What a difference a day makes.

The first sunset this part of the garden has ever seen.

In my last post https://acquest13.wordpress.com/2019/02/26/dont-cast-a-clout/

I was moaning about the leylandii hedge that has blighted my garden ever since we have lived here. Initially it was around 6ft but over the years it’s growth has been amazing and my patience even more so!

Yesterday the family and various workmen arrived and in one day cut most of it down. It helped that health and safety was lacking and youthful exuberance was high. The, almost gale force at times, wind added to the excitement.

Miss C kept an almost constant watch and rushed in with regular updates. She was at her most excitable when tales of bad language or imminent danger could be relayed.

The workmen are reduced to one today and he has spent the day clearing the fallen branches from next doors garden. The hardest part of the tree, the one part that could demolish my summerhouse or worse part of our other neighbours house is still there. I don’t know how they plan on doing that bit but I just hope they do. Only time will tell.

Laugh of the day goes to Miss C. She came back full of admiration to tell me. ‘the man on the cherry picker couldn’t hear them shouting at him over the noise of his chainsaw. He had a really good idea, he shouted at them to text him if they wanted anything.’

When I pointed out that he would have to turn off the chainsaw to read the text and then would be able to hear them anyway so perhaps just waving would get his attention, she looked at me scathingly and said’ why would they want to talk to each other when they could text? ‘

I think I’m better in the garden than the modern world 😉

Don’t cast a clout…

… Until May is out.

My old granny always used to quote that saying but then would shake her head over whether it was May the month or the mayflowers (hawthorn) on the bushes.

I’ve a good idea of what her opinion of all this spring weather would be if she was still around. ‘We’ll pay for it later’ would probably be her viewpoint and I’m sure she’s right but who could blame us for throwing off the winter jumper and gardening with gay abandon this last weekend.

Miss C and I spent Friday checking the bees and preparing their equipment for the new season. All hives were alive and active with lots of pollen going in. It’s a good sign but the lack of nectar is still an issue and they all happily took the fondant icing I was offering.

On Saturday hubB wanted to enjoy the great weather with us and spent the morning making me a new compost bin. I had an unexpected battle with the neighbours over the state of their hedge.

It’s not a new gripe of mine, it’s been bugging me for years but I’m sorry to say I lost my cool and a heated argument ensued. The neighbours in the style of all modern combatants managed to take no responsibility, expect me to sort their problem and undertook the whole argument while holding their phone in my face to video it. I’m now no doubt a You Tube sensation amongst their youthful friends.

The law on tall hedges is strange to say the least. They are considered too tall if they are over 6 1/2ft but you can not expect anyone to cut down a hedge to the extent that it will then die. You then have to contact the owners and attend mediation with those neighbours who clearly don’t care or they would have already cut the trees. After all else fails you then contact the local council, pay another large sum of money to them for a visit after which they contact the owners. The owners are then given time to respond and could eventually be fined for not complying. Given that hedges can’t be trimmed between March and August incase of nesting birds it then becomes another wait. The hedge has been in this limbo for 20 years, is bare for at least 7ft and will be killed by a trim. It seems like a waste of time and money to keep pursuing it.

Gardening was abandoned and a trip to the seaside for a bracing walk in the sea air took away some of my frustrations.

Sunday was spent again in the garden. Beds were weeded and hedges trimmed. The new compost bin rapidly filled and life was looking good.

The neighbours, having fetched their parent round for moral support,approached with an olive branch. Admitting my argument was right and accepted the hedge needed to come down. It helps that they are desperate to sell and buyers are put off by said hedge. They have agreed to do it in the next 3 weeks, try not to ruin my garden in the process and to put up a new fence. They also offered to pay for any damage they cause but couldn’t resist pointing out that I need to help with the work.

I’m not good at confrontation. I don’t necessarily believe the work will actually get done. I’m negative enough to fail to see how they can do the job by themselves without damage or death being involved. But I’m also just a little bit excited about all the new veggies I’ll be able to grow when my garden actually gets more light on it.

I’ve started more sowing in anticipation and hubB has had to accept seedlings in the bedroom. All windowsills are fair game!

January update.

I’m a few days late here and I’m well aware that we are now into February, but just where has the time gone. January is always a strange month for me as its my birthday and every year the numbers get higher and as my brain believes its still 30 I get more dispondant. This year I got an electric propagator for the said event, it doesn’t top the industrial sized wheelbarrow I got the other year, but it’s pretty darn close!

