Saturday, 30 March 2013

Spring Break Madness and Friendly Robins

Around this time of year we always take a spring break before the gardening season starts proper.  You must think we are mad considering the weather we have been having.  We usually leave early on a Sunday morning arriving a couple of hours later, just in time to unpack, go down to the Quay for a look-see, have a pint of delicious Wherry ale then on to our favourite pub for Sunday lunch.  NOT THIS YEAR.  We were snowed in on the Sunday – there were drifts right across the road, and as we had to go across country to get to the motorway, we daren’t chance getting stuck. 

So we delayed our holiday for a day in the hope that weather conditions would be better in the morning.  Luckily, they were.  We took it steady and the further east we went, the less snow there was.  When we reached our destination there was no snow at all.  HURRAH!  But it was cold, oh so cold.  The wind was coming straight from Siberia with nothing to stop it.  On the positive side it was sunny and bright and not raining or snowing, we would just have to adjust our plans a little.

One day we visited Holt, a lovely little Georgian town full windey streets and alleyways with lots  of independent shops selling beautiful top-quality stuff, and loads of retro and vintage goodies.

To keep out of the cold wind we took the woodland path at Holkham and visited the two hides on the estate with binoculars at the ready.  Amazingly we saw a pair of Barn Owls hunting together and two Muntjac Deer grazing.  Neither were near enough to photograph unfortunately. 

The following day we walked through the woods at Wells to collect pine cones for our wood burning stove at home, the wind had dropped and it was lovely and sunny, and whilst I was standing in the sunshine near a huge Larch tree I kept hearing a crackling sound which I couldn’t identify,  looking up I spotted some reddish coloured birds hopping around in the top branches;   they were Crossbills eating the seeds out of the pine cones – they were a bird we hadn’t ever seen before so it was quite a thrill.

Our final trip was to one of my favourite haunts, Pensthorpe Wild Life Reserve.  There were hardly any visitors so we practically had the place to ourselves.  A friendly little Robin followed us as we were walking round and wasn’t afraid when I took my camera out and photographed him from about a foot away – I am sure if we had had some seed he would have hopped on to my hand.

I baked a Spiced Apple Cake to take with us

And  on the drive to the N.Norfolk coast I knitted a pair of wrist-warmers

And during our break managed to knit a woolly hat to keep my ears warm whilst we were there.

A few days away always works wonders for me - I feel quite rested now – I always sleep soundly when I am at the coast, it must be all the fresh air – plus lots of delicious food and a good book to read in the evening, long walks in the sunshine – perfect.

On a mountain above the clouds in the central
highlands of Malaya lived the man who
had been the gardener of the Emperor of Japan ...

But who is Nakamura Aritomo, and how did he come to be
exiled from his homeland?
And is Yun Ling's survival of the Japanese camp somehow
connected to Aritomo and the Garden of Evening Mists?

So, it's back home now into the old routine that you manage to shake off for a few days and I'm feeling a little blue at that prospect. 

It makes you wonder are holidays worth it - what do you think?

Monday, 18 March 2013

Tête-à-tête, Frogspawn and Garden Vandals


At last -  I finally have a daffodil that has deigned to open – albeit a miniature one – but at least it is progress.  Each day seems to include the four seasons at the moment  - snow, rain, fog, frost and sunshine - not very promising, considering it is nearly the end of March.


Anemone Blanda


Garden Vandals


 As to the vandals in the garden – Sparrows and Badgers.  The sparrows have taken a liking to the Primulas and have been hopping around pulling the heads off – chirping away as if all is well with the world.  Good game good game they are calling.  This is fun, come on let’s do it some more.  Then there are the Badgers who have decided to dig up my tulip bulbs, maybe they are looking for worms, or maybe they just fancy tulip for dessert.  Whatever it is it has me tearing my hair out.  Who says gardening isn’t stressful.


