Saturday 27 May 2017

Of apricots and knees

Chelsea Flower Show has been a visual treat hasn't it. I didn't get to go, but I've seen the odd bit on tv, in between going to copious amounts of cricket and athletics. The above is a garden we visit regularly that was a Chelsea garden a few years ago. It was moved, and it's settled into its new home beautifully. The planting is still doing well and it looks as lovely as ever. That's a wild duck on the water there. It's a rain garden, designed to deal with rain and also to be good for wildlife. The little building is a repurposed shipping container.

Sadly the garden and the plot don't quite measure up. Once Chelsea wears off it'll all be fine though, I just need to stop seeing the stars.

See? All terribly normal. Never mind, normal is good no?

I spent a hot sweaty afternoon yesterday at the Minor Injuries Unit with the middle boy who fell off of his scooter. His knee swelled up horribly. We're waiting for a hospital appointment now to see if there's a problem. I have everything crossed - he has some away things coming up that he'll have to miss if it's not good news.

Do any of you know why I might have a tin of apricot halves in the cupboard? I seem to remember I was wandering around in blogland and I saw something delicious and rushed out and bought the apricots to make it. No idea what it might have been now or where I saw it. I don't think it was an apricot upside-down cake. Maybe a tarte tatin? If anyone happens to remember seeing apricot deliciousness somewhere perhaps you could point me in the right direction.

The littlest boy is in birthday countdown mode. In fact the excitement is so intense this year (puppy - need I say more) that sometimes we can barely breathe. Bearing in mind it's half term now and everyone is home and one of us can't get out and about much it might be a bit of a long week. I am bracing myself.

Saturday 20 May 2017

Raindrops on roses

Thank you all for your dog advice, it is very much appreciated. I have been reading the manual in the chilly dawn hours and gradually learning about it all. Excitement is building, as you can imagine. And I'm trying to get things done now that might not get done later.

In the garden I've planted out the tomatoes and repotted a mint plant. Mint tends to be neglected a bit I think. When I went to Jekka's Herb Farm last year Jekka had the most glorious big round bushes of mint. She asked how many people had mint at home. Just about everyone stuck their hands up. Then she asked how many people's mint looked like hers. All the hands went down. She made the point that with a bit of care, repotting, mulching, that sort of thing, mint can look amazing. So when I saw my neglected pot of mint looking quite healthy I thought it deserved a decent pot and some new soil. I think I'll pinch the tips out and see if I can get it to stay bushy, rather than shooting for the sky.

The great tit chicks are no longer in the nest. To be honest I've no idea what happened to them. One minute the parents were in and out constantly, the next minute, radio silence. I think I saw a fledgling or two in the garden, so I'm hoping for the best.

The blackbirds are driving me to distraction, pulling the top layer of soil out of the pots and flinging it round the garden. I swept up at 6.30 the other morning. By the time I got back from the school run it was messy again. And of course once the blueberries are ripe they'll be here in full force. As I said to the children, if I catch one, I'm putting it in a pie.

A weekend of football and cricket awaits. I may try and sneak out to a local plant sale later, you know, just to look. I do love a nice ordinary weekend with local pottering and not too much rushing around. Any grand plans this weekend, or will it be an ordinary one? Whichever it is, enjoy. CJ xx

Monday 15 May 2017


It's the time of year when tiny, needy plants are taking up every available surface. I went too soon with the sweet peas and they perished in the cold and the wind. I bought a couple of replacement pots and separated them out into new pots, two per pot. The runner beans that I direct sowed are also looking miserable, whereas the six leftover seeds that I popped into the greenhouse in pots are doing brilliantly. I think I'll start them that way next year, although space is always an issue.

I planted out nine dahlia plants yesterday that I grew for the Blooms for Bees dahlia trial. The idea is that you grow three red dahlias, three white and three purple, then monitor the bee activity on each colour. And I think I'll need to identify the bees too, which might prove tricky. I'm terrified the snails will devour the dahlias before they get to the flower stage. I've got a couple of back-ups in each colour just in case.

I made the most of the last dry day yesterday and pottered around outside potting things up - a nice container of flowers, a mint that I had that had grown nicely has been treated to a nice new pot and I'm trying to persuade the white wisteria to climb the back of the house. I even cut the grass and gave it a feed before the rain came. It's one of my favourite things to do some gardening then watch the rain come down and water everything. It's been so dry I can almost hear all the green things sighing with pleasure.

On to the thing with which I need help. You may recall me mentioning that the littlest boy was to have a dog of his very own on his tenth birthday, which is just over a year away. Well, the date has been moved forward (at very little notice) to his ninth birthday and I am in a state of panic. It's less than three weeks away and as of right now I know almost nothing about puppies. Except that they chew everything, roll in unmentionable things, keep you awake all night and are harder work than a toddler. Did I miss anything?

I am the sort of person who likes to memorise the manual before I do anything. So you can imagine that I am in a state of panic. Here are my dog questions:

Oh, d'you know, I don't even know where to start. What do I need to know? Dog owners out there, help! I have explained to the littlest boy that a dog won't magically appear on his birthday, but we will start to look at that point. And that it will be a family dog as well and he is to share nicely and let the dog love his brothers too.

What we need most is a dog who adores him, because I know how much he will adore the dog. And one with a lot of bouncy energy that will run around with him and play. Terrier? Spaniel? Flandoodle? (Yes, that's a thing). I read somewhere that I will need an extra four hours a day to look after a dog. Okay then... Your best tips please. If anyone needs me I will be reading The Happy Puppy Handbook.

