The cows vanished! You know, the ones that live in the opposite field, the cows I hop across the road to commune with when I am in cow-communing mooooode, I mean, mode. They were there last night, they were there this morning, I nipped into town for less than an hour and when I came back - they were GONE!!
Well! You know what I immediately thought? I immediately thought, 'Someone has stolen my cows and taken them to market!' Okay, I know they're strictly speaking NOT my cows, but I feel like they could be because me and the cows have a bovine affinity. I can identify at least half of them from their weird hair-dos and their little habits. Anyway, the cows were gone, it was market day in Market Drayton and I felt immediately bereft.
For a brief moment I entertained the thought that maybe they had been abducted by an alien spaceship and were cruising the Milky Way (ahahahaha!) or visiting the Moooooon, but as the day went on with me pressing my nose forlornly against the living room window, wailing, 'Where are you, Cows?' I came to realise that they had, indeed, gone to market, ne'er more to return and stare back at me through that very same living room window. And then...
...they were back again! At 5.45, as I was mooching around the kitchen making a Quorn and vegetable filo pie and wishing I hadn't devoted quite so much time to cow fraternising, they suddenly came a-galloping into view, stopping every few gallops to chomp on the grass like they had never seen grass before in their lives!!! I opened the window. 'Hello, Cows!!' I shouted. 'Moooooooooo!!!' they moo-ed back. And all was well. (I didn't ask where they had been. I didn't want to know. My cows were back. Nuff said.)
Don't ask me how this happened, but three days ago a wasp got into my very snug jeans and bloody stung me. Twice. And it bloody hurt. I was even wearing wellies AND and shirt and cardie. B*****d wasp. The quick administration of anti-histamine and generous dose of TCP sorted out some of the swelling and pain, but it is only today I've stopped itching and feeling like my leg was going to drop off. I don't know - I've wandered happily amongst thousands of bees with so much as a tickle, yet one wasp...well....
Still applying for jobs. Any jobs. The need for job application has stepped up a notch in the last 24 hours because the floor by the corner of the bath (the shower end) suddenly decided to 'dip' in a slightly alarming fashion, and once Andy had wrangled with the horrid vinyl flooring (which I remember both of us declaring our dislike for when we viewed the house back in March) it was discovered the dip was due to a two foot squareish area of rotting floorboard. I tried not to have visions of that scene in the film 'The Money Pit' where the bathroom falls through the ceiling into the living room and Tom Hanks has an hysterical laughing fit, and Andy tried to stop Flora Bijou Mybug investigating the Underfloor World of Bathroom at Damson Cottage in her capacity of plumber's mate.
So, it looks like the bathroom refit we were planning to do anyway is going to happen sooner rather than later. A plumber is coming out tomorrow evening to view the job and no doubt do a fair bit of sucking in of the air through his teeth, and we are avoiding using the wall shower for the time being as we think this is where the problem is occurring. Like we know about plumbing and stuff. We have a bit of savings left over, but may have to raid the credit card. Who knows? Meanwhile, I am distracting myself by thoughts of lovely tiles and a proper glass shower screen and not the current 'flappy in the wind and sticks to you if the window is open' 3 quid shower curtain I bought from Morrisons when we got here. That, I think, might make a good rain shelter for the hens, who are now Ladying it in their new palatial grounds since the run has been reconfigured and relocated.
I'm off now. To gaze at the cows. And watch Bake Off. Hurrah! Byeeee!!!
As you know, we have affectionately nick-named our septic tank 'Vladimir' because it is a poo tin. So why not, we thought, get a rotovator - we could call it Attila! (Think about it...think about it...)
Except it turns out that rotovators and tillers are two different things. I sort of knew this already, but it wasn't until I started proper investigations that I realised just how different. Mostly, the difference seems to be size and, ergo, manageability for my weak lady wrists, and forum opinions which yell, 'Don't use a rotovator - you'll only chop up bits of weed root and spread them further over the plot and then you'll be weeding for the rest of eternity and then some!' Also, Andy had a scary experience with a rotovator during our allotment days - an experience which literally shook him up and swore him off rotovating for life. Which brings us to tillers.
We need something, you see, to help us break up the bits of lawn which have now been designated 'Fruit and Vegetable Garden' land. The land is clay, the grass roots are knitted together tighter than a Victorian lady's bikini and whilst digging is an option, it is not an option we fancy for such a large area when maybe an easier option can be found. So, would Attila work? Hmmm. Answers on a postcard please...(and before anyone suggests pigs - well, after careful consideration I have decided that I don't really care for pigs - sheep, cows, goats - yes. Piggies - no. Despite their renowned rotovating skills.)
