The Garden of Birdly Delights

The sparrows like to eat my Swiss rainbow chard so much, in the end I decided to leave out their own special supply. It did have beautifully lush green leaves and colourful stalks, but now it’s just… stalks.

Chard is a cut-and-come-again veg, but I think I’m going to have to hide it for a bit to give it a fighting chance of coming again at all. At this rate though, we’re going to have the healthiest sparrows in the land.

It was only a few days ago that the chard still had leaves…

While I had my telephoto zoom lens out, catching them in the act no less, instead of having lunch some of the flock decided it was bath time. I’ve seen this behaviour before but until now I didn’t have my camera handy.

One juvenile starling will start having a good ole splash about, then everyone wants a bit of the action.

Our garden birds are healthy and clean.

Going back to chard, last week I was able to really start munching on my own produce. I started growing chard simply because it’s easy and generally problem free (unless you have clean eating sparrows), but I didn’t have any particular desire to eat it. But eat it I did, and it’s rather nice. A similar taste to spinach.

I also tried my first bit of homegrown kale, which wasn’t much (it’s very popular with the caterpillars) but was absolutely delicious. I’ll really try to ramp up my supply next year as it’s something I generally eat a lot of.

On this occasion I very narrowly avoided eating the worlds’ smallest omelette.

Last week’s most exciting development though was the potatoes! I have no idea when I actually planted a few old potatoes that were growing eyes in the cupboard, so I had no idea when they would be ready to harvest. Not much to do rather than dig around and have a look, then. This is what I found.

I haven’t a clue what variety they are, because I hadn’t decided to label anything at the time. More recently I started labelling and dating everything, so I shouldn’t have the same problem in future.

A friend pointed out they look like they came straight from a Tesco bag, which was surprisingly on the money.

If I remember rightly I did indeed get this hessian bag from Tesco’s.

They were really tasty taters, despite me taking my eye off the pan and boiling them to within an inch of their lives. This week I will plant Charlotte potatoes that should be ready to harvest around Christmas.

Despite having a great start (this shows them from the beginning of April to last week) my squash seems to have stalled. I’ve had buds for ages but no flowers, so I’m thinking they grew too much foliage instead of the energy going into fruiting.

I’ll be patient and see what transpires though – at the end of the day they were grown from seeds I took from a squash I ate, so I’m not losing anything if they all fail. In any case, I just love them as a plant. Check out this gorgeous tendril in the evening light.

Best of all though, oh yes definitely best of all… this week MY TOMATOES HAVE TOMATOES!!!

I started noticing them yesterday and I could not be happier. I planted them much later than is advised, so I was happy enough just to get flowers. To see the fruit though! I had a count up and I have a total of 46 tomato plants that have flowered, so even if I only get one tomato from each plant, that alone would be ace. As things stand, it’s a good job I bloody love tomatoes!

Again, I’m not sure about the varieties. I think I grew five different kinds, 2 from bought seeds and 3 kinds that came from supermarket tomatoes. It’ll be lots of fun finding out, whilst in the meantime every week I buy different tomatoes to eat and put aside some seeds for next year. Until I get my first harvest that is.

Although I’ve already learned so much about gardening, now I’m learning to be patient. It’s not something I’ve had much success with in the past, however yesterday I sowed some seeds that are going to really put me to the test.

They’re Japanese maple (acer) seeds, and first of all you have to soak them for 24 hours. Normally even that would put me off.

Anyway, stage one is complete. Next, they go in the fridge for 2-4 months, to make them think it’s been winter. It might work, it might not. If not, back in the fridge they go.

It could be a full TWO YEARS before they germinate. Please, don’t hold your breath for updates on this one!

Whilst I could go on about the garden indefinitely , there’s stuff to be done. Including gardening stuff.

Who would have guessed?

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Sacrificial Kale

One thing I’ve been absolutely itching to do for months is go to the beach. I’m not one for sunbathing or even swimming in the sea (too many fascinating yet terrifying things in there) but I do love to find ‘stuff’. Even though going to the beach has been ‘allowed’ for a while, I still won’t go unless I personally deem it safe. There’s a lot that is now permitted that I still won’t do, but let’s not get me started on that because once I start ranting I may not stop.

My brother dislikes crowds as much as I do so he’s the best at finding quiet spots. He found this particular beach, at Dunwich, a couple of years ago. Because there’s not much there in the way of touristy stuff, there aren’t many people there either (advice: take snacks). If you’re gonna beach comb, this is the way to do it.

Getting there at 6am, like we did, means you’re even less likely to cross paths with anyone. We sure do like an early start.

Top of my list was to find some sea glass, and although it’s not the kind of beach where this is at all likely, we did indeed find a couple of tiny pieces. I suppose it must come down to the lack of littering so that’s no bad thing.

One thing I didn’t take home though, was this:

We found two of these, the first one of which I just managed to give a gentle poke before a wave reclaimed it. From that little poke, I gathered that it was organic, but I couldn’t see any actual… well, organs. When we found another and had a closer look, we could just about see that there was something inside, but we couldn’t tell what.

