Friday, 28 March 2008

Cleanliness is next to Godliness

Another horrendous day weather-wise, too wet and windy to attempt anything at the allotment. So, I thought I review this week's gardening ventures instead. Not only did I manage to plant 8 more Crocosmia and my three inch high Japanese maple (not all free gifts are that wonderful...), I also cleaned out the pond. I know you'll be aching for the fascinating details, so here goes. I cleared the blanket weed using an old broom handle and the Canadian pond weed with a seive, and then removed all floating debris with a gloved hand. Then I sat back in my little wooden seat drinking my morning coffee. As luck would have it the sun came out, so I was left gazing at the glistening reflections of my daffs and my little statue as the birds twittered merrily overhead. Oh how lovely it is to have a pond, even in the depths of winter it's so much more interesting than a mass of shingle. William Blake may have been able to see the universe in a grain of sand, but I sure can't. Give me instead some Pre-Raphaelite watery depths! Suddenly Ophelia was floating amongst my dead reeds (my pond is a little on the small side to fit a copiously dressed adult woman in, but you have to remember they were smaller in those days...) Feeling soothed and strengthened, I at last ventured indoors to find I had received a Newletter from Spalding Bulbs (you'll remember that I am a Most Valued Customer). This was also offering advice about spring cleaning ponds. It said that if you had allowed any soil to enter your pond over winter, you must take up the entire pond and start again! Knowing full well that at least a ton of God's earth had slid that way only last month, I felt doomed. Surely I wasn't going to have to put up with the builders and their awful jokes all over again? Then I realised they were concerned because soil in the pond turns the water green, but I know I already have the antidote to that: it's Nishikoi Goodbye Green Water and it comes in delightful green buckets, which, if you recall, are so useful for removing frogs from the living room. Well, they used to be. I'm afraid I have now to admit to a sad fact. I found one of the frogs last week, its back legs poking out from under the washing machine, dead. And no, it hadn't been harmed by the cats. I think it was just unable to reverse (an awful evolutionary lack, like the intelligence thing). I've been very sad about this, especially since this week I found eggs laid by Mrs Frog in the water. Even though sex isn't up to much in frogs (just a quick grope under the armpits with the swollen finger pads, if I remember correctly from O-level biology), she must have missed at least the ceremony of the yearly mate. Unless God intervenes with an Immaculate Conception, I guess this means I won't be having tadpoles this year. Life in the Wild is so tough! Oh by the way, there's a new RHS website that offers a lot of advice on building a pond (I wish I'd known about it before I turned my back garden into a mud bath...), as well as being a wealth of information on wildlife gardening---it's

Friday, 21 March 2008

The Byrds

I'm sorry to have to report a serious error made in this blog only a week or two ago. You may recall, that, thanks to advice from an ardent ornithologist, I advised you all to put Niger Seeds out for the birds. It turns out these are not Niger but Nyjer...Well how was I to know my expert was dyslexic? Anyway, this news is brought to you thanks to an excellent little publication "Thompson and Morgan: The Bird Care Collection, 2008 edition" (also available online at ). What a treasure trove this is...and a wealth of information! For instance, did you know that Robins prefer backless boxes, whilst tits go for Birch Logs? Or that you can buy a feeder designed specially for Nyjer seeds: the Nyjer Challenger Feeder? This indeed is the way to ensure that Goldfinches and Siskins have a 'comfortable' eating experience. La Piece de Resistance, however must be the Bird Lodge on the back page, offering 'three feeding aspects in one' ie peanut and seed feeders as well as a water dish (hey, but surely, if you call it a Lodge, there must be somewhere to stay for the night?). Anyway, all this has left me feeling that no bird in its right mind will want to nest in the rather elaborate miniature log cabin that we erected on the allotment during Nesting Box Week. What will set up house there I wonder...A set of line-dancing harvest mice...? OK, so why all this tittle tattle, you ask. It's too bloody cold to go out, that's why! It's Good Friday, and I was supposed to be going to see Jesus getting crucified in the market place (should think He'll catch his death of cold, poor sod...). But I really can't face going out. No allotment either of course. But more and more baby plants are arriving on my doorstep. They need potting on, but I've nowhere to keep the bigger pots here. Tomorrow we're expecting heavy snow, H isn't coming until Sunday, and I'm running out of food....Help!

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Bin Laden

I don't believe it. 8.00 am and I'm up! Of course, it's because it's a Tuesday, so I'm under a GREAT DEAL OF PRESSURE. Those of you who are old hands at this blog will realise this is because it is bin day. For all you newcomers I'll now try to give some kind of impression of what green living is really like at the coalface, as we say. Round these parts we have large black and green wheelie bins plus two open plastic containers. Collections take part every other week. The Council tells us we must put one bin and one container out each week and have them ready on the pavement directly in front of our houses by 7.00 am. (This despite the fact that no-one usually arrives until at least 9.00). OK, you think, put them out the night before. Well, this is FROWNED UPON ( in case blind people are walking up the street, I kid you not...), plus if it is windy it causes the contents of the containers to be strewn across the street the next day. Consequently each Monday evening you can hear the residents manfully wheeling their bins into a position just behind the collection point ready for the full assault at dawn. Experience has taught me that leaving a bin a foot out of place causes it to rest unemptied....(See previous entrees for dire results of this). When we all arrive home after a hard day's work, the first thing we need to do is search for our bins and containers, which can be anywhere and in any position in the surrounding neighbourhood. And for this I pay full Council Tax, even though my husband is only here at weekends! Yes, I'm bitter....and growly this morning because, once again the chemist got my HRT prescription wrong. Blimey, if I took the pills they gave me I'd grow breasts the size of the biomes at the Eden Project ( :a jolly good GREEN place to visit, incidently). Anyway, what is so incredible, is that round here we are all playing this bin game with 100% obiedience to the crazy rules. If we're prepared to go this far, I think it shows we ordinary folk really do care...