                                                            A Dish to Make

Chicken, Leek and Potato Layer

                                                            A Cake to Bake

A little booklet came with the Daily Telegraph on Saturday – featuring Paul Hollywood's recipes from his new book 'Bread'.  I saw  Oatmeal Parkin and remembered that my mother used to make it when we were kids, so I thought I would give it a go.  Disaster.  The recipe was faulty.  After I had followed it to the letter I thought, that doesn’t look right, it looked more like a Flapjack mixture.  So I pulled out my mothers' old Bero baking book but Parkin wasn’t listed – then I pulled out a war- time recipe book, 'We'll Eat Again' -  no, it wasn’t listed in there either.  Thank goodness for Google -  I eventually found what I was looking for – Mr. Hollywood’s recipe didn’t include flour – no wonder it didn’t look right.  Rather than waste all the ingredients I just added the flour to the mixture in the hope it would turn out alright.  Let’s just say it is not as good as mother used to make.  So if you have the booklet, beware, check the recipes first.

                                                            A Book to Read

What if you had the chance to live
your life again and again, until
you finally got it right?


The frogs in the wildlife pond have been very active
and we have our first bundles of frog spawn.
I hope it survives the changeable weather.
Are you finally seeing signs of spring in your garden?

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Fruit Cake, Aconites and Traffic Jams

Woke up to this on Monday morning - blizzards, strong winds and bone-achingly cold one
minute, then bright sunshine the next - what's going on?


We live in Leicestershire which is hunting country.
Most weekends during the winter the hunt comes through our village - causing havoc
on the roads, with horses and riders, horse lorries and hunt followers blocking
everyone's way, traffic building up and only being able to travel at
20 m.p.h. if you get stuck behind them

On the good side - sorry, there isn't one.


A Flower to Grow

Winter Aconites

I planted these in a pot in the greenhouse as I wasn't quite sure what to do with them.  Aren't they pretty.  They look lovely when they naturalise under trees, so when they have completed their cycle I will plant them out under the willow tree and pray that they increase and seed themselves about.


A Cake to Make

I really fancied a slice of fruit cake - I am not a baker by nature - I try
but I am never really successful - this turned out reasonably well but was a bit soggy in the middle.
I'm never quite sure what I do wrong!

A Book To Read

This was one of my birthday gifts - short stories - which although I am enjoying, I find
really frustrating.  You just start getting into the story and it finishes.


This is a cute butterfly box - you fill the little yellow feeders with sugar water and place a branch inside the box for the butterfllies to cling to when they hibernate.  We need to find a
sunny place out of the wind when we get round to hanging it up.


Frugal Food
Leek and Potato Soup - my favourite
Finally, I potted up my Dahlia tubers this afternoon and some Strawberry plantlets - I like to grow a dozen or so in pots in the greenhouse in the hope of an early crop.

That was my week - how was yours?

Friday, 8 March 2013

The Frugal Flower Garden and other stuff

What's been going on in the Rosebank Garden this week

The crocus began to open - it seems we all  like a little sun to cheer us up.

Over on my other blog A Woman of the Soil I have been talking about being frugal in the veg garden and have received many comments and tips on how other people save money  when growing veg.  I also practice what I preach in the Rosebank flower garden too.

A great way of filling the borders with plants without spending any money is to split the existing plants.

I know you are meant to wait till the plants have finished flowering but I wanted to take advantage of the fine weather at the beginning of the week to split the primulas that had become congested, and from just one clump I split it into four, each having a good root system and transplanted them elsewhere in the garden.  I did this with several plants that needed thinning out, added some bonemeal to the planting hole and watered them in well.

This year I won't be buying any more perennial plants - even though I seem to have lost several over the winter.  Instead I will be filling out the borders growing anything I need from seed - mainly wildflowers and annuals that attract bees and butterflies.

It's a lot more work than just going in to the garden centre armed with a wad of cash and coming out with very little, but hopefully the results will be worth it.


