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Hot hot hot...

♥Jun. 17th, 2017 // 08:17 pm
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This morning, we went up to the summer pasture and set up the electric fence (to keep the boys away from the (rickety and barbed-wire-topped) real fence), and then took them up there. It was quite warm. As ever, they spurned the water trough up there and so drank all the water in the stableyard when they came back down. Sigh. (It always takes them a few weeks to deign to drink from the trough up there, presumably because it tastes different: it's a stone trough when they're used to plastic, and/or the water doesn't go through the softener that treats our water.)

I'm a little concerned by Agnes, aka Limpy McDinosaur Duck. She's being even limpier than usual, and holding her wings very strangely as she hobbles around the place, and when she's lying down she's been wibbling her beak and twitching her wings. I was half thinking I'd pick her up for a quick check when we put them to bed, even though she hates being handled, but she made it easy by getting most of the way to their house and then just collapsing with a splat on the ground. Couldn't find anything obviously wrong, and I'm not going to be calling a weekend evening vet for her, but I am quite worried that she's suddenly got much worse. Fingers crossed that the magic 'pick her up to see what's wrong' cure will work and she'll be better tomorrow.

The garden, on the other hand, is going along well. The polytunnel's looking very green, and there's at least one actual tomato set on the early russian variety:



(10th May, to compare: they have grown!)

We've also got actual you-could-eat-those baby courgettes, very teeny squash, lots of tomatillo cases with baby fruit inside, and runner bean flowers. This afternoon, we shared the first mange tout of the season. The wild strawberries by the riding school are also doing well, and the jar of strawberries in vodka is filling up nicely.

I have been appreciating my hammock, which is on the grass in the shade, and so lovely and cool. I *almost* came inside to get a light blanket when I was in it a couple of days ago!
Link1 kiss // Who loves you?

Here are some things that have happened

♥Jun. 12th, 2017 // 03:59 pm
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Last Tuesday, it rained. It rained lots and lots and lots. Because he is a special snowflake, GB decided that it was nice weather for a walk and so Mike and I spent an hour or so walking around the stableyard in circles until the vet arrived and gave him some drugs.... I'm increasingly convinced that he gets gassy when the air pressure changes rapidly, because this is by no means the first time that he's had a colic in the pouring rain after a sunny spell. And then there was the time he did it in the snow.

Anyway, he was fine fairly soon after the vet did her thing, so no harm done! (It was also Little Quilt Club that day, so I missed going to that for the morning: bah. On the other hand, if I had gone then Mike wouldn't have had the car to go and collect people, so....)

While we were enjoying our lovely walk, our incoming visitors, who were cycling to see us, phoned to ask if we could possibly go and get them from where they'd spent the night. Once the vet had been, Mike did so, and shortly afterwards the rain (inevitably) stopped.

Still, we had a nice visit, including a trip to The Sportsman, which we'd never previously been to as we'd not got around to booking a table sufficiently far ahead. It was quite nice, but I'm not sure we'll be rushing back, and we weren't terribly impressed by the veggie-friendly-ness of the menu (which didn't have any veggie mains, although when we asked they were able to make two of the starters into mains).

We went to see a possibly horse (not Git Face; someone who managed to co-ordinate better with the owner's schedule got in before us and he's sold), who was terribly nervous of Jo. We put Jo back in the car, but he was still terribly nervous: not actually doing anything, but very tense. While the woman was riding him for us to watch, Mike said "I'm not sure I want to get on him," and I said "I'm not very sure that I do, either," so we said thank you and went home instead.

We've sent off some soil samples from our field for testing, in preparation for getting Mr Farmer to fertilise it when we've moved the boys up the hill to their summer quarters.

My hands seem to have got over their over-use, and I've been able to do some weeding and some sewing, which is a relief. I'm slightly concerned that the tomatoes in the polytunnel aren't setting fruit. We have been leaving one of the doors open, so there are insects in there, but it's possible that we need to open the other one for a few hours each day to get a bit more pollination going.

Today, we've had more visitors, but just for the afternoon. It turns out that iPads make small children much more easy to entertain than I had feared, and that running down our field is terribly fun but walking back up it in order to do so again is less interesting. Horses are a bit big and scary up close, though, which GB would probably be happy about if he realised: he was very grumpy this morning when I put his saddle on and rode him twice around the stableyard to check he would be up to a pony ride, but it turned out not to be necessary in the end.

I realise now that that's probably the last time he'll ever be ridden.
Link5 kisses // Who loves you?

Jo 3, crate 0

♥Jun. 4th, 2017 // 11:30 am
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Yesterday, we took Jo to the vet to check that there wasn't anything physically wrong with her. She's now got a clean bill of health and a pack of over-priced woo-woo pills, made from milk protein and designed to mimic the way that babies get stoned on breastmilk.

Needless to say, they made absolutely no difference last night when we moved the crate back downstairs and put her in it at bedtime. Mike, who is apparently softer-hearted than I am, gave in after fifteen minutes of banging and crashing. I needn't have bothered going downstairs to get her, though, because fifteen minutes was apparently all that the crate could stand as well:



I've ordered her a new dog bed for in our bedroom, and I guess the crate will be off to the tip on our next trip.

In better news, I did an hour's weeding yesterday with no ill effects, and the drive is now looking neater. Somewhat to my surprise, the spare sweetpeas that I put out there a couple of months ago are doing pretty well even though they got swallowed up by nettles and grass coming through the fence very soon after planting. Hopefully now that I've been able to give them some breathing space they'll bulk up a bit, because I think they would look nice growing over the fence.
Link8 kisses // Who loves you?

Garden serendipities

♥Jun. 3rd, 2017 // 09:41 am
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I've been philosophical about the fact that the fancy yellow columbines I planted in the garden are gradually being out-competed by the simpler pink/purple/blue ones that grow wild around here, but I was quite impressed today when I spotted a few fun hybrids as well:



I doubt that it's worth saving seed, as they'll be different again next year, but it is quite fun to watch!
Link3 kisses // Who loves you?

Sigh

♥Jun. 1st, 2017 // 03:50 pm
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Jodie )

Horses )

Wrists )

Oh, and grandad got thrown out of an expedited discharge from the hospital because he was causing trouble, and it looks like he's about to be thrown out of the latest home as well.

Still.

The ducks are laying well and the horses are busy getting fat.

The tomatoes and tomatillos are flowering, and I'm expecting the veg patch to suddenly explode into life any day now.

Mrs Farmer gave me a couple of evergreen honeysuckle last week, which I've planted next to the front fence in the hope that they'll grow over it and look / smell lovely, and the dahlias that I thought had been lost by the courier have arrived and been planted out.

I've just realised that the Pilates book that I bought months ago and never actually looked at not only goes through the exercises but has some ready-made routines in it, which helps with my vague plan to give up on classes in favour of doing it myself at home with an occasional (monthly?) private lesson to check I'm not getting bad habits.

Even with the good things, though, I'm feeling rather brittle and balanced on edge, which isn't a good way to be if you then have a wobble.
Link9 kisses // Who loves you?

Bah

♥May. 22nd, 2017 // 06:41 pm
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So I may have got the garden weeded but I did it at the expense of my wrists, which have been very sore for the past few days. I've been trying to rest them, which is frustrating as I have things that I want to be doing!

It's also a pain for Mike, who keeps having to do things like follow me around the garden while I point at places where he needs to dig up weeds or plant out seedlings. Still, "we"'ve got most of the veg bed planted out now, so hopefully it will all get on with growing and making tasty food. About the only useful gardening that I can do at the moment is watering things and pulling up nettles, which means I'm covered in stings!

On the assumption that it was actually a combination of gardening and cutting out pieces for quilts wot done it, I've put aside the quilt I started last week until I'm doing a bit better. I did, this afternoon, have a go at making a block for a different quilt on the grounds that it's paper pieced and so involves less repetitive/precise cutting of fabric. I'm quite pleased with the results, but my wrists aren't. Sigh.



The whole quilt will have the dark blue and cream fabrics in the background, and then I've got a range of different blue and cream fabrics for the stars.

The Up-The-Hill's came for dinner at weekend, which was nice and (we think) went well. Various amusing but not unexpected things about TWWOTV, including the fact that she's already not speaking to them although they're not sure why!
Link7 kisses // Who loves you?

Things we have done

♥May. 17th, 2017 // 08:11 pm
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The swallows have come back: we've seen lots of activity in the last few days, including plenty of flying in and out of the stable, so we didn't scare them off. Phew!

The bird 'flu restrictions are, finally, over, which is also a big phew. The ducks are very happy to be back in the garden, and it's meant that we could put the boys in the stableyard, which was getting rather overgrown, so that the field could have a rest. It's currently raining steadily, and set to keep doing so for a few more hours (another phew!), so hopefully the grass will be able to get a bit of growing done tomorrow without being instantly munched back to nothing.

It's been quite hot for the last couple of days, so the Jug Of Minty Water has reappeared in the fridge:


It was much appreciated this afternoon when I came in from weeding the jungle front bed, which is always a sod and got away from me rather this winter, not helped by the lack of ducks disturbing the weeds. It's taken me a week, but at least it's not quite a Forth Bridge job.

