Reading List Two

This is a great book for anyone new to keeping chickens.  It orders the information well and is concise enough not to overwhelm, I like the way Mark Diacono writes.  I also love the pictures I will admit and this series of handbooks is becoming something I lust after.  Our chicks; Agatha, Astrid, Ashleigh and Anoushka were born last Wednesday and will be with us on Thursday in time for Easter.  Little Louis Fox has been counting down the days.

Mr Maggs is not my favourite person at the moment.  It seems that, when it comes to the Aga, I always do the opposite to what I am supposed to do, according to him.  -SIGH!-  However it seems there is a lot I need to know so I will swallow my pride and get on and read it.

Allotment Month by Month by Allan Buckingham
This book was our absolute bible 5 years ago when Mr Fox and I got our allotment.  It is a clear, practical and concise reference guide to what needs to be done in the garden and when.  Ours is covered in mud, ripped and water damaged, but I will still refer to it to get my brain in gear as I begin the work on our veggie patch.

About 10 years ago Mr Fox and I went to Cornwall on holiday and visited the Eden Project, while we were there we went to see the Lost Gardens of Heligan.  I came away feeling they were more amazing than the Eden Project itself.  I bought this book in the book shop, there were about 10 other books I would have loved too.  The Heligan Vegetable Bible is a book I love to flick through and make lists of the heritage breeds of fruits and veggies it mentions.  Heligan is an inspirational garden, and this book captures the depth and breadth of the amazing Victorian Country House garden.

Fork to Fork by Monty and Sarah Don
Mr Fox bought this for me one Christmas around a decade ago.  I love it, I've read it from cover to cover.  It is a beautiful book and I find it an inspiration.

And in case you are interested here is my Reading List One post.

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So there I was digging a hole...

mrs fox's den the hole
The Hole - This really doesn't do it justice, it's a lot deeper in real life, like a chasm it is!

I was very excited about the How Does Your Garden Grow post this week.  I had it all planned when the three apple trees I ordered were delivered on Monday.  I was going to write about my plans for an orchard in the garden.  About ordering and planting apple trees.  About spring amongst the apple blossom, summer afternoons in the dappled light of the trees, autumn fruits and apple pie, winter...  Well you get the idea, I was planning to wax lyrical.  

The problem was that when I went out on Tuesday to dig the holes for the apple trees, I discovered a line of 3 metal posts sunk into the ground approximately where I wanted two of them to go.  So, I started digging.  By the end of the morning I was still digging so I gave up for a bit and started on another site; clearing the weeds to an area of 120cm diameter, removing  perennial weed roots, breaking up the soil, mixing in some compost, digging a hole of approximately 60cm deep and hammering in a wooden support post for the apple tree.

Then I looked at the first hole.  And went back to digging.  And still couldn't get the metal pole out.  So, I measured it; the hole that is, it is now over 110cm deep and no sign of the bottom.  

mrs fox's den the garden
Mrs Fox's Orchard - at least it will be one day, I hope.
See that pile of earth in the foreground of the picture above that's the second hole.  The pile of soil just behind is the hole with the pole.  For the rest of the day I moved a bonfire pile from just by the hole with the pole (you see it there, behind the hole with the pole now).  And spread the ash around, I will cover it with top soil and seed with grass eventually.  When I get that metal pole out of the ground.

Went and looked at that hole with the metal pole in it again yesterday.  Gave the pole a kick, it didn't move much.  

And so I went and found a link to my favourite song about a hole and found this, with some great animation by someone called niblickthe3rd which at least stops me from crying and makes me laugh instead.

If you would like to see pictures of some beautiful gardens rather than pictures of holes in the ground, I suggest you pop on over to mammasaurus' blog , see link below:

How Does Your Garden Grow
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An Industrious Week in the Garden

A week in the garden, and it has finally felt like gardening.  I've been planting a few things, not the hellebore above I will admit, that was already in the garden.  There has still been much clearing and rubbish removing.  Please see below my favourite pile of rubbish so far.

I was pretty chuffed with this lot, none of it is actually going in the bin.  And I've found a duck house and what I intend to use as a chick brooder in the chicken coop and garage.  

The lawn is usually Mr Fox's domain, but this week I have ordered 30kg of grass seed - no idea if that is enough, 100g of wild flower seed mix, and 20kg weed, feed and moss killer.   The lawn I have now raked, cleared, scrapped, filled and finally scattered with the weed & feed.  There is still the rest of the garden to try and reseed with grass, but that will be for Mr Fox to get to grips with.  He's bought his stack of boy toys for the garden, he can use them.  As our friend Jon said:
"... he's a real man, he's got a ride on lawn mower, a chainsaw and an asbestos out-building" 
That final one I don't quite get; I think it's a dad joke maybe. 

