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


Friday, April 30, 2010

Know Your Dog

p.s. I forgot to say that the previous post was brought to you at a great personal cost to myself.

In the excitement of seeing the onion seedlings I forgot to put the barrier up for the kitchen before heading out with my camera.

I came back to find the double chocolate chip muffin container on Poncho's bed. Two double chocolate chip muffins and paper cases presumably in Poncho's tummy :((((

No breakfast for him!!!

Know Your Onions

Almost overnight the trees around us have come into leaf. Everything is starting to go mad in the garden so time for a progress report.

I have been doing daily inspections of the raised planters to check on progress of both the seeds and the vole. Luckily the vole appears to have been inactive of late. But today the onions have made their debut have the carrots.

The lettuces are still coming through but don't seem to be growing quickly. Or am I just very impatient? Should check when I am supposed to thin them...

Similarly for the spinach and rocket...

On the potato front my old second earlies are well on their way, almost all now having come through. The main crop are also beginning to sprout above ground amidst the thousands of weed seedlings. Still no sign of the first earlies. There was a set back with the far corner where Jen decided she wanted to dig a hole...

I planted the first of my runner beans and French beans into pots on Wednesday and they are now sitting in propagators on the sunroom windowsill. I have decided it is still a little too cold for the peas, but hopefully when I get back from Malta mid-May.

I had a trip to Lamberton nursery on Tuesday. I had mentioned to Anne a while back that I would be going sometime soon and I would let her know when if she wanted to come. I wasn't expecting James to come along too - Paul's car was in the garage so he had to squeeze into the back of mine. No list with me - I had free rein:

Sedum pachyclados - a few straggly bits that I pulled off the main plant and have put in various cracks and crannies in th path. May take...
Antennaria 'Alex Duguid'
Dianthus Pikes Pink - a double
Primula juliae
Daphne mezereum 'Bowles White'
Paeonia veitchii
Bellevalia ciliata - a member of the hyacinth family. I had enough bulbs to split into 6 small clumps
Saxifrage hostii
Rhododendron 'Arctic Tern'/'Shamrock'/'Patty Bee'

and my star buy -Salix nakamurana yezoalpina. A big name for a small plant. I'm not sure the photo does it justice - the leaves are so tactile. It shouldn't get much taller but will spread horizontally to a couple of feet or more.

All got planted except for the rhodos amidst light spots of rain in the late afternoon.

It was back to LB9 yesterday. I started at the bottom, digging out the clay and placing the cobbles and worked my way up towards the middle. The previously placed stepping stones were removed as they were not up to the job and Paul helped me get a new one in that I had managed to shuffle across but could not lift on my own. Then back to the top and working my way down. Another day or two to finish it I reckon, but Paul is away playing bridge this weekend and there is no way I can get the next two earmarked rocks in place on my own...

I occasionally wonder why I am doing all this and then I see how good what I have already done is looking and my heart lifts...

Last year's Edrom nursery plants are all doing well. Having survived this winter they should be able to cope with anything.

In the last few days as I have noticed the most divine perfume as I have been working. I have tracked it down to this daphne that is knee high to a grass hopper, currently about two inches tall. Another variety I bought last year has grown considerably and is covered with buds.

The snakeshead fritillarias that I planted in the autumn are also now starting to flower.

And not to be outdone, the viola that Jean gave me is putting on a show.

Monday, April 26, 2010

My Knees Hurt

The sun was shining and although it was a bit blowy it was quite warm, so back out into the garden today. The tulips had opened up again, after joining me in a day off yesterday.

I started with digging along the wall at LB9 with a trowel. I couldn't find the best way of doing this. Sitting was difficult as I was sideways on, kneeling was okay but the path is hard with odd stones sticking up and squatting kills my legs. In the end I kept swapping between all three. I think I am going to have a lot of bruises on my knees by tomorrow. Stones seem to accumulate along the edge of the wall, and using the fork just doesn't get them out. Four more bucket loads of stones removed but it did look a lot better for it.

