Saturday 30 June 2018

A few changes in the garden

Here is Litchfield Angel finally planted and very happy to be so too!  It took me an age to get all the invasive roots of one particular garden thug out and they are still there, under the black membrane, creeping towards the light!

Near the front gate, where my little intake plot is, two more tubbed roses finally got planted - Raubritter to the left and Tuscany Superb.  I've also been weeding back along the path.  I won't use weedkiller, so this is always a laborious long job.

By the apple trees, is a very pot-bound shrub (name forgotten) which my friend Annie's daughter Lizzie bought me when we took her to Hay.  I had been intending to take it with me of course, but now I shall just take the ceramic planter it was in - which has a bee on it, in honour of Annie, who was a very good bee-keeper.

Back in the stoney Aquilegia garden, Teasing Georgia is now planted, and various Cowslips removed to make room for her.

Finally, a little progress in the former vegetable plot.  You can see you slightly darker rows - those are peas.  I hope I have kept them moist enough to germinate properly.  I watered them three times today to make sure.  There is a threat of thunderstorms and heavy rain in the next 24 hours, so that might give me a day off my watering duties.

K has since cut down the Himalayan Balsam at the back and done some more clearing up that end, bless him.  We're getting there . . .

Thursday 28 June 2018

It's too darn hot!

A nice "cool" view from Hay-on-Wye to accompany this.  Mainly because my camera is downstairs and I am too lazy to go and fetch it and load up the few photos on it which show some progress in the garden.  I'll add those later.

We have had some very hot days this week - I think it was 26 yesterday?  Porthmadog in N. Wales was hotter though - 30.6 degrees.  Whilst this endless sunshine is wonderful, it is just too hot for me.  If I want to garden, I have to get out there around 5.30 or so as by 8 a.m. I am melting.  There is still pollen around and my breathing is not good this morning but I hope it will improve as my medications kick in.  I had one day with a peak flow of 500 as I came off the steroids, and now it has dropped again.

Still, yesterday K and I planted two of the David Austin roses which had been languishing in pots - I had been intending to take them with us when we move.  Now they are to be planted - they are taking so much watering - a watering can a day is what David Austin recommends (recent email . . .)  Plus my new rose garden is starting to take shape.  I am being ruthless and yesterday hoiked out the Golden Rod by  the pond as they are too tall and overwhelming and spread horribly, so I will try and get out later (that side of the garden still in shade) and grub out ALL the roots.  We have membrane down but the invasive things just put out roots under it, as I discovered yesterday when planting Litchfield Angel.  This morning I was ruthless with the Alchemilla Mollis - all the leaves and flowers off the ones near the path, and roots will join them later.

I picked the first of the Blackcurrants yesterday, so will freeze those today, along with the very small picking of Gooseberries (not even a pound of them I don't think, as I pruned hard last year and the late frosts did for them). More Blackcurrant picking later - I cheat and prune them at the same time so cut the fruited branches, bring them to the shade to strig them, and then compost the remains.  The bush I picked yesterday is probably going to come out though, as I have plenty of others and it is encroaching on the area I have a rose going in.  

I even managed to dig some more of the overgrown veg plot and now have two rows of peas in - I have to keep watering them to make sure that they grow, although I did soak the peas well first to make it easier for them.  Various other bits have been cut back too, so there IS progress, albeit slow because of the weather.  

I am still tired from going to auction in Gloucester-shire on Wednesday.  It was a loooooooong drive home as we were late leaving (stayed till 4 p.m. only to discover the one item we had stayed to bid on had been withdrawn . . .)  It was 4.30 before we got away and then we got snarled up in traffic approaching Gloucester and crawled for miles, before finding out there had been an accident and the Ross road had been closed, so we were shunted off in the direction of Chepstow (NOT where we wanted to go!)  We saw traffic coming out of the Oakle Street turning, so went up there and managed to get through onto the Forest of Dean road we use.  It was 9 p.m. before we got home though, and all that driving was very tiring.  (We normally share it but K's frozen shoulder was playing up.)  We had to have the windows open on the car too, and so I got lungfuls of pollen - apparently grass pollen IS still about, which is why I am struggling again.

We have plenty of wild birds about this summer - a pair of Blackcaps nesting, Goldfinches (have seen the newly-fledged youngsters), Goldcrests, Swallows - their first brood flew last week), and Spotted Flycatchers - the latter nesting in Itsy's stable.

I was just putting my watch on this morning and looking out of the bathroom window, which overlooks the yard and stables.  There was a Magpie trying to break twigs off the Ash tree (for nest building I assume).  Anyway, the Flycatcher family were out there and getting more and more agitated as the Magpie was far too close to their nest for comfort and they were very brave - flying right up to him and swooping away at the last moment.  Eventually he pushed off towards the farm.  I was getting ready to hurtle out there and chase him off if he looked like getting too close to their nest.

Anyway, I will go and take a few more photos and upload them later.  Update:  well, I took the photos but the battery has gone flat and won't charge so I will have to get one when I go into town tomorrow.

