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You need to be reasonably tough (or at least I like to pretend this is the case) when it pees down while you’re getting the early peas in …

… and you look up and there is:



… and you look to the left and see:


… or is it just something in the eye of the beholder?


Butch Cassidy’s Home.


Have to feel for my younger brother sometimes.

We’d been invited(thanks Matt and Maddy) to spend four nights in the wonderful English Lake District.

Meanwhile he’s planning coming up from “down south” to visit mom and take in a Walsall (Football Club) game. I offer him a bed and board while he’s up here; but it can only be from the Friday night.

He accepts. One of the few texts I get while in limited-coverage north western England.

It’s wet up around our Threlkeld cottage. But as one local puts it “this rain feeds the lakes” and the becks, rivers, gullies and sends wonderfully full and dramatically noisy torrents boiling and toppling powerfully pell-mell over the waterfalls (known as Forces up in this part of the world – a wonderful Viking sound to that name!).


National Trust groupies as we are, we fit in visits to Sizergh Castle, Aera Force and use a number of the free-to-members car parks. We get wet by day and dry by the heat of a wood-burning stove each evening. There’s a great rhythm to the days.

But, by the time we reach home early Friday afternoon, I am pooped. Happy fatigue.

I check on the seed potatoes that we set out in cardboard fruit boxes scavenged from the local supermarket (staff only too pleased to help once I explained what I was going to use them for).

They are taking up a significant space … … oh yeah. Sorry bro … in the bedroom  … er … you’ll be sleeping in.

We empty randomly arranged “luggage” from the car, remembering not to dump it as we usually do in this self-same bedroom. Though our daughters have been left and are living happily independent lives elsewhere these bedrooms are still called “Bec’s room” and “Mad’s room”; not so much by default or habit but to remind ourselves, perhaps of their times with us.

When Steve arrives we’re in something of a post-holiday, post-drive stupor. We are smiling at the fact that the Storm Freya weather that is keeping us indoors here was absolutely no impediment to our venturing outside and up challenging walks while we were away when he strides in.

Now, compared to his recent adventures, our four days away is like a walk in a National Park*. He’s been away, covering near-on five thousand miles driving from Santiago, Chile to Tierra del Fuego. And back. Un made roads, strange foods, one horse towns without a horse, the Andes, glaciers and an armadillo.

A superb raconteur he stays up until I can stay awake no longer on Friday night telling me a lot (but certainly not all) of the experiences. I think I mentioned to him at some point during this that he would be sharing the bedroom with King Edwards, Arran Pilots and a number of shapely Desirees. Not sure he took it in, but …

…he’s busy telling me about Butch Cassidy’s cabin, the Magellan penguins, guanacos, the lack of steak dinners, the Welsh heritage …

Power to his elbow, he had a super time: a road trip with a great mate and a drive along roads few tourists, nay, few explorers ever get to know about.

After he had gone the little beauties were all still there and may even have benefitted from his presence. Seems the football team did: we turned our fortunes around just a little and beat Fleetwood 2- O.

Most of our fellow allotmenteers don’t bother with chitting their potatoes. They simply put them into the ground when the time and weather are right. I chit ours, simply because it is something I remember my grandfather doing. A lot of my gardening practices are advised by what I remember him doing, though I am happy to change if someone convinces me there’s a better way of doing something. Or a better type to grow.

My brother, meanwhile, having just returned from the very continent that gave us potatoes (Sir Walter Raleigh and all that) as well as so many other of our regular plants and some of our habits (cigarette  anyone?), has to return home. I guess he has repeated, in various different guises, his adventures mare than eight times to relatives and friends. He has returned to his Surrey home. He never really liked potatoes anyway. There were times, back in the day when, if I didn’t fancy his roasties, he’d throw them on the back of the front room fire.

 * Of course, that’s exactly what some of it was!

The March Garden.

