Sunday, 23 April 2017

Weather frustration

What a weird spring!

Not rained for weeks, open ground is as hard as rock and beds under shrubs are like dust. Even the swallows are having a problem - there is no mud around to build their nests!

Lots of sunny days and the green house is bursting with ready plants but the wind is too cold! Frost a couple of mornings ago and more forecast for Tuesday/Wednesday. So no point trying to put in root veg seed yet.

Only thing left to do today - empty the winter log store and put by the fire for the chilly evenings promised next week.


Ah well - I can watch the Durrells tonight at least and admire living in a warm climate. I loved the books when I was young and the TV series made in the 1960/70s. Luckily this new series has been really well done and captures the spirit!

for some reason my cooking has taken a dive and I have lost my cake making mojo - I burnt the Victoria sponge today!

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Easter

A continuous flow of visitors over Easter, luckily with daughters in law who like to cook and take over the kitchen and washing up!  They supplied a lot of the food as well so not too much budget busting - except for a steep rise in use of electricity (not great at turning off lights!).  Luckily due to religious/cultural differences and allergies to milk there were no chocolate Easter eggs over the weekend so no weight gain here.

I was happy to supervise grand children kite flying and painting!


Once they had all gone we treated our selves to a day out and a walk in Foxley Wood to see the bluebells,  We. like a several people we met on the footpaths, had looked up the "best sights/sites" on the Internet!


Though it has continued  mostly dry (only 5 mm rain in 3 weeks) it has been a bit too cold, Veg planting is delayed and work in the garden has been snatched few hours a day. 
Really need it to warm up!



Sunday, 9 April 2017

Shabby chic

Our favourite garden centre (up near Spalding) has gone all shabby chic in its dinning areas. I saw an idea some weeks ago and have adapted it.
Take old, cheap frames, left over paint, old canvas bag, some shapes from an applique site on the web, and an old AA map book.
I did not set out to cut out the words but by accident the right words appeared in the first frame and I liked it. I did deliberately choose the maps for favourite past holidays.

Just right to cheer up the brick wall in our shabby (not very chic, yet) conservatory area!




Saturday, 8 April 2017

Update

I hate been a terrible blogger lately. So first, welcome to new followers! I am just keeping up with reading and posting a few short blogs at present due to the endless sunny dry days here and the continuous gardening. It is prime time for sowing and preparing fruit and veg - so if we want to eat for rest of year it has been hours and hours of work.

My husband has been playing with seep hoses to cut time in watering later in the summer. he has set up the polytunnel with lots of lines which should serve right through the tomato crop later in the summer.


He has used spare lengths to water some seed beds out in the veg bed. It means reconnecting hose ends up but we at least do not have to actually stand there for ages watering all summer.
It is incredibly dry here already and we have had to stop weeding. The top surface dries to a crust and you can't dig it. You end up snapping tops of weeds leaving the roots to regrow.  Instead we have endless hours of setting up bird protection on brassicas. Canes, net, string, wire ground hoops to hold it down. Now we have to wait for a windy spell to see if we have made it strong enough.
The water bottles rattle in even a gentle breeze and do seem to put off some birds. The nearest net is a plastic mesh meant for pond covering and in this configuration makes a whistling, howling, sound in a direct breeze which is off putting to me at least!

For the fruit we thought we would try these "fruit cage ball connectors for every size cane". Totally useless in our opinion unless there is some trick that is not obvious (no instructions came with the things!).
They only work with 10 to 12 mm canes and anything less than 8mm just fell out.. We really need 15mm strong canes due to the open nature and we needed some height too. Also bamboo canes are not uniform so you end up chopping up canes to find the right lengths and diameters to go in the connecting holes. After 20 canes we found a hacksaw gave a clean cut as long as the second person kept up steady pressure and pulled gently away as the cut went through. We ended up reinforcing uprights with an extra cane, tied on with string, and will probably put in supporting diagonals as well.

Bit more work to do on fruit cages (blackcurrants, blueberries and Tay berries) as we want to get ahead on this task. Last year we were busy as the fruit ripened and lost out to the birds.  Raspberries and gooseberries will have to take their chances and I will throw something loose over the strawberries outside as they ripen.

