Sunday, April 29, 2007

I was driving home yesterday afternoon, recovering from having been caught up in the end of the Sheffield United football match traffic (took nearly half an hour just to get out of Sheffield!). Came down Hagg Lane, which becomes Bridge Street, from Grassmoor. By heavens there were lots of cars parked in the lay-by by the railway bridge. Good heavens. Look at all those train spotters lurking on the bridge. It is normal, indeed almost expected, to see one or two or even three. But there must have been 15-20 people all looking up the line towards Chesterfield. Wonder what they’re all up to.

Ambled in and asked The Builder if there was anything exciting happening on the railway that afternoon. Nothing in particular, apparently. We were just pottering about, inspecting the garden and waving at the toddler visiting next door, when The Builder pointed out that the train that was coming down the line sounded a bit odd. We looked over. And it was a steam train!!!!!!!!! A very pretty steam train, with brown and cream coloured carriages. We’ve never seen a steam train on our bit of the line before. Reckon that’s what the spotters were waiting for. Very exciting. Sadly, I couldn’t see its name. I have found out why it was there (an excursion to and back from York) but the website didn’t say which train it was. There are, mind you, lots of excursions on steam trains dotted about the country. I must look into getting us onto one.

It had turned out to be a lovely day, and I had been stuck inside for all of it. So we decided to light the barbecue. It didn’t seem to enjoy it much when I put an enormous onion, wrapped in foil, into the centre of the fire!! And I hadn’t realised that Debbie-next-door still had her washing out, until she came out to bring it in. I fear it might have been a bit smoky by then :-S. Oops. (I had brought mine in before we lit the first match!!) It was rather nice, if a bit windy. We had onion and potatoes, done in foil in the fire (some of the potatoes were a bit crunchy, but the onion was fantastic!), with chicken and mushroom sausages and Chatsworth lamb chops, with a salad made with leaves from my salad box and herbs from the garden. We decided not actually to eat outside, though. It was getting a tad chilly. So we took our plates and wine (well, you can’t barbecue satisfactorily without a plentiful supply of wine, now can you?) inside and watched the cricket.

It can’t have been the fault of the cricket, which was quite exciting at that point, but I was very, very sleepy. I gave in quite early and took myself off to bed. At about 4:00 this morning, I woke up and ambled off to the loo. I was going to poke The Builder and find out who had won (the result was by no means a certainty when I went to bed) but decided that would be cruel. And it would have been a complete waste of time. He found out who won when I did, when the result was given on the early morning news (that’s the half past five news!). It appears he had drifted off in his chair and not woken up until motor racing had started at 1:00 and jolted him awake with the noise!!!!! Probably just as well I didn’t poke him at 4, then!

The pigeon man on the allotment assured The Builder that there would be a frost last night. Didn’t seem entirely likely (it was a bit cloudy for frost) but I battened down the propagating tents just in case. And there wasn’t a frost. But it must have been chilly. The radiator in our bedroom, which is turned down very low and which only came on two or three times over the whole of the winter, was warm this morning. I may need to go back to my winter jimjams. I was a touch chilly sat up, drinking my tea!


These tulips are such a pretty colour. I don't ordinarily like tulips much (such blowzy flowers!) but these are rather elegant. I hope they colonise

The flower garden is settling in well. I've been using the mint. I'm not sure the bog sage is going to come back, though. I don't think the plants are dead, exactly, but there's no growth in them yet. I have bought another one, which is settling in reasonably well. I might dig some of it up in the autumn and overwinter it in the "conservatory".

The Builder has finished both greenhouses on the allotment. They are now ready and waiting for planting. However, the seedling are only (tiny voice) this (/tiny voice) big and nowhere near ready to go in. But they will be! It's nice and warm in the greenhouses.

I've also planted some seed onions which one of the allotmenteers gave The Builder yesterday. My sets aren't quite big enough to go out yet. Another couple of weeks, I reckon. Oh - and *one* of those squillions of potatoes is now showing above ground. I hope more come up. One potato plant is not going to see us through the winter!!!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

We had a little rain during last week. It's amazing what a difference it made. The broad beans and peas grew a couple of centimetres overnight!

I've planted more pea seeds in the beds. I've also planted courgette, cape gooseberry, yellow pepper, brussels sprout and brocolli seeds in seed pots in the propagating tent. The tomato seeds are starting to germinate. And thus far all 82 of the lavender seedlings have survived! The little red grape has started leafing. The white one has died (probably because I accidentally snapped it off when I was checking if it was still alive. It was, before I snapped it off!). The cherry trees all look as though they are going to set cherries, which will be nice.

The Builder has finished the large greenhouse on the allotment and has now made a start on the smaller one. This has been made slightly more difficult by the presence of lots of bricks and rubble on that bit of the allotment. It's going in behind the larger one.

I am going to try growing sweet potatoes. It seems a slightly complicated process, I must say. But, nothing ventured ... (And I am hardly going to go bankrupt, planting two that I bought at the supermarket, nor am I expecting to introduce rampant sweet potato illnesses onto the plot!)

It has, apparently, been the warmest April in England since records began 300 years or so ago. Certainly things in the garden are much more advanced than they were this time last year. But then last spring was cold, wet and dreary. I must say, I prefer this spring - though a drop more rain would be handy!

Oh - and we have ordered some more bricks. The Builder is putting a brick patio in at the back of the flower garden. A home for the barbecue! He's also bought a gazebo to put over it. Barbecues in the rain!!!

Who'd have thought it


It's a year today since I went and picked up the keys to The Sidings. A whole year. Gosh!

Who'd have thought it.

