Friday, 30 May 2008

A general update

The weather is turning out to be much as promised.

A wetter, but warmer summer than last year. This is no bad thing, I think, as there will certainly be no hosepipe ban, and water is "good for the garden".

However, I do have that waterlogging problem ...

But I was thinking, as I did my normal evening round of the garden last night, that perhaps all this rain will help me to deal with the problem on the left, of the solid, solid ground (a pickaxe??). The ground will hopefully be more workable, and if I can dig something in whilst the soil is wet now, rather that waiting for the autumn and for everything to die back, well, that can only be a good thing.

My research continues. Do I add sand? But that seems contradictory to me, as wet sand holds a lot of moisture. Sharp, or gritty sand, however, seems to be an option.

I think I may need to get some worms, as well. I wasn't sure, but now I am seriously considering it.

All that being said, as I was standing out there again tonight, I have to admit - it's beautiful.

I am reminded that last year, it looked like this.

And now I have this

And this

And this

And it all makes me very, very happy.

Another weekend looms - what will I accomplish this time?

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

When Worlds Collide

Just at the moment, the outside world is interfering, not so much with my gardening thankfully, but with me sharing it with you. So I am taking a moment to say hello, and show you some kind of progress.

The potatoes are, well, mental. I didn't get to earth them up over the weekend but that is top of the list. It is necessary as one, apparently, gets more yield that way.

I'm pretty darned happy that they've all come up, though!

I did cut the grass. Ah, Saturday was beautiful, as promised. Sun, hot sun even, hardly a cloud in the sky all day, just a perfect gardening day.

I have put the final two tomato plants down. I put three in a couple of weekends ago, when the weather was, again, very fine. When I went to the garden centre, I was shocked to see that there were very few tomato plants left! So even though I would normally have waited until the end of May, I thought I'd best grab some and get them in. The woman at the till said it didn't seem too early, as there would likely be no more frosts down here, and every tomato plant they've had in has just gone like hotcakes. Hence two weeks ago I put in a Moneymaker, a Beefsteak, and a Marmande. This weekend I put in an Italian Plum, and a Shirley. I wanted the various varieties to see how each one progresses, and to find some favourites. It's been several years since I've grown tomatoes. I don't know why as in my previous two "container" gardens I could have just had them in a grow bag, but there you are. They are down now!

In celebration of the fact I would like to share this song with you, which I have known since childhood, and which is the absolute truth, in terms of growing your own tomatoes.

Let's look at the left border now. All those things that I was waiting for to come up - they didn't come up. I succumbed at the garden centre, and bought plants. Poppies, a Lupin, another Phlox and a Lily. I was happy to see that actually one of those Lillies I put in is coming up, but nothing else.

Slight calamity. That soil over there is a large problem, and will need to be addressed. It gets worse the closer you get to the house, and better up by the shed. I believe this is because the sun, when it does come back around, hits the upper part of the border first, whilst down by the house, and the compost bin, it was, during the winter, almost waterlogged. I would have to hold up my hands and say, this is not well-drained soil.

In fact, to plant the poppy, I actually had to get out my neighbour's pickaxe to break up the soil. Now that can't be a good thing, can it? The fork wasn't going in, the border spade, the hand tools, I would have broken them all if I persisted. I need to seriously work on that, and any suggestions are more than welcome.

Thankfully, though, all the plants I put in last year are thriving. The Rose, ah the Rose, is blooming. The blueberries are coming, and the pinks are about to pop. The Delphinium is profuse, and an absolute joy. Even the new Red Verbena is blooming now, and I expect it will be large like the purple on the other side, in the herb border.

Thank goodness for gardens, I say.

And cats.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Back on track

At least, I hope so. Honestly, you turn your back on the garden for one little weekend and suddenly there are a million things to do.

The grass is a mile high and needs a serious cut; being so long, it will take some hard work, but needs must. It's only been three weeks since the first cut of the year!

