Sunday, 28 September 2014


We bought a bread making machine a few years ago and went mad buying lots of different flours ... like you do! The cupboard was eventually cleared out ... and all the out of date bags thrown away!
A more sensible approach was adopted and we now use the machine most weeks but the majority of our bread comes from the shops.

Well, yesterday I popped into the Oxfam Book Shop and browsed through The Complete Bread Machine Cookbook by Sonia Allison.  It became a must buy within a couple of minutes!  I wasn't bothered about the traditional recipes; I was captivated by the range of lovely sounding breads I could produce just by measuring a few things into the machine.  So today I am addicted to this Apple and Cinnamon Loaf made using the basic white bread recipe but with Apple juice instead of water (and 2 tsp of cinnamon obviously) ... how simple was that!  It is absolutely the best tasting loaf I have ever made in that machine.  By teatime we will be sampling a Walnut Loaf as I work my way through the rest of the recipes.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Happily Tired!

Took all day to complete it but I'm very pleased with the result.  You now walk under the rose arch and the whole feel of the garden changes.  There's no grass just paths, borders and trellis ... oh, and the pond (which you can't actually see at the moment because of the massive water lilies).

This morning:




So now I can plan what to grow where .... that's the best bit!

The same area in  2012:

I know I'll sleep well tonight!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Slabs and Stones may break my bones ....



A 7 feet by 6 feet rectangle of grass remains .... but not for long! 

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Hello Autumn, Farewell Persephone

Today is the Autumn Equinox: the day Persephone had to return to the Underworld.
It's a good time of year.  Still warm enough to spend the day outside with the beautiful trees and you can look forward to a long evening snuggled up in front of the fire with a good book.

Here's what I found in my garden today:
Snails' eggs or should that be Snail's eggs?  Apparently they do lay a lot but I found thousands of them!  I lifted the turf near the pond and there they were.  Do I want that many snails in my garden?  It might explain why my small pond has a huge frog population but the amphibians are going to starve next Spring, I fear, as I collected this lot and threw them in the field (hope the farmer never discovers how many pests I throw his way!).
It was only later I discovered I had made a mistake.  Top chefs regard snails' eggs as White Caviar and pay up to £1,600 per kilo!  They say they are delicious fried up with herbs .... some people will eat anything! 
Unfortunately this little Greenfinch wasn't eating anything at all  today .... it has probably BEEN eaten by something by now.  It was sitting in the middle of the garden and hardly bothering when we went near it.  I had to lock the cat inside to protect the poor thing.  Finch populations have declined since 2005 because of a disease called Trichomonosis.  Infected birds die because a parasite lives in the upper digestive tract and blocks the bird's throat.  It can't eat so it starves.  We have taken the feeders down ready to wash and disinfect tomorrow in order to stop the infection being passed on.

Monday, 22 September 2014


I must love procrastinating .... I do it all the time!
No, I didn't build the Bug Hotel today!  I'll do it later! 
Today I decided to get rid of more grass. When I started working on the back of the garden I envisaged huge borders and some grass but as the changes have been made I now know I just want a path meandering through tall flowers so the grass has to go.  Last year we visited a stone merchants where I had seen a fish mosaic and I quite fancied that in the middle of a patio area on this square.  Off we went on a whim to buy the fish.
The place was locked up when we got there.  It had gone into liquidation. 
A guy told me to call at the house next door and I might get a bargain.  He didn't have to tell me twice. 
I didn't get the fish ... it had been sold ... but I did get 13 edging blocks for £30 (originally sold at £8.50 each!)
I've placed them along the front path to see what they will look like ... very pleased with them.
Then I got some normal edging blocks and six bags of white stone. 

Well it wasn't what I thought I would achieve today but I'm happy! 
Yes, I know it doesn't go in a straight line ... that's part of the charm of it ... really there was a great big root growing exactly where I needed to dig so I had to go round it!
I once saw a cartoon of a protest march where a woman was shouting, "WHAT DO WE WANT?" The answer was, "Procrastination!"
First woman, "WHEN DO WE WANT IT?"
Answer, "Tomorrow!"


Sunday, 21 September 2014

Bug Mansion

Wild About Gardens Week ended today but there is still time to enter their Bug Hotel competition. This was my goal when I got up this morning.  I had been browsing the internet checking out the various abodes and reading the building plans.  There are some very ambitious builds ... very Grand Design!

 I have chosen my site ... next to the compost bin.  It is flat, gets some sun for the sun loving bugs and the back sits under a tree for those who prefer the dark side.  It's sheltered from wind and they can feed on the compost. 

