This week, Grandad, Patrick and I are due to get our second vaccination. This is organised as a home visit because of Grandad but this means that they can arrive anytime this week between 9am-4pm. Unfortunately, they are unable to be more specific than that.
I am very concerned that we may miss their visit as we rarely hear our front door because we are usually outside.
I get up bright and early, reminding Patrick that he cannot leave the house between 9am-4pm. I put a fresh notice on the front door asking for people to beep their horn or ring a number number and then I attend to my polytunnel. I then get grandad up early, luckily he has a very loose perception of time. By 9am, I situate myself in the music room so I cannot miss the knock on the door. I’ve decided to spend the day working on my talk. This will please Aideen as we have a Zoom meeting tomorrow with the London Gardens Trust, who want to know more details about our Virtual Talks. Quite a lot of groups have requested the second talk, which will follow on from the first, describing our first year of Public Opening (2019), the garden during lockdown (2020), the family changing career direction, and finishing with the start of the garden development/wall restoration plan (April 2021). At the moment, the second talk is in the planning phase and has yet to be written and combined with photos. However, this rough stage is very time consuming as I have to trawl through all of our blogs and records.
Aideen and Diane continue to labour away on the site of the outbuilding. The flint pile has moved and now they are moving old bricks and tiles – I plan to use these as covers for my pumpkin pipes. It is a beautiful day, remarkably warm. The girls are catching the sun on their faces and hay fever is rife!
During the day, the bee man comes and I’m pleased to report some positive developments with our bees. He has brought us a swarm that he collected yesterday in Ickenham which he has split into two starter boxes in the enclosure. He investigated our only functioning hive and has discovered bees, but no eggs. The Queen was behaving as if laying eggs into the egg cells but not actually laying any eggs. The bee man plans to transfer some eggs from the swarm to the original hive, then a new Queen will hatch from these eggs and take over from the old Queen. Fascinating stuff.
I make good progress with my research for the talk but the vaccinators do not appear. Before I start teaching, I go out to the polytunnel and sow an 84 cell tray of Italian Green Basil to put in the propagator.
Sadly, today I lost another pupil. When speaking to another music teacher, he told me he has lost all but one of his pupils at a school where apparently, the take up of music lessons across the board is low. Although this trend is worrying, I am trusting to the forces that are guiding us at the moment. I think this situation is out of my control and I readily accept I was working far too much pre-Covid. Reading through my past blogs has reminded me of this, and if I want to take the gardens in the direction we have planned, it would not be possible for me to have continued working such long hours.
At the end of my teaching, I walk around the garden admiring the tulips in the evening light and thank God that I’m here.
The vigil continues…
Unfortunately, dad decided to press his buzzer at 5:30am. After checking on him and returning to bed, I dreamt it went off again at 6:30am, my mind was playing tricks on me.
I had to get up early to sort out the polytunnel and grandad before 9am to make sure we do not miss the vaccinators! This morning, I was very irritated to discover one line of modules in my newly sown tray of leeks, which were not quite covered by the protective sheet of glass, had been dug out by the tunnels resident mouse. During the morning, I continued to write notes for the second talk until our Zoom meeting with the London Gardens Trust. We had quite a long chat with two charming people from the Trust who seemed very keen on the story of our project. It seems likely that we will have maybe 200 or more people listening to the talk, which is wonderful and will help to publicise the garden.
At lunch, I use a selection of lettuce leaves from the tunnel and some green garlic. I then prepare dinner before I start teaching, an old family favourite, chicken, olives and pasta. This is cooked in a tomato sauce mixed with butternut squash. Sadly, we have nearly finished our butternut squashes, there are only a couple left.
Unfortunately, the vaccinators do not come today. When I start teaching, I can hear the sound of the chainsaw. Patrick and Diane have gone outside to finish taking down the nut tree that is within the site of the pond.
I was up early today, conscious of my watering/polytunnel/grandad duties that needed to be completed before 9am, which is when I have to take up my post by the front door waiting for the vaccinators to arrive.
I was quite concerned that dad might be developing a UTI, so I also left a message for the district nurses to call me.
The door knocker went repeatedly through the morning…deliveries, post, clients for Patrick and eventually two lovely nurses arrived and Patrick, Dad and I had our vaccinations. What a relief! However, I still had to stay by the door. This time, for the district nurse for dad!
The good side of this is I’m making some progress with the talk but I am beginning to go a little stir crazy and I need to get back to gardening.
