Six on Saturday – 16/02/2019

This week I’ve tried getting my photographs for my six on Saturday in advance. As the days get longer and with there being a bit more light about, sometimes I can get five minutes to wander around the garden.

IMG_1340

The garden is peppered with mahonia. They must have self-seeded as they’ve popped up in the strangest of places. Sometimes I think about rarving them all up but they add a nice bit of winter interest and the foliage is handy for use in place of holly for Christmas wreaths. I like this one with the yellow berries and the almost purplish tinge to the leaves.

IMG_1343

A little victory for me, this a Kalanchoe or Flaming Katy. I had a yellow and a red one and last year thought I would try to take cuttings from them. I cut them off, left them to form a callous, and then potted them up individually and hoped for the best. They have gotten a little leggy from want of light, but I moved this one downstairs and look at the gorgeous red flowers! Very pleased with this. I’ve wonder about repotting the others and planting the stems a bit further into the compost. As you can see this one needs a little support.

IMG_1344

Look at this primula appleblossom! I ordered these from Dobies in little pots, along with some violas and pansies. A lot of the pansies and violas suffered some damage from frost which I was a bit gutted about, but this gorgeous flower was just sat there glorying itself the other day.

IMG_1345

I bought a lot of autumn-sowing onions, garlics and shallots and admittedly made a bit of a boob with my ordering. Because I ummed and aahed the pack I was going to order sold out so I had to order a bigger box which meant I ended up with about a hundred seed sets of six varieties. I sowed as many as I could fit in my empty raised bed and then the rest I just potted up in what pots I could find. They have been sat out in my cheap-as-chips plastic cloche that no longer has a plastic cover on it. And here they are, sprouting! Ignore the top label that says one is a Tomato Alicante when it very obviously isn’t. I used what labels I could find and on some they had very waterproof permanent marker.

IMG_1348

A crocus! And one of many! I think this shade of yellow is my absolute favourite. I weeded this border the other day and never ever saw this little fellow so he’s obviously magically popped up in the double-figure temperatures we’ve been enjoying of late. I had a further wander around and there are lots more of this yellow popping up all over. I also discovered a much paler, delicate yellow one and a cloudy blue-purple one.

IMG_1349

In the corner of my garden stands this great mess. Every time I look at it, I get very angry and wound up. It is a scruffy reminder that I can’t do everything on my own. I will be very happy to get something done. The raised bed to the left I have plans to grow beans and peas in. The long border at the other side continues in a bit of a similar state. There are two gigantic clumps of daylilies that bloomed last year, though could do with dividing. It has the possibility to be a beautiful border, if I can pull my finger out.

And that’s it for this week’s #SixonSaturday, publishing again on Sunday. We’ve been hit by the dreaded flu virus at our house.

Advertisements

Six on Saturday – 09/02/2019

I have wanted to do a Six on Saturday but it always ends up being Sunday night and I don’t have any photographs but plenty to talk about. This time of year is very much one of waiting, in the garden and on the farm. It is light at gone five o’clock now but the weather is going through a turbulent period of adolescence: one minute it is bright, sunny and dare I say it, warm, and next great fat flakes are falling from the sky, or like this morning, the wind is threatening to pull the house out of its very foundations and launch us all the way to the land of Oz.

IMG_1299

  1. Last week we were under a lot of snow and it was not enjoyable! We spent most of last Saturday in a raging blizzard building a shelter for the calves out of bales of straw and roofing sheets. Hence why I didn’t get round to my lifelong dream of making a Six on Saturday. I did manage to take this picture of some determined little bulbs still pushing up through the inch and a half of snow we had. These will be daffodils that my grandparents planted that I have left in place. Last spring either side of the driveway was awash with nodding yellow heads and I’m hoping we will have something similar again this year, though maybe with a few more dots of colour.

