Is it the end of the month again already? July has whizzed past in a sunshiney haze, which has been delightful to laze around in, distressing for farmers, and tiring for those of us who didn't manage to install water butts before the rain stopped.
Our local farmer (who these cows in our fields belong to) has been round and cut some of the grass, in the hope that it will stimulate it to grow again. We've offered to let the cows into our final field, and in return he's offered to remove our chimney (which we are delighted about). The cows seem pretty pleased too at having an entire new field to explore.
We have had to take some precautionary measures though. This is the field closest to the house, and the one I originally planned to grow my veg in, back in March when we seemed to have bought a swamp and this was the highest and driest place. You can see the start of the beds in this post from May.
Cows aren't well known for eating courgettes, but I reckon they'd have a go given half the chance, so the farmer has had to set up an electric fence around the edge of the field (probably all the while cursing the fool who planted courgettes in the far corner of a hay meadow).
It does make watering a bit of a palaver (don't worry, there's a handle to disconnect the fence, I don't have to limbo under it each time thank goodness). But these plants are pretty well established now so I wasn't watering them every day anyway, and this weekend we've finally had a good downpour so they should be ok. The yellow courgettes are coming along nicely.
Ignore the weeds. I don't lean towards the neat and tidy garden look. The hay mulch kept the weeds down for long enough for the plants to get established and that's the most important thing in my book. It won't be long until we can start harvesting these now, which I'm very excited about. I'm also quite excited to see what other squashes turn up - I planted round green courgettes, patty pans, pumpkins and butternut squash, but sadly the labels washed off so I don't know which plant is which until the fruits appear.
The raspberries are up here too, fenced off from the cows (well known raspberry thieves). We had a few handfuls from them but they appear to have come to an end now sadly. I love raspberries, and will be moving these closer to the house and increasing production next year.
In the other part of the garden, the greenhouse is doing well, and I can't believe the change since my June post.
We've been eating home grown lettuce all month (and some of it has gone to seed now as we haven't got to it quickly enough). I can't quite believe the amount of purple basil - I really must get that into the freezer soon as it's starting to flower. The tomatoes have finally started setting fruit.
I feel like there's a mysterious art form to tomatoes that I haven't quite grasped yet. These are the plants a friend gave us - my own are still pretty small, although one of them now has a few flowers on.
The real stars of the greenhouse are the cucumbers.
I've never grown them before, and didn't expect them to germinate, so planted quite a few, and ended up with nine large plants in the greenhouse. It's been quite a battle to keep them watered, and as you can see in this picture, I haven't always managed it. They've had lots of flowers on though, and have started fruiting, which is very exciting.
At least it was exciting, until I picked my first one today and my goodness it's bitter! It was ok near the tip, but towards the end it became inedible. I've been reading up, and apparently this can be due to 'stress' - often by not having enough water. It seems my daily trekking up and down with the watering cans wasn't quite enough... Oh well. I've stepped up my watering regime (no idea if it will make a difference at this stage) and we'll hope for the best.
It has been pretty good to eat our own salads though.
Outside, some cheery visitors helped me dig more beds and we now have two types of beans, kale and rocket in the ground.
This picture is from about two weeks ago when the beans just started forming - they now look like proper French beans so I hope we'll be harvesting them soon too.
I've turned the compost again, and got another bucket of lovely compost out of it, which has gone into the veg beds.
It's been so dry though that a lot of the grass had just turned to hay in the heap, and it's been quite a chore to keep up with the watering. We don't have an outside tap near the veg, and it's barely rained since I installed my water butts, so I've been back and forth to the tap in the utility room, two watering cans at a time.
This week I finally thought about it properly and started saving my shower water.
It's no more effort (our bathroom is on the ground floor), and saves perfectly drinkable treated water from going to the plants while grey water washes out into the field (we're not on mains drainage here and the bath water doesn't go into the septic tank). I'm extremely glad there has been some rain this weekend - finally I can go back to just watering the plants in the greenhouse for a few days, and hopefully by then everything else will be a little stronger and able to fend for itself.
So there we are - a whizz round our garden in July. I wonder what August will bring? (Apart from too many courgettes, that is...)
We've had two lots of visitors this week - a friend on Wednesday and my mum this weekend. A good job really, as my ongoing list of Things That Need Doing was getting rather long.
Fortunately both visitors were willing volunteers, and between us all we've managed to get a few more plants out of the greenhouse. I'm not digging the beds - just scything the grass, lifting the very top layer of tangled roots with a pick axe, and then loosening the roots before digging a small hole and planting into compost. It's a reasonable compromise as it's too late for no dig this year without buying in a load of compost (which I'd rather not do).
We've had some wildlife visitors this week too, starting with a bird that flew into the window and sadly died. It's not the first we've had (although the last one survived) so we do need to investigate how to stop it.
The second visitor happily didn't crash into anything - it was just basking in the sunshine on a blanket in the living room.
I've never seen a lizard before so this was quite exciting.
Our third interesting wildlife experience this week was a buzzard, perched on a fence post, with two crows either side of it. We often see buzzards round here, and I've seen them being mobbed by crows, but never sitting this close to them. You'll have to excuse the rubbish picture - my camera isn't great for far away wildlife shots.
It's not all been wildlife-spotting and digging for our visitors - yesterday we went to a local village fete.
