Friday, April 29, 2016

Bailing Twine Holds the World Togther

The earlier part of the week was cool, dry and sunny.  Brilliant weather for getting things done!
The piles of plastic buckets and the other things that were raked out of the polytunnels were hauled away.
I sowed some more seed.
Corn has made an early showing.
These two showed up to try to protect the plastic at one end of the smaller polytunnel.  It has a couple of rips and the increasing winds threaten to rip it further.  Bailing twine and cable ties hold the world together.
This wonderful old machine is called into service
I don't even know what make it is. . . I'm going to have to ask.

Three of us spent a little time pulling up old pea sticks and the frames that used to support beans.  We also pulled up some unrequited leeks, old turnips and ancient brussel sprout stalks.  Those were thrown into the field for the sheep and donkeys to have.
Geoff is in his element.
The first furrow is made . . . perfectly straight.  I think he's done this before.
Now look!  The garden is all plowed over.  It will get rotovated in a few weeks to make it ready for planting.  I'm going to dress it with agricultural lime before the soil is tilled for the final time.  We've had a LOT of rain over the last couple of years.  Vegetables do better when the soil is not quite so acidic as it is now.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Showing Improvement

I've been up to the new garden every day now.  Keeping things watered is important.  I can't miss a day now.  I've sowed some seed.  By the time it is safe for them to be put out, they'll be well on their way.

Piles of plastic that is destined to be hauled away Saturday morning.

The workbench was sorted through.  I've kept all the useful things and thrown away all the crumbling, sun damaged plastic things and poisons.  It still looks like a jumble, but I know what everything is and where it is when I go to use it.
Strawberry beds are almost cleared.   There are some gaps in some of the strawberry beds.  Those can be filled at some point.  It isn't a sprint.
There are definite signs that somebody is there and caring for the place.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Two Hours Today

After a morning appointment, I nipped across to a local garden centre and got some supplies, a few seeds and some plants out of the "scratch and dent" shelf.

I then went home and finished gathering all the things that are going over the the garden, grabbed the dog, packed a lunch and away we went.

Unloading the car in the wind wasn't fun. . .

The seeds are now in a mouse-proof container so can be safely left over there.

Sowed the bean seeds and some flower seeds.

Having something that I've started in the polytunnels is good.  I'll have something to cluck over.  Beans can't actually go in until June. . . so they've got six weeks of start time.  I think I'll start the sweetcorn too.

I just pottered around.  I may go back this evening and scratch around in the strawberry beds a little while longer.

Forgetting to bring the radio was a big mistake.  I hope I don't do that again.  It was quiet.

This is the door all closed up and rabbit proof.  Yes, I used a hay fork to keep it closed.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

I Can Smell New Life!

It's been almost two months since I left my lovely home.   I now live about three and a half miles away in the next village.  It's been an enormous adjustment. I don't think I'm going to plaster my heartbreak and sordid details all over the internet.  I will say that I am seeking a divorce from The Man of the Place.  It isn't fair.  Life isn't fair.  As I don't have control over some of the events, I do have control over how I move forward.

I now have neighbours.  I have to remember to lock the door.  I have a small postage stamp of a back garden.

To keep me busy, I asked a friend if I can have a corner of their garden in which to work.  They responded by giving me the entire vegetable garden!

These are the before shots:
They are going to plow up and prepare the soil.  They have a tractor and rotovator and I don't.  This is going to save me weeks of digging!.

In the meantime I have all the work inside to do.  This polytunnel has a grapevine in it!

The other tunnel has potatoes at one end and strawberries at the other. Lots of things that will need to be evaluated for their usefulness.

There are rabbits too. .. . that is going to have to be managed.  Polly spent most of our time there, trying her level best to chase the rabbits.  By the time it was time to go home, she was so tired she had to have a bit of help getting into the car.
I will also need a wheelbarrow
Did mention that there are donkeys that live in the next field?
After hauling all the things I have scavenged from my old place from the car to the polytunnel, I worked at cleaning and straightening up.  Tools were put in one spot.  The paths were raked  and I started weeding the strawberry beds.  It was so very dusty!  Later on when I had a drink, it tasted of dust . .   After about three hours, having removed my jacket despite the cool weather, one strawberry bed was much tidier.  I then set about watering all the plants I could see.  I watered some that may already be dead . . .just to see if they can be revitalised.

It seemed that three hours was a good enough start.  Don't want to overdo it. The rabbits will have their merry way, if I don't shut things up properly.  I shut the top tunnel up and went back to collect my jacket and radio from the tunnel I had been working in. . . . and I noticed that it smelled differently.  Where it was dry and dusty before and didn't smell of anything in particular, now it smelled of life!


