June update.

It’s been all work here but finally the garden is planted and the summerhouse is almost emptied of seedlings.

The weather is very dry and watering is taking up a lot of time. I have a policy of watering less often but making sure everything then gets a good soaking but obviously young plants just don’t have enough root to take advantage of this so have to be done more often. The 1000l tanks have been a back saver but all three are nearly empty so I may yet have to carry the cans the length of the garden. How I envy people with water pressure and hose pipes then!

I think some things like this celery are a bit late being planted but, as I am running out of space, they have just had to wait for room.

It’s finally warm enough for the tomato to come out of the polytunnel. But if I’d known about the tail end of Storm Hector yesterday I might have left it until today. It’s definitely looking a bit battered.

The blueberries also took a battering and lost a lot of berries. It’s a pity as thanks to HubB’s new raised ericaceous bed they were looking like being the best we’ve ever had.

The oca is looking very healthy and has grown every time I look. We loved them roasted last year so I’m pleased to have 3 good sized plants this year. I have also given a friend a couple of plants, so hopefully she will discover the delights of them as well.

The onions are just starting to fall over. Some are huge and some tiny, even next to each other in the beds, so it can’t be anything I’ve done differently. I’ll be pleased to lift them and have learned my lesson. I brought so many extras in the winter sale I actually left myself no room for other things. Kale and calabrese are waiting in pots for at least one of the onion beds.

The strawberries are going to have a bumper harvest, after previously being so poor I had decided to dig them all out this autumn. I’m just a bit torn on what to do now.

Purple mange tout are pretty but the pods are still green at the minute which wasn’t meant to be.

Polytunnel Pak choi has cropped once and is now regrowing from the middles. Lucky really as the outside ones just keep going straight to seed.

The sweet potato is growing rampantly. It’s only been in a week after I gave up on my own slips and just brought one. Obviously this week my slips have now started to shoot but that’s gardening for you!

All in all the veggie beds, polytunnel and garden are all looking good. We only used the caravan last month but even that has a good covering of greenery to blend it in.

I’m giving myself this weekend off. We have three father’s to pamper, a BBQ to plan and cakes to bake. I plan to start a new book and paint my nails just to remind myself there is life away from the garden but it won’t last, I’m only really happy in workboots and earth. Anything else is just killing time until I can get back to my garden!!

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Using up leftovers.

Pinterest has a lot to answer for in this house. After painting my spare room last month I’ve not been happy with the join between ceiling and wall, which is wobbly to say the least. To be honest all my walls and corners are uneven as the house is 200 years old but it looks particularly bad with such a deep wall colour and is glaringly obvious every time I go through the room.

The pinning site gave me some great bunting ideas and as I have lots of wool and limited crochet prowess I decided pom poms were the way to go.

I spent a happy few evenings making lots of pom poms in various shades of blue and was contemplating how to join them when I noticed my dining room chairs. These chairs came from my husband’s office during a refit. They were brought into the house at Christmas as extra seating and are so comfy they have now replaced the ones we had before.

They are quite wide but cushions just don’t quite work on them. And then I saw the holes, just crying out for pom poms don’t you think?

So I went a bit crazy and made a few more in a different colour combination. I’m still planning on finishing the bunting after all!

I’m using up lots of spare wool which is always a bonus and having great fun with it. Trouble is I have so many to make I will need more wool if I’m to do them all which quite honestly will be amazing in itself.

I will have to start buying all over again. It’s a hard life for a crafting hoarder!

I’m so excited,

I’ve been down to the bees today which is good but not worthy of the title of this post.

One of my hives was looking to escape so I artificially swarmed it for them. To do this you take out the Queen and some brood along with a good quantity of bees and move them to another location. Today that was a nucleus box in the same apiary so I closed the front with some grass just so that the flying bees would take some time to come out and hopefully will reorientate to the new position. Otherwise they will all go back to the original hive, which is not a huge problem as without the Queen they will hopefully just carry on bringing in nectar and the Queen cell left in the hive will hatch and start the brood nest again. The old queen in the nuc will also just carry on laying, although I will take her a brood box down in a day or so just so she has more room.

