Archive for the ‘Winter’ Category

burns day !

when everything comes together perfectly in a crescendo of good drying weather and a wicked wind we get a ‘burnin ‘! yesterday with our trusty squad of Friends of Sussex Prairies we made a huge impact on the big border with burning squads , cutters,snappers and fire feeders. Exhileration and wild abandon as flames licked and roared and caressed the garden all at once. Gradually we worked through the groups of tinder dry stalks and seedheads… The grasses are the best to catch alight but still have green in them which is unheard of normally at this time of year when all should be sepia tones and black and white through repeated frosts and winter squalls. You soon get to know which plants are the best kindling pieces, which plants are a soggy mess and which plants are Ray Mears dream. Bush tracker skills live in action as swathes of the garden burn in fury and fearsome fervour !

the fire captain Paul

Now , it is not so good on your face , this burning lark . The hidden costs of extreme guerilla gardening. I am sure Laboratoires Garnier would have quite a bit to say about ravaged skin , ruddy cheeks and windlashed epidernis. In fact it is the horticultural  equivalent  of a facial peel without the subtlety of soothing ungents.Have also discovered a potentially  winning  fragrance : Eau de Bonfire. Subtle woody notes tempered with a beguiling hint of ash and crispy cinder. Coming from the anarchist wing of the La Prairie stable .. this one is sure to be a runner !

prairie going up in smoke

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innocent garden shoe or weapon of mass destruction

Nursing an extraordinary injury this morning and hobbling slightly I would like to point out the folly of careless nocturnal wanderings in ones own bedroom without all due care and attention.Beware the Ides of January. Yes the Ides (whatever they are ) have come with a vengeance .Bedroom traps for the unwary and the befuddled seem to be the fashion . Last night warfare reached an all time high . Carelessly tossed off slippers (Paul) can become the most lethal  womantrap. He might have just as well dug a full scale elephant pit. Bare feet and the shocking sudden ambush of a leather shoe on a bare sole can be tricky and result in an inglorious tumble ! Lucky to have escaped without cracking my head open on the strangely unyielding limestone floor.

Meanwhile yesterdays  hedge sculpture looks a little raw in the cold light of day. Still , Nick the Hedge did a brilliant job with an almighty tractor the size of St Pauls and a frighteningly agricultural and bellicose hedge trimmer. Once the leaves come back the sculpture should look more curvacuous and comely rather than all Sid Vicious !

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Little Amsterdam

which is of course for gingerbread !

after an evening of hellish heat in the kitchen I am left with a motley assortment of pieces of gingerbread which I have to assemble Somehow into a sweet little gingerbread cottage. Alongside the cottage I was rashly encouraged by my new Martha Stewart Special Holiday handbook (thankyou for that Tara) to make some miniature dutch gingerbread house biscuits. Halfway through this enterprise, imagine trying unsuccessfully to download templates from Martha Stewart on a recalcitrant laptop balanced precariously on  a bag of flour and with hands covered in gingerbread.Not that good for the keyboard I imagine as I think there is something wrong already with the letter G.In the end I just improvised and the resultant biscuits look like some rickety old shanty town from a third world country and not the sharp, crisp upmarket town houses that would grace any dutch township. Maybe the icing will make it all better !! Anyway an inspirational picture attached of what they should look like !! Next letter I… for icing, icicles,igloos and incompetence !

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Have just enjoyed a super event organised by  the Mary How Trust  : Beyond Endurance : Shackleton South Georgia Expendition with Keith Young giving  an illustrated talk.

The Mary How Trust aims to spot the early signs of serious illnesses through health screenings for which they make no charge. They are an independent charity , receiving no NHS funding. The Trust have a very active and interesting calendar of events planned throughout the year in Sussex and indeed  Paul and I are very much looking forward to welcoming the Trust for  a special evening garden event next year on Friday 20th July 2012. In the mean time look out for their brilliant talks and slide shows which always feature extraordinary people telling wondrous tales and taking you way into other worlds.

Keith Young regaled us with tales of their daring recreation of the Shackelton expedition : a quite amazing tale of barmy british adventuring of the best kind.His accounts of their sail to South Georgia itself were the stuff of my worst nightmares .I suppose the sheer audacity and amazing courageousness of Ernest Shackleton  was summed up perfectly in the advert he posted in the newspapers when he was tring to recruit volunteers for the trip :

it read :

Men Wanted -for hazardous journey, small wages,bitter cold,long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful, honor and recognition in case of success.

and hearing the full story of his quite wonderful trip , his achievements and sheer dogged determination was inspirational as were Keith’s own adventure tales.

Shackeleton’s gravestone bears a quote from a poem, the Statue and the Bust ,  by Robert Browning,  which also should stand as an admirable motto for life

         Stake your counter as boldly every whit, Venture as warily, use the same skill, Do your best, whether winning or losing it,                  

        If you choose to play!–is my principle. Let a man contend to the uttermost For his life’s set prize, be it what it will!

so give it your all whatever you try to  go for ! which seems a good idea  to me !

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Charge !

or When good animals turn bad !

This is a story about a very amenable and friendly ram (Othello) who turned into a monster ! in this case it isn’t jealousy so much as machismo that has made him into a horror. He is currently up in our top field with the girls doing his ram-ly thang and hopefully in due course his offspring will be the sweetest little lambs ever. But for now we have a problem, and unless one goes into his field armed with at least a suit of armour one is liable to be gored and unkindly treated. With his matador accoutrements in place , Paul is the only one who dares to enter the bullring for the next round of ram butting and aggression. And this is annoying as I cannot get into the field to pet all my favourite girls… having to content myself with the young ‘uns who are in a different field ; Barra’s Little Sister,Mask, and Chocolate.

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Snow Time

Snow Time

well got all excited about the snow and then it went and left us in the lurch all fired up with snow pictures and the like. here are the wee bird houses coated in an icing of snow all snug. Our poor sheep were like moving thatched cottages with their fleeces all heavy with ice and then snow on top but if you pushed your hand deep inside their coat they were warm and cosy. Struggling around with great bundles of hay was difficult though but crucial. It is hard to imagine what the summer colours are like now with the garden all skeletal, bleakly rust coloured and bleached. It has gone into winter mode with a vengeance ,slumped into a stupor of decay or more preferably, dying in an interesting way !

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it seems to me that the garden gets like a big old easy unravelled jumper at this time of year .. in the morning swathed in a frosty icing , crisp and sparkling ,and later in the day the autumn colours breaking through with striking clarity threaded through the landscape ..  but it starts to slowly slump down and go to sleep in a cosy woolly sort of way.. making us think of days next to log fires and starting all the christmas preparations .. start early because there is so much to do . We are looking forward to some wonderful days with good friends making door wreaths and garlands for the festive home … laced with judicious quantities of Paul’s special recipe gluhwein and saffron bread the evnts should go swimmingly … beware the hot glue gun of Christmas !

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