Working in another garden

Jackie and I went to Marian’s this week to help her convert old decking and an even older scaffolding plank table into a woodstore.  Marian had already found a near neighbour who had a palette available, so that provided the airy base, held above the earth on bricks and tiles as well as basic dimensions.  Coffee and conversation came up with a basic plan that was refined as we went.  About 5 hours later we had finished the store for a cubic metre of firewood.  Marian will coat the whole thing with a shed/fence preservative when it has had a chance to dry out – some of the decking had been on the soil for a while.  The only purchase was a tube of waterproof gap-filling glue to seal the spaces between each of the decking board roof elements.  A remarkably satisfying days activity.


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Squirrel activity, hornbeam and hazel.

I was sitting in the shade of our mighty hornbeam reading an old New Scientist when small things started to slowly rain down on the magazine and me.  It was associated with a shaking of leafy twigs and a clicking noise.  Stepping to one side and looking up (for I not a fool) I saw the cause of my vegetable precipitation.  A grey squirrel pulling off bunches of hornbeam seeds and nipping each seedcase open to get at the small seed within, before dropping the unwanted bits on me.  It provided an opportunity to examine the seeds.  Each flattened nut case is about 6 to 8mm across and 2 to 3mm deep, and set at the base of a pleasing three-pointed leaflike structure.  The squirrel doesn’t get them all, there are a few which have germinated and small new hornbeams are growing – at least for a while – in various corners of the end of the garden.


Above is a selection of nibbled hornbeam seeds and one complete one for, well, completeness.

Whilst scrabbling around on the ground seeking the above specimens I found lots of opened hazel nuts, so here is evidence of further squirrel feeding.  I’m glad I wasn’t sitting under the hazel tree – much heavier vegetable rain!


This warm spell has brought me into the garden a lot more, and it has brought our rose out again.  I thought it had finished flowering for the year, but no.  Two big blooms, and more to come if it stays mild.


You can tell its autumn by the spider webs anchored on both flowers.  Finally – last month saw the fellow below turn up and walk over my leg.  Looks like a fairly early stage of a cricket, but I’m not sure.  Nice colour though.


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Renovating the bird table

Our back garden is really quite small, some 60 feet by 17 feet, but it is the permanent source of jobs, every one leading to another.  A few weeks ago we cut back the increasingly oppressive holly by the back door.  That created a gap at the end of a supposedly cat-proof fence I built a couple of years ago, so more fence had to be made, to extend to the impenetrable,  thorny holly.  In working on the fence we decided that the bird table was not in the best position (on a high post along the fence, and surprisingly hard to get to when the castor oil plant is bulking up).  So the table came down.  Inspection showed a lot of rot to the feeding surface and de-laminating of the plywood roof (designed – successfully – to stop gulls reaching the feeding surface below).  So it was dismantled, new timber found for the feeding surface, and re-mantled.  But what (I hear you cry) about the plywood roof?  Well, I stripped off the buckled layers of ply an clad one half with a sheet of copper which was on its way to the scrap merchant, but there was not enough for both sides.  Decided to adopt clipper ship technology and stretched a layer of canvas to the other side and coated it with boiled linseed oil.  From somewhere I got the idea that battening down the hatches involved canvas and linseed oil, but I could be wrong.

Then the bloody thing had to be re-homed somewhere.  We put it back in the middle of the garden, using a ‘found’ estate agents post as support.  And as I look out of the window now I see it providing shelter for the squirrel which is eating its way through the seeds and bread put out for the birds.  So – a squirrel resistant bird feeder next?


Above you can see the copper roof side, and below the oiled canvas side, with the castor oil plant behind, and some of the extended fence to the far left.







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Homegrown Dinner – September 2016

Now this is a doozie (is that a word?, I think I’ve seen it before, rather out of date now – but it came to me, just after I thought “now this is a”, so there you go).

As I was about to say:  Last night we had a dinner essentially made from home grown vegetables – and it had variety.  Potato and courgette bake (with breadcrumbs, cheese, garlic and olive oil) and beetroot in the Dutch manner (according to Jackie’s recipe book) – viz: with apple and onion.  ALL the vegetables came from either the front garden or the allotment – and as I’m sure you know apples are vegetable (sure as hell not animal or mineral).  So may I proudly present a picture for your delight and delectation (complete with the obligatory Fred Pipes finger for scale – actually my finger, but its courtesy of Fred):


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Tidemills coincidence

After posting the piece about the Tidemills and Seaford I went to Brighton Museum to hear an enthusiastic and informative talk about Brighton’s Turner watercolour of the Chain Pier and the Pavilion by friend and museum curator Alexandra Loske.  We were early so pottered through the collection of pottery of Henry Willett.  In the first case I encountered was a plate with a painting of Newhaven Tidemills on it. And a label explaining that the collector Henry Willett was the son of the man who owned the Tidemill, where he lived until he moved to Brighton in 1841.


Nice that they thought of adding a windmill to grind corn when the tide didn’t provide enough power.  That’s the trouble with these renewables, they just don’t work all the time like nuclear.

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Beer Festival in Seaford, and the walk there.

Saturday 27th August I took a bus to just east of Newhaven and walked the 4 or 5 miles along the shingle beach to the seaside town of Seaford.  The walk is along the old course of the river Ouse which used to be forced to run parallel to the coast, eastwards, by the movement of shingle west to east along the seashore.  This mass of moving material effectively stopped the river reaching the sea by its short north to south route, forcing it to remain behind a shingle bank as it flowed east, until it could break through at Seaford.  No doubt it would have been flowing through and over a mass of shingle, making it easy to ford the river beside the sea.  Not much good as a port though, so when engineers built a concrete wall out into the sea it allowed them to dredge a new direct channel to the sea, protected from the shingle movement.  What to call this new port or safe harbour?  How about Newhaven?

The old river course would fill and empty twice a day with the tides, so structures were built across it to use the energy of the moving water (mainly at low tide when the flow out could be better controlled) to turn waterwheels to grind cereals.  Little remains now, but one of the dams is below, seen from the upriver side.

tidemill dam

The site was finally abandoned in 1939, and Canadian troops occupied the area, and other part were used for training.  No doubt it was cleared to allow defenses to be installed.  There is still archaeological excavation going on, and I saw two places where old walls and rooms were being revealed.

shingleside railway TideMills aug16 (558 x 600)

The above picture shows a disused railway line which is on the seaward side of the shingle, with Seaford in the distance.  The main railway is on the landward side of the old river, seen below.

tidemills train

Got to the Bay Tree pub (under new management) to find seven beers in the garden, including Hylder Blonde from Dark Star, Longman APA, and a Downland brewery porter.  Also met Badger a guy I’ve not seen for years, who entertained me with tales of beers, landlords and even mutual friends.


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Benefits of a drizzly day

The new grass seed is being gently watered with no effort from me, and no addition to the water bill.  Whilst out checking the seed was actually growing (it is) I spotted a garden spider in her web, made distinct by the drizzle.  Not the sharpest photo, but you gotta admire her industry.

P1090972 (397 x 600)

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