A Wintry Morning

Another splendid pastel sunrise heralded a cold, bright, morning, which sent us into the forest early.

We pulled into the entrance to The Joinery Barn, a short distance along our Christchurch Road,

so that I could photograph the sun-misted landscape alongside.

Since there is no real verge I needed to perch on a little bank at the entrance to the field gate.

Gaps in traffic along this road are in short supply, so I had to employ considerable concentration to nip across. The Assistant Photographer was on hand to catch me.

In search of Christmas gifts, we visited Setley Ridge garden centre. It should not be difficult to discern that we did not come away empty handed.

From there we continued along Sandy Down where trees shadows striated sunbeams.

Jackie parked alongside the nibbled tarmac of Church Lane while I wandered back to photograph

cattle in a still misty field,

and fallen trees with reflections in the old mill stream.

Jackie, meanwhile photographed the garden beside her, including its bench and its stream, complete with ducks.

Further up the lane a pair of pampered ponied chomped on heaps of hay.

One took great interest in us as we focussed on

the garden next door, with its dying bonfire

and boxing hares exchanging fisticuffs on the sloping lawn.

A grazing pony could be glimpsed beyond a bend in Undershore on our way home.

Our wood pigeons mate for life and grieve for days when, as a day or so ago, their mate is slain by a predatory raptor scattering feathers.

Nugget, however, is still going strong. He had just left his feeder when Jackie produced “Where’s Nugget?” (50)

This evening we dined on Jackie’s wholesome cottage pie; crunchy carrots and broccoli; and tender cabbage with tasty gravy. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Minervois.

 

 

 

 

 

Estate Agency

Today I watched recordings of the Rugby World Cup matches between Georgia and Uruguay, and between Wales and Australia. Taking breaks from these matches I made crops of Jackie’s photographs, and took the nesting box one myself. It is so good to employ a most competent Assistant Photographer.

Jackie carried out planting, mostly in the Weeping Birch Bed – such as White Ladies asters, and grass panicum Warrior – hindered of course by  Nugget who at one point nipped neatly onto her chair when she left it.Those readers who have missed Nugget in the last couple of posts have nothing to fear, our little robin is here. The scale of this picture showing a flash of Jackie’s jeans and a glimpse of her arm, the trowel beside the tufa on which he stands, and the pair of gardening gloves demonstrates just how little he is.

The tufa on which he stands is, according to Wikipedia,  ‘ a variety of limestone formed when carbonate minerals precipitate out of ambient temperature water.’ Plants grow on it.

He doesn’t take up much room on a trowel, but he can delay the Head Gardener using it.When Jackie was sitting in the chair mentioned above, Nugget would dart from this stone under her seat in search of fodder.

The finely woven wicker-work of his plumage is most intricate.

Whilst at the south end of the garden Jackie also photographed the Back Drive;

its Japanese anemones against the white wall of No. 5 Downton Lane;

raindrops on its out of season poppy

and convolvulus:

clumps of chrysanthemum buds;

sprigs of bright hawthorn berries;

a wood pigeon basking on the warm gravel;

a volunteer nicotiana sylvestris;

and a further clump of chrysanthemums against hot lips.

She photographed the garden as seen from the Heligan Path;

her stumpery;

and one of two pots of pansies in the Rose Garden.

Not satisfied with the third teapot she has offered Nugget through her estate agency,

when she popped out for more plants at Otter Nurseries she bought a purpose built robin nesting box to increase his choice.

Now, “Where’s Nugget?” (31)

This evening we dined on Jackie’s minced beef topped with Lyonnaise potatoes, crunchy carrots and broccoli with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank Doom Bar.

 

An Avian Altercation

The sun made brief appearances during another warm day which we began by driving to Milford Pharmacy to collect repeat prescriptions.

The Needles Loch Ness Monster substitute cast its baleful eye over the proverbial millpond that was the Solent.

A gentleman entertained his frisky barking dogs on the shingle then walked away along the promenade.

We turned up Downton Lane and took a trip into the forest.

I imagine visiting children had enjoyed beavering at dams across the Wootton Bridge stream, even though it is somewhat depleted.

Bracken alongside the road to Burley is beginning to turn golden brown, and is still home to

discarded drink cans.

Donkeys were petted as usual beside The Fighting Cocks at Godshill,

while ponies blended or contrasted with the landscape across the road.