Penny arrived just before I had finished and got to work continuing along LB8 with the fork and then taking over trowel duty when she had reached the end. I hope her knees are faring better than mine.

I then used some of the larger stones to edge the new bed along the wall. Now I just needed to fill it with more soil. Back to digging over the garden side, loading washing up bowl with a couple of spadefuls, remove the stones and load at the back. Penny departed with about four loads to go.

A quick ciggie break and then I continued de-stoning the garden side of the path. I ended the day by getting another stepping stone in place.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Trials and Tribulations of a Veggie Grower

A bit of a disaster in the middle raised planter.

I took off the covers yesterday and could see soil disturbance, mainly around the edges but also in a few places in the middle. And a tell-tale vole hole. However, I can see a couple of rows of, hopefully, cabbages coming up amidst the chaos.

The first raised planter is looking a lot more successful. Definite rows of lettuces, rocket and spinach coming through.

No signs of any of the root vegetables yet in either planter...

The cloche in the third planter did not fare well in the wind and hail stones last week. The dowels have snapped on two of the hoops. I thought the one in the veggie patch had also failed its first test. Two of the obelisks had fallen over onto it (Paul hadn't pushed them in firmly enough) but when I picked them up it was fine.

Not much done in the garden last week - too cold. I did, however, manage to transplant a dozen wild primroses from LB1 to LB11/12 and pot up a lot of self-seeded plants from the rose bed (two pampas grasses, three cotoneasters and a spirea) and some pulmonarias (lungworts) and polemoniums (Jacob's ladders) from the trellis bed. I have also decided to give up on the trellis bed and relocate the plants I want to keep elsewhere and let the wild strawberries take it over.

But the sun was shining yesterday. And the tulips opened :)

A good session on LB9. Paul helped me get a mega-rock foothold in place at lunchtime - I couldn't move it, Paul could just about shuffle it along to the hole I had excavated for it. Penny came over in the afternoon to help. She has forked the stretch along the edge of the wall while I was digging over the garden side of the path. By the end of the afternoon we had almost completed the definition of the path up to the end of LB9. Time to get the weed killer out for LB8 - again...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Stem Cells

While the weather has taken a downturn I have been doing a lot of work on the 6+1 stems.

As previously intimated I was far from happy at the 'usefulness' of the stems in the Collins OSL.

So after completing my beautiful spreadsheet of the Collins' top 250 I then went back to the old book and added in those that had been dropped - a stunning 138 stems. I really couldn't believe that switching dictionaries had made that dramatic a change.

I colour coded the stems depending on whether it was in both books, just Collins (dark pink) or just Chambers (pale pink).

I then created two ranking columns. The first based on the probability of the stem and how many of the remaining tiles (assuming a full bag) the stem went with. The second based on the probability of the stem + the number of different letters it went with - the number of remaining tiles it did not go with. As a final tie breaker just the number of different letters it combined with.

Then I hit the sort button...

Highest placed Collins only stem was TINIES (Collins 94) coming in at number 57.
Highest placed Chambers only stem was STREET (Chambers 195), coming in at a surprising number 10 - relatively high probability stem combing with all but 10 of the remaining tiles.
The bottom 47 were all from Collins only - a veritable sea of dark pink.
The lowest Chambers stem was DEPART at number 341.
ROADIE (Collins 121) was last - despite being a high probability stem it only combines with D,L,N,S,V and X...
TENIAS is top, RETAIN dropping to third place behind TORIES.

I think it shows that the Collins' stems have too much weighting on the probability of the stem to the detriment of how useful it is to have it in the first place.

Now on to the 8s...
Hmm - my probability calculation was a bit out. Hadn't treated duplicate letters correctly. Actually makes the Collins' stems even worse - the bottom 58 are now dark pink. NAILER is now the highest placed Collins only stem at number 65.
STREET dropped to 20th, with SINGLE now the highest Chambers entry at number 10.
The worst stem is TAENIA. It is bad in two ways. Not only does it only make a 7 with ELMPS, but also all of the words it makes already appear in a higher ranked list!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Baby Blackbirds

My pruning of a winter damaged hebe was cut short when I looked up and saw a nest. A quick check peering through the broom it was resting on revealed these little chicks. I hope they won't be abandoned now - the hebe will have to wait a bit longer...

