Little Teefs

We’ve got this damn heatwave going on in the UK, and whilst I can handle the odd seriously hot day (and even enjoy it) when it’s continuous it ceases to be much fun. Maybe if I didn’t have to go to work I’d feel better about it-even when it gets cooler it takes another day or two for the temperature inside the warehouse to drop.

In my teens and twenties I was so unhappy with my body that I’d still be wearing black tops with long sleeves in this kind of weather. I’m so grateful that although I’m not exactly ecstatic with my physical appearance, at least I give few enough shits to be able to relax these days.

It’s so weird how I’m 5.5 stone heavier than my lowest weight yet I’m so much more comfortable with my body now. When I was dieting, it was just never enough. It was always ‘just a little bit more’, but the end point never came.

The pool was where I spent almost the entire day yesterday, even when my friend came to visit. He’s actually an ex from a long time ago, and when we were together I never would have let him see me like that. I would have gone and got changed into something more ‘attractive’. And I certainly wouldn’t have posted this picture on the bloody internet for all to see!

I used to think that people who said they were fat and happy were just saying that. I believed that they believed it, but couldn’t imagine how it could possibly be true. Well, now I’m doing it, it’s happening, and I’m absolutely positive I’m not lying to myself.

Five years ago I also told myself I’d never, EVER be a desk clerk at work again. That’s the role I took on again last week, and although the job hasn’t changed much, I have changed. A LOT.

People are still rude to me (it’s amazing how many people don’t say please and thank you), there’s drama and backstabbing, there’s either too much to do or not enough… but I have learned to not be affected by things that aren’t my fault. Even if I am being blamed for them! For instance we had a lot of work the other night, more than the amount of truck drivers we had could possibly do. In the past I would have been pulling my hair out trying to ‘make it work’. But that responsibility isn’t mine to carry. I do the best with what I’ve got, and that’s that. No point taking it personally.

I released two loads on to the same bay so one was overflowing and one next to it was empty. In the past I would have felt a massive amount of guilt over this ‘mistake’. I would have woken up in a panic whilst it had been subconciously playing on my mind as I slept. As it is, sometimes the computer gets ‘stuck’ on the previous load and in my retraining no one had reminded me of that. I also asked my trainer to double check my work in case anything was on the wrong bay but he decided not to bother. It happened, it’s something I will look out for in future, and the world didn’t end.

The next night I was on the desk my manager gave me a half day holiday because there was nothing to do. Swings and roundabouts, eh?

There has been garden drama since I last wrote Remember my most magnificent squash? This particular one has been the star of the show, and in between Friday and Saturday it grew a whole two centimetres. Then Newton the destroyer came to visit.

Aren’t his little nibbles the cutest? And you can’t very well fault the boy for wanting to eat his veggies! The damage quickly dried and hardened up, so I’m cautiously optimistic that being eaten just a little bit isn’t going to stop this squash at all.

This is the difference between Friday and today:

The difference day by day is actually astonishing! Also new in the garden this week, a red dahlia has popped up (it’s a stunner) and my one cauliflower that has made it to this point is showing… a cauliflower! I think the reason this one survived wheras the others were eaten by slugs, is because I put it in an old pot I had handy (a metal one that once housed a mini Christmas tree) which I think the slugs and snails aren’t too keen on. That could come in very handy in future.

My biggest sunflower is still going strong and now stands at over 7ft tall. However I’m just as excited about the sunflowers I got from planting bird seed-because I had no idea what varieties I planted it’s been fun to see that some of them will have multiple flower heads. One even has a bud attached to every single leaf node.

I don’t like to wish the time away, but to be honest I’m very much looking forward to more managable autumn weather and seeing how the garden transforms over the coming few months. Autumn is a great time of year, don’t you think?

In the meatime, I will just have to try and stay cool as best as I can.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Call Me Vince

For some reason I thought I’d only get one shot with my butternut squash, but it’s proving me wrong in spectacular fashion. The first fruit I hand pollinated didn’t take, which thinking back may have been because it was too wet at the time. Since then however, new baby squashes have been popping up regularly.

Due to a lack of simultaneously having male and female flowers, a further two fruits haven’t made it. They have started to shrivel and will eventually fall off altogether.

I was finding it increasingly hard to keep track of this squash, so I have now gone full-on plant nerd. Once a new fruit appeared I found it so hard to find it again in the foliage, and I also had the suspicion I was counting some twice. So I came up with a solution-I now have different coloured string loosely tied around each fruit.