Today, I've been pulling up ivy that makes up about 1/3 of the garden's ground cover, grass and stinging nettles being the other 2 thirds.   Having cleared ivy from down one side of the lawn to the first group of trees, I've started to plant my first bed.  I've only used plants that I have brought with me from our old garden or plants I've found in this garden, but want to move.  So far in the first bed, between the daffs, are 3 hellebores, 3 ferns, and some lambs ears (Stachys byzantina 'Silver Carpet').  It is in a slightly shady spot so I would appreciate any advice on shade loving plants that anyone cares to share.

Joining up with "How Does Your Garden Grow: again this week, press the icon below for more garden loveliness.

Simple Wanderlust

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The Garden at Ash Cottage - An Introduction

ladybird ladybug

The mild weather that we had before Christmas, along with keeping the ladybirds out and active, allowed us to get a really good start on the garden.  One of the main attractions of our new home is the garden at Ash Cottage.  It is about an acre in size, with several out-buildings and a 60ft chicken run, loads of BIG trees and incredibly over-grown.  The first thing we had to do when we got in was cut everything back, so that we could see what we have.


What we have are a lot of very large trees that make the house and garden dark and prevent other plants from growing, but with views and hints of how beautiful it could all look once we get to work on it.

Ash Cottage - line of trees

garden ash cottage

garden ash cottage

So, we went for it with the trees, all the leylandii except 1 were cut down; that's 8 trees (1 felled by the other Mrs Fox & I); plus an 11ft hedge of 7 more leylandii cut down by Neil with his trusty chainsaw; plus the 3 or 4 trees cut down by the electricity board (at our behest) to make safe the power-line that runs across the garden.

tree felling garden ash cottage

Most of the trees had to be climbed to be felled, there was not enough space to allow any of them to go down without them falling on a house, out-building, chicken run, caravan or other trees.  The tree surgeons didn't think any of the trees had been touched for a minimum of 20 years.  We still have tonnes of dead wood that needs to be cut out of the remaining trees to make them healthier and safer.

tree felling garden ash cottage

After all the cutting down we've had huge bonfires to get rid of all of the wood and leaves, that are of little use in wood burners due to all of the oils in their timber.  We are still working our way through this wood, huge long piles of tree limbs have been; trampolines, pirate ships, castles and forests for the children to play in and on for the last 3 months.  They will be sad to see it finally all gone, and we have re-learnt that primeval enjoyment of just gazing at a big bonfire, poking it and stoking it and listening to it crackle and flame.

garden ash cottage
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Despite all our felling we still have plenty of mature trees in the garden, including a large beech and sycamore tree that are over 100 years each, 4 more young sycamore, 5 silver birch, a willow, field maple, a cherry tree and several damson and greengage trees, 3 more substantial evergreens still standing, numerous hawthorn and elder, and I'm not even mentioning the various large shrubs.

Along with clearing the trees here has also been a vast amount of rubbish; old swings, barbed wire, garden machinery, chairs, wood, oil drums, cabling, concrete, glass, rubble, an old MG engine buried in the compost.  The compost heap itself was about the size of a small urban garden and needed to be moved as it was rotting the neighbours fence it had been leaning against.

garden ash cottage

All this space in the garden allows us to say "Goodbye" to our allotment (sad day though it was) and incorporate the veg patch into our garden.   Here's the final destination of that compost heap; but it's back breaking work.

veggie garden ash cottage

And it is the veggie garden that has absorbed most of my attention this week.  At one side of the garden is a hexagonal greenhouse that I have been renovating the last few days, clearing of ivy, cleaning, re-hanging shelves and re-making benches.  Sadly neglected like the rest of the house and garden, it is being returned to it's intended use and now is home to two trays of tomato seeds.

hexagon greenhouse ash cottage

And to make up for my decimation of bird habitat, we have put out feeders and bought nest boxes to go up in the remaining trees.  Yesterday I ordered 3 apple trees and we've a walnut tree waiting to go into the ground too.

Simple Wanderlust

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A Momentus Day in the Garden

seed trays in the greenhouse
Seed Trays - Tomato Curo Di Bue, Super Marmande & Tumbling Toms
Yesterday I planted something in the garden (in seed trays in the greenhouse) rather than chopping something down, digging something up, moving something to another place or throwing something away.

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