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!

dear diary : a long lazy weekend

We are still here at the cottage in Scotland.  Maybe we will be stranded here if the petrol crisis continues!

Last Thursday we worked all day in the garden – I tackled the steep slope that falls away from the lane above.  Just to recap – this is how we left it at the end of July. You might remember that DH is terracing the slope with planks of treated wood but as usual we are only part way through this project as more pressing work has taken over. We have been building up the banking, which is quite loose sandy soil and easily erodes, by adding barrow loads of well-rotted compost from one of the large bins. So now it has become extremely fertile and the weeds and wildflowers moved in whilst we were away.

And this is what we came back to in the picture below……the self-seeded poppies have been spectacular though and I carefully weeded out the chickweed and bitter cress hiding amongst them but is probably also supporting them too. Hopefully sometime this next week DH will get back to the terracing.

This is the view from above standing on the lane looking down into the garden.

If anything is guaranteed to give me backache then this is the place.  Normally I hand weed kneeling down but on a slope this is barely possible and the uneven and contorted posture I end up in is a recipe for disaster and certainly mega backache.  .

By the weekend we had to finally acknowledge the weariness that had crept upon us after a very long and busy summer so during these last few days we have been relaxing….both in mind and body and have tried to ignore the problems going on in the wider world around us as sometimes they just feel insurmountable.  It feels like the country is in such a mess and so directionless at the moment the problems will never be sorted out and the worst of it is that every problem always seems to boil down to money – either tremendous costs or a lack of. 

So on Friday with a change of scene and a rest in mind we put the last of the celery soup into a flask and headed up the road to Portpatrick, a pretty little village with a harbour and usually this is where you find most of the tourists. 

Portpatrick faces out into the Irish Sea on the other side of the peninsula to us and on a clear day you can see the land mass of Northern Ireland looming in the distance 21 miles away.  Somewhere here is the spot that Boris proposes to build his connecting bridge (or was it a tunnel).  I for one would be strongly against the idea.  Why would you want to route thundering big juggernauts through this beautiful place.

There are a number of ‘touristy’ shops here, a café or two and a row of pubs with outside seating along the front……and believe it or not an amusement arcade (on the right of this picture). 

Luckily the place wasn’t very busy though which was nice.

We had a wander around the Lighthouse Pottery gift shop looking for possible gifts but I didn’t really see anything that would have made a nice present for anyone.  I have bought quite a lot of bits and pieces from here over the years but the stock has changed overtime and is not as ‘different’ as it once was.  Smuggler’s Cove was closed and the Lifeboat shop didn’t have anything appealing either so I just left a donation.

We walked around the back lanes to reach the main road in to the village.  This is where the churches are.  I particularly love the Episcopal Church and their lovely decorative sign.  

A little way further down the street just off one of the side roads is the really old church, a ruin now but the tower is still intact.  Some of DH’s relatives lie in the graveyard here. 

So far we have found two gravestones with his family name clan Kerr (from his mum’s side).   Kerr is from the old Norse meaning marsh dweller and they originated from Normandy (the French settlement of Norsemen). The Kerr’s have typically been associated with left-handedness, and some of their castles and tower houses have spiral staircases designed with this in mind as they spiral round in the opposite direction to most. DH though isn’t left handed and so luckily we have no need of a left-handed staircase!

Clan Kerr has 3 tartans the modern, (red, green and black), the hunting (blue, green and black) and the old colours ( a more muted red, green and black).  The coat of arms bears the moto in latin Sero, Sed, Serio  which means ‘late but in earnest’ and I would say that sums DH up perfectly (but don’t tell him I said so!!

Saturday we had planned to garden again.  But it didn’t happen.  DH felt out of sorts which is unusual.  Should I be worried – he is never ill with anything other than a cold once in a blue moon?  I suggested another lazy day for him whilst I made use of the time and cleaned the bathroom and tidied around.  We had lunch and once everything was washed and put away I got out the sketchbook again for a little practising doing a few quick 10 minute sketches while DH quietly read and dozed.  This was quite an unusual, but enjoyable, afternoon for us and I could get to like it.

On Sunday we continued with yet more ‘lazing around’.  DH made soup….tomato this time whilst I just pottered doing nothing in particular.  During the afternoon I spent a lovely couple of hours with my sketchbook and watercolours again.

