Category Archives: Green Care

Day Off

Well, this is vexing. I wrote this post and pressed the buttons and sat back as it loaded. I had added (Part 1) to the title, but when I switched on to write Part 2 I tried to link it to Part 1 and found it wasn’t there. This means that, for the first time in 72 days I have failed to post.

I am not happy. Ah well…

It was a day off today, and instead of making me drive to a distant tourist spot Julia allowed me to relax with a short trip to the Mencap garden.

We managed to fit in a Harvester Unlimited Breakfast on the way – so it wasn’t an entirely bad start.

At the garden, instead of making me walk round and look at things, and probably enjoy myself, she allowed me to do a number of jobs including refilling bug boxes (using hollow stems from the scabious we’d cut back a couple of months ago) and putting some bird boxes together.

I fear I may have seemed a little ungrateful for the opportunity to spend our day off working for an organisation that won’t allow me to volunteer officially. (For those of you new to the story I’m not allowed to volunteer to work with my wife, as I’ve been doing for the last five years, because of “conflict of interests”.)

We had a fig each after that, and I took some photos of the vine leaves.

It wasn’t one of my better days, though building nest boxes is always a good thing to do. So is eating fresh figs.

After that, we returned home for a cup of tea. I downloaded photos and, whilst snoozing happily in my chair, dreamed of Derbyshire.

At that point Julia demonstrated the depths of depravity to which a wife can stoop, waking me up to remind me I’d said I’d give her a lift to Wilkos to buy paint for nest boxes. Obviously I’d meant I’d give her a lift if I wasn’t asleep and it wasn’t too close to Pointless. I don’t ask much from life and a snooze and a TV quiz seem quite modest requirements. So does freedom from being woken up to go shopping.

We went to Arnold, and I took some photos from the rooftop car parks at Wilkos and ASDA (who are currently renovating their car park). They aren’t great photos, but they didn’t offer much in the way of scenery. The main theme is Rain, with a secondary motif of More Rain.

 

 

The Carus Brothers at War (Part 1)

I just took out a subscription to an internet newspaper archive last week and the first task I set myself was searching for some family history. With one branch of the family it has come up trumps.

You may have heard some of this before as I have mentioned it and have used the photographs before. Sorry for the repetition but with new information, and it being exactly 101 years to the day since his death, I thought it was worth another post.

I have many common names in the family but am fortunate in having one branch with the name of Carus. To make things better, they come from Clitheroe – a small town with its own newspaper.

Harry Carus (1887-1916) was my great grandfather. When I started researching him I knew that he was one of a large family, that he’s on the Clitheroe war memorial and that he left a wife and three daughters when he died. He was a chapel-goer, Sunday school teacher and member of  a self-improvement club called the PSA (I believe that’s Peaceful Sunday Afternoon). He joined up as a volunteer and, on his last leave before going to France, laughed when his irate wife discovered that the three girls had found, and mostly eaten, the special cake baked for his last visit.

It had been on a top shelf in the kitchen and my grandmother had climbed up the lower shelves like a ladder before passing down to my Auntie Peggie – second in age and partner in crime.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission gives the information that he died on 10.10.16. He was a Corporal, aged 28, belonged to “B” Battery of the 180th Brigade
Royal Field Artillery. He was the son of H. A. and Margaret Carus, of 27, West View, Clitheroe, Lancashire and husband of the late Ellenor Carus.

This was during the latter, rainy, part of the Somme battle and was probably every bit as hellish as we imagine the First World War to be.

He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, the iconic arched memorial that lists the names of  72,396 Somme casualties who also have no known grave. In a later post I may well come back to the phrase “no known grave” as it’s an interesting subject in itself.

As more details became available from the release of records I was able to learn a little more about him.  He had four brothers and two sisters, worked for a grocer and his last known address is still standing. I have visited it using Google Maps.

The army medal rolls show that he went to France on 28.11.15 and is entitled to the 1914-15 Star, War Medal and Victory Medal. They spell his name “Carns”. His family was also given a bronze commemorative plaque and a scroll. On the subject of names, his wife was Eleanor, so even CWGC aren’t perfect.

When I searched the newspapers I was able to find the memorial notices posted a year after his death, and pin down a couple more family addresses. The family was still together in those days – the remarriage and death of Eleanor  and the separation of the girls was still to come, as Harry’s death continued to affect them in the coming years.

I was also able to find a mention of his death in the “25 Years Ago” column, when it was noted that he had been in a gun pit with six others when a shell landed in it and killed five of them. Presumably this was what had been contained in a letter at the time of his death – my grandmother had always said he was hit by a shell that killed him instantly and left nothing for burial. It’s nice to have corroboration but I’m not sure it’s true, it was just what people wrote home to parents and widows to hide the truth.