This morning we tracked down a couple of blackcurrant bushes to go in the fruit cage along with the strawberry plants. Sadly, it has been hissing it down all afternoon so they'll have to stay in their pots for a day or two until the next promised swathe of sunshine arrives on Tuesday. Gladly, the rain will loosen up the soil ready for planting! And in a moment of horticultural optimism I have attempted to root three cuttings from the thornless blackberry bush that was, stupidly in my opinion, planted behind the greenhouse. Whilst leaf growth on the plant was lush, fruit was negligible; also, the brambles were smothering the greenhouse and I need the greenhouse clear and bright as I have sweet pea seeds ready to plant up for next year and they won't germinate in a greenhouse that is doing a passable impression of a cave. So I set about the blackberry with my secateurs and reduced it pretty much to the ground and lo! There was light!
It seemed a pity, though, to have such lush foliage go to the compost heap. So I consulted the RHS Encyclopaedia re: cultivating blackberry cuttings. I then ignored the sage advice of the RHS and stuck three cuttings of around a foot long each into a deep pot of multi-purpose compost and crossed my fingers. They went a bit flopsy on Day 1, but now they are looking positively rigid so my haphazard cultivation technique may well yet work and we'll have a nice blackberry bush or three to put in the fruit cage, too. Of course, the hedges are riddled with wild blackberries, so we shan't go short on jam and pies, but it'd be nice to have some fruit that won't scratch my arms to buggery when I pick it next year.
Project Chicken Run continues apace - Andy has been making plans, measuring and calculating and says he might, just might, have it all built in the next couple of days, again weather permitting. I am sitting on my hands and trying not to get TOO excited at the prospect of new lady hens on the horizon. By the way, Andy's hand is almost mended. He has been left with a small divotty scar on his wrist which he says is ideal to take snuff from. Yup - I thought that, too. 🙄 Apart from that, there is a nice big scab, and recovery is 97.4573% complete.
Finally, with wise words from gardening chums vis a vis the rampancy of crocosmia ringing in my ears, I am now researching other suitable plants to grow in semi-shade heavy soil. The crocosmia shares the space with ligularia (??? I think that's what it is - it has equal rampancy) and a few hollyhocks. I think the space needs a serious rethink for plants I actually like and maybe could cut for the house. Back to the RHS Encyclopaedia then...
The last of our seemingly never-ending list of visitors left this morning, and whilst it is, of course, lovely to see our family and friends, both Damson Cottage and I exhale long and low as the peace of the cottage makes a return. And so, into the garden for the next thrilling update! (I knew you'd be excited!!)
The fruit cage has grown! Down with the old one and up with the one we had at the allotment. The existing veg beds will be realigned once the polytunnel frame goes up and we've got a sense of the space we'll have to work with. I don't know if the squash will come to anything as they were late going into the ground, but I keep watering them and chatting to them - we can but try. We've got some strawberry plants ready to go in; just need to track down a couple of blackcurrant bushes.
The cucumbers, however, are going crazy! We shall definitely be harvesting a cucumber or ten in the next couple of weeks, I reckon - assuming no early onset of blizzardy winter that is.
Bits of polytunnel frame ready to go up at the weekend. Bits of old fruit cage to be recycled as new chicken enclosure. Note the immaculately mown lawn...
Pretty apples on one of the six apple trees...
Holly for Christmas...sshhhhhh.....
Grand show of crocosima one of the lower garden borders. I'm not sure how I feel about this plant, but it's a goodly splash of colour nonetheless...
Mad hens with fuzzy heads. 'Stand still!' I kept saying. 'We can't!' they kept saying back.
And finally, some views of the fields that surround us. Just because it is a sunny evening and all is peace and calm.
(Andy found an artistic branch upon which to hang the bird feeder. The pesky great tits can now flick birdseed wherever they like now and the courtyard will remain jungle-free!)
As most of you are aware, my professional gardener of choice, whose horticultural word I deem as law, is Monty Don. I base my decision on the many books of his I have read, the DVD of his visit and appraisal of Italian gardens, and the fact he is rather nice to look when he is presenting Gardeners' World and the Chelsea Flower Show season. And whilst I appreciate that Andy might not see Monty in the same aesthetically pleasing way that I do, I think he is happy to accept Monty's many years of gardening wisdom when we are making decisions about what to do with the garden here at Damson Cottage.
