I AM Going Outside! #AnimalTales

When Shadow moved in with us we had strict instructions that he should be kept inside for 3 to 4 weeks so that he got used to us and used to his new home. At first this didn’t appear to be a problem. We weren’t sure if he had ever been allowed outside before, and whenever we opened the door to the garden he hid at the far side of the kitchen with his eyes popping out of his head with shock! After he’d been with us for just over a week though, that changed when he suddenly decided he WAS going to be an outside cat, and most definitely wasn’t waiting 3 to 4 weeks for it to happen. He seemed quite happy to come out sit and watch the washing being hung out, or Kev working on the garden…and then suddenly Kev turned his back one day and Shadow was up and on the garden fence. Shadow was actually very sensible about it and walked the length of the gardens on our street on top of all the fences, having a nose as he went along. Hanging out of Holly’s bedroom window with my camera lens zoomed right out, I could just about spot him. IMG_1390 Not knowing if this was his first outdoor venture ever, Kev decided to go out of our back gate and follow him along the lane. He came back shortly afterwards to get Shadow’s treats to try to tempt him back to the garden. A while later I heard him come back again and went downstairs to greet the pair of intrepid adventurers….just in time to see Kev walking up the garden with blood dripping from his nose! The moral of the story of course is not to try to carry pet treats in one hand and a fully clawed up cat (who hasn’t been out of a pen for much more than a week in the past 3-4 month to blunt off those claws!) under the other arm! Waiting to see if Shadow would come back of his own accord was nerve wracking, but seeing him walking along that fence up to our house was so pleasing. And when he did it again and again, meaning he WANTED to come back and had chosen to be part of our family, well, that was just wonderful. With his cat flap now fitted into the kitchen door he goes and, even better, comes back as he wishes. As we’re getting to know more about him, he seems to be night time cat – happy to laze around the house all day and then go out prowling in the evenings. They grow up so quickly!! IMG_1730 ANIMALTALES

Mind Yer Nuts! #MySundayPhoto #AnimalTales

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Whilst we’ve spotted squirrels scurrying around in the trees in the garden which backs on to ours before, this is the closest encounter I’ve had so far! He was sat on the garden fence directly opposite our bird feeder, which has a nut feeder on it. Wonder what he had in mind?! Would have loved to catch him in action. It would have been such a feat of daring and upside down dangling if he had gone for it that it would really have been a case of at your heart out Milk Tray man!!

 

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ANIMALTALES

UPDATE! October in the Garden

Hmmm, well, we’ve actually been away in Tenerife for 2 weeks during October so there probably isn’t a lot to tell you!

Runner beans and sunflowers are no more. Carrots are all pulled and eaten (YUM!) and it’s looking a bit bare out there. Apart, that is, for weeds! They’ve done very nicely in our absence and have pretty much taken over every bare spoIMG_2437t of soil, and joined in and overtaken everything that we had left in the flower border. Still, that’ll give us something to do in the upcoming weeks won’t it?!

The grass had grown massively while we were away but thankfully today has been dry and Kev managed to get out there and get it cut and the edges strimmed, so at least part of the garden looks like someone might at least vaguely care for it.

The pansies I planted for pots in front of the house and to take the place of the sweetpeas in the garden have survived in our absence and are looking pretty good. Some food and they should come on in leaps and bounds I hope.

Kev is, however, stood at the bottom of the garden in my next photo looking a bit puzzled and annoyed. We had assumed that everything would be fairly safe in our absence, given the late time of year, but no, here he is calling me to come and have a look at the bottom of the garden at the purple sprouting broccoli and cabbage….

IMG_2433Which have been completely munched again by caterpillars! I was so surprised! I thought that problem was over and done with (and SEE what I mean by all those flippin’ weeds?!).  Given the lateness in the year, I’m not sure how they will survive. They had been coming along nicely again having been chomped on once but can they do it again?

IMG_2435Fortunately, depending on your taste, it looks like we’ll be having a Christmas full of sprouts though as they are coming along very well indeed. Hurray, or boo if you’re my dad!!

Anyway, as that’s all a bit gloomy I thought I’d leave you with a montage of photos to show how my garden will look when I run away to live in Tenerife!

