While Stocks Last

May 19, 2018

I genuinely did not have time to get out on my bike today – and I didn’t need to go and fetch the paper because the other half was going into town.

may blue skies

But it is May and the fine weather is still here, and each day brings another fleeting spring moment, and when it’s gone it’s gone. Today it’s the turn of the cow parsley, just beginning to froth in the hedgerow. We have slogged our way through the winter, living for the moment when this weather would arrive, and it would be criminal not to slip out just for an hour or so to enjoy it.

And the roads were empty, for some reason, even emptier than they normally are. Could it be that people round here were all huddled inside, watching the royal wedding? I encountered about three cars and perhaps half a dozen cyclists, one of them out stretching his legs before the cup final.

Tomorrow we have lunch guests (the greenhouse inspection committee) and we’re hoping this weather will continue long enough to wheel out the barbecue. At least we were, until the local farmer – also keen to seize the day – made the most of the fine weather by spending the afternoon spreading slurry. Hopefully the smell will have dissipated somewhat by then

Got to take the rough with the smooth, living the rural life. This is the price we pay for having hot and cold running hares in the garden, and coos for neighbours.

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And Now for Everything Else

May 2, 2018

After an exciting weekend …

… back to the real world.

Gardens, and spring (and work) wait for no cycle campaigners. I was pleased to get home and spot the first potato leaves peeking through in the raised beds – especially as it meant I could get them earthed up before the overnight frosts (hello May) had a chance to give them a nip.

potatoes peeking through

The trays of seedlings are waiting impatiently to go out. I’ve put the peas, kale and broccoli on a bench out of the reach of slugs and hares to harden off – the forecast was for milder weather but I hadn’t factored in that this meant rain, wind and, indeed, hail. My approach to gardening has always been along the lines of ‘what doesn’t kill them makes them stronger’, although I can’t strictly speaking recommend this as mostly it does just kill them.

seedlings waiting to go out

The raised-bed raising continues (I was going to write ‘apace’ but that would be a lie). So far I’m just about keeping ahead of the need to plant stuff out, but it’s going to be a close run thing.

raised bed progress

How does your garden grow?


Crooked Billet

April 18, 2018

For those of you wondering, the lack of posting on the raised bed front unfortunately reflects a lack of progress due to a combination of rain and the need to earn money to pay for the things. Today was suffering from both obstacles but after lunch, with my brain in sore need of a rest and the rain letting up, I thought I’d get the next two into position, if not filled.

raised bed corners

As an aside, I’m pretty pleased with these raised bed kits so far. Yes, we could have built raised beds out of wood from scratch for about half the cost, but if we’d opted for that we’d probably still be drawing up plans, whereas these just fit together very neatly and are pinned into place with a couple of pegs which even a feeble person like me can drive into position with a couple of whacks with a hammer.

They’re also pretty light so I can put them up single handed and manoeuvre them into position, which is handy when you have just started filling them and then walk past and look at them from another angle and think …

crooked raised beds

… ah no, that’s too crooked, even for me.

The problem is, the site isn’t particularly square, so they were always going to be a bit skew whiff both in relation to the other elements of the garden (themselves not square) and each other. I’m not someone who insists my pictures hang straight or things have to be particularly neat (as you might have worked out from the rest of the garden) but it turns out I have my limits.

A bit of digging and shoogling later, and it was all a bit less jarring to the eye and no doubt once everything gets growing, any remaining wonkiness should be disguised by the rampant vegetation.

less crooked

Which might be sooner than I like because with the warmth, spring is all ‘here I come, ready or not’ …

seedlings coming

Hopefully they’ll all have homes to go to before it’s too late.


What a Difference …

April 6, 2018

… A bit of sunshine makes, with spring finally making a guest appearance yesterday, and apparently now settled in for the week.* It wasn’t exactly ‘taps aff’ in Bigtown, but I felt a bit overdressed in my hat, scarf and winter gloves when I cycled down for the paper and discovered that everyone else was in their summer clothes. What can I say, they’re a hardy bunch. There were even other cyclists out on the country roads (I was deep in conversation with myself, plugging up the hill on my way home, when I was startled by a cheery voice saying ‘nice day for it!’ just at my right shoulder. Turns out other cyclists actually maintain their bikes to the point where they can silently sneak up on people …).

I didn’t technically have any time for gardening yesterday, but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to get on with the earth moving project that the raised beds have turned into. I was only going to clear away the soil and tackle assembling them later, but I got the bit between my teeth and it turned out to be pretty straightforward in the end.

assembled raised beds

Assembled raised beds. That small cairn of stones in the foreground is the inevitable result of doing any digging around here …

Today I was going to start filling them, ready for the potatoes which are waiting chitting on the windowsill, but the rain came down just as I had met my last deadline of the week and was ready to head out to do some muck shifting at last.

potatoes chitting indoors

Fortunately, it doesn’t rain inside the greenhouse so I did some binge planting instead. Now all I have to do is assemble and fill the other eight raised beds before everything starts climbing out of the pots unassisted.

seeds planted in greenhouse

That should be easy enough, right?

