Nesting bees

It was one of those days when you are sitting having your lunch, pondering the nature of utility and beauty and realising that your garden is not quite passing the William Morris test: ‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful’ – for more see here , where I argue that the test does not apply to the garden. In the garden there are many many beautiful things but also some that are not beautiful but are useful, mostly old plastic buckets and odd bits of wire caging which keep cats off the vegetables – example here

20190105_144328Not beautiful but definitely useful.  There are other things which fail the test but stay in the garden because I don’t know how to dispose of them in a sensible environmentally friendly way and anyway, we might find a use for them one day – the footballs from the monster hedge fit in this category:

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Meanwhile an old shed door has lain about in the garden for ten years, being used for football practice and various other delights and has met a creative end as a pirate ship. Even old shed doors do come in useful one day.

Anyway, while pondering these higher things, we decided that the old garden bench had finally failed both tests. It has served us very well over twenty years but it stopped being beautiful a few years ago when its various cracks and unsafe bits were repaired effectively but somewhat less beautifully. It has also served as a very good cat scratching post – useful but making it less beautiful – pictured here complete with cat:

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Now those repairs have collapsed and it really does not meet either condition. What to do with it though? We just added it to the pile of possibly useful garden things.  While doing this , I ventured into a bit of the garden I haven’t looked at for a few weeks and saw that someone or something had torn a huge piece of turf away from one of the fairy mounds. I immediately recognised the signs – last time this happened the mysterious something was attacking a wild bees’ nest – see here  The destruction was too great for it to be cats so it must have been a badger or a fox, I think. Last time I was too late to rescue the nest. This time, I’m not sure as the bees are still buzzing about. So I used one of my not beautiful but never-the-less useful wire racks to cover it up to keep the intruder out, and this time, also put up a sign to warn them off:

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Beautiful? Useful? I don’t know but I was very excited to find that the bees had nested in my garden again.

Baywatch

I’ve been on the hunt for a new bay tree since losing the last one to the dratted vine weevils

I found one in a pot in my local DIY store

 

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But being from a DIY store rather than a proper garden centre, it had not one but, I think I counted, sixteen plants crammed into this tiny pot.

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I hate waste , so I planted one rooted cutting in the herb bed in the front garden, where it looks a little out of place but hopefully will grow tall and strong, and the others all in individual pots. They won’t survive in pots in my garden as the evil weevils will seek them out to destroy but I’ll pass them on at a plant sale some time soon.

Meanwhile, I have been working up this year’s pea glut:

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In another attempt to deal with waste, I plant these in cardboard coffee cups. I plant these in the garden where the cardboard rots away, sometimes leaving a film of plastic which I then dispose of. I know we should’t buy these at all but sometimes they are hard to avoid and I try and give them a second lease of life by bringing them home and filling them with peas. The labels, you will note, are also repurposed – cut from a plastic food carton and lasting for several years.

I’ve also sown a few pea seeds straight in the ground – it will be race to see which do best in the battle against snails and other pests.

Rain, hail, seeds and holly

It’s twenty past ten on a Sunday night and I STILL haven’t got round to sowing the seeds I was going to sow this weekend. It’s been a weekend of storms and snow and hail and sleet and rain and the odd sunny spell, during which I cut back my awesome autumn fruiting raspberries and mulch them with lots of yummy compost. While doing this I noticed tiny signs of growth in the seeds in the seed palace and I spotted a baby holly growing in one of my many ‘wildlife patches’ aka, messy bits, in the garden:

20190309_122824.jpgDuring a hail storm I managed to wash my seed trays, pots, propagator lids and my collection of seed labels – formed from plastic milk bottles, tubs and other miscellaneous ‘single use’ plastics. All ready to be used for one more year.

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I didn’t make it to the allotment today and ended up playing scrabble instead but right now I am going to get off the computer and sow some seeds!