On the positive side, I did take the opportunity to investigate what was involved in taking the ABRSM Grade 5 theory exam online and downloading details for one of my students, with help from Aideen.
I also ordered some Gothic, rusty, edging hoops to install around the organ pipe bed, in the hope of preventing badger invasion.
Aideen and Diane continued to work outside on the mind numbing task of sorting out cobbles and smaller flints according to size and I took the opportunity to hang a large load of washing out to dry. BUT, tomorrow I have to sow seeds!
Back In The Garden
Another beautiful day of glorious sunshine. I felt pretty rough after my vaccination yesterday with shivery, flu-like symptoms, but luckily I felt a bit better this morning. However, it is probably a good thing that I’m intending to spend the day sowing, which is not such physical work.
A nurse came to take a sample from grandad in the morning and he is now beginning to show increased confusion which normal accompanies a UTI. Hopefully we will be prescribed antibiotics quite quickly.
One of my priorities today is to make some space on the bench, so I start by planting out a root trainer of broad beans. Broad beans have not had a good year so far…the Autumn sown crop that was outside was badly hit by the cold spell and I lost at least three quarters of the plants. This is a terrible shame as it is these early sown plants that usually give the best crops. I sowed a fresh batch in the tunnel but unfortunately a mouse stole some of the seeds, leaving only about half of them left to grow into plants.
I then spent a painstaking hour transplanting tiny polyantha seedlings. This is a very delicate operation but worthwhile to get as many plants a possible. The candelabra primulas appear to be the slowest to germinate. I then sowed an 84 module tray of petunia Rapide mixed (the seeds were minute!) and Felicia ‘Pretty Blue’. I then decided that I had a sliver of unused space in the new propagator and I squeezed in six pots sown with melon seeds, 2 each of Emir, Outdoor Wonder and Melba…will I ever give up on growing melons?
I then sowed an 84 cell tray of marigolds – Zenith, Defender Firebird, Red Knight, Disco Alumia Mix and Alumia Vanilla Cream. I have recently read that I should not companion plant these with brassicas or legumes because the marigold root secretions can restrict growth of these vegetables. Ironically, I always plant marigolds with my red cabbage because I like the colour combination! This year, I will put the marigolds with the potatoes. Apparently, nasturtiums and Zinnias are better with the brassicas to distract aphids. There is always something new to learn in the garden!
I then sowed a root trainer of Black Eyed Susan and Ipomea ‘Heavenly Blue’ and another root trainer of Ipomea Blue Ensign and Ipomea Spanish Flag. These will be the summer climbers for the polytunnel. The last tray to sow was an 84 module tray of Sweet Rocket, Sweet Sultan and Heliotrope Dwarf Marine. In the final bit of space I squeeze in 4 more melon pots.
The girls carried on with their labouring and our last tea break was held on a cleared area of old concrete floor slab adjacent to where the new building will be. We all agreed this will be a beautiful spot for our visitors to enjoy their refreshments. Giving them a fine view of the arcades and the new pond. We are very good at imagining things because at the moment it resembles a scene of dereliction!
A Terrible Adventure
After getting dad up this morning, I was concerned about his general condition (confusion, frailty etc.) so I phoned the GP to see if we could fast-forward the antibiotic prescription process. I felt if we waited for the sample result that dad could deteriorate rapidly. The GP agreed and dad had his first tablet at 11:30am. However, after a late lunch, which dad didn’t eat, it became clear that he wasn’t drinking properly. After another call to the GP, it was decided to call an ambulance.
This is a very big deal for us. Dad’s clear wishes are that he doesn’t want to go to hospital and we have been shielding for over a year. However, there are occasions when it is necessary to have medical intervention and I knew this was such a time. I was surprised to find out that I was allowed to travel to hospital with Dad in the Ambulance, but when offered the option, I obviously did. I cannot over emphasise the shock of leaving Church Gardens (our beautiful sanctuary) and entering what could not be a starker contrast, hospital A & E. These situations are further complicated by me not having a mobile phone and I was sent off to hospital with Diane’s phone. I managed reasonably well, apart from accidentally answering a call from Diane’s boyfriend and leaving him in my handbag for 10 mins! I had several lengthy calls with the girls as I attempted to explain what needed covering and closing in the polytunnel. One of the first things I did on arriving home at 2am was to go into the polytunnel and add a few more covers. I then sat up drinking a cup of tea as I knew a doctor would call, which they did at 3:30am and I finally went to bed after 4am.