No naked ladies today though. Well, not so far!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

It's been raining lovely gardener's rain. It's the first rain we've had this month. Unusually dry, so far, this spring. And also on the warm side. The seeds are germinating quite well in the propagating tents. The peas and broad beans are coming along well now, too. They're all netted to stop the pigeons eating the young plants and the cats digging up the seed beds! This does not stop the blackbirds getting underneath the net to eat the porridge oats and worms and insects!

We've had our first harvest from the orchard. We found some rhubarb plants underneath the old tree trunk when we moved it the other week. They are now coming along in leaps and bounds and we pulled the first sticks on Sunday. They stewed up beautifully. So exciting to have a crop! Plus the herbs are now coming back good and strong. I have oregano, marjoram and mint ready for picking. The sage has been looking a bit sickly, but I think it was thirsty. We watered it on Sunday, plus it's been raining since so it may perk up.

I've had a delivery of 84 lavender plants!!!! I ordered what I thought was two or three seedlings and received a box with 84 plugs! There are now 82 of them potted up into seed pots. Not sure quite what I'm going to do if they all survive! I am also about to plant seeds of cape gooseberries and two sorts of yellow capsicum to grow in the greenhouse. I might put a couple in the garden and a couple under cloches as well and see what happens.

Out Exploring

So. Sunday. Neither of us was working. We’ve run out of digging space, temporarily. It’s true that we do now have the rest of the glass for the greenhouse, The Builder finally having found the eBay man he bought it from. But there’s no pressing need to finish the greenhouse at this exact moment. What shall we do?

Shall we go out for the day?

Shall we have lunch at home and potter?

Shall we go out for lunch, and potter?


In the meantime, we washed, cleaned, tidied, ironed, chatted on SKYPE, pottered. And then decided to go to Southwell for lunch. It’s near Newark and we pass the turn offs to it when we go to Cambridge but have never been. And it is, bizarrely enough, the home of the cathedral for the diocese of Southwell and Nottingham. I’m not at all sure why. AS far as I can see, it has always been a slightly out of the way market town. I’m not absolutely sure quite why it was decided that “This would be the place for a cathedral”, though it had been an established Minster for centuries. The only reason I know of its existence is because, months and months ago, I happened to hear someone discussing the church with Roger, but they didn’t say much beyond the fact that they had been there. Ah well. Let’s go and investigate.

So we did.

It’s a lovely little town (question: if it has a cathedral and is the diocesan heart of Southwell and Nottingham, why isn’t the town a city? I thought city-hood was conferred by the presence of a cathedral, other than some without such adornments which have been civilised by recent acts of parliament?!?). Largely Georgian. Lovely, grassy squares and parks. Beautiful buildings. Most things were closed, of course, it being Sunday and the town being out in the middle of nowhere. But the pubs were open. We chanced into the Saracen’s Head, an old, old hostelry which now acts as a hotel, restaurant and bar. We had Sunday roast in the bar, not wishing to have a set, 3-course meal in the restaurant. I was a bit suspicious when it arrived. The beef was fatty and pale. The carrots were unpeeled. I took a cautious mouthful. Goodness. This is *real* food, not pub grub. Absolutely smashing, it was. The carrots were tasty; so was the cabbage. The meat tasted of beef. It was great.

Then we ambled off to find the Minster. Got there to find explained the presence in the town of oodles of scouts – St George’s Day Church Parade at 3:15. Fortunately, this left us lots of time to potter about and explore the church. Which is lovely. And huge. Well, not huge for a cathedral, but very huge indeed for a parish church in the middle of nowhere. Though not, I suppose, as surprisingly huge as the church in Newark, now I come to think about it. Anyway. There’s beautiful stone tracery and lovely carvings (there’s a beautiful stone hound’s head on the way into the chapter hose. I know you’re not supposed to touch – but I had to stroke its nose as I went past. You have to stroke doggies!). It’s a mishmash of architectural styles, but is quite modern in feel. I like it. Then we went for a wander around the town centre, which has lots of interesting, specialty shops. Must come again when they are open, having arranged to leave my wallet at home! Then we picked up an ice cream and went for a stroll in the park, beating a hasty retreat back to the car park when we realised that the scouts’ parade was about to start and that the police were getting into place to stop the traffic through the town for the duration!

And so home. Where I decided to pot up my lavender plants while The Builder was watching the cricket. I had bought them through a seed company when I was on the hunt for some soya seeds a few weeks ago. I thought at the time it was expensive for one lavender plant, but assumed you got either one very big one or two or three smaller ones. But no. What I got was a tray of lavender plugs. 84 very tiny ones!!! I had *just* enough seed pots of an appropriate size to put them into (I inherited lots from Mrs Hallam when I acquired her Wendy house, and loads more from the man we bought the greenhouses from). It worked out that I ended up with 82 – 2 were too small to pot on. Quite what I’m going to do if they all survive, I don’t quite know. A hedge of 82 lavender plants would be quite something to behold, but might somewhat overtake the orchard!

Speaking of the orchard, we have harvested our very first picking! Rhubarb, which we found when we shifted a dead tree trunk two or three weeks ago, has now grown big enough to pull. We are eating magnificent stewed rhubarb with a Bramley apple. Yum!

We probably didn’t need much more for tea than the stewed fruit. Nevertheless, I wandered up to the chippy on Sunday evening and we had haddock and chips with wine (me) and beer (The Builder ). The advantage of Sunday evening is that the queue is nothing like as monstrous as it is on Fridays and Saturdays!