But even that isn’t as exciting as my title indicates.

No the excitement is sitting in an old birds nest. A nest I have seen a dozen times and thought might be something better than a boring old crow. A big scruffy nest on the edge of the copse, wedged in the branches of one of the bigger but still not very substantial trees about 6 foot above my head.

One evening last week hubB helped me take an extra paving slab down for my hive stand to sit on. We saw two little ears poking out of said nest, watched in amazement as the inhabitant took off and flew across the copse but wasn’t able to get a picture.

Well today here they are. Can you make it out ? I’ve got a Long-eared Owl nesting in my apiary and I’m so excited I just can’t hide it.

If it has eggs I will probably camp down there, take a million pictures and burst with the extra excitement.

Watch this space, life is good!

Bring back spring!

It’s miserable here today and although, as yet, we have not had the torrential rain that was forecast it is very cold. The thermometer might indicate that it is 7 degrees but the wind chill makes it feel much colder.

In the garden a few hardy souls are giving it their all. The bluebells as usual are looking lovely. Every year more and more seem to be flowering white and this year lots are a very lovely mauve shade.

They really are a picture as is the Deutzia and the various other beauties. Lots however is coming into flower and going over very quickly. I totally missed my dog-toothed violets which are full of stems and surrounded by the fallen petals. I always forget they are around the side of the house but don’t usually miss them completely!

There is lots of blossom on the fruit trees this year so, if it survives the wind presently blowing through the garden, we should have a good crop of fruit even though the trees are still young.

In the polytunnel the cucumbers are planted but I took the precaution of covering them with extra cloches. I also started planting the tomatoes but again decided to cover them up. The brassica seedlings are doing great and find the slightly colder temperatures must more to their liking.

Outside garlic, onions, peas and Pak choi are all doing well. With or without homemade covers.

The summerhouse is full to capacity. I have gone a bit crazy on seed sowing this year.

Oca, salad leaves and watermelon are all doing well.

I am determined to use up all my old seeds so am sowing, pricking out and moving to the polytunnel before starting all over again. It is quite a relief when some things don’t take so well as I really am running out of space. I think I have even been so enthusiastic I’ve started double sowing.

This pot seems to be both dahlias and possibly Zinnia’s. I’m guessing on the conveyer belt of pots I had lined up on the bench I inadvertently sowed two packets in the same one. I’m keen if not clever!

Clearing the decks.

The weather has taken a real turn here this week and we’ve made the most of it with gardening and outside busy-ness. This morning Miss C had a dentist’s appointment that saw us in our local town for 9 o’clock. We’re a twenty miles round journey from town and as I detest shopping it’s not often that we actually visit. Today as the sun shone and after a quick dental check-up we made the most of our time, buying some much needed spring clothing and visiting a friend, who runs an amazing wool shop on the high street, for a herbal tea and a catch up.

After a quick lunch and the fastest maths and English work Miss C has ever managed, she rushed off to meet a new home ed friend in the next village and I had the afternoon to myself.

I wandered for a while. Wondered about doing some pricking out in the summerhouse, but it was to hot. Wondered about painting the decking, it desperately needs it but still to hot! Eventually I allowed myself to just sit in the shade with a cup of coffee and this craft kit.

Following on from my room tidy I have found a number of kits that need finishing. This one had lost its packet and threads, but thanks to my huge collection of everything craft I was able to match all but one of the colours needed. A mistake in the pattern half way down needed a bit of twiddling to make it work and was probably the reason I had abandoned it before.

It’s part of a set I brought probably 20+ years ago. Some are already done but I seem to remember there were 6 so I’d better have a hunt around for the rest. That will keep me busy!

A blast from the past.

