Tired legs and sunburnt necks

We were at the gardening centre before they opened their doors this morning – my plan was to get some next-size up pots for potting into, some plants for the patio and a trellis for the vine. Steve was given a vine for his birthday last year, and so far it’s been wild & free – it needs some support!

Some might say we went a bit nuts, but it’s all going to be very useful (honest guv’nor)… or beautiful 😀

Firstly, the patio – I think this is more “on top of it” than we’ve ever been before. In fairness most of the ones in the picture below were already there, but the fuschia in the middle is new…

populated patio pots

I love this standard chain pot – it was part-payment for a website that I put together for the woman who made it. Part of me wishes I’d got one of her larger pieces, but on the other hand, I’m not sure where we’d put them… I feel like this deserves more exposure – maybe I’ll move it, and see if Steve objects!

We’re very pleased with how the herb garden is coming along, today we added Fennel & Rosemary (I’ve had several min-shrubs in the past, but the one I had further down the garden has been subsumed borg-like by the surrounding bushes…

elongated view of herb garden

The vine is all sorted, of course, in a nice sunny position.

vine trained onto trellis and hanging basket

We did a load of potting, potting-up and planting on. The greenhouse is now pretty much full, unless we add new shelves, and there is a little floor-space.

greenhouse-left greenhouse-right

There are over 10 chilli plants on the floor, which I’m looking forward to having do well, and I’m also very excited about the sweetcorn, which we’re starting off in pots and will eventually plant into the “old” bed that’s currently still under black plastic. Steve is a bit worried he might have killed all the cabbages by re-potting them but quite honestly if he hasn’t killed *some* of them, we will all end up looking like cabbages… we planted quite a lot.

And so to the end of the garden – here’s the pano (click to embiggen)

panoramic view of veggie patch (thumbnail)

We got some protective netting – it just doesn’t feel right to plant out seedlings without *some* protection, even if it’s just against being dug up by cats. So there are nets over the courgettes (attempt #3, the ones I planted out 2 weeks ago have shown zero signs of life, I suspect they were swiped by feathered beings) and butternut squash (which I fear I’ve planted too close together – there may have to be some emergency moving later in the season) and another one over the lettuce, as they are starting to get large enough to look attractive to birds as well.

inside the net with the courgettes

I’ve shored up the potatoes with more soil (although looking at this, they could probably do with even more soil).


I’ve put some fleece over the carrots, mainly because I found a piece in the shed that was the right side. And yes, I’m aware that at this stage I’m watching the horse gallop around the meadow, and there are probably millions of tiny carrot-fly enjoying/preparing to enjoy my carrots, but even putting it on at this stage makes me feel a little better, so nyer.

overview of vegetable patch

And lastly, I may make it a tradition to finish long posts about gardening with an artistic shot of the peas.

pea shoots

And this evening I now realise I should have put sunscreen on my neck. It’s really quite warm.

And now, with added architecture…

We got a greenhouse! Not a proper one, obviously, a fairly compact one that doesn’t involve pouring a concrete slab or any serious clearing of space for it.

The carrots are starting to peep out of the ground… while this is A Good Thing, I’m quite nervous – we haven’t covered them, and Steve didn’t get a strain that is specifically resistant to carrot-fly. I can hear the conversation I had with my mother years ago about the dangers echoing in my head, and also, I remember picking carrots that had been ravaged by carrot-flies, and having them basically disintegrate as I picked them, which was very disappointing…

And before anyone points it out, yes I know the plant immediately beside the stick that says “carrot” isn’t a carrot. It’s been taken out now. Or at least, I hope it has…

And these are our potatoes. Aren’t they *pretty*?! I’m loving the purple in the centre of the leaves. Sadly that seems to be going away as the leaves get bigger, but at this stage, I’m vey much liking them.

And am now going to go back to knock the dirt off of this one… I’ll never have a career as a gardening stylist, will I… 😀

After the storm…

We had some very stormy/windy weather a couple of weeks ago, and I took these pictures the day after when I went out to inspect the damage…

The seedlings are all small enough that they appear to have weathered the storm OK, although it’s now quite hard to pick them out from all the debris that’s been strewn all over the bed…

close-up of new shoots

The screen of lilac trees across the back didn’t do so well – a lot of the flowers were blown off, so now we have a very attractive & sweet-smelling… compost heap :-/

lilac heads on the compost bin

I’ve also spotted, in among the legitimate plants, yet another rogue potato, thus continuing the tradition of me digging up potatoes I haven’t planted…

a rogue potato

Plants! Growing from the ground!