An idle wood pigeon hitched a ride on

one of the thatched pigs wandering across a Sandy Balls roof.

A sturdy Massey Ferguson tractor sent up dust clouds whilst harrowing a recently ploughed field alongside Hordle Lane.

This afternoon, whilst I was engaged in boring administration, Jackie photographed the Westbrook Arbour and its surroundings while Nugget kept her company in his usual helpful manner.

Occasionally spreading his wings he darted after prey;

after due investigation he decided against diving into watered holes;

he perched on trugs and watering cans;

and presented silhouettes from above.

And, of course, he posed for “Where’s Nugget?” (24)

Just before Jackie returned indoors, she witnessed a violent altercation between two robins in a hebe. One was sent packing. We hope it wasn’t Nugget.

This evening we dined at Lal Quilla where the greeting was as friendly and the food and service as excellent as ever. My main course was king prawn Ceylon; Jackie’s was chicken Hariyali; we shared a plain paratha, mushroom rice, and Tarka Dal; and both drank Kingfisher.

Tattered Beyond Recognition

We enjoyed another day of pleasantly temperate weather.

Antirrhinums are blooming throughout the garden.

Clematis Marie Boisselot, now entering the third age has applied a blue rinse to her naturally white locks;

the stalwart Star of India shines less bright, yet it still graces the Gothic Arch opposite

the red and white of Super Elfin and Penny Lane living in harmony.

A white gladiolus and a red dahlia each radiate charm.

Fuchsia Night Nurse continues to soothe,

and sweet peas produce plentiful seed pods.

Bees home in on For Your Eyes Only,

and enjoy the sedum’s soft pile;

a ladybird scales the Westbrook Arbour;

Small White butterflies cling to verbena bonarensis;

and this solitary flier, tattered beyond recognition, flitted from bidens bloom to bloom

until seeking suitable camouflage, sinking onto stone below. Can anyone identify it?

While he was keeping an eye on the Head Gardener I asked Nugget if he was ready for his close up, and he cheerfully obliged.

I hope this “Where’s Nugget?” (12) will compensate for yesterday’s nigh impossible challenge.

A drowsy wood pigeon in the cypress tree,

attempting to keep an eye on us while we were enjoying our pre-dinner drinks on the patio, could barely keep it open.

We left him to it and partook of Jackie’s wholesome beef in red wine, creamy mashed potatoes, cauliflower and carrots al dente, and tender runner beans grown by the Head Gardener who had drunk her Hoegaarden outside. I drank more of the Malbec.

Nugget, You’ve Got Mail

This morning while Jackie applied herself to unearthing food for Nugget, I occupied myself with dead-heading roses. The two photographs above are a day’s relief for eyes which struggled with yesterday’s “Where’s Nugget?”.

Hearing Jackie clearly speaking Avian I thought at first she had been addressing her little robin, but in fact it was “those ruddy randy pigeons”.

Here are two examples of the Head Gardener’s happy planting. We have pink Japanese anemones fronting similarly hued phlox in the first picture and a melange of begonias, pelargoniums, fuchsias, more of the anemones in the patio bed.

Lwbut has requested close ups of the Japanese anemones. There you go, Bob.

There is evidence from their webs that we are breeding vegan spiders – either that or they are currently constantly being disappointed.

Bees are busy with cosmoses, and sampling various vintages of Summer Wine.

Clematis has granted her presence to the Rose Garden arbour.

Although we have flotillas of Small White butterflies fluttering throughout the garden, we have very few other species, but we do have humming bird moths in phlox.

This afternoon Nugget received his first piece of snail mail.

This card, when opened, plays a recording of a robin’s song. The words inside, in Auntie Becky’s handwriting, state that she chose the card for the words – i.e. the birdsong.

Jackie and I spent a considerable amount of time getting our heads round how to record stuff on her camera. We managed it. I uploaded it into my computer and WordPress wouldn’t support the file format. I was, of course, my usual phlegmatic self on discovering this.

With the late afternoon growing duller and cooler, my chauffeuse drove us on a short trip into the forest.

A colourful range of heathers and bracken beginning to brown spread carpets across the moorland beside Holmsley Passage.

We thought it best to allow this beefy bovine free passage on the Burley road.

We spotted these rather splendid mushrooms along Bisterne Close.

Jackie produced a lovely lamb’s liver casserole with creamy mashed potatoes, crunchy cauliflower and carrots with tender green beans for our dinner this evening. She drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Malbec.