We had a chat with one of the caravaners whose caravan is next to our boundary fence.  He is packing up and pulling off the site as a few of them are.  The new owner has made it impossible for them to stay with his new rules – he requires everyone to change their vans every 10 years and second hand ones cannot be sited. Eric has been here since well before we bought the cottage.  He lives alone now as his wife died suddenly (aged only 60) from a heart attack about 10 years ago and visiting the caravan and his friends here has been a big support to him.  His caravan is quite old now but still fully functional and as he must be around 70 a brand new caravan on a pension would not be a viable buy.

How does scrapping caravans after only 10 years benefit anyone especially the environment?  It only benefits the pockets of a few including the site owners who charge to have a van removed and then charge a large commission on a new one.  Caravans these days are built to last longer are well insulated and double glazed – there should be no reason to scrap them after ten years.  The site owner claims there is no market for second hand vans but I would challenge that.

On Sunday evening we had a long night of rain….continuous and quite heavy though we managed to sleep through the rhythmic pounding on the caravan roof and finally awoke to brilliant sunshine. We took advantage of the good weather and had a trip round the bay to Wigtown who are celebratng their book week though the events are much more limited this year due to Covid.

And now our few rest days must end and I need to work up some energy to get down to the gardening once again so that we don’t find that our list of tasks are increasing.

In and amongst my thoughts keep drifting away to Christmas.  I am trying to stop them but then I notice Christmas is creeping in at every turn.  All the Christmas magazines are on sale in the shops, the Lifeboat shop had a stand of Christmas cards, I received an email from Booths about their Christmas book and a few others about their mega advent calendars (at mega prices) and now my mum is asking me what we all intend doing at Christmas.  It seems Christmas and the planning of Christmas is almost unavoidable this early.  At least I don’t have to worry about a turkey – our Nut Roast will be made well ahead of time and be resting in the freezer.

seasons :: warm September days

Such warm and glorious September days at the moment; but without doubt the very last of summer is slowly slipping away. I never mind too much though and I look forward to this new season like I do every season as each brings its own rewards. Even though the last of the flowers are fading fast the hedgerows here are bursting with colour, bright red hips and berries, leaves turning to that rich golden brown and the majestic skeletons of thistle and cow parsley towering above the dying grassy verges. 

For me this is the season of gathering. 

Gathering in the last of the homegrown produce from the garden; tomatoes, apples and courgettes…. gathering free food from the hedgerows and restocking my pantry with dried fruits, lentils and chickpeas (shortages allowing) ready for those warming one pot meals that go well together with chunks of homemade bread.

But there is also a different type of gathering that I look forward to – gathering new recipes to try at this time of year – I probably do most of my baking during this season, gathering books to read – old and new and magazines that will provide inspiration for the coming months, and of course gathering together candles and my cosiest of blankets ready for those long lazy evenings by the fireside and best of all gathering the family together around the table sharing a meal and a bit of chit chat.

We have been at the cottage here on the Mull of Galloway for just over a week now, the village is sleepy quiet as most of the visitors have returned home. We have spent most of our time as usual in the garden and I can’t deny that it has been such hard work.  A mixture of old age causing tired and aching muscles and a garden far too overgrown through not having been here for the last few weeks.

I had planned to do some knitting and a bit of tidying in the caravan when it rains and we couldn’t work in the garden but guess what….it hasn’t rained yet other than a little overnight.

DH has spent most of the time in the garden trying to reshape the holly trees which is a mammoth task.  They have not been attended to as they should have been and are far too tall and a bit misshapen.  Getting them back into a pleasing shape is going to be difficult. There is much muttering going on.

Meanwhile, I have been crawling around on hands and knees weeding in all the borders. They need a good sort out this autumn.  Some plants need dividing, some are just in the wrong place, and some need cutting back drastically. There is an abundance of chickweed this year but it is easily removed along with the bittercress and red campion but the alkanet not so as the tap root goes down deep into the soil.

I have been snipping off the heads of the chamomile that self-seed around the seaside garden to put in the flower press, they make wonderful cards

Each morning we seem to be finding a cooking apple on the lawn which has dropped from the very top of the Bramley tree; it is too high up for us to pick them so we just wait until they fall off and hope we get to them before the wildlife.  Yesterday whilst we were roaming around the countryside we picked some blackberries too so I could put the two together and make a blackberry and apple crumble. I don’t keep flour at the caravan or have any sugar (I like my apples tart though) so I cheated and bought a packet of Tesco’s crumble topping and stirred in a handful of desiccated coconut for extra crunch.  It was amazingly good.

