National Allotments Week

This week is National Allotments Week. This is organised by the National Allotment Society. With people having smaller gardens in new builds and pressure to remove allotments for new housing it seems nice to celebrate the allotment. That little space where Brits have escaped to for many years. The first were established in the 1700’s for the use of the poor. By the name Victory Gardens they played a role in digging for victory in the World Wars. Now with a young child I don’t have the time needed for an allotment. I’m still getting on top of my own garden. But my parents do and they have donated various fruit and veg. So to celebrate National Allotment Week I have attempted a rhubarb and apple crumble using the recipe here.

The variety of apples my parents have grown are supposed to be a cross between an eating and a cooking apple depending on when you pick them. So we’ll have to wait and see whether they are tasty or disgusting in the crumble.

The crumble mix felt suitably crumbly before going on.

The finished result. My parents are visiting tomorrow and since they donated the apples and rhubarb I think I will have to save it for them to test. Just crisp it up a little bit more. So we’ll see what do you reckon will it be delicious or totally inedible?

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Apple Picking-Robert Browning

A quick poem linked to the apples.

My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

Garden update

The long tailed tits have been back again. They are gradually becoming more comfortable with me being around allowing me to get a bit closer for clearer photos than last time.

Hedgehog Home Survey

Just a quick mention that the Hedgehog Preservation Society are starting a new survey to help combat declining hedgehog numbers. The survey is asking about different hedgehog homes people put out, whether you feed any of the mammals and birds in your garden and about other potential homes in your garden. It only takes a few minutes to complete if you have a chance to do it. The survey runs to October, so plenty of time.

https://www.hedgehogstreet.org/help-hedgehogs/housingcensus/https://www.hedgehogstreet.org/help-hedgehogs/housingcensus/

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I’ve discussed helping hedgehogs before, but it’s worth repeating.

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My homes have yet to be used for hibernation, but I only put them in last year. I do get plenty of hedgehog visitors though. I also discovered we get hedgehogs visiting at school, so set up a home there as well. So fingers crossed may get some hibernating this year.

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Bench of happiness

For the last few weeks I’ve been working on several larger garden jobs: building a paved area for the compost heap, knocking out a brick veg planter on the patio, and building a bench area. The planter is knocked out. It didn’t have proper drainage and was up against a wall of the house. It may of caused water damage if left and it’s also give us a bigger space for a table on the patio. The compost heap was dismantled as while the house was rented the renters filled it with rubbish. In its place is a paved area and a compost bin. The bench area hadn’t come on though as we couldn’t find a bench we liked. We wanted a bench down on the lawn so we have somewhere to sit and watch Alice play.

However at the weekend we saw a sign for a yard sale. Not expecting very much we ventured down to have a nosey. We went down the street and found one of the roads had a number of houses having yard sales. Mostly junk they wanted rid of, but one man was selling planters he built and had a bench he’d made for sale. For the bargain price of £35 we got something a little bit more unique.

The area we wanted the bench to go in has been underused. I had some daffodils there in Spring, but apart from that it’s largely been empty meaning weeds have moved in regularly. The area has a slope to it as I think someone at some stage intended a kind of rockery, but never finished it. So I’ve levelled it a bit and then used the stone bricks I had from knocking out the veg planter to build a line at the back to keep the soil slope back. Then tried to level it flush with the lawn at the front.

Alice was keen to help. I laid some sand to help make a better foundation. I think she thought it was some sort of wonderful sandpit for her, but living by the beach we don’t really need a sandpit. She did spread some sand though with the dibber. The dibber is probably her second favourite tool after the watering can mentioned previously.

 

Then weed matting went down and a layer of gravel around the bench legs. Alice is going through a stage of being fascinated by rocks. So she helped get them out the bag. She didn’t cry though that the stones had to stay when we were done.

All in all I’m pretty happy with the end result. I have few practical skills, beyond looking after plants, so this feels like an achievement. The stones at the front are pretty level with the lawn and feel firm.

The bench area looks good from the house with the view through the hydrangeas.

