornflower. I just love the colour and the delicate petals.

The Greenhouse is providing almost more salad than we can eat, the first batch is now starting to run to seed but I have a second crop following on close behind.

This year I have decided to grow my tomatoes in pots, I am also growing different varieties, Gardeners delight, Shirley, Beefsteak and good old Alicante. You will notice the sprinkler on the floor, I have invested on an Auto watering timer this year, partly to save me carrying cans down the garden but also because if I use the hose I have to play with Boris and you don't always want a soaking wet dog.

The Shallots I planted in the herb garden are coming on really well

As is the garlic in the main veg patch.

One of the thing I have been doing over the last few weeks has been rediscovering watercolour painting. I should say from the start I am not very good and I will probably not be inflicting any on you just yet. I have however been going for lessons at the local evening class centre. One of the good things that has come of this is that I am seeing things differently, especially skies. I thought it was just me being a bit pretentious but when I was leaving my class last night two of the other students said the same to me. I am almost ashamed to admit this as a keen photographer but I think I just took them for granted but now as I am trying to reproduce them I realise what a fantastic palette of colour is present, of course I do have the advantage of living in East Anglia which is famed for it's huge skies. I am hoping that this will improve my photography as well my painting.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Our new seating area

Last year we decided to make the area of grass where we had placed our gazebo a permanent seating area we could use all year round. I laid down a weed resistant mat covering last weekend in preparation.

I had order 2 cubic metres of blue slate chippings to cover the area.

Unfortunately the chippings had to be left by the house so it all had to be moved by wheelbarrow.

I put the chipping down with a thickness of about 2 inches which will give a firm weed resistant base once it has settled.

Once the slate was down I moved the furniture into place

and put the canopy on the gazebo.

Now all we need is a nice summer to enjoy it.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Tea in the garden at last

The weather was so nice yesterday that after mowing the lawn for the 3rd time this year (doesn't it grow fast!) we invited some friends around for afternoon tea. The garden is begining to come to life and is actually looking reasonably tidy apart from the new seating area we are constructing, but more of that later.

Last week I planted some seeds in the greenhouse and many of them like these Mibuna are already coming up. I always find it amazing when I see seedlings emerge, these wonderful little plants are no more than a mixture of Carbon Dioxide from the air and water with a few minerals thrown in, nature is wonderful.

Some of you will remember the raised bed I built in the greenhouse earlier this year, well it was definitely one of my better ideas. I planted it out with mixed salad leaves, lettuce and radishes and we have been harvesting them for the last 3 weeks.

I have decided that as it has been so successful I am going to keep it going through the summer rather than planting outside. Apart from the speed at which it grows in the greenhouse the other advantage over growing them outside is that the leaves don't get covered in mud splashes when it rains and it is easier to control slugs etc.

Our current project in the garden is a new seating area. Last year we were given a lovely gazebo to go with our garden table set. The problem was that the shading from both killed off the grass in the area where we put them. We decided that we would create a seating area usingslate chippings that we could use all year round.

The first stage was to put down a weed proof membrane over the whole area. Now I am just waiting for the delivery of several tons of chippings to cover it.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Meet the new arrival


We have a new arrival here, meet Cassie (which may change) she is a 7 month old cross between a Dogue de Bordeux  (French Mastiff) and a Bull mastiff. The young couple who had her couldn't keep her as they had just started a family. We brought her home on Saturdayto start her new life with us.

We were worried about Boris accepting her but as you can see there doesn't seem to be a problem.

I was also quite concerned that she would be stressed out by the move and wouldn't settle in quickly but as you can see she seems to have made herself at home.

Of course somethings are very new to her such as chickens, she real isn't sure what to make of them. Boris of course just finds them mildly annoying  and can't understand what all the excitement is all about.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Sunshine and Flowers... At last!!


What a lovely start to the week, bright sunshine and snowdrops in bloom in the garden. I actually managed to spend half an hour out there chopping down some brambles. It never fails to amaze me everything out there seems to be dormant but the brambles just keep going.

Over the weekend the weather was terrible, There was flooding all around this area, the floodplanes around Huntingdon and St Ives are underwater where the Great Ouse has burst it's banks. The garden was flooded in places.


As you can see the hens decided to keep their feet dry.
We had water coming in through the roof of our utility room which meant putting on my waterproofs, getting up there and doing some repairs, hopefully it is fixed now but we won't know until the next storm.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

A winter walk and discovering a secret landscape.


Once again over the weekend we had snow, I can't remember a winter like this. At least this time it was only a light dusting but it gave a nice excuse to go for a walk accross the fields towards our neighbouring village, Pidley.  This lovely old oak tree stands in one of the fields, I doubt this is the worst winter it has seen or will see. The field in the forground is planted with rape, which would normally be about a foot tall by now but is only forming a slight green carpet on the surface of the soil it being held back so much by the cold.
Also on sunday I discovered this wonderful secret landscape.

It is growing on the roof of our garage. Lovely clumps of moss which are all fruiting at the moment. I never bother clearing it as it not only looks pretty but the birds love digging around in it looking for food.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Changing times

It has been  noticable over the last few weeks that the seasons are changing. For a  few weeks I had been letting the chickens after I had taken Sharron down to the station in the morning, now it is light before we leave  and they are fighting to get out.  The other thing I notice at this time of year are the lovely sunrise skies we get here, like the one above which is a view across the fields behind the house. Unfortunately I am normally driving into them on the way back from the station which is not so good!

In the garden the bulbs are poking through and the seeds I planted in my greenhouse raised bed have germinated so hopefully I will have fresh homegrown salad in a few weeks. I am fighting back the urge to start planting things, I have some onion sets sitting on the desk in front of me, but I know its to early to put them out. What I will do in the next few days is to cover the ground with some black polythene to start warming the soil and surpress some of the weeds.  I will also start mulching and digging in compost  in the next  couple of weeks.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

and then the cat ate my Bourbon Biscuit!

So there I was writing a comment on Lucy's excellent blog entry when i look up to see the last Bourbon biscuit disappearing into the cat!

Well I suppose thats one way I am going to keep the weight off! She normally try's to steal my lunch especially if it's cheese but chocolate biscuits are a first.