Okay now the show is over I can talk about itchy and scratchy. The cartoon itself is aimed at a younger audience which I think is deplorable because of its content, it is so violent and goes against all that I believe. As an adult I can laugh at the stupidity and impossible scenarios and not take anything seriously, which is what I do. It is much the same as any other slapstick comedy, one character gets hurt by the other and we laugh at it. Should we be offended or simply treat it as ridiculous? That dear reader is down to your own conscience. Now joking apart I cannot help be reminded of the cartoon characters now whenever I feel itchy and at this time of year that is quite often for me. Having caught too much of the sun my skin in places has become rather itchy and I have been trying to resist scratching it but it isn’t easy. Come on now you probably do the same, you end up scratching it too. However I don’t leave myself at the mercy of my fingernails, I apply a suitable skin cream. There is another kind of itch which rears its ugly head at this time of year too, that caused by the constant battle with midges and other small flying insects which want to feed on my skin. I find an application of a lavender infused cream helps in preventing being eaten alive. On Wednesday morning, very early in the morning (it was actually 5.30) I had gone into the front garden to give it what has become a daily routine these past couple of weeks, a good watering with the hose. Well all went well for a few minutes then it was ‘Hey guys, here is another victim’ as the little mites began settling on my exposed regions. I had to keep wetting my arms to keep them off. Had I watered the garden later when it was in full sunshine I suppose there wouldn’t have been as many midges about. I don’t think they like the heat. I can relate to that. I persevered for the hour I was out there, I wasn’t going to allow a few insects to stop me. After returning indoors for breakfast I returned to the garden and sat on the bench there playing guitar for an hour. Strangely I wasn’t pestered this time. I guess the music sent them to sleep!
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!
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.
I was up and about very early on Monday (19) morning but it wasn’t my intention to start work at that hour. I just happened to have had enough sleep having retired early the night before. I started working at eight thirty however and concentrated on painting the interior of the boiler cupboard surround and following that the exterior too. I was interrupted from the work at nine o’clock when E came into the room in her dressing gown to tell me that Robert, her nephew had arrived. Robert is the builder in the family and he, or rather his crew had constructed the raised part of the roof to accommodate the new garage door. If you remember a couple of posts ago I mentioned it had sprung a leak. He left one of his crew to redo part of the roof and give the whole area a new coat of sealant. I trust he won’t have to return again. I checked to see if there was anything he required before returning to my painting. I finished the painting at eleven-thirty then decided to dig out more bluebells. I spent over two hours doing that and must have removed a hundred of them. Nothing like the amount I dug out last year which ran into thousands! I always knew there would still be more this year and sadly some of them simply cannot be removed at all because of where they are. Those we shall have to keep plucking out before they flower. I can see a day when I won’t bother anymore but only because I will not be able. I returned indoors to a belated lunch and E was already sitting down to hers. After lunch I had to empty out the little container we use to dispose of fruit and vegetable waste, skins and such. We empty it into the composting bin along with grass cuttings and leaves. However when I went outside I saw that the garden needed sweeping of the many leaves which had fallen during the recent windy weather. Most of them are ivy with a few holly leaves too. It was a warm and sunny day on Monday so it was pleasant being outdoors. Finally I returned indoors again and painted part of the front doors on the boiler cupboard to see how it would look.
I was going to continue and paint all four doors but I changed my mind in favour of a well-earned break! The ‘pole’ leaning at an angle is actually the clothesline prop. We have decided to park it there where it is out-of-the-way.
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.
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!
I was up and about early on Friday morning, that would be the 19 th but I actually didn’t get downstairs until 9.30. E was only a few minutes ahead of me in reaching the kitchen for her breakfast. I however only wanted to fill my drinks flask with water as I was about to go into the cellar or basement if you prefer to do some exercising on the equipment. I spent a little time stretching my leg muscles before mounting the bicycle to do some gentle peddling for ten minutes. I could have spent hours doing that as it is so relaxing even though it was exercise, mild exercise admittedly but it served to warm me up for getting on the treadmill. Finally I am getting back to where I left-off as far as my treadmill routine is concerned. I spent thirty minutes on it and found I had increased my overall distance covered in that time. It isn’t all running though, I walk between stints of running but my distance run is increasing and the time spent walking in between is lessening. My next exercise was spent on the elliptical trainer, the machine I found difficult to get used to. It appears my muscles are beginning to accept the different exercise regime at last and I was able to spend fifteen minutes on it without any problems. It will take some time before I can do more strenuous exercise on it of course but I am getting there. Time for a little breakfast before taking a shower. Later in the morning I decided to go to the greenhouse to water the bulbs which had sprouted in the large tubs. E has been growing flowers in the greenhouse over the past few years. It was left to me to do the watering however, she didn’t want to face the elements as it was a cold, windy and wet day. I have no problems with that. Whilst outside I noticed a few montbretia and bluebells beginning to grow in the border close to the greenhouse. I was expecting them to show up at some point. I got out the kneeling stool and hand fork and dug them out. If you remember I spent the first couple of months of last year removing the bulk of them from the garden. The picture above taken at the time shows one of the areas I worked in. No doubt there will be more to come yet. Just as I had dug them out it poured down with rain. Later we had more showers of both rain and hail. Well it is Winter after all.
Sunday, the last day of the year turned out to be bright and sunny, The temperature hovered around 9 deg C all day though a stiff breeze made it feel colder. Still, it was nice to be outdoors when sheltered from that wind. I had deliberately arisen early so that I could drive to the beach to collect some more stones. I left the house around seven-thirty and by the time I had parked the van in the car park near to the beach it was beginning to enter the twilight zone. Twilight for me is the best part of any day and I am glad I live in a place where we have a period of twilight twice a day. Anyway, the wind felt stronger down on the sand but I persevered and collected quite a few stones while it was still quite dark. I made three short trips to and from the van to collect the stones in a plastic bag to then place them in a large bucket I had stored in the van. I should have taken a couple of more trips at that time but I was beginning to feel tired and cold. I could always return later. Before returning indoors on my arrival back home at eight-thirty I decided to make an attempt at sliding the hard neoprene strip back into the guide on the garage door. If my readers will remember it had slid out a couple of weeks ago and I informed the installer to have it repaired. At the time of writing this on the last day of the year there has been no follow-up from them. I will have to inform them it has been repaired. After doing that small job I took a parcel we had received on behalf of our neighbour across the road to give it to her who at the time it arrived wasn’t at home, then I went indoors for my breakfast. E came into the kitchen just as I had finished eating. After breakfast I donned my overalls and went into the garden to empty out the stones and to dig out a couple of montbretia plants.
Still not enough stones to cover the soil so I would have to do some more collecting. With that in mind E and I drove down to the beach in the afternoon and whilst I went to collect more stones she sat inside the van admiring the sea view. From her vantage point however I was invisible because of the intervening sea wall. I collected a small bucket full of stones which I placed in the empty space when we returned home…..
It looks full now but in fact there is space for a few more. I plan to put some other plants in the area later so some of the stones will move to create a space for them. It should then look fuller. (Click on pics to magnify)