Brooding on Beangenie…

Bear with me. No pics. Well, maybe a couple. At the end… oh, OK, here’s one to be going on with, of the gorse which has suddenly gone mad and made the air smell strongly of coconut:


Very cheerful, and a good start to the year.

Now, when I started Beangenie and Woolwinding, almost exactly four years ago, I had decided that I would split my blogs up. I felt that the gardeners might be bored by the constant wittering about wool and sheep – never a friend to a gardener, especially when they are wall-climbing, mountaineering sheep, like the ones we have here – and that the woolly people might not be interested in the trials and tribulations of making something grow in the teeth of Irish Sea gales. Of course there’s a crossover (I’m one myself), but I knew from reading many, many blogs that too many posts which fail to grip just make readers go away. Or maybe that is just me… but I still feel this was the right decision.

Over the past few years some of the garden blogs I used to read before I started blogging myself have fallen by the wayside. Life, it seems, has taken over. Or possibly slugs and the need to eliminate them have taken up more time (I know that’s not just me, even if I do choose to serenade mine, which probably is just me) .

Some – blogs, not slugs – spring gloriously into life now and then, and some have vanished completely or are frozen in 2011. I was talking about this with a friend last year, and she felt that she had lost her mojo, that she was doing the same thing on her blog year after year – reporting on the same but different changes to the same but different borders, talking about the same, not-so-different plants. I know I can be guilty of that (hey, it’s October so let’s have a post about a bonfire), and there is a tendency for a garden blog to turn into an online version of a gardener’s notebook. Interestingly, this is also tendency with woolly blogs, and many of the ‘look what I’ve knitted’ blogs, also chronicling projects undertaken and completed, have also vanished. They seem to have a natural lifespan.

There’s nothing wrong with a gardener’s diary, of course (pictures of pother people’s plants being much more interesting than pictures of other people’s pullovers), but I’m not entirely sure that’s what I want to do all the time, even though I like reading about how other people’s gardens adapt and change. That’s part of the reason why I’ve not posted as much in 2014. The other reason is the silly online stalker, but SOS isn’t, after all, worth considering and has finally stopped creeping me out. So what am I going to do in 2015?

I’m not stopping, that I do know.

I’m a writer first and foremost, before I’m a knitter or a spinner or a gardener or an archaeologist, and I’ve been writing since I was six and am not stopping now (though I have moved on a little from stories about cake-baking dinosaurs living in a shed). I just need to find out what path I want to go down. Woolwinding was never a ‘look what I’ve knitted’ blog, but I went through this debate over there some time ago and resolved it. Now Beangenie has caught up. But I also think I have an answer, sort of, partly inspired by the ‘tree following’ posts I’ve been doing.

I’m going to branch out a bit.
(Sorry, just noticed the ‘branch out’ – ouch. But that’s what I have in mind, pun or no pun.)

A garden isn’t an isolated thing, a square – or rectangle, in my case – cut out of the landscape in which it sits. It is most emphatically part of its environment, whether the garden is a 10m x 70m rectangle behind a Victorian terrace in south London or half an acre up a Welsh hillside. The sea below me, the mountains to my back, the woods more immediately behind the house, even the village – they’re all part of my garden, directly (thanks for the bracken, wildy bit next door) or more indirectly (the impact of Next Door’s Cat, er, Cats). The village, especially in the form of escaping sheep, over-assertive felines and garden shows, already makes an appearance. The landscape tends to take more of a back seat. I think I’ve been taking it for granted, a bit.

So I’m going to be getting out into it, and featuring it here, a little more than I already have. Yes, there’ll still be updates on the garden, lots of pictures of primroses and irises and dahlias and marigolds and tomatoes; debates about what do to do and whether/when/how to murder the Hell Hound of Harlech, let alone the cats who think they live here too.

But there’ll also be more posts about the plant life around me, whether that’s the local woods or the Plantlife Wildflower Survey I hope to be doing in the dunes near Harlech. I’m also going to carry on tree following – I learned so much about my birch, and close observation is, by itself, fascinating – but I’m choosing another tree for the rest of 2015, and one outside the garden this time. That means I’ve got a dilemma, though I have narrowed it down to – oh, about sixty.

Or possibly more:


Maybe in here, somewhere? I can’t follow a whole wood…

Or maybe this one – it really is one and not three – which is slightly easier to access in bad weather?


Let’s see where this goes…


38 thoughts on “Brooding on Beangenie…

  1. leafencounterwp

    I made exactly the same decision about separating out blogs and for the same reason as you – my other blog is a yarny one (the hook stook). Love the sound of your plans to expand – when I set up the leaf encounter blog, I always knew it would be a garden/other nature blog which gives much more scope for posting something fresh. You have the perfect setting for telling stories from over the fence. PS. cake baking dinosaurs living in a shed surely has potential in your adult life!!?

