Saturday, 12 December 2015

Finding your own feet

Still out in all weathers.
Apologies for the radio silence. I've been struggling to find my voice. Well my written voice anyway. My own fine tones are used frequently, as himself's ears will wearily tell you. A lady of many words is the safest way to describe me. Peedie agrees. He tells me frequently that I make him deaf, even though I've suggested it might just be the wind.......he's selectively deaf. Whisper the word bonio and he can hear it three miles away.
Peedie not listening, as per usual.
I've been struggling to write, I guess when your life up and moves itself (even only) 300 miles south off its general location, a period of adjustment is required. Even when the move is for all the good and right reasons, and you're also delighted that you've made it. Its just different, same you, different location. Its only geography right? OK so the job changes completely, the faces are new, but its not a huge move on the scale of things some people move thousands of miles. However, even for me, in some ways, any change can be colossal and yet small all at the same time. Travelling now involves less boats. Unless of course you're attempting to travel across to Edinburgh at the moment the Forth Road bridge is a bitty broken. Although this boat needs some TLC.

Instead of boats and ferries, now we often get the train, such luxury! We can be in the city within a couple of hours, a big change from life up north, unless we dusted off our wings and fly in. Close enough to be near to the kids, close enough to see friends. Rural enough to still feel at peace with the world. 
I bet you didn't know Peedie is a famous model.
I think for me, the change of location has lead to leaving some very close friends behind. Leaving work that I utterly adore. When I say friends, most of them were colleagues, but we all know that the right colleagues, when you do a job you love, become special friends too. And those friendships develop beautifully if we are lucky. I do miss those folk. Not to say is not lovely to be nearer to my 'mainland' chums and my family, of course it is. In life it seems there is always some give and some take. Some new adventures, whilst the old ones come to a close. Its also lead to a change in our way of life. The vast expanse of skies in Orkney have though been replaced by the Fife skyline. Equally beautiful, almost as remote. Often, almost as windy. The location here suits me, very much. And, I'm so grateful to be here.  And, I'm meeting new chums, slowly but surely. I even had a 'cup of tea' with a new friend this week. A first for me, whilst I'm wordy, I am the shy retiring type. Honest injun. And, anyway good chums are hard to find, Haggis assures me.
Haggis looking for chums.
One of my biggest worries, I think, moving away from island life were the small things. Beach visits, wild walks along cliffs, delicious grub, coffee catch ups with friends, daily hat head, long calls with friends from 'sooth' and wandering about in my wellies. Would I still have those? When you think of it really, its the small things that make up our experience in places.  I'm an island girl at heart. Perhaps I'm just needing to adjust to being on a 'bigger' island, still coastal, where my heart it. Always.
A girl can never have too many wellingtons.
I mean, I worried. I worried a LOT. On the 'mainland' do people go shopping in their wellies? We all know I own more wellies than real shoes. Would I stick out like a sore thumb in my 'winter gear' (in August) and people gawp if I'm looking at the fish counter dressed up like I'm heading out to sea in a force 9? Would there be fishboxes in my life still? Thankfully the answer to all of these questions  were yes! Seeing them being used first day at my new job, made my heart sing. Yes there are still fishboxes used in daily life round these parts. Which is good, because let me tell you that MIGHT have been a deal breaker.
A girl can not have too many fishboxes either.
Needless to say, life is pretty similar to living up in Orkney. And, whilst I'm not on a small island any more, I am living in a very rural coastal peninsula with several beaches to the north, south and east of us. The East Neuk is also windy enough to feel like home, although by no imagination is it as frequently or as wildly stormy as Orkney, Colonsay or Islay. The grub is very decent, the lifestyle not 24/7 and the nearest fast food a goodly drive away.  Where we like it to be.  The beaches are empty and the night skies are unpolluted (in the main) and, the beautiful day skies, are big and open. With a smattering of more trees and different birds to be in awe of. And, very good cake shops, if you like THAT kind of thing.
Probably the best cake shop in the world. Sorry Argo's
So, perhaps its not a real change of voice that I needed, just a recognition that welly wearing in the local supermarket, bundled under a huge layer of waterproof clothing is perfectly acceptable.  At least here it is. This life is a little different to the island life we had previously, better in many ways being so much closer to folks we love. But, also removed from the aspects of society we wanted to avoid, its plenty rural that's for sure.  Work is still interesting. I now do some remote working from home for Orkney and some 'real life' working in a garden where I'm putting some of those rather expensive skills to use. And, I'm still teaching, albeit informally now. Life is interesting and is good. And, I'm learning new horticultural skills every single day. I'm part of a small team and I feel valued, in both jobs. I feel close to those I've left and close to those I've joined. I'm truly lucky.
Square logs from recycled pallets.
And, OK whilst my neighbours do not really see the fascination of 'square logs' and reclaimed wood. Foraging for treasures on the beach or a need for 'so much' weather gear wearing on my part. I'm OK with that. And, when they try to amble outside, on the windiest of East Neuk days with a brolly (umbrella) complaining of its lack of robustness against the weather.  All I can do is smile and think, who uses a brolly in this kind of coastal climate? All real islanders know that above a 'breeze'  umbrellas are as much use as a chocolate teapot.  And I pull my 'wild weather gear' a little tighter to me and walk the dogs in the face of sideways squall. Cosy. Nine layers of clothes assures cosiness.
Maybe life here isn't so different after all. Still no use for a brolly. Perhaps that should have been the title. I'm away off for a blustery walk, thanks for reading!
As always you'll find me on the beach. Have a great day.