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Borrowed …

There are many reasons why we take up gardening: pleasure, health, even business. The desire for a more organic lifestyle, the urge to get involved with a growing community. Wanting to learn, wanting to teach, or just wanting to garden. It’s an investment that means a lot to so many people. But how much should […]

via Upcycling Has Never Looked So Good — AGENTS OF FIELD

Storm Doris!


Dateline 23/2/2017

10.00 a.m.

I had a good night’s sleep.

I wake up hearing the wind. The skies are clear so far but high, high clouds are being driven across the heavens. Out of the front bedroom window I look to see what has happened to the house at the end of the cul-de-sac that is having roofing felt replaced: it has stood overnight without the shell of tiles (now as I look stacked on the scaffolding alongside the house).

Within ten minutes the contractors are there, up the ladders, without, I notice in some alarm, hard hats. They sway about like sailors in a tropical storm and, when next I check, are nowhere to be seen. The roof, sans tiles will have to look after itself it seems.

But, made of sterner, if less sensible stuff, I am determined to get up on the plot. There’s digging to be done after all.

In the warmth and shelter of the car cabin – heated seats available, reversing camera, air conditioning, rain sensitive windscreen wipers – the radio is defaulting to BBC WM (local sports news/comments).

The Scouse presenter is talking about the discovery of seven planets discovered by astronomers that seem capable of supporting life and giving out news of the impacts of “Storm Doris”:

“Our road this morning, ‘cos it’s recycling day there’s bins, plastic bags, cans, tins all blowin’ along; people chasing their stuff, tryin’ to get it back …”

“… like a scene from that film … you know the one, they show it every Christmas* … stats off in black and white, then bursts into colour …”

“… guy called Steve has lost his blue bin and his garden shed. Poor Steve, wonder where that shed’s ended up …”

It hasn’t started raining here yet. At least not enough to activate the wipers. I pull in to the approach to the “top gate”. Just getting out of the car is a trial, the wind charging up the hill. I push the heavy gate open, drop in the peg that’ll hold it open, turn to go back and drive the car in … the peg has been torn out, the gate is blowing towards me at a rate of knots … I stand back as it bangs loudly against the post. Hmmm, I might have had the car part-way through that gate … this new car that I’m not allowed to carry dirty stuff in (yet)!

I decide to go in through the bottom gate; noticing as I do that there’s a new container on site. I drive around. This time, at the bottom of the slope there is a) less wind and b) the wind should be blowing the gates open rather than shut. I drive through, inspect the plots. No further depredations/progress with the boundary dispute (he has now cut off the concrete fence pots and removed his gravel boards (meaning that the soil from the allotment will, inevitably cascade onto his side of the established boundary).

But the wind is wreaking some damage.

By the time I have “inspected” the plots for any wind damage/effects my hands are freezing. And it has started raining. Discretion being the better part of valour I scuttle back to the car and leave with a screech of tyres that has Jack wondering if there’s a Hollywood get-away going on. Jack owns the nursery opposite the allotments, is an acquaintance, is oiling the hinges of a metal gate as, quite accidentally, I scream away past the school fences.

The guy on the radio is now talking to new people.

“Who’s to say there is no other life out there?”

“And how can you prove there isn’t?”

Another, more urgent voice comes on.

“Just to let your listeners know there’s a tree down in Westbourne Avenue. By the Botanical Gardens. It’s blocked the entire road. A van driver was involved. His van got crushed, but he’s OK …”

I am pulling into our drive now.

Next door a whole trampoline has blown through a fence panel and into our neighbour’s garden. It’s upside down, hooked on a fence post apparently. The two trees nearby crowned with nests are being buffeted, this way, that way: a true test for the durability of the nests.


Watch this space …

* turns out it’s The Wizard of Oz.

20 Vertical Gardening Ideas for Turning a Small Space into a Big Harvest

A wide range of ideas here, from a prolific blogger, Rachel Falco.

How to Provide

Is acreage still but a dream for you?  Consider Vertical Gardening!