    1. kate Post author

      Oh good, another split personality! I think you’re right about the ‘something fresh’: I do feel this is the way to go. Every time the landscape has intruded on the Beangenie, it’s gone down well. Don’t know why I’ve not done it more often, really. All change!

      (When I wrote that about the dinosaur story I did think ‘hmm, maybe…’ I think pirates were also involved, as far as I recall. I was never a girly girl, no pink for me, always – perhaps – an incipient Goth, even at eight.)

    1. kate Post author

      Thanks – I think this will work. Though today (cold, windy, imminent storm) only the area immediately round the house looks appealing!

  2. Joey

    Yikes! I’m one of those SOS (I’m glad we’ve stopped creeping you out). When, years ago, I wrote a professional blog in support and promotion of my small needlework business, I always felt “exposed”; I didn’t like the feeling and the blog and the business eventually fell to the wayside. However, I love reading well-written blogs that touch upon subjects that interest me. But ultimately it is more than interesting subject matter that keeps me coming back to any particular blog. For me, it has to do with lives. I can’t quite put my finger on the “why” of it being so important to me, but blogs (along with biography) give me a glimpse into what it means to be human. And in my own way, I’m able to honor a life by thus witnessing it. Although I understand the ebb and flow of blogs (either due to the author’s need to move on, or mine), I’m glad to read that you will continue writing in this forum.

    1. kate Post author

      No, you’re not a SOS, please DON’T think that! (I knew my SOS, once upon a time. SOS never comments, just lurks, but favourites all my tweets etc and gets very difficult indeed if blocked. I outed the SOS on Woolwinding, and it went quiet for a bit:

      When I trained as a journalist we were told that the first person had no place in journalism: no, ‘I’, no ‘we’, except in brief comment columns. Obviously that all changed some time ago with the growth of lifestyle columns (at the expense of real news, grumble, chunter), and it took ages for me to accept that it was possible to write for publication and be personal at the same time. That’s one of the reasons why I came to blogging comparatively late, I suppose.

      I love reading blogs and I love blogging, and I think you’ve put your finger on it: it IS about more than just interesting subject matter. It’s about getting to ‘know’ a person, building up some sort of relationship, at least a bit, and of course you only get to know what they publish (I am actually an elegant 6ft tall millionaire supermodel, masquerading as a short and stroppy mixed-bag-but-mostly-Celt for a laugh, damn, my secret is out) – and that relationship is two-way: between the blogger and the blog’s readers and commenters, which is why I love everyone’s comments and love responding to them. Bloody Norah, that was a long sentence (breaking more journalism 101 rules, again).

      But let nobody underestimate the dangers of putting yourself in a public forum, especially this week. I only have the SOS t worry about, and I’m refusing to do that now. JE SUIS CHARLIE. JE SUIS AHMED. JE SUIS JUIF.

  3. Cathy

    An interesting and thoughtful discourse with yourself Kate. Blogs often take on a life of their own it seems and pull you in directions you didn’t intend to go in or along paths you didn’t know were there. You have wrestled yours under control in this post and erected a new direction sign and I Iook forward to watching the way it goes in the future..

    1. kate Post author

      Thanks for your support too, Cathy – I think, after four years, it’s probably a good point to assess anyway. I’m looking forward to reaching out a little. Hm, except for today, when my main aim is to light the stove, find my knitting and generally not get wet by going outside unless it’s to get more logs… there’s a downside already!

      (But it might make me find my wellies, rather as though I’d got a new puppy. Who can tell?)

  4. croftgarden

    I hope you don’t think I’m being creepy, but my heart sank when I started to read your post immediately assuming that you were going to give up your blogs. I do enjoy your writing and your posts are interesting and informative with a wry eccentricity.there is no one else who can discuss wandering crocuses, dragons and knitted bathing suits with the right degree of seriousness.
    For many of us gardening is an integral part of our lives and for those of us who live in very rural areas the interest extends over the garden wall into the landscape. So it is not surprising that our blogs do likewise and we set off to explore other avenues and discover other passions. For many of us these are what makes a blog worth reading and puts them head and shoulders above the ordinary.
    So can I encourage you to keep writing and I’ll happily keep reading about sheep, your garden, wool and knitting, wild flowers, plants, the village flower show and whatever takes your fancy.

    1. kate Post author

      Oh, thanks so much – now way I’m giving up, and you are definitely not being remotely creepy, no SOS you! in fact, Croftgarden is one of my models for what I want to do…

      (I know the SOS’s name. I know where SOS lives, and works, and that SOS stalks me in work time – a fact the SOS seems to forget, from time to time, until reminded. There, that’s done – should settle down again now – see my reply to Joey!) I admit that there were points when I thought it would be easier to give up, that this would remove one more potential interaction with SOS, but – and even more important this week, given the horrific events in France – you should never, ever, give into harassment. The SOS is so very teeny-weeny, itsy-bitsy, miniscule, petit-petite, minor by comparison, but the same principle applies.

