• Kay

Sulking Cucumbers


I think I’ve annoyed my cucumbers and I can’t really blame them for being upset. Their area, at the start of the central bed in the polytunnel has been completely taken over by giant sunflowers. I always plant some sunflowers here and there in the polytunnel for a variety of reasons. I like them, they are astounding plants, they are good for attracting pollinators and the seeds can be harvested for ourselves, Pecky or the wild birds. However, this year I may have overdone it…I got a bit captivated by the names of different Sunflower varieties, I sowed ‘Giant Single’, ‘Kong’, ‘Titan’, ‘Solar Power’, ‘Velvet Queen’, ‘Evening Sun’ and ‘Tithonia’ – The Mexican Sunflower. Some of these varieties are quite moderate, growing to the height of my shoulder but I should have realised that if something is called ‘Kong’ or ‘Titan’, it will probably be quite large! I have a double row of absolute giants growing with my cucumbers. Their stems are like trunks and their massive heads are stooping because they cannot push through the roof! I fondly imagined my cucumbers climbing up the sunflowers which has happened to some extent and I had reasonable cucumbers at the start of the season, but now the sunflowers are so huge they are probably competing below ground for water although, I do plant cucumbers in their own pots slightly raised but set into the soil with the bottoms cut out. The cucumbers I am now producing resemble gourds with swollen ends, probably because their uptake of water has not been consistent.

Never mind, the sunflowers look spectacular especially entwined with deep purple flowered Ipomea I will be more restrained next year. I have grown six new cucumber plants which I will try growing at the side of the tunnel although it might be too late for them to produce any fruit. Interestingly, the tomatoes seem unconcerned with the sunflowers although there are not as many in their part of the bed.

Having cut off my mis-shapen cucumbers I went out to the brassica quarter to weed. I started with the two small Manuka beds that contain the Passion flower arch – Arctic Queen, and I spent some time disentangling the passionflower from the Manuka which it had attached itself by ‘spring like’ tendrils and tying it to the arch. These passion flowers are now covering this arch beautifully and my efforts were accompanied by the buzzing of various bees. A particularly big bumble bee seemed to be pushing other bees – smaller bumbles and honey bees out of the way! Having worked on this arch, I decided to have a go at the Fremontodendron arch. The Fremontodendron are doing really well and have continued to produce their big yellow flowers all summer but the plant, although sold with the climbers, requires considerable training in order to cover the arch. I go up on my swimming pool ladder to gently bend down and tie in the top growth. But there is a problem with this plant, it sprinkles a sharp gritty dust all over the person touching it! This is unpleasant when it goes down the back of your T-Shirt and into your bra, but it is horrendous if it gets in your eye which inevitably it did! I stagger off up the path trying not to blink because it is so painful. Once I’ve rinsed out my eye, I decided to shower and wash every item of clothing to remove the horrible gritty substance.

I decide to move on from Fremontodendron and return to my cabbages. I’ve been looking forward to weeding these beds, how weird is that, particularly the red cabbage bed, because they look so nice when they are done. The beds have not turned out quite as I planned, what a surprise. I originally planted the brassicas with yellow/gold companion planting of marigolds, tagetes and self-seeded calendula, this looks particularly good with the dark red cabbages. But I hadn’t bargained for the self-seeded Cosmos, which is pink, white and purple. I cannot believe how well this Cosmos has self-seeded. I planted Cosmos alongside my runner beans and Borlotti beans last year, which were the crops planted in these beds last season, and practically all of it has been reproduced this year by self-seeding, including some of my favourite white frilly cupcake cosmos. The plants are tall and bushy and bigger than those grown from seed by me this year, maybe I should just leave it all to Nature!

I spend a very satisfying day buried amongst the cabbages and a mist of Cosmos flowers and I manage to weed the entire red cabbage bed and most of the green cabbage bed…I must remember that I want to make sauerkraut this year.

At the end of the day, I pick an enormous bowl of tomatoes and my biggest red onion to make a tomato/basil salad to accompany the chicken and olive pasta for dinner. I also use up another very large butternut squash from the store…not many left now, but I can see some massive replacements lurking in the pumpkin patch!


Battening down the hatches


Today the forecast is stormy weather, heavy rain and strong winds. I decided therefore to stay inside and organise restarting my private teaching. This has the advantage that I am then working in the music room beside the front door and therefore I will be able to hear if anyone knocks (this can normally be an issue in our house). This is very important today because I am expecting my bulk delivery of incontinence pants for dad. This is not a delivery you want to miss for obvious reasons! Also, Mediquip are coming to collect Jean’s hospital bed which will be a relief because the air mattress keeps intermittently squeaking and no one knows how to stop it!

