Tomatoes (plus a little DIY and writing) rule my life

Now that the DIY on our two rotten windowsills, after much resin filler and elbow-grease, is nearing completion, I can concentrate on my writing…

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Except that last year my new greenhouse was a pitiful desert. All I managed to grow were three sweet peppers (on one plant). Everything else got fried or damped off as I was ignorant about managing the ventilation. So this spring, I sowed madly… perhaps a little too madly. I was miffed when tomatoes failed to germinate, so I sowed more. Various seedlings got potted on and moved into the garden and veg plot, but new tomato seedlings – unlabelled – kept popping up in unlikely places.

Apart from three pepper plants, tomatoes now rule the greenhouse and my life. There are more than 34 plants. The greenhouse ones need constant  water, and ventilation and they all need non-stop disbudding (a skill I have acquired late in life, but will lead, I am assured, to more tomatoes and less greenery).

DSCN8100DSCN8099 DSCN8097 DSCN8095 DSCN8088 And the hosta, of course, just keeps on growing. DSCN8024I am still writing, and I have exciting news on the POW letters book front, but I will wait for tangible confirmation before sharing it.

 

Help, the garden is waking up…

… and I am nowhere near ready. Last week… and this week                     DSCN6993DSCN7026

I planned to do some radical mulching of my poor thin soil before the spring sprang. It should have been done in the autumn, but there was the small matter of publishing Border Line. The giant bag of mulch I have just ordered arrived at dawn, so I was directing operations in a dressing gown and wellington boots – not for the first time.                            DSCN6998DSCN7002                     All I need now is the time, the energy and some bearable weather conditions in order to spread joy among my flower and veg beds. I also need to dig out matted roots in the big Rhododendron pots and replace the soil, move a couple of roses, prune all the others, cut back cornus, raspberries, wisteria… etc etc

Unfortunately, I still haven’t finished the internal DIY. This should also have been done before Christmas (when I was publishing a book). So the dining room is full of tools and fleece liner, the spare bedroom is full of everything that has come out of our bedroom the box room and another room. I can’t progress here, because, although the plasterer came  IMG_0919  DSCN7016  a week ago the plaster is still drying in all three rooms. DSCN7014 DSCN7008Then there’s the greenhouse, new last spring, and not exactly justifying its presence. I managed to overwinter geraniums and sow some cut-and-come-again salad in November (which we ate on Boxing day) and is sort of still with us, but I need to get planting – now! And the vegetable plot which is… well embarrassing.

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At least the garden is awash with fat buds, snowdrops and winter aconites.

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Then there are exciting developments in my research on the letters to Far East POWs … I just need a ten-day week, and I’ll be fine.

One tomato, two tomato, three tomato… and some maples

My husband was a little underwhelmed by his first sight of lunch today.
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We love tomatoes and I thought with the new greenhouse we would have a splendid crop of homegrown ones. Sadly, all the ones I started in the greenhouse have not fared well after being transferred to the vegetable plot. The blazing heat, our sandy soil and my erratic watering and feeding (though I tried) have not been to their liking, so every kind of rot has set in and this is all that is left.

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And they’re not as healthy as they look. The one plant I kept in the greenhouse is looking much happier, so next year I will fill the greenhouse with them.

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However my little nursery bed of seedling maples has come through the summer in brave force and I think there are some interesting plants here.

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I was a little alarmed to see that the parent of most of these, Matsukaze, is already showing some Autumn colour. I don’t understand where the summer went or how the year is slipping past so swiftly.

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At least the birds and the hedgehogs are flourishing. Outside my writing room window very new half-coloured robins, bluetits, great tits and coal tits and, I think, a willow warbler (who resists the efforts of the paparazzi ) all flit about constantly (very good for concentration) while the ground is patrolled by pigeons, dunnocks and blackbirds (one with a grey head). We hear the hedgehogs at night and they polish off a plate of mealworms etc every night. I am torn between my desk and the outside, but the seasons won’t wait, so I must try and get out more.

 

 

greenhouse shame

This was going to be a boring post about TAX and ebooks, but I’ll save that until I have made a call to the US tax authorities.

In April I was putting up photos of my wonderful new greenhouse. Soon after this I started planting seeds like fury. I decided to try and use up all my old seeds (some very ancient indeed). After an anxious week or so a few little seedlings made an appearance in a couple of trays, but I didn’t really know when to take the lids of the propagators and one lot damped off. The others died on the very hot day we went into town forgetting to open the greenhouse ventilators. Absolutely nothing appeared in the other trays.

I tried again with fresher seed but had similar results. So my total greenhouse haul this year so far is four weeds, DSCN5900

the sweet pepper a friend gave me, DSCN5901

and behind that one of the two tomatoes I managed to grow, DSCN5899the other is in the vegetable patch. I did manage to grow a pot full of purple sprouting broccoli and that is in the veg bed along with some direct sown leeks, carrots etc, but still, it’s embarrassing.