Friday, 21 August 2015

A hostage situation

I am a hostage in my own house. So I've had to send the flock out to cut me some kale, hiding there in the nasturtiums but you can bet, they didn't quite get it. I can report they are now happily dozing, bellies full of kale.

So why am I hostage you might ask. Should we call the police? Fear not dear hearts, its just the time of year when some kind of tiny bug, a mere fleck, the size of 1-2mm seems to think I'm the village buffet. To say I look like a chicken-poxed child would be exaggeration. Every time I step out of the door, the buffet begins and I'm left with welts and weeping wounds.

You'd think therefore, I'd remember this. It happens every year around August and lasts for a little over 4-6 weeks. However, here I am utterly incensed again at my bad fortune. Dabbing chamomile lotion and anti-histamine potions as much as I can. I probably also need scratching mitts. Its not a pretty sight.

The nearest I get to actual real gardening right now is running up the path, throwing food at the chickens, trying to pick veg with gauntlets on and running back indoors. Its a savage existence.

So I try my best not to scratch to death until it passes. The sheep assure me that all will be well, they'll take care of things.

I suspect they might get a bit fatter. Just like those pesky bugs.

I have a theory that you decrease in tolerance to these things if subjected to them too much. I'm the same with nettle stings, I come out in giant apocalyptic welts. If I work with peat based composts my hands now erupt into crazy almost burnt digits. Over exposure seems to be the key for these with me. I'm over sensitised.

Or I'm just a light weight.

Until they go, yours with her nose against the garden window.......watching where those sheep will end up next.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

August a few odd days. And, unruly plants.

Prize given for being able to get up the path unscathed.
I was talking to the hounds the other day. As you do. Saying it hadn't been much of a summer really and bamp-wham-thank-you-ma'am August appears to have brought mostly summer weather. Which I can tell you is helpful. The garden and I are currently grappling with each other. I do a bit of actual 'designed planting' and the self-seeders in the form largely of poppies and feverfew decide otherwise and do their thing. Don't get me wrong I've no problem with self seeders, but I purposefully dug up some stuff and moved it to give us better access to the path. The plants however had other ideas. So now I gently dance around them to get into the garden. They're welcome but if only they'd decided to grow a few feet back, I might actually get a wheelbarrow through my gate.
Sometimes the hounds and I go out and walk to get a bit of inspiration for the garden. Sometimes we just plod but lately we've taken to going to the local castle for a bit of a look. Mind on I don't fancy cutting this much grass. I also take inspiration from work seeing how some areas are planted and how the plants work together. Although I am mindful that my garden appears to do its own thing. 
I tell myself on this particular lunch time stroll that I don't mind when plants decide where they are happiest.
One of the areas I really like, is up the burn (small river) at work, again another lunchtime stroll. Is the garden arbour or summer house under the weeping willow. Inside its cool interior is a love seat which I think is just fabulous.
Its cool shade lets you sit a while and listen to the trees and the birds before heading up towards the potting shed and back to work.
And so to home again. Some of you might remember the featherless poor wee mites that we brought home last year. Around this time. Well let me tell you they're not what you'd call, poor wee mites any more. Beware of the hens indeed.
And whilst its not as artistic as the planting at work, finally the sweetpeas are making the effort to climb up the shed. I've even cut the first blooms. Its all late but then again, summer only arrived here in August.
The raspberries are beginning to take shape, the strawberries below them filling out nicely. Who knew that such a bare bleak patch in early April could look so full now. 
And the veggies are finally doing their thing. FINALLY. Although the words 'mangeout' and 'courgettes' are now dirty words in the household, as we're over run. Spinach is soon to join them in the vegetables who shall not be named.
One of the biggest surprises or I guess lessons I'm learning in this garden is that I'm in love with many garden thugs. Like this evergreen perpetual wall flower Erysium 'Bowles Mauve', its delightful but lets face it taking over most of the paths and the area's it planted. I appear to have a soft spot for those tough plants which just DO and do well at that. You'll not hear me complaining. I'm propagating it for selling. Its a bonnie thing and should spread its wings for other gardens to enjoy.
So all in all, so far, things are slower than I'd expected but are filling out nicely now and giving some well rewarding colour.
Others might enjoy their white gardens, mines will unmistakably be purple.
However, whilst I say that out loud, you might want to also inform my garden of this part of the plant. As for now, the self seeders and the freeloaders appear to be anything and everything BUT purple. I seem to be the temporary keeper of several unruly plants. Although I'm not complaining.