Once home, Google informed me that it is in fact a sea gooseberry, a tiny comb jelly that has tentacles it can retract into itself. Of course we returned it to the sea, but it was definitely the find of the day.

When I got Pea I started putting the odd feather in glass bottles for display, and after all this time my collection of bits and bobs is just starting to take off. My little selection of Dunwich Beach finds has now been added to the tooth of some sort of sea creature from Dungeness, wool I found in the Peak District and the Lake District, some bits I found whilst digging the pond and one of Newton’s puppy teeth.

I’m only just now learning how to balance my love of things without said things overwhelming me. There’s a potential hoarder in me and I’m always trying to keep her at bay. Keeping things in these little bottles is a great way to satisfy those urges without filling the whole house with stuff. So says the woman who cannot see any surface in her room because there are over 50 plant pots containing seedlings covering most available space…

Life hasn’t all been checking out lovely beaches though. I’ve now been back at work for two weeks. Kinda. The first week I did a total of about 12 hours, the second week I did 16. I’m building up shall we say. Either fortunately or unfortunately, I can’t decide which, there isn’t much to do there so I’m using some of the annual leave that’s been sitting waiting for me during lockdown. I’m keeping a very open mind with regards to the future of my employment, but I absolutely refuse to worry about it. No more overthinking for me, thank you very much.

I think it’s gardening that has enabled me to turn my brain off when it goes into overdrive (see, you must have known I’d get back to gardening sooner or later) because it keeps me literally grounded. It’s the only time I more often than not have a simple tune in my head and don’t think about the past or the future at all. Unless, of course, I’m making future gardening plans. Most of the time I’m just relishing the smell of the soil, the neighbours’ roses, listening to the humming of bees, laughing at the drama going on between the birds and generally just having a lovely time. It’s also an investment in the future. When you plant something, you’re saying ‘I intend to be around to see this bloom’, even if it’s something that will take years to mature. As someone who hated waking up for another day, because it meant another day of feeling awful, this is a massive deal. Depression is a bitch.

Our garden was already sparrow central, but since I finally had a bird bath delivered it’s become the place to be. Although, the sparrows do prefer to bathe in the dust for some reason…

I think as the garden evolves I’m going to have to leave a patch of dirt especially for these guys. I don’t think I have the heart to take it away, especially as they bring me so much joy every single day.

I also didn’t have the heart to remove a caterpillar from my kale (at least I finally found out what’s been munching it) so next year I will grow a special sacrificial kale. That way, when I find a caterpillar on the eating kale, I can transfer it to the special caterpillar kale. It makes sense to me anyway!

My favourite garden development since I last wrote is my garden table display. I drilled holes in the bottom of teapots for drainage and planted them up with any young plants I had handy. There’s a Nasturtium ‘Ladybird Rose’ (can’t wait for that to flower and see the petals against the blue of the teapot), a mystery seedling (I forgot to label it when I planted it) and an Ipomoea ‘Black Knight’. Again, that one should be pretty special once it blooms.

Looking at the teapot lids strewn across the ground, I needed something to do with them too. Then it came to me – cane toppers! My mum warned me to put on cane toppers when I first started staking the tomatoes, but I didn’t get around to adding any until I stabbed myself in the face with a bamboo cane. At least I didn’t poke myself in the eye.

That reminds me – THE TOMATOES HAVE FLOWERED! I planted them really late, from seeds I took from tomatoes bought from the supermarket. I wondered if they’d grow quickly enough to flower at all, and now I’m one step closer to having fruit. It’s so bloody exciting.

Straight after work one morning I went on a lovely walk where apart from getting some exercise and fresh air, I took home inspiration for the garden. I never really looked closely at wild carrots before, but they’re actually beautiful.

When I got home I ordered a pack which provided me with a mere 2000 seeds. They have so many different stages and different colours, I can’t wait to have them at home and study in detail every moment from spring to autumn.

Right, it’s bedtime now so I’ll leave it there. I’m off to dream about gardens (no really, I dream about gardening most nights). I’ve got it bad!

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Made For Sharing

Photography, art, the garden… they’re all connected. Discovering I love gardening during lock down was like finding the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle – I got to see the whole picture and it felt awesome. It started off with the photography. I found some time ago that what I most like to photograph is plants and nature. When it comes to painting, again, it’ll all about the natural world. These days if I’m not actually gardening I’m usually taking pictures of the garden, drawing it, watching TV shows about gardening, reading about gardening, talking about gardening or thinking about gardening. I even dream about gardening.

It gives me the same kind of magical feeling that photography does. I’m pleased I didn’t grow up in the digital age, because taking pictures was always (and still is) an absolute wonder to me. I’d hate to take it for granted. To be able to freeze a moment in time and keep it forever… when you really think about it, it’s kind of unreal. And Polaroids! Oh how I desperately wanted an instant camera when I was a kid, but the film was just too expensive. It still is to be honest, but of course I have one now. There are worse things I could be throwing my money at.

