Friday 25 July 2014


One of those happy garden coincidences, two nice
purples next to one another.
These are stultifyingly hot days. We are reduced, by lunchtime, to pathetic, drippy, exhausted shadows of our former selves, crashed out somewhere in the shade to keep cool. I have taken the mower to bits to rid its airways  and throttle mechanism of dried (and some black scorched) grass, and I have painted undercoat on wooden parts of the trailer and the new gate into the bee-hive area / rabbit run and I have walked the dogs, but that's about my lot; Liz has battled through a load of laundry. At least now there is a tiny breeze. Mad dogs and Englishmen? We are sitting under the terrace furniture parasol sipping cold drinks.

Only the bees continue to show any enthusiasm and it is in their job description; in hot weather you go foraging. The hens are all laid up in the shade of trees at the top of the Secret Garden, the rabbits under their shade sheets on the lawn, or in Ginny and Padfoot's case, the shade of the big ash tree. The pigs are making good use of the rain water ditch as their wallow, as was the plan.

and there let us wallow in glorious mud.
When we were doing the build we connected up all the rain down-pipes to 4 inch underground drains running under the yard and joining up just by the end of the chicken house. These tip out into a deep ditch to the right (East) of the Secret Garden which takes the water away down to the stream at the bottom Anna's land. We had this cleared by mini-digger but inevitably it has since become a glory-hole for stinging nettles, ground elder and over hanging hawthorn and ash. The piggies quickly discovered it almost on Day 1 and reveled in nipping up and down it under cover like taking the subway from top to bottom of their patch, popping up at either end with a quick and impressively nimble gallop up the almost sheer bank. Since then they have enjoyed the wetness of the place after rain, when the rest of their patch can be a bit dry and pine-needly, good for dust bathing but not so useful as a wallow.

Spring onions - "scallions" in these parts.
Mapp in particular seems to like a good wallow and regularly comes to supper in an attractive (?) pie-bald version of herself, ginger above the plimsoll line, black below. Black too from her nose to her eyes, so that you can see she's been rootling down to a good 6 inches but has kept her eyes out of the mud. The pair are still charming me and amuse me regularly with new versions of 'play' especially when they emerge, full bellied from supper to join me and the dogs for a conversation through the orchard fence. The dogs are off the leads for their evening half hour running about and the pigs gambol over, 'talk' to them and then play running up and down the fence, dogs one side, pigs the other.

Guinea fowl Min is still laying eggs, usually hidden so we
never know the dates. This one was in the clump of mint.
Yesterday I put the following in Facebook."The pair are relaxing with full bellies, lying on the grass. Mapp lies on her right side, eyes shut. Lucia comes up and shoves her nose in under Mapp's belly, amidships and hefts upwards. Mapp gets flipped over , rolling across her own spine, her legs flopping over in a great arc till she whacks down on her left side, still apparently asleep with her eyes shut, grunting with joy. Lucia works her way around so she can flop her sister back over. Very funny to watch. Mapp seems to just suck it up, completely un-bothered." Daft as a brush the pair of them.

Finally, our membership card to the Bee Keepers' group
"Gardens, like cities, are store houses of personal myth and memory. A tree, just like that particular chair in that particular courtyard café, has its place in many other stories besides your own. Who knows who planted it, and why; who stole a first kiss under it a hundred years ago; who sat beneath its branches looking up at the sky the evening war was declared, or paced up and down around it while his children were born upstairs? We think of gardens as 'ours', when really, all we are doing is adding our own chapter of experience and memory, along with the plants we plant or the seeds we sow, to a long-existing story" Amen to that Elspeth Thompson, late garden writer for the Sunday Telegraph, whose book I'd forgotten we had and which I grabbed recently off the shelf when looking for something to read. I love it for its descriptions of early fumblings and beginner-ish exploration attempting to do 'organic' in a small city garden and an allotment and I love it for being in small weekly-column bite-sized pieces. It can go a bit weird on you, possibly as she was by then a famous newspaper type and prey to all manner of creative types suggesting ideas for her garden and column (which they could then, presumably sell to the readers). In one article she is visited by a garden feng shui expert who is looking for twisted underground energy (chi) lines and unblocking the energetic log-jam with dowsing rods and hammering in metal 'acupuncture' needles. Each to his own, I guess; I just 'clicked' on through. Rest in Peace, Elspeth. The book is 'Urban Gardener' pub 1999 Orion, ISBN 0-75282-699-9

Sunny snooze for Pirate
Meanwhile Pirate the cat has settled in nicely and, as far as we know, now stays around the caravan and 2CV and is always there for his regular meals, which he no longer feels the need to wolf down, gorging himself. His over all health is improving nicely and we have had only one setback - the empty eye socket, stitched shut with dissolvable stitches has now popped open again once the stitches dissolved. He will need to go back to the vet for another try but this means sedation and Aoife is loath to sedate him too many times a month, so he's waiting till next week.

Enjoy the heat and sunshine. I'm off to find another ice-cooled elder flower cordial.

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