January 2011

My New Years Resolution is to start this diary again. I wonder how long it will last?

Saturday 1st New Years Day

3 - 8°C Damp and overcast. I think I preferred it when it was cold and sunny with occasional snow like it has been for the last 6 weeks or so. Not a very good start to the New Year but it may be better tomorrow.


Sunday 2nd

3° in the morning but dropped during the day to -1 by 11pm. Very still and will probably clear overnight to cold and sunny tomorrow.

Spent most of the afternoon sawing and chopping wood for the fire. We have already used as much as we norrmally need all winter. I like to stay 2 years ahead to make sure it is well seasoned but I am afraid we may need to cut up some of next years wood before this winter is finished.


Monday 3rd

-4 overnight hovering around freezing during the day; back down to -4 by 11pm. Clear and even sunny at times.

Decided to continue planting out the wallflowers and sweet william which I started in November but had to stop when the ground froze and later was covered with snow. Despite this cold weather the sweet william especially have continued to grow in their 3.5in pots and some of them are rooting in adjoining pots in the cold frame; they desperately need planting out. I had only planted around 12 plants before it was obvious I couldn't continue. My hands were numb with cold despite wearing insulated gloves inside my gardening ones.The knuckles on my right hand are already badly chapped from sawing up wood in the very cold weather before Christmas - there were days when it was below -15 at night and never above -5 during the day. Best not to make them any worse.


So I decided to do something more warming, continuing to dig over the newly cleared land between the fruit trees and the hedge running along the road. We had cut back this hedge last autumn since it was getting rather tall, cutting off light from the garden and obstructing the view of cars on the road. It is actually quite a large area now we have cleared back the undergrowth (mainly ivy and brambles with a few seedling damsons and willow); around 4 x 16metres. An ideal crop in the first year would be potatoes. They grow well in land which has not been cultivated for a long time and digging the trench, earthing up and finally harvesting them is a good way of getting the soil into good condition for other crops. Maybe I will include it in the rotation or maybe plant some more fruit bushes next year?


Tuesday 4th

-4 overnight rising to +4 by lunchtime and staying there into the evening. Dull and damp.

Feeling unwell with the usual symptoms of shortness of breath, aching and dizziness, no obvious trigger, but probably wouldn't have done much given the weather anyway.


Wednesday 5th

Started raining around 3am and continued on and off till late afternoon. Temperature slowly dropping from 4 to 1.

Another miserable day and still feeling unwell.


Thursday 6th

Started around -1°C in the morning with icy patches on the road and rose to 4 in the afternoon, back to -1 by 11pm. A better day, dry with a few sunny spells.

Turned three of the compost bins into the next one along (we have 5 altogether each around 2 x 2 x 1.5m). I am hoping the compost will be better now that it also includes the soiled shredded paper bedding from the chickens. Most of the compost will still come from shredded hedge and shrub cuttings.

Continued turning the new patch near the road which I started on Monday.

It was just starting to snow as I went to bed around 12:30am.


Friday 7th

-1 to 3 back to 2 again. Snowed lightly till lunchtime then rained and thawed in the afternoon.


Saturday 8th

Hovered around 1 to 3 all day. Sunny intervals and the odd light shower

Went to the annual post Christmas gathering of all the family at my younger daughter Kirstin's house in Warwickshire. Two grandparents, two daughters and husbands and 4 grandchildren. It was nice to see everyone together and as usual, all the grandchildren had grown since we last saw them. The weather was good enough to go for a walk along the local canal in the afternoon


Sunday 9th

-1 to 3 to -2°C by evening. Cold and Sunny.

Came back from |Kirstins with a gift; a car full of wood from pallets which her husband Mark gave us. he was intending the burn it themselves but it spits too much on an open fire so though it might be better for our log stove. It is very soft wood so only took me around an hour to cut it into suitable lengths with a bow saw. Very different to the oak, ash , sycamore and cherry hardwood which takes much longer to saw up and split, but of course it doesn't burn as long or as hot. Pat thinks it will be best used to light the fire. It will certainly eek out our remaining supplies for this winter.


Monday 10th

-1 rising to 7°C by late evening. Wet and windy. So windy it felt nearly as cold as the below freezing but windless weather of the last few weeks.


Tuesday 11th

2 to 6 to 3°C. Windy with a few showers.

Decided to start clearing the polytunnel since it looks like we are going to get a lot of rain in the next few days so I need a job under cover. In any case in only a few weeks I shall be sowing the first seeds such as early peas and broad beans to plant out later in the spring.