Seeds

The seed palace is now populated! I had a small window of time this morning to sow some seeds, resulting in two small trays of oriental salad and one of sweet peas:

I also sowed some broad beans and spinach in the surprisingly warm ground. The sun is deceptive though and I have covered these with a cloche:

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Just to show that I don’t always, or even usually, rush out and buy new stuff, you will be pleased to know that this cloche is constructed from a twenty-five year old frame and has a cover from another defunct plastic seed house. It is tied down against gales using old bicycle inner tubes and the whole thing is protected with metal shelves from same defunct seed house to deter any cats who might think that this is just one big cat toilet or sunbathing spot.

I didn’t have time for any more gardening today but I did go to the big seed swap at Gorgie City Farm. I spent many happy days with my sons there when they were small and am always pleased to visit the chickens, pigs, goats and, of course, vegetables. I deposited countless unwanted packets of free seeds from the front of gardening magazines, collected by me and my allotment buddy. In return I got these gems:

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Three varieties of heritage pea including one ‘mystery pea’, some runner beans and some sweet peas. It is a scientific fact that you cannot have too many peas, beans or sweet peas, not in my garden anyway.

A good day and an important start to the growing season.

Radishes

I dug up these radishes in the garden today:

I know they don’t look very appetising but I’m not proposing to eat them. These are what is left of the summer’s super flowering purple radishes, ‘purple plum’,which produce lovely flowers but are tricky for actual radishes:

These impressive flowers have finally succumbed to frost so I dug them out. While I was doing this, I discovered that they still had some impressive seed pods:

20190105_141710.jpgYou can eat the seed pods but not when they are dried out like this. Each pod is full of tiny new seeds:

20190105_141021So that’s this year’s supply of flowers sorted. Maybe some will even turn into radishes.

Meanwhile, I did some weeding, was delighted to see onions coming up and rainbow chard still hanging in there;

Then I relaid all my cat protection devices: cardboard, freezer baskets, twiggy prunings and, new for this year, an abandoned shopping basket which my son rescued from a local cycle path and brought home:

A rewarding first day in the garden for 2019.

Sheds

After a little twitter discussion on #gardenshour the other night, which ended up with more information about deceased vermin that I really wanted, I got to thinking about sheds and their contents. I had commented blythely that I had spent the weekend clearing out a shed (part of my mother’s moving house project) . The shed contained joys of all sorts of other kinds, including: enough plastic pots to keep any gardener going for at least 50 years, the stand for my now 21 year old baby’s Moses basket, several trowels in a range of states of usefulness and decay, several broken bird feeders, some random bags and jars of plant food, bird food and cleaning products, string, cardboard, newspaper, useful plastic thingies, useless plastic thingies, useful wooden thingies, useless wooden thingies, a chimenea, a box of partly rotten cooking apples, a wasps nest, more garden tools in various states of decay, more plastic plant pots, a few rather nice clay pots…

but actually not any dead mice. Someone on twitter asked if there had been any dead mice in the shed. I confess that my twitter response was a tiny white lie – the dead mouse was in the house. Sorry to remind you dear sister but these joys are side effects of cat ownership and I’ve got used to it over the years.

Anyway, it was a lovely sunny day and we made good progress, if not entirely finishing the job. We really have to admire my parents’ generation’s ability to keep things on the grounds that they might come in handy one day. Most (if not quite all) of the things in the shed did have potential uses. Sadly, quite a lot of it had to go to the ‘recycling centre’, a modern euphemism for the dump, but some has been spared to pass on to new homes and I’ve brought one of the better trowels to pass on to my mother so that she can do some midnight gardening in the grounds of her new flat. She’s worried that it’s not really allowed so intends to plant bulbs in the dark.