That, in a nutshell, is the life and death of Harry Carus.

Poppies

Roadside Poppies

Friday. Guess where I am?

OK, so I’m actually writing it on Sunday, but cast your mind back – where have I been on the last dozen Fridays?

Yes, in the Mencap garden again, drinking tea. It was nice and warm in the sun, though chilly in the shade.

There were Great Tits on the newly erected feeder, though not after I raised the camera. Same goes for the Robins singing in the trees, the Magpies perching in high places. A flock of about 60 birds kept flying  round the main building – Julia has a theory they are after the warmth.

I had a typo in there for a moment – Magpires. They are post-apocalyptic blood-sucking crows.

So, in the garden, drinking tea, trying to photograph birds and spelling badly. It’s not how I imagined my life developing, but there are worse places to be.

Julia has given me instructions and I am now gathering my equipment as next week we will be assembling the example nest box and marking them up for the group to build.

Saturday started earlier than usual, as Julia was filling in for someone. I then went to visit a jeweller and bought ingredients for the evening meal. These are two different activities, and an example of sloppy writing.  I visited the jeweller and then went to the supermarket to buy the ingredients for our evening meal.

It will be Julia’s birthday soon and I need to find a present. So far I’m not having much success.

In the afternoon I went to visit my Dad with Number One son. We did a jigsaw, played Beetle and lost to my sister at Snakes and Ladders.

Does Number One son realise this will be his destiny, I wonder?

On Friday (moving back in time again) I watched Dr Phil on Countdown. He was talking about measures we should take to ensure continuing good health. The mnemonic to remember is clangers.  This year has shown I can easily slip into bad habits so I’m going to ensure that I don’t do the same again. If it means I have to be nice to people I suppose it’s a  sacrifice worth making.

It’s very much along the lines of Green Care, Green Gym, Blue Sky Hospital or whatever else you want to call it. You get out, meet people, exercise, learn and end up better for it.

Back at home (Saturday evening) we reheated the casserole and ate it with samphire.  This was, as they warn, salty, but also crispy and fresh. It reminded me of a time when I was young and broke. I picked samphire when camping, boiled it and ate an entire mess tin of it to save money.  Today that would be a disaster, but my youthful digestion had no problem.

It was a bit too salty for my taste at the time and it has taken me 40 years to eat it again. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it this time. round.

Paint, Autumn Colour and Upcycling

Despite my desire to do something different I’ve drifted back to the garden. The pictures are taken and the temptation to use them is too great to resist. The top picture shows part of the bookshelf. They will not be short of reading material, though they may short of light to read by. Despite being near both a school and a lamp post the gardens have no power, which could be a problem as time goes on. It seems that as the winter progresses, the number of attendees falls.

At least the broken window won’t be a problem, though it did cost £70 to fix it in the end. We weren’t able to dismantle it ourselves to fit the new glass so we had to call the professionals in.

Painting is going well, with multi-coloured panels (depending on available paint) cheering the place up. The stationery trays (which were fruit boxes last week when Julia got them from the grocer on the market) were painted using the same system. I wonder if I should tick “upcycling” as a category, or if that might be a bit too grand to describe painting three boxes with left over paint.

Note the cake stand. Julia found it in a school bag that had been dumped in the school skip, with other lost property. She has an affinity for cake stands, and we have several at home, though we rarely use them, as we aren’t that sophisticated. And I’d rather just cut it and eat it instead of showing it of on a double-decker plate.

The library shelves are looking fuller now, with a number of the titles looking familiar. I’m sure I used to have copies of those books, I think, before I realise…

I may go for “upcycling”, considering the planter is a re-used litter bin striped with bits of window blind.

Tractors, Tribulations and Old Men

After dropping Julia off yesterday I went to see Men in Sheds on the farm. As you know, I don’t really like going, but I wanted to see them before Flintham Show to check on the Little Grey Fergie and to let them know Julia would be round with a group from the Mencap gardens.

There was a covey of four red-legged partridges in the lane, all taking different ways ape and avoid having their photo taken – flying through a gateway, flying over the top of the hedge, running through a hole in the hedge or running along the lane and diving into long grass. I prophesy that in the next few months one will be run over and at least one shot unless they work on their survival techniques.

The Men in Sheds were a bit thin on the ground, with just four of them, plus two women. Women? Whatever next? Two were in Llandudno, one at the doctor and nobody was sure about the others. I hope I’m still driving to Llandudno in my 80s.

The tractor is still in bits, but will be going to Flintham in bits as a display to show the sort of things they get up to. They were actually clearing out a barn today, in their role of cheap labour for the farm, though they have been making nest boxes for owls.

