dear diary >> a matter of opinion

DH and I agree on most things, but it is of no surprise that we have a difference of opinion when it comes to what constitutes ‘pottering’ and how long it should continue for. He thinks two hours of minimal activity is all I should be doing at present and of course he is right but I am an all or nothing person and once I begin a job I can’t bear not to see it through.

And I get sidetracked easily.

I am a great supporter of the Lean method where continuous improvement is part of the approach. I am always looking for better ways of organising and storing things and often have a move around much to DH’s dismay! Sometimes, even I have to acknowledge a task will take far longer than I have time for in a day, but if I stop what I am doing then I know it is going to end up as another project on the unfinished task list as other urgent housekeeping chores call for my attention.

Yesterday, I maybe overdid it a bit. I only intended to sort out the collection of small plastic plant pots in the greenhouse, that I had washed before our holidays, and keep only the useful ones. Dobbies, one of our local garden centres, have a recycling point for old plant pots so I have put aside the ones I don’t want to drop off on our next visit.

We have quite a useful space at the side of our house behind the shed where we can keep our wheelie bins and bags of potting compost tucked away from view. I also put the old mini greenhouse here as it is a sunny positon but much cooler away from any direct sun which is great for potted cuttings and hardening off. I keep the larger empty plant pots here too and anything a bit unsightly but the whole area was a bit of a mess because DH had not been able to get to his ladder easily and after he put it back in position the objects he had to move did not quite make it back in their place (need I say more…). So I started tidying up this area and as I went along I found a few problems that required a little DIY from DH whilst he was doing other bits and pieces in the greenhouse and now the area is looking much cleaner and quite tidy.

Before our holidays DH put in some ‘Christmas potatoes’ – I am not sure if they will actually be ready for Christmas day but they are growing well and needed earthing up. My few outdoor tomatoes are at last turning red – it has been a long wait. I haven’t grown this variety before, a dwarf stocky bush tomato that does not require the removal of side shoots called Totem. They are very sturdy plants that stood up well to the strong winds we had a month or so ago. The Zinnias in the top photo have been battered by wind and then scorched by the sun… but are holding on, they are such beautiful rich colours and one of my favourite annuals. I have more in the front borders and they are mixed with a rather lovely colour called ‘Green Envy’. I was quite pleased to see that Carol Klein recommended this variety on her Summer Gardening program (I just love her enthusiasm for plants it is contagious) it is such an unusual colour but looks good beside the vibrant reds and purples. The plants that have done the best this year on the patio are the geraniums – they seem to thrive in hot dry weather but then they do grow an enormous amount of them in France and Italy.

Today I must, must, must make the mushroom and lentil pies to freeze and the quiche bases (I know I have been saying this all week!). I will rub up the pastry mix this morning and then do the filling in the afternoon. If I get chance I have had an idea for storing those candles I mentioned. I need to gather them all together in Marie Kondo style to see what I am dealing with in terms of space required. I do have quite an assortment of candle holders too and maybe I don’t really need all of them. We shall see.

I am hoping that DH will be doing a bit more fixing and mending. When we got home from holiday I found my watering can broken. It is a Hall’s plastic red one with a long bar attached to the spout that you hold to carry it and it had snapped clean in two as you can see in the photo…..rendering it unuseable and there was no way it could be glued back together. It seemed such a shame that it would be of no further use and would end up in landfill at the tip. However DH to the rescue – he came up with a solution…..

…… a bit of a Heath Robinson fix (just like his dad) using this strong metal strip of rust proof aluminium and some screws or maybe they are rivets. I am delighted though and so pleased it could be repaired – in fact it should be stronger than before even if it does look a bit strange.

Have a lovely restful Sunday everyone. x

dear diary >> a warm welcome

I am writing my posts from Scotland at the moment and as I gazed out of the caravan window this morning at the sea I am reminded of this passage from Marcel Proust –

But before all this I had drawn back my own curtains, impatient to know what Sea it was that was playing that morning by the shore, like a Nereid. For none of those Seas ever stayed with us longer than a day. On the morrow there would be another, which sometimes resembled its predecessor. But I never saw the same one twice.

