Monthly Archives: December 2015

goodbye old friend…

1-DSC_0610About a decade ago I was given a Sussex trug.  I used it to carry around my hand tools.  One fateful day, whilst working on a friend’s garden, it came a cropper.  Though I shouldn’t use the passive tense because the truth is I ran over it with the car.  I had forgotten to load the trug into the boot when I had packed up.   Since then the trug has languished in the lean to cowshed, near to, but not quite with, the scrap wood burning pile.  I may have had thoughts of trying to repair it – construct another handle perhaps.  But I didn’t.  The Sussex trug is a lovely thing but to replace it with another authentic item would have been very pricey.

This year the Sussex trug has been firmly supplanted. The lovely OH sourced another version for me as a Christmas gift.


It is a sturdy thing, made in wood, by volunteers at Age UK Exeter ‘Men In Sheds‘ workshop.  The volunteers renovate old garden tools and equipment and construct new items like my trug.

Here’s hoping it gives many years of service!



The nearby town was frantic with shoppers.   It is much calmer here on the holding where we have been gathering up ingredients for tomorrow’s Sunday dinner.

DSC_0592 Sweet shallots and cox style apples from our stores; thyme from a ragged bush in a terracotta pot near the piggery; the cider – bought, as we have finished all of the lovely OH’s homebrew; the plump pheasant also bought, and the reason for the venture into the melee.

Potatoes, again from stores:


and some wilted stems of swiss chard from the vegetable garden.


The recipe is this one from Delia.

new shoots….

The recently planted garlic has put on growth already!


As has the Timperley Early rhubarb which the lovely OH lightly covered with straw a few weeks back.


Plus the indoor hyacinth bulbs, (‘Blue Jacket’),  I belatedly planted have started to poke above the compost.


The cuttings and mini plug plants are doing fine.


All good.  However, the real new shoots will be a big project for 2016. We will be designing and building an ornamental garden in the space between the house and the productive garden.  A blank canvas of grass at the moment.


Those who know me from my design days may be falling off their chairs at this point.

First steps….a site survey!

future fruitfulness….

Winter pruning is upon us. So to ease us into the task we started with the easy stuff!  Redcurrants; whitecurrants and gooseberries.  All the bushes have been in for 3 years.

startpruneIn the fruit cage redcurrants are to the left, gooseberries to the right with a whitecurrant at the end of the line of gooseberries; the last row partially out of site is of blackcurrants which have a different pruning regime.  The closest redcurrant has just been pruned.   2 to 3 year old wood is the most productive so the idea is to have mostly wood of that age with some new wood coming through to replace the older.

Wood produced this year, (see above), is easy to distinguish from older, (see below) because it is much paler.

So we set about pruning the bushes – first up the 3 D’s, removing anything dead, damaged or diseased.  Then the centre of each bush was opened out to create an open bowl.   This discourages sawfly infestations by allowing the wind to blow through the structure as pest seems to prefer to lay its eggs in dense foliage.   Any low lying branches were removed or pruned to a rising branch to prevent the fruit from lying on the ground. Some of the oldest wood was removed entirely where we had a strong new shoot coming through.  Side shoots were cut back to one or 2 buds and the new wood bit of the leaders tipped by a third to a bud facing the way we wanted the structure to go.

Job done.

Onto the apples and pears…


in with the bling…

christmas treeThe tree is up and has had its bauble makeover.  Once again we bought a tree from a neighbour with a field of spruce, Picea abies.  In the search for a specimen that wasn’t too wonky, didn’t have an extra leader etc. we must have taken our eye off the ball as the tree is a bit rotund for the room.  Still, that means more space for baubles!

Tree dressing here never gets more complicated than ‘is there a branch to put this on’.   The decorations are a mixed bag – my favourites are the older mercury glass specimens.   Every year around this time I google vintage baubles and hanker briefly after a tree full of examples from the 50s and 60s like these:

picture courtesy of

picture courtesy of

However these wouldn’t have the accumulated memory of our Christmas pasts.   So I will continue to find a single piece – not every year – from places we visit, second hand shops and the occasional retail emporium to add to our motley, (but well loved), collection.

Merry Christmas.


DSC_0559The OH tells me my wreath looks like a demented catherine wheel.  I can see his point, though I’m quite fond of my effort.  I wandered off into the field this morning, pair of secateurs in hand.  As I was still dressed in nightshirt and dressing gown, greenery gathering was never going to be a long affair.

I collected some berries from the scant remains left on the holly plus hips from the dog rose; young holly leaves, (which are much nicer to handle as the leaves haven’t yet developed the sharp prickles); ivy in berry and the seed heads from spear thistle and dock.  Then I pushed the stems into the conifer base. It would be a much more secure affair if I had found some wire to attach the greenery but as everything will ultimately be added to the compost heap I’m not fussed about the lack of wiring.

I’m on the look out for more embellishment, perhaps some hazel catkins or the seed heads of ‘old man’s beard’.   I could raid the bay tree, rosemary bush or pluck the remaining chillies. Pack some more firework references with dried heads of cow parsley.   Possibly acorns and small pine cones – though the latter would have to be sourced from a woodland walk as we don’t have any conifers on our land.

I better go and put those secateurs in a handy spot.






on the grapevine….

DSC_0530Though it is still a bit mild, the leaves have dropped from the grape so I decided that now is the time to crack on with moving it to the polytunnel.  As the sap of a grapevine starts to flow very early in the spring I didn’t want to leave pruning back until later because there is a risk of weakening the plant from sap bleeding from the cuts.

DSC_0553Everything was pruned back to a single cane, which I shortened. We lifted the vine trying to conserve as much of the root system as possible and placed the it in a large trug of water.

DSC_0554The lovely OH dug a hole about twice the size of  the rootball outside the far end of the polytunnel.  We added a substantial layer of grit in the bottom of the planting hole. The vine was fed through to the inside of the tunnel, tied in to a cane and the hole backfilled.

DSC_0555Grapes grown ‘indoors’ benefit from having their roots outside where it is cooler, and have access to more water, (rain water), though we may get a lower yield because it will be more difficult to restrict the root run.

Of course this is what we are hoping for in a few years!