Plants are beginning to grow out of the ground, all of a sudden! Not all of them “official” as the strawberry above demonstrates (I may, or may not hoik it out, it depends on whether it develops friends or not)(or if Steve takes an Executive Decision while I’m not looking). In the image below, we have definite peas, lettuce, spinach & chard, and a possible hint at carrots (although that might just be leaf debris…)

In the next image, right to left, are garlic, a space where the shallots will be, potatoes saved from the end of a pound of Tesco’s best, and camouflaged against the soil, some garden-centre-bought “early” potatoes that are significantly more sprouts than when they went in. The plan is to build up the earth around the potatoes at the weekend, when it’s not threatening to rain like the end of days and we have a bit more time to get grubby…


And, just for good measure, this toadstool growing through the path is about 2 inches tall, and looks SUPER tasty (JK, I still love life), and I took an arty shot of the peas…

Planting many, many seeds…

Day 2 of last weekend saw us planting up part 2 of the many seeds Steve bought. We are cultivating a herb garden on the newly created bed that has taken the place of where the dead hedge used to be beside the patio. We have several herbs there that have over-wintered under the cold frames, and are now going to have to be brave in the open air now that the frosts are (nearly) done. Next to these I’ve added some parsley and rocket. For some reason,  I seem to be cursed to be unable to grow parsley – I remember my mum having great swathes of it in the garden but every time I’ve attempted to mimic her, nothing has made it above ground level. This is even including laying down a carpet of slug pellets, so I don’t think immediate consumption by unauthorised personnel is the problem 🙁

We’ve planted a load of tasty vegetables as well as some flowers – we have zinnia, foxgloves, sunflowers and dahlias, lavender, which I place in a class of its own – these won’t get planted out until the autumn, so are more of a long-term project. I’m dubious about the dahlias as I remember them being Quite A Problem with mum debating each year whether it was time to dig up the dahlias, or “I must dig up the dahlias before it frosts” and so on. Digging plants up each year isn’t something I’m convinced I can commit to at this stage… I guess we’ll see! Part of me thinks the main problem will be remembering where they are, but as I said – let’s see.

On the veggie front we have cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, butternut squash, aubergines, peppers, celeriac, courgettes (more than we could ever possibly want – 9 of the things would you believe – leeks and french beans. My hopes for the French beans aren’t high, they were quite elderly, but nothing ventured. eh.

All we have to do now is stand back and watch… and occasionally water them. Oh, and I planted a pot of dill because I had the seeds and there’s a vegan sandwich filling I’ve tried before now which tastes of arse unless you have fresh dill in it.

Gardening progress…

…And so we begin again! Regular readers (ha!) will remember from the end of last year that we did a lot of clearing and preparation of beds so that this year we can veggie-palooza. Above is the “before” pano, showing the state of things after the winter. This is before anything has been done other than picking up litter and straightening out the black covers on the large bed. The covers have either been blown to shreds by the wind, or have been picked at by rodents or similar for nesting materials. There’s at least on area that’s been comprehensively shredded so that it would form a highly attractive fringe on an item of long-sleeved leather attire, which makes me very dubious that it could have been done by just the wind…

Last weekend we cranked back up on the effort, and did planting and made new beds. In the existing bed we have, left to right: parsnips, beetroot, carrots, chard, spinach, lettuce and peas.

While I was planting these, Steve and Lily laid out and soiled(!) three new cardboard-based beds with woodchip paths between… I hereby acknowledge the sterling support given by my work colleagues in the form of large cardboard boxes – consumerism *can* support sustainable gardening, it turns out 😀

In the new beds we have garlic, shallots and three different kinds of potatoes. These fill 1 1/3 of the beds, the rest being left available for the many seeds we planted the next day…

So far, the thing I’m loving about this no-dig method is …the lack of digging. In previous years this weekend would have comprised at least a day’s worth of digging weeds out of the “old” bed and a similar amount of time looking disconsolately at the other old bed thinking “well, I can dig it out but it will probably be covered over with weeds again before I can dig out the vegetables I’m trying to grow. Before I did the planting this weekend, I pulled out maybe 5-6 weeds from the old bed. And that was all of them. This makes me happy.