We had been merrily making our way through Mansfield on the way to Southwell (pronounced as it is spelled – no elision) on Sunday, when we became aware that the car sat next to us at the traffic lights was tooting at us and its driver and passenger were waving. The Builder opened the window to be informed that our brake lights were stuck permanently on. Oops! When we checked in the car park in Southwell, they were indeed stuck on. And quite hot, at that! The Builder took the Vixen to Nick the Mechanic on Monday morning. He’s fixed the lights, but seems to be a bit worried about the slackness of the brake thingies. It’s going back to Fiat on Wednesday for inspection. It is, after all, only an 18 month old car!

I was on the evening duty yesterday. It is our practice, when we are both at home at lunchtime, to go out for lunch. This is often a Sunday lunch (on those rare Sundays when I am not working) and equally often an evening duty lunch when The Builder is not working. It is exceeding rare for these events to fall on consecutive days. Even rarer for us to have a roast lunch on both days, especially when they are consecutive. But yesterday we called at the Toby pub at Parkhead which does a carvery. Not quite sure why I decided it was A Plan to have a roast lunch when I had been intending a salad, but there you go. A HUGE plate of food for a fiver. Nothing like as nice as the much more expensive food in Southwell, but you couldn’t complain about the quantity. Or even, really, the quality. Was not bad pub grub. But very, very salty. I think I drank about 8 pints of water during the afternoon. And this time I really only did have stewed fruit for tea :-)

Oh - I knew there was something else. When we came back to Tupton on Friday afternoon, I happened to notice that the walk along the railway sidings on the other side of the bridge was, at long last, open!! Yesterday, in between rain showers, we went to investigate. It goes up as far as the railway bridge, which is still closed. But now you can go on along a bit, then come under another bridge and do a round walk back along the wetlands. It’s very exciting. At least, it’s very nice to have such a lovely walk at our doorstep. Eventually, I believe it is to connect up with the reclamation work they are doing at the old coal mines closer to Chesterfield. The website suggests there is now a visitor centre somewhere near Wingerworth. Must go and investigate.

There were two tree pipits by the pond on Saturday morning. At least, I think they were tree pipits. And there was a Yellowhammer on a fence by the wetlands yesterday. And a skylark in the sky.

It’s raining. Gently. It’s the first rain we’ve had this month. Which is usually one of the wettest

Friday, April 20, 2007

A Day Out

Bea and I left the building on time, ready for our exciting jaunt to the Library Exhibition in Birmingham. (The very apex of excitement!) We ambled out the building, expecting to find our small-ish bus across the road outside the back of the public library. Instead, we found quite a large bus on our side of the road, in our bus lay-by, rapidly filling up with passengers. Thoughtful of them to park on this side of the road, we thought, as we made our way towards it. Mind you, there do seem to be rather a lot of people on board. You wouldn’t have thought there were that many people interested in the library exhibition in the whole world, let along in little Sheffield. And they don’t exactly look like librarians. In fact, they seem a bit young. I suspect them of being students! And lo! There is our bus across the road in its proper place. With librarians aboard. Mind you, would have been more exciting going with the students. Rumour has it that they were off to the Dales for a tour around the Theakstons Brewery!

So. Off we trundled, in our little Librarian bus, towards Birmingham, Bea, Heidi (from Psalter Lane) and me. It was a lovely day for a trip out in the country, even if it was down the motorway. And the traffic wasn’t too bad – especially since none of us was driving and didn’t need to worry about what the traffic was doing. We left at 09:10 and got there at 10:45 or so. A long-ish walk to the Exhibition Centre in the cool wind, and then time for a loo stop, coffee and a visit to the cash machine. While we were accomplishing all this, we ran across one of the subject specialists from work who is there not for the exhibition but for the simultaneous conference. At least now no one can doubt we were there!! (Though they scanned our badges every time we went into anything so there is ample evidence we were there, really!)

The exhibition was quite interesting, in its way. Would have been more interesting if we actually had a budget to play with! I collected a few pens, a fluffy pen, a magnifying glass, a tiny, tiny book on my fundamental rights, a ruler, lots of useful things. And a bag of marbles. Not sure about the relevance of the marbles, and the exhibitor wouldn’t tell me. He said that if I worked it out and emailed them, I would go in a draw for a prize. And what is this prize? A Kerplunk game, apparently. I’d rather have another bag of marbles, myself. I also collected lots and lots and lots of leaflets for Peter, just to prove that I really, really did go to the library exhibition and not to Masham to the Brewery!!

Actually, it had its points of use. Bea, Heidi and I are all on a working group looking at integrating all the various service points we have in the Adsetts Centre and at Collegiate. I realise we can’t actually buy anything, but it was informative to see what kind of library furniture, software, paraphernalia is available. But it really didn’t need a whole day. We went to listen to David Nobbs (author of the Reginald Perrin novels, and the books about the wonderful Henry Pratt, along with various television series) speak (very droll) and had a magnificent lunch, went for a wander outside. Then we lost Heidi – and never saw her again :-S (She wasn’t coming back on the bus; she was off to Shrewsbury for a long weekend. But it was surprising not to run across her at some point during the afternoon.) We went for another amble around the exhibition then decided that we didn’t particularly need to see anything else; we didn’t want to go to the professionally based talks (for we get the opportunity to hear lots of talks and seminars about information literacy and the future of librarianship etc back in the office); the one talk we would have liked to go to finished after the bus left … So we repaired to the bar and ate cake and drank beer (Bea) and wine (me) until it was time to go back and find the bus. If we come again, and I expect we will, I shall bring the car. Then we wouldn’t need to kill over an hour just to fill in time until the bus leaves.

Still, not a bad way to pass a day at work!

