A little handful of feathers – 365 #12 – Photo of the week

I quickly scooped up this little bird that one of my cats, Minnie I suspect, brought into the house. It was flapping around like a fledgling and was rather tiny for a full grown bird. Surely it’s far too early for fledglings?  Unless they are blackbirds, I’ve known them to nest in early February.

I managed to get just the one shot of it in my hand before it leaped off onto the floor. Managed to catch it again and I took it outside and put it on the bird table with some seeds from where it leaped off again (nothing wrong with its legs I thought) and flapped off into a tangle of shrubs. Fortunately the cats were in the house.

It was unmarked from its encounter with Minnie and there were just a couple of tiny feathers on the dining room floor, but if it can’t fly then its chances I fear, are zero. It was quite a feisty little thing, it pecked my finger quite hard!

The thing is… what was it? The closest I could guess is a female chaffinch… but I’m not sure. What do you think?

What is this little bird?

What is this little bird?

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Team Lloyd

Photo of the week kindly hosted by Team Lloyd 

Getting stuck in

Last weekend was was truly glorious and perfect weather for getting out into the garden. But where to start?

As I had mistakenly started off my tomato seeds indoors a month too early (beginning of February instead of March) I felt that I should finish cleaning and sorting out the greenhouse ready to house the tiny seedlings.

Cluttered greenhouse

I had removed all my overwintering geraniums and put them in the spare stable the week before and had washed down half of the glass. All that remained was to wash down the rest of the glass and metal  work brush and wash down the two stagings, dig out of the worst of the weeds and to lay the weed control fabric. Last year I was in too much of a hurry to lay this, to my cost, as the weeds grew happily in the balmy climate. Maybe one day I will be able to afford to lay paving.

I have to say I am really pleased with the greenhouse  purchased three or four years ago. It was to have been a present to myself on retirement, but I thought why wait until then, when I could put it to good use before? When researching what to buy, a colleague gave me some very good advice. She said think of the size you want and then buy the next size up. When you start using it you will inevitably want more space, and once purchased it’s too late. She was absolutely right, I was looking at  6’x8′ ones but bought an 8’x10′ and was very glad I did. It’s just perfect!

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Once cleaned and sorted I moved all my little tiny Ailsa Craig and Gardeners’ Delight tomatoes and my marigold seedlings into the greenhouse. They were potted up three weeks ago and have been sitting in my cold porch since then. They’re little toughies as they didn’t perish in the freezing conditions, they just didn’t grow. The remaining seedlings, still in the propagator trays, in the kitchen, have grown really leggy and aleady have their third leaves.  I  potted these up tonight (Thursday) and they will spend a few days in the porch before they go out into the greenhouse. Tomato seedlings won’t grow below 10 degrees, but under the cloches in the greenhouse during the day the temperature is up to 18 degrees.

On Sunday, because the ground had dried out so much, I cut the grass on a high setting, leaving the cut grass on the ground. Glad I got that done because I didn’t get a late final cut last autumn and it was bordering on 9 inches in places!

Hens enjoying scratching around in the cut grass

Hens enjoying scratching around in the cut grass

With still time before I had to go and bring Max back from his field, I decided to attack the overgrown veg patch.

My overgrown veg patch

My overgrown veg patch

Managed to tidy it up and put some manure on, but didn’t have time to start digging. Hopefully that will happen next weekend, if it’s not raining!

Feb 2013 (3)

Photo of the week – Long-tailed Tit

I was just going out of my back door and I saw this lovely long-tailed tit in my rambling rose. Fortunately my camera was in the porch so I grabbed it and managed to get a few shots before it flew off. It’s not brilliantly in focus, but I’m happy having managed to get it in the frame, as they move so quickly!

Long-tailed Tit

Long-tailed Tit

Photo of the week kindly hosted by htpp//teamlloyd.com/ Why not pop over there and see lots more photos?

