Doesn't time fly in the garden at this time of year?
May started with a bit of harvesting. I planted this rainbow chard out really late last year (around October I think) and didn't hold out much hope, but here it is, and still going strong. There are a few leeks out there too that need bringing in soon.
The wild flowers are starting to appear, and some not-so-wild ones too.
I've made good progress spreading manure on my raised beds.
The seeds in the greenhouse are looking healthy, although none of them are ready to plant out yet. We're 1300ft above sea level here, and quite exposed and windy, so I'm keeping them inside for a while yet.
And of course the grass is growing in earnest now, so I'm out several mornings a week with the scythe trying to keep on top of it. It's best to scythe first thing in the morning because the moisture content of the grass is higher, so it's easier to cut, and also because it means I can leave the chickens safely shut in their run til I've finished.
They object rather vocally, but given their tendency to stand under my feet and interfere with whatever garden implement I'm using, I'm not risking them being out at the same time as the scythe. They cause enough trouble when I'm raking the grass cuttings up.
I'm hoping June will fill the water butts, and see at least some of the seedlings planted outside. And maybe we'll have our first evening meal in the garden, who knows?
Poor, long-neglected blog. But we won't dwell on that, instead we'll have a little poke around what's been happening in the garden over the last couple of months.
March started with frogspawn - not technically in the 'garden' as we don't have a pond (yet), but just outside the garden in a field. However I'm afraid it came to a not-too-happy end, as the sunshine was swiftly followed by frost, and then snow.
Since then though, the garden has been progressing nicely. In mid-April it started to feel like spring and arrived, and I got to work on the raised beds. We found a giant pile of old printer paper in the loft, slightly damp around the edges, and put it to work keeping the weeds down.
Our lovely neighbouring farmer brought us a pile of cow manure, so that got dumped on top, and then the chickens had a lovely time mixing it all around.
The plum blossom came out, and then was blown away again a few days later so I'm not sure how that will work out.
I moved the raspberries that I stupidly planted in the top of a field last year, and I finally got round to planting out the apple tree that I grafted about ten years ago, and that has been sitting in a pot ever since.
Poor Mildred managed to get herself into the leaf mould pile and then couldn't get out - I shouldn't laugh but there was no harm done and it was rather amusing. She wasn't impressed.
A friend helped me put up the plastic greenhouse (it blew down in October and I'd just thrown it into a shed). I planted a load of seeds, and then went away for a week with work. Sadly, the wind picked up and the whole thing blew down again.
I liked that little greenhouse, and it was great while we were waiting to acquire a more permanent solution, but they really are more suited to sheltered urban gardens than windy hilltops. I've now put the shelves from that up inside the glass greenhouse (which had no shelves), and we'll repurpose the plastic (which is now quite ripped) for something else.
So the seeds are all planted (again), the beds are prepared, the apple is now in blossom too, I've planted a load of bedding plants, and the compost bin still hasn't been fixed. Getting there... (slowly).
The garden is slowly starting to wake up. At the minute it feels manageable, but I know it won't be long before I'm overwhelmed by mowing and weeding and too many seedlings and Things To Do.
January was rather gloomy and snowy, and I didn't take many photographs. I did turn the compost, and spent an afternoon barrowing the almost-finished stuff to cover a layer of cardboard on the not-very-raised beds. The chickens were a menace, following me from place to place and eventually I attempted to confine them to one bed, thinking they could turn over the soil for me while I worked.
Needless to say, that didn't work, and first one, then another, then all of them escaped and went back to following me around.
I also planted an edible windbreak, consisting of damson, crab apple, blackthorn (sloes), gooseberry, blackcurrant, and elder. It's not very picturesque at the minute, but I have high hopes for a gin-filled future.
February has been somewhat brighter, although of course three weeks of that month were taken up with chicken rehabilitation so not much happened in the garden at all (apart from fortifying the chicken run). Still, towards the end of the month I did manage a few hours of working outside (and even more once I had the thrilling idea to put the table and chair inside the greenhouse.