The first job was to empty the pots from the failed late potato crop. This is always a bit of a gamble since it relies on there being very little cold weather in December. That certainly wasn't the case this year; they were frozen solid from late November until after Christmas. It is a good job we decided to move the main crop inside the house before the really cold weather came; otherwise those would have been lost as well. I need to isolate the soil taken from the pots and make sure it is not used for the early potatoes this year - a sure recipe fro blight.

Started to tidy up the pots of Chrysanthemums which we also moved into the polytunnel earlier than usual. Cutting the old stems out and removing any remaining canes and string. Despite the cold weather the early varieties are already growing new green shoots.


Wednesday 12th

6°C rising to 10 in the afternoon and still there late evening. Very mild for January but light rain showers and an overcast sky made another miserable day. Continued to tidy up the polytunnel.


Thursday 13th

6 rising to 12 in the afternoon falling to 9 by late evening. Very mild but with overcast sky and occasional light drizzle.It rained hard in the evening.

Even so decided to work outside. Planted out some more wallflowers and sweet williams and cleared the remaining summer bedding. This was mainly antirrhinumss which sometimes will survive to bloom a second year if it is not too cold; not this year. Gave the roses their half prune, down to the second node on secondaries or third node on primary shoots and made a start on pruning back the late summer flowering shrubs. It was nice to be able to work outside without getting white fingers from the cold!


Friday 14th

4 rising to 12 back to 5°C. Quite sunny in the afternoon but with a cold wind.

Decided it was about time I got back into the habit of going for a cycle ride every day. What with the frost and snow before Christmas and damp weather since I haven't been very often recently. Trouble is the road is badly broken up with really deep wide pot holes in many places. Presumably caused by the frost but not helped by the heavy lorries going to and from the enormous chicken farm nearby. In some places I needed to go to the other side of the road to avoid these holes. Fortunately there isn't much traffic on the back roads at lunchtime. The main road is also broken up along the edge so I can't move out of the way when traffic wants to overtake. Hopefully they will understand and not overtake and cut in like one car driver did a couple of years ago, knocking me onto the verge.


Continued digging over the flower beds to plant out the rest of the sweet williams and wallflowers. Pat continued to tidy the herb garden. I finally got round to clearing the fallen leaves from the narrow strip of land down the side of the polytunnel. I usually do this in November but it was either frozen or covered in snow up to last week. There are polyanthus planted down this strip and I was worried about them being covered for all this time. However it seems I may have done them a service since they have suffered less from the frost than ones elsewhere which weren't covered. Usually we have primula and primroses flowering all winter down the drive but they were really badly knocked back by the frost in December.


Nearby there are signs of Spring. A few flower buds are poking out from the middle of the snowdrops leaves and crocus and hyacinth leaves have also broken through the surface.


Saturday 15th

6 to 12 to 10°C. Overcast, wet and windy.

Yesterday it may have seemed Spring was on its way but  no we're back to miserable January again!!


Sunday 16th

6 to 12 to 3°C. Another overcast, wet and windy day


Monday 17th

3 to 8 to 3°C. Much better day. Sunny intervals and very little wind

Finished clearing the leaves and planted out the rest of the wallflowers.


I was rather annoyed that, for the fourth time, the postman drove over the edge of the drive beneath the apple tree, completely destroying around 20 primula plants. I had already placed some wire mesh covers over them after previous times, hoping he would avoid this but instead he flattened these into the soil!! Very annoying indeed. It takes at least two years to get them established so they flower most of the year and smother the weeds down the edge of the drive.

I did have a few spare primroses which were intended for the wild garden so I dug up the squashed, almost shredded remains, replanted the crocus and snowdrop bulbs just peeping through between them, dug over the soil and replaced them. Placed even larger V shaped mire mesh covers over them and then placed some bricks

on the edge of the drive. Surely he won't drive over them again.


Tuesday 18th

-1 to 7 to -1°C. Sunny intervals and very little wind but feels colder.

Signs of spring:

Noticed a few aconites have started flowering and some snowdrops are beginning to open. All over the garden the narcissus are pushing up the soil, just about to break through. Iris and miniature daffodils in the raised bed are also through.

Buds are swelling on the hazel and willow.

The woodpecker, who visits our peanut feeder several times each day was hammering away at the top of a sycamore tree.

The magpies have started squabbling as have the rooks in the local rookery and wood pigeons are cooing.

