Tag Archives: garden

Nothing whatever to do with chickens

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Because they have all gone home.  Whew.

Leaving me with time to take a survey of the perennials whose seeds I planted back in the early spring.  Some have done well, some started well and then sulked, some looked pathetic and then changed their minds and went woosh.  I’ll never understand plants.

I have been particularly taken with the agastache.  They have a pleasing aromatic foliage, and the bees LOVE them; there’s a continual buzz of bumbles around them (already in progress by six this morning), which has to be good for all of us.

Then there are these rich, dark rudbeckia.  At the moment the plants are a bit on the spindly side, but on this showing I’m really hoping that they live through the winter and fatten up next summer.

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Somewhat gross

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The garden in general and chicken pen in particular look as if a vigorous pillow-fight has taken place.  One of the guest chooks has decided to do a moult (at least, I hope it is just a moult), and every time she flaps or preens a few more bits detach themselves.  Already she only has half a tail, with a patch of – quite frankly – repellent bright pink flesh showing through.  I keep imagining that one morning I’ll open the roost, release a small puff of quills and down onto the breeze, and a sort of horrid oven-ready bird will come pacing beadily out.

Flat chickens

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I’ve trained them too well:  every time I walk out into the garden they rush under my feet, looking for breadcrumbs.  So far I have managed not to stand on them (much).

You would think I had stamped them all flat when they are lying in their favourite dirt bath, squashed down, spread out, heads extended at bizarre angles, feathers cocked inside out, feet projecting improbably, squirming their wings as if dismembered.  In fact, of course, they are just superbly relaxed.

I was not as relaxed as they were, having undertaken a maddening hunt for a pin.  I’m careful with pottery tools, but I’m always losing pins.  After half an hour looking in every drawer and receptacle, likely or unlikely, I found a brand new one.  Where the others have gone, who can tell?

Today was the start of one final collection of beach clay pots, from six or seven different small batches of clay, hoping for some good colour variations after firing.  Then I’m going to call a halt – at least until I have grown some new skin on my fingers and the palms of my hands.  Exfoliation?  Ow!

Broomfrighteners

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The second batch of beach clay pots went in for a  v e r y   s l o w   f i r i n g,  and I only lost one, cracked at the rim.  I’m surprised how pale some of them came out – one of the grey clays must have had scarcely any iron in.  Also rather oddly, the blue-green clay fired to a quite strong terracotta, and not surprisingly at all, the dark orangey brown fired to dark orange-red.  I think they will look better when dirtied and algaed up a bit.  Going in raw:

The third batch are drying out ( v e r y   s l o w l y,  of course).  Meantime I have had an outbreak of porcelain bud vases, which is about as different a throwing challenge from the big rough beach clay pots as you could possibly get.  I do make the little vases quite chunky though – my excuse, so that they will be stable if heavy-headed flowers are put in them.

It was difficult to achieve the zen-like concentration needed for good throwing, as the wretched guest poultry, which are allowed to forage on a large patch of grass, a partly-dug vegetable bed, the wild-bit-at-the-back, a neglected border, and a long gravel path, have found the one bit of garden I don’t want them in.  Naturally.

They waited until I was well settled at the wheel, and then tip-toed down the grass, carefully not making eye contact with me, to the forbidden territory.  I added a new game called broomfrighteners to my sporting repertoire, sweeping the invaders up the garden with gratifying flutters and flaps and squawks.  The chooks then stood about ten yards off, doing chicken things with their necks and complaining, waited for me to sit down to the next bud vase, and immediately started doing grandmother’s footsteps back down the garden for the next round.  So far, I reckon they are winning on points.

On the other hand: egg and lettuce sandwiches; swiss roll; baked custard; omelette; quiche …

Skwuurk

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There’s no getting away from it.  Chickens make some of the most ludicrously dismal noises in the world, only to be compared to small children learning to play the violin.

This morning I let the guest chooks out to stravage about the garden for a few hours, watching in case they explored into next door or ate my young plants.  It was fairly easy to keep an eye on four of them as they scratched deep in the vegetables and weeds, but the fifth was more difficult to see.

Indeed, occasionally I put shoes on and went out to find the highly camouflaged Dotty, as I don’t want to have to Explain Myself to a tearful owner, but luckily she always turned up.

She was more visible when on a green background; an odd-looking creature, her booffy britches fluffed up and twirled by the wind.

