Garden works: the paddock

After the diggers left in May we proceeded to sow grass and clover. We were a bit worried there was going to be a period of drought just like the last time we had the guy in last year. Only after two months we were satisfied with the amount of greenery growing. First it looked like there were only some patches that were covered, but it looks like a proper field now.
We also got a call from a farmer friend who knew someone who wanted to get rid of some fencing for a paddock. Dr Livingstone drove up to the house to take a look at it, but the negotiations broke down over the price.

Some weeks later, somewhere in June, he called again. The people were desperate to get rid of the fencing. They were clearing it away and were going to have to find some storage space and they didn't want to have to move it twice. After re-negotiating the price and having agreed they would also install the fencing for us they came at the beginning of July and had it up by the end of the day.

It looks absolutely stunning now it's finished. We just have to put some wheels on the gate for support and level the ground.
And we also have to put the electric fencing stuff up, in case there's some wild beast that is going to meddle with it.


Garden works: the stables

I haven't been keeping still and neither has Dr Livingstone.
I finished my thesis in August and have been trying to catch up on all the little bits of work that have been looming around the corner in and outside the house.

A lot has changed over the past year and I haven't really shared a lot. It seems I do not have a single spare moment to chillax and blog about what has been going on.
But things have moved forward and we're both chuffed to bits at all the improvements we've finally been able to do.

Most of the daunting chores have been dealt with. The most dreaded tast of all was chopping up all the pallets that had been stored in the stables. We'd been hoarding them from everywhere. Roughly estimated we had about sixty of them. Crazy neigbour™ was very kind to lend his saw table AND help Dr Livingstone to do the sawing business. They were at it for an entire afternoon, had tea and biscuits afterwards in the garden and then were unable to move because of aching joints and muscles the day after. But what a result!

After that Dr Livingstone and myself also made all the long bits into shorter fire wood to get the stove going. We now have three entire Big Bags full of start-up wood which will probably last us several years to come!

I also managed to paint all the hinges and metal work on the stable doors and together with the sidings I had already painted a trout colour last year it looks much better. We also cleared away all of the bits and ends that always keep lurking about. Several trips to the recycling park later (can't say container park anymore according to the Council) it all looks pretty tidy now.

Just three more project in that corner of the garden:

1) clearing out and organizing our composting station (Dr Livingstone did make three tub-like structures but then proceeded by just chucking everything random in there).

2) clearing out and organizing the shelter next to the stables. There are still a lot of roof tiles there. We're also going to use the fire wood piled up in there this winter so it can be emptied out. We're planning to use it as a kind of temporary locker/preparation shelter for anyone wanting to make saddles ready or put some horse riding utensils in a locker.

3) make a nice path next to the stables and make a little door so we can enter the garden from the public footpath that runs across our land. Dr Livingstone already dug a ditch to pump excess water into the little brook in case of heavy rainfall.

But first let me update you on the rest of the chores we have done...


Spot on

I was checking out the weather forecast for the Formula 1 qualifying sessions and race day at Silverstone. The BBC has a special forecast dedicated to the race on the sports page, which is very handy. But I did have to look twice when I saw the prediction for Sunday. Now look closely at the picture I added.

Those rain showers. Somebody just had a laugh in the digital map room and put some random dots over the British Isles, didn't they.
It looks like chickenpox erupted all over.


Going to the shops is for wimps

Going to the shops is for wimps.
Trying to live off the vegetables and fruit you're trying to cultivate: now that's the real challenge.
Havat you!

On the table (counter clockwise): salad, potatoes, courgette, another courgette, beetroot, green celery, cauliflower, strawberries and raspberries. An a  cucumber.
Yes, that's a cucumber. It doesn't look like any of those in the shops. It's some weird variety I hadn't banked on.
I thought it would turn a dark greenish colour and lenghten somewhat. But it went all massive and stayed compact.
Meh. But it made a good salad ingredient though!



How soothing it is to unwind just sitting in the garden amidst the colours and sounds of early summer...


Spring, oh where have you gone?

Mea maxima culpa for not blogging, even though I did promise to. No rest for the wicked alas. Life just got in the way of, well, everything.
Here's an update on our garden (I will try and blog about something else in future):
- the drainage system we had put in works like a treat. It has astounded us a couple of times already. Hard earned money well spent. No more flooding in the direct vicinity around the house.
- we bought two chickens for Crazy Neighbour because his four chickens weren't laying eggs as they were supposed to. Alas a couple of days later they were all slaughtered by a fox. A week later his new chickens were also killed, he found them neatly stacked next to the enclosure. We lent him some netting and rope for electrifying meadows. The chicken coop now looks like some sort of friendly concentration camp. The fox has not returned so far.
Here's a snap of the two beautiful chicks that are no longer.

- Dr Livingstone sowed the meadow but it didn't really kick off growing, for lack of water, even though we sprayed it daily. Thanks to a few heavy showers, it has finally started growing. We've even put on some manure and it looks like it is working. Our nice neighbour (not the Crazy One, the other one) has one of those lawn mowers you can sit on. He surprised us the other week by having mowed the entire meadow! Lovely geezer. We awarded him with an Iron Maiden Trooper Beer.

- our greenhouse has been spared the bombardment of the Hail Stones of Death that came down in several parts of Belgium last week. We had been a bit anxious and Dr Livingstone had devised a diabolical plan to counter this. Putting inflated air matrasses on top of the construction. In my honest opinion they wouldn't last five minutes, wind gusts were so severe, they would have ended up in Crazy Neighbour's pond anyway.

We did sit out in the garden awaiting a brief storm on the 9th and I managed to capture some very rare Altostratus undulatus asperatus.

I will leave you with a picture of Mouser who has taken the not unseemly task to hand paw to guard the hortensias.

As you can see it is extremely exhausting work and I'm not sure how long Kitteh with actually last under the heavy burden.


Steadily growing

One month on and I've spent a lot of hours in the garden so far. Mainly weeding and watering. It hasn't rained since the greenhouse went up.
We had to pump water from Crazy Neighbour's pond into our water tanks just to do our daily spraying.

Luckily, it rained last night! About 7mm for a prolonged 20 minutes or so.

So we haven't kept still all this time. We did get the odd spell of frost, which killed off an aubergine, some marigolds, basil and some Blue Mink Ageratum which I planted a few days prior. The courgettes also turned black, but they came through all right in the end. Also my hortensias (a blue and a white one) weren't too happy about the cold spell. I hope they will eventually pull through.

I've already harvested all my raddish. They were extremely tasty. A second batch are already sown and growing.

Our greenhouse has so far provided us with the perfect seating and drinking opportunity. It was an investment well worth the hassle. Just for the added pleasure of a prolonged evening under the glass roof. It's our own little drinking parlour, the table is my birthday gift from last year.Glad we decided on the 9 meter version of greenhouse, not the 6 meter. The price difference wasn't that great anyhow.

We have planted a number of seedlings that need to evolve into yummy veggies. 

From top to bottom we have three different tomato plants (I think Roma is one of them), a yellow and a red paprika, a cayenne pepper, more cherry tomato plants (about twelve of them!), cucumber, and two Frankenthaler grapevines. Also passiflora, kiwi, Van der Laan grapes and some salad are in the greenhouse.

Dr Livingstone bought a drip lead, which we snaked around all the things in the ground, so we only need to turn on the pump to water everything in one go! He also hooked the gutters up to a drain that in turn empties into a water butt which in turn opens up in a trench to get rid of excess water.

Outside I made beds for all of the strawberry shoots I managed to transplant. I also got in some three other varieties of strawberries which gives us a grand total of 5 now.
They are already yielding copious amounts of sweet fruits, which is exactly what I wanted.
Alas the beds look like I've buried the Belgian Red Devils there.

We made two veggie beds in front of the greenhouse, it is filling up with stuff as the time is right to put more things out. 

I leave you with a picture from the stable side of the garden. I'm trying to build some form of wild garden (managed of course), but due to lack of time it's not yet finished. The bulge with slates on top is the bee hotel facility. The trench I was talking about is seen on the right hand side. It's a kind of cloaca for the drainage system we had put in under the meadow (them orange things sticking out).


Drilling for bees

Every woman should have power tools.
But she needs to use the right ones to do the job.
Of course this woman likes using power tools. But it's hard work.
Until Dr Livingstone points out after some time I've been using the wrong things...

Our bee hotels (4 of them) are already nearly booked solid, so I though it was time to enlarge our hotel corporation and fashion our own. We've got some logs lying about we're never going to burn in the stove (conifer, contains too much resin). So I was off to the garage, called up Dr Livingstone to find out where he kept the drill ("It's in a grey case") and started out drilling holes.
That was bloody hard work. The wood proved very difficult to bore holes into.
Even if I set it to 'hammer drill' it still didn't do anything...
So I packed it in after a good 10 holes.

Dr Livingstone arrived home and I showed him my hard day's graft and explained that it was tougher than I had imagined it would be.

'Well, of course it would be. You're not using a wood drill.'


So he got the correct drill out (which was in another grey case) and accordingly started drilling holes like a hot knife through butter...