Hopefully we can enjoy sitting watching Alice enjoy the garden and it won’t subside.

My favorite gardening tool

Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful!’ and sitting in the shade.

Rudyard Kipling

Gardens can require a lot of work, but I have one tool I probably use more than anything else. My hori hori knife has been invaluable since I bought it last year. Also known as a Japanese soil knife the word hori translates as, “to dig”. Hori hori also works as an onomatopoeia for the sound of digging.

I first saw the hori hori on Gardner’s World used by Monty Don. The knife has a decent six inch blade with a concave shape. One edge is serrated, the other sharp. The blade is almost full tang, going into the handle making it secure.

This is a multifunction tool. Its main purpose is to remove weeds. It does this wonderfully for me. I’d tried a number of different weeding tools and none quite satisfied. When we moved in the garden had been neglected with many deep rooted dandelions. This allows me to cut in deeply and precisely into the lawn to remove weeds down to the roots. 

The knife also acts as a trowel as the curved blade allows you to dig. I use this for digging a lot of the smaller holes for plug plants. It’s also good for digging around plants for moving. The serrated edge can work through roots. It is equally good for splitting perennials.

I also find it works well for edging the lawn where the sharp and serrated edges allow me to mark the line I want and then saw or cut through giving me a neat, precise line.

The blade also marks depth with the ruler on the knife. This can be used for planting bulbs. It goes into the soil easily. A little wriggle and you have a hole ready for a bulb. I prefer it to my traditional dibber as I’ve mainly planted large bulbs like daffodils and aliums where this has worked better.

With the size of the handle and blade it does feel a bit like taking a machete to the weeds, but that is rather satisfying in itself. It is a tool I’ve seen described as, “fun to use,” and it is. It makes an otherwise dull job somewhat pleasurable. Allowing you to lose yourself in the zen of weeding. While not the cheapest tool it has replaced a number of tools in my gardening arsenal. I highly recommend the hori hori to garden lovers. 

Alice on the other hand favours the watering can. Used by her both to water plants and deadhead flowers as she brandishes it in all directions, smiting any flowers in her way.


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Birds of a feather

Having written about my new bird feeder I think it’s a good time to look at what I am getting in the garden. Often Summer is quite a quiet time for the feeders with an abundance of food around for the birds they can find themselves. But with the sporadic weather going back and forth between torrential rain and baking sun when the sun is shining the birds are looking to fill up on high energy foods.

Nothing puts the pigeons off coming to the feeders. Even in the rain they will sit out on the feeder getting plumper.

With lots of young sparrows around the feeders have seen the house sparrows back and forth on lots of visits.

The starlings have been swarming in large numbers, then flitting off as quickly as they came.

The blackbirds have been enjoying the wet ground, picking though for the worms come to the surface.

The goldfinches mentioned in a previous blog.

I’ve almost seen the whole tit family. There have been blue tits, great tits, long tailed and coal tits. Although I haven’t managed any photos of the coal tits.

The ever present herring gull shed mafia has been keeping watch over its domain.

I’ve also seen wrens, collared doves, jackdaws, chaffinches and thrushes. Part of the reason for getting so many I believe is down to the variety of food on the feeders. The tits seem to be going mad for the suet and peanuts. The jackdaws come for the meal worms and kitchen scraps. The pigeons seem to devour everything. The finches like the niger and the sunflower heads.

I also have feeders on different levels. Some ground feeders and some up higher on the station. Then I also have some located hanging in the trees and these seem to be favoured by the smaller birds. It’s worth trying putting more than just a seed mix out if you want to attract a variety of birds. Or if there is something you particularly want put out appropriate food.

The insect life has also been pretty good with a good variety of butterflies, dragonflies and bees coming in.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my whistle stop tour through my garden birds and all have good weekends.

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I’ll finish with an Emily Browning poem.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

Haiths-Niger Seed Bird Feeder review

Last week I was contacted by Haiths-Bird food specialists asking if I would review one of their products. I agreed and I have been sent their niger seed feeder and a bag of their seed mix to go with it. So with the disclaimer out of the way that I received the product for free lets take a look at the feeder.

