I managed to forget to tell you about the bluebells! Oh my they’ve been amazing this year. We’ve slowly been clearing areas in the wood and have been rewarded with the most spectacular display of bluebells. They’ve been coming up everywhere!
There is an area behind the cottage where we had a couple of large trees taken down, as they were threatening the cottage. Needless to say it’s let a lot of light into the wood, where it was previously heavily shaded by the trees. To keep costs down, the tree surgeons left the tree brash for us to clear up! This has been a monumental task. The little bluebells have been popping up through the fallen branches making clearing the branches almost impossible. You see bluebell leaves are very slippy and when you consider the wood is on a very steep bank, the two make an interesting mix! Not for the faint hearted!
Anyway, I’ve digressed. The bluebells! Wow. Here are some pictures:
Although I’m still battling with ever threat of world domination from the dreaded weeds that have engulfed our little bit of Wales, I am amazed to say that some areas are being restored back to garden. I always imagine there was once a beautiful cottage garden engulfing the cottage. I have no proof of this, but hope one day to create a mass of colour around the cottage.
Here are some of the highlights from the garden in May.
This geranium has gone mad. I had it in a pot about three years ago in our old house and bought it with us. I planted it out last year and it’s positively loving the Welsh air.
I love alliums, and need many more. I planted these in the autumn and shall be planting lots more this autumn.
Foxgloves have always been my favourite and this is another plant I bought with us. The brighten up a dark corner. I’m hoping to plant some in the wood one day.
This little star also appears to adore it here, it’s been flowering it’s socks off for weeks now. It’s currently the star of my white border.
This beauty is an old rose. I forget which one, but it has a delicate perfume and lovely flowers. Another plant from the old house settling in nicely. I prefer the old rose as its scent is usually much stronger and there is something very romantic about them which I can’t resist.
You can never have too many foxgloves in my opinion.
I love these dainty little plants. This didn’t flower last year when I bought it, but it’s certainly making up for it this year.
Another cottage garden favourite. This is the only one I have at the moment, but I’ve got some seedlings growing in the polytunnel for next year.
This handsome plant was here when we moved in. It dominates a little raised bed in front of the house. Last year it grew to almost seven foot high, but didn’t flower. I decided to cut it back in the autumn to see if it would encourage it a little. I’ve been rewarded with three beautiful flowers, the size of dinner plates!
This sweet little thing is a tulip. I wasn’t too keen on it when it first started flowering, but I’ve actually fallen in love. I’ve no idea what it’s called, but shall treasure it.
Elsewhere the polytunnel is buzzing with activity. Cucumbers and tomatoes are in their final planters and doing well. The dahlias are looking lovely and I’ll feel very chuffed if they actually flower. I’ve also planted lots of biennials for the garden next year. These include rudbeckia, wallflowers, stocks, foxgloves. I’m really looking forward to next year – hopefully I’ll have a garden full of colour!
The veggie patch is doing well too. I’ve been investigating easier ways to get vegetables and am trying out the no dig policy. Last weekend I set about cutting up my mypex and staking it to the ground. The plan is the grass and weeds underneath will die and mulch down by spring when I an simply lift the mypex and maybe do a little big of digging before planting my veg! How good will that be. We’ll just have to wait and see.
The poultry have thrown themselves into full on egg laying, much to our delight! All was well for a while, until! Suddenly, the ducks seemed to have stopped laying. No more were we greeted by four or five eggs in the duck house each morning. What could be wrong, we thought. Nothing had changed, they all looked well. Then by chance one evening we spotted something at the bottom of the duck pond, in the murky muck at the bottom – an egg or two or three!
The ducks had taken to laying their eggs near or in the pond – silly things! However they’re getting there, we’ve been fishing out eggs from the pond daily! There’s been loads of them!
Meanwhile, in the chicken coop, one of the pale chickens (we were lead to believe they were silkie crosses, but we’re not sure) decided it was broody. Try as we might she wouldn’t budge from the nest box. The other girls took to laying their eggs on top of her as they all have the same favourite next box! She would nestle them safety under her belly and keep them warm. We dont have a cockerel so none are fertile. What a shame we thought, she’s obviously desperate to brood. Then we thought about the duck eggs!
Rather conveniently, the Indian runner eggs are blue, whereas the khaki Campbell’s are white. We have two khaki Campbell drakes. That means the Indian runners had a chance of being fertile. Right we thought, let’s put one under the broody hen! The next day an Indian runner delivered us a beautiful blue egg, so we tucked it under Mrs Broody.