I finished off the quilt from my workshop:



("How did you get it done so quickly?" someone asked me at a fabric sale last weekend. "I've had my mother-in-law staying..." I replied. Then she mocked me because I was carrying bolts of fabrics in two solid greys and three beige patterns, so I picked up a plain teal as well and bought some just to show her!)

Does anyone fancy having a go at some orchid identification? I'm stumped by this one, which is potentially more troubling than it would otherwise be as it's in the field we borrow in the summer and I don't want to let the boys near it if it's rare!


It's probably just an odd common spotted, but.... It's not monkey or military, or an insect one. The pink buds make it look like a burnt, which I don't think we get around here and the petals aren't right for anyway. The petal colours look a bit like a chalk fragrant, which is local, but the shape is wrong. That pink border, and the lobe shape, have me quite stumped. It *might* be a lady, but I can't see any 'arms'. They do have the pink buds, and the two-lobes on the petals, though. Hmm. I might go and have another look at it tomorrow....
Link6 kisses // Who loves you?

All change

♥May. 10th, 2017 // 03:19 pm
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I've just got around to taking the LJ links out of my style sheet. I guess I've really given up on it, now! One of these days, I suppose I should switch to using a modern style: I'm still on a legacy LJ S2 style....

I had Quilt Club at weekend, including a class on Sunday (fortunately, it turned out that the speaker / tutor was far better at the latter than at the former) where we did a modern take on log cabin blocks.

This is what the class produced:

(Mine are the six entirely beige/grey ones about just over half way up the left hand side of the table. "That fabric's very... grey," said Teddy in disapproval when I showed it to him.)

I've done a bit more on it since, and am probably going to do a bit more again shortly. It's been quite interesting, and I'm enjoying it far more than 'proper' log cabin blocks on account of not having to be super careful about cutting the fabric to exactly the right size.

Mostly today I've been gardening. I've potted on almost all the tomatillos and most of the small chillis, and I've planted out the tomatoes, aubergines and peppers in the polytunnel:


(We did have a frost last night, but the thermometer in there recorded a low of 0.0C with the doors open, so they should be safe.)

Unfortunately, I did it a bit on autopilot and forgot that The Plan was to put one of each tomato variety outside thus leaving a grow bag spare for the big chillis, so they'll have to go in the conservatory instead. Which means that it's a good job that I didn't have enough compost to pot on all the tomatillos, as I'll need pots to do that!

Now that I've watered them all in, the polytunnel smells even more of wet dog than it did before (from the old carpet underneath): lovely! Hopefully the bits of the irrigation system that are on back order will arrive soon, so that I don't have to do too much hose-pipe watering.

(Jo was very helpful: after coming in the polytunnel once and knocking half a dozen plants over she decided that it wasn't a good place to be and scampered around the garden instead, where she's probably dug up something that she shouldn't have. On the plus side, she did hear a delivery driver that I didn't, so I was able to dash out and get the package. It's amazing how quickly the driver ran back down the path and through the gate when she bounded into the front garden barking.)

Jo and I are on our own today, as Mike's taken his mother to Belgium for an overnight stay. My grandad's had a partial hip replacement, the op seems to have gone well but he's quite confused and groggy. He should be ok as long as he doesn't pull any of his usual hospital tricks (eg, pulling his drip out, ordering taxis to collect him, attacking the nurses), but the chances of that aren't great given his past form.
Link7 kisses // Who loves you?

Bits and coughs

♥May. 4th, 2017 // 10:10 am
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My post-Eastercon stomach bug turned into a post-Eastercon cold, which several other people have also been complaining about.

I'm getting better, I think, but I've thought that several times now and then woken up the next day feeling grotty again. This has led to quite a lot of lying on the sofa feeling pathetic and not very much actual getting things done. The weather has cooperated with this: we've finally had some rain, after an entirely dry month, which is very good and means that the grass is finally growing in the field. This also means that the weeds are taking over the flower beds, and neither feeling grotty nor the weather is conducive to doing anything about them.

And we still haven't planted up the polytunnel, but we have an excuse in the form of the irrigation system, which should have been here yesterday but isn't yet, and which probably needs to be in place before the plants go in, to avoid disturbing or damaging them when we try to get it figured out.

GB also got a bit neglected in there: going away and then being ill meant that he didn't get ridden for about ten days in a row, and I'm afraid that that might have been too long for him. We've had three goes on him since, most recently this morning, and he's not doing very well. A couple of times, he's also nearly gone down on his bum when trotting down the hill at bed time. I'm going to wait for a warmer day and then have a go on him in the afternoon, when he's had plenty of time in the field to get rid of any stiffness, but I fear it won't be much better and it'll finally be time to officially retire him.

It's not been all bad, though: in there we've had some visitors, both overnight and for the day, been out to Margate to see an exhibition that wasn't as much as we'd expected about textiles but was quite interesting anyway and gave me a few things to think about (coffmayhaveboughtanewloomcoff). We also hosted various fannish crafty types for a day of crafty things, during which staggering amounts of tea were consumed (at least until we ran out) even when you allow for the fact that Mike and I kept forgetting to ask if more was wanted....

Coming up in the next week: Quilt Club, and a workshop, and then Mike's Mother is coming to stay. So nice and recuperative, then.

LJ has reset my cookie, and I'm presuming that logging in will require TOS agreement, so I've stopped reading there.
Link2 kisses // Who loves you?

Garden bah

♥Apr. 20th, 2017 // 04:14 pm
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I'm not sure what wisteria blossom is hardy to, but last night's temperature (which also froze the surface of the duck pond) was evidently below it.

(The weather station, annoyingly, is broken. We must get that sorted out.)

We were looking forward to a lovely display this year, as there were masses of buds just breaking. There are two left now, both ones that were tucked up against the wall.



One of the grape vines has also lost a few leaves, and I'm a bit worried by my new, native to Siberia and hardy to -34C, kiwi plant, which is looking rather droopy and a bit blackened in places. Even the budlia is looking a bit sad and droopy, but I'm sure that will perk up later.
Link6 kisses // Who loves you?

Post-con...

♥Apr. 19th, 2017 // 08:53 pm
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We had a nice time at Innominate, which seems to have gone very well indeed (I only heard about three or four proper problems, and most of them were very quickly resolved). Sadly, I woke up yesterday rather off-colour, and spent most of the day feeling (and occasionally being) sick.

Fortunately, given Mike had to be in London, I'm feeling much better today (which makes me think it was a food thing, not an infections one).

It did mean that we couldn't plant the tomatoes out in the polytunnel as planned, but then again that was probably for the best as we had a frost last night!

In the interests of experimentation, can anyone not see two photos in this post? Some people seem to be having problems with access-locked images not being visible to anyone, and as I didn't even realise that DW had image hosting (I'm sure it didn't last time I checked, or I'd have used that rather than my faffy work-around via LJ) it's not something I've ever played with before.


Link13 kisses // Who loves you?

LJ/DW

♥Apr. 8th, 2017 // 10:08 am
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I've been crossposting from DW to LJ for a while, but mostly reading people on LJ for the comments. I'll be changing that to mostly reading on DW.

At present, I'm feeling unable to bring myself to hit the button to accept the LJ ToS change, which means that I've been skim reading the non-crossposted posts in the background, but haven't been able to click on links / read comments / look behind cut tags: I expect that to continue until I get sick of it, at which point I'll either stop reading LJ or give in and click the button.

So: if you're on DW but think that I don't know, please let me know / add me on DW.

This does, unfortunately, break my photo-posting workflow. Does anyone have any suggestions for other easy ways to get photos from my iPhone to A Free Hosting Site? (I know Ang posted the same question t'other day, but see above re: not being able to click on links to see comments!)

In other news, this afternoon we've put up the frame on our new polytunnel but decided we'd done for one day: anchoring it to the ground and adding the cover will be a job for tomorrow, probably. I doubt it's going to blow away in the night.

I've had to move the tomato seedlings to the tops of the shelving units, as they're too big for the middle shelves! Must start some courgettes and beans tomorrow, as well.
Link5 kisses // Who loves you?

Mmm, Zelda

♥Apr. 2nd, 2017 // 02:50 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1208337.html]

On Friday, the nice young men from the tree surgeon came to visit. They took out the last few leylandii (we are free! Free!), and the variegated conifer by the front gate, which was getting a bit too big and squashing the ornamental cherries (we now have a much better view of the road, as an added bonus).

They also took the top off the beech hedge along the side of the house, so now it's hopefully at a height we can keep better in check. (Unlike all the letlandii, the beech is actually useful, acting as a windbreak.) Unfortunately, doing that involved standing on the roof of the very dilapidated shed, at least until one of them put a foot wrong and did the comedy disappearing from sight thing.

We'll be looking for a new shed, then.