So. Back to Sheffield. Bea and I passed the time talking about gardens and allotments and fruit trees and this and that. Then I realised that, instead of heading back up the M1 to the turn off to the Sheffield City Centre, the driver had turned off down the Chesterfield by-pass. I wonder if he is planning a stop in Chesterfield? That would be very useful. Alas, no. Could he drop me off somewhere? Well, perhaps. But where? How about in that lay-by that’s coming up. The one from which you can practically see the poplar trees around the school in Grassmoor, about two miles away. Leave you in the lay-by? Are you mad? How will you get home from there? I shall summon The Builder. Have I already rung him? Well, of course not – I didn’t realise you were coming this way. With great reluctance, the driver pulled over and cast me out of the bus, into the lay-by, with the closed sandwich van, the rubbish bin and not much else. But really, I couldn’t see any point in driving past the turnoff to home, only to head 20 odd miles into Sheffield, just to turn round and come right back again. And in fact, I could probably have walked it. There is a track at the back of the verge, well away from the traffic. Though it would have taken some time. Home might have been 2.5 miles from where I was, but not by road!

It took The Builder fully 12 minutes to arrive in the lay-by after I rang him. Only read about 3 pages of my book. I thought he was going to drive past, though he knew which lay-by I was in. He says my green jacket camouflaged me, for I was leaning against the green closed sandwich van and couldn’t be seen. So, safe from mad axe murderers, then. And 15 minutes later I was at home, changed, and out in the garden sowing pea seeds and sipping wine. Long, long before the bus got back into Sheffield.

Bea says the traffic was dreadful. The driver stopped at Meadowhead to let more people off then announced that he wasn’t stopping again until he got back to the public library, which meant that Bea went right past her street into town and had to turn around and come back again. If he had only made the announcement at Meadowhead she could have hopped off and taken the bus, or even walked home from there.

Was a bit of a struggle to stay awake to talk to Tony at 10, though. Had to prop my eyelids open with matchsticks!

The family has been taken over by SKYPE. It’s very exciting. I have had a conference call with Tabitha and Freyja. I’ve spoken to Tony, Ian and Simon. I’ve seen Julia but haven’t yet managed to attract her attention. If you use SKYPE and want to talk to me, you will find me with my SHU email. Bear in mind, though, if you are not in my time zone, I can’t actually talk from work, though I can type.

I’m on the evening duty today, so there was no mad rush to get up and dash about this morning. So I lazed about in m’bed while The Builder went and got us a cup of tea at around 7. I became aware that there was a blue tit fluttering about around the bathroom roof, on the odd bits and pieces that protrude from the house, and around the window. I assumed it was looking for insects. Then it came and sat on the bar thing that runs across the window towards the top and stared inside. Then it sort of fell off, fluttered about a bit and came back and looked in some more. Eventually, I became curious about what on earth it was doing and got up, looked out the window – and found that the area where I put seed for the little birds was completely bare. Sigh. It comes to something when you are shouted at for lying about lazily in bed by a blue tit!!!!!!!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Front "garden" New Vegetable beds in the kitchen garden
Stella in flower :)
Allotment with new greenhouse
Scary rubbly bits!

There be onions and potatoes in there! Spring flowers happily in bloom

Plan Allotment April 17th

Plan Kitchen garden April 17th

My goodness but it's been lovely weather this weekend. We drove down to Salisbury, after my abortive trip into work to go to my course, to visit Barb (the ex-Mrs Builder) who lives in a rambling old farm cottage in a rural village. Very pretty. We got there in time for dinner after a remarkably good run down, to say that it was a Friday. Just by way of a change we stayed on the motorway almost as far as Bristol and came across country. Barb does it this way regularly, but I reckon it's quite a long way further than turning off at Gloucester and running down through Swindon. Oh well. Made a change.

Anyway. We had gone down for The Builder to do some chores. The primary chore was building wooden salad boxes for Barb, somewhat like the ones I've got, but slightly wider. The Builder had bought the wood and measured it all up and cut it in advance, so it was kind of like building flat pack furniture! And he got it all done on Saturday morning just in time for breakfast!! Very clever. So after breakfast we abandoned Barb to the washing up and took ourselves off to the wonderful farm butcher down in Burcombe where I did more than a week's worth of meat and egg shopping for £20. Then we went to the Black and White shop in Wotsit St Martin. They seem to be extending it, but don't actually have very much for sale. I bought 4 strawberry plants and we mootled off. Into Salisbury for a mooch around the market and one or two of the foodie shops around the market square. Plus I found a toyshop which had a cheap, plastic version of totem tennis for the garden. Tabitha was only muttering the other day that we had a huge garden but no garden games to play in it. Well, I've made a start.

So. Back to Barb's for gammon and bread and salad, then she and The Builder put up some posts for her new washing line and then we all went off in the car to the garden centre. It's quite a big garden centre and has lovely plants in it - but it's not really very exciting. Nothing especially unusual. Well, apart from the packet of black and white kidney bean seeds that I bought. They look like zebra beans! Sadly, the colour fades when you cook them, apparently. But still, they'll look fetching until they get cooked. So. Back to the house in the sunshine and The Builder decided it would be a friendly thing to take the turf off some of Barb's new vegetable bed. He's a demon digger is that there Builder! Barb and I decide that was much too energetic for us and opened a bottle of cooling fizzy wine and watched.

And so The Builder dug and drank beer and Barb and I supervised and drank wine, all out in the sunshine until it went dark and chilly and we all repaired inside, where Barb tried to cook fish pie and had terrible trouble with it, and I tried to eat it (eventually) and spilled it all over my clean clothes and we became tetchy and argumentative over silly things. I can only surmise that this very peculiar behaviour indicates that the middle bottle of wine had been poisoned by the Dastardly Italians (for it was a bottle of pinot grigio which I think was probably the culprit). No other explanation seems plausible, because The Builder had no such trouble and he DIDN'T DRINK the pinot!!!!! Truly the Italians can be dastardly in their wine poisoning tricks!!

