Saturday, March 29, 2008

An even tinier update

I had yesterday afternoon off. The Builder had the whole day off (the firm he’s working for doesn’t work Easter week). He came and picked me up at 1:00 and we trundled home to get ready to leave for Salisbury. The thinking had been that we would leave around half two or three to get ahead of the school traffic (Derbyshire schools are not on holiday this week, though Sheffield schools are. It’s very odd the way holidays are not co-ordinated in England). The only tiny flaw in this plan was that neither of us had thought to ask Tammy to feed the cat. So we waited until either Steve had had time to get up or Tammy had got home from school.

In the meantime, we got home to find a yellow lorry parked by the empty house next door and two tired looking lads clearing all the rubbish out of the garden. Hmm, pondered The Builder. I wonder how much they charge. So he went around to ask. The head lad came around to look. His eyes lit up at the scrap metal, electrical wotsits waiting to go for recycling and some of the other stuff. £50, he offered. We had to scrape it together, but we handed over the £50 and he offered to come around “tomorrow – can you move the van out of the driveway?”

Well, was my corn swaggled. The Builder agreed. Now we are not there today. We have trundled down to Salisbury. The Builder is one of the most security conscious people I have ever met. He expects the worst of people, then is pleasantly surprised when they behave impeccably. We have come away leaving the back gate open and leaving the clearing lads free access to anything they fancy in the garden. They could take *anything*. Even I, mostly inclined to think the best of people, would have been a bit wary of leaving them to it while I was 150 miles away. They have been firmly instructed NOT to take the bits of the dismantled greenhouse! I wonder if they will think to take the brick rubble in the driveway – although probably not.

So in the end we left close to 4:00. This really is not a good time to leave. Meant we hit the Friday afternoon, rush hour traffic around Birmingham and Warwick. We lost half an hour at just one roundabout. Took for ever to get here. Well, an hour longer than it usually takes. We decided as we were passing Andover that we would drop into the Salisbury city centre before heading to Bridge Farm and grab a bite to eat. And discovered that the Market Inn serves food until 9:30, which is quite a bit later than we had thought. I think they must have extended their food hours. I’m sure it was earlier the last time we called in. I think they might have a new chef too. The food has always been acceptable – but last night’s steak salad (for me) and sirloin in stilton sauce (for The Builder) was quite a lot better than acceptable. It was lovely!)

It was beautifully sunny when I got up this morning. It’s clouding over now. Watch it rain when we head into town. I’m after an upgrade to my phone and we need some birthday wrapping paper. But one of Norma’s breakfasts first

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A tiny update

So I took Marlo to the vet to have his claws clipped. He was a tad reluctant to get into the cat basket and very reluctant to go out in the car. I was a bit puzzled – he’s never objected before. But then I remembered that the last time he went in the car was after he had been castrated and didn’t feel very well. No wonder he didn’t want to go this time! In the event, however, it was a very short visit to the vet. A nice young vet nurse clipped his claws, charged me £5.01 to do it and I was back home probably about half an hour after I had left. Marlo was very pleased to be back home – though he hadn’t objected to having his claws clipped. He doesn’t clickety-clack now when he walks on the kitchen floor!

The man delivered The Builder’s jig-saw shortly after I got home. So The Builder and I took ourselves into Chesterfield for a spot of lunch in the Rutland and then for a spot of shopping. We achieved many things from my shopping list – only we forgot to go to the supermarket to get the wine and the white fish for my proposed fish platter. And the cement and sand that The Builder wanted for this morning wasn’t on my list so didn’t figure at all! He got them this morning on his way to the little job he’s doing today.

The man who used to guard the entrance to the allotments died a bit before Christmas. We wondered what had happened to him when his pigeon sheds disappeared from the garden at the top of the allotments. It seems that bad people, like the scrap metal people, have been going around to his widow and helping themselves to the contents of his sheds and not offering to pay her anything. According to allotment gossip, they took his tools and everything! In the meantime, where the pigeon shed used to be, there are many concrete blocks, such as would make wonderful paths in between the new beds The Builder is digging. He went up in the afternoon and started moving them down. With permission, I hasten to add. And he, at least, paid her for them! I went up and admired what he’s been doing, then came home out of the wind and pondered how I could make a fish platter without any fish! In the end, I made a huge pot load of chips and chopped the big, chunky, juicy scallops I had bought from the new fish counter at Chatsworth into disks and griddled them and the prawns (also from Chatsworth) on my griddle pan. Very nice it was too.