Unbeknownst to me, a few days later, Mr Bumbleandme decided he would put one of the Indian runner eggs he’d fetched out from the pond under Mrs Broody too! I was under the impression he’d found it in the pen. We knew they were different because the first egg had gone quite pale. We asked a wise old neighbour how to tell if an egg is fertile without candles, as we didn’t understand how they worked. He suggested gently shaking the egg by your ear. If you can hear sloshing, then it’s off, throw it away. If you can’t hear very much at all it’s likely to be a good one.
When we got home we tested the two eggs and sure enough the egg that had gone pale sounded very sloshy, so we threw it away. The other one, which had now been under almost three weeks, didn’t make a sound, so we carefully popped it back under arms Broody and left her to it.
One evening, a few days later, I was putting the ducks away and feeding everyone, and did the now usual check of the egg under Mrs Broody. Tonight however, I noticed a hole and I’m sure I saw it move slightly! I ran back to the house shouting to Mr Bumbleandme. We had five minutes of slight panicked excitement and then we set about finding a suitable place for Mrs Broody and the pipping egg!
We decided the cat basket was the perfect cosy hideaway for them and set about lining it with straw. We donned our gloves (broody hens have quite a peck on them!) and carefully moved them from the nest box in the coop to their new temporary home in the spare room. We eagerly watched, but not much happened and Mrs Broody was busy keeping the egg warm under her belly. We reluctantly retreated to leave them in peace in the spare room!
The next morning, still nothing, but I was sure I could hear a little squeak! I went to work with strict instructions to Mr Bumbleandme to keep checking the imminent arrival. I phoned him at lunchtime for news – nothing! Just more of the chirping I’d heard that morning. As soon as it reached five o’clock I dashed home from work and was greeted by a very excited Mr Bumbleandme! We’ve had a duckling he said!
Oh my word, what are we supposed to do with a duckling!! It’s was all fluffy by the time I saw it, chirping away, popping it’s head out from under Mrs Broody!
For the next day or so we left them to it, just giving them food and water. Then one evening I noticed a horrid smell coming from the spare room! I had no idea how smelly chicken/duckling pooh can be! They’ll have to go! I proclaimed! We hunted around for an alternative temporary home for them and found the box that the originally ducklings arrived in. It was much bigger than the cat basket and we covered the top of the box with chicken wire so we could see them. We settled them in the summerhouse – no way they were coming back indoors with us!
They settled in really well and were fine for about a week! We realised this was no long term solution to the housing situation and we would have to find something more permanent for them. It was also important to bring them closer to the rest of the gang. Mr Bumbleandme heard about a poultry car boot sale nearby and went off looking for a permanent solution. Never heard of a poultry car boot sale before, what a great idea! He returned smiling having found the perfect solution!
Poor duckling wasn’t even two weeks old and it had moved house three times!
They’ve settled in really well and the ducks have been having a really good nose into the run each day. We’ve no idea who mum and dad are, but we’re hoping they will let the duckling settling in with them when he’s old enough.
Obviously we’ve no idea what sex it is yet, but we’ve decided to call it ‘him’ in the hope it’ll actually be a girl! We’ve also named him Nemo from the film. Well he did come from the pond after all!
Nemo is almost three weeks old now and is just starting to get his proper feathers. He churps away when we call his name and comes running out to see us, althoug he won’t let us pick him up and Mrs Broody is still very protective of him. He snuggles under Mrs Broody at night and pops his head out when we say goodnight. His favouritst thing in the world is dunking his beak in water. He loves it when I pour water from the watering can through the run wire into the metal drinker and it spills over, he churps away excitedly and nuzzles is beak in the muddy water. His water bowl is always filthy – a sign of a true duckling!
Isn’t nature amazing! The egg couldn’t have been in the water very long before Mr Bumbleandme took it out. And to think the first time we ever try to hatch an egg, it worked! This time last year we had no poultry, and now we have seven ducks, four chickens and duckling (who probably thinks it’s a chick!). It’s amazing what you can achieve so soon, isn’t it!
The veggie patch is progressing well. I’ve been busy digging more beds and finishing off the polytunnel.
The polytunnel needed some finishing touches. I’d left a length of plastic around the door frames which today I wrapped around a length of wood and screwed the wood to the door frame. I hope this will strengthen the structure further and also help keep the polythene in place if we ever have strong winds. Or should I say when! We’ve had some very blustery winds recently, with up to about 40mph gusts, and so far it’s held up well.
After planting the potatoes, it soon became clear that the chickens were going to reak havoc at every opportunity. They have a taste for potatoes! So, I’ve had to erect a make shift guard for them, which seems to be working (the chickens can’t get to them!), but there is no sign of potatoes emerging, yet, but I remain optimistic.
