Blog Archive

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Spring at the Little White (and slightly green) Devon Cottage

Slightly green, because there is a fine mist of green all over my car, the cottage walls, the Land Rover...courtesy of a wet winter. Still, Spring is clearly here, as witnessed by the snowdrops and daffodils popping up all over!

These were poking their noses out on 5th January this year - and there are far more snowdrops this year than last, they have clearly multiplied around the copper beech!

And they are so pretty close up!

It may have been a wet winter, but it has also been pretty mild for the most part and my herb barrow has survived surprisingly well.

These are the miniature daffodils that I brought in pots from Camberley. They have also multiplied well, and keeping them in pots means that when they have finished flowering, I can move them to the lower garden so that the leaves can die down naturally without making the top end of the garden look too untidy!

The miniature cherry that Kevin bought me from Wisley as an anniversary gift is coming into flower, but I think that this must be the last year that I keep it in a container. When we clear TDC (the damned conifer) out of the way down by the pond, I'll plant the cherry out there.

Prunus incisa 'Kojo-no-mai'

The cats have been pretty disgusted with the rain over the past few days - this is Bearz, in his 'do not disturb' mode, next to the log burner.

 Hobbes - aka 'Cheesed off of Chilsworthy', until 
he kicked Bearz out of his basket...*sigh* 

Only to have his fireside spot stolen by Rosie!

 Meanwhile, Paddy has amused himself with a well-catnipped mouse - these things are seriously scary when you come across one in the half-light!

I'm SUPPOSED to be writing an essay on the 2012 RSC production of Julius Caesar, set in can clearly see how well THAT is going  #procrastinationcentral 😄

Ah well...back to work!

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Running the gauntlet...

Or, how not to get wiped out when cutting the beech hedge by drivers who seem to think that 30mph is a suggestion, rather than a mandatory maximum!

Yesterday, Kevin and I decided that we needed to give the beech hedge its annual haircut. This hedge forms our boundary with the village road; there is a pavement, but it is very narrow and is even narrower when the beech has had a full summer's growth, not to mention the invasive ash seedlings that pop up here and there, or the brambles that stick out to attack the unwary.

So, armed with the electric hedge trimmer, long handled pruners, a rake, yard broom and snow shovel (the latter makes a great 'dustpan'), we pushed the green wheelie bin out so that it was just over the curb and began the assault.

Almost immediately, three cars came past, going up through the village on our side of the road, and they were definitely not doing 30. Nooo - I reckon that they were doing at least 40mph and the drivers seemed surprised that there were actually people on the pavement. The bend before the cottage makes it difficult to see whether there are people or parked cars but still people gun past us. 

The village road is narrow, and there is a point just before our cottage where two vehicles can only just get past each other - the clash of wing mirrors is one of the sounds that we didn't really expect to hear in a quiet Devon hamlet, but it happens a lot. It has happened to us, when despite pulling the Landrover over so that the passenger side was almost in the hedge, an SUV clipped and broke our driver's side mirror (electric, colour-coded and expensive to replace - thanks so much, that driver!).

Anyway, we became adept at hopping back into the beech hedge at the sound of any approaching vehicle but the point is that we shouldn't HAVE to do this. We were on the pavement, not in the road and yet we still felt incredibly vulnerable.

At the beginning of September, we had a water meter fitted; for two days, there was a Transit van outside the cottage, with plastic barriers to protect the workers. The difference in the speed of passing traffic was incredible - most went past really slowly, others at a modest 25-30mph. A couple had to noisily apply their brakes (N.B. not all would-be racers are kids, I've spotted middle-aged drivers charging past us).

There have been talks at the Parish Council meetings for months about a Community Speedcheck being set up - I'll be the first to volunteer! If the speeders are locals, they should know better - they know that livestock/tractors/cyclists are likely to be around any bend in the road. On a stretch that is de-restricted, just 
outside the village, Kevin was toddling along at 30mph past my friend Helen's cottage; he was going slowly in case she was trying to get her car in or out. Instead of Helen, he had a doe leap across the road in front of him. If he'd been going any faster, he said, there would have been venison all over his bonnet.

