Sunday, 17 August 2014

Guard chicken?

I have this friend who has a guard chicken in the porch of his house. (Its true.) With the impending arrival of Pandas and the attention from the paparatzi we were considering our security options. Greta seems to be keen on the post and had a wee 'foray' on to the terrace. Sadly I don't think she might have the skills for the job. She got distracted on her way to her first watch by dog food. Tasty as it is I'm not sure she has the required focus for a guard chicken position.

Either way, as they stare from the kitchen door, the hounds remain unimpressed. Too scared of greta to object though. Perhaps an attack chicken is more likely, as soon as she finished eating, she chased the hounds away from their own food.

I hope she doesn't take a fancy to bamboo.....

Saturday, 16 August 2014

The pandas are coming

So I've heard the exciting news that the pandas in Edinburgh zoo are expecting. In anticipation of their needing a quiet place to gestate, I cleaned out the bamboo patch. After all the sunny east neuk is the perfect retreat for them to enjoy some peace. I hear the zoo keepers are packing up their suitcases as we speak. Obviously until they return the enclosure is closed. I'd ask you to respect our privacy at this delicate time.
In the mean time the hounds and I are off to practise our panda skills and mandarin.

Huanying Mr and Mrs Panda.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Omlet netting, far too easy to put up. Never listen to a hen.

Extended hen run with omlet netting.
Well, as we've had nearly 600 page views yesterday, I'm assured whilst few comments land, someone [other than me and my mum] is reading, so here's yesterdays' installment of garden antics. Its very chicken focussed, as I've hardly anything left to chop down. So we extended the chicken run. I'd been thinking of letting them move into the next area for a while. But they are a tad impatient to get on with it.

So, yesterday, they, those pesky chooks, took over the second quarter of the veg patch. Quite spectacularly, in less than half an hour, they staged a break out.  I fear it was actually planned that way, chickens are sneaky.
Omlet* chicken netting, quick and easy to assemble.
Dear hearts I fear, I was, however, a bit more than an accomplice to their chicken will. Persuasive things chickens. They made me buy them this, on the premise that I'm shockingly bad at instructions, I agreed. [It would never make it up, my skills with instructions are, lets say, limited.] However I gave it a go. They'll have less internet shopping privileges in future. Let me tell you.
Omlet net laid out. It came with pretty red ribbons too. Aww.
They even sent in 'Greta' to supervise. The instructions were not in Swedish, but she was very helpful nevertheless.
Omlet fencing gate post. 
Of course they watched too, voyeurs these chooks are. Watching my every calamity experiment in the garden. [NB other brands of mobile netting with suitable silly egg-tastic names are available too.] THEY thought this one was funny given how many eggs I've dropped/they've stood on.
Tracey Island
They wanted to invade Tracey Island. Home to the thunder birds and various slugs. A rowan acts as HQ for the slug master 'Dr Slime'. Inbetween here and their 'old home' is the second quarter of the veg patch. So really, they told me, by linking them up to clear both, they'd be doing me a favour. Hard to actually argue with a chickens logic.
Fun stuff for chooks to allow slugs to hide under. Cunning eh.
They also asked for 'fun stuff' which I'm sure is code for climbing and escaping material. So I left them some logs and various things to 'climb and perch on'. I have to say ex-commercial farm rescue chickens seem to have many opinons. Maybe its the close quarters they lived in before, too much chat, not enough action.
Scheming hens.
They also demanded a chair, ropes and scissors. Now, we all know not to give hens scissors they get unbalanced using them. [Or rope, for obvious reasons, they do a lot of knitting, its just not suitable, but they never listen, although I've told them they might enjoy macrame.] I gave in and left the old chair. I'm sure they'll be using it soon for an escape launch pad.
Then they demanded a drink, don't be surprised to hear Scots hens don't drink just water. They're gin lovers** pure and simple. Given how enraged they get without any, I gave in.  Of course they don't drink whisky, that's for dragons and ducks.
By the time I'd got it up and finished due to FAR TOO EASY instructions. [Curses]. Haggis turned up to see how easy it was to get at the chooks grub (and gin, he loves gin). Not easy at all if its put up right and thanks to stupidly easy instructions, it was up in less than 15 minutes. Blast.
Happy lasses in their new extended run.
They seem pretty pleased with themselves. Tracey Island invaded. So they demanded an audience with the master, Dr Slime. I couldn't refuse. Seven hungry chickens can be very persuasive.
So that's the next phase of the chickens taking over the garden. They've cleared the first quarter of the veg patch in record time, scoffed a goodly amount of slugs, so it only seemed fair. Less grass to mow, more for them to eat.

