Friday, 23 August 2013

shed hunting

There are not many things that a gardener would find it impossible to live without but I guess the most important of these is...the shed. To say mine is dilapidated would be an understatement. It was dropping to bits when we moved here seven years ago so you can imagine what all those Cumbrian winters have done to it. Lots of things live in it but that really isn't the purpose of a garden shed. Anyway, I need a new shed so it required a day out to see what was available. I think a slight upgrade is required and by re-arranging the concrete slab base I can fit a 10x6 where there is now just an 8x6. Wow, that's another twelve square feet of floor space to fill with rubbish!!

My wife seems to think that I have something akin to OCD in that I simply can't throw anything away. Not only that but I also can't pass something that I consider might be useful at some unspecified time in the future. So, I accumulate things and they end up in the shed and now I have to start the cull. I found a broken fold-up clothes dryer, lots of damp wood, boxes of rusty nails from when I worked on a construction site forty years ago, dozens of glass jars, assorted lengths of handy angle get the picture. Two trips to the recycling centre later and I now have a shed with nothing more in it than things I actually use. It looks empty.

While we were out shed hunting I took this picture of the bridge over the Border Esk at Longtown.

It's a lovely structure made of red sandstone and would have formed a border crossing  at some point in the fractious history between England and Scotland. Longtown is the most northerly English settlement of any size on the west side of the border which has shifted backwards and forwards many times over the centuries. Its main claim to fame is the huge livestock auction mart where hundreds of thousands of sheep are traded annually.

After all that I suppose a bit of gardening news might be appropriate. Everything is going according to plan, not that I have a plan but you know what I mean. I've had so much fruit this year that I left the cherry crop for the birds. With all the bush fruit now cooked, frozen or made into jam I'm waiting for the apples and plums

Sunday, 11 August 2013

amphibious visitors

We have a healthy population of amphibians in the garden, which is handy as they do like to eat some the things that nibble my precious veggies. I'd like to show you some of my web-footed pals.
This one was waiting outside the back door yesterday. They often seem to want get in and we've even had one in the living room when we left the patio doors open.

While clearing some rubbish this afternoon I met this one. The difference in colour between the two is quite striking.

Thankfully I've seen plenty of young ones this year so the population seems secure for the time being.

But, back to gardening. The onion crop is now drying nicely in the greenhouse.

Most of it is. I still have a block to lift but I have to say that, for all the good weather this summer, the onions are a little disappointing. Perhaps it's the lack of rain.....I never thought I'd say that, living in Cumbria!

The peas and broad beans are now finished but the french beans are in full production. No runners this year as I'm growing climbing french beans to see how they compare. Although runners are much more prolific the french beans seem more forgiving in that they don't go stringy quite so easily.

It looks like being a reasonable year for apples. After the June drop (in July) there are still too many fruit on a couple of the trees so I've been up the ladder thinning them out a bit. From the James Grieve I took at least a hundred small apples in order to end up with a crop of decent sized fruit. I suppose I'll now have to clean out the demijohn's and fermenting barrels in order to turn those glossy globes into alcohol....what a chore!

Wednesday, 7 August 2013


A neighbour popped round today with her mother-in-law who is also a gardener, but in Catalonia, Spain, where she has lived for the last ten years. I was very pleased that she was impressed with my meagre efforts but then she told me of her little plot. The poor dear has to manage with two acres from which she is more than self-sufficient in fruit and vegetables. She has a small almond grove and olive grove from which she produces all her own cooking oil! The hens provide all the eggs she needs and some meat which, along with the almonds, satisfies much of her protein requirement. At seventy-two years old she manages all this on her own which I found quite inspiring. I was also just a little envious.

Interestingly she also said that the Catalan people, even in the towns, have a very strong affinity with the land and with food. They tend to eat seasonally and mostly what can be grown different from the U.K. On that point she mentioned that she'd recently met a chap who was a fresh produce buyer for one of the major supermarkets. Our recent good weather has taken many by surprise so to keep the shelves stocked they were sourcing salad crops from Egypt. Now, the food value of a lettuce is negligible so can anyone explain the sense in shipping them thousands of miles?

Like me, she believes that in the very near future many people are going to get a nasty shock when they realize how much they are going to have to pay for their food. If you don't grow at least some of your own now might be a good time to start.

Well, that's the preachy bit over so now for something completely different. Earlier this year I was doubtful of ever seeing a butterfly in 2013 but now they are everywhere. Our buddleia was alive with them this afternoon. Peacocks, painted ladies, red admirals, tortoiseshells and the not so welcome whites. Butterflies in abundance after all the prophecies of doom. We think we know what's going on in the natural world but we really haven't a clue. Nature is in charge, not us.

Sorry, no pictures this time but I'm sure you all know what a butterfly looks like.