Yesterday, the Nintendo Switch arrived, so I was mostly playing Zelda when not moving the contents of the shed to a different outbuilding. First thoughts are that not only do the controllers indeed frequently drop their connection but that they do it in a bloody stupid manner: rather than just stopping moving, Link wanders off in a random direction, eg: off a cliff. It is quite fun so far, though.

Today, we went to see a horse. Either we've been lucky or we've got a lot more picky about which we actually bother to go and see (probably a bit of both), because we both liked Galahad enough that I'm trying to set a date to go back with our riding instructor to see what she thinks. (Unfortunately, she's in France without her diary. Back on Tuesday, though.)
Link4 kisses // Who loves you?

Ducks and flowers and decorators and seedlings

♥Feb. 20th, 2017 // 08:02 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1200575.html]

I've just been looking at the bird 'flu guidance for when the current control order runs out (at the end of the month). Given that free-range birds can only be kept in for twelve weeks before they become barn-raised, which happens at the start of March, I was expecting some changes and had my fingers crossed that I'd be able to start feeding the ducks properly again. Actually, though, they're just officially permitting what I was already doing on animal welfare grounds....

So, it looks like they'll not be getting ad-lib food until at least May. They don't like this at all, and my first duck egg of the year is getting further and further away. I'm very jealous of Mrs Farmer, who moved her hens into an unused polytunnel and is getting far better egg production than usual for the time of year.

In more pleasing spring-time news, yesterday we noticed that one of the dwarf irises on the drive was about to flower and a few more had green flower spikes. We went out at lunchtime today to see that half a dozen of them had suddenly burst into bloom. Oddly, the flowers last year came out the day we went to Eastercon and were pretty much over when we got back. It's been a cold winter this year, and was warm last, so I can only think that it's because they're better established this year: last year was their first.

The decorators have been hard at work on the living room today, and there's one coat of fresh paint on everything. We're camping out in the study: it's not a very small room, and would probably be fine with just the two sofas and coffee/side tables in it. Those plus the usual two desks and masses of books, though, are making things very cosy. Jo is bemused but coping.

Tomorrow, I'm going to pot on the first of this year's veg seedlings. Fingers crossed for a better spring / early summer than last year, and resultant shelves full of passata and other bottled stuff.
Link4 kisses // Who loves you?

Experimental gardening

♥Nov. 23rd, 2016 // 04:05 pm
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I planted a load of hollyhocks this year, and a couple of them were a lovely very dark purple. I saved seed from one of those, and have several pots of seedlings in the conservatory, but I wasn't sure if they'd come true so on the advice of the internet I've just taken some root cuttings from one of them, as well.

It's only after doing so that I noticed that all the sites saying that root cuttings work really well for hollyhocks are American, all the UK sites just say to grow them from seed.

I'm now wondering if American hollyhocks are actually a completely different plant: anyone know?
Link4 kisses // Who loves you?

Operation Fill The Freezer

♥Oct. 30th, 2016 // 03:06 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1183532.html]

Last weekend, we were given a bucket of cooking apples, and today I peeled and chopped and lightly cooked them before putting four big bags in the freezer, ready for making crumble latter in the year.

We've also put down a new section of heavy-duty grass matting (the kind of stuff they put down on when people will be parking on grass), on a patch that got very churned up last winter where we were leading the boys across it: hopefully it'll be less horrible this year, although I'm not sure what the boys will make of it tomorrow when they encounter it for the first time as it'll be rather slippery until the grass grows up through it!

It's probably just a coincidence of the weather and the clocks changing, but it's feeling very gosh-aren't-the-days-getting-short today. We're going to move the electric fence for the first time this evening, as well....
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Out in the garden

♥Oct. 26th, 2016 // 04:24 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1182466.html]

We've not had a picture of the house for a while, so here you go:


You can definitely see where the boys have been grazing! We'll start moving the fence along in a couple of weeks.

This afternoon, we've been out in the garden. Mike managed to mow the front lawn, while I dug over the veg patch in preparation for dumping horse manure on it. I'm knackered, now.

Last summer, I planted a load of saffron crocuses in the herb bed. A couple of them put up the start of a leaf spike and then got nibbled off, and I assumed that the rest had all been eaten. This year, though, they all came up but without a flower to be seen between them:

I'm hoping that they just found last year very stressful and, having taken a year to recuperate, will finally do something useful next year!
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Where did the time go?

♥Oct. 25th, 2016 // 11:34 am
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1181287.html]

I've been very crap at updating recently, probably a sign that I've not been doing anything very exciting!

There's been a fair bit of gardening going on, mostly weeding but also taking the finished plants out of the vegetable patch. There are still some tomatoes, peppers and aubergines in pots in the conservatory, but I don't think they'll be productive for much longer. Mike managed to mow the back lawn, for the first time since before our BBQ: it was in a bit of a state! I must get my sweetpeas started for next year, and think about the practicalities of my plan to turn the bee garden into a polytunnel for the tomatoes. The tomatoes did terribly this year, as in we've already finished the passata that I made (last year, it lasted until April!).

We've had our first, very slight, frost of the year, the elctric blanket's back on the bed, and the trees are starting to look very pretty. We've also had our first (and second, third and fourth) mice in the barn traps, which I'm treating as a good thing because we didn't get so many last autumn when the rat was in residence. Still to come: first fire of the year, which I'm looking forward to!

In the house, I continue to be impressed with Freddie's Flowers (my second batch was cabbages and white roses, but I also still have a vase with some of the first batch in!). I've been making jelly and sewing various things that are mostly going to be Christmas gifts for people who read this, so no pictures of those, or aren't yet finished (this isn't like me, but the Christmas stuff jumped the queue). Mike's been busy at work, so it's just been me and the pooch more than usual, but we did have a house full of visitors at the weekend, which included going to the beach, looking at old churches, and seeing the Oysterband in Canterbury.

We were expecting the hunt this morning, but didn't see any sign of them (we did hear the hounds, off in the distance). The boys seemed entirely unconcerned about the noise, but we were quite glad that we'd already finished riding by that time!

We're having some issues with their hay this year, annoyingly: back when we first started using this year's batch, they refused to eat three of the first six bales, but then it didn't happen again so we thought maybe it was still a bit green. Over the weekend, though, they turned their noses up at two more bales, so I gave the hay lady a call. She says the culprit is false oat grass, which she's got in the corner of one of her fields (although though the internet seems to think it is palatable), so next year we'll be sure to take our hay from the other field (which is where we've previously had it from, which is why we've not had a problem before). She did say that later in the year (when there's less grass) they might be happier with it, which I'd also vaguely though, but I doubt GB will eat it.
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Flax attempts

♥Sep. 26th, 2016 // 06:05 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1178961.html]

This year, a big field near us was planted with flax. It looked very pretty when it was flowering, and then it was time for harvest.

They cut a bit of it it (and presumably stripped the seeds off at the same time), and then stopped for a few days. Then they cut a bit more. Then they finally decided that they'd got it right and cut the whole field.

A few days after that, they made square bales with some of the straw. The bales looked kinda crappy. A few more days, and they tried making round bales, half of which just immediately collapsed.

A few more days, and they went 'sod it', burnt the collapsed bales and harrowed the rest of the straw across the field to rot.

I really hope that it was the first time they'd grown flax....

ION, Jo is still doing really well, and pretty much officially better now. She even had a little run around with her boyfriend in the woods today, and she's been to the beach a couple of times as well. I had our first riding lesson in *ages* on Bugs, and he did very well (although by the end of it he was distinctly unimpressed with how much he was having to do). Ang's leg has started to get bad for the winter but, as ever, he's having good days and bad ones. We're going away for a few days (note to self: must decide where we're going and book hotels; ferry and sitter are both booked), so hopefully he'll continue to be fine while the sitter's looking after him.

We've gone straight from 'too hot to do anything in the garden' to 'succession of visitors', with added torrential rain for a couple of days: the garden is distinctly jungle-like, and I really must get out there and do some weeding....
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Hello moon!

♥Sep. 14th, 2016 // 08:12 pm
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We're back in that time of the year when I get to know what the moon is doing: the boys are going inside early enough that they need an extra haynet later in the evening, so Jo and I go out in the field at night.

Tonight it was a don't-need-the-torch evening: the getting-on-for-full moon was just rising over the side of the valley as I went up the hill.

I do like this time of year, current daytime temperatures apart.

(This morning, Mike had to walk Jo first thing because it's been such a hot day (although, at 27, six degrees cooler than yesterday). He reported that it was very odd to be driving through the usual autumn valley mist, a thin band about three feet off the ground, with his head above the clouds!)

As I'd expected after the damp and blight-inducing June, the tomatoes are very much not going to supply our year's passata needs. There's currently more tomatillo passata on the shelves than there is tomato, although that's partly because we've been using the latter more. As Mike often remarks, it is odd that no one grows tomatillos commercially in Kent, as they do do remarkably well. Not much market for them over here, I guess, although Mrs Formerly-Up-The-Hill was delighed when I gave her some last year and said she'd not had them since she moved over here from the US.