The pink one is doing really well, but to be sure I’ve started taking measurements. I’ll soon know one way or another whether any pollination has been successful-if it has, they should show growth within a single day.

I will leave it another two days before measuring again, just to be doubly sure.

A few very hot and dry days have brought mixed blessings. The squash is very happy indeed (I had four male flowers bloom in one day) and the sunflower finally showed itself fully.

Just today, my first aubergine flower popped out and others aren’t far behind.

My first ever dahlia has bloomed and it’s a lovely, delicate lemon yellow. Another dahlia seems to coming through pink, but all will be revealed in due course.

On the other hand, the water butt has run dry. I have several containers sitting waiting in case it rains while I’m asleep or at work, but we haven’t had a drop. By this time next year I plan to have at least two more water butts, but I don’t have the money just now.

One thing I could afford was a second compost bin. The council has a scheme where they offer subsidised prices so I ordered one which arrived today, for less than half the price than you’d pay in the shops. It’s worth checking for any local schemes before you buy anything.

Garden fashion is not high on my list of priorities, however I think I’m rocking the compost bin skirt.

As if that wasn’t value for money enough, it also doubles up as a dalek costume.

Since last writing, I have become a fully fledged member of the Royal Horticultural Society. One of their four gardens happens to be a mere 20 minute drive away, and once I was sure it was safe to visit I bought my membership and booked my slot. They are giving out allocated times to make sure it doesn’t get too crowded.

A yearly membership is less than £50 and it’s amazingly good value. You get free entry to the four main RHS gardens (including free entry for a family member) plus free entry to 200 partner gardens. This alone would make it worth it, but you also get a free magazine, access to members’ only days at the big garden shows (although of course they didn’t go ahead this year) access to the RHS library (closed for the time being for obvious reasons) and the opportunity to order seeds collected from the gardens themselves. There’s more, but let’s not turn this post into any more of a love letter to the RHS than it already is!

I visited the first garden on my list, Hyde Hall, on Monday. Just for the fun of it. I got loads of inspiration, and since I’ll be going back regularly I’ll just give a couple of highlights from this trip.

First of all, I had a massive case of sunflower envy. Although mine are taller, these specimens are particularly spectacular.

The size of it! I couldn’t see a card saying which variety it is so next time I go back I’ll ask a staff member. I MUST HAVE ONE!

The theme of this visit was dinner-plate-size plants. I saw so many dahlias as big as my head. Next year, they will be mine.

I also simply must have purple chillies at some point in the future. I don’t think my life could be complete without them.

Also, okra flowers are beautiful. Another one added to the wish list.

Before going back to work Tuesday night, I just about managed to fit in a little painting session. I’d been itching to paint all weekend but the time just got away from me. I still haven’t finished, but I’m very satisfied with my progress so far. It’s been so long since I did a painting this detailed. I’m definitely channelling my inner Vincent, but thankfully with less removed body parts.

At work, I’ve been relearning a clerical role I used to do. I last did it about five years ago, yet my fingers still remember all of the menus I used to use. It explains a lot-I can’t remember anything I want to remember, but my brain is hoarding information I haven’t needed to use in HALF A DECADE. No wonder there’s very little space for anything new.

I’m also doing my first full work week since before lockdown. As such I’ve already run out of time.

Until the next post,

Hayley x

Blooming Lovely

Truth be told, I was a bit put off after our little hedgehog had to be put down. I still left out food but the only thing nibbling at it was next doors’ cat, so I’ve only been leaving the camera out sporadically since. I’ve also been lax with the food, but then there’s plenty to eat in our garden. We’ve had a couple of rainy days, and the slugs have been out in force. I haven’t seen a single snail though…

Unlike some gardeners who will literally go out every midnight for a slug and snail cull, if I see one the first thing I grab is my camera.

This critter was climbing (sliming?) up one of several thyme plants but that’s ok. I don’t cook with thyme all that much, and there’s plenty to go around in any case. I do believe that the hedgehogs have been keeping our slug and snail population under control, because most of my plant damage is definitely done by the birds.

On Wednesday I went to bed quite late, and since it was warm I had the window thrown wide open. Some neighbours were having a party, and amongst the aural assault of the most awful bloody music, I could just about hear a regular cronch, cronch, cronch.

I ran downstairs and very quietly opened the back door, to discover a hedgehog eating seed that had fallen from the bird feeders. I wasn’t sure if that was healthy so I went in to get a bowl of special hedgehog food, of which I always have a supply. The little creature just froze while I put the bowl down and sat a short distance away, but soon realised I wasn’t a threat and tucked in. Since then I’ve been leaving both food and camera out regularly, which has resulted in a regular visitation.