I am trying out a new bird scary thing.
Not scary at all?
Inspired by "tin art" on Pin interest. A bean can (washed), with wings etc made from those woven plastic straps that come round parcels. The tin was slit with a knife and the straps fastened with an ordinary stapler inside. The eyes come in a pack of 20 for £1 from The Works and have been stuck on with UHU glue.  The eyes are a bit too big, they sort of overlap, so we will have to see if they survive rain and wind (when we get some).   I have some more cans and straps and may paint them in bright colours.

 OK - back to work. Want to put in some peas but need to out fox the mice!  But |I will pause to admire this wonderful Spiraea and the wallflowers on the way.



Wednesday, 5 April 2017

First swallow

When pointed out one swooping next door to husband he responded "Don't get excited; one swallow doth  not a summer make". I was able to answer - "That's OK them , I saw two yesterday!"

Image result for swallow bird

By coincidence I picked up a second hand copy of Swallows and Amazon's yesterday in the charity shop -  I am just missing the Big Six now. Loved these books since I was 10!



Monday, 3 April 2017

Thief

Caught you at it !
Not sure if it took advantage of a high wind knocking the feeder down or used it rather fat body to pull it down - but it got half a container's worth!

Gosh - that lawn needs cutting - still waiting on the bits for the lawnmower!

First taste of asparagus

First two spears!
Fried with a little smoked bacon in olive oil and butter and served with salad for lunch - Lovely.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Two steps backwards and one step forward

One of those weeks.

Backwards
Broke the mobile phone. Husband spent two afternoons sourcing a very cheap simple phone, then a SIM card and then all the faff of making it all work. I suffer from sort of deep seated fear when the thing goes pear shape and run away. Brain just freezes and I panic. I think I need a 7 to 10  year old to help. Visiting grand daughters tomorrow so hope they can help us out!

Backwards
Broke the lawn mower. Husband spent another two afternoons sourcing spark plug and tool, Then he went to start mower to try to put it away and it went fine!  Dare not stop it and ran quickly over the worst bits before the next cough and stutter and stop.

Forwards
I have waited two years + to improve our washing line. Its been strung from short pole and fence in the house shadow among the bushes and threatening to garotte people on the way to the cabin.  I found an old metal pole in a corner over the winter and painted it with black hammerlite.  Then, after doing some work elsewhere, my husband had a bit of cement left over and ballast so put it up in the lawn alongside the path. Can't wait to re-string it and get the washing out in the full sunshine!  Somewhere in the old boat stuff is a spare pulley we can use.


Good tip.  We often have about a quarter or third of a cement bag left over and in the past have wasted this as it has to be stored dry and goes off after a few months. The other day we found an a large plastic container with lid  (ex-bird food) and slide the spare cement in. It was dry, safe and was not going to make noxious dust in the shed! Also it was there ready for the next small job.

A wonder if we can get through next week without feeling we are going backwards in life?

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Compost

Composting is a weird art. It is one of those gardening things that can feel like there will never be a result from carefully collecting green stuff etc up and putting it on, day in and day out.

August 2014 - long grass cut from field and piled up.

2015 - lots of green stuff thrown on top.
2016 - left alone and it was too big to turn.

March 2017 -the same pile of grass is now being dug up and put back on the field as a dressing that is being rotavated in! The compost is  quite solid on the bottom and has taken a big effort to get down to this last quarter of the pile and find that original long grass.


As you can see in late 2015 we had time to build a proper compost box (metre square) next to the old heap.  The stuff in there has been cooking away all of 2016 and we left a doorway to take it out the bottom this time.

End of last year we started a new box at the far end of the field for processing next year.

Composting -  Its a long process!

But as not as long as the heap behind the compost which was turf turned up side down to rot in a beehive shape. That heap is only just maturing and it is darn hard work digging in to it to get at the lovely resulting soil in the middle.

Some days I'd just like to have a mini JCB for these hard gardening tasks!






Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Love Productions - still inspiring for now.

Like most fans I was upset by Love Productions and the BBC fall out over the Great British Bake Off. And the fact they are not making another SEWING BEE!!!  Thank goodness in the last few weeks they have shown the Painting Challenge and The Pottery Challenge. I have been inspired to go out and do some more paintings.  I am not very good but I could see from the painting challenge you have to keep trying.  Here is my seascape. 


