Note Number 33…When The Man’s Away…

It’s been a busy few weeks and I’ve not had time to write much (not on my blog anyway). Poor excuse I know but The Man rode his bicycle for a week in the Alsace (Vosges)  and then instead of coming home on the 25th June he took the opportunity to cycle four epic climbs in The Alps and the Pyrenees. I am so proud of him!

Check out the Slide Show!

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I made the most of his absence by tidying up the garden and painting the garden furniture. It all looks fabulous. Paint used was Ronseal Garden paint and I can highly recommend it. We had some great weather in June…no complaints from me.

painted garden stuff

Newly Painted Garden Furniture

border

Splendid Work on the Herbaceous Border 

Other things I did while The Man was away.

  1. I attended my third Black Venn Poetry workshop in Lyme Regis. I find these highly stimulating and never fail to produce a piece of work of which to be proud. I’ve even entered one for a competition, I’ll let you know how it goes.
  2. I entered a 2700 word short story for a competition run by the Literary Trust…It had to be a modern version of a fairy story. I chose Little Red Riding Hood, (I’m sure a few others will have done the same). I will let you know what happens, if anything, later in the year. I was pleased with it but don’t hold out too much hope as there will be plenty of brilliant entries I’m sure.
  3. I went to Bristol and to Weston Super Mare for my grand daughter’s first playgroup outing. It was…err…memorable. The day before it had been 30 degrees but the day of the outing, the rain clouds came in and the temperature dropped over 10 degrees the wind got up…

    So the sand ended up in everything, not just our sandwiches but in our hair and underwear. (think there’s a poem there somewhere). The baby ate the sand and the four-year-old got it in her eyes. But she still managed a donkey ride and an ice-cream before we beat a hasty retreat back to Bristol for a cup of tea and a piece of cake!

  4. I deep cleaned the kitchen and the bathroom in our cottage.
  5. I watched Poldark on Sunday evening.
  6. I have started doing Driving for the Disabled with the Forde Abbey Driving Group. Driving is a branch of Riding for the Disabled but we have ponies pulling carriages which are able to take wheelchairs if necessary.
    DRIVING

    Driving through the Arboretum at Forde Abbey

    I joined the group at the end of last year and so far, for many reasons, I have missed several sessions but I’m back on track now. It’s something I did for years when I lived in Devon and had my own pony, Ginger. Lovely he was. I don’t feel the need to get another pony but I am enjoying other people’s. I have to be re-assessed as a Coach Driver – more form filling and courses to attend. More learning and stuff to remember, for my poor brain to cope with. Hoping it won’t take long.

  7. I went to the ballet in Bridport and saw  Ballet Central. It was an excellent performance of several short pieces. The company is made up from students in their final year. By the look of things some of them will go far. Thoroughly enjoyable afternoon. How they managed to adapt to the small stage,without loss of performance, was quite remarkable. Well done all! 
  8. I read a few books, some better than others, but I enjoyed them all. The last one was My Animals and other Family by Clare Balding. I loved it, a beautifully written memoir of her childhood up to her twentieth year when she went to Cambridge University. I don’t know much about horse racing but I do love horses and dogs and that is the basis of her book. It’s written honestly and openly.

I think that’s most of the important stuff covered. Oh I did fall over and graze arm and knee pretty badly and when there’s no-one at home and even the neighbours are away you just have to get on with it don’t you?

It got worse before it got better but thankfully nothing broken…Oh wait a minute, I broke my tooth the following day. That’s three things then…no more to come, hopefully. 

Note Number 31…Garden v Election Campaign…

me with whiterose

The white roses match my hair colour! 

I am, like many people I know, confused/worried about the forthcoming election and the coverage is endless on FaceBook, Twitter, the News…it cannot be escaped. I do take it all seriously, probably more now that I’m older, than at any other time in my life. But, today is June 1st, and a beautiful sunny day, so I took myself out into the garden, to clear my head and get away from the constant barrage of ‘party political verbal onslaughts’ and to clear the weeds, (some of them anyway) and tidy up.  I’m proud of what we have achieved so far in our little patch of Dorset but there’s still plenty to do. I’m hoping that a reader will be able to identify a couple of plants for me. If you know what the two below are please post in the comments box.

Anyone know what the plant on the left is? And the one on the right, is this a chrysanthemum or a dahlia…or neither? 

I’m loving the roses…look out Chelsea Flower Show 2018 (joke!)

Top left is a white climber…top right is ‘Queen of Sweden’ and the bottom is the prettiest rambling rose, it so belongs in our cottage garden…

Left, Antirrhinums (I think) and on the right the sweet peas are coming on well… no flowers yet but I’m hoping for a bumper crop! 

me with lupins

Check out the lupins! My dad would be proud of me…

I’m tempted to say that after a whole morning in the garden I’m veering towards green…

Summer Fruits, Friends and Gardens…

There’s nowhere better than the English countryside in the summer when the weather is good and in Dorset, at the moment, the sun is shining and the breeze is warm. My friend Jan from Bristol, came to stay for a night while The Man was away visiting London including a quick visit to Brand’s Hatch with FMS racing.

herbaceous border

We decided to visit Forde Abbey near Chard, which I’ve been itching to visit since we first arrived in Dorset. Originally a Cistercian monastery and dissolved by order of Henry VIII in 1539, the estate has changed hands many times over the years. The first private owners were the Prideux family in 1649 and the design of the house and gardens have been added to and altered over the years. We took a walk around the impressive gardens commenting on what a pleasure it was to be able to walk on the well groomed grass and appreciate the fantastic herbaceous borders. They were full of multitudinous colours, scents and a variety of flowers too numerous to mention (actually I hadn’t a clue what many of them were, but let’s not go there). I have only recently become interested in plants and flowers as we do have a small but attractive cottage garden with lawn and flower beds. This year has been a bit of a discovery waiting to see what came up but I did plant half a dozen roses, some of which are turning out to be wonderful and a couple that have been drowned out by some enormous perennial dahlias … at least I think that’s what they are. Any gardening tips would be most welcome.

