Category Archives: garden

And So the Work Begins

Hope you’ve all had a lovely summer!

So, here we are in September – autumn – and sadly the high summer heat we enjoyed in the UK seems to have sunk to a more normal summer’s day temperature, which for me is a pity. As I’ve said often, I love the hot weather, but it has been far too hot for me to do any painting and the long-awaited redecoration of our lounge and dining room had to be put on hold. No way was I having Dave swinging a lump hammer about to dismantle our stone fire surround or crawling on his hands and knees laying new flooring in temperatures hitting the 30s, so we’ve enjoyed long lazy days in the garden instead.

A further delay incurred was finding a suitable plumber and gas fitter to do the necessary dismantling before we could start. We found plenty, given lots of recommendations but they either never even bothered to turn up when they said they would, others put up all sorts of problems to what is a very straightforward job – removing 2 radiators,  disconnecting an old gas fire and latterly installing a new shower (ours had jammed on cold. Lovely in the hot weather, not so now it’s cooler!) – and promised quotations were never sent. And it seems we are not alone in finding difficulty when wanting a plumber.

A chance conversation with a neighbour a few days ago brought up this very subject. She was cursing as a plumber she was expecting never showed so had been recommended another. I told her we were in the same predicament. Her new chap turned up on time a few days later and brought him round to see if he could help us. What a find! Nothing was too much trouble, no job too small or difficult and he would be with us to do the work a few days later. Promptly at 8:00am he arrived, said radiators and fire removed, new shower installed and a coffee drunk, and all before 10:00 am. And he’s happy to return when we are ready for the refit and changes.

So, here we are ready to box up our two rooms, and can now arrange the furniture storage and rubbish skip. We’ve already chosen our colour scheme, one wall has been used as a test piece for paint, the feature wall paper already purchased.

I’m not looking forward to the noise and the mess but needs must. Nor can I escape too far whilst it’s being done as I’ve sprained my foot but it gives me a good excuse to shut myself away upstairs next week and write, write, write, if I can cope with all the banging and crashing, that it. Wish me luck!

 

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Summer Squash

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It’s been awhile since we posted a recipe.  I was never good at posting them but every once in awhile I stumble on one I want to share.  Rick and Linda (Son and Daughter-in-law) have a very productive garden again this year.  Last year Rick gave me a summer squash. I don’t like them but he told me to try it with Pasta which I did and Oh My Gosh so good.  This year I asked for them.  Yummy, fresh out of the garden I made the dish in the picture. There actually are three ways to serve it. And, I’ve tried them all.

  1. With sour cream
  1. put in a casserole dish and top with cheese. Cook in oven until the cheese is melted and even browned if you like it that way.
  1. Just as is with no cream or cheese

I like them all.

Recipe:

Summer Squash – as many as you want

Pasta – I used the Tri-Colored Fusilli but I really like Penne too.

Bacon bits

Fry squash in oil. For this one I used avocado oil but I can’t tell the difference between it and olive oil.  Season with favorite seasoning.  I used  Island Spice we got in Jamaica.

Cook pasta in salt water.

Drain pasta and stir in a little oil. Mix with fried summer squash and put in bacon bits. I love bacon so put in quite a bit.

Enjoy it just way or embellish it with sour cream or cheese.

A Summer of Firsts

This summer has certainly been sweltering so far, and I love it. But it has its downside too, for keeping the garden thriving has been a major task. Thankfully we’re not on a water meter or a hosepipe ban so the new flower border is more colourful than ever.

But despite our best efforts our vegetables have been a failure – a first for Dave. The broad beans cropped well but of once shelled were all covered in black spots and consigned to the compost bin. We managed about three meals from the runner beans before they withered. Dave has cut them back in hope they’ll reshoot. The peas were a non-starter and the sweet peas although flowered had stems no longer than 2 inches and soon died in the heat. That said, the onions, carrots and potatoes are cropping, so at least we’re not starving. But therein came another first for us.

We kept finding the onions pulled out and scattered around the vegetable patch, we’re talking here about the whole matured, fully grown and ready to harvest bulbs. Then some of the dahlias were pulled out of the ground. A few mornings on we found tattered and chewed children’s soft toys discarded amongst the veg. Big holes were appearing in the ground, too big to be cats and we have no wild rabbits here. The culprits were seen one evening when I spied them coming into the garden through the adjoining hedge – foxes, a family of 7. Urban foxes have always been around but we’ve never had any damage. They’ve even dug large holes under a neighbours’ new fence.

But there have been some lovely firsts too. We haven’t seen many butterflies here this summer apart from the pesky cabbage whites. One appeared that I hadn’t seen before – a marbled white. Not as troublesome as the cabbage whites.