I’ve also planted out the peas after erecting a hazel wigwam with hazel branches as pea sticks. It was good fun going around collecting the branches. I’ll have to make it an autumn job to cut down hazel sticks and branches ready for spring. They too have had a make shift fence erected around them!
I’m planning to have a couple of beds as a cut flower patch. I’ve got some annuals emerging from seed in the polytunnel. These include cosmos, calendula, sweet peas and Cerinthe. I’ve also got some ami majus waiting to emerge. I treated myself to some lovely roses the other day and I thought it would be nice to put one in the flower bed with some lavender. I’m also very excited that the Dahlias I treated myself to earlier in the year are emerging and looking strong. They too will go in the flower patch.
In the polytunnel, the courgettes are doing well and really need to go in a cold frame to harden off, ready for planting out. That’ll be a job for another weekend. The tomatoes and salad leaves have germinated, and the cucumbers are growing well.
I’ve had to chicken proof the polytunnel too as it seems the chickens like to have a rootal around in there. I went in the other day and it was carnage! They’d trampled over some of the seedlings and upturned my compost bucket!
So today I made a screen that I can put up when I need to leave the door open in the warm weather. I’ve put a hook on the inside of each door and hammered a stake into the ground inside the poly, so I can hook the door to it when I need to leave the doors open in the hot weather and not worry about the doors banging if there’s a wind. The screen is just a simple square frame covered in netting, but it’ll do the job nicely. I’ve screwed two screws on the door frame and the frame just sits on the screws blocking the way for chickens (hopefully!).
I’ve also bought some new tools to help me along the way. When I was digging the potato bed it soon became clear me and spades don’t get along. I would wield the spade into the ground and jump up and down on it with all my might – the spade would go into the ground about an inch! Needless to say it took forever and all my energy to dig one trench. There must be an easier way to do this I thought. So I researched and decided a mattock was the tool for me! What I’ve purchased isn’t technically a mattock, it was advertised as a hoe, but it is essentially a mattock.
It has made my life so much easier! You wield it like an axe and it makes hard ground feel like butter. I can now dig up a new bed in around an hour! It’s still mighty hard work, but oh so much easier!
I’ve also purchased a hand held version for planting in the garden around the house which is full of rocks and tree roots. I planted an alchamilla mollis on the steep slope today and it drove it’s way through the slate and roots with ease.
I’ve only just recently come across these tools, but they have been used for centuries apparently. I can highly recommend them.
The veggie patch is slowly taking shape and I love my view from the polytunnel.
Today is my Birthday, and besides lots of lovely presents, Mr Bumbleandme, me and Bee took to the road and explored the Pembrokeshire coastline. We were hunting for St Govan’s chapel.
St Govan’s Chapel is reputed to have been built in the thirteenth century in honour of a hermit and Saint who lived at the site. It is nestled on the side of a cliff, looking down on a small rocky cove. St Govan lived there in the sixth century and there are many myths and legends surrounding him and the chapel. Legend has it that Govan hid in a small fissure in the rocks to evade pirates. The crevice closed up to protect him and opened once the Pirates had gone. Afterwards he decided to build a small cell near the fissure and protected the locals from Pirates that troubled them. Govan died in 586 and is said to have been buried under the stone alter inside the chapel.
Legend also tells of a bell that was given to Govan, which was stolen by pirates. After praying for it’s return, Angels recovered the bell and hid it in a large rock nearby for safe keeping. When Govan tapped the bell rock the sound was one thousand times louder that it was originally.
Another legend says one of King Arthur’s knight, Sir Gawain lies buried at the stone alter, having retired there to live out his days as a hermit after Arthur’s death. This could be where the stories of St Govan and Sir Gawain become blurred.
There are two wells on the site, which have long since dried up, but it was at one time fashionable to take a pilgrimage there and drink from the wells to cure rheumatism, and eye problems.
It’s a magical place and the waves make a dramatic noise as they crash against the rocks below.
After climbing the stairs back up to the clifftops, which I should mention legend has it that you’ll never count the same number of steps up and down, we walked a short way along the coastal path. At St Govan’s head you look the you’ve walked and you can just see the chapel in the distance, nestled in the cliffs.
On our way home we stopped off for some lunch in a quaint little cafe, which was someone’s front garden in Bosherton. It’s a pretty little village famed for its lilly ponds, which we didn’t visit. We’ve saved that for another day, as I’m certain we’ll be back at St Govan’s chapel.
It’s been a very productive weekend on the veggie patch.
With the polytunnel up and running, I’ve been busy sowing seeds. I like to sow Heritage/Heirloom seeds where I can, as it makes me feel like I’m doing my bit for conservation and sometimes they’re a bit weird and wonderful. Tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, chillies are just some of the vegetables I’ve planted.
I’ve had some potatoes chitting for a few weeks in the store room and they were ready to go in, so Mr Bumbleandme very kindly took the grass off an area for me and I dug and raked it, then popped the tatties in and covered them up!
Mr Bumbleandme also gladly made me compost bins out of pallets that have been littering the drive for months! And with the final pallet, he made me a fabulous potting bench! He’s so ingenious and very resourceful!
With one very productive weekend, it’s beginning to look like a veggie patch! I’ve still got more beds to dig, but I’ve got a few weeks while the seeds germinate. I’d also like to dig a bed for some annual flowers. I’ve always wanted a cutting garden, and this year I might just get my wish! Well, if I get a move on!
These strawberries have survived the move to Wales and a year in pots! They seem to appreciate the move into earth, as they’re flowering their socks off! I’ll have to make sure the chickens don’t get these!
Elsewhere in the garden, things are growing fast, the White garden has survived the winter and is coming up nicely. I planted some white daffs in the autumn, and they’ve not disappointed!
The wood is also a mass of colour. The snowdrops swept through the wood earlier in the year and now the wild garlic and bluebells are emerging. The bluebells are coming up where they haven’t been before. It’s encouraging that the little work we’ve done in wood is allowing more light in and letting the lower canopy establish. We’ve got umbels coming up and lots of red campion in the wood, we don’t recall seeing much more than ferns and brambles last year, so this is great. I’m hoping to grow some white foxgloves from seed and plant them in the wood to naturalise too, I think they will look beautiful.
The weather has been glorious the last few weeks and I think we’ve achieved a great deal. The rain is set to arrive later this week and the newly planted veg will greatly appreciate it.
We’ve had a very busy few weeks here. I used to have a small corner of my old garden as a vegetable patch. It was lined by hawthorn and blackthorn hedges, had a few raised beds and a small greenhouse. I used to love the greenhouse and was always pottering away in there. I would grow tomatoes, peppers, and my annual seeds in there, and at this time of year it was positively bursting with plants. Last year was torture not having one and I’d decided it would be great if I could go one step further and invest in a polytunnel. This would enable us to grow more things and extend the growing season.
As is becoming the norm around here, we managed to stumble upon someone who was wanting to get rid of there polytunnel and they were happy to help us move it. Bingo! We had great fun, the four of us trying to move the frame, still assembled down a hill, through a young wood, over fences and through gates, and finally down our lane into the paddock. Luckily the only traffic we met was the postman who happily waited at our house, laughing away at the sight of a polytunnel frame being walked down the lane!
And so the polytunnel stood in the paddock for a few weeks, Being moved slightly from time to time to make sure it was in the right position. I managed to order a new cover and some doors for it and we waited eagerly for them to arrive. Unfortunately, they too sat waiting for a while as the weather wasn’t great and I knew with just two of us it would take a few days to get it all finished. I decided to make a start on digging the trenches around the base in an effort to save time when we came to put the cover on. Not such a great idea in hindsight, as it meant we had to trample all over it during construction! Another bright idea which turned out to be a mistake was that I thought it would be good to ensure the trench was as large a possible to make sure the wind didn’t take the cover away! Well, it took all my effort and strength to dig two of the trenches – it transpires they were about three times wider than they needed to be! No wonder it was such hard work!
Easter weekend arrived and the weather looked fine, perfect chance for a spot of polytunnel building! In all it took four days to get the doors and frames on, the cover, the mypex flooring and replace the earth back into the trenches.
There were several debates about how best to go about certain tasks, some of which we could have done differently in hindsight, but it’s up and currently withstanding the unusual gusty southerly wind we’re experiencing today.
The whole weekend was glorious sunshine and very warm, which was perfect for ensuring the polythene went on nice and tight. We we’re booth completely pooped at the end of the weekend, but it’ll be worth the effort when we are enjoying the fruits of our labour.
I’ve been busy this weekend moving staging, pots and bits and bobs inside to get it all set up, and I can’t wait to get planting some more seeds.
I now need to concentrate on the outside of the patch and I’m planning to make a couple of beds now for potatoes and strawberries, but the rest I shall dig over and prepare in the autumn, ready for next year. I like the idea of letting it evolve slowly, so I shall just dig beds as I need them. I’ve also been reading about no dig gardening which I love the idea of, so I might cover a couple of areas with cardboard and mypex. If I leave them till the autumn or maybe next year, I should (apparently) have lovely beds ready for planting! I love the sound of that! I’ll give it a go and see what happens. I’ve also been reading about growing veg in bales of straw, so if I can get hold of a bale, I might give that a go. Watch this space!