July update.

England is known for its seasons and the weather is a constant source of conversation. This year it is hot. Very hot. We haven’t had rain in this area of the country in weeks. My three 1000l waterbutts are empty and hubB has diverted the shower into a smaller butt which we use every evening for the polytunnel and pots.

For all that, the garden grows. It’s a bit hit and miss. Everything is struggling in the heat, it all seems behind to previous years but it carries on. One good shower of rain will probably see an explosion of growth, mostly in the weed departments!

The polytunnel is doing ok. Cucumbers have started cropping, the tomatoes are there but not ripe.

Gherkins, a new one for me this year, grow anywhere and everywhere it seems.

Peppers are starting to appear although the bushes are still tiny.

Fruit is a success so far. The whitecurrants are over and the red are prolific. I don’t like either but am saving some red to add to jam making for their pectin. Blueberries have done well in their new bed and blackcurrants are ripening fast.

The early sown sweetcorn is just starting to flower, the later one is a long way behind. I staggered them so that I didn’t get cross pollination and hope it will work.

Pumpkins look better than last year at this point but that’s because I’ve paid them a lot of attention and the hot weather has kept slugs away. Last year the slimy darlings ate every pumpkin as soon as they appeared.

Cougettes turn into marrows over night if you don’t eat them at every meal. I saw a recipe for a sort of courgette pattie to eat with poached eggs for breakfast but I’m not sure Miss C wouldn’t leave home at the thought. Courgette is not her favourite vegetable!

Onions are odd. Some of the autumn planted setts are huge while others look no different. The spring planted ones are similar with the red doing better than the white but only just.

Garlic did well and is lifted and drying. I’m down to my last bulb from last year so I can honestly say I’m self sufficient in garlic.

The bees from my solitary garden hive love borage but contrary to what I’d read, pay no attention to phycelia. They are everywhere and I realise how much I’ve missed having ‘ the girls’ in the garden. They will be with me for a while as I have some doubts as to their health and have no intention of taking them to the apiary until I’m sure they are not going to spread disease to my own bees.

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New tenants.

Beekeepers attract bees. Sometimes we go looking for them but in my case they seem to come looking for me.

A bait hive is basically a smaller hive, known as a nuc, that contains a few old frames previously used by bees. Bees like areas that are already attractive to other bees and that’s exactly what happened a month ago when a swarm moved in without me even noticing. My bait hive was around the back of the shed in an overgrown area where we keep bits to ugly to be seen. A nuc is small and easy to lift so I am usually able to just lift and carry it to the apiary when I’m ready.

This year I’m not ready, a hive stand in the apiary almost collapsed under the weight of honey and with extracting that, and moving and fixing/strengthening the stand, I’ve been busy. The nuc became over crowded and I was forced to move the swarm into a brood box and stand it on an old oil drum, out of the way.

Coming back from the hives last Sunday I have hot and sweaty. I am guilty of abandoning a broken brood box and super into the dump area. In a spate of stupidity I then dumped some empty frames into the boxes and cover them with an old floor. I’m out of roofs and thought that would keep the bees out.

Yesterday morning, seeing my rookie error, I made a mental note to clear them up as soon as possible. I then went out, came back, had lunch, started some weeding and forgot. Suddenly the air went black, the noise of buzzing was alarming and the biggest swarm I have ever seen descended on the garden. By the time I have processed what was happening they had started pouring into the tiny gap between the roof and the broken brood box. I raced into the house to fetch the camera to film it, giving Miss C a yell as I did, and the two of us stood in awe as the bees flew all around us.

Withing minutes most of them had vanished from sight. The garden went quiet and the excitement was over. It had taken less than 5 minutes.

HubB groaned when he heard we had more bees, he likes to pretend he doesn’t like them but I think he might be mellowing. This can only be a good thing as I now have two swarms to move to the apiary. I will need another stand for them and, from the look of the size of it, I will need a strong man to help carry one of them. I don’t think I can do it without him.

Before that though I need to open them, sort out the mess of tangled frames, put it some new and cleaner ones, find them a roof and make them a new entrance.

There’s a lesson to be learned there, but I won’t learn it. I’m messy and unorganized. I should be ashamed but I thrive on a challenge and this is certainly going to be one. Bring it on!!

The Country Show.

It’s been many years since I went to a country show but surprisingly little had changed over the years.

The highlight of the show was always an aerial display by the Armed Forces. This year a display by the Paratroop Regiment who drew shapes in the air as they jumped from the plane, before landing on a cross in the main arena.

All of the services had display stands and activities for the children as well. Recruiting for the future!

It took me most of the day but I finally worked my way round to the horticultural exhibits. Tables of plants and seeds to buy and displays to admire.

I obviously had to visit the beekeeping stand and admire the honey and associated wares on show. I wasn’t so impressed by the observation hive but it wasn’t aimed at those of us who are in the know!

The small livestock cages were full of variety. My childhood rabbit looked just like this one. He was called Bobtail and had a kick like a mule and was happy to show you. He would not have won a prize in any sort of show!

The incubator of eggs and chicks seemed cruel in a hot and stuffy room full of noise and bustle. The cockerels added to the experience by crowing constantly and competitively.

The smallholding area had lots of cute animals and skilled homemakers.

The main arena had displays all day. Most of them were horse based and Miss C was in her element.

The carts and horses were polished to perfection and demonstrated the best of the past. The parts we should remember and celebrate but some of the past is best swept under the carpet and we need to let it go. The hunt in my opinion is part of that and the shows blatant support for it left a nasty taste in my mouth.

I eat meat, abhor the current abortior system and appreciate how one unexpected shot could be kinder than that. However I could not have been the only person around the ring who found the pampering to the hunt over the top. The watching children were all encouraged to enter the ring and meet the dogs. Dogs who will happily rip a furry creature limb from limb. We were told hunting is a sport for all, rich or poor, young and old. While we all know that horses cost a fortune to keep, farm land does not belong to all and it’s no fun running through cold muddy fields with arthritis or cheap boots! We also know hunting live prey is illegal, but dogs can’t read, and that everyone else has to wear a riding hat on a horse. Like slavery, cock fighting and bear baiting some traditions are best left in the past.

Rant over!

This was the best part of the show. A very funny sheep shearer and his dancing sheep. It seems they perform all over the country.

They were informative, well planned, slightly risque at times, funny and cute. A fine example of exactly what a good show should have.

We came home, hot, dusty and tired. We didn’t get time to see everything but covered a lot. We had a good old fashioned day out. Something Britain did so well before commercialisation and greed got the better of us!

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!!

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!