Marbled White Butterfly

The butterflies might be scare but there have been plenty of moths. One was  a privet hawk moth, with a wingspan of approx 4 inches, these moths are the largest in the UK. I haven’t seen them since moving away from London so a first for my garden. It was also unusual in that there are no privet hedges locally!

Privet Hawk Moth

Another morning I noticed a strange-looking black and white butterfly sitting on one of my flowers. A closer inspection showed it was a moth. I grabbed my camera and tried to take a photo. As I did, it opened its wings and took flight revealing the most beautiful orange wings as it fluttered over the fence into another garden. Research told me it was a tiger moth, and that the unknown hairy caterpillars I kept finding on a rose bush were in fact tiger moth caterpillars. More firsts. As always, I’m too slow with the camera so I’ve had to obtain these 3 ref photos.

Tiger Moth

Last Wednesday as Dave and I were enjoying a coffee on the patio, he noticed a very fat, long (at least 3 inches!) green caterpillar making its way across the slabs. It looked rather like those stuffed draft excluders we all had years ago to keep the wind from blowing under the doors. He took a photo and ran inside to look it up on the internet as neither of us recognized it. Whilst he was gone, I spied another happily munching away on a fuchsia bush. They turned out to be elephant hawk moth caterpillars – I never knew they also came in green, I’d only ever seen the brown ones. We found out that they start off green and over the course of a few days slowly turn brown.  Two days later, trundling along the patio heading for the undergrowth along came a brown one. At least they shuffle along slowly so I was able to capture them on camera. (As I’m writing this post, Dave has just come upstairs to show me another green one he’s found chomping on a plant!)

Another first is a sunflower growing in the new border. In all the 40 years I’ve been gardening here, I’ve never grown one. I’d popped a few sunflowers seeds from the birdfeed into the ground out of curiosity to see if they would grow. Two of them I must have pulled out when weeding but one has grown into a beauty, almost 6 feet tall with lots of buds coming out.

But the best first of all wasn’t a moth, butterfly or caterpillar or a flower. It was a pair of goldfinches settling on the birdfeeder to enjoy a feast of nyger seeds. I knew goldfinches were in the area, I’d seen and heard them about them since last winter, so I’d put out the nyger seeds in the hope they would come into the garden. They did, and a few days later two youngsters joined them. Now we often have 7 or 8 around the feeders. They take no notice of Dave or me or of the resident sparrows.

Talking of sparrows… Billy One Mate still pops into the garden for a feed on the ground but he’s now with a small flock of his fellow starlings. I know it’s him as he has a white flash down his chest. He’s thriving, bless him, after such a shaky start.

And with summer still not over, who knows what other firsts might appear.

Billy One Mate

Meet Billy One Mate. He (I say “he” but it could well be a “she”) is a young starling that thinks he’s a sparrow.

I first became aware of him few weeks ago when the local starling flock of descended into my garden with all their noisy fledglings to feast on the birdseed dropped by the sparrows. The fledglings were able to fly reasonable well and most could feed themselves but preferred like most youngsters to let mum (or dad) feed them. I noticed Billy approaching one adult bird, begging for food. The adult kicked him away. Hmm, I thought, obviously wrong mum. He begged from another. She too kicked him on the head rather aggressively. This treatment was metered out by every adult Billy went too. He’d been pushed , almost trodden on, kicked and clawed away. I’d never seen birds do this to young ones before.  You couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. And when the flock finally flew off, Billy was left on his own. It was obvious he’d been orphaned.

For the next few days Billy No Mates as I christened him was in the garden on his own, sleeping in the holly tree by the fence and during the day sitting on the fence in the shade. I swear every time the starlings flew over he watched them with a forlorn look on his little face. He looked so sad. He spent a lot of time watching the sparrows darting to and fro from the bird feeder. He tried to feed from it too but was unable to get the hang of clinging to the perches. All he could do was follow the lead of the adult sparrows feeding their young on the ground with the dropped seeds or chipped nuts in the bird food. He begged from the sparrows to no avail. so found what he could on the ground.

I happened to look out of my bedroom window one morning to see him flapping about in the koi pond, trying to get out. Not a good place to take a bath and Dave had to rescue him. Billy toddled off into the undergrowth to dry out, no doubt feeling very miserable and sorry for himself. The following day he sat on the fence watching the sparrows bathing in the bird bath. Ahh, that’s where I bath, he must of thought, and joined them. The sparrows accepted him, ignored him really as he splashed and drank and shook and washed.