Sorting out my teaching is a long job because although I now have an email address, I still have to speak to the families in person to check that they still want to continue lessons (after such a long break) and to confirm dates and times. it was lovely to speak to everyone and most of them are keen to start up again. I’ve decided to start teaching from the 14th September to give my pupils the chance to settle back at school first and I have quite a long list of precautionary measures which we will implement to try to keep everybody safe from potential infection. I certainly intend to be very cautious, which seemed to be perfectly understood and appreciated by my pupil’s families.

In the middle of my multiple phone calls the delivery arrived (thank goodness) and so did Mediquip. Unfortunately, they also had to take away the special ‘riser-recliner’ chair that was provided for Jean with pressure relieving cushions. This is a shame because dad has been using it as well as his own chair. I asked if we could retain it as dad is also at risk of pressure sores but that was not possible. Their system requires items to be prescribed for specific people. We had the same issue with the hospital beds before Jean came to stay. Dad had been prescribed a hospital bed with an air mattress when he came out of hospital in November because he had a moisture lesion (this is the stage before a pressure sore). In order for Jean to be discharged to us we needed a hospital bed. The authorities in charge of such things sent dad’s bed back when his lesion healed and we were not allowed to keep it for Jean. Another bed then had to be delivered for her. I can partly understand the logic of this, but I cannot help but think some ‘joined up’ thinking on these matters would save time and money.

The wind has blown strongly all day and I have kept an eye on the garden with some trepidation, mainly through the window. I kept most of the polytunnel shut during the day, only opening one door for a few hours to keep the temperature down. I am very wary of potential wind damage to my precious tunnel. I left the windows propped open which seems to be OK, even in a strong wind. I’ve kept up consumption of tomatoes today – grilled on toast with marmite and cheese for breakfast and in a sandwich for lunch! They are really delicious and hopefully you can’t overdose on them!


The arrival of the tree surgeons


Today is a busy day with lots going on, unfortunately dad’s bowel has chosen to be busy as well which doesn’t bode well for getting much done.

The Council’s tree surgeons had spoken to me a few weeks previously to say they were hoping to come on the 26th August. They were very apologetic about not having got to us when originally promised but assured us that they would stick to this date. Patrick and I were just grateful they were coming at all and early this morning they arrived. I feel really sorry for the man in charge because he then explained he’d brought two teams with him today in case they receive another emergency call out – one team could then leave and one stay. He explained he had been working until 4am and had very little sleep since Friday due to the severe winds and storms. He seems like a really nice man and he obviously works extremely hard. They then headed off towards the arcaded wall to start work.

Aideen and Diane are working together trying to paint the downstairs of their dad’s office as fast as they can. They are also working extremely hard and finish their days spattered from head to foot in white, blue and grey paint!

I am expecting a delivery of night time catheter bags which when they do arrive are delivered to the church…I don’t know who the delivery people thought would be using them there! I am also expecting someone to come and collect a hospital bed air mattress which has been randomly left with us sine Jean first came to stay and couldn’t be taken away by the people taking the hospital bed and chair yesterday.

Meave and I are also expecting a visit for lunch from a friend who sings in my choir and was Meave’s maths tutor for A’levels (Maths and Further Maths). This clever and kind lady was our saviour at that time because Meave’s school provided very little of Meave’s maths provision and most of it had to be organised privately!

Before our visitor arrives, I briefly get into the garden to re-erect the water feature, after it was blown down in the wind. Fortunately, it has survived its fall and Patrick adds some screws to try to give it greater stability in future storms. I retrieve all of the pebbles that are scattered across the tiles and top it up with water and watch it start up again. I love this water feature, it is quite mesmerising watching the water fall from leaf to leaf.

After lunch, I am summoned by the chief tree surgeon to discuss progress and to assess whether a couple of tress he was unsure about should be left or removed.

He and his team are doing a brilliant job and also being incredibly careful of the wall. He apologised about knocking a loose brick off the top of the wall which he had carefully replaced. I said I was amazed at how well they were managing, it can’t be easy taking down large branches on top of a partially derelict Tudor retaining wall. One of the tree surgery team had struck up quite a friendship with Pecky and was happily feeding her leaves through the fence which I thought was very sweet!

Another visitor in the afternoon was our wonderful bee man with 10 jars of honey for our store cupboard. He is very pleased with our bees which have produced over 100lbs (jars) of honey this year, more than four times as much as last year!. This has made a good contribution to the bee society funds. He has had a good harvest for himself and there’s more than enough for us as well, another of nature’s miracles!

When I finally get into the garden I continue to weed the brassicas. I finish the green cabbage bed and then weed the cauliflower/broccoli bed. Meave comes out after work to pick beans for a meal she is preparing tonight. She finally picks the edamame beans which she has waited patiently for. They look good, not a huge quantity but the beans look a reasonable size. I will need to sow more next year.

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