Back to musing about the shed though, and the deceased vermin. I remembered the project that I carried out with my grown up 21 and 19 year olds when they were about 4 or 5, when we painted murals on the inside of our garden shed to make it into a sort of play house.  I asked them what should be included.  Their interests in those days included dinosaurs, dogs, flowers and butterflies:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASea creatures:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGiraffes:

pb280296.jpgflamingoes and peacocks:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAour then cat, Roxy:

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and a tiny mouse, to commemorate, the inevitable deceased one which we had found when clearing it out (sorry no photo of the mouse painting) – it’s a thing, deceased vermin in sheds.

Inside/outside, dealing with weatherhouse cats

Cats, as you know, are always on the wrong side of the door.

DSCN5359Here is our lovely Bella on her first ever trip outside in 2015. She has got a little bigger since then but has had to face new challenges in the battle of the doors with the arrival of Chelsea:

my mother’s cat who has had to leave her old home and her handy cat flap to come and stay with us, at least for the moment, while my mother works out whether she can manage to have a cat in her new tiny flat.

Unfortunately, these two delightful animals are not the best of friends, so we have had to devise ways of keeping them apart. To begin with we kept Chelsea inside, but now we have let her out to explore the garden:

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She seems reasonably impressed and completely at home but they still hiss and yowl whenever they see each other. So for the moment we are operating a one cat in, one cat out system, like the little couple in an old fashioned weatherhouse.  This is more or less working except at night when, generally speaking, they both want to be in.  This requires a simple system requiring a shut door and a big warning to passing residents to think before opening it:

wp_20181115_21_56_36_pro1.jpgIt has worked quite well except that cats can’t read and these two are quite clever. One or other of them worked out how to open the door, as we discovered when we were awoken in the middle of the night to yowling and hissing.  An ingenious son, left on his own to cat wrangle while I was out at work, came up with a system involving chairs and bits of rope, which worked to stop the cats from opening the door.  But it really seemed a little too uncivilised for anyone who might want to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.  So this evening I had a look through the ‘that might be useful one day’ box and found a snib for the top of the door. There were a few of these in the box because the previous owners of the house had them attached to every door to  keep dogs in or out :

wp_20181115_21_56_27_pro1.jpgFor once something from that box has been used. Let’s see if it works at least until the cats can learn not to kill each other in the middle of the night.

Home

Back home from a little break involving much walking and talking and eating lovely things in the far north of Norway.  There wasn’t much gardening to be done but there was lovely scenery and good company. Northern Norway has the northenmost botanic garden in the world and it had some lovely things in flower in September

wp_20180906_19_15_46_pro.jpgI forgot to note down their names but I liked the colours.  We also had a couple of days in Oslo and spotted this unusual creature:

An important reminder to protect our natural world.  It was quite a short trip but now we are home and the garden is abundant.  The musicians have been looking after things at home, making serious inroads into the plum glut.  I felt a need to make some emergency plum jam to use up some more. This is ‘whole plum jam’, one of the easiest jam recipes:

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Whole Plum Jam

  • 2 kg plums
  • 2kg sugar
  • glug of green ginger wine
  1. Wash the plums, cut in half and remove most of the stones – you can leave a few in
  2. Place the plums and the sugar in layers in a large bowl and leave overnight or for a few hours
  3. Tip everything into a large pan (it needs to be very large for this quantity)
  4. Add the glug of green ginger
  5. Heat slowly until all the sugar dissolves
  6. Boil until setting point is reached
  7. Remove any scum that forms
  8. Any stones that you left in will eventually float to the top – remove these. Some stones may remain but that doesn’t matter so long as you warn anybody about to eat the jam!
  9. Pot up into warmed, sterilised jars – makes about 6-7 jarsWP_20180914_20_33_52_Pro

As well as eating plums and creating beautiful music, the musicians have been playing football in the garden (our neighbour noted that ‘they are much better at music than football’ ) and being quite careful with my precious vegetables, though ‘there may have been one or two ‘windfall’ tomatoes’:

WP_20180914_20_31_33_ProThe tomatoes are doing extremely well.  There have been a few ripe ones as well as all these ‘windfalls’ and I’m still hopeful that a few more will ripen before the frosts hit. Now I just need to get along to the allotment to see how it has fared in my absence.