      Your recent post had me reaching for my own soapbox, especially as a half-Frog of independent-minded tendencies and a generally stroppy upbringing. Indeed, nous sommes tous Charlie. Et Ahmed. Et Juifs. Et everybody who agrees with what Voltaire allegedly said: ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it’.

      1. croftgarden

        It is not easy to stand firm when the harassment is very personal, but if we give in then the abusers will win. So it is not physical intimidation, but the principle is the same.
        It is very flattering, but I’m not sure you should use me as a role model, you could get into all kinds of trouble – but that’s what makes life interesting.

        1. kate Post author

          Indeed. What’s the quote – ‘all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men [sic!] to do nothing…’ ish, I can’t remember exactly, and in fact, I’m not sure it ever was a real ‘quote’ from anybody eminent, I think it was speech-written for President Kennedy. You’ve got to object to the small things otherwise you’re out of the habit when it comes to bigger ones. And where would we be without trouble?

          (Perhaps the obvious answer to that question – at the moment – should be avoided. But there’s got to be trouble!)

  5. VP

    Nice to see your thoughts and those of your commenters on this post, Kate.

    When I started blogging I was going to have a ‘niche’* blog – all about my allotment. Hence the chosen name. I quickly found that there was too much other stuff that I found far too interesting and that I HAD to write something about. So stuff the niche blog 😉

    So I decided to write about anything I wanted to and I haven’t regretted it one bit. I’m pleased that the name ‘Veg Plot’ had already gone, adding the ‘ting to the title gave me that freedom, especially as lots of the ideas for posts write themselves in my head whilst I’m on the allotment, so it kinda works. In my head anyway!

    However, I soon found I needed to branch away from Veg Plotting to a format which was more pictorial, less wordy, definitely without any links and which satisfied my curiosity about the Blogger vs WordPress debate. Hence Sign of the Times was born.

    * I get really irritated by the twaddle written about this topic 😉

    PS I was on a writing course last year where it was said blogging had transformed the written media. It helped break down the barriers about being personal in writing – I found that an interesting remark.

    1. kate Post author

      With you on the twaddle about niche blogs… oh yeah… some people act almost as though there were Blogging Police about (my hands are a bit cold and I mistyped that and ended up with Blogging Olive, who would probably have a very niche blog all about Popeye and spinach).

      And I do agree about spreading outwards; I’m sure that’s the key. It’s quite easy to write yourself into a corner, and while I don’t think that’s been happening (not while there are ‘dragons’ who dig in my flower beds and sheep who just saunter in through the gate), I could see it as a danger. I’m interested to see where I will go – that’s apart from up into the hills / woods, down onto the beach…

      1. VP

        Whenever someone asks me about blogging ‘rules’ – I always say there are no rules. That’s the beauty of blogging and that’s also why it’s OK for someone to use blogging as their garden diary or whatever if they want to. We’ll always find people to enjoy reading (and looking at the pics), whatever the content. It’s also great that we can each choose our own reading lists, instead of whatever an editor chooses to give us. Your choice will be different to mine and that’s brilliant.

        1. kate Post author

          You’re quite right, but some people do love to impose imaginary rules on others (hrrrrrumpffff, don’t get me going, back to Je Suis Charlie). I quite lost count of the people who told me I should do this and/or not do that, and I’m happy to say I’ve ignored the lot. as everyone should!

  6. VP

    PPS totally forgot to say in that long ramble, that I welcome your ‘expanded’ blog decision and I’m looking forward to seeing what you have to say, whatever the topic is. I’m more interested in seeing the whole person on a blog, just like we are with people in real life.

    1. kate Post author

      That wasn’t a ramble, it was focused. My goodness, if you think that’s rambling…

      I have a feeling that the past will materialise here a bit more often, as well as the landscape. They’re together here, with chambered tombs and standing stones scattered about (a magnificent double chambered tomb is five minutes away, next to the school), and I did train as an archaeologist…

      1. VP

        I’ve been meaning to visit said tomb as I spotted it on the OS map. Somehow it’s never quite happened when I’ve come up to visit. Quite a lot of the landscape and beach from my visits turns up on Sign of the Times – often just after I’ve been. Spooky that.