And so, armed with this...
...and a dodgy set of measurements taken yesterday when the weather wasn't quite so Arctic (heatwave? Ha!) we sat around the dining room table this morning planning the area of the garden that shall henceforth be known as 'The Fruit and Vegetable Garden.'
Of course, with several years of allotmenteering under our belts, we weren't heading into the planning completely blind. We were already thinking crop rotation, raised beds (proper ones, not just a skinny bit of wood pretending to be raised but having no more ability to keep the slugs at bay than a postage stamp), pathways, water supply and compost bins. However, having lived here for over two months now, we are aware that the wind is quite capable of whipping across the fields when it fancies making the top garden a bit on the gusty side, and so our priority as the planning committee assembled was to decide on a suitable barrier to enclose our chosen Fruit and Vegetable Garden site.
(I say 'committee' because Flora was helping too...
...and when I say 'helping', she wasn't really.)
The Fruit and Vegetable Garden will be approximately 16 metres by 12 metres. One side will be enclosed by the existing hedge, which is mostly hawthorn, with a bit of holly and a bit of beech thrown in for good measure. One side will be enclosed by the extended fruit cage (the existing cage to be dismantled in favour of our old allotment fruit cage) and the polytunnel. Andy has assembled the frame of the polytunnel. It is now lying on its side at the top of the garden spoiling the view of the beautiful lawn mowing I did on Friday. And this leaves two sides to be enclosed unless we decided to also put up 'something' beside the fruit cage/ polytunnel combo - the jury is still out on this.
But what to put up? Originally, we had thought we would delineate the F & G Garden using box hedging in a sort of fancy pants Tudor knot garden kind of way, but box does not do well itself in gusty conditions so would, ergo, be pretty pants at protecting our crops. Box is also relatively slow growing, and, since moving up here and becoming very aware that every day that passes is a day closer to death (or a day of additional wisdom, take your pick) and, therefore, decisions need to be made with efficiency and acted upon swiftly, we agreed we needed something that will achieve a goodly height in not too many years. Or at least before we become too old and doddery to actually manage fruit and vegetable growing in an efficient manner and curse the day we got a big garden! (Never!!)
The choices then? Fence, wall and hedge.
We discounted fencing immediately. Too much a reminder of the Maidstone garden, where fencing was a way to keep the neighbours at bay. Which then led me to a period of over-excitement when I went all 'walled garden' crazy. 'We could have a walled garden!' I said, excitedly thinking of all the walled gardens I've dribbled over at various National Trust houses. Yes! A walled garden...ah, just think! Great lengths of beautiful brickwork against which to grow peaches and apricots. Great swathes of gravel pathways to crunch the wheelbarrow along. Massive willow or hazelwood structures to grow beans and sweet peas up. A bench here and there, nestling against the warm walls, to sit upon after a hard day of digging and weeding and enjoy a cuppa and a nibble of fruit cake whilst watching the spaniels race up and down and in and out of the 12, nay 16 raised beds all billowing forth a bounty of vegetables and...'Oi!' said Andy. 'Stop with the walled garden imagining. A walled garden would be nice, but we have a quarter of an acre, not 5 acres.'
He was right, of course, his Lordship Malarkey. Sometimes he is, you know. So hedge it was, and is to be. I consulted Monty. 'Monty says hornbeam,' said I. Which was convenient as it grows quite quickly, and will also like our clay soil. We both like the look of hornbeam. According to Monty, hornbeam has the brighest of green leaves in the Springtime, and looking at it is dancing for the eyes. Or something like that. That'll be the first job for Autumn - planting the new hedge.
We shall also need to move the young fruit trees that are slap bang in the middle of the Fruit and Vegetable Garden plan. We tried to plan around them, but it just wasn't happening; by the time we'd allowed for pathways around them, our potential raised bed areas were compromised. There are 5 altogether - 2 apple, 1 pear, 1 plum and 1 indeterminate, but is possibly another plum, it just hasn't fruited this year. The Indeterminate might stay put. It is the tallest of the five and is about central to the plot, so could provide a nice focal point and be home to one of those circular 'round-the-trunk-of-a-tree' benches. The others will have to move outside of the V & G plan and be re-sited. Another job for Autumn. Or early Spring depending on what the weather gets up to.