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Thoughts on a Big Project

One of my last projects for the winter was to strip out the shelves and wallpaper in my kitchen pantry and redecorate it the same colour as the kitchen. But then I started this blog and, ever since, every spare minute has been taken up trying to get to grips with WordPress! My learning curve has been, and still is, vertical!

At the end of April I will be retiring (yippee) so I will be able to put some real time into my Big Project, the garden.

22 years ago, when I had all but given up hope of finding a place where I could keep my horse at home,  I found my dream cottage through a friend.  I was in the right place at the right time and I could just afford the mortgage on this little ‘attached’ cottage with stables, outbuildings and a turnout paddock. Luck was on my side as I found a buyer for my house the day after I had placed the ad in the paper and in just over six weeks, my horse, two cats and I moved in.

Luckily the garden was a blank canvas, with only a few fruit trees and  shrubs. Over the next 10 years I toiled hard creating flowerbeds, planting hedges and shrubs.. It wasn’t on a par with the Lost Gardens of Helligon, but it certainly felt like it!  I planted over 60 old roses, and constructed a rose tunnel and trellises for them to climb through. The perfume on a summer’s evening was overwhelming.

Just a few images of my garden 12 years ago…

Garden 2000 Buff Beauty

Garden 2000 C

Garden 2000 D

Garden June 200

Cottage garden 2000 A

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That is what it looked like in its heyday.This is what it looked like last year…

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Clematis viticella

As you can see the roses have all, but a few, died. They are high maintenance. They need to be sprayed for greenfly and against blackspot, fertilized and dead headed regularly. I just didn’t look after them as I was too busy going for long rides on my horse. The garden was neglected for too many years. The black spot gets into the stems, the leaves all fell, and the roses died. So sad. I had worked so hard on getting my old rose collection established, then I neglected them. Sad too, that now I’m going to have time to look after them, I can’t replant new roses where the old ones were. That is, not unless I replace something like two cubic metres of soil for each rose. This would just not be feasible!

Luckily the Cecile Brunner and the Rambling Rector, on the other side of the garden have survived. Can’t think why because they’re planted next to my neighbour’s conifers that take all the moisture out of the soil. They are beautiful…

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So, the challenge is, what to plant in all the gaps!

Green shoots

A few years ago I was given a Garland electric windowsill propagator for Christmas and from that point on, I have grown all my vegetables from seed.  Am so pleased with it as within a few days, the seeds germinate. Takes away all the worry about whether they will germinate or not.

After a blog-searching expedition a few weeks ago, I came across a gardening blog and read a post from a member who had already sown their tomatoes, in an unheated greenhouse.

Not wanting to be left behind, last Friday I sowed some of my tomato seeds. Gardeners’ Delight, a cherry tomato, which is an old favourite, very prolific and beautifully sweet.  Ailsa Craig, a sweet, medium-sized tomato that I have never grown before and …. marigolds.

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The marigolds germinated very quickly – I could see them coming through on Sunday. The tomatoes were showing on Tuesday. Brilliant, eh?!! My other tomato seeds, an Italian beefsteak tomato, will be sown in a few weeks time.

The novice veg grower may well be asking why the marigolds? Well, several years ago my greenhouse was plagued with greenfly, the seedling’s greatest enemy! They suck sap and the seedling will die unless drastic action is taken. It was devastating. I try to grow my crops without using chemicals, so I had to douse everything with soapy (Fairy Liquid will do) water which should kill the little perishers. Remember to search on the underside of the leaves though, as that is where they love to congregate.

Hearing about my greenfly problems a colleague recommended growing marigolds among the tomatoes in the greenhouse. I’ve done this ever since, and haven’t seen a single greenfly, so it obviously works.

Since sowing my tomatoes I have found my notebook from last year and I noticed that I sowed them on the 7th March ! Oh dear, will just have to pray that the freezing nights are a thing of the past. They say that seedlings will survive at 10 degrees and above. Oer, think I have been a bit premature.  Might have to sow some more in March, never mind.

Next job? Clear out all the geraniums from the greenhouse, into the spare stable and give the inside of the greenhouse a good clean …. then prick out and pot on the seedlings.