        1. kate Post author

          Right, next time you’re over – and it’s just opposite the Artist’s Garden. Two birds with one stone! (Also there’s a beauty on the hill above here – right next to the tree I might be following for the next year. If I can make my mind up which tree I am going to follow, that is…

  7. welshhillsagain

    Great idea. The blogs I really enjoy tend to be the ones which are really well written (like yours) but which also offer a window into someone’s life. I can’t imagine that you could write about anything without being interesting and funny! My blog has wandered about all over the place in the nearly eight years I have been writing it. Sometimes it has had a very strong preoccupation with the garden, because that has been what has been in my head. At other times it has moved inside, got interested in knitting, had a rant about bullying or being a step parent. I used to wonder if I “should” be more disciplined in what I write about but I have come to the conclusion that it is my blog and I will do whatever I feel like on it!

    1. kate Post author

      Thanks Elizabeth, and Welsh Hills Again is a great example of what I’m talking about. Always interesting, always in your distinctive voice, always well illustrated, no matter what the subject of the specific post may be. And rants are good too – there’s always someone who agrees with you, as well as some who may not. We can’t blog in a void, after all. Hooray for blogging, et vive la liberté!

  8. Spade & Dagger

    I read both your blogs, and would happily see them combined, despite the fact that I garden, but will never tackled a fleece. I enjoy your enthusiasm for wool as much as for gardens. A successful blog seems to reflect the personality of the blogger and including a wider variety of topics that appeal to you will undoubtedly carry the interest of your followers (and hopefully generate a wide range of comments).

    1. kate Post author

      Thank you – that’s reassuring!

      One thing I have found very interesting is that gardeners just seem to chat more – both blogs are doing well, but WW has more visitors. WW has great discussions, but this blog has ENORMOUSLY more!

      1. Spade & Dagger

        Pretty sure that’s because the gardening gene is linked on the same chromosome as the chew-the-fat gene !

  9. Anna

    Keeping two blogs going must be a bit like juggling Kate. I think that gardening blogs including mine can become repetitive over time, although some of that is probably dictated by the seasonal nature of gardening. I’m looking forward to seeing what direction ‘Beangenie’ takes as the year unfolds. You live in a beautiful part of the country and I am one reader who would like to know more about your immediate environment. I would also be happy to read stories about cake-baking dinosaurs living in a shed – they sound much more friendly than the big spiders that live in my shed.

    1. kate Post author

      I’m sure you’re right – the seasonality certainly gives us a recurring theme. I was talking about this yesterday with Artist’s Garden, who hasn’t blogged that much recently, and she feels the same. It is so easy to forget that where you live, while it might seem ordinary to you, isn’t ordinary to everyone else, and we do have an advantage round here in that it is stunning. I’m going to be doing a Plantlife wildflower survey (or I think I am, depends on the plots they give me and how many of them are up a cliff) in the dunes near here, and that will definitely find its way onto here…

      (I’m definite;y going to have to find the Shedosaurus manuscript!)

  10. Janet/Plantaliscious

    There are blogging police?! Oh heck… But hurrah for finding a new sense of direction, when I started reading I got nervous that you were going to close Beangenie down! I would love to read more about your surroundings, animal, vegetable and mineral, not least because it is one of my favourite areas of the world. If you could just wander down to Pensarn Harbour and take the walk out across the fields to the dunes on the beach, that would be great…

    Wildflower survey on the dunes at Harlech sounds rather fab too!

    I think the best gardens – and gardeners – have a strong sense of place, and I know you do, so it will be great to read more about it, but I insist on regular updates on the meadow too. Just sayin’…

    1. kate Post author

      Oh no, getting me to shut up is really difficult and a task not to be undertaken lightly. I’m certainly not up to it! I will try and make sure that I do that walk to the beach at least once – hm, wonder if there’s a suitable tree in that direction? No, mostly low scrub, won’t do…

      There will certainly be regular meadow updates. After all, it’s where I’m planning on burying the Hell Hound of Harlech, if she doesn’t stop digging. Grrrrrrr

  11. Sue@GLAllotments

    I found this really interesting as I went through the same evolution as VP and am stuck with a name that doesn’t really reflect the true content. I read comments that people wrote on other blogs about enjoying blogs that focused on gardening and didn’t stray into look where I went on holiday posts. When asked my visitors wrote that they enjoyed feeling that a blog author was a person rather than a two dimensional gardening magazine writer and I felt the same way,

    One comment was that it was my blog and I should write what I wanted so I have,

    I think we all go through a period of assessment and as for Blog Police some of my typos would have them reaching for their truncheons,

    1. kate Post author

      For some bizarre reason this disappeared into spam. Now rescued – forgive me for not replying sooner!

      The name thing does happen, doesn’t it? (I started with ‘castonqueen’ for my knitting blog – I’m blaming red wine for that – but soon dumped it, though it’s still unfortunately linked to my gravatar, but with a quick holding and redirecting post.) I’m wary of what I tend to call the ‘perfect life’ blogs: you know, all photographs of beautifully positioned stones and blond children and irritating fonts. I really don’t want to go down that route, though I’d have to borrow the kids. It’s a difficult one…

      And you’re so right – no blog police!


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