Once our evening meal is over and the washing up done we both flop for a while. I usually play a couple of games of patience but recently I have become addicted to those Codeword crossword puzzles. Normally I have just torn the odd one out of the back of my mum’s Woman’s Weekly that she passes on to me but this week I actually bought myself a book of them in Tesco.

After ringing my mum at 8 o’clock (when I know she will have watched Maigret which is being rerun at the moment) we settle down to watch a video which I can play on my laptop as we don’t have a TV here at the cottage and the radio is often not that entertaining.

Currently we are going through the Royale Family box set….howling with laughter – I know all these people in one way or another though thankfully I can say my dad was absolutely nothing like Jim Royale and luckily my daughters are not like Denise in respect of their childcare!

We did have a day off from the gardening last Sunday.  It was a gloriously warm and sunny day so we made mushroom soup, poured it into a flask and went for a drive along the coast road to the neighbouring village of Ardwell for a picnic.  We drew into the picnic site that overlooks the bay and watched the seagulls bobbing about on the waves.

Afterwards we did a couple of quick 5 minute sketches before moving on to the Castle Kennedy estate to the tea room for a cup of tea and a scone…..saying yes to both jam and clotted cream as a treat. I brought the little piece of dried seaweed home with me so I can have another go. The light sitting on the beach was so bright that it was hard to capture the depth of colour and often it is easier to see this in a photograph more than in real life.

It was too late in the afternoon to go around the gardens so instead we drove on to New Luce and had a pleasant walk around the village.  I feel every day of sunshine is now quite precious as all too soon the weather will change.

I love this wee cottage and the gardens beyond. Each of them displays the personality of the owners.

Not sure if Mary and Billy refers to the occupants, two dogs or maybe even two goats!

A cottage with a true upcycled garden full of repurposed artifacts. I especially love the fact that the owner has used the front of an old shed as an archway.

Yesterday we were in WH Smiths in town and I own up to the fact that I couldn’t resist purchasing this year’s Country Living Christmas magazine. Starting to think about Christmas this early does go against the grain a bit but I do need to think ahead and start planning especially as I want to make more homemade presents this year for friends and I need some inspiration.

Welcome as ever to new followers and readers – I am never quite sure why anyone wants to hear my ramblings but there you go – I know I always love to know what you are all doing.

back soon x

dear diary :: all about the garden

Back to rain and dull skies at the end of last week, but my lawns are loving it and have perked up a lot since that very dry spell we had a while ago; the ground had become quite hard in places and a drought on top of everything else is the last thing we need at the moment.

Thank you for all the comments and suggestions on my last post it is always interesting to hear how other people think and deal with life. Apologies for not answering each one individually. I will check out the Adriene yoga Jayne – it will be a while yet before my class begins again, so thanks.

It appears the world is in a big mess at the moment but then it always has been in one way or another – life is just messy and no matter how hard we work at trying to sort out the mess, more comes along.

I feel I had a very lazy week again last week and very little housework has been done, intended, but not done. A few hours in the garden, a lot of exercising and phone chats and a little time in the kitchen making a quiche is the sum total of my activity. I feel quite worn out – not by hard work but by the emotional turmoil we find ourselves in daily after watching the news – I don’t know about you but as the easing of lockdown and the relaxing of rules continues I feel as if I have been left stranded and need to find my way home – what is our new normal? – I need to know what I am doing and where I am going.

By last Friday we felt a change of scene was in order so we packed up a light lunch, put the sketchbooks in the car and set off over the Strines, part of the Peak district, that lies to the south of Holmfirth and the north west of Sheffield; a beautiful stretch of moorland, farmland and a collection of resevoirs – a haven for both wildlife and walkers. It was drizzling but we didn’t care it was just good to get out once in a while.

We sat in the car with our picnic admiring the view over Bradfield and then decided to check out the garden centre we once visited down the road at Loxley. We were in luck – the rain had kept people away and only four cars in the car park.

So we had a good hour wandering round ( following the one way system of course and distancing where necessary). They did not have the plants I wanted but I did buy some terracotta saucers, a plant pot, 2 bags of large cobbles and some seeds (White aquilegia, I keep losing my plants in the winter, and some basil). We were also given a free packet of lily bulbs that were going to be thrown away at close of day.

