Posted in Country life, tagged cottage, Country life, England, flowers, garden, gardening, hedge, Home and Garden, Narcissus, Plant, rural life, Spring, UK on 04/04/2014 |
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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.
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Posted in Animals, Country life, tagged countryside, Dog, dogs, England, garden, hedge, Home and Garden, Somerset, UK on 01/04/2014 |
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When Nora arrived she was small enough to slip under the gate to the back garden from the little contained area immediately around the house. Fortunately, that didn’t last long and for a few months it was safe to let her out of the back door knowing that she wouldn’t be able to run off and get lost.
Then she became a teenage dog and discovered exploring. Through the hedge she would go, unerringly finding the one section where there was a break in the ancient wire netting embedded in it. Terrifyingly, she would run out into the lane and then stand stock still in the middle of the road ignoring all calls for her to return. Heart stopping, knowing that people bomb down here fairly fast, although it’s often quiet for hours, lulling you into a false sense of security. Then she got even naughtier and started to jump over the ridiculously low back fence and go off foraging for things in the field behind the cottage. The fence was deliberately low, having been put up by my predecessor who favoured the view. Oddly, at that time the field was used for cattle grazing, which was brave or foolhardy of her, depending on your point of view, as she might have had a ton of cow land on her while she was sitting out in the sun. Worse than the possibility that Nora would leave an occasional poo among the growing crop was my fear that she would be seen. In the hills, you can see an animal from a long way off when it is the only moving object in a field, so I worried that the farmer would be annoyed that I’d let the dog loose on his land.
So, off I went to buy some wire fencing to temporarily (I hope) constrain her adventurousness until she is old enough to listen when she is told to wait and come down. It’s ugly, much harder to put up than I thought and knackered my hands completely, but it does the job and I hope to be able to take it down in about eighteen months or so.
I do feel rather sad at spoiling her fun as there are a lot of pheasants around at the moment and she’s very curious about them.
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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.
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Posted in Country life, Growing stuff, tagged blogging, Country life, countryside, Countryside Stewardship Scheme, England, Euonymus, hedge, nature, rural life on 14/11/2011 |
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The other week I walked across from Manor Farm to the cottage and caught sight of this:
I had never seen anything quite a vibrant and somehow un-English with it’s bougainvillea-like colouring. As I didn’t know what this was, I took a few pictures, carried on my way, intending to find out more, and then… forgot all about it.
However, yesterday my last post was read by Bridget from Arignagardener, so I visited her blog and saw that she had written a post about what was blooming in her garden recently. She had posted some pictures of her spindle tree (Euonymus europaeae), which I’ve never heard of before or seen (despite the fact that I planted some other kind of euonymus in my garden about 20 years ago). Clearly, it’s the same thing. Apparently it’s a common hedging plant. I must have been going around with my eyes shut, or perhaps just never walking at quite the right time of year to see this brilliant display of colour in the hedgerow.
The hedgerow concerned was planted only fairly recently (within the last 10 years or so) by my neighbours as part of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme. Sadly the scheme now seems to be rather falling to pieces, with the council having next to no money to spend on luxuries like making the local area more accessible to walkers. The scheme made the upkeep of the countryside in traditional ways affordable for farmers, who would otherwise have chosen cheaper methods. Isn’t this prettier than holey hedges, their gaps filled with barbed wire and old rusty junk?
Sadly my neighbours decided to close the scheme’s walks across their land recently because they couldn’t be sure of the insurance arrangements as the funding wasn’t likely to be forthcoming in the future. Lovely John said: “Of course, that doesn’t apply to you…” but it’s no good for others, who don’t know them personally, is it? Thanks, bankers.
But on this case, it’s real thanks to Bridget for providing the clue to my mystery plant. Isn’t blogging great?
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Posted in Country life, Growing stuff, tagged cooking, Country life, England, Gin, harvest, hedge, hedgerow, homemade, sloes on 14/09/2011 |
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I have just made some sloe gin with the sloes I picked on Saturday.
Sloes are the tiny plum-like fruits of the blackthorn, which is a common hedging plant in the UK.
A basic recipe is 450g of sloes, 225g of caster sugar and one litre of gin. Followed by about three to four months of patience while the gin absorbs the flavour in a dark place. Shake your bottles every now and again; more often at the beginning, to help it all along. Then enjoy. Should be perfect around Christmas-time.
The best thing was that it took about 15 minutes to make, as I discovered from Twitter that, if you freeze the sloes beforehand, you don’t need to spend an hour pricking the sloes all over to help them release of their flavour and colour.
Even in the three or four hours since I made it, it has started to take on some colour.
However, I’m going to stop photographing it now, as it’s not photogenic and I’m starting to feel like one of those people who keeps bottles of their own wee.
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Posted in Country life, Growing stuff, tagged cottage, countryside, England, garden, gardening, hedge, home, Personal, weather, wind on 29/08/2011 |
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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.
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Spent the whole day in the garden on Sunday, desperately trying to beat the rain before it fell. I was lucky; the wind kept the clouds going over so quickly, that that it didn’t get a chance to stop overhead. So I finally managed to finish the hedge I started weeks ago.
While I was doing a bit of trimming on the road side, I was interrupted every five minutes by people towing 4x4s as it was one of those days where they have an off-roading event down the road. Up the ladder, down the ladder; up the ladder, down the ladder. The road is far lower than the garden, so what looks like four feet of hedge on my side is actually more like eight or nine feet on the other.
Then I did a lot of dead-heading, which is the kind of gardening I really enjoy – I think I just have a thing about tidying up – a kind of horticultural OCD.
The garden’s looking lovely and I’m now really appreciating the colour schemes that Lady-Vendor put together. Pale pinks and creamy whites, purple climbing roses entwined with elderflower nigra, a wonderful dark clematis that lives alongside the dark branches of the vine and near the elderflower.
Sometimes, it feels like I have a pair of new eyes – I so enjoy looking at everything.
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