I am also keen to get Project Permanent Chicken Home into operation as I'd like to get new hens installed before Winter. To maximise their space and minimise the area upon which they will encroach on the rest of the top garden, they will have an 'L' shaped enclosure in the top left hand corner. It's sheltered, they will have trees to grub about under, and we'll be able to rotate the ground they live on via a cunning combination of gates, thus avoiding a complete massacre of the grass. We just need to sort out extra or new housing as the Eglu can acccommodate only 4 hens and is starting to show its age, being almost 8 years old now.
Enough now, though! I'm off to knit some flowers to decorate a blanket I've just completed.
I did a whole day of gardening today. It was like going to work as a gardener. I enjoyed it enormously, getting on with gardening work. The sun was mostly shining, it was a bit windy, I had butterfly and bee companions, and at the end of the day I looked back and thought, 'Now THAT was a good day's work!'
Unfortunately, it wasn't the kind of work that dished up any cold hard cash for the bills, although it had rewards a-plenty in many other respects. And even though Andy keeps reassuring me that there is no rush for me to get back to work, and I am really enjoying being at home doing home and garden stuff, I need to find paid employment of some sort to help pay for everything we want to do to make Damson Cottage 'our place.' (The title deeds finally arrived yesterday, after my sending a marginally testy email last Friday asking about their whereabouts. The accompanying letter concluded along the lines of 'if we can be of any assistance in future house conveyancing, please let us know.' Ha! As if!!)
The thing is, you see, (and here I make a confession) - I don't want to be a teacher any more. I've had enough. Teaching is a young person's game. A young person with tough skin and infinite energy. And whilst I have the energy for gardening and sewing and writing, I cannot summon up the same to entice me back to standing in a classroom with 30+ teenagers, trying to convey to them the joy of poetry/ Shakespeare/ a good book/ correct use of the capital letter and/ or full stop. Whilst the theory of the relevant energy is there, in my head, I just know that if I were to put it into practice I would turn, within the space of less than a week, into a more crabby, bad-tempered and shouty person than I already am. Which would be bad. Very bad.
So although I have put in a couple of applications to schools and sixth form colleges, I've been secretly pleased they haven't come to anything. And so I have turned my attention to other employment avenues. Like office work and shop work. Part-time, you know, just to earn a bit of cash, jobs to leave behind at the end of the day, that I can do efficiently and cheerfully. However, I am finding they are coming to nothing, too.
Andy's theory is that I am over-qualified. I have a theory that, at 50, I am edging onto the periphery of being too old. I don't feel too old - I feel no older than I did in my thirties (although after today's gardening extravaganza I expect tomorrow I shall feel about 85!). Anyway, there's not a sniff of an interview in sight. I still write my monthly magazine column, so I am earning a little, but I do need to find something else.
Another dilemma is do I apply for just part-time, because it is important that I have time to develop the garden, and decorate the house, and sew and write. Or do I apply for full-time, too? Just to get my foot back in the employment door? I have found another job to apply for - I can't say what it is at the moment because it is rather, well, 'odd' and I don't want anyone to talk me out of applying for it as it sparked my interest. BUT it is also full-time. What to do, what to do?
Of course, I know what to do. I shall apply and like all the others, leave it to fate. If I get it, I do - if I don't, I don't. And the right thing will come along. And I shall try not to succumb to feeling over the employment hill in the meantime!
So when Heather arrived on Sunday for her visit, she brought Kayleigh with her. And because it was Andy's and my wedding anniversary we all went out for dinner at the pub along the road, which was lovely; and because we had the small child with us, it also involved a certain amount of making pirate faces from pancakes and sweets and playing on the slides and climbing equipment in the pub garden at gone 9 p.m even though dusk was descending and there was a chill wind blowing around the nethers.
Yesterday, we had a day at Hawkstone Follies. If you are ever in the vicinity of North Shropshire, I HIGHLY recommend you visit this park. However, make sure you wear decent shoes for walking and climbing, and take a torch for the caves. We were very brave and did most of the longest walk which took 2 and a half hours and involved signposts saying things like 'Strenuous', 'Precipitous', 'Narrow', 'Steep', 'If you don't like heights, don't go this way', 'Jungle', 'Cliff', 'Slippery'...oh, you get the drift. All I can say is, that by the time we finally arrived back at base i.e soft, flat grass and 5 minutes from the tea room, we were all sweating buckets, reconciling ourselves to muscles we never knew we had and not quite believing we had actually completed the route. It was like 'Indiana Jones Does Body Pump Combat with a side serving of High Intensity Military Boot Camp Zumba.' Even Kayleigh, who then decided she wasn't going to miss out on a go on the children's play area, ran towards it on floppy, wobbly little drunken spider legs which made us all laugh.