Firefox wants to correct 'tomatillo' to 'maillot', "a pair of tights worn for dancing or gymnastics". Then again, it wants to correct Firefox to Firebox, so what does it know?
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Oddments

♥Aug. 9th, 2016 // 01:15 pm
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GB stomped on my foot the other day, when I didn't have my boots on. At first, I just had a scraped patch of skin, but now I have Interesting Bruising as well:

(Fortunately, it's not all that sore, except when I'm putting my boots on or off.)

I was slightly disappointed when the Giant Thistle Of Doom that I had in the garden last year didn't self-seed anywhere. One seedling has finally appeared, but it's not really in an optimal place and I doubt I'll be able to move it:

(I have bought some more of the seeds, though. Must get them started, in fact.)

The Costco gladioli continue to all be pink. Oops. I now have two vases of the min the house, as I've been picking the ones that fall over.

I've read as far as the letter C, now, and yesterday read Clarke's A Fall Of Moondust, which I'd not come across before. As is so often the case with old SF, it's the oddest things that make you go 'yeah, right, as if': all the space ships are insured with Lloyds Of London. Bless!

Jo has her second swimming lesson this afternoon. I'll have to see if I can get a picture!
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Harvesting

♥Jul. 31st, 2016 // 10:25 am
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That, with the addition of a veg-box aubergine, a jar of passata, and some pasta looks a lot like dinner. (Sadly, our aubergines aren't yet doing more than flowering and I'm still at the 'look! a ripe tomato!' stage rather than the 'better make another batch of passata' one. There are no plans at all to make pasta any more from scratch than Mike already does!)

We had our first visit from the new farrier today (the old one having retired for the sake of his back). He is approximately twelve but seems to be competent. Bugs didn't have a hissy fit, and GB didn't bite him (although the last of those says more about GB's mood than the farrier!).

Speaking of, GB has (sigh) started growing his winter coat, so here's a picture of him in his three-weeks-of-the-year summer best:

Bit more white every year....

Jo's also growing her coat back, and now looks a lot less silly than she did.

She's doing really well, and has her first swimming lesson on Wednesday. However, I could almost suspect that she's been reading ahead on her aftercare notes, because she's not supposed to do the spinning around in circles on the spot exercise for at least another couple of weeks. She thinks she's better, poor thing. We are up to twenty minute walks, though, which she enjoys except when a squirrel crosses her path and she's unaccountably not allowed to go and chase it.
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That's why they were cheap

♥Jul. 30th, 2016 // 08:12 pm
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The glads from the enormous bag I bought at Costco have started flowering, which is good.

Less good is the fact that all of the ones out so far (only three, admittedly) are salmon pink. Hrm.

OTOH, the hollyhocks are also coming out, and looking very pretty. Other than the ones along the drive, which GB has developed a taste for. Note to self: next year, don't put anything tall along the drive....
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Other things

♥Jul. 25th, 2016 // 05:17 pm
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My parents came to visit, but they've gone away again now. While they were here, we had the hay delivery, so that's all sorted for the winter now. They left on the day of quilt club, so the nautical quilt didn't get shown and told.

There was a wren in the kitchen the other day. Somewhat surprising, but I managed to catch it in a shawl and it flew away when I took it outside. Also a cricket sitting smack in the middle of our duvet.

Magrat The Duck was lame one day. Worryingly, the traditional treatment of Frantic Chase Around The Garden Then Being Cornered And Picked Up didn't provide the usual 100% cure, but she was fine the following day. ("I heard a tremendous amount of quacking this morning," said my mother, "and when I looked the white duck was standing on top of one of the brown ones in the pond, giving her a tremendous ducking!" No, mother, you have the wrong consonant there....) She's also been doing her Houdini tricks again. Several days of setting up the stop-motion camera in various places failed to catch her in the act, but then (when we'd narrowed it down to one corner of the garden) Mike spotted the hole under the fence that she's been using. It's now blocked with a log, which should be enough provided that the hole isn't part of an active badger run.

The hollyhocks and gladioli are just starting to flower, and looking very pretty (other than the one that the horses can reach, which looks rather sad). TWWOTV asked what the hollyhocks were, and explained that until the flowers started to come out she'd been worried that they were giant hogweed. Because, obviously, we wouldn't notice eight foot dangerous high weeds in our front garden.

Jodie is doing really well, and looks much less silly now that the hair is growing back: it's still short, but at least she's the right colour now! She's walking for about ten minutes, three times a day, and will probably be coming off the painkillers and starting hydrotherapy in the coming week (I don't know for sure, because the vet hasn't returned my call from Saturday, grr). As far as she's concerned, she's completely better, which means that she wants to go chasing bunnies and thinks nothing of spinning 360 degrees while simultaneously jumping up in the air when we get back from leaving her alone for ten minutes. We may have to start crating her when we go to take the boys up the hill (although the surgeon said that she could start doing that towards the end of this week, thankfully).

The boys are fat and lazy, and have done very little work in the last week or so: it's been too hot and too full of flies. The horseflies, at least, seem to be stopping for the year. I've only had two bites in the last four days!
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Today's haul

♥Jun. 30th, 2016 // 04:36 pm
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Ok, not that impressive yet, but we're working on it!

(The wild strawberries have been very unimpressive this year. They're nearly over and I've hardly picked any. I assume it's because the weather's been so crappy.)
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Death to, er, mullein moth caterpillars, apparently

♥Jun. 28th, 2016 // 02:59 pm
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I was taking Jo for one of her potters around the garden when I noticed that my unidentified plants with tall white spikes of flowers had acquired a collection of handsome white, yellow and black caterpillars. Which I wouldn't mind so much except that as well as noshing on the leaves they've lopped off many of the flower spikes.

A little googling revealed that they'd eventually turn into mullein moths, which aren't rare, so I went back out and picked them off, causing them to spit green ick all over my hands. The ducks seemed to like them, though.

And, on the plus side, I've now learnt that my unidentified plants are probably Verbascum chaixii 'Album', the white nettle-leaved mullein, or something similar. I have no memory of buying them (and indeed was faintly surprised to see the flowers appear last year, as I thought the plants were part of the epic bedding plant order), but I suppose that I must have done!
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Gardening

♥Jun. 19th, 2016 // 07:09 pm
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This afternoon, we left the poor deprived pooch alone for an hour or so to walk up the hill to our local NGS garden, where we bought some irises (Braithwaite, iirc: blue and white, very pretty) and a tall variety of geranium, which should contrast nicely with our low-growing ones. I also picked up a packet of Eryngium giganteum, which I think is the giant spiky thing that I had unfortunately close to the path last summer; I shall plant it in a better location this time!

Plant identification time, hampered by our internet being crappier than usual: leaves to about three feet tall, big heart/spade-shaped leaves coming directly off a central stem, with rings of little yellow flowers also coming directly off the stems (the ones with flowers go up to about five feet). They didn't have it for sale, sadly, else I'd have bought a couple! They seem to be good ground cover, which I'm always keen on, and the flowers are quite unusual.

Edit: Hurrah! Back to usually crappy internet levels. Here's the pic:


Jo is alternately hyper and sad that she can't figure out what she's done wrong to make us not let her chase squirrels or go for bounds in the woods. Poor pooch. Vet tomorrow.

In a bit of good news, the saddler just called to say that she's had an offer on the saddle that Bugs came with (it's a good saddle, it was just a matter of waiting for the right buyer to come along). It's more than we paid for it, so we've accepted it. Should help with the vets' bills, at least! ("How are the horses?" she asked. Five minutes later, she said "But how are the ducks?" and I was able to concede that the ducks were all laying well!)
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Busy busy....

♥Jun. 10th, 2016 // 07:32 pm
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With impeccable timing, the vet could only come out on a day when Mike was in London.

That meant that this morning I was out early, to ride GB before she got here for her first appointment (he comes out of his stable each morning looking ok, and only starts to limp when he's done a bit of exercise or spent time wandering around in the field). She was puzzled by both of them, which meant I spent a lot of time running up and down the school so that she could see them in action, and didn't really get much less puzzled as the time went on.

GB is indeed lame on his 'good' leg, but she can't find anything obviously wrong. There was a choice of lots of nerve blocking injections to try to narrow it down or just waiting and seeing, and we decided on the latter. "You could try giving him a week or two off," she said, but then I pointed out that the bad leg would seize up if I did. "You could try 'bute," she said, but then I pointed out that he was already on that for the bad leg and she looked a bit worried that it wasn't helping.

Bugs is also lame, on both the leg that hasn't yet been done and the one that has. She did offer to do the injection in the un-done leg, but worried that the as-yet-unidentified other thing wrong with the done leg would be there with the un-done one too so she preferred to get a second opinion: we've got another appointment, with a more senior vet, next week, so he's off work again until that happens.