Friday, April 16, 2010

Planning and Planting

After seventeen hours of work LB10 was completed yesterday lunchtime.

I celebrated by planting my contorted hazel into it.

And as I was sitting on the wall drinking a cup of coffee and admiring my work I thought 'I'll just clear up the stones and crud along the rest of the wall'. Three bucket loads just from the surface. And then I started to dig out a few more... And then I thought that I really should determine the bank edge of the path so that I would know how far back to clear the stones from the wall edge. And before I knew it it was 7 p.m. and LB9 was well underway.

I promised myself a reward day today. I spent yesterday evening scouring the plant catalogue of Edrom nursery and drew up a wish list. Armed with my list off I went this morning.

Back and forth along the benches I went looking for my plants. I started off quite well, sticking to the list, and picking what I thought was the best specimen. And then I went off list. I started a second basket for 'ooh - that's nice' plants. And then when I had been around all the plants about three times I did something rarely done - I put some back! I had given myself a limit of fifty quid, but obviously something was off on my radar as I came in three pounds under :(

Still, I was happy. Fifteen plants bought and the sun was shining so I put the car roof down. Three hours of entertainment from setting off to getting home.

On List
Prunus incisa kojo-no-mai
Cyananthus lobatus Giant Form
Lathyrus vernus
Brunnera Silver Wings
Hepatica nobilis
Clematis x cartmanii Moonbeam
Pieris japonica Little Heath
Off List
Primula Hall Barn Blue
Primula David Valentine
Corydalis flexuosa Purple Leaf
Ledodondron Arctic Tern
Picea glauca Alberta
Gentiana gracilipes
Veronica prostrata Lilac Time
Campanula cochlearifolia

I spent the afternoon placing them around LB10 and 11 before deciding on their final positions and planting them. I also kept my promise to Janet's hellebore.

Poor Penny had come along and ended up picking up more stones...

I ended the day having a slow meander around the rest of the garden spotting what was new, what needs to be done and what plants I can divide/transplant into the new planting areas. And what is not happening - no neat little rows of veggie seedlings yet...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Les Cloches Du Todheugh

I should have spent Monday gardening. Lost my match with Neil 4-3...

Only got 4 hours out there yesterday as we needed to go food shopping in the morning and play bridge in the evening, but made good progress on LB10.

Back out this morning continuing where I left off.

And then after lunch it was time to complete the homemade cloches. One of the bits of pipe has got a bit of a kink in it, but it still serves its purpose.

I had been wondering how to attach the cover to the frames but then I remembered that I had bought a pack of various clips and garden ties from Aldi's last year. So the covers are now clipped to the frame. This is actually better than permanently attaching them as I can change it to netting in the summer.

Paul helped me relocate them to their new homes.

Not bad for a total cost of about 15 quid - and most of that was for the tin of wood preservative.

The rest of the day was spent continuing on LB10. I really thought I would get it finished today but I hadn't counted on quite how many stones there were.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Can You Dig It

Working on the top of the long bank extension is a very fluid process. You just know what feels right as you work your way along. So this morning it seemed the thing to do was to dig over a mound of stony soil in LB11, remove the stones and then relocate a good load of it up to the top. By lunchtime I had finished LB11 as far as landscaping is concerned. Oh Happy Day. To christen it I transplanted two of the heucheras from LB12 to the now raised soil level in front of the wall.

Paul was playing bridge so I had to have a break to take the dogs out and feed them. A cup of coffee on the patio and then a slow meander around with my camera. I am quite amazed by how few plants I have lost - almost everything has survived except for the bedding dianthuses and the small fuchsias. The large fuchsia looked dead, but closer examination has shown new growth coming from the bottom.

Back to work on LB10 trying to work out where the path wanted to be. Penny arrived with chocolate brownies...