After a short walk to the village on Saturday morning to catch the post and a visit from the person who came to take our throat swabs, for the government Covid survey we have been asked to take part in, I went out in the garden. There was plenty to do; not much weeding but a lot of dead heading as the heavy rain had caught many of the flowers in the pots leaving them soggy and rotting before they had chance to open.

I played around with a few of the cobbles laying them out in different places – I am not 100% sure where they are going – it is just an idea at the moment and may not work out – luckily they are large enough to lay and then move, unlike the smaller gravel stones. I will keep you posted on this one.

The peonies in the sunny border have been gorgeous this year – the tight little buds unfold slowly to reveal such an expanse of froth and frills – sheer delight – though they continue to be at the mercy of the weather – the wind and rain are not helping them to bloom for very long but whilst they are still hanging on there I will savour every moment.

Yet more frills on the patio…..this is the clematis I bought last year with a token I had for my birthday, I planted it this year in a deep terracotta pot. Called Tranquilité it is a very compact plant only reaching about five feet making it very suitable for the patio. It does well in shady positions too so I can move it around the garden when I need to brighten up a dull spot.

As the honeysuckle flowers on the obelisk by the fence are beginning to fade and die, and before long the towering foxgloves will drop their petals leaving seedpods behind, this is one little corner that will need a new focal point. I found this old wicker hanging basket in the shed and planted it with the last of the Tom Thumb nasturtiums I grew. DH then made me a wooden bracket to attach to the fence so I could hang it up and let the nasturtiums tumble over the sides so that when the flowers come out (and I hope there will be a mass of them) there will be a lovely burst of orange hovering above the green foliage below, and if I am really lucky they will bloom whilst there is still the purple of the foxgloves to clash with.

There has also been a little maintenance required in the garden – reseeding in areas where the shrubs had overhung the grass; since March we have been doing some major pruning of the large shrubs in the shady corner, leaving us a bit exposed and overlooked now by the occupants of the house behind us but the viburnum and escallonia are both very vigorous so by next year we should be quite private once again. This is how it was before on the left – a very lush corner and now on the right with a bit of a big hole!

There is a conifer hedge beyond the shrubs that runs across the length of the bottom of our garden. You can just see a bit of it in the photo on the right – it belongs to the neighbour behind us and runs down the side of their garden as our two gardens meet. The face of the hedge on our side died years ago after a bad frost and not much of it remains in this corner – our shrubs always covered up the fact that the hedge is brown and quite dead leaving an unsightly hole in this corner. Unfortunatley, conifers don’t regenerate and as they have overgrown the boundary line we cannot put a fence there ourselves but once our shrubs regrow the unsightly mess will be hidden from view. I keep hoping one day our neighbour will have it removed and put up some fencing – at least a fence does not die.

Other little places are flourishing – this lavender and nemesia are many years old and they sit together like old friends in this vintage bread crock and keep on flowering every year.

This year I moved it from behind the rock rose which was overshadowing the pot; the lack of light had made the lavender a little straggly as it searched for sunlight. Now it sits on the patio in full sun and it must like its new home as the lavender has begun sprouting from the base again so next year I will be able to remove the long straggly older branches.

And this little space where I have the two mini greenhouses working hard this year is soon going to be the new site for…..

…one of these modest sized greenhouses. They are locally made and have real glass not styrene glazing and are quite well made for the price. It will be painted of course, as I want it to be as much a decorative feature in the garden as functional. We decided on a six foot wide / four foot deep (like the one on the right). Only having a small garden I don’t want it to dominate the space, rather merge into it.

So that is all my news of last week and I have no definite plans for the week ahead other than I need to tidy out the shed, order the greenhouse, definitely need to do some housework and sew together the little jumper I knitted. If I manage all that I will be a happy bunny.

Tonight we will venture out and go shopping, strictly the supermarket, we have not wanted or needed to go into the town centre yet – we have all we need and more to get by.

Have a great week everyone and stay safe. x

dear diary :: morning glory

What a beautiful day today – I spent the morning in the garden and it was gloriously sunny and warm and quite calm. The birds were twittering away and it felt like spring had arrived which is not usually this early high up in the Pennines as we are here. The jolly Budha was certainly smiling, yet we all know this kind of weather can be very deceiving and we might suddenly be plunged once again into cold, wet, wind and snow.

With this in mind I didn’t cut back very much of the dead foliage in the garden as it can be quite protective of any harsh weather still to come. I did manage to get the bulbs planted that had started growing indoors in the bag and I also repotted some tiny Irises I bought in Thirsk at the weekend as well as planting out a pot of snowdrops into the small border.