I really like the look of this one from Chelsea Flower Show a few years back.  The bottom pallet is positioned to create a hedgehog house and the rest has the appropriate habitat for bees, ladybirds, beetles, frogs and even snakes.  I have three pallets at the allotment; I have old bricks and tiles, stones, logs and branches, broken flower pots, plastic bottles, cardboard and canes.  There was nothing to stop me ... except the couple of jobs I wanted to do first ... then there was the other job .... then I had to have a cup of tea .... and, of course, I had to do one more task before I went to the allotment ... and then it was evening!

Green Lacewing

So I now have a job for tomorrow.  These two are creating a housing shortage so I had better get on with it!
Common Red Soldier Beetle
There are a few bugs that would be unwelcome guests though.  I have said before that I hate to kill anything ... well I found a struggling plant the other day and discovered vine weevil bugs in the pot.  I threw the soil on top of the compost heap and left the lid up because a Robin was watching me ... sure enough the Robin enjoyed a snack ... I did feel a bit guilty!!

Lily Beetle

Today I discovered 8 Lily Beetles on one stalk so I tried the same trick again.  The birds didn't touch them so I had to take them across the lane to the field and throw them as far away as I could.  Of course, the birds weren't interested ... in nature red indicates harmful.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Whatever Happened to Miss Grace?

Tonight I've had a facial and painted my toe nails, I've blow dried my hair and plucked my eyebrows and I feel quite presentable.  'Where are you going?' I hear you ask .... well, that's the point ... I'm not going anywhere! I just fancied pampering myself so I dug out the face creams and ran a scented bath.  As I applied the nail varnish I remembered the last time I had done this was for my son's wedding - five months ago. 

Four years ago my nails (hands and feet) were painted all the time.  I didn't answer the door unless I had applied my make up.  My colour co-ordinated outfit was not complete unless I had earrings on and even jeans always had to have a belt.   I NEVER wore flat shoes ... I didn't OWN any flat shoes! I walked around all day in high stilettos; only after one VERY heavy shopping trip (and a day sight seeing in New York) did I complain that my feet were killing me!  I was never a tom-boy: I have always loved "satin and perfume and lace". So what happened?!  Did my appearance change because I gave up work?  Did I let my standards drop from sheer laziness? No, I think gardening changed me!

My gardening clothes are old t shirts, ancient jeans, cast off jumpers and cheap cloth pumps (that's what Yorkshire folk call PE shoes!). I adopt this 'uniform' in order to protect my better clothes.  I want to be comfortable and not afraid to get dirty so any old clothes are okay. Every morning I want to get outside as quickly as possible so dressing is no longer about appearance - it is about practicality.   I still have to be wearing makeup if I'm going anywhere but I don't apply it if I'm staying home or nipping to the allotment.  I moisturise my face every day because I am outside but really I'm more concerned with my knees!  I have to scrub them, soak them in lemon juice and moisturise them to stop the skin turning to elephant hide! As for my finger nails ... forget it!  I try to wear gardening gloves but most of the time they just get in the way.  So in place of the business suit I have ripped jeans; in place of the make up I have mud smears and in place of the French Polish I have broken nails.  Let myself go?  Me? Never!

Tonight has made me think.  I don't have to look at myself so my appearance isn't something I have given much thought to but I should have! If I am going to continue to enjoy gardening every day then I need to actually buy clothes to garden in rather than wearing cast offs. When I was working and gardening only at the weekends scruffy gardening clothes were okay because that was not my usual attire.  Now I garden every day I don't think I should be scruffy every day!  I need to find some comfortable gloves and at least try to reclaim a bit of style!  On the plus side I've saved a fortune on mascara!

Friday, 19 September 2014

A Greenhouse Day

I started to bring the geraniums into the greenhouse, collect the seeds pods and take cuttings. I left those with flowers/buds outside and I didn't take any out of the baskets.  It's not that cold yet but there are a lot to bring in.  I didn't plant any in the borders this year so I won't be running round the garden late at night in my PJs because the weatherman has issued a warning. Annoyingly I didn't label a beautiful bright pink specimen whilst it was flowering; I was particularly keen to propagate that one.
The Garden Centre was selling large potted Geraniums for just £1 last week.  I have loads of the damn things but I couldn't resist at that price so I chose a couple with variegated leaves and lots of shoots so I now have ten small plants for my pound!


 I've been collecting seeds for weeks.  Delphiniums are one of my favourite flowers so I planted up 3 trays. There are still some seeds left for next Spring if these don't take.  Some will add to the garden borders but the rest are for the allotment cutting patch.  I grew a couple of trays last year so there are three groups in the garden already and the rest went to the neighbours.  I didn't have enough for vases.

