Practically the whole month of May was fine and sunny with high unseasonal temperatures too. The month of June has been less so. We have had warm spells in June though they have been few. As I write this on the 22 nd we are told to expect a mini-heatwave for a few days. Today it is struggling to reach 20 deg C, pleasant enough but the wind is making it feel cooler. Do we really need high temperatures and humidity and little or no rain? No we don’t if we are being honest even though the warm days are welcomed. I have been spending a lot of my time just watering the gardens for if I leave off doing it for more than a day or so the plants begin to wilt, even those which are well established. None of the trees have been suffering of course for their roots reach much further below the ground toward the water table. The land around these parts is sand below the first metre so it doesn’t hold the moisture for very long. Our gardens have a fair amount of top-soil but I think it could be more substantial, heavier like it would be if there was some clay in the mix. There are alternatives of course, vermiculite for instance could be mixed in to help retain more water and a surface covering of bark and/or mulch is beneficial. We have been spreading both on the more exposed flowerbeds which has helped but when the weather is constantly very warm it isn’t enough and I have to water the ground more often. As the bushes and shrubs grow and develop they cover over more of the soil and that certainly helps it to stay wet longer. I have noticed that to be the case in the front garden where the bushes seem oblivious to the lack of rain. I do water them but less often than I water the rest of the garden. So yes, I do welcome the warmer weather as long as we can have some rain once in a while too!
See what? Well if you compare the above with the picture below…
The plant that was there on the left has now been removed. Sadly it died back and for a couple of years we made attempts to keep it going but in the end there was more dead wood than live. The other two plants seem indestructible
The taller plant against the wall is a tree, one of three we have around the garden and presently (8 th) in bloom sporting little white clusters of flowers. The bush to the right is bearing red berries at this time. It was Saturday and during the morning E and I set about digging out the dying shrub and pruning others around the garden. I had already been in the garden just after seven o’clock in order to water the lawn, giving it a good soaking in the process. Once that was done I went into the front garden and gave that a good soaking too. Late in the afternoon I watered the rear garden plants and the lawn once more. Having not had rain for weeks apart from the one day a week ago it has been necessary work watering the gardens. E had gone to see her brother as it was his birthday. He lives with his mom so she was able to visit with her too. Whilst she was out I watered the garden and re-potted this little plant
It hadn’t been doing very well no matter what we tried to help it. Compare it with its twin in the picture below
They were originally planted at the same time a couple of years ago. It may be that we need to re-pot the twin also but for the time being it is thriving. Apart from doing household chores that represented my Saturday. I did take time out on the patio though, it wasn’t all work!
It was a dull but warm day on Sunday (20). I had gotten up reasonably early for I wanted to water the plants in the front garden. I have often neglected the front garden in that respect and know I shouldn’t. In the rear garden we have a hose permanently affixed to the tap so it is easy just to run it out when watering the plants there, whereas in the front garden we don’t.
We have another tap in the front garden but of course we don’t leave a hose attached to it in case it goes ‘walkies’. We store a hose truck in one of the garages and connect it to the tap when we need it. The truck is basically a reeled hose sat on a metal frame that has wheels on it and a handle with which to pull it along. It looks almost exactly as the one shown in the picture below. So I was out there around eight-thirty giving the plants, the whole garden, a thorough watering.
Returning indoors later for a coffee and a chat with E who had not been up long I somehow got around to talking about cakes and ended up making some more rock cakes! They are so easy to make and in the space of twenty five minutes from scratch they can be on the plate and ready for eating. It’s a treat for us as we don’t eat cakes that often, well one has to think of one’s waistline…….ahem! Nothing really happened on Sunday, it was just a dull day all round but we made the most of it and spent most of the time relaxing.
….and tomorrow a new month. I write this on the last day of April. It is Monday and the start of a week of unknowns. Despite not having any definite plan for the day I was very busy. I had ordered clothing, floor paint and a cordless vacuum cleaner but only one of those was scheduled for delivery that day, the vacuum cleaner. I wanted the paint delivering as soon as possible so that I could finish the cellar storage room project. As I write this I still have no idea when it will arrive. The clothing should be here within the next couple of days. There was a small amount of painting to do around the door on the inside of the store-room which was the first thing I did. Following that I went into the front garden and using a watering can and soluble plant food I fed all the plants, dug out weeds then swept the pathways. It was approaching lunchtime when that was done so I stopped work and went indoors just in time to unpack and assemble the new vacuum cleaner. I am considering purchasing another for use on the upper floors but will see how this one performs first. After lunch I made myself busy by first of all sweeping up the leaves, lots of them, from the paths in the rear garden then mowing the lawn. Next, I got out the hoe and gave the flowerbeds a make-over removing the weeds. It was late afternoon when I had finished and I spent an hour in the sunshine relaxing on the patio. When I returned indoors our next-door neighbour’s son called to update us on his mom’s condition. Late on Sunday afternoon she had been rushed to hospital with a collapsed lung and could hardly breathe. She has advanced emphysema and relies on her oxygen bottles to get through the day. The prognosis wasn’t good and the doctors thought she wouldn’t survive. Her son was calling to let us know that she had perked-up somewhat and could possibly return home. She is at death’s door and the doctors practically indicated that so even if she can return home she would need palliative care. For the moment she remains in hospital. We invited our neighbour’s son inside for a chat and he stayed awhile. That was basically my day and I was tired after it all.