There are bulbs springing up all over the garden now and the Primulas are in full bloom.

Even the pansies have over wintered well this time.

The rhododendron grown by DH’s grandfather and named after him has some nice fat buds waiting to burst open when the time is right. I just hope this year they don’t open too soon and then get hit by later frosts. The one in our Scottish garden which was a cutting from this plant does much better.

I was so glad to see the Clematis I bought last year, and which is still in a pot, has some new leaf buds….an encouraging sign that I have not yet killed it.

In between a bit of gardening and tidying I was running in and out with the washing getting as much done as I could and out on the line while the going was good. DH had taken his car down to our local village garage to have the brake discs done ready for the MOT in April. It has been quite a hefty month or two financially for the cars with both car tax and insurance being paid on top of the recent maintenance costs and an annual service.

This afternoon I went up the road for a cup of tea and a natter with my neighbour. We usualy meet on a Friday but she will be out tomorrow. We spend a couple of hours putting the world to rights and catching up with our news – a lot can happen in a week.

Tonight I am making a cauliflower and broccoli bake for our supper. It is one of my favourite meals in the winter months and quite quick to do. After tea I expect we might just cosy down and watch some TV and maybe an early night. I have just finished my book ‘Confessions of a Bookseller’ by Shaun Bythell – I enjoyed it as much as the earlier one he wrote though I would be very wary of starting a converstion with him should we ever visit his shop in Wigtown, which is round the bay from our cottage, just in case the conversation was ever recorded like many in one of his books!

Tomorrow I still have a million and one jobs to do so we should be having another day at home. Have a relaxing evening…I am! xx

beaching :: getting used to this slower life

We started in the garden early today, well early for us; the sun was shining and we didn’t want to miss the opportunity so we had breakfast then I did a few floor exercises, as I have done every day, to loosen up the tight lower back muscles; not easy to do squeezed in between the table legs and the seating (space is hard to come by in a caravan),

It was back to weeding around the pond today, what you can see of the pond, as over the summer we had a bit of a primula explosion amongst other things. DH took off the leggy branches of the Fuschia that overhung the pond – shame – but it had grown into a tree and really got far too high but it will grow quickly again next year. In fact we are feeling a little exposed in places now as we have pruned many a tree and bush over the course of the week – some of our plants must be suffering from shock after being plunged suddenly into the sunlight.

After lunch we read, I actually dozed off for a while – unintentionally of course. We decide a brisk walk to the village would waken us up; as the tide was in we had to go by the road rather than along the beach. For a change we took the main high road past all the houses – I like to have a nosy now and again to see what everyone is up to. There are always plenty of new delights to spot.

We walked up to the village store and bought an ice cream and fresh rolls – I resisted the temptation to buy one of the Christmas magazines on display – each one had a few free goodies enclosed in the plastic wrapper and I could have chosen between chocolate moulds (might be handy) or coasters and any number of those rubber stamps and dies; but it still felt a little early so I put them back and just bought cake – Eccles cakes – my favourite.

We then strolled on down to the harbour and along the shore road cutting through the little garden of the end cottage (they don’t seem to mind) that takes you down through the sand dunes and onto the beach. By now the tide had receded enough for us to get back round the bay to our cottage.

I love hunting for little treasures amongst the pebbles, bits of sea glass, unusual stones and shells – it is amazing what you find. Today I collected a few small pearl shells and an empty crab shell.

As the tide had only just gone out the sand was all rippled and I managed to capture the photo above where the wind was blowing the shallow water in ripples across the sand.

Once home and a cup of tea later I went foraging around the garden collecting flower heads and berries. Even though I forgot to pack my flower press I didn’t want to miss out on some of the colourful flowers that are in bloom at the moment. The fiery oranges of the monbretia appears everywhere in our garden and certainly cheers up the dark corners – it makes wonderful confetti too when the petals are dried. The pretty blue campanula is still scrambling around and flowering – brilliant ground cover and so dainty.

In the absence of my press I had to improvise by using the pages of my moleskin gardening notebooks to sandwich the petals between. I will transfer them into my press when we get home.

These pretty hydrangea petals are even lovelier when they start to get the speckled vintage look. I had the idea that I might make some cards and gift tags with them, it is a long time since I made pressed flower cards so I am looking forward to having a go again. Time willing!