Last night I looked out of the window and could just make out a small shadow by the food bowl, then from the corner of my eye I noticed something else – next doors’ cat stalking across the grass.

I don’t think cats are a threat to hedgehogs, but I didn’t want my one being disturbed so I made a noise. Me and the cat then had a stare-off, after which the cat ignored me and carried on towards they hedgehog. That’s cats for you, they give zero f**ks. I popped downstairs and shooed it off though, so the hedgehog could eat dinner in peace. The cat no doubt headed straight to the front garden to do a retaliatory poop, but there’s not much I can do about that.

In the last couple of days the squash is really showing me what it’s made of. I came home from work Saturday morning to find the first male flower fully opened.This is pretty much as good as it gets with the males, it would seem.

That same day one of the females was showing promising signs.

Less than 24 hours later she was fully open (and a lot nicer on the eye than the male, I must say).

I opened up the male and got my paintbrush in there to collect the pollen, and deposited it onto the sticky stigma of the female.

Hopefully, hopefully, this means I’ll have a least one good butternut squash! The other three females I have look like they’re almost ready to bloom, but the rest of the males are a little behind. So we’ll see how it goes with the others. In any case it was exciting to do my first ever hand pollination.

It’s pay day tomorrow and now that masks are mandatory, I’ll risk a trip to the garden centre. Buying peat-free compost online is prohibitively expensive, but I can get a lot more for my money if I go and get it myself. I’m out of everything really, I need more Pearlite, more compost, more seaweed feed, horticultural grit… It’s amazing how quickly you get through the stuff.

I think mother thinks I’m joking when I say I want another compost bin and at least two more water butts, but I’m not. I have plans to hide them in the garden so they don’t look out of place, but I think it’s essential. Now my tomatoes are really going for it, I used up a whole water butt in less than two days. Imagine if all of that water had come from the tap… Luckily after that we’ve had a good bit of rain and everything is topped up again, including various containers I’ve left out around the garden.

Being less wasteful makes me very happy.

Finally, my sunflower has had yet another growth spurt and is now taller than me. Every day I speak to it, saying ‘come on!’, willing it to flower. I can’t be long now!

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Sexing the Squash

Not long after I’d hit publish on the last post, I did a walk around the garden. I probably do this dozens of times a day, sometimes seeing what needs to be done, sometimes just looking on adoringly at all the beautiful flowers and veg babies.

As they saying goes, a watched squash never grows. Ok that isn’t a saying, at least it wasn’t until now. Hopefully it’ll catch on. I swear they waited until my back was turned then my squash plants pushed out some baby butternuts.

I knew that squashes have male and female flowers, but I couldn’t spot any difference in mine. Until now! I’ve been reading up about these things but seeing it with your own eyes is always much better.

Even though the flowers aren’t yet open, the difference between the male and female parts is now distinct. The male flowers are on the end of a long stalk, whereas the female flowers are on the end of the ovary, which in this case will hopefully one day be the actual butternut squash.

How I didn’t spot them earlier on in the day I do not know, because I counted a total of four females on my plants so far. There will most likely be even more to come.

When the flowers open I will help with the pollination process, just in case. Otherwise the babies may not develop into grown-up butternuts, especially if the flowers open on a grim day and the bees don’t feel like coming out and doing their thing. Just call me Cupid.

I started writing this on Wednesday, and a mere two days later there are even further developments. My morning squash check didn’t reveal any changes, however when I got up this evening we have CLEAR FLOWER EVIDENCE!

This was the first bud to grow so he’s much further along than the rest, but I’m delighted he’s ok. When I saw browning at the tips I was worried he wouldn’t bloom at all but now I’m sure he’s going to be amazing.

The tomatoes are progressing wonderfully, although I have learned it’s best not to mention you’re growing them to anyone – already several people have called dibs on a portion of my harvest. There was me thinking 46 plants was overkill, now I’m not so sure…

In other news, some Lavender I’ve been growing hasn’t done so well. It didn’t seem to like being moved on from the propagator and I only have a couple of seedlings that look like they’re going to make it. Perhaps I rushed it and they couldn’t handle the change in humidity, but then that’s what this is all about, learning as I go.

My second batch of Violas (Midnight Runner) are coming along much stronger than the previous, and the same can be said for my Chinese Lanterns.

My sunflower, the one not so long ago I wasn’t sure was going to survive, is now taller than me. You can expect an update the very second that beast flowers!

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x