I’m kind of obsessed with seeds, because there’s that really incredible feeling of something coming from virtually nothing. The excitement when the seed actually germinates, especially if it’s one that takes over a month and you think it definitely won’t ever spout. Then BOOM, there it is, and you have to nurture the tiny little seedling that would otherwise die without you. Before you know it, you’ve gone from wondering what the heck to do with a load of somewhat sickly looking green sprouts to having a colourful garden.

This was the beginning of April, struggling to find enough pots and enough compost, having no idea if I was over-watering or under-watering.

Now look it all! Nearly all of that was grown from seed by yours truly.

I have bought a few plants with my grocery shopping, just because I could (there’s no WAY I’m risking going to a garden centre) and although it’s nice to instantly add colour it’s just not the same as growing it yourself.

One thing I’ve thought long and hard about is what I want to do with the garden next year. I’ve found garden ‘pests’ to be a huge problem – not because there’s no way around controlling them, but because I can’t bring myself to do it.

The sparrows were actually going inside my greenhouse and cold frame, but after I netted it I learned this is really dangerous for birds as they can get caught up in it. I had to do something immediately because if we approached them when they were inside they’d panic and possibly end up hurting themselves in that way instead.

Soon it won’t be a problem, because I’ll have a proper greenhouse instead of a plastic one that has to have the door open during the day. As for anything sown directly into the ground, I’ve decided to work with nature rather than against it. I have been providing plenty of food for our garden birds, and as such we must have 20, maybe 30 or more individual sparrows visiting every day, not even counting pigeons, starlings, tits and more. Obviously I’m trying to bring them in to the garden, not discourage them, so I will only grow food that they’re not particularly interested in. As far as flowers are concerned, I plan to have thousands next year and the birds are welcome to share. I’m especially looking forward to growing teasels which will hopefully attract goldfinches. I’ve bought a mere 1000 seeds, I hope it’s enough…

Now, slugs. I applied nematodes and they seemed to work, but it’s a bit too expensive for me to carry on. Plus I feel bad for the slugs. I lifted up a log the other day and found so many different varieties under there – I was instantly fascinated. I also realised that I literally cannot kill a slug or snail on purpose. So, again, I’m finding workarounds.

My squash seems to be relatively unharmed, and I think it’s because they’re strong enough to stand up to some slug damage. Other that that, I’ll experiment with growing sacrificial plants, sowing lettuce in baskets so they can’t get at it and looking at planting things they don’t like to discourage them from certain areas. Plus the birdies should help. I’m sure I’ll figure out the right balance, and if not? It’ll still be fun experimenting.

My absolute favourite thing about the garden though, is that they are just made for sharing. Apart from sharing with wildlife, which I clearly love, it’s so good to have somewhere nice to be when people visit. It has just turned into a really lovely space.

What I possibly love even MORE than that, is giving people things to take home with them. I gave me sister a little pot of rocket seedlings and a tomato plant, and I was seriously buzzing at that! Me and mum ate my first ever radish the other day and it was just… brilliant. The best.

Next year I plan to grow plenty of flowers that are specially for cutting. Good luck to anyone who visits who thinks they can go away empty handed.

Damn, I almost forgot to mention the pond! We are now sharing that area with tiny little wormy things and what may be a load of damselfly larvae. I’ve now added oxygenating plants and just yesterday a bunch of ferns arrived in the post which is now providing more cover for potential wildlife. I really hope we get frogspawn next year.

The other day my mum found this picture of the garden as it was two years ago (silly me forgot to take before pictures this year) which is a pretty fair representation of how it looked before I got started. Perhaps the grass wasn’t quite that long.

We have gone from that, to this:

Yeah. I’m somewhat chuffed with that.

Thanks for reading my garden ramblings,

Hayley x

Me and my Squash

It’s all been happening here, I hardly know where to begin! The garden continues to be the gift that keeps on giving, and it has genuinely burst into life over the last few weeks. Considering that apart what’s currently in a greenhouse and cold frame I haven’t added any plants to the garden, it’s looking remarkably lovely.

I started to dig out a little patch at the bottom of the garden for growing some veg soon, and the sparrows have absolutely LOVED it. Where I’ve turned over the earth they have feasted on the worms and grubs I revealed, but also (and this is crazy cute) they’ve been taking dust baths in the soil. I managed to capture it on the wildlife cam.

They have been driving my mum a little bit potty, because although I’ve spotted them feeding their fledgelings and teaching them how to forage by themselves, they are already getting ready for the next brood. These randy sparrows are extremely noisy, but it’s worth it because one couple have just moved into one of our nest boxes. Every day I look out the window to see them collecting more nesting material.

Another thing that has become part of my daily routine is filling up an old dustbin lid with water, as that’s where they like to drink and bathe. It’s funny how my life is currently revolving around several different animals – the evening routine involves religiously feeding our new resident hedgehog.

We have named him Wonder, because I think he might just be blind. He lets me get very close to him even in daylight but if I make a noise he will run away. Now I’ve discovered this I feed him and leave him alone, and I’m glad he found our little house. He comes out like clockwork and doesn’t even wait a whole minute after I’ve put the food out before he starts eating his dinner.

