Sunday, 28 June 2015

The Garden As Found

It's the end of June, and my garden should be a vision of abundant loveliness, with vegetables coming along, splashes of colour and scent wafting from shrubs and flowers. Oh well, give it a few years; for now, it's not quite a blank slate in need of some work!

This house was home to the same family since it was built 60 years or so ago. I was told there used to be a greenhouse, two sheds, vegetables, roses and other plants, with some trees at the bottom of the garden. Now, there's a rather shaky shed on a concrete plinth, overgrown lilac and some other plants at the end of a gravel bed. Why a gravel bed, I wonder? I hope it doesn't hide another concrete pad, but in the meantime, it's a good standing area for the pots I brought with me, as well as some I've inherited with the house. There is a weathered concrete path, which would originally have run alongside the washing line, and a 'lawn', where the original flower and vegetable beds have been invaded by grasses and wildflowers. The privet hedges on either side may be as old as the house, and take up about 10% of the width of the garden. The trees were taken down, but by the feel of the uneven ground, probably not out. There seem to be roots and ground-down stumps in the poor soil. Likewise, I can see a couple of dead-looking stumps and bare patches in what were flower beds near the house. Some roses have started to regrow, but a few look like Rosa glauca rootstocks, the graft having been cut away when scalping the 'lawn' (done twice this year before I moved in!).

The front garden is just a square of grass and wildflowers bounded by a wall, under which runs the gas pipe.  There is a rose growing up one side of the porch, which I have been asked to keep as a memorial to the mother of the family whose house it was.  I've no idea at the moment what the rose is; it's a climber with small clusters of deep carmine pink flowers and no scent. Not one I would have chosen, and in need of some TLC. I expect I'll track down its name at some point.

I know I should be getting the house in order first, but can't resist going out to potter and explore. I built my swing seat on the patio and like to sit out and plan my next job with a cup of something, while gazing at the waving sea of grasses, where I've left the 'lawn' uncut, to see what comes up. There are at least a couple of different plants with strap-shaped leaves, but I can't tell what they are without flowers. At first, I thought some were Crocosmia; I could dig one up and see if I have a corm on the bottom end. There are the leaves of some Geranium, two types of pinks, self-seeded evening primrose, Californian poppy and forget-me-not. The patio is edged by a low block wall, which doesn't manage to hold back some Campanula garganica (or one of the other similar species). My Mum calls it 'garden thug' because it spreads prolifically, but I can think of other far more thuggish things that are in the garden and up with which I will not put. These include brambles (oh no, not more!), plum suckers, privet seedlings, nettles, bindweed, ragwort and creeping and spear plume thistle, the latter presumably from the horses' fields at the back, where I can see a couple of thistle flower heads peeping over the back fence, which is about 6 feet tall!

I'm impatient to plant, but really need to attend to the boundaries. I can think of much nicer things to grow than privet and would like to dissuade the cats from wandering into the neighbours' gardens, especially Greebo, who will happily scent mark anything he thinks should be his territory. Between the expense and nesting birds, it will be a while before I can do anything about replacing the hedges with fences. Even though, and possibly because, it's a small garden, the design and any hard landscaping needs to be done before making 'permanent' plantings of shrubs and perennials, and positioning vegetable beds (hopefully also a greenhouse and soft fruit). My big rotary clothes line leans drunkenly this way and that in its temporary position, the soil spear only in half way because of some buried concrete.

I can't cope without compost bins, so you can imagine my delight to receive two for free! They are only black plastic and have been hidden away at the back of the garden, behind the shed.  Still, hurrah for Pembrokeshire County Council!

Leafing through some of my gardening books, I read that you should start the design by taking measurements and making notes on 'the garden as found', in other words, as it is, before you do anything else to it. What a lovely phrase, as if you've just stumbled upon a secret garden, and there it is, in all its glory, whether bare and unmade, or overgrown and neglected. First find your garden, then take time to find out about its basic characteristics; type of soil, pH, damp areas or dry, patterns of light and shade.

So, I shall content myself for the time being with sowing some annuals and growing some vegetables in temporary beds and pots, in the hope that they might be productive before the end of the season, while recording my new garden, as found.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Simple Joys

Sunny days and blue skies
Big windows facing east and west = solar gain = warm house
Loads of laundry drying on the line
Sitting on my new swing seat with my morning coffee
Watching the sparrow, starling, blackbird and jackdaw chicks find their wings
Rediscovering missed or half-forgotten items
Being able to recycle with the bin collection
The sense of satisfaction from even the smallest job done or slightest improvement
Swirling flocks of jackdaws
The smell of dry earth after rain
Sprawling starfished on the bed
Grooming and giving treats to my purring cats
Sleeping well (after years of not sleeping very well!)

