The trials and tribulations of a life of leisure...


Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I have just got my car back from the garage - M.O.T. passed for another year. Now need to get it taxed.

I may have done a record low mileage over the past year, 1894 miles.

This reflects the crap weather we had last summer and this winter. Paul disconnected the battery when I went to Malaysia and it stayed that way for the best part of four months due to the rain/snow on my return.

Cost per mile will be very high but I guess I have saved a fortune on my petrol budget. I would certainly find it hard to drive 5 miles less a week...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Have You Seen the Weather Forecast!

I know we Brits are obsessed by the weather, but having switched to British Summer Time we are now expecting sleet, heavy rain and culminating in heavy snow and gale force winds on Wednesday. So I am fairly confident there will be no more gardening this month. But I really can't complain - 77.25 hours logged in March.

Yesterday was a red letter (actually a green highlight in my spreadsheet) day - I finished loading topsoil into the fruit-tree-bed-to-be. The metric tonne was delivered by MKM on Friday and it only took me an hour and a half to transfer it. My arms are feeling it today...

Paul was also out loading stones into the unneeded wheelbarrow and dumping them outside. Then he made a start on relocating the cow muck to outside the gates. Hopefully we are getting closer to getting the main area converted into a lawn. There was another time warp as Paul couldn't believe he had only been out there for an hour and a half...

I moved on to pruning the roses and Paul to raking the lawn in the front after lunch. I was hoping to weed the bed afterwards so that we could relocated some more of the muck there, but I decided that the weeds there really need to be sprayed as they are the kind that unless you get all the roots out just regrow. That will have to wait for suitable weather conditions.

Penny arrived as I was finishing off. We moved on to weeding the raised planters which we completed by end of play. Penny stayed on for a Chinese takeaway - I think we deserved it.

I was going to plant my potatoes today. But reading the packaging it said to wait until the shoots are about an inch long and mine are nowhere near that yet. Also all danger of hard frosts...

So I decided to make the most of the dry weather while I had it on other things. I have weeded the bottom of LB9/10/11, planted the 2 packs of Asiatic lilies and the hellebore that I bought from Morrisons a while back. As I was weeding Margaret drove past so i waved for her to stop to ask whether I could 'borrow' the clear corrugated whatever it is that she had dumped on the verge. No problem. So it is now sitting on my raised planters. May give it some protection from what is coming.

LB12 has burst into life with all the bulbs I planted and perennials coming into growth. I thought it would be only another week or two to be filled with colour. Now I just hope they survive the coming week.

I am over the moon that my daphne is flowering. It smells divine.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

How Many Barrow Loads Today?

That is the question I get asked by Penny.

She has been along to help on several days. But I cannot subject her to it when it is cold and miserable. It is not her garden after all.

23 hours of sifting topsoil so far to remove the inorganic (stones, nails, glass) and organic (weeds, roots, wood, occasional unwelcome beastie). The topsoil is actually very good and the percentage of crud quite small, but it needs to be removed. The fruit-tree-bed-to-be-cum-2010-potato-patch is about 75% of the way there now but looking at the remaining pile was getting me depressed - it doesn't look enough. I estimate about a 10% shortfall.

So back to trying to find cheap topsoil providers in the locale.

Paul had emailed Border Aggregates earlier in the week but had had no response.

This morning I emailed MKM in Berwick. I had a response within 20 minutes - very reasonably priced (cheaper than the council) with a reduction for a large order and free delivery to our location. Result!

Paul phoned Border Aggregates - price was on a par with a small delivery charge.

MKM have won our business and I have initially ordered a single bulk bag so that I can finish off the bed and get the potatoes planted. There should also be enough left to top up the raised planters too.

The man very nicely reduced the price to the bulk order price as we will order the 15 tonnes for the lawn preparation from them when we are ready. And possibly also the turf - if we turf (my preference) rather than seed.

Should arrive sometime tomorrow in time for the promised better weather at the weekend. Before the snow and gale force winds promised by Metcheck for next week kicks in. Does that count as 'danger of frosts' having past?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I Really Don't Want to Get Down...

I came downstairs in the early hours and was greeted by Jen in the hall.
Poncho showed no inclination to get off of Paul's chair.
He looked so comfy and gave me such a pleading look that I decided to leave him in peace.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

High Bank Panorama

It's raining so I'm not climbing up with my camera. I patched together this panoramic shot instead...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

24 And a Bit

In the end I couldn't resist doing something in the garden last Friday. The wind dropped and the sun came came out in the late afternoon and I decided to do a hatchet job on the buddleia at the bottom of the drive. And then I took the loppers to the sycamore in the verge on the other side of the road that seems to grow quicker than bamboo. We now have our view back from the bench looking west to the fields and hills beyond.