 

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UPDATE! September in the Garden

Trying not to be too groany and moany, but things are coming to an end in the garden. I did take some before photos…..

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…but after this took down the tomatoes and the runner beans yesterday. There were plenty of ripe tomatoes still to be picked so made up a really tasty sauce to turn into bolognese today. Unfortunately though the black tomatoes had, largely, failed to ripen and had a thick white mould on them and had to be binned. Not sure I’d bother with them again.

Our wonderful Cosmos has finally come to an end too. I had hoped to catch it at the right moment and have seeds for next year, but unfortunately things didn’t work out that way and I’ll be down the shops buying a packet next ye2014-10-01ar!

There’s not a lot going on in the greenhouse at the moment. The few winter pansies that did grow from seed are coming along reasonably (until you look at the ones I bought off the market last week!). The chilli and sweet peppers have flowered at last but whether they can stay warm enough to fruit I can only wait to see. I’d not rule out trying them again but ought to start far sooner I think.

The mint has almost finished and needs cutting back. It’s been joined by the pots of hollyhocks which will be going in the garden, if they’re not munched completely! They’ve been a bit chewed since leaving the greenhouse but, other than that, seem quite happy. I’d been blaming the slugs and snails, but perhaps they’ve had some help?!

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You  see what I mean about the market pansies?!

The lavender donated by Carole is doing nicely in its orange bucket and the crocus and tulip bulbs are sprouting already (at last, something early in our garden rather than late!). The gorgeous Countryfile free seeds have finished flowering. They were beautiful and hugely popular with the bees (as had been promised!). The blueberry and blackberry plants seem quite happy at the moment and have been joined by 2 bags of, hopefully, winter potatoes. These have been buried twice already and keep popping up, as they should, so more finger crossing there.

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The leeks should soon be ready for picking – hurray! We have a few carrots and cabbages left and the purple sprouting broccoli, cauli and sprouts are coming along nicely. Hopefully won’t be long before we’re picking the corn on the cob too – mmmmmmm!

I did manage to miss picking a few beans….. IMG_2118

….which is a bit painful! But the freezer is already groaning with those we haven’t managed to eat so I’m trying to be not too sad about it.

I pulled a few leaves from the top of the sunflowers so that I could see the multiheaded little sunflower, just because it seemed a shame not to! Mr. Grumpy Sunflower is looking a bit sad for himself, though the neighbours told me this morning he makes them chuckle every morning when they see him, which is good….I think.

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IMG_2104A quick nose at the flower side of the garden, which gets largely ignored apart from infrequent dead heading – or complete annihilation where the bush up by the bird feeder was concerned! Was very surprised when Kev did that without mentioning it first!

Finally a mention for our hosta, because it gets largely ignored and forgotten. It must be about 16 years old now, had been halved, repotted, moved house and still continues to leaf (?!) faithfully and has been absolutely magnificent this year. It seems very happy where it is (next to the kitchen drain!) in the new garden and has been more wonderful than ever this year. Thanks hosta!

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UPDATE! August in the Garden

Well, we’ve now, unbelievably, lived here a year! I think, although there are changes in the house, my favourite of all the work we’ve done still remains the garden. Again I’ve only really noticed the difference in the space of a month by reading back over last month’s update, which shows me why I should keep on doing it – at the risk of boring everyone else.

The air definitely has an autumnal feeling to it already and the nights are drawing in. It’s already getting dark a whole hour earlier than it was this time last month. It’s a time of year when I need to make an extra effort to keep myself happy so hopefully, although things will be slowing down,  hopefully the garden will help with that.

Starting with the sadder things, the courgette and cucumber plants have now finished their amazing hard work of the summer. They were badly affected by mildew on their leaves but still carried on producing fruit/veg(?!). There is one last courgette on the plant but I don’t think it’s going to come to anything much. I wish I’d kept count of how much they had produced  – will have to do that next year. We’ve also lost the clematis which looked so beautiful in my July update. It’s now a withered brown mess which is very sad.

