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A different approach

22 MAY 2020

We have had another difficult night, unfortunately Jean’s new habit of removing her pillows and sliding forward in the chair until she is practically lying down and falling off the edge is not confined to daylight hours, and she buzzes for help at 3:30am. This means having to wake up Meave (not easy!) as well as Diane. When it happens again at 6:30am I decide on returning to the house that I may as well stay up. I decide to go outside straight away and finish my watering targets – fruit cage and sweet peas and all the normal morning watering before going to the Annexe to get Jean and dad up and ready for the day. Typically, Jean is fast asleep when we go in at 8:30am (why can’t she do that in the night?). I also have to phone the district nurses so someone can come out and advise me on how to treat the latest damage Jean has inflicted on herself through scratching. The nurse arrives very quickly and she is as perplexed as we are about how to deal with Jean. Reassuringly she tells me to keep applying the same cream I’m using and agrees that there is nothing else to be done, but they do want to monitor the situation.


Today is windy with sunny spells and there is a tiny bit of rain early in the day. My plan is to finish weeding the mount, put manure over any exposed bulbs and plant the calibrachoa. However, the wind messes up my plans and I have to check my vulnerable plants in the fruit tree border to check they are secure. My giant achilleas now have two enclosing rings of reinforcement steel at a lower and higher level. These supports hold the plant together but there is still extra work involving string to keep them looking good! When I’m finished with them, I muse that it has taken five years of experimentation to come up with a satisfactory system to keep these monstrous plants supported and tidy – usually the wind wrecks them. The other potential ‘wind victims’ are the peonies which are now coming into bloom with their massive, blousy, heavy blooms. Presently these are bring helped by the red cornus twigs that I pushed into the soil in front of the plants earlier in the year, I add some string for greater security. I don’t reach the mount until much later in the day, when I finish the weeding I hose the tiers down again so the soil is moist before I add manure. I have decided to cover the exposed bulbs (yesterday I realised the settling compost was uncovering the tulip bulbs), with a little well rotted manure and later in the autumn/early winter when everything has died down we can top up the terraces with compost which will put the tulip bulbs back at the correct depth.

At this point (early evening) I go back inside to prepare the evening meal. I am making a different type of Ragu (after looking at a book on regional Italian cookery) which uses pumpkin in the recipe, so I use half of one of our stored butternut squashes (we probably still have at least a dozen left), 2 elephant garlic and about 5/6 Autumn sown onions. All of the above have started to go to flower, so I remove their cores and chop them up.

I then go back outside but it is quite late now, I only manage to plant half of the mount (30 calibrachoas). The plants are healthy, but parts of the mount are very dry – I will have to be very careful to keep it watered sufficiently so we don’t lose any plants – Patrick says there is no rain forecast for at least two weeks! I stay outside until just after 9pm when I am called in by the buzzer going off in the Annexe, I am very weary, stiff and achy. Progress has been slow today, because of the constant interruptions, mainly because of Jean’s new compulsive behaviour. Every time she pushes forward in the chair she has to be lifted to her feet (we can’t use the lifting mechanism on the chair because she would slip off the edge – she is so far forward). We then get her to shuffle backwards to the chair in order to sit her back down in the best possible position and replace cushions. The whole operation takes 10-15 minutes because we have to be extremely careful and we have to gather three people from where they are working (which could be the bottom of the orchard!) in order to safely move Jean. If I wasn’t such a compulsive gardener it would be easy to just stay on the sofa waiting for the next time the buzzer (which sets off a very unpleasant siren!) goes off… but that way madness lies, I thank God for my garden and pray the plants will be patient with me.


The new Ragu is delicious - you can’t beat a good meal and a glass of wine to lift your spirits – especially if it is too late to go back in the garden!

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