Back at work today. Three days this week. Three days next, then three weeks and a bit off. Hooray! It is, mind you, absolutely freezing here. I'm back at Psalter Lane. Walked in this morning to what was effectively a large fridge. I've put the radiators on, turned on the stand alone heater by the desk AND I'm wearing my big thick coat. I have, now, however, taken off my gloves. It was very hard typing with thick gloves on!

The Builder has this week off (apart from the job he’s doing for someone at work), then he's at work for three days next week. Then, when he comes back, he goes to the job in Handsworth permanently. Well, until he decides he's had enough of it and actually retires.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Easter Holiday

Well, did we have fun getting to Leeds on Saturday! The wind blew and blew and blew. Uncle John rocked and swayed and joggled. At one point we were heading up the M1, overtaking some sort of supermarket lorry #(Tesco, perhaps?) and a gust of wind blew right at us. The Tesco lorry, if such it was, managed to keep going. Uncle John was practically stopped dead in his tracks! Plus, it kept trying to snow. It really was all a little disconcerting! I was very glad to arrive at Clarissa and Mike’s place – where the wind had dropped a bit and the sun had come out.

We made a start dismantling their greenhouse. They’ve bought a new, mighty wooden one so this one was surplus to their requirements. Always happy to find a redundant greenhouse house room! We were making good progress removing the glass from the frame. It was pleasantly warm in the sunshine. The threatening clouds were quite reasonably behaved. We had removed nearly all the glass when Clarissa called us in for a lunch of home made soup, cheese and salad. Very nice. Just the ticket for greenhouse removing. Then we had to go back out into the cold freezy afternoon to continue.

Actually, it wasn’t too bad. I think it took us about another hour to get the thing dismantled and into the van. The snow more or less held off; just the odd flurry. Then we went back inside for home made hot cross buns and a restorative cup of tea. Excellent!

It was much calmer going home. The wind had dropped considerably. It was snowing quite hard in various places that we could see – but off the motorway. It was all quite calm where we were. Mercifully!

We had been intending to put the greenhouse on the allotment. I am considering the possibility of buying conservatory sized citrus trees and planting them in the greenhouse, just to see what happens. The Builder opined that in that case there was no need for it to go on the allotment. It would fit down the back of the kitchen garden where the remains of last year’s bonfire is. That is very true. It would do. I think we’ll probably put it there, then I can monitor the lemon, orange and perhaps lime trees over the winter. We wandered down the back of the garden when we got home to measure the space to see if the greenhouse would fit. It will. And as we walked back into the house – this happened:

We woke up, bright and early, on Easter Sunday morning to find the whole garden covered in snow. It was really beautiful. The sky was blue. The sun was shining, when it eventually got up. It was lovely. The birds were a bit bewildered – their seed feeders had vanished! Marlo went outside and sat by the side of the pond, just watching. And then the sun shone even more brightly and the snow melted and it was all pretty much as it had been. And then I stopped caring much about the weather. I had an Easter feast to prepare. I made the party pies and sausage rolls to the accompaniment of the Sunday Service on Radio 4. I made the sweet potato ravioli and accompanying chicken and vegetable broth watching the Easter Service on BBC1. I listened to the Pope’s Easter message while prepping the veg and the lamb for later. Then I made the self saucing chocolate puddings and the ice cream – couldn’t really listen to anything Eastery while doing that. Gavin had said that the ice cream maker was very noisy. ~I wouldn’t call it *very* noisy, but it would certainly have interfered with contemplative Easter meditation.

Bea and Steve arrived at about 1 and we passed the afternoon and evening eating and drinking and generally having a good time. We had a course about every 1.5 hours which spread it out nicely. Then I went to bed!

Everyone was up nice and early on Monday. We had breakfast and then went for a walk around the wetlands trail. They’ve mooooved the highland cows. For most of the winter they’ve been on our side of the railway and we’ve sometimes been able to see them from the kitchen window, up in the grass by the railway bridge. They’re back on the other side of the railway now. When we went past they were right up by the fence, scratching themselves vigorously on a sturdy tree. Highland cows are very cute. And VERY big!

