Surface Tension by Smiler

Just another day waiting to be enjoyed ...... study, studio, garden, allotment, kitchen ........

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Drawing back the curtains to see blue sky and sunshine was a delight. Start the day off with our occasional weekly treat of a cooked breakfast with grilled dry cured bacon, Muckleton marmalade sausages (made in Shropshire on the farm from outdoor reared Gloucester Old Spot pigs), the freshest eggs from my friend Hilary’s brown chickens and huge mushrooms and tiny tomatoes from our local greengrocers. Our greengrocers is where we buy any fruit and veg Tony isn’t growing on the allotment, second choice is one of the local farm shops and the supermarket is a last resort, Co-op and Waitrose preferred, closely followed by M and S – final bargains from the others – Aldi great for cleaning products, Tesco very last on the list, if at all – I digress, apologies.

In the kitchen, we have a 'chalk wall', on this we list all the produce Tony currently has available from the allotment and duly cross it through when all is gone, this is a great help when planning shopping and menus.

Beef cooked in Jumping Hare beer (Aldi) and wholegrain mustard is my next job and that is going to sit nicely on the top of the stove with bubbles just breaking the surface for several hours. Oh, nearly forgot the chicken livers, which I spied at Waitrose, cook up a quick pate (low fat cream fraiche replacing cream) enough to fill two teacup sized containers and put those in the fridge to chill before freezing.

Catching up with a few household jobs as trips away last week reduced my time for such things. Feel it’s all looking nice, woops still in my pj’s – time for a shower.

Oil Painting

Auriculas in Terracotta Pot

Oil painting and I had a very brief encounter when I was eighteen, the paintings were okay for a first attempt, but after a short while the excessive amount of oil I had used began to be soaked up by the support leaving a 'shadow' around my painting - our flirtation was over.

I have recently tried again and I have been plesantly surprised and slowed down - much to the amusement of my 'classmates'. Edward, our tutor, has been great and I now understand why mixing colour is so important. So, rather than my usual enjoyment of painting in a rather loose style in watercolour, gouache, acrylic, pencil or ink, I have spent many hours creating my interpretation of a small corner of the garden where a few pots stand together with an old glass lantern with a rusty decaying base and a pot of auriculas.

The first snowdrops

February Sunday

Wrapped up and strolling around the garden, pots nearest to the house filled with various tulips (75% off in December). I read recently that Fergus Garratt often plants his on Christmas day, so it was worth risking a late planting. I’m glad I did as all the pots have green tulip ‘noses’ poking through.

Just beyond the archway gate, beside the old pig sty, amongst the gnarled trunks of the Virginia creeper and young green shoots of other plants, I spy three tiny groups of snowdrops. I’m pleased to see that this was a good planting spot for them as they do look natural and will hopefully soon spread in this small area. A couple of feet away behind the pig sty the tiny pink cyclamen look delightful and make me smile. All around there are fresh green shoots and greyish green leaves on the honeysuckle, which has now become inseparable from the Virginia creeper, this honeysuckle flowers later in the year and loses its leaves.

I look, as I do every year, at the Forsythia and realise I never did cut it back hard as the books suggest. Beneath it there is a poor Ribes, struggling even to grow, let alone show off its raspberry flowers in the spring. Walking around the garden there are polyanthus full of buds and some opening their flowers, they love our damp ground and I planted lots more in the autumn with, what seem so far to be, good results.

Wallflowers were another weekly buy from the local greengrocers late last year and I planted them in drifts all through the flower beds with more of the tulip bargains. Much of the ‘bare’ ground is filled with the tiny bright green leaves of celandines, which will create seas of buttercup yellow throughout the garden. I forget just how wonderful these are when I am thumbing through a gardening magazine and see aconites carpeting areas of garden, which fill me with envy. I tell myself to go with what nature is happily providing. In a similar way the small woodland area at the top of the garden has it’s covering of celandines, closely followed by wild strawberry plants, which will flower for months and provide tasty treats for the birds.

The gunnera is sleeping, looking for all the world like some huge beast has shed it’s skin for the winter. When the first frosts come, we break off the huge leaves and place them over the crowns to protect them and these leaves gradually dry to a crisp and break down to be forked back into the surrounding rich soil. So they may look fairly grim at this time, but would importing another material into the garden to cosset them through the winter look any better, I’m not sure it would. We forgive the gunnera it’s winter hibernation, for it repays ten fold throughout the year with it’s fast growing leaves on top of towering spiky stems. We have room, just about, for two of these friendly monsters in our moist fertile soil which they adore. I’m so pleased to see fresh growth on many of the herbaceous plants and shrubs too. I say so out loud at times, spotting new shoots on a clematis I thought dead, shoots on the roses and one or two plants on which I spent a little more than I should!

