arkessian: (cotinus)
I finally got the last veg plants off the kitchen windowsill and into a planter outside -- albeit later than I intended because of the chest infection and then vertigo.

So this year I have planted: 4 cordon tomatoes (1 plum, 1 black russian, 1 striped and 1 I can't remember); 2 bush cherry tomatoes; 2 aubergine; 2 peppers; 2 chillis; 2 courgettes; a planter full of pak choi; 2 rows of cut-and-come-again salad leaves; coriander; parsley; sage; tarragon; basil; and several bay plants All this in addition to the rosemary, chives, thyme, purple sage and mint that are year long residents.

The oregano didn't survive the cold winter, nor did the previous bay plants. I have however acquired a couple of volunteer fennel plants in the flower border, survivors from when I grew fennel there some seven years ago...

The over-wintered onions and shallots weren't worth the effort and I shan't be repeating them; ditto for potatoes this year. I still need to find somewhere to sow some spinach and some stir-fry leaves (perhaps on the kitchen window sill).
arkessian: (Busy bee)
The Lodger has constructed a second raised planter (2 feet by 4), encouraged/bribed/rewarded by the rather nice  lemon and thyme cake I made him. Thyme struggles in my garden for some reason, but the one surviving plant actually had a decent quantity of leaves on it when I checked; and better to use them than lose them to the winter. Tomorrow I shall pick what's left of the herbs that go dormant overwinter and freeze them; there was a hard frost on the ground this morning. The rosemary will survive all winter, and can't be moved in any case as it's planted in the ground, but I have moved the two small bay plants in pots to a more sheltered location as their predecessors (rather larger) succumbed to last winter's cold and snow.

Both planters are now filled with shallot and onion sets to grow over winter and harvest in June (when the summer veg will take their place). I could probably buy both vegetables as cheaply as I can grow them, but it would irk me to leave the planters empty when they can be used, and there must be some virtue in growing them myself, surely.  It will also irk me if the pigeons help themselves, but my fingers are crossed.

5 things

Sep. 20th, 2010 05:11 pm
arkessian: (numbers)
1. I'm just back from a lovely stay in Pembrokeshire. If you've a hankering for luxury (for which somebody else is willing to pay), and a burning need/desire to go to Pembrokeshire, I thoroughly recommend The Grove at Narberth especially if you can get a last-minute deal. They even loaned me a pair of bright pink Hunter Wellies for a day to go traipsing around graveyards. I would have been quite happy to stay there longer, but the cat and the Lodger's bank balance would have been less enthusiastic.

2. Graves in Welsh are quite difficult to read, but I made significant headway in sorting out my Pembrokeshire ancestry. It doesn't help that there are a lot of people with the surnames James and John in Llanfairnantygof and Little Newcastle, but I have managed to establish that I am related to a very famous Mormon and a man who was tried for treason but acquitted of helping the French invade Haverford West in 1797. Both of whom lived in the village where the apparently-infamous pirate Barti Ddu (Black Bart) was born. (No, I'd never heard of him either, and I'm a day late to talk like a pirate, but still...)

3. I have stripped the tomato plants, including all the greenies (which are now ripening in a paper bag in the dark with a couple of bananas), and harvested the remaining chillies, peppers and aubergines. Tomorrow I will take custody of a loaned preserving pan to make chutney, which I will bottle in a set of lovely proper Kilner jars which I was given free gratis and for nothing today. I do like being part of a community.

4. Still mulling over the e-reader choice. I don't have much use for a mobile phone -- I have a handset for emergencies that is so old it doesn't even have a camera, used on a pay-as-you-go basis, and have to remember to make one call every six months to avoid losing the credit loaded onto it -- so an iphone isn't really a cost-effective choice. I'm tending towards the Sony but will wait until the new one comes out to make a final decision.

5. Where has the year gone? It's late September already!

arkessian: (cotinus)
Two more courgettes today, which is hardly news, as I have had at least one courgette per day on average off the two plants for weeks now. Also, a bowl full of cherry tomatoes, the second or third such bowl; the two tomato plants are groaning with more that haven't ripened yet. An aubergine or two should be ready to pick by the end of the week, and there are lots of little green chillies turning red. There are also a few green peppers, one of which is reddening as well, but they're very small. Not enough water perhaps? Although nothing else has felt the lack... The lodger is offering to make a second waist height planter for next year, so the courgettes can rampage all on their own and leave plenty of space for the other plants.

The disappointment this year has been the potatoes -- I have lovely tasty baby potatoes, just not very many of them. Each patio sack has yielded at most a couple of meals. Probably the very dry weather in July...
arkessian: (Busy bee)
Then I'll begin.*

Out in the garden yesterday, peaceably hoeing and weeding and dead-heading and harvesting, I experienced a sharp pain in my posterior. Twice.

Upon retreating to the house to divest myself of my trousers, I found a dozy but disgruntled wasp. Not half as disgruntled as I was, however. And the lodger was also suitably perturbed. More than suitably, in fact, pressing upon me large doses of steroids and threatening me with the application of my Epipen. I managed to calm him down sufficiently to avoid the unnecessary Epipen, but did (I confess) acquiesce to the steroids just in case.

And I am not sitting comfortably this morning.

* This will be... if not meaningful, at least memorable... to anyone from the UK of a certain age.
arkessian: (cotinus)
I have just eaten the first tomato of the season, which was very nice. The courgettes (zucchini) have been cropping like crazy for a couple of weeks now; just as well I am fond of them. And the peppers and chillies and aubergines have all set fruit and look promising.

The potatoes are a disappointment -- it really has been too dry for them. I did get two whole helpings of very nice new potatoes out of the first sack to be harvested, but I had hoped for more.

The weeds, of course, don't notice the weather.
arkessian: (hedge)
I just spent fifteen minutes watching a sparrowhawk stake out the garden. Not close enough for a decent photograph, alas. It didn't catch anything this time but — given the usual traffic at the bird-feeder — I expect to see it return. It's been a few years (eight?) since the last time a sparrow-hawk dropped by regularly but I was surprised then by the lack of impact it had on the numbers of other visiting birds. I suppose that, since the neighbourhood cats don't act as much of a deterrent (and I suspect the cats are far more lethal), a sparrowhawk is just another "one of those things."
arkessian: (cotinus)
Still making excellent progress in the garden...
  • All the shrubs and the new hedge have had fertiliser forked gently in around their base.
  • The herbaceous bed is now fully dug and weeded. I'll be planting perennials and summer-flowering bulbs rather than cheap annuals as I found a couple of good deals online; the plants and bulbs should be here by the end of April, but probably earlier. IN the meantime, the bed has been mulched with a new straw-based mulch, which is light enough that I can handle a sack of it without help.
  • All the patio pots are now ready for re-planting.
  • Veg plants are ordered (tomatoes, peppers, chillies, courgettes, aubergine) and seeds bought (coriander, cut-and-come-again salad).
  • Two small bay plants (for cooking purposes) have been acquired to replace two extremely dead bay standards that took a dislike to the winter snow and frost this year.
  • First wave of potatoes has been planted on the kitchen patio (the patio we don't sit on, i.e. the practical patio).
In other news, I did my first stint as a volunteer at the village shop yesterday. Training in the new super whizzy till and how to deal with hordes of five year old children all wanting 5p worth of different penny sweets. Having spent 7 years (from the age of 14) working evenings, weekends and school/college holidays in a small neighbourhood grocery store, it wasn't a very taxing afternoon.

arkessian: (cotinus)
The last few days have been cold but dry and bright, so gardening has resulted.
  • All the pruning that has to be done in early spring is done (rosa rugosa, both varieties of cornus, cotinus, the single clematis that needs to be done in spring). The cornus cuttings are drying ready to be used as supports for herbaceous annuals (see later).
  • The new hedge is budding vigorously, which is a good sign.
  • The never-ending weeding has started: the lodger has blitzed the space under the rosa rugosa, taking advantage of the fact that it has been cut back and can't damage his fragile skin too much; and also started digging/weeding the herbaceous bed ready for seeding with (cheap and cheerful) annuals this year.
  • The detritus of half of last year's patio pots has been disposed of, and the pots washed and left ready for re-planting. More cheap annuals, me thinks, given the expense of the new hedge.
  • Most impressive of all. the lodger has built a waist-height planter for salad and veg and stuff like that: the slugs and pigeons decimated last year's attempts (not to mention that bending to tend them left me light-headed and breathless so it didn't get done). The legs will be ringed with copper to deter slugs, and I need to acquire a net to ward off the pigeons.
  • Seed potatoes have been set to chit and will be planted in three waves in due course in plastic planters on the kitchen patio (the patio we don't sit on, i.e. the practical patio).
There's still loads to do, but it's a good start to the year.
arkessian: (hedge)
There are men in the garden ripping out the old hedge; by the end of the week the new one should be planted (weather permitting) and I shall have Field Maple and Hornbeam and Hazel and Escallonia and Spindle and Beech and Wayfaring Tree and Guelder Rose to please me all year round.