The strawberry plants I purchased two weeks ago need planting in the hanging basket I also bought. More on that later.

General weeding, of course, including careful weeding around the massively sprouting onions (they don't like to be disturbed too much, apparently. So I won't).

Earthing up the rapidly growing potatoes.

Putting down the beans - at this point I may just buy some plants rather than putting in the seeds, if I can find the kind of bean I want.

Putting two more tomato plants down, and staking all of them.

Probably buying some new plants for the left border, because some of those things I put down just ain't coming up. General propping up of plants there, too.

All of the above necessitates a trip to the garden centre with my trusty shopping trolley.

Thinning the lettuce, rocket and spinach seedlings.

The front. Ah, the front! I don't think I've mentioned it before. Come the weekend, with fingers crossed for fair weather, I must get out there and attack. It is in a bad, bad way.

Busy, busy weekend! Thankfully it's another one of those Bank Holiday weekends here in the UK, which means three glorious gardening days, I hope.

It's supposed to rain "heavily" tomorrow - I'm just poised in front of the BBC news to see the weather, as I only have the website to go on so far. If it rains, all well and good, as I would have watered the vegetable patch tonight otherwise. But I would like fair weather for the rest of it, over the weekend ...

More to come!

Friday, 16 May 2008

Thank you for your patience

I've had something of a week, in the real world away from the garden.

The one thing that has kept me sane, is coming home at the end of the day, and wandering out the back and checking.

The potatoes are all sprouting, every last one of them I put in. It is a beautiful thing.

The onions and shallots are going great guns with massive green coming out the top.

The lettuces, rocket and spinach are all coming up very nicely, and I will have to thin them out I believe, should the weekend weather allow, which hopefully looks like Sunday.

On the left - ah. Everything is about to go beautifully, wonderfully mad.

The roses are nearly there - the buds start a very dark pink, and develop into a mellow, light pink, unbelievably beautifully perfumed flower. The dark pink buds are developing.

The pinks are nearly ready to pop, at least two of the plants if not the third, which since I've owned it has only once flowered (I'm really trying to give it a chance. More on that later).

The Delphinium - had that one gorgeous flower last year, and has many, many more coming this year.

The blueberry has flowered, and should start producing fruit soon.

It's all, utterly, blissful. The fruits of my labour of love, at last showing what it's all about.

Thank goodness for that. If I could spend all my time in the garden, I would.

On top of everything else my computer crashed in the week, so I have lost (not lost, as I backed them up) temporarily my photographs. So more of those soon too.

Thanks for reading, and I promise a proper update soon.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Cats are like buses

You can see one all day, then four come along at once!

Ginger hung out with me most of the day outside on Saturday, but later on was joined by his brother.

Bagpuss of course came by, closely followed by Blackie.

I have come to have closer acquaintance with Blackie recently.

Of an evening, you might find me here at my computer in the sitting room. The kitchen door is open, the weather being very temperate, and as Ginger is usually out and about, I generally don't close it until we settle down for the night. I can hear the "tick tick tick" of little cat feet on the wooden hall floor, once they come past the kitchen. Lately, I'm not sure who I'm going to find - could be Bagpuss, could be Big Ginger. The other night it was Blackie! He liked the petting. He ate the food. He enjoyed the scratching behind the ears.

How many cats are going to feel they have carte blanche to walk freely into my house??

Now, I can handle this, as long as they don't do the spraying thing. I have found a solution, however, for when I'm working in the garden, and someone or other wanders in looking for food.

I found this lovely bit of trellis at Aldi on Saturday, intending to put it up for one of the climbers and see how it looked. In the meantime, however, it works extremely well as a "catgate" so that anyone can wander in and have a bite of food, but not get further in and do something objectionable. This also saves me from having to stop what I'm doing to monitor them.

This will also stop me muttering under my breath, "push off, pussy". I say this due to the following poem, which has been part of my life for as long as I can remember.