From then on, he flew with the sparrows. Whenever they came into the garden, you could guarantee Billy was coming up the rear. He’d seemed to have latched on to one sparrow in particular and wherever that sparrow went in the garden, Billy followed, be it among the flowerbeds to hunt for mealworms, up onto the feeder, not that he could feed from it, or into the bird bath. From then on he was known as Billy One Mate. It seemed the two couldn’t be separated. Over the course of the next few weeks, he became braver and bolder, seeing off other young starlings that landed too close to “his” food or his little friend. One morning he even squared up to a female blackbird but soon learned there is a pecking order and blackbird always wins over starling.

As the days have progressed he’s never far behind his little sparrow friend, but more and more now he’s flying with several other young starlings. I’d like to think in a few weeks’ time instead of having just one little playmate, he’ll be accepted into the starling flock and have lots of big friends to keep an eye out for him.

Good luck, Billy. You deserve to do well.

Cornish Pleasures

Peter and I went to Cornwall this month for a much needed break, we booked a cottage for a week.  In September Peter is planning a long cycle journey, 70th Birthday Challenge to himself, so part of the holiday was to test out various starting routes so the bike came too! I’ve put a link below so you can get an idea of the perfect place we based ourselves at for the week. Our cottage was called Spring Water Barn, formerly used as a pumping station for the natural spring water on the Bonython Estate.  Sadly a phone/washing machine incident has prevented me showing most of the photos I planned to show you from Peter’s phone!  No explanations required I am sure!!

Bonython Estate is a 20 acre estate with beautiful gardens which are being restored.  Set on The Lizard in Cornwall, the southerly most point in Britain, it proved to be the most relaxing place I have ever visited.  Our luxury cottage was surrounded by woods in a private garden with sun most of the day, perfect for evenings sipping wine and bird spotting.  In fact most of the time the only sounds we heard were birdsong as the other two nearby cottages were empty all week.  Although it was difficult to leave it we went out each day to visit the beautiful coves and small towns in the area.  The first day we did a 3 mile walk to a cove called Poldhu, great walking down but luckily regular local buses ensured I didn’t have to walk back up the very steep hill back.  We had lunch at a beach cafe watching families enjoying themselves on the beach. The sea sparkled and it was wonderful. Lunch finished with a scrumptious Cornish Cream ice cream cone – perfect.  We had intended to visit the Marconi Monument marking the spot of the first Morse code communication with America but the thought of another steep climb up and down made me change my mind.  I thought of how easily we “chat” with each other so quickly today which started from this small point.

Next day we drove around the coast to Mousehole, where we stayed in November and unfortunately Peter had taken ill.  This time we managed to walk two miles back to Newlyn a centre for artists since the turn of the 18th Century.  A small gallery enabled me to view local art students’ graduate work with sea views through the windows providing Nature’s art work. Lunch in a local cafe of fresh crab provided a welcome break and revitalised we walk along the seawalk back to Mousehole.  It felt a bit emotional as Peter has recovered well and is dealing with his condition amazingly. My big pleasure was the next day when we went Park and Train to St. Ives and the Tate Gallery.  Traffic is so awful in the narrow streets of this popular seaside town that measures are being taken to restrict the volume of cars.  For a small charge it was possible to park all day at Lelant and catch the regular train to St Ives, this branch line is one of the most profitable routes in England.  £10.80 for two adults all day (not worked out dollars sorry) but cheap.  I had two hours of art whilst Peter searched out a lunch spot and explored the town. A Patrick Heron exhibition was interesting, but my favourite works are by Barbara Hepworth. Barbara worked and lived in St, Ives with her husband Ben Nicholson and their children.  Her house is a wonderful place to visit too but sadly I was too tired to climb the hill up to visit this time. I have seen it several times and love the mix of her works and plants in the garden outside her studio.  No room to talk more about her but please look her up.

A wonderful quote by her about her aim as an artist: “…to infuse the formal perfection of geometry with the vital grace of nature.” (Ref. Barbara Hepworth’s Sculpture Garden by Miranda Phillips & Chris Stephens).

The visit was completed with crab sandwiches and a glass of Rosado blush in a cafe on the Porthmeor Beach below the Tate.  As we walked back to the station Peter treated me to another gorgeous Cornish Cream ice cream, I couldn’t understand why he’d just bought one for me – but his chocolate cone had been snatched by a huge seagull before he even managed a lick! Gulls are a bigger problem for St. Ives than traffic, despite copious signs and warnings people will feed them titbits.  They are becoming a danger as they fly down and steal whatever they fancy.  I did share mine with him!