After a hard night of howling winds around the caravan that kept me waking on and off I too was eager to know what the sea would be like today as it is usually an indication of what weather we might expect for the day. On drawing back the curtains it was no surprise to find it quite choppy with white frothy waves rolling up onto the shore creating a bubble bath of foam – definitely a stay inside day and quite the opposite to yesterday when, after a night of heavy rain, I opened the curtains to find a calm sea that was glinting in the morning sunshine….and I knew from this that it was going to be a good day.

And it was…..I spent the morning yesterday having a leisurely breakfast and doing a little planning – not that planning is easy at the moment – these troubled times make me hesitant to look too far ahead, so only looking to the end of March seemed practical. We don’t have TV here so any news can only be heard on the hour on the radio and the sense of the war is quite different without the pictures but no less shocking; I fear for the life of the captured Mayor of Mariupol – I fear for Zelensky and I fear for us all.

By eleven o’clock we were both out in the garden; DH on ditch clearing duty (though he was under strict orders to only clear a small part of it – mud is heavy when you have to heave it out of a ditch to higher ground, and myself….I knuckled down to weeding the trellis border.

We have a new neighbour in place now on the other side of our trellis in a touring sized van, much shorter than Eric’s static van so our plants in the border are not quite so sheltered from the sea wind and have wind burn.

When the clematis comes out we don’t see the caravan though we had specially left a little window in the planting so Eric could sit out in the sunshine and wave to us.

This is a picture from last year with Erics van behind the trellis and his little peephole. You can see the beautiful Montana clematis that grew up and over the trellis but was so ‘kindly’ hacked down this winter on the otherside by the new site owner… AKA Machete Man.

So now we are left with this a lifeless bunch of stems as they have been cut down at low level on the other side of the trellis and the top part here of intertwining stems are quite dead.

The winter has taken its toll all around the garden this year; the north westerly winds and salt spray from the sea has burnt many of the shrubs and it will take a while before we know what will spring back to life. As the snowdrops are fading away the daffodils are in full bloom, scattered around the garden creating little splashes of colour. The new bulbs, tulips and narcissi, I planted last autumn have all been dug up and eaten by the rabbits…. apparently daffodils are not to their liking and so have been spared.

Everywhere there are little signs of plants waking up and the springtime flowers about to emerge.

My spirits as ever were lifted as my little friendly Robin bibbed and bobbed around me with such a warm welcome back. He had polished off all the food we had left him on our last visit and was eager to follow me about visiting each newly dug patch of earth for worms.

We are eating well here at the caravan and choosing hob based meals to save on the Calor gas. Our only oven meal so far was the nut roast which I brought with us cooked, but frozen and I could have chosen to reheat it in the microwave but I had left over parsnips to use up from the fridge at home and not wanting to waste them I had to put the oven on to roast them…note to self not to buy parsnips when we are about to come up to the caravan.

I needed tomato paste at the caravan because at home we buy it in a jar, then spoon it out into ice cube trays and freeze it. I usually buy those tiny pots to use in the caravan as they keep well but couldn’t find any on the shelves – luckily in the little Sainsbury’s at Newton Stewart on our way here these little cans were on clearance at only 8p each. Another bargain.

Today the winds are not settling – DH has braved the weather to dig out another few feet of ditch (this carries the rain water that drains down through the upper wood across to the burn). It gets rather clogged up with the fallen leaves from the trees and the resulting mud has to be cleared every so many years. I am not venturing out but instead will be catching up with some reading and making notes on some cost cutting ideas for when we return home.

I may even get my paint box out. X

dear diary :: garden progressing nicely, knitting not so…

I have been hoping for rain all week – not the statement most of us would want to hear, but secretly I have because I had plans here at the cottage for wet weather.  One of them was to do more knitting. 

I boldly decided to alter the back of the pattern of the little dress – probably not the wisest of moves given my novice ‘under’ novice status.   I realised when casting on for the back of the dress that it does not open completely it only opens to the little contrast coloured ‘ribbon’ band.  This means it would be harder to get on and off in my mind with no ‘give’ room and I am already beginning to doubt if the size I chose to do will fit.  I decided on the slightly smaller size because the pattern on the model looked quite baggy and this is maybe why because the opening is not the full length of the bodice.

So, in my wisdom, I thought it would be better to knit a separate left and right back and have a small slit in the adjoining skirt which, if you remember, is fabric.