Tuesday 26 June 2018

A busy weekend and brief update

The weekend was hot, and quite busy.  There is a lovely Vintage Show down on our local showground at Ponargothi each June.  There is a car boot sale with it, so we thought, as it couldn't get any more local than that, we would put a few things in the car and see if we could offload them.  Unfortunately, although there were quite a few stalls (there are folk with caravans who seem to go from one vintage fair to another with their  stuff) no-one was buying anything.  It got even hotter and quite humid and by 11 a.m. I had had enough as it was starting to have an affect on my asthma, so we just packed up and came home.  Walking into our wonderful cool house was such a relief!  I did take a few photos, but have managed to lose them.  If I discover what I did with them, I will share them with you.  Think old cars, old caravans, old motorbikes, static steam-powered engines and machinery, a chap with a chainsaw making owls and toadstools and a fabulous big bear.  Old tractors too of course - they go on a parade around the local roads at one point.  (Found them now, so I shall do a separate post).

Anyway, on Sunday I was booked to go for a walk with my friend Deb.  I hadn't seen her or her lovely Welsh Cob youngster Morgan for over a year so it was time to catch up.

Here is the beautiful Morgan, who has a stunning head (he is stunning all round!).  He is 7 now and Deb has had him 4 years.  When he first arrived he was even unsure about standing on 3 legs to have a foot picked out, bless him!  She has brought him on quietly and he has grown to be about 16.1 hh, which is really BIG for a Welsh Cob, but he is the old-fashioned riding type - as compared with the high-knee-action butty little driving cobs.  

When he had finished his feed and been fly-treatmented, we went up onto the mynydd above Pontardulais and the Amman valley for a walk along the ridge.  Panoramic 360 deg views and we could see the sea at the end of the Gower Peninsula.

This was a little lower down, as we were driving up to the high spot - you can just see our lane on the horizon, mid-photo.

I think that's Pontardulais in the background.  The gigantic flat-roofed building on the left is Tesco.  The white farmhouse in the foreground is Plas Mawr, which goes back 100s of years (Cromwell stayed there when he was "in the area".  It became virtually derelict but was "done up" and sold in 2014.  If you want to be nosy, here is the inside.  I think it has been over-restored with those sharp edges to recently plastered walls (they probably won't have been done in lime plaster either . . . though that said, it IS listed).    

Looking more northwards towards Ammanford.

The River Loughor reaching the sea at the end of the Gower Peninsula.  You can just make out the bridge crossing the river on the left, and that is where the Romans crossed it too.

The Gower hills, with the long sandy beach of Rhossili stretching towards Worms Head.

Looking inland towards the back of the Carmarthen Fans, and the windfarms which are being erected all around this mynydd.  I give them 20 years, when - having despoiled the landscape - something new will have taken their place.  I am all for alternative energy, but these just cannot ever provide enough for the huge population of this country.

Looking Eastwards.

This has taken me ages to load photos for, and I was also bidding on-line at an auction, so I really MUST get back to working on Tam's quilt now!

Sunday 24 June 2018

Walking into the view - back to walking again

This will be a posts of few words and many photos.  I did my first WALK again this week, after a break of nearly 2 months - perhaps longer actually because of getting the house and garden ready for viewings and then the pollen and my asthma being bad.  Anyway. I got K to drop me at the top of the hill towards the Horeb x-roads and walked back down.  Only hill was our hill, which IS steep, but I managed far better than I gave myself credit for.


Hedge Woundwort.

Red Campion, looking a little sun-bleached.

Above, Navalwort, and below, Bramble.

Finally, our paddock, being restored to lawn again.  We have a chap who is going to come and cut it regularly for us.

Last night K and I transplanted the apple trees I had planted in haste in my veg plot, as the chap wot cut the grass has a rotovator, so rotovated a little spot where I could put peas and I have been clearing it further so those will go in this evening.  I have a few more home-grown from pips apples to go in this area too.

Right, off for a walk with a friend.  HURRAY!!

Friday 22 June 2018

Returning to normality . . .

Well, I think I can tentatively say, the worst of the pollen problems are now behind me.  I checked the pollen count yesterday and whilst levels were V. High, they were for weeds, Plantain and Dock, and NOT grass any more.  Grass is the worst one for me.  I am allergic to Dock, but as long as it's not surrounding me I seem to be able to cope.  You cannot imagine the relief I am feeling.  Not 100% yet (and worried I may never be able to step back down a level with my Fostair inhaler now I am up to maximum dose on it) but I hope I will get there gradually.  I will plod on with the low histamine diet as best I can and see if that makes a real difference - on the days I get it right, it does appear to.  I can now enjoy the summer AND get back to tackling the garden, which is hopefully going to trim the half a stone off (and more) I put on whilst on the steroids.

