Thursday, 28 May 2015

The Great Garden Challenge - getting rid of garden Thugs

There's a rose in there - poor Graham Thomas completely overwhelmed by Achillea Ptarmica "The Pearl" which I foolishly bought a pot of at Leeds castle about 30 years ago and brought with me from Dorset.  Mistake!  The poor poppy is equally overgrown, and other plants which I have taken out and cleaned around and through, and replanted now.

A friend gave me a bit of this thug which is a Rush with a Pendiculata type name.  It needed THIS to get it out:

My faithful mattock.

Progress - and Ghenghis keeping an eye on me to see I worked hard enough.

Stuff replanted that came out to have every bit of thug root removed (big white Shasta daisies at the back and Elecampane in front of it.

Another job for the mattock - this quite substantial stone refused to budge so I am waiting until I have energy again tomorrow!

Sorry for the boring pictures today, but I wanted to show I am making SOME progress out there.  Tomorrow lots of Aquilegia pictures to brighten up the page.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

One of those post-Malvern days !

Yesterday was the Whitsun Bank Holiday.  It doesn't seem to get called that very often now, which is a shame.  Anyway, we were up at silly o'clock (3.30 a.m.) to set off at 4.15 a.m. for all points East, but focus was the HUGE Fleamarket at Malvern.  Fortunately the weather forecast was good and it stayed dry.  A few photos for you, starting with some Taxidermy (as always).  This time, GOOD taxidermy - we see so many examples of the boring and falling-apart stuff.

I think this chap must have spent a fortune at the auction on all these, because they are more unusual than the normal run of deer and small furry animals which turn up at Fleamarkets.

Scottish Wild Cat.

A rather bizarre set up of naughty collie puppies upsetting a table . . .

Equally bizarre, someone's favourite horse . . .

All sorts . . . he had a field day at the auction . . .

Back to normality and a little hexagon lap throw.

I was trying to get an idea of business but so many people there, buying and trading.  It took us over 6 hours to walk round.

A lovely hand-worked quilt from around 1900, and beyond my pocket!

On the same stall.  Isn't it lovely?

Some lovely child-sized seats - the darker one is a child's lambing chair, and the Windsor potty chair has a lovely hoop back.

An interesting stall.

However, in the sheds, stock is a bit more random!

Beautifully-knitted little dollys' clothes.

A vintage corner.

I would have loved to have bought this beautiful enameled picture, but at £440 it stayed there!  It looked better in real life - the photo doesn't do us justice . . .

We bought well, although as I looked at the length of these Lance poles, I had a sudden thought - would they FIT in the car?  Fortunately they did, but not without some jiggery-pokery as the back door had locked itself again after we had put a huge (and very heavy) wooden chest in it - we had to carry that 1/4 mile to the car!!!  So these lances had to be fed in through an open window . . .

One last bit of Taxidermy - possibly the oldest fox ever stuffed . . .

Enjoy your day.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Good intentions

My life is full of good intentions.  I have ALWAYS wanted to make one of these:

This one was worn by a Cornish folk dancer at the Smallholders' Show back in 2008.  I think this was a Bal Maiden's bonnet (they worked above ground on the Cornish tin and copper mines).  However, this is also the sort of thing which would have been made at home by cottagers and worn during harvest time back in Victorian times.

A variation on a theme.

Right now, time is flying by but I definitely AM going to get back to this:

There were many bags of unused fleeces at my friend's house, as I think she had given up on the spinning when she became ill.  I am about to get my spinning wheel into the kitchen and listen to the Archers and get my skills back again.  I have a lovely brown Alpaca fleece (SO soft) and a Leicester Long Wool too.  My fingers are fairly twitching right now.

I am also baking today, making bread too, and playing catch up indoors as it's raining so I won't be gardening.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Meeting blogging friends and getting on with the garden

Firstly, apologies to those two friends, Dawn and Pam, who I met on Wedesday, for the delay in posting this, but life is still somewhat hectic!

