Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Bunting, Granny's bonnets and frogs-a-hiding

I did promise to report back on the open garden day the other week.   We spent days in the garden before the open day digging, cutting back, planting and weeding and planning what we can feed everyone.  On the day itself the weather was rather changeable but it looked like it was staying dry at least!  We visited the Rectory garden, which was first on the list, had some tea, and then raced back home to prettify the house and garden.  We put up some bunting at the back and the front, put out the homemade lemonade, fruit cake and shortbread biscuits on the table, put out some chairs and then waited.

I had lots of excuses in my head to explain why the garden isn't completely devoid of weeds and dead leaves, and why some areas are still a work in progress (honest!).  I was going to explain how the patches of long grass are actually to keep the frogs and birds happy, and the ivy was there to feed birds and insects...And...And..

People were slow to arrive, but they did arrive and I needn't have worried.  Almost without exception they were all gardeners themselves.  They understood that every garden is a work in progress.  More importantly, the garden itself actually looked utterly beautiful.  Although the frogs hid out of the way for a change, the finches and blue tits sang like crazy, the bees and hover flies and wasps buzzed around every flower, the swifts swooped overhead and the garden played its part to perfection.

As one of the visitors commented, it feels like a haven.  When you stand in the middle of our garden, all you can hear is nature humming and growing around you.  I was quite taken aback with the lovely comments about the peace and the lushness of everything.  After being at Hazel Cottage for almost three years I think the garden is looking at its best so far and we are very proud of it.

The work continues and the slugs still arrive...and we think the birds have managed to get into the netting around the redcurrants as we have about two left.... 

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Swereee swereee!

We've been waiting for the swifts to return.  We've heard rumours that they are back and even heard a very faint sound very high in the sky.  Did I imagine that?  Was it a distant finch or a hoarse sparrow?  Sitting in a pub garden a couple of weeks ago, a friend said "Ah the swifts are back again!".  We turned to look but saw nothing.  Spring has taken its time this year and this last week has been rather cold and wet again.  To use a local word, I even felt completely shrammed* the other day and hid under a blanket.

Then, this morning, the sun was out again, the air was warmer and over my head with a swereee swereee, darting low over the houses were the swifts! 

Swifts always signal the start of summer to me.  These remarkable birds migrate between Africa and Europe every year, coming back to us in April or May and leaving again about August.  They have very short feet, as they rarely settle on the ground, mostly flying or clinging to vertical surfaces.  Even into Medieval times, they were drawn as having no feet at all.  They can spend entire days on the wing, only landing to feed their young or to roost. 

The sight of the swifts screaming across the sky really lifted my mood.  The cold grey rainy days will return soon enough no doubt, but because of the swifts in the blue skies this morning the air was full of possibilities and new life.

"It was an ideal spring day, a light blue sky, flecked with little fleecy white clouds drifting across from west to east.  The sun was shining very brightly, and yet there was an exhilarating nip in the air, which set an edge to a man's energy."
-  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle  

"Every spring is the only spring - a perpetual astonishment."
-  Ellis Peters  

*Southern English dialect word for being very very cold

Monday, 13 May 2013

A sudden burst of creativity...

About six months ago I planned to make a new patchwork cushion to go on our bed.  A few weeks later I cut out the squares and planned how I was going to do it.  Just before Christmas I started hand sewing a few squares together.  Then about March I marked out the rest of the squares.  The half sewn squares looked rather pretty strewn on the table in the study for a few weeks, but they weren't becoming a cushion any time soon.
Spot the bits of material not becoming a cushion, bottom right.
The garden starting calling my time and effort, and there has been a lot of work to be done. This weekend after quite a lot of problems getting the sewing machine to work (due to me probably not understanding the technical aspects), Mr C managed to sort me out. 

We made some bunting to go out the front of the house for next weekend's 'Open Garden' day (terrifyingly we are allowing the people in our church to walk around our garden for charity, more of that next weekend), then I not only started on the cushion but actually finished it entirely and found time to also make a simple dress for my old childhood doll Tina.

Finally completed!!

Tina and her halter neck summer dress and matching hair band!
And now the table in the study just features a small vase of the wonderful lilacs that are gracing the bottom of the garden.  I just hope the lilac will still be out next weekend so people wont notice the weeds at that end of the garden!

I'm really a complete beginner with sewing other than some very simple projects, but I'm so pleased that I've managed to get some bits and pieces done and they don't look too bad.  I will take a picture of the bunting at the weekend, and report back on how the open garden goes....

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Sweet May hath come to love us

Sweet May hath come to love us,
Flowers, trees, their blossoms don;
And through the blue heavens above us
The very clouds move on.
Heinrich Heine, Book of Songs

At last we have reached the merry month of May.  This is the time when Spring really has sprung in England.  March is usually too cold or wet for anything much other than snowdrops, April has the joys of daffodils, primroses and forsythia and the trees start to bud.  It is in lovely gentle May that sees the trees bursting with new leaves and blossom exploding all around.  It is May Day today and as if on cue, the sky is blue, the sun is warm and clear and the birds are loud and joyful.

Flowering currant, forget-me-not and pansy.  And a hint of my patchwork cushion, as yet unfinished

Now every field is clothed with grass, and every tree with leaves; now the woods put forth their blossoms, and the year assumes its gay attire.

"When April steps aside for May,
Like diamonds all the rain-drops glisten;
Fresh violets open every day:
To some new bird each hour we listen."
- Lucy Larcom
"Winter is many months of the year
But now at last Maytime is here;
And birds sing from a leafy screen
In the trees and hedgerow freshly green;
And the wood-anemone is out in the shade,
With its blushing petals which too soon fade;
Once more the bracken is unfurling there,
And bluebells gently perfume the damp air."
- Veronica Ann Twells, Maytime

It was the month of May, the month when the foliage of herbs and trees is most freshly green, when buds ripened and blossoms appear in their fragrance and loveliness
Sir Thomas Malory, La Morte d'Arthur