Raubritter in my garden yesterday.  One of my favourite roses.  I saw it for the first time at Cothay Manor in Somerset, when we went to an Antiques Fair there (friends of ours were standing and gave us free tickets to get in).  Currently in a tub, but about to be planted in the Intake plot in what used to be the paddock, when she has finished blooming.  Next to Vielchenblau, below.  These are two roses I just HAVE to have in any garden in the future. I had intended to take them with us when we moved, hence them being in tubs, but now I shall plant them up and treat myself when we do finally move on from here.

Tuscany Superb below - another "must have" for any garden of mine.

Meanwhile, in the Intake plot, the path has disappeared (I cleared the front couple of feet yesterday afternoon and got my OH to mattock out the Potentilla which is where Raubritter is in this photo.  It was completely infested with a very fine grass and it had to go as it was impossible to eradicate the grass - though I have tried down the years.  Work continues there today.

Bulbs, Cowslips, Aquilegia, an Iris, Alkanet - established for years and always a blardy mess because I have to stay indoors in June.  It is SO frustrating.   Well, I have decided, they are ALL GOING.  Even the compost (which will be useful on the veg.  plot - hollow laugh!) and then swept clean (concrete base of old yard beneath it) and the tubs and planters of veg. are going in there.  Which is a laugh, as they AREN'T growing!  I can't win . . .

Looking better already . . .

This is the abandoned veg. plot - there are a few apple trees in there somewhere.  The bit bottom left hand corner is actually a planned planting of annuals, not weeds!  We have a chap coming to mow the paddock back to a lawn today and I am going to get him to give me an hour's weeding/digging in here so I can get some peas and things in the ground.

Later - the gardener's been.  The paddock lawn took 3 hours, but he managed to rotovate a little bit of the veg plot so I can get some peas in - I will extend it as best I can.  Peas are in soak as I speak . . .

The Under Gardener declared himself "too busy" to help with the ex veg. plot, but he HAS busied himself clearing the really overgrown area where we used to have soft fruit when we first came here.  It had been a . . . "wildlife area" for about 20 years now and needed clearing - and keeping clear.  Progress here and I even found two escapee Blackcurrant bushes which will be pruned back when we've cleared the Codlins and Cream beside them and the willow tree at their back . . .  There are 3 Ash trees with Ash Dieback along the boundary and we need to get a quote for a tree surgeon to come and take them down this summer.  Another expense . . . along with having the top gutters emptied (grass growing in them!), building work done, and p/p and expenses for the driveway relocation.  I think I am going to be working nights in the Crisp factory . . .

Anyway, onwards and upwards.  I am feeling better, the pollen season has now finished and my lungs feeling less besieged, I have just two days left on steroids and I can WALK AGAIN!!!

Wednesday 20 June 2018

A more positive day - and New Plants

My best buddy Ghengis keeping an eye on proceedings out in the garden.  He's been with us a few years now and got his name from being an absolute "barsteward" to the other cats when he arrived - attacking everyone and generally being a Bully and a Thug.  His alternative name was "Moonface" because he had great big eyes and the round padded face of a tom-cat.  I never thought I would tame him (he was completely feral) let alone him wanting to be my lap cat all the time.  The minute I sit down on the sofa, Ghengis is there, climbing up from the side and walking over my cup of tea or cold drink so I have to quickly move it before he drags his tail through it!  It took him two years to learn to purr, but now he purrs like a grampus, bless him.

He was watching me potter round briefly this afternoon, arranging some plants that had begged to come home with me.  These are the last, I will be Good Now . . .  

Isn't this gorgeous?  I just couldn't resist it when I saw it at Tesco today.  Primula Noverna "Deep Blue" - the flowers have a hint of purple and that lovely silvery "mob cap" top.

This is Salvia "Love and Wishes" which I'd not seen before either (Tesco again).  They were £5 each, but the OH said go for it, so I did.

Above and below: tubs and new plants either side of steps up to the patio.  The two Lavender plants I got yesterday and today and will go in nice tubs when I find some.

As you can tell, I am feeling a lot more chipper this afternoon.  My breathing has been better and I'm keeping to the low histamine grub.  I discovered that Lidl do tasty Chilli and Lime Sweet Potato crisps today - not entirely without sin, but then neither am I!

The most swiftly-made Elderflower handcream in history.  Melt two packets of lard gently, add enough elderflower heads to be totally covered, cook gently for a few minutes, strain and decant into containers with a few drops of a smelly essential oil (I used Ylang Ylang).  Brilliant for those cracked finger ends in winter.  You can of course use the base of your choice - my lard one is the original recipe and probably 100 years old.  It is easily absorbed into the skin.

"Tess" had dropped several flower heads today and rather than compost them, I decided to microwave-dry them and use them either in hand-made soap (I WILL eventually make it) or just as pot pourri with some essential oil sprinkled on. I placed the petals individually across a double sheet of kitchen towel, making sure to discard any petals which had started to brown (they would only get browner).  I gave them about a minute and a half, and then a short burst more if they needed it.  Smaller petals give one minute and then perhaps 30 secs but be guided by how they are.