So without further ado and with grateful thanks to Emerson Clarke, I share his poem with you, "Requiem for a Departed Cat".

Push off, pussy
To your reward
At some distant mousehole
Or midnight walk.
Pussy, push off.

Push off, pussy,
Nevermore to roll you dish
Out of reach beneath sink
Or Frigidaire.
Pussy, push off.

Push off, pussy,
Gone are your claws
Ripping to shreds
The sofa seat.
Pussy, push off.

Push off, pussy.
The trace of you begone
From corners secretive
And redolent with your
Careful deposit.
Pussy, push off.

Push off, pussy,
To some distant Edelweiss
Where cans of your snacks
Are stacked high and smellwise.
Pussy, push off.

Push off, pussy,
To some catnip land
Where the moon hangs high
Over an endless alley.
Pussy, push off -
Push off.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Can't Complain

I'm getting a bit blase about this weather now. Two fine, sunny weekends in a row? Wearing sandals all week and showing off my newly-painted toenails because the weather was so fine? More of the same in the days ahead?? Ho hum, another day in the garden ...

Ha! As if. I took full advantage, but for the majority of time, I ended up savouring the beauty of it all, rather than working myself sore again.

After some early shopping yesterday, I attacked the ever-growing weeds in the left border (again). A constant chore, but I learned something about the soil.

Not good. Hard as a rock, actually. I'm not sure what happened there. Thankfully the plants planted last year are fine, if not thriving (and the Lady's Mantle has trebled in size, so no worries there!).

I am, however, concerned about the plants I put down before the snow, if you remember - the poppies, dahlias, lupins, crocosmias and phlox.

Thankfully, whilst being down and dirty, if you will, getting right down in there on my hands and knees to weed, I discovered that at least, the Dahlias are coming up (the red one is tucked away behind the Euphorbia so I didn't notice). Phew! I think I saw a sign of one of the several crocosmia bulbs coming up as well today when I was poking about, so perhaps all of that will be well. Those lupins, though, and the poppies - I'm desperate for those! The garden centre is chokka with herbaceous perennials at the moment so it's very tempting to throw up my hands and throw money at the situation. I will try to be patient for another week. I did, also, add in a lovely red Verbena on this side. Next to the pink of the rose, and the vibrant greeny-yellow of the Euphorbia (with a brilliant red Dahlia, hopefully, behind), should be fantastic. Very Christopher Lloyd colour scheme!

I know the Verbena now - I went from this last year, to this now with the purple verbena in the right border! Very exciting plant.

I fear the problem on the left is drainage. As mentioned, that border gets no sun from October to April. I noticed after the snow melted, water was almost just sitting on top. I believe I shall have some serious work to do to improve drainage come the autumn.

But the vegetable border! Not only are the onions seriously sprouting now, but after just a week, the lettuce is starting to come up!

Also, in the herb patch, those bulbs I planted - oh, those alliums. I love the purple puff-ball that is the allium. I have always wanted to have a profusion of them - and now I do (check that purple verbena from another angle - cool).

And then there is the other bulb, the one I can't remember the name of and didn't (kicking myself) save the label for. What a special thing it is! It is all protected in this paper envelope, and then it does this. White flowers, I believe. Can't wait until they open!

The last exciting thing I shall share - the potatoes are sprouting. Yes, let me just say that again: the potatoes are sprouting! I don't know why I should be surprised, after all I can grow flowers and shrubs, why not vegetables? Having only ever tried my hand at tomatoes and lettuce before, I am over the moon. My potatoes are sprouting!

Friday, 9 May 2008

Cat Conflab

There is a newbie cat out there. He's really quite gorgeous, very fluffy. A real fluffbucket of a cat. He seems to need a bit of a wash, but what cat doesn't, especially this lot who just seem to love the outdoors.