You might think that for someone who is very tired sleep comes easy but unfortunately that isn’t always the case for me. Although I had been very busy on Thursday and was tired when I went to bed getting to sleep eluded me. I tossed and turned throughout the night and felt awful when I got up in the morning. After having something for breakfast I felt so much better though I did remain a little sleepy. I spent some time on the project (see yesterday’ post) and by the afternoon I was ready to go to bed but of course I didn’t, not at that time. Later however when I did go to bed sleep came very easy and I was out for the count in minutes! I had a really good night’s sleep and should have been ready to do some more work but I decided to take a break from it and have the next two days off, Saturday and Sunday. I decided a walk was on the cards so before breakfast, which incidentally I missed altogether, I dressed to go for the walk. It wasn’t that warm on Saturday morning as I left the house but it wasn’t cold either. About half-way through the walk things changed, the clouds rolled away and it became warm in the bright sunshine. By the time I had returned home my coat was beginning to make me feel uncomfortable wearing it. I was ready to eat something so had a slightly early lunch, though it was by then approaching one o’clock. E had been busy at the top of the house and didn’t have lunch until two. I in the meantime went onto the patio to sit in the now warmer sunshine. E joined me not long after but neither of us sat there too long as we began digging out a few sycamore seedlings and weeds. We did return to the patio however to make the most of the fine weather while it lasted. Sunday looked gloomy as plenty of rain had been forecast but during the week ahead we had been promised high temperatures and bright sunshine. When we returned indoors we sat and watched the Grand National horse race, the only horse race we do watch throughout the year.
Last week I wrote about baking ‘Sugar and Spice Rings’ on Sunday. This Sunday I did a little more baking but this time it was ‘Tea Scones’, a very basic recipe which I am sure most will know. I had taken an early morning walk before breakfast, just four miles as I hadn’t been out for a walk for about two weeks and didn’t want to overdo things. To be honest I was feeling quite tired by the time I had returned home. The day looked promising in the morning sunshine but it wasn’t that particularly warm because of the cold slight breeze. When I went into the kitchen for breakfast E was sitting there having just eaten hers. After eating mine I sat on the patio with a coffee then spent some time digging out a few bluebells. Returning indoors I decided to do a little baking whilst E went upstairs to change. By the time she had come downstairs again I had the scones baked.
1 lb self-raising flour
1/4 tsp baking powder (optional)
1/2 level tsp salt
4 oz butter or margarine
6 oz caster sugar
6 oz sultanas or currants (optional)
1/2 pint milk
Place flour with salt in bowl and rub in the butter or margarine until the mixture is crumbly. Add sugar and fruit if used and mix. Add the milk (advise half of it at first) and thoroughly mix with ingredients until it becomes a firm but not sticky dough. Spread some flour onto a board or flat surface and place dough on it and knead for a couple of minutes then using a rolling-pin spread the dough till it is about 1/2 inch thick. Using a small circular pastry cutter, cut the dough and place each piece on a buttered metal tray. Brush each with milk and place in a hot oven (215 deg C) for ten to fifteen minutes.
Easy and tasty. The mixture will make about sixteen scones.
I did very little else on Sunday as on Monday I would be busy working again.
The time spent on the pit project was limited to an hour and a half on Saturday morning as I had reached as far as I could go. The main task was to skim the internal end wall I had roughly worked on the day before and then put some spots of the same mixture on the floor of the pit. These spots of concrete were to be level with each other and would act as guides when I laid the screed concrete.It was time for lunch after which E went out to her monthly meeting and I thought I would sit a while out on the patio as by then it was warm and sunny. However I didn’t stay sitting long for I noticed a chrysanthemum which needed pruning of its old growth. I had missed it when I pruned the others a couple of weeks ago. I decided to prune it but on the way to collect the tools I noticed a couple more bluebells in the long bed which needed digging out. I ended up checking each of the flowerbeds and dug out around thirty or so. They just don’t give up do they? (See last years posts around this time). Finally I gave up on the idea of sitting outside and returned indoors and setting ‘Robbie’ to vacuum the hallway I went into the kitchen to do some baking. I wanted to bake two sponge cakes, one with some coconut in it and the other with coffee. I was following a recipe for a rich butter cake as opposed to a Victoria Sponge but along the way I made a little mistake and I ended up preparing a fusion mixture of the two! Talk about invention! Surprisingly though the cakes turned out very well and quite tasty. I guess many recipes started off this way.
