Mother’s Day – Great Start . . . Crap Finish!

 

It would have been too much to ask for a perfect day, wouldn’t it?

It started well.

I’d requested a Cornus plant/shrub thingy from my son, Matt, and went into great detail re colour and size. Yes, I would have loved a tree-size one BUT I’d visited the plant centre a week earlier and saw the price of the tree-size ones, and to be frank I didn’t think I was worth that much. That’s a bit sad isn’t it? But you know me – the original shrinking violet. Shut up it’s true!

So, knowing Matt obeys my every fancy and whim (mostly) I was pretty confident that a lovely little Cornus would produce itself from Matt’s car boot come Mothering Sunday.

10.00 a.m. arrived and right on time (another quality he gets from me – always being on time) his work truck chugged to a halt outside the house and there, swaying, slightly seasick was my pressie – a small tree-size Cornus.

Obviously I was overjoyed that, A. I’d got a super-duper big plant and B. that apparently I WAS worth that much.

The grand kiddies piled in followed shortly by a plant and Matt somewhere behind it. I showered him with thanks before scolding him for spending that much on me when I would have been perfectly happy with a titchy one – well, maybe not a titchy but it is the thought that counts, you know.

The plant was placed in the garden awaiting planting. I already had the area mapped out and I told Matt that I’d be planting it when they left. At this point he said, ‘You might like to water it first?’

Good point I thought.

‘It’s been in the garage for two days,’ he added.

‘WHAT!’ I exclaimed. ‘So it’s been in the dark for two days with no water and then rattled up the motorway in an open truck?’

He grinned.

‘You lazy git,’ I said, ‘you just couldn’t be bothered to carry it round to the back of your house, could you?’

He opened his mouth to deny it but then changed his mind and continued to grin.

‘And YOU call yourself a gardener? I said.

He laughed.

This information set me back a bit, so when they had gone I watered it in its pot and then this morning I planted it. It looks OK . . . well, brilliant it fact. I think if it could talk it would breathe a sigh of relief. I don’t think it enjoyed the M1 that much?

As I said . . . Great Start, Crap Finish, because . . .

Later that day I toggled up the garden to tuck-in the greenhouse plants. A frost was forecast so they had to have their little duvets pulled-up round their delicate stems. As I was saying goodnight to the baby cosmos (Prince Charles talks to HIS plants so don’t go thinking I’m mad and alone in this), through the greenhouse glass I caught sight of a bird, on the floor, in front of Richard’s shed. It looked perfect, not cat struck at all. I couldn’t bear investigating so I shrugged down to the house and asked Richard to go and see if it was dead. He did so.

It was dead. I believe it had flown into the shed window. He described it to me (he’s no ornithologist) and I realised in was a bullfinch. Last year there had been a pair visiting the garden and only yesterday I was thinking that I hadn’t seen them this year. I was devastated really. I don’t do ‘dead’ animals very well, but then who does. I kept thinking that its mate would also be devastated. I tried telling myself that it would be fickle and find another mate, a prettier, better-at-finding-food-for-the-chicks mate. Then I told myself perhaps it would be happy knowing that its true love hadn’t had a horrible ending in the jaws of some rotten kitty . . . but none of that helped. The vision of the little thing stayed with me for the rest of the day . . . and has carried over to this morning. Yes, I’m a dick. What more can I say?

Whenever I see roadkill in the distance I have to close my eyes until we have passed it. Last year a muntjac had been hit on the busy road at the side of the wood and it had managed to make it to the gate of the wood. It had two broken legs. I still have nightmares now. It looked perfect, except for the two broken legs – and the fact that it was bloody dead. How long had it been there until shock had claimed it? How much pain did it suffer dragging itself from the road and along the grass verge to the gate? Yes, I think too much!

Last week, as we arrived at the wood, we noticed what looked like snow around the shed. On closer inspection (I sent Richard ahead to investigate) it was, or had been, a wood-pigeon. Feathers were everywhere. I never knew they had so many feathers!

Two days ago I raked the feathers together and burnt them.

So, there you go. A lovely Mother’s Day in many respects . . . I spent time with my son and grand kiddies and received exactly what I wanted but how much nicer it would have been if Mr Bullfinch hadn’t committed suicide?

This I guess is the balance of life, hey?

Right, dashing off to sand some wood. A craft fair looms and I must focus on making stock.