Since the end of the snow it has actually been very dry here so I decided the time had come to make inroads on the high bank. And I have been working on it all week, making up for its neglect last year due to veggie patch creation.

Debris clearance of last year's sedums, asters, alchemerias, crocosmias, origanum...
Digging out nettles before they get a grip - great time to do it as the ground was quite soft which let me pull out lots of roots.
Hard pruning back of the honeysuckle so I can now see my garden ornament faces again.

The time had come - now or never this year. Up to the top, pruning as I went to clear a couple of routes.

Another hatchet job on a buddleia that was swamping out a rhododendron.
Lopping back the lower conifer branches to make passageways to the path at the top running along the back of Margaret's barn. I even got Paul up there today to saw off a large branch that was growing horizontally squashing a forsythia.
Bag upon bag of moss/conifer dross/buttercups/brambles removed. And every bagful meant having to clamber down to empty the bag and then clamber back up...

Clearing the path up to the top from the right hand side of the fruit bushes area that I made a couple of years ago. I am quite well hidden up there.

Sidetracked today into clearing out more moss/brambles/conifer debris from the back of the fruit bush area. This would make a nice little woodland plant area when I run out of other things to do...

26 hours but now it looks good. At least for a while. If I have any energy tomorrow I may climb back up with my camera.

The snowdrops are still thriving and covering the lower half of the high bank. Up the top and the foxgloves I planted a couple of years back appear to be spreading. And there seem to be a lot more bulbs up there than I realised - daffodils, autumn crocuses and I am guessing bluebells.

Thanks must be given to Margaret for letting me dump the conifer branches at the back of the quarry, and thus saving me having to negotiate a way down with them...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Cold Weather Stops Play - Maybe

A busy time this week in the garden but it looks like I am having a day off today unless the wind drops. But it looks like next week could be all systems go. I hope...

I am keeping a gardening log of dates/time/tasks. This is just of actual 'in the field' so to speak and not taking into account all of my planning activities.

Sunday I was on snowdrop redistribution duty. One clump removed from the rockery area where the heather had swamped them and three clumps removed from 'snowdrop nursery' at the back of the sheds. These were split into about thirty smaller clumps and replanted in the trellis bank, LB4, 5 and 11.

Monday was sorting out the fruit tree bed to be as previously blogged.

Tuesday and I started on the fruit bush pruning. My right hand is now covered in scratches from the gooseberry bushes.

Wednesday and I started on the topsoil sifting and loading into f-t-b-t-b. It was cold, and despite moving the loaded wheel barrow into a sunny spot to remove the weeds and stones I needed frequent breaks to wash and warm my hands back up. I am not sure if I have enough topsoil in my current pile. Allan has promised me some more from his building works but so far no news. I would guess the whole job will be a good week to two weeks to complete, depending on the temperature...

On Wednesday evening Reg supplied me with rhubarb crowns - one large clump and one very large clump that with the help of Paul has been split into two. So yesterday I dug in the overwintered cow muck covering in the veggie patch at the back of the stairs to nowhere, excavated three large holes and planted/almost buried them. Woohoo!

We had been shopping in the morning and I had lifted a couple of the cardboard sheets that were lying around the fruit section. I had bought my seed potatoes from Border Farm Supplies earlier in the week (International Kidney - 1st early Jersey Royals, and King Edwards for main crop) so now they are sitting on the said cardboard in the utility room, hopefully chitting away. I did read a survey a while back that indicated that chitting made very little difference but until I get all the topsoil in there is nowhere to plant them anyway.

I then went back to the fruit bush area to make a concerted attack on the blackcurrant bushes. I have always wimped out in the past but now I had so many branches that were growing on the ground and/or into the gooseberry bushes that drastic action was needed. I lopped out a couple of main stems which helped. I lopped out a few conifer branches that were impeding me getting to the back of the bushes. I then found a couple of rogue gooseberry bushes growing through the blackcurrants so I ruthlessly cut them down to the ground. Once I had pulled their branches out I could see what was happening a lot better. I have now pruned all the low growing branches right back. Three had layer rooted so I salvaged those and heeled them in to a temporary home in the long bank extension. I may also try to make some hardwood cuttings from the prunings. A final going over of the gooseberry bushes now that I could get to the backs of them before Paul called me in as we needed to take the dogs to the vet for their annual check up/jabs.

I spent the evening re-planning my fruit trees. I had to re-measure and draw out the bed as Poncho had eaten my original plan. So the 'now' plan is for twelve vertical cordons around the wall/railings and four 'pyramid trained' trees in the main area. I scrapped the idea of oblique cordons and a fan as it would be too difficult to get wires in place to train the trees. Changing the cherry tree fan to a pyramid bush means I can grow more cordons. So now planning for 8 apple trees, 3 plum trees, 4 pear trees and a sweet cherry, and hopefully an acid cherry fan against Margaret's wall on the other side...