Then Bea and Steve went home, to ready themselves for an afternoon at the football. I hung the washing out for the weather was sunny and windy, if a bit cold. Then The Builder and I went out towards Barlborough, near Renishaw. Someone had put a leaflet in the letterbox, advertising the opening of a new Dobbie’s garden centre and shopping complex. It includes a food hall and I had used many of the vegetables I had acquired on Friday. So we went off to investigate. I’m not sure we’ll bother going again. There is rather a nice kitchen shop, but the food hall isn’t anything very special and the garden centre was very, very big but not very, very interesting. They were selling pots of mint and pots of runner beans, ready for planting. In March. In the snow. It’s one way to make a profit, I suppose, but seems a bit sneaky to me to sell unsuspecting people cold tender plants at this time of year. People were buying them by the trolley load. I can’t imagine most of them surviving.

We asked Jenny to bring us back avoiding the motorway. It was really quite interesting. Bits of South Yorkshire and Derbyshire that are unfamiliar to us. And as we drove, we could see snow showers, flurries and storms all around us. We stopped off, as we passed by the Sidings on our way to Chatsworth, and brought the washing in!

We had thought we might have lunch at the Chatsworth farm shop restaurant. Alas, the queue was about 2 hours long. So no lunch there then. We went to Ashford in the Water instead. And got the last table! I had forgotten that it was a public holiday and that the Peak District would be full of tourists. There are very few tourists about over the winter and you quickly forget about them! It was a lovely lunch, mind. The Ashford Arms, should you be looking for somewhere nice to eat. Then we came home over the moor tops to Holymoorside. Very beautiful views. The Builder had been thinking he might go digging on the allotment, but it really was too windy and much too cold. He sat inside and drafted the porch he’s thinking of putting up over the back door.

It dawned beautifully sunny this morning. I’ve put more washing out. The Builder has actually wandered up to the allotment – though he reports that the soil is very wet and digging is not being very successful. I think he’s sorting out the greenhouses instead. One of the allotment neighbours has a small powered plough. I think The Builder is thinking of asking him to plough the bottom of the allotment and then he (The Builder) will dig that over. However, it’s only 9 days (!!!!!!) till we go away for three weeks, so the digging may need to wait until we come back. In the meantime, I am sat at home waiting for yet another delivery person. It’s very tedious. I do wish the commercial delivery firms would deliver at sensible times. It’s a terrible waste of a day off to spend it at home waiting for someone to deliver something at an indeterminate time – but which must be between 9 and 5, Monday to Friday (except for yesterday, which was a holiday). The Builder will have to come and take over at lunchtime though. I am taking Marlo to visit the nice vet nurse to have his claws clipped. My back looks as though someone has taken to it with a series of razors!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Another windy update

The weather today is really quite amazing. The Weather Gurus have been saying for sometime that this weekend would be wild and wintry. I was beginning to doubt them, yesterday, when I woke up to a stunning morning. The Builder was thinking about heading to the allotment after lunch and doing a little digging. I hung wthe washing out. By the afternoon, however, the winds were getting up and there was the odd rain shower. No digging for The Builder and the washing came in. By evening the winds were having a merry old time. Woke this morning to Mighty Winds, but none of the promised snow.

Then the skies darkened.

Then the snow arrived.

Then it went away and the sun came out and the wind dropped.

Then it did it all over again.

And again.

And then – the winds HOWLED and the sky went black and the winds swirled and then snow and hail and freezy stuff blew in and swirled around and everything beyond the garden pretty much disappeared. Was very exciting. Then it all went away. Apart from the wind. The sun is shining again now!

I have turned the boiler up a bit and put all the radiators up on high. The house is quite toasty. It’s cold in the kitchen, though. And outside. We’re supposed to be going to Clarissa’s place shortly to steal her greenhouse. This is going to be lots of fun!!!!

It feels quite odd today. Yesterday, we mostly did Saturday things. We went to Chatsworth to do the shopping. They’ve been renovating the shop for the past few weeks and it has all just properly re-opened. There’s a wonderful new fish counter. I’m not sure where they’re sourcing the fish – clearly not locally since we are about as far from the sea as it is possible to get in England. But it looked lovely. I must enquire where the fish is coming from. I assume it’s sustainable fish. Anyway. It was quite crowded but not too bad. Then we went to the supermarket, which was absolute bedlam. Can’t think why. The shops are all open today. No real reason for people to have hit the shops in droves yesterday! We only went because we happened to be out anyway, and we’re going to Leeds greenhouse stealing today. I fear we might have to drop into a shop at some point today, though. I haven’t got any full fat milk and you can’t make custard with skimmed milk. Well you can, but there doesn’t seem to be much point in making such a custard. You might just as well have low fat yoghurt.

