Now, what does a lilac sky at night mean?
Now, what does a lilac sky at night mean?
I’ve always longed for a garden trug but new ones are really expensive and it’s something you can easily do without. After all, a cardboard box or a plastic basket of some kind work just as well for holding picked flowers until you bring them indoors. Also, until I came to Spring Cottage I didn’t really have any flowers to pick so a trug had to wait. Now, however, Spring brings loads of daffodils and other narcissi, and I also plant all kinds of seeds in my cut flower beds specifically to grow things to bring inside. So I’m enjoying a clapped out old trug that I bought last summer at a car boot sale for three quid. It’s a bit brittle and won’t last for ever but I’ve waterproofed it a little by painting it with Danish oil and it now looks as thought it’s a family heirloom, which I much prefer to things being brand new. It kind of goes better with the ancient nature of the cottage, looks suitably rustic hanging in the woodshed, and I can spend the money saved on seeds instead.
The main flowerbeds here are in the front garden, which is at the side of the cottage, if that makes sense. Being at the side, at the gable end of the house, there is no window overlooking it. So I have to bring flowers in if I want to see them more than in passing on the way to the car. Many of the daffodils have also been planted under the various hedges. Well, they would have originally been under the hedges but now they are in the hedges, the hedges having grown widthways as well as in height over the years. So the daffs need rescuing before they are forced to bend over by the branches sprouting above them.
Usually, I’m pretty annoyed at hearing machinery on a beautiful morning. However, today the noise I’m listening to is a chap cutting my hedge.
I can’t quite express how happy this makes me after almost five years of cutting the rather long hedge myself, which has been exhausting and quite painful sometimes, as I have carpal tunnel syndrome and, frequently, tennis elbow – the latter most likely as a result of trimming the hedge. Afterwards, I always have a few days of numbness in my hands and pain in my forearms. I try to keep my strength up in the gym but wielding even a light trimmer at arm’s length for several hours takes its toll.
So after all this time the hedge was much taller than I wanted, as I couldn’t really give it the ferocious cuts it needed. And it became harder with each passing year as another couple of inches was added to its height, so Jay is taking a good eight inches off the top of the hedge today.
But it’s only waist height, you might be thinking. Indeed, on the garden side, it’s only that high but on the road side it’s probably about eight feet high, so no fear of anyone peering over the top. And that’s part of what’s made it so hard for me to cut, for, in places, it’s not reachable from the garden because of its width. Teetering on a ladder in the path of the traffic has been part of the fun of living here.
Of course, Jay has the right equipment: a petrol-fuelled hedge trimmer far heavier than I could wield comfortably for any length of time. I’m rather envious of it though.
An added thrill is the fact that Jay’s parents used to live at Spring Cottage in the 1960s and 70s. They sold it to the woman from whom I bought five years ago. So he was interested to see inside and he was able to fill me in about which improvements his parents had made to the place (the addition of bathroom and kitchen extension, and the demolition of several layers of wall and fireplace to reveal the original inglenook).
I wonder if it feels odd to Jay to be cutting hedge that was most likely growing here when his parents lived here almost 35 years ago. I’m hoping I can perhaps get to see some photos of the cottage in the old days when he next comes. I find this kind of thing endlessly fascinating.
This is more by way of a log of my activity here for myself (the original purpose of this blog), so it’s not very interesting.
The temperature didn’t rise above freezing all weekend. The pond was frozen so I kept breaking the ice for birds and other wildlife, and pulled sheets of it out together with whatever was attached. Quite an easy way of getting rid of the leaves that fill the water.
Ben has been here to work on the chimney finally – the scaffolding’s only been up since about November last year. It hasn’t rained for about 10 days, so there’s no way to check if the new flashing has worked. Fingers crossed.
I intended to bring the logs down from the garage to the woodshed this weekend, but couldn’t get the big gate to stay open as the hedge was getting in the way so I spent Saturday afternoon hacking at it (the hedge) with shears, the trimmer and secateurs. I’ve actually managed to make it look miles better and am really pleased with the achievement because it’s always been the hardest part of the hedge to reach.
