Something is happening at last

Pitcher plant
Pitcher plant (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The 'Dentate' cultivar of the venus fly trap i...
The ‘Dentate’ cultivar of the venus fly trap in cultivation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was kind of feeling sorry for myself on Wednesday morning, nothing to do, well nothing substantial to keep me occupied and I began wondering what the day might bring. Just after lunch I made the decision to do some baking but alas even that idea was thwarted at the starting gate, I was short of some of the ingredients. E would be going shopping the next day so I resigned myself to baking another day. In recent weeks E has obtained two small exotic plants neither of which are native to this country and one is doing fine but the other was suffering somewhat. The first is a pitcher plant which traps insects and digests them as they slip down inside the trumpet-shaped stems with no possibility of escape. The second plant is a Venus fly trap, its function is obvious from its name but alas that one was the one which was struggling. I searched the Internet for information and discovered we hadn’t first of all placed the plant in a favourable position and secondly were watering it with the wrong type of water. The plant needs lime-free water and rain water is ideal. We have two large water butts filled with rain water so that problem was solved. The plant doesn’t mind cool weather and in fact prefers a period of colder temperatures each year. We had the plant indoors where it is warm so we moved it into one of the greenhouses where the temperature at the moment is cooler. The plant also likes its roots in water as it gets its nutrients that way as well as by digesting flies! So we placed it on a flat slab of stone standing in a container filled with rain water which will only require refilling occasionally. All it needs now is for some small flies to find themselves inside the greenhouse. Hopefully the plant will survive and continue to grow. We were about to return indoors and I suggested we begin moving the pile of bricks, stones and rubble that we had stored on the large concrete base which is actually the continuation of the garage floor which projects beyond the rear wall and was never built upon. It is a convenient place to store things, too convenient in fact. We had to move it all so that scaffolding can be erected there. After fifteen minutes or so and only a quarter of the pile moved, the scaffolding company arrived and began to move the scaffolding on-site. They were to return the next day with more scaffolding and erect it all at both ends of the house so that we can arrange for the roof work to be done. The day wasn’t a wasted day after all and it looks as if things are beginning to happen at last.

Shirley Anne

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Out of use

I think it was back in March or April of 2010 E and I went looking for a small greenhouse or it may be that at that time we saw one and bought it. I remember trying to tie the pack on top of my van for it wouldn’t go inside as it was too long. The place we bought it from is only a mile or so away from our house so transporting it on the roof wasn’t a problem. It was a cheap affair, only costing £200 but the frame was galvanised mild steel and the panels were plastic. At that time we only had space in the garden for a small greenhouse if we were to erect it in the borders and here it is pictured later in the year I think..Exsiting greenhouse from behind old garage

E took control and started to grow tomatoes, cucumbers and some peppers of the spicy variety. I wasn’t that interested in cultivating plants so I just helped E when asked. A year to so later we cleared away the area behind the little greenhouse, extended the concrete footings and laid a path using the natural stone capping that was removed from the walls at the front of the house when we had those walls rebuilt in 2010. It was April of 2012 that we bought the larger greenhouse which was constructed of aluminium and glass and was erected by the company’s contractor. That greenhouse cost me £1600, much more than the smaller one had cost but far superior in quality and size. Here is a picture showing them both.DSCF0009 E couldn’t wait to start cultivating vegetables in the new greenhouse though she still used the smaller one too. For a time we enjoyed the fruits of her labour. This year she hasn’t bothered growing plants in either of the greenhouses and quite frankly has abandoned them. I simply have not had the time as I have been too busy with work either at home, in the garden itself or out doing electrical work. On Sunday I was checking the cuttings I had planted and had put in the large greenhouse and took stock of the abandoned state of the place. There were large growing containers filled with dry compost and the remains of the plants, mostly tomato plants, that had died back once the fruit had grown. There were tie wires and bamboo canes tied up and a table full of small pots and plenty of rubbish was strewn about the floor. A grapevine still grows in one corner but it needs pruning right back to start over. That can only be done out of the growing season of course so I have left it for now but I set about tidying up the mess and soon I had everything stacked and stored or disposed of. The floor got swept and all rubbish gotten rid of. I even cleaned up the mass of leaves that always accumulate on the path in front of the greenhouse doors (on the far left-hand end of the picture above). Perhaps E will resume growing things next year but if she doesn’t I might start doing that myself. This past year has seen me taking more and more interest in the garden and I have done much work there, in both gardens. Now I am taking an interest in the empty greenhouses because what is the point in having them if they don’t get used?