Of course, the new chickens arrived towards the end of the month, and had their first few days here bathed in sunshine.
The snowdrops are dying off now, and the daffodils are starting to arrive along the drive. We're now two days into March, and today I spotted buds starting to appear on the willow and the fruit trees.
I'm not really prepared though. I never did properly sort out my rainwater collection plans, and when the plastic greenhouse blew down in the autumn I just threw the whole lot (including plant pots) into the garage, so that's going to be a job sorting that out.
Still, the rosemary in the greenhouse has flowers on it already - I'm delighted as I raised it from cuttings from the rosemary in our old garden (which never had flowers - perhaps this one is drier and warmer). That will need planting out somewhere at some point.
But not now. We're forecast rain and strong winds for the next few days so we've battened down the hatches in the chicken run, and I intend to stay inside and cosy by the fire (a real fire, now that I've reclaimed my study from the chickens).
I bet the garden will look very different by the end of March.
Goodness me, a lot happened in 2018. I've found myself quite overwhelmed with the thought of looking back. However, I've done summaries of the year on my blogs for several years now, and I didn't want to have a missing year, so here goes.
I started 2018 on my old blog, with a look back at 2017 - a year of DIY and bureaucracy as we finished decorating, sold our old house, and waited for the paperwork wheels to turn. I went for a nice snowy walk in the woods, and visited some local nature reserves.
I made my own lip balm (which I'm still using, that stuff lasts a long time), contemplated learning how to identify trees in winter (something I've still not done), and started running again (for probably the 100th time).
February was exciting, although it mostly didn't feel like it at the time. I started a series of trail races with my sister, and took her for a walk past our new house (which we still didn't own at that point, and which I was starting to feel quite daunted by). I cocked up and then rescued a knitting project (no change there then), and pondered what I'd been reading lately (I'd forgotten I used to do that).
Finally, in the middle of the month, we exchanged contracts on the new house, and celebrated with an almond croissant in our favourite cafe (which has since closed down, sob).
We finally moved on Monday 26th Feb, and by Tuesday 27th we were snowed in for several days.
March was a flurry of snow and moving boxes, and also moving blogs. I started this blog off by rambling about how we'd got here, then did a tour of our (rather soggy) fields, and our dilapidated outbuildings.
It snowed again, and we got stuck in the city for a couple of days.
I fell into a pattern of getting up early, and started trying to fix some of our tumbling down old dry stone walls. And we sneaked off and got married without telling anyone.
April started with yet more snow (yawn), a little bit more running, and some rather soggy cycling.
I built a plastic greenhouse, which then blew down, so I rebuilt it in a different place. I had a surprisingly crafty episode, knitting dishcloths and making my own shampoo bars.
I went on a dry stone walling course, and finally the sun came out and it started to feel a little bit like spring (we also started our mouse-eviction-programme) which lasted most of the month, fortunately with no casualties.
In May, the sun shone again (on a bank holiday no less!) and I acquired a push-along lawnmower and spent quite a bit of time lying on the newly mown grass.
We got a good view of a hare, and I bought a scythe and started making space in a field for growing squash. Big excitement at the end of the month as the neighbouring cows arrived to hang out in our fields for a few months.
June was a month of flowers. I could barely keep up with the growth in one greenhouse, and started to build another. I had a minor celebration as the second greenhouse went up, and I finally finished fixing one of the walls that had fallen down. I went on a very flowery bike ride, and the garden was abundant and beautiful.
I ignored my blog for the first couple of weeks of July while we had visitors, day trips, and started demolishing walls. I started running again and entered an ultra marathon. We had a lizard in the living room, and visited a local fair. July in the garden was super hot, and we let the cows into our final field as they were running out of grass elsewhere.
In August, we picked bilberries in the local lanes, and went for a day out to our nearest Wildlife Trust reserve. I recapped half a year of living in our new house, and took a fortnight off work, during which it rained rather a lot. The garden was lush and abundant.
