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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

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Rats, cats and jellyfish

Have just returned from a wonderful trip to Scotland where I stayed with dear friends on the West coast. I usually associate Scotland with midges and rain, the latter being why I assumed this was the reason a lot of people there have the word Mac in front of their name. However this time there were no midges and beautiful weather whilst down south(I gather) it rained. Originally I was going to travel with Beezle who's been to Scotland before and of course Pixie who is Scottish even though she's an Irish wolfhound. However this time I caught a train and a coach and a ferry instead of driving, so had to make do with this wire lurcher that someone had very skilfully made.

 Nearly trod on this Portuguese Man of War on the beach which although looks small in this picture was in fact the size of a giant dinner plate. Also saw a pair of Golden Eagles(not made of wire or jelly) which made my heart sing. What majestic creatures.

the wire version of Beezle
 Actually Pixie(in spite of being Scottish) would have been in terrible trouble if she'd come with me. Plenty of Monarchs of the Glen roaming around. We got into fearful trouble down here when she chased one across the stubble the other day  then disappeared into the woods and ate three pheasants.This aberration was watched by the Belgium deerstalkers who promptly rang the gamekeeper. We are in hiding.

 And talking of dead things there are a lot of them in the garden now.
 Apart from this magnificent thistle called Cirsium tuberosa which grows well from seed and is still looking good.
 This is an inessential thing but the death toll in the house is rising steadily too, culminating in the body of a HUGE rat laid out like a salmon on the bathroom floor. I am hoping (and I still don't know which cat it was) they found it dead and brought it in. There was no sign of a fight, no blood or guts and a rat that size was as big as each of the cats. Though having said that years ago when I first moved into the cottage I did find a live rat in the bathroom. It went up on its back legs and hissed at me, its mouth peeled back to reveal long yellow fangs. I felt like a lion tamer as I stood in the bathroom in a large pair of rubber boots, a broom and a bucket. In the end I had to shut the cat up with it, who to its credit did kill it. Still, they'd brought it in in the first place so I didn't feel too much like I was instigating some sort of bear baiting competition or a gladiatorial combat.

Inessential Things.

by Brian Patten

What do cats remember of days?

They remember the ways in from the cold,
the warmest spot, the place of food.
They remember the places of pain, their enemies,
the irritation of birds, the warm fumes of the soil,
the usefulness of dust.
they remember the creak of a bed, the sound
of their owner's footsteps,
the taste of fish, the loveliness of cream.
Cats remember what is essential of days.
Letting all other memories go as of no worth
they sleep sounder than we,
whose hearts break remembering so many
inessential things.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Mint and Dahlias.

 It's the time for dahlias now. I grow mine where once my tiny veg garden was and they valiantly push their way up through the four different varieties of mint that still hide their roots down beneath the soil.
Apple mint, ginger mint, eau de cologne mint and that common scruffy looking mint. All heralding the arrival of the Mint Juleps at cocktail hour.
When you come across the dahlias it's like discovering Mexico in your garden.(which is where most dahlias come from via The National Collection of Dahlias, Parkers or Peter Nyssens Wholesale Catalogues.} "Ariba!" They all pronounce as they flash open their glorious petals. They can look out of place in the middle of the English countryside but dahlias are for picking and they do look fantastic in vases.
Dahlia Dark Spirit
 I used to hate dahlias. My sister and I used to shoot the buds off them with our father's air rifle. I feel bad about that now. But then in those days they didn't seem to come in these lovely dark colours - only spiky yellow and red it seemed.
Chat Noir

Nuit d'ete

Rip city

This is a lovely red though - Babylon Red
 I was pleased to see at least two hedgehogs up here this week. The first one was in the polytunnel area which is great news, helping the ducks consume all those slugs, and I nearly stepped on him as I went to put them away late one night. The other was running along the road. They have a real turn of speed - almost as fast as Beezle who was surprised when he stuck his nose in one. Still as Beezle and Socrates would say - "The unexamined Life is not worth living."
There has been a dearth of hedgehogs recently, I don't want them to go the same way as the water vole. They are such charming creatures and should give no rise to being culled by the local farmers. Oh those poor badgers. Hedgehogs are surprisingly very loud when it comes to sex. One night I thought a drunk had fallen into our herbaceous border and was rolling around uttering obscenities, but on closer inspection, it was a couple of mating hedgehogs. I suppose it's all those spines that cause the expletives.

