Six on Saturday 9th January

I’m struggling to type this as my hands are so cold after our return from a nice long (ish) walk around the park this morning, punctuated by a delicious jacket potato from the best spud shop around. Unfortunately it’s closing its doors today until after lockdown – lack of footfall has meant it’s not worth their while to open.

My pictures today are somewhat weighted towards the cold again. I do really hope I can start to share colourful, cheerful pictures again soon, but there’s a severe lack of that at the moment outside in these parts!

I don’t think I’ve shared a photo of the whole garden (or most of it, anyway) for a while, so here it is in all it’s wintry, dormant glory. This is my view all day long at the moment as I sit beavering away at home. I haven’t been into my office since 23rd March and it doesn’t look like I’ll be there any time soon. I have to say though, this is a vast improvement on the building site that was my view for the previous few months in the office, and it’ll only get better as the year goes on.

I’ve come to realise, in all these months working from home, quite how active our garden is. We have all sorts of wildlife making their homes and going about their lives completely regardless of us out there. In the next two photos you can see the evidence of some of the most regular visitors. First up, squirrels.

What dainty little feet they have. They’re incredibly agile – I watch them as they dart along the fences and wind their way around trees chasing the tail in front of them at unbelievable speeds. I know some people consider them vermin (and I guess they are) but I like them. Such cutie pies, even if they do try to dig up my lawn!

Next, I noticed that we’ve quite literally got the cat amongst the pigeons! Well, actually, it could be magpies or jays I guess, looking at the size of the tracks, but that doesn’t work as well so we’ll assume these were pigeons.

When I took this photo I was actually aiming to capture the bird tracks, and it was only once I got back inside that I noticed the pussy cat paws as well. I went back out to try to get a better picture of both, but the snow had melted away and I was left with just blobs! This is probably the first time since I was a child that I’ve actually cursed the snow for melting!

These spider webs were outside my home office window earlier this week. I’m so glad I took the photos straight away because by lunchtime they’d gone! Aren’t they pretty? There was no sign of the tenant!

I did manage to find some colour to include. I think the berries really ‘pop’ against the snowy backdrop. This shrub was in the garden when we moved in, although it was completely hidden by the jungle that was growing around it until we got ruthless and had the whole lot chopped back. I think it’s a Cotoneaster (can anyone confirm?) This year is the first year I’ve paid much attention to the berries – I’m surprised, given the visitors that we have to our garden, that they’ve not been eaten already.

Finally, I’m moving back inside to warm up but returning to the animal theme! Last night BBC 2 showed an hour long best of 2020 Gardeners’ World episode.

It was so lovely to see Nigel again after he sadly passed away last year. Monty must miss him so, but is hopefully comforted by Nell and little Pattie. Olive was also pleased to see him!

There’s my Six for this week. Don’t forget to check out the Propagator for more. I’m off to have a bath now to warm my bones! Please tell me it’s summer soon!

2020 A Year in Review

2020 may have been the oddest year of most of our lives but it’s done now, and we have to have hope that 2021 will be better. I have, for the most part, managed to stay mentally sound throughout most of the year, which I know isn’t the same for everyone. I thank my lucky stars that this happened now and not a couple of decades ago when we would have been far more isolated that we have been thanks to Zoom, FaceTime and Teams.

I also massively appreciate the fact that we have outside space which, although at the moment isn’t at all enticing due to the inclement weather, got us through the warmer months of the year with relative ease, especially so when we were allowed to have people in our garden.

Here are some of my favourite garden photos of last year.

The garden was reasonably productive in terms of fruit and veg in 2020 …

… and we had quite a few visitors of the fauna variety!

Inside the house, we made a few home improvements. The first was pre-lockdown when, with the help of my Dad, we transformed our bathroom from dingy to sparkly clean safari wonderland.

During lockdown when I was furloughed and hubby’s workplace was demonstrating exactly how a zero hours contract benefits the employer (they still are!) we tackled first our spare bedroom/my home office making it a homage to all things Harry Potter …

… then when I was unfurloughed but hubby was still unbusy with zero hours, he decided to tackle the woodchip in our living room and we completely redecorated including wallpapering, laying laminate flooring, opening out the fireplace and hanging the TV on the wall.

Outside we built a catio on the side of the kitchen so our furry girls can get some air safely.

Away from home, amazingly we did manage to squeeze in three holidays. The first was, to paraphrase Craig Revel-Horwood A-May-zing!! A week long cruise round the Caribbean preceded by a two night stop in Orlando and a trip to Universal to go on the new Hagrid’s Magical Creatures coaster. This was pre-COVID, in fact I remember the first I heard about it was by scanning the Sky news app whilst I was sunbathing on deck, and I assumed it would be like the previous SARS disease. I never even entertained the thought that it could turn into what it has! Blissful ignorance, eh?

In between lockdown 1.0 and lockdown 2.0 we managed a short break to Norfolk which was a game of two halves – lovely to get away and see the sea, but I got bitten by a dog, we had to come home early because hubby had a job interview (which he didn’t get!) and I got a flat tyre!

In September we went to Edinburgh for my birthday. This had been booked pre-pandemic and we didn’t know until the last minute whether we’d be able to go, but I’m so glad we could because we had a fantastic time. One of the best holidays I’ve ever had.