To do this means I need to do some pretty neat edges along the opening edges and my edges are not great. Normally, it doesn’t matter too much as they are part of an inside seam and not on show but I knew there are ways are making them look neater so back to You Tube and from what I can tell slipping the first stitch pearl wise does the job.   So I will begin the back again and see if that produces something more passable.  It is either that or little Sweetie walks backwards everywhere when she wears it so no-one sees the mess I make.

My other reason for desiring a wet day was to do more sketching.  I bought a new set of pencils and a small watercolour pad in W.H.Smith’s ½ price sale and there is an abundance of lovely autumn seed heads on every verge to draw at the moment and I have been collecting little bunches from the garden which are now hanging up in the shed to dry.

While the sun shines though it is gardening again though I must say we have been out nearly every day and I wonder if we have actually made any difference.  Slowly though it is taking shape once again after the sorry neglect of the Covid year.

DH put up a windbreak behind the young Braeburn apple tree – we had to cut a wider border to accomodate the stakes and as usual this led to a bit more weeding and sorting in this corner.

Meanwhile I tackled the tangled mess under the holly tree in our ‘ Beyond the Pond’ border as I call it as it is just beyond the pond on the left. This border is part of the woodland walk in the lower wood so can be quite shady in the summer. The large leaved Rogersia is an excellent plant for the shade as is the decorative Osmunda Regalis fern. In the front of the border is an Azalea surrounded by a spreading geranium planted as ground cover to keep the weeds down and of course the Tellima that self seeds everywhere.

We had temporarily moved the large stones here from the Trellis Border that were no longer needed and I wanted to move them into place to enclose the border up to the Holly tree. We will then be extending the grass up to the line of the stones and this will also keep the planting contained and out of the path of the strimmer.

The pond too has been put to bed. DH put the ‘spider’ pond cover and netting in place to catch the leaves from the Sycamore tree nearby. Everything now is beginning to die back and when we return in a few weeks time it will all be one soggy leafy mess in this part of the garden – meanwhile the weeds will still be on the rampage.

I do love this time of year for cooking and the magazines are full of plum crumbles and all my favourite fruits and the root vegetables make wonderful roast meals and stews. We have already begun changing our menus to suit the seasonal vegetables available. Celery is plentiful in the shops so DH made celery soup and threw in the end of some broccoli we had in the fridge. I made one of my easy one pan autumn meals Chickpeas and brown rice – a seasonal favourite when the weather starts to change and I also made a curry which we will have with brown rice and mango chutney one night and then fill some of those crisp corn Taco shells the next (I know a strange mix of cuisine but they are quite delicious), and I found you can microwave them (I did buy a microwave for the caravan in case the calor gas ever runs out) which will save heating up the gas oven to some incredible costly temperature to cook them for only 3 minutes.

We will be venturing home soon so I am savouring the last of our days here – there is going to be some hot weather on the horizon I am told so no doubt all the weeds will spring into action once again and after a few days our cottage garden will look like we have never been here.

Since writing this we have had rain today. I skipped on the knitting though as we will be leaving soon for home and I decided the caravan needed a good fettle before we go, even under the caravan seating. I thought there was little stored under there until I lifted the seats and found a few things I had totally forgotten about like the electric kettle in case the gas fails, some spare cutlery and cups and a host of large plastic containers. I decided to put everything together under one of the seats and make a list as at the moment it is definitely a case of out of sight out of mind.

Before we go home I will snip off a few hydrangea heads to dry at home, shake the Bramley apple tree to get the last of the apples down and collect some shells to take back for the grandchildren. I am so looking forward to those tomatoes at home now.

If the heatwave that is predicted arrives I hope you all enjoy more time to go out and about or in the garden before the weather changes once again.

Back soon x

dear diary :: back to normal

After the events of the last few days we are slowly settling back into normality….. such as it is here. 

The heating is on when we need it, which is mainly to take the chill off in the morning, we have hot water once again so we have showered, washed our hair and the dishes are done making us respectable once more.   I have hoovered the floor whilst listening to radio 4 and it is heaven to have all these facilities we normally take for granted; no wonder then that my thoughts recently have been with all the refugees that are experiencing hardship day after day.  How on earth do they cope? At least during our powerless plight we had a roof over our heads and a gas cooker enabling us to make a meal and a drink.

And somehow whilst we were thrown into mayhem October crept in….how did that happen?

Yesterday we had planned for rain all day but mid-morning it stopped and the sun appeared and it turned out to be a glorious day.  So we gardened all afternoon.  We did far too much and regretted it later especially when with our aching backs we had to prepare and cook the tea when all we really wanted to do was collapse in a heap sit and relax. 