* I actually thought my Met Office weather app might be broken when I looked at it this morning and there was no forecast for rain/sleet/snow/plagues of frogs for the whole week, just a row of white clouds and more-or-less normal temperatures for the time of year. Surely some mistake?


Errandomeering

March 23, 2018

foot and bike prints

I was just hopping off my bike at the post office yesterday afternoon, having cycled up to New Nearest Village for a smear test,* and on my way to on a friend to pick up some post from our old address, because obviously this being Bigtown, one of her colleagues has moved into our old cottage and is passing it on to her, and it struck me that this was a perfect multi-errand ride, just the sort of thing to get you ahead of the game if it were Errandonneering season. And then I remembered it was Errandoneering season – in fact the 2018 Errandonnee had started 3 days ago, during which time I had unwittingly done six excellent bike-based errands, including cyling to get a lift to choir (Arts and Entertainment), taking my bike to the bike shop to not get serviced (it’s a bit reassuring that the bike shop doesn’t find it straightforward to maintain my bike either) (um, Personal Care?) going to shovel horse manure into bags (um, not actually sure what category that goes in. I didn’t actually haul any of it back by bike or it would definitely have qualified as ‘You Carried WHAT on your Bike?’). Anyway, it’s all moot as I hadn’t properly recorded the rides in question and if it’s about nothing else, errandonneering is about sticking to the rules (which is, before you all get a bit sniffy in the comments about unnecessarily elaborate rules, all part of the fun).

spring sky

Spring clouds for illustrative purposes only. Lark not included. Picture posed by model. Serving suggestion

Today my only bike-borne errand was to fetch the paper – category Store – except that I also heard the first lark of spring singing its little heart out on the way there, and spotted the first lambs near us on the way back and it was very cheering after the winter we have been having. So maybe stopping to appreciate both counts as a Peaceful Everyday Action?

Clearly I don’t really need a hashtag and a challenge to get me out running errands on my bike, but if you’ve never given Errandonneering a go, there’s still time, and if winter can just bring itself to stay away for good this time, it might even be fun.

* Chaps: sorry if that was too much information but they save lives so I thought what the hell, why be coy about it? It’s been reading about other people’s that has finally nudged me into to making an appointment to get it done until, so hopefully this will give someone else the nudge they need.


Spring Unstrung

March 17, 2018

As spring cycling goes, struggling up the hill from New Nearest Village (which manages to be uphill from our house in both directions), towing a trailer full of empty feed bags (top tip for rural folk – don’t ask on your local village freecycle if anyone has any feed bags; it turns out everyone here feeds the birds on an industrial scale and they apparently never throw anything away), into an icy wind with the snow swirling about me at the same time as the (surprisingly warm) spring sunshine was warming my face, pretty much sums up the the kind of season we’ve had.

On the plus side, if it didn’t weigh so much even when it’s empty, I think I’d probably tow that trailer everywhere.* Whether it’s the apparent width of it (no wider than my handlebars, but it still manages to make me apparently more three-dimensional than when I’m not towing it), the fact that it makes it clear I’m not out cycling for the hell of it, I’m busy doing important things like moving empty feed sacks around, or perhaps the possibility that I have a child or even a dog in there, drivers do pass you with much more space even on our B road. This is an extra bonus when your eyes are watering so much you can barely see – and you’re having to pedal to make any headway even once you get to the downhill bit.

Still, it could be worse. We’ve visiting relatives who are (hopefully) on their way to us after a trip to Ireland. It apparently took three goes even to get out of the harbour and into the Force 7 gale. As cheering thoughts go, when plugging up a hill on a bike with the wind trying to knife its way into one ear and out the other, ‘at least I’m not on the Belfast-Stranraer ferry’ is a bit feeble, but for Spring 2018 it will have to do …

*I wonder if there’s a crowdfunder somewhere for a trailer that weighs almost nothing. It wouldn’t have to be much good at carrying anything, just take up space on the road. Maybe something inflatable? Or a hologram?


Advance Warning

March 13, 2018

At the risk of incurring the ire of Huttonian – who is agin them, for some reason – here are some daffodils blooming away cheerfully at the foot of the climb up to our house

daffodils in bloom

Daffodils. Mental note to self: check for dog poo before getting off the bike to take photos

It says something about the difference a couple of hundred feet of altitude makes when you consider the most advanced daffs in our garden (which are right by the septic tank, coincidentally or not…)

daffodils not blooming

We find our raspberries and blackberries are a week or two later up here too, which at least gives me some notice to be ready to pick them (although the blackberries are actually much nicer at the bottom of the hill, probably through some quirk of genetics rather than the different microclimate.

This year, our tardy daffs may have the last laugh as it seems we’ve another bout of frost if not snow on the way. I read somewhere that we may also be due a gloriously hot and sunny May as part of this whole weather vortex thing. I can’t remember where – and to be frank it could be the Met Office or it could be the Daily Express or it could be someone with a strand of seaweed nailed outside their kitchen window and I’m still going to choose to believe it because that’s what I’m hanging on for at this stage of the game…