Shirley Anne

Just can’t help myself

Dead plant in pots
Dead plant in pots (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well my week has been a little on the boring side at times as far as work goes, I had very little of it, though I did turn down a few offers, they unfortunately were too large for me to undertake at my age. I was offered the chance to rewire a house in one instance, install many power outlets in another and to undertake the repairs of a host of electrical problems somewhere else. Great opportunity for someone twenty years my junior but alas no longer for me. It isn’t the work itself, more the time I would take to do it and its effect upon me! On Thursday I was offered a smaller job which I have taken and scheduled a day for doing it and I did get some other work before the week ended. In the afternoon I was sitting out on the patio yet again but this time not for long, a couple of minutes at most and then decided to take a stroll around the garden beginning with the vegetable plot behind the patio. Various weeds were threatening to overtake the area in which we have some of our gooseberry bushes and laurel shrubs. I simply had to begin plucking them out by hand and before long I found myself covering the whole plot. When I took the weeds to the green bin I had thoughts about watering the border plants including the small rhubarb patch as everywhere had become so dry. Out came the hose and I went around the whole garden watering the plants, though not the lawn, it grows too quickly at this time of year and in fact was looking green and lush anyway. The plants that suffer the most are those in pots and we have a few of them which desperately needed water. There is only one plant in the large greenhouse at the moment as E hasn’t bothered with her usual tomato, pepper and cucumber planting as yet but there is still time for her to do that. I don’t bother with such things, in fact I only bought the greenhouses for her benefit really. The one plant I did feed and water was the only one in there, the grapevine which has started to break out in leaf. After I had done the watering I noticed a hole in the cement between one of the natural stone slabs in the new path that we had constructed last summer. Ants had been busy making the hole larger. Obviously the cement there had been undermined at that spot for when I pressed down on it my finger disappeared partially down the hole. It needed refilling so I mixed a small amount of fresh cement mortar and refilled it, filling in two other minor holes at the same time. One sure way of keeping ants at bay if they are a problem outdoors is to brush diesel oil where you don’t want them to go. They hate the stuff! I know it works as I have used the method in the front garden around one of the gate pillars. Each year the little blighters were taking out the sand beneath the street pavement around our wall and pillar which of course over time upsets the level paving stones and can even undermine the walls if nothing is done to prevent it. I applied some diesel there last year and the ants moved home! Even now, many months later, the area is ant-free. I may need to reapply the diesel of course at some point. I think it was my late father-in-law who told me about using diesel. So I didn’t sit around doing nothing much as I perhaps wanted to, I find I get restless and have to do something. I just can’t help myself.

Laughing at me

English: Walk-behind lawn mower
Walk-behind lawn mower (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Saturday afternoon I was looking out of the kitchen window whilst washing some dishes and saw that the grass had grown somewhat and needed cutting. Since I got the petrol mower working, mowing the lawn has been so easy, even when the grass is wet. It had been raining a little during the morning. I got the mower out of the garage and started it up. It is the same model as shown except the base colour of the unit is yellow rather than green as in the picture. Soon I had reached the opposite side of the lawn with just over one more pass down the length of it left to mow when the machine started to cough and splutter. It had just run out of fuel. I must have only had 20 metres of grass to cut. Oh well, into the garage for the petrol can and a spot of oil and soon the machine was working again. A few seconds later the lawn was completely cut. Now at this time of year there are lots of leaves lying about and sure enough the area around the larger greenhouse was littered with them. Some leaves have actually found themselves between the greenhouse glass and the brick wall against which it stands. The gap between them is only around 10 cm or slightly more and of course during the Autumn it gets full of leaves. However I don’t generally remove them at that time of year but wait until the winter is over and do it then. If I were to clean it out now it would be full again in a matter of days and the autumnal season has not yet started in earnest. I removed the leaves I could easily reach with the broom and swept up the whole pathway in the process. I know I shall have to repeat the task again once all the leaves start to fall. For the time being everything is clean and tidy. Then I swept along the path in front of the apple trees and the borders beneath them were once again full of weeds. They seemed to be laughing at me for it was only a couple of days previous that I had pulled many of the blighters out! I didn’t remove them all at this pass for that would have taken too long but I removed all the large ones. To confound it a little the soil was also strewn with strawberry plants that had sprouted from the many tendrils that had found their way across the short distance between the rear of the border and the raised planting bed which at the moment is full of strawberry plants. E usually does the weeding at close quarters using her kneeling frame but for some reason she hasn’t bothered lately. She has been busy in the large greenhouse tending the tomato and cucumber plants and reaping the small harvest we get from them. The other greenhouse hasn’t been used this year for growing anything. Last year and in previous years since it was erected it was full of pepper plants with some tomato plants but again I don’t know why she didn’t bother growing anything in there this year. The main reason I bought the greenhouses in the first place was for her benefit more than my own as she seemed interested in growing food bearing plants. She still is but it seems a waste of time having two greenhouses if only one gets used. I don’t really like gardening and treat it as a necessity to look after it but I am certain that I will have to do more in future as E’s condition prevents her from doing too much. I suppose if and when I retire officially there will be plenty of time to laugh back at the weeds and show them who is boss!

