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Friday, 12 December 2014

Brighter at last

Well, at last the fog has lifted, the rain has stopped and we have seen the sun! When it comes out it is so warm and this morning saw me out taking photos and sitting on the wall watching the chickens sunbathing instead of wading through mud. The ducks have had a proper long bath and all seems to be well. Dave has been round and shaved bits off the chicken hatch and doors which were sticking, being careful not to take too much off. The ducks have decided they want to sleep with the chickens and as the shed is so big there is no reason why not. One less to paddle through mud for cleaning out. The birds have been allowed out on the cleared veggie patch and have subsequently eaten less of their regular food, so hopefully they are getting rid of some grubs and insects hiding in the grassy border. They are so much more content when they can get out there but it has been too wet.
A rather weak start......

....leading to blue skies and warmth

There is definitely still growth happening in the garden. Although it feels cold to us that has more to do with the depressing dark dampness than actual temperature. The penstemons are still flowering as well as roses and chrysanths. There is even a lavender in flower, and just to make sure I blew up the picture to have a proper look. And a lonely echinacea flower. Bulbs in a planter are well and truly up and may need some protection when winter proper starts, and the anemones we planted last year and which flowered so well for so long are lookig good. The cornel flower buds for next year are large and plump. There is a covering of chickweed which we will pull up to give to the chickens, but will let it grow a bit first.
One of the penstemons

White lavender

In close up

Mini irises through

Cornus with flower buds


A brave echinacea

In veg, the sprouts are at last starting to grow in earnest and we have taken the tops out of some of them to encourage the goodness into swelling the sproutlets. They will not be ready for Christmas but the ones which blew earlier have enough on them. We might even have some baby carrots. The parsnips are in the freezer. The caulis are sulking and we may have to make a decision as to whether we have them as babies or risk a heavy frost. We have used most of the Tuscan kale and the plants look rather unhappy, but hopefully will re-grow in the warmer spells. There is a fair bit in the freezer for bubble and squeak, amazing what you can get from just a couple of plants. We also stripped the chard and that has started growing again. The cabbage stumps are growing more greens for later when there is not much for the chickens.

More chard


Well used kale

Sprouts, coming along

I am starting to get itchy fingers, thinking about what seeds to sow when, I will have to get down and make a proper plan, also there are a couple of things I need to send off for. But I must make sure not to plant too many seeds, I have real trouble getting rid of surplus plantlets, I hate waste, and with having all this space too much gets planted. We certainly don't need all the beans and courgettes in the freezer...but the chooks wouldn't eat them all and Venka's pigs even got fed up. I think one dark and one pale courgette will do...but I might have to sow more in case any fail...or I could just buy a couple of plants....oh dear, decisions decisions! We also have too many butternuts despite giving loads away, but we can't agree to how many plants we grew last year....they were like triffids but there were only about for or five. We have had such trouble growing them in the past and thought they would only have three or four usable fruits.. Our neighbour Venka was impressed enough to want to grow some next year, and I can understand why when they use them for sweet stuff, they are nicer for that than the ones they usually grow.

As we lost the greenhouse earlier in the year to a sudden hurricane like wind, we need to sort something out for the young plants. The cold frame Dave built which was so promising was actually not very practical. The windows were heavy and it was so far from the house I would forget to open/shut/water the plants, which meant we lost some and others grew lanky.

Demolished cold frame
 Also, once I have finished making Christmas cards I can re-arrange the area to make space for seeds, the first to go in will be onions, which I have never grown from seed. We have planted sets which are growing well, and more will be going in in spring. But the name of these onions, Tosca, caught my eye as this was the name of my old horse which I had for 25 years, and they are long like shallots and good keepers. They only cost 25p so I thought worth a try. I know our neighbour sows her tomatoes around new year but I don't think that will be practical as they would need too much space to pot on. We will go down the cherry toms in tubs route as we did last year, we got early tomatoes and could bring them in at night if necessary, The bigger ones will catch up, they did last year when I had to re-sow after losing a load when a sneaky frost got in the greenhouse.

Dave is having another push at learning the language. He gets confused with masculine/feminine/plurals and is determined to learn at least some of it. Where I am inclined to wait to be corrected, Dave likes to devise ways of  learning. So as well as the internet he has printed a lot of words out, with their meaning on the reverse, and has strung them up so he remembers to keep checking as he passes. He can rattle them of in a very short time, but remembering them next day, or in conversation is another matter! But he will get there.

The  dogs have been for their booster jabs this week. I have to admit I am not keen on having them done automatically, but we need to know they are covered in case we ever have to make a dash for the UK for any reason. Poor Bella didn't know why she was attacked by a mad woman in the street and rather objected, bless her. While he was there Dave asked about some lumps on Bonnie, some of which are just loose fatty lumps due to age, a couple are more like cysts. However, when it is your own dog there is always that nagging feeling that it could be something worse, but the vet was not cocerned and gave us some cream for the skin cysty type thing and some huge tablets to help her joints which are starting to stiffen up, especially after she has had a puppy gallop around the garden. It is easy getting Bonnie to take tablets, you just gtell her they are sweeties, get her all excited and she will catch them and swallow them...though her catching is not what it was. I must admit she looks fit enough anpart from losing a bit of muscle tone, and we are managing to keep her weight stable. It's hard when your special pets start showing their age. We have a life sized photo of her at three, taken for a competition just after she came to live with us. She was a beautiful, rich, nearly red colour. She is still beautiful in a mature, rather grey way. And of course a lovely nature. Today Splash pushed her off her dinner and she walked away without a murmer....and we all know what labs think of their food!
Three year old Bonnie

And eleven and a half

Giant pills, good job she takes them no problem
Not to be left out, Splash and Bella, exhausted after having all the doors open, making a great platground
We tried some of the mincemeat I made this week and I have to say it was delicious, more than happy. We had it with sliced apples in a crumble topped pie. I will be happy to make some mince pies for the neighbours this Christmas to go with the shortbread and cake.
And finally, this little chap has taken to roosting under the overhang by the front door, we noticed a pile of poo...
Mr tree sparrow


  1. Adore all your posts , always wait eagerly for the next one.
    I understand the what ifs, if you need to escape back to security of UK.
    My family had a lovely life in Zimbabwe, then had to escape to safety. Thank you UK
    But for now you have a lovely lifestyle, wonderful neighbours , enjoy!.
    You have a safety net if it all goes tits up like my family did.
    All we all have is today!.:)

    1. Thank you for your kind comments. Yes, you never know what is around the corner. It would break our hearts to leave here and the lovely people who have made us so welcome, but as you say, live for the day and today is beautiful, frozen and sunny with our neighbours watching over us and the animals happy.