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The garden.

It’s been awhile.

No holidays to write about due to Covid-19. It will be nice to spend some time away, hopefully later this year. However, lock down has a couple of minor advantages. I still go to work but have more time off than usual and I’ve used that to spend a bit more time in the garden doing stuff that I had put off due to a lack of time and not just in the Spring and Summer as I was pruning some trees only a couple of weeks ago. More to do on that as I could only do so much as there is scaffolding up on one side of the house so that work can be carried out on part of the roof. We’re still waiting for the roofers to arrive but first we had constant rain, then it snowed and now the roofing boss man is in isolation after a positive Covid test!

The nice thing about snow is that all the gardens look equally nice:

There was plenty to do in the garden. A lot of shrubs that were here when we moved in 15 years ago had grown triffid like to overwhelm everything nearby. So out they came. Lots of sawing, chopping, digging out of roots some of which were the diameter of my forearms, lobbing branches over the wall into the back garden were involved in clearing them out. Not to mention the rashes on my hands and arms from something or other that irritated my skin. Not sure if it was one of those hairy caterpillars or sap from one of the plants I was digging out.

As ever, once you start something you discover that time has to be spent doing other stuff to enable you to do the stuff you actual want to do. All that shrubbery had to be sorted to make room for me to sort out the beds I wanted to plant up. I have a machine that turns twigs and branches into chips. Unsurprisingly, this machine is called a chipper. It takes stuff up to about 2 inches in diameter so first of all I had to dispose of the larger diameter stuff. Council tips are a good place for this. Again not surprisingly, I managed to jam the chipper with branches that were very slightly too big!

It got jammed several times!

And I can state quite categorically that jammed chippers are an absolute bastard to unjam!

Eventually, after much pulling and pushing and demonstrating my considerable knowledge of the Anglo-Saxon language, the wood was chipped and I could proceed with the plan. Incidentally, I didn’t have a plan. Well, not on paper anyway. Lots of professional gardeners recommend making a plan either on paper or using one of the numerous software programmes. Personally, my plan is in my head. Not the best idea knowing what’s in my head but never mind.

Next up was sorting the ground out. I was working on two projects at the same time. First was to sort out and replant the front garden jungle and the second was to sort out the area down one side of the house that was part of the back garden and only received an hours worth of sunshine each day and looked manky whatever I planted there and basically consisted of a few clumps of grass and several hundred weeds. So first place to start was the bit down the side. As good a place as any. PIL and I had decided that we would not plant anything in the soil there but cover the whole thing with crushed slate and then put pots of flowers in to bring colour to that patch. We decided on blue 40mm slate and off we went to the builders merchant to purchase 30 25 kilo bags of the stuff along with several rolls of a permeable membrane to stop weeds growing through. Steering was a bit light on the way home and my arms were about 2 inches longer after lugging that lot about. I had to have a nap afterwards! The ground was sorted out, weeds removed and more or less levelled. I tend to work on the premise that more or less is fine.

Down went the membrane, down went the slate chips and a little while later I laid (badly) a few bricks at one end to keep the who;e thing secure. I was suitably impressed and more importantly, so was PIL. It was lovely to walk on, it sounded like you were walking on corn flakes. Lovely.

Now for the front. The soil needed to be refreshed and several holes dug. I like digging holes. I got to use the compost that I made. I used a wheelie bin as my compost heap. It was pretty good stuff even if I say so myself.

Once all that was done, I came to the bit I like the best – sticking plants in and getting ny hands properly dirty. Eventually, with a bit of a sore back, aching knees, mucky hands and a dirt smeared face, it was done although there is plenty more to do. That’s part of the joy of gardening for me, it never ends, there is always something to do.

Some of the plants in the photos that follow were planted by me a couple of years ago but I thought I would include them to show the overall effect.

A couple of the Mexican Orange Blossom (Choisya Ternata) in the back garden.

The great thing about gardening is that once you have finished for the day, you can have one or two of these:

I hope you’ve enjoyed a bit of colour in these gloomy, wintery days

Have a fantastic day where ever you are.