I didn’t even sleep well last night; we were early to bed, well early for us, and after only 10 minutes reading turned the lights out and we must have both been asleep within minutes. All was snug but then something woke me at about 2am and after that my mind began to churn over – never a good sign and never conducive with sleep. 

It rained heavily again this morning so I spent a good hour updating my yearbook.  It is my catchall – part notebook, part bullet journal, part task lists and diary but also filled with snippets of information I want to refer back to at some point.  At the beginning of each month I go through my Country Living magazine and pull out anything of interest and stick it in my notebook.  This month for instance I have cut out the snippet about Asda starting a vintage clothing section in 8 of their stores.  You are able to swap unwanted clothes for vouchers apparently. I also kept the recipe for the cold remedy ginger and poached pear which sounds like something I might drink even without a cold…..and I am very tempted to buy this book ‘How to Grow Plants from Seeds’ published by RHS. Or perhaps something for my Not so Secret Santa list.

We ate the last of the mushroom soup for lunch which we made just before our power cut and couldn’t really eat because of course the stick blender is electric so it went into a large pyrex bowl to be stored in the fridge. Even though the fridge was off for a few hours during the power cut everything in there seemed OK and we have no ill effects from eating it (and of course we don’t eat meat or that might have been something we would have had to throw away).

Tonight we decided on an easy evening meal so we chopped loads of veg, tossed them in oil and slung them into a baking pan to roast in the oven.  It is one of my favourite autumn meals.  We had sliced Halloumi (which we brown in a hot non-stick frying pan with no oil) and couscous to go with it though it is just as nice with brown rice or often we add a little Passata to make it more moist and stew like and eat it with large chunks of Ciabatta bread dipped into the sauce.

Last night I managed to finish the front bodice of the little dress I am making for Sweetie.  I was quite pleased with myself as being quite a novice knitter I am never very sure if I am actually understanding the pattern instructions correctly and I have no-one other than Google to ask. Well it looks quite even on both sides of the neck and I even managed to ‘fashion’ the decreases around the armhole and neckline, which wasn’t actually written in the pattern but I think it looks so much neater and I find makes it easier when sewing together at the end.

There are some nice little corners in our cottage garden appearing.  Some planned but also some surprises. Did I mention we gave the very large and leggy pink rhododendron the chop this year and cut it back almost down to the base, then crossed our fingers.

Before

Luckily it has started sprouting but the huge hole it has left in the garden is testament to how large it had become over the years, however, in the meantime while it is regenerating we can see the beautiful weeping larch tree beyond which nicely frames the view into the lower wood beneath.

After

I spent a good hour in the fernery by the pond (Polystichum munitum – Western Sword fern) a great fern for coastal areas with glossy deep green leaves that are evergreen and doesn’t die back in the winter but does require any browned and dead leaves removing every so often to keep it looking at its best. I also have to reduce the mass occasionally when is begins to creep further and further into the woodland garden, overstepping its allotted boundaries.

My little seat beneath the old Cherry tree is now completely covered in moss but I shall keep it like this and find somewhere else to sit as it has such a lovely natural appearance. I spent a few minutes picking up more windfalls from the Bramley tree and this year we salvaged one or two eating apples from the young Braeburn, planted 2 years ago. It only produced 5 apples and three of these must have dropped and rotted before this visit. After taking the photo we shared the larger of the Braeburns and it was extremely nice – not too sweet and quite crisp just how I like them. Hopefully there will be more next year.

I have a mass of daffodil bulbs to plant out – I must have dug these up prior to Covid and with all the disruptions and lockdowns last year never got them into the ground. All that lovely natural raffia attached though.

I never managed to find a rose for the garden arch either because of the restrictions so in desperation to have something, anything climbing on it this year I picked up two cheap Clematis in Morrisons the ones for £2 each. The one on the right has taken off better than the one on the left and I now have stones in place to protect it from Kelly (who cuts our grass when we are not here) and her strimmer! For £2 each though they are not doing too badly.

And I love this little ‘green’ corner with all the different leaf shapes.

And with the weekend almost over we will be back to Monday soon enough and we shall have to make plans to return home where, according to my neighbour who is looking after things for us, we have an abundance of ripened tomatoes!

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