Why the need to rush through our pretty little village so quickly? Surely a brief spell of 30mph isn't going to make THAT much difference to your journey!

Monday, 12 September 2016

The Beginning of the End...

 Wow - that's possibly a bit too dramatic! The website for my final Open University module has opened and all of my books have is starting to look terrifyingly real now.

This is the module that will determine my degree classification - hence the nervous smile!
I'll be studying some wonderful texts:

Three Shakespeare plays: As You Like It, Hamlet and Julius Caesar
Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy
Edmund Spencer's The Faerie Queene
William Wycherley's The Country Wife
Molière's Tartuffe
Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's Turkish Embassy Letters
The Arabian Nights' Entertainments
Rousseau's Confessions
Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion

and along with these individual works, there are sections on poetry by John Donne and his contemporaries and, later in the module, an exploration of the Romantic and Nationalist movements in poetry.

I adore Shakespeare and Jane Austen, but have already found a great appreciation for the amazing Lady Mary - what a woman! If you get the chance, I urge you to read her Letters - she was possessed of a wicked turn of phrase and was obviously highly intelligent and independent!

I am also required to undertake a fair amount of independent study - not that daunting, considering that when I studied the Children's Literature module, I did look at other novels that were contemporary with Alcott's Little Women, just to see how different her work was from that of her peers, and used the information in my assignments as well as in my final, externally marked work. I am also able to spend time doing this - there are some advantages in being unemployed, I suppose - I'm not sure how much independent study the OU expects from students who, for the most part, are also working full time.

My study corner is prepared. I am working on all the projects around the house and garden that need to be done before the module officially begins in October. Hopefully, I'll be using this blog as a bit of light relief from university  - after all, all work and no play, and so on...

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Progress in the Garden

Not much, admittedly, but the herb wheelbarrow is doing well - the larger of the two parsley plants went in over a year ago (just goes to show that we didn't exactly have a harsh winter last year) and the rest of the plants are new, all but a rosemary cutting that I didn't expect to root at all; it was one of the bits cut to cook with the roasted root vegetables and didn't get used. I had put them all in a little vase of water in the kitchen, so they were decorative as well as useful and, blow me, when I came to change the water I found little roots growing. I left it a bit longer, then planted it out and it seems to be doing well!

We have cleaned up, varnished and painted an old and very decrepit Apple Press to use as a quirky planter and at a recent trip to Waitrose for their Essentials Chicken in Jelly cat food (the only one that our fussy lot will eat), we spotted a sedum that we thought would be perfect in it - Sedum 'Rose Carpet'

The grey-green of the leaves goes well with the Hammerite Smooth 'Wild Sage' paint that we used on the apple press and with the Garden Colours used on the bench and small table.

The pond is looking much better now that we have cleared a lot of the duckweed!

Though we haven't got all of it yet!

The 'Scrumptious' apples on our tree are colouring up nicely, though we have had an attack of Apple Scab and, of course, we can't use anything on the tree now as the anti-fungals have been withdrawn. It was a very wet winter and spring, which didn't help; we'll just have to make sure that all of the leaves are swept up in the autumn and hope for less rain next season.

The two hawthorn trees on the boundary are thick with berries - the birds are going to have a feast this year, there was far more blossom this spring and this is the result!

We have measured up for the fencing panels to divide the garden and Kevin started to chop up the last remaining Hebe in what will become the vegetable garden. 

We also have to get rid of the two conifers, but I doubt we'll be able to get those in my little car to take them to the dump - we'll need someone with a trailer!
The Very Vigorous Evergreen Clematis had to be pruned to within an inch of its life as it  had rendered the pergola on which it was draped somewhat unstable. It looks awful at the moment but the pergola has been mended and repainted and hopefully the clematis will stop sulking and return next year, all invigorated. I hope so, it has the most beautiful fragrance that fills the whole garden with perfume in the mornings.

We've also done a Feed and Weed on the lawn - it will never be a beautiful bowling green sward (it is far too uneven for that) but it looks a lot happier now and we'll reseed the odd patches in September. Considering how awful it looked the year after we moved in, what with all the to-ing and fro-ing, installation of the oil tank and so on, it has recovered remarkably well.