A record of our adventures between Pipit and her successor...
On balance, all things considered, we think the view from our kitchen window is quite good...
It has been three months since our last update, one in which we wrote that we were looking at the dawn of a new decade. Since then, the world has changed almost beyond recognition due to the Covid-19 pandemic - an horrific and extremely contagious virus. There are varying degrees of lockdowns in countries throughout our world with unbearable sadness at the loss of so many lives and so much suffering. The lockdowns are resulting in hardship, both financial and emotional, for vast numbers of individuals and businesses.
Unprecedented is a word widely used to convey the enormity of the crisis and even that seems insufficient. Amid the horror though, there is incredible kindness and a sense that humanity, working together, will help to overcome the current situation.
We can but hope that, on the other side of this, there may be a significant shift in how we value our world and other people as well as the way we work and communicate.
We've written in previous posts about how lucky we feel to be living where we do and, since moving into the house, we've looked around us every day with full appreciation for what we have. In the current crisis, those feelings are further magnified so, although part of us feels it a bit hesitant to be posting about what we've been up to over the last three months, life does go on, so here goes...It's going to be quite a long update, so skim over what's of no interest - much of these updates are a record for ourselves.
When 'Andy's digger' (it actually belongs to our builders, Salmon & Collett) was still on site, he dug the rough shape of what would become our wildlife pond and you may have seen in our previous update that we then hand dug it to shape and added a shelf for emergent plants and as an escape route for any non-aquatic creatures that may fall into it.
We continued work on the pond by lining it with a layer of sand, then pond underlay and finally the pond liner itself, the latter two supplied by Burleys Aquatics in Stithians. Filling the pond with water took a couple of weekends as it took more rainwater than was in the two 227 litre water butts, but luckily more rain filled them again.
1: Dug and shaped
2: Sand - a bit like icing a cake
5: Water butts and pump
6: Fill with water!
We added the original video of Andy on the digger, then some stills (didn't set up the time lapse camera properly - was still in nocturnal hedgehog mode!), to the time lapse video of the stages of adding the stones (some of which seem to appear by magic which is quite amusing to our simple sense of humour), trimming the edges of the liner and underlay and the initial planting. You'll also see at the end of the video we moved from the pond to filling the second two veg beds.
The irises, water lilies, umbrella palms and what I think is sweet flag that our friend Penny donated (thank you again Penny!) from her pond were all planted and are all growing really well. The water lilies seem to be progressing more slowly than the others, but I'm sure some warmth will see them flowering by the summer. Prior to the lockdown, we had also purchased some other pond plants from Carnon Downs Garden Centre, which are all also growing with the exception of the ones the magpies have pinched, we can only assume, for nesting material.
Evaporation has since dropped the level in the pond and we also raised the height of the edge a little where some sections were lower than others and we're waiting for more rain to refill the water butts to top it up again. There is still one section intentionally a bit lower to act as an overflow when needed. We also have our first residents in the pond in the form of four pond skaters.
One of four pond skaters
The irises are coming along nicely Penny!
Over the Easter weekend, we planted some geraniums and gazanias on two sides of the edge of the pond, as well as the last umbrella palm (two of which are in the pond) so that should add some colour and begin to frame the edges nicely. The daffodils on the bank beside the pond have gone over now but there are at least a few of the aliums we planted coming up, as well as two asters that we had in pots from 2015 which have come back each summer. We planted those in the bank after we moved into the house, adjacent to where the pond is now and they seem to be coming back again, so another splash of colour there too.
Looking good we think - froggies and newts, the pond is open for business!
In late January, we had 5 dumpy bags delivered by Bosbigal Landscape Supplies, 2 of certified topsoil and 3 of soil improver, with a further 3 bags of each a couple of weeks later, and further bag of soil improver after that. These were unloaded onto the gravel drive and we then moved it all, over 7 tonnes in total, barrow by barrow load, up to the top of the garden to the four raised veg beds. It's about a 30° slope and a distance of about 30 metres. Suffice to say it was good exercise!
We bought the four-wheeled barrow you see here which has a dumping mechanism, thinking that would make slightly lighter work of the job than our traditional wheelbarrow. Unfortunately, although the dumping mechanism is good, hauling it up the slope was much harder going than the wheelbarrow, so I let Andy use the new 'vehicle' and I stuck with the wheelbarrow. No photos of me barrowing, but you can see me in the video!
What we really needed was this big boy back:
The first load: three tonnes in one minute - well in time lapse filming it was!