Allotment Cutting Patch 2014
This year we grew Crocosmia (from free bulbs scavenged from the tip), Lavender (48 free plants from Garden's World), Aquilegia, Hollyhocks, Achillea and Lupins (all from seeds from the garden); Irises (from friends) and Peony Roses (from Mum's garden) so it didn't cost us anything.  We did spend quite a bit on the rose bed but I didn't begrudge it when I was picking fresh roses every week (and I've taken cuttings for growing in the garden!).

Heron's Bill

Erodium Pelargoniflorum or Heron's Bill was a cheap packet of seeds from Thompson & Morgan.  Apparently it makes excellent ground cover and smells nice.  I sowed it today so I'll let you know if it lives up to expectations. 

I also sowed some Rhubarb, Scabious, Astilbe, Verbena, Sweet Peas and Achillea from my garden seeds.  I threw some Aquilegia, Cornflowers, Calendula around the borders between rain showers then went back to the greenhouse to sow some Cantananche Caerulea Bicolour - another Thompson and Morgan packet.


Before I planted my Lilies in pots this year I pulled a few of the scales off and put them in a pot of moist compost wrapped in a black plastic bag.  My Carol Klein book said this was the way to grow more bulbs.  Well she was right ... as if I could have ever doubted her!!  I checked them today and I have lots of leaves showing.  They won't flower for a few years but it was thrilling anyway.

I planted a few seeds from my Amaryllis and they have sprouted too so today I decided to plant some Tulip seeds.  Why not? Its only the cost of a pot and a bit of earth.


My Carnation, Rose and Lavender cuttings have
all taken and I have potted on some Honeysuckle and Fuchsia.

Been a busy day! We were awake at 5 something watching the Scottish Referendum ... even the cat has put herself to bed early!

Thursday, 18 September 2014


It has been a great year for fruit.  The apple trees were weighed down; the two year old pear tree produced 25 delicious specimens and even the poor old plum tree (damaged in storms last winter) managed to keep the wasps happy.  Family and friends helped themselves ... there is something special about the idea of eating fruit straight from the tree: personally I always wash and slice it first to avoid any unpleasant surprises!

We always have a few quinces but I never get round to doing anything with them.  A friend served up some quince jelly with cold meat last autumn and I decided to make use of them this year.  We seem to have rather a lot so it might not be a bad idea.  They have REALLY tough skins which tends to put me off as it is such hard work cutting into them but they smell delightful .... I might just pick them and leave them in a bowl like a fruit pot pourri.

Makes 4-5 jars
1.8kg quince pieces
800g-1kg white sugar
2 litres water

In a saucepan boil the quince pieces in the water over a high heat, then reduce the heat and cover. Simmer slowly for about 45 minutes. Mash them. Put the quince in a muslin bag and squeeze out the juice. For every 250ml of juice add 200g of sugar. Cook on a low heat and gradually increase the temperature until boiling, then boil for 25 minutes, or until setting point is reached.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014


East Enders and Emerdale are no match for the dramas around Woodlouse House. A couple of weeks ago a young Sparrowhawk sat in the field for a few hours waiting for a parent bird to return.  It was too far away to get any good photos but it was great to watch it, especially when two Buzzards flew by and gave it a bit of a fright.

Yesterday we returned from a trip to Thirsk (lovely place ... highly recommend it!) and found a pile of feathers at the back of the garden.  A plucked sparrow. Had the Sparrowhawk paid us a visit? 

Today I opened the door for the cat and discovered a very shocked Collared Dove on the lawn.  It was barely breathing but we put it in a safe quiet place to recover or die .... unfortunately it was the latter .... Again there were feathers around it.  It could have been a cat (NOT mine as she was definitely inside).

Anyway, I was busy in the kitchen about half an hour ago when the villain returned. With a swift body blow and a claw to the throat a second Collared Dove was dispatched. I now have a second pile of feathers on the lawn.  In a way this is good news for the garden.  We are feeding the birds regularly and encouraging wildlife to visit.  Bird numbers in the garden have steadily increased and the feeders are in constant use.  The Sparrowhawk is just another bird using the feeders!

Buzzard numbers have also increased recently.  We counted over 20 birds soaring above us a few days ago; a flock of eleven all at once was a sight to see.  A Red Kite was another visitor over the field and it was wonderful to see a Weasel running along the hedgerow.  I am quite concerned for the young Partridges and Pheasants though.
The allotment has served us well.  We have far too many potatoes and onions and the freezer can't take any more peas and beans.  This year I have grown lots of flowers as well as veg.  It has been wonderful to fill vases without emptying the borders ... and I have lots of seeds collected for next year! 

While the Sparrowhawk was putting me off my tea I was making the most delicious ketchup ever!  I know it is wonderful because I made it fit my ideal of ketchup.  I wanted it to be sweet so I used soft brown sugar and included eating apples; not too much vinegar and just a touch of ginger.  My Tomato Chutney is tasting okay too!