In September, the chickens arrived! So very exciting. A cow got into the runner bean patch, we harvested a lot of courgettes, and nearly finished the outdoor chicken run. As usual, I went through a phase of getting out of the routine of posting here.
In October, I visited Biddulph Grange, pondered what on earth we were doing out here, and pottered around in the autumn sunshine. The chickens marauded round the garden as I laid compost ready for an edible windbreak. Work got rather busy, and I spent two weeks here on my own while Peter jetted off to the other side of the world, although I don't seem to have mentioned that here.
In November, I waffled a lot about chickens. I met a friend for lunch in the botanical gardens, and had a little trip to the seaside. I spent quite a lot of time outside, some of it in my pyjamas. It felt like it was foggy a lot.
In December, I lost track of time again, and caught up with myself by waffling on about the chickens (again). I finally finished a crocheted blanket I'd started in the summer, and we had an exciting day of freezing rain. I ended the year feeling rather poorly, but festive.
What an eventful year! It feels like it's flown past in a flash, and yet I also feel like we've lived here forever. So many things have happened that I haven't written about here too, and I've got a stack of photographs I've not shared.
There's no chance of me catching up now - here we are more than half of the way through January, I've not posted here at all, and the Christmas tree is still up.
Oh well. I'm planning a rather less eventful and more settled 2019. Right now the snow is falling, and I'm settling down to a bit of knitting (which I hope to finish before the summer). A friend is due to arrive tomorrow, but given the snow she might not make it. We'll see.
The weather round here lately has been rotten. Soggy and grey, with a nice bit of freezing rain thrown in for good measure.
I don't remember having experienced freezing rain before. It freezes pretty much as soon as it lands, meaning ever-growing icicles, sheet ice pavements, and cars that seem to have been entirely dipped in glass.
Not pleasant, but fortunately short-lived, and back to normal rain plus early morning fog, which I'm slowly getting used to driving to work in.
We did have a bit of sunshine at the weekend, although I've had a rotten cold all week and couldn't really appreciate it. I did get outside for an hour though and tried to do something with the tatty flower bed in the front garden.
This bit of the garden is strange, as there's actually not really much soil. The area under the grass is asphalt, all the way up to the house. The 'lawn' is just what would grow down the middle of your drive if you didn't walk on it for a while - the soil underneath is about an inch deep. The bottom terrace is just filled with stones, and the top one only has a few inches of soil.
I'm not sure what my plans are for this space next year - it already has ferns, roses, a few herbs and some flowers so it may just get left as it is for another year. But it's had a bit of a tidy up in the meantime (no 'after' pictures as I got too cold and went back inside and it's still not quite finished).
The chicken enjoyed marauding round while I was out there pottering.
It's quite difficult to get a decent photograph of them as they move around so much. They're slowly regrowing their feathers, and have created a nice little dust bathing area in a corner of the garden. Of course it's more mud than dust at this time of year, so they generally look a bit grubby.
In other garden news, some more of the barn fell down last week.
Fortunately we weren't anywhere near it (and have been steering clear for a while as it looked like it was about to fall). Such a shame, but without complete rebuilding at this stage I'm not sure what else we can do other than let it fall.
Walls have been coming down inside too - deliberately this time (thank goodness). Our kitchen is finally one room made from two, and while there is still a long way to go, it's pretty exciting to have a table in there (a ludicrously enormous table, but it's solid oak and beautiful and was free and who am I to say no?)
There's a lot of work still to do, but it won't be done before Christmas. Very little will be done before Christmas, in fact, as I'm full of cold and feeling rather sorry for myself. I've hardly bought any presents, and have made barely any plans (other than another attempt at an ultra marathon on Thursday 27th - how did that happen?)