This weekend was hard work, what with grooming and mucking out the horse for Sunday’s ride as well but it’s such a relief, after all the rain in the last few months, to have been able to do something practical and worthwhile. I almost feel enthusiastic about all the other stuff that needs doing…
Driving down the M4 today, in Wiltshire, I had the sudden feeling of passing through an invisible curtain, leaving behind a cold, grey Spring day and passing into Summer.
When we arrived, the cats went straight out and lay down to enjoy the warmth. I pottered about looking at what had changed in the garden in the last week.
I’m thinking about converting those disused cold frames into raised beds for vegetables. I didn’t think this would work but I discovered today that they have drainage pipes built into the backs of them, so I think it might. I’m a bit daunted by the idea of ordering almost a tonne of topsoil.
Last year’s herb planting is looking fine, although I probably shouldn’t have let them flower but they’re so pretty. The strawberries are all in flower too.
The peonies are out and I must prop this one up before it bites the dust.
Now it’s nine o’clock at night but as the farmers are hell bent on working all the daylight hours, three, no, sorry, four tractors have just gone past. The birds are singing their last notes as the light fades. I’m tired but looking forward to tomorrow.
It’s cold. The sky is clear. Inside is best tonight.
It’s good to look back over the last twelve months and a few things that happened. It’s so easy to let life whizz past you without noticing much about it. For instance, I’m surprised that it’s only last January that I was making bike seat covers, as this feels so much longer ago to me.
It was also so cold that the many birds that visit my garden were more than usually glad of some extra food. (I am turning into my in-laws with binocs constantly at the ready.)
In February, the weather was warmish and then cold, giving us daffodils, primulas and frost.
In March the cash-strapped council still managed to open up our most local footpath almost over the road, which must have been on the planning list before the crunch. But hooray for it, as it’s the best way to get to our nearest walk.
In April, the days grew lighter again and Percy was confused about doors.
We had visitors from London, who inspired me to make some changes to the garden.
And I ticked a chore off my list by painting the garage, which needed timber preservation – a rather Swedish blue, natch.
In May, we stayed home and went out.
June was disappointingly un-sunny, but things grew anyway…
As July proved.
It was often not until the evening that the skies cleared and the sun came out.
By August, the wheat had ripened.
And we took ourselves for walks.
Then, in September, the harvest was brought in, changing the views.
In October, the neighbouring field gained some very ordinary cows. We usually have rarer breeds round here. I’m a cattle snob.
The neighbouring farmer cut down the hedge so that you could actually see Broomfield Hill from the garden.
Then as the days shortened in November, there was more staying in than going out.
Although, the occasional walk was managed.
Until the year ended in a grey and mild December; such a contrast to last year’s snow.
All in all, this has been a good and happy year. What more could I ask? I hope your year was also good and that 2012 will bring you all you wish for. x
I’m exhausted after a weekend of cutting the hedge and general garden clearing up, in fairly high winds and intermittent rain. I imagined I would do some lovely gardening this weekend – a bit of deadheading and weeding – ornamental kind of stuff. But I thought wouldn’t take too long to trim the hedge. It didn’t but, of course, I’d forgotten how I’d end up distracted by clearing scraping lichen off the bench and sweeping up all the remains of the hedge. My hands hurt, my back’s stiff and I’m fed up. This isn’t how it’s meant to be.
This summer has seen few visitors to the cottage. Most of my friends have already been here once, so the novelty’s gone and I find that I have few takers, when I offer an invitation. Then again, I’m not very good at remembering to invite people with enough notice. Most can’t drop what they’re doing at two days’ notice, just to nip off with me.
So, Spring Cottage is making me feel a bit fed up. I hope it will pass but I feel pretty negative about it at the moment. I’m wondering if it was all a big mistake. Just yet another thing to be responsible for and have to worry about. Has the novelty gone for me too? Have I travelled too much this year for a little place in England to seem interesting? Do I just need to settle in to my normal rhythms and calm down? I should remember that it’s easy for me to feel negative when I’m tired.