So I came home from work, and opened the door for Ginger (cat flap still not in, although I am seriously re-thinking that giving the growing cat population back there). Hello, baby, I say. Then I spot the newbie. I mean, isn't he just lovely?

Ginger came in for his food, and I realise that right outside, is Bagpuss.

Meanwhile, Black&White is out there too, and communing with Newbie.

They were communing with each other, in full cat vocalness. And here is the result. It's a bit scratchy, and I'm not so good with the video mode of my camera, but I quite like it.

You can see that the fence there needs some serious work, and we are planning to replace the whole lot, soon. But in the meantime ...

Shortly afterwards, Big Ginger got in on the act.

There was more of the caterwaul, as they faced off a bit.

Bagpuss kept a respectable distance and just watched.

In the end, they all just had a bit of a lie down and watched each other.

It was beautiful!

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Pest Control

I have been meaning to discuss this for a while, but since my nematodes arrived in the post recently, and as I mentioned I put them down at the weekend, it seemed to be an appropriate time.

The greatest problem, at least for the UK gardener, is slugs and snails.

I did plant up an English-style Cottage Garden for my parents, who live in the Midwest of the USA, and they don't seem to be quite as troubled by the problem as I am. Perhaps it's the harsh winters over there?

As you can see they have a beautiful Hosta right in the centre, which looks tremendous every year (they send me pictures!).

My Hostas, however, took a beating last year. I have had them since my two previous gardens, both container gardens. They came with me here, in their pots, but I am very reluctant to put any kind of Hosta in the ground, as they are the piece de resistance for snails.

Last summer, for the first time in their lives, they looked like lace. Like any poor Hosta who's been a great meal for a slug/snail.

I'm not sure of the difference except I know that snails have that shell, and are easily spotted, and you can pluck them up and ... do what you will with them. Throw them against the fence, or just step on them, in my experience. Harsh, I know, but when you see your plants decimated by these fellows, well ... I assume that a slug is just a snail without a shell, much more difficult to deal with as they are down there in the soil. Ugh.

Nematodes are a natural way of dealing with the slug/snail problem. And I am here to tell you, they work. The brand name, at least in this country, is "Nemaslug". They are easy to find through many online or mail-order garden stores, like or Harrod Horticultural. I have not found them in any garden centre, I think because they are living organisms, and once you receive them through the post you need to keep them in your refrigerator until you are ready to put them in the ground. I ordered a packet last year, having had them suggested to me and after some Googling, and they sat in my fridge for a good month before I put them down (they also have a "best by" date).

I was warned against putting a Delphinium into my border, as that would present some slug/snail with a very happy meal, but I had no problem with this beauty last year at all.

Once I put them in, post-rotovation but pre-planting (about the end of May), I had no problem whatsoever in the left border. To be honest that is the only place I put them, although I wish I had thought of popping some into the Hostas in pots (over by the kitchen door). There was nothing else going on so I splashed them all in on the left! And all I found, routinely throughout the summer, were empty snail shells. Result.

It's fairly straightforward to get them down. You water them in with a can, but you must use a coarse rose on the can. When I did it last year, I clogged up the rose on the watering can I used something awful, for the rest of the summer. I purchased a special rose for the can this year, and still it does clog up, but you just have to flail the can around, and it will unclog, and get them in. You are watering in living organisms that come in a protective pouch, and you split them up as you go, in 9 litres of water at a time.

However, do be aware that they should to be replenished every six weeks or so. This year, I have ordered a cycle of three packets (the packet I'm using treats 40 sq metres which I think is enough for my borders). I will be sent a packet every six weeks which should take me up, I hope, to the end of the summer.

I know that they do die away after a while, because I put in two of these lovely ornamental cabbages in the autumn. There is a warning on the label, "not for consumption." Not for human consumption. But consumption by snails? Oh yes.

They were in shreds in two weeks. I only put one lot of nematodes, down, you see, so I have learnt the lesson of replenishment.

