The fine weather continues and I have high hopes for today’s bulb planting tally.
I am a bit delayed to going outside by discussing interior improvements with Diane. This is very much Diane’s department and she has made some real progress since she has been made redundant. Trying to make progress with interior decoration in our house is like a very complex game of chess. Limited moves can be made but they are soon blocked by the necessity to involve Patrick in a job. The next problem is persuading Patrick to carry out whatever task is required. This is difficult, not because Patrick is lazy, but because he is always ridiculously buy and does not like being inside to do jobs. He will always prioritise outside over inside. However, I think he has met his match with Diane, who is capable of ‘nuclear nagging’, she is far more successful than me at persuading Patrick to do things! Each small move that she manages to make improves our general living standards and I am incredibly grateful that she has chosen to become involved. In my ‘Zoom’ talk I describe us installing a very basic kitchen that has changed little in the last 25 years, maybe soon I will be able to say that I’ve got a proper kitchen! I can dream!
After my chat with Diane I load up my barrow with another box of bulbs…22 bags…550 bulbs, that I would very much like to get planted today. I head off to the bottom of the front field, with a mug of tea, my radio and my faithful friend Pip who stays close beside me watching proceedings from the trampoline. I have another discreet visitor, a little robin who keeps hopping through the branches of the hedge.
Doing this job has given me a unique opportunity to observe our hedge. I planted this mixed hedge about 20 years ago and it is a repeated planting of forsythia, berberis, pyracantha, hawthorn, viburnum, holly and wild rose. It has grown really well and even when cut is about three metres high. It is thick and impenetrable and makes a constant changing tapestry of leaf colour, flowers and berries. What I am particularly delighted by, is it provides a wonderful home for small birds. Little birds seem very active at the moment and I was totally captivated by numerous ‘Great Tits’ who were everywhere this morning, clinging to the walls, going in the hanging basks, landing on obelisks and fluttering at the windows…absolutely adorable!
I work steadily all day and only stop briefly for lunch and by 5pm I’ve finished the box, 550 bulbs…hurrah!
A wheelbarrow of apples
This morning Patrick pushed a wheelbarrow full of apples into the kitchen! Apparently, this was because he wanted me to use them…preferably by making apple pie, which he was keen to remind me, he absolutely loves! “I could eat it every day, even twice a day” were his exact words. I ask him politely to remove the wheelbarrow, whilst I contemplate what to do with this quantity of windfalls when there is still cooked apple in the fridge to use up.
I finally hit upon a plan which is to cook them all and freeze them in separate portions. This way I can space out our apple dishes over coming months rather than eating nothing but apples for the next few weeks. This is probably an obvious solution to most people but I must admit to not being the most efficient preserver of produce. My fridge has always had a freezer, but over the years I have barely used it.
I tend to use things up as I go, even our tomatoes, which have given us a fine crop have just been consumed as they ripen. A few have dropped to the ground, but along with the few raspberries, plums, strawberries and apples etc. that fall and start to decompose before discovery, they are eaten by the hordes of insects and wildlife that share the garden with us. We have made progress in the preserving realm this year with strawberry jam. Quince cheese and using fruit and herbs in ice-cream but there is definitely room for expansion in this area. A lot of this is due to lack of time but it is also due lack of necessity. In her book, ‘Rhapsody in Green’, Charlotte Mendelson discusses her complete obsession with preserving, probably inspired by reading Laura Ingalls books which were immortalised in the series ‘Little House on the Prairie’, a programme I watched avidly as a child. But even Mendelson points out that the frantic industry that surrounded preserving everything in sight, in Ingalls’ books, was born through necessity. They needed that food to get them through the winter. Even Patrick’s family, raising three children on a small farm in Ireland in the 1960’s had to be much more careful of making use of their harvest and storing food successfully. Patrick is far more conscious of being self-sufficient than I will ever be. He had to milk cows and collect water from a spring in a field some distance from his farm house and then bring the water and milk back home in buckets, hanging from the handle bars of his bicycle before going to school. His only comment on this remarkable behaviour is that milk stays in the bucket more successfully than water, probably due to its greater viscosity! I am very away of how spoilt I am in comparison. Preserving food for most people in the UK is an enjoyable luxury because buying similar products from supermarkets is so cheap.
However, this does not mean I shouldn’t make the effort, because the main advantage of eating our own harvest is for our health. We know how our own food has been grown and we are incredibly lucky to have the privilege of consuming chemical free fruit and veg. Where shall I put these apples, says Patrick? I tell him to leave them on the outside table (my outdoor fridge) and hopefully I will get around to preparing them soon!
It is a beautiful day today, warm and sunny, which makes us consider cleaning out the pool and putting it away. Meave is elected to do this job and puts on my wetsuit to theoretically help her deal with the cold water remaining in the pool (a foot deep) however, the suit finishes at the knees and Meave’s reaction to putting her foot in the water is so extreme that I fear little progress will occur with the pool today…she is not as hardy as her mother! The pool is left draining whilst we decide how best to proceed. Aideen hops on the tractor/mower to gather leaves and Patrick and Diane go down to the compost area to build up the sides of this year’s leaf mould container with chicken wire to hold all of the leaves that will be coming its way.
I then return to the front field with another box of bulbs and by the end of the day I have planted a further 500 bulbs and reached the end of the hedge. This means 1925 bulbs have been planted around the front field which should make a good display.
I have 1125 left which I think will partly go alongside the driveway and along the front of the forest garden bed.
Jobs to do in the garden are now mounting up. Once the daffodils are in – they benefit from earlier planting than tulips – the dahlias need to come out (they have now been finished by frost). This also applies to begonias and cannas, although I intend to leave some cannas in and mulch them. I still have to plant the remainder of my onions and garlic, which I can do now because the nasturtiums have also been killed by the frost. But this will require clearing a bed. I have also noticed that the bed of garlic already planted will need careful weeding. This bed, previously home to the Lingon berries, was always infested with grass. Although this year’s grass was weeded out, I now see the heads of seedling grass poking through – this could be a nightmare to deal with growing amongst the garlic. I also need to sow the sweet peas and any other early companion planting, and I have to clear the polytunnel at some stage and continue planting the remaining 7000 bulbs…but I will stop there and attempt to concentrate on one thing at a time!!!