Hey ho. The Christmas tree is up, although I have so far failed to take a decent photograph of it. I've booked a fortnight off work, which I am VERY ready for. Some of my fruit trees have arrived, which means I'll be out with a spade, probably on Christmas day at the rate I'm going. And I've already started thinking about plotting and scheming for next year - my favourite thing to do over this wintry fortnight. Especially now I can sit at my new kitchen table to do it.
Someone asked the other day if this was our first autumn in this house, and I had to pause for a minute to think. Of course it is, because we only moved at the end of February, but it feels so familiar somehow, yet new at the same time.
I spend so much more time outside here than I ever did before. When we lived in the city, I went outside if I was going somewhere, or for a walk or a run or a bike ride, and I sat in the tiny garden if it was warm, but on cold, damp, foggy days I didn't spend much time outside if I could help it.
Here it's different.
My days start when I let the chickens out. On the days I drive to the office, I open the hen house door before I leave at 6am, and because it's still dark they just make gentle little chicken noises and stay warm and cosy inside.
When I'm working at home, or at the weekend, I let them out before I have my own breakfast, which means I often end up outside at 7.30am in my wellies and fluffy dressing gown, being thankful that there is no road past our house (there is a public footpath though, which I must remember when the weather starts to improve).
Autumn is the season of mist, it seems. Very often in the morning it's foggy, and we can barely see the end of our drive, let alone across the fields. I've grown accustomed to driving to work slowly, carefully, following the edge of the road until suddenly the fog breaks and I can see again.
We don't let the chickens out when it's foggy. Maybe we're paranoid, but the local farmer tells us the fox often strikes in the fog and I'm not taking any chances. So they stay in their run until it lifts.
I'd love it if my chicken run looked like something out of Country Living magazine, but it doesn't. It's strong, and tall, and (hopefully) fox proof. They have a cosy house with nest boxes and a perch, and clean water, constant access to food, and now they have an outdoor shelter to protect them from rain and wind. Each day I try to find something to entertain them - a fork full of compost, or an armful of leaves, or a pile of hay for them to scratch around in. Mostly they roam free for a few hours in the afternoon, and if I'm here and not working, I roam out there with them.
Having the chickens pottering about encourages me to get out and potter about too, even if the weather's not great. In the last couple of weeks I've been turning the compost, and using the finished (or nearly finished) pile as mulch in the area I'm going to use as an edible windbreak.
The chickens like to help, and are a complete nuisance. Whatever we're doing, they're there, under our feet, wanting to know what's going on. They wait until I have a fork full of compost (seemingly trying to get skewered in the process), and then stand on the fork and flick the compost off. At one point I had to shut them back in their run just so I could get something useful done.
It doesn't matter what dangerous implement I have (pitchfork, shovel, scythe) they seem determined to stand in the way of it.
But mostly we get on fine, and they rootle around in the leaves while I shift wheelbarrows of mulch, fix walls, and do a bit of light weeding.
I do love being outside, and I love having an excuse to be outside. There's always something to do here, whatever the weather. I draw the line at pottering in the pouring rain (so do the chickens), but otherwise an extra layer and a woolly hat makes everything cheerful.
At the minute my pottering is mostly restricted to weekends, as my work schedule has me driving to the city every day (which was NOT part of the plan when we moved here, but never mind). I leave in the dark, and mostly arrive home in the dark too. So at the weekend I make sure both me and the chickens are outside for as much time as possible, even if I am just sitting in their run having a nice cup of tea.
Oh dear, I'm not doing very well at keeping up with these monthly garden posts, am I?
Never mind, here we are at the end of October (I'm still not quite sure how we got this far through the year so quickly). We've been here eight months now, and the garden is winding down for the winter. I've pulled up the courgette plants, and the beans have now finished so last weekend I pulled them out too.
I'm making plans for either a small forest garden here, or an edible windbreak. I need to sit down with a scale map of the whole garden (which I made a few weeks ago) and test what each will look like. In the meantime, I've removed the wood from round the beds (which were only ever temporary) and am laying cardboard and covering it with compost.
