Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Great Dixter

In amongst all this construction and earth moving I gave myself a treat, long promised, to visit the fabulous gardens by Christopher Lloyd at Great Dixter. It's only an hour away from here, but I have never found the time to go before. I went with Annie Mowll, and sans children - although we agreed afterwards that it is a magical garden that children would love exploring. Because we had to be back in Faversham by 3 we got there really early -the nursery opens an hour before the gardens, so we mooched around looking at the beautifully laid out specimens and glimpsing views to the house beyond. We had a chance to enjoy a coffee and cake in total solitude before the hoards arrived, a real treat.

One of my overwhelming experiences of the garden is that it is truly a work in progress, not a museum piece. Christopher Lloyd worked very closely with his head gardener Fergus to keep it fluid and since Christopher's death it is still always changing and moving forward. The gardens are laid out in amongst formal yew hedging and topiary but are not at all formal themselves - the only straight lines were in the kitchen gardens - even the buildings have wobbly edges - as with this amazing barn roof.

Another striking and well known feature of Christopher Lloyd's planting is the riotous mix of colours, none more so that in the huge collections of potted plants by the front door and on various terraces, I'm not sure I am brave enough.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Hooray Hooray Beds are all built!

Almost there.....
Georgia and Fintan got going with the planting in her bed - lettuce, a pumpkin, carrots a mix of annuals called "butterfly mix" and red cosmos, later we added dwarf sweet peas to a wigwam in the middle. Raff has runner beans, baby sweetcorn, carrots and a strawberry plant, Stan has courgette "for daddy" and baby sweetcorn to follow.

And I got going with my planting - some of Georgia's spare lettuce - she had sown a whole packet earlier in the year which I 'lovingly' and through gritted teeth, pricked out - I think there were 90! Mum has some in London, Dot has many more and I got the last 20 or so!
I also transplanted a load of leeks which our lovely Asparagus people, Peter and Carolyn from Blackbird Cottage had given me. Plus peas which I had sown in guttering a la Sarah Raven. Calendula Officinalis, self sown seedlings from the 'old' veg patch to add some colour. Also French beans went in, dwarf and climbing, various salads, beetroot and more peas as seed for succession. It has now rained for the last 2 nights and today, so I think it should all do very well - now we need a little warmth! The picture that follows is from the doorway of my shed where I sit ad drink tea and contemplate what to do next. I intend to keep taking pics from this spot to chart the progress.
And meanwhile in a parallel universe Michael has been progressing with the treehouse project. He has come up with an amazing engineering solution to the fact that it is very windy here and the treehouse platform needs to be able to move with the wind. I can't really show it with pictures, but the joists are only attached at one end to the beams so that they can slide back and forward without shearing the bolts. Isn't he clever!! By the end of yesterday he had completed the floor and a ladder - now he's working on the anti-falling off structure!
Treehouse building needs MANY tools!
Happy children!!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Progress in the veg garden

All the concrete gone and the hole filled in- Ed reckons he used 20 tonnes of topsoil - Michael said we could have had a swimming pool in the hole!

I finished work on Wednesday ready for some serious time in the garden, but of course the weather broke and so it was a very muddy session, marking out the layout for the new veg garden.
But I got it done and ordered the timber for the raised beds which will be delivered tomorrow. I also realised that we were going to need a substantial amount more topsoil, so Ed Lynch (he of heroic concrete removal) delivered a load of 'ordinary' and a load of 'enriched' on Friday afternoon. This has completely taken over the driveway so will have to be moved quickish!

After our trip to London yesterday to admire Jack, we got stuck into some major earth moving today and covered over the area of sand that had previously been a paved area and which will soon be the new home of the swing. Now we need to get going with the grass seed.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Visiting Dan and Sarah

The day started well as we set out to see our great friends Dan and Sarah, Michael's godson Samuel and his new baby bro Jack. The original plan had been for them to come here, but their car was crashed into, whilst parked, last week so we decided to go and see them and take up the lunch. I thought it would be nice for the kids to go on the train - and actually given the cost of petrol, our train tickets at £39 for the lot of us probably worked out a lot cheaper.

So, lunch packed, children ready we set off - got about 500 yards from our house when we were smashed into by the Tesco's delivery van who seemed to think that belting down Sandbanks Lane on a drizzly morning was a good idea. It was one of those horrendous slow motion things, I had managed to stop but he did not and ploughed into us whilst all we could do was sit there. Needless to say he got his ear chewed off by us, especially when we suggested that he may have been going too fast for both the narrowness of the lane and the slippery road and he replied " I'm a very careful driver, you try stopping a 3 tonne truck!". I'm guessing he manages it okay at traffic lights....

So having exchanged details, photographed the scene and calmed down a bit we turned around and came home to report it to the insurers - never a great process. As we didn't get him to admit liability we now have to wait for the insurers to pursue Tescos to admit liability before we can get it fixed, luckily it seems to be drivable. Apparently the fact that we were stationary should make it fairly clear cut. Ho Hum. So an hour later we set off in car no. 2 and finally arrived at Dan and Sarah's at half one. It was great to see them, Samuel had changed so much since we last saw him at his Christening - lots of 'words', many understandable, and a great appetite. Not to be left out having already had lunch he wanted to join us for ours and tucked into the red pepper and basil bread from Oscar's and the roast chicken with tyme, lemon and garlic. I think the chocolate brownines may have been top of his list though!
Jack is the spitting image of Samuel at the same age (6 weeks) Let's hope they don't end up looking like Dan!We had a really great time there before heading back on the train - via a rather fortuitous walk to the tube which took us past Ambala - home of the best Indian sweeties in town!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Nick and Geo visit

What a lovely weekend. Nick and Geo and the boys came down on friday night, a bit later than they had hoped so I didn't get to cook them a very gourmet dinner, but we had a great day on Saturday, beautiful sunny day, breakfast outside, after which Nick got a little mischevious with a watering can.....

"look what I've got...."

"mmmm, where are they all?"

After that we went for a lovely, very hot, walk at Oare followed by a superb lunch at the Three Mariners in Oare - recently taken over by new people and serving scrumptious fresh food.

I think they would pass the Gordon Ramsey test for local seasonal food - the fish comes from local fisherman Blue, about 200 yrds from the pub. They had set up a table for us on the terrace, under a great big parasol and the kids disappeared into the huge garden when we weren't eating, so we managed a pretty good adult lunch..

Did I say adult?
On Sunday we carried on with our garden plans. Michael is building a fab new tree house - less dangerously high than the last. I seemed to spend all day digging out periwinkle and other weeds, which I had to do before they delivered the earthto fill the BIG hole, and going to the tip -where I am now a regular! It was another scorching day so we got the paddling pool out - Stan didn't however spend long in it, but did spend the rest of the day naked. Because Michael was 'playing' with rusty nails and rotted wood, we made him wear wellies, quite a look I think you'll agree!

Friday, May 09, 2008

The ponds are smashed!!!!

It's finally happened, the ponds, bridges and path have gone!!!

Just before work started

this evening
work in progress....
Now there's the small matter of 12 tons of soil to fill in the hole and then I can get busy building raised beds, sowing some grass seed where the path used to be and and and .... all sorts of exciting projects..

I have wanted this done since we first moved in 5 and a half years ago so I kept the workers well fed on brownies and lemon drizzle cake and it seems to have done the trick poor guy were dealing with concrete almost a foot thick in places and the hottest days this year.