Dr Slime's companions have been seen retreating to the Grey Shed looking for a Fushia to hide under.

Next time slugs, next time. [We will eradicate you in a kind and natural fashion, unless you leave the premises.]

Of course the hens were happy with their new home. They left me a present to say thanks on the roof peak. Cheers lasses.
Egg production peaking? Who said chickens can't climb? Buggers the lot of them.
These hens came from Wing and a Prayer rescue in Central Scotland.  British Hen Welfare Trust has more information on rehoming birds for other areas of the UK. Have a think if you can. For Scarlet and all the others who are 'let go' very early in their laying careers.
Scarlet, rescue hen, happily rehomed. Feathers returning day by day.
*no posts on here are sponsored, my opinions are entirley my own and there's no advertising. Just gud stuff, I did my research. Other brands are available.
**no hens were fed gin or cairns either in this household. Twas just a jest before you get me in bother. We all know they prefer tequila in the summer.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

The vanishing grey shed and the mystery of the missing fushia

So, good morning to you, I hope you're well. I've decided that I don't update on my garden escapades enough. So rather than bludgeon you all with long posts I might try and update a bit more regular like. (Stop groaning). Some days not much happens but when it does often there's lots to do and the muscles are willing. So I thought I'd tell you about the shed, one of three, this one is grey and has a lovely wee porch to sit under. Anyway it started life on the terrace. Why there's a shed on the terrace, no clue. Seemed like an odd place to have one.
The shed, was hogging the morning sun spot. It gets sunny in that corner of the garden at about 6.30am and it was hogging my 'sit and have my morning cuppa' spot. We had a chat, it agreed to move. As mentioned before, never come to dinner here and ask can you do anything. Like move a shed before the starter. Anyhows its happier here and aside killing a Fatsia by landing on its head, no real harm done oh and the honeysuckles hacked back too now, but we know that don't we.
What it did though was open up the bed behind and expose the most gorgeous Fushia. Fushia magellanica  'Alba' or var. molinae is a beautiful shrub, semi-hardy that thrives in coastal gardens. Many forms of it reported at the local St Andrews Botanic Garden by Prof Crawford. Happy and proud of its new view, I trimmed out the dead wood and raised the canopy. It looks right bonnie. Or should I say it LOOKED right bonnie. However, what I didn't know was we'd get the tail end of Hurricane Bertha. I should have listened to the hounds they knew something was a brewing.
Lots of soft sappy growth previously guarded by shed, canopy was heavy and unsurprisingly we lost quite a few limbs after the winds. Not particularly bad winds, but the heavy growth did for it. Victim of its own circumstances. So sadly and with a heavy heart (and suitable dark clothing) yesterday it had a wee haircut.
I did say a wee hair cut. Well actually I suppose now its completely bald and down to the wood. The thing is, when you start pruning sometimes its hard to stop. I have now locked the loppers and the pruning saws up. Just in case I get into a frenzy again. [Jobs like this are always good when someone's particularly annoyed you, turn that energy into positive action, I say.] And NO the gate still isn't up. Thanks for asking but the posts are in and the area is now clear for a wee fence too.
Whilst the bees who loved it too will be sad for a while, there's oodles of it in the garden still. And, it will come back beautifully. The corner will be full of its bonnie flowers and it will adorn the shed nicely.
I hate this kind of gardening, cutting a plant down in its prime, but it was unfortunately necessary. OK so its my fault that the shed shifted and the plant was exposed, but long term gain for short term pain. Sorry missing fushia, you'll thank me one day.
See I told you there's still oodles left. I'll be propagating this soon, its a gorgeous plant. Hands up if you want some. In true copycat style, I ordered a professional garden drawing of the patch here when we arrived. Well I've been trained to do them, so I got the pens out instead. Not sure I'll show this one to the tutor though.
Long gardens require wallpaper to allow you to draw it all in. One day I'll do this bonnie, I promise.
The scribbles and scrawls on a bit of old wallpaper and a notebook page I think do the garden justice beautifully. On closer inspection however.........
Scrawly garden drawing from the first week here.
Most of the plants in this section of the drawing are shifted, as is the shed and the washing line. Honeysuckle has also had a hard haircut and the debris gone, Fatsia squished by shed landing, sorry about that, evil Senecio, about to flower in lurid yellow also, gladly, gone. Its more slash and burn than haute couture at the moment. But needs must. There's an ormanental veg patch to get in after all and a productive garden to grow. 
The ornamental veg patch first draft. Bonnie eh.
Obviously I commissioned another pretty drawing. Arbour, arches, raised wooden beds and possibly a gazebo. But you can tell that right? No? Oh well I might have to scribble something a bit better in future.Ornamental and beautiful this garden will be. You heard it here first.  The chickens are currently clearing area one (the top right hand side of the future garden). They're moving to the second phase (right lower bed and Tracy Island) later this week. Clever girls.