The compost has been a real success. I made the bins quite soon after we moved in (although they've since been partially dismantled to pilfer materials for the chicken run), and I've had plenty of good compost from them already. I'm currently emptying the bin on the right to use as mulch for the forest garden/windbreak area, and I'll turn the middle bin into the right one. It's filling up even faster now I've got the chicken bedding going in it too.
The chickens are extremely nosy and like to stick their beaks in whatever is going on, especially if it involves soil or compost being turned over. It can make gardening rather difficult at times, and I've been known to shut them back in their run when they're being a bit too pesky.
Elsewhere in the garden, when my mum was here last weekend we collected a load of leaves to make leaf mould.
I also had a minor, but expected, garden disaster when my plastic greenhouse blew down in the wind. It happened before when I first built it, but after digging it into the ground, the foundations were much firmer and it's lasted the summer nicely. However, it was no match for Storm Callum a couple of weeks ago, and while the foundation remained in the ground, the rest ended up in an untidy heap, scattering plastic pots around the field.
Surprisingly most of the poles aren't damaged, so I've stored it in the garage in case I decide to rebuild it in the spring. Fingers crossed the glass greenhouse doesn't go the same way.
My other project this month has been rebuilding this wall which collapsed behind the garage.
It's just a small gap, and hasn't taken long, but I've not had much time so I've still not finished. There are a couple of gaps that have appeared in the walls between our fields, but this one is next to the footpath so I thought I'd sort it out first for the sake of neatness.
Fortunately none of ours that have collapsed are holding animals in - although these two wonderfully cute sheep did appear on our driveway a couple of weeks ago.
After herding them up and down our drive a few times, I confess I abandoned them when they ran off into a nearby field (not the one they came out of, but I was running late for work and they were nowhere near a proper road so I figured they wouldn't get too far). I'm glad to see they're now back where they belong.
It tried to snow for the first time yesterday. There wasn't much, fortunately, but the biting wind has taken me right back to when we moved in here. I'd got complacent over the summer, forgetting just how icy cold it was. We've been on the phone to the plumber trying to sort out putting radiators in our three rooms that bizarrely don't have them.
The autumn weather is giving us spectacular scenery though. The valley fills with mist sometimes in the early morning, and sometimes I'm even up early enough to see it (although I confess I'm usually outside in my dressing gown letting the chickens out - thank goodness we don't live on a main road).
It's such a pleasure to watch the garden change through the seasons. I wonder what this winter will bring?
I did mean to write another post before joining in with this week's Six on Saturday, but somehow time just slipped away. Let's begin with some harvesting this week shall we? I'm delighted to see this round courgette - I was starting to think they wouldn't appear at all.
And more harvesting in and around the greenhouse - two types of tomatoes and two types of beans.
Number three is my willow dome. It's not much of a dome at the minute, but come spring it'll grow into a beautiful, swishing, swirling space to lie in and look at the view. This willow was harvested from our old tiny city garden, where I unwisely planted a willow hedge, then spent several years cutting it incessantly. These wands spent five months living in a bucket of water, so I hope they appreciate their now unlimited space.
Number four is the chicken run, which seems to get both closer and further away from being ready with every passing day. It now has four solid walls, is entirely fox proof (I hope) round the bottom with a two foot skirt of wire dug into the ground, topped with heavy stones. It's painted on the inside, and most of the outside, and just needs a roof. We have all the materials - and we also have 'light rain and a gentle breeze' which turns our corrugated plastic sheets into sails. Sigh.
Still, let's have number five as the chickens, who seem perfectly happy in their temporary home in the stable.
And finally, number six is the teensiest butternut squash I have ever seen. I'm delighted with this too - like the round courgette, I thought it would never happen. Still, it'll have to get a bit bigger before I bother cooking it.
So there we are, a glimpse of my garden this week. Do pop over to The Propagator's blog and see who else has joined in.
This week I'm joining in with Six on Saturday, a weekly cheerful game where people post six things that are happening in their gardens that week.
So here are my six.
This is by far the most exciting thing round here this week.