Tomorrow will be a final rush around the garden to finish off what we can before we go home. As always we could just do with another week here.

Hope everyone is having a good week – and welcome new followers.

beaching :: a week at the cottage

I expect you may be wondering if I had got lost in the wood, or fallen into the compost bin, or down a rabbit hole; but no I have been a little quiet this week because I needed some ‘me’ time whilst on holiday – amongst the gardening of course.

As usual when we arrived the garden resembled a jungle, all but the grass, which had been cut by our dear friendly grass cutter, Kelly.  5 days in and it was ready for cutting again; so DH got the mower out and cut them again.

I had the usual first day dithers wondering which of the borders to start on; in the end I did none of them and decided the garage needed a clear out.

 It is a big space but we were only using the last few feet by the door because I could not get past all the equipment and garden sundries blocking my path.  I found some interesting things though and a few things I had forgotten about.

Through some clever prompting on my part I managed to get DH to go through the wood pile and keep or toss.  It is now much reduced.  The rest was put outside on the concrete standing and yesterday had a journey to the tip along with a few bags of weeds that I don’t compost here like goosegrass.

There is still a lot to do as you can see from the photo but it is very much a work in progress I am pleased with what we have achieved and presently we can get to much more of the garden equipment. I also collected up a number of plant pots strewn around the garage and clay planters, gave them a hose down and laid them out in the sun to dry. Some of them I will be taking back down home to use there.

So it wasn’t until last Sunday that we gardened, the wind had dropped by then and it turned quite hot, so much so that I had to do my usual border hopping to avoid the sun.  Dowsed in sun cream I began on the border by the pond but within minutes realised this was a mistake, far too hot, so I moved to the holly tree border.  So many tiny foxgloves have seeded themselves and a flurry of hypericum seedlings but also many bitter cress were hiding amongst them.  I fished out the bitter cress and hypericum and left the foxgloves – these will grow on and flower next year.  I do like foxgloves they are welcome anywhere in my garden, but a few more white and pale pink ones would be nice. 

The delphiniums in the lower wood have been spectacular and I only lost one to the rabbits before we put the netting round.

On Monday I began in the long trellis border.  This is full of tiny poppy seedlings again there is bitter cress amongst them and some other unwanted weeds like dock.  DH tackled the early flowering clematis on the trellis giving it a hard but not over excessive prune.  The later flowering Etoile Violette had entwined itself with the earlier flowering montana rubens and we spent a good hour trying to separate them so we didn’t acidentally prune off the buds.

Eventually by the end of our week here I had just about done most of the borders and cleared a heap of weeds. The rose is looking magnificent and smells divine. The falling petals have been collected and brought inside to dry. The pink mallow is just on the point of flowering – sadly I will miss it in full bloom as it will be over by the time we come again.

On the Monday afternoon we went into Stranraer and down to the waterfront to look at the Skiffe boats.  I know nothing about boats but these are beautifully made rowing boats and we watched as the teams from all over the country and abroad heaved them in and out of the water. They each had a little tent to shelter in which looked like a row of beach huts along the promenade.

Princess Anne had been flown in by helicopter to attend the start of the races but we didn’t see any sign of her other than the pictures in the Free Press which we bought later in the week (the Free Press is the local paper, which isn’t actually free, now £1 and extremely thin on news of late).

During Skiffie week there were plenty of activities and entertainment laid on for the visitors and locals, one of them was a classic bus rally and I managed to get a quick snap of this one as we left town.

On Tuesday it rained so we went back into town to look around the shops and stock up on provisions – I bought two birthday presents from my favourite gift shop, Baxters, they gift wrap them at no extra charge too.  We had a drink at one of the cafes and then took a drive up to the north of the peninsula near to Corsewell Lighthouse, then followed the road down to the little harbour village of Portpatrick.  By this time the rain had stopped and the sun appeared and it was the best part of the day so we bought an ice cream and had a walk around.

Today we have been in the upper wood to clear some branches left by the Council who have turned our lovely grass verge into a tarmac path and in so doing have thrown all the grass sods, grit and left over tarmac into our wood, not to mention cutting back our hedge that separates the wood from the main road; so now there is no hedge.  It had only just grown again since Scottish Power reduced it to the ground 11 years ago.