So, having done all the Saturday things, including things like the washing (which dried nicely in the wind) and cleaning and stuff, I really want it to be Sunday today. It came as a great shock to wake up when the radio came on to find it not doing Sunday programs. It came as a great shock when the Today program came on. It’s further complicated by the fact that I have been doing Sunday morning things today, like the ironing, but without the accompaniment of Sunday morning radio. I wonder if I am getting too set in my ways? And I fancy we got up too early. Granted, it was 7:00 when we got up – but I was sat down in the lounge room reading Hugh Fearnley Wotsit’s Fish book by half past nine. Marlo was astounded. I am almost never sat down reading at that time in the morning. But I had done all the things I had intended to do this morning …

I made, as had become my habit, a Fine Fish Pie for our Good Friday dinner. I made it following a recipe in the Fish book, which is Hugh’s mum’s recipe. She does a number of things which I will incorporate into my routine fish pie making. Her recipe is very nice. But mine, I think (she says a touch smugly), is even better. Or perhaps it’s just what I’m used to. It just seems a bit richer in taste.

Half an hour before we brave the elements and head to Leeds in Uncle John. Wish us luck!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Really exciting news

The really exciting news is that Taffa and Gareth have set the date for their wedding. They are to be wed in the Cambridge Registry Office on the last Saturday of August, with a garden luncheon party at their place afterwards to celebrate. Then loads of people are going to a Rock Rave in the evening. I understand it will be loud and grungy. The Builder and I thought we might perhaps miss that bit. But we are very much looking forward to the rest of it. We have a gazebo that The Builder bought last summer which should just about cover their garden. This means that even if it rains we will still be able to use the outside. I fear their house might be a bit on the small side for a purely indoor party. It’s very exciting.

I might buy a new hat!

Random Musings

Well. Where to begin? Lots of random things to tell you.

We missed the bulk of the storms last week. There were gales and torrential downpours all over the place at the beginning of the week but Chesterfield and Sheffield were largely untouched. We just had wind and rain.

It was a fairly quiet week, really. The Builder is still working in Handsworth. I come in with him in the morning and have a nice, quiet hour in the office on my own before anyone else appears. I’m weeding my way through the Construction books and spending lots of money on new things – which is always nice, spending thousands of somebody else’s pounds! The good news is that The Builder has been invited to stay on with the firm he’s working with at the moment and to be employed directly by them when he gets back from Japan and Australia, rather than going through the agency. It’s a three year-ish project they’re working on, refurbishing council-owned housing for older folks. And that will, more or less, take him up to when he actually wanted to retire. So that’s good. The pay is a bit less than it is through the agency, but it does mean he’ll have a regular income rather than a higher but occasional one. Plus he gets paid for his holidays! Though they are quite fixed. Two weeks at Christmas, one at Easter and two weeks between June and August. I shall just have to come into line with that.

We had a good weekend. We pottered about on Saturday, drove through the mist to Chatsworth. Nearly ran over two cyclists but narrowly avoided them (the mist had turned to quite thick fog up on the moor tops and, although they were wearing viz jackets, they didn’t have lights on their bikes and were visible only as looming dark objects as we got closer to them. My boss Peter tells me that he had a similar problem, having set out from home in fair weather only find himself on a bike, viz jacket on but with no lights out on the moors in thick fog. Moral of the tale is always to carry your lights with you!) We called at the garden centre for shallot sets and leek seeds. If the Garden Gods are kind we should be over run with various forms of onion next year! We went to the farm shop for the week’s provisions. Which reminds me – I must find out when they’re open over the Easter Weekend. We trundled home and pootled about. I made a salmon quiche. Then we trundled into Sheffield and spent a very pleasant evening eating, drinking and making merry at Bea and Steve’s house. And went to bed late. Later than I ever go these days. Around midnight! And I had to be up, about and ready for work on Sunday morning :-S

Happily, Bea and Steve live a mere 10 minute drive from the Adsetts Centre. We even had time to drop by Gavin and Rebecca’s place en route. They have an ice cream maker and I had arranged to borrow it to see if my life might be improved by the addition of one. I haven’t tried it yet. The bowl is in the freezer ready for experimentation on Easter Sunday. I’m planning on vanilla ice cream to go with chocolate puddings. I hope it works!