Happy Gardens folks. Now that I've caught up a bit, I'm hoping to start writing more regularly. I've now got my 'work' hours settled into a routine as of this week coming. So hopefully rather than think, ooh that would be a lovely post. I'll actually find the time to write things.

You've been warned! Happy Sunday folks.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

It doesn't get old.

Having had the craziest week on the planet, (well it seemed like it) I've finally had a couple of hours in the garden this morning and I've more planned for later, thank goodness. I've had a cuppa, I've daundered about and I've just pottered about thinking about all the half finished jobs I have. Inbetween looking at crazy flowers, like this one. Its a Cineraria (Pericallis x hybrida 'Sennetti Deep Blue') at least that's what the label said, its loud, and purple and I love it. But, what a mouthful eh? Its all the things I don't do in a garden, its not edible, its tender, potentially annual and perhaps a one season shot. But, I wanted a quick purple fix for my new breakfast bench and I'm embracing change. Why not have a blast of colour, just because you can. And let me tell you, it also helped to make sure I didn't actually get started digging the veg beds, all good. I'll get there, one day. Its progress I tell myself, not perfection. I refuse to spend my time in the garden rushing around (finishing jobs which I've started) and stressing. This is a work in progress. Aren't the dandelions looking braw? The chickens love them. So I grow them with love for them, honest.
This week, not much progress due to crazy busy week, I only got a couple of fence panels started painted. But last week I got the raspberries in (my old favourite primo cane 'Autumn Bliss' which doesn't need staked and flowers on new growth), and had a moment of genius (I'm am quite modest after all). I decided that edging the beds with wood/stones/bricks was OK, I've got plenty of them. But as this part of the garden is quite skinny, why waste the space using non-growing edging? You see, GENIUS. So I managed to ferret about (again a proper gardening term) in the garden and found a decent amount of alpine strawberries to do the job of edging the rasps fro me. All of these have come from a friends garden originally so they do remind me of her, its great having plants from friends. The wee bamboo canes to the right there temporarily to protect the strawbs from being trampled by hounds. (sort of) A couple of window boxes planted with nice plants by my bench, with some things for instant colour like the Cinerara, and sweet peas to scramble up the shed under the bunting.  This area is glorious early morning, the sun shines and I sit in Raspberry/Strawberry Alley and look at the world, thinking about the day.

All makes for an enjoyable cup of morning tea. Today's great excitement was the sweetpeas finally taking a wee curl onto the first twine that is going to support them up the shed. Far right in the photo and squint properly to see it. Well done little sweet pea. As its been cold, don't judge the poor wee mites. It will grow tall and flower soon. It will I tell you. And it will cover the entire shed and smell beautiful or that's the plan at least.
I'm in my garden every single day, come rain, shine or hail (which really was last weeks weather!). I start and end the day, in the garden, generally in my pjs. I honestly don't know how I managed so long without one. Some people ask me, as I also garden for work, and come home utterly exhausted, why the first thing I do is have a walk around see what's going on and often stay out there for a few hours more.  Every single spare second if I'm home, I'm here.

For me, its simple. It just never gets old. There's always something to do, especially as I have 24 unfinished jobs on the go at once, that's OK, I'm learning that's how I role. 