Anyway, on Wednesday fellow-blogger dawn (who is local to me) had invited me to visit her smallholding, and I was glad to see that the breakfast sunshine lasted . . .  I arrived to find that Pam, another local fellow-blogger, had just arrived in ahead of me.  I'd baked a batch of Peach and Blueberry Muffins (I never need an excuse to bake!) and we had one of those with a cuppa before doing a tour of Dawn's lovely smallholding, where everything is very organized, with marvellous raised beds and young tree plantings, a big polytunnel and a smaller one and a lovely greenhouse for Dawn's citrus trees, which were basking in the sunshine.

After admiring some newly-hatched Aylesbury ducklings in the barn, still yellow and downy, snuggled up under a heat-lamp, we went out into the sunshine and saw some other young Aylesburys.

Then fully-grown ones.

Then we went across to see the Alpacas, who had only been shorn the previous day.

As you can see, Dawn has a lovely spot.  Lovely clean grazing, shelter sheds, on-site water, new fencing - what more could an Alpaca ask for?

They look as if they have such an attitude when they pull a face like this : ) but I think it's mainly just the difference between ears forward and back - or did I detect a slight frown?

Dawn's poultry in their Buzzard-proof housing . . .

We chatted non-stop, and I was seriously impressed when I saw Dawn's wonderful craft rooms, very well stocked and a great place to spend those rainy days when the outside chores have been done.  Lovely to be able to leave a work-in-progress out and not have to put it away and prepare a meal on that same "sewing" table.   Note to self: re-organize craft bits and bobs back here . . .  I look forward to seeing Pam and Dawn again soon and hope they will come here with my Paul's Himalayan Musk is out (by which time I hope to have a neat and tidy garden again).

Back on my plot, the Yellow Flag Irises have started to bloom around the main pond.

ALL bar one of my original frog tadpoles have died.  I presume it was a virus of some sort, but don't know how one managed not to succomb to it.  These are, presumably, toad tadpoles, as they were laid in long strings much later than the frogs.  They are busy little chaps and LOTS of them this year.  The frog tadpoles in the wildlife pond have survived without any problem.

I have been VERY busy clearing behind the plants which are meant to be growing, and clearing the Lamium undergrowth as it threatens to take over the lawn!  Jobs like this one weren't done when I had the three years of ill-health, and only now am I starting to get a proper grip on the borders again. It makes a big difference just edging the laawn - not a job my husband would think to do - I should be grateful he mows the lawn for me (though if he had his way we would just have a yard with things in tubs).

BARE SOIL! = room for new plantings . . .

The gravel garden is looking rather splendid now that the Aquilegias are out.  I seem to be down to the lighter colours in here now.  The dark ones are down in the yard, and all the specials have died.  Typical.  No yellow or blue and white dwarf aquilegias, no red and yellow, or red and white, or exotic orangey ones any more . . .  Many of them died in the seriously-cold snowy winter of 2010, and others since.   Touchstone Nurseries, where I got the seeds from for these more exotic ones, is on shut down this year as they have Downy Mildew, which is catastrophic knowing Carrie holds the National Collection.

The sunshine and all that luxuriant growth is just perfect for elderly cats - 18 year old Fluff is enjoying sunshine and shade together!

Below: looking down on the newly-tidied bit from my office window.  I bought myself a new David Austin rose yesterday, and that's it planted in the brand new planter.  It's a pale pink Alba  rose Felicite Parmentier.  I can't wait to see her flower.  I also bought a double orange Geum, which will be going where I am creating space on the front border, as I am setting about eradicating out-of-control Michaelmas Daisies and Achillea Ptarmica 'The Pearl'.  Great for bees, but then I have lots of other bee-attracting plants, and these must GO.

Tomorrow I have a sad day as my friend Annie's ashes are being sprinkled on her husband's grave, and I have been invited along with other friends and family.  I will have to take some paper hankies.

Two quiet corners in Annie's beautiful garden . . .

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Do you know what this is?