IMG_1302 (2)

2. Two years ago we lambed in some rundown old brick-built buildings we rented from a local estate on the side of a river. They were unfit for purpose and last year we handed those in, being able to lamb at my parents’ farm instead. However on the banks of the river were hundreds of snowdrops, and the in-laws were determined that these might be the legendary snowdrops worth upwards of £3,000. Highly unlikely I should think, but I (deviously, don’t tell anyone) took a small clump and planted them out under the savaged apple tree with the aim of creating a naturalised little bit of garden by the gate. Then the weeds took over, and the ants attacked me in summer, and I thought I might have lost these little ones. And lo and behold, here they are!

IMG_1322

3. More daffodils coming up near my bonny heuchera. Last year I became a little obsessed with heuchera, and have four types planted near what I call the little path. The varieties are Fire Chief, Blondie, Obsidian and Purple Palace. They add a lovely depth of colour in an otherwise brown and green sort of time.

IMG_1323

4. One of my favourite shrubs – no, scratch that, my actual favourite shrub is viburnum. I used to work at Scampston Walled Garden Cafe and in the Walled Garden they have the most gorgeous gargantuan viburnums. One day I hope this one (viburnum tinus I think, don’t sue me if I’m wrong), which I bought from Morrisons (oh the humanity), will be of a decent size. He’s about doubled in the eighteen months he has been living in his current location, which is more than I can say for my other viburnum, a totally different variety and possibly planted in the wrong place. I really wanted a certain viburnum called Anne Russell but I’ve only ever found it in huge pots upwards of £25.

IMG_1324

5. In this time of year when there isn’t really that much to look at in the garden and sometimes the weather doesn’t play fair, it’s what’s happening inside that provides the best bit of joy. Despite a lot of derision about their merits or lack of, I’ve had a lot of success with these mini roses, the type that you can buy for a couple of pounds from that most renowned garden centre at the supermarket. When I left my job at the university I was bought one as a leaving present and it still flowers and shows new growth now. This yellow beauty was reduced in Morrisons and as long as I keep it well watered it is flowering strongly. Excuse the mucky window! Another thing to add to my neverending to do list.

IMG_1331

6. Finally, a nice dingy shot of my seed box! This is the only Burgon and Ball thing I own and is a wonderful treasure trove of exciting things. I’ve spent some time going through my seeds and plotting a planting schedule on my computer to try and make the most of my time. I went through all my old seeds and threw out any opened varieties from the beginning of time, plus any that were unopened but ancient. I still have all my flower seeds to go through but I will get there when I have a minute. I can’t wait for things to warm up so I can start sowing seeds. Last year I was far too keen and filled my heated propagator full to the brim with seeds that could be sowed from January, resulting in nice leggy plants. I have a couple of things I will start now – chillis, for example. But considering it is the second week of February I have done well.

And this concludes my first Six on Saturday! That I’m publishing on Sunday morning. This time of year can be very frustrating because I’m itching to get going in the garden and seed packets are so very naughty – they tell you things can be sown from January and it fills you with hope. But then life is so busy that I very rarely actually get round to sowing things when it does say to on the packet.

The days are getting longer and hopefully we have seen the last of the snow. Spring is just around the corner – though March brings with it its own busy time, namely lambing time. No rest for the wicked!

January

January is a cold horrible month. The excitement of Christmas is all but a distant memory, and usually it is a case of back to work, back to school, back to the grindstone. For those of us for whom work never stops, it’s harder when it’s cold and dark and the threat of snow is constant. I like getting back to normal after Christmas, putting the house to rights. 2018 felt like a blur of successive big things to do done well past their best and we were eternally chasing our tails. This year I fully intend to be organised and to do the best for what we have.

On the farm

Winter on the farm is hard. All of the cattle are inside, the cows and calves in sheds and the stirks and steers in outdoor yards. Everything needs feeding and bedding up, so daily chores take most of the day. We are tied to daylight levels which mercifully are increasing little by little every day, but it can still be hard to get everything done that we want.

IMG_0145

The ewes should all be well in lamb by now, providing the tups have done their jobs. We invested in three new tups this year, and so far every ewe has a mark on her rump and they all look to be filling up. As the temperatures stay cold, they will need carefully feeding. The temptation can be to give them plenty of grub, but then you run the risk of getting big lambs that might be hard to get out come lambing time.