More Dick soon.

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Procrastination

I meant to do this yesterday.

 

It will wait until tomorrow.

 

Have a great day.

 

More Dick soon.

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Sailing and the NHS

Quite a few months ago when I wrote my last post, I included this photograph:

I added the comment that some people when looking at it would think,

“Wet”

“Cold”

“Horrid”

To which Claudette over at ceenoa added,

“Sea Sick”!

Something I hadn’t considered as I don’t suffer from it but Claudette does. (Take a wander over to her blog. She does stuff with stuff and makes wonderful stuff and her photographs are a joy. You will find it here)

Whereas when I look at that photograph I think,

“Excitement”

“Fun”

“Women in wet tee shirts”

I must now add,

“Hernia”!

Yep, the day after we had gone sailing on ‘Jabberwocky’ while on holiday, I noticed a fairly large lump on the right side of my groin. I was fairly sure what it was but being a male of a certain age, I thought I’d get it checked out when we got home. I was going to go and see the Doc anyway as my right knee was giving me grief and was very painful.

So, on our return, I made an appointment for the following day and saw my GP. I explained, she asked me to straighten my leg and had a poke about and told me I had arthritis. She then looked at my groin, had another poke about and informed me I did indeed have a hernia. She printed off a form and told me to go to the walk-in x-ray clinic at the local hospital where they would x-ray my knee to confirm her diagnosis and in the meantime expect a letter for an appointment to have my hernia checked out. So, off I went, had my x-ray (how good is that? I was back home within 30 minutes of leaving the Docs). A week later, two letters arrived. One informed me that I did indeed have arthritis in my knee and to contact the hospital for an appointment for physio. The other letter was from the very Harry Potterish sounding ‘Department of Hernias, Lumps and Bumps asking me to attend for an examination.

I duly rocked up at the hospital for my examination. Now for some reason, I had got it into my head that my knee was going to be examined so I was somewhat surprised when I was asked to drop my shorts! That’s why I was wearing shorts, so I wouldn’t have to drop them, not that I’m shy.

I carried out a quick mental check:

Freshly showered? Yep

Clean underwear? Yep

Neat and tidy gentleman’s garden? Yep

Good to go.

My Mum would have been proud.

I dropped my shorts, lay down and was examined. It was an ultrasound examination as used on pregnant women. It would establish that I had a hernia for certain, exactly where it was and how big. The woman carrying out the examination explained what I had to do. I had to make like a puffer fish and inflate my cheeks and push down towards my groin.

While I did this she would use the ultra sound thingy to examine the area.

The examination commenced. The result of all this cheek inflation and pushing down and prodding with probes was that I farted.

It was not discreet!

“Oh”, I squeaked, feeling dreadfully embarrassed, “I am so sorry.”

“That’s ok Dick” said the woman. ” It happens all the time. Curry last night was it?”

“As it happens, yes it was” I replied blushing, while out of the corner of my eye I saw the other woman in the room switch on her desk fan!

“Thought so” said the first woman as she wander over to the window and opened it!

“I am still here y’know” I said feeling even more embarrassed and somewhat flustered.

“Yes Dick, we know” she said “and so is something else.”

I gave up then. There was no point arguing. Two women in a room with a man who had just dropped his guts! No contest really.

As I left and walked down the corridor after the examination was completed, all I could hear was gales of laughter coming from the room I had just left. Buggers!

The up shot of this was that at the beginning of January, I went to the K&C Hospital as a day patient, had key hole surgery on my hernia and was back home later that day feeling just fine but under strict instructions not to lift anything and not to drive for a week or two. I did as I was told and returned to work two weeks later. The NHS and the staff in particular is just bloody wonderful.

I am currently rethinking my plans to become a sailor. I really don’t want to go through that again and it is likely to happen if I start hoisting sails and stuff. Something gentler I think. Learning French is still on the cards but now perhaps I should take up photography again and maybe start a vlog. I will keep you informed.

Have a great day.

More Dick soon.

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Chuffed

I admit to feeling a bit chuffed with myself.