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The good thing about gardens is that there is always another season and something else to admire. I rather like this last glimpse of the sun. DSCN6034 - Version 2The lilies are trying to make up for other failures,

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and the giant host is flowering madly.

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Thrilling post about tax coming in the next few days.

Water butts and water buts – or garden plumbing

I had a very, very wet two hours the other day trying to sort out the rain maintenance in our garden. This area of the UK is very dry (really). It is as unpredictable as any other part, but average rainfall is low, the soil is sand on chalk and the garden is always thirsty. Add to this the fact that we are foolish enough to grow rhododendrons and similar plants that prefer rich acid soil and consequently have to live in ever larger tubs as the years pass.

Rhododendron Yakushimanum Cupcake

Rhododendron Yakushimanum Cupcake

So, over these years, we have acquired many water butts and with the building of the greenhouse we had to start playing musical chairs with these. The big old pale green one behind the new greenhouse had to be swapped for one of the small ones from the back of the garden. But as the rain fell I discovered that this was now too high, so I removed the stand, dug up and added another concrete slab, an old tile and (temporarily) a blue enamel bowl.

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This butt fills another bigger butt round the corner, that has a run off into the gravel.DSCN5621

The original pale green butt has gone to join several other behind our shed. As the rain poured down I discovered that the my linking arrangements hadn’t worked. So I had a merry twenty minutes up to my elbows in water ‘re-wiring’ the whole system to ensure a safe run-off into the garden. I think we now qualify for the Heath-Robinson prize.DSCN5618You’d think that would be enough water for us, but this is all in addition to the underground water harvester that we put in five years ago.DSCN1385

In the middle of winter.DSCN1401

As I stripped off all my soaking and muddy clothes, it was difficult to believe that we still sometimes run out of rainwater. (And there are a couple more small water butts at the end of the garden).

Finally a greenhouse – in (many) pictures

This January we decided that we would – at last – invest in a greenhouse to replace the plastic plant storage affair we had used for many years. [Short of time? Smart suggestion – jump to the end.]

DSCN4610Especially after the wind did this.

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We thought we’d finally use the old marble (see post  https://greenwritingroom.com/2013/04/19/happy-ending/)

DSCN3575However there were one or two things to clear first.DSCN4622

Then the fence blew down.
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We started clearing the site and preparing the ground.

DSCN5258 DSCN5265 DSCN5273Then there was the archaeology.DSCN5278 DSCN5287 DSCN5296 DSCN5306The re-siting of the big slabs that had supported an old oil tank.

DSCN5302 A heck of a lot of digging.DSCN5303 And levelling.DSCN5406 Laying of porous, breathable membrane.DSCN5428 And the shovelling of vast quantities of sand.DSCN5434 At last some of the marble can go down – using an intricate plan.

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DSCN5452 DSCN5455 DSCN5460 DSCN5463The greenhouse arrives.

DSCN5480 DSCN5481We exchange the big water butt for a smaller one and the base makes an appearance.DSCN5474 More brickwork required.DSCN5477
DSCN5498 The day dawns and help (daughter Amy) has arrived.DSCN5502 DSCN5507On Day One we get this far.DSCN5509 DSCN5512 DSCN5520DSCN5522 DSCN5523And on Day Two we finish the task.DSCN5524 DSCN5526 DSCN5535 DSCN5539

On Day Three I planned to sleep, but found myself starting on the excavation of the narrow passageway linking the greenhouse to the back of the house. I must be mad.

 

 

Far East POWs – reflections

It is some time since I posted about the men I have been writing about who were Far East POWs (and their wives and families). The MS is currently being read by an historian so I planned to take a break. Nevertheless I have been thinking about the men rather a lot. In the past few weeks I have been labouring against the clock to clear the ground for a new fence where mature trees once stood (https://greenwritingroom.com/2014/03/14/). I have also been trying to make a level base for a greenhouse (a task I have never done before).

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In the course of these endeavours I have been very tired, very hungry and slightly injured. Then I contracted a feverish cold, and the weather became strangely hot for April. With each of these sensations I couldn’t help remembering the accounts of the extreme versions the prisoners suffered on the railway. I tried to imagine how it would feel to be sicker or to have no rest, or food. As I stamped down the earth on my greenhouse base-to-be, I found myself repeating the phrase my father had remembered from his days when they were building the embankment on which to lay the tracks on the Thailand-Burma Railroad.

 At the end of each days work we marched up and down on the newly placed earth stamping it down firmly. I remember the Japanese engineers shouting “Orr men stepping very hardly”.

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It sounds perverse to say that I also enjoyed myself, I actually like labour, something I suspect I have learnt from my father. Anyway the fence (done by professionals in contrast to my DIY)) is now up.

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I can now get on with the rest. There is still rather a lot of earth to move, rather a lot of sand to lay as a base and all that lovely marble (purchased for another purpose several years ago) to go on top. In the meantime I have managed a few hours of editing on the POW MS. The men are not forgotten.