Mon 23rd July 2018

I’m slowly getting some of my Self back online after a wonderful (but exhausting) visit from most of my side of the family, and I have about twenty (or something, it feels like that anyway) started / half written / written but with no photos blog posts in my notes, but have had no writing energy left to do anything with them. So. Fresh start, I’ll post this one, see if I can start writing again (with my roughly half-hour writing limit), and see if I can fill in some of the blanks because there have been a lot of wonderful things that I want to record!

We has some lovely cuddles with Grylls today. He’s three and a bit weeks old now, his eyes are open and his ears are up and he’s wobbling around all over the place! While Tiger had her lunch I took Grylls out (with permission, and Tiger was quite happy) and let him get used to being handled a bit more. Charley and Erika were both fascinated. Charley seems to be a natural handling animals! Ben is a bit more unsure, so I’ll try and give him more opportunity over the next few days. Erika mothers Tiger, puts her to bed and feeds her biscuits, always makes sure she has food close by. Those two are becoming fast friends! Tiger curled up next to us, purring, while we handled Grylls, occasionally jumping up when he mewed, and crooning back to him. He was a very chilled out kitten with all the different hands, and was even just settling down to snooze in my lap when Tiger decided it was time for mummy snuggles back in the nest thankyouverymuch.

Still no rain. Today has been partly overcast but still up in the mid-high twenties. Thanks to the cloud cover Erika and I did some weeding in the strawberry patch, and my overenthusiastic runner-pulling brought up a few full strawberry plants too so one of them got potted up as it actually had a couple of new flowers on it.

Feeling yesterday’s weeding though, stiff and achey and slow today! The big flowerbed looks alright though now all the weeds and finished flowers are gone. Like an actual flowerbed!! Hah. Need something suitable to cover it with now (not sure if we have enough black plastic), and it can be all rotting down into useable compost ready for next spring. I’m planning a square of sweetcorn and peas, then keeping the centre row of sage / michaelmas daisies / rose with a path either side, then courgettes and rhubarb separated by the hydrangea, and something else at the far left but not sure what yet. The mint can be mostly left and pulled up continually, and hopefully the ground elder and bindweed will be weakened a little if we get all the bare patches covered and smothered now as soon as we can.

The pea field next door was being harvested today, big red combine harvester trundling up and down. It must be heartbreaking to “harvest” a dead crop like that. I wonder what they will do with it? All the important things in our garden have been watered (shrubs that would otherwise die, crops I’m still hopeful for, sunflowers and pumpkins, etc) carefully with a watering can today and the past few days even though there’s no hosepipe ban here (yet?).

It looks like autumn outside my kitchen window, the horse chestnuts and birch trees have started really dropping their leaves. The only things that seem quite happy is the herb border full of oregano and marjoram, and the buddleia! Both of which are still humming with bees and butterflies. I counted at least 10 peacock butterflies on the buddleia today, along with a red admiral, a small tortoiseshell and a large white. I’ve never seen so many peacock butterflies all together before in my life! There’s also holly blues, maps and green veined whites on the herb border along with a LOT of cabbage whites.

Speaking of which, my earlier assumption that I’ve nothing of interest to cabbage white butterflies was incorrect having now planted quite a bit that IS of interest…. and as a result, cabbage white caterpillars have decimated the rocket salad leaves and the broccoli shoots though, and are working their way through the radish leaves, so I’m thinking to pull them all up before the weekend and re-sow once Steve has built a couple of butterfly-proof nets for me. Even the radish, as I don’t need any of the caterpillar eggs on those hatching and attacking everything inside the new nets. Every caterpillar I’ve found has been lobbed into the herb border rather than squished, but it’s not really as if the cabbage whites are under threat around here this year…!

It’s all got me thinking though. Who knows what the weather will be like next year? This year there was the unusually late and harsh winter, followed by a hot dry summer. How can I prepare for next year? I need to get smart, I can’t just put seeds in the ground and hope for the best. If I want to grow food to eat I need to be smart. So, polytunnels and nets and irrigation, be smart with planting, smart with watering, and keep the butterflies off! They’ve plenty of other food sources around, they don’t need my veg. Maybe I need to pile up some rocks around the bases of the young fruit trees to try to capture moisture for them too? They are suffering in the drought. And of course we need to sort out the brook for when the rains do come back and hopefully bring the water table levels back up. Would be wonderful to be able to utilise some of the brook water for the vegetables but it’s completely the wrong side of the garden!

Erika has been her usual full-on self today. Potty training is going well, I think she is quite pleased with my progress at recognising when she wants either a nappy or some freedom from one 😂 and from my side of things, I’m still amazed at how quickly she’s got the hang of it and with pretty much no input from the us. That first day before the family descended when she decided nappies (and clothing) were optional, it only took a couple of accidents for her to cotton on to what was happening and to use the potty. That was it. No more accidents inside. Outside was different, she was too distracted so she asks for a nappy (sometimes) to go out. But even without, she recognises when she needs to run in to use the potty. Today when I was getting her dressed she ran off to pee in the potty before coming back and asking for a nappy! Properly impressed.

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