Not Dead Only Sleeping

March 19, 2017

‘Have you given up blogging then?’ the other half inquired rather plaintively this morning (despite the fact that I’m not, and never will be, as funny as I was in 2005).

The fact is, there’s a sweet spot between not doing anything interesting to blog about, and not having enough time to blog about it, and I’m still overshooting it. I may, technically, have become less busy at the end of last week but that doesn’t seem to have translated into my having any more time. Maybe next week …

Part of the problem is that I’m still extricating myself from the clutches of the community council in the parish I no longer live in as even an appeal from the pulpit has not yet produced a willing volunteer to become secretary in my stead. That also means helping distribute the newsletter, which the Brompton and I duly did this afternoon.

newsletter delivery route

Oh okay, so maybe it wasn’t that much of a hardship on an early spring afternoon.


Chionodoxa luciliae

In other news, my birthday present to myself has arrived a few days early.

The Proverbials

March 9, 2017

paper birch trees planted

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago

paper birch tree tubes

The second best time is now*

silver birch in tree tubes

The ridiculously oversized tree tubes will hopefully protect our twiglets from the attentions of the coos.

Mark this one down as ‘lighting a candle’, but in tree form.

Tomorrow, as part of Back on my Bike‘s plan to reach every cyclist in Scotland with the Walk Cycle Vote message, I shall be heading up to Inverness. If I ever get that song out of my head, I might be able to report back sensibly.

I wouldn’t count on it though

* Although technically, that’s the third best time, as the second best time would have been on our actual 25th wedding anniversary, which was two months ago, that being what the trees were supposed to be commemorating, but you know, it takes me a while to get around to these things**

** indeed, it might even be the fourth best time, given that we should really have waited a whole year before deciding where to put the trees, but what can I say, nobody celebrates their 26th wedding anniversary …

Half Cut

March 1, 2017

One of the plants we inherited in the garden is a corkscrew hazel. Or rather, a corkscrewish hazel, because over the years, the non-corkscrewing bit has clearly been allowed to grow and has started to take over.

corkscrew hazel

I was in two minds about what to do about this. If you want to keep the corkscrew form, you need to cut out the straight growth. On the whole, I wasn’t much of a fan of these contorted forms and a proper coppice that produced actual hazelnuts might have been preferable, so I was considering just leaving it. But I’ve since been hatching a plan to produce a hare-proof edge for my new vegetable plot and some hazel stakes and sticks wouldn’t go amiss as part of that plan. And clearly, straight stakes are preferable to corkscrew ones, so that made my mind up: the normal growth was for the chop.

corkscrew hazel after pruning

Actually, now that it’s been cut, I’m beginning to see the appeal

hazel sticks

I have a cunning plan for these, watch this space

And we have exciting* piles of sticks for use in the hare-defences.

Other interlopers will not be as easily repelled

ground elder


* In the very specific meaning of the word ‘exciting’ as used in this blog

Spring has … ah

February 27, 2017

So I was hanging out the washing this morning, listening to all the birds out there singing their feathery little heads off, and noting how the sun has finally inched its way up in the sky to the point where it reaches over the top of the roof and so can help dry the laundry. And I was thinking that, these days, spring tends to invoke a sense of impending panic as much as anything else, what with Pedal on Parliament and now Walk Cycle Vote and never even mind the veg plot. Having a garden, fantastic as it may be for one’s mental health, does nothing but intensify the feeling of time galloping past with too much to do and not enough time to do it in.

However, this morning, I didn’t feel quite so much panic as I probably should. It’s not that everything is under control, exactly, but I’m just trying to deal with it. PoP is run under anarchist collective lines, which means there’s really no point trying to draw up any sort of detailed plan for anything, you just have to go with it; as a kill-or-cure treatment for control freakery and terminal anxiety it is highly recommended. And it probably helps that the garden is still under wraps and the longer I leave it there, the better it will probably be (technically, I should probably sit out the whole growing season to get rid of the worst perennial weeds but I’m not sure I can face another 12 months of staring at what is becoming increasingly manky carpet*). So I went inside to start work, happy to celebrate the impending arrival of spring, rather than try and push it back into its box until I was ready for it.

And then I looked up an hour or so later and noticed it was snowing.