And then I did the usual horse-related jobs, washed my hair, had lunch and walked the pooch, and this afternoon I did a bit of sewing, finishing the current quilt top, and a bit of gardening, managing several whole meters of the front border in an hour (all the seeds that have been sitting there going 'bloody leylandii' have now gone 'wahay!') and watering the veg and various new plants (and, bugger, I still haven't potted on those bloody penstemon plug plants that are sitting in the conservatory, maybe I should just throw them to their doom in the garden), and then I got ready for the quilt class I'm going to tomorrow, and put away the laundry, and then it was time to get dinner ready, and there was some fannish stuff I'd had to abandon when the internet got crappier than usual yesterday and forgotten to go back to, and now that I've eaten dinner and washed up I'm just going to sit on the sofa, I think.

Well, once we've put the boys to bed.

I might have found a Pilates class, though. It's an evening one, but I'm starting to think I'll just have to put up with that. It's the first time I've seen anywhere actually listing an advanced class in Kent: I'd been hoping I could find an intermediate, and am now slightly wondering if I'm up to it!
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We're going to need more compost....

♥May. 18th, 2016 // 03:33 pm
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Thoughts while walking the dog:
Bah, it's wet.
Sheep are noisy today.
Wonder why the sheep are all at this end of the field?
More sheep. Eating grass.
Bloody rain.
Sheep. Lawn.
I wonder if I'll drown?
Hmm. Sheep. Lawn...?
Are the sheep supposed to be in TWWOTV's garden?

Because I am Nice, I called Bad Farmer ('s wife) to let him know.

The Mighty Hunter nearly completed her set, but the pheasant was facing the wrong way. Poor Jo.
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Bits and bobs

♥May. 12th, 2016 // 08:23 pm
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I've started on my next quilt project, which is going to be a present for my parents on a nautical theme. My wrists are a bit unhappy with me: I've been cutting out lots of bits of fabric, and for some reason that always makes them a bit sore (in a way that cutting paper doesn't, oddly).

Mike managed to mow the back lawn, which really did need it. He's been in London a lot with work this week, so it remains to be seen when he'll next get a chance to do the front.... I've been weeding, and inspecting plant-or-weed candidates. There are a mass of seedlings in the front bed, with two distinct leaf shapes. One of them is either tomatoes or tomatillos (makes sense, as there were some there last year), but I'm not yet sure what the other is. I must make time to weed the sides of the drive tomorrow, it's a state. Ditto around the fish pond, which I didn't remember to do when I did the rest of the gravel a few days ago.

This evening, Mike went to his first Pilates class. I've been trying to get him into a local one for about six months, and a space finally came up in the nearest. The fact that she has so few spaces opening up is probably a good sign, and it's a bonus that there are some other men in the class so that he doesn't feel too silly!
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Invaded and battered....

♥May. 4th, 2016 // 04:53 pm
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We've had repeated incursions of visitors, some significantly more enjoyable than others, over the last week or so, which is why I've been so quiet.

On the plus side, Mike manfully removed the less enjoyable ones when he could, so I managed to get all of the background of the flying birds quilt quilted. Now I just need to decide what to do with the actual birds: the background is quite dense, so should I do something similar for the birds but in a different pattern, or should I leave them as oases of calm?

It has been very cold and miserable, but now it's nice and sunny: hopefully this means that our grass is finally going to start growing, because I'm getting quite worried about the state of the field (and, indeed, the prospects for the hay crop). This time last year, the boys were coming in when it was getting dark and only getting one hay net in the evening; this year, they're still on full winter rations and we're bringing them in before dinner because otherwise they're ravenous and grumpy when we let them in.

(We do at least think we have enough hay to last even with the late start, which is good as I've been getting friend-of-a-friend 'do you know anyone with any hay' queries and that suggests we'd struggle to get more. I'd much rather throw away (or onto the garden) half a dozen bales than be scrabbling around looking for more.)

(Actually, they're still pretty ravenous and grumpy, and would much rather stay in the stableyard and stuff their faces on slightly better grass for a while before they have their actual dinner. On Monday, Bugs was doing his usual trick of refusing to let Mike catch him and spooked GB, who ran off in panic. I was mid-way through putting GB's headcollar on at the time, and so unfortunately his pre-emptive wave of the back legs in Bugsy's direction got me instead. I have a truly *spectacular* bruise, and am finding walking up and down hills to be almost impossible, which is tricky around here. I--whisper it--skipped Pilates this morning, but at least now I have a good excuse for not going to London for a boring meeting tomrrow.)

Bugsy has had the vet to visit, trying to narrow down what's wrong with his leg (or rather, trying to confirm that the problem is what we think it is). He was a very good boy about it all, right up to the point where he suddenly decided that he'd had enough. She tried sedating him a couple of times, but he (quite politely) made it clear that he wasn't having any of it, so she's back again tomorrow for round two, which will (just in case) not involve the exact (long-shot) thing that she was trying to do when he stopped cooperating. In the mean time, he's getting to swan around in the field doing no work: I would say he's getting fat, but he's not because no bloody grass.

GB, on the other hand, has maybe gone slightly backwards in his spring-time improvement. I'm hoping that this is just because I was pushing him a bit too hard in my delight at his getting better, and a time when I'm not really able to ride seems to be a good one to test the theory!

Today, I have mostly been gardening: there were a batch of seedlings that needed potting on, and then I was running out of space on the conservatory shelves so I figured that, if I sat on the walls around the beds, I could plant out some bedding plants I'd grown that were getting a bit sad at being tuck inside. Then I thought I could probably manage some hoeing, but mostly ended up contorting into strange positions so that I could dig out blobs of grass from the flower beds: one of those 'it's lucky I'm strong' occasions, I think. Really need to do more weeding.

Text messages with my sister:
Sister: [a date, next summer, presumably for her wedding]
Me: Do you want a quilt?
Sister: What kind of quilt?
Me: One for your bed. If you do, I need to start it in plenty of time.
Sister: No thanks, I have a nice throw on my bed.
Me: Ok then, let me know what you do want.
Sister: Just having you there will be enough, we don't need presents.
[a short pause]
Sister: I really like that stuffed rabbit you made for mum.
Sister: Here's a photo of my living room decor.
Sister: Here's a close-up of my tartan feature wallpaper.
Me: Yes, I was already going to make you a rabbit for your birthday....
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Naughty quackers

♥Apr. 17th, 2016 // 02:25 pm
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Our attempt at re-duck-proofing the fence the other day didn't work: they were back in the field this morning. On the plus side, as soon as they saw me come out to get them they ran back under the gate and into the stableyard. As a temporary measure, we put a handy object (poo scoop) over the place where they now seemed to be getting through and left it for later.

Later came, as it does, and I headed up there with a roll of chicken wire. When Mike followed me out a minute or so later, he found me chasing ducks around the back garden....

(Again, as soon as they saw me they headed for somewhere they're allowed to be and, rather sensibly given I was in the way of their usual route, cut across the back garden and headed for the side gate to get back to the front. Unfortunately, the side gate was shut (to make sure that, er, the ducks couldn't get into the back garden), causing much squawking and trying to climb through stock netting fences. Spoiler: ducks don't fit through.)

So, the gate now has Even More chicken wire around the bottom of it, and we'll see what happens: there is a gap at the side, they might be able to squeeze through there....

This morning, I went to a small local village for a fabric sale at the village hall. The village obviously has Parking Issues at the best of times, and adding a couple of hundred bargain-hunting quilters didn't improve matters; I couldn't quite bring myself to park in the church carpark on a Sunday morning (and others obviously felt the same) so I suspect that I stole someone's parking space.... Still, I'm all stocked up for my next project now. (And I'm about to start quilting the flying birds, probably tomorrow. Fingers crossed!)

I've been saying it ever since we moved in, but this year I really am going to get rid of the spanish bluebells that we inherited in the garden: we're just too close to the bluebell woods for me to be happy having them. (Bloody Europeans, coming over here and hybridising with our native species, etc.) Does anyone who's coming to visit over the next few weeks and doesn't live near bluebell woods want them (in the green)? I could also feasibly meet up with someone in the City / near K'sX-St P on Thursday 5th at lunch time (although probably not actually *for* lunch).
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It's All Go Around Here

♥Apr. 14th, 2016 // 08:56 pm
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We've had a busy day, today. Well, busy for us!

The electrician came this morning, and (finally: it's been a bit of a saga) we've now got a light fitted above the Aga, so that Mike can see what he's doing even when I've got laundry hanging up there. Seems to be doing the job, particularly for values of 'the job' that include making me go "Argh, it's filthy!"

This afternoon, the farmer came and harrowed our field, which we're glad to get out of the way: the weather's been a bit iffy for it, and last year we ran out of time so it hasn't been done for a couple of years. Take that, moss! (The boys were delighted: they got to spend the afternoon stuffing themselves in the stableyard. Come on grass, it really is time for you to start growing now.... Mike mowed the back lawn today, and got half a box of clippings off it. Pitiful!)

While he was doing that, I was planting bulbs. A little while back, we were in Costco and saw that they had packs of summer flowering bulbs for about £15, which was a pretty good price: I got some calla lilies and some gladioli. Today, when I went to plant them, I realised that although the packs looked the same there was a slight difference of scale: six lilies, sixty glads! There are now lots of gladioli planted along the fence at the front of the garden. Once the shrubs come into full leaf, you won't actually be able to see all of them but, on the plus side, that means I can cut them for in the house without feeling guilty: win!
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Coff

♥Apr. 6th, 2016 // 07:07 pm
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But not quite as much of the rest as previously.

