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...