Next time I shall take crampons, rope, walking sticks and some Kendal mint cake. But the views were spectacular (especially from the top of the tower - 150 steps) and the trees, the rock formations and the caves quite amazing. It is a good place for a bracing expedition and for maybe taking a writing note book, or an artist sketch pad. Just make sure you pace yourself so you don't blind yourself to all the views with sweat dripping into your eyes.
Today, we went for activities a little more genteel. After showing Heather the delights of Market Drayton (she liked the town but was appalled by the lack of apostrophes on retail establishment signage that belonged to people like Julie, Dave, Sue) we went to an antique market just up the road. Now, when I say 'market' I am describing something that would probably fill a sizeable aircraft hangar. It is MASSIVE! I thought Kayleigh might be bored, but Heather and I are interested in this kind of emporium, so I am afraid she was going to have to tag along whether she liked it or not. And as it turned out, like it she did!
Armed with the £10 she had brought with her for spending money, she ventured forth into the Aladdin's cave of treasure and tat, and immediately homed in on a small brass turtle with a hinged shell. I said, 'Don't buy the first thing you see - take your time. We've only been here 30 seconds and you might find something you like better.' Sage advice, I thought, from a sage gran.
On we went then. The next thing that caught Kayleigh's eye was a magnifying glass. Then a glass paperweight. Then a small brass pocket telescope, 1915, which collapsed into a neat wooden case, and which I was rather taken with myself. But then she spotted...
And from then on in, the blinkers were on. All thoughts of turtles, telescopes, magnifying glasses and paperweights were forgotten. The guitar was the prize. Heather bravely tried to distract her with a bugle, but no. It was a guitar or nothing. And eventually, good old Grandpa tracked down a child-sized instrument and purchased it for the grand sum of £15. It has a string missing, but Andy has, with the patience of a saint, been talking Kayleigh through the beginnings of guitar playing.
Tomorrow, she wants to learn to knit...
Bit of a pun there, to start you off. Except it almost wasn't a good idea because I had a moment when I couldn't decide if Liszt was spelled Liszt or Lizst, but Mr Google soon sorted THAT one out. But I very nearly gave up and titled today's post 'Shopping List' instead. Aren't you glad I persevered?
Anyway, move on. In the spirit of supporting Andy with shifting back the weight he has put on (although I have reminded him that he is STILL a goodly 3 stones lighter than he was, just so he isn't totally miserable about the whole thing) I constructed a shopping list according to the collection of new recipes we are going to try in order to obtain a hip, happening and healthy diet. We already, in my opinion, eat healthily - we don't half get through fruit 'n' veg and we don't 'do' things like ready meals - but we both agreed that maybe it would be a good thing to broaden our repertoire of recipes and this necessitates the addition of different store cupboard basics.
The list, then, looked something like this:
Millet? Isn't that what budgies eat? Well, yes - that is what I thought, but then look at budgies. Hips of a racing snake (to quote the much missed Sir Terry Wogan) that's what budgies have. Must be the millet.
And then I had to restock several spices because I had given the existing stock a good clear out before we moved and our usual eclectic supply was sorely lacking. We also stocked up on noodles, bean sprouts, veggie stock cubes and various pulses and beans. And air freshener. (Not! I was joking!! It's summer, so the windows can stay open.) Andy got some chicken and fish, too, in order to bulk cook a couple of his Hairy Biker recipes and pop 'em in the freezer for those carniverous moments, or when I shall be eating something disgusting like quinoa, cous cous or anything else deemed too vegetably.
The usual supermarkets supplied most of the weirdness of our list, but we were scuppered when it came to the buckwheat and the millet. Obviously these items are too avant garde for your average shopper. Too niche. Too eccentric. Luckily, we have a wholefood shop in Market Drayton, so off we trotted there, hope in our hearts, anticipation in our bowels.
Why do wholefood shops smell so...odd? They have their own peculiar odour, like churches and primary schools. It's not unpleasant; just a bit brewer's yeasty. Anyway, the chap behind the counter leapt forth to locate for us the buckwheat and the millet. 'Do you want grain or flake?' said he. 'Roasted or plain?' Who knew there were so many options? I played it safe and went for plain grain, guessing that the flake options were probably for cereal purposes and we wanted them for cooking. No way was Mr Wholefood going to catch ME out! Ha!! I went for it with bold confidence. 'Plain grain,' said I, like I knew what I was talking about. 'Are you sure?' said Mr Wholefood, narrowing his eyes like he was John Humphries on Mastermind. 'Yes!' said I, continuing the boldmentum. He seemed satisfied, did Mr Wholefood, that I was an old hand at buying weird food and so he turned his attention to Andy's cat bite which is still a bit of a giveaway because of the bandage and sling combo. Eventually, we got away and went home to do some weeding and plant out the squashes as I'd got myself organised on the slug repellent front.
The kitchen cupboards, the fridge and the freezer are now packed to the hilt with wholesome goodness. Hopefully, they'll turn into something that'll taste yum and not of cardboard. Tonight, we start with this...
...spinach and new potato curry with coconut. I think I need to brace myself before using the buckwheat and millet.
You know I mentioned a few posts back that I couldn't yet see the reason behind Andy being savaged by a cat and all the aggravation that has gone with the event, because everything that happens apparently happens for a reason? (And ...breathe....)
Well, today I had the Epiphany of Reason! Twice, in fact. Oh yes! Firstly, the catty-bitey happening thing has forced me to drive everywhere in North Shropshire because whenever we have wanted to go anywhere then I have had to drive. Well, it was either that or be housebound for 7 weeks. And not only am I au fait now with Shropshire - I have been gallivanting around Cheshire and Staffordshire, too. This has been a BIG thing for me 1) because even though I have been driving for 33 years I don't really enjoy driving and b) I have my agoraphobic tendencies to confront to when I travel somewhere with which I am unfamiliar.
And the second epiph is that because Andy has been one 'and down (so to pun) we haven't been able to crack on with changes to Damson Cottage and the gardens as quickly as we might have done had Andy been, well, handy. Which has made us think with greater care about the changes we want to make to our new home.
The visit to hospital this week has brought positive news. Although Andy had to suffer a second curette, one end of the wound is knitting together and progress can be seen even from day to day. And the doctor has given Andy permission to return to work next Wednesday (hurrah!) and he doesn't have to go back to the hospital for another 3 weeks (hurrah, hurrah!!) at which point, we are hoping (fingers crossed) that he will be discharged because all will be healed.
So the good news coupled with arrival of a jolly nice sunny afternoon sent us into the garden to do a spot of preliminary but visionary planning for the future of our farm-in-miniature. I say 'preliminary' because we have decided it would be prudent to make a properly measured scale plan on paper so we can see any potential issues before we go all gung-ho with the hardening hardware.
And after much pacing and pointing, and imaginings and wishings, this is what we have decided so far:
1) the swing will come down to make way for the polytunnel. This will connect via a cunning door arrangement to...
2) the fruit cage, which will be expanded x 2 possibly x 3 so we can plant strawberries and blackcurrants next year
3) a hedge will be planted to form the outline of the official vegetable plot area. This will encompass the existing fruit trees, fruit cage, raised beds and the polytunnel when it goes up which will be soon. Gravel and/or flagstones paths between the veg beds to replace grass and decrease the number of b*****d slugs
4) the hens will likely move to the top left of the garden so their numbers can be expanded
5) the large potting shed, which has a concrete floor and brick base rising to about 2 feet tall will have its wooden walls and roof removed to be replaced with glazing to magic it into a heated greenhouse. If the grapevine behaves it will be allowed access to the greenhouse to grow in comfort and much grapiness. The base may be extended to make a 'super greenhouse' because if you're gonna have a greenhouse, have a big 'un
6) the current and quite tatty greenhouse will be removed leaving a space just right for quail (but Andy doesn't know this yet as it has only JUST occurred to me!)
7) the garage will be demolished and replaced with an art and craft studio, to include a loo, sink and maybe shower. Big glass windows to be set on both sides to enjoy both the view across the fields on one side and onto our lovely court yard t'other
8) a gazebo for the sitting in the garden of during inclement weather. The position of this is undecided yet. It might be wrangling for position with the hens; it might be moving - who knows?
