Knackered, cream crackered, utterly whacked

Phew.

I’ve been a bad blogger. But I’ve been quite a good gardener, at least in lugging things, cutting things, dead-heading things, demolishing things and not spending a huge amount of money on other things. It’s the time of year, and in some aspects (especially the latter) it will get worse in October. But some jobs are done.

The meadow is gone and the footpath tracks will fade, but for the moment it does look a bit like a patchwork quilt. Not a very good quilt, and one with shaved anthills (oops), but a quilt nonetheless.

meadow gone

Some of the hay got burnt in the giant bonfire, some found its way into my brown bin, some went in the compost and some disappeared, I know not where (actually I do know where, but I’m not saying). There was a heck of a lot to dispose of this year and the strim / leave / use mulching mower option wasn’t possible. There are still a few optimistic butterflies dancing about, and even the occasional cricket calling, but the nights are getting colder and they’d better all cwtch up for the winter. Thinking along the same lines I went shopping for clothes last week and came back with a new doormat and an axe. Well, I need the latter for logs. I also need clothing, but hey.

We had the traditional immense and barely controlled conflagration,

fire1

this time to get rid of the skimmia, among other debris. P is still mattocking roots out, so I’m sure this will be a two-bonfire autumn. We also had the traditional hunt for the baked potatoes which vanished despite the insertion of a metal rod to mark the spot (they vanished because the fire was so hot that the rod disintegrated). Amazingly I failed with another tradition – the generating of complaints from neighbours. Everyone is burning stuff this year.

I’ve been harvesting like mad. The spuds are all up, the shallots and garlic have largely dried off and are in use, the freezers are full of beans and I’m giving extra runners away, the apples are almost all in their new homes (phew and double phew) being turned into chutneys and crumbles by other people as well as by me. I ate too many plums,

plums

and I’m still getting the odd courgette, so they stay a little bit longer. The greenhouse has been cleared, with the last of the tomatoes going into chutneys. Cabbage whites have eaten the kale and purple sprouting broccoli down to the stems, but they’ll be fine once it gets a bit colder.

In the flowery parts of the garden, the deadheading marathon is getting a bit silly and I’m letting it slip. This means that the entire place will be covered in calendula next year, but I shall rootle them out then. I’m rather hoping that the cosmos will set seed, because they are fab.

cosmos

In fact my ‘scatter seeds straight on’ bed has been a huge, huge, hit. The salvias are over now, as are the poppies and the white daisy-like flowers that should have been something else, but the cosmos have more than compensated. It’s interesting – I sowed some separately as normal and planted them out individually as well as scattering the remaining seed here, and yet these have done markedly better. Hmm. I’m certainly repeating the experiment next year and have bought some half-price packets of seeds in Wilkos to that end (larkspur, more cosmos in case they don’t set enough themselves, and a crimson flax).

Next on my target list are the lavenders. The four big ones, the last to flower, are now clearly over but I cannot touch them:

bzzzzz

They are still heaving with bees, bees so overburdened that they can hardly fly, bees so stunned by the abundance that they are incredibly tolerant of my attempts at portraiture. You can hear the noise of the buzzing when you walk round the front of the house, but it does seem to be getting fainter. Slightly fainter. Other wildlife seems equally present, possibly temporarily, at least going by the sheer number of dead things Next Door’s Cat is leaving for me (she’s a rodent specialist, so I’m quite tolerant of her exploits). I opened the shed – aka old ty bach, ex-outside toilet – the other day to get a trug and discovered a dead mouse in it already (tidy cat) which I hurled over the wall into the wildy bit. Thank heavens for the wildy bit, though I do suspect that’s where most of the rodents she finds come from originally. I hope it is, anyway…

Enough. I’ve also been excavating the containers I have on the outside of the garden, along the lane. I planted those up with Geranium macrorrhizum album because I felt guilty about uprooting it and throwing it out – those days have gone – but it didn’t work and so I’ve popped some little violas in (‘lemon blueberry swirl’):

violas

Soooo cute, certainly much cuter than G. mac.

What else? Well, we’ve done some more work on supporting climbers on the gable end, and I’ve bought a new Parthenocissus, henryii, to go up it. The rose hedge by the kitchen has been pruned by the simple expedient of hedge-trimming it (I heard Bob Flowerdew state that prissy pruning was a Victorian invention, designed to keep armies of under-gardeners in work, so I’m going with it). I’ve trimmed the eschallonia – again. I’ve weeded and dead-headed and not committed murder of anything other than a non-performing artichoke, which I think is quite restrained.

And now the foraging season begins. What can I do with these, other than rowan jelly, I wonder?

rowan

I know, P will take them for his rowan wine. The last lot was made four years ago, and is sensational. Apparently. I go for spirits, and have put up blackberry whisky so far. Next the sloe gin and – possibly, if I can find decent ones, always a bit iffy round here – elderberry liqueur. It’s sensational, and very effective against colds. Elderberries are high in vitamin C, after all, though its efficacy could have something to do with the half litre of brandy also used. Yum. Drool. Dribble.

I feel I’ve deserved it, and tomorrow I have to clear out the shed. Who knows what horrors await?

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16 thoughts on “Knackered, cream crackered, utterly whacked

  1. Pauline

    Good heavens, I feel exhausted just reading about how busy you have been! Thanks for the tip about the Cosmos, that will save faffing about in the spring with seed, too many other jobs to do then.

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      I’m not sure the cosmos thing counts as a tip as such – all I can say is that it really worked for me. As the bed began flowering, I thought I’d no cosmos at all but they must have been hiding. Now it’s almost all cosmos (and dying salvias, ahem).

