Diary 20th March 2010

The weather has now become warmer, after a period where it seemed milder but just below the surface and down to about 15 cm the ground was still full of ice particles which made it particularly hard to dig. We were keen on extending the vegetable area to grow some more of our own produce but we needed patience!

We hired a large rotovator from a local firm for a week and Alasdair did a stirling job turning over the ground fertilised where the chickens had been running and just full of tree roots, couch grass and stinging nettles everywhere else.

The ground was still very solidly icy in parts and he was seen from time to time hanging on as the rotavator climbed up over the ice and raced across the garden with him in tow! In the end good progress was made despite the various pieces of old fence wire and tree stumps that long-gone previous owners had left in the ground.

        Trish, Tim and Jean - heavy work!

On 3rd of March we said that the greenhouse so beautifully erected by Keith and Alasdair last year had to be moved to make way for the extension-to-be.

As before, we co-opted the help of some long-suffering and helpful friends Tim & Trish; Trish and I dug and delved to clear the rotovated area where we were intending to put the greenhouse of the worst of the weeds. The greenhouse was de-glassed and moved onto a secure base, and then re-glassed with Tim apparently developing a new fixation with greenhouse glazing clips. It will now survive a gale quite easily.

      Tim and Alasdair starting the glazing operation

Tim, Trish & I went on a walk from New Abbey along to the coast and Aird Point. We could see a magnificent vista of the mountains in the Lake District, still covered in snow. You don't always get such a good view. We also saw a flock of barnacle geese and a heron.

I planted some broad beans and peas in the old greenhouse in the side garden to replace the ones that got frozen in the cold weather. The replacements got eaten by slugs instead! Many of the pots had a lovely healthy shoot lying dead on its side, unattached to anything. I'll have to develop a night watch and deal with the beasts. Brings out all my sadistic tendencies.

The wildlife is thriving; we have a pair of jays visiting regularly which are pretty big, a beautiful cock pheasant that struts around taking whatever seed the smaller birds have left. It is probably the immature male grown up that Keith had his eye on last year.

We planted the yew that had journeyed down the garden, seen in the last diary, into its new home, and it looks most impressive and adds to the view from the kitchen.

The frogs have come back to the pond and the ditch is teeming with frogspawn. I 'liberated' some frogspawn from a ditch in Kissock wood that Graham had told me about when he came up. Hopefully the increase in the gene pool will help them survive any more floods or cold winters. One frog was hopping across the garden this afternoon and I gave it a hand into the pond before anything else spotted it.

    New arrivals Meg and Shona

Graham came up with the family and we went to collect 3 new chickens from a nearby poultry breeder. Meg, Beth (possibly Ginger) and Shona are settling in well. Beth may become Ginger as she is all black (Sarah & Simon's son, Alexander named his all-black kitten Ginger, so there is a precedent). Meg is almost as good an escape artiste as Harriet, which is how the latter got her name (after Harry Houdini). We are reluctant to clip their wings as they are able to fly if the fox visits, but, like tonight, you can spend half an hour on your own trying to get the creature to return to their cosy hen house ~ not very bright! They have been a greast boost to Caspian's already large ego and thinks they're wonderful new members of his hareem and keeps them close by and crows rather too loudly and often.

I have managed to spend a fruitful afternoon planting shallots, carrots and moving (extension again) and pruning some autumn raspberries. Let's hope the sunshine continues for the broad beans (again), peas, french beans, onions, and early potatoes. We can hope, anyway!

    The sheep in the field next to us appreciating the better weather on 7th March 2010

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