In the mean time, gardening for the day over, we headed to the local beach. This is my grandpa's beach, he kept his boats in the harbour here, other people call it East Sands, to me its always Granpas beach. We holidayed here as children, its now where we've made our home. Near the beach, not on it obviously. Although that grey shed might make a great beach hut and it doesn't seem to mind moving........
The hounds like it here too. A fine place to wash your paws and have a stretch after some hard core hacking back in the garden. [They supervised.]
Afterwards, a nap of course. Hard work all this supervising and beach walking.
So that was yesterday and this is Haggis right now. Aside a bit of dead heading and putting the gate posts in not much else done in the garden. I'm researching fruit (Kiwi's and Banana's which will ripen outdoors in the UK) well that lovely terrace has a huge south facing wall and I have a near empty glass house and conservatory to fill with edibles. Seems a shame not to find something to soak up all that sunshine. Haggis snores on, no interest in fruit.

And as for shorter posts. OK I lied. Breakfast anyone, you've earnt it.

So kiwis

Great set of varieties and into there. 

A great page, any recommendations anyone? Outdoor ripening Kiwi you will be mine. 

I've an eye on a mini banana too.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

End of Month View - July (Month 2)

 As LinneW rightly reminded me, its generally acceptable to have at least one chicken in the house at any given time. So this is the chicken I'm training for kitchen duty. So we've had a lottery and drawn this lucky lady 'Greta'. In truth, she was getting bullied by the other girls so she's off holidaying it around the garden. She seems happier, although taunting the others by running past their coup, not so charitable. Where she goes at bed time though, no one knows. That's a mystery we can never find her. Perhaps she's off down at the local castle talking with the bats?
Cabbages and petunias, herbs, reduced campanula's and crazy coloured 10p a pack verbena, sitting by the kitchen door brightening up the day.
Erysium 'Bowles Mauve', Lavender Hidcote planted in kitchen bed.
Erysium 'Bowles Mauve', Lavender Hidcote planted in opposite kitchen bed, same plants, same spacing, shoddy gardeners lack muscles means its a bit behind. Be brave and catch up guys.
Boots and pots. Tree peonys, geraniums, Hecheras, pansies, tomatoes and my favourite Abutilon 'Jermyns'
Abutilon x suntense 'Jermyns'
Pots of dalias, cosmos, feverfew, scented geraniums and another favourite piggy back plant (Tolmeia menziesii) mainly gifts, lucky girl.
Fishboxes planted with herbs, climbers and veggies.
Logs and pots, beans, tomatoes, blueberries, willow and parsley. 
Sweetcorn thriving in edible alley, chilli's tomatoes, cukes, courgettes and beans, sweetpeas all rampaging away quietly, disturbing no one in particular and hiding the boiler nicely.
Cucumber doing its thing on the boiler. 
Fishbox gardening works a treat.
The 'de-honesuckled bed' with path and sheep flock all of its own.
How it looked a few weeks before. Rampant. Glorious. Captor of dead trees.

Anyway back to the garden, these were supposed to be for my first End of Month View joining in with Helen and Janet but here we are almost half way through. Maybe I'll join in late as usual. So two months since we've moved and the decimation, erm I mean progress is slow but steady. Oddly the one thing I'm loving about arriving in a garden in late May is that by 'going for it' nothing is as it should be. But we discussed this remember. This is to be a productive garden, so different rules apply. Which rules I'm not sure, but different ones. My rules mean the garden can clash and I'll call it productive. If you see any holes in things, we'll call that 'organic'.