Stay Happy xxx

 

When Only One Word Will Do

I’m sure you know what it’s like – when only one word will do?

As a writer and author I’m supposed to have a whole dictionary of words at my disposal and in honesty I do – but do I use them? I do not.

I don’t flimy-flam (beat around the bush) I call a spade a spade. However, when my eleven-year-old grandson stood in my craft shed the other day, looking at the old, battered filing cabinet, and asked, ‘Grandma, why does it say crap on that drawer?’ I had only one answer, ‘because that’s what’s in it Jake, crap!’

He grinned a little (he thinks I’m a rebel) and opened the drawer.

Jake is a great ‘collector’ of things. Many, varied things. He collects coins, ‘interesting’ stones, pieces of wood, all sizes, all shapes, bits of metal, nuts, bolts, washers etc. I adore him. So this led to a rummage through the ‘crap’ drawer where he found this and that and rescued them for his ‘collection’. His father (my son) wrings his hands and exhales deeply when Jake goes home after a stay, and with great exasperation moans, ‘Oh noooooo, what have you got now? Do you really need all that rubbish?’

I’m tempted to tell my son that it isn’t called rubbish, it’s called crap. I think Jake has the same temptation but he’s a good boy and what happens at Gran’s stays at Gran’s. We are partners in crime and all things private, naughty and silly. I think Jake may become an archaeologist, or have a dusty shop where he sits with spectacles perched on the end of his nose reading one of his ‘must have’ books. Did I mention that he has hundreds of books already?

I think he may get some of this from me.

I mean, does anyone really need 10 wooden spoons, 3 shelves of Tupperware (I say Tupperware but it’s the equivalent) 6 doo-dahs of cling film, ditto foil. 500 padded envelopes, card of every colour, 6 gardening hand-forks etc. etc. I simply ‘like’ these things and in my opinion you can never have too many plastic containers with clippy lids – ever.

Another thing that is simply beyond me is this . . . I can’t plant two seeds together (like Monty Don does) and then discard the weaker. Nooooooooo! It should be illegal. How can anyone pull out a seedling and throw it away. I have to save everything. And I find it quite difficult pruning shrubs without shoving a dozen pieces into a plant pot to see if they root. This could be why my garden looks like the Amazon jungle?

Talking of having more of something than you need, I have a million tadpoles in the pond right now. When our only remaining fish went to fishy heaven, last year, we removed the filtration and U.V etc. and decided that it would be a wildlife pond. It could do its own thing and I would NOT fish out duckweed, fallen leaves etc. but leave it to its own devices. This is why the water, at the moment, is pea soup green and we have a million tadpoles and a thousand baby water snails. When we had the fish they would have polished off a few hundred tadpoles but right now they have no predators, other than a blackbird that I saw standing at the edge of the pond plucking them from the water.

Monty (that man again!) said you should place rotting logs in a wildlife pond and so I did. Yesterday I decided that the pond could take one more – just a small one – see, I even have too many logs in the pond! I turned my back after placing the log in the water and when I turned back a shoal (is that right – a shoal of tadpoles?) whatever – a shoal of tadpoles were having a feeding frenzy sucking-up the green algae off the wood. They remained doing this forever so I put another piece of green wood in and ditto – more arrived and pigged-out until the algae was no more.

Some might say that I have too much time on my hands. I disagree. I’m doing what pleases me. See, I am a rebel.

Anyway, I’m off to count my Tupperware and throw another log in the pond. I should clean the house (probably) but then again, why would I want to do that crap?

I’ve posted a very short video of the feeding tadpoles on my F.B. page if you want to take a look. I couldn’t post it here.    https://www.facebook.com/gail.orbell

 

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You’re My Precious -And My Favourite!

Are you like me? You have 12 kitchen knives and only ever use 2? You have 3 sets of crockery and only ever use 1? You have 15 pairs of trousers – albeit various types – leggings, jeans etc. and only ever wear 2 or 3? I have a drawer full of kitchen utensils and frankly I tend to use a grotty plastic fork, purchased from Ikea for 50p, a skewer and a pallet knife. These three items serve me well. The rest remain in the drawer, used on blue moons and days that don’t end in Y.