Other stuff

My husband's motto is "If it doesn't move - creosote it".  He told me he was going to creosote the wood on the outside of my raised beds before I planted them up.  Fine I said.  What he didn't tell me that whilst he was at the top of the garden he thought he would creosote the compost bins as well.  Later on I decided to start emptying them and was leaning against the wood whilst digging my spade in.  When I got indoors I thought the smell of the creosote was still very strong and couldn't understand it.  It was only later when I was getting changed that I discovered the smell was coming from my jeans - they are ruined, I washed them straight away but creosote is waterproof and they still had the stain - laugh, I could cry - they are my most comfortable jeans.  Grrr!

I have been busy being frugal in other areas too.  Below is a cushion recycled from an old shirt of my husbands - cutting off the collar and sleeves, using the front of the shirt for the cushion opening and the back with a little added decoration as the front of the cushion is a good way to make use of an unwanted shirt.


It was so nice to be able to get out in the garden after so many weeks of bad weather that just seeing a line of washing drying in the sunshine gave me pleasure.


One of my birthday gifts was a basket of hyacinths which are a beautiful blue, it has taken a week but they have finally flowered.

A couple of weeks ago I opened an account with Amazon so that I could sell a lot of books that I no longer needed.  The enterprise has been quite successful so far.  I have sold 15 books and made an average profit on them at £5 per book.  Not a huge amount, but it has helped boost the bank balance a little.

This week I have been reading

From the sound of the weather forecast for the coming week things are going to get a bit nasty again so I am happy that I was able to get on with a few jobs outside that desperately needed doing - now waiting for the opportunity to get on with some seed sowing.

Happy gardening!
ladybird - basking in the sunshine

Friday, 1 March 2013

Remembrance of Times Past - Birthday Girl Memories

Another non-gardening post - but I have a good excuse ...

Today I am the Birthday Girl - I won't tell you how old I am - it is a lady's prerogative, only to say that the Beatles once wrote a song about it.

Imagine my surprise when a birthday card plopped through the letter box with a Vietnam postmark

It is from my oldest friend J who is visiting her son who works over there.  I have known J since we were in the same class at school together.
J - top left / me bottom right
It seems like we have known each other for ever.

School trip to the Trossachs
Scotland 1963 - just look at those short shorts (or lack of them)
After we left school we went to different secretarial colleges but after the two years were up found ourselves in our first jobs working in the same typing pool
Lunch break
Lee Circle, Leicester
We went on holidays in the UK together with our work friends
and holidays abroad
La Palmera
We drank a lot, smoked a lot, got drunk and had lots of laughs.  That is what I remember most - having fun and laughing - all the time.

We loved to dance and party; dancing was our main weekend occupation - hours spent with rollers in our hair and  putting on the 'slap' prior to going out.  We were what the modern press calls 'party animals'.  Hitching rides and gatecrashing parties was the norm - word soon got round as to where the action was.
Me aged 19 - heavens I look so young!
Sadly, all good things come to an end and the inevitable happened, we both met our future partners and got married and went our separate ways.

J went to live abroad - I stayed put,  and over the years we lost touch.  It happens.  But then a couple of years ago, on the off-chance, I decided to write to an old address I had of J's in the slim hope that maybe she would still be there.  I couldn't have got the timing better - she had just returned to England from living in Spain and had moved back in to their old house.

 We started emailing, catching up on all the news over a span of 40 years - a couple of Christmasses ago she came to see me on her way through to somewhere else.  It was strange seeing the face that was so familiar and dear to me all those years ago, different but still the same.  We didn't have too much time to catch up, and maybe one day in the not too distant future we will meet up again - J and her husband  live down south, and are in and out of the country all the time visiting their children - so it won't be easy.

  Over the years our lives have taken different directions - a case of Town Mouse versus Country Mouse.

  Meanwhile we swap Christmas and birthday cards and chat on the computer. 

In this case Auld Acquaintance wasn't forgotten and still having J as a friend after all this time is definitey a bonus birthday present.

(Sorry for the quality of the photos - I don't have a scanner and had to take a photo of a photo - if only we had had digital cameras in those days).