Nest Building

For some time now, Aaron, our very own Green Man, has been working his way through the removal of the stumps of the old grizelinia hedging that he cut down a year or two back. This morning he completed the task.

We now have several clusters of snake’s head fritillaries;

orange and yellow epimedium, which here blends well a fading daffodil;

the ubiquitous honesty;

a range of hellebores preparing to drop their seeds;

and these wallflowers fronting euphorbia.

Birds such as darting goldfinches in the cypress, and cumbersome pigeons in the copper beech just coming into leaf are busy nesting.

Reminding me of ‘And What Came Next?‘, a Red Admiral butterfly and a fly slumber alongside each other beneath

catkins dangling from the weeping birch.

For a long, leisurely, lunch Mat, Tess, Poppy, Jackie, and I joined Sam, Holly, Malachi, and Orlaith at Hoburne, Bashley, holiday home site. The food, service, and facilities were excellent. I chose a fishcake and salad starter followed by a plentiful roast beef dinner. Others also enjoyed their selections. We shared Prosecco, one glass of which was free for each of the Mothers on their day. None of us could eat a dessert. Afterwards the adults sat in the sunshine while the children played football and generally ran about.

Ladybird Or Ladybug Fly Away Home….

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The sun stayed away today until it was time for it to go to bed.

My share of the garden clearance, under the necessary direction from the Head Gardener, was eradicating or truncating dead stalks from last year’s plants, such as nicotiana sylvestris.

Jackie continued such work that required more specialist knowledge, and completed her work on bringing the Waterboy’s pool back to life.

Viburnum

We have a number if different snowball shaped viburnums that we can’t specifically identify. They are all in bloom.

Sparrow

I wonder if our little roof bound sparrow was guarding nest building this morning. He certainly seemed to be casting an eye in the direction of a piece of straw that had no business being up there.

Camellia

Some of the earlier camellias are turning their beautiful golden brown, giving us the impression that we have varicoloured flowers.

Beech branches

As usual, the beech will be the last to clothe its skeletal framework.

Leaves and catkins have begun to appear on the weeping birch, although it is still possible to view Elizabeth’s Bed through the slender branches.

Ladybird in catkins

A ladybird appears to have taken up residence in the fruit of the tree. As there was no response when I recited the popular nursery rhyme, I can only assume this is intended to be permanent.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s beef, peppers, mushrooms and onions cooked in a rich red wine sauce and served with sauteed potatoes, spinach, leeks, carrots, and cauliflower. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Chateau Plessis grand vin de Bordeaux 2014.

A Touch Of Sea Air

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On a bright and sunny morning Jackie drove us out to Flexford Bridge to survey the scene that had been waterlogged on our last visit.

These muddy-looking snowdrops had been struggling to keep their heads above water then.

Snowdrops 1

Banks of others lined the verges of

Flexford Lane

Flexford Lane which offers another view of Sway Tower, otherwise known as Peterson’s Folly.

The numerous catkins no longer bore droplets of rain.

On that earlier day sheep had held the higher ground that led down to the Avon stream;

today they cropped the fields of Bridge Farm.

Pools in track

To reach the livestock I had walked up a pitted byway,

passing a number of derelict sheds,

Trees through hole in shed

holes in one of which neatly framed a group of distant trees.

This afternoon Jackie cut back the clematis Campaniflora in the front garden. Unfortunately this climbs on the arch alongside one of the three manhole covers laid along the pipeline to the septic tank that carries our effluent. She decided to check this one. it was full of thick shit and toilet paper soup. She tipped a couple of buckets down it, to no avail. I took over the task and had the bright idea of shovelling out the mess, putting it in a bucket, and emptying it into the last hole. It hasn’t helped, which means there is a blockage between the first two manholes. It seems that the problem stems from inadequate equipment in the guest bathroom above. I deferred the next stage to tomorrow. It always pays to think about a problem. And I was knackered.

Probably everyone knows that unpleasant aromas linger in the nostrils long after you’ve scrubbed up. Today was no exception. It seemed like a touch of sea air was needed to blast the pong away. We therefore drove out to Calshot

just before sunset,

where a sailboarder was wending his way back to his car.

Against the backdrop of Fawley Power Station, boats and buoys rested on the silt at low tide,

Geese

whilst geese honked overhead.

This evening we dined on belly of pork served with boiled potatoes, carrots and broccoli. Jackie drank Hoegaarden whilst I drank more of the Cabernet Sauvignon opened a couple of days ago.

One For Mary Tang

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The kitchen door was open this morning as I wandered into it. Such was the heady blend of sweet scents that pervaded the room, that I looked around for the bouquets of blooms I felt sure The Head Gardener must have gathered. There were none. The aroma emanated from the garden itself on this much warmer day. This became apparent as I investigated.

Magazine on bench

Testament to Jackie’s occasional breaks, gardening magazines like this one on the Heligan Path bench, are likely to be found in sunshine or shade, depending on her needs at the time. In the right foreground of this picture, on a dry brick plinth stands one of the recently purchased half-dozen stone urns, planted with geraniums, petunias, and, yet to burst forth, begonias. Heucheras, hellebores honesty and hebes fill the near beds, whilst in the background the palm which gives its name to the recently refurbished plot, is budding, which it didn’t do last year. An ornamental grass bends at the feet of the weeping birch, now sporting catkins. There will probably be no more long shots of the garden that do not contain an owl.

Jackie reading on Heligan Path bench

Later, with the bench in shade, I shifted my viewpoint in order to show the scene through what will soon be a cascade of clematis Montana seen, already covering the other side of the dead tree at top right, that will cover the plank of wood used to form the arch. Jackie enjoys a rest.

This evening we attended a quiz night at Helen and Bill’s church hall in aid of CAFOD. Everyone had brought  contribution of finger food and there was a bar where beer, wines, and soft drinks were available, and variously consumed by the assembled company.

Quiz Night WinnerPeter Thomas, a very skilled magician, offering his services free of charge, stepped in at the last minute to manage the quiz, and to entertain us with some marvellous tricks.

Our family members made up two tables; one team consisting of Bill, David and Jen, John, and Rachel; the other of Becky and Ian, Shelly and Ron, and Jackie and me. The first of these groups came second overall, and we won. The winners were each given a certificate to prove it.

This post is for Mary Tang, who likes the panoramic views.

The Bees Are Out

Propped up by my walking stick, I managed to make my way through the garden and a hundred yards or so down Downton Lane this morning.The Royal Oak car park

The Royal Oak pub car park had a look of spring about it.Catkins

Catkins swayed in the breeze.Dove

A pair of doves, which we think must be the parents of the baby that died, regularly feast on suet balls in the bird feeder.Bee on pulmonaria 3Bee on pulmonaria 2Bee on pulmanaria B:W

Hairy humble bees gravitated to the equally hirsute pulmonaria,Bee on hellebore

and the shy hellebores. I had to be quick to photograph this one, because it was about to vanish under the hanging head of the flower.

Sausage casserole (recipe) is far too bland a term for Jackie’s classic dish on which she fed us this evening. Mashed potato, crisp carrots and brussels sprouts accompanied the most tasty melange. The meat content of this particular culinary creation consisted of chunky chorizo sausages from Ferndene Farm Shop; smaller Lidl pork chipolatas; and slabs of lean gammon steaks from Sainsbury’s basics cooking bacon. So much did I salivate on ladling out my helping that some of my own juices slipped down my windpipe, producing a fit of coughing. Finishing the Cotes du Rhone eased this. Jackie drank sparkling water.

It may be of interest that Jackie’s version is a development of mine, which was a development of Delia Smith’s. Delia is a brilliant tutor for all the basic cooking methods. That is why I learned a great deal from her. But I soon wanted to spice her meals up a bit. And Jackie takes this a bit further.