I am fairly sure of what it is, but I'd love to hear what other people think.

It's fairly big - about 2 feet long (60 cm) with the hook part at the end about 10" (25 cm).  The wood it is made from is Ash.

Answer:  This was known as a Fagging Stick:

'the smooth-edged hook succeeded the serrated sickle for reaping corn in many places about 1860-1870. Fagging tools have sharp blades and are heavier and wider than sickles and used with a different action. Instead of grasping the corn, the reaper held back the stalks or drew them towards him with a short crook called a fagging stick and slashed through the straw rather than sawing it as with a sickle. A larger quantity of corn was cut at one swing, though time was taken up with sharpening the blade. The hooks are still used today for trimming hedges and cutting crops close to hedges or walls that cannot be reached by machine.'

Many thanks to for the excellent description.  

So as you can see, several of you were going along the right lines.  I love these pieces of our farming history, and this one won't be going anywhere for a while - we will just enjoy it here and probably put it on a beam in the kitchen (as you do!)

Monday, 18 May 2015

A conflict of interests

The spinning wheel photo says a little about what I have had on my mind recently, as my late friend A was a real craftswoman, and spun, wove, did needlework, made hedgerow baskets, and other creative things besides.  There are two spinning wheels going to auction from her house clearance, and I have taken a bag full of weaving stuff - 2 looms in pieces, as well as a home-made peg loom, which I am trying to sell on her behalf.  I purchased her little home-made Inkle-style loom which I have yet to get to grips with (no time) and was given two bags of unwashed fleece - a soft brown which could be Alpaca as it is so soft and fine, and a Leicester Long Wool (I think).  I want to get back to spinning again and this is a good kick in the pants for me.  I also purchased her craft lamp as mine was very broken having fallen over several times and the lens was held in place with a grip-tie! My broken one has now gone for recycling.

I have been up helping her daughter to box things up to go to auction, and to advise which things are better pieces and should go to a different auction, which to the charity shops and which to the tip.  I have also bought some small bits myself, but have felt I had a conflict of interests as I am in business and need to buy at sensible prices (trying to keep at a level I would pay in auction) but I also wanted to give the best price possible for her family's sake.  I didn't like to feel I was taking advantage and profiting from A's death.  Some of the items we bought had woodworm, so needed treating and couldn't have gone to auction anyway, and at least she has had a firm price - you never know what will happen at auction, and vendors have to pay a seller's premium, as well as paying a hefty fee to have the stuff transported to the auction.

Matters have not been helped by a neighbour who seemed to see me as out to feather my own nest and said as much.  He was at our elbows as A's daughter went through each room, and the atmosphere was absolutely poisonous!  He used to upset A too, with what he said, so I think he is something of a control freak (he went through EVERY sack of stuff we were sending to the tip - mainly damaged bed linen, old "useful" cardboard and paper - that sort of thing.)  He was even lurking when we were going through A's socks and knickers drawers! For heaven's sake! Each day when he left the atmosphere lightened totally and we felt we were able to get on with things so much better.

Anyway, I hope that the time and advice I have given have been beneficial - well, I know A's lass was SO GLAD to have me at her side when we opened a wardrobe and 70 years' worth of family bedlinen teetered towards us!  I thought A's daughter was going to do a runner . . . it really was a tad overwhelming.  A didn't like to throw anything away, and I think there were so many memories attached to the things she had hung on to.

I have purchased A's living room mirror, which reminds me SO MUCH of her, and I feel I have her near me which is a comfort.  It is in the Art Nouveau style, but dated later in the Edwardian period.  It has been slavered in once-white paint (probably back in the 1960s) but is wooden underneath, so we must laboriously remove all this paint.  Not an overnight job and it will take an entire can of paint-stripper and more besides.  This would have gone against it in auction as dealers don't usually want stuff which needs work, and mirrors aren't that popular either.  I offered to bid on it in auction, but A's daughter wouldn't hear of it and accepted my offer which I believe was a bit more than it would have made in auction.

Then there were the things I had given A as presents in the last year of her life.  Because I was being given them back, I felt as if I had only loaned them to her - which was a horrid feeling.  These little flowers were part of her birthday gift, although her daughter has kept the pretty Deco jug they were in as she said her mum loved it so much and couldn't stop talking about it.

When we were clearing her bedroom, I noticed an embroidery I had done from one of the Diary of a Country Lady x-stitch books of beautiful charts - it was a dragonfly on a white water-lily.  I was touched that she had not only kept it all those years - I think I did it about 12 years ago, after her husband had died - but hung it in her bedroom.  That is now hanging on a wall here now and I brought it home with mixed emotions.

I have offered to come and share the cleaning when the house has been emptied, and also to tidy up in the garden.  It is an hour's journey each time (about a 60 mile round trip) so all this has taken big chunks of our time in recent weeks (OH came last week to help move some big stuff).

I discovered the strangest thing  whilst I was doing some family history research for A in the months before her death.  One branch of the family came from Devon, and I worked very hard to try and trace them back from London, to a village of origin.  I could scarcely believe my eyes when I found out that they hailed from the next village to the one my dad's male side of the family came from - just think, my folk and her folk might well have known one another as they were living cheek by jowl at the same period in time.

So there we are, a big dose of up close and personal today.  I was in two minds about writing it in case anyone who knew A recognizes her from my writing.  I really hope that I have not "taken advantage" as that very unpleasant neighbour seemed to think, but it is a thin line to walk and at no time did I set out to benefit from A's death.  Had he not been involved, I would not have worried at all but he has upset me greatly.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Hard work never killed anyone . . .

That's how the saying goes.  Sometimes recently I have wondered as to its truth!  I seem to be on a perpetual treadmill - a positive one, for all that, but however hard I work there still seems to be a long  long list of "fings to do".  The garden of course is one, as that IS my preserve and responsibility.  My husband is not a great one for vegetables and can't understand why I put myself through the wringer each year to grow by own french beans, runner beans, spring onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, courgettes etc, so he doesn't understand how different they taste, how much fresher they are and how pure they are - unsullied by sprays which no living being should ingest.

Anyway, that's by the by, as gardening is relaxing when I have time to shoehorn it into my busy week.  Housework, also needing to be tackled will have to wait until tomorrow, as will the painting of the stairs and curtain-making and restoring stock too.

Today was a Fleamarket day, which meant an early start (5.30 a.m.), unpacking and setting up, standing around for around 6 hours, packing up and cramming back into the car the items which didn't sell.  I meet up with old friends and customers though, and have some lovely chats, and meet new people.  There is usually the "expert" who will come round and try to tell you that so-and-so isn't really a so-and-so but is actually a wotsit, and it does that and not this, as you say it does!  There were none of those today, fortunately.

Until you have actually stood around for 6 hours though, you don't realize how tiring it is!  I don't think I could do this every day - it will take me until Wednesday to get over it I think.  When I got in I felt like I could sleep on the head of a pin : )  I do walk around too - exploring the outside stalls first thing before the public come in, on the lookout for something of interest to sell, and again, chatting to friends and acquaintances out there.  

I began packing early and managed to get away to Tesco's with just 5 minutes to spare before closing time, so grabbed a bottle of our favourite red wine which I forgot to buy yesterday.

A photo from Builth Antiques Fair and Fleamarket last year.  You never know what you will find, which is the joy of such places.

Anyway, the house looks like Steptoe's yard right now, full of stock to go to the Unit or be worked on first, or take its turn in the change-over of things to sell so that things are never static and boring.  In the back hall are two paper sacks with unwashed fleeces in them - a really soft brown fleece (Alpaca?) and a Leicester Long Wool I think which have come home with me from clearing my dear friend Annie's house.  There were many fleeces and I want to get back to my spinning.  Hence in the middle of the kitchen table, surrounded by cookery books and a couple of magazines is a Drop Spindle with some soft brown wool!  I really MUST tidy up tomorrow.