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Tuesday, 24 December 2013

merry christmas

 In spite of the storm that raged around us for the last two days all is still here now and we may be in for a Silent Night at last.
 The tree is decorated

 the biscuits made
 the lights twinkling

 Pixie is waiting for a glimpse of Father Christmas
 and Beezle is embarrassed by the Christmas ribbon
 Our cards this year were made from a drawing by my daughter Chloe. You can view her art work on
we all wish you a very Merry Christmas and thank you for reading the blogs.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

robins and wreaths

R I P Nelson Mandela.

My heart sinks when it is awoken to the sound of squeaking. You know that nine times out of ten it will be followed by a strange, inhuman growl and the crunching of bones. But the other morning I found something actually living. Down in the kitchen, as I was about to help myself to a slice of bread, I saw a little robin sitting on the bread basket. For a moment I thought I was trapped inside a Christmas card - so small and festive it looked. It let me pick it up, photograph it for this blog and put it outside, away from potential harm where it eventually flew away.

Later that day we noticed that Pocket had gone. We realised that actually we hadn't seen him come to think of it, for nearly two days. It was so out of character that for a strange, fantastical moment I imagined that the souls of all the birds he'd killed had clubbed together and had him changed into that robin. We called all day, looked in all the sheds and other people's sheds wondering if he'd suffered the same fate as his mother who had disappeared too. It reminded me of when I lived in London and had one of the very many black cats I had - this one Mr. Hatty - who one day disappeared. I used to walk the streets of Camden Town looking for him and on more than one occasion, on seeing him and picking him up and bringing him back into the flat, I discovered on closer inspection he wasn't Mr Hatty at all. A lot of struggling black cats do look alike.
Pocket pleased to be back on velvet and not a pelargonium pot.
 Eventually - dear Reader - I thought I'd look in the greenhouse which I hadn't bothered to check out before because I hadn't been in it for three or four days. There he was! Not mewing loudly to be let out but he must have been hungry. He had jumped in through the skylight window which had shut behind him. All the pelargoniums were in there covered in fleece and he had walked and slept on all of them and broken a few pots but it didn't matter we were so pleased to see him.
This was our Christmas card last year which one of my clever daughters took on her phone. We called it Silent Night. Pocket, a year smaller just laid himself down by Pixie in front of the wood burner. No Photoshop involved.

The paperwhites are filling the house with their heady scent.

And some of the roses are still hanging on in the garden.

The Robin

Kahlil Gibran

O, Robin sing! for the secret of eternity is in song
I wish I were as you, free from prisons and chains.

I wish I were you, a soul flying over the valleys,
Sipping the light as wine is sipped from ethereal cups.

I wish I were you, innocent, contented and happy
Ignoring the future and forgetting the past.

I wish I were as you in beauty, grace and elegance
with the wind spreading my wings for adornment by dew

I wish I were as you, a thought floating above the land
Pouring out my songs between flower and the sky

Oh, robin, sing! and disperse my anxiety
I listen to the voice within your voice that whispers in my inner ear.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Rubber gloves and Pixie fluff

Whilst out on our walk in the horses' field the other day Beezle has discovered a new game. Finding an old black rubber glove in the grass(used for the ubiquitous poo picking) - sorry - probably too much information - he picked it up, shook it violently and raced off with it - all the while shaking it and hitting it on the ground with great glee and speed. Of course Pixie wanted to join in too and grabbed one of the rubber "feathers" from Beezle's black 'hen' which stretched to an incredible length before she let it go and it pinged back in Beezle's face. I think he was a bit surprised but it hasn't stopped him doing it again and again. Perhaps I'll just be able to stand at the gate soon, drop the glove on the ground and let him wear himself out without having to traipse round the field myself.

Beezle quite tired after the game with the rubber glove.

As I am writing this those naughty ducks are in here again - this time checking out the dog food bowl that seems to have skated across the floor and ended up near the French windows.

 All the animals have been helping the man who helped me out by painting the kitchen last week. He didn't realise Pixie has a white tip to her tail - {her magic wand we used to call it when she was a puppy) and was concerned that she'd got paint on her tail. I told him it was a good idea if she had but I didn't think her paintwork would be very neat.

Pixie moping because I told her I didn't think her brushwork would be up to standard.
 It's lovely having a newly painted kitchen but we were without it for over a week and you realise that the kitchen is the heart of the home and without it we felt - well - heart less. But as Beezle and Montaigne would say - "What do I know?"
We weren't allowed to cook so had a lot of takeaways and once treated ourselves to a meal out. The rest of the house was covered in jars and jams and plates and saucepans and all the things we had taken out of the kitchen to leave a nice working space. When we moved the cupboard I found so much Pixie fluff that this time I am convinced I can make at least two more of her.

