Category Archives: Green Care

Flowers in the Frost

It was a bit cold this morning – minus 3.5 degrees C according to my car. With a bit of a breeze and the proximity of the River Trent it felt even colder. I started taking photos and twenty minutes later, when my hands could no longer feel the button, I called it a day and sat in the car with the heater on. Julia continued her inspection, declared the garden closed for the day and started ringing round to reorganise things.

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Frozen solid and minus three and a half degrees, though the moles are still active

I think it’s fair to say that they enjoyed themselves more in the main building than they would have done in the garden.

 

There was still plenty to see, though it was mostly droopy and covered in frost crystals. I tried to get some sun into the pictures but it was a bit low in the sky, and concealed behind trees.

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A cold-looking garden gnome

The poppies, meanwhile, are standing up to the cold weather better than the real flowers.

 

From there I dropped Julia at the main building and went to the jewellers to get a safety chain fitted to one of her Christmas presents. I will say no more…

I managed to do some shopping before my return home and a session of writing Christmas cards and blogging before starting to cook tea.

This is the street, complete with frozen snow. Despite the forecast of higher temperatures I fear it may last a week or more, and continue to be a hazard underfoot.

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A wintry scene

A Rabbit Comes to Call

Here are some pictures from the MENCAP Open Day.  The painted stones sold well, as did the nest boxes and various other items. I say “various” because I’ve forgotten what Julia said.

I know it came to around £100 and is going to make a useful contribution to the garden running costs. One of the volunteers who helps with the garden brought Peter Rabbit to form the centrepiece of the garden display. Ironically, when you consider what he did in Mr McGregor’s garden, Peter is a scarecrow.The group all helped out and everyone had a good day.

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The group took a number of photos of Julia with the visiting rabbit

Even the photograph album (which was back-to-front after my late night glueing session) was judged to be successful.

Cold Garden, or A Man’s Time is Not His Own

I’ve been taking some photographs for Julia this morning, showing the progress she’s been making in the garden (helped by her merry band of volunteers and the garden group).

They have revamped the compost bins, cleared a large area of scrub, put in some raised beds, discovered a variety of plants, loaded up the leafmould cage and found some garden equipment (including plastic compost bins and an incinerator).

I also sorted out the lighting procedure for the gas heater in the site hut and checked the way to remove the spool on the new battery powered strimmer the group has been given. I am a man of many (uncommercial) talents.

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Revamped Compost Bins

After that I was despatched on a job for Julia. I am often sent on jobs for Julia, as regular readers will know. I did the job then I picked her up and I spent the next five and a half hours doing another job for her.

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Hazel catkins

As I say, a married man’s time is not his own.

Down at the (Cold) Garden

The Sedums were looking good with a covering of frost. From a  distance the effect was jewel-like and sparkling. Close up, I didn’t quite get the focus right.  Apart from the vagaries of the camera system, which seemed to struggle, it was tricky as my hands were frozen. After half an hour screwing nest boxes together the cold had got to my hands and I was having trouble finding the button when I wanted to take the shot. Time to sort my gloves out.

With five boxes done yesterday and five again today I have now exhausted the supply of parts. We may do some more next year, if we can find more free timber, but as a lot of customers have been staff and parents we may have exhausted our customer base.

 

As you can see, there is a lot of creative effort going into the the paintwork. It is also clear that drill design has improved over the last ten years, particularly in the area of battery size.

This is the “roof” of the polytunnel, showing the bird damage. It’s actually quite tricky working out where the roof is, when you consider it’s one continuous piece but I decided that if it’s at the top and has holes in, I will call it a roof.

I include it, not because it’s a fascinating shot, but simply to show why we’re making the nest boxes – every £5 we take is £5 towards the new plastic sheet.

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Holes in the roof

Finally, there’s an artistic shot of a leaf sticking to the outside of the plastic. When you’re filling a blog you have to take your shots where you find them.

