Saturday, 8 June 2013

Garden progress and woodland evenings

I find myself yet again apologising for my blogging tardiness.  It had been my habit for a long while to write on a Saturday morning and that loose routine made it easy to keep up with it.  I always felt like I had loads of potential ideas to blog about, if only of interest to me, so it never felt like a chore.

One of the reasons I started a blog initially, was that as a keen photographer, I would often take a series of photos that weren't of gallery standard in themselves, but perhaps the story behind them or the theme of the series was where the interest lay.    The ones amongst my words here for example are from my garden, as I try to rescue it after post-flood repair works, of which more below.

Please click on any of the photos for a larger view.

Many photos in themselves don't stand up to solitary scrutiny, but when part of a story, they have more combined interest.  Blogging allowed me the luxury of publishing photos alongside a little wording that explained the context - and served as a personal diary of recollections; stories that might otherwise fade from memory.  So for me, blogging was pretty much a personal process.  The fact that anyone else might possibly enjoy reading or looking at the pictures was pure bonus.  I'm well aware that it's pretty much a self-indulgent process and I won't mind at all if no one else finds it of any value.
I've never kept a diary and there are times when I regret that and think that maybe its true value would be long into the future when grandchildren might find my musings and it give them a glimpse into a different world.  Much as I have done recently reading what were largely everyday events in the brief pre-war diary my grandmother kept.  A little snapshot into a different time.

But life has simply got in the way recently and my best intentions, with many things, have simply had to be abandoned.  Anyone who has followed my previous writings may remember that we were flooded last August, losing two garden areas and everything in our cellar.   We made two insurance claims; one to replace all the contents we lost (which in retrospect fell a long way short of what we subsequently realised was lost) and another to clear the resulting mud and floodwaters and repair the physical damage to the property. 

I have to enjoy my hostas at these early pristine stages, as this is considered the most prized delicacy in the garden by my very healthy population of large snails.  Of course they're healthy, they gorge themselves nightly on all my lovely green goodies.  They think I'm totally fabulous for providing them with such a delicious and varied menu.

The entire process, even for our relatively modest damage, has been much more of a task than we could possibly have imagined at the time of the event - and one thing did tend to lead to another.  We've had a whole string of surveyors and builders poking the property and it ended up with us having a whole section of the house re-built and the drains under the house variously lined or replaced - not all of it covered by the insurance claims.  It was a total of 7 months of [expensive and disruptive] work.  Granted, if everyone had worked in a more timely manner, it was only really a few weeks work, but these things inevitably drag out to a disproportionate time-frame - most of it spent waiting for someone to produce a report, authorise materials or some-such other administrative delay.

And once the building work was actually declared finished, we were still left with an almighty mess to sort out.  Just about everything we own was covered with stone dust or mortar, my remaining little courtyard garden was pretty much trashed and we still have rain leaking in somewhere where it wasn't before the flood - all the repairs seemingly achieved, was shift it six feet along the wall.  A matter we still have to resolve under our own steam, but we think we've identified the problem and think we can fix it without engaging more tradesmen.

I love the shape and spotted 'bee approach' of these Mimulus flowers - and this one is augmented by soft raindrops clinging to it - and I have a pendant based on the shapes already started in copper.

So every spare minute since has been spent finally cleaning and trying to restore my tiny little garden to some of its former glory, so that at least I can enjoy it, should we get a summer in 2013.   At least we're faced with this task at the best possible time of year.   We're also using the opportunity to turn the cellar into a more useful space and part-workshop for some of my processes.  That has progressed well, but can wait to be finished whilst the good weather favours progress outside first.

Added to these flood-initiated tasks, a close family member also had a recent accident and is currently resident in a rehabilitation centre which necessitates a 120 mile round visit a couple of times a week to visit and manage their affairs, so that too is making a hole in our available 'spare' time.

Towards the end of the building work, the project manager rang me and said that the final skip outside would be collected in a couple of hours, so to make good use of it if I had anything that I wanted rid of.  I'd been looking at some of my sorry looking plants - those that had survived had not been tended to over winter as I simply couldn't get to them, so many that survived the flood had since fallen into a sorry state due to my own enforced neglect.

So in a slight fit of pique, I ceremoniously dumped the contents of many of my large pots (my entire garden is in pots) into the skip, deciding that a new start might be more therapeutic than trying to make the best of a bad job.  I already knew that I'd have a lot of work to do out there, so had left a little of the insurance settlement to buy new plants and had been squireling away a few pennies to add to it too.  It turned out to be a great decision, it has been much more fun buying new and starting over.  There were some nice surprises though too, a couple of plants I'd put in last year, treated as annuals, were coming up again, so whilst I lost what felt like a lot, it wasn't as bad as I'd been fearing, once I took stock and started on the remedial work.  And some of the sorry looking specimens have responded better than expected to a lot of watering and feeding and the therapeutic sunshine we've had of late.

This area was a building site a month ago (the replaced drains were right under this spot, about 5 feet down) so I'm delighted that it's starting to look like a garden again now.  I took the photos about 3 weeks ago, so the plants are already twice the sizes here.

I decided that rather than get depressed and over-faced by the enormity of the task, I'd set aside a short period each day to make some progress - if I gave it 30 minutes each day I was sure that I'd soon see results.  That approach paid dividends, once I set myself the task of concentrating on a square meter at a time, it actually wasn't as bad as I feared and the improvement was tangible within a handful of days.  Once things start flowering, it should hopefully look pretty fabulous again - I have planted a lot of blousy fuchsias and wall hangers full of lobelia for reliable colour that my prolific and hungry snails thankfully don't like.

As we've had a spell of nice weather recently, we've indulged ourselves a couple of evenings out in our favourite woodland and a couple of evenings ago, it was about as perfect as it gets, it was a long warm evening with a pretty much cloudless sky and we had the place almost to ourselves, it's very much a daytime place and often very quiet in the evening, so is our favourite time.  We pack something to eat and head off after work and recharge the batteries.

If you're a regular reader, you'll know of my oft-stated passion (and a real need) for being amongst trees and seeing sunlight filter through them, there's little else makes me as happy and does me as much good.  My happiness is cheaply bought:


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