I didn’t want to leave work today…

I describe myself as an IT Manager, but that’s not all I want to be. I started out as a developer, and still love to code. Career progression now means I lead a team of five people (not including me, and now temporarily plus-one as we’ve a graduate trainee on placement) and they all do IT, so for the pedantic, that’s what I am. I’m lucky enough to work in a place where I can spread my wings into new areas while still doing what’s generally considered to be “leg work”. My aspiration is to be a solutions architect – to take an instruction like (for example) “replace this payroll solution” and do the research into what’s there now, what needs to change, why are we doing this, what are the possibilities, what’s the business impact and which one do I recommend, followed by planning and managing implementing that solution. Grown-up shit, yeah. I’ve got fingers in several such pies at work, most of which are at the stage of documenting stuff I currently don’t know a great deal about.

From time to time, it feels “bitty” and unsatisfying.

A hang-over from the work I was mainly doing before – before my two application support technicians were in place and before we got on top of the shit-sandwich backlog we were handed in the form of several-hundred unhandled support problems – is that some mornings are soaked up sorting out support problems. This morning was one of them. There were only 3 things on my list, but each one took flippin’ ages. Plus, one of the things required concentration, and this morning was the morning for Asking Jude A Question. Sidebar: I’m happy to be asked questions, indeed it’s an important part of being a product owner, it just disrupts my train of thought for a good 10 minutes or so, and one of the things I was working on was difficult. Indeed, one of the Buddhist-philosophy-development tasks I’ve set myself is, at times like this, to not mind when someone comes and interrupts me with a question. Because the distraction of minding makes the interruption take up even more time & energy than it would otherwise. I’m on week 2, and I’m finding that this approach is indeed helping.

I found myself delaying lunch while I finished off the last one – it was so close – so close – and then it was done.

This, at least, is satisfying – it’s clear when it’s done, I can tell the relevant people their problem is sorted, tick on the to-do list, what’s next? However, it’s still getting from a point of broken to not-broken – bringing the world back to not-broken rather than improving the world at all.

Sidebar: As I write that, I’m reminded of a trope used a lot in the first season of Silicon Valley “making the world a better place“. WHAT HAVE I BECOME?

There’s a report (data-dump, essentially) that needs writing reasonably promptly. It’s mostly not technically tricky, there’s an element of handle-turning to it, but also some stuff that I currently don’t know how to do. The sensible, grown-up thing to do would be to line it up for a developer to do. They will spend less time on it. It will possibly be solved more elegantly. There’s a risk it might get done sooner (although, quite honestly, given what other priorities are in play, possibly not). If it goes wrong, I won’t have to fix it.

So, clearly, I started doing it.

By my usual “home time” I was at the point of having the program return the most basic set of information, but had markers in for the different bits I need to put in place.

And here’s the sign that me writing it was the right thing for this afternoon: despite the mostly unsatisfying day I’d had up to that point, I didn’t want to leave. I was in the zone, nobody had asked me anything for a good half an hour, and there was a clear set of nice meaty coding to get my teeth into. At the very least, I thought to myself, you can get it up to the difficult bit… and then I remembered traffic gets worse after 5, dinner being prepared by my ever-loving, and the not-employment-work-to-do list I had waiting.

So, I peeled myself away from the screen, and here I am.

And I have something to look forward to tomorrow 😀

Sidebar: Today is Sunday. I wrote this on Wednesday but am only posting it today because I wanted to read through it the following day and post it, but then I got distracted. ooh! Squirrel!

Making the right path…

Above, you can see the last photo I took a couple of weeks ago, the last time we did stuff in the garden together. I was away doing awesome charitable deeds last weekend, so Steve cracked on without me. He strimmed the strawberries back to ground level (sorry, but they are like a badly behaved child – spreading everywhere and bearing teeny tiny fruit just to annoy us) and covered them with cardboard. He also had a wood-chipper session which saw off all but the chunkiest branches that you can see above.

Which means that quite a bit has been done between that, and today’s “before” picture. If you look closely you will also see some compost around the base of the raspberry canes – apparently fresh mulch leeches nitrogen out of hte ground, so this is an attempt to redress that balance.