I was looking for the Seamus Heaney poem he wrote about mint and found to my surprise when I opened the book to see his signature. The book must have once belonged to someone else. I've never been one for autographs or having books signed by people but because of his recent death it touched me to think his hand had held the pen that wrote on that page. As he says in his poem Digging - about his father and grandfather digging with spades

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests
I'll dig with it.


It looked like a clump of small dusty nettles
Growing wild at the gable of the house
Beyond where we dumped our refuse and old bottles:
Unverdant ever, almost beneath notice.

But, to be fair, it also spelled promise
And newness in the back yard of our life
As if something callow yet tenacious
Sauntered in green alleys and grew rife.

The snip of scissor blades, the light of Sunday
Mornings when the mint was cut and loved:
My last things will be first things slipping from me.
Yet let all things go free that have survived.

Let the smells of mint go heady and defenceless
Like inmates liberated in that yard.
Like the disregarded ones we turned against
Because we'd failed them by our disregard.

Seamus Heaney

Sunday, 1 September 2013

R.I.P Seamus

Woken by my feline alarm clock as usual this morning. If Nancy hasn't been out plundering the hedgerows for her tasty snacks which she's consumed on the landing during the night - she is hungry around 6 a.m. and wants to let you know. I've taken to shutting my door so I don't have to hear the rodents and rabbits being slaughtered under the bed so rather than just sitting on my chest and purring loudly in my ear she now wails and scratches outside the door.

 I'm undecided which is worse.To quote Christopher Smart's poem (1722!) For I will consider my Cat Jeoffrey -
For she is a mixture of gravity and waggery,
 For there is nothing sweeter than her peace when at rest
For there is nothing brisker than her life when in motion.

Well she is certainly being very brisk at the moment. I'm hoping in the winter she'll hibernate more. All those hibernating animals she's consumed might give her the idea.
 I've always had black cats until Pocket(quarter Bengal) and sometimes have to go through the whole gamut of names when I call her trying to remember which one she is. They do mostly look alike.

Monkey (son of Minky) was probably my favourite as I had him when I was a "cat person" Now I'm a "dog person" and also have children which means my love is less concentrated. Monkey lived to be about 15yrs which is a good age. He died the day after our first wolfie Jai died and whereas we had a farm digger(machine not labourer} dig the hole to bury her in I just used a spade in the woods. Unfortunately I obviously didn't dig deep enough. I buried him wrapped in a tea towel and the next day found the hole empty and the tea towel flapping on the track.

these two pics by courtesy of my friend Norrie 

 It's blackberry picking time. I doubt I'll make any jam. I'm not really a jam or beverage making person even though I have a book called " Let's Preserve It!"published last century which opens with the words "Men are impressed with a beautiful woman who can make pickles." Don't think that would get published these days. They might just as well have said"Men expect women who look like the back end of a bus to make pickles." And anyway - what's wrong with the back end of a bus? Is it less attractive than the front end of a bus? Yes "Let's Preserve these quaint sexist notions."
She also says "Sometimes a cheap and rather despised vegetable like the marrow ......" I don't want any of my marrows reading this and getting a low opinion of themselves.

don't know where all my dark dahlis are this year but these brighten the house

dahlia Franz Kafka

Beezle considering the cat Nancy whilst looking despicably at my marrow.

Seamus Heaney died yesterday. He was the greatest Irish poet since Yeats. As it is the season of blackberries here is one of his poems

Blackberry - Picking.

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. then the red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur.
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot
Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.

R.I.P Seamus.(1939-2013)