So, bearing this in mind, it will come as little surprise to hear that I have just the one favourite coat that I wear in the garden. This item was purchased 5 years ago from Next in their winter sale. Originally, some £65, but I think I paid £20. Obviously, the coat didn’t start out its little life as a gardening coat, for years it spent summer after summer, pride of place in the wardrobe, re-emerging every winter. It went to all the posh places – Morrison’s, Tesco, Lidl etc.  I must admit, that being padded, it was a tad warm on ice-free days. Anyway, moving on 5 years . . .

Favourite shiny-black padded coat started to look a little ‘tired.’ No longer able to cut the mustard in our supermarket dashes so I decided to put him out to grass – well, out to garden, actually.

For several years favourite shiny-black padded coat served me well, never minding the odd smearing of chicken poo, or being splashed with fence paint, in a rather attractive shade of green. Then, one day, disaster – a large hole was ripped in the pocket area when I didn’t quite navigate a sticking-out nail correctly. White stuffing hung from the gash, so I pushed in back in and tried to ignore it.

A week or so later, chicken wire took out the top of the arm.

Somehow it didn’t seem to matter. The coat was still functional, warm, familiar and very obviously a gardening coat, if anyone should see me in it.

Last week I looked at the poor thing. The pocket hung in tatters, no stuffing left. The arm was no better and horror upon horror, favourite shiny-black coat was rather pongy!

The time had come. The bin beckoned. I slipped him on and off . . . on and off. Perhaps I could wash him? Probably not because more stuffing would weep out and block-up the washing machine. But . . . this was my favourite coat. We had travelled miles together. An old friend. How do you bin an old friend? No, forget that . . . binning old friends is pretty easy. Then a light bulb moment . . .

I could repair him. I had the technology. Well, I had the sewing machine! Yes, that was the answer. I’d repair favourite shiny-black coat.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy. I couldn’t find anything to match his shiny texture, let alone find anything black. Perhaps I’d have to let him go after all?

Another light bulb moment. He was, after all, only a gardening coat, it didn’t matter what I patched him with. I had something black, surely. Yes! I did!

I scurried upstairs, threw open the knickers drawer and grabbed a black pair.

Favourite shiny-black coat has been repaired! He now has black stretchy patches over his left pocket and on his right sleeve. Result.

Some people might wear their hearts on their sleeve – I wear my knickers.

Here’s to the next five years . . .

And, in conclusion . . . I’ve just started a new group – “The Friendly Gardeners Group.” I can’t promise to ever post a photo of favourite shiny-black coat (I don’t show my knickers to just anyone – not that you are just anyone) but I can promise a lot of chat (that will stay on the group – we are a ‘closed’ group) a fair bit of swapped information, banter and friendship so click on the link and come and join us?

https://www.facebook.com/groups/255925658182426/?ref=bookmarksPublication1

A Summer Snow Storm?

Hi All

Do you think I’m a defeatist? Do you think I’m the first to throw my tatty hat into the ring and give up? I’m sure those of you who know me are manically shaking your heads and shouting no, no dear heart, not you …and you are right. Except…

I have been beaten. Thrashed. Flattened. And there is nothing I can do about it – apparently.

My garden has become the meeting place, and the laying-of-a-billion-eggs place, for every cabbage white butterfly in Leicestershire. No one else has a single, miserable caterpillar-creating-machine fluttering around their broccoli and Brussels plants. Just sodding me.

I walk through the gate, off the lawn, and into my veggie bit, and it’s like walking into a summer snow storm. There are dozens of the pesky little gits, flapping, lifting, dropping, fornicating, egg laying and just generally really peeing me off. Their progeny munch and chew, and burp and pooh, and hold little parties on the underside of the brassica leaves.

I have to admit to losing my cool and knocking a few off onto the ground. Then I had a good old spray around with an oil based (useless) spray to see if that might deter the mother ship, but alas, no. My plants cry and shout, ‘help me. Kill the little blighters.’ But I feel bad about it, even the ones I got really angry with and knocked off their perches and onto the ground.

I may have to give up. Such are the joys of ‘the gardener.’

I’ve also had a jolly nice swarm of baby wasps, sucking on the overripe gooseberries. This, of course, is great fun, this game of ‘dodge the wasp’ …not!

And Chea, the demented feline, has flattened and snapped the new cat mint that I planted this year. I made a new border, behind the pond for bee-loving plants, but she has inhaled so much cat mint and become so stoned that she has rolled around, rubbing in ecstasy, and flattened the lot. Why can’t she toddle off and pat off a few caterpillars? Do something useful?