The bare rooted roses have arrived! I spent all yesterday potting up 40 of them with another delivery due soon. I am trying out this rather gorgeous one called Commandant Beurepaire which looks rather heavenly. Now I'm going to do a striped rose trial I think - to see which is the most gorgeous. Of course I won't find out till next summer -  but I can always dream.


What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore -
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over -
like a syrupy sweet?
May be it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Langston Hughes.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Seed pods and cat Pod

We had our first proper frost last night which involved hastily trying to get the ice off the car windscreen without being late for school. You can never find the right tool when you're in a hurry and now that tape cassettes seem obsolete(their boxes make excellent ice scrapers) it was hard to find something that would make a dent in it. I usually resort to kettles but imagined the windscreen finally cracking if I did so we scratched away with icy fingers and hot breath.

Alcea Parkallee
 I planted  rows of these beautiful hollyhocks in my garden a year or two back but though mine have all died for some reason I was pleased to see they were still where I put them in front of a client's house.
This particular strain is disease resistant which is great as most hollyhocks give in to rust. You have to root propagate them - they won't come from seed so I must get hold of some more plants next year. They look so pretty in front of our faded pink house.
tulip double maureen

 Managed to get the last of the tulip bulbs in. In the front of the house (near where the Parkallee should be standing) I've filled the pots with green and white bulbs.
spring green
 This time I've done little drawings in a book telling me what the bulbs are. I'm not risking those naughty ducks getting a pair of stilts and plucking the labels out again.

Exotic emperor
Green star
 There's nothing of colour left in the garden now other than the rose hips and these wonderful orange seed heads from the Iris foetidissima. The frost has felled the dahlias and the last few blooms of things have gone into this posy.
seed pods from the iris
Plectranthum is a beautiful plant with soft grey leaves but it flowers late(ie now) and is not one bit hardy. So if you are quick you have to dig it up and stick it in the greenhouse to appreciate its delicate pale mauve flowers. The good thing about it apart from its beauty is it's easy to take cuttings from so I hope my cuttings will take because I did not dig it up before that frost! I'll dream on. As Beezle and Oscar Wilde would say " A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world."

 Pocket (quarter Bengal) has discovered velvet.
We have some sumptuous velvet cushions that he has discovered he can sit on, undiscovered and sleep the whole night on, shut in the living room because no one has seen him when the door was closed.We have to close the door at night or otherwise Pixie likes to sleep in there too and she likes to chew the velvet cushions.

Pocket has also lost his Mum. I haven't told him but his Mum - Pod - (Half Bengal) who belonged to a friend, went missing a month or two back. It is very sad when a young cat goes and you don't know what happened to it. We had a beautiful half Thai Temple Cat (Minky)who had four delicious kittens. We kept all the kittens for slightly longer than you normally do and she disappeared with the lot of them.  She came back on her own the next day and was very pleased with herself. The following day they all tumbled back through the cat flap. She had obviously decided it was a right of passage.  didn't want them hanging around any more and took them miles away and left them. We gave two of them away but shortly after she and her daughter went and we never saw either of them again. She left us a son. The black Monkey.


Mother, any distance greater than a single span
requires a second pair of hands.
You come to help me measure windows, pelmets, doors,
the acres of the walls, the prairies of the floors.

You at the zero end, me with the spool of tape, recording
length, reporting metres, centimetres, back to base, then leaving
up the stairs, the line still feeding out, unreeling
years between us. Anchor. Kite.

I space-walk through the empty bedrooms,climb
the ladder to the loft, to breaking point, where something
has to give;
two floors below your fingertips still pinch
the last one-hundredth of an inch -- I reach
towards a hatch that opens on an endless sky
to fall or fly.

Simon Armitage.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Hedgehogs and tumbleweed

We survived the storm with surprisingly no damage. Being on top of a hill we really do feel the wind and usually my poly tunnel fence blows down, whilst the poly tunnel itself will often yield up its poly which I might find two fields away or whipped around some tree in the woods. We didn't even have a power cut which is most unusual. Still the wind has definitely blown the days away in my diary. I can't believe we are now in November and suddenly it's Winter.

Beezle tired by the wind which he tells me kept him up all night.

Pocket also tired. He told me the wind had almost blown all his whiskers off.

 The hedgehogs are hibernating now so it must be winter. They are in the straw bales. I know this because my neighbour has fitted a GPS tracking collar with a tiny antenna on to three of them and his aerial pointed in the direction of the straw bales for two of them and a pile of leaves for the third. I'm sad they are not hibernating in my polytunnel. Last year there was a big one asleep in the hay in the garage. He was quite noisy, snuffling and snoring well into the start of Spring. I had to leave the doors open for him incase he woke up and decided it was time to hit the road.