I had yesterday off. The boiler man was coming. Back before Christmas we took out with British Gas a service plan which covers the boiler, the central heating and the fixed electricals. It crossed our minds a week or so ago that they had never come to do the original inspection to see whether our boiler qualified for the service agreement. So I arranged for them to come. The irritating thing about this is that they will make morning or afternoon appointments only. You can’t get them to be more specific. And the morning slot is 8 – 1 and the afternoon one is 12 – 6. You will immediately see that there is no possibility at all of taking a mere half day off, unless you happen to live within a five minute walk from where you work. And I don’t!

It did mean that I had a lovely and quiet day off, though. I pottered about in the morning doing useful, domestic things – and somehow managed to slice my finger in the process; I have no idea how. I didn’t notice until I went to check something on the laptop and wondered what all the red stuff was! It’s quite a deep slice too. It’s seriously impeding my typing! Then I spent the afternoon playing on the internet, reading the magazines which had come during the week, reading the River Cottage Fish Book and generally doing nothing very much. The boiler man came at about 4:15. While he was checking the boiler and the radiators, I made some pasta dough. The boiler man was very taken with the cat, who was draped over my shoulders while I was signing the paperwork. Actually, I was quite impressed with the boiler man – he reversed his little van into our VERY NARROW driveway with absolute panache. The only other person who dares park in it is The Builder, and he’s had several months of practice (the white van wouldn’t fit; it’s only since Uncle John arrived that he’s been parking in the drive). So. The boiler is now properly signed up for this service agreement. Excellent.

I made a vegetarian lasagne for dinner. It was rather nice. I put the pasta dough through my pasta squishing machine many, many times until it was practically diaphanous. It would never have won me Masterchef, because it was so thin it had begun to develop holes. I don’t care. It had even more holes in it after I had chomped it! And it a lovely, light lasagne which didn’t make us feel blompy after we had eaten it. It was a nice day to be at home. It wasn’t quite warm enough in the morning to go up to the allotment and plant all the onion thingies. But it was sunny enough to make it nice and warm and light and bright sat in the lounge room. It was a bit of a shame this morning, when it dawned bright and sunny, having to get up and leave my lovely bright, light lounge room. Still, it’s a very short week this week. Work Monday, have Tuesday off, work Wednesday and Thursday, have Friday off. Short next week too. Wednesday to Friday. And the following week Monday to Wednesday and them I’m off for just over three weeks!

Freyja, for reasons that are entirely unclear to me, was moved to wonder recently how you go about getting an allotment. I’m not sure why she didn’t just ask me, but she didn’t. She emailed the Sheffield allotment people and asked them. And got a reply telling her that her local allotments were off Cat Street in Meersbrook, that there is approximately a 12 month wait and that she is now on the waiting list and they would contact her when it was her turn. I hope she wants an allotment! She’s meeting me for lunch today. I shall interrogate her and find out why she was wondering in the first place

Monday, March 10, 2008

A pleasantly quiet weekend

We had a lovely weekend.

The Builder collected me from work on Friday afternoon, nice and early, and we trundled home via Waitrose. Ran across my pal Gavin in the carpark. Almost the last place I would expect to find him – Waitrose tends to be a supermarket for foodies and nobody would call Gavin a foodie! We were on the hunt for soya sauce, rice and alcohol. Gavin was waiting in the car park for his wife. We fulfilled our purchases (not to mention acquiring some Chinese cooking wine – means I don’t have to buy sherry!). I assume Gavin found Rebecca – he wasn’t in the car park when we came out of Waitrose, considerably lighter in the pocket than when we had gone in!

Saturday was a nice and gentle start to the day. But still quite an early start. The Builder, Uncle John and I ambled off at about 09:00 to Dunstan Hall to the garden centre, where they were selling 3 large bags of potting mix for £10. Then we went back home, swapped Uncle John for The Vixen and wandered off to Chatsworth. We called at the Garden Centre for a potter around, and came out with a cranberry bush and a blackberry bush. We went to the Farm shop for vegetables and things. They’re revamping the shop at the moment – getting in was our first challenge! Then we headed into Chesterfield across the moors round the back and went to Pets at home for cat food. And then we went to the Three Horseshoes at Spitewinter for a lovely Saturday lunch. And then we went home and pottered in the garden and did a little light weeding and The Builder explored the sheds to see what was in them and we went inside as the light faded and had grilled gigantic mushrooms with scrambled eggs and tomatoes on toast and some wine and went to bed. Oh – and we watched the football. Even I paid a modicum of interest as Barnsley (a local town) was playing Chelsea in the FA quarter finals, having completely unexpectedly defeated Liverpool in the previous round. Nobody expected Barnsley to have a prayer, not even the club manager who had been very tactful in an interview on the local news on Friday night but clearly wasn’t really expecting to win. But they did! 1-0!!!