I’m pleased to report that everyone, grandad and the plants got through the night safely.
A Strange Day
I called the hospital this morning and found out that dad had eaten some porridge for breakfast (with assistance), this must have been interesting considering the length of his beard. We haven’t had the benefits of a hairdresser since before Christmas! This is positive news and hopefully he will be home soon. It has been very strange without him and I keep looking at his little house and feeling as if I should go in. It occurred to me today that I have been looking after dad to some degree ever since mum died, which is 26 years ago. He has lived with us for 17 years and prior to that, he probably came to our old house to eat dinner with us five days out of seven. Now my entire daily routine revolves around his care needs and although it is nice to have a break, it felt very weird and he was constantly in my thoughts.
I spent the day in the tunnel because I have to prioritise sowing at the moment. I am still in the process of transplanting seedlings that have multi-germinated or moving seedlings to bigger containers. This is extremely time consuming but I do manage to sow the cucumbers and put them in the propagators. The varieties included Beth Alpha, Cornichon, Vert de Paris, Femspot, Lili, Little Leaf, Magnum, Emile, Sonja, Slangen and Marketmore.
Patrick and the girls completely exhausted themselves trying to break up the floor slabs of the old sheds using a Kango hammer. They loaded it into the dumper and took it down to the bottom of the drive for removal. This is hard, hard work.
I finish my day shifting four barrows of gravel onto the pumpkin patch.
A Rare Day Out
Last night, we decided that as we do not have grandad with us at the moment, that maybe we should take the opportunity to go out. Even without Covid, this is usually very difficult because we cannot leave grandad unattended. As a result, we haven’t had a holiday since 2016 and days out are rare because we have to arrange ‘grandad sitters’. We are also very bad at dragging ourselves away from Church Gardens. For example, on this occasion, we had hired a dumper for the weekend and we would not usually waste the opportunity to utilise it. However, we haven’t been out properly as a family for more than a year so a trip was planned.
I suggested that we could visit Great Dixter, as I have been longing to return to this beautiful garden for some time. We must have last visited prior to Christopher Lloyd’s death in 2006 because on our last visit we actually saw him with his dachshunds beside the famous long border. Meave remembered the visit and the sausage dogs, but the twins did not. We also thought we could visit the coast at the same time, I haven’t seen the sea since our last Venice tour in 2018.
Diane was playing the Last Post in the Anzac Cemetery during the morning service, so we couldn’t leave until 12 O clock. We had tickets booked for 2pm and it takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes to get there. Before leaving, I embarked on a meticulous watering session, anyone would think I was going away for the weekend! It was much colder today, so the polytunnel was less likely to dry out.
Patrick, James and Aideen, spent the morning removing rubble from the outbuilding site. This might have been partially responsible for Patrick then having a very painful leg muscle when he started the long drive to East Sussex. We all squeezed into a very squeaky Volvo. Meave brought work to do in the car and I had a bag of gardening magazines that I hadn’t yet had the chance to read. Things did not get off to a brilliant start. We had to stop to buy some painkillers for Patrick and we used the opportunity to get a McDonalds for breakfast/lunch. I then managed to spill a substantial amount of coffee in my lap and whilst trying to mop up the coffee with a tissue, I dropped my entire meal down the side of the seat. My clumsiness knows no bounds, but I was determined that nothing was going to spoil the day. Amidst gales of laughter, I retrieved my burger and chips and by the time we reached Great Dixter I had at least partially dried out!
It was wonderful to revisit this iconic garden, everything about Great Dixter is beautiful. The house is incredible and its characterful outbuildings provide a wonderful setting for the established planting of the garden. The surrounding landscape is stunning and it is wonderfully peaceful. I have always been inspired by Christopher Lloyd’s adventurous style of planting. Fergus Garret (appointed head gardener in 1992) worked alongside Christopher Lloyd and is talented and influential in his own right. It was amazing to be in someone else’s garden and to see how it operates under Covid Guidelines, with one way systems and hand sanitiser. We followed the trip (with its inevitable book purchases – the new edition of Christopher Lloyds ‘Meadows’ and also six editions of the Great Dixter Journal, which I did not know existed) with a very blustery trip to the coast. It was unbelievably good to see the sea and I spent all of the squeaky car journey (what does make our car squeak?) squeaking with excitement at pretty gardens and interesting houses…I really should get out more!
The day finished with ‘Line of Duty’ and an Indian Takeaway, almost too much excitement for one day!