Vertical gardening is nothing more than using vertical space to grow vegetables (or herbs, or flowers, even root crops), often using containers that hang on a sunny wall. Traditional gardeners have done similar things with climbing plants like squashes and beans for centuries by building trellises. Vertical gardening takes it one step further by giving non-climbing plants a space on the wall.


Paul Clarke , November 24, 2015

Vertical gardens take up less space, are easier to harvest, and easier to maintain. However, they do have their own limitations:

  • You need sunny wall space
  • If they are built too high, they can be difficult to maintain. Don’t make them taller than you can reach
  • The support system must be strong enough to handle the weight of everything
  • The supporting wall must be able to withstand a lot…

View original post 1,256 more words

One’s Ladybird and One’s List

Partly spontaneous, part needed-to-do mission into Walsall this morning. To get armfuls of packets of seeds ready to begin the year (which, actually of course, never ends) afresh. In preparation for this we sat down last week and talked over what we plan to grow (or try to grow as I prefer to say) and made a list.

What did we do with that list?

We stumble about in the central heated warmth getting incrementally frustrated. It turns up: in the magazine rack. Of course where else would it be but underneath a week’s worth of evening papers and the latest magazine from the National Trust (complete with an article about local stately home now under the auspices of the National Trust, Shugborough)?

We both pretend – of course – we always knew that is where we had left it.

We head to Walsall, find a parking space and stroll down to Wilko, complete with list. Feeling less like traitors than might be expected (we are deserting the bulk buy/discount offers from the site shop this year: they haven’t been well promoted and nobody from the current committee seems to want to take a lead) we are soon flinging packet after packet into the basket-cum-trolley. Vegetable seeds, flower seeds. Seed potatoes? Why not? Shallots, red onions … it’s a real shopping frenzy! A couple of bags of bird feeder refills.

Oh and a solitary, end-of-line silver Christmas decoration heart (reduced to 5p at the till).

We limp to the Costa Coffee housed in the Art Gallery and order refreshment: cappuccino, tea and something sweet.

Great thing about the Costas is the chance to read a free newspaper: I favour the I usually or the Times.

Today it is the Times; full of important stuff like how President-Elect Trump will change the world, how Brexit will mean Brexit (or not) and a couple of items that catch my quirky eye.

Seems there is little or no rain falling on the plains in Spain, so Courgettes grown there and sold here are in short supply – and prices rocketing. I smile at the wonderful folly of being able to eat “out of season” items. (we are currently snacking on “in season oranges” bought from an old-stylee fruiterers on the edge of Cannock: evocatively scented and gorgeously juicy these oranges. I am drawn to consider the normality of the twenty first century in a developed nation, compared to the world in which my grandparents, indeed my parents, inhabited.

There’s also a big page spread about a Ladybird book on Climate Change being co-authored by none other than Prince Charles. I do a double-take: really? Seems he wrote to the publishers with the suggestion and they said yes …

Actually by the seem of it; they said “yes, but …”

The but being that it would need to be vetted by actual scientists to give it a different credibility. The Times article has an element of mockery about it. For those who don’t know, or have forgotten Ladybird books were a ubiquitous set of educational children’s books about all manner of things: Steam Engines, Airports, The Vikings, The Holy Land … and now issues like climate change. Well done Penguin Books!

Prince Charles has written a Ladybird book warning of the threat of global warming

On the way home we pull up on the pavement at the bottom of “our road”. The house on the corner is undergoing massive redevelopment and the builders have been kind enough to leave the timbers from the taken-down roof available for collection. We pile as much of it as we can handle into the boot of the car and, back at home stack it in the garage where it will wait until I am next off work.

In the garden there are the earliest stirrings of territorial disputes: blackbird v. blackbird, a pair of magpies versus a second pair* (both with their eyes set on an established nest atop a silver birch tree in a nearby garden. A tiny blue tit is investigating the front of house nest box … and I have to get a move on to put up the replacement nest boxes I have been building.



* Later in the day both pairs are out matched by a couple of crows who are also showing a definite interest in the very same old nest.

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