I have been inspired by this library book a bit too. But not enough as my houses are out of proportion with the rest!  
For some strange reason I am working on a view of Westminster bridge now - I wanted to capture a spring quietness before the horror of the past week.  I like the work of people how can really draw on the Urban sketchers web site and would love to spend time drawing in big cities.

My husband's carpentry work is producing bits of plywood so I am experimenting with painting directly on wood with acrylics and then varnished with some left over boat varnish from the shed.

It costs very little - even the hanging was a couple of fabric strips plaited together and knotted on to some left over screws.
I am thinking of doing some fairy doors for the garden for the grandchildren to find this summer next!

Monday, 27 March 2017

Quilt finished

I have completed the quilt.  Thanks partly to the F1 and motorcycling grand prix schedules which has kept the husband enthralled and I have taken myself out to the sewing cabin in protest.



It more than covers the double spare bed and will be good for the King size in the other room. It cost £30 - heirloom wadding, thread, pins and machine needles.   The patchwork is cotton left overs from "the stash" - 80% new fabric and 20% recycled, previously loved, fabrics.  I used an old IKEA duvet cover for the backing but then put a coloured backing on it. The back which comes round to make the border is a polka dot double duvet from the charity shop £3.50.

It is not ultra accurate but I wanted something bright and casual (?).  I might try a patterned quilt one day and work on the accuracy of cutting and matching seams.   At present it is nice to have something so colourful instead of pale walls and white duvet covers! In my older age I think I am going far more towards bright and beautiful thing.  Do your tastes change? I was on the bus the older day with 3 or 4 older women all in beige with grey hair - I immediately wanted to dye my hair bright pink and I was glad I was in my purple coat with turquoise scarf.



Sunday, 26 March 2017

Spring is here!

Another dry week here in the far reaches of Norfolk. Although the wind has been blustery and the nights cold things are moving forward at last.
The green house is now full of plants.

It has been a long week of shifting compost from the oldest "heap" to the veg garden and rotovating it. Yesterday we put in a row of broad bean plants, cabbages, sprouts and broccoli plants and sowed some parsnip seeds.  Today (when Grand Prix finally finishes) the task is to get a row of early potatoes in.

Friday night's Gardeners World "tips for the week" said to take off the greenhouse bubble wrap insulation. That same night we had a slight frost - so we will ignore that advice for a week or so here!

I will try to take a photo of the poly tunnel today. It is all prepared and my husband has been upgrading the water system in the hopes of cutting the time taken irrigating this summer.

On the odd wet half day we have had I have escaped to the sewing cabin to quilt - up and down. I tried some fancy design in the middle but it was too big, being a double bed size, to handle so I went for straight(ish) rows.

The walking foot worked well once I had invested in proper quilting thread (40 count). This was expensive in the local shop and puts the overall cost of the quilt up to £30. Main problem was the small opening between needle and machine side and I can see why serious quilters go for the specialist machines.  It was great spending time relaxing with Radio 4 for company - I listened to information on inheritance tax changes, a walk round central London tracing the history of tea importation, a walk in Northumberland with Claire Balding, obituaries of great people who have died recently like Maya Angelou and Colin Dexter, couple of good plays and some episodes from books.  I really must revisit Great Expectations!
 
I was just working up to a "big shop" and planning a new Spring menu when my husband put his head round the door and asked me not to spend more than £50 before the end of the week as he had transferred spare monies into the savings account but had forgotten to allow for a bill.  Savings? Starving here!  Never mind treats and fresh menus it was back to the basics.  I managed to harvest some things from the garden to supplement things most days.



Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Solar Grill?


Easier, faster and more delicious, this fuel-free cooker can bake, boil or fry a meal for eight, using only the Sun... day or night

I was reading about an environmental project where soft plastics were melted by villages in the sub India continent to make bricks and those used to make houses! (web site of Doingyourbit)  Wow. I read the details and they mentioned using a "solar grill" designed by a Danish (woman) engineer to make the bricks. I have never heard of such a thing and today when googling the net I read more about this idea.     I want one!

(picture from a UK supplier web site, not promoting them and there are others available in the world).

Pity they are still fairly expensive, large, and don't work as well in UK - but can you just imagine if someone improved this thinking and gave us fuel free cooking!!!

Our frugal community would all be customers!