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Heavy rain this morning ricocheted from the roofs, and bounced from the basin catching a leak landing on the kitchen table. Even Aaron was unable to work.

As if by magic the skies cleared to accommodate skimming clouds and warm sunshine. Jackie therefore took me for a drive in the forest. She first parked in the Boundary parking area, where I walked past

the woods

to look down on the tree-lined valley below. I noticed two figures with a couple of dogs. They disappeared into the trees and I waited for them to appear in the next clearing, when I focussed on them once more. Readers may care to enlarge these to spot the subjects.

Our next stop was along Rhinefield Road where I photographed more forest scenes.

Cattle roamed the moors around Fritham.

For ponies foraging a little further along, height restrictions applied. Only those tall enough could feed on leaves. The little ones hand to keep their noses to the ground. I found myself thinking pigs at pannage were needed to mop up the fallen acorns which are poisonous to equines.

Meanwhile, a solitary cow wandered past another small pony across the road, currently occupied by donkeys playing havoc with traffic.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s fishy potato pie (remnants of fish pie topped with sautéed potatoes; piquant cauliflower cheese; crunchy carrots; tender green beans; and succulent ratatouille. My wife drank Hoegaarden; my sister and I drank Western Cape Malbec 2017.

 

 

Before And After: The North Breeze Boundary

‘Boundary’ is a polite term for what should have separated our garden from that of ‘North Breeze’, the unoccupied house to the west of ours. It stretches from front to back from the street to the corner of the back drive and most of the way down that.

I learned this when the Head Gardener decided to hack through the undergrowth on that side of our brick path. Until then I had enjoyed a short-lived oblivion.

Boundary

 

I began on the section adjacent to the patio. This is what I found on 26th May 2014. The lonicera hedge had romped with brambles over and through the bits and pieces that were meant to divide the gardens, rooted on our side, and sent further stems to settle further in. I really rather wanted to go home, until I remembered I was already there.

Lonicera tangle

By 1st June I had cut my way to a length of strong wire. I still had to dig out the root shown on our side.

Netting fence

There was quite a lot of netting lying around the garden. We gathered this up and the next day I reinforced what I could make out of the dividing line. I could now see where I had come from, if not yet where I was going.

Blackbird's eggs in nest

The day after that, mother nature granted me a respite, in the form of a blackbird’s nest, complete with eggs. I clearly could not disturb this any more than I had done already. I waited patiently for another couple of weeks whilst the parent incubated her offspring. Then a magpie struck. This story was not inspired by Bruce Goodman, although I trust that fine storyteller would approve of it.

Adjoining fence of IKEA wardrobes

On 21st July, I continued my makeshift fence with discarded IKEA wardrobe sections.

Lonicera hedge far corner

I had reached the far corner, and was about to turn into the back drive. Oh, joy.

Ivy

Ivy covered stump

Brambles and ivy proliferated, even rooting in the line of dead stumps, and, of course, across the drive itself.

Wire netting in hedge 1

Wire netting had become entwined with the infiltrators. The iron stake in the bottom left of this photograph was one of two rows each of four lining either side of the drive.

Derrick hacksawing iron stake

They were deeply buried in concrete, so I had to hacksaw most of them off.

Rooting out

Having reached the five-barred gate at the far end on 16th October I made a photograph showing the lopping of the griselinia and the rooting out of brambles.

I stayed inside today, whilst Jackie continued her sterling clearance work.

For the first dinner I have been able to face in two days, I opted for a bacon sandwich which I enjoyed. I required no liquid sustenance. How long, I wonder, will an opened bottle of malbec stay potable? Fortunately there was still some curry left for The Cook,

The Mole Catcher

One of the benefits of writing a daily blog over a period of more than two years is that it can be used to jog one’s own memory. Quite often we have checked something by using the search facility. Struggling to remember the name of the architectural salvage outlet where we had bought a door knocker on 9th April, we looked up ‘The Knocker’, and there it was – Ace Reclaim. Actually, I had remembered the Ace bit, which I thought rather impressive.  Unfortunately they were not open today so we couldn’t visit them for something to contain a rose that is straying across the main brick path.

There was, therefore, no excuse to go for a car ride instead of gardening. Boundary cornerWhen I had cut down the last of an invasive privet, I had finally reached the corner of the boundary under siege from next door. (My computer, or maybe WordPress itself, delights in deciding it knows better than I which words I wish to use. It changed the ‘finally’ in the last sentence to ‘fatally’. I do hope the machine is not prescient.) The foliage on the right of the photograph is to be repelled when necessary. The two edges of IKEA wardrobe sections roughly central to the picture mark my assessment of the boundary line, based on metal stakes stuck in the ground. The facing metal poles with worm-eaten wooden struts wired and ragged to them continue along the South side of the back drive. Once I round the compost heap and enter that stretch there are metres and metres of similar bits of wood, metal, and wire marking out territory, between a number of mature trunks of felled trees. Decisions will have to be made about a number of shrubs that line this drive, among which Blackberriesare blackberries coming through from the deserted garden, that are so scrumptious looking and such thick stemmed as to make me think they are cultivated. If anyone does move into the empty house we will need someone like the cartographic decision-makers of nineteenth century Europe, who drew lines across uncharted territory around the globe, to do the same for us.

Stepping stonesDandelion nailed to treeDuring recent weeks Jackie has been removing unnecessary composite paving stones from the mess that is the system of paths in the kitchen garden, and transferring them to her work area to use as stepping stones from there to the new shrubbery, rather like, but longer than, the system I had inserted at The Firs. I helped a little with that today.

