Wednesday, 31 December 2008

A Happy New Year

From all of us

to all of you -

Wishing everyone a heartfelt, happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

It looks like "growing your own" is an even better idea this year.

Happy Gardening everyone in 2009!

Monday, 29 December 2008

Ginger's Christmas

Kitty had a Christmas present today.

Well, it is 12 whole days of Christmas, so presents can come at any time!

He had a look, and thought, hmmm...

Then he went for it.

Oh, yes. Catnip flavoured fun.

It hasn't stopped him going for the sofa in terms of a scratching post, but we're not too bothered about it. Kitty rules. I think he went for the sofa arm just to prove that this is his kingdom.

Mostly he comes in and sleeps, be it during the day, or overnight. Eats, of course.

I have altered the "special bowl" and taken away the flip-up mechanism; thankfully that came away easily. If you have a cat that is good at this, I would love to know. Step on the pedal, get your food, step away without freaking out.

I also altered the bowl itself for the lid to stand much more upright, and not be like a little kitty Sword of Damocles hanging over his ginger head while he tries to eat. Works much better now, and at least keeps his food fresh. I actually broke it in the process, meaning that I broke off some of the plastic that was making it hover too much, and now it just stands open nicely when I choose it to.

He's happy, I'm happy.

Happy Kitty Christmas!

Saturday, 27 December 2008

The 11 Days of Christmas

That is what I have, between Christmas Day and back-to-work at my lovely job on 5th January 2009. Eleven days of me, my husband, my house and my garden. To do what I want! Mostly, so far, that has involved cooking, but then it would, wouldn't it?

And by the way, a Happy Christmas to one and all. I hope yours was lovely.

There is so much to do back there. Yes, it's the fallow season but in the few weekends before Christmas, when it was dry, I managed to turn this

into this. A start.

I did some weeding and cutting in the left border

but the herb border needs some serious TLC.

I have also discovered that Rocket (or Arugula, I think it is called Stateside) is very much a winter green. We have had frosts and rain, but still this plucky leaf, that I planted in the autumn, is thriving.

So I have picked a large bunch, currently refreshing in my sink. I shall pack it up and indeed use it over the next week or so. And I shall leave that pretty bunch for further picking! Yum.

The weather, for the time of year, is fair and fine. Cold, yes, but I think I spoke of "cold" being a relative term - for those of you in the Midwest of the States, my family included, I send you warm hugs, because it really is cold. 0 degrees Farenheit is cold. I don't think I can even translate that to Celsius, knowing only that it might, just might get to 1 or 2 below 0 Celsius here. To me it feels very cold, but there is a sharp easterly wind at the moment. I had to wear gloves today (shock!). Over in Chicago, it is much, much colder.

Still, I think it means, if you garden there, you don't suffer from snails and slugs the way we do (witness that gorgeous Hosta in my parents garden).

Here's to some good gardening over the next week of work-less-ness!

Sunday, 21 December 2008


It's Winter.

From this day forward, the time turns around and the days get longer - if you can imagine such a thing!

Some of you are snow bound - some of you are expecting snow - us here in London, we have very temperate weather. It's going to get "colder" as Christmas approaches.

"Cold" is a relative term for me, being from the upper Midwest - "cold" to me means ridiculous, unfathomable, like zero degrees, with a wind chill well below that. And I'm talking Farenheit.

Here in London, it might actually sneak down to the freezing point (zero celsius, 32 farenheit). Maybe. Or else we'll just hover in the lower 40's.

That's cold, here.

Always remember, in the words of one of the greatest poets; "if winter comes, can spring be far behind?"

Happy Winter Solstice.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Questionable idea

Well, I received something in the post today that I had ordered a few weeks ago, called a "Cat Flip".

In the interests of cat food hygiene, and to stop my kitchen (it can even permeate the flat) smelling like cat food, it seemed like a good idea at the time. I thought perhaps this would also save me throwing away dish after dish of cat food that sits there all day, hardly touched, and is nasty by the time I return home from work, or when he (Ginger boy) comes back in from prowling around outside, or when he gets up from his (all day) nap ... the list is endless and I have thrown away mounds of cat food by now.