Anyway, that’s that. The garden will take up less time now and I’m pleased really because I have another couple of projects on the go. I’m writing two children’s books. They are first drafted, but here’s the thing. I’m having one illustrated and the other I’m going to attempt to illustrate myself. Stop laughing!

OK, so I’m not an artist but that doesn’t mean I can’t try, does it? I’ve bought some paints, brushes, a nice little table easel box thingy and I’m off and trotting. The really weird thing is …I thought that I would find it massively stressful but I don’t. I find it really relaxing …and Chea seems to like drinking the water that I use to clean my brushes so it keeps her happy as well.

I will admit that one or two illustrations haven’t been that successful. Richard passed by and I asked for his opinion on a goldfish and he remarked that it looked like an alien and shuffled off chortling. Ignorant pig!

And try as I might I couldn’t get a ladybird to look less frightening and not to be the potential cause of sweaty nightmares, so I binned it. And besides, I painted it wrong …I painted the red bit black and ended up with a rain beetle. That might have been OK because I could have crossed my fingers behind my back and lied and said that was the intention all along, but it still looked half crazed and like it might jump from the page and attack the young reader.

I run all this past my grandson, Jake (8). He’s brilliant and, strangely, rather respectful too. He nods his heads and chatters away ten to the dozen, ‘Yes, that’s great Grandma. I really like it …are you sure you painted it?’

If the picture in question is doubtful he scowls a bit (like he’s attempting to come to terms with exactly what it is) then he grins. Then, he gently offers suggestions. I love his sensitivity. And his advice is pretty good too. ‘Out of the mouth of babes,’ and all that.

I figure that if the illustrations turn out to be total crap at least I can send them to a ‘proper’ illustrator and she/he will know exactly where I’m coming from. At least this is the plan. It could all change. I may take it no further. I may have been influenced by those cabbage whites and I too may flit and fly with my butterfly brain, dipping here, landing there, moving on …whatever.

Hoping to have some really exciting news shortly. News that I will simply have to share with you all because …well …you’ll see why.

Take care my lovelies xMouse and Pot in fill

The Games Children Play.

Hi All

I hadn’t realised how long it’s been since I posted something here and then a ‘friend’ enquired if I’d died? Well, no I’m still here.

The days flash past and I truly don’t know where the hours go to. Although, having said that, I do spend many, many hours in the garden at the moment.

The blackcurrants and gooseberries have come and gone and the strawberries are dwindling, but that might have something to do with little fingers plucking each and every one? Jake and Grace, (7 and 3 years) harvest the ripe fruits and eat them so fast that it’s a real struggle to make them wash them first. I know I should insist, but there is something about small children wandering through a garden wilderness, seeking and finding ripe berries and eating them immediately.

The red gooseberries didn’t last long either. They are (were) a particularly sweet variety and I have to admit to eating them by the dozen, straight from the bush. I couldn’t rescue any this year to turn into jam, because little fingers also found them, but I was luckier with the blackcurrants. I made a dozen jars of blackcurrant, apple, and ginger jam. Also, the rhubarb cropped heavily and is going like the clappers even now, so that was turned into rhubarb and ginger jam. You might be noticing a theme here? I seem to be adding ginger to everything these days.

I’m hoping that the apples, courgettes and tomatoes can get their acts together and be ready simultaneously as I’m now scouting for some interesting chutney recipes. I haven’t made any for a few years, mainly for two reasons. 1) The boiling vinegar gives me a migraine. 2) Richard eats half a jar at a time on chips and jacket potatoes and with no concern for the effort and time that has gone into producing the stuff.

So, there you go. I’m not dead – just busy with the garden. And I have to admit that I encourage Grace and Jake to ‘mess around’ out there, too. It pleases me to watch them play. To create things that only a child’s imagination might create. There are a hundred life-lessons to learn in a garden.

One of their favourite things is hunting for worms. This is something that I stand back and watch, even though cries of, ‘Grandma, come and look at this – it’s really big and this one is having babies!’ are constantly heard. I know my limitations, I’ve never been a great-picker-upper or lover of worms, but even so I insist that they find a pot from the potting shed and place a bed of soil in the bottom on which to place the worms, and then, when the harvesting is over they have to release the worms back into the damp, shady soil.

