beaching ~ homeward bound

Our time at the cottage came to an end, as it inevitably does, all too soon with many gardening tasks left unfinished or not even started but we just have to accept we do what we can in the time available.

Of course in hindsight travelling home on a Bank Holiday Monday was not the best of ideas but one borne out of the fact that our half way overnight stop in Carlisle at the Premier Inn was so much cheaper on the Sunday night.

It was exceptionally busy, both in the hotel and on the roads.

Once I am orientated towards home I suddenly get a longing to be back and reacquainted with all my own things, especially my bed, so we didn’t have a leisurely trip down this time. We left Carlisle at about 10am and as we neared the top of the Lakes the traffic had increased considerably but no queues had formed and we seemed to keep rolling. Our main stop was when we pulled off the M6 at junction 36 (Crooklands Interchange) and headed for Burton in Kendal, hoping to find a cafe for a drink.

A very interesting village with some grand architecture which I thought had quite a French influence in style.

Some interesting street names too.

Sadly, the little village only has a shop with a coffee machine and no tea, the Kings Arms is presently closed for a refurb and the main road through was like a race track and parking non-existent for visitors……I took a few pictures on a quick walk around – it is a long drawn out village and halfway along we decided to cut the exploration short and never made it as far as the church as the noise level of the through traffic drove us back to the car and we moved on ending up at the notorious Lancaster motorway services with a hundred other fellow travellers lunching at Costa. The queue for service was long and the vegetarian selection limited but luckily we managed to grab the very last two mushroom, egg and spinach baps to tide us over – but again with all the noise and grubby tables we didn’t stay long.

Once we arrived home and unpacked I realised how exhausted I was but a quick walk to our village was necessary to pick up some fresh milk and rolls. We came across the end of the village Scarecrow Trail and stopped here and there to admire the ‘Royal’ scarecrows.

The ‘quick walk’ took much longer than we thought and once back home again I prepared a nourishing lentil and leek stew for tea and then relaxed in front of the TV for a while….promptly falling asleep while the tea cooked itself on the hob.

I promised pictures of the cottage garden. As we left many plants had grown over the fortnight we had stayed there and were just about to bloom. The ferns had grown so much in height unfurling as they go.

I was surprised at how many primulas had sneaked up around the pond as I thought we had lost a lot under the heavy leaf fall from the sycamore it lies beneath – they might be a spectacular sight that we will miss by our next visit.

Looking down from the lane it all looks under control but believe me in a garden like this with the wild flowers like red campion and blue alkanet poised and ready to invade nothing is under my control….we only manage it.

This is the view from below looking up toward the lane – doesn’t look so good now from this view does it!!

DH has still to finish the staging – but it was never going to be this visit and I had to content myself by removing as many of the overgrown wild planting of campion, buttercups, alkanet, some extremely viscious nettles and the straggling goosegrass, as I could – uncovering the few actual plants that had not been nudged out or given up. It was a place I didn’t get to weed last year and the results are always the same – the invaders move in swiftly.

These old terracotta drainage pipes I use for herbs. I had to clear them of the old ones as they had become huge and woody. The rosemary had reached 5 feet with a four foot root and had lost the will to live – probably through exhaustion a couple of years ago and no amount of pruning back encouraged it back to its former state. It is a sheltered and sunny and spot by the conservatory and the open ended drainage pipes act as a deep rooted bed and the soil here is very fertile so I will set some herb seeds at home and plant fresh ones again this year.

The solomon’s seal is one of my favourite plants in the lower wood and they continue to spread and march along quietly interspersed now with the bluebells – well, unfortunately they are the Spanish variety set by the previous owner and there is no hope of ever getting rid of them to replant with the English variety so I just have to tolerate them – but they look equally as beautiful at this time of year covering the wood floor.

I left a little patriotic contribution to the Coronation celebrations next week.

The dicentras are spreading nicely again and the white have now merged with the pink.

The cherry tree keeps going – it needs attention too but we keep thinking it will not survive much longer – it must be getting on for 50 years old, has some form of hard fungus at the bottom of the trunk and has had to undergo some rather extreme pruning in its time but it merrily carries on flowering each year although the striking pink candyfloss that looms up over the weeping larch is not as abundant as it once was.

The tale of our latest confrontations with the new site owner will be told another day. As always it tainted our visit somewhat – my head says to leave but my heart is still drawn to our little tumble down cottage with its wild garden looking out over the sea.

beaching ~ guess where I am?

Sun, sea, sand….it can only be one place. Yes, we have arrived and it is glorious…so good it reminds me of why we bought the cottage and why many moons ago we planned to retire here.