The feeder itself is well made. A nice solid metal construction. The top comes off when you lift it up with the handle. The bottom also comes off for you to give the feeder a good clean out, which it is important to do. It’s particularly important if you are in an area bad for bird flu as it helps stop the infection spreading.

The feeder comes with a handy plastic pull out sleeve which you put in to make it easier to fill. Niger seed is small and falls through holes in most feeders as you fill. With this you put the sleeve in, fill with niger seed, then remove the sleeve when it’s at the feeder.

The feeder looks smart on the bird station. It’s a good size, so shouldn’t need filling straight away again. It looks attractive and the metal gives it a look of quality rather than some of the flimsy plastic feeders. Not that the birds will care, but nice for me.

The seed itself is Haiths own mix. It looks good quality. The seeds are the rich dark brown/black colour they should be. If you buy bird seed from a shop you’re meant to avoid niger with too many seeds that have dried out to the lighter brown as they’ve lost their oil rich goodness that will help the birds particularly in winter.

The previous niger feeder I had only had a couple of tiny holes and I was never sure all the birds that enjoy niger seed could get in, especially when damp I think it got clogged, so we’ll see if this with multiple holes is better.

Since hanging the feeder today I’ve seen one juvenile goldfinch investigating, but didn’t eat. Goldfinches are one of the main visitors to niger feeders and you couldn’t really ask for a more charming looking bird. Goldfinches didn’t used to eat from tables, but have become more common in the last decade, which makes for a pleasant sight in the garden. Niger seed is popular with other finches and siskin’s. However I’ve never seen siskin’s in the garden so unlikely they’ll suddenly arrive from a new feeder. So we’ll see how popular this feeder is and I will update as we get visitors. It usually takes a few days for new discoveries on the bird station to start seeing regular visitors.

http://www.haiths.com/bird-feeders/

http://www.haiths.com/bird-food/

While this was free for me in exchange for a review if you check the website you’ll see a good range of products. The feed is reasonably priced and cheaper if buying if larger quantities. The delivery was quick and products were well packaged. I would try buying from them when I next require some wildlife supplies for my garden. I have my eye on getting a more traditional wooden bird table.

What was in the garden today?

Today I’ve carried on with clearing the old compost heap, which was filled with more rubbish after the house was rented than compost material and I’ve had quite a few visitors to the garden.

Big Butterfly Count

It was the last day of the Butterfly Count today. Today I just counted from the garden. I counted three red admirals, one peacock, two small whites and a painted lady. I didn’t get a photo of the painted lady, but nice to see. I’ve spotted them in the local area but not in my garden. Not a great number, but a nice variety of butterflies. Hopefully this will of been a record breaking year for the count with many people logging sightings.

Mouse

While I’ve been levelling paving slabs for compost bins to sit on I’ve had this little mouse watching. I don’t know if I should be concerned that it has little fear of me. But it was good to see it nibbling some of the unwanted weeds.

Afternoon out

With the paving slabs laid ready for delivery of compost bin later in the week I headed out with Amy and Alice as lots was going on in Hornsea today.

Hornsea District Lions Club were celebrating 50 years with free entertainment in the Memorial Gardens. They had put on a Johnny Cash tribute, “Keep it Cash“. The main singer was pretty much spot on with the voice when singing. They did two solid sets of Cash classics. Alice enjoyed it swaying back and forth, dancing to lots of songs. With plenty of tunes with good rhythm she was happy. Who’d of thought Johnny Cash would make good family fun?

In between sets there was a Punch and Judy show for the kids, but we left for a walk as it was a bit above Alice’s head.

Rescue Day

Down at the sea front it was emergency rescue day. Many of the emergency services had representatives demonstrating their jobs. The rescue dogs were demonstrating their water searches when we arrives. It was good to see the divers showing how they rescue stranded marine animals. A nice little finish to Marine Week

Then we returned for some more Cash in the gardens. A good day, a garden job done, some wonderful wildlife visitors and a marvellous afternoon of music. What have you done with your Sunday Fun day?

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