Various Stages Of Life

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM. REPEAT IF REQUIRED

The experts on the antiques programme Bargain Hunt, which we generally watch at lunchtime, tell us that silver items should not be polished, for that activity eventually obliterates the hallmarks. Many antique book dealers also believe that uncut book pages should be left in their pristine condition because taking a knife to them reduces their value.

This poses the question whether treasures are to be preserved in figurative amber and never used, or to be enjoyed for what they are

Count Morin, Deputy 1

I had no qualms about taking a sharp kitchen knife to the pages of

Count Morin, Deputy cover

a delightfully told political fable.

It is always interesting to speculate on who has read an old book, or indeed whether it has been read at all. In the old days when books were still well made to last, the pages were often joined at the edges and required cutting, as indicated above, in order to read them. So, if, as in this 1921 publication, you found uncut pages, you knew no-one else’s fingers had left their marks on the virginal leaves. It is such a pleasure to know that you were the first, and gives you a responsibility to take great care of your chosen treasure.

Although this slender little volume from The Bodley Head is illustrated throughout, I have chosen to restrain any impulse to scan the internal pages; because straining the spine to flatten the book in the scanner seems too high a price to pay; and because the woodcuts don’t appeal to me, as they display the heaviness I associate with Black Forest carving, thus denying the elegance of the text in translation by J. Lewis May.

Wood Pigeon and Owl

Without our double glazing I may have been able to eavesdrop on this avian conversation through the sitting room window.

My contribution to the general garden maintenance of the day was to hold the steps and otherwise assist The Head Gardener in retraining clematises at the front.

Jackie reflected training clematis

This photograph was executed with one hand on the steps, and the other on the camera.

Clematis

Clematises such as this one don’t yet need such mountaineering feats to support them;

Violas in hanging basket

and the hanging baskets are within easy reach.

Bird's nest

While tidying her containers behind the shed, Jackie has found a nest from which the chicks have hedged and flown without our knowing it was there.

Thalictrum

She has also found the thalictrum’s true element in the Cryptomeria Bed.

Shady Path

Visible in the Dragon Bed in the centre of this Shady Path view,

Peony

we have a new peony bloom.

Phantom Path

This view along The Phantom Path leads us to the Rose Garden,

Rose Garden entrance

up the entrance of which Madame Alfred Carière and Summer Wine are speedily making their way;

Rose Jacqueline du Pré

and within, Jacqueline du Pré displays various stages of life.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s delicious chicken jalfrezi with egg fried rice. She drank Hoegaarden, and I drank more of the Fleurie.

Down The Lane

This morning I wandered through the garden, down Downton Lane and into Roger’s field and back.

View towards patio fro Waterboy

The red Japanese maple is now coming into leaf, and we may soon have to refill the Waterboy’s shell.

Clematis Montana

The clematis Montana, retrained eighteen months ago, now festoons the dead tree;

Tulip

and different, delicate, tulips are bursting into life.

Dandelions

Dandelions currently claim the lane’s verges,

Primulas

where, soon, cow parsley will swamp primulas.

Hoverfly

On this ivy leaf, I think, is a hoverfly masquerading as a wasp.

Crows and crop fertilising

I exchanged waves with the friendly farmer as, attracting the usual avian entourage,

crop fertilising 1

he drove up and down fertilising his field, with a backdrop of Christchurch Bay.

Downton Lane

The oak trees are producing plumage. In the bottom right of this picture can be seen another amenable gentleman,

Paving and sandPaving

one of the staff of Transform Paving, working on the drive of number 23.

Grass bed

After lunch, I rendered token assistance to The Head Gardener in replenishing and redistributing soil, then cut the grass. The bed here demonstrates the soil rejuvenation process. To the left, clog clay soil has been removed and placed where it doesn’t matter much, then replaced by all-purpose compost. That to the right is, as yet, untreated. Anyone with a better knowledge than mine will recognise a self-seeded mimulus from last year in the left-hand section. They obviously do well there. That is why the wheelbarrow contains more of these plants, to be inserted tomorrow.

Wood pigeon

For the whole time we sat in the rose garden with our pre-dinner Hoegaarden and cabernet sauvignon, a big fat wood pigeon warbled his contribution to our conversation. Or perhaps he was simply calling to his mate.

There was plenty of last night’s menu for us to come back for more this evening.