On Sunday The Builder had breakfast in bed!!!!! He had got up early and made the tea. Then he had made more tea. Then I got up to do other things and he stayed in bed. Amongst the other things I did while I was pottering about was to sauté him a couple of lamb kidneys with mushrooms and toast and to make us both coffee. He was still in bed when that was ready and it seemed a bit of a pity to let it go cold while he was getting up, so I took it upstairs for him. He was very surprised! I don’t think he’s ever had breakfast in bed before. I hope he doesn’t get too used to it!

You may remember that last Sunday the bird table blew over in the wind. Since then there’s been a pile of mostly wheat where the table spilled its contents. This Sunday, I was watching the birds bobbing about on the lawn and the paths while sipping my coffee at the bedroom window. I wonder what that is, thought I, over by the wheat. It was a little, honey coloured mouse, dashing across from the fence, grabbing a wheat kernel, dashing back to the fence, then dashing back for another. It was rather cute. But I’m glad it hasn’t found the house supplies!

It was a beautiful day yesterday. We spent the time from 9-2 outside in the garden, doing useful things and getting ready for later in spring. I suppose we really should have gone to the allotment. There is digging to be done up there. However, The Builder is off after Easter until we fly to Japan and can dig then, weather permitting. And the garden also needs attention. It’s almost up together, ready for the new growing season. We came in at 2, really rather tired. And the wind was beginning to get up, and the clouds were coming in. We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening in the dining room, watching telly, eating roast chicken and pootling about. I was in bed by half eight!! And slept like a log until 3, though I went back to sleep shortly after 3.

The weather people have been forecasting apocalyptic storms for today for the past few days. And it has been very, very unpleasant on the south and west coasts. Fortunately, it has so far passed us by. I think there is rain and wind forecast for this evening, but nothing like the ferocious storms they’ve been having in Dorset, Devon and Cornwall. The seas have been particularly heavy. No high waves are ever likely to find us!

Early Spring activity

We’ve been busy in the garden this weekend. Fortunately, the weather held!

The Builder has dug over the “herbaceous” border, which was very, very overgrown with grass and weeds. While he was doing that, I weeded the two flower beds. I’ve taken out all the wild strawberries in the top bed – they had ambitions which would have put the most ruthless of world dictators to shame! I’ve planted the hellebore which Penny and Steve gave us by the diagonal plant in the top bed, and sown black cornflower seed and black sunflower seeds in there. The crocuses are up and looking very cheerful. The tulips won’t be long. That bed will be, more or less, a black/purple/pink bed. I sowed wildflower seeds in the lower bed and hedgerow and verge seeds in the newly dug over bed, which is looking more like a shrubbery at the moment than a herbaceous border!

Then The Builder made up some more double wooden boxes for me. I planted purple haze carrots in the first one and covered it with a pane of class I found lying about in company with about a dozen other panes of glass. In one of the single boxes, I planted some lettuce, red lettuce, spring onion and spinach seeds, also now covered with glass. A second double one has been filled with soil, now under glass, to warm up ready for parsnip and radish seeds.

In the kitchen garden, The Builder over the winter dug a bed down along the East fence and planted loads of those little lavender bushes in it. He also moved the tayberry. Over the weekend we bought a cranberry and a thornless blackberry which are also in there. I’m thinking of trying a kiwi vine as well and seeing how that gets on. Yesterday we weeded all the vegetable beds and have now covered them with compost, manure and/or ash, depending on what we’re planning to plant in them. I put a long row of early onward peas in the runner bean bed, some Canoe peas (about 20) in the bed with the autumn sowing of peas (which are not looking all that happy) and some Emperor broad beans in the bottom bed by the volcano.
The gardens are all looking rather better now, for a general tidy up, though more tidying needs to be done. Oh, and The Builder has begun dismantling the fist compost heap we put in when we first moved in. The first one is gone, dug over and the contents distributed. We’ll do the rest of it another time.

I’ve ordered some asparagus for the first bit of the asparagus bed which is now ready. I’ll get some more for the autumn, when I hope the rest of the bed will be ready.

I hope all the seeds survive – it’s been wet and windy since about 19:00 last night!