Monday, March 08, 2010

Magic Moments

So there I was, shoveling cow muck on to the fruit tree bed to be having just finished weeding it and digging it over when a flash of movement caught my eye.

A stoat had just run across the road towards LB12.

I put my spade down and walked slowly and quietly to the gates. And then stood on a flower pot - crunch. Bugger!

I thought I had scared him away as I looked in vain. But then his head popped up from the pile of stones by the gate.

I watched him for a couple of minutes, appearing and then disappearing back in amongst the stones only to emerge again from a different gap. He stared straight at me a couple of times but didn't seem overly concerned - there was a wall between us.

I decided to chance my luck and get my camera, but didn't hold out much hope of him still being there.

But there he still was...for another couple of minutes before he departed stage left for Margaret's verge.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Spring Cleaning the Garden

I've managed to get out into the garden three afternoons this week. Mainly just tidying up the debris from autumn/winter. Completed LB1-7 (or at least the bottom of it), the trellis bed and (above) LB12 tidied and weeded. The rest of the long bank is still too wet to weed yet. God knows when the high bank will be scalable.

I have started looking at nursery websites planning ahead, and also bought four packs of summer flowering bulbs from Aldi's - two packs of lilies, one of liatris and one of Dutch irises.

Next jobs:
snowdrop transplanting
fruit-tree-bed-to-be more muck and topsoil filling. And then I will need to get and plant potatoes to get some use from it this year.
Prune the gooseberry bushes
And then I guess it will be time to start sorting out my veggie seeds...

Friday, March 05, 2010

Show Me The Money

This is the time of year when many of our fixed term savings accounts end and we have to sort out where to put it next.

One such was my Halifax Regular Saver. At the end of it's term the account got closed and the money and accrued interest swept into the attached Web Saver I had been forced to also open. But I had never put any other money into it.

Smiley faces in the TV ads don't tell you they will sweep your money into the lowest interest rate account they have at the end of the term and hope you don't notice...

I tried logging on for the first time at the start of the week with the temporary password I had been issued almost a year earlier. It no longer worked. So I requested a new one.

It arrived yesterday and I managed to successfully log on, change it, answer all the other security questions and finally see my account.

But I couldn't do anything except see it.

You need to verify your identity at a branch etc.

Hey, you put the money from an account where I had already verified my identity with you a year ago into this other account! Have I suddenly become someone else???

Anyway, I was going into Duns this morning for a dental hygienist appointment so I would call in to the Bank of Scotland and get it sorted.

I was just heading in the door when I saw Penny - would I be popping in for a coffee. Yes, once I'd finished in the bank. Shouldn't be long...

Twenty five minutes later. In that time waiting for the stop on the account to be lifted I think the woman dealing with me tried to sell me every product they had on offer. I must say I am tempted to open the current account, put my 1000 quid in every month and then take it out again to get my fiver a month. Must look into it...

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Oooh - I've Spotted Something Else Growing...


winter aconites at the back of the sheds...and lonely crocus in LB2

LB12 - stepping stones/rockery. Frost-coated thmyes and viola above. I am a little concerned about the pulsatillas - I could see signs of life on only one.

LB12 - bottom. The small shrubs seem to have survived. The daphnes (see stick in centre photo - daphne mezereum) appear to have buds so hopefully there will be heavenly perfume soon. And the tulips are coming.

High bank. This does not get any sun at this time of year so the frost/snow/hail doesn't really ever go away. But the snowdrops don't seem to care, and the autumn crocuses are putting on a spurt of growth now.

The corkscrew hazel that is still waiting to be planted has some small catkins. The white patches on the lawn are not frost, but dead grass from the prolonged covering in snow.

And the hellebore that Janet gave me is surpassing itself despite a life of neglect in a bucket. I promise to plant it in the garden this year...


'And she shows you where to look among the garbage and the flowers'

for this truly wondrous Japanese anemone seed head:

Monday, March 01, 2010

Hope Springs Eternal

So March has arrived with sunshine. It is still bloody cold, with hail stones on the ground, but the forecast is looking better for the coming week.

I have been inspecting the garden. Not everything has died in the 10 weeks or so of snow and ice. I have still to determine what will need to be pulled out and replaced, but I have little hope for the fuchsias.

The bulbs appear to be coming through despite the frozen sodden ground. I spotted my first foolhardy crocus just about in flower a few days ago, and today I can see tulips pushing through.

The snowdrops are providing little beacons of light dotted around the garden. My plan of gradually populating the whole of the long bank appears to be working. The first relocated clumps now look big enough to be split again. The ones I relocated to the trellis bank have thrived, so I will also continue expanding that habitat, hopefully all the way to the top of the drive, over the next few years.

I am getting optimistic that the end of this winter is in sight. A few more degrees and I will be out there...

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