My neighbour, the lady who has been poorly these last six months, often asks me where it is I get my energy from. She isn’t referring to a utility provider but why it is I seem to be on the go all the time. I am not really on the go all the time but it sure feels that way sometimes. Take Wednesday (7 th Nov) for instance, I took a five-mile walk before breakfast at 5 o’clock. After breakfast I continued the work in the utility room first of all finishing the filling-in and then giving all the woodwork its first coat of white emulsion. That took me three hours. Later in the morning after a snack I went into the garden to cut back the fruit (damson/plum) trees in The Mound. If you remember earlier in the year I mentioned I was going to remove some of them and cut back the remainder. Here is how it looked during the summer….
All of them were cut and the intention was to remove the smaller ones completely but having done the pruning we might decide to remove them all before Spring. Here is The Mound photographed from a downstairs window soon after I had finished work because it had begun to rain heavily.
The trunks I placed near the small plot across the garden whilst the branches and twigs I cut into small pieces and placed them in a large industrial bag until I can dispose of them.
That work took another three hours and I had just about finished when the rain began to fall. In fact I had to spend the last ten minutes working in the rain. The roots would be dug out another day. Yes I don’t know where I get the energy from either!
Do you find yourself discovering a way to do something but later on find out there might have been a better way to do it? During my experiences in the electrical industry that was often the case for me. I have to say though after years of working in the industry the better way to do things came naturally, well for most of the time. Last winter we had some really nasty weather for a couple of weeks and some of the garden plants suffered as a result. I was therefore determined to find a better solution or an easier way of implementing the precautions I had taken at that time. The plants which suffered were those where the protection I had provided had come adrift. During the year I have been giving much consideration in regards to finding that easier solution. I had fixed some anchoring points by which to secure the protection around the two small beds on the patio but they were the easy ones to protect. One is shown below and the plant at risk from frost damage is the fan palm.
The longer of the three beds shown below is the one most difficult to protect as wrapping the two fan palms isn’t as easy at it sounds especially if the older leaves are to be protected from wind damage too.
I had purchased some bubble wrap and bamboo canes earlier this year and was going to use them to construct a makeshift frame to cover the whole bed but having given that idea much thought since then I think I have come up with a better idea, I decided to purchase a walk-in ‘tunnel’ to place over the top of the bed. Designed for use as an alternative to a greenhouse for growing certain plants under cover the tunnel would be the ideal solution and probably much sturdier. As the one I have purchased is two metres in width it will overhang the bed on the inside and make access to the bed possible if required. Of course it will need support beneath the overhang and some fixing points with which to tie it down.
As far as the bubble wrap and canes are concerned they will still be used in the bed adjacent to the patio as planned.
At the end of yesterday’s post I mentioned the weather forecast for the rest of that day wasn’t very promising, rain and wind throughout. However after breakfast I decided to re-check the forecast for it had been the previous day when I last checked it. While out on my walk I had expected some rain to fall but it didn’t. Now the forecast was completely the opposite, no rain and hardly any wind so when I had finished my breakfast I decided to put on my overalls and work on the garden project with a view to completing the second stage which was filling the bottom of the trench with concrete. Three mixer loads later it was done..
As you can see the concrete is now laid all around the plot. On Monday (24 th) I hope to begin setting the cobbles in place around the perimeter. I will be using a fine concrete mix for that part of the project. After packing away everything until Monday morning I had a walk around the garden and noticed a problem on the lawn near to The Mound.
In the picture above you can see the dark patches (top centre) on the lawn. The lower patch is the soil I had scattered a dew days earlier for there is a dip on the lawn just there. The grass will grow through the soil in a few days. The other patch is the result of my digging there to remove roots coming from the damson trees in The Mound behind. Last year I had seen a tree shoot in the lawn which I dug out by removing about a metre of root. This time I saw yet more shoots so I decided to lift some grass and dig them out, hence the soil everywhere. Later this Autumn I had already planned to remove a couple of the damson trees from The Mound and cut back the others. This is the problem with fruit trees, they like to spread themselves through their root systems. It could be that we remove them altogether at some point for we don’t eat much of the fruit anyway.
It had been quite a few weeks since I last mowed the lawn, well it seemed that long anyway. I don’t keep tabs on such things. I had watered the garden soon after breakfast on Friday instead of doing it the other way around. I wanted to go for a walk but needed some space after eating. It was just after four o’clock when I’d finished the watering and still very much dark. It wouldn’t get light until after six o’clock at this time of year. No, I didn’t water the garden in darkness as we have switchable lighting at one end which pretty much illuminates the whole garden though the floodlights illuminate automatically because of their motion detectors. The lights over the patio can be switched on too but there is little point if all the others are switched on, suffice to say it was light enough without them. Anyway I digress. So I went for my walk just after four o’clock and it was dry and windy but a little cool, especially in the wind. Soon I would have to think about wearing warmer clothing on these outings though I had on this occasion been well wrapped up too. I took the walk through the back streets to town and beyond and was well-sheltered from the wind. When I reached the seafront however it was a different story, bracing but enjoyable nevertheless. It stayed dry until I reached home when I could see the odd spatter of rain by the front door entrance. When I went indoors I prepared what I would be having for lunch later, another chilli. It was around ten-thirty when I decided to mow the lawn as it had remained dry until then. The odd spattering earlier must have been just a passing cloud which had decided to hold on to its load. I mowed the lawn, which took about twenty minutes and just as I had put the mower back in storage it began to rain.
Even so that didn’t last long either but we had been promised more persistent rain later in the day and into the night. On Thursday, the day before, our next-door neighbour was having the scaffolding around his house dismantled, well almost all of it. Evidently the work of re-pointing the brickwork and carrying out roof repairs had ended. The guys had been fortunate for it not to have been raining whilst doing that job. How do they manage to work safely if it is pouring down with rain? Anyway on looking at the work that has been done the front aspect of the house looks really nice but when I looked at the side and rear all that has happened has been a little patching up here and there. I would have though it better to have the whole house done while the scaffolding was there. I know how much it costs to have scaffolding erected having had it around my house and it isn’t cheap! I even asked the guys why they were dismantling it as I didn’t think the work was finished. It didn’t look finished to me.
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.