On the good side, I went to the Co-Op to get some supplies and was surprised to be greeted by name by a woman, who was obviously on her way to a glamorous night out. I must have looked completely blank as she immediately volunteered, “Riding…”, at which point I recognised her face (but still can’t recall her name). I don’t think I’d ever seen her without a riding hat on. Lovely to bump into someone relatively locally – I never do, unless I’m actually in the garden and someone I know goes past the house. I know so few people here that I’m usually pretty certain that I will be icognito wherever I am.
P.S. It’s interesting how choice of pictures can influence the tone of something. The weekend was really more like the first picture, but the second one makes it actually look quite picturesque. Even the faded plastic parts of the wheelbarrow look like they’re a lovely pink.
Months ago, the farm next door started building the concrete foundations for something in Higher Close, the field behind the cottage – right up against the boundary with my garden. I can’t miss this, as the access to my garage, and the only place to park here, is some hardstanding on land which belongs to them but I have right of access over. The gate to the field has been missing for most of the last year, which feels kind of odd and uncontained. But it’s a field that’s used for arable farming not animals so it doesn’t actually matter.
Late last year I asked Bar-Lady, who lives at the farm, what was going on and was told that they were tapping into the spring that runs parallel with the lane for water to wash their vehicles down with. The spring used to be the only source of water to the cottage until the early 1960s, when mains water was first piped in. I still have two mains water feeds coming into the house – the extra one is presumably from the spring, although I don’t think it actually supplies any water, and you’d want to be a bit careful about the quality of the water if you did use it.
Since I was last here, two massive and very ugly tanks have appeared in the field, presumably to store water, the flow of which probably isn’t constant. You can just see the cottage peeking up above the hedge behind.
I’m not massively happy about this although once everything is in leaf again, they won’t be very obvious. I suppose I just feel a bit nimbyish at the moment. In the last six months, the unspoilt view has had a huge cow shed added and now this.
I hope they really hate the colour I’ve painted my garage. More about which tomorrow.
Posted in Country life, Exploring, tagged Aisholt, cottage, Do it yourself, framing, heathland, marine heathland, photography, Quantock Hills, sea, Somerset, The White Company, Watchet on 11/02/2011 | 2 Comments »
Just thought I’d share some pictures I took one weekend in 2009, that I’m about to print and frame in some lovely picture frames I bought from The White Company in the sale. I used to make picture frames myself, having learnt the craft at an evening class, but these days rarely frame anything unless it’s something very special.
Have a lovely weekend!
My cats would like to say that they haven’t been featured often enough on the Spring Cottage blog although they frequent Spring Cottage, well, frequently and love frolicking outside, where they don’t have to contend with about two cats per square metre, as they do elsewhere.
I’ve had other cat visitors at the cottage: a black and white and a ginger cat and, on one occasion, a beautiful blue Burmese, which scarpered as soon as I saw it. I was curious about the latter because I have few neighbours, and even fewer of the chichi cat owning variety, like me. I hope I see it again one day.
To make up for the omission of my cats, here are some pictures of the foolish things – they are called Percy (the big light coloured one) and Dixie, or Perseus and Eurydice in their pedigree incarnations (please don’t tell me that these were not a couple in mythology, I know that, but the abbreviated names went well together and these are siblings):
Posted in Country life, tagged burst pipe, car crash, cheque, christmas, cottage, eggs, flood, frosty, garden, gardening, hat, holiday, holly, insurance, kitchen, lads. lessons, logs, lorry, Montacute House, neighbours, painting, pheasant, repairs, riding, riding apparel, snow, Spring, summer, vine, visitors, wreath, Year in review on 31/12/2010 | 4 Comments »
Floodtime: We had a pipe burst in the loft over the kitchen and I learned to leave the heating on and turn off the water at the mains when I leave.