A lot more stone removal. I am no longer keeping track of how many times I am having to negotiate my way down to empty the bucket over the road. And more soil digging over and relocation. Penny left around 5.30 again. I spent about another hour forking back over the area along the wall before calling it a day. I hate to tempt fate but I seem to be progressing a lot faster than anticipated.

Last task was to cover my raised planters as there is a risk of a frost tonight.

I have a day off tomorrow. Probably for the best as I am feeling very stiff tonight. Going to Edinburgh to play my round 2 BEST match against Neil Scott. Just hope it is worth foregoing another good gardening weather day...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Year On

I started digging out my veggie patch a year ago yesterday.

Yesterday, after weed killer spraying the rose bed, I sowed my first veggie seeds. Not directly into the veggie patch but in the raised planters which I am currently treating as seed beds.

Planter 1:
Carrot Amsterdam Forcing - 2 rows
Radish Scarlet Globe - these are old seeds so just 1 row
Carrot Supreme Chantenay - 2 rows
Radish Red prince - also old seeds
Spinach - 2 rows
Rocket - 2 rows
Lettuce Romaine - 2 rows
Lettuce Salad Bowl - 2 rows

Planter 2:
Cabbage Surprise - 1 row
Cabbage Autumn Queen - 1 row
Cabbage Winter Tundra - 1 row
Curly Kale - 1 row
American/Land Cress - 2 rows
Spring Onions - 1 row
Leeks - 3 rows
Bulb Onions - 3 rows
Pickling Onions - 4 rows

I also weeded the herb patch. I decided the lavenders were dead so reluctantly pulled them all out. And now I have sown one small patch with garlic chives and another with Shiso Purple. Both these packets of seeds are old but had not been opened so may be okay still. I bought the latter many years back at the Chelsea Flower Show - apparently it's a bit like basil.

Paul made the second cloche frame and assembled my other three obelisks.

We were both back out today. Paul has painted the frames with wood preservative, pruned one of my shrubs for me and mown the lawn. There was a bucket dispute when he decided the dogs needed a bath as I was using the bucket for my stone collecting. I pointed out there was another one in the utility room and then he wanted them both... A slight inconvenience for Paul or a major inconvenience for me. I kept my bucket.

I decided today was a long bank extension day for me. I started off with weeding the middle section of LB11/10/9. This was in preparation for planting the summer flowering bulbs I had bought a few weeks back. And then I got side-tracked - I was told Penny was coming over to help and Paul had decided he wanted her to spray the back lawn-to-be area. So I was tasked with mixing more weed killer and filling the sprayer. Right on cue Penny arrived.

So when I got back to the long bank I then started working on the top of LB10. I got nothing done on this last year due to other priorities but I am determined to complete at least that section this year. The problem is that I am not sure of what to do. The buried path that I had excavated along LB12 and 11 is wonderful, but it was showing no sign of going up, unlike the wall. The level of the soil at the top of LB11 is still below the first faced brick layer of the wall and if the excavated path continues at its current level it is going to be over a breeze block too low. So I decided to procrastinate and start at the other end of LB10. And as I was digging out the weeds and stones I came across our builders buried dump site. Enough off-cuts of our wall stones to make a very nice edging for the bed I am planning along Margaret's wall and loads of that horrendous plastic tape that all building supplies seem to be bound with. I must say that it made quick work of making my way right along the wall but the level has now dropped even more.

Penny left about 5.30 having helped with stone removal, brick relocation and coffee break companionship. It was very tempting to just stay sitting on the patio enjoying the glorious sunshine. However, I then remembered what I had supposed to be doing so finished off the gardening day by planting all my Dutch irises and half my liatrises.

I will be out with my camera tomorrow. Things are flowering...

Thursday, April 08, 2010

You've Been Framed

I achieved my goals yesterday.

Another 15 or so loads of topsoil, with some help from Penny, added into f-t-b-t-b and at last I was happy with its level. The freecycle topsoil pile is now more like a pimple.

Paul cut up the remaining pallets for my veggie patch paths.

And then the ceremonial carrying out of the seed potatoes from the utility room window sill.