The planting combinations in haste and with often reduced/bargainous unknown plants are surprising, eyewatering and clash in a pleasing and a perverse kind of way. There are edibles rammed in willy nilly where they can be. As late to the garden as we were, I wasn't sacrificing another season. So a rammy (odd mix or a riot) of pots and vegetables, flowers and herbs are festooning the 'terrace'. Terrace a much nicer word than patio, I've decided.
Now the bed by the kitchen door, rubble filled and took days to extract, a few miners and a St Bernard to revive me is looking braw. I love the lavenders form and the Bowles Mauve perennial wall flowers colours. And the snail of course. 
However a life lesson indeed. This bed was planted immediately. The matching (longer, more rubble than a skip situated on a glacier) bed was only planted weeks later. Spot the difference in growth. Silly girl. It will catch up but lordy its not as lush as its pals is it. The bees are delighted by both beds, which you'll be pleased about. I'm scared of bees, kinda shot myself in the foot there eh. Lavender is edible so this beds still productive and wall flowers are a type of cabbage I hear. Yes really.
So more pots of rumble up stuff. I've been really lucky as most friends have arrived or sent me home with armfuls of plants from their gardens. I quite like the mix of them so I've lobbed them all into pots (with or without veggies). However, one plant I've managed to have since I was working at the nursery in Fife is the delicate purple Abutilon x suntense 'Jermyns' a gorgeous plant. 
Can you spot the purple theme coming through there, it matches my old purple wellies too. Infact that plant is the colour I was hoping to match when I wanted me boots. Its survived the harshest of winters in Orkney. By being tucked in or actually IN the house. I must propagate from it after its finished is second flowering. I love it so. You'll get a proper look at the delicate flowers here. Bored yet? No lets take a wee peek at the steps.
The Lucifer has been rampaging with colour pretty much since we got here. I wasn't sure of it but I do like it. It will move, as being of a short stature, I currently can't see over it, or around it and into the garden so I think it will need to move somewhere where its doesn't stop my view! Pots of dalias, cosmos, feverfew, scented geraniums and another favourite piggy back plant (Tolmeia menziesii). I've got the green version of this again a salwart in Orkney, great indoors and outdoors. Aside the scented geranium no edibles in here, missing a trick I fear!
Anyone who knows me even a bit knows for sure I'm largely motivated by my belly. So when faced with a large empty terrace and no veg garden ready, there was only really one conclusion. Edibles and lots of them. Combined with a few decorative flowers like Cerinthe (again good for bees) and Petunias, its looking bonnie, sweetpeas are a climbing and flowering plants are a flowering.  I'm really chuffed with my 'fishbox garden' Purple so goes with Yellow, it does. OK so its all a bit random and recycled by why not but hey we're by the sea, its kinda coastal. Its provided lettuce, strawberries and bush tomatoes (Totem) for the hungry masses and that's productive.
More terrace and more pots. Logs getting stacked by the house for the winter months. As plants arrived, gifted, reduced or stolen (don't worry they're not really stolen) they have been thrown together in pots with no real notion of 'matching' or colour co-ordination. I tell myself its very bohemian, lack of time, choice and veg garden space is largely the driver here, but lets pretend its eclectic and bohemian. Bohemian gardening is very trendy isn't it.
Now in the UK its been an exceptional summer, so whilst the wee terrace is a sun trap of epic proportions I'm under no illusion the plantings from this year might be safely repeated. Sweetcorn in pots, cucumbers in window boxes, tomatoes, courgettes and chilli's thriving outside is not, I fear, normal in a 'normal' Scottish summer. Unless of course it would like to become normal, then that would be lovely. The cucumbers agree.

