I do not use the word ‘epic’ lightly, but I consider today to be momentous. At 8am this morning, Mickey came to start rebuilding the top of the orchard wall. It takes a lot of effort to get to this stage…nut trees have been cut down and removed, the ground has been levelled, the bricks and sand have been ferried to the corner of the orchard, the scaffolding has been erected, lime purchased and moved to a nearby shed, mixing station (cement mixer to mix lime mortar) constructed, original bricks piled up on the scaffold waiting for the expert to arrive! Aideen and James were up bright and early to be Mickey’s ‘mates’. Aideen, with guidance from Mickey is in charge of mixing (it can’t be much different from cakes – except you have to wear gloves and goggles- lime isn’t a nice substance), James is bringing the mix up on to the scaffolding, no mean feat because this is 3 metres up a ladder and the mix is heavy! Meave has a job interview at 10am but after this joins the team. Our aim is to keep Mickey as happy as possible so he gives us as many days work as he can. This is not like normal brick laying, it takes a very good ‘eye’ to make it look right. For this repair section, Mickey will use mainly original bricks which are up to 400 years old. Unsurprisingly, they can be a bit uneven, which means you use lots of mortar, but then care has to be taken to try to make the pointing match the rest of the wall. The section he is working on changes from being two courses thick, to three courses thick. The thicker section has to taper in on both sides to the top coping of one brick. This detailing helps weathering. I come and see how they are getting on several times and tell Mickey it looks beautiful. He says it is like doing a puzzle! The wall is so tall, it is going to look magnificent. It has been hidden for so long, I cannot stop looking at it. I am now beginning to consider training trees at the back of my new forest garden/medicinal border to make good use of this towering structure.
When I can tear myself away, I have some revelatory moments myself. I decided to have another taste of my gooseberries, some are now a dark purple, others are large and pale yellow/green. They are remarkably sweet, I assumed they would remain sour and require cooking with sugar. I am not a gooseberry expert, but they are delicious and I have them for breakfast with raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and black currants.
After this pleasant discovery I pop into the mushroom house and I’m delighted to see one of the lower beds now has a few mushrooms big enough to eat. They are brown mushrooms but they do look slightly odd, like a brown mushroom sitting on a white mushroom! The other puzzling thing is that there is no sign of similar growth in the other 3 beds. I am just happy that our experiment has a least partially worked, there are mushrooms in the mushroom house!
I start todays garden work by dead heading the outside sweet peas which are beginning to look a bit scrappy. I would like to keep them going as long as possible so I spend well over an hour dead heading. The sweet peas in the polytunnel are now finishing and I’m debating trying to remove them to let the other climbers take over, this will be tricky, in fact it might be impossible!
I then get called by Meave who says “you might like to have a word with Bella”. This does not bode well…Bella has decided to dig out my newly planted bedding plants that I put in the bed under the windowsill yesterday and then make a nest and lie on them!!! I’m not impressed…she would never be allowed on ‘Gardeners World’! I rescue the plants and carefully replant them and block off the area with garden chairs. Next it is out to the front field for some long overdue jobs. Last year I had an idea for some striking winter colour – I got the idea from a book….
This was to plant at the end of the front field six Betula Jacque Montii (which has stunning white peeling bark), three on either side, against the dark green backdrop of the hedge. These were then under-planted with 12 Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’ which has yellow/orange stems. This is a long-term plan, at present, everything is very small and the Himalayan Birch (Betula) are still immature and therefore do not yet have white bark. I decided last year that I needed more Midwinter Fire and ordered 12 more from Parkers. Today I am finally ready to plant them, although sadly one has died.
I finish by weeding the front field rose border, a job that has been waiting for months. This will mean tomorrow I can add planting to this bed. Interestingly, a lot of digging is evident beside the gate that leads down the steps into the kitchen garden. Luckily, I have pushed a grill against the gate held in place by a heavy chair because I think this was Mr Badger trying to gain entrance to the Kitchen Garden!