We’ve had aquilegias in our garden for years and they have been self-seeding of their own accord without us having to do anything. This is what a normal single aquilegia looks like:

But these are some of the more exciting ones I’ve been discovering:

Lockdown rules are starting to be relaxed in the UK, which for the most part I think is a huge mistake, however after a lot of thought we decided that it was time for my sister to come and visit. She stayed in the garden the whole time, and it was like the intervening two months never happened.

Of course she brought the marvellous Newton with her, and he has changed quite a bit! He’s pretty much fully grown now and he’s a lot more muscular, but also he has calmed down a lot. He’s not quite the boisterous puppy we saw last, but he’s still perfect in every way.

He very helpfully ‘watered’ the poppies for me (thanks dude) and also helped me eat my strawberries.

He takes things from you so gently, it’s absolutely adorable. I don’t think it’s possible for a dog to be more loved than this guy.

As for the things I’ve been growing, it’s been mostly successful so far. Everything in a pot seems to be doing really well even though I’ve had to improvise. I have stuff growing in old food packaging like tomato trays, plastic bottles and coconut milk cartons. Everything I’ve directly sown into the ground however has been immediately eaten by slugs before it even got going, so I’m waiting on a delivery of nematodes before I plant out my veg.

Nematodes are microscopic worms that aren’t harmful to humans, pets or wildlife, and might give my corn, beetroot, carrots, rocket, cauliflower, chard, four different varieties of tomatoes, chillies and various flowers a fighting chance. The thing I’m most excited about though, is my butternut squash.

When I last ate a squash I just threw a few seeds into a container with some compost and hoped for the best, even though you are supposed to dry out the seeds first. I just thought I’d see what would happen as an experiment, and this is what I found.

This was one squash plant at the beginning of May:

This is the very same plant today:

I’m completely invested in this plant now and rather than just sitting back and seeing what happens, I’m doing my best to look after it properly and hopefully I’ll get a harvest from it in the autumn. So exciting!

I think it’s nap time now as I have to go back to work on the 16th of June. I’m slowly, slowly working on switching my body clock back to nights mode. On the one hand, boooooo, work. But on the other, yay, naps!

Gotta keep focusing on the positives.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Too Happy

It’s been two very strange months since I last went walking just for the fun of it. Individually the days have flown by, but when I think back on that last walk on the 16th of March (with Newton, ah those were the days), it feels like a whole other life. It was an age ago, surely?

I’m still loving our garden, which is getting better every single day, but if it’s going to keep evolving I need outside input. This morning I got loads of inspiration after visiting the nature reserve.

First of all I drove for 20 minutes to a park where it would be much easier to social distance, but when I got there it was closed. After the recent easing of certain lockdown rules, it never occurred to me that a public park would still be shut. Of course I could have just climbed over the fence, who would stop me? But I’m too scared of getting told off! I drove all the way home again, but it was good for the car which has mostly been rusting on the driveway of late.

Despite having to faff a bit first thing, I still got to the nature reserve before 5:30am. Not bad going eh?

It seems I had the place to myself right up until the end of my walk, and feeling like you’re completely alone like that is a little bit magical.

How amazing is that? Wildflowers as far as the eye can see. This is just one field where the wildflowers have been left to grow – I can’t even imagine how many thousands upon thousands of plants there must be altogether. Beautiful.

I haven’t been out since I started learning the names of things, but because of my indoor researches today I was able to identify (to a reasonable degree of certainty) herb robert, yellow archangel, cow parsley, red campion, bluebells, greater stitchwort, iris, dog rose, honesty, speedwell, vetch, wood avens, yellow rattle, azalea and, best of all, what I think is an early purple orchid. It’s definitely an orchid of some kind in any case.

As if that were not enough excitement to be getting on with, I have a few things filed away that I’ll hopefully be able to identify at a later date. When I got home I ordered some of seeds of the flowers I saw that I want in the garden, so this time next year we’re going to have a riot of colour out there.

When I got home, I immediately noticed that the first icelandic poppy of the year had flowered while I’d been gone. That’s the first time I’ve ever wanted (or tried) to pinpoint when it flowered. The thing is almost the size of a bloody plate!

We have these along with Welsh poppies in the garden, but another plan for next year is to have loads of different varieties of them flowering at the same time in all different colours. Go big or go home, as they say.

Since I last wrote, I had my final counselling session. I have been discharged, because simply put, I am now too happy to qualify for their services. Well I ain’t complaining! I have discovered that I find therapy extremely useful and I fully intend to get private help by the end of the year. Yes, I’m fine now, but I think it would be helpful to have ongoing advice. For one I’d like to come off the anti-depressants at some point, but I especially struggle in the winter so it would be nice to have someone to help keep things on track. That’s the idea, anyhoo.

It’s so nice to allow myself to be happy and enjoy the moment without replaying the past or obsessing about the future. It makes simple tasks so much more fun. Yesterday I spent the afternoon putting stones in the ground around the cherry tree, which next year will be a huge circle of wildflowers. Some bird’s foot trefoil already made itself at home there, so I figure why not get it some company?

I can’t even begin to find the words to describe the pleasure I’m taking from such simple little things right now.

