A new addition

Cat no 16 has been rehomed to us via Cats Protection. She was being fostered after being dumped for allegedly being vicious; we suspect she was beaten, poor little love. She’s about 3ish, black and white with a burglar’s mask, and we’ve renamed her Bandit. Currently ensconced in the dining room until the new doors and windows are done in a couple of weeks. She’s very sweet and is instantly on our laps but hates being on her own, so is frantic for attention. She sometimes nips and slaps when you leave the room, but only halfheartedly. We sit in and stroke her whenever we can. She’ll be able to hold her own against all the others. One of our half Maine Coons Bonnie is desperate to get in there and be friends.

Land plans

We’re slowly pulling together our ideas for the land. The formal garden is my pet project and will be based on the writings of Beverley Nichols. The original ‘bright young thing’ in the 1920s, he was a prolific and successful writer on numerous topics. My favourite books of his are the house trilogies about how he reclaimed three separate houses and gardens. I fell in love with ‘Merry Hall’ at a very young age, as my Mum loved his writing, and I love the idea of a 1930s/1940s relaxed country cottage garden, where plants rather than hard structures are the centrepiece. It helps that he adored cats.

A Pagan friend who works as a gardener has walked the land with us this morning, and shared his knowledge with us. A bonus was finding several pots of lovage with their gorgeous bitter-aniseed leaves. He and his colleague will be helping with priority jobs such as removing all the pyracantha and ivy from the house itself. That has to be Number One, and then the beds there will be used for perennial kitchen herbs. The bamboo has to come up as well as it’s getting thuggish and may well be pushing up the paving slabs in what will be the hot tub area. He’s promised us some hazel and other hedgerow whips, and in turn will be taking things we don’t want to keep such as all the phormiums. He rehomed one of the huge aspidistras in the greenhouse, identified some plants and trees for us, and will come back with a work schedule. A really nice time this morning.

Apart from an initial burst of ‘that must be done now,’ the garden and land will be a longterm project. We will learn how to prune properly. He thinks the orchard is wonderful – we have cherry trees in amongst the apples and pears, but it’s too densely planted, so everything’s starved of air and covered with lichen and moss. He did say the best way to clear the agricultural land is to borrow a couple of goats, which was music to my ears – I wanted goats but we couldn’t manage them permanently, so maybe someone local will lend us a some for a couple of weeks to eat all the weeds. Otherwise the veg bed will need two years under membrane to kill off the weeds and sterilise the soil. We’ll still have the polytunnel and greenhouse in the meantime for veg. We’ll be calling on the Pagan community to see if anyone wants to be part of a work party under direction in exchange for hospitality.

Leaks and onions

Specifically, gas leaks. The installation of the new range cooker didn’t go as planned as they detected a gas leak. A week without heating and hot water except the one remaining dribble of an electric shower, but 3 gas leaks were repaired, and the cooker is being properly installed next week so we can actually cook again.

Got the water board out to try and detect the water leak that next door said they could hear, but nothing found so water is go at the moment. Next phase is – get in a plumber to fit two new showers, replace the kitchen sink which is cracked, and fix a leak from the washing machine. Also need to get the cesspit emptied as it seems to have filled rapidly with all the rain and extra human water usage.

More infrastructure stuff but a later phase – the patio doors are being done in a couple of weeks. Once they’re sorted, we can extend the patio, move the whirligig dryer there, and use the existing enclosed whirligig courtyard for the hot tub. May not happen for this summer, but you never know. The two windows at the front of the house (study and bedroom) are also being replaced as the current ones aren’t designed to open at all, and are rotting wood and yuck. Next door said there was a bee swarm in the chimney last year that the old owner refused to sort. He shut the floor and hoovered up dead bees, but they went down next door’s chimney and badly stung people, so we reassured them that if it happens again we will get it professionally sorted. That resulted in another homemade cake from Mrs Next Door.

Need to get an electrician round to check the wiring, because lights are blowing and switches are tripping. Really hoping we don’t have to rewire the whole house.

Internet remains an issue; we’re on a fixed package (the best we could get for this rural area), so we’re all using phone data and not streaming any TV. Husband’s office will be hardwired next week as the WiFi is not working there. We’re thinking about a NAS – a home network which won’t use data on WiFi – but I’m leaving that the resident IT geek.

On the greenery front, we have our first onion set sprouting in the polytunnel, and Jersey Royals chitting in my study. In the orchard, the first apple and pear blossom is coming out. Found some random things which may be lilies, so they’ll have to go as they’re poisonous to cats. We’ve marked out the area for veg beds, with an additional fenced area with extra chicken shed to become more veg beds for a really good rotation scheme. More than enough land to grow enough veg for 4 people for the year – about the size of a decent allowment. An extra wildish open area will be a mahoosive soft fruit cage. The 3-bin compost thing has been built, and scraps are going into it.

Back in the formal garden area, bamboo is being hacked bit by bit, and husband has started removing all the ivy and cotoneaster from the side of the house and the outbuilding roof/wall. The pig area will be husband’s woodland area with pond once we get rid of the pig ark. Also need to get rid of the huge smoker from the chicken area behind the garage, as this is designated for extra parking. The main chicken area needs completely new fencing including roof fencing, and splitting in two with two new chicken sheds. Then we can think about rescuing some chooks; next door have a Pekin cockerel they’re giving us.

I have lots of herb and salad leaves seeds to sow into standalone plastic trugs. We get through mounds of basil and coriander, and there are some perennial herbs I want to start.

We’re starting to see some shape to the project. Nice and sunny – enjoy your weekends!