In the garden

IMG_1070

Most things are a bit gloomy. With daylight low and sometimes poor during the day, I haven’t much opportunity to get into the garden. Winter is a good time to expose the bones of the garden. Working with an established garden is hard as there are so often secrets yet to be exposed. I’ve dug up thousands of bulbs as I’ve tried to clear the beds; a lot of these I replanted, though some are still languishing in tubs because, as ever, I ran out of time.

It has been a dry winter, up until now. With a few showers, not to mention some snow, things are starting to get a bit damp and slippy. I want to clear away all footpaths of any fallen debris, which is a nice job to do on a drier day to warm up.

Now is the best time to plan the garden. I have spent many hours poring over my seeds catalogues, waiting for the time when my funds were in a position to make my orders. I ordered flower seeds from Sarah Raven, most of my vegetables from Dobies, and am this year for the first time trying out Plants of Distinction for those certain things I couldn’t find the right type of in my other go-to suppliers.

In the house

Part of my intention for the year is to try and keep the house in order, which means a couple of things: keeping on top of cleaning and tidying, and finding places for all of the extra stuff we have. Because this was my grandparents’ house, it was already full of all their things, and we’ve now added to that all of our things. I had a table and chairs, Scott had a table and chairs, and Nana and Grandad had two sets of tables and chairs. So as part of my organisation resolution, I have drafted up a little cleaning rota. I haven’t set it in concrete yet, but it involves a rotation of sweeping and mopping, hoovering, dusting, rotating bed linen and towels, and bigger jobs like cleaning out the fridge, oven, dishwasher and washing machine.

I want to focus a bit more on cooking as well. I love cooking and have hundreds of cookbooks, but as I work in a cafe and do a lot of cooking through the day, I often run out of interest in it come night time. One weekend I decided to use up a few random bits of vegetable I had kicking around, and have made two soups: leek, celeriac and parsnip soup, and then a curried parsnip and celeriac soup. I try and keep crusts from good loaves of bread, which I freeze to then either make into croutons or breadcrumbs.

Writing and Reading

I didn’t take part in NaNoWriMo 2018, but I did set myself a little target, using the handy app Habitify to track it. I wanted to try and write 500 words a day, usually by getting up early and sitting with my computer, fighting off procrastination. I have been attacking my WIP for about the past 10 years; it has gone through numerous shallow face-lifts and I’ve always either ran out of steam or stumbled into some massive block in the road. So far I have written 10 new chapters, some of them mere skeletons and others a little more polished, but I am soldiering on. The story has changed, and I have had to force myself to step back when I reach a problem and think to myself, why is this problem here and why can’t I seem to solve it? I would like to finish the story in the first half of this year, and then give it a serious edit, ready to send out.

I have set up a Goodreads Challenge for 2019, read about it here. On my Habitify app, I set two habits (which I think you can do maximum on the free app), and one of those was to read a chapter of my book. So far I have read one of my two books for January. The other is Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens, and as I suspected, it’s taking some getting through!

2019’s Plans for the Garden

Last year was the year of the garden. It maybe wasn’t the year my garden blossomed into the oasis I might dream of, but it was a year to learn and experiment, make mistakes and make some happy ones too. I was ambitious, though I did try to rein it in, and I ran out of steam, though after the summer we had, who didn’t wind up exhausted with watering-can-related repetitive strain injuries? I bought a lot of plants, and a few seeds, and tried a few different things. I also helped out at a local nursery, dipping my foot into a bit more serious horticulture, and learned a lot.

spring flowers four

Plans for 2019 in my Garden

I am the sort of person that gets carried away in the dreaming stage, and when it comes to the actual doing part, I’ve long since run out of steam. I always buy hundreds of seeds and have all these great big ideas about growing bedding plants and harvesting enough vegetables to feed our entire village. The problem is that life usually gets in the way. I should be more realistic – I have a part time job which, although it is only part time hours, is over five days a week so I am away from home for a lot of the time. In winter this maybe isn’t so bad because I leave early in the morning while it’s still dark so I don’t miss anything, and some days I finish at lunch time so I can come home and grab a couple of hours in the afternoon, or at least that is the idea. We have more cattle on than ever before – calves on the bucket, cows calving, weaned calves, big year-old beasts, not to mention 150 sheep to lamb and the last of last year’s lambs to run on.