I did have a call from work this morning, and I’m officially due back in on the 15th of June, so there will be a new dynamic to get my head around. As long as I have the garden though, I have no doubt I’ll be fine.

Right, time to get outside I reckon!

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Seeds of Change

For the last few weeks, I haven’t bothered with trying to find any balance in my life. Since I finally decided to stop feeling bad about my weight, I have gone to town and have been treating every day like a holiday. It has been great. I’ve had good food, good wine, and made some irreplaceable new memories with my family.

One highlight was these immense doughnuts from Doughnut Time. I was supposed to be going to a doughnut decorating class with my sister but lockdown interfered with those plans, so I bought a couple of kits to try at home. My brother ate one and literally had to have a nap in order to sleep off the sugar overload.

They aren’t exactly cheap, but I cannot recommend them highly enough. They’re out of this world.

Another standout was toasted marshmallows on the BBQ last weekend. I had to wait forever for vegan-friendly marshmallows to be delivered (I don’t care what your dietary preference is, beef and pork do not belong in sweets) and when they did to be honest they seemed like sad, flat little things.

However, if you stick em on a BBQ and turn them slowly, they puff right up! Toasted marshmallows are delicious, but if they catch on fire? EVEN BETTER.

Me and my little bro spent the whole evening outside, and we got to see about four hedgehogs with our very own eyes. Plus we heard even more snuffling around in the bushes. Another magical memory to store away for a rainy day.

As much as it’s been fantastic not worrying about my weight, the fact remains that if I continue to eat and drink the way I have been, my health is going to suffer. So, it’s time to put holiday mode to one side and eat same damn veggies.

This isn’t my usual diet mentality though. First of all, my aspirational clothes are going. On eBay, to the charity shop, whatever, but I am DONE keeping things to ‘slim into’. I just recently bought some clothes that fit me (well they did, they’re just a little tight right now!) and it’s so freeing to try something on and think ‘yes, I like this on me now, just as I am’. Or to try something on that doesn’t feel right and assume there is something wrong with the garment, rather than something wrong with my body. It’s no longer ‘I am too big’, it’s ‘this item of clothing is too small’.

I am almost, almost ready to say goodbye to diet culture once and for all, but before I do I just want to lose a tiny bit more weight. I have set a sensible goal, and when I get there I will be able to maintain it easily. I was ‘stuck’ at that weight for perhaps a year at one point, and it was mainly outside influences that made me want to lose even more. There was a voice in my head at the time asking if I shouldn’t just stop right then (I really could have been happy y’know), but I didn’t listen to it. Ah well, the message got through eventually!

Once the final diet of my life is out of the way, I can, for the first time ever, discover what it’s like to live a life that isn’t ruled by food. I had a taste of this during holiday mode, and although it was wonderful, I did go too far the other way. Or at least, if I were going to eat like that all the time it would be too much. As far as making the most of lockdown and some beautifully sunny days, I can say, hand on heart, that I haven’t wasted a second of it.

And then, in the very near future, I can be someone who eats sensibly during the week then relaxes with a few treats at the weekend. Imagine that, not living a life of restriction, guilt, shame, binges and purges! This is a journey (sorry to drop the J word on you there) I’m really excited about, more excited than I ever got when I was close to my so-called target weight.

Although I’m telling you my plans now, I probably won’t be saying much about weight-related things from now on. That’s because it is now taking up such a tiny amount of headspace, it stands to reason it should take up a small amount of blog space as well. Going forwards, if you aren’t interested in how my plant babies are getting on, then this probably isn’t the place for you! You can’t say I didn’t warn you.

Moving on then! The plants are doing well, and although I’d planned to plant them outside soon a sudden cold snap has scuppered that plan. For now, my bedroom looks more like a greenhouse than a place to sleep, but come spring next year I’ll have a much better system in place. I seriously underestimated how much I would care about gardening, but I’m totally invested in these little seedlings. I repotted my sunflower and it was touch and go for a few days – the leaves kept going limp and I couldn’t figure out why (I’m still not entirely sure) but it pulled through and now it’s started growing again. Crisis averted… for now.

I planted some seeds I took from a butternut squash I ate a few weeks ago but didn’t expect much to happen. I thought you had to dry the seeds out and plant them next year, but I decided I’d give it a go anyway. Yesterday, their first true leaves just started peeping out! I can hardly contain my excitement!

Last week was a busy one in the garden. I finished digging the hole for the pond which was bloody hard going. You wouldn’t even believe the amount of rubble I dug up. It’s way too exposed to attract much wildlife just yet, but I have some oxygenating plants on order then I’ll build up gradually from there. Please note the hedgehog ramps devised by my brother. You see, hedgehogs can’t swim so if they fall in they need a way to get out again. Bless them.

The area I showed you a picture of a few weeks ago has gone from looking like this:

To this:

It’s getting there! Also, these are just some of the bits of tile I have so far pulled out of the ground.