 Settled down to planting up the sweet pea seeds at last. I have planted over 200 seeds and am looking forward to a very pink and red display next year. I have started growing half of them inside the poly which is a sheer delight as they flower early and I can have sweet peas right through till October with the ones outside as well. This is the great thing about gardening. When it is too cold and windy to do anything outside you can spend hours flicking through the catalogues inside and choosing the bulbs and seeds and roses for next year, imagining them in the pots and borders so its almost like being in next year's garden. Each year I make a resolution that next year I'll keep on top of the weeds, or remember to water the tomatoes or check that the pots aren't drying out. But do I? I made a resolution that I'd dance every day but I have to admit that although you always feels so much better after a bit of arm waving to Earth Wind and Fire I could probably count on one hand the number of times I have.

 Although Spring is a long way off (apart from in those catalogues)I thought I'd do a bit of 'Spring'cleaning as Pixie's fur was looking like tumbleweed rolling across the wastes of the kitchen floor. Thought I'd take a peek inside the dolls house which I hadn't glanced into for a very long time. A family of spider's were squatting inside and it looked as if Miss Haversham lived there. I made the dolls house years ago for the girls when they were small. I loved it - made it out of an old cupboard which conveniently had two shelves inside so I could make a three story house. In the end I spent all my time cleaning out the doll's house and spent hours re-arranging the furniture. I noticed that half the farm was in there as well so now we have a few pigs in the sitting room, some horses in the bedroom and cows of various heights in the bathroom.That was the great thing about our model farm, we had animals of varying sizes so it was not unusual to see a chicken twice the size of a pig or a horse ten times bigger than the little farmer's wife.  The tumbleweed remains on the floor.

Pixie and Beezle hoping I'm not going to start dancing.

The Dancer

by Philip Larkin

Or falling leaf,
Which ought I to imitate
In my dancing?

And if she were to admit
The world weaved by her feet
Is leafless, is incomplete?
And if she abandoned it,
Broke the pivoted dance,
Set loose the audience?
Then would the moon go raving,
The moon, the anchorless
Moon go swerving
down at the earth for a catastrophic kiss.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

rugs and rodents

It's that time of year when boxes of bulbs are being left in the porch - or- if you're our delivery man and catch sight of Pixie in the garden - are flung over the gate followed by a screech of tyres and the flapping of rear doors as the van and the man barely stop for breath. Pixie of course wouldn't hurt a fly but she's big and you could easily be felled to the ground by her long wagging tail. I'm grateful the boxes contain bulbs and not china from the Ming dynasty.

Tulip Belle Epoque
 I am very excited by the discovery of this beautiful looking tulip - Belle Epoque which is a sort of beigey dusky pink and I've ordered a load of them to see if they are as beautiful as their picture. In fact dozens of different bulbs have arrived, some for us but mostly for clients. I always order a quantity of Narcissi Paperwhite which are already sprouting in their bags and will fill the house with their heady perfume. Later, the hyacinths will do the same job. I usually plant up bowls of white ones but this year have gone girly with a mass of very pale pink as well, called China Pink that look fantastic in vases.

Narcissi Paperwhite
 It's also the time of year to get the rugs out for the horses. It would be good to be really organised and get them cleaned and mended at the end of the season but perhaps just as well I didn't as this year I see some rodents have had fun taking bits for their nests. Very nice for them too. Once you've bitten through the waterproof layer(good for those incontinent mice) you then get to a nice fluffy layer which is what keeps the horses warm. So all in all quite a find if you're a rodent. I'm also expecting to find my fleece in a similar state when it's cold enough to fleece up the pelargoniums and those cashmere knits no doubt will have more holes in than usual thanks to the moths. At least our moths are small. I went into the new butterfly and moth tunnel at the zoo the other week and there were moths with wings the size of each of your hands. Wouldn't want one of them in my jumper drawer.
Trude eying her rug.with the new holes in. Actually she has so many rugs I liken her to Elizabeth Taylor. She has a rug for every conceivable occasion and I expect they've all got hole in by now.

Have to confess to a short break in Turkey which was heaven. Hot and re-charging. Made the discovery of the  eating away of the fabric of our things less stressful. Meanwhile it also meant the cats could eat away at other things undisturbed.

The dahlias are still rioting in the garden, especially as I haven't been picking them whilst away. Still curious as to where all the dark ones went to.

This poem by Jamie Mc Kendrick touches on the undoing of the fabric of our heaven.


Rust and dry rot and the small-jawed moth
are our best friends and they wish us well,
undoing the fabric of our heaven.

They correspond to something inside us
that doesn't love the works our hands have made
- wire- cutters, pick-locks, saboteurs.

'Are you building a good memory to have of me?'
you once asked as though I'd just begun
a papier-mache Taj Mahal.