Over the Easter weekend hubB took a few extra days of work. The idea was to put up a fence in the garden but as with all good plans the weather played against us. Plan B came to me in a flash. While refreshing Miss C’s room last year I had brought an extra tin of paint in a deal. I brought it specifically for the dressing room but, as we hadn’t preplanned it, it didn’t happen. It has sat on the shelf in the garage ever since and the rain looked like a good excuse to use it.

The room was lemon coloured before but as the ceiling was looking tired we gave the whole room a good coat of white as an undercoat. Three coats of blue ( and another trip to the local store for their last tin in the same colour) later we were fairly happy with the result.

The main wall looked a bit bland and a rummage through a box of old picture frames gave me a great idea.

I have a huge collection of cross stitch pictures stitched over the last 25 years. I gathered them together and banged in the hooks.

There’s no real finese involved. I just mixed and matched them. Collecting them from boxes and drawers all over the house. I liked the effect so much it inspired me to find a few I’ve finished but done nothing with

I finished one that only needed about 20 more stitches.

I’m almost ashamed to say that I found others that need a lot more work. Some I don’t even like enough to finish. Some that look so difficult I might never finish

This is a headless wizard it seems. I think I might know why I didn’t finish that one!

Today during hubB’s Formula One session I’ve spent 3 hours on this beauty. Can you guess what it is? And more importantly if I’ll ever finish it!

Treating mum.

It’s Mother’s Day today. I’ve had gifts, someone else cooked my breakfast, I’ve pottered in the garden, there’s been cake, family visiting and a country walk. It’s been a good day all round.

In the garden the sun has brought out some spring flowers.

In the polytunnel it has been almost tropical and the covers have come off all the pots

The bulbs I planted in January are coming into flower and some rather feeble hyacinths scent the air amazingly.

The summerhouse was 40 degrees when I first went in but in my rush to fetch the camera and take these photos, I left the door open and it dropped to a healthier 30

The seeds sown in there earlier in the week are not through yet but the onions and alliums are doing well.

In the house I have seedlings a plenty. Miss C is lucky enough to have her own bathroom with a lovely wide windowsill that she covers in collectables for the rest of the year. In the spring she has to move them all aside for the good of the garden.

The tomatoes I sowed last month have been pricked out into individual plugs along with French and African marigolds. This week they were joined by celery, chard, leek, melon and cucumber seeds. The peppers and chillies are also there but have been for a while and are not showing any sign of germinating yet. They are always a bit slow.

It’s still feeling warm at teatime and spring fever is kicking in. I can hardly wait to sow more things but as they all have to go into the unheated summerhouse I just have to be sensible and sociable. I won’t spend the evening on my own in the garden, I’m joining Miss C on the sofa and watching Dancing On Ice. It’s her favourite programme and she did sort of cook my breakfast, with a little help!

Snow day.

This week has seen the country covered in layers of snow. We have been advised not to travel unless it’s absolutely necessary and the news channels have had a grand time reporting the ‘Beast from the East’ stories.

Now in our village it’s been bitingly cold but quite honestly I think we must be the only place in the country with virtually no snow. Until today. Just as they tell us it’s all over we woke up to a white out, and very pretty it was as well.

I had already intended visiting the bees and a bike ride in the snow even appealled to Miss C, who in general stays at home while we check them.

They are in the copse of trees at the top of this picture and although the track is used by dog walkers today we were the only people around. Miss C loved leading the way!

In places the snow was deep enough to come almost to the top of my wellies. HubB and Miss C took great delight in sliding and skidding through the drifts but my old bones needed more careful treatment and I ended up walking and puffing for a lot of the way.

The bees were fine when we arrived. I took the chance of quickly looking under the lids to check they still had some fondant left. This is their winter feed as a supplement to their own honey stores. Some hives use it, some don’t, but I always make it available to them. This year the bigger hive is on its second 250g block, the smallest still has most of its first left and the middle one is on its third. There is no rhyme or reason to it as all are still heavy with stores and I can see from the one with a removable floor screen that they are also uncapping those stores. A removable floor is a great way of checking, as the wax cappings fall directly below the bees cluster, letting you know exactly where in the hive they are. It is not so easy to tell on the large hive as due to damp problems I have removed the board and left the floor open to the elements. It’s a first year experiment but so far, so good. On today’s visit I expected the bees to be in torpor but the two open mesh floored hives where both up and eating. My smallest hive is still on a solid floor as a test hive and seems to be acting much more traditionally with little activity on my visits.

