Sunday, 28 October 2007

A Year…already!

On the 24th,we marked our first year here. It seems like yesterday when tired and weary, our little convoy pulled into the driveway to be welcomed by the most spectacular sunset we’d seen since leaving Africa. We were in for a new experience; for the first time since arriving in the UK, we could truly breathe again…open skies, light and wind and always the loch, smooth as glass, rough as a stormy sea…

Back at the homestead all my frustrated farming instincts kicked in! I mean we had LAND (ok, a garden then). Well…it was bigger than a handkerchief! Part overgrown tangles, part bog, partly gravel, partly sand, the most eye-catching feature was the large pile of ash and rubbish that dominated the back garden. Oh, and lets not forget the concrete slab where a shed had once stood. And this had already been cleaned up a lot with people clearing, burning and hacking before we arrived!

Ever so sensibly, we decided to leave the garden and get ourselves organised inside, after all winter was on the way! But by February, I had talked myself into starting seeds on the office windowsill. Not a lot, just some that needed a long growth period like Gem Squash (small, sweet, hard-shelled summer squash) and a few chilli plants. By the end of March, the kitchen window was almost obliterated by tiny pots of parsley and thyme; cuttings of rosemary and the first of the many sage plants that I have managed to kill this season.

Before we needed to install more lights in the kitchen, the weather began to warm up and M came up with a brilliant idea for the herbs. It served the double purpose of disguising the concrete slab and giving us a temporary home for the little plants while gathering together some of the double building blocks scattered around the place. Unfortunately, not all the transplantees (?) survived and I never was able to get all the spaces filled at the same time but no problem, I was happy with what we managed to do anyway.

So for a round up: Moroccan Mint and Apple Mint have done really well. Not so the un-identified, variegated, smooth leaved mint we bought on Bastille Day. It died right back and is currently on the kitchen windowsill (sending out new growth from it’s roots). Then there were the Sages, one by one they turned brown, withered and died (or withered then turned brown); whatever, they all died (all five of them). Thyme (variegated, lemon and plain) was a great success, along with the parsley. One Rosemary cutting died but the others have just grown and grown along with nasturtiums, green onions, chard (perpetual spinach), Golden Marjoram and Poached Egg flowers, Lavender and Geraniums. The Greek Oregano was looking good for a while and then suddenly started dying from the bottom up until all that was left was a tall grey stick. Lobelias, roses, fuchsias, have rewarded us with masses of colour and ongoing blooms. OK, I know almost all of the list can grow themselves but hey, this is a new and unknown climate. By the way, those Gem Squash grew into green midgets with heaps of flowers that just opened and dropped…then the plants died. The Chillies actually grew backwards…transplanted out in May; they were tiny, green and gorgeous until the sometime in August. Only problem is they just became smaller and smaller until, one day, they just weren’t there anymore!

M removed all of the rubbish and ash left behind..a slow and laborious effort, done bit by bit over the summer and the garden has been roughly divided up. Holes on the lawn have been filled in and the beds defined. There is a rough outline where the rockery will be and gravel has been spread around the areas outside the kitchen and laundry room. It's not as far along as we had hoped but given all the other things going on in our lives, we've made a good start. The wildlife seems to appreciate our slow pace; we have a red squirrel that scampers around in the mornings, a hedgehog eats the insects attracted to the back door light, the pheasants like the grassy areas and birds are busy at the feeders all day long. Ahhh! Progress...

So now autumn is here and I rounded up some of the last of the flowers lurking around the garden. They looked so cheerful; I took their picture on the mantle.

The mauve/pink at the back is a very pretty gladiolus that just popped out of the gravel garden, with white daisies, yellow and orange nasturtiums, blue lobelia and a sprig of Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas).

We've had a great year...

I hope all of you have a great week!


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