Hard to tell the difference between my garden and Forde Abbey really…(NOT)

There is something about water that is mesmerising and I love rivers, streams, the sea, in fact water in any form. Strange, because I’m not good in boats and I’m not a great swimmer, I suppose I just love being nearby this basic element. At Forde Abbey we sat for a while by the Long Pond and watched the magnificent Centenary Fountain on Mermaid Lake close by. The fountain was installed in 2005 to celebrate 100 years of ownership by the Roper family. It is the tallest powered fountain in England reaching 150 ft. They don’t have it running permanently but for about fifteen minutes several times a day.

fountain

The Centenary Fountain

pond

The Long Pond

After our tour of the garden we entered the house via the Grand Hall. There was an overwhelming smell of beeswax and carpets, not unpleasant at all but evoking memories of my childhood when I took ballet lessons in an old mansion in Eastcote Middlesex. Forde Abbey is not an enormous house and not at all museum-like, but it does have some great pieces of old furniture and several bedrooms with four poster beds and grand soft furnishings. Jan and I decided we could easily live in the place – for a couple of weeks anyway, but after that it might be a bit difficult just sitting and sewing samplers and not doing the odd job around the house or cooking the meals. Actually Jan said she would be quite happy not having to think of what to cook for dinner every day, but I pointed out that she’d probably still have to think of meal plans but then leave it to someone else to prepare, which would suit me!

frontof house

Front of the House

It wasn’t hard to imagine life for the women in the families who had lived in the house in the past. We could visualise them strolling across the lawns with lace parasols keeping their delicate fair skin from burning in the mid afternoon sun. From one smaller bedroom at the back of the house, I could picture a young seventeen-year old girl in the 19th century, sitting on the deep wooden window sill gazing down to the kitchen garden below and eyeing the muscular, tanned figure of a young gardener, possibly stripped to the waist…Mills and Boon here I come!

kitchengarden

The Kitchen Garden and Back of the House

Forde Abbey has a ‘pick your own’ farm about a mile or so from the main house and grounds so we jumped in our cars and headed off to gather some fruit for jam. Sadly, the strawberries had come to an end but there were plenty of raspberries, if you looked for them.
‘Lots of people don’t bother but if you lift up the branches you’ll find loads underneath’ suggested the girl at the farm shop and she was right. ‘Walk right down to the last two rows’, she added.
It was a fair way to walk but not for hardened pickers like Jan and I who have, for the last few seasons, spent our time in October picking olives. Raspberries are a bit easier and obviously we could just harvest what we wanted with the added bonus of being able to eat them as we went. Definitely something you cannot do with an olive!

And finally…..

The Jam!

jam

Oops…forgot to mention that we had a lovely lunch in the cafe, at Forde Abbey, jacket potato for me and quiche for Jan with salad…all from kitchen garden.  We looked but sadly we never saw any young, muscular gardeners…I think they keep them hidden from visitors. 😦

Spot the Tomato…

Spot the Tomato!

Spot the Tomato!

At the back of our house is a little bit of waste ground that nobody bothers about so The Man decided he would make it a project and set about improving the look of it. He made terraces using some wooden beams taken from the roof when we made a roof terrace and arranged a wine press ( an old one that we don’t use) in an artistic way, threw in a couple of green vintage wine demijohns (even more artistic) – put down some paving and gravel. The Man generally made a rather good job of it and proudly announces to everyone, ‘I did all this without spending hardly any money, only hard labour and all the materials are recycled. I only spent €10 on screws!’

garden

I was in charge of filling the beds so I bought lots of rosemary plants, lavender, sage and other herbs. Then I decided to put in a couple of tomato plants. Yeah what a good idea. I thought I’d bought those cherry ones and looked forward to lots of little red jewels to put on our salad.

Everyone grows tomatoes here without any problem. I watered and fed them and they grew like triffids…amazing! They grew huge and are taking over the whole of the area but they are devoid of tomatoes – or are they? I have now spotted one or two but they are the buffalo variety – shock horror – where are my dainty little gems? Sadly they are taking a long time to get to anything like the right size for picking and as for going red…hmm – I think I’ll be making a lot of green tomato chutney this autumn.

Spotted one tomato...

Spotted! One tomato…

I had also put in some strawberry plants which did quite well and look as though they’re spreading well so next year there should be a better crop – if only I can stop the cat and dog using that particular area as their toilet. Not sure if it improves the taste of the strawberries as I was rather put off trying them…

On a brighter note, my flowers have done extremely well this year and I’m very proud of my cascading petunias, a wonderful burst of colour – aren’t I clever?

Petunia you adorable lady, well done!

Petunia – you adorable lady, well done!

And – I hope I don’t speak too soon – I have six oranges on my little tree, with a bit of luck they’ll be ready for Christmas!

Oranges...(or greens as they are at the moment)

Oranges…(or greens as they are at the moment)