So I have a lot going on. I should be sensible, and I will try to be. So these are my plans for 2019:

Seeds

Over the past few days I’ve happily been perusing my seed catalogues. As part of the Horticultural Society we get discounted rates on seed orders from Dobies, but I like to look through other suppliers as well. I’ve drawn up extensive lists for both vegetables and flowers.

I’ve been sensible with my orders though. I’ve done an inventory. I’ve even had a chucking out session of really old, long-since-expired seed packets. I tried a load of early sowings in October with a bunch of old seeds that Mum had gotten free with magazines from about 5 years ago. Some have germinated but it’s been really very erratic and inconsistent. Fresh is best – a couple of years might be alright, but some of these seeds were ancient.

Polytunnel

Last year I treated myself to a cheap polytunnel off Amazon, though I was gratified to see the same one in the Dobies catalogue, so I don’t feel too worried I’ve bought a dud. It has since sat in the box at my mum and dad’s. We have decided to put it at home in a place where it won’t be in full sun and won’t scorch everything, and will be somewhat out of the way. When Dad was younger he said there was a vegetable patch and I have big plans to bring that back, only part of the plot will now be taken up by my new polytunnel.

The polytunnel will hopefully be dual purpose; to grow a great crop of tomatoes, cucumbers, chilli peppers, maybe even sweet peppers and aubergines, and possibly even a melon; and to get a head-start on growing flowers from seed. The idea is to use the polytunnel and that will free up the summer house to be an extra room outside. I have a dream to have a big plumbago in a pot in there.

Plants to grow

I dipped my toe with dahlias last year, and liked my Viking last year – a little cute pompom. Though I didn’t know what I was doing and he didn’t bloom nearly as much or for as long as I might have liked. I would like a much bigger selection and have been carefully viewing the Sarah Raven and Bloms selections with one eye on my bank balance. I would also like to try chrysanthemums and gladioli.

Right now, it’s dark, cold and gloomy. We have a lot to be doing with the animals, but hopefully I can steal the farmer’s assistance to help with the polytunnel. I am determined to be much more organised this year, not just for the garden but for everything. As the old saying goes, failure to prepare means prepare to fail! So I am planning, dreaming, and trying to think what I can managably do.

img_1221

I will make more posts to keep you all updated.

How are your plans for 2019 going? If you have any tips or recommendations, please let me know in the comments!

2019 Goodreads Challenge

In 2017 I did a Goodreads Challenge, picking 12 books to read over the year, ideally one a month. I had to change one or two books, but in the end I read what I intended to, plus more. I read some different books for me and gained so much from it. Then in 2018 I made some wishy-washy agreement with myself that never came off. I have learnt that I am much better if I give myself very clear rules and guidelines. None of this namby-pamby vague stuff. It applies to more than just reading, too 🙂

This year I did manage to read a few books – I loved Philip Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage (unsurprisingly) and I was pleased to begin and finish Middlemarch, a book I’ve always wanted to read and really very much enjoyed. That was my first Eliot and I really connected with it. So this year I will try again, and I might even be a bit more adventurous, but keeping well in with my rules and regs.