It was possibly when prising one of these slabs from its original position that Jackie extracted her dandelion trophy. This had such a magnificent root that she was minded to nail it to one of the pillars of the wisteria arbour where she sometimes takes her rests. She pointed it out to me today. We were both under the erroneous impression that the countryside tradition of nailing moles, regarded as vermin, to fences was in order to keep others away. She thought her action might deter other dandelions. However, that is not the reason rows of moles are lined up like the heads of unpopular members of opposing factions in mediaeval England. They are there to demonstrate to the farmer that his freelance professional mole catcher has done his job. Maybe crows hung in trees could serve as a deterrent to others. There does not seem, however, any consensus on the reason for this practice.

StreamDamselfly 2Damselfly 1This afternoon I ambled down to Shorefield, and, after spending some time leaning on the railings of the bridge over the sun-dappled stream that runs alongside the holiday chalets, returned home. Damselflies flickered iridescent blue over the water seeming to reflect their hue, and coots, keeping well out of fleeting sight paddled in the ochre shadows. So quick were the insects that only when they took a rest in the sunlight was I able to focus on them. I couldn’t actually see this one when I pressed the shutter, but I had seen it land and hoped for the best.

Blackberries pickedBraeburn applesLater, I picked some of the blackberries. As they were mostly emerging from the top of the jungle, I had to teeter on top of the stepladder to reach them. Cleared patchA bird has already started on one of our three Braeburn apples, but we will probably need to buy some cookers anyway for blackberry and apple crumble.

Jackie worked all day on further clearing the patch she had begun yesterday. The exposed root in the picture is a euphorbia about to be clipped and discarded. These are attractive plants, but they self-seed and tend to crop up in the wrong places. Those in our garden have been given a free rein for a number of years, so they must be culled in order to free up what they have choked.

Seeking somewhere different for our dinner tonight, we tried the Rivaaz Indian restaurant in Milton Station Road. The initial disappointment at being informed that they do not serve alcohol, but that we could bring our own, was somewhat assuaged when I remembered we had parked opposite an Off-Licence. It was completely quashed when we noticed that both naga and phal were on the menu. The food was marvelous, and the service friendly, efficient, and unobtrusive. The lamb in my nagin was lean and tender, and Jackie thoroughly enjoyed her chicken jabajaba. Both meals were flavoursome. The rices were cooked to perfection, as was the parata and the mushroom and spinach side dish. We both drank Kingfisher, and neither of us could quite finish our meals.

A Tale Of Two Climbers

Today was another wet one. That put paid to any continuation of the pathfinding project, but we worked on others in brief spells between the rains.Gladiolus

An interesting variety of gladiolus has emerged outside the back door to the kitchen.

Jackie drove off to Everton Garden Centre to buy some annuals. She returned with quite a few. There were enough to plant up the urn and the chimney pots, and to provide marginals for the pond.

Butchers blocks potting shedFirst, she needed a potting shed. Our predecessor used a sand tray in the garage for this, but that was one of the many items removed to make way for the utility room. Among the pieces left for us by the previous owners, thinking they might be useful, were two butchers’ blocks. They were relegated to the skip pile from which they were retrieved this morning to make an improvised potting shed.

Three extremely heavy stoneware chimney pots had been brought from Amity Grove via 4 Castle Malwood Lodge. They had stood in our front garden since 31st March. They needed two of us to lift each one into a wheelbarrow, and to manoeuvre them into place. Chimney triangleThe awareness that they now formed three corners of a triangle caused Jackie once more to reflect on the lack of one in the kitchen.

While Jackie planted her purchases, I wandered around randomly weeding, then brightened up yesterday’s path with a partial application of gravel.

I have mentioned before the nature of the boundary between our home and the unoccupied bungalow to our right. This is sometimes rather problematic, as in the case of the Lonicera which has been so invasive as to push our neighbouring shrubs right out of position and across the patio. BoundaryOne particular climbing rose has been forced to extend leggy limbs above and beyond what is sensible. It is tied to a tall wooden stake that, in turn, is tied to a metal one. It looks to me as if the thick honeysuckle-like stems and branches are all that is keeping anything in place at all. Bird's nestI found an empty birds’ nest in the tangled mess. Seeing this object, as if floating on the reflecting metal garden table, alerted me to the fact that I was becoming a little damp.

Pondering how to dispose of the mounting pile of pruned plant pieces, I thought of my good Newark friend and neighbour, Malcolm Anderton, and another climbing rose which was itself perpetrating the invasion.

A long, high, stone wall separated our two properties. Covering this, on our side, were three large red climbing roses which tended to peep over to Malcolm’s. When, around the turn of the millennium, some of the boughs were found cut, and on the ground in our driveway, Jessica approached our neighbour to see if he knew anything about it. Indeed, he did. He had been pruning the invader whose stems he was chucking back over the wall. He informed us that that was the legal thing to do.

Our next door garden here is completely overgrown, so no-one would probably notice if I tossed the limbs of Lonicera back where they came from. I am grateful to Malcolm for the idea.

Having given up on the garden after lunch, I just nipped out to get wet photographing Jackie’s planting:Pond plantingUrn plantingChimney pot plantingDinner at The Jarna was as good as ever this evening. We know, because we enjoyed some, both drinking Cobra.