HubB took this picture of the snow under the trees. They stand 8 rows deep and make the copse a little micro climate within hundreds of acres of open farmland. It’s an interesting spot and I am looking forward to seeing it in spring immensely.

Hazelnut spread.

While checking the hives this week I noticed the catkins on the hazel trees. It reminded me of all the nuts I picked last autumn. Each time I visited the bees I brought home a pocket full and now we had 2 1/2 jars that were still sitting in the pantry. I didn’t want to leave then there much longer for fear of them either drying out or being forgotten ( and drying out!) Either way I could see them being wasted which is never a good thing. Miss C patiently spent an hour shelling them all. Shells flew in all directions, she took a direct hit in the eye which she wasn’t best pleased about, and the kitchen surface was covered. In the end a bowl full of shells equalled 2 cups of nuts. Miss C felt the exchange rate seemed high and was not impressed. She brightened up no end when I took a block of chocolate from the cupboard and suggested she diced that while I roasted the nuts in a hot oven for 10 minutes or so and then gave them a good rub in a clean tea towel to remove some of the skins. It was more difficult than it sounds and we made do with just some coming off. We dropped the nuts in the food processor and blitzed them for 5 or 6 minutes, knocking them down from the sides regularly. The smell was divine. Although they got very moist they weren’t buttery so I added a tiny drop of olive oil before dropping in the 1/2 cup of chocolate. Blitzing it in in stages. It soon looked amazing.

When it looked fairly smooth we poured it into a bowl. The chocolate has melted and although it’s quite runny at the minute I think it will thicken a bit once it cools down.

Miss C tells me it tastes even better than the shop brought equivalent but as I’ve never tried that I can’t comment. I just know it’s pretty good and smells delicious. Less preservatives is an added advantage.

As I never like to miss an opportunity, I’m wondering what to do with all those shells. I wonder if they would keep the slugs away from something in the veggie garden this spring. Another blog offering later on perhaps??

I do love a bargain. 

Last autumn I had the idea of picking up a bag of bulbs each week with my shopping. After 2 weeks I abandoned the idea, as I hadn’t planted the first ones, and the bags got left on the side in the utility where there were promptly forgotten. It’s now January and to late for them to go in the soil so I persuaded hubB that a trip to the garden centre to buy compost was needed.

As the compost is stacked up outside the store, I just pay for what I want at the end of my visit and take the car over to put it straight in. As we walked into the store for a coffee I happily told B we didn’t need a trolley. I could carry anything we brought. Famous last words!! 

The store had all autumn bulbs at 50p a bag. 50p! They also had all Christmas stock at 70 percent off. B took one look, turned around and went for a trolley, he knows me well. 

By the time we reached the coffee shop I had this little load.

While we ate our breakfast rolls and drank slightly dodgy coffee B rang his dad to tell him about the sale ( he’s a keen gardener) and took another order. Luckily Miss C was at horse riding as she would not have been impressed to have to go back and shop again. I on the other hand rose to the occasion and picked even more stock. 

Today has been spent happily potting up the 444 bulbs. I feel pretty smug that I was able to lay my hands on washed and sorted pots and labels. Standing in my new summerhouse out of the wind and placing the pots straight into my recently tidied polytunnel. Sometimes I’m so organised I amaze myself and it feels good! 

If I’m honest the 75 litres of compost wasn’t enough and I ended up lasagne planting lots of the bulbs in one big pot. I also didn’t need the extra 160 onion sets I now have in plug trays. 

But look at the savings. I’m one happy gardener today.