Paul brought the scaffolding planks up from the side of the sheds so that I could dig my trenches and plant them with minimal compaction of my beautiful bed. The King Edwards are filling half the space - 5 rows with one left over all on its own. Then I planted the first earlies at the other end. I still have some room in the middle to see if my sprouting 2nd earlies from last year prove to be even better value.

Unfortunately today has not been anywhere near as successful despite a good start.

Paul came out to start building my cloches. We now have one frame, 1.56m by 0.83m, which fits inside the raised beds where I don't have rocks sticking out of the wall. Dowels cut and holes drilled. Various pipes have been tested for flexibility. The smaller blue piping and black piping has been passed as suitable for cloche hoops. The larger blue piping is not bendy enough. However, it is has now had several lengths cut off it and hooped directly into one of my raised planters and covered with my fleece. The rest will be used similarly for one of the beds in the veggie patch.

I made a couple of wigwams for my runner beans. And then constructed one of the (four) Aldi obelisks that have been stored (and the boxes gnawed) in my shed. If you zoom in you can see the rhubarb is thriving at the back of the steps to nowhere. Paul is already asking when will it be ready to pick...

It clouded over at lunchtime, threatening rain, so that is as far as we got. The wind got up and it was decidedly chilly.

With the re-designation of the fleece I now needed to get something else to cover the cloches with. Penny had mentioned she had a large roll of polythene that she had got for waterproofing her garage and if I wanted any... I skyped her and she said she would bring it over. It was only when she opened the boot that I realised that it was black :)

So I spent the afternoon on the web and found this site that sells all kinds of garden fleece/netting etc. at what I considered very reasonable prices. I have now ordered some horticultural polyethylene, butterfly netting, enviromesh and hessian potato sacks.

The weather looks better for tomorrow so I may actually get around to start sowing seeds... It would be a shame to have all the infrastructure in place but no plants :)

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Scrabble Garden Garden Scrabble...

The sun is shining. That means end of scrabble studying and back out into the garden.

On the scrabble study front I have gone back to basics with stems, recreating my revision spreadsheets as I go. I really don't like the 'order of usefulness' in the Collins OSL. I think it is basically flawed, and not only by just using valid 6 letter words as the stems. How can TOEIER which only combines with A and Z, once you have ruled out the already seen words (only 3) from higher 'useful' stems come in at number 145 whereas ALDERS, which combines with 20 other letters with 15 of them not having already occurred higher up, be number 169... In the old book it was number 85 and TOEIER did not register. I think once I have gone through all 250 I will add in the old Chambers non-word stems and reorder the whole caboodle based on my own criteria of usefulness.

I had a quick look at my cardbox the other day. I have ignored it since Malaysia and it was around the 27500 questions pending mark. A reset methinks when I eventually resume...

We are currently getting our gutters replaced from the winter ice. Yesterday I salvaged a piece of guttering and one of the chaps kindly cut up another into three lengths of about a metre and a half. I am now all set to plant my peas in them a la Gardener's World.

But first things first, another day of topsoil sifting should see that through and then the potatoes in. Talking of which I got another carrier bag full out of the supposedly emptied veggie patch when I dug it over last week. I wonder how many are still there...

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Rain Stops Play - Again

After a few days off I got back outside yesterday. Time to dig in the cow muck that I had liberally covered the veggie patch in last year. And then I decided that the layout of the beds was wrong. Two of them were too long and narrow, going from the wall down to the lawn to be. So now I have rearranged them all. Hopefully the beds are now large enough to be useful and small enough for me to be able to dig and plant them without having to stomp on them.

I tried to get Paul to saw up some more pallets to put in the pathways I had dug out but I am going to have to wait. He has taken the skin off his hand between thumb and forefinger when he did the lawn raking last week and decided this was a good excuse...

The one thing the sleet and rain has done is settle the soil in the fruit-tree-bed-to-be. This has shown that I was premature in my green highlighting. There is a definite slope down towards the wall so I need to add more to get it level. I made a start today. One barrow load done but the soil was too claggy. I decided just to get the weeds out of the remaining topsoil pile, but after half an hour it started to rain again :(

So we had a trip out to Homebase this afternoon - 20% off gardening section. And a mental list of all the things we need to make Geoff Hamilton cloches. We already have wood (left over from extension), water pipe (left over bits provided by Alan last year) to make the hoops, and the winter fleece I bought from Aldi's last year as the covering. So now we have angle brackets, screws, wood preserver, wood glue and dowel. Now I just need a handyman :)

I also bought two bundles of 7 ft bamboo canes, some bean/pea netting and some bedding plants. We had thought at first that 8 ft bamboo canes wouldn't fit into Paul's car but this was disproved when the 7 ft canes fitted in with room to spare. So we went back in...

And I also decided to buy two each of their aluminium troughs and deep planters, which had been already been reduced to half price before the extra 20% off, to replace my terracotta pots have not survived this winter.

To do list:
add more topsoil to fruit-tree-bed-to-be
plant potatoes
plant remaining summer flowering bulbs/bedding
start sowing veggie seeds (hopefully under my new home-made cloches)

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Driving Ms Penny

It was the last match of the East District League Division 2 last night. It was a 'dead' match - we could not get promoted or relegated, and our opponents were already relegated no matter what.

After torrential rain for the last few days the bottom of our drive was flooded again but Paul had parked his car at the new gates. Reg phoned after lunch to say the match was still on. I was concerned on whether or not I would actually be able to get out of Todheugh, but saw a few cars going past the house albeit rather sedately so said okay. Plan was changed for me to just pick up Penny and meet Reg and Jean off the A1.

So I set out at 5.40 p.m. in Paul's car, drove slowly through the flood at Edrom and got to the main road. I could see a sign on the road left of the junction but could not read it, and turned right towards Duns. Then I saw the lake ahead and the lorry going very slowly through it. Hmm. Don't think that looks like a good idea...

I turned around and went back to Edrom. And then turned left to take the back road to Manderston. I could see the road was bad but hoped that if I could get through the water I could see I would be okay. By the time I realised the flood continued on and off for the next half mile I was committed. Okay. Take it nice and steady. Get through each stretch of flooded road, regather your nerve, and keep going. A couple of times I thought I was going to be stranded but I eventually got to dry land.

And then I got to the main road and could see that the sign there did indeed indicate that the stretch of main road that I had bypassed was closed. And suddenly the surrounding countryside was covered with snow...

I stopped to get petrol and then got to Penny's about 10 minutes later than planned. It was stunning how much snow there was at Duns considering we, only 4 miles away, had had none.

We headed out via Preston, meaning to join the A1 at Grantshouse. We caught up with a gritter in front of us, who then decided to stop and chat with the driver of a gritter coming the other way. And then they moved on, only for our gritter to stop again and redirect us all off that road and on to the road towards Reston. At this point I got Penny to phone Paul to get him to phone Reg/Jean to tell them we were now just heading towards Jean's house...

Water was pouring onto the roads from the fields but this was child's play compared to Edrom. Just had to avoid the large potholes and debris on the road. And then we got to the A1 and sanity returned. We made the rendezvous point just gone 6.25 p.m. and transferred into Reg's car. But I had already decided that I was not willing to drive back home that night - floods in the dark was not my idea of fun. Plans were made for Penny and I to have a sleepover at Reg's.

We won the match...

We dropped Jean off at the rendezvous and Penny and I transferred back to Paul's car and followed Reg home.

Coffee and biscuits by the fire and a quick run through the boards before bed. Diana had made up a spare room for us and provided us with jimjams.

We woke up to a glorious day, albeit windy. What a difference. Fed and coffeed we set off for home. The scenery looked spectacular, the hills glistening with snow in the bright sunshine. Sunglasses had not been added to my handbag the evening before.

I dropped Penny off in the square and then decided to risk the main road. I got as far as Manderston's gates before I hit the 'Road Closed' again. Turned around and decided I would take the long route home via Preston...

Blog Archive