Continue reading “2019 Goodreads Challenge”

2018 Reflection (Part 1 January – June)

Looking back on 2018, I don’t know where to begin reflecting. It was a busy year. I worked three different jobs (separately), we lambed in some of the most dreadful weather around, welcomed three new calves into the world and embarked upon a massive (for us) venture involving lots of bucket-reared shorthorn calves. I’ve decided to do this in two separate posts, and since my memory is atrocious January – June might be a little thin on the ground! Isn’t it funny how we only seem to remember the things that were hard or bad, and all the good things just disappear into thin air? So I’ve tried to be balanced with it. Here we are, my reflection on 2018:

Continue reading “2018 Reflection (Part 1 January – June)”

September Blues

After the long hot summer, September has arrived and I don’t know about you, but the sudden drop in temperature has me feeling gloomy! I always used to like September as a child – the start of the new school year, a brand new planner and a blank slate. Now the nights are drawing in rapidly and there just isn’t enough daylight to do everything I want to do. And so I sit writing a blog post on a morning when I should be doing something else! All is not lost though. September is a great time to plan for the next year, and I love a good plan.

Continue reading “September Blues”

Trials and Tribulations in the Vegetable Patch

Mid-August, and time for reflection. This year was to be the year of the garden, and I was going to give it all a momentous amount of effort, and become something of a Grow Your Own Queen. Then the weather stepped in, and it all went wrong! Here are my midpoint thoughts on my successes, and not successes, in my vegetable growing endeavours. I will make an additional post about flowers, which was the big focus of this year.

Successes

I must have had about sixty tomato plants at one point. I grew three varieties – Gardener’s Delight, Moneymaker and Alicante. I sold as many surplus as I could, at the Society stall or at my drive end, and potted the rest up. I have a mix in tall pots at home, under the cover of the summer house, and the rest in grow bags in the greenhouse. Those in the greenhouse have a fair bit of fruit on and are ripening quite quickly now. The ones outside the summer house are a little behind, with being outside, but a couple of fruit are reddening, so that’s all exciting.

I was given a few small pumpkin plants from the stall and after giving a couple to my friend, the rest I planted out just in my borders. Most are throwing up plenty of male flowers, however one plant has got a big pumpkin growing on him, so I will have to take a lot of care of him.

Beetroots have done well in the raised beds, as they usually do, and Mum sowed some radishes as well. To be honest I think something on the scale of armageddon needs to happen for radishes to not grow! I’ve had a bumper crop of lettuces, too. I sowed All the Year Round for green and Edox for red. I have some small plants that want planting out asap at home somewhere, though I’m not sure how to keep them out of the way of trampling paws.

Things To Learn From

I was going to call this section ‘Failures’ but nothing is a failure if you can take something from it. I had loads and loads of brassicas all growing nicely in the other raised bed at my mum and dad’s. I netted them, put cabbage collars round them, and kept an eye out for little pests. Then the drought happened. The plants are in direct sunlight all day, in a crowded space. I got broccolis and cauliflowers, but they never got any bigger than a fifty pence piece, and then started flowering. Then the caterpillars moved in, and overnight everything was decimated. So I’ve given up on that crop entirely. I had several problems, the main one being space. I sowed lots and lots of seeds, thinking nothing would come up, and all of them did. Suddenly I had all these tiny little plants and nowhere to put them. I thinned them out, but I wasn’t hard enough. I should have reduced them to two plants of each variety and left it at that. Then I could have paid them more attention and I think we would have been on to a winner. So I have learned, and will try again.

I sowed a rake of seeds in the other raised bed: carrots, parsnips, onions, beetroot, and even some flowers, cornflower and cosmos. A few carrots came up, and then one morning I went for a look and they’d all been dug up! My parents live on a very sandy farm which prior to us moving in, had become rabbit nirvana. My mum has six cats and even with them catching a couple of rabbits between them a day, the place is overrun. But I don’t think that is the principle issue here. The main problem I have is poor soil. I sowed a variety of onion/shallot hybrid seeds, and got zilch. Nada. Not a peep. I got one parsnip, who granted is putting on a valiant display. The cornflowers and cosmos were a bit patchy, though they have started putting in a late show, so all is not lost. I’m also never sure about growing onions from seed, and so have ordered a mix of sets from Dobies to try again.