PS. A quick shout out to our local(ish) football team, Forest Green Rovers, who are now in the Football League following a thrilling victory over Tranmere Rovers at Wembley yesterday. A great achievement for a team from a little place, and all the more special because of their great green credentials - they use green energy, organic grass fertilised with cow manure, serve vegan food, give their players electric cars to drive and will be building their new stadium out of wood. They won an eco-management award in 2012 and they'll be opening an eco education centre at their new premises. So thrilled they're doing well.

Saturday 6 May 2017


Stolen lilacs. They're just so gorgeous. The tree is in a playing field near here. The local authority hacked it right down a couple of years ago and now it is more bushlike in form. It had quite a few blooms this year though, so I filched a few. The rest of the flowers are from the back lane. Clematis, cow parsley and hawthorn.

It's been a busy week here, but not in a particularly productive way. Lots of rushing around. Lots of instances of me telling people to get ready and then finding that they are still not dressed and it's time to go. You have ten minutes somehow translates to It's perfectly fine to carry on lolling about, you can of course get dressed, pack your stuff and get your shoes on in twenty-three seconds. Lots of cricket, it's that time of year. I went to my first match of the season on a lovely village cricket pitch. Swifts were flying overhead, there was a slight evening chill and the gentle thwack of leather on willow, you know how it goes. Slightly marred by a cloud of midges, but I found that when I moved away from the gathered children it was fine. The midges were sticking closely to the small people.

On the way home there was the most spectacular sunset. The whole countryside was lit up in pink. The apple blossom in gardens and orchards was glowing white against the warm evening light. Stone walls were a soft pink. There was a gap in the clouds just above the sun and shafts of pink light were dropping down to the horizon. The edges of the clouds were gilded with rose gold. As we drove we spotted the sun just behind some trees. It was absolutely enormous and a flaming apricot colour. Even the children were impressed. I didn't shut up about it all for a good ten minutes. The middle boy said, "Mum, d'you think this is why you get lost all the time?" Could be, could be.

I finally sat down to do some work after lunch yesterday after a ridiculous morning of chasing my tail. I'd only been there a couple of minutes when there was a dull bang. I stuck my head up like a meerkat and listened for a bit. Nothing. I happened to glance out of the window and saw a pigeon sat on the little patio wall looking a bit sorry for himself. He must have flown into an upstairs window in the high winds. I watched him for a while. He could walk perfectly well but looked a bit sleepy. In fact after a few minutes he settled into a doze. Of course, I kept looking up to check on him every two minutes. Eventually he woke up again and walked up to the other end of the wall. I started worrying that if the children saw him they'd insist on a full dramatic rescue. I started googling injured pigeon and RSPCA. Luckily the next time I looked up he'd flown off. Phew. Drama avoided. But of course that was most of the afternoon gone.

In the garden, bees have been working hard for weeks pollinating the blueberries. I can see them from the kitchen, there are at least a couple out there at any given moment.

The great tits are working equally hard feeding their chicks. I shall miss all this spring life when it moves on, although hopefully they'll all still be around somewhere.

Surprisingly there are quite a few peaches on the peach tree. I don't bother hand-pollinating it any more, but I have lifted the crown of it so the peaches will hopefully be further away from flying footballs/cricket balls/tennis balls/frisbees.

The peach leaf curl is the worst it's ever been this year though. It's a fungal infection that appears on the new growth.

The dry weeks haven't helped at all - to avoid it the tree needs to be out of all rain from November to mid-May. In the past I've picked off the affected leaves, but for a couple of years now there have simply been too many. I'll just have to hope that the tree stays vigorous enough to produce peaches.

The garlic is looking slightly odd.

It has lots of fine grass-like growth popping out of it. Is this something to do with flowering I wonder? No doubt time will tell. I bought new garden shop bulbs to plant this year and I'm growing it at home because there's been terrible rust down at the allotment for the past couple of years. Hopefully the new healthy stock and a change of location will help. Rust is another fungal infection which will also weaken the plant and lead to small or unformed bulbs.

Finally a little garden triumph.

My white wisteria has flowered at last. It was a tiny plant when I bought it, and it's still fairly small in the scheme of things, but there are two or three flower stems. I have grand plans to train it up the back of the house. At the moment it's headed up a fence so a job for this weekend will be redirecting it. The winds have also knocked over the hazel tripod that the tayberry is growing up, so there's that too. And the grass. And, oh, you know how it is out there at this time of year, it's all going on. Wishing you a good weekend with a little garden or outdoor time. CJ xx

Monday 1 May 2017

Eggs away

Windowsill salad - pea shoots grown from Sugar Ann peas in an inch of compost. A quick salad fix for when there's not much outside.

Out in the garden I've planted out the sweet peas. It was so dry until today, when there was some sort of monsoon hailstorm. The lettuces and radishes looked pretty flat afterwards but no doubt they'll bounce back. The rain was sorely needed, the grass round here had started to go brown.

Down at the allotment the rhubarb stems are suddenly incredibly short. I'm guessing that's to do with lack of water as well. Hopefully today's rain will have helped. I put out some dahlias and noticed that they'd been nipped by the cold weather.

Back in the garden the great tit chicks have hatched and the parents are making frequent caterpillar runs. I'd love to know how many are in there and how far along they are. I wonder if we'll be lucky enough to see them fledge.

I've been slowly knitting a little here and there on a small blanket. I have a ball of pink to add in that I'm looking forward to. I don't get to experience much pink here in this house of boys. It will make a nice change.

Isn't the blue egg divine? I found it when I was walking the littlest boy to his football training the other day. Somehow I managed to hold it in my hand for an hour and a half without squashing it. I'm thinking it might be a song thrush egg.

Thank you all so much for your lovely comments on my last post about being organised and making time and getting things done. They all helped, and I've read them through several times. They've given me some tips and ideas. I've started by getting the housework out of the way today, tomorrow I shall have more time for writing I hope.

Wishing all a good and productive week. CJ xx