The robin has started to sing his territorial song high up on a tree rather than the quiet one he seems to sing in winter on a low branch nearby just, it seems, to amuse himelf (or maybe to encourage me to dig up a few worms. I read somewhere that robins think of us as a pig substitute, stirring up the soil to expose little delicacies for them)


It was warm enough for bare hands in the polytunnel to transplant some pansy  plug plants I received free last October. They were still alive but had hardly grown since then because of the cold weather.


Pat helped me move and clean up the pots of daffodils and tulips we had left dormant behind the shed. We moved them to the paved area in the corner between the back door and the conservatory. This is a sun trap even in winter so it should encourage them to flower a little earlier.


I managed to have a word with the postman.It seems he is a new one not used to the round yet and didn't realise he could turn at the top of the drive and was reversing instead so didn't see where he was going. He was very apologetic, even offering to pay for the damage. I said just a promise to be more careful would suffice!


Wednesday 19th

-1 to 5 to -2°C. A really sunny day but coming misty late evening

Built a new run for the chickens in the vegetable garden between the house and fruit cage. Quite a big area, around 6m x 6m. It was where we had potatoes last year and I will be planting onions there at the end of April. We surrounded it with wire mesh panels and covered it with plastic netting. I also dumped 6 barrowfuls of well rotted compost in piles onto it. We will move the chickens into it tomorrow and attach their hut to one corner.


They should have a great time scratching away at the soil and compost for the next few weeks and deposit lots of fertiliser too. Apart from the eggs they lay they are really good at cleaning out all the weed seeds and pests from a patch of soil.


Finished planting out the sweet williams.


Thursday 20th

-2 to 0 to -2. Freezing fog all day.

The hens will have to wait till tomorrow to be moved


Friday 21st

-3 to 2 to -3. Sunny and still

Moved the hens to their new home. It took rather longer than we expected since we found the hen house, which I originally built in the bag garden from a flat-pack kit, wouldn't go through the gate into the front or round the back of the house. Finally, with a lot of struggling, we managed to lift it over the 2m wall next to the gate.


Spent the rest of the afternoon splitting and sawing up logs.



Saturday 22nd

-3 to 4 to 1°C. Sunny intervals but with a cold NW breeze.

Finally got round to planting the new hedge along the roadside at the bottom of the kitchen garden. These saplings of beech, hazel, dogwood, holly, blackthorn, hawthorn, rosa rugosa, rosa canis and several others, have been growing in the 7.5L pots I planted them in 2 years ago so they are already quite big, though not as big as the ones planted on the other side of the drive at the same time.

Continued to turn the soil next to this hedge but was finally driven inside by the cold wind.


Sunday 23rd

1 to 5 to 3°C  with a cold Northerly wind making it feel more like -5.

Too cold to work even in the polytunnel.


Monday 24th

3 to 7 to 5°C. Feelling milder now the wind has dropped but with periods of rain


Finished tidying up the chrysanthemums in the polytunnel.


Tuesday 25th

4 to 8 to 4°C. Rained most of the day. Stopped just as it was coming dark :-{


Not much to do indoors. The potato seed and onion sets arrived so these have been placed to chit or ripen near a north facing window in the house.


Wednesday 26th

0 to 2 to -1°C. Very cold northerly wind.

Split and sawed some more wood but even this didn't keep me warm so went indoors


Thursday 27th

-1 to 1 to -2°C. Feels even colder.

Went for my bicycle ride but decided it was better to work on my software in the afternoon., That is the advantage of being part time self employed; I can take a morning off to work outside to compensate when the weather improves.


Friday 28th

-1 to 1 to -4°C. Sunny intervals and very little wind so actually felt warmer.

Continued to clear the land near the road. Came across some big stumps with long roots needing digging out so this kept me warm but was rather tiring work. Pat meanwhile has started to scrape the moss and accumulated dirt off the path behind the house which also runs down the side of the kitchen garden; another good winter job.


Saturday 29th

-2 to 0 to -2. Sunny.

Kept warm by building the cold frame within the polytunnel. Not really required till March but it is one less job when that time comes. Pat continued to keep warm clearing the paths.


Sunday 30th

-2 to 3 to -5. Sunny intervals

Decided to shred some of the hedge clippings from last year which never got done when they were first frozen and then covered with snow. I need to clear some of them to make space for some more cut from the cypress hedge down the side of the drive. I started trimming this down to 2m last October, it was getting much too high so this involved cutting some quite thick branches on the top, and hoped to have finished it by now. I can't leave it much longer because I don't like cutting hedges when the birds are building nests in them. Anyway it looks unsightly half done.


Monday 31st

-6 to 1 to -1 Overcast with a little sunshine

Did some more tidying in the polytunnel