Brambling Diary 13 May 2014

We have achieved more in the garden than we thought we would manage. The sycamore seedlings are trying to take over our small part of the world and are encroaching in their hundreds. I spend some time weeding them out, but there always seem more important things to do, so they keep growing.

The bluebells are hardly carpeting the floor of the woods, but they are raising the occasional brave spray above the grass, and hopefully as the years go on, they will multiply, though I expect we shall have to give them a hand by planting companion corms. The fruit trees have some blossom, maybe they will have the odd fruit, but I’m not holding my breath. The cherry looks good, but I expect the birds will enjoy them more than we’ll have the chance to.

Alasdair cleared out ‘the owlery’ (and thereby hangs a tale) and the fruit bushes there (red & white currants & gooseberries seem to be thriving to reclaim their foothold. Not that we see any gooseberries either usually, the gooseberry sawfly removes all the leaves and they don’t thrive like that!

We have potatoes, peas and swedes in the side garden at the moment, though I keep replanting the peas. I’m not sure what loves them best, but something does.

The Flowform is delightful, the sound like a mountain stream refreshing the air as the forms oxygenate the water. We’ll see what the water lilies achieve in their enriched environment. Alasdair has seen chaffinches drinking from it and a tadpole was swimming in one of the forms – a bit of a surprise it had, too, I expect.

We got back from our trip south 2 days ago to find everywhere covered in a thin patina of dust; maybe the Sahara visiting us. Looks a bit weird – good job I’m not houseproud, it gets everywhere.

Alasdair is busy cleaning and sieving gravel – well a rather beautiful mixture of quartz, shells and more interesting stones than ‘gravel’ sounds like. He is making a weed-free (Yes!) area for the bench to go, then we can gaze over the pond, glass of home made wine or beer in hand, and contemplate the beauty of our surroundings. It’s a hard life, but somebody has to do it.

I think the slugs have eaten the petunias, which is a shame. I don’t mind sharing (I do, actually, but I’m trying to be as beast friendly as my conscience allows), but they shouldn’t demolish the lot.

Brambling Diary 20 May 2014

There is a plant that grows in the burn and also on the bank (out of water) near the burn. I have tried to identify it, and the nearest I can find is equisetum, though it doesn’t seem to have the pronounced bars that distinguish it. As I walk with the dogs by the burn in the morning, they go ‘all of a quiver’ clearly all moving to the currents in the water, but somehow exaggerating it as well. Very odd.

We can hear the cuckoo most of the day, and it always sounds so insistently cheerful. If only it hadn’t got such nasty childrearing habits, it would be a lovely summery sound. I can’t bring myself to forgive it easily, even though I know I shouldn’t impose human values on what the birds do to survive. Never seen one though, probably know I don’t like them. Do they care?

The English bluebells I planted in the autumn are through, though you have to look hard. I planted them in small groups of 5 and probably 1 or 2 of each group have come through. My vision of creating a bluebell wood does not seem to be very close to reality. However, in noticing the few newcomers, I have also seen a few groups of pre-existing bluebells, that I clearly hadn’t noticed and are much more vigorous than the ones I planted. Oh well!

    Patio window looking towards the cottage

The grass seed Alasdair planted to cover up the bare patches of pathway are beginning to show. At the beginning of the month the ground looked like it had had a green number one cut – now it is about a number 3 and continuing to look healthy. It seems a shame to walk on it somehow.

It is interesting to see the rhododendron flowers pace themselves. We have 3 bushes close to the house and in the garden, and they seem to flower sequentially – clearly for our enjoyment and no other reason. They are slightly different colours, but it would take away the mystery if I thought that had anything to do with it.

We watched the DVD ‘Sunshine on Leith’ the other day. I don’t like cities, but if I had to choose one it would be Edinburgh. It has a magnificence and sense of its own history that I find most attractive – cobbles and all. The story line was clearly developed to hang the Proclaimers songs on in a sort of imitation of Mama Mia. It didn’t work as well, but some scenes were good to watch, and the backdrop was good. The Proclaimers even did a cameo ‘walk by’ part. I can’t walk 500 miles any more, though.