I've had them six days now and we're all settling in nicely. Mildred is a bossy boots, Luna isn't far behind, Hermione is being stoic down at the bottom of the pecking order, and Maud has a sore foot. Someone keeps kicking over the feeder, and nobody's got the hang of sleeping on a perch yet (although they are now going into the house themselves which is a start).
They're temporarily living in the stable block, which leads us neatly onto...
2. A not-quite-finished chicken run
All the pieces are finished now, we just need to make a few adjustments to the levelling of the base, fit the pieces together, and put enough wire and stones round the bottom to stop the fix getting in. We'd planned to do that this weekend, but sadly it's raining so much it's like being in the shower out there.
3. My sorry looking greenhouse
Oh dear. On the left are nine cucumber plants in too-small pots, which I didn't manage to keep watered enough throughout the heatwave. They still produced plenty of cucumbers though, and we've pickled quite a few. I had to remove the mesh they were growing up to use in the chicken run, and I don't think they're going to recover.
On the right are tomatoes, four I grew from seed and the two larger were given to us by a friend. I clearly haven't got the hang of tomatoes yet, as apparently hers are prolific and glorious, and mine are few and far between. We have had a few yellow ones though. I need to start my own earlier next year.
4. Purple basil
I grew this from seed, and I love it. I like to eat basil, but it's also a beautiful plant, especially now it's flowering. I've put some of the leaves in the freezer but never got round to making pesto. Oh well. I'll definitely be growing plenty of this next year.
I'm growing two types, a red and white speckledy type given to me by my auntie, which has cheery orange and white flowers, and some climbing french beans, which have beautiful lilac flowers. I have nine of each, and they've been reasonably prolific. I've eaten them almost every day but not really had enough to give away or freeze. I'm planning a veritable bean forest next year.
6. Rainbow chard
I love rainbow chard, but mine has languished in too-small pots all summer and only got planted out a couple of weeks ago, after slugs decimated the kale. So far it's holding up.
So there we are, a swift wander round my garden on a soggy autumnal day. If you'd like to see Six on Saturday from other people, head over to The Propogator's blog.
August has been rather soggy in comparison to June and July. The garden has flourished and it's been a month of harvests - cucumbers, yellow courgettes, green beans, basil and a tiny bit of rocket.
We've not had a glut of anything yet, and I don't think we will this year. We eat courgette most days, but I've kept a watchful eye on them so none of them have grown too enormous. We've grown plenty of cucumbers, but we've been picking them small and pickling them (none of the jars of pickles make it past the end of the week though so this isn't a winter storage strategy).
There are plenty of things that haven't done so well. None of the other squashes have even fruited yet, and we've only had a few tomatoes ripen so far. The cucumber plants are looking decidedly yellowy (although still producing plenty of cucumbers). And the kale was completely decimated by caterpillars.
I didn't get round to planting out my poor pot bound rainbow squash until this morning, and I imagine they'll have been munched by slugs by tomorrow.
There's plenty I haven't told you about in this whistlestop tour of our garden in August. The shrivelled tomato plants that never made it past the seedling stage, just stood slowly drying out in the little greenhouse. The tiny woody beetroots, that also never made it out of their seedling pots. Piles of sticks, empty plant pots, tools not put away.
But let's not look back - let's look forward, and with great excitement, because our chickens arrive on Sunday! We're rescuing four ladies through the British Hen Welfare Trust, which rehomes hens who have come to the end of their commercially productive lives and would otherwise be sent to slaughter. Our hens have been producing 'barn eggs' - they've not been in cages, but they also have never been outside. We're daunted (having never been responsible for anything other than ourselves for more than a few days at a time), but we'll do our best to give a few hard worked ladies a cheerful retirement.
Best get on with finishing building their house...
Sit down and make yourself comfortable. I'm Jenni, and I write here about our new forray into country living, which includes growing food, knitting, baking, wandering around the fields, and seeing which local cafe serves the best cake.