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  1. Back in the garden.

    I have been a bit under the weather for some time, and it has made me ignore the garden a bit, it seems that I am feeling quite a bit better recently and have been putting things in order a bit more. Having cleaned out the greenhouse and re-instated the staging I put all my tender pots under it and planted sweet peas on top. I normally do them back in October, but it won't hurt being a little later. There are not many things to plant this time of year, but I am thinking of onions as well, it would ...
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  2. The rhubarb myths

    I have been told that rhubarb becomes poisonous in summer, by more than one person. One of them added ‘Something to do with the oxalic acid content I think’. I was pretty sure it was not true, and when I checked none of the reputable sources made any mention of it, but what they all agree on is that one must stop pulling leaves in early summer or it will weaken the plant for next year. It is true, as I know from experience, I try to grow more than I need so I can force some or go on picking into ...
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  3. Birds and bees

    Someone did an experiment where they captured some small birds just before they made a North-South migratory flight of over a thousand miles, put them in closed boxes, and transported them East-West, sideways the same sort of distance. Not a very nice thing to do I thought, but it worked out. They put micro trackers on the birds and released them, thinking they might return to where they were captured, or they might be completely lost, they had been in closed boxes for the journey. Neither, they ...

    Updated May 29th, 2018 at 12:01 AM by Olly Buckle

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  4. Spring garden

    I have been potting on pelargonium cuttings and planting out sweet peas. Spring is here at last and some decent weather, though things could still turn again, I have runner beans in the greenhouse I think I am also going to take a chance on planting out. If the weather stays reasonable they will be nice and early, if it is a bit shit I have some glass and fleece I can give them some protection with, and if it is really shit I have some more plants in the greenhouse, I always plant way more seed ...
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  5. The bird table

    I have a permanent bird table, three short planks joined by a couple of pieces across the bottom, edged with baton, then nailed to the top of a chestnut spile, not too fancy

    There are feeders that hang from it as well, for peanuts, fat balls, and seeds that I mix with mealworms. We get a good variety of birds, mostly tits... blue, great , and long-tailed, but also sparrows, the robin, dunnocks, thrush, blackbirds, goldfinch, nut hatch, doves, the local jackdaw colony, and the ...
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  6. Mowgli to Mendel

    What do the ‘Second Jungle book’ and Gregor Mendel have in common? Well I found a particular sort of inspiration in both.
    For those who only know the movie, there is a scene to the end of the Second Jungle Book where the red dogs arrive; they are enemies of the wolves, who kill everything. Mowgli takes them on, and uses intelligence to make use of small things to beat them and nature to escape them, I won’t give it away to those who have not read it, but it is a lovely bit of problem solving. ...
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  7. Pinching the plot

    Quote Originally Posted by Olly Buckle View Post
    .
    I know of a fish and chip shop, that epitome of English eating out, where they use only the finest fish, always the best batter, and perfect potatoes; all freshly cooked in clean, hot, oil so they reach a perfect pitch of internal sweetness and succulence and external crispness and crunch. I know of another where the fish tastes distinctly fishy, and the chips sag. There the owner’s apron is as grey as the window, everything is cooked at once, then sits in the warming cabinet for hours,
    ...
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  8. A little lily

    A friend gave me a slip from her calla lily some time ago, it is quite unusual, small with a variegated leaf. This year it flowered, there are six flowers to date. They are small and slim for a calla, with a very delicate pale yellow spathe; that’s the bit that wraps around like a cloak and looks like a petal, but really it is an altered bract. Look down inside and you see the spadix, the little phallus of sexual organs, which is also yellow. Around the base of the spadix though the spathe is deep, ...
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  9. Creators and consumers

    Radio four was asking people to phone in and tell them which sort of person they were; the sort who spent their money on things, or the sort who spent it on experiences. This is a question for the consumers of our age. No-one was phoning in saying, ‘Actually I spend every penny on the bare essentials of life and I am still falling behind.’ probably because they can’t spare the time from their below minimum wage, zero hours, sub-contract, job. Too busy cleaning a hospital and they can’t afford the ...
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  10. Birds and cats

    I have been cutting back a very overgrown hedge overcome by brambles on one side, quite hard work, but I have made a considerable impression. In the thicker part of the hedge I keep finding bird’s nests, abandoned this time of year I hasten to add. Most of them are blackbird nests, one a wren, and a few I can not identify. Among these last is a small, round, open nest made almost completely of fine plastic fibres, some sort of packing by the look of it, now, there is an adaptable bird.
    ...
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  11. potting on and pinching out

    New plants, seedlings, it is all happening, and every year some of it goes right and some of it goes wrong, even for the most experienced gardener, but some things can help.

    Not planting the whole packet of seed is usually a good idea. Some special, expensive to produce, seeds don’t have lots in the packet, but most have plenty, a packet of Little Gem lettuce I bought has 2,000 seeds, that is extreme, but most have far more than you need.