I started some chilli and tomatoes in it last weekend and the tomatoes sneaked up yesterday while I wasn’t looking and are already a bit leggy. It’s not a problem as I tend to prick out quite quickly so will plant them deep.

In the garden we mainly missed the snow with only a millimetre or 2 Friday night which soon went. We’ve had some sharp frosts though so that has knocked things down.

A few Hardy souls carry on. The hebe is an unexpected treat as we often loose them and usually I move any in pots into the tunnel. This one was just a bit big. The primrose spreads everywhere but usually flowers later, it does look very nibbled though so some bug is still awake. Probably the slugs who are prolific all over the garden.

Here in the tunnel I’ve surrounded the cauliflowers with ash from the log burner to keep them at bay.

The fleece is giving the impression I’ve got a huge spider in there. It’s not needed today but the temperature drops to freezing at night. The poor plants must wonder what is going on. I leave a spider plant amongst them, if that survives I know the rest have a good chance. It’s still going strong this year!

My favourite plants at the minute are this little hellebore I brought for 75p at the supermarket this week. I do love a discounted plant!

And my sarrococca or winter box. It was given to me as a tiny cutting, by a fellow beekeeper, a couple of years ago. It’s very slow growing but these few flowers smell amazing. It promises a wonderful future and will be planted near the house to be enjoyed for years to come.

2019 is looking like being a better year here at the cottage. We have upheaval to face with building work scheduled for the water damage we suffered last year and I’ve had a huge birthday that I just didn’t want, but I’m feeling positive. Funny what a bit of sunshine, a few pretty flowers and some new growth can inspire in you, if you only look for it!

How not to make cherry jam.

In England we have expression that someone is ‘cack handed’. It’s not used much anymore but it basically means clumsy, careless, not very organised or rushing in without thinking. As a child my mum used it regularly to explain to people how I’d got my latest bruise or small injury. I once explained to a teacher that the reason I couldn’t do something was ‘because mum says I’m crack-handed Miss.’ having disputed this and tried her hardest to teach me the teacher conceded ‘on this occasion I really do think your mum knows best’.

Today I struck again.

Having successfully made red onion chutney this morning I decided to make a batch of cherry jam. I found two recipes that both indicated that as cherries are low in pectin I needed jam sugar and I don’t have any. I do however have lots of granulated left from feeding the bees in the autumn and I hate spending money unless I have to, and, I live 20 miles round trip from a jam sugar stocking shop.

One recipe suggested redcurrant juice which again I didn’t have. But I do have redcurrants frozen from the summer. Remembering my good friend had used some in strawberry jam in the summer, with great success, she said, I decided to throw in a handful. That was my first mistake!

I stirred and softened the fruit, warmed the sugar and put the jars in the oven to sterilise. It didn’t smell very fruity so I thought I would try a bit.

Now jam gets hot, VERY HOT and I burnt my tongue, followed by the realisation that I had a mouth full of what felt like pea-shingle. I then remembered that the reason I hate redcurrants, and only really grew them for the chickens who don’t, is because they have pips. Lots of tiny, hard pips.

If you are a beekeeper it is at this point that you will notice that the pips look very like varroa mites and are just as annoying. Having lifted out the fruit with a slotted spoon I sieved the juice and put it back on to boil. The W. I. recipe that had sensibly suggested the juice also suggested a hard boil of that juice with the sugar before adding the fruit.

If only I had listened. It took me half an hour to pick through the cherries. Who realised that redcurrants are exactly the same size as a cherry pip and fit inside the pitted middle so exactly? I now know this!

I also know that they don’t all come out but do float to the top when you jar the jam allowing you, with the help of your reading glasses, to skim off even more. I also now know that 4oz of redcurrant pips go a long way in 4lb of cherries.

Eventually I ended up with nine jars of jam, a kitchen covered in jam, sticky hair and clothes(it’s hard to swap between normal and reading glasses while jarring jam without touching your head/jumper and various other surfaces it seems!).

Now I don’t really eat jam so if my family don’t rave about my new cherry jam and discreetly pick out any remaining pips without a fuss I well might have to gift 8 jars to my lovely friend who clearly didn’t notice the pips when she used them.