Sunday also dawned warm and bright and sunny. It's a bit strange, really, having sunny summery weather accompanied by spring flowers and blossom and many bare branched trees. Still, making hay …… The Builder got up and went out to finish digging up turf, while Barb and I tackled the kitchen, then he had a play with Barb's rotivator. It was really very funny. I was watching through the lounge room window as the rotivator would make strong attempts to run away, with The Builder hanging on for grim death, looking as though he was about to be pulled off his feet. I didn't laugh, of course. Certainly not. Barb came in to find out what I wasn't laughing about and didn't laugh too. So he got an extra cooked breakfast brought out, for his diligence. I mean, he got one two days running, not two in one day. That would be silly!

In the meantime, I had a dilemma. Not only had I poured salmon fish pie all over my trousers, but I had also spilled something vegetably on my shirt. I borrowed a shirt from Barb and nicked The Builder's clean trousers. They were both brown. I looked like an Italian spy (perhaps that's why they poisoned the pinot!) Ah. But that won't do. The Builder is all over dusty and grimy and grotty and his parents are coming for lunch. His mother is bound to be narked if he's manky when we go to collect them. On the other hand, it's not very respectful for me to go in fishy trousers either. I borrowed a pair of three quarter length trousers from Barb - and stopped looking like an Italian spy and started to look quite a lot like Tom Sawyer! Thus attired, The Builder and I wandered off to collect his parents.

It was such a lovely day that we had lunch outside - and had to keep moving about to avoid sunstroke. Only Barb had a hat. You don't expect to need sun hats in Wiltshire in April! We had roast chicken with roast vegetables and sprouting broccoli from Barb's garden, and a rhubarb and ginger fluff (rhubarb likewise from Barb's garden with extra pinched from next door), non-poisoned wine and general chit chat. Gwen and Mick were in good form and good health and seemed to enjoy having a day out. The birds were in full song. The house martins have arrived in Chilmark - haven't seen any yet in Tupton. Then we waved goodbye to Barb (and the dishes), took Gwen and Mick home then made our own way home along the Fosse Way, which is not remotely quick but which is very, very pretty. Marlo was very pleased to see us home. He tells me indignantly that no one has fed him a morsel since we went away (so what has Tammy done with the missing cat food?) and no one has played with him (so why are the cat toys spread about all over the place?) and he hasn't been brushed for ever. OK. I believe that one. Tammy doesn't know where the cat brush is!

A good weekend, then. And one which continued into Monday, as far as I was concerned. I wasn't back to work until today. The weather has changed a bit; it's still sunny but it's not quite so warm. Still, a good day for pottering about in the garden. The Builder has made steady progress with the raised beds in the garden. I've put out the "totem tennis" set (the pole wobble quite excitingly when you hit the ball too hard) and cleaned all the green goo from the fish pond (looks like green cappuccino froth) and generally pottered about. But I am clearly suffering the after effects of the dastardly poisoning. I've cleaned the kitchen to within an inch of its life, including scrubbing the little oven and cleaning the toaster and the washing machine. Not normal behaviour at all, I'm sure you'll agree!

We have found a new type of bee. Well, new to us. The Bee page says they're quite common but neither of us has ever seen one before. They're a tawny miner bee and live in little holes in the ground. They think our new beds have been built especially as homes for them!

Where there were sheep in the back paddock when we moved in last year, this year there are horses. They keep neighing!

It's strange how noisy our garden sounded when we got back from Chilmark. Trains, cars, people, horses. Normally it seems quite quiet to us. But Barb's garden is very quiet indeed. No trains or horses or people for her. And not as much traffic either.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday update

Bugger! It's Friday. I realise I'm on leave this week but thought I'd better come in to my course, because last week was Good Friday, the week before was a Group Work day so we met in small groups, the week before I was in Norfolk. Figured if I didn't come in, the tutors might decide I'd left :-S. Got up bright and early this morning (though it is, in fact, extremely foggy). Checked my email to make sure the course hadn't been cancelled. Checked the handbook to see what we were doing. Trundled in, driven by The Builder who took pity on me having to come by public transport in the fog. Arrived at the room, to find one or two other fellow students loitering about but no other students and no tutors. Bums! We had each checked the course handbook, but not the online up-dated course schedule. Which we knew had been updated quite severely since the original publication of the handbook in September. And which said that this week was one of the two Easter Holiday weeks. So no course :-S Bugger.

Well, I'm here now and have arranged to take Monday morning off, in lieu of this morning, and Monday afternoon just because. Might as well find something useful to do. Fortified with an egg and bacon sandwich from the student refectory. Which was occupied by staff but no students when I called in for the sandwich just after 9!!

We had a good day yesterday. Amongst other things, we spent The Builder's birthday money. We have bought a park bench for the orchard, for sitting on in the evenings. The sun travels around the whole garden in the course of the day; we can now (almost) follow it too. Once the patio is finished and we have put another park bench there, we will be able to sit in the sun all day by judicious choice of park bench! We also bought an arch for the front door and another climbing rose to go up it. I just need to think of a way to prevent people from trying to use the front door now I have moved the hydrangea from in front of it. Triffid, anyone?

I've cleared and tidied up my shed. It's wonderful. I can find things. I seemed to have an extraordinary number of plastic flower pots of various sizes. I've had a cull!


We've planted the rest of the potatoes and The Builder has measured up the greenhouse to see how much more glass we need to buy - quite a bit of it cracked where it's been lying down in the frost over the winter.