Monday, 17 March 2008

Winning Ways

What a weekend! On Saturday H and I went to view a house that I'm mad keen on but he wasn't sure about. Sunday was all about WINNING HIM ROUND. It was a weird day actually. Just as I entered church one of the wardens swept past me, shouting, 'I'm sick of being treated like a complete moron. It's too bloody loud, I tell you! I'm leaving!' Problems with the music evidently. Of course, everyone was shaken, and some in tears, so it made carrying on with the service (wildly celebrating Christ's entry into Jerusalem) a bit tough. But we soldiered on. Husband, too, was blustery and irritable, as all misgivings he had about the house were firmly put aside. I blame it all on this awful stormy weather we've suffered all week. Not a single client turned up to the allotment on Friday. Depression seemed to be hanging over all of us. Our leader was wingeing on and on about how mouldy the potatoes sold to him by the Head of the Allotments (whom I call The Curmudgeon) are. I kept telling him, 'Look you need to talk to her about it...there she is over there..' He pretended he couldn't see her. Still sore from the telling off she gave him about his fire last week. Anyway, myself and another volunteer managed to finish the largest hotbed, and clear another area ready for some asparagus I've ordered. You'll be pleased to hear the cutting-edge laundry basket hotbed has produced a great display of coriander. So it works! The garden's looking great---the slideshow hardly does it justice. The Vincas are producing a lovely carpet of mauvy-blue in the darkest corner, and the scented narcissi near the house are just lovely. Oh, nearly forgot to tell you, I got the winner in the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle and third in the Gold Cup so won a nice sum of money. Another hot tip for those of you trying to feed your gardening addiction on a limited budget. Would you all be more interested in a betting blog than an organic gardening one, I wonder?

Monday, 10 March 2008

A Blustery Day

Golly, what a day! Severe weather warnings across the country. My little garden is in the midst of a whirlwind. Bits flying everywhere. Guess what was the first to go? The silly bird seed bells, of course. So much for conservation. But wait, I hear you say, what happened on the allotment on Friday? Lots. First of all I found my dear friend had taken an overdose since I had been away and had spent some time in intensive care. (Yes, folks, what we do on this allotment, is actually serious stuff: we are dealing with very vulnerable people). Anyway, she was, as you can imagine, not feeling too bright, and certainly did not want anything to stressful to be happening around her. We started quietly filling in the largest Victorian hotbed as she told me what had been bothering her. Suddenly, we became aware that, on the other side of the allotment, and very close to where one of our neighbours had placed his new shed covered with plastic sheeting, flames were leaping into the air. Our esteemed leader had chosen to set light to an enormous pile of rubbish in a high wind. Fellow gardeners, thinking that such a conflagration could only have been started by one of the mad members of the group, ran to our plot in horror. My friend and I hid in our ditch and contemplated covering ourselves in the rest of the soil so that no-one would notice us. I tell you, our leader is embarrassing at times! Luckily, the flames failed to reach the plastic by inches and within half an hour or so the blaze was in hand. Later, over coffee I asked our leader what on earth had possessed him to light a fire in such conditions. "I don't know", he said, "I wasn't going to light it until next week. Then suddenly, I though, why not?...The next think I knew I had the matches in my hand and...." After that we sipped our drinks in silence.
There's nothing like horticultural therapy at times, I can tell you. Oh by the way, I hope you like the new slideshow of the garden. I just wish I could call it something else other than 'slideshow'. If anyone knows the secret of this, please tell me.

Monday, 3 March 2008

I left my brain in San Francisco...

Another week passed with no allotment trip! This week I have been suffering from a heavy cold. I was still ill at the weekend, and by this time absolutely frantic that my feathered friends were expiring in their thousands just outside my window...I tried to put this across gently to H, who said I was being absurd. I insisted he pay a visit to the garden centre and gave him an extensive list of the modern wild bird's nutritional needs, which (thanks to recent e-mail activity with a keen ornithologist) I now realise includes a ready supply of Niger Seeds. He said he would return with a set of the cheapest fat balls. If these were good enough for the wild birds in southern France he said, they were good enough for here. He returned about an hour later, somewhat discheveled (it was Mother's Day, and things had evidently been frantic in the garden the way, any advise on spelling 'discheveled' will be gratefully received), carrying a pack of coconut shells and two enormous bell-shaped objects, like the things you put in budgie cages but about 1000 times bigger. I commented that this seemed a very different purchase to the one he'd suggested, and, typically, he then tried to pretend that he hadn't gone completely mad in the shop, but had retained his Left Brain Logicality at all times. The bells, he explained would attract a Completely Different Sort Of Bird to the garden. Well, he's hung them up and I'm waiting for CDSOB to turn up. I just hope I don't get done for growing marijuana plants which is what happened the last time I put up 'interesting' wild bird food (I kid you not!). This morning, trying to preempt the snow which is evidently going to bring the entire country to a halt later in the day, I went out and planted some Lily bulbs. Evidently these can be planted in shady places as long as their flowers get some sun, so I'm hoping they do ok in a rather dark corner I have next to a clematis which has similar needs. They are in keeping with my theme of having very light flowers round the outside of the garden to make the place look a bit bigger. They are also supposed to be highly scented. Ohh, I can't wait..what with this and the marijuana, this promises to be a summer of lu-uv!