On our last day we visited Porthleven, a small fishing port where the catch is landed daily and then served in the many cafes surrounding the harbour.  Our lunch was in Amelies, next door to Rick Steins, where I had Crab Soup followed by Moules served with home-made bread.  Half a carafe of Provence Rose Blush – heaven. My photo doesn’t do justice but suffice to say one of the best meals I have had, do check out the website.  I hope to return to Porthleaven for a few days In October. The day ended with a walk around Bonython Gardens, one of the treats of staying there is free access and after the public leave it’s one’s own secret garden for a few hours. The highlight for me was the Yew Chapel shown at the start of my blog.  Yew Trees have been trained and trimmed to form a chapel complete with alter and pews with a cross above the altar.  I found it so spiritual, surrounded by beautiful woods and utterly peaceful. So many Cornish Pleasures.

 

 

http://www.bonythonmanor.co.uk/

http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-st-ives

http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-st-ives/barbara-hepworth-museum-and-sculpture-garden

http://www.ameliesporthleven.co.uk/

 

Opening the Back Door

First, apologies for being a day late. What I had intended to write about has been delayed, so at the risk of boring you I will once again open the back door and reveal the back garden. We’ve been working hard and so thankful for the brilliant weather experienced here in the UK lately which has meant we’ve been able to get practically everything done we intended to do. Everything is growing well, and we can at last enjoy sitting on our new patio admiring our efforts as it all slowly grows and flourishes. In the space of a four to five weeks the long border has gone:

And a bird’s eye or rather bedroom view:

There is still the other borders to transform but they are going to have to wait. Two plants are been particularly stunning at the moment: my ever-faithful perennial aquileiga and a new clematis bought for £1.69 from our local Aldi supermarket.

In preparing the groundwork last November, Dave smashed two of the blue bowls on the new water fountain but, bless him, he bought me another and rather than waste the old, transformed it into a new pot feature.

Yesterday, I counted the pots around the rear garden, patio and front garden – there’s 85 of them! And that doesn’t include the old kitchen sink next to the water fountain. Plus he’s planted up and hung 20 wall baskets. So you can understand why we’re so impatient for it all to grow. We’ll have to wait. Let’s hope this marvellous weather continues.

As to what else has been happening… for those who haven’t seen or heard – two weeks ago some of my paintings were in a public exhibition held by my art group. The full story can be read over on my art blog, but I was delighted that one of my works sold. On top of which, I was asked to do a commission, and I won a prize in the exhibition raffle. All in all, a brilliant weekend.

 

On the downside, now the garden is done, we have no excuse not to start on the major living and dining room makeover and that’s going to be a very messy, dusty job. Not looking forward to it and I may have to escape for a few weeks whilst it’s going on.

Have a great June, everyone.

Kit’s Website and Blog , Kit’s Kitchen  Kit’s Art  Site

Late for a Date…

Apologies for being a little late with today’s post but I had a very important date that couldn’t wait. With my garden.

I had hoped to show you the finished article but the weather here in the UK has been dreadful. Two hot days in April, which meant we could finally make a start on bringing the back garden back to some semblance of prettiness. Two days! The rest of the month has been cold, wet, blowing a hoolie and even colder still – we even had to put the central heating back on.

Today the sky is cloudless, the sun shining and joy of joys, we have been promised good weekend’s weather, which is something of a miracle as it is a bank holiday weekend here. So Dave and I pulled on our gardening shoes and gloves, and with him in the front garden, and me out back, we set to work. I’ve the long border to widen, which is tough going as the ground is still very wet, but I’ve managed to get some plants in, the three obelisks erected and the border almost dug.

You may be able to spot a white slab in front of one of the obelisks – this is where the new birdbath is going. I spent almost a year trying to find the one I wanted, couldn’t, so we improvised and purchased a tall blue glazed pot and a matching saucer, and placing the saucer on top of the pot – voila! One new birdbath. As you can see on the patio, we have lots more to plant although all of the hanging baskets are done. Can you spot the new bird bath among the plants ? The birds haven’t as yet, but hopefully once it’s moved back to where they are used to one being, they’ll make good use of it.

Despite all the rain and cold last month, Dave has been busy laying a new path in front of the new fence along the front side garden. He’s also kept himself occupied in making six wooden planters. These this morning he planted up with lots of colourful annuals and massive of sweet peas to grow up the netting he’s erected along the fence. It should look fab once they all grow.

We’re slowly getting there and hopefully by next month we can sit back and relax a little to enjoy it all. Meanwhile the rest of the borders and pots have provided us with some welcome spring colour.

So forgive me for being late today, hope you think my excuse was worth it!

Kit’s Website and Blog , Kit’s Kitchen  Kit’s Art  Site