Mike bought me some Night Nurse yesterday. I had some before bed, and commented that I couldn't for the life of me understand how people got addicted to something so revolting. On the other hand, I did sleep through without having to go and cough for half an hour, so that's a result.

Plant or weed:

I suspect weed, but there are three of them in the same general area so I'll keep them if they're going to be pretty!
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Good animals!

♥Apr. 3rd, 2016 // 09:11 pm
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This morning, we went out for a little hack on the boys, and took Jo along. They all did wonderfully: GB only balked slightly as he went past a Scary Thing, Bugs didn't get himself worked up about anything and, just as we were nearly home, both of them went very calmly past a terrified lamb that was in the road, on the wrong side of the fence. This last was very fortunate, because Jo was Rather Interested, to the extent of starting to slink towards in until I got her attention and brought her back to heel. We're not sure if she was hunting or herding, but either way we're glad she stopped. (I sent Bad Farmer a text to let him know....)

This afternoon, we have been in the Potting Shed Conservatory: we've been a bit slack about starting new seeds in the propagator, so we're rather behind on last year. On the other hand, I think we were a bit early with some things last year, so it should be ok in the end.

This evening, just as I was on the phone to my mother, there was a big crash of thunder. A quick look at the rainfall radar and I said "I'll call you back" and dashed out to give the boys their supper before the rain arrived. Not that much rain, in the end, but lots of thunder and lightning, to Jo's misery. She's mostly calmed down now, but it's a measure of how worried she was that Mike's let her lie in front of our sofa, In The Way. Seems to have stopped now, thankfully.
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Well done, Magrat

♥Apr. 2nd, 2016 // 02:06 pm
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She finally (after an occasional incomplete attempt) seems to have managed to lay an actual egg today! That's the first she's managed since, oh, the autumn. I wonder if she'll keep it up?

We, on the other hand, managed to have two bonfires, finally! We've been stuck because we prefer to only have them when the wind is away from the neighbours, but that direction tends to also be the one that brings rain. Today, though, we finally managed to burn the last of the leylandii that Mike took out before Christmas (as well as various prunings, that manky old wooden planter from by the back door, and the last of the fence posts that we had replaced before we moved in. That last isn't just us being crap: we'd been using them to keep bales of hay off the barn floor but we've now finally accumulated enough pallets that we can use those instead, which will make life much easier).

Mike also mowed the back lawn, while I did a bit of tidying in the embarrassment that is the bee garden and put in some plant supports. We'd just finished a very little light pruning of the vibernum (taking out a couple of wayward branches) and I was casting about for more jobs when we had a few spots of rain. They didn't come to much in the end, but it did get chillier so I'm glad that we abandoned the garden in favour of putting rugs on the boys.

Tomorrow, provided the rain continues to not amount to much, we're having the field harrowed and there are various potting shed jobs to be done in the conservatory.

My new phone is up and running, thanks to Mike's office wifi. It's very fast, and has a super battery. I should probably get a case for it before it gets all dinged like the old one.
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Lightbulb moment

♥Mar. 23rd, 2016 // 06:46 pm
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I've been hardening off the hollyhocks and sweetpeas (yes, they're hardy, but they've been in the conservatory all winter), and trying to decide what to do with them while we're away: there's no cold weather on the forecast, but of course that might change, and then the sitter will have to move them in and out of the conservatory. But if there is no cold weather then they can probably just go in the ground and have done, but then she has to water them.... Ah, though: it's going to be a fairly wet weekend!

That's them planted out, then. Mike vetoed my plans to put hollyhocks anywhere near the windows, so they're along the fence by the road, where the leylandii used to be.

The sweetpeas had less dense roots that I was expecting, so fingers are a bit crossed for them. I'd better start a new batch just in case / for later in the year, especially as it turns out that my new sweetpea frame came with two packs of seed!

We took the fence down in the field, this evening, so the boys should be happy tomorrow. GB, of course, was quite happy this evening, although a bit steadier on his feet than yesterday! Our water was switched over to the new pipe today, so hopefully they are nearly done. If we're lucky, they'll finish tomorrow, which means that things will all be unchanged when the sitter brings them in on Friday.
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Hello again

♥Mar. 21st, 2016 // 03:34 pm
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I've been very remiss at telling you all about the exciting things I've been doing, haven't I? Must try harder, probably not helped by the fact that I'll be away from home at weekend!

Recently, I have:
- taken Bugsy's saddle to the saddler, to make sure that he didn't damage it when he rolled in it (he didn't)
- done things with seedlings, including putting some of them outside to harden off (they're back in now, though, as I expect a frost tonight)
- worked on my little quilt, which is very nearly done other than embroidery. I still haven't figured out how to do the geese without them looking crap.
- heard rumours that a very large red deer stag has been spotted at the top of the hill
- got a blister on my heel (spent the whole riding lesson lunging Bugs, in my riding boots), which finally (after a week) now no longer needs plasters
- tidied the barn and (with Mike) moved the hay we had been storing in a spare stable into it. We now have enough pallets that we don't need to balance the stacks of hay bales on a grid of old fence posts, which will be vastly more convenient
- rescued a bumblebee from the front porch, and moved her to inside one of the crocuses so that she could have a nice breakfast
- got various things ready for the Eastercon newsletter
- watched the lambs.

Bugs is doing very well, and last Monday we tried lunging him with side reins for the first time. He'd obviously had them on in the past, inevitably much too tight, but he seems to be relaxing a bit now that we've used them a few times. He's also had a Proper Ride, because it occurred to me that he's either just been lunged or been lunged and then ridden for fifteen minutes a lot recently. I think it was a bit of a shock to his system, but he did very well.

I'm rather concerned about GB, though. Other than the day when Jodie stayed in the garden while I rode him (when he was spooky as a spooky thing until I went and got her, after which he was fine: I don't know if he was worried she was going to jump out from somewhere or if he just missed her), he's been fine to ride, and his leg seems to be doing ok. Unfortunately, for the last week or TWWOTV has been having building work done, replacing water pipes, and he's very unhappy about both the noise of the machinery (which echoes oddly around our stableyard and makes him nervous because he can't see what's causing it even though it's All Around Him) and about the changes that mysteriously happen each day while he's in the field, which he only sees as he's coming in.

Add to that the fact that there's Something Worrying (possibly the stag?) up in the woods, and the fact that Mrs Next Door has been away, so The Horse Next Door has been bored/lonely/cold and so running along the fence as we walk down the road (asking to come in for dinner as well) and bringing him in from the field hasn't been a whole barrel of fun. He's getting really worked up and stressed, which isn't usual and can't be good for him At His Age. I called the vet today, and they've posted me a sedative to try (one that's usually used before clipping nervous horses). I have to go out and feed it to him half an hour before he comes in, but if it breaks the stress cycle then it'll be worth the hassle. Hopefully the landscape plumbers will be done by the end of this week, but she's talking about having a new drive put in as well....

(The landscape plumbers are rather terrifying. I'm forever seeing one of them in a hole in the ground while the other one is digging it with a back hoe. Plus the one in charge not only looks 'im from from Twin Peaks but apparently is called Bob as well....)
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Genetics in action

♥Mar. 15th, 2016 // 04:58 pm
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Two years ago, we planted some crocuses. Last spring, we had white crocuses in the back garden and both orange and purple ones in the front.

This year, the ones in the back have failed to make an appearance, but in the front garden we have (in order of appearance) orange ones, purples ones, purple and white streaked ones, and white ones.

There's also a lonely-looking purple one that's popped up by the duck pond.

Are crocuses particularly known for self-seeding and colour variability?

(I've put some hollyhocks and sweetpeas outside to start hardening off. Fingers crossed for tonight, I suspect I'll have to bring them back in again tomorrow. It's a good job I distrusted the weather forecast and didn't leave them out last night: as Mike said, they would have got hard, but then they probably would have got squishy later....)
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Bits and bobs

♥Feb. 24th, 2016 // 03:01 pm
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- Some of our wallflowers look like they're going to be out soon: you can see what colour the individual flowers will be. This when we had -5C last night and probably lower tonight. The aliums and wild garlic are also poking their noses up.

- Does anyone know how I would go about turning a coppiced dogwood into a pollarded one? (So, foreground type to background type in this picture.) Or is it not possible? They're the ones I put in this winter, so fairly young.

- (At least one of) GB's lodger(s) is no more. Having ignored the trap for months, it was finally overcome by the smell of chocolate today. Now, to wait and see if there are signs of any others. (Trap is re-set, just in case.)

- We now have two grape vines, thanks to Mike's mother.
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30 days...

♥Feb. 21st, 2016 // 04:00 pm
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The background of my 30-themed quilt is pretty much finished:



(Slightly concerned that the fence looks more like a railway line, but I don't think it will when I've added the house.)