Today’s activity was centred around laying out the paths we want around the vegetable patches, and putting a layer of compost (of which we now have two ENORMOUS bags) over the cardboard. Oh, and completing the layer of cardboard. By the time we had finished, it had turned into a LOVELY day, which plays havoc with my panorama-ing. We have 1m paths down each side, across the back and in front of the existing bed. The plan for the rest of the patch is to split into 3 beds across by 2 beds along, which we think will give us some good flexibility in terms of crop rotation.

For those who like more details, this is the partially cardboarded patch – we’ve added more and evened it out a bit since this was taken…

And an action shot of Steve doing the spreading. I thought he looked all zen and in-the-moment and immediately afterwards he looked up and made a rude gesture at me. So now we all know where we stand…


My love bought me a shovel

Another weekend at home in the garden… The 3 panoramas are “before”, “after day 1” and “after day 2”. We had a serious focus on covering over the big old veggie patch, and tidying up along the left hand side. Steve sorted covering the veggie patch. We think reviving this space might take more than one season. It’s always been really really weedy, so it’s as well to take the time and do it properly.

I weeded and mulched around the raspberries, supported them with some bamboo canes, and then attacked the overgrown bushes next to them. I also put up the second compost bin.

Day 2, for Steve, was all about our new toy – a wood chipper. Depending on how leafy the input is, we’re either generating mulch, or chewing stuff up to go on the compost heaps. Having had the tree taken down that was overshadowing the old veggie patch, we are not even slightly short of mulch. The large pile featured below is where the car is usually parked.

The above picture also features my favourite new tool – a shovel! We’ve been “struggling” with a short-handled shovel and a spade for ages. Steve acquired this silver beauty while getting the covers for the veggie patch. He also got weed suppressing cover for making paths, which will then be covered with (you guessed it!) mulch. Having a decent shovel makes a massive difference. I know, I’m easily pleased.

We’ve been lucky with the weather this weekend, and have both ended up feeling a bit sun-kissed. The rain has set in now (Sunday evening) and happily its onset coincided with the time where we had both pretty much had enough gardening fun for one weekend.

Below is the view from the new compost bin. The incinerator’s on the go here – I think it was because of how long it took to burn stuff yesterday that Steve decided a wood-chipper was a prudent investment!

And, because I’m writing this so of course it’s all about me, here’s a close-up of my awesome work on the raspberries.

The canes still have buds & fruit on them, so I’ve concluded they must be autumn fruiting as well as summer fruiting, so I’ll chop these canes back in the spring.

Today’s big achievement, which probably means I won’t be able to walk upright tomorrow, is that I’ve cleared the shrubs to the left of the raspberries back at least another 6 feet (a fence-panel’s worth), including digging out the roots. I nearly had Steve take a picture of me standing over them like a big game hunter, but decided at the last minute that that would be in poor taste. Suffice it to say, I was dubious that getting them out was within my capabilities, and I’m please to report that my dubiousness was misplaced.

Summer Shoes (fanfare, please)

A while back – more than a year, thinking back, I had an idea that I would make the summer shoes Athena from Knit on the Net (it used to be free, but will soon be available to buy as a pdf pattern) – and so identified which yarn I was going to use for the top from my stash and set about trying to work out what to do for the soles.

To cut a long story short, I decided to make my own out of string which seems to have worked better than I hoped – although they aren’t terribly substantial, so the next pair I make, I may do double-layer. Especially as it seems the next pair I do are to be for Lily, and I’ll deffo have enough string left.

Then I read through the pattern. It seemed quite bitty and did a few things I didn’t want to do with my shoes – to be honest I’d be happy with plain espadrilles which isn’t far off what I’ve gone for here.

The yarn I’d identified – some lovely burgundy hemp I got at the i-Knit event a couple of years ago – turned out to be (when I dug it out of my stash) far, far finer than I remembered it, and so not suitable for the project in hand. I dove into Mum’s stash and came up with some aran-weight probably-cotton in a nice dark blue. It looked as though there was enough left, so on with the show.

I made the soles, and started on the mains…

Then bit by bitty bit, I worked my way round until ta-daa! Shoes.

summer shoes

And here are my pattern notes, if you want to try to recreate these for yourself!