The main task for the morning was to lead them up and down the garden a few times with trails of brown bread crumbs, of which they are inordinately fond, in the hope that they will associate me with treats and thus come when called.  The evenings are reserved for Fluffers, who has her own indoor space (she is too small to associate readily with the outdoor flock, and thinks she is a person anyway).  Occasionally she condescends to use me as a heated mattress.

Chicken selfies.  Sigh.

A sporting post

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In spite of a deep resistance to all forms of sport, I do believe I have invented a new one:  Bumble Badminton.  Here is the necessary racquet:

I’m getting quite good at this sport.  The stupid creatures ramble into the conservatory when I am potting on, and seem to think I may have nectar in my ears.

Four is probably the maximum number of players, assuming you have enough racquets, but playing solo is safer.  I’ve decided that points are awarded based on the distance each stroke moves the object towards the goal (door), and subtracted for the distance it returns in between strokes (one point per yard), and also for false strokes.   Two extra points are received when the object is propelled through the egress, and style marks are given when it is struck cleanly from the sweet spot on the racquet (the bristles), or for good playing technique, i.e. nothing else in the environment is contacted.

All points are forfeited if the target is squashed.  Breakages must be paid for, and the umpire’s decision is final.

Mostly horticultural

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On any list of Silly Things To Do, potting on dozens of plants while wearing a white dress must be fairly high up.  But it is my loosest and airiest dress, and at eight this morning it was already hot.  Smears might come out in the wash – maybe.

Meantime, the tide of plant pots rose and rose, filling the garden tables, obstructing the paving, covering the coal bin, overflowing down the steps, and lapping at the doors.  Plant after plant, knocked out of its small pot, was tucked briskly into the new litre pot with nice fresh compost; I was amused to detect in myself the manner of an old-fashioned nurse doing her hospital corners.  If I can fend the slugs off, I trust most of my patients will survive.

This is a table.  I haven’t seen it for several years as it has been covered with guinea pigs and seedlings in trays and plants in pots.  Look:  still shiny!

Round and round the agapanthus

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When not shrieking with horror, I am interested in invertebrates, and was curious about a tiny white crab spider.  Turns out that female Misumena vatia are able to change colour from white to yellow to green, in order to match the flower or plant on which they are currently sitting.  Like all crab spiders, they are active hunters, not web-builders.

I did wonder what this one will do when the pale buds open and become blue flowers; but perhaps there will be enough residual whiteness to accommodate her.

And I fully subscribe to the active habit label; she was well aware of me near her flower, and as I approached she nipped instantly round the back of the bud to put it between her and me.  After making multiple circuits of the agapanthus in pursuit, snapping photos of her bottom as I went, I conceded, and sulked hotly off for an ice lolly.

So: spider bottom.  This was the best I could do.

All on a summer’s day

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Well it was about 80° by 9 o’clock again, so I went to water the plants before it became intolerable.  While on this placid duty, the

biggest

blackest

hugest

enormous

VASTACEOUS

bumblebee flew straight down the neck of my shirt.

Having in this compendious manner tried to achieve heat stroke and heart attack in the same encounter, I treated myself for shock and proceeded with the day.

At 10 o’clock we headed to a convenient beach.  There was a ruffling breeze and on the fairly steep-to shingle the waves made aggressive dashes at our knees.  Wet skirts were not a problem in the circumstances …

At noon the curtains were pulled against the sun and with local old-fashioned milk (full of old-fashioned top-of-the-milk) we made raspberry ice cream – yum, zingy.

And having run out of tosh for the moment, another book at 1 pm:

 

Wendy Moore has written an interesting double biography of Thomas Day and Sabrina Sidney/Bicknell.  The key narrative element is that Day, a dogmatic, wealthy and eccentric 18th century bachelor, tried to create a wife to his own specifications by acquiring and educating his own personal orphan, naming her Sabrina Sidney.  The morality of this is more complex than at first appears – less obnoxious because it did not in fact seem to cloak sexual abuse or pædophilia, and did in fact benefit his protégé in terms of prosperity and education; and more obnoxious, because the bald description of ‘apprenticeship’ barely indicates the mental manipulation, ownership, occasional physical cruelty and minute control he expected to exert over Sidney.  What could possibly go wrong?  Quite a lot, but again, no simple moral to be drawn.

It seems that the story was too good to waste, its afterlife leaking into several novels, and perhaps eventually into Shaw’s Pygmalion.  Having read this account of Day’s experiment (and also Pygmalion), I can well believe it.

And now at another 9 o’clock, it’s time to water the frazzled pot plants again.  Dare I brave the invertebrates?