April Ahoy

It’s April already, and I’d like to think after the