I am making new discoveries in the garden nearly every single day, but I’ll save that for next time.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Manual Labour

Another day, another opportunity to get out there and enjoy the garden. Yesterday it was raining most of the time, and I can’t even remember why I went out at all to be honest. What I ended up doing was weeding a little section of the garden and transplanting some wildflowers that were spreading over the grass. It’s nice to just do whatever I feel like doing at the time.

I don’t know if the transplants will work, but I thought it was a much better idea than just mowing over them. Hopefully they’ll stay healthy. I’ve also created some space to put out the plant babies when they’re ready, though I don’t think they’re quite there yet. Even so, my hand may soon be forced as I have way too many per pot and nowhere to put them. It’s fun not knowing what the hell you’re doing!

I didn’t take a before picture, and since it was in such a terrible state it’s one area I tend to avoid when I have my camera out. Once I had started I was in my happy place and forgot all about it. Here’s the after picture anyway:

After I took this picture and went indoors for a nice shower, we only went and had a poxy hail storm. I timed that just right, because although I stayed out when it was raining I draw the line at hail. Luckily it didn’t seem to harm the plants.

My task for today was to give the pampas grass a haircut, but I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. The garden has just been going wild for the last few years without any intervention from us apart from cutting the grass from time to time when absolutely necessary, and the last time I even went near the pampas was to photograph a fly five years ago.

There are a couple of viable options with a pampas grass. You can cut it right back till it’s just a stump, but now is the wrong time to do that. Or, you can set it on fire. I decided to give that one a miss. Before I started it looked like this:

I thought it would be a case of pulling out the old stalky bits from the top (technical term) and yanking out a few of the dead… leaves? The dangly bits, anyway. But when I got right into it, I saw that were a lot more dead dangly bits than I thought.

The pampas grass should be renamed the Tardis grass.

That’s not even all of it! It’s also razor sharp and the seeds are all fluffy so I’ve been sneezing like mad since I stopped. Now I’m learning about these things, it should never get that bad again. So that’s something. When it’s the proper time, it’s not just getting a haircut, it’s getting shaved.

There have been some developments as far as the wildlife cam goes. You can get up to ten different hedgehogs visiting your garden every night, but I now know for sure the little chap/chapette visiting us every night is the same one. I suspected our little friend has a leg missing, but I wasn’t sure whether or not it was just hidden in his underfluffies. After reviewing around 3 hours of footage (so far) I can now say for sure he (I’m also around 60% sure it’s a boy) only has the three legs.

A friend of mine suggested a great name for him, so henceforth he shall be known as Tripod. He seems really well adapted and he’s obviously getting along just fine, but yesterday night he had an itch that he just couldn’t scratch. If I didn’t think it would be scary and stressful for him I’d be tempted to catch him, but since he’s seems happy and healthy enough I’ll just leave him be.

I almost forgot to feed him last night but remembered just before going to bed. When I checked the camera in the morning it showed he had appeared a mere four minutes after I put the kibble out. He must have been waiting!

We’ve so far had an appearance two nights running from what I believe to be a field mouse, but on the second night it came too late and there was nothing left. It’s name is Dangermouse.

Last night we had what is possibly a house mouse, but I don’t know enough about these things to be sure. The field mouse has longer legs, and is much more nervous. And fast, too! This one, as yet unnamed, seemed much more relaxed.

The final species was our neighbour’s cat. I’m so glad it didn’t eat any of my new friends, both of which visited again after it had gone. Nothing will come between them and Hoggy Crunch, it seems.

Yesterday I found a wildflower which I think may be a common vetch. Or perhaps a spring vetch. Either way it’s delicate and pretty. Once I spotted that one I found three others, and avoided doing any more gardening around that spot. I’ll keep an eye out for when the seed pods are ready and we’ll hopefully have loads more next year.

Finally, I saw my first ever brimstone moth today after my bright gloves confused it.

In case you hadn’t noticed, I FLIPPING LOVE OUR GARDEN! I love the physical work, which completely takes me out of myself while I’m doing it, almost like meditation.

Simply marvellous.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Hog Cam

Over the last seven days I have definitely been embracing the lockdown life. I’ve meant to blog several times, but by the time I get around to it I’ve been way too pooped and have instead relaxed on the sofa in front of the TV with me mum. Plus a glass of wine (or four).

Since lockdown started I have seen whole episodes of The Great British Bake Off, Killing Eve, Great British Menu, and the new one about primates. Normally I’m rushing around getting ready for work when these shows are on but it’s nice to sit down and enjoy them with company.

Over the next two weeks I’m going to try to live a little healthier (I’m drinking more than usual for one) but for now the guilt of being safe has subsided enough for me to make the most of this rare opportunity. I always thought it would do me the world of good if I could have a break from night work (well, work full stop) and I was right. I feel like a different person, and although I already succumbed to a nap today, generally I’m waking up at about 8am without the need for an alarm and I’m managing to stay awake for the whole day. What a treat to be able to see all this daylight!

The weather has been a bit up and down, but that’s ok. I had to venture out to the chemist yesterday and since it was raining I didn’t have to queue at all to pick up my prescription. I managed to pop into Lidl’s for a wee top up shop, again without queuing or getting stressed out by other shoppers, and on my walk to and from the shops I didn’t see a single other person on the streets.

