Barry Bucknell would have been proud of me today. Now unless you are of a certain age that name will mean little or nothing to you. Barry is credited as being a pioneer of the DIY boom in the 60’s and 70’s, when he presented TV shows demonstrating how the man on the street (it wasn’t something that women would get up to back then) could make home improvements without calling on the skills of expensive tradesmen. What did I do to earn Barry’s approval? Well I replaced a leaking shower with a brand new one. The good news is, the new one does not yet appear to be leaking, and I didn’t flood the bathroom….but it’s early days. I now need to fix that light in the hallway, which has been out of action for the best part of a year!

Nellie is need of a jolly good run, but the poor girl is going to have to wait a bit longer. She has been walked on a short lead for the past week and a half, since starting her first (and only) season, so we are keeping her away from the local canine lotharios. One of the conditions of adopting her was that she is to be spayed, to avoid perpetuating the production of unwanted mongrel puppies. We, and she, are looking forward to letting her run free down the water meadows at the bottom of the hill, cos baby she was born to run.

It’s not a decision taken lightly, but I have chosen to take next weekend off, which means that there will be no order collections from Wyken next Saturday as I will not be there. I am going walking in the Peak District with three friends. We did it once before a few years ago, staying in a Youth Hostel, walking all day, then sampling the local hospitality in the evening. It will be lovely to be walking in the hills; it’s particularly exciting for a native of East Anglia to see and be in such a totally different landscape. On our previous trip, at a similar time of the year, it was extremely icy, with snow on the hills; I won’t complain if we have similar conditions next weekend, though after the weather of the last week in that part of the country I suspect that it is going to be very soggy underfoot. We will be staying at Hartington Hall, a beautiful 17th century stone built manor house, which is said to have accommodated Bonnie Prince Charlie during the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. It has been a Youth Hostel since 1934.

Vegetable availability this week is looking like this: Broccoli, Chard, Cavolo Nero, Cauliflower, Peppers, Chilli peppers, mushrooms, brown onions, red onions, carrots, parsnips, swede, turnips, beetroot, garlic, squash, and 3 varieties of potato, There are kiwi fruit and lemons – with some greening on them.

Last Monday, in miserable wet weather, I washed the glass on the low greenhouse and then I had a go at the polytunnel. Green algae builds up on the polythene over time, and once it has been cleaned the difference in light transmission is amazing. During the winter light levels are critically important for successful growing in the tunnel and under glass, so I am hoping that the kale, spinach, chard and spring greens will respond positively to their new, brighter growing environment. On Wednesday, which was a rare dry day, I sowed a couple of rows of broad beans down the bottom half of the garden. It was impossible to create a proper seed bed because of the wet conditions, so I individually pushed each seed into sticky gloopy mud. It could be that the seed will rot in the ground, but this was the last chance saloon, so I have given them a chance of germinating, but if the worst happens I will just have to re-sow as early as I can next spring.

I had a Muntjac deer in the garden last week, and they do considerably more damage than voles. I spotted it down the bottom skulking around (they are great skulkers), so I gave it a wide berth and managed to get below it to usher it towards the top of the garden where I had opened the double gates to assist its escape. Following the hedge-line it cooperated until it got to the gaping wide gates, whereupon it decided to hang a right instead of left to freedom. I chased it through the garden and it ended up pretty well where we started the first manoeuvre. Once again, softly softly, I cajoled it towards the gateway, as it approached the top it increased its pace, and rather than going left or right it went straight on, through a chicken wire fence! Muntjacs are not big boys in the deer world, but the hole that it disappeared through was no greater than six inches in diameter! They are great escapologists but are not endowed with very much between their ears.

That’s it, I’m outta here. Have a great week.

Phil

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