Tuesday, 20 October 2009


Huzzah huzzay! Calloo callay! Hey nonny noodles and all that crap!!!!!
We've broken our duck, we're off the mark, we've scored, we've struck gold we have HARVESTED OUR FIRST CROP from Wendy. But first . . .

American witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, flowers before the leaves fall. This is the species from which oil of witch hazel is extracted. Photographed at Westonbirt Arboretum

I downloaded the Dylan cheezy Christmas album from the iTunes store and inflicted it on the family. I've had to promise the Photographer General never to play it again unless with headphones at the bottom of the garden. One of my daughters was also home, and backed up this threat by confiscating my carob coated Brazils. (Do you know, there are actually times when I prefer carob to real chocolate. Not often, but just now and then.)

And while I think about it, can I just say that Jaffa Cakes are utterly awful? I know certain distinguished and Award Winning Bloggists adore them, but I just want to say that if he wants to bat for the wrong team, well, that's fine by him. I'm with him on most things - orange flowers planted with blue; minimal or zero lawns; the wisdom to chicken out of chewing raw, whole chillies when challenged (see here) - but not the Jaffa Cakes. Those slick, non-crunchy, brown-bottomed jobs, with their faux citric centres, were inspired to corrupt the middle classes. Pretending to be biscuits, when they're really cheap cakes, these absolute Griffins of the confectionary world should be expatriated, extirpated, excommunicated or dumped. Send 'em back to Jaffa, say I!

Phew! Thank you! Yes, much better now.

Now then, now then!

Wendy, my precious and beloved Hartley Botanic greenhouse, has yielded her first fruits. OK, they're only a few Pak Choi, but I gathered the first lot to have with roast chicken for this past Sunday lunch. Mmmmm - delicious! The greenhouse was built on the 19th of August. The young Paks, from Fothergill's seed, were sown in late August and planted in September. Their growth rate has been quite astounding.

Our first little Pak Choi - harvested young, to make room for the prop bench.

Under different circumstances, we'd have left them growing for another two or three weeks, but I had ordered a propagating bench from Two Wests and Elliot and was anxious to get it up and running. The Chinese veg were exactly where the bench was to go.

The box, when it arrived, was full of promise but when we unpacked it, the enormous heap of little aluminium alloy strips was bewildering. My wise daughter, who teaches, sensed the growing panic in my voice and said, 'why don't I get a felt tip and mark all the pieces with their identifying letter?' Under her supervision, and with much grunting and perplexity on my part, we got it all built. It took the whole of Sunday.

My younger daughter helps to unfold the mystery of the flat pack propagation bench.

I've had rather a traumatic time with buying things on line. Our monster shredder, over 20 years old, once had the ability to chomp timber up to 3 inches in diameter and to macerate the toughest, nastiest prunings, weeds and other crap, spewing out a perfectly chipped and kibbled mulch. It was so finely chopped that sometimes I would scatter it about the garden without even bothering to compost it first.

But over the years, as with men, this beast began to lose virility. Its teeth blunted so that hedge clippings came out mangled, but still recognisable. And if I tried to poke a stick up its whatsit, I was confronted by a blank refusal to chop. Its time had come and since the engine was also tired, and burns oil, I decided to replace.

I had forgotten what my old machine was called, or who made it. The engine proudly boasts Briggs and Stratton, but paint and labels on the rest of it are long gone.

So I Googled 'garden shredders.'

In seconds, I'd found out that the identical machine is still being made - though its livery has changed from red to green. It's called a Woodsman Mighty Mac, and having been a Mac computer fanatic for as long as they have been made, the name had a positive and comforting - though totally illogical - resonance. (Unlike the Jaffa Cake which is deeply discomfiting.)

Having compared prices on line - they varied hugely - I placed my order and the machine, in a huge box, arrived at breakfast next morning.

But when I undid the box, the machine was in bits. However, unlike the propagation bench, it looked straightforward to assemble. Or, would have been if the necessary bolts, instruction book and other bits and pieces had been included in the box. They weren't

The extremely helpful and obliging proprietor of the Cheshire firm who supplied it, promised to send the missing bits which arrived speedily. Or, rather, some of them arrived. Other, important ones didn't and we had more embarrassed and apologetic phone calls.

The moral of the this boring tale is this:
Buying on line is brilliant for finding the best prices, and for efficient delivery. BUT, if things do not go quite as they should, you are - not to put too fine a point on it - well and truly buggered!

Wendy's staging is already beginning to fill.

I'm listening to a rather nasal-voiced, but devastatingly attractive and immaculately groomed receptionist girl in the palatial showrooms of my local car dealer. Though surrounded by amazing models - cars, not totty - ranging in price from reasonable to a shattering six figure extreme, I'm not here to buy. No, it's just an MOT while I wait, and to have my brake fluid changed. (They're doing something to my car too. Ha Ha!)

This time last year the PG was shooting pictures of me propagating succulents while pretending it was summer.

This week's film was The Yangtse Incident. I'm old enough to remember being told at school that a brave captain had just smuggled HMS Amethyst out of China, despite being attacked. Some years later, I discovered that the Amethyst was a ship, and that the aforementioned captain had not been some kind of glorified jewel thief. Life can be confusing when you're six. Richard Todd heads a cast of the usual Brit talent including, as in almost every known film of the era, Sam Kydd. A well made, well shot piece.

PS - I've just been told that my car has FAILED its MOT. Nothing wrong with the mechanics, but a front tyre is bald. So that was a waste of time. Isn't life full of little ironies??

Bye for now.


  1. Ahhh Sam Kydd. Now there was an actor - my mum loved him to bits.

  2. Aha! The joys of online shopping!

    Sorry to hear that you broke a duck. No need to call the RSPB, well I assume it was an accident ;)

    Nice post.


  3. I've never had any real problems with buying online, but it is very much a worry that something will go wrong and you have to sort it out!

    I don't think I'd buy machinery for this very reason! A lot of shops at the moment are offering to match prices - even places like John Lewis! Just so they get at least some money (not that I expect John Lewis would sell these...) but it may be worth doing a bit of cheeky haggling.

  4. I love your new staging, propagation bench and the greenhouse, SORRY! Wendy I mean And your blogs a bit of allright too. :)

  5. Very beautiful Witch Hazel. When the screen openend, I thought it was lichen.

    Not in a situation to say anything wise about bald mechanics or shopping for shredders . . . but thought I'd let you know that, after a very long gap, I've actually posted a post again.


  6. Thank you for your visit. I always return a visit. I might be fortunate but most of the time I am rewarded to find a nice blog, or very good blog like yours. I am not saying that because I want to borrow money ;-D

    At first I thought this blog was about trees and I love trees, especialy those gnarled by life.
    You got me reading with gusto and a smile. Your photos are excellent. I flipped through your photos from top to bottom and back. Wished there were more. I am going to flip through your other site now.
    Greetings from South Africa

  7. I have been eyeing up one of those propogating benches - looks good so think it will be going on my Xmas list