Now, I will tell you what I have also read in my readings about Essential Oils. I am very interested in Essential Oils for health, so I have read much on the subject. There is a chapter on gardening, which I never paid much attention to before! Snails apparently don't like garlic. I'm not sure how well this worked, because the other night I saw two fat, happy new customers (for the first time this year) in the garden meal for them, that is my left border. Early on in the year, I think in February, I had read about the garlic thing, so I put a bunch of cloves down along the front edge. It seemed like a good idea at the time and I think it was so temperate, I thought it was worth a go.

The other problem that I have encountered, is greenfly, on the Rose.

I was not happy to see this, as I feel very protective of this rose. It is a perfect English specimen, and if you may remember, it was a housewarming present. It didn't disappoint. The most beautiful, fragrant blooms all summer, even it it's first year. It's bursting at the moment with buds. But when I saw this, I felt I had to take action.

I know it's not very organic of me, but I found a rose spray at the garden centre, the "Rose Clear 3 Gun!" (it does have the exclamation mark on the bottle itself, so it's not me being overenthusiastic about the product). I did initially try a more natural remedy, with a spray made up of Lavender essential oil. I have also planted garlic around the base of the plant, and that was specifically for the greenfly, and not as much for the snails. When it grows up, perhaps I can stop spraying it with the pesticide, but until then, I will do whatever it takes to protect my precious rose.

The most extraordinary thing is, all those garlic bulbs I put down back in February to deter snails - just individual cloves that I had broken up from a head that I bought from a shop, to cook with, and not the ones I specifically purchased to plant around the rose - they are all growing! I only kind of chucked them down and tucked them into the soil, very near the front as recommended by what I had read, as that is where the eggs would be laid by the slug/snail.

Well, I feel quite well protected from the slug invasion. And of course, this time with the nematodes, I have copiously watered them in to the vegetable patch. The number one enemy of potatoes, apparently, is the slug. My lettuces, too? Much protection needed. They are there at the back for the tomatoes as well, although I believe that is less of a problem for the tomato plant. Still, all those nematodes will be of great use, wherever they are. And they shall be replenished, throughout the growing year!

Happy growing!

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

That's more like it

Bank Holiday Monday (the first of two in May), was a stunning day. It's not often that I have been able to say that. In my 19 years here, one feels very, very lucky when the weather is this good (80 degrees and sunny?) on the first Monday in May.

What did I accomplish. What didn't I accomplish?

Let's go back a day, to Sunday. More digging out there in the potato patch.

And as I still couldn't be certain of Monday's weather (who can ever be certain?), as you know it was my dearest wish to get those potatoes in. There was only a tiny sprinkle of rain at one point, nothing to deter one. By the time I finished, after working out with the tape measure what would go where, and how, I got them all in. I have a little map, too, so I know what is where.

In this patch there are 8 Maris Piper (a good all rounder), 8 King Edward (lovely again for everything, but really look forward to roasting them with beef or chicken), 6 Desiree (nice red potato, good for mashing I believe) and 4 Charlottes, a lovely salad potato.

The Charlottes are considered "second earlies" but I decided to try them, even though they probably should have been planted at least two weeks ago. But on further reading, from Titchmarsh, Harrison and Oliver (more on that in a minute), I learned that it is not that they have to go in the ground at that time, it's just that if you plant them earlier, you get an earlier crop. Or so I understand.

So in the end I only probably wasted 99p, by being so greedy at the 99p Store!

Another reason for including the Charlottes was the spacing - they don't need to be 15 inches apart as maincrop, but 12 inches.

I encountered a beast of a rock (chunk of cement? massive great lump of rock?) just at the back by the fence, behind those front four white markers (which are the Charlottes). Both of these bad boys came up out of the ground at some point last year. I fear there is much more of this down there ... how? I ask you, how? What is that stuff doing down there?