The Builder has begun new digging on the allotment, starting at the bottom this time. I’m planning to plant potatoes down there. I’ve begun weeding at the top, and the greenhouses are ready for later in the spring. There’s a “new” greenhouse coming. Clarissa and Mike had decided to replace theirs with a wooden one. We are going to get the rejected one at Easter.

And I’ve started sowing the seeds. It crossed my mind that the lounge room window sill faces south, gets lots of sunshine and is pleasantly warm and would make an excellent “heated cold frame” for the heat loving plants. I’ve got pots of seeds sat in there as from yesterday. It was lovely – I sat outside in the sunshine while I did the potting. So, we’ve got: two types of tomatoes (must buy some cherry tomatoes, though – they can grow outside), chocolate capsicum, yellow capsicum, pointed capsicum, Veronica calabrese, and cape gooseberries. I’ve also got some sweet potato slips coming. It’s all very exciting!

Fingers crossed for some good digging weather at weekends between now and Easter, and in the week after Easter when The Builder will have gardening time during the week as well

This is how the kitchen garden and the allotment look today

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

A very windy Sunday and other tales

At three o'clock on Sunday morning, The Builder started shouting and more or less threw the cat at me. “Bloody cat, %@~*&+$, Mmph, mutter, yell, cat, %&$*£@” I was about to say that this most certainly woke both me and the cat up, only I think the cat was already awake. It seems that Marlo, out of nowhere, had suddenly stuck all his claws in The Builder’s back.

Marlo was all aquiver. I calmed him down and turned over, snuggling the cat down beside me. The Builder yelled AGAIN! He says that I dug my elbow into a soft part of his back. Must have been very soft. I wasn’t aware I’d even touched him

Thereafter it was quite a disturbed night. I kept being woken up by something. Not the cat, though he seemed a bit distrait too.

At five o’clock, we gave up and The Builder went down to get us a cup of tea. He came back to report that there was an almighty wind blowing outside. We couldn’t really hear it in the bedroom; the double glazing is an effective sound proofing material. It’s not as effective in the bathroom or kitchen. In fact, not effective at all in the bathroom! Now he came to mention it, I could hear some quite exciting gusts outside even in the bedroom.

At about half past six The Builder went down to get us another cup of tea. It’s light by then now. He came back up to report that the fence panel by the side of the house had blown down and that my propagating tent had disappeared. I opened the bedroom curtains – and found the propagating tent in the fish pond, near enough. And the weighted down bird table had blown over and down the garden. I went down to inspect the fence (through the kitchen window – I wasn’t actually intending to go out in that!). It wasn’t so much that the fence panel had blown down as that the concrete pole holding it up had been blown part over and cracked at the bottom!

No wonder the cat had stuck all his claws into The Builder in the night. He doesn’t much care for strong wind at the best of time. Strong wind which is blowing tents and fence posts about would be enough to worry anybody.

I sat on the side of the bed with my cup of tea and watched the trees being battered and the birds being blown about and the seagulls having a wonderful time playing in the gusts. While I was watching, the garden bench was picked up and blown over, on top of the little table next to it. All very exciting!

Mercifully, it had blown itself out by 10:00, when we were due to head off in Uncle John to collect Freyja from her place. We were off to Intake on the other side of Sheffield to collect a futon from someone who works where she does who didn’t want it any more. I would not have cared at all for driving about in Uncle John in that wind. Or the vixen, come to that. It had died down enough for us to have ventured out and picked everything up, and to have propped up the fence. Must do something about that post, mind you.

We collected Freyja and headed to Intake via the Adsetts Centre, where I had left my wallet in my intray on Friday when I left. I could probably have managed without it, except that I had Monday off and wasn’t intending to go in for my Tuesday evening shift until later in the afternoon. I quite fancied having access to some cash in the meantime. Freyja pointed out that The Builder was sat right with us, but I don’t think we should view him as a cashpoint!

Jenny the sat nav is a wonderful thing. She took us to the house in a quiet backstreet in Intake with no fuss at all. She did her level best to get us directly back to Freyja and Mark’s place as well. It wasn’t her fault that they’ve redesigned some of the roads and haven’t told her! Fortunately, Freyja and I knew how to get back to Meersbrook by the time that happened. The futon is rather nice. It’s green. And very comfy. We all carted it up the stairs and The Builder assembled it, then we left Freyja and Mark to prepare for some visitors who were heading their way and took ourselves off to B&Q in search of a new concrete post and some concrete. Then, of course, The Builder had to dig out the old post. And the HUGE concrete lump it was sitting in. Eventually he remembered that he has a rather nice piece of rope in the van. By using that and a pole he managed to lever it out. It was VERY big! A bit of a break for lunch, then he planted the new post and had the fencing board back in in no time. Then we had a bit of a potter around in the garden, clearing up, cleaning all the rubbish out the fish pond, lots of which had blown in over night, generally beginning to think about spring.