Having left our potatoes to chit themselves in the greenhouse, they looked ready to plant by early March. We've planted two varieties, Rocket (a first early commonly grown as Cornish new potatoes) and King Edwards as a maincrop potato. The soil in the beds was still quite damp when we planted them so, nearly four weeks on when there was still no sign, we began to wonder if this was to be an early failure in our very steep 'grow your own' learning curve. It seems in cooler and wetter weather, it's not unusual for potatoes to take a month to come out of the ground and sure enough, we seem to now have a good crop growing which will fill one of the raised beds.
We cleaned the greenhouse in preparation for putting in the first veg seeds and those we'd bought before the lockdown were subsequently planted, many in the greenhouse but some directly into a second of the raised beds - tomatoes, aubergines, basil, mint, beetroot, broad beans, rainbow chard, leeks, cucumbers, cabbage (spring and winter), kohl rabi, mangetout, lettuce and radishes. It turned quite cool for a few weeks so we moved the seedlings from the greenhouse to the kitchen (underfloor heated) floor for a few weeks. Over the Easter weekend we potted on several of the seedlings and they're back in the greenhouse, along with some plug plants of creeping phlox which we'll plant into the sloping bank leading from the drive up to the garden - it should result in a burst of colour and fragrance we'll enjoy from our bedroom window.
All the plants have come on since the photos below were taken but, if all grow well, we'll be well stocked with our own veg.
The Easter weekend also saw further plantings of parsnips, nasturtiums (they're edible which is an added bonus, but we're using them as companion plants which are meant to deter pests from cabbage and cauliflower), broccoli and a second half row of lettuce, beetroot, rainbow chard, mangetout and radishes.
There are more seeds to come so, by the time we plant those plus plant out the seedlings that won't be staying in the greenhouse, we'll have filled all four beds. Although we both grew up with fathers who grew veg, that was more than a few years ago so, as I mentioned earlier, we're on a steep learning curve and are resigned to the likelihood of some failures. The greenhouse is also going to be quite full as, of the seedlings that will remain growing there (assuming they all survive and are yet to be potted or put into grow bags), there are at least four each of three varieties of tomatoes, four aubergines, five cucumbers, three to four each of four varieties of chillies and a plethora of mint and basil, some of the former of which we'll put in as companion plants to help pest control in the raised beds.
Whilst the mint is intended to control pests of the flying or crawling variety, something else was needed to deter those of the hopping, cotton tailed variety. Until we decide on a better solution for this year, we put up some chicken wire staked into the beds with bamboo canes. We'll need a better solution shortly to allow easier access for thinning and eventually harvesting.
There should be enough nutrients in the soil improver we mixed with the topsoil in the beds as our compost heap is still composting down. There are a couple of ponies in the adjacent field so if we could just train them to pop their bottoms over the hedge, and build a receptacle into which results can be rotted down, we'd have a further ready supply of fertiliser.
Can you toilet train ponies?
We've also now finished putting in the galvanised edging for the path that will lead from the top of the top terrace steps, winding past the pond, gin deck, veg beds and to the greenhouse at which point it meets the path coming up from the drive. The last section from the drive to the greenhouse will, for some time, remain a rough, ungravelled 'nature' track. We're not sure when we'll be able to get the gravel delivered for the path but we hope to fill it soon to a level to lay the Terram to prevent weeds growing, ready for the gravel when we can get it. At that stage, we'll also gravel the Terram around the veg beds.
From the start at the top of the steps, the path edging then narrows down to the same width all the way along, checked with a handy sized offcut of timber, levels across it equally checked with a spirit level balanced on another offcut. The edging will eventually disappear with grass or borders on one side and gravel on the other up to the top of it.
The photo gives an idea of the layout of the garden too. The wildlife pond is just beyond the middle left of the photo, it's taken standing on the gin deck, the veg beds are just beyond the low bank on the middle right and the greenhouse is just beyond the top right, with the top shed beyond that. The large patch in the centre will be lawn with a border around perhaps three quarters of it. When we're able, we hope to hire a rotovator to help with the initial clearing.
Also over the Easter weekend, we had our first two barbecues of the year and Easter Sunday lunch involved a delicious leg of Cornish lamb, cooked with a Sabrina Ghayour recipe - harissa infused with lime and fenugreek. The obligatory roast potatoes on the side along with a lovely ratatouille - a dish Andy cooks brilliantly - completed the dish.
Lamb, marinated in yogurt and spices ready for the oven
Ratatouille à la Andy
So that's us up to date. In these difficult times, we hope the above might have provided a minor diversion for a few minutes. Meanwhile, stay home, stay safe.