I keep a cardboard box of newspapers
in the cupboard so everything that's happened
is safe from pulp mills and the record-shredders

but all the while in the dark the silverfish
and woodlice are at work on the word,
its dot matrix. Living on what seems to us

dust, they profit directly from our neglighence
and attention in general only provokes
their swerving, averting or curling-up manoeuvres.

Meaning? They roll it away and break it down
into unrecombinable fragments
like fatigue in our metal or cancer in concrete.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

An Indian summer

To-day we are having an Indian summer. The whole Indian summer may well span only this day but how lovely to fling open the windows and go out without a coat, hat and scarf. Anticipating an Arctic winter I have been standing smugly by my wood pile, congratulating myself on having ordered some in on time and stacking them relatively neatly so they don't all topple over.  As Beezle and Lao Tzu would say "Great acts are made up of small deeds."

 Having wanted to photograph this new design that we planted up - all summer - I finally managed to remember to take my camera when I went to visit one of my clients. It's past its best now of course - you have to imagine it with lots of purple Salvia caradonna and blue iris sibirica in there as well.

You can't see these heavenly verbascums but they are in there as well. They are so delicate and before each flower opens they look like ruby beads on a stem.

 I think I have become A Sentimentalist. My client has invested in a small lawn mower that mows the lawn all on its own. It looks like an armadillo and it sets off along a given path, its little blades furiously cutting under its carapace. Sometimes, if it reaches a steep bit it might topple over but it rights itself and carries on, then finds its way back to its re-charging station, plugs itself in and waits patiently until it has charged itself up again. I couldn't help feeling sorry for it and the sight of it saddened me. I think this is taking anthropomorphism too far.

Pixie agrees and hopes I'm not going to employ something similar to take her on a walk.
I must send my client this poem by Rudyard Kipling. A short extract of which is below.

The Secret of the Machines
We were taken from the ore-bed and the mine,   
   We were melted in the furnace and the pit—   
We were cast and wrought and hammered to design,   
   We were cut and filed and tooled and gauged to fit.   
Some water, coal, and oil is all we ask,
   And a thousandth of an inch to give us play:   
And now, if you will set us to our task,
   We will serve you four and twenty hours a day.

 But remember, please, the Law by which we live,   
   We are not built to comprehend a lie,
We can neither love nor pity nor forgive.
   If you make a slip in handling us you die.   
We are greater than the Peoples or the Kings—
   Be humble, as you crawl beneath our rods.-
Our touch can alter all created things,
   We are everything on earth—except The Gods.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

moss and cosmos

Called in on one of the gardens I planted up in the Spring and was thrilled to see the river of cosmos we put in is still going strong. This picture was taken from above but in actual fact the plants must be a good four foot high, obviously loving the good new compost they were planted in. 

I do ask myself why I don't plant a river of Dazzler in my own garden. I think "Time" is probably a feeble excuse and I will endeavour to do change. As Einstein and Beezle would say "I must be willing to give up what I am in order to become what I will be."

 I definitely think Time is a factor in not scarifying, raking and doing good things to your lawn. Who does have time to walk up and down in those specially purchased shoes with spikes on the soles to aerate your lawn? More useless things you can purchase, if you have time to browse through the Innovations catalogue which has a multitude of gadgets that you don't need and didn't think you needed until you read about them. Consequently my lawn is full of moss. But hey - moss is lovely to run barefoot on and is fantastically useful for putting round the hyacinth bulbs when they start to poke their shiny green tips up through the soil in the pots. And also especially good if you like hanging baskets. which I don't.
Yes - that guilty face. You should leave the baby rabbits to the cats.

 It's sad in many ways to see that the swallows have gone now but so have the flies which is a great relief to Harry
 and Trude who have spent most of the summer behind large mesh fly masks with ears. The ears are invariably too long and flop over like jester's hats and make the horses look rather comical which as you can see - Trude - is not.

Had to take one of the ducks to the vet the other day as she'd developed a limp. A couple of injections later and - she still has a limp! I found this picture of her when she had hatched on the dining room table. The only girl out of a batch of boys. She's now with the other girls in the polytunnel area and the boys are still romping around the garden and coming in the house when no one is looking. A friend who is helping me with a few things that aren't working said he found them in the living room. It won't be long before they've worked out how to use the remote and go on those shopping channels. Perhaps buying a pair of those shoes with spikes in the end.

I think I could Turn and Live with Animals

I think I could turn and live with animals, they're so
placid and self-contained,
I stand and look at them long and long.

They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their
They do not make me sick  discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the
mania of owning things,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived
thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.

So they show their relations to me and I accept them,
They bring me tokens of myself, they evince them
plainly in their possession.

I wonder where they get those tokens,
Did I pass that way huge times ago and negligently drop

Walt Whitman