Shirley Anne

Minimal damage

Force 12 at sea.
Force 12 at sea. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thursday morning was much quieter than the night before. I went to bed with severe gale force winds howling about the house and although it was still a little windy it was a much calmer day. I arose quite late and in fact was stirred by a telephone call from the guy who had repaired the roller door in the garage. Although he had repaired the installation I had discovered that occasionally it was hesitant to drop down in the guide rails which made it start to unwind in situ unless it was aided manually. I found this out whilst I was reinstating the limit switch I spoke about yesterday. Anyhow he called to let me know when someone would call and sort it out. As it was quite late I forewent breakfast and just had a cup of coffee, making one for E at the same time and taking it upstairs to the bathroom where she was busy painting the window frames! After the drink I put on my coat and went outside to look for any damage caused by the wind. I had already noticed the small greenhouse had lost one of its plastic panels, the larger greenhouse was intact as I expected as it is a more profession structure with glass panes. I also noticed that the largest tree overlooking our garden which is located just on the other side of the wall in my rear neighbour’s garden had lost two of its branches both of which had fallen on their side of the wall. The branches were as large as small trees and their falling had flattened other trees and shrubs beneath. Another branch had fallen into my next-door neighbours garden and nearby lay the plastic panel from our small greenhouse. I called next door to retrieve it but my neighbour wasn’t at home. That was the only damage that had been sustained at the rear of the house. I then went to the front of the house and discovered a small piece of roofing felt had curled-up from on top of the garage in which I park my van. I got the ladder and repositioned it then placed two large slabs of stone on top of it to hold it down until the weather improves and it can be heated and sealed down again. No doubt that will be weeks away. It isn’t urgent that it gets repaired immediately and I may do it myself as I have a gas blow-torch I could use. That was all the damage I could find. My next-door neighbours wooden panel fence however had two of its panels blown out. He has had nothing but trouble with that fence ever since it was erected twelve years or more ago, it is forever having its panels come adrift. Considering the severity of the weather I think we got off lightly and I am grateful for that. I pity the many who haven’t had it so good, especially those who have been flooded out of their homes. The wind passes but the water will remain for months.