Happy Summer Solstice!

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Scary Stuff

A friend recently posted on Facebook a picture of a load of badges/stickers with a message to the effect that it was a shame that as adults, we don't get 'well done' stickers and gold stars for all the things we successfully do or even just cope with. Now we're grown up, we are expected to take everything in our stride. Mostly, and with some help from partners and friends, we do. Well, you have to. It's either that, or have a nervous breakdown.

In the past month, I have (more or less in this order) been:
  • cleaning, sorting and packing
  • tried to save one of my two remaining hens who had a prolapse (but she died)
  • exchanged contracts
  • had a recall after a recent mammogram, driven down to Swansea, had a biopsy after which I was told not to go lifting heavy boxes for a few days (in the middle of a house move, for goodness' sake! And in fact, I was much too sore anyway, and had to take a breather on my drive home)
  • spent my few days 'taking it easy' by organising the utilities (it takes hours!)
  • completed contracts
  • moved a few things into the house and repainted my office here
  • received the good news that I had a (benign) fibroadenoma which didn't need further surgery,
  • moved my last hen to join a friends little flock, (they manage their 'pet' hens in exactly the same way as I did, so I hope she'll be be happy there!)
  • renewed my DBS certificate
  • done more packing and organising
  • booked the cats into a cattery to keep them safe for a few days
  • moved house with a removals firm helping with the packing and providing much needed muscle, since I was behind on my original plan and still somewhat sore, and cannot carry loads like I used to
  • took delivery of my new washing machine, freezer and fridge, familiarised myself with them and also how to work the dishwasher, heating, hot water, shower, ovens and hob
  • went to a great belly dance training weekend
  • picked the cats up from the cattery, introduced them to their new home and sat cuddling them, all of us in some sort of shock
  • chased up and set up my new house phone
  • set up the compost bins and found out the bin days and recycling routine
  • litter-picked the patio and garden (some bits of broken bottle and lots of bottle caps, the aftermath of the previous resident's leaving party)
  • then, a steady stream of trying to create a place for everything, more cleaning, unpacking and sorting from boxes, and trying to find things (seriously - it took me four days to find my mobile charger and a fortnight to find the box with essentials like the can opener, because it wasn't labelled and I wasn't the one who packed it!
  • punctuated by text processing exams
  • teaching a few dance classes
  • cleaning and setting up the rotary line (temporarily, while I decide its permanent spot in the garden), 
  • doing laundry
  • cleaning up after the cats' 'accidents' while they are supposed to be using their litter trays,
  • more organising utilities
  • set up the router/hub, chasing down issues to make it work with my old PC (solved by buying a 15 metre Ethernet cable and running it down the stair well, held against the ceiling with white tack!),
  • starting the long process of letting all and sundry know my new address, and just trying to get back to some sort of normal (or establish a new 'normal') as soon as possible.
Everything takes so long to do, especially if I have to make trips up and down the stairs. Even deciding which kitchen cupboard will best fit the various pans and ingredients is a challenge; the cupboards seem narrower, with shallower shelves than the kitchen in the farm cottage, and all need a clean first. The house is stuffed full of stuff and I'm fed up with sidling between stacks of boxes, and not being able to find what I want. It's difficult and impractical to live like this and I'm finding that by 8.00 pm, I've run out of energy. The trouble is, there's scarcely space to move anything around, including myself. I'm covered in bruises from knocking against boxes, walls, door handles and worktops. I'm trying to work around an impasse where the furniture needs to be cleaned and moved into place so that I can unpack boxes into it, but can't move for boxes and furniture in the wrong place. It's like one of those puzzles of squares, where you can only move one square at a time because that's the free space, except that I have perhaps a quarter space until I unpack some more boxes, having only managed to unpack a dozen so far.

I have so much stash and just stuff in general that I have also had to do a few trips back to the farm to pick up more (and return some of S's things, having sorted them out), and the last of it is coming with the lovely Easi Move removals chaps tomorrow, including the heavy garden pots.

At the moment it feels like I've jumped out of the frying pan into the fire - I've changed location but the chaotic mess is the same. Still, I vowed to get organised and I am determined that it will all come together, preferably sooner rather than later.

I think I deserve at least one gold star.