Just need to do the foreground, now!

I pruned one of the crab apples the other day (for some reason, we have two that are just tree-shaped and one that's been pruned into a denser, smaller crown and so needs keeping on top of else it shoots off all over the place). The cut end of one of the branches fell on my face, skidded off my glasses and bopped me on the nose: given that I now have a little scab on my nose, I'm quite glad I wear glasses! I really need to get out there and do more weeding, but it's very unappealing on a grey day like today, even when it's not actively raining.
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We've got a little nut tree...

♥Jan. 26th, 2016 // 07:16 pm
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Having decided that we're definitely not going to plant a new hedge to replace the leylandii along the front of the garden, we're instead on the prowl for things to partially fill in the gaps between the existing shrubs a little. Among other things (some of which are already bought and planted), I quite fancy a corkscrew hazel, because it's nice to have something that's interesting to look at in the winter.

I got the new Sutton's catalogue the other day, and picked out a few bits that I wanted: a couple of hellebores to try, some fuchsias that (according to GQT) should do well in the spot currently covered with a horrible and un-weedable sprawl of currants and something unidenitified, and some new lavenders to replace the scraggly old ones we inherited. I thought I'd just check and see if they had a corkscrew hazel: they didn't, but they did have something else in the same family, a Purple Filbert nut tree, which looked very cute in the picture and, I'm reliably informed, should give us a good crop of nutmegs and pears edible nuts, as long as we beat the squirrels to them.

It arrived this afternoon, bare-rooted, and as I was already wet and muddy from walking the pooch (Mike had a conveniently timed work emergency) I thought I may as well pop it in rather than leave it in the conservatory until the weather improved. Still on the lookout for a corkscrew hazel, but I've a vague memory of seeing them in the local garden centre.

Glad though I am that we didn't get the US version of it, the current stormy weather is unpleasant. The boys couldn't go out today, so I popped them in the stableyard for an hour before the farrier came this afternoon. Fortunately, it was actually less than an hour in the end: when I went out to get them and hose their feet off ready for their pedicures, GB had managed to get his headcollar comprehensively tangled up in one of the two remaining leylandii bits that hadn't yet been put on the bonfire. (We did try to have a last fire a couple of days ago, the wind having been in the wrong direction for weeks, but there wasn't enough breeze for it to really get going.)

Also fortunately, this is GB we're talking about: rather than having a hissy fit, he just stood there looking annoyed and giving an occasional tug on it, and when I released him he followed me to his stable and went 'food?'. I have now moved the remaining bits of tree onto the bonfire, where hopefully the boys won't be trying to poke underneath them looking for grass.

(And then, after standing around in the cold for half an hour, I sent the farrier a text saying 'where are you?' and got a reply saying that he'd sent me a text yesterday saying he was poorly and asking to reschedule: apparently the fact that I'd not replied to it didn't make him think he should maybe follow up on it. Sigh.)
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Brrr

♥Jan. 15th, 2016 // 09:36 pm
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At least it's stopped raining, and the sun has come out! I would express the hope that the kitchen floor will now manage to remain non-filthy for more than a day at a time, except that the logging in the woods has now come over to our side so the entire place is a swamp and there's no way at all of keeping Jo clean. At least now she might have a chance to dry off so that I can brush her?

Mike keeps telling me that it's not actually all that cold, for the time of year, but then he watches in amazement at the number of layers I take off when I get back into the house. Yesterday morning, when we rode, there was more frost in the school when we finished than when we started. Tomorrow, I think we'll be riding in the afternoon: there was ice on the water troughs when I went out a couple of hours ago, so I think the school will be like concrete first thing.

(In fact, it isn't all that cold, but the wind is bitter and it's been so mild that it's rather a shock to the system.)

I'm keeping GB wrapped up well, and (on the basis of sticking my hand under the rugs to see how warm they feel) am keeping him at about the same temperature as Bugs by layering his rugs up. He's actually been doing really well with his leg recently, which I think means that it's not the cold that's a problem but the standing in his stable for longer overnight. Very pleased that it's dried out enough that they can go in the field again.

We've even managed to do a bit in the garden: the wisteria and budlia are pruned, and the fedge has had a hair cut and some tidying up now that the lack of leaves has revealed the places I made mistakes when I tied it into shape over the summer. We (in the distinctly non-royal sense) do have some digging to do, however: my new trees have arrived and are waiting in the garage.

(I am, and have been for a week or so, generally a bit under the weather: vaguely upset tummy, tired, feeling a bit feeble. I'm blaming that plus a new iPhone game on the lack of posting.)
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Parcel Force

♥Jan. 8th, 2016 // 01:53 pm
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Given that I'm not actually missing any parcels, I will be tremendously amused if it turns out to be the parcel from August.

Guess what turned up today? I love the way they've stuck a new address label over the original one so that it looks like it was posted more recently.... I think I may well have to write a letter.

Today has been lovely and sunny, it made a very nice change. We even managed to do some gardening, mostly pruning.
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Adventures in edible gardening

♥Dec. 28th, 2015 // 06:51 pm
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On the edible gardening front, this year we planted:
- four types of tomato (Hundreds and Thousands, and then Aurora, Amish Paste and Latah)
- aubergines (Black Beauty)
- chillis (Chilly Chill and Orange Wonder)
- peppers (Semaroh and Amy (pointy), and Kaibi (round))
- tomatillos
- cucamelons
- mange tout (norli)
- French beans

I also got two grafted plants, one tomato and one aubergine, to see if they did enough better to be worth the money. They didn't.

The tomatoes really did quite well. The 100's and 1000's are very small cherry tomatoes, which I grew in hanging baskets. They were nice to have early in the season before the larger ones had ripened, but weren't really all that exciting: I'm not sure I'll bother next year. The Latahs were the earliest of the proper tomatoes, and did their job as such. The Aurora produced vast amounts of fruit, even allowing for the fact that a lot of it was wasted because we hadn't quite considered the amount of staking required (apparently you can get circular jobbies that you put around the plants to keep the stems up, which sounds like a plan for next year). The Amish were utterly gorgeous but didn't all manage to ripen, which was a real shame. I have a shelf full of jars of passata, which was the main aim, but next year really hope to be able make some just with Amish, as I think it will be really good.

We must have had at least four or five aubergines, in total, but then it wasn't a great growing season. The peppers produced quite a lot of fruit which almost all rotted on the plant: the only ones that actually ripened did so after I'd put them in the conservatory to see if I could keep them over-winter, so next year I'm going to try some outside (in the hope it will be a better summer) and some in pots indoors. The chillis, on the other hand, did brilliantly, with masses of fruit on both types of plant; I'm also trying to overwinter some of these plants, which still have ripening fruit on them now that they're inside. Next year, Mike wants to grow a hotter variety, as he says even the Orange Wonder is very mild.

The tomatillos did, if anything, too well (tomatillo passata didn't work as well as we'd hoped, but Mike's made a few batches of tomatillo stew and, of course, much green salsa was consumed), and work better in pots than in the ground (easier to pick the fruit). The cucamelons went outside too early, which knocked them back a bit, but they did get going eventually; I've saved some of the tubers, so I'll see if I can coax them back into life in the spring.

The mange tout and beans did ok but I think I need more plants (and to put them in places where they won't be so overshadowed by tomatoes and tomatillos!): we never really got enough at once for a meal unless they were left on the plants for too long.

Next year, I suspect we'll probably have most of these again, if in slightly different proportions. As well as another chilli, we're also going to add a couple of other types of bean and have a go at baby corn and (I hope we don't regret it) courgettes. Which reminds me that, as well as the mange tout and french beans I started a few weeks ago, I should also start the new variety we bought at the garden centre the other week....
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Adventures in non-edible gardening

♥Dec. 28th, 2015 // 01:47 pm
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In terms of putting things in, most of it related to the 540 (actually more like 600) bedding plug plants that seemed like such a bargain at £30.... In fact, after some of them had a rocky start, they did mostly do quite well.
- Begonia (kept going until the first proper frost, which was very late this year, and a few of the more sheltered ones have pulled themselves back together and put out a few more flowers)
- Cineraria (perfectly good foliage plant, still look good now)
- Gazania (did quite well but not really my sort of thing. Also, I think something was eating the flowers as we kept seeing ones that were about to open but didn't see many that actually were)
- Busy Lizzies (did their job)
- Lobelia (not really dense enough to stop weeds coming up under it, but pretty enough and lasted well)
- Snap dragons (half a dozen of them did very well in front of the kitchen, the rest of them didn't do much)
- Salvia Firecracker (sort-of the reason I bought them all in the first place (I wanted some red salvias, and the pack contained them), but I didn't see a single flower)
- Petunia (did their job, too)
- Tobacco plant (marvellous if short blaze of glory that, happily, included the BBQ)
- Stocks

I've also planted up a shady bed with honesty (as it did so well this year!) and foxgloves, so hopefully that will look nice next year. Various other experimental bits have gone in: a goat's beard, and three or four things that I forget (but have labelled) that have gone under the big conifer in the front garden to see if they survive. (Of course, we then removed the conifer, so all change in that corner. I'm still picturing three or four slender, silver-barked beauties to replace it.)