    Take planting runner beans, ...
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  12. Chance and judgement

    I was potting on some seedlings and had gathered together a mix of compost, some pots, and seedlings broken off from the seed tray. When I had filled the pots I found there were twelve of them, the compost I had mixed up in my tray was exactly the right amount to fill them, and there were twelve seedlings in the block I had broken off from the seed tray. It could be a one off, a happy chance, except it keeps happening. I cut off exactly an ounce of butter to put in the bread mix; I check the frame ...
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  13. There shall be strawberries.

    I finally got to clear the back corner of the strawberry patch. It made me think of doing an edit; I started off by eliminating all the obvious, easily moved, stuff, mostly dead leaves. Then I took out all the obvious weeds, followed by the strawberry runners, and exposed the main plants. Finally I cultivated and worked a little compost and bonemeal into the top layer. It was not a strict order of progress, but generally I explore by removing the easy stuff and get an overall view of the main plant’s ...
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  14. Getting ready to grow

    It is Spring; time for preparation. I was digging over a piece of my garden the other day and I could hear the chap a couple of doors down doing his with a rotavator, he must have gone over his whole garden in the time it took me to clean up and plant a patch with a couple of rows of beans I had brought out of the greenhouse a few days before. People offer to rotavate for me, or lend me a machine, 'It saves a lot of work' I am not tempted.

    There are practical considerations, where ...
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  15. Aerobatics

    There is an old avenue of mature trees along the bottom of our garden, and the flock of jackdaws that lives in the village often comes and sits in them. People confuse various members of the crow family. Carrion crows, jackdaws, and rooks can look similar at a distance, but the jackdaw has an obvious ‘hood’ seen a bit closer. Like the rooks he lives in flocks, but he is a slightly smaller and much more lively bird, Jonathon Livingstone should have been a jackdaw, not a seagull; they are the only ...
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  16. The summer house.

    There was a program about ‘Capability’ Brown on the television, visiting various of his landscape gardens. I am unsure which, but one of them had a ‘Summer house’. Of course it was no wooden shack at the bottom of the garden, but an imposing building with spires and French windows, probably larger than the average terrace house, Well, that was how it looked across the valley on the other side of a lake; distant, set on the edge of woodland.

    One approached it, however, from behind, ...
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  17. Long term winners

    The rats are back. A bit quick, but I knew it was just a matter of time, there is no solution, they will outlive us all in the end. It is strange how so many people recognise this fact without quite understanding why it is so certain. Sure they realise that they are omnivorous, reproduce rapidly, very adaptable, and believe in their intelligence and resistance to radiation, but these are individual characteristics. A general principle, backed by evidence, is what convinces me though.
    ...
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  18. Two ships that never sailed.

    Last time I said, ‘That is another story’, it was like this...

    As a twenty-twenty one year old I worked on the beach in Mallorca, where I taught sailing, hired out boats, and worked with a Spanish boy who owned a speed boat to teach water skiing. When people came and asked if they could hire a boat at first I had asked ‘Can you sail?’, but quickly found that there is a class of person, invariably male, who will say ‘Yeah, I can do that’, regardless of ability. After having to get ...
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  19. Charming.

    The weather has been cold in this part of the world, with some strong North winds, up to 50mph we were told. They have dropped now and it is cold, but it is clear, so the urge to get outside is strong, to stay there, maybe not quite so strong. There is plenty needs doing before the garden comes back into life, but now is not the time for much of it. The layer of litter and dead leaves may harbour all sorts of potential problems, it will have to go before Spring, but for now it is the winter blanket, ...
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  20. Odds and ends

    Someone I know coming the other way flashed their lights at me, and the chap in front stuck to the speed limit all the way through the village, were these two events related? Probably.

    I came across the phrase ‘He thinks he is a teacher, but he is only an instructor’. Now who does that remind me of?

    Bulbs are poking green shoots through the snow. The survival abilities of the frail amaze me, a petal will bruise at a touch, wither in week, or a day, and yet return every ...
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  21. In the car

    I look at other drivers and wonder, ‘How much driver training have you had? And, what quality was it?” When you pootle along the dual carriageway at forty five to fifty mph in fifth, being, if not ecologically friendly, at least less damaging, there is time and opportunity to reflect and observe. Not that I am purely being holier than thou doing that speed, a fifteen to twenty percent fuel saving is enough to count heavily when you live on a fixed income, and I get more enjoyment from the music ...
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  22. More rodents.

    I visited my friend who has a balcony of plants, he has had problems with mice. They have invaded and undermined the base of one of his largest containers; he was alerted by the spoil heap.

    One of the first attempts to control the depredations of rodents must have been the invention of earthenware storage jars and brick granaries about four thousand years ago. We have been at it ever since and the rats and mice have used us to transport them to every continent and most islands, and ...
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  23. Rat attack.

    There have been rats, they recur periodically around the food sources; the compost bins and aviary; aviary wire keeps them out. I have a platform built of pallets I have covered with aviary wire using a staple gun. The plastic bins sit on top of it and present a rounded surface that is impervious to rats. Ventilation, drainage ,and protection. From time to time there is a system failure; some pallet wood becomes rotten and sinks, or the little door they put on the front of the bin distorts a bit. ...
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