Friday was a busy, busy day, but it’s only because I keep a photographic record of everything fun I do that I’m able to tell you that. Time isn’t running like it normally does, that’s for sure, and I don’t know where the last 7 days have gone.

I spent hours clearing the corner of the garden I mentioned in my last post, which was a damn good workout I tell you. I sawed up a large portion of our old tree which was very hard yet very satisfying work. The next day my muscles were like jelly.

At the end of all that work, the area (underwhelmingly) looked like this.

We have a hedgehog house on the left, and a bug hotel on the right, however since I plan to put a pond in here too I figured the hedgehog house was too close (and a danger to the hoggies) so I’ve since moved it to the other end of the garden.

Two evenings ago I put out food and water, and I had instant success! I bought Hoggy Crunch specially which has proved to be a hit with our spiky garden community.

On Sunday, I ‘met’ my little sister for drinks (we had a video chat and got pissed) and it was great fun. Of course I would have prefered to do it in person, but it just goes to show we can still have really lovely moments in our lives.

Considering I’ve been so busy the words aren’t coming easily today, perhaps because I already had my therapy this morning and I’m all talked out. I’ll just leave you with a few of the photos I took since I last posted.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Monty Says

It’s been a surprisingly busy week for me so far. Back in October I had an assessment and was referred to see a therapist through the NHS. I was told to expect about a 3 month wait but it would more likely be sooner as they would try to offer me a cancellation. I got a letter when they accidentally discharged me last year because I ‘hadn’t replied to their messages’ (there were none) then didn’t hear another peep until Tuesday afternoon.

I was offered my first telephone appointment the very next morning. The idea of therapy seems awkward and emotionally taxing to me, which I guess it is, and I very nearly told them I didn’t need them anymore. Which would have been an outright lie. So I did a very adult thing and accepted the appointment. At least I had less than 24 hours to sit and stew over it.

I didn’t have very high hopes, but my first session was surprisingly helpful. I looked into getting a private therapist not so long ago and the advice is to shop around until you find one that clicks with you, but I have been lucky enough to get one I think I like and can open up to. Because services are so in demand I’m pretty sure if I didn’t like this person there’d be very little opportunity to try someone else.

After that I was feeling brave so phoned the doctors to try and sort out my prescription. I tried getting it delivered to me so I wouldn’t have to go to the actual chemist, but the only pharmacy still taking on new clients for delivery were Well who are notoriously incompetent. I thought I’d try the doctor’s first, but when the receptionist put me on hold to speak to someone else, she forgot I was on hold for twenty minutes. She answered the phone as if I was a new caller and was very confused, but eventually I got my answer – we don’t know, speak to the pharmacy. I tried calling them, couldn’t get through, so went back to the normal way of requesting a prescription. Which was also impossible because they wouldn’t let me get a repeat of the higher dose I’m now on.

Then, I get an email from Well saying my GP approved my prescription and now I have to pay. So I paid and I’ll hope for the best… Who even knows what I’ll get and when, but as long as I get enough to tide me over while I get everything sorted that’s the main thing. I’m sure it’ll all work out.

Yesterday morning I got a delivery – a bench with storage for the garden. The storage is a happy bonus, I mainly wanted the bench so me and the old dear (mother) can spend some time together in the garden. Turns out she knows a lot about plants ‘n’ stuff too, but I had to be quite stern with her this week.

I started watching Gardener’s World, and it’s bloody brilliant. As such I demanded to know why she hadn’t made me watch it before but she claims it isn’t her fault. It’s highly irresponsible parenting if you ask me.

Anyway, since I first started watching most of my sentences have started with ‘Monty says…’, because Monty Don is one of the presenters and he’s awesome. Even just watching the show is so relaxing, and it ties in with everything I’ve been thinking about lately – slowing down, noticing things more, making a home for nature, the positive effect nature has on mental health…

I actually got a bit choked up at one point, but then I was laughing again at a guy who is working towards being self-sustaining. He grows a certain plant specifically to wipe his butt with, and although that episode was aired last year it’s rather on point what with current events, don’t you think? We don’t need loo roll, we need more plants!

My own personal plant journey is going really well. My sunflower seeds should have been sown in 2017 at the latest, and although I planted about twenty only two have sprouted so far. I think because they were so old the outer casing of the seeds got stuck on so the first one to pop out is a bit deformed. It’s getting there though.

I reckon by next week most of them will be ready to be planted outside, which is a bit scary because I don’t want anything to die. On the plus side I must have a good 100 saplings so something’s bound to survive. I hope.

Pea will be pleased in any case. She’s not so keen on all these new things in her room.

I also bought a chilli plant as a gift for someone but never got around to passing it on, so I kept it for myself (terrible, I know) and it just started showing some green yesterday.

When the chillies grow they are supposed to look like penises, but whether they will or not remains to be seen.

Whether or not I’m doing any specific jobs, I’ve been out in the garden taking pictures almost every day. The sunshine is glorious and there’s something new peeping its petals out every time I look.

I wish you could experience how glorious that rose smells.