It doesn’t take long for me to complete a project once I get started. It is getting started which is often the problem but that is usually because I have either not enough time or I haven’t all the materials at hand. I have just returned from the pub after spending an hour there for my lunch. It is Friday (2nd Feb) and this morning I spent some time on the treadmill before breakfast. After breakfast I set about the tasks which would see the completion of the second part of the garage door project. The first part was to install the floodlight and the automatic circuit to control it (see previous posts). Whilst doing that work I discovered the safety edge equipment required a more robust installation from that which had been carried out by the installer. Sometimes things are best done by one’s self! This second part was what I set about doing earlier today. The first thing to do was to fit the two lengths of now painted timber, one at each side of the door frame on which to refit the edging strips themselves. They are coloured black in the pictures. The strips house the infra-red beams which when interrupted stop the downward movement of the closing door. The job took only a few minutes to do…..
Click on pictures to see detail.
Finally I had to replace the metal cover over the length of the door which hides the door when it is rolled up (part of it can be seen in the first picture). I had removed it some time ago when repairing the guide strip (see older posts). That was it, the end of another little project. E had come to the garage to show me something and I took the opportunity to ask her about a plant we have in one of the flowerbeds. Whilst we were looking at the bed we saw some more bluebells beginning to show themselves so rather than going indoors for lunch I spent some time digging them out, about fifteen of them. It as almost two o’clock when I returned indoors and E had almost finished her lunch. She needed to go with her mom for the weekly shopping. I decided at that point I would eat out, hence the pub visit.
I wrote yesterday about our neighbour’s panic attack after she had discovered her dog had died. She doesn’t enjoy good health and is reliant upon her oxygen bottles else struggles to breathe some of the time. E and I were concerned that she was over-stressed but she finally calmed down whilst we were there. Today, Wednesday I called in to see her after I had earlier phoned to see if she was alright. Thankfully she had settled down and was her usual self. I had been exercising on the gym equipment soon after getting out of bed but at that time it was too early to call next door to check upon her. After my breakfast late in the morning I decided to sort out what pieces of electrical equipment I had in stock with which to build the circuit for the garage light project I have been mentioning in previous posts. Finally I was able to gather enough bits and bobs to make progress…..It always seems the way when searching for the right parts I have some of them but not all of them. I then find I have other suitable parts but not all of them are usable with the first lot. An example would be a reed switch which is only suitable in low-voltage situations., as here… That means a transformer is required and also a low-voltage relay. A low-voltage relay would use an alternating current and could be used directly with the transformer, if I had a suitable relay. I found I had a low-voltage relay which uses direct current and therefore added to the transformer I needed a rectifier too! Fortunately I did possess all the parts necessary after salvaging them from redundant electrical gear I had. I even found a suitable box in which to install them, see picture above. I left off working on the project as it was by now lunch time and after lunch I had some gardening work to do. First of all I had to sweep up more leaves again and it was then I began to notice montbretia and bluebells here and there in the flowerbeds. Once again I set about digging them out. This is an ongoing task. Most were removed early last year but I always knew there would be more appearing for a time.
There are times when feeling at a loose end I turn to baking something. Usually the idea to bake something has been in my thoughts for days but I hesitate to do it for one or two reasons, I am too tired, I am involved doing something else or I haven’t the time. Over the last couple of years I have taken a greater interest in baking and have slowly improved doing it. Sometimes there have been mistakes of course but those who say they never make mistakes usually don’t make anything! Once in a while I will take on a new challenge, make something I haven’t attempted before. A year or more ago I found a recipe for making doughnuts and set about making some. Doughnuts though are not baked, they are fried in deep fat or oil. The results were fair, the doughnuts were edible but could have been much better. Since then I hadn’t bothered making any more until recently when I discovered another recipe using different ingredients. I decided to try it. It was Saturday and E had gone to her afternoon meeting and I had time on my hands. Whereas the previous recipe used bicarbonate of soda this one called for yeast to be used instead and the process took much longer. However I made the doughnuts but sadly they were somewhat of a failure having not risen enough they turned out far too heavy. E and I had a great laugh regarding the escapade, me suggesting they would fit in well in the garden rockery and she suggesting we give them to a neighbour to practice his golf with. Oh well, back to the drawing board I suppose. On reflection it was all about the yeast but I think the next attempt will be using the original recipe instead, at least they tasted and felt like doughnuts! It was now Monday and E again was out during the afternoon shopping with her mom. I had spent an hour exercising on the gym equipment in the morning but as it was such a fine day I decided to put on my overalls and get into the garden to do some work. The first thing I wanted to do was to spread some mulch onto the flowerbed by the greenhouses….
As you can see I got it done but there was no more mulch in the bin (below) suitable to spread anywhere else.
After that job I swept up the pathways and placed the leaves on top of what was left in the compost bin. It will be many months before there would be any usable mulch or compost to take from it. It will get filled once the grass starts growing and is cut. Things are beginning to grow again even though it is still only January and I have already dug out a few bluebells. As the weather improves (stops raining) I will be able to get more maintenance done in the garden and if it is raining too hard I can always make some doughnuts!