The two guys who now cut our grass, and are doing a good job of it, had been yesterday and so the place looked quite tidy though on further inspection every border needs a good sort out. We woke early with the sun this morning and after a leisurely breakfast and a few household jobs we were straight out into the garden. It feels so good to be outside.

The only border I managed to weed on our last visit is not too bad and the hydrangea has not suffered from the cold.

DH has been collecting up the endless goosegrass that has sprung up everywhere and removing the dead leaves of the ostrich, royal and harts tongue ferns.

Not the evergreen Japanese tassel fern (Polystichum polyblepharum) in the fernery though, which has gone a bit rampant and taken over my little bench seat by the cherry tree.

This is a job for another day…in fact it can take a couple of days as I usually cut this down to ground level each year or two so that fresh new growth springs up.

The hosta I planted at the back of the pond has formed a nice clump which can now be divided.

The large overgrown pink rhododendron that I cut back almost to ground level two years ago is growing well (you can just see it emerging at the back right of the picture) – I am not expecting any flowers this year but at least I didn’t kill it and it is looking healthy.

I concentrated on pruning down the rosa rugosa hedge running beside the lane (the one that our new neighbour decided to cut hack the front half to the ground last year).

There was a lot of dead wood that had to be cut away and I reduced the height considerably from 6′ down to about half. Once I throw a bucketful of manure around the roots it should sprout new growth and thicken up quite nicely and I bet by the end of the summer it will be looking much healthier.

Thankfully it is difficult to kill and where it had been hacked to the ground there are new shoots appearing and if I can prevent them from being damaged by his strimmer then we might have a chance of resurecting the hedge and regaining our privacy.

After a morning of working, many cups of tea and a few idle moments sitting in the sunshine we down tools and made lunch. Afterwards we had a stroll to the village and called in at one of the local pubs down by the harbour for a hot chocolate.

So overall a very pleasant day and now we are retiring to eat a mushroom lasagne and then perhaps watch a DVD or read (no TV here).

dear diary ~ wet, wet, wet and files, files, files…

I know it drives some people mad but I find the noise of the rain on the caravan roof quite comforting to listen to when I am in bed.  Being snug and warm inside whilst outside it is lashing with rain is a reminder of how lucky we are to have a roof over our heads and can still afford some heat.  The sound of the rain is never so obvious when we are at home.

We are on our last day here at the cottage.  It has not been a very productive visit this time as the cold weather, even on the sunniest of days, together with sporadic down pours has meant little gardening has been done.  DH cut the front and back grass and washed down the caravan.  I attempted the trellis border and lane side border and was rained off each time.

So instead I made soup and curry and tomato and butterbean casserole and each time whilst they were cooking made an effort to clear out digital files on my laptop.  It is surprising the amount of old stuff on there and as with my paper files at home I have opened one or two folders each day and dealt with the documents inside – either keeping, archiving or deleting. 

At least there is no shredding involved.

Whilst I have been decluttering these digital files there has been quite a bit of shuffling around too and renaming of folders and then reordering the folder list – though I am not altogether satisfied yet with the running order – I am very particular about my folder list (no doubt a nerdy thing).

As the folder list is automatically sorted alphabetically by name I can end up with the most frequently used folders nearer the bottom so to bring the important ones to the top of the list I just add an exclamation mark or two to the front of the label name to be able to adjust where the folders appear on the list and make my own partially alphabetical one.  So folders such as  !STATEMENTS or !!ONLINE ORDERS and  !!!CONTACTS that are in frequent use are easy to find.  When Xmas comes around and I am using this folder more (which usually resides at the bottom of the folder list) I can rename it with an exclamation mark !XMAS and it will bring it to the top of the list temporarily over the Christmas period.

One day soon I do need to tackle the mass of photos – they are eating into the free space on my computer and many of the ‘blog’ photos can be deleted as I often take several shots and choose the best one to post.

To help with my current quest to go paperless in our office at home I have been searching online for manuals to download so that I can get rid of our paper versions. I have also downloaded the assembly and care instructions from the Ikea website for the flatpacks we have bought over the years. I am not sure we would ever need to refer to them again but if we do they will be documented on the computer. Any important instructions and manuals that I can’t find online I will probably scan onto the computer before putting the paper version into the recycle bin as there is no danger of any of our details being on these.

I will be sad to be leaving the cottage but I know there is so much to do at home too and no doubt the garden there will suddenly spring into life once (or if) we have some warmer weather.

We usually stop in Castle Douglas on the way home – a small market town with some great shops one of which is a family run craft shop over two floors and piled high like a treasue trove with wool, fabrics, artists materials and all things crafty – far better than any Hobbycraft, although not as organised but that only adds to the pleasure of discovery and the temptation to buy is just as difficult to ignore.