We had a few great days out – we walked alpacas, visited confetti fields, played with meerkats, met gorillas at Twycross Zoo and we walked and cycled many times in Sutton Park and Kingsbury Water Park …

… and we also had a couple of great days in making up for things that we should have been doing. We had a non-Jamaica party for two on the day we were supposed to be flying out and we had a tennis afternoon tea on the day Dad and I were supposed to be going to watch the ATP tour finals in London.

I also did a lot of crafts – mainly crochet, but also knitting, baking, jigsaws (do they count as crafts?) model making, felting and, obviously, mask making!

So, all in all, although it certainly didn’t feel like it at times, 2020 was actually a pretty full year and I achieved quite a lot. Amongst all this, I was also working full time (apart from being furloughed for nine weeks in the summer) in a job that I only started six weeks before we were plunged into lockdown and home working, and I feel that I managed very well to learn the new job (although this is an on-going process) under challenging circumstances. It turns out that home working, while it doesn’t suit everyone or every job, works pretty well for me, and for my team. As I mentioned before, thank goodness for technology!

Now it’s time to look forward to 2021 and I’ll finish with a quote that I recently read in a fiction book, the sixth in the Seven Sisters series by Lucinda Riley but that is based in fact (the first book I didn’t enjoy as much, but I’m so glad I persevered because they got better and better and one thing to look forward to in 2021 is the release of the final in the series).Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards – Soren Kierkegaard.

Easter Progress

Happy Easter everyone! I hope you’re all managing to make the most of the long weekend, despite the challenging circumstances. I’ve spent quite a significant amount of time in the garden over the past few days, including eating lunch our there for the first (and second, and third, and fourth) time this year …

… and it really has made me appreciate being able to open the back door to step into the great outdoors. We lived in a pretty small flat with no garden before we moved to our house and the thought of going through this social distancing without some outside space to escape to is pretty grim! I really feel for people living in less fortunate circumstances.

Last time I wrote, I reported that I’d sown my first seeds of the year and I’m pleased to report good progress going on there just over a week later.

New shoots seems very appropriate for Easter Sunday. In the green bamboo pots I have a few Sunflower ‘Teddy Bear’ seedlings and in the black pots some Sunflower ‘Autumn Beauty’. It always amazes me that you can look at your pots one day and there’s nothing, and the very next day there’s teeny tiny leaves pushing through. Nothing’s happening with the Dutch Sweetpeas or the Petit Pois yet.

Having spent quite a few hours in the garden, I’ve come to realise how many animals we’re sharing our outside space with, most desirable, others less so!

We spotted the first non desirable one through our kitchen window, but we did also see him saunter across the patio brazen as anything when we were having lunch on our bistro!

Rat! On the bird table! We’ve had to decommission the bird table for the time being! I actually don’t mind rats, in fact, if we didn’t have the cats I’d have a couple of fancy rats, but I also don’t think it’s a good idea to encourage them in the garden.

We have an abundance of squirrels who also like to steal the bird food from, well, anywhere that we put it! It is seemingly impossible to squirrel proof any kind of food!

Here’s one plotting his manoeuvre on to the bird table (pre rat-retirement!) I really like the squirrels, and I’m much less concerned about them pinching bird food than rats (probably because they’re so darn cute!) I’d rather they pinch bird food than my bulbs! Hubby gets cross with them though (mostly, I think, because they outsmart all his squirrel proofing attempts!)

Moving on to insects.

This striking Stink Beetle was living in the greenhouse. Apparently he’s not a huge threat to my veg or plants so I left him.

This is quite possibly the prettiest beetle I’ve ever seen. It is, according to Google, a Rosemary Beetle. I thought it was a ladybird until I got a bit closer, it was exactly the size and shape of the lovely ladybug. We don’t have any Rosemary in the garden, but we do have Lavender which they are apparently also partial to taking a munch on.

Sticking with the insect theme, but this time a highly desirable one, is the bee.

I nearly trod on this little lady as she was resting on the floor. I gave her some sugar water which she went straight to. After a while she started crawling around and scrambled up on my leg.

I sat there with her for a while before letting her crawl on to a leaf and I left her in my birthday planter.

I went back out to check on her after ten minutes or so and she was gone so I’m hoping I’d given her enough energy to fly off and continue her bee business.

Let’s flit off (see what I did there?) to some birds now.

Since the lockdown, the traffic has been much reduced on our road, and the air traffic above has practically zeroed! I feel somewhat guilty admitting this, given my love of flying and holidays, but I’m not missing the planes! Sitting in our garden sounds like sitting in an aviary.

We’ve seen quite a few different kinds of birds over the last few days, not all of which I’ve managed to photograph. We have Jays, Blackbirds, Magpies, Wrens, Robins, Sparrows, Thrushes, Finches, Pigeons and Blue Tits.

Here are the pictures I have managed to snap.

Finally, the piece de resistance …..

I did, for a second or two, think that a Pterodactyl had landed on our ridge tiles (I’ve been stuck at home for millions of years, my brain’s turning to mush!) but soon realised that it was a Heron. You can just about see his fancy hair do in the first pic. He stayed up there surveying the gardens for about half an hour.

I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at our lovely wildlife. I feel so grateful to have our garden, it really is my little sanctuary.

Enjoy the rest of Easter, and if anyone has any mini eggs, please eat some for me. I don’t have any and I’m pretty sure they don’t count as an essential item so I can’t go and get any!