      Today will be a tough one. We’ve had the Annual Hedge Conversation several times, now is the day for putting it into action. Bad tempers all round…

      Reply
  2. Christina

    I’m exhausted by reading what you’ve been doing too! Envious that you’ve done so much and I haven’t even started! Except that the lavender was pruned in August so it can look decent for winter. You must feel very noble!

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      I’m not quite sure how it happened – it only seems like a lot when I look back, but in actual fact the changes have been massive. I think it’s helped that we have had a summer this year; there haven’t been many days when rain stopped play. Or stopped the ripping out of skimmia roots, anyway.

      Reply
  3. hillwards

    It’s been a good weekend for getting down to the dirty, ugly jobs. You’ve been really busy, definitely deserve to have your feet up with a glass of something restorative. The cosmos look fantastic, we’ve only had a couple here this year as I (lazily) trusted to them self-sowing – next year I’m back on deliberate sowing! Sara.

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      I never trust anything to self-seed completely (er, except calendulas, and they do it where you don’t want). It will be interesting to see what happens next year in that bed and I must remember to weed out the weeds, as it were. I’ve got the biggest clover in the universe in there too…

      Reply
    1. kate Post author

      There are two plants in it already!

      (Actually I do have to wait a bit, because the things I’m moving can’t quite yet be moved, if you see what I mean. So my excuse is valid.)

      Reply
  4. Cathy

    Yes, you would have deserved a glass of elderberry liqueur or blackberry whisky after all your endeavours and then such a massive post to tell us all about it. After discussions on your blog last year about calendula and their pretty patterns I grown them this year (no pretty patterns) and was thinking I would let them self seed, but this now sounds like s Big Mistake… Your seed scattered bed was indeed great – and those cosmos are stunning! As a teenager I used to sow clarkia and flax, but have they gone ‘out of fashion’ do you think, as you rarely hear people mention them?

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      Oh clarkia, I’d forgotten clarkia! I loved clarkia too, I must get some (and the seeds always geminated, I remember). I’m sure you’re right and they’re out of fashion. And everlasting flowers – helichrysum, I think? Where did they go? Where’s the Thompson and Morgan catalogue?

      I’ve had some stripy calendulas but not a lot or as emphatic; I probably should protect them from cross-pollination. However I have also had an amazingly bright, clear, sunflower-yellow one: must save that. It came up all by itself in one of the bean teepees (see what I mean) and I didn’t spot it, but I’d probably have left it anyway as I always grow some near the beans as a distraction for the blackfly.

      Reply
  5. wellywoman

    Not surprised you’re knackered. You put me to shame. I’m slowly getting back into the swing of having some time to garden and then it rains. Today was meant to be a bulb planting day but looks like an admin day. 😦 Your mouse tale made me smile, I’ve just written about our neighbour’s cat and its ‘treats’. I suppose it means less mice queuing up to get into the house for winter.

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      Another one here too. My bulbs are waiting, poor little things.

      Hadn’t thought about that plus side on the rodent front. Rats for me (they’re her fave), so that has to be a HUGE plus.

      Reply
  6. Janet/Plantaliscious

    Good grief Kate, I’m exhausted just reading this! I have questions. First, what kind of plums do you grow. I want a plum tree and am torn between trying the Denbigh plum (allegedly Wales’ only native plum) or going for something more mainstream, but I figure if it grows for you it should for me. Second, what do you mean the sprouting broccoli will be fine once it gets colder?! I just heaved mine out in disgust it was so eaten away. Am now wondering if it is still recoverable from the pre-compost heap heap… Thirdly, any good spicy tomato chutney recipes, ‘cos I have loads of toms. I have a good green tom chutney recipe which I will almost certainly have to utilise again given the lack of sun recently, but I have an excess of red toms now. Well, they say if you want something doing ask a busy person, so you just became my go-to person!!

    Seriously though, impressive gardening and non-shopping.

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      I find gin very helpful indeed!

      OK, questions… First, I grow a couple of the local wild plums, eirin bach, which are really more of a damson but very tasty if you beat the birds, good for jam. Indestructible and many people round here have saplings they’re only too glad to get rid of. I also have a Victoria which seems to cope well with the conditions, but I don’t find the plums the tastiest in the world, don’t know if that’s me, the tree or the environment; ironically it crops very well, so I add the plums to other things when cooking. I tried a couple of greengages but they didn’t survive…

      PSB – it springs back to life when the caterpillars are picked off thoroughly and/or die in the cold, or at least mine does. I’ve had them revive from bare stems and do OK. Sorry!

      Chutney – I make tons every year (some gets sold at the big Christmas craft fair in Harlech, some gets given and some I just sit on till it gets sublime. My core recipe is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Glutney, which is very adaptable, and I’ve made it with red toms very successfully in the past (this year I just ate them). I find the quantity of liquid a bit high though, and do tend to add more chillies! It’s a traditional, UK ‘chutney’ rather than one with a clear influence from Indian cuisine, mind.

      Reply
      1. Janet/Plantaliscious

        Mmm, well,, if I ever manage to make it off the Island for a visit maybe I will go door to door requesting unwanted wild plum saplings! In the mean time you have convinced me to avoid Victorias, if I only grow one, I want it to be a good one, and one I can’t buy. “Bother” is the polite version of the PSB response, but hey, not a mistake I will make again, I was really hacked off by the damage hence the hasty pulling up. Will try the glutney recipe. Must dig out the jars and wash them… Thank you!

        Reply
        1. kate Post author

          I wish I’d thought twice before getting the Victoria, too. Having said that, it worked beautifully in a mixed fruit crumble with apples and blackberries! I’m not sure what I’d like instead, but that’s a bit theoretical now… sniff..

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