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Lime Leaf through plastic

 

A Grumpy Newt

Julia came home with a picture of a newt today – she’s been looking for one all year. This one turned up as they were clearing a heap of rubbish. The heap had been there since before she took over at the garden, in case you are wondering. It was, it seems, a more attractive berth than the various newt habitats that they have built around the garden.

The newt was not, she says, particularly glad to see them.

I can understand that. You’re all wrapped up and snug in preparation for a long winter snooze then somebody comes and rips your roof off. In similar circumstances I’d be pretty hacked off too.

They tucked it in and put all the stuff back on the heap. They can finish that particular job in Spring.

The picture is a bit blurred, but it’s taken a long time to get it so I’m going to use it anyway.

The Birds

The header photo shows the origin of the mysterious tears that keep appearing in the polytunnels. The plastic is several years past the point that it should have been replaced and a crow striding across the top of the tunnel is a step too far. One day soon I’m expecting to see one fall through completely.

Julia has already used two rolls of mending tape and several large pieces of scrap polythene getting the tunnels ready for winter and despite this the wind ripped a large section last month. It’s patched now but she’s currently raising the money to replace at least one of the covers next year.

Based on the cost last time we bought covers on the farm we are hoping to spend no more than £600 doing the job. This should enable us to get a good six years of fund-raising in before we need to replace them again. Manufacturers tend to recommend three years, as the sheet gradually lets less and less light through, but economy is more important than the ultimate growing performance.

It doesn’t seem a lot of money, but when you are raising it by selling bird boxes at £5 each it takes some doing.

The Black-headed Gulls were out in force too, and the squabbling between gulls and crows is ine of the more raucous sounds around.

While I was taking photographs of the flowers and plastic poppies the squeaks of Long-tailed Tits filled the garden as they descended to pick insects from the willows.

And coy bumbarrels, twenty in a drove,
Flit down the hedgerows in the frozen plain
And hang on little twigs and start again. 

John Clare – Emmonsail’s Heath in Winter

Clare hit it on the head there, as there were about twenty of them, and they were hanging on little twigs. They were also a bit coy when it came to posing for the camera and, as usual, I got more photos of empty branches than I did of birds.

There’s something a little eerie about a poet managing to do that from a distance of 200 years.

The Great Tits on the feeders were slightly easier to get, but the Cormorants, which flew by several times, proved impossible to photograph. Finally, alerted by the distinctive flight, I was able to get a distant shot of a Greater Spotted Woodpecker. It’s a common bird, but always nice to see, even at a distance.

Sorry about the quality of the photography, but it was a grey and windy day and I’ve become a little rusty over the summer.

Canad+a Geese in flight - River Trent at Wilford

Canada Geese in flight – River Trent at Wilford

The final shot shows three Canada Geese in flight. I took it a couple of weeks ago and didn’t have a chance to use it. I thought I’d include it here to show I can photograph birds in flight, though the day was a little brighter, and they did fly right over the top of me.

Poppies – Yes, it’s That Time of Year Again

Julia and the Garden Group made poppies a few weeks ago, cutting the bottoms of plastic bottles, fitting wire stalks, spraying them red and sticking the bottle tops in the centres.

It’s not a very complicated process, though the step I missed out (smoothing the cut edges using a candle flame) does have the occasional interesting moment. Julia tried making leaves using green plastic bottles, but they turned out a bit see-through. She doesn’t have enough money in the kitty for green paint, in case you were wondering.

With the addition of some scrim netting (because it’s slightly military) and some rosemary (for remembrance) it is now forming an art installation in the garden. See how easily I slip into the language of the aesthete – art installation indeed. It’s some plastic flowers on a fence post. It also includes some sedums (because they are still in prolific flower) and some chicken wire (because there wasn’t enough scrim).

One of the group has printed out a suitable poem too. It’s the Moina Michael poem “We shall Keep the Faith“. I’ve left a link rather than displaying it in full. To be honest, I don’t really like it . Apart from the sentiment I don’t like the way it rhymes red and dead twice in seventeen lines.

As she’s the originator of Poppy Days I will cut her some slack and say no more. After all, my view may not reflect the views of posterity.

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Poppies and Rosemary