9) The apiary to go in the top right hand corner - easy access to fields on two sides AND the veg garden AND the little orchard. Also, sunny and sheltered, not too hot and next to the oak tree under which I can oft be found sitting and reading and writing and thinking. And, next year, bee watching
10) The lower garden (between the goat willow and the top end of the courtyard) to be developed further as a relaxing, sitting, full-of-flowers proper cottage garden space.
And that's it for the moment. Big ideas, but we can see them happening. It is VERY exciting!! Over the weekend we shall be measuring and planning on paper just to make sure what is in our heads will work in reality. It's our 12th wedding anniversary on Sunday and Heather is coming to stay. She has promised to not touch the garden but she is a creative person so maybe she could give us ideas from another perspective? And I am glad I can finally see why Andy got chomped by a mad cat - because sometimes that is what it takes to slow down an important time in your life and give you time to think.
My mum is up from Kent for a holiday and in an attempt to stop her attacking the lovely ivy that is growing up the front of Damson Cottage and is currently housing a couple of birds - 'Well, I know what I'D do with it if it was MINE' - we have taken her on days out here and there. (And to be fair, I agreed she could, if she must, clip the hedge between us and our neighbours, and also renovate a large wooden toadstool that was left in the garden by the previous owners and looked like the pixies-in-charge of maintenance were very slovenly in its upkeep. Both projects, thus far, have kept the ivy safe.)
And so, on Saturday, we found ourselves at a National Trust property called Attingham Park which is near Shrewsbury. It's a big place - large house, massive gardens and grounds and a quite breath-taking walled garden that is in the latter stages of a renovation project. The visit involved a lot of walking, which in turn involved several stops for resting Mum's increasingly dodgy hip. At 76, she declares she is too old for a replacement; I say not, but thereby hangs a different argument.
Anyway, one of the pauses was 'neath an oak tree of quite magnificent proportions, both in height and girth. In fact, it was an oak tree made perfectly for climbing, or hanging a big swing or hammock from, or building a tree house in - all that kind of stuff that requires sturdiness and beauty. We stood and gazed at it appreciatively for a few moments and then we moved on.
Back home Andy went for a snooze because he had been awake until 1.30 that morning in the garden with his telescope snd doing some serious star-gazing, and Mum sat in a chair to do some knitting but immediately fell asleep which left me, thusly, to my own devices. So I went and sat under our own oak tree, and did some writing. Well, the sun was shining, there was a gentle breeze a-blowing and there was an air of general bucolic content. Plus, I wanted to get down some ideas - thoughts and sketches - of the beautiful Georgian bee-house in the gardens at Attingham Park.
Our oak tree does not have the grandeur of the oak tree we saw on our trip but what it lacks in height and breadth, it more than makes up for in aesthetic beauty. I don't know how old the tree is - about 50 years maybe? - so a mere stripling compared to some. And as I sat beneath it and looked up into its branches I thought, 'I wonder how big I will get to see it be?' And suddenly, I became very aware of the importance of filling this second half of my life with activity and 'doing-ness.' I suddenly became very aware of how much I actually have to do and that I don't actually know how long I have got to do it all. Well, none of us do, do we? And I suppose part of that awareness was on the periphery of my thoughts six months ago when Andy and I decided to take the plunge and go for our 'cottage in the countryside with a big garden' dreams.
So I finished writing and got on. I pruned the raspberry canes, picked another shed-load of gooseberries. I watered the crops (Ha! Crops!! Some rocket, squash, cucumbers and radish - well, it's a start, isn't it?) And continued the up and down method of weeding the left hand border which is being a bit of a 'painting the Tyne Bridge' task at the mo but, by doing a little every day I am actually making some very pleasing progress.
And so I have continued on. Getting on the with doing-ness of every day, to keep me active, strong, sparky, engaged with every minute of life. I want to see our oak tree grow big enough to hang a swing from one of its branches. And to sit on that swing and fly into the sky as high as I dare. Because, by then, I shall probably be at least 87 years old. And I might need safety straps to keep me from slipping off, because, as an 87 year old, I shall be wearing massive bloomers and my wrists might have gone a bit flimsy. Of course, Andy will have to push me on the swing. But then he'll be 81. Hmmmm... so perhaps one of the grandchildren might be a more efficient pusher. Or even a great-grandchild?
But hark at me! Wishing my life away when I've so much to do!
Rantings, ravings, observations and musings, useful stuff, silly stuff, funny, sad and thoughtful guff!