The other bit of planting was the grass garden, which was hard work but is quite pretty now. One of the grasses is gone: some very similarly-coloured wild grass got started in the same hole in the fabric, and took it over entirely. The others are growing nicely, and hopefully they'll fill out more next year. Even the teeny tiny pathetic little maple is settling in, now that it's out of the pot. It's not *much* bigger, but I think it has grown.

The willow fedge has, I think, been a success. As advertised, the sticks I bought and poked into the ground have rooted and grown, although sadly not at an entirely even rate: the ones near to the remaining leylandii and what we suspect are old building foundations haven't done as well as the ones in the best spots, but I'm fairly confident that they will catch up. Now that the leaves are off, a few places where I made mistakes tying them into a lattice are visible, so as well as trimming the tops off the taller ones I need to get out there with a ball of string and tidy up a bit.

Otherwise, it's been all about the taking out of things, mostly leylandii (we're getting there...). I've also dug up the two beds along the edge of the back patio and conservatory, made a valiant but ultimately futile attempt to get rid of the weeds (especially couch grass) (if and when it finally gets cold enough that the deliberate plants go dormant, I'll get the spray out) and replanted some of the contents in other spots. In the spring, the currently-potted herbs, and some new ones bought for the task, will be going into the empty bits, so that Mike has a nice convenient supply that doesn't need watering every five minutes in summer and doesn't involve getting muddy slippers in winter. Except for the mint. That can stay where it is, he'll just have to walk to get it. We've also taken out the rather sad roses by the front door, and I've moved some geraniums there instead, under planted with some alliums.

Today, we belatedly planted some irises and fritillaries along the edge of the drive, and the dogwoods that we tracked down at different garden centres over the last couple of days (still want two more mid-winter flames, but I can order them online). Really need to do some pruning....
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Soggy doggy

♥Dec. 26th, 2015 // 02:56 pm
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One of the local garden centres is having a big sale, and I wanted to get some plants, so we thought we'd go along.

The garden centre is quite near to Canterbury, by the river. We've been thinking about going to see the river meadows are a good place to take Jo when it's hot, so we thought's we'd combine the two things with each other and with today's walk.

About thirty seconds after we got there, Jo was in the river chasing ducks. Sigh. After a moment of looking confused when she realised she was swimming, not wading, she climbed back out again and shook herself everywhere. A few minutes later, she was back in it again, but this time at a less good spot: fortunately, she managed to hook a leg over a tree root for long enough that I could get down to the water and grab her collar to help her out, but I think she scared herself a bit because she didn't really try to get back in after that.

Still, in summer the water will be lower and less fast-flowing, so I think that it is a good spot to take her to for a cool down. On the minus side, there's not much in the way of parking: we parked in some nearby woods, and the journey from one to the other was quite steep (with the up on the way back) and involved crossing roads that had actual cars on them. Apparently you're allowed to park in the Staples car park to go to the river, though, so I think we'll try that next time and be at the other end of the meadows.

And then we went to the garden centre, where they had a nice display at the front with precisely one each of several varieties of dogwood. I picked up the two colours I wanted and we went on, assuming that somewhere out back would be the rest of the plants (and that a member of staff would be muttering about inconsiderate customers messing up the nice arrangement and making them have to re-stock it), but it turned out that that was it. Oh well, guess I'll have to order them online (where the sale isn't), but at least I got to check the colours, which was the main point. Also picked up a couple of white cyclamen (we have a nice big patch, but they are stubbornly all the same shade of pink) and 70%-off crackers (that appear to actually have nice gifts in them) for New Year.

There's a mysterious smell of wet dog in the room. I can't imagine what's causing it.
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Plants

♥Dec. 20th, 2015 // 02:30 pm
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This afternoon, we took Jo out in the car to a nearby wood for her walk. I was quite impressed to see how much difference the half a dozen hairy cows have made to the bits of the orchid meadow they were on this year: there's a very clear line, where the electric fence was, with smooth lush turf on one side and scrubby undergrowth on the other. They'll be moving them around, a bit at a time, for the next few years, to get it cleared back to proper meadow land.

On the way there, I sighed wistfully when I saw the dogwoods by the drive to our local NGS garden, and mentioned, as I have before, how much I would like to have a dogwood rainbow (like wot I once saw a picture of at, I think but wouldn't swear to, Windsor) but that we don't have the room. "You could put them where the leylandii were, so that you see them in winter when the shrubs in front have lost their leaves," Mike said, and that is indeed a cracking idea. I don't think there's enough space for a proper full-on rainbow, which I suspect needs to be half a dozen or more plants deep, but I could certainly have some clumps of different types to give a bit of winter colour.

(The RHS website is really useful, don't get me wrong. I just wish that, in with the detailed instructions about how to grow from seed, and how to take cuttings, and what plants you can best graft things onto, they also had a note about when the best time of year is to then plant them out. Or, indeed, to buy the damn thing from the garden centre and put it in the garden.... Also, needs more pictures.)

We popped to the (proper) garden centre and had a look: they have got half a dozen varieties, including one of the very pretty ones that changes colour along the stems, but I suspect that we'll end up getting them online. I also eyed up a corkscrew willow, which would probably do quite even better than a rowan in the slightly soggy corner. We did get some veg seeds, though, and discovered that they still have masses of Christmas trees, most of which they grow themselves on the Isle of Wight, so I know where we'll be going for our tree next year. It didn't occur to us to try there, I'm not sure why unless maybe because it's the opposite direction from home to the places we'd already tried.
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Trees, both in and out

♥Dec. 11th, 2015 // 04:28 pm
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We have had an infestation of Teenager this week, but she's gone home now. (Actually, she's been no bother as she's been doing Complicated Maths the whole time she was here.) Tomorrow, we're getting an infestation of Parents, which I suspect will be more stressful.

Shortly before lunch, the doorbell rang: it was the tree surgeons, team of four, come to get rid of the enormous conifer and the boring and shade-inducing maple. We thought it was a bit odd that they came when there were only three or so hours of light left, but in fact they were done in about two! Very interesting to see them do the conifer, which they did from the bottom up, particularly the bit right at the end where the bloke was standing on the stumps of already-removed branches, swaying gently in the wind, having a fag break (eCig, admittedly). Infinitely quicker, more professional, and safe-looking job than the one we had taken out just after we moved in.

Even late on a grey December afternoon, the garden was much lighter through the livingroom patio doors.



We're now down to only one remaining Enormous Conifer, and it's a less dense kind than the ones that we've had taken out, and about six or eight leylandii, which are right next to it: I suspect we'll have a think about whether it will stay or go when we've taken the leylandii out and have a better idea of what that does to the light levels in that corner of the garden.

Then, after we'd brought the boys in, we popped out to buy a somewhat less enormous conifer, although we struggled somewhat. We went to the place we usually use (a small garden centre), but all they had left was one that would have been just right but was reserved, one that was too tall, and half a dozen tiny ones, so we went to a place that just sells trees and traipsed around a field trying to find something that didn't have an enormous bare spike sticking up from the top of it (whilst we would be quite happy to get one like that and take the scissors to it, they sell them by height and we've no wish to pay for three feet of twig that we're going to get rid of). We did get an ok one, although I'm a little worried that we'll have to take off a couple of the lower branches as it's got a very short stump.

Not sure why the decent trees are getting sold out so early, though, and I'm glad we went today rather than over the weekend: last year we bought it on the 14th (which is the equivalent to this coming Sunday) and "they only had about half a dozen left".

I've just bought a new microwave, because Costco had one with good reviews at £30 less than Amazon or Tesco in their Christmas deals. We've neither of us ever liked the one we have at the moment, which was a quick grab off the shelf in Tesco job when we moved and left the old one behind: it has a dial to set the timer, for example, which is horrible. If anyone wants it....
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Death! War! Doom!

♥Dec. 4th, 2015 // 03:28 pm
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Ahem. We've finished the leylandii in the front garden! Really quite pleased, now just need to see if I can rope Mike into taking out the last few in the back garden: when I mentioned it, he said "We'll do those next year", and that's only a few weeks, right?

As predicted, the last one in the corner was a bit of a bugger. Now that it's gone, there's a very conspicuously empty patch, and I'm thinking that a little tree might go well in there. It's on the corner of the drive and the road, so nothing that's going to get too wide, and it potentially shades a big chunk of the garden, so nothing too tall or too dense. Any ideas?

In the afternoon, to celebrate, we took Jo to the beach, where she had a marvellous time charging around and chasing seagulls. Even with my sunglasses on, I struggled a bit with the glare on the outward part of the walk: fingers crossed that the new glasses perform as promised.

This evening, I did some Christmas present sorting and wrapping, mostly to be sure that all my ducks were correctly aligned and I didn't need to order any extras for anyone (I did. I have). Now I just need to glare at Mike a bit more until he finishes signing the cards. He's done most of them....
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