First time ever I've done this: sowing my own seeds and really intending to grow vegetables like a proper farmer.
Not on a grand scale mind you, but enjoying mucking about.
First thing I had in mind: only sow things you really like and are going to eat or are pleasant to look at or will propagate themselves the year after without having to sow again.
Last year we put in fennel, and I do not like the taste of anise at all.

I was very much the person in form last year and managed to recuperate sun flower seeds (which most of them were shared with the birds), dill seeds (loads of them), radish seeds and too much marigold seeds.
I also stripped the wild flowers that were in the front garden from some seeds so I will be sowing them a little bit later on directly into the ground.

But some trips to different garden centers for different seeds got me started. I bought a little planter device to make little heaps to put the seeds in.

I thought I would help myself by labeling everything I've sown and mentioning the date I sowed them on.
They were in the heated conservatory for about 1,5 weeks and slowly started to bud. Spinach was first out.

Much to our astonishment, after we eagerly transported the containers to the greenhouse, just after a couple of hours nearly 50% of everything had come up!
Just like putting a cake in the oven, and a couple of hours later: hey presto!

Amazing. We were quite chuffed to be honest!

So here's a picture of stuff trying to evolve into yummy vegetables for us:

In no particular order I've sown:

- spinach
- carrots
- onions (barletta and long thing ones)
- raddish
- pees
- beetroot
- water melon
- regular melon
- round salad
- paprika
- cayenne pepper
- parsley
- leek
- small tomatoes (2 varieties)
- cucumber

- low sunflowers
- tagates (marigold orange and yellow)
- larkspur
- snapdragon
- petunia
- lobelia
- Livingstone daisies (a fitting name!)

All are starting to bring forth small, but confident little green leaves, bar the larkspur. Perhaps I was a bit too early in sowing them. 

I also used old seeds ('to be sown before 2005') it said on the packing. But they're doing fine. 

Once everything is of an acceptable size it will be warm enough to put them in the soil outdoors.

The marigolds are going in rows between vegetables to keep away unwanted insects from roots and what have you. We also put them in the front garden last year, to that patch of ground has now been 'cleaned up' and we will put veggies in on that spot.

More from the garden in a next post...


Greenhouse treat part 2

So after the first step of ground moving stuff was completed we got in touch again with the greenhouse guys telling them that all was ready.

Again an early start for us as they were ready to build the structure before the crack of dawn. I was at the ready with coffee at some time before 7 a.m.

First up they put in some concrete foundation, we don't want it to be blown away when there's an intensified storm.

On top of these come the steel struts and in between the rest of the foundation. It immediately gives a good impression how it's going to look.

Next up the gutters go on top and then the roof and the support beams for the glass and hatches.

We chose to have a big sliding door of 1,5 meters fitted, it will allow a better air flow once temperatures climb up to 40ºC in summer.
Also two manual hatches and two automatic hatches that open according to the temperature inside.

The new greenhouse is huge (3 x 9 meters). It's that big because we wanted to have a little chill out spot inside it so we can have a beer when it is just a bit too nippy out and when there's a tad of annoying wind up.

The greenhouse in its entirety was put up in half a day. We put in the (recuperated) concrete slabs the following day (with Middle Teen's help) and were having a nice chilled beer by 4 pm.

We also started putting some things in it I'd sown a week or so earlier in our heated conservatory. It's got a tray holder at the back at a very convenient hight.

But I bundled the frail plants indoors again at night. Last week saw 20+ºC temperatures and temps just above freezing level at night.

More on the little seedlings in another post...


Greenhouse treat part 1

We've treated ourselves to something we've coveted ever since we started growing tomatoes in a plastic closet in the garden: a proper greenhouse.
Dr Livingstone's physical therapist had a second hand one installed in his garden, we got the address of the people who built it and got in touch with them.
They specialize in de-assembling old professional greenhouses, refurbish them and then rebuild them from scratch.
So we're doing our bit for the environment: cutting back on our ecological footprint by growing our own veggies, not using any pesticides while growing them AND using second hand material at the same time.

But before it could be build on our chosen spot, the ground had to be prepared. When we went round to the greenhouse people to order the thing they said it'd take about 4-6 weeks before they could come and deliver the thing.

But they gave us a buzz just three weeks later telling us "We'll be there tomorrow".

Alas, the ground wasn't ready to put it on just yet.
We still had to get rid of a huge amount of sand and get some fresh dark earth in to grow veggies on.

Luckily we found a guy who's cheap, fast, punctual and effective. He got rid of the excess sand, flattened the ground and supplied us with some truckloads of  great dirt.

This is the Chosen Spot.