Shirley Anne

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One thing leads to another

We have had some really nice weather in the last few days, the best of it being on Sunday when it was warm and sunny throughout the day. Saturday was similar but there was a cool breeze blowing making it feel less inviting unless one stayed out of the open spaces. I had gotten up early on Saturday and spent some time on the treadmill before having a light breakfast. I didn’t shower immediately but chose to go for a bike ride for an hour or so instead. It made sense to get the exercise out of the way before finally bathing. In the afternoon I went out onto the patio to play my guitar for an hour and when I returned indoors I said to E, ‘I am not playing any more today, if the neighbours want more they’ll have to pay’…….LOL. The sun’s rays falling upon by back felt so nice. I don’t like to ‘sunbathe’ so I turn my back to the sun and keep my body protected by not leaving exposed skin to it. A couple of weeks ago E and I had visited Brighton and whilst out for a walk during the morning I caught the sun on my chest, not deliberately but I hadn’t given it thought and should have packed some sun-screen cream. My chest was a little tender for a day or so afterwards. On Sunday E and I hadn’t done much in the morning but around 11 o’clock I was looking out of one of the windows in the back room overlooking the garden and I thought to myself ‘What a mess it looks around the little greenhouse‘. E tends not to be as tidy as myself, in fact we are like the two ends of a long pole where average tidiness resides in the middle! She had placed some pots containing strawberry plants on the pathway by the greenhouse as there was no room for them in the raised growing bed we’d had constructed a couple of years ago. Two years ago it was full of potato plants, last year and this year it is full of strawberries. The problem with strawberry plants is they propagate by growing tendrils which then form roots and begin growing another strawberry plant where the tendril becomes in contact with the ground or another flower pot! I decided that they needed to be moved if only to clear the pathway. Now I am not one who likes gardening, always preferring E to do it and helping her by mowing the lawn and clearing out the undergrowth and such things but she is finding it difficult to do much these days because of her disability therefore I am obliged to do more. I stripped all of the unnecessary dead growth, tendrils and weeds from each of the pots and placed them on trays on the table inside the small greenhouse and watered them. There is nothing else growing in there at the moment. Last year it was full of bell pepper plants and tomatoes and we had quite a harvest from the plants growing in there. At this moment all we have growing in the large greenhouse is a grape vine. Last year we also had tomatoes and cucumbers and the year before, courgettes. After tending to the strawberry plants I began to do other things like emptying a couple of large containers of soil and putting them in storage. By this time E had come into the garden to see what I was up to and got stuck into helping me but it was almost time for lunch and I asked her the time. She reached for her mobile phone as she, like myself, do not wear a watch then realised I was pulling her leg! The previous day we had placed a new out-door clock on the wall in the patio area and it can be seen from anywhere in the garden. She had forgotten. So we went indoors and had lunch. After lunch we returned to the garden and E began to weed-out the flower bed in front of the small greenhouse an beneath the blossoming apple trees whilst I began to tackle the overgrown area to the right of the greenhouse. That took me well over three hours with E pitching in later. After much pruning and digging out weeds and wild blackberry that had intertwined the shrubs I discovered the original paths we had constructed that had been obscured for a couple of years. The space where the green wheelie bin and the path from the greenhouse adjoining it had been totally obscured almost as far as the grass on the left (out of the picture) and the black composting bin on the right. The lid on the water butt is a temporary measure as we haven’t a proper lid for it as yet, though I hope to rectify that soon.Small greenhouse area 1
Small patch

So by the time we had finished filling the two wheelie bins (the other was taken to the front garden where we generally store them) the two of us were feeling a little tired! The things is this, once we start on something it often leads to doing other things too and we have to be disciplined else work ourselves to death!

Shirley Anne

Nothing planned again

Thermostat for controlling the temperature in ...
Image via Wikipedia

Well the weeks work is over and I have no plans for the weekend. I’ll probably visit the pub at some point. I think there will be things to do at home though, like checking the central heating which needs attention, venting off air from the radiators, setting the controls and adjusting thermostats and such. The garden is looking good but there is some tidying up to do, leaves and broken twigs lying about need clearing away. At this time of year most of the work in the garden is simply tidying and bringing in any crops that are still growing. I removed the remainder of the apples from the trees before they began to drop off by themselves rendering them bruised if they fell on a the hard surface below. Both trees are planted between a path and the concrete standing where the greenhouses are. The path was placed there earlier in the year where there was only grass so we have to watch for apples that fall before we can pick them. Come to think of it, I don’t need to plan anything do I?

Shirley Anne

Growing your own

CDC cuke3
Image via Wikipedia

As those who have been reading my many posts over the last twelve months will know, E takes care of what is grown in the greenhouses we have. I take a passing interest. I am not a gardener by any means and really only help out with the more heavy work of mowing the lawn, chopping up branches and clearing out debris. I like gardens but don’t much fancy working in them! E’s pride and joy is to see the fruits of her labour and being able to stock our refrigerator with tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers from what is produced in the greenhouses. I have been eating tomatoes so much I fear they will be coming out of my ears soon and there are still plenty more of the to eat yet. A week or so ago I came across this specimen

Alongside is a more normal specimen, like the rest of them. Now I have seen many odd things in my lifetime but never a tomato that has a nose! It tasted good though – nose and all! The crop has been incredible and it is difficult to keep them fresh for any length of time although the fridge keeps them so for quite some time. Those that cannot be eaten raw because of the time element have to be fried or used in cooked dishes like chilli-con-carne or Bolognese but get eaten they do. This year we had so much cucumber that E had to give some away. One or two specimens grew to about three feet or about a metre in length and as you know cucumbers don’t stay fresh too long once cut into and really can only be eaten in a salad. I think that next year we will have to grow fewer cucumbers for that reason unless we can give them away. In fact as I write this there are still tomatoes and cucmbers growing in the greenhouse! There has been success in growing beetroot and carrots too. A couple of onions have done well but as this was really the first season for E to experiment with growing vegetables she has done remarkably well. The greatest success outdoors has been the potato crops but they are quite easy to grow. I am wondering what sort of crop we will get next time. The apple trees have produced quite a crop too and there are still apples on the branches. E has made several jars of apple sauce for use when having pork and there is some left for making pies. The rhubarb has supplied me with a few rhubarb crumbles and continues to grow as it is picked but the weather will soon put an end to that until next Spring. Altogether we have done quite well growing our own produce and we hope it will be even better next year.

Shirley Anne

Back to the weeds

I got up rather early yesterday because the guy erecting the greenhouse asked if he could start at 0630. He lives around 40 miles away from us so he had to get up early too! I was up and about at 0500 and had just finished breakfast when he arrived at 0620. He reckoned that the job would take until four in the afternoon before it would be finished. He was right about that. After preliminary conversation I went indoors and made him a cup of tea and he got started straight away. It was still a little misty and chilly and the ground was covered in dew. He was wearing a warm jacket over another coat, a pair of jeans and a woolen hat. As the morning progressed it got warmer and he began to peel off his excess clothing. First of all the hat, next, the top coat and then the jeans. He was wearing track suit leggings beneath his jeans. Later he removed his second coat. Around midday he finally took off his shirt and spent the afternoon with nothing on top. It was quite warm in the garden and as he began to glaze the greenhouse it got much warmer inside! E didn’t get up until 0800 but after breakfast, her breakfast, she and I went into the garden ourselves to begin weeding out unwanted plants, roots and weeds from the border adjacent to the patio base wall where we had earlier in the month removed some trees. I ‘replanted’ the washing-line pole and made two brackets to fix it to the garden wall which I then fitted in place. We can now hang our washing outside instead of in the cellar boiler room where we usually hang it in winter or when it is too wet outside. The greenhouse was completed by 4.30. We tidied up around the garden and went indoors. Today though I shall again be back to the weeds!

Shirley Anne

Nice week

The weather forecast for the week ahead is promising dry and warm sunny days; just as well because we are having the greenhouse built today. Yesterday morning I laid everything out near to the point of build, all the materials and the glass, ready for the guy coming over to do it. He specifically asked if we could move the glass near to the site so I had to think of a way to do that on an open lawn. The greenhouse will need to be built in-situ as it cannot be assembled and carried over to its hard-standing because there is a tree in the way. I found some of what look like parts of an old chimney-stack and I placed then on the lawn with a heavy paving stone against them. I found some old carpet pieces and placed them on a plywood board in front of these and began carting the panes of glass from the old garage and leaning them against my makeshift support. There must have been about forty panes of glass of various sizes. It is amazing just how heavy a large amount of glass panes weigh! E and I then placed all the aluminium parts and fixtures in front of them on the new pathway. You can see where I mean on the photos below in a previous post. So it looks as though we won’t at least have problems with the weather. Hopefully the job will be completed today. In the afternoon I had to go to an electrical job ten miles away. I seem to be getting a lot of little jobs lately. It all helps to pay for stuff though. I had hoped E and I might have had the opportunity to dine out this week but events seem to be thwarting that. We want to get to one of our favourite eating houses in order to present a certain waitress with a small gift for the birth of her forthcoming baby. In a week or so she will be retiring from her job for a while so she can give birth and look after the baby. Later on she hopes to be able to return to work. She presently works three days per week so we want to dine out on one of those days in order to see her. It looks as if we will have to postpone the idea until next week and then it will have to be Monday or Tuesday as we are having the front door path laid beginning on Wednesday. In the meantime we will have the opportunity to do more work in the rear garden whilst the weather is fine.  

Shirley Anne