Repairtime: So many things wrong with the house all of a sudden that it became rather depressing to be here but we got through it.
In which my neighbour brought me some eggs from the farm, Spring Cottage had lots of visitors and I was reimbursed for the flood by the insurance.
When Spring arrived at the cottage, as did a lorryload of logs, and the house was painted. We also celebrated our first year here.
Started with a bang. On the day I collected my new car, I had a crash. Racing, double-barrelled cow driving the other car, who then lied about what happened. I’m still annoyed…
We settled into enjoying the cottage this month, with visitors and summer times in the garden. Nice that the pace slowed down a little.
During which nothing much happened and blogging really almost stopped, only to be followed by…
During which the blog went public. I had a holiday down here, and blogged like a woman possessed. I also journeyed to the beautiful Montacute House, south of here, and did lots of gardening.
Brought the discovery that what I thought was mainly an ornamental vine in the garden, actually had grapes on it. I also celebrated the first comment on the blog and went riding for the first time.
October arrived with the cheque from the insurers for the car accident in May. It took five months for them to settle the claim, because they are a pile of idiots. I started having riding lessons.
In which Spring Cottage had eight lads to stay and there was the first snow before Christmas for many years.
Was cold and frosty, with snow covering everything for the best part of a fortnight. It was frustrating not to be able to get to the cottage despite the Tank – although this was mostly cowardice rather than practicality.
Happy New Year! I hope 2011 brings all the things everyone wishes for, combined with good health and happiness.
Posted in Country life, Exploring, tagged Boy, Chard, Chardstock, cottage, cow, Devon, Dulverton, echinacea, echinacea purpurea, England, Exmoor, horse, London, Quantocks, riding, Somerset, Travel and Tourism, Travellers' Rest, walk, walking on 28/08/2010 | 1 Comment »
Weekend here with Boy, who can’t stop talking about his new job and about a flat that he wants to move into with some friends, for the first time in over six months. Nice to have some family time here together, although he is hell bent on going back to London as soon as possible. Hold on to them loosely to keep them close – I must remember this…
On Saturday, we picked up my new cabinet from Tracy at French Gray near Dulverton. She has a lovely farm on the fringes of Exmoor, where she restores tired pieces of furniture by painting and distressing them. Something that I’ve done myself but recently haven’t had time for. It looks nice in the living room, although the accent of the room has become twee-er, but hope to set that right with my new prints.
Then we drove to see JM, who was staying with his sister near Chard, about 45 minutes south of here. We went on a lovely long walk, unfortunately in the wrong shoes, so sore toes for me. It was interesting to see how the countryside is subtly different to the Quantocks – the local stone is a lot more flinty and electricity pylons, large and small, more prominent everywhere (but I think I’m particularly lucky in that respect – go another couple of miles north from Spring Cottage and they’re everywhere), but it was lovely to see another glorious part of the south west.
On our walk we found an abandoned-looking little thatched cottage, which would have made a wonderful project for someone, in a place called Cuckholds Pit. In rather a state, with a collapsing thatch, but it was actually also fascinating to see what cottages looked like before they were gobbled up and made all delightful by townies like me.
Supper at the Traveller’s Rest – great steak today – and they have a new Otter beer, Otter Ale, which is much stronger than the bitter. So now I’m going to have to be much more specific about my favourite tipple.
Riding lesson was fun on Sunday: a hour in the arena with Sally and a horse called Spot, learning how to sit (I thought I knew that already) and control the horse properly. It’s rather like driving a car, with all your extremities needing huge amounts of concentration and coordination to keep them in the right place.
Yes, we did get a bit lost… despite a host of navigational aids.
Postscript: We drove past signposts to places that sounded quite delicious today: Beercrowcombe, Stewley and Curry Mallet.
Looking forward to seeing the freshly painted Spring Cottage which is almost finished. Lady-Gardener reports that it’s looking ‘fantastic’, which is just as well since it’s costing quite a lot more than quoted. But that’s always the way. Going down tonight.