First thing this morning, Martin, the ‘master digger driver’ came to take off the surface of the parking area outside the front of the house. This is one of the big jobs we are attempting to get done. Our parking area and drive is a very rough surface, very hard to keep clear in winter – it becomes wet and muddy and prone to weed infestation and not good for disabled access or harp moving! With the top surface removed, we can put down some hard-core (we have no shortage of that!) and type 1 in preparation for a new surface (not decided yet). This means we can use up some of the monster hard core pile and then get rid of the rest, another very big job.
Whilst this was going on, Meave and Aideen were helping Patrick in the office and Diane was on a mission to try and sort out Patricks workshop, which involves some more heavy duty shelf assembly by Diane and Aideen.
I started my days’ work with lots of watering and then I finally finished weeding the runner bean bed. There were lots of family discussions today, mainly about the best surfacing material for the front of the house, as no type of surface is perfect. We need it to be permeable, it has to look appropriate and obviously, cost is a factor.
Lunch was a particularly imaginative creation by Meave. She started by asking me for tarragon, basil, chives, parsley and green kale. It is an incredibly satisfying feeling to be able to disappear into the kitchen garden and come back with a chef’s requests! She made pasta in kale pesto, humus made from basil, tarragon, lemon juice, chives and chickpeas, and a bean salad, very healthy and tasty.
After lunch we were treated to a hilarious fashion show by Diane. She was attempting to sort out the coat cupboard and was modelling all of our old working coats and waterproofs to see what could be disposed of (they are all in a very scruffy condition). Patrick in particular has accumulated a ridiculous amount of old coats which he is very reluctant to let go of, as a family we do have a large quantity of disreputable outdoor, all weather clothing, quite understandably, as we are nearly always outside. I haven’t laughed so much for days and Diane did manage to secure at least some coats for disposal. When Aideen and I were in the garden taking photos for the blog, I came across a very exciting discovery. A beautiful photogenic Jersey Tiger moth posing on an anemone flowering ‘Polka’ Dahlia. I do not think I’ve seen one of these in the garden before, I had to look it up to identify it. It is a ‘day flying’ moth and is usually found in South Devon and the Channel Islands. We do very well for moths and butterflies in the garden and it does seem to be exceptionally good this year.
Literally as I walk along the garden paths butterflies constantly fly up and out of my way. We do have a huge variety of flowers and there is a constant succession of blooms from Feb/March until the first frosts, which do keep our pollinators happy. However, it should be remembered that the caterpillars of our native butterflies and moths will often use particular plants as host food plants and these will be our native plants and wildflowers, not necessarily the adopted exotic species inhabiting our garden borders which originated from faraway places, which is why it is so important to retain diversity in our growing environments and eradicating all so-called weeds can be catastrophic for certain species. Yesterday we talked about ragwort and cinnabar moth, another example of this is the Red Admiral caterpillar which feeds on nettles. I do not particularly relish being stung by nettles and I remove many of them from cultivated areas (making them into compost or liquid fertiliser) but I leave big patches of them in the orchard.
I do finally reach the beetroot bed today but it is in a rather depressing state. This part of the garden is rather overrun with self-seeding Californian poppies which are beautiful but can smother crops. Companion planting is supposed to be beneficial to vegetables not suffocate them! My poor beetroots are struggling, they are not very big and definitely need more space from their rampant companions! It will take a lot of work to get this bed ‘ship shape’, which I need to do to get a good crop and to plant in my new tray of beetroot. Tonight’s dinner is chicken and olives which is cooked with butternut squash. I retrieve a very big squash from my store in the outside toilet. This specimen is just starting to degenerate but I just remove the section that is starting to rot and use the rest, which is a little dryer than usual but still fine to use. I still have a few more butternuts left that are intact and will be juicy when cut into which I think is miraculous considering they were harvested in October 2019.