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Diary

06/02/2011
Winter work at Southwaite Green

Today it is raining, yesterday it was raining and the forecast for tomorrow is more rain.  This means we can get on with the planting as soon as the nurseries can send us the plants, but it also means that the work on the roofs has been delayed.  Last Wednesday the roofers ('Dodge' and 'Bomber', I haven't learnt their real names), couldn't work at all, because the wind was so strong.  Nice lads, and it is definitely a young man's job, all that scrambling over the roof and climbing up scaffolding.  

This weather reminds me of when this place was being built, and in the strong winds, a wall that was built during the day would be pushed over in the night, so the builders had to start all over again.  Dispiriting.

Quite a harsh climate here, in the winter, and it must have been hard going making a living off the land in the past.  Now I am waiting to see how the plants I have ordered, some of which are definitely more suited to southern climes, will get on here.  Will they die?  Will they sulk and not get on with it?  Or will they rise to the challenge, and thrive and prosper, despite the tremendous variety in the conditions they will experience in this little corner?

Sweet chestnuts, cherries and cornus kousia down the drive - beautiful plants all of them, and if they do well it will look heavenly.  And if not, we will have to try something else.  At least with gardening you can have several attempts to get it right.

What is going to be the new rose bed is dug over, covered with black plastic and then a thick layer of bark, and will now be left until the autumn to settle and develop, and then we will plant it with beautiful scented roses and herbs.  Next summer it should be a vision of delight.

The pond has been frozen for so long it has been impossible to take another water sample for the lab.  We have been planting reeds in the culvert leading into the pond, the same reeds that are used in the reed bed, and a native species, with the idea that the water going into the pond will be cleaner than at present, and in turn, that should improve the water quality in the pond even more.  But it is very clean as it is, so we are really gilding the lily.

And speaking of lilies, it will be interesting to see if the water lilies planted last Spring have survived this coldest of winters.  They are supposed to if they are at least 14 inches under the water surface.  I moved them by swimming across the pond and moving them deeper, but it has been so cold this year that even that depth of water may not be enough.  There was only one actual water lily last year on the plants, so I am hoping for more this year.  Hopefully some at least will have survived and those that have will be strong and vigorous.  They say the water lily can take over a pond completely in a few years.  In our pond the water lily will have to fight it out with several other aquatics with ambitions towards world domination.

The new stove in Esther's Barn makes it very cosy in there, and with the new shutters you can shut out the world and enjoy winter in warmth and comfort.  There are some willows growing next to the pond that have developed several stems, probably because of deer damage, but in a couple of years it may be possible to coppice them for more firewood.  At the moment there is loads of wood in the woodshed, but it goes down alarmingly quickly in the cold weather, and we will have to plan how to keep the stock high.

The rush is on to get everything in before the real Spring arrives.  The combination of mild wet weather is perfect for planting, so we will have to get a move on and get every one in its proper place in the next couple of weeks.



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