Garden lego

Years of experience playing with lego, as a child and as a parent, paid off this evening as I set out to make a new raised bed in the bit of the garden where the conifers used to be.  I’ve used up all my spare wood, so this time I turned to bricks. We have rather an excess of bricks, dug up from the front garden when I turned it from a car park into an actual garden – see here

So I got my lego building skills together and constructed a new bed and filled it with compost and some manure that was sitting in a bag waiting to be used:WP_20180608_16_49_54_Pro.jpgThe main occupants for the rest of the summer will be tomatoes, planted out, along with some lettuce and rainbow chard seedlings as catch crops:

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I had planned it so that it would fit exactly under my big cloche and so could be used as a sort of cold frame:

WP_20180608_16_44_30_Pro.jpgBut the tomatoes don’t fit under the cloche. I may make another to the same design and put something smaller in it.  I wanted to make a temporary bed so that I can do something else with the space in the autumn.  I could use this design from a family legothon a few years ago:

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but that would require a space ship, two swimming pools, a post-box, a tiger, an American flag a Hippogriff, a dementor and several other Harry Potter characters (our lego sessions were always a bit random). I’m not sure how practical that would be…

I’d better stick to more mundane garden fantasies.  I’m still thinking about an orchard – I read in a book somewhere that an ‘orchard’ consists of at least 4 fruit trees. Well I have four already (3 apples, one plum and a cherry in the front garden but not sure it counts as it is not in the same space). So if I planted a couple of pears and maybe another apple, it would definitely be an orchard. But that will have to wait until the tomatoes have ripened.

 

Slightly off schedule

Dear blog, I’ve been away from you too long but I’ve had other things to do, including  some gardening and allotment plotting, but also working, seeing family, and listening to music: everything from solo cello to Don McLean. But, I digress. One thing that fell behind last weekend was potting up my tomato plants. I had taken them out for some sun at the weekend:

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but then didn’t have time to repot them. I snatched a moment on Monday night to do the repotting and then, of course, ran out of space inside for the happier plants in their bigger pots. Time to move them outside to the growhouse. But the big growhouse lost its plastic cover and was looking a little sad – here it is with the now-gone conifers in the backgroundwp_20180410_08_53_29_pro.jpgI had looked online for replacement covers but it seems that this model is no longer made. Time for some recycling or upcycling or whatever the term is – reusing, I suppose. I patched together a cover, using a part of the old cover and a large piece of plastic from some delivery which had been sitting in the shed, on the grounds of coming in useful one day. This was the day:

WP_20180513_14_18_56_Pro.jpgBut how to fix it in place?

WP_20180513_14_19_05_Pro.jpgWooden clothes pegs seemed to do the trick.  So the bigger tomatoes have moved outside and are hanging on, even with night time temperatures dropping to 4 degrees this week. To compensate, they are getting lots of sunshine during the day.  I’ve kept the cucumbers in the house as they are little less robust.

Meanwhile, one of our visitors brought me a book:

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I’m a little excited – this is from 1971, updated from 1929. It has a stern warning inside:

‘the contents of this Bulletin are intended for use by persons wishing to undertake preservation of fruit and vegetables at home for their own consumption…. Any person contemplating the sale of food should seek the advice of their local food and drugs and/or weights and measures inspector, whose address can be obtained from the local Town Hall’

There’s something very 20th century about that but I’m pretty sure the actual business of home preservation is just as valuable today.

Finally, wordpress reminded me that it is my blog anniversary. This is a little earlier than the first post because it took me several weeks to work up the courage to press  ‘publish’ but it’s time to celebrate four years of blogging. I read somewhere that the average blogger lasts a year, so four years feels pretty good. Now that that particular flurry of family and other activities is over, I hope to get back up-to-date with my usual gardening, cooking and blogging schedule.