Also, I am a complete sucker for gadgets like this.

This is the idea:

That's my foot, obviously, and not the cat's. It says on the box, "Cats quickly master the pedal action that flips the lid open and closed".

Oh yeah?

Or maybe, how about, cat doesn't master the flip action, the lid snaps shut and you have one freaked out and pissed off cat?

Ginger has not taken to it yet, and I have resorted to this

A packet of spaghetti to prop it open - I started with a potato there on the pedal, but that seemed to put him off, even though what food is in there is a favourite, so I looked for something long and flat.

I'm so tired of throwing away cat food.

Even Big Ginger (a regular visitor now) gave it a try - and he is one jumpy, shy little critter.

I know, it's hard to tell them apart, but I can.

They had a little conflab and a big old "meow" at me, like, "what do you think this is?"

Then they decided to scarper.

Ginger is of course back now - in and out, in and out when he can (when I'm here and the kitchen door is open - it's very temperate this evening), and now he's sitting at the table with me doing his kitty ablutions.

I bet if I put some bits of roast chicken, or beef, in the bowl they'd be on to it in no time. Those lucky kitties!

Still, the verdict is out on this one, and we'll see if it is consigned to the back of cupboard ...

It also says on the box, "can quickly separate the three sections" - I have a feeling I'll be doing that a lot!

In the meantime, I hope that you are enjoying the music - I found the Playlist function on Bren's blog (did I mention this before?) and in keeping with the season I have added my, possibly, two favourite Christmas songs of all time. Happy Holidays and all that!

Sunday, 23 November 2008

My Hiatus

Greetings! Since that last post in October, I have been through The Affordable Art Fair

Of which I am the Financial Controller, and then shortly after that finished, I flew to visit my family in the Midwest of the USA.

So without further ado, I am going to introduce you to the "English Garden" I created for my parents a couple of years ago.

Now, I didn't do a whole lot of research, like Zones in the US, when I started planting this little garden - I believe the Midwest is Zone 5 (do correct me if I'm wrong!). All I knew was the kind of feel I wanted to create, in this space next to the house as deliniated below.

Beyond the path, is a wonderful long lawn, a lovely suburban back yard (where we had many a game of badminton when I was growing up). My brief was the space you see above.

It turned out quite nicely, as you can see. There are several good garden centres around (although sadly one of them has closed now) and we found some choice stuff - what I would always include in an "English Garden" would be Lavender, Lady's Mantle (alchemilla mollis), Clematis, Jasmine (that sadly didn't make it past the first season), Stachys Byzantium (Lamb's Ears, again sadly didn't survive), a Hellebore (wow I'm jealous!), a type of Cranesbill Geranium ... well, I can't remember everything I planted several October's ago, but on the whole, I'm pleased with the progress and I had a chance to get a really good look at things, rather than my visits at Christmas time when you might as well forget any kind of gardening at all.

The site seems to love most of what I planted, even if it has changed over the years. These are early shots the following Spring, after my first planting exercise.

What really took, to my amazement and extreme jealousy (why can't I have one like this in my garden?) is the Clematis.

And then there's the Hosta, in the middle. Crikey.

This of course is as it's dying back, in the autumn time - my parents love it, though, and never cut it down. It just comes back year, after year. My goodness, I find it huge. I don't get Hostas this big!

It was wonderful to see it in temperate times again - and I was most fortunate as amazingly, the weather in early November was mostly in the 70's! Not quite record breaking, apparently, but pretty close. I put some bulbs down, as well.

Not only did I get to spend Halloween in America (it's been a long time!) but I also, fantastically, got to celebrate my wonderful father's birthday with him, and the family.

All in all, a fabulous trip!

Saturday, 18 October 2008

To Autumn

by the brilliant John Keats.

SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twinèd flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barrèd clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008


Do any of you remember Whitey?