IMG_1819We do have some new additions though. Linda bought me a blueberry plant for my birthday to which we’ve added a thornless blackberry bush. Both of these, I’m hoping, will be happy in containers. This is them along with a cutting from the jasmine bush which grows behind the garden shed! Carole from work has also donated some plants from her garden including lavender and a strawberry plant.

The idea behind this is that I’m hoping to start going to the local Country Market held on a Friday in town during September to, hopefully, sell some of my plants. Bit nervous about that one to say the least!

Things aren’t all rosy in the greenhouse as I’ve had an attack of the snails. The baby lettuce I had growing have all gone, the sweet peppers and hollyhocks have had a bit of munching but the chilli peppers seem fine for some reason – perhaps their leaves are as spicy as their fruit?! The herbs have just gone wild so I’m too ashamed to take their photo this month! I will get around to sorting them out though….promise! (Now it’s in writing I have to, right?!)

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The sweet peppers are now so tall that I’ve had to take a shelf out of the greenhouse! Hopefully they’ll be okay as the weather gets colder?

 

Amongst the prettiest things in the garden at the moment are the dahlia (which will need digging up and re-housing when it’s finished I think, given that it’s “eating” the leeks before they’re even grown!) and the bucket of seeds which we had free through the post from BBC Countryfile. We didn’t know what was in there so decided to keep them all contained in one place and they’ve been a real bee haven, which in turn has helped everything else in the garden. They’re really eye catching and I’ll be sad when they’ve finished.

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Staying on flowers. The sweetpeas continue to go from strength to strength – I shall just have to not tear my hair out next year if they take forever to get the idea that they’re meant to grow! The Cosmos are STILL gorgeous and seem happy to keep on flowering so long as we keep on dead heading. The rest of that side of the garden all needs dead heading too but as we’ve been away on holiday and then away for a few days this month it just hasn’t been done as much as it should have done, so just a quick photo of that side this month and hope I get away with not looking at it too closely!

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Onto veg and we have a new challenge to grow some winter potatoes! One of my old school friends is having a go with us so the competition is on! We have planted them a month later than the last recommended planting date so they stand two chances! Fingers crossed.

Our second crop of lettuces, grown from plants donated by a friend my parents, is coming along well and the beans still have masses of flowers. They had to be supported, tent rope style, during the month as we had a couple of bad storms with high winds which snapped some of the poles. They’ve stood up since then though and we’re still getting lots of beans from them – yay!

We have had a massive problem with caterpillars though. After cutting down and throwing away two lots of chard and looking despairingly at our lacy cabbages, Kev decided to put across netting, which as worked to some extent. We’ve cut and eaten a couple of cabbages and cauliflowers now and they’ve been greatly improved thanks to the nets.

Excitingly, as I’ve checked under the netting this morning I’ve spotted our sprouts have started growing…exciting but does mean Christmas is looming! Our sweetcorn looks, fingers crossed, as if it will have a good crop too! The tomatoes are slowly starting to turn red (apart from the black ones which are, thankfully, black!) although they are splitting their skins. I’ve been told this is due to them not having been consistently watered. Tut, tut! They still taste lush though!

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The thing I find most exciting of all though is the size of our sunflowers when I’ve measured them this morning! The one closest to the path, being the second largest, is now a mighty 3 meters (9 foot 10 inches!!) tall and its stem is a sturdy 5cm (nearly 2 inches) in circumference. How they’ve stayed standing with the wind we’ve had over the past month or so is beyond me but I’m very happy to see them – and even more so now the flowers are finally showing! I did think at one point they were just going to carry on getting taller and taller with no flower at all!

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Having received a brilliant array of gardening type presents for my birthday this month, I’m all set for the next growing season already! Thanks to everyone who has contributed with such thoughtful gifts 🙂

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In the Garden – July Update

I was wondering whether it was worth doing an update for July, but looking back at June’s update and comparing it to how things look now, I’m going to go for it!

Starting in the “greenhouse”, the Snowball Cauli and Purple Sprouting Broccoli which were babies last month are now in the garden. The herbs are all coming along nicely, apart from the rosemary which has failed to come through at all. The red peppers have been potted on once during July and need doing again! I ought to have a look on Google to see how big they’re going to grow I guess! That’s beginners for you!