I couldn't get it out, try as I might, and as dear husband is away just at the moment, it was down to me. In fact, I broke the fork. A proper Wilkinson Sword one as well. Well, that's one more thing for the list ... I may get the new one from Poundstretcher.

So I had to rethink the spacing, as clearly I wasn't going to plant anything in that spot, with that massive thing down there.

If what I have read is true about potato planting, I think I may have a lot of potatoes at the end of the day ... Fingers crossed. I would like to add that another book I've found very useful is Jamie Oliver's Jamie at Home. Not only is it chock full of useful planting tips, but of course there are some gorgeous recipes!

Ah, now we come to the beautiful Monday. Off again to the garden centre, for some stakes, and some plants. I almost succumbed and bought a gorgeous Ceanothus thyrsiflorus repens, which I so look forward to having at the back. But that would be silly, as I just can't plant it yet. It was a gorgeous specimen, but I held off, good girl. It's blooming all over at the moment and it just makes my mouth water.

I did buy some other plants, but more on that later. Most important to me was the stakes for the beans and peas I intend to grow. And the peas themselves - Mangetout as we call it, also known as Sugar Snap (although we have Sugar Snap here too, and it is slightly fatter). In any case, it's not a podding pea, but one you eat the whole of (hence why the English call it "Mangetout", although I have no idea what the French call it!). I saw the plants on Saturday on my last trip to the garden centre and thought, hmmm ....

I have been picking up lettuce seed packets here and there. Well hey, with this gorgeous day, I de-rocked in front of the (sprouting!) onions, and planted lettuce (two kinds), rocket (I think in the US it's called arugula?), and spinach.

And then I did the beanpole thing (I had cat company, as you see) and planted those 6 lovely mangetout. That leaves four spaces for climbing French beans, which I did buy some seeds for. That shoudn't be too much of a problem, growing up some seed and planting out in a few weeks.

Not only that, but I planted my Basil for the season. This time, I am going to try it in this trough, because to my mind you just can't have too much Basil. Can't wait for that to grow up! I use the Genovese seeds.

At the very end of the day, after much satisfactory planting, about which I am so excited, I put the nematodes down. More on that next time, as it is very important.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

The Glory of the Garden

A selection of stanzas from Rudyard Kipling's poem, "The Glory of the Garden" for a Sunday morning.

Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made
By singing:--"Oh, how beautiful!" and sitting in the shade,
While better men than we go out and start their working lives
At grubbing weeds from gravel-paths with broken dinner-knives.

There's not a pair of legs so thin, there's not a head so thick,
There's not a hand so weak and white, nor yet a heart so sick,
But it can find some needful job that's crying to be done,
For the Glory of the Garden glorifieth every one.

Then seek your job with thankfulness and work till further orders,
If it's only netting strawberries or killing slugs on borders;
And when your back stops aching and your hands begin to harden,
You will find yourself a partner in the Glory of the Garden.

One of my favourites, and it seemed appropriate what with all the digging I did yesterday ( resulting in an aching back). The attack on the slugs begins now, as well.

I visited Kipling's home last year, a National Trust property (Bateman's) in Burwash, Sussex. Beautiful place, beautiful gardens of course, and I bought myself a laminated copy of the poem above. Laminated, so I could mount it on the wall outside as inspiration.

Also during my visit, I picked up a plant (I always seem to come home with at least one plant when I visit a National Trust property), this beautiful euphorbia which is coming along so nicely.

The weather is cooperating this Bank Holiday weekend, for the most part (a bit of rain yesterday during my forking session). Today is cloudy, and there may be spots of rain but so far, so good. So back out there I go! It is my dearest hope to get the potatoes in today but oh my, there is a lot of stuff down there.

That bad boy took me about half an hour to lever out as it was pretty deep. Still, needs must if I hope to have a successful crop of potatoes.

The good news is, the onions are beginning to sprout! Very exciting!

My fork is calling me ...

Friday, 2 May 2008

The Three Gingers

First of all, my mistake. Bagpuss is not Big Ginger. This is. I know it's him because my Ginger was inside at the time.

