Tag Archives: plants

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.




Spiders, Shopping and Dead Butterflies

A couple of days ago I noticed something fluttering in the front garden, It turned out to be the remains of a Small Tortoiseshell, enangled in a sider’s web. It was past help, but I thought I’d take a few pictures. If I ever need a picture of a dead butterfly with a spider I now have one in stock.

It was quite a cunning plan on behalf of the spider, stringing a web between the Red Valerian flowers and lying in wait for a passing pollinator. I imagine that it wou;d have preferred a nice juicy bee, but it got a butterfly. There must be plenty of food in a butterfly, but the wings are a bit of a waste.

I  tried to get some close-ups, but must have touched a web, as the spider made a rush for me, defending its lunch. In such a David and Goliath situation we were always going to have a non-traditional outcome. I was never going to fall over after taking a rock between the eyes. Fortunately the spider didn’t push its luck and, after a sneer, it went back to eating.

Moving forward to Bank Holiday Monday,  we went to the garden centre so that Julia could buy more plants. We always seem to be buying new plants. After the first half of the trip I hobbled back to the car, making much use of my walking stick, and allowed her to enjoy the centre without me holding her back. I am so noble.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with me, apart from laziness and the inability to put up with heat. I’m just a very bad husband. However, I was able to sit in a car in the shade and enjoy the breeze instead of sweating round a variety of converted polytunnels masquerading as a shop. I feel a little deception was good for my health.

Whether or not it remains good for my health if Julia reads this, we will have to see.

As I sat in the car I took a few photos. There wasn’t much to photograph, but when in doubt take a picture of things that look like a pattern. That’s why I took the pots and compost bags.  They aren’t good photos, but they look like they could be. The one with the pots would have been better if they’d been stacked on the level. Or if I’d noticed they were sloping when I took the photo.


It was nice day, even if it was too hot for me, and even better when we were able to drive round with the air-conditioning on.

At least we weren’t disappointed by this garden centre.

Nipplewort and Commas

Doesn’t time fly when you’re enjoying yourself?

We’ve left Monday long behind in a flurry of weeding and pizza and by the time the week ends we’ll have seen a variety of people – we’ve already seen a school, a family picnic, a gent and his carer, the Community Payback team and a visiting Australian today. It’s good that people feel happy to visit, but when you’re up to your neck in a school visit it’s sometimes hard to remain tactful.

I’m talking generalities there. It’s hard for the average person to remain tactful. With me it’s rare to remain tactful. However, I am making progress and it’s several months since…

No, I forgot that one.

…it’s several weeks since anyone has complained about my attitude.

I suppose I ought to pause for a bit of introspection there, give myself a talking to about customer service, that sort of thing. Imagine it done.

We had a laugh this morning when the visiting Australian asked if we had to water our sedum roof. It’s not really a question we’ve ever had to address. Not with English weather being what it is. I’ve just looked up the rainfall for Australia, which I have always considered a bit of a dustbowl, and find they have some regions a lot wetter than the UK average. That’s the thing with averages, about half the UK is going to be wetter than average when you look into it. I am now more confused than ever.

I do know that Australia is the second driest continent after Antarctica. But I also know that if you put a shovelful of Antarctica and a shovelful of Australia into a billy can you would have more luck making tea from the Antarctic.

Anyway, time passes. I have made little impact in my quest to learn more about plants because my ageing brain will not retain the names of plants. So far I have added nipplewort, corncockle and bristly ox tongue to my repertoire, and we don’t even have bristly ox tongue here as far as I can see.

This is a pollinator on nipplewort. It’s a very small flower and blows about easily, so it’s not a great photo.


It is, however, better than the only picture I’ve managed to take of a Comma butterfly in two years of trying.


Having said that, there are many species I haven’t managed to photograph at all. Even the common Gatekeeper and whites never seem to pose properly for me.

I dropped by the £1 shop this morning and now have three washing up bowls to make ponds. None of them, as yet, has been sited or filled. I’m sure I set myself a target about this a few days ago…

Meanwhile, my wife has disappeared with 30 schoolchildren and a party of teachers. They are overdue, she has left her phone in the office.

The Australian influence is strong today and I’m beginning to think of Picnic at Hanging Rock.

Behind every successful man…

You wouldn’t think one small woman could contain so many orders but by the time she’d finished I had a list big enough to see out my Saturday, which is why I’m sitting down at just after four to finish the day. It’s not been the longest of working days, but it is Saturday and a chap expects a bit of slack.

I’ve bought compost, potted, repotted, sown seeds, weeded and swept up. I’ve tidied, moved things, made compost, picked rhubarb and watered. I did find time for a cup of tea and to show off my new “tea plantation”, talk to a keen new volunteer (I’ll soon turn her into a cynic) and er…

That reminds me, I seem to have missed lunch. I knew there was something I’d forgotten.

If I call it a diet I can feel virtuous. And hungry.

My nettle crop is looking good – enough tops for a good soup and enough mature leaves to start drying for tea. Unfortunately The Farmer and his farmer’s brain have noticed them and told me to eradicate them. This calls for either blackmail or distraction tactics. I will apply my thoughts to the problem.

This was the weather this afternoon just before the rain. Not quite as good as it has been and there’s a definite bite in the 25 kph wind – good job I decided not to jump the gun with the planting out. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA