Monday, 30 September 2019

Summer Scavenger Hunt - Last post

This is my sixth and final posting in the summer photo scavenger hunt series a today is link-up day, if you click on the "Summer photo scavenger hunt" label you'll find all my posts on the theme. The hunt has been kindly hosted by Mary-Lou over at Patio Postcards and has been running for a couple of months. Please pop over to her blog for the last link-up page. I didn't quite manage the full set again but thoroughly enjoyed the hunt.

3. Repetition
These strong metal cloches were given to us when a friend gave up their plot and are great for protecting seedlings from pigeons. Laid side by side they make a satisfyingly even pattern.

15. Broken bench
The common area at the allotment has this decrepit old bench and lots of chairs as well as a newly built barbecue area that any plot holder can use. The bench is decidedly rickety and has lost it's seats but serves as a collection point for spare plants, pots or other its and pieces that we may not be able to use but other plot-holders might have a use for.

17. A sail. Revisiting the windmill painting for this one.

18. Something that should be found in pairs

This pigeon seems to have lost it's companions from earlier in the year so I think it counts as should be in a pair. He conveniently came around this morning before the rains set in.

Substitute B Fresh local produce for 1. An outdoor clock

Spoilt for choice this year but we have a wonderful crop of butternuts & uchiki kuri squashes that I couldn't resist sharing - all now hardening off in the kitchen.

Hope you have enjoyed the photos and may be inspired to take part in any future hunts

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Frustrated but I think I've won!

After attempting to have a conversation with Jayne on comments this morning I finally recruited J's help to fix the fact that we couldn't reply to comments. 2 hours of backwards and forwards changing themes and settings and I think it's cracked! Blog looks a bit different again but I think it's going to work. Moderation stays though because I keep getting those pesky ads that no-one wants to see and spammy content but I also discovered blogger hasn't always been telling me there are comments so my apologies to anyone who thought I'd been rude and not allowed their comments over the last few months. I'll get better at checking for them now and not trusting I'll get notified! There may still be some fiddles depending on how I settle to colours and stuff but the important stuff is done. Brain definitely fried now though so time for another cup of tea before I break anything!

Friday, 27 September 2019

Good day

For a chemo day it has been a good one. It all started with a lovely author on Twitter called Tom Cox pronouncing that I'd won a copy of his beautiful book  just because I'd retweeted his tweet - watch this space for photos and review!! It's been on my wish-list for a while and I nearly ordered it this week - I hardly ever enter these draws and have never ever won anything like that before - to say I am excited is an understatement.

Chemo went as well as these things can - the staff are wonderful and kind, J kept me company (after a very quick and soggy trip to the shops nearby to pick up weekend snacks), there was a rainbow to be seen in the sky and I now know all my appointments for the next month so we can make a plan - the treatment itself just happens whilst you sit there - I'll be really tired again for the next few days but that's ok.

The weather kindly decided to give us about half an hour of dry after dinner so J helped me have a potter around the back garden just to say hello to the plants and see all the jobs he did yesterday - shuffling tomato plants to try and encourage the last few beefy ones to ripen before blight hits, finally putting the sweet-pea plant out of its misery which meant a last few blooms to add to the living room vase and transplanting some old grape hyacinth bulbs out of a pot and into the pond bank so they will be little dots of amongst the ferns in the spring.

This week's rain has refreshed everything and the starry asters are now blooming too, the dahlias and roses are a bit bedraggled but nonetheless beautiful, the rudbeckia, monarda, verbena, fuschias and scabious continue to flourish and provide colour and all in all it's looking lovely out there out there at the moment. I could hear lots of buzzing and our wanders disturbed a few moths and other critters plus the odd cheeky slug and snail making the most of the damp and then time to wander back in and put our feet up.

Ivy round the back door flourishing

Verbena going strong and wafting beautifully

Gran's Rose still so very pretty and more blooms to follow

Go on you know you really want to ripen!

Starry asters blooming at last
Sneaky but rather pretty snail hiding in the bird feeder!

Little apples ripening
Bulbs added to the fern bank

Night all!

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Trying something new...

Yesterday I finally bit the bullet and signed up for a FutureLearn course. I've been looking at these on and off for a few years and in the ongoing quest to find things to occupy a restless mind in the better days I'm trying out a 4 week course about the Book of Kells. Produced by the University of Dublin and free to all comers it seemed like a good place to start, so far I've watched the first video and read the first article and downloaded the link to the digital archive copy of this beautiful manuscript. I've always been fascinated by ancient arts and of course, old texts and thought this might be an ideal starting point to see if this type of activity works for me as the days start to draw in and outside opportunities are a bit more diminished. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

A little bit of potting on.....

Consultant appointment over and done with, we were home before 10 o'clock today. News is ok as these things go - concentrating on chemo for the liver and just monitoring for the head for now. Got to expect to be tired and not get annoyed when I can't do the things I think I should be doing... mmm ok well - will do my best on that one! Just having to remember all the strategies we used in the last round to manage the tiredness and the impatience. So back on Friday for second chemo it is then.

J has taken the rest of the week off work so we can potter together for a couple of days - wonderful. This meant that after a cup of tea, a slice of Mum's yummy apple cake and a rest we could move on some of the cuttings I took a few weeks ago and take some of the lovely scented-leaf geranium whilst he moved the heavy stuff and tidied up after me! So we now have 4 new penstemon plants rooted from water cuttings, 2 little fragaria moschata plants that have taken a long time to develop from seed sown in the spring but now look quite healthy and have taken 5 leaf cuttings of the scented geranium which we hopefully mean extra plants for the spring. Joy is definitely plant shaped today :)

lovely strong roots

four new plants - colour will be a surprise!

Need smelly vision to truly appreciate this lovely plant

Insurance cuttings now on the windowsill upstairs

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Indulgence is a box of books

In a moment of weakness I went through my book wish-list this week and ordered several titles that I'd been looking at for a while and splurged. At the moment reading paper seems to be a bit easier than screen so real books have come home and they are very beautiful too!

Susanna Kearsley, Charles de Lint and Juliet Marillier are all authors I have read in the past and thoroughly enjoyed so I will be interested to see whether I still enjoy them in the same way.

The Julie Christine Johnson is new to me and one I picked up as a recommendation on another blog or twitter I think but can't remember quite where - apologies if you were the recommender!

There may also be a copy of Barbara Erskine's The Ghost Tree on the way too...

I'm working my way through Undercurrents the new Nora Roberts at the moment (not that it requires much work!) - resting the book on my new little chair table and cushion makes it easier than holding a heavy hardback mind and I haven't got to worry about tingly fingertips not able to swipe the electronic pages!

Sunday, 22 September 2019


After chemo on Friday, yesterday was a bit of a wipe out for me but J wandered off to the allotment first thing to see what the wildlife has allowed us to keep and came back shattered but with a trolley laden with apples, potatoes, squashes, courgettes, carrots and beans plus a lovely bag of tomatoes from a pal. Whilst up there he'd also cleaned up and re-netted the brassicas and tidied away all the dead sweetcorn stalks so he was really grateful for the lift home from the tomato-donating friend too! Walking through town he'd stumbled across an Isle of Wight Garlic stall at the Food Festival and picked up a new batch of seed garlic. For the last few years we seem to have hit a problem with voles or similar undermining our alliums so he's hit on a new ploy:

Wish us luck - we really really need a new harvest of garlic!

This morning's job for me (before I doze back off again anyway!) has been bean sorting - the second harvest for some of the frames and hopefully at least two more to come if the weather holds for the next few weeks. Once they've finished air-drying they'll join the others in their jars - these store brilliantly for months if not years and make winter meals so much more interesting. 

Borlotto pods
Blue Lake pods

Beautiful speckled borlottis

Creamy white blue lakes

A few stray little cobras

Hope your harvests are going well

Friday, 20 September 2019

Equinox garden

The natural wheel keeps turning no matter what is going on in a pesky human's life and the garden is taking on the definite look of Autumn now that we are arriving at the Equinox. I took a toddle round on Thursday evening and took these images in the front and back garden just as the sun was beginning to set. Still warm enough to be pottering around in a tee-shirt and so dry all the pots needed watering and some of the beds are stating to look a little parched but that definite hint of chill that comes with the last rays of an Autumn day. Refreshing.  As I wandered I found myself reaching for the mint leaves, the rosemary and the roses as well as the bewitching scent of a rosy/citrussy geranium gifted by a friend - my eyes are troubling me so scent is super important at the moment and I must take some cuttings of this beautiful plant as I really don't want to lose that scent. 

Gran's rose latest flush
Dainty fuschias

Tatty but still giving us joy

Soon there will be starry asters

Gentle Hermione delighting us still

Phlox in bloom
Dahlias delighting

Rudbeckia thriving

Today is the first of the new chemo days but that is later.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Dancing with Bees - a journey back to nature by Brigit Strawbridge Howard

Please note this is not an unbiased review but it is an honest one!

I cannot explain the overwhelming joy I felt when receiving our copy of this through the post - Brigit is a long time friend who has known she wanted to write a book for all the years I've known her and I know that to finally have completed and published it will have created untold joy and excitement after one of the toughest times anyone can go through. Anyone who has had the privilege of hearing Brigit talk about bees will know of her infectious enthusiasm for her subjects and for the whole of the natural world and it is this voice that keeps you turning the pages getting more and more immersed in the world being conjured from the pages. Be warned though this immersion includes one of the most poignant chapters I have ever read - do not approach "The upside-down bird" without a hanky to hand, it is both a beautifully gentle and heart-rendingly sad recounting of the love for and loss of a parent that left me with tears streaming down my face but so very glad Brigit found the courage to leave it in the book.

Recounting her explorations of the natural world without pretension Brigit enables you to learn things without being preached at or feeling like you are somehow lacking. As a witness Brigit highlights the dangers of disconnection, of pesticides, of viewing nature as a purely human-centric economic resource and provides plenty of references to organisations, resources and papers for those who wish to pursue the research and follow the science as well as the emotion. As Brigit rediscovers her connection to the natural world you will find stories of close encounters with Gannets, Curlew and Corncrakes as well as elusive Moss Carder Bees and Great Yellow Bumblebees in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Further south you'll meet the delightfully named Hairy-footed Flower Bees and the elusive and artisanal Potter Wasps and join in close encounters with Hawthorn hedgerows, dandelions and a growing connection and re-connection with place and self that has left me feeling so very proud of my friend and so very happy to recommend "Dancing with bees" as an uplifting book of discovery for anyone who already loves nature or feels as if they could with just a little bit of help....

Ivy in the hedgerow - such a valuable plant for so many critters

Dancing with bees - a journey back to nature by Brigit Strawbridge Howard is published by Chelsea Green Publishers. ISBN 978-1-60358-848-5

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Best laid plans

Well yesterday's trip to the lotty didn't happen - the new steroids are playing with my vision so no driving for me until it settles. I'll admit to not taking this well at all despite knowing that thousands of people get by just fine without a car and that fuzzy vision is the least of what many people put up with as side effects but yesterday it was the end of the world. I have an MRI on Tuesday and Chemo starts Friday so I know trips up the road will be few and far between but there is still the garden to potter in and music and books and painting when focus isn't too off so I need to set aside the self-pity and steal myself for what's to come otherwise this will just turn into one long pity party and I can't have that.

So yesterday afternoon I made pie from last week's harvest using the cheese and marrow recipe I posted earlier in the month and carried on reading the lovely Dancing with Bees and today a slow start followed by a scrubbing of the microwave and a posy picking session.

Friday, 13 September 2019

September afternoon in the garden

Had a quick dead-heading session in the front garden this afternoon which turned into a "ooh that looks pretty where's the camera" and "that weed needs to come out of there" session followed by an "ooh that's got a bit warm and swimmy-headed from hanging upside-down and now I need a drink and a cool spot to catch my breath" - where would I be without my perching stool and J to grab a glass of water for me!

Anyway mission accomplished and a few splashes of beauty to share on this Friday afternoon.

Blue scabious continuing to provide food for the soul as well as the bees

These white dahlia mignons are proving popular with a whole host of bees and bugs

Gentle Hermione on her third or fourth flush of flowers

Flowering currant now giving berries for the birds

We thought we'd lost all the plants from last year -  I think they are phlox but here it is quietly coming into bloom and adding more late colour to the bed.

Happy Friday folks

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Health and Harvests

Well yesterday was a bit of a bugger to be honest. The meeting with my consultant confirmed our fears and I'm back on chemotherapy from the end of next week as the tumours in the liver have multiplied and grown which I suppose explains why I've been feeling so grotty the last month or so. The second bit of news was that there is something going on in my head too so I am off for an MRI next week and I really really hate MRIs but it's a necessary evil if they are going to determine exactly what's going on and then there is talk of something called cyber-knife radiotherapy which sounds delightful. Still they've started me on a course of steroids which should help with the pain and sickness and things are moving quickly again so I'm grateful as ever for the speed and kindness with which my NHS specialist teams all kick into gear and they are given us options rather than giving up so whilst future posts may be a little intermittent as I get used to a new treatment regime I will still be posting pictures and musings for a while yet.

On a more cheerful note we have started harvesting beans for the winter and the first batch are dried and in their jars in the kitchen ready to be joined by the next crops. These keep for ages if dried properly and will get used over the winter in soups and stews and bakes and pies.

And the Sweet-pea pot we popped in the back garden to finish dying has offered up a generous posy of blooms as the night's cool so I have a final pretty purple offering for the kitchen.

Oh and J came across the website recently which is guaranteed to provide hours of distraction to any child of the eighties - - Beware it's a time thief.....

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Music for Autumn

Every Tuesday on Twitter is Traditional Song Tuesday when lovely folk who know about such things share videos, music scores and other such things on a given theme. Today's was Autumn songs and they have shared some beautiful pieces I thought you might like too. If your appetite has been whetted check out the @TradSongTues account and the #TradSongTues hashtag. Enjoy!

Maddy Prior - Autumn/ Harvest Home

Tinker's Bag - All amongst the barley

Band of Burns with Rioghnach Connolly - Now Westlin Winds

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Going to seed

It's not just the hollyhocks that are busy setting seed across the garden and at the allotment. This morning we popped up to the allotment to drop off four trugs of hedge clippings from the garden and I couldn't resist a little potter. 

Lychnis Coronaria - seeds itself in and around the orchard area 
Cornflowers spreading their bounty - more plants for next year
Poppy heads always so pretty tangled with beans
Lavender still has just enough blooms to feed a passing bee
Hazels feeding the neighbourhood birds, mice and squirrels - with just a few left for us!