Yesterday evening, after a lot of planning, Mr J and I (with help from our neighbour) bolted together the body of the second-hand shed. This will be the new chicken shed (a chick shack) to replace the mini village of small chicken houses that they currently use.
The small houses will not go to waste, far from it, they will become home to chicks and young birds until they are large enough to join the flock and can be used if we need to isolate a chicken due to broodiness, ill-health or if they are a new arrival that needs to be kept separate for a while.
This morning we had a visit from Anna, whom I have known since 1979 when I met her at the college we both attended. Anna and I have been firm friends ever since and although we don't see each other very often, we always meet up when we can and about ten years ago I went to stay with her for a week or so. When we were 18 years old, Anna moved to Australia. She only went for a year, to gain some catering experience and see another culture, but she decided that she loved it there and made her home on the other side of the world. She lives on the beautiful island of Tasmania and my memories of it are of clean air, good quality light and a very relaxed feel. We have one of those friendships that has little communication between visits, but then we pick up where we left off as though it was only yesterday that we last saw each other. I treasure our friendship.
After Anna had left I pottered in the garden for a while and as it was starting to get very warm outside, I headed to the shady area next to the piggeries. This back garden area is shaded by several very large sycamore trees and we have left the grass to grow long except for a couple of pathways through it which Mr J cut for ease of getting around. I enjoy the way the grass moves in the wind and the seed heads sit like a frothy foam above the rich green grass stalks. The previous owners had planted lots of flowering plants and herbs in this area and bit by bit I have been moving them to other areas of the garden. Today I spotted this lovely combination hiding amongst the tall grass. The sage has huge golden-green leaves and the grey leaves of the Nepeta contrast nicely with its purple flowers.
I spent quite a while watching the wind move the grass and listening to the birds singing. I think it's really important that we take the time to enjoy our environment and I probably don't do it often enough. Mr J and I are so lucky to have found this beautiful place and even more fortunate to have been able to make it our home.
While I'm walking around the garden I always keep a watchful eye for seedlings and young plants that have self-seeded. These voluntary plants are starting to form the basis of a hedge along the last stretch of fencing that doesn't have a hedge yet. Today I found a couple of hornbeam seedlings that have seeded themselves from the hedge that surrounds the back garden. In the next few days, I will move them to the other side of the smallholding where I have started the hedge with some willow, small conifers and honeysuckles. To this I will add the four small trees that my daughter gave me for Mother's Day earlier in the year, a couple of sycamore seedlings (which are around a foot high at the moment) and a horse chestnut seedling given to us by my daughter's father-in-law. I've potted up some tiny hawthorn trees, but will let them grow for another year or so before planting them into the hedge. I also plan to take cuttings from the young hedge that I put around two-thirds of the paddock in the early spring. Then I can add wild rose and dog rose to the final stretch of hedge.
My friends and family are being very generous in giving us plants for the garden and now our neighbours have invited me to have a look around their garden to see if there is anything I'd like cuttings or divisions of. It won't take long for the shrubbery and herbaceous border to fill up and fill out. The vegetable and fruit garden are also being planted with gifted plants. Loganberries, oca, herbs and seeds have been given and we have repaid some of folks' kindness by giving them eggs and the promise of jams and chutneys once the plants have grown.
By the greenhouse I've checked on the courgettes that I gave some nettle tonic to and they seem to have improved already, so this morning I watered the courgettes that are planted in the garden with the tonic mixture and hopefully in a few days they will have picked up too. I haven't noticed any flying insects in the greenhouse and there is also very little breeze in there, so I think I will need to hand pollinate the tomato flowers this evening to ensure that we get a good crop of tomatoes this year.
On Tuesday, while we were out and about, Mr J and I called at the garden centre and bought a triple blade hoe. So shortly I'm going back out to the garden to tackle some of the weeds in the herbaceous border, but first, as always, I'll make a cuppa.