If they do like it I have at least another 4lb of cherries in the freezer. I can have another go but maybe I’ll be more organised and juice those redcurrants first!

December update.

Rudbekia in December. Crazy!

What a month it’s been. Miss C and I try to do something christmassy every day during December and this year I think we managed it. She also managed to fit in a fair bit of her maths while I sat working on a homemade present for the new nephew. We baked, crafted and made sweets. Some well and some less successfully, but all great fun.

Now the holiday is nearly over and after a couple of days of sitting on the sofa eating, drinking and being sociable hubB and I had cabin fever. We decided to cure this by going into the garden and cutting down a tree and claiming a bit more of our overgrown land. After 2 days of clearing, chopping and digging we replanted with a Hazel tree and a poor excuse of a blackcurrant I’d grown myself and not looked after enough. They should be happy here, dressed with homemade compost.

It might not look much but as well as the huge tree the ground was covered to some depth with ivy. Over the years ivy seemed a better bet than weeds but it’s tenacious and hard to eradicate once it gets a grip.

The tree trunk is stored for the log burner but the left overs were burnt on other parts of the ivy just to show how thick it all is. I determined to beat it this year. (no I’m not holding my breath while I say that!).

We have also been able to cycle down to the bees. At 14 degrees they are all flying and eating food. That’s not good and starvation will be a real threat for English bees this winter. Although my hives were all fairly heavy going into winter I’ve been supplementing with fondant. So far they have had 2 1/2lb each which is unprecedented in all the years I’ve had hives. It’s a worry but a necessary evil to feed in such warm weather. Although there’s no nectar I did see a small amount of pollen, probably Hazel, going in so there’s some good.

Here’s me adding another pound of fondant to the 4 of my six hives that needed it today. I have never had to wear a suit in December before but then I’ve never seen them fly in such quantity and over such a large area. I even took a sting to the hand, unheard of!

November update.

The weather is still good here with daytime temperatures in the middle teens. However it’s cold at night and this week the trees have finally started giving up their leaves. The whole garden has started to take on the look of autumn at last.

This osteospermum is still looking good and the cyclamen in the summerhouse has finally come into its own after I brought it reduced at the end of last season.

In the polytunnel after removing the summer crops I moved in a lot of pots that needed winter protection.The warmer days have caused an outbreak of mildew and mouldy leaves so I have been cleaning the plants regularly. I have also had to remember to water which is a job I don’t expect at this time of year. With hindsight I perhaps should have left everything outside for another month but at least it’s a job ticked off the list.

The cauliflower seedlings that were eaten by caterpillars are recovering.

Outside the sprouts are a different story

What with the caterpillars still appearing, the wooly aphids and sooty mould and the lack of leaves the poor things are looking decidedly feeble. I’ve not given up on them yet though!

The parsnips look hopeful although the leaves are flopping a bit.

The beds are all still full. Leeks, celery and calabrese in this one.

Raspberries still cropping although they are few and far between now.

The bed of peas still give a few pods but again there’s an attack of mildew which make alot of them unattractive.

Unlike this marigold that has self seeded itself and looks a treat and this strawberry that just might ripen fully.

I’ve harvested two pots of sweet potatoes as well.

Neither did brilliantly in the heat of the summer but I’m pretty amazed by this one which weighs a whopping 2lb.

If only all my veggies were this successful.

October update.

The weather has taken a real turn for the worse. The sun may be bright but the temperatures are cold and last night we even had hail stones that laid in piles. This all seems so much worse when your house still has no heating and falling masonry due to a water leak of phonominal proportions.

Outside the garden clings on.

The dahlias I grew from seed in the spring have been lovely and, although everything else in the bed has gone over, they still flower with abandon.

A heather in my blueberry bed makes up for the death of the actual blueberry bush.

A tray of viola seedlings needs a permanent home. The front garden is calling!

My new strawberry bed is establishing well. A November strawberry would be amazing.

In the polytunnel the peppers and chillies are still cropping and lots of tender pots are ready to over winter.

My cauliflower seedlings were eaten by a sneaky group of late caterpillars but, since planting out, look like they might recover.

My £1 bargain pear tree will be a fun experiment.

The edible fuchsia which quite honestly tastes horrible has got tired of my insults and is not ripening but my bargain bucket herbs are coming on a treat.

Outside the Brussels are struggling with white fly, wooly aphids and sooty mould but give their best.