Over the last few days not only have I redecorated Gregs bedroom but I have also managed to install a new ceiling light in the dining room and two wall lights in the living room.

Why am I chuffed?

I didn’t burn the house down! Result

Have a great day.

More Dick soon

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Shed? Oh. That Shed.

It’s up! The shed that is. So now I can talk about it. My builder mate BUFF came over and with just a tiny bit of assistance from me and in a few hours it was done. PIl is one very happy bunny. And I have some peace and quiet.

BUFF hard at it

BUFF hard at it

One completed, square, rectangular shed!

One completed, square, rectangular shed!

Have a great day.

More Dick soon

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Toad in the Hole. A recipe.

 

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For those of you who don’t know what toad in the Hole is, don’t worry. I’m not about to chuck an amphibian into a fire pit and cook it although I have eaten frog legs. Tastes like chicken. Nope. Toad in the Hole is Yorkshire pudding with the addition of sausages (bangers). The reason this culinary delight is called Toad in the Hole is beyond me as is the reason sausages are called ‘bangers’. I never said I would explain why the English are weird.

toadinthehole

Toad in the Hole is my signature dish. My mum taught me how to cook it and I do make a pretty decent version. You will note that I don’t list quantities or weights cos I never measure or weigh ingredients which probably explains why some of the meals I cook end up looking like baby poo and, occasionally, a plate of vomit. Heyho. I may look like the Michelin Man but I have no stars. It is a great meal to have though. Cheap as chips and if you use Quorn sausages, it’s suitable for veggies too.

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You will need the following:

Plain flour, eggs, milk, some vegetable oil and some bangers. I prefer to use Cumberland sausages simply because I like them but you can use whatever bangers you like.

You will also need a big bowl, a sieve, a whisk or fork and two deep oven tray thingies – a big one for the main event and a smaller one for the secret. Don’t use the trays for making little individual Yorkshire puds. Well, ok. If you really must then you can.

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Sieve the flour into the big bowl. This starts to put air into the mixture. Beat in two or three eggs until you have a gooey mess. This should add more air to the mixture. Then gradually start to add milk and stir it into the mixture. While stirring, try to beat more air into the mixture. You’ll know if you are because little bubbles start to appear in the mixture. Add milk until the mixture is sort of a thick liquid. Leave it to stand for a while.

batter mix

Turn your oven on as high as it goes. It needs to be really hot. At least 220 centigrade which converts to a shit load of fahrenheits. Put some oil into the oven trays and add as many bangers as you want to the bigger of the two trays (don’t put any in the smaller one) and put them both into the very hot oven. After about 10 minutes prepare to take the trays out by turning a burner on the hob on. Take the trays out one at a time, closing the oven door as you take each one out. Place on the burner to maintain the heat. Pour the batter into each of the trays ensuring you put enough into each to completely cover the base. Return to the oven as quickly as possible.

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After about 15 minutes open the oven door and don’t do what I always do and stick your head in the oven. It’s bloody hot and if you wear specs like I do at home, they will steam up and you can’t see a bloody thing! Turn the oven down to about 200. After 20/25 minutes the small one which is just Yorkshire pud should be cooked so remove it and leave it to get cold.

After about half an hour or 30 minutes if you prefer, the Toad in the Hole should be cooked. Remove from the oven which you should now turn off to save the planet, cut up into the required number of pieces and serve with veg and gravy. We rarely have it with mashed spud but you can if you want.

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Once the small Yorkshire is cold, cut it up and serve later with a decent smothering of strawberry jam. Don’t puke, it’s lovely. Try it.

Have a smashing day.

More Dick soon.

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Just Looked, Sat, Thought and Did a Bit of Gardening.

When I took Dexter for a walk the other day I found myself looking around at all the wonderful countryside we have in England and thought to myself,

“This really is a green and pleasant land.”