I've also put various different tomato seeds into seed trays in the propagating tents, plus Brussels sprouts, white and purple broccoli, baby cauliflowers and the green, Italian cauli. Using the egg cartons didn't work. It's a good idea in principle, but I find that the cardboard in the cartons soaks up all the water, leaving the potting mix too dry to ge5miante the seeds properly. Won't do it again (this is the second or third time I've tried, and it's always failed, for one reason or another.)

We now have oodles and oodles of peas and broad beans coming up. Clearly the mice were not eating them, they were just being slow to germinate. Sadly, the pigeons have worked out that the wooden snakes are not real and are starting to eat the seedlings. We've netted them for the time being. When they get a bit bigger, I'll put wine bladders and CDs amongst them to keep the birds off.

And we now have a park bench in the orchard, and an archway over the front door with a red and a white rose ready to climb up it. (I can do that, now that I live in neither Yorkshire nor Lancashire. I realise we are quite close to the Yorkshire border, but the Good Folk of Derbyshire shouldn't really care!!)

Thursday, April 12, 2007


The first greenhouse is now up on the allotment, minus many panes of glass. The Builder has buried the bottom of the frame in the ground, and has dug beds in there, to save growing things in pots or grow bags. I am about to start germinating some tomato seeds! And we've succumbed to the siren call of the lovely spring weather and started planting the potatoes. So far I've planted the Red Duke of York (earlies) and the arran victories (second main crop), plus some of the pink fir apple (salad potatoes). Then my back started to object violently to all the bending and I had to give up. I've got Lady Balfour and ambos to go. I might do them this afternoon. We are now going to move down to the bottom of the allotment and start making our way up from there, leaving the chaotic, bricked,rubbled central bit to last. (If ever!!)

And it seems I have been maligning the mice in the kitchen garden. The broad beans have started to come up, randomly, in their bed, while loads of peas have come up. I was starting to make drills for new rows of peas when I came across rows of nearly germinated ones. Clearly I have completely sown that bed. I've put two new rows in the fourth bed and will carry on in there now, while I wait to see what happens in the other bed. Must keep a record of what I've been doing. I can't remember if I sowed extra broad beans in the second bed. And I'm intersowing beetroot between the pea rows.

The trees in the allotment are all coming into leaf, and some also into bud. Perhaps we will get some fruit this year. And The Builder has begun dismantling the original raised bed on the brick patio and has finished filling the vegetable beds with the soil from that. He's outside now, beginning to make up frames for the last three beds which will follow the path down.

In the meantime, I have almost finished weeding the main flower bed (apart from the bit that really needs re-digging) and have started planting things in boxes out on the front "veranda".

I do hope the weather holds, though. April is really a tad early for some of this activity.


The weather has been absolutely fantastic. Thursday was an especially lovely day; it was warm and sunny, and it was school holidays so there was not traffic on the roads. I was at Collegiate in the morning and Psalter in the afternoon, so left home at just after 8 in the car and had a lovely, quiet, sunny drive into work. Got there just after half past 8. Can’t do that during term time!

In fact, we’ve been enjoying lovely spring weather virtually all week, with the exception of Tuesday which was cool and grey and gloomy – but no rain. I’ve even fired up the barbecue. Granted, I only put potatoes and sweet potatoes in to cook, but they were very delicious and it was nice to sit outside in the sunshine. I regret, however, that by the time The Builder came back fro playing on the allotment, I seem to have drunk most of the wine :-S Never mind. There’s plenty of beer!

So. It’s Easter. After all that time, I can eat whatever I want again. Though strangely, I am not craving anything other than bacon. Mind you, the Good Friday fish pie was rather spectacular, even if I do say so myself! Jeanette, Matt and Rebecca were intending to come for the weekend on Saturday, for which I had planned a Turkish style veggie feast, with falafel and flat bread and salads and things. They rang to say they couldn’t come because Rebecca was poorly sick with a stomach complaint, just *after* we had bought the vegetables, but fortunately before we had bought the rest of the stuff. They eventually came on Sunday when Rebecca had recovered. Happily she failed to pass it on to the rest of the family! Tabitha and Gareth were due to come on Sunday, but rang to say that they had been attacked by a pub and wouldn’t be joining us until Monday. Was quite a large Easter feast, then. I had lamb and chicken, ready to feed seven and in the end only needed to feed four. Still, the left over chicken did for lunch on the Monday. And an Easter feast is an Easter feast, no matter how many you have to feed! I did enjoy the lamb. And the bacon for breakfast!

Easter Monday was The Builder’s 65th birthday. He’s eligible to draw his Old Aged Pension. Though he’s not allowed to. Anyone, no matter how ancient, who thinks they can sit about and idle their days away while I have to go to work, has another think coming!! We did have a cake party to celebrate his eligibility, however. And he has been very busy in the garden and on the allotment, where there is now one assembled greenhouse (just lacking some glass) and beds ready for potatoes.