I hadn't seen him for such a long time, all summer really. One has to worry when one doesn't see a cat around, especially one of the regulars. Whitey was one of the first cats I ever saw in the garden.

Well thankfully I have seen him recently, mostly on the shed in the garden behind ours, his perch of choice. At the weekend, he wandered back into our garden, and had a good little roll around in the sunny soil. All well and good.

However, he must have been having a nosey round (as cats do - curiousity and all that) and in come the Gingers.

I heard that unmistakable caterwaul, emanating from behind the shed, and realised that yes, there was a cat confrontation.

I try to encourage the boys to be nice, especially "our" cat, Little Ginger. But no, he is a bit of bruiser.

In the end, the day being so nice and sunny, the Gingers decided on a nice sleep, hence cutting off Whitey's escape.

I waited to see how things would pan out, but as usual in the cat world, things move ver-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-y slo-o-o-o-o-o-wly. Whitey even managed a little nap, sitting up. Whilst the boys, well they were just enjoying the sunshine.

Two hours later and Whitey is still cut off.

Eventually he decides it's time to take action.

Should I ...

And there he goes. That can't be easy for a cat, I mean it is a six foot fence! I was very impressed. Check that tail, eh?

Big Ginger finally clocked that the prey had fled.

Who had the last laugh?

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Let's Talk Sheds

This was on my list to discuss, so here we go.

How to build a shed in several not so easy, but ultimately satisfying steps.

We are very grateful to yer man upstairs, who is a builder by trade. Isn't that lucky?

It's very important to get the concrete base right, that the shed will sit upon.

To do this, we had 2 tons (yes, two tons) of ballast, and about 25 bags of cement, if I remember rightly. You might save yourself some time and trouble by getting pre-mixed concrete, where you just add water, but we were guided by the man so this is what we did.

The boys, and it was their decision entirely, had decided on a 10' x 8' shed. Rather large, as sheds go, but we are sharing, so for all our garden paraphenalia he had an equal amount of tools, and also fixings for his motorcycle. So, seeing as it is rather a large garden, a shed of that size was not going to be too obtrusive.

Shed-base-laying-day. D mixes the cement on a board, by combining ballast with cement and spraying it with the hose - one to spray the hose, and one to mix with the big shovel. That was D and his lovely woman P from upstairs, doing the do. To my boundless admiration, she can actually lift a bag of cement, which I really honestly couldn't to save my life! I'm no weakling, but that was beyond me.

What I could do was bring the ballast back from the front (can you imagine what two tons of ballast look like? And could the supplier bring it to the back for us? Um, no) in the wheelbarrow at regular intervals.

What we also used, completely, were all the rocks harvested from the soil during rotovation and turf preparation and laying. And there were a lot. But it all went into the big heap of the base.

You will see the wooden frame to hold in the said rocks, and ultimately the cement. Then the pouring of the concrete, and the smoothing over, of which he did an admirable job. This took us an afternoon. Phew! We had a barbeque to celebrate in the evening.

Here is the shed, in pieces. We ordered this from a wonderful, highly reasonably priced firm called Walton's Sheds in Lincolnshire. It's a "second", ever-so-slightly damaged in places, you could hardly tell and so cheap, compared to your average high street DIY shop. Highly recommended.

Now, it was delivered again down the side, and left in bits to carry back.

My recommendation is, if you are a woman of average strength, with maybe a few small arm muscles and certainly having gained some strength from the strenous digging and cultivating of overgrown ground, please feel free to tell you husband to sod off if he requests that you help him carry the pieces to the back.

These babies were heavy. Thankfully D came down to participate in what was only going to be a great man-fest of construction for the afternoon. A kind of "barn-raising" a la the film Witness. At this point I was relegated to supplying the tea. Comprehensive instructions were supplied, and were followed.

Ta da! A thing of beauty and a joy forever.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Another Feline Mystery

Hmmm, she says, stroking her chin.