The chilli peppers have put in a surprise appearance too after my doubting them last month. They’re ready to go into solo pots. The hollyhocks are coming along very well, although seem to have some sort of burrowing beastie in some of the leaves which will need sorting out. The winter pansies looked like a fail but there are a couple of them up now. They stand 2 chances I guess!  We also have more lettuce seedlings just shooting up. The lettuces went so well last time that we’re hoping to get another crop in from seed and also have been given some lettuce plants by mum.

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Outside both the “old” mint donated by mum and the new mint grown from seed are doing well in dad’s planter. They’ve been joined by Basil Bush (not Brush as I call them) and Loveage (which I’m not sure what to do with now I’ve grown it!).

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Both the cucumber and courgette plants have gone mad! I took 2 cucumbers into work today and Holly’s friend took another home with her. Think that still leaves about 6 still growing! We’ve had similar success with the courgette and had a lovely meal with courgette ribbons, fried potatoes, mushrooms, garden peas and cherry tomatoes topped with salmon in sweet chilli sauce the other evening – wish I’d taken a photo as it looked as good as it tasted! The leaves on the courgette are suffering badly from mildew but it doesn’t seem to have affected its performance at all.

2014-08-012We’ve had the potatoes from 2 of our 4 potato sacks and they’ve been lovely. Kev’s been a bit disappointed with the yield from them but I think they’re ideal given there are only 3 of us. Katherine’s tomatoes and sunflowers in bright orange buckets have all moved to her house now so there’s a more room on the patio….just as well as Kev’s bought me another mini greenhouse!

Into the main veg garden, the leeks are coming along slowly and surely. We’ve had some carrots which were stubby and small but beautifully sweet. The beans have been going mad too and we’ve had plenty to eat and already have some in the freezer too to try and keep up with them as they grow!

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Unfortunately the cabbages and the cauli plants and sprouts grown from seed that we put in have been badly munched by caterpillars as has the Yarcombe Chard, which I sadly cut down and ditched this morning. Hopefully we can get them covered up and keep the beasties at bay from now on and it’s certainly a lesson to learn for next year. The sprouts have a long way to go yet before we have veg from them so hopefully the problem will decrease as the season goes on and we’ll have a good crop from them. The hearts of the cabbages seem okay so I’ll just have to wait and see when we cut the first of them.

I love the peas! They look like a funny sort of Christmas tree to me as they’re grown in wigwams and taste every bit as beautiful as I remember from pinching the ones Grandad grew when I was little. Amazingly some have actually made it to the plate although I still fail to see why anyone would prefer them cooked to straight off the plant.

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It’s actually the sunflowers which convinced me to do an update! Looking back at them last month and how much they’ve grown in that space of time is quite mind-blowing to me! No sign of flowers yet though! They’re a bit munched too but looking reasonably okay. The sweetcorn’s come along really well too and the rhubarb, as you may have seen, has been cut down and eaten and this is the second lot of leaves of the season growing now. A quick before and after on the sunflowers….

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Moving onto more flowery things, AT LAST the sweetpeas have flowered! Just when I was thinking they wouldn’t. They smell beautiful and I’m going to have another, hopefully more successful, go with them next year. The Cosmos has been an absolute joy and seems to have gone on flowering and flowering. I’d like to have a go at them from seed next year as well as they’ve given us such pleasure – particularly me being able to see them from the kitchen window when I’m washing up!

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The rest of that side of the garden looks lush and beautiful and any gaps which existed previously seem to have disappeared! I think that both of the bushes inherited from the previous owner will go at the end of the season as they take up so much space and don’t really add that much to the garden (I’m so heartless!).

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The clematis is a gorgeous colour too…..

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Bit soggy after today’s rain, but boy did the garden need it! We have 6 water butts and every one was empty. Hopefully today will have sorted it out.

Final mention goes to the tomatoes which are doing nicely and have lots of tomatoes on which are very firmly staying green at the moment…..apart from the black tomato and just look how that’s coming along!

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Doesn’t it look strange! It’s still green at the back but I’m really looking forward to trying them when they are ready. Hopefully that will have happened by the time I’m ready to do August’s update!