Saturday, March 05, 2016

Sad Endings

I write in this blog about the garden that I neglect.  I love my house and the garden that surrounds it.  I may have to give it up.

The Man of the Place and I are splitting up. I am heartbroken.  I've told my immediately family and a few friends. The neighbours don't know yet though. I have no idea what I am going to do next.

I am staying with my son and his family. They say that I can stay for as long as I need.  That's lovely but I just want to go home.  I want to be in my house with my dog.  I want to water my houseplants, feed the fish and plan what I am going to put in the garden this year.

When I was leaving last week, I grabbed some mail that was addressed to me on the way out.  One of the envelopes contained seeds I had ordered.

I thought this would look lovely by the pond.  If it had ever stopped raining this winter, I would have got the vegetable patch dug over.  Now I don't know if that will happen.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Safer Red Squirrel Feeding

We have a small population of red squirrels.  Last year a nursing female was killed on the road in front of our house.  We were all horrified.  We didn't know where this female was hiding her babies.  Our only hope was that the babies were old enough to fend for themselves.

The squirrels have returned to our part of the world and have been helping themselves to food at the squirrel feeder and bird feeders.  One squirrel became two squirrels visiting.  I identified a male and female squirrel.  With the hope of romance in the air, there will be little squirrels later on in the spring.

Not wishing a repeat of last year's road accident, I have moved the squirrel feeder across the road into the trees.  This means that I won't see them as often as I don't look out the windows that face the trees very often but it isn't about me.  It's about helping the squirrels.
new location for old squirrel feeder

I have also added a second squirrel feeder.  If there are going to be babies, we're going to need more food! The food that was put in is a mix of corn (maize) sunflower seeds and peanuts.
New and larger squirrel feeder

Checking the feeders yesterday, there was evidence that the feeders have been visited.  One of the feeders had all the peanuts and half the sunflowers carefully picked out.  The squirrels had started picking through the second box as well.  It seems that red squirrels prefer peanuts to maize and black sunflower seeds.

I pulled out the remaining maize from the smaller squirrel feeder and refilled it with whole hazelnuts in the shell.  I have a small stock of hazelnuts in from Christmas.

As of this afternoon, the hazelnuts are gone!  I watched them get removed one by one.  There was no stopping to nibble on a nut.

The new squirrel feeder is larger.  It turns out that a red squirrel can fit inside it quite easily!
red squirrel inside the feeder
There are no hazelnuts in the large feeder.  The squirrels are just going to have to eat the maize.

I am hoping that this is the year that I get to see baby squirrels. . . .but the hitch in this plan is that most of the spruce trees across the road are due to be harvested this spring.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Red Squirrel Survey

Saving Scotland's Red Squirrels is a group I have helped for a while now.

I started helping their squirrel survey last year.  This year will be more of the same.

There was a call from the Dumfries & Galloway headquarters for help to mix up the bags of bait to go in the squirrel boxes.
bags of maize, sunflower seeds and peanuts to be mixed
Each volunteer is in charge of a section on the map.  These sections or tetrads (2km by 2km square  area) have four baited squirrel feeders in them.
Maps of where our tetrads are located
On the underside of the feeder lid is as bit of velcro with sticky tape on it.  If an animal lifts the lid to get food, the sticky tape will grab a few hairs as payment for the food.
squirrel feeders
Every two weeks, volunteers will change the tapes and add more bait.  The tapes are then sealed and sent off to be analyzed.  This keeps going until there are four samples collected.

Looking at the hairs under the microscope is fun.  Volunteers don't get to do this, but I had a shot at it one afternoon.  The hair of most small mammals can be identified by their hair.  Red squirrel, grey squirrel, badger, rat, mouse and sometimes pine martens!

It turns out that the red squirrel hairs are distinctive.  They aren't completely round, there is a groove down one side.  If you sliced the hair into sections, the cross section would have a kidney shape.

My tetrad isn't far from the house and I'm looking forward to finding out what's out there.
126 bags of mixed squirrel bait

This is the bags of mixed bait.  Two parts maize, to one part peanuts and one part sunflower seeds.

AND our squirrels have returned.  I have identified two different animals coming to the feeders.  A male and a female red squirrel.  As soon as the rain lets up, I'm going to move our squirrel feeder across the road.  I don't want any further deaths on our road.  I'll miss seeing them come to the feeder for nuts, but I must put their needs before mine.