The bird feeders are full, Tony must have done this job yesterday and the local birds are loving it, I like to think we are their ‘wholefood cafĂ©’. I can see that the ‘bug hotels’ which I placed around the garden have been interpreted as ‘DIY’stores for nesting materials – oh dear, that wasn’t supposed to happen, free gifts of tasty snacks too – well, let us hope not!!

In the breakfast room I’ve had a jug of daffodils, which have given us a few days of morning ‘sunshine’, but now need replacing, so as I’m looking around the garden, I am cutting a few short stems of shrubs which will open in the warm room – Kerria with it’s long arching stems and mustard yellow double flowers, Viburnum Bodnantense with intensely perfumed pink flowers and Spirea (brides bouquet)


I visit the lodger, Dexter, a gorgeous lop eared rabbit on long term holiday from his home in Yorkshire with my daughter and her family. Dexter happily lets me put on his harness and lead, hopping and jumping his way around the garden, stopping abruptly when I am least expecting. Straight up the wide lawn path, turning into the wooded area and following the pathway in a clockwise direction. Back to the main path and, with a little encouragement, over the brick path to the circular lawn in front of the summerhouse, where we both stop for a sit down and view the garden.

The frost has penetrated one of the bricks, this will need to be replaced – there are a number of odd bricks stored near the garage for this sort of task. As I sit, Dexter, happily lying across my knees, the scene in front of me fills my imagination, I consider how each area is going to totally change, in colour, shape and size through the coming weeks. Looking out onto this circular lawn, I think of our local theatre, which is ‘in the round’and between acts as the lights are dimmed you can see the stage hands working their magic totally changing the ‘look’, so that you are inspired to walk into a run down terraced house, a grand stately home, factory or garden with just the help of a few cleverly placed ‘props’. Dexter has not moved whilst we’ve been sat here, his long warm ears really are like velvet and his thick winter coat as soft as the finest silk and warm, because it is alive and on it’s owner! He and I walk back down the garden to his hutch, he waits whilst I open the door and undo his harness, then he hops in and turns around for a fuss. I remember there is washing in the tumble dryer which is in the wooden workshop, which I refer to as the Laundry. I remove it and start to fold, but I see there are white hairs – oh dear, I am covered in them as Dexter is clearly moulting and getting ready for the spring - woops!

A final glance around the garden, I realise with a smile that I have spent nearly two hours in the garden and haven’t done any gardening, save for cutting the stems for the breakfast room jug. Well, that was on my list for this year, to spend time in the garden working, but also enjoying, so I think a successful couple of hours.

My dear friend Pat Clare calls by, she is a very keen gardener and an artist too – now retired and not looking her age, she is full of enthusiasm, for art, for gardens, for the family, hers and mine. The kettle on for a pot of tea, we go for a quick walk around the garden! Pat shares my joy at the progress, which others may not notice, in the garden. She wows at my tiny patch of snowdrops, “doubles” she announces with joy. She smiles, gives advice and makes encouraging remarks as we make our tour of the garden and I feel chuffed that she also thinks that it is looking good. Around the garden there are plants, many which came from Pat and also from my parent’s garden. Mum and I would go around the garden with a black bag and as we strolled, she would pull, or tease out with a fork, clumps of various plants, often saying “just pop a stone on top to stop the birds taking it”. Around the garden I can see the plants and picture the places in Mum’s garden from where they came. There are other plants from friends and family. I read that Christopher Lloyd sometimes named such plant gifts after the giver and I have followed his lead.

Back indoors, Pat declines an offer to stay for dinner as she wants to get home and light a fire before it is too dark and cold, so I am pleased to be able to send her away with some of the casserole which has been bubbling on the stove. When I made it I thought there was rather a lot and questioned whether to cook it all, there obviously was a reason x. Now I’ve made some cheese scones to top the beef cooked in beer with wholegrain mustard and popped this into the oven for fifteen minutes. Tony is preparing and cooking the veg.

So, dinner eaten, a glass of wine and time to sit for a while. A few cheery emails to read and a photograph of our lovely grand daughter – smiling x

Sitting and knitting just go together so well – a yellow bolero cardigan for Rosa, just right for the spring and the lovely dresses her Mum is making. The back and two fronts completed, I am on the second sleeve. Baby knitting is so nice as it grows quickly.