So there we were, on Wednesday, or so of last week. The Builder was driving me into work and asked who was coming to the party. Hmm, let me think. This person, that person, someone or another, Paul and Carol, another person, and thisaone, and - bugger! Paul’s coming. The Builder was a bit surprised at the vehemence of my objection. I thought you liked Paul, said he. I thought you were really rather fond of him. Yes, yes. It’s not his actually presence which is causing me angst. But in my proposed menu, there is not one single solitary thing he can eat. Not a crumb. Not a sausage. Bugger. I rethought the menu. And on Monday morning got up and started baking. I made a pavlova with marscapone and cream and kiwi fruit. I made (and I am very proud of this!) a gluten free raspberry trifle. I made a fruit crumble with porridge oats. And, at great personal sacrifice, I made a flourless chocolate cake that everyone present could eat- apart from me :`( I had a gluten free dining room, and glutened nibblies in the lounge room. Everything was veggie friendly. Sooooo proud of myself was I. Lots of people came, including some quite small people (the youngest was 10 weeks old – he didn’t eat much cake, though his 20 month old sister developed an unfortunate taste for twisties – not that that is unfortunate in itself, it’s just that they’re not readily available in the UK). Tabitha and Gareth turned up, having escaped from the pub, bringing with them Freyja and Mark, in time for lunch out in the garden. People seemed to enjoy the cakes. They all seemed to have a good time. Then everyone went home, leaving just Taffa, Gaz, The Builder and me, and a mountain of washing up!!!

Tuesday was gloomy. We finished the washing up, bravely tackled by Gaz on Monday evening. Then we went for a wander along to the wetlands to see what progress they’re making. And they are making progress, but no extra paths are open yet. Then we came home for a Sunday lunch on a Tuesday of lamb chops and mashed potatoes. I seem to have had a week made up of a series of Fridays, followed by about three Sundays. I do like Sundays!

Since then, we’ve been out in the garden and pootling about. We had thought about going out today, but it’s a lovely morning and the pull of the garden is strong. We might perhaps go for a walk this afternoon. We have had quite a collection of birds in the garden this week. The regulars, like blackbirds, starlings, doves, pigeons, robins and blue tits. Plus great tits, goldfinches and a greenfinch. And on Monday afternoon, The Builder, Steve-next-door and I watched a crow chasing off a sparrow hawk high up above. Oh – and yesterday there were paragliders up above, coming down to land in the playing fields. All very exciting.

So it’s been a good Easter. And I am off this week, apart from tomorrow morning when I am going in for my course, plus I have Monday off. Nice!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The soil is warming up, the birds are merrily singing, spring is clearly sprung. Certainly more sprung than it was this time last year!

The Builder has been busy. He's dug the beds on the allotment down to where there is a former brick base for a proper greenhouse. It had been our intention to put our greenhouses at the bottom of the allotment and to have dug beds all the way down. However, if the bricks are going to prove very difficult to remove, we may need to rethink and, following proper allotmenteering principles, make use of what we find and plonk the greenhouses in the middle. The shallots are coming up and that bed needs weeding. I hope to do it this weekend, and then to plant leek and onion seeds in drills. In the meantime, there are onion seedlings coming on back at The Sidings, in the propagating tent. It is a little early to plant the potatoes, but it has been such a mild winter and early spring, when even the cold snaps recently haven't been that cold, I might risk it and plant them out next week. I don't reckon there will be all that many ground frosts now. And we can always dash up and cover the beds if frosts there be.

We have a new propagating tent. We bought it yesterday. It's higher than the existing one, and wider. It's almost time to start germinating the majority of the summer veg! I've got onion seedlings in one, and tomato and cauli seeds in trays in the new one

Things are starting to come back in the flower garden. Even the mint is re-shooting. The orchard trees are coming into leaf. No blossom to speak of this year, just the odd brave flower. So no fruit. But we weren't really expecting any this year. With a bit of luck we'll get some next year. But even the trees we summarily plucked from the old, lamented Hangingwater (no longer ours, alas - the lease ran out on March 31st) allotment seem to be settling in. So far the only loss has been one gooseberry bush, though the white currants are being a bit slow to bud.

Something is eating the broad bean and pea seeds in the kitchen garden :-( We planted broad bean seeds ages ago, and nothing has happened. Then a couple of weeks ago I planted some more, and I planted some pea seeds. Even given the coolth of the soil, you'd have expected some sort of movement. And movement there has been - but it's been seeds appearing mysteriously above ground. There are no seedlings. So yesterday evening we had a bit of an investigation and there are virtually no seeds left. I've put some broad bean seeds in pots, but that won't work for the peas. I suspect it's wood mice eating the seeds. We do have them in the garden and they are known to enjoy a little might time nibble on pea and bean seeds. I'm not quite sure what to do about them. I can tackle pigeons and squirrels and slugs but mice are a new one on me! I planted out four new rows of broad bean seeds on April 2nd. Am waiting to see what they do!

The Builder has built me some salad boxes, about the width and length of an old greengrocer's fruit box, but half the height. I'm going to grow lettuces and radishes and salady things in them. Plus he's built me one the exact size of a wooden fruit box for carrots. He's also blocked in where the brick patio is going to go and built a little tiny retaining wall. There are lavender and rosemary bush-lets edging it. And I've bought four solar light for the path to the compost bin. They have an eerie blue glow overnight!

Monday, April 02, 2007

East Anglia revisited

Well now, that’s been interesting weather. Properly spring-like, really.

Monday was beautiful. Tuesday and Wednesday were foggy but sunny later and reasonably warm. The Builder got lots done on the allotment and in the garden. Then Thursday turned cold and wet and dank and foggy and yucky. So was Friday. But yesterday was warm and sunny and bright. As is today, though the wind is from the east and the Undergardener is suffering a little in the cold as he builds salad boxes at home. I, in the meantime, am sat at a *freezing* cold information desk on L5 in the Adsetts Centre. We are almost entirely denuded of students. It’s the first weekend of the Easter holidays and they are mostly on their way home. I bet it’s almost impossible to get the Faithful Remnant out at 5 o’clock, though. Usually we are open overnight on Sundays. Not today and I bet they don’t realise. Well, why should they? Neither did the counter staff, nor SHU security. I wonder if the overnight security bods know. We’ll see!!

