Chickens, Other Gardens, Uncategorized

Not a gardening post

This weekend was unfortunately spent not gardening, so this is a ‘not gardening’ blog post.  I was Not Gardening for various reasons:

  1. The weather was poor, which was actually a good thing because…
  2. I had to paint my study, and keep getting distracted by the good weather and the garden when really I need to Get On With It.  My study is my little refuge – for reading, writing, blogging and occasional staring at the garden while planning the next job…!
  3. It was quite a busy weekend with a grown-up party, a kids party and a visit to my parents to take into account, as well as a hairdresser’s appointment to keep.

However, even when I’m Not Gardening, I’ve found it’s difficult to shake the gardening habit. When I was in town for the hairdresser appointment I popped into a few shops and discovered that my eye is now drawn to garden-themed clothing.  The evidence…

I’ve also been inspired by a couple of books which will hopefully help with my garden plans – I’ve been reading Chicken Coops for the Soul, which I stumbled upon at the library when I was looking for something completely different.  It’s a useful insight into the realities of chicken-keeping and is helping me to get an idea what it might actually be like, if/when I take the plunge.  So far, it’s not putting me off!

I have also recently received this book which I ordered from a second-hand online shop…


…and I can’t wait to get stuck in.  Although I haven’t read it yet, it’s one of the inspirations for this blog – Monty kept a diary, written and photographic, of everything they did when they moved to Ivington and this book is the result.  Now.  I KNOW I am nowhere on the scale of the mighty Mr Don, but we do plan to be in this house for a long time, so I’d like to think that a record of the development of the garden would be a great thing to look back on in years to come.  And if at that point I’m a big famous gardening expert *ahem* , a publishing deal will certainly be very welcome…so I’m getting started early!

Look at this face, how could you not trust the advice he gives…

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Don’t even get me started on his new puppy.

So, as I said, it’s been a weekend of No Gardening.  Followed by today – the Springiest of Spring days and, Sods Law, I’ve had to go to work, in a windowless office, with zero plants or soil or anything.  It is genuinely frustrating, to have to spend such a beautiful day indoors, but when I start to get worked up about it I remind myself that I am very lucky to have a good, flexible, part-time job, and that my three days of work allow me to have two days of non-work and the means to own the house and garden that we do.  So the next time I get annoyed about it, I will take a breath, count my blessings and walk through the office door, dressed  in one of my lovely new garden-themed shirts…




Chickens, flowers, Garden design, Plants

A whole day in the garden

A WHOLE DAY.  This almost never happens, thanks to a combination of family responsibilities, weather, a job and various other demands which crop up on a daily or weekly basis.  But I have a very rare week off work, promised since last year, and it’s allowed me the luxury of time to write, garden, walk and go to yoga classes whenever I please.  So yesterday, I spent all my time outside and I loved it. Following the walk I blogged about in my last post, I wrapped up (it’s still a bit chilly!) and went straight outside, armed with a gardening to-do list.

Focusing on the main garden, I dug, planted, moved shrubs, mulched and snipped myself into a state of bliss.  There were two areas I was aiming to clear – the side patio bed and a section of the back border which is where I want the chicken coop (yep, I’m still planning this!) and run to go.

The side bed has been a bit of a conundrum since we moved in.  It’s got three thriving shrubs in it already – a bamboo, a camellia and a lovely variegated myrtle bush.  At one end I’ve planted some herbs as it’s close to the back door, and easy access from the kitchen when I need some for cooking.  But the middle section is quite shallow and tough to dig, with lots of old roots from a huge ivy, most of which has now been cleared to make way for a gas pipe to be fixed along the wall (don’t ask, it’s a long and boring story…).  Towards the end of last summer I planted some perennials which I’d bought – geums, lavender and a couple of foxgloves – but this was largely because I couldn’t really think of anything else to do with the bed.  They’ve done very little since then of course, so I’ve now lifted them; the lavenders are going into the opposite end of the garden, the corner patio where we have a table and chairs, and where I’m growing a series of climbers to try and hide some of the grey breeze block wall behind.  The lavenders should do a good job of brightening up the areas below the clematis, honeysuckle and roses which are already there.

