Thursday, 25 February 2016

Appreciating the good

This morning the world looks good again, the beautiful sunrise is making the frost twinkle like thousands of diamonds scattered across the garden.

Tuesday was all busyness and productivity, we got most of the greenhouse glass in place or replaced (since so much of it was blown out by the storms in January) and I spent a very pleasant half hour sitting in the greenhouse with a cup of tea and a book. But the night became one of those in which I was woken by pain almost every hour and gave up on the idea of trying to sleep by 3.20am. The upshot of that was that yesterday I blithered through the day in a tired fog, my joints were swollen, tight and they punctuated the day with hot stabbing pains, leaving me feeling a mixture of nausea and grumpiness. I slept for an hour in the afternoon, but that's really not enough to refresh either the body or mind after so little rest the night before.
By 9.30pm I looked a (not-so-pretty) picture, my eyes were bloodshot and complexion was grey, I alternated between fiery hot and glacier cold so did the honourable thing and headed for bed and, although it took an hour or so to get off to sleep, last night was much improved. I slept almost solidly for five hours which nowadays I consider to be a pretty good night's sleep and it has had a dramatically improving effect on my health and outlook.

Yesterday brought several good things with it and it's only this morning that I am appreciating the nice things that happened (but hey, better late than never).

The kitchen table that we'd found in a local charity shop on Monday was delivered, it's a heavy pine table with curved corners (good for not hurting when you walk into the table) and has an extending leaf that can be slotted into the centre of the table when we want to seat more people. The kitchen has really come together now and as I walked through it this morning I thought it looked just lovely. Our old smaller table is not being disposed of but is going out to the barn to be used for crafts.

A couple of t-shirts that I had ordered online arrived, they are similar to ones that I bought about eighteen months ago and have worn almost daily since, which makes them incredibly good value. They are a strong green colour and I suspect that I will blend in nicely with the garden as the summer progresses.

And, Mr J also bought me a book to replace one that I'd lost over the years. The Well Chosen Garden by Christopher Lloyd was one of the first gardening books that I bought as a young mother and now thirty-two years later I am still captivated by the descriptive and informative writing and photographs.

Over the last few days, Jack and Diesel have extended the area in which they are foraging, spending increasing amounts of time at the front of the house, which means that we have a great view of them while we are pottering in the kitchen. They have taken a long time to start exploring the garden at the front of the house and true to form have now made themselves very comfortable and started sunbathing in the late wintery sunshine.

I'm looking forward to building an outside pen for the Cream Legbars so that they can enjoy some sunshine and fresh grass to scratch about in. I've been surprised at the rate at which they are now growing. At around eleven weeks old they seem to be shedding feathers constantly as new ones grow and they already have distinct tail feathers. One of the birds is larger than the others and has a much deeper colour to its breast feathers, I don't know if this is just because its older than the rest or whether there's another reason, but no doubt we will find out over the next few weeks.

So today I'd like to finish putting the glass in the greenhouse and then line it with bubble wrap to insulate it for the next month or so until the risk of frost has passed. Then I can start to move some of the plants out of the boot room so our coats smell a little less garlicky!

Monday, 22 February 2016

A weekend of laughter

We've laughed so much this weekend and managed to achieve quite a lot too, so all in all, it's been a good few days.
The shrubbery has had a few more plants added to it and I've laid down the first of the weed suppressing membrane and put down some ornamental bark over the top of it. Now I know that I should have lifted all the grass before we started and planted into bare soil, but I simply don't have the strength or energy to do this for an ornamental area when there is so much to do in the productive areas of the garden. Recently I started HRT in the hope that I'd feel better, have more energy and strength, so far it's had absolutely zero impact except to increase my insomnia, make me feel cold all the time (except when I'm having a hot flush) and have a negative effect on my digestive system, but that's probably not something about which I need to go into detail.
We were both a little surprised at what a small area a 100 litre bag of bark covers and we realised that it is going to take a lot of bark to cover the shrubbery areas. I had a quick look online at the prices of buying in bulk and it seems that we don't need enough bark to make it worth having delivered in a couple of 1000 litre bulk bags as the delivery cost makes it uneconomical. So Mr J is going to be driving back and forth to our local garden centre to buy lots of 100 litre bags of bark for the shrubbery.
Jack and Diesel have become project managers and often come to inspect what we are up to. We tackled removing some more of the nails and screws from the reclaimed wood I bought a while ago. It's slow going as each length of wood seems to have about 16 rusty screws and 8 to 10 rusty bent nails. I've been removing the screws and leaving the wood ready for Mr J to remove the nails. So many of the tasks that we do here involve a learning process, not only learning new skills but learning about each other and we often end up with us laughing so hard that we can't actually do the job any more.

In a quiet moment over the weekend, I headed out to turn the compost heap, I am very pleased with how well the contents are starting to rot down. I don't have the strength to shift the whole heap around in one session, so I moved as much as I could from the front onto the top at the back of the heap and scraped out some from the bottom and mixed it as much as I could. I am hopeful that I will be able to use the compost from the first heap in the bean trenches in 3 months time. I also took a moment to have a look at what is in flower in the garden. We have crocus and sweet little tete-a-tete daffodils, the pink camellia which was flowering on New Year's Day is still in flower, after seven weeks of blooming its still looking lovely.
I also found a ceanothus which is just starting to promise a nice display and a several white hebe.

As we've been planting the shrubbery, we've also been adding plants along the inside of the stock fencing on the edge of the garden where we haven't yet put a hedge. I am still in two minds about what sort of hedging to put on this side of the garden. I don't want to block the beautiful view across the fields that surround us, but at the same time I really want to have some sort of screen that will help break up the wind as it hurtles across the fields. So at the moment, we have put in a few small conifers and some honeysuckle. I am erring towards some evergreen planting interspersed with wild roses and dog roses. This would give us some windbreak all year round and the roses would provide food for insects and bees, flowers for us to enjoy and then bright coloured rosehips in the autumn.

Yesterday we tackled the next stage of creating the chicken condo. Having completely mucked out about half of the large stable and taken it back to the soil at one end, we are ready to make that section secure for the hens to live in during the coolest and windiest months (for the rest of the year they will be out in the paddock). Once we've secured the far end of the stable, we can move the little chicken house into that end and tackle the second half of the stable to create a second chicken condo area.

So I stapled the chicken wire to the top of the existing railings and Mr J fixed it into place with a two by one batten. I then stapled the wire onto the other railings and started to tuck it under the sawdust, hay and straw that still remains in the stable. Eventually, the chicken wire will be under tucked under the new membrane and covered with sawdust. We will also build panels covered in chicken wire to fit above the section already done, taking the enclosed area up to the roof. I am very pleased with how much we achieved in an hour or so yesterday afternoon. 

In between the other jobs we've tackled this weekend I have started sowing some seeds so that plants will be ready to put into the vegetable garden in spring. Starting with summer purple sprouting broccoli, salad leaves and leaks, today I will continue with the task of filling seed trays with compost and seeds.

We've also had some lovely food, the positive side to the weather being dreadful is that we have the perfect reason to light a big fire in the wood burner and eat comfort food. So we've enjoyed baked potatoes with beef bourguignon on Saturday and then Sunday we tucked into minced lamb with butternut squash, roast potatoes and roast parsnip. I also made a rather nice rich chocolate cake with vanilla cream cheese icing.

Life feels rather good!