At my formal gardening work, tasks have a pressured timescale. Its enjoyable, its interesting, its inspiring, but its work and hard work at that. Its perfection, its selling inspiration, showing off what plants can do, what works where. Its advising and its striving to give your best, I guess any job should feel like that. Its brilliant, I love it, but its really time pressured. I'm expensive, it should be time pressured. But, at home, in this garden, its enough to just potter about and just be. Progress, not perfection. Everyday as I get frustrated at progress or stressed thinking about the time I need to get it all done, I need to remind myself, this is a work in progress, it will never be perfect. And that's OK. Small jobs, big jobs, it just never gets old. I'm not perfect either, so we're a good match.

My family a long while since had become accustomed to my mud clattered state. My enthusiasm for flowers, and forms, and wild things and habitats. For stomps just to see Primula scotica, which I'll sadly miss this year. But, having been away to the Scottish verison of Chelsea this year, very good, you should go next year. I can tell you, walking around display gardens, pallet gardens, plant stalls, nursery stalls. It just never gets old.

We watched 'The theory of everything' last night. (And, let me tell you this was after dark so OK to take a break from gardening, even with floodlights for the garden......) And hearing that Stephen Hawking was still working in to his seventies, made me smile. Whilst I'm no physicist (and do check with TRG on this) I get that passion and drive to do the thing you love, every single day. And know when you're right or wrong. And, when to say if something works, or doesn't.  Of all things in life, surely having passion and indulging in it, never gets old.

A bit like my to do list. Which currently looks like this.

Paint fence. (sigh 15 done 9 to go, AND save up for a wall)
Put russian vine back on painted fence after you've put up climbing support wire.
Plant the 28 alliums ('Purple Sensation') you blew almost your entire budget on at Gardening Scotland.
Repot the last of the tomatoes.
Plant more Cerinthe major 'Purpurascens' seeds and hope for a late summer flowering miracle.
Plant the plants sitting on the terrace (Cosmos, Clematis, Onions, Garlic, Petunias, Diasicas, Hostas, Grasses (unnamed, not interested very much.....ahem), Knautia, and various things I'm not confessing to. 
Pot up the summer pots by the seats.
DIG THE VEG PATCH (like really)
Finish the beds by the greenhouse.
Think about giant beds on the terrace and shudder at how much earth we'll need to fill them (ie what was I thinking)
Put up that tall garden gate you bought a year ago.

But, you see its OK to have a sort of a list which might never get done, as its progress, not perfection I'm after at home. And, whilst sometimes the idea of half done stuff just stops me blogging, maybe I should remind myself, I'm after progress and not perfection. This is not a show garden, its my life. And its OK to be messy and have 24 unfinished jobs on the go if that's what I like. Its about the journey right?
But for now, in our natty penguin pj's we'll sit and have a cuppa and enjoy the start of the day. We'll get dressed in a couple of hours, need to get a bit of pre-start-the-day gardening in first before we start on the rest of life later.

No I don't go to work in my pjs. Honest. Well maybe only once and it was cold and I had waterproofs on anyway so who cares, I was cosy?

In other news, my Clematis montana which has moved about 8 times in 15 years and did not like the Orkney climate, poor soul, is now putting on nice new growth and we have three lovely flowers. 