The cat thinks I have laid on the men as entertainment for him... He is plastered to the patio door trying to watch the goings-on out of sight around the corner.
arkessian: (hedge)
When I moved to this house, I inherited a neglected agricultural hedge along one side of the garden. There was a chance that, with a little tlc, it could be restored to a thing of beauty... or so I thought.

Some seven years on, I have admitted defeat: it is only a row of rotting alder, blackthorn and hawthorn trunks held together by rampant ivy. Take the ivy away and the trunks will collapse. Leave the ivy in place and its weight will eventually have the same result.

So today I have agreed to have the work done early in January to dig up the old hedge (all but the sycamore tree, which is sound and can be controlled by reducing its height every two or three years) and replace it with new planting of field maple and hornbeam and viburnum opulus and hazel and maybe beech and holly and dogrose. It will be a joy to me and the birds all year round, and properly cared for will outlive me, which is a very satisfying thing to know.

Busy bee

Aug. 31st, 2009 01:26 pm
arkessian: (Busy bee)
Gosh, I've been busy and productive little bee today. So far:
  • I got all my mandatory housework done by 0930 . Yes, I have a housework schedule for myself, and I'm not allowed to do anything else until that day's housework is complete — otherwise I'd never do *any* housework, I loathe it with such a passion.
  • I've done some necessary pruning in the garden: a cotinus that seems to be succumbing to verticilium wilt (more's the pity) and a philadelphus that has decided to get too big for its allotted space.
  • I've issued the draft agenda for a monthly share club meeting I attend on the first Saturday of the month, down in Taunton. It's a standing joke among the attendees that I refused to be named as Chair, but have still ended up performing the role anyway. The agenda is a chore every month; I spend a week nagging for items and then make up my own at the last minute, every time.
  • I've updated the software on my websites (plus the lodger's website) to the latest versions.
So now I can settle down to the day's writing. Unless I go hunting first for a word-count widget, because it occurs to me that a good way of reinforcing my writing discipline is to record my daily word-count here.

Anyone know of a good word-count widget?

ETA: Having remembered that (a) I need to bake bread today and (b) I have an inelegant insufficiency of bread flour, I have now visited the local Waitrose, acquired a bag of extra-strong Canadian bread flour and set the bread-maker to make me a ciabatta-type loaf. If I were a domestic goddess, I would no doubt be doing this by hand. But I ain't.

arkessian: (cotinus)
It's exactly the kind of English summer that encourages stuff to grow - warm and wet. It's just unfortunate that the stuff that grows in my garden is mostly the stuff I don't want.

Eight years ago it was a somewhat neglected field, and nature has never ceased her efforts to return it to that state. So I have spent the morning in the front garden rooting out dandelions, docks, thistles, goose grass, rosebay willowherb and all kinds of low creeping flowering weeds. I have long since concluded that the ground elder creeping under the fence from next door would survive a nuclear strike, along with the bamboo that the nursery swore blind was not the invasive type. An industrial-scale flame-thrower might do the trick, but I suspect the collateral damage — including the awkward conversation with the local police — would outweigh the gain.

Of course, what really irritates me, as I grub around on hands and knees with my backside fetchingly in the air, is that not once in seven years have I seen any of my neighbours — the ones with immaculate gardens that they open to the public once a year for the benefit of the church roof fund — actually doing anything that vaguely resembles hard work that will get their fingernails dirty. Do they really sneak out in the dead of night to weed by torchlight?