I was astounded by the colours. Mostly it was green but so many different shades. There was dark green, not so dark green, mid green, light green, creamy green, bluey green, reddish green, golden green and silvery green. Perhaps it was the light on this particular day as it was very sunny and bright. In amongst all the greens were splashes of other colours. There was the blue from the last of the bluebells.20150506_173052

White from the flowers of wild garlic and ox eye daisies (a particular favourite of mine).20150522_125122

Mauves, pinks and purples from wild flowers I couldn’t identify. We reached the top of a gentle slope and I turned and looked around me. The view that I saw was just achingly beautiful. In a moment of eloquence that I’m not often capable of I said;

“Fuck me!”

 

I felt a sense of complete contentment, peace and well being. So much so that I had to sit a while and have a jolly good think. I thought a great many thoughts which you are prone to do when thinking. Mostly they were to do with my life and how it had turned out so far. I thought of the appalling bad times I’d had and still have from time to time. I thought about the fabulous days and times I’d had and how I still have lots of those. One day soon I may pluck up the courage and write about those thoughts I’d thought. However, one of the thoughts I did have at that time was how wonderfully well nature created such stunning combinations of plants and colours and shapes. I try to bring that into my garden. I recently read a post by Steve Morris over at blogbloggerbloggest about a dogwood he has in his garden. Earlier this year he had pruned it really hard and now it’s in full growth mode with many superb young red stems. In addition, Steve planted a number of his cuttings and now has a great many more dogwoods to plant (and prune haha). This is a man after my own heart. Free plants! Can’t beat them. I’ve done a similar thing with foxgloves.

Some of the foxgloves in my back garden

Some of the foxgloves in my back garden

I got a couple of purple foxgloves from our local garden centre two years ago and after they finished flowering I left them to set seed, which they do in huge quantities. Generally, I let them grow wherever they happen to grow, but if they really are in completely the wrong place or you want some in a different area  they don’t mind being dug up and replanted. I probably have 20+ foxgloves flowering in my back garden now plus a dozen or so more in the front garden. All from two plants! I love ’em. So do the bees. The best thing though is that you can never be absolutely sure what you get. A bit like Mrs Gumps box of chocolates. The foxgloves I planted a couple of years ago were all purple.

In my garden earlier today

In my garden earlier today

This year, I have purple foxgloves but I have also got WHITE foxgloves!

In my garden this morning. Beautiful flowers.

In my garden this morning. Beautiful flowers.

This isn’t an unusual colour but I never planted them. Some of the seeds that took just happened to have a white gene I guess but the combination really is tremendous.20150612_100349

Next year I hope I get many, many more growing. Most of them will be moved to the new beds I’m starting to prepare out in the front garden. I know what I want to do in my head and hopefully I’ll achieve it but suffice to say, scent will be an important part of the new beds. Roses however, will not feature. In the meantime, I am about to start my experiment with a sl*g deterrent.  Despite hating the slimy bastards for eating my plants, I don’t like to kill them just because they’re doing what they do and besides, who wants little piles of snot all over the place? Nah. I chuck them in next doors garden! I hope it works because then me and Mrs SD Gates are going into business selling our patented slug deterrent, get us a shed load of cash, retire and spend all our waking hours pottering around in our respective gardens and walking our respective dogs.1978841_686052051438740_1830563984_n

Plus getting new furniture of course.

Have a great day.

More Dick soonauto

Inspiration

Crikey. It’s been a while since I last published a post.

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Ummmmm

I admit to a) being busy at work and b) being tired but primarily I needed some inspiration and courtesy of Tessa at Nothing Was Said, Monkey Boy at The Ranting Monkey and Steve at blogbloggerbloggest I have found some.

Thank you.

More Dick follows soon.

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Animals Who Think They’re People (#18)

Nothing more to add

Full disclosure

In my post entitled 1st April 2011, PIL has pointed out a couple of errors. So to ensure that my blog remains true and faithful I need to make a correction. At the beginning where I state I work hard on the rowing machine and state why, PIL has said that she accepts that at some stage in my life many eons ago, I was indeed 27. PIL also accepts because she has seen the photos, that at one time I did have a full head of what she believes to be hair. However, the other two claims I make are, she says, a complete figment of my imagination I apologise and stand corrected.

Dick