Mildew has attacked the peas, who gallantly pod on.

Sweet potato still looks fairly green and the onion and garlic bed looks healthy if not a bit weedy.

The same can not be said of the raspberries that have been on their last legs all summer and yet still fruit. Amazing plants and definitely worth the space.

George the cat followed me everywhere today and I struggled to keep his tail out of all the pictures. So here he is, along with Mr Bones.

Happy Halloween.

Autumn sunshine.

It’s been a difficult month here, full of ups and downs, but today has been lovely. For Xmas we were given a voucher to go Segway riding and it’s only now that we have been able to fit it in. We brought an extra ticket for Miss C, drove into Huntington to the venue and spent a happy hour spinning in circles and driving around the woods. Great fun!

After a snack in the coffee shop we went for a walk around Grafham Water. The sun was lovely, the water no so.

For some reason the water was thick and murky and edged with this unattractive foam. A bit worrying for a reservoir we get drinking water from!

On the way home the view across the fields was lovely. I took a few pictures of our big skies to remind me of the sun when winter arrives

Many years ago Miss C asked hubB why there is always one wind turbine in the group that doesn’t work. He told her it’s where Santa’s elf sits to oversee the naughty and nice list. She might not still believe him but she still looks for that turbine.

Today, this was the one.

Christmas may be only weeks away but today it felt like summer still.

Mutant pumpkin

Remember this pumpkin that was brazenly growing up a fence panel?

The plant had reached the roof of next doors garage and although it was loving the sun it was also blowing in the wind and rubbing on the wood so it had to be harvested.

I was curing it in the summerhouse when Miss C noticed it was starting to rot on the damaged part so I decided a pumpkin soup was the order of the day.

We brought it into the house and happily chopped it in half only to realise something wasn’t right.

Miss C instantly recognised courgette genes and started tutting, as only a teenager can. She hates courgette with a vengeance and seeing that she might be getting it in a soup for tea was more than her usual sunny nature could contemplate.

The pumpkin flower has obviously been pollinated by a wandering bee visiting from a nearby courgette plant. The fruit is just all seed with little flesh and smells quite acidic.

Miss C was much happier with the butternut squash soup we made instead!

September update.

The weather here has taken a real turn and we are definitely now in autumn. Although the temperatures have been good we have had more rain and in the last few days a lot of wind

This part of the garden was my pride and joy last week but now with the sunflowers broken and blown over and the dahlias stripped of lots of their petals it’s looking very sorry for itself. Everything in it was grown from seed this year and the whole point of it has always been that I would compost everything in the autumn and leave it bare all winter. That way I can dig out all the persistent weeds and dig in lots of goodness. It also gives me a blank canvas to plant all the seedlings I grow each spring but never have room for.

On the other side of the same part of the garden is this mess

We took down a huge mixed up bundle of trees, bush and weeds between us and next door only to find our neighbour had filled the no-mans land behind it with rubbish. The new fence was put on hold while we cleared it and then life took over, closely followed by a swarm of bees. We had no sooner sorted out the first swarm when another moved in. In the mean time the spare earth called me to plant just a few pumpkin plants,

Which climbed over the weeds and up the neighbours shed and over his garage!

Some butternuts which grew through the hive legs

The bees are using the leaves as landing boards and seem happy. They will be moved next week but for now have enjoyed their close proximity to the garden to build up their reserves.

A couple of summer squash I was given also joined the mix, along with some late sweetcorn and leftover zinnias. They were a plant to far and have not done so well. Like every year I vow not to plant so close next year.

The tomatoes are finishing. The cucumbers have been replaced with peas and I picked 9 more peppers this morning before remembering to blog! These chilli are hot whatever the label says!

Plants outside still look green and lush. The late peas are podding, the sprouts have outgrown their butterfly net, the leeks, parsnips and celery have tons of leaves and the new strawberry bed is flowering.

The rhubarb is still crazy and I have my first ever bunch of grapes. All be it mis-shapen and tiny.

Even the raspberries that look as if they are on their last legs are still fruiting prolifically.

I intend moving them this winter, should time allow. But then we also intend putting in the new fence, sowing a new piece of lawn, cutting down some trees, clearing out an overgrown ivy or two.

The garden is never finished and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Who wants to shop, rest or party at the weekends when you can chop things down, dig them up and make changes!