Jul 04 2009

Untidy July

sitting-on-the-fence-1Sitting on the fence

June has given way to the chaos which is July. Our National Garden Scheme Opening was a huge success. Well, that is to say it was a huge success on day one when the  torrential rain of the previous day gave way to beautiful blustery summer sunshine. Hordes of people flowed back and forth through the garden all afternoon. Scones smothered in clotted cream and strawberry jam flew off the shelves. My stalwart garden tea girls dished out teas and washed up till their arms and feet ached; a triumph. And our Photography exhibition drew an enthusiastic crowd.


Mrs Merrill

Complacently we launched forth into  Monday, opening day two. Serves us right. Grey skies, drizzle followed by chilly, scattered showers should have been an omen. “ It’ll clear up” I said in a half cheerful voice. Then we heard that the local council had decided to dig a big hole in the road in Tuckenhay between us and Totnes, the main route here. “ Oh well” I said in a slightly less enthusiastic voice.  It was just then that the vast lorry arrived outside the gate. Despite three phone calls from the company of his destination he had decided he knew best and  would take a quicker route  squeezing  through the tiny Devon lanes.

ewe-1Inquisitive Whitefaced Dartmoor Ewe

Reaching us, he finally realised his error, panicked and tried to turn. Alas he was wedged, unable to manouver either left or right, completely stuck and blocking access to our farmyard, parking, the garden and cream teas!  We were open from two o’clock until five thirty. He arrived at two thirty and finally, bounced out by a rescuing JCB , retraced his ill advised steps at four thirty!

Nevertheless a few stalwarts  braved a detour and walked round a damp windy garden. We did raise a little more money for the N G S  but hardly the £800 of the previous day. They say things come along in threes and they certainly did that day. It was so bad we could only throw up our hands and laugh.

But it didn’t finish there. This was and will be by no means the first or last satellite guided lorry to get jammed at our gate; we’ve been here before but not at such cost to a wonderful charity so we sent a  very gentle polite letter to the unfortunate recipient of the lorrie’s load which brought from them a huge apology and a very generous cheque. So good of them as the lorry company’s persistent disregard of their instructions was not there responsibility. We and the NGS thank them so much for their magnanimity and generosity. We finally raised  £1000 for the NGS over all. Er, will we do it next year? I’m not sure!

grasses-1Wind brushing through the long grass

So now July bounds through the valley. So different from last years soaking, the fields are brown, grass dry and sheep and donkeys scratching what they can. Yesterday’s welcome rain is already being sucked back into the sky aided by a drying wind brushing through the long grass. We moved lambs and ewes onto a field with something slightly better this morning and Paul topped Quarry field knocking down great spiky thistles and wispy hay. More rain, please, to renew and restore the vital nutrients needed by the grazing incumbents.

Down at the bottom of the valley the garden does it’s usual trick of running away in July. It’s a race to cut back the wild garden, the banks and long grass in the orchard, before it engulfs us completely; strimmers whiz, mowers roar racing against natures’ relentless march.

seagull-kiftsgate-and-masquarade-11Seagull, Kiftsgate and Masquarade

The great splash of rampant roses,Seagull and Kiftsgate, are fading beside the pond, replaced by a yellow border of loosestrife (Lysimachia putata), yellow day lilies (Hemoracallis lilio-asphodelos) and the last efforts of golden and orange candelabra primulas.  Wild croscosmia and I hope in time it’s scarlet cousin “Lucifer”.push through spikes of vibrant  yellow ligularia stenocephala flowers  daintily hanging from black stems, framed by their  jagged leaves. They shimmer in the breeze next to their purple leaved relation, Desdemona. Delphiniums soldier on and cosmos sneaks up shaggily, buds about to burst and  clash marvellously in time with this years planting of Echinacea .

loosestrife-and-ligularia-11Loosestrife, Crocosmia and Ligularia

Sweet Peas are something of a triumph too. I’m having trouble keeping up with them as they riot up and over and beyond their supports. Each day I pick armfuls of long stemmed, sweetly scented blooms and fill the house with the smell of summer. I do thank my daughter’s neighbours, the Miss Vaizey’s, for their invaluable advice to plant the seeds in October. I have never had such robust and rampant plants.