I have seen Big Ginger again, and he is definitely Ginger's big brother. A taller, sleeker, more stripedy-tailed version of Ginger. I saw them together, hanging around one morning just recently (he's had a low profile recently), and realised my mistake.

Bagpuss is fluffy and has a cute fat face, and he has many stripes. Like Bagpuss.

Big Ginger is ... Ginger's Big Brother. Truly, he's not really interested in my house, or me. Fair enough. I think he likes to check out what his little brother is doing from time to time. As I said earlier, he has deigned to let me stroke him once or twice. But otherwise, he's not really bothered. He is curious enough to have a look, though.

That's him. He's quite elusive, and I've never managed to get a good shot of him. You could easily mistake him for Ginger, if you didn't see them together. The tail is a give away (more stripes), and the fact that if I see him out there, and he doesn't come running up to me with a big old meow asking for love, well then, that's Big Brother. Or if I see him out there, wandering around, and I know Ginger is inside, most likely asleep on the bed, I know it's BG, otherwise I might mistake them.

I started this last night, so scrap everything I just said. Big Ginger DOES come in. Ginger and I were here in the sitting room at the front just now. The kitchen door was open because Ginger does love the outdoors, and likes to go in and out, when it's not raining. So we were having a kitty scratching session and suddenly Ginger was all alert. I looked down the hallway, and saw a shadowy ginger figure sniffing the cat bed. I assumed it was Bagpuss because he does come in, and does the same sometimes, after he's eaten what's left in the food dish. We went to the kitchen and the food dish was clean as a whistle. But when I looked out the window, I could see, because I can finally tell the difference, that it was BG.

Let me start from the beginning. Back in February, one evening, we were sitting watching a film. The back door was open, as it was more temperate that month. I glanced down the hallway from my chair, and nearly fell out of it when I saw two ginger cats. By the time I got up to investigate he had bolted, the other one, but I'm certain now that was BG. I know his "profile".

Fast forward to a time a few weeks later, when we had this situation.

At this point we assumed this was BG, and that not having many close-ups with him, I mistook him from afar as being more sleek. You can see the difference in the fur; Ginger is silky smooth, and Bagpuss is kind of ruffly. I also assumed because Ginger wasn't minding, too much, that this other cat is eating his food, well, it must be his brother.

Wrong. And I still don't know where Bagpuss comes from.

Bagpuss is a complete opportunist and has been around several times since.

One morning, however, when he had come in and scarfed all the food in the dish (Ginger's leavings, to be honest - he has become a bit finicky about his food and goes through phases of liking and not liking) he went further inside, and - horror! - he sprayed. This is another reason I thought he was BG, because that one goes around spraying in the garden left right and centre, like it's his territory, when of course really it belongs to Ginger. No, actually it belongs to us! Well, as much as it can with a bunch of cats around.

Now this was well out of order. This is completely unacceptable in the house! It smelled, too - Ginger has tried it a couple of times himself since, re-staking his claim I guess. I have come to learn that cats, and their spray, smell differently. Thankfully Ginger is not quite as stinky as Bagpuss, although I seriously try to discourage Ginger from doing so, as much as I can. If I raise my voice he runs out and I don't want him to feel unwelcome, so it's a fine line.

The upshot of this situation is, we were relieved when I realised Bagpuss was not Big Ginger, because we didn't want to steal both of their cats! But in the meantime, I have let Ginger deal with the Bagpuss situation, as I feel it's only right - this is, after all, Ginger's (other) house, and it's up to him who comes in or not. Ginger has chased Bagpuss out on several occasions now, and I don't feel obliged to interfere. Also I've learned to shut the door a bit more often (but what about the summer? What if we install that cat flap?). Still, Bagpuss was in tonight, chowing down again. Am I a cat magnet, or do I just give good food?

Cats raise questions ...

But who can resist them?