Jake’s passion is looking for treasure. This takes the form of stones. One time he will be looking for flint, another for smooth round stones. At the end of the session I find him a plastic cat pooh bag (unused by the way) and he takes them home, much to daddy’s displeasure. Daddy asks, ‘Do you really need to take those home? Haven’t we got enough of our own?’ Daddy doesn’t understand that these are not just any common or garden stone these are precious gems, discovered from underneath bushes and beneath soil. These stones could have lain with dinosaur bones. These stones had to be tracked with the compulsion and determination of Indiana Jones searching for The Holy Chalice!2014-06-02 08.38.31

Occasionally I have to answer questions like, ‘Grandma, why is that dragonfly on the back of that dragonfly?’ But we are quite grown-up about it all.

Other than the garden taking up my time, I have also started a fourth novel. So…busy, busy, busy.

I’ll be back in a day or two – this is really just me putting in a brief appearance to let certain people know that I’m alive and well – and looking in earnest for recipes that include ginger. If you have any be sure to let me know?

Take care my lovelies x

 

 

 

 

 

A Man Just For My Entertainment? …

Hi All

I don’t have the faintest idea what to write about today because for one thing Richard hasn’t done anything entertaining for days. I have in fact just told him this as he squeezes into his bike leathers in preparation for going to work. His retort was, ‘I’m not here just to entertain you, you know.’ Funny that because I thought he was. Frankly there hasn’t been much to entertain me here over the last two days. It’s all been a bit low-key.

Both the chucks are sick so the daily chore now is for Richard to hold each chuck in turn, bottom facing me (chuck’s bottom not Richard’s) and for me to wash their bums. It’s fine as long as you don’t happen to be staring into their offices when they eject pooh.

Also, the sick orfe is still sick and floating like a carrot beneath the marsh marigold. Its mates are with it, wiping its sweaty brow and feeding it chicken soup – well maybe not  CHICKEN soup. I still find it sweetly surprising how, when a fish is sick, the others stay by its side. We had a very old goldfish who was totally blind and the others used to nose it to the surface at feeding time and somehow it always managed to find the food and feed. And that’s the devotion of a cold-bloodied animal! Shame the human race can’t be as devoted to each other…

Everything is now out of the greenhouse and in the garden. I had one remaining cosmos which I walked up and down and round and round the garden looking for the last available spot in which to plant it in. Eventually I spied a wee spot near to the fence and beyond the baby cabbages, so, balancing precariously I leant down, trowel in one hand, cosmos in the other. Just as the trowel contacted the soil a huge frog leapt up and across my hand. Obviously I screamed, ‘UGH FROG!!!’ and ran off. And obviously the neighbour heard, poked his head over the fence and enquired if I was alright. I’m sure he lurks – waiting for my next calamity.

My mum always said she should have named me after Calamity Jane. Actually I’ve become much better with age. My teenage years and early twenties were a nightmare. I just seemed ‘accident’ prone. Daft things always happened around me.

I remember on one occasion helping mum, who was doing the weekly wash at the time, by putting away the bread, coffee etc in the pantry. Back then a washing machine was of the ‘open top’ variety. One side washed and one side spun. As I was squeezing past the washing machine, with coffee balanced on bread, the coffee jar toppled off and landed  in the washing machine. Someone, and I swore it wasn’t me, had not screwed the lid on the coffee jar and the contents all spilled out into the sheet wash. Mum was most annoyed and asked me rather snappily why I had to be so lackadaisical? No idea back then what that meant – still don’t have too much of a clue ha ha. It took a few washes to get the sheets back to white.

I scored again, years later, when I put a red sock in with my baby son’s nappies and turned two-dozen white nappies bright pink.

I’m off for my B12 jab shortly so come Monday I’ll be back on the ball and managing to string a sentence together – probably – hopefully – or not.

Okey Dokey – now for the ‘writer’ bit. Here is a link

https://www.facebook.com/groups/566769810009304/605784056107879/?notif_t=group_comment

Cool I hear you say. Yes it is quite cool, actually. It is a link to a writers’ group – only it isn’t just a writers’ group. It is a group for bloggers, readers, authors, writers, poets. Anyone at all to do with writing and/or reading. So pop over and take a look at us. It is a closed group so what happens in the group stays in the group – unless I copy/paste and sell it to the papers!! We have some nice people in the group so if you fancy it give it a go and I’ll see you there.

 

Have a super weekend.

 

Take care my lovelies xHPIM2851 - Copy