Just at the moment (until tomorrow) husband is away on business and so this evening, I settled in to watch a film. Back door open for Ginger, as usual. Plenty of plates of food around for any renegade kitties coming in for a bite. Dare I say it - sometimes when husband is away, I will have the most unorthodox of dinners. Tonight, I had foie gras on toast.

Now, I bought this can of foie gras de canard a while back on a trip to France. Being in a can it was of course good for ages, and tonight I thought, heck, I'll open it up and have some. Ginger of course hanging around watching me do something with food, so I actually gave him a little bit on a plate. You know what? He wasn't interested! What?? Foie gras?? (It was gorgeous by the way). Well, I thought, I'm going to certainly leave it on the floor because I bet one of the range of kitties who come to sample my offerings will like it.

I have no idea who ate it in the end but my goodness that plate was licked clean. Whilst normally I would be in and out of the kitchen of an evening, I stayed on the sofa watching my film for a good 90 minutes.

Now, this is the very bizarre thing. After the film ended, I went to the loo. I'd been in there earlier since I arrived home, and yes there are a few of my hairs in the sink from this morning as I was brushing my hair before work.

But what is this?

This was not there before.

You can follow the path, from the bath up to the sink. What mad cat was climbing around in the bathroom sink?? Do you think, if I had been there, I could have got a shot to add to this brilliant website my cat-loving, cat-owning sister recently sent me?

Ginger is in now, and all curled up on the recently vacated sofa. He's not giving anything away.

Hmmmm ....

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Double Trouble

You know all about the ginger twins by now, big and little.

Husband gets them mixed up all the time. But even I can make a mistake ...

Now that this bench has been moved over to the other side, to make way for the barbeque, Little Ginger often sits there in the same sort of position, where he can watch both the garden and the door. The other night, I poked my head out and saw a ginger, so I went over and scooped him up in my arms, as usual. Suddenly this little ginger was all flailing cat legs! Oops, wrong cat! I promptly plonked him down, and no harm done. he even came in for a bite.

In my defence, it was dark! Normally I can see the difference in the face.

Remember Blackie?

A wiry, spry, lively little fellow who can bound across the lawn in about three leaps. He's young and loves life. He's also very sweet, and will come for a scratch when one or the other of us is working out there. He even comes in for a bite sometimes, too (yes, I seem to be feeding most of the neighbourhood cats).

So the other night, imagine my surprise when Ginger was in at his dish, eating, and Blackie was just outside. Ginger finished, and headed out, and Blackie hissed at him. I was shocked! I mentioned this to husband and he said he had seen this before, just recently. He promptly went to chase him away. Now husband might not admit it, but he loves Ginger, this accidentally acquired cat of ours, and gets very defensive of him. He didn't do anything harmful to Blackie, just shoo'ed him, and to be honest it didn't really take because the cat was back in seconds anyway, as soon as our backs were turned.

Now, here's the kicker - not only do we have double the fun with the ginger cats, we also have

Yes. Turns out there are two! Mystery solved. Little Blackie is a sweetie - it's Big Blackie who is a bit of a bully. He doesn't seem to be around too much, and I felt lucky to get this shot of the Two Blackies.

Well, at least there are four cats out there. What happened to the days when the cats were plentiful? There were actually two more cats around at this time, just out of shot.

I could be missing all the action when I'm at work, or at night. I know I can go out there and there is definite prowling, if I'm checking to bring Ginger in for the night.

However, all this cat action really puts into doubt the installation of the oft- and long-discussed cat flap. Clearly, there are several cats who are happy to wander into my house by the kitchen door, which is generally open all day when I'm here. Case in point, Little Blackie was just in having another bite. Thankfully I have discovered that it's not just the lovely pouches of meat (or fish) in jelly that appeals. They are more than happy to eat dried. Bit more friendly on my wallet.

But if we wish to install the cat flap so Ginger can come and go, as it were, especially when we are both out during the day, (and save me from getting up at 4 in the morning to let him out??), how many cats will feel they have carte blanche to enter our house?