We had a great day yesterday. The Builder and I met Freyja and Mark at the Chesterfield station just before 10:00 in the morning and took ourselves off down to Cambridge to visit Taffa and Gareth. We had a lovely drive down towards and through Newark (still loads of piggies in the fields alongside the highway leading to Newark) and then down the A1. Took us about 2 hours and 15 minutes to get there. In the meantime, Taffa had been out to lay in picnic supplies. For we were going to the zoo, zoo, zoo …

The Linton Zoo. It’s very cute. Quite small, but has some interesting animals in it. Including a pair of toucans. Toucans are very silly birds. They look as though their beaks are plastic inflatables! First, though – lunch. You can’t explore animal parks on an empty tummy. We actually sat outside while we ate our magnificent repast, watching the improbable toucans. Wearing coats, it’s true, but outside nonetheless. On the last day of March! Was very pleasant. A little hint of summer to come. Though I hope we will be able to sit outside in the summer without feeling slightly chilly. And then, perhaps a little over-fed, we went exploring.

There are lions and tigers. And wallabies and lemurs. Lots and lots of different types of lemurs. Freyja scratched a tapir behind its ears. If it had been a cat, it would have positively purred. There are owls and vultures, parrots and storks. And a strange animal called a binturong, which I had never heard of and never previously seen. Rather cute, with a very long, fluffy tail. On this occasion they were awake. Tabitha and Gareth have only previously seen them curled up asleep. One of them took a dislike to Freyja and leeeeeeped at the glass separating it from her. Just as well she wasn’t stroking it behind its ears. Unless it was jealous and wanted its ears scratched, of course! There were spiders and snakes and turtles and lizards and it was a very pleasant way of spending a couple of hours. Then we went away.

Back into town. I want to visit the market. Gareth turfed Tabitha out of his car, and The Builder turfed the rest of us out of his when we got back into Cambridge, and they crawled slowly, slowly, slowly off to park the cars back at the house. In the meantime, Tabitha, Freyja, Mark and I wandered across the wind-swept playing fields to Tabitha’s shop on an inspection mission – thus waking up her staff who had been enjoying a peaceful Saturday afternoon until we came bursting in and stunned them into action! So nice to surprise the staff with a visit from the boss’s mum :-) And then on into town for a potter about and a trawl around the market (bugger – I’ve missed the seafood stall again! Must come earlier next time). Reunited with the drivers we made our way through an art and craft market to the river, walked along the river for a way (along a boardwalk I had never realised was there! I thought it was a little square for people to hire punt rides and nothing else), across a bridge and into the boathouse pub. All the way down the curling, winding, wooden stairs back down to the riverside, and a pint of something to restore us all, in the sunshine. And so back to Tabitha and Gareth’s place.

But what are we to do for dinner. The new series of Doctor Who was about to start. We didn’t want to be too late leaving, for we need to take Freyja and Mark back to Sheffield which adds an extra half hour or so to the trip, and I was working the next day. We ordered pizza - which Gaz and I went to collect. Meant he missed the first half of Doctor Who but then, he did get to have pizza two days in a row! Sometimes sacrifices have to be made :-) My seafood pizza was magnificent. It was topped with smoked salmon chunks, a white fish of some sort, tiny octopuses, tiny clams, and one huge big prawn in its shell in the middle. Wonderful! And then we came home. Not a bad way of spending a day off. Beats washing and ironing!

It’s Palm Sunday. They have finally stopped doing slavery services on the 8:00 Sunday worship, which they’ve been doing all through Lent. I realise that the anniversary is important, but one service would have done me! I fear that a whole series of them right through Lent only served to irritate me! Today we were treated to a proper Palm Sunday service, from Durham cathedral.

I have not, so far, had a very good day today :-( First I sort of slept in. Not too much, for it is Sunday and I don’t leave until later. But enough to mean I didn’t get done some of the things I was going to do, and eventually ran out the door just on time. Only to find that I couldn’t shift the car seat forward far enough to reach the pedal. Called for The Builder who came to investigate and who also couldn’t move the seat further. Bother. My shopping from yesterday was all caught up in the gubbinses and was stopping the seat moving. The Builder shifted it out the way, and wall was well. Off I set. Late! Was trundling down Ecclesall road, about 20 minutes later, with quite fast moving traffic all around me, including a car hassling me from behind to go faster. Hmm flashing lights behind me. Blast. A speed camera. Checked my speed and found I was going much too fast. Bum. Oh well. I suppose the pay from today will cover the speeding ticket. At least the camera also got the bugger behind me, and, I think, the really speeding car ahead of me. Slow down. Concentrate. Head into the city centre. Drive, drive, drive, drive. Where am I going?!?!?!?!?! Botheration. I’ve missed the turn off to the University. Goodness only know where the car thought we were going. I fancy it was heading to Freyja’s place, though I don’t suppose she’d have been very pleased to see me at something before half past nine on a Sunday morning! Turn off up the next road – and drive right past the turn off to the car park. Sigh. Perhaps I should have stayed in bed!. Round the block. Into the car park. Here at last. Into the staff room for a restorative cup of coffee. OHHHH NOOOOOOOOOO. The boiler is broken. Gloom. Fortunately, one of the staff from yesterday had provided herself with a kettle so coffee was eventually forthcoming. But I have now really, properly turned my wrist, which has no strength in it and hurts even when all I do is twist it slightly. Ah well. I guess things can only get better. Well, I hope they can only get better.

It’s a couple of days over a year since we walked into the Sidings for the very first time. Who’d have thought it. A whole year. Doesn’t seem anything like that long. We haven’t changed a great deal in the house (yet!) but the garden has changed out of all recognition. I wonder what Mrs Hallam would have thought about it all.