Just a week or two ago I found out that a bee fly is a thing (a fly that looks like a bee) then yesterday I only went and saw one! What’s more, it landed on some blossom right near me and stayed for ages. I was able to get a nice clear shot.

Everything is still scary and so much is wrong with the world, yet I’ve never, ever been as grateful for what I already have as I am now. I hope I manage to keep hold of this feeling for the rest of my life.

Now it’s time to get on with my next job of the day – starting work on this little corner. I can’t wait to show you what the plans are for this little area!

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Little Exposures and Some Artifacts

We’ve had some more laughs in our household this week. Well, I say we, but what I really mean is I have had some laughs, because I seem to have reverted to behaving like a 6-year-old. Eating well for a bit has not been going well. Onions don’t agree with me at the best of times, but when my brother excitedly announced his favourite Indian were still open for deliveries I couldn’t help asking him to order me a portion of bhajis. Not only have I been torturing my poor mother with my emissions (it’s been oh so hilarious), I’ve also been sending ‘voice notes’ to various friends and family. What’s more, I’ve had plenty of ‘voice notes’ in return, and it never fails to amuse. Weirdly, most people I’ve contacted seem to be entertained/downright impressed and I think I’ve spread some happiness along with my unearthly gasses.

If any of you were under the impression that I am at all mature or ladylike, I hate to break it to you but you are waaaaaay off the mark. Inside I am about 80% the most uncouthest of prepubescent boys, along with 20% elderly old lady.

As such, my love affair with the garden continues to develop. Is it just me who thinks of old people when they think of gardening? Perhaps it’s because my grandparents were into it in a major way. On the one side of the family I have memories of being allowed to pick a bunch of flowers from the garden once in a while. My favourites were marigolds, pansies and snapdragons (who doesn’t love a snapdragon I ask you?) On the other side, my nan would always be growing broad beans, which I loved to help pick and put through the bean stringer. It was a simple little plastic contraption with a number of blades in it that was incredibly satisfying to use, and it was almost as good as eating home grown strawberries straight from the garden with sugar and cream. Ok, maybe not quite as good.

Up until now I’ve found the concept of gardening way too overwhelming, but I’m learning to not overthink it and just go out and try, without worrying about doing stuff wrong. I will do stuff wrong, it’s inevitable. But I will learn more as I go along. I’m also absorbing loads of new information just by exposing myself to gardening and wildflower accounts online. Without realising, I’ve been putting away little nuggets of information which pop up when I least expect it.

The other day I was out digging up an immense thistle when I spotted a little purple flower hidden amongst the grass and weeds. See it?

I actually have no idea how I spotted it. Let’s get in a little closer…

Because of my gradual absorption of flower information, the word ‘speedwell’ popped into my head when I saw it. The pictures I’ve seen of speedwells so far are much, much bigger than this, but I was right. I’m pretty sure this is a wall speedwell, but the other varieties you are more likely to find in woods are indeed a lot bigger.

Yesterday I was out in the front garden, clearing up poop. The neighbour’s cats seem to love to use it as a toilet, and I can hardly complain since our cats use to go out and no doubt pooped all over the place.

Once the poop was removed, I stumbled across a wood sorrell, more tiny hairy bittercress, some sort of pupa plus a load of old rubbish, but I’ll get to that in a moment. Neither my phone or any lenses currently in my possession were suitable for taking pictures of tiny things, so I’ve been on something of a spending spree. This week a rather old, second-hand macro lens arrived. Because it’s old, it’s very noisy, so I won’t be creeping up on any animals with it. But for stuff that’s simply growing, it’s perfect.

As for the rubbish, when our estate was built the housing association started to run out of money by the time they got to our bit. To cut down on costs, instead of paying for the rubble to be taken away, they buried it. As you do.

This is what I’ve found so far this week:

I’ve decided to start making collections of things I find, which I’ll start to separate into plastic, metal, tile etc. One day I might make some sort of mosaic from the tile. I think that would be pretty cool.

This was inspired by one of my favourite Twitter accounts at the moment, @legolostatsea. In 1997, 5 million bits of lego fell into the sea, and it’s still being found to this day. I’m almost desperate to get to a beach and start collecting, well, rubbish, because not only does it sound like fun but it’s also helping clean up beaches. It’s a win-win.

In the meantime, I’ll just collect crap I find at home, which I’m really enjoying anyway. Have I just completely gone mad? That’s up to you to decide. Since I don’t appear to be a danger to myself or others, I’ve decided to just go with it. What’s the worst that can happen?

Because of my fantastic lens purchase, I can now show you my favourite weed. This is what I used to see – a pretty ordinary looking patch of… something.

It’s a red dead-nettle, and it’s so common you’d probably be able to find it yourself within ten minutes of leaving the house. But when you look closer…

It’s so beautiful and delicate. How have I never noticed that before? The things I’ve been growing myself are coming along nicely, I’m just waiting for the weather to perk up again before I transplant them into the garden.

Future plans include enticing hedgehogs and a pond, but I’ll write more about that another day. For now, me and my green fingers are done with typing for the day, and the plants demand to be watered.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x