I sowed courgette and butternut squashes one day, and realised I had sown more seeds than I had labels for. I grouped them together, kept them at separate ends of the windowsill, and then one day the chaos fairy must have come and muddled them all back up again. It made very little difference, as all the courgettes bar two rotted in their pots. I saved one piddly plant at home, popped it in a grow bag expecting nothing but disappointment, and I have one, albeit curved, courgette growing. But I won’t use that variety again. And while I have five butternut squash plants taking over the entire garden, I thought I had yet to see any fruit – until today, when I spied a small but very definite squash coming!

 

Reflections on the Flowerbed

I wrote about my vegetables in this post, which if I’m honest seems to be more failures than successes. But this year was going to have a focus on flowers. I had never grown flowers (other than a sunflower) from seed before and while I was dead keen on becoming a mega gardener, I didn’t know my hardy annuals from my herbaceous perennials. Sometimes the best way to learn is to just do, and a book or three never goes amiss. You can take the girl out of the library but she always finds a new shelf to explore.

Continue reading “Reflections on the Flowerbed”

Change and Memory in the New/Old Garden

The house we live in now was my grandparents’ house. It’s where my father grew up and where I spent lots of the school holidays. The smell of wisteria always takes me back to being a little girl running around in the garden. The garden itself is split into zones: there are two lawned sections, one to the rear and one to the east side, both with borders, one with a raised section and a gravel garden. The driveway has a deep border on one side that runs almost the full length. Then there is a small walled part where two of the apple trees stand. The summer house, I have discovered, does not act like a greenhouse, and instead is very cool and encourages plants to retain water – almost to the point of rotting. There are some established plants and shrubs, some which are obvious all the year round – the three wiegela, for example – and others which only appear as the seasons change, or as the time-short gardener starts weeding. It is rewarding and probably one of the best experiences I can afford at the moment, as I’m learning all the time about the garden, about plants, and how to organise and structure it.

In other parts of the garden, I’ve discovered many things, including two varieties of digitalis, one pink and one cream, campanula in white and periwinkle blue popping up all over, and several hot pink fuchsias have made themselves known. My day lilies are starting to open up, in a gorgeous orange colour, and while the deep magenta peonies have finished, the white ones were just opening up, until the drought finished them off. My hollyhocks are just starting to flower. The raised part below the apple trees is full of them, and they are all pale pastel colours, however I caught sight of something big and red down the side of the summer house, beyond the brambles, overgrown weigela and buddleia – a great big red hollyhock!

I spy with my little eye, something beginning with Big Red Hollyhock!

At the beginning, I felt almost disrespectful to be too keen at digging up the borders. After all, this was my grandparents’ garden, and I didn’t want to disturb the things that I felt were a testimony to them. Yet as time goes by and the weeds set in, a hard streak came through, and I’ve become a lot stricter. This is our house now, and I want to make the garden somewhere for us to enjoy. Although we are at odds with what we like in gardens – I like my perennials and shrubs, and if he had his way the borders would be bare soil over winter and full of bedding plants in summer. Over the year I have been able to see what we have an overabundance of. Clearly Nana liked her muscari, and while I don’t mind it, it goes rather scruffy after it’s flowered. Buddleias as well are not really my thing – they definitely have a 90s feel about them. I’ve dug lots of bulbs up, and who knows what they might be, but I will probably pot a lot of them up for mobile colour next spring. There was an abundance of daffodils so a big chunk will be them.

Other welcome surprises I would like to keep. This hosta, for example, will be dug up, divided and moved when the time is right. And the lupin and delphiniums, of course, which are great triffids and give a lovely burst of colour. I am going to try to keep the seeds from them. The Harry Wheatcroft rose has survived through neglect and is throwing out some gorgeous blooms.

Harry Wheatcroft rose

Digging up the borders is a big task, so I might not get it all done. Part of me wonders if I should just put black plastic down and let it kill everything off, but then I discover something else that makes me hesitate. And while I’m cutting down brambles and pulling up weeds, a bee will come buzzing along and alight on a flower, and that makes me stop dead in my tracks. I can’t get to my red hollyhock because of the brambles that the insects love. So maybe sometimes, stopping and delaying isn’t such a bad thing at all.