So we are back where we started.  The council have a workforce of only 5 men for an area of over 100 miles to do any kind of direct works jobs – the ones that are not large enough to be undertaken by outside contractors.  They apparently do not have the necessary skills do many of the jobs proficiently – as we noticed! The man from the council apologised profusely for the bad workmanship, and said it was because when the workforce was cut – most of the men who could took early retirement or got new jobs elsewhere and they were left with quite unskilled men who could not get jobs anywhere else.

They are coming back to deal with the rubbish – I just hope they do not make a worse mess. I will show you pictures of the mess in a later post.

All to soon it is time to pack up and go home – I hope I don’t find my garden there in need of a lot of attention as we need to prepare the house inside for our Aussie visitor.

I had a text from the hospital on Friday to say that I need to travel to Leeds in good time for my appointment on Monday as there is a demonstartion in the city centre by the Extinction Rebellion group. They are targeting the banks and could cause a lot of disruption. Whilst I am all for this kind of protest, getting to Leeds and through the centre and out to Jimmy’s is difficult enough, and I will be stressed anyway wondering if my results are going to be OK – so I think we may go further round on the motorway and drop down from the north avoiding the centre.

So that is all from Bonnie Scotland – there will be more about the garden in my garden notes section when I get time to publish it. Hope everyone is having a good weekend.

Welcome to new followers and I hope my my regular readers are enjoying the advert free posts now. x

homestead :: the garden journal

I decided to turn my handy little notebook I keep with jottings on all things to do with the garden into an online journal. This is just a record of what I am planting and doing each month in both gardens, the one here at home in Yorkshire and the one at the cottage in Scotland.

At the moment I don’t want to start a separate blog so I am writing this in the pages section and you can read about my daily gardening exploits if you are interested by clicking on the link ‘The Garden Journal’ which you will find both along the top menu bar above the header picture and in the side bar and this will take you through to the relevant pages.

Each month will have a new page and depending, of course, which garden I am in at the time it will say by the date.

I will still be doing the ocassional gardening post on here – but the more day to day stuff will be in the journal. Pages unlike posts will not notify any followers when I update in the journal so I will let everyone know of any updates at the end of my normal postings. Hope to see you there.

bEAching ~ rambling around the borders and New Luce

I must put plasters on the shopping list.

DH was making anti-bunny cages for the plants yesterday and had a slight argument with a hacksaw.  Ouch.  This is not unusual when he is doing ‘things’ in the garden – sometimes it’s his head, sometimes his fingers – luckily for him today it was only his finger.

This is why a flat tyre might prove fatal one day if we needed to get to A&E.

I continued in the trellis border….. all 40ft of it.  It is beginning to take shape, well some kind of shape – not exactly the shape I had intended but I can titivate it later;  flowing curves are not easy to cut so they look good from all directions…..…. but for now the hard work is done, the lawn edged, the bed weeded and the stones removed other than the ones that are there for decoration or bunny protection.

This is the end of the border before….and after……When I get the rest of the planting in and there is less bare earth and more colour it will start to look better.  As this is the seaside garden I am planting a mix of seaside plants – Valerian (a good spreader and so far anti-rabbit), lavender, Santolina, kniphofia, Erigeron and thrift.

No doubt by our next visit it will once again be covered in weeds and maybe bunnies.

Rag, Tag and Bobtail have now been joined by bibbity and bobbity, hippity and hoppity and what seems like many distant cousins.

But the sly old fox is very close on their tails – hiding in the gorse – just waiting his chance. I am still keeping a few bunny cages in place just in case…..

…and a few stones to prevent nibblers from damaging the roots whilst the new plants ‘settle in’ and grow stronger.

At last I have uploaded the photos of our little venture last Thursday.  After climbing the ‘mound’ we set off travelling north on the road to New Luce that runs on the eastern side of the Stair estates at Castle Kennedy just outside Stranraer.  Suddenly, as if from nowhere, a Hen Harrier flew overhead (Lord Stair had mentioned to DH sometime ago that they are nesting on his estate at Castle Kennedy), a beautiful bird and quite a size with a very large wingspan.  It came extremely close to us and swooped past gliding gracefully into the woods.  Apparently, there are not many in the UK so we are lucky to see one.  Sadly it was one picture that I didn’t manage to take.

New Luce is a tiny conservation village part of the Glenluce parish. It is on the road to nowhere and developed as a village through the necessity of having a meeting place for all the local outlying farms of such a large parish.  It is like an oasis in the dessert only here it is a lush oasis in the middle of moorland.  The locals affectionately call it Nineveh.  There are 62 homes and about 90 residents of all ages.   It is positioned where two rivers meet – the Main Waters of Luce and the Cross Waters of Luce.  Like the river the two main streets of the village form a T shape each of which has a bridge over one of the rivers.

Take any of the four roads to New Luce and you will not pass through any other village or hamlet on the way,  save Glenwhilly, which I believe is nothing more than a couple of houses clustered at the old station on the way north to Barhill;  strangely it boasts Scotland’s most remote signal box though goodness knows where the passengers would have come from in such an uninhabited place.   Like New Luce , the station at Glenwhilly closed in 1965.

Glenluce, a small rural village to the South of New Luce has a village shop and is the closest place 5 miles away, and where the younger children now attend school, Stranraer is 9 miles to the South west and Barrhill 13 miles to the North so it feels more isolated than remote;  surrounded on all sides by open moorland (that has not yet fallen to any great swathe of forestry planting) and where sections of the winding road are single track with passing places and cattle grids.  As you descend down from the moors towards the village the scenery changes into a more gentle landscape of farmland with farmsteads dotted here and there….– complete with grazing sheep…. lots of them and on the road too….. and in no hurry. We entered at the lower end of Station Street.Just to the left of the picture stands this old iron bath tub filled with an array of flowers.  Just one of the many repurposed artefacts around this village. At one time this old tub was to be found in one of three Inns as this notice tells me.  That is a lot of drinking establishments for such a small place.  Interestingly in the 1846 census there were not only 3 Inns but several village shops serving 278 villagers and a school attended by 50 children.It is a haven for the red squirrel;  sadly we saw none on our visit but I just love the way the locals in this area make the road signs their own and have added a cheeky little apple sticker – often the cow signs have been adapted to resemble the belted galloways with the white band. And just look at this wonderful play park for the handful of children who live here. Libbie would have loved to play in here for the afternoon.Over the Main Water bridge now and I just had to take a picture of this house with the sun pod in the garden – I have only ever seen them displayed in John Lewis before and wondered who bought them!They had a collection of rare breed sheep wandering about- the one at the back resembling a big teddy bear was so cute.

Opposite is the little village shop and Post Office offering free herbs in the window boxes, beside it is a red telephone box (mobile signal is poor) and a post box – all a good sign of a thriving village.With limited stock and limited opening hours and a bus service only on 3 days of the week and no train link you do not want to run short of anything living out here.At the top of Station Street is the junction with Main Street and what appears to be a little public garden, where a cottage once stood, no doubt lovingly tended by the local villagers.

It must be one of the best kept villages I have seen in ages and I love the way they reuse, repurpose and recycle so many discarded objects, turning them into planters and sculptures as you will see on our little walk around.

At the back of the garden was a flight of gravel steps leading up to this monument – we couldn’t quite read the inscription on the stone but given its position here it must be quite important to the village.The gravelled path continued along what seemed to be a little lane running high above Main Street at the back of the row of cottages.  Here we found some very curious allotment style gardens with sheds…..I have never seen so many sheds in such a tiny village….everyone had a shed, or two or three! The Ferrets Nest certainly appeared to be more of a weekend chalet than a shed.  And one or two had a caravan – possibly in use!And whichever wall you looked over everyone had a display of household artefacts and recycled objects …..or even an old ruin in their back gardens.Eventually the little lane came out onto the main street again.

Some of the cottages had quaint window displays inside and out….

and fancy wall plaques… sadly not all were delightful – this window is displaying a notice announcing a closure –It appears that the last of the Inns, the Kenmuir Arms Hotel, is also now ‘closed until further notice’ – the owners having closed up in the winter of 2018, gone abroad and as yet not returned.  Though noticing a skip outside the back with mattresses dumped in it I am thinking perhaps they are not reopening.  It was a popular Hotel – especially with walkers… and campers who could pitch their tents down at the bottom of the Hotel garden by the water ….with the midges. Going further along Main Street and over the second of the bridges (Main Bridge) I came across this cute little cottage with a recent extension… It is possible it might have been a Toll house.This garden outside this chalet caught my eye – where else in the world would you come across a scene like this on the road side where there is an open invitation to passers by to play with the little toy cars…….and no one steals them! There were so many unusual things to see in this village I will take a break here and continue in part two a few steps away at the church and village memorial hall.

Apologies if there are spelling mistakes, it is late, I am tired and WordPress spellcheck has disappeared off the editing toolbar.

Back soon x