The geums have now gone in below a twisted hazel which is also next to the back door, again a little bit of interest for the lower level of this small, rocky bed.

The plan now for the side patio is to put down a membrane, some decorative stones and to plant up lots of pots and place around the existing shrubs.  That way, I won’t have to dig into the tough soil, I can plant a variety of containers and can chop and change the pots whenever I like.  So, I’ve managed to clear the space ready for this, and now it looks like this…


I’ve also ordered a rambler from Peter Beales roses, which I’ll grow at the back and along the wall to try and hide some of the grey-ness.  It’s a pale pink flower, and should complement the vivid green and red-pink of the camellia, which flowered beautifully last year.

I had to move a couple of things out of the back border too, so that I could mark out the approximate space I’ll need for the coop/run I’m hoping for.  I moved a young cherry into the front garden, and removed a hydrangea completely.  I love hydrangea – I don’t mind that they’re a bit old-fashioned, I just love their huge showy flowers – but this one was quite old and woody, plus I’d taken cuttings from it in the autumn so it will live on.  There’s a rhodedendron which might also need moved out of the way but it’s just about to flower so I’ve left it for now.

This is how the space looks now…


In the foreground you might also be able to make out a small magnolia which was also planted yesterday – another bargain from Lidl!

So I’m quite pleased with the preparations I’ve made in these two key areas of the garden. Looking out and seeing the clear spaces gives me a sense of anticipation – I’m ready for the next stage!

And now for a close-up!  A selection of photos caputuring what’s going on in the garden just now…


The rhodedendron which is getting ready to flower


Salix – a new pussy willow for the front border


The witch hazel is still going strong 


To chook, or not to chook…?

I have hens on the brain at the moment.

I am very seriously considering some for the back garden!


This has been an idea at the back of my mind since we moved into the house, as the garden is such a good size, there’s plenty of room for a small coop and three or four chickens.   And although I’ve been resisting the thought (just a fad! too dirty! you’ll get fed up!) I keep coming back to it again and again, lurking on chicken keeping forums, searching Gumtree for second-hand coops… I can’t seem to shake the idea and am becoming more and more sure that it’s something I’d like to try and think I’d enjoy.

I’m still weighing up the pros and cons – with any new venture I really do like to wrap my brain around it and try to imagine what doing that thing will be like, how it will affect my daily life, routines, the rest of the family etc.  Here’s the list:


  • Eggs!  Lots of them, I hope!  I’d give any excess to family and friends – or maybe have an honesty box at the front of the house.
  • Company in the garden – I’d like to let them free-range sometimes, and like the thought of them pecking about (and hopefully eating all the slugs!) while I’m pottering about.
  • Pets – we don’t have any (apart from 5 guppies!) and I like the idea of caring for an animal and that it would (hopefully) enhance our family life and engage the kids with other living creatures.  The girls seem keen – they say they’d help out and I’d like to think they’d enjoy feeding the birds, handling them etc, even if they would almost certainly be unwilling to clean up bird poo!
  • The aforementioned poo is good fertiliser – goes on the compost heap and enriches the garden at a later date.  So, although poo is really a ‘con’, it’s also a ‘pro’.


  • The free-ranging might mean damage to the garden – and would definitely mean poo on the grass, which would need to be removed before the girls would play outside.  (This could possibly be limited by fencing off a free-range area)
  • The poo (see above!)
  • Rats – I fear the idea of encouraging these into the garden, however I’m aware there are ways to prevent them and obviously there are ways to get rid of them.
  • Time commitment – this seems fairly minimal, compared to a dog for example, but I would need to spend time feeding and cleaning them, and perhaps be up and about to let them out fairly early in the mornings, especially in the summer months.  My ‘spare’ time is already precious – do I want to give up a little more of it?  Am I prepared to tweak my daily routine to care properly for these birds?

As you can see, I’m putting a lot of thought into it – too much, perhaps!  But I need to be sure before I take the plunge.  At the moment I’m keen to proceed, and keep waiting to find out something which would put me off, but it hasn’t happened yet.  So, I’m back on Gumtree looking out for the elusive bargain starter chicken coop…I’ll keep you posted!