Lovely. Perfect. Progress.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

So I stood on a table and here I am

So for some reason my dearest went to America and I ended up digging up most of the garden as a 'surprise'. You know the kind, where you try and change everything and make it 'AMAZING' and a 'SURPRISE'. And, despite your best efforts they always come back quicker than you expect. You know 'mid-surprise'. Unfortunately my 'AMAZING SURPRISE' also involved 16 large wooden 'railway' sleepers, a considerable amount of turf and two dogs a tonne of bark and lots of trips to the recycling with many shrubs which were, in my professional opinion, 'in the way'. So, I was, for a while, last October, home alone with my new project. Mainly, to manage this 'project', I stood on a table a lot (in the garden) and told them all I had a 'vision'. (The dogs wanted to send me to specsavers......and get my eyes tested.)
They, understandably were not impressed. So they gnawed the table and made a lot of sawdust mess. But, I never came down. I had vision.
They, however continued to be very unimpressed as these non-gardening dogs tend to be.
And they, those chickens, weren't much kinder. Everyone, it seems is a critic these days. So I soldiered on, sometimes in the rain. Like a lone voice in the madness, saying it will be lovely, it will be lovely. I promise. And I started to cover the garden in black fabric unrolling it like a carpet for the new paths. They thought I'd gone mad. Black carpet in the garden. But it was nicer to walk on than wet grass.
Sometimes there was a lot of mud. And I lifted a lot of turf. Possibly ten tonnes. Fear not though, it took me ages cos I chopped it up into 'girl sized baby turfs'.  Easier to manage, see. And remember I am often prone to exaggeration, so there wasn't really ten tonnes. It just seemed like it on those short dark days.
And sometimes I also worked into the night. You know, because if a surprise is worth doing, its worth doing obsessively. Yes, I really did. And, somehow we got into November.
Eventually it started to come together. But not before a long lie down. And, after Xmas which somehow kind of arrived, full of cheer and friends.
And eventually, we all decided that maybe digging up all the garden at once, was perhaps not the best plan, but we'd done it now. Except we didn't really have a plan, or any plants. Mere details I told myself.  I was working to a vision, which by its very nature, was very fluid and dynamic. Which is what we say when the plan isn't really in our brains yet.
And the main outcome of this vision was that the lawn was toast. As many might remember, it use to fit the entire garden. like a carpet. But, really who needs a big green carpet in the entire garden? So we dug it all up. Or covered it in black matting we found in the shed. Another happy circumstance where we find the very stuff we need. As if by magic.
 Apart from a small part of it which we decided to keep under the apple tree. As Peedie said, it might come in useful one day. So best to keep 'some'. He's a canny Cairn Terrier after all. Very wise.
And, as we were keeping it, we gave it a nice edge. And some lavender which had been brutally ousted by that much loved pesky purple perennial wall flower thug,  Erysium Bowles Mauve (a story for another day, do remind me, real time thuggery in the garden {that was a 'th' by the way not a B}). 

And we moved what seemed to be a tonne of bark on to the paths. We chose bark, because the garden was full of it, so circumstances led me down that path, so to speak. I'm all for recycling, and sometimes using what you've got is better than wasting new stuff you might not like. 

Then we were bored of moving bark (frequently) we chopped back more shrubs. And found a wall and a very muddy edge to it. And a house behind all the undergrowth. Who knew that was there? Not I.
 And so we dug up the edges and gave it some bricks. To help the mower keep it tidy. We chose bricks, erm, because we already had them. A bit like the bark. I was a victim of circumstance, again.
By this point in the whole dig up the garden episode, lets just say, the person came back from America and decided it was time for me to get a job. 

You know, in a proper garden. 

Perhaps to save this one from my 'exciting' surprises when he was on his travels. Because sometimes he shares this garden too.  And, whilst it was a lovely surprise coming home to find a half finished garden and most of the lawn dug up, perhaps it was thought I had a bit too much time on my hands. Who can say.
So a snowdrop garden took me in. 

And they keep me busy three days a week. 

Mainly digging things up, like snowdrops which keeps me happy and January and February and lots of March just disappeared.  They don't seem to mind things like people digging plants up. Its a happy find. And whilst I don't know so much about snowdrops, I'm happy to learn. Which is good because they have over 300 different kinds. Yikes. And we both thought they were like Mr Ford, only came in white. Not so.
 And, as the snowdrops went to sleep in April, the woodland woke up. And the snowdrop garden decided to keep me too.

A happy time.  And suddenly its May.

But even with a second job, it didn't stop me digging things up at home. Although that's a story for another day.  For now lets leave it at that. You can see the vegetable garden is now happily settled in but still growing nothing more than dandelions and grass for now. Early days mind, you can't rush a 'surprise garden'.
And the muddy brick edges are now full of plants. A bit like an airport lounge, the plants are just there for a while, popped in, to find their proper homes eventually, as friends and family kindly donate them to us. They'll reach their final destination one day, they are a victim, like me, of circumstance. This is the only bed dug.  So they need to go in here for now. OK so the clashes will be spectacular, but I never claimed to have taste or a refined colour palette.. However, if this bed is delightful, lets just pretend to himself, and onlookers, that we planned it this way all along.
 Meanwhile, the plants slowly start to wake up. Like this little Abutilon x suntense 'Jermyns', its about time eh usually this flowers for my birthday but this year, late. Although its been cold.
So expect more soon, we've so much catching up to do! And unlike my good friend LinneW I don't have a time machine. Although May has got here, as she said, 'really fast'. Happy Gardening folks. A word of advice, digging up the lawn as a 'total surprise', perhaps not the best of ideas, but its turned out OK so far. They think so too.
Although they tell me, they prefer the beach. 
And, who can blame them. Less mud. (And, no surprise gardens.)