*Indeed some of it seems to have got into the spirit of the thing and has started to go green

There’s a Hole in the Fence where the Sheep Get In

January 23, 2017

fence hole

… I’m stopping them from wandering (with apologies to the Beatles).

bedstead blocking hole

Given that I have also finished adding random shed parts (and also the former contents of the shed, including the old chipboard floor, which in some places was just mulch) to the carpeted area of the garden (complete with the salvaged landscaping fabric), there’s a danger that I have overdone the allotment chic…

veg plot in January

Indeed, adding a bedstead* to the fence may well have tipped me over into agricultural chic – my aunt and uncle memorably had a fine brass bedstead which I believe they had salvaged from a farmer’s ad hoc fencing arrangement.

In my head, this is all the chrysalis stage and eventually a beautiful butterfly of a garden will emerge, with some cleverly reclaimed material here and there to give it that make do and mend feel. Failing that, we’d better hope that old bedsteads, carpets and wandering sheep feature heavily at Chelsea this year…

* Mine has not yet stood the test of sheep, and may well need to be reinforced with baler twine, in which case I think we can say the transformation will be complete

Burning Down Da Shed

January 20, 2017

Honestly, I go away for one night and I come back to find the garden deficient to the tune of one shed.

no shed

Or rather, the shed had undergone a radical alteration and was now in the form of a pile. The other half, despairing of anyone wanting to come and take it away, had got the bit between his teeth and had spent a happy afternoon tearing it down.

pile of shed parts

So now the question was what to do with the shed parts, given that most of the structural wood was fairly rotten and what wasn’t rotten was still fairly liberally coated in chicken poo.

Some of the sidings have been tentatively repurposed to reach the parts of the planned veg patch that the carpet didn’t cover. Thinking about it, I could have put down the chicken poo first, but it has literally only occurred to me just now. As it is, I’m not convinced they will do much to kill the grass but it’s always worth a shot.

shed boards on veg plot

Shed boards laid out around the veg plot. Do feel free to warn me of all the wonderful chemicals that will be leaching onto the soil…

As for the rest, we did consider using it to make biochar – something I do still want to have a go at – but in the end we decided just to burn it.

burning shed

Theoretically, I disapprove of bonfires. And yet, there’s something about an outdoor fire on a dark January day that seems right. And it beat the hell out of paying any attention to what was going on in Washington this afternoon.

Tomorrow I travel up to Glasgow to meet with some fab cycling women for an event we have tentatively dubbed the Cake Summit. There is not yet any formal agenda. But there will be plenty of cake.

Sometimes you need a spot of bonfires and brownies in a world that is going insane.

Good Fences make Good Neighbours

January 16, 2017

Since the cows went in for the winter, we haven’t had any next door neighbours for a while, but about a week ago, some sheep appeared in the field next to the garden.

sheep running away

They’re pretty flighty, so I haven’t been able to take any decent photos of them, but today as I headed out to get the washing in, I noticed that the bleating was a little louder than usual, and looking again, realised that two of them had decided to pay us a call.

sheep in the garden

This is in fact two sheep, not some weird two-headed sheep creature as it appears here

It is a universal sheep truth that, while they can get through some amazingly small holes in fences when you don’t want them too, they cannot get through a wide open gate when you do. Our garden has four corners, and in one of them is an open gate onto the lane. Our visitors and I proceeded to spend the next fifteen minutes extensively testing this truth as the sheep ran inot every corner of the garden except the one with the open gate. They were even willing to bolt directly past me (at an impressive speed) in order not to go anywhere near the opening.

speeding sheep

Apologies for the blurry photo but it was moving at some speed and the light was poor

Tiring of the game, and a bit worried about panicking possibly pregnant sheep, I left them lurking behind the shed like a pair of naughty schoolchildren, and went and rang the farm.

sheep behind the shed

‘I’m pretty sure she can’t see us here’

Two farming chaps came pretty promptly and in the fading light gave a masterclass in garden de-sheeping (farming chap one hides behind the shed, just by the fence. Farming chap two starts chasing the sheep towards the shed. Sheep gets up to warp speed. Farming chap one catches it and effectively bounces it over the fence. Repeat with second sheep).

The problem, apparently, is that our predecessors cut a hole in the fence so their dog could get in and out, and although the farmer keeps closing up the gap, it keeps opening up again. I left them allegedly sheep-proofing the fence again with string (it was too dark by then to see anything), pleased that we discovered this gap in the defences before we had planted the veg plot and not after. I’m already working on a design for a hare-proof fence around the new plot; I might have to upgrade that to a sheep proof one now…