A pause, while The Builder had a much earned pint of beer and I had a not particularly earned pint of cider.

Then we thought of the allotment. I wonder if we still have any greenhouses. We ambled off to find out. Miraculously, both the greenhouses had withstood the tempest. One of them lost a couple of panes of glass a couple of weeks back. The only damage was inside that one, where a third pane had been propped up. It had blown over and smashed into many little pieces. But otherwise, they were unscathed. Very odd. The allotments are wind blasted places and one of the other greenhouses had lost its roof. Everything else seemed fine. We went back home and had roasted tuna fillets for dinner.

It was, you will agree, a very exciting Sunday!

I have been poorly sick :-( I got up on Friday morning and felt a bit as though someone had thunked me quite hard across the top of my abdomen. But I had been weeding some heavy books on Thursday and assumed I had pulled a muscle or that something was cross. I came to work. The day progressed. By mid morning it felt as though a giant was BITING me across my middle. By lunchtime it felt as though the giant was biting me right around my front, middle and back :-( ?By going home time on Friday I could hardly get up the stairs to Arundel Gate and d r a g g e d myself slowly, slowly, slowly up. I gently, gently hauled myself into Uncle John. By the time we got home I had a temperature of 101! (oh, alright; 38 and a tiny bit – but 101 sounds much more exciting). I had a little titchy bit of fish and a few chips from the chippy, took my glass of wine and my book and retired to bed. I only had a couple of mouthfuls of my wine before I was asleep. You will agree that it has come to something when I can’t drink my wine!

I woke up on Saturday without the temperature and with a much more moderate ache. So when The Builder went to visit Richard to fix the leak in his garage roof, I stayed at home, being careful with what I did – a little gentle tidying up. Very gentle. Very careful. The Builder came home and we trundled out to Chatsworth for some provisions. The Builder pushed the trolley! Then we went to Bakewell and had lunch in The Peacock. I couldn’t manage all my lunch – but I did manage my wine. By Sunday, when we called into the Adsetts Centre for my wallet, I bounced down the stairs and bounced up the stairs and there was only the occasional twinge. I have no idea what it was. It’s gone now!

Richard has also been poorly sick. He’s been off work for six weeks and isn’t expecting to be back before Easter. Poor Richard. When The Builder went to see him on Saturday, he took with him a card which had been signed by all the people he used to work quite closely with when we were still our own, separate department. When The Builder came back, he brought with him some St David’s Day (for such it was on Saturday) daffodils for me from Richard. An excellent exchange, one card for a huge bunch of daffodils. Daffies are so very cheerful.

We got up yesterday morning. It was once again windy, but nothing like as windy as it had been on Sunday. The fence was still up! And instead of howling tempest - - - we had SNOW! It didn’t really settle, but it looked very pretty while it was there. And, although the sun is now quite warm (I didn’t have the heating on until late in the afternoon, because the sun was warming the house by God’s power), the wind was very, very, very cold. Even when the weather cleared into a truly lovely day, it was still too cold for weeding and planting.

I have thought of another symptom of me not being well. I have been cleaning! And tidying. And organising. Over the past couple of days I have taken the contents of the big freezer (it not being very full) and put them with the contents of the little freezer (it being even less full) and defrosted and cleaned the big freezer. Then I transferred everything across and have defrosted, cleaned and decommissioned the little freezer until such time as we have a garden surplus again. I have tidied the dining room and lounge room. I have cleaned and waxed the dining room table. I have (wait for it – are you braced?) CLEANED THE TWO OVENS!!!!!!! And perforce the rest of the kitchen. I have even cleaned the bathroom and vacuumed the house – carefully so as not to break anything this time!! The house is positively gleaming. I have done all the washing and all the ironing – I even got washing dried on the line yesterday. The wind might have been cold but it was blowy enough to dry things with the help of the sun. And my back and front are fine and I feel fine. It was a very odd little virus (at least, I assume it was a virus)

I enjoyed my 3.5 days off. Next chance for a few days off will be Easter. And that isn’t far away at all :-)