On the way I took some photos of the air crash memorial, which will be covered in another post soon, and while I was there (after having a nice cup of tea) I had a look round at the gardens.

It’s interesting to see things like the anenomes and osteospermum, which were donated as straggly transplants by neighbours, giving a big splash of colour to the garden. Same with the choisya (Mexican Orange Blossom). It was a straggly twig when we planted it (50 pence from a garden centre rescue bin) and now it’s a glossy bright green bush. Same goes for the dog roses – mere whips when we planted the four years ago – full of flowers and fruit now.

It may not be our garden anymore, but it still gives me a sense of achievement to see it, particularly when you think how cheaply we did it.

Things are pretty much as they were last time I visited. The only difference is that instead of merely being absent, the last tenant is now being referred to as having “done a runner”. The barn that is currently being cleared is being cleared of his property to defray costs.

Ironic, I said, that after evicting us to maximise income, there has been no income.

Greed does not pay.

 

 

 

Polytunnel Problems

Intermittent drizzle today. Not the best start.

Julia suffered a large split in the polytunnel yesterday. It’s the one they use for growing, so is really the more important of the two. It hasn’t been re-skinned for years, if ever, and is now both opaque and delicate. All it needed was a gust of wind and it gave way. She used the last of the mending tape on it, but even so, it may not last the winter. It’s quite probable she will open up one day to find a web of mending tape and a few shreds of plastic.

There is a certain amount of suspicion about the role of the Magpie family in all this, as they do treat the tunnels as if they own them (often having to be chased out) and there are areas of damage that could be blamed on them.

The plan is to gather a band of volunteers (maybe persuading a local company to let us have some of their staff as part of their community programme) and to have a re-skinning day next spring. It needs to be a warm, and preferably windless, day, as the plastic is better when warm and flexible. . That’s only half the story of course, and the fund-raising is now looking more urgent than ever.

The other tunnel is used as a workshop and it isn’t so important that you have a proper clear cover on that. Last time we needed a patch we used some plastic sheet that had blown in from a building site. It’s not elegant but it does work and it is frugal, which is one of the guiding principles of running the garden.

We have some seeds for next year, which we have been taking off the front of gardening magazines, and I took a couple of pictures of them this morning. They will be appearing on the group’s Facebook page later, as an example of seeds donated to the group. It’s a subtle way of letting people know that we are looking for donations.

There is a little colour in the beds, though a lot of it comes from grasses, and it is a far cry from the gardens of derrickjknight and tootlepedal . (For the sake of fairness I really should point out that the gardeners are actually Jackie and Mrs T). Next year the plan is to have more flowers – Julia has already planted some rudebekia and verbena bonariensis for next year and is adding winter pansies for spot colour at the moment. . This is partly because colour is always good, and partly because flowers mean pollen, which is good for pollinators. I was interested to see the verbena is said to rival buddleia for feeding butterflies. It’s definitely attractive to them but with its poor flower density compared to buddleia I can’t see it as a serious alternative

That leads on to something we were discussing this morning – the role of the garden.

It has to provide a service for the users, because that’s what it’s there for. That is, in turn, part of the problem, as it would be nice to grow produce for use by users and the cafe. Unfortunately this isn’t a priority – they like having their own bed, they like mowing, they  like painting and they like seeing friends. They will, when pushed, work, but it isn’t a priority and it isn’t overly productive.

If there is fruit or veg to eat at some point they like that, but it isn’t really why they go.

Indeed, the garden is designed round leisure rather than production. With so many small beds and sweeping paths it’s difficult fitting productive beds in, particularly as one polytunnel is used for activities rather than growing.

It’s going to be an interesting year of reconciling different ideas about garden use. And there was Julia thinking she applied for a job involving digging not diplomacy.

Planters

Julia’s group has finished painting the metal bins so they now have a fine selection of planters on the verandah. There’s a fig in one, a conifer in another and a strange combination of Echeveria Duchess of Nuremberg, thyme and chives in a third. Echeveria and thyme are fine but I have my reservation about the chives. Time will tell.

“Those slate chippings look familiar.” I said, vaguely remembering she’d mentioned them last week.

“They’ve been on the patio for years,” she replied,”you weren’t using them.”

Wives don’t understand the concept of keeping things in case they come in useful later.

 

They aren’t just a garden task, they have provided a useful art and design project too.

She has been given some wooden bins too. The school has made some into trough planters and that’s Julia’s plan too. All we need to do is get the screws out of the hinges. Eight screws. Eight tight screws. Then we need to shorten them and dismantle the doors to re-use them as ends.

It sounds so simple…

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