Sweet Pea

And of course the vegetable crop has begun. The broad beans are just wonderful this year. Such a contrast to last years dreadful vegetable crop. We’ve already eaten them quckly blanched and  tossed in butter,  accompanied by a light Bechamel sauce and, the other day, turned in a hot pan with finely diced panecetta, delicious. They will go into salads, tortillas, risottos and as they toughen through the summer I’ll take off their jackets to prolong their season! Finally those that have not been eaten or made it into the deep freeze for winter , will be transformed into a light fresh tasting soup with chicken stock and creme fraiche; so nice!

This year I have grown two sorts of courgette, the round Di Nizza which is good if picked really small but, left to expand, it has that old childhood memory of watery marrow. Courgette Cavili F1, on the other hand , is a real success. Pale green and firm it stays dry and crisp when quickly cooked in butter and olive oil and served with chopped parsley, really good and versatile, it’s definitely one I’ll grow again.

painted-lady-1Runner bean Painted Lady

Painted Lady is daintily and decoratively climbing her bean poles promising beautiful runner beans in a couple of weeks. French beans are looking good too. Not so my brasiccas! An error here, I thought I was planting purple sprouting broccoli but seem to have muddled the packets with a summer variety which goes to seed before my eyes, very disappointing. Then my good friend, Julia, she of allotment fame, sent me seeds germinated, she assured me, from a packet of cavalo nero I had previously sent to her. Alas they are certainly not the strappy Italian cabbages I anticipated. We await to see what they will produce, suprise sprouts for Christmas perhaps.

I have a strange resistance, I don’t know why, to taking off the side shoots of tomatoes. So, of course, my tomato greenhouse is a wonderful rampant jungle of wildly hanging  vines covered in an abundance of yellow flowers. I look on nervously daring to hope for a crop this year instead of a wipe out by the dreaded potato blight which took all last years plants together with their  relations of that name onto the bonfire  without a single edible specimen.

melon-in-a-snood-1Melon in a snood!

My ridiculous pride and glory is a small but expanding melon in the polytunnel. It has grown thus far from a seed from my sister-in-law in California. So excited am I that I have made it a little supporting snood from a  supermarket satsuma net,  should it eventually grow too heavy for it’s stalk; such an optimist, me!

Strawberries were good this year after being dug up divided and moved to pastures new; a tedious exercise which did pay off. They are all finished now, not enough to turn into jam and so disappointing when frozen we simply kept on eating them. Raspberries are ripening, gooseberries, red and black currants too. Some will be eaten and the rest will climb into the deep freeze or turn into jam to cheer long winter months.

by-the-back-door-1By the back door, were I sit and enjoy a cup of tea

So much to do in the garden as the year marches on but now, as the sun continues to shine,  I  am sitting with a cup of tea enjoying  a blackbird’s song break the silence of a perfect summer afternoon.

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Untidy July”

  1. Home exchangeon 07 Jul 2009 at 2:27 pm

    These photos are ace! They’re not only very pretty, but they’re really evocative! Impressive. I like the lamb especially.

  2. Cptnon 07 Jul 2009 at 8:46 pm

    Hi there

    Sorry to get in touch through your comments.

    I was wondering if you’d be interested in a guest post on the People’s Republic of South Devon site.

    Let us know what you think.

    All the best

  3. paulaon 16 Jul 2009 at 10:45 am

    Just catching up on your evocative, beautiful posts and photos. Wonderful as usual. I always want to dash into the kitchen to make the mouth-watering dishes! How amazing about the lorry company. Restored my faith in…something? transport? Well maybe!

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