The 'tother' end of the sitting area, with resplendent fish box, is quite cheerful as you walk in the side gate. Lettuces, cabbages, strawberries, cup and saucer vine scampering away. Tomatoes and basil languishes at the sides. A bit of lobelia intersperced into the mix. I do think that edibles and flowers look good together. And so lush. I know its a bit random but I'm going for bohemian here, remember.......
At the rear of the fishboxes, pots waiting for homes. Its kind of like a waiting room. I play music for them and everything although I hear the magazines aren't up to much. Blackberries, Gooseberries, Mints, Fushias and wee bargains or gifts from friends loiter with intent. They'll get a wee place of their own soon. Everyone has a corner like this I'm sure. Its the 'twilight zone' of the garden where anything can happen. Just you see. For now they're making friends.
Tomatoes in window boxes - I've decided, just work and the deeper the better. This summer they also work outdoors. Whilst the sprawly growth of 'Tumbling Tom' doesn't suit everyone's demeanor, I like its stroppy, sprawly demented growth. And, as we've discussed countless times before, I don't 'do' tall tomatoes. Diva's the lot of them. But, I do love growing bush tomatoes for cooking and two to a window box works a treat. 
The cabbages are lobbed in where ever they fit. And, you'll be happy to know I'm nuturing a crop of baby cabbage white caterpillars for the hens. I know I've wiped and squished them this summer til the cows came home but there you go. We STILL have caterpillars so leaf by leaf as they appear to be happily munching I'm feeding them to the hens. So really I'm growing two types of food there aren't it. You see a positive outcome all round. And let me tell you two cabbages to a window box is a bit cramped but they're thriving for now. Next year of course they're going to be happier in the veg garden, under a net. I promised them. And remember holes means they're posh and organic. Nae chemicals here, far too expensive, I've chickens to feed.
So if you're still here BRAVO! We're off the terrace! Under the apple tree to the newly moved shed. Notice anything strange. Yes the humungous honeysuckle is now tempered and cutback to the fence. It had a footprint of 4 m diameter.  It was also holding what appeared to be a dead cherry tree to ransom. Bad honeysuckle. It took 4 car loads to shift the blighter too. Menace, but it will be trained on the (about to be painted) fence when its resprouted and we'll all be happier.
A graceful old thing with a beautiful scent but its needed a hard haircut. It will stop its sulk soon and grow again. But, dear hearts I can now see the fence. And, yes, it needs painted. Oh well, more jobs. Other shrubs missing from this large border are moved or sadly in the big compost bin in the sky. You know what, I found a path under it all, and a sheep. Who knew we had either of those. Haggis was also shocked.
And up the garden we go to the petal munching hens moving swiftly past all weedy beds. They're settling in well, good change of subject there right? You knew hens loved flowers right? Scoffing rose petals as I type. They're doing a grand job of clearing the first quarter of the veg patch. Clever girls. These as you know are rescue ex-commercial for the chop hens, which I've been fortunate to have from a local rescue charity.  Feathers are growing in nicely.
The other hen, 'Greta' as she's become known, teases them by shaking her new tail feathers at them on the open side of the garden. She's a handful. I'm training her to peck my toes, to get rid of any joy riding slugs. That's also working a treat.
And if you were wondering if all we did was feed chickens flowers and pot up cabbages on the terrace, fear not. We've been hard at work. Laburnum now removed, the area behind the shed is huge, so the greenhouse has been moved to the space. Nicely tucked by the shed, waiting for action. Still ample room for chooks, washing and logs. Braw. Yes its empty but sheesh, gies a bit of time eh. :)
However, you know what its like. To do one job you have to move/rehome/organise another. So as the bark is lifted up to make way for the greenhouse, the matting needs lifted too. Its all going to be reused elsewhere in the garden. But, I have to say I've never seen quite so MUCH mulch matting before. I think the previous owners might have been scared the garden was getting cold, its so wrapped up.
Its a bit like a merry-go-round. Eventually all this will stop I'm sure. In the mean time, lifting and drying matting seem to be the job of the day. Lucky there's more bark (with matting underneath) to dry things out on.......I'm ignoring the poplars at the moment but they know they're coming out soon.  I can hear them muttering, but tell me this. WHO pollards a poplar at 10m and expects anything but scraggy growth. 
So that's a rampage around the top of the garden, greenhouse in, bark and trees out. The sheds getting well used and the garden is becoming more open. In the short term, I tell myself that's a good thing.  Edges and paths we can now see, its a start. I know I'll cover them up soon, but for now we have and idea of edges.
There's plenty to do but for now the chicken and I take a walk back down. Past the Budleja and the bees, down to the apple tree.
The winds have shed some of the apples, but for now, its a happy tree full of apples ripening red. Perfect. I've read about cider making from windfalls so we'll see if we can get that going.
It does need a bit of attention, badly needing pruned but thankfully that's a winter job. 
For now Greta's more interested in those caterpillars on me cabbages, so its back to the caterpillar breeding area we go on the terrae. And, if you've survived this far, I guess we'd both love a cup of tea just mind all those random pots on the terrace and take a seat. You've earned it.

Progress this month, two months in.

Greenhouse up
Honeysuckle pruned back hard
Fushia canopies lifted.
Bark half moved from one area, matting drying
Vegetables in pots thriving.
Terrace looking lush.

Lots and lots of Work In Progress but we'll get there. Jobs a good un. Quite a few changes but mainly hacking back and lobbing things in randomly, erm I mean in a bohemian fashion. No rules remember. I did visit some open gardens a while back with a chum, whilst bonnie, not exactly my style. I plough my own furrow clearly. Greta agrees as she washes up the tea cups ready for a brew. What you having?

Garden first week here.
Garden third week here.