The sitka spruces always look interesting at this time of year; each of the new ‘shaving brushes’ of new growth that are the soft spray of fine needles at the end of each growth bud are covered by a soft brown tip protector, that gradually falls off turning the tree from brown to vibrant green at its tips. Eventually it becomes the sharp spiky branches that prick us all as we pass – deep joy!

We have posted pictures of the yew that we moved from the garden area near the cottage down to the bottom to let it grow to its natural size. It is certainly growing well and seems to be enjoying its new home, after a couple of years with little growth due to the shock of being transplanted I expect.

The bracken has come on from just a wee question mark above the soil at the beginning of the month to a frond a couple of feet high and still going. They make good mulch during the winter to protect vulnerable plants from frost, but they are a bit of a bully at this time of the year.

There are quite a few honeysuckle plants in the woods, but having made the effort to survive in a more or less hit and miss fashion they don’t seem to wish to scent the air with their beautiful perfume. Too much of a good thing comes to mind. They must have been discussing this with the wild blueberries which cover the ground in parts of the woods, but if this season is anything like previous ones, an afternoon berrying might result in half a dozen very small berries that were hard to find and not worth the effort. So much for living off the fat of the land.

Perhaps we could learn to enjoy eating slugs. They are around in abundance. They lie in wait till tasty new plants that have been flourishing in the greenhouse, hardening off outside ready to go in their new home, and then pounce as soon as they are in place shouting ‘dinner’ to all their mates. All you see the next morning is bare soil and the odd half inch of stalk left. Luckily, my sister, Pam, bought Alasdair a book on 50 ways of battling with slugs and winning some of the skirmishes, so we can find more ways of being creative about disposing of them. And here’s me visiting Samye Ling, the Buddhist Centre, where ‘Do not kill’ is a given. Perfection is next time around. But I don’t fancy coming back as a slug, thank you very much.

Saw a thrush for the first time in the garden. It blotted its copy book, by very obviously eating one of my carefully nurtured worms, but it was too pretty not to forgive.

My wellies had sprung a leak and I was getting a bit fed up of always having wet feet, so for my birthday Sarah & Simon bought me a new pair of wellies (pretty ones with flowers on) and & Ruth bought me a pair of cloggies (covered in a vision of salad leaves). Both perfect for wearing in the garden (though not at the same time) and pretending to work, whilst admiring my new footwear. I don’t have a foot fetish, don’t listen to them. Anyway, my feet stayed dry and lovely ….. until …… one morning the dogs were in the bedroom queuing up for their morning biscuits, a routine they obviously were used to and anticipated with great joy. I got up, putting my feet into my slippers ….. and got a horrendously wet foot. Harvey (I suspect) had dropped the biscuit into my slipper and salivated for a while whilst he was trying to extricate it, leaving my slipper as wet as my old wellies had been after a ten mile hike! I was not happy as I squelched through the cottage. Yuk!

I saw a hoverfly over the burn. Aren’t they clever staying so still – takes a lot of energy, though.

The beech trees are fantastic covered with their new leaves – such a beautiful colour and so shiny, with lovely furry edges – if you look hard enough, anyway.

We had thunder and lightning yesterday. The first flash of lightning blew up our router; what joy! The first time …… since August. It is an unwelcome habit. Still we have a fast repair contract with BT as we use the line for business and he was here this morning and repaired it. Alasdair’s laptop was damaged in some inscrutable technological way, but he had taken out an extended warranty, which means that Dell are sending out someone to repair it on Thursday here, onsite. Wow! They would have come tomorrow, but Alasdair won’t be here. That’s what I call service.
Alasdair is going to develop some lightning protection device to stop it happening again. When it happened last August, it blew up one of the phones, and the printer, and we were unable to get the phone repaired for 10 days. Quite nice, actually, but not good for the business.

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