It's bordering on Crazy Neighbour's™ plot.
An early start for me, as the digger showed up at 6.45 a.m.
The first step was scraping off about 30 cms of excess sand. In the background you can see the stables. I repainted a part of the front in a lighter colour last season, I still need to finish it by repainting all the hinges and metal stuff on the doors. It's a lot lighter and nicer to look at, a real transformation (for the better).

Then the dumpster truck replenished the area with new, good, normal ground so we can have lovely yummie veggies in a couple of months.

We also had another 5000 liter water tank fitted because the meadow which will be used for grazing needs to be drained of excess water. We're going to channel the water through a slowed water system. Is there should be some kind of mayor rainfall, it will help to get rid of too much water without dumping it immediately into the stream behind the stables. So it will function as a sort of buffer. We're one up on the newest environmental steps the government is willing to take to manage some future problems relating to the environment such as global warming.

The groundwater level is fairly high here, and if there is lots of rain, it tends to take days, sometimes weeks for the water to seep into the ground. There's some kind of impenetrable layer under ground and it has a funny green/blue-ish colour.

Also the water tank will provide us with water to -er- water the plants in summer so we do not have to use tap water. We filled it with water from Crazy Neighbour's™ pond to stop it from coming up because of the pressure from the ground water.


Garden thrift

I was browsing through some pictures of the insects in my garden last year, how I miss the lush, colourful vegetation!
Things are starting to bud here and there (peonies are go!) but we're still a long way away from spiders, bees and butterflies dangling from every available leaf and flower.
Although we did spot Polygonia c-album, Inachis Io and two Goneptherix rhamni fluttering about.
Anyway, here's a snap of Hylotelephium telephium starting to grow again.

I'm quite up to speed on clearing up from last year. I've done most of the pruning and clearing away of dead material. OF course it's nothing compared to last year when we started from scratch. So yay for me.

Dr Livingstone cleared the veg garden in front, we're filling it with new earth and making plans to plant lots of yummy stuff once its warm enough to sow or plant outdoors. We've also re-arranged the self-made crates to make access easier for weeding.

I know I promised to blog about stuff going on so here's a small update on loads of stuff that has been going on all year.

1) Last year we introduced flowers on the drive way, not only to please ourselves and our neighbours but also to prevent people from parking in front of our door. This really helps and (we hope) will keep away contractors once the owner of a piece of land next to our mad neighbour starts to prepare for building (but let's hope not).
Two weeks ago I bought 11 different colours of primula and kept them indoors for another week. Last week I put them in our home-made receptacles together with some violets. Of course it froze the very next night (doh!), so they have withered a bit.

I've left some space open to plant petunia's later on, when they've matured enough to go out.

The flower boxes are made out of plastic gutters and are mounted on 50cm high poles, whacked into the ground with a big, wooden mallet.
It was a much cheaper alternative to buying ready made ones. And it was fun making them too.

So stay tuned for a next installment about my garden thrift.


Kicked in

Spring has kicked in last weekend, setting record breaking temperatures since -er- records began. Two days in a row some 20ºC+. Lovely.

Loads of butterflies about, a greenhouse installed (oh yes!, more on that later) and already some seedlings rearing their fragile heads...


Meme from the past.

I know I posted yesterday that I'd stay clear of posting stuff about politics because they tired me.
But I just couldn't resist posting this when I thought of it.
It seemed appropriate. For those of you too young to know what the phrase means: check out the knowyoumemes.com site.


Hybernation on hold

Hybernation is over. I've emerged from that strangely, warm winter (with only on day of snow) as slightly overworked, too busy to post anything meaningful (as you might have noticed).
So, dear reader, if you are still there, I pledge to make up for lost time and bring you some updates again about the World.

First off I'd like to point out that I'd had numerous things I wanted to blog about, be refrained from doing so. This was due to a lot of reasons. Mostly because I was going to comment on the political situation in the absurd little country that is my native Belgium. We've got elections in May and it has taken up most of the politicians time since spring last year.
So I'm quite done with it, and want nothing to do with political banter.
But alas, it is everywhere and there is no escaping it. Within a couple of weeks election banners and bill boards will be up and on display in every sympathizers front garden.

I'm finishing up my masters degree this year. But my professional work has dominated everything and I'll have to do my very best to write my paper and make it look interesting enough for some scholar to notice it and take me on board for some research project.

Lastly we've been busy in the garden yet again, I've done my bit so far. Getting rid of weeds, planting bulbs, clipping some bushes and ... sowing some seeds.
Will update on this because we've got big plans for this spring. Currently we have a crane with caterpillar tracks in the garden, so stay tuned!

For now, I'll leave you with a picture of lovely Mouser who's been really sweat and cuddly all through winter and has been a big help counting mice for statistical reasons.