Today has been rather sedate in comparison, with a trip to the local tip, some more digging, and my mum cut the grass inside the small greenhouse with a pair of scissors (it was nearly up to the second shelf, so it was in dire need of a cut).
The sun's come out again now so I'm trying planning where to put a willow dome. At our old house we had a willow hedge in the garden, and I brought some cuttings with me - they've been busy growing in a bucket of water for the last five months so I really do need to plant them soon. I love willow domes, and never had room for one before, but I'm planning a nice big one now, maybe with a door facing east for the view, and west for the sunset.
Oh, and I forgot about the most exciting thing - chickens! We've been on the list for rescue hens for a while now, and finally we've got a date. Our new ladies will be joining us on 2nd September, so before then they'll need a home. They're barn hens, so while they haven't been in cages, they also have never been outside before. I've wanted chickens for many, many years so I think I'll be quite unbearably excited over the next six weeks while we get ready.
If you followed me over from my previous blog, you'll know that I'm an enthusiastic but somewhat slow and very sporadic runner. I frequently start running, keep it up for a few weeks, enter a ridiculous race (triathlon, marathon, series of trail races etc), then stop training, come last, have a nice day out and then not run again for several months.
It's a pattern that's repeated itself many, many times over the last fifteen years or so.
So when I found myself thinking about running again lately, I knew I was in trouble. My most recent foray into organised running was a series of trail races my sister and I did at the start of this year, but the longest of those was only four miles, so they weren't really that outlandish.
Still, that's not how the pattern starts. The pattern starts with 'I'm feeling a bit podgy/unfit', then 'hmm, I'm sure I was thinner (and I was definitely fitter) when I was running a lot'. Then I go for an experimental run, and sometimes it sticks and sometimes it doesn't.
This time against all my instincts I turned to the couch to 5k. I've avoided this so far - I've done two marathons and several triathlons and countless other races, so it feels rather demoralising to admit you're starting from the couch again. But you have to start where you are, and where I am definitely classes as 'couch'.
So I've just started week four, and I'm already running faster than I did when I was marathon training. I'm actively looking forward to going out for a run (although with this scenery, that's not really surprising).
Four weeks in is about that time in the cycle where I start being open to suggestion about entering a stupid race.
So, it seems my sister and I have entered an ultra marathon. Don't worry, it's not a scary one, not really. It's an out and back route of just under ten miles, and you can do it as many times as you like until the time runs out.
My longest marathon time is just under seven hours, and for this race we have fifteen. Easy peasy, and time for a nap in the middle too.
Plus it's flat, whereas my runs round here most definitely are not.
According to the cycle, I've probably got about three weeks of enthusiasm left before the novelty wears off, and I'm left with an inexplicable (and expensive) race entry for an event that fills me with equal amounts of dread and hilarity.
Wish me luck...
Where did the last two weeks go? It feels like forever since I've posted here. As always, I can see what I've been up to by scrolling through my photographs...
Hmm. But it hasn't all been entertaining visitors and eating. There's been plenty of pottering in the garden (although I'm saving all that for one post at the end of the month). I've also been creating us some footpath signs.
We don't get a lot of walkers here, maybe four or five lots in total over a sunny weekend. Most of them can read a map, and it's pretty obvious that the main footpath runs straight down our driveway. The side footpath isn't so obvious though until you're right on top of it, and a couple of groups of young people have gone wandering off into the wrong field (from which there isn't an exit), or stood around looking puzzled. So I've added a couple of yellow arrows and hopefully that will clear things up (I always appreciate clear footpath signs when I'm out walking - I hate standing in someone else's yard not knowing where I'm going!)
We've been making some progress inside the house too - although I use the term 'we' loosely as my involvement has mainly been providing the occasional cup of tea.
We're still struggling to find a builder who will remove that wall, so in the meantime Peter has removed everything else, including a false wall, the door frames, built in cupboards and old wiring. We can't use these rooms until this work is done so the rest of the house is full of boxes of stuff that should be up here. You can see how wonky the floor is.
All this sorting (and the sunshine) has at least given us a chance to air a few clothes that have been in boxes for a couple of years.
In slightly less alarming news, I've been on a few local outings. First off to a quarrying trade show - not my usual nice-trip-into-the-countryside but fascinating nevertheless.
The giant machines looked like toys inside the quarry. The main attraction for me though was this.
This is The Man Engine, and it was both extremely impressive and extremely beautiful. The tour has finished now, but if you do ever get a chance to see it I'd highly recommend it.
We've been to a couple of other localish events too - a school fair, and a Tudor fair, which I visited right at the end of the day, so was lucky enough to be given some home made butter to take home, wrapped in a butterbur leaf.
It was National Meadows Day recently so we also visited a farm with a hay meadow, and had a tour from the local Wildlife Trust to show us how to identify various grasses and flowers.
Quite a lot of the flowers had gone to seed because we've had such hot weather lately and so little rain. Everywhere here is dry (like much of the rest of the country) and we've had several moorland grass fires, which is very unusual round here. It's not often I find myself longing for rain, but lately I have been.
So that's where I've been - wandering about the countryside, drinking tea and looking at the view. And digging and planting and being at work of course, and various other things that I'll save for another post. In the mean time, I'll go back to hoping for a bit of rain soon.
Sit down and make yourself comfortable. I'm Jenni, and I write here about our new foray into country living, which includes growing food, knitting, baking, wandering around the fields, and seeing which local cafe serves the best cake.