It is Mothering Sunday this week so as soon as we are home we will be setting off to pay my mum a flying visit (she lives in North Yorkshire about 90 miles from us) as we have to be back home again and at the dentist on Monday afternoon for that tooth extraction – I will no doubt have to make a big pan of soup for DH to eat afterwards.

Thank you for all your kind comments on previous posts and welcome to all the new followers, those of you that have your own blogs I will be over soon for a nosey – I know some of you are fellow crafters and I am looking forward to seeing all your handiwork.

dear diary ~ Scotland again

Sorry for the long overdue post – life is, as ever here, busy and chaotic. I just thought I would pop by to give a brief update and apologise for my lack of commenting on my favourite blogs – be assured I am still here and reading along with your stories, my day wouldn’t be the same without.

Since my last post at the end of January we came home from Scotland complete with the haggis and scotch pies for our Burns night (which we had postponed to early February because we couldn’t get up to Scotland to buy the Haggis and pies in time for the 25th January). Only a day after arriving home my cough, that I thought had gone in January, reappeared with avengence together with flu like symptoms and we had to postpone our Burns night yet again as I just didn’t feel well enough to clean the house and cook a meal for 8 of us. Luckily, the haggis and pies could go into the freezer for another day.

After a busy February, which included the continuing car problems (younger daughter not us) and a trip to A&E with little Sweetie one night, we are now back in Scotland having attended DH’s uncle’s funeral a few days ago at a crematorium just south of Glasgow. Although a sad event it was good to catch up with our Scottish relatives and we decided to combine the trip with a visit to the cottage. We have been here for almost a week now and have spent most of the time relaxing after all the travelling.

Although uncle G died in early February there was a bit of a wait until the funeral date last Tuesday so in the meantime I have been on a mission at home to overhaul our savings, pension and the accumulation of papers in the files.

With the recent years low interest rates our ISA savings really were not doing much and even with penalties for moving a fixed ISA we decided we would gain substantially by moving some of them with very low rates to the new higher rate ISAs on offer. This was not an easy task and not like moving a matured ISA to another account. However, they are all done now and well worth the hassle for the furture financial gain.

Did you know that you can still invest into your private pension pot each year if retired or not working and still be eligible for tax relief on your pension contributions as long as you’re under 75, so if you’re a basic rate taxpayer you’ll get 20p in tax relief for every pound you make in pension contributions? You are only allowed to put in £2880 each tax year but the government make it up to £3600 by giving you £720. I found this out a few years ago and realised there was no savings account that would give me £720 in interest over the year on a £2880 investment so for the last 3 tax years I have been feeding in any spare savings into my People’s Pension scheme.

There was only a small amount of money invested in the scheme when I left work and retired as it had only just got off the ground but I didn’t withdraw it and now it has proved a useful savings pot. So far it is doing very well although a word of warning – because pensions are invested in bonds and securities the investment can go down. It is a gamble but so far so good.

The papers in the filing drawer have been hard work – particularly when deciding what to keep and what to shred. I can’t help but remember a period of miss-selling by certain financial bodies (endowment mortgages spring to mind) and having paperwork in support of a claim for compensation was necessary in some cases. So although I want to be ruthless I have used caution and spent quite a long time scanning papers onto my computer so that we still have a record.

I have been accepting paperless bills such as fuel, water and internet accounts for quite a while now but I do like to have the paper copy of a bank statement to check the outgoings each month as I find it easier to tick and cross and make notes on paper when I am balancing a statement. Once balanced I can then shred the paper copy and download the digital version to store on my computer. It is on my mind though to bite the bullet and go completely digital to save on wasting paper.

The clearout continues as the pile for burning (far too much to shred) grows bigger.

I have been clearing out digital files too on my computer and deleting old emails in the folders in my email account, of which there were far too many. Any email of any importance I have printed to a PDF to save on my computer including any online order receipts and guarantees. It has been on my mind to do this for a long time and leave a list for DH of where to find things just in case. I tend to deal with the banks and receipts while DH has taken over all the fuel and internet accounts and keeps an eye on the amount we are using and also new deals. It all seems to run quite smoothly but I have been making sure he can understand my system should he need to retreive anything.

Today is sunny, so far, so the garden is calling. The weather here has been very mixed from high winds, heavy rain and brilliant sunshine to even a dusting of snow on higher ground which didn’t affect us being by the sea. The daffodils are out but the rabbits have dug up most of my other bulbs I planted last year – poor things must have been short of food so I can’t feel too upset.

There is so much to do and top of my list is to weed the lane side border and heavily prune the lane side rosa rugosa hedge – and yes …the same one that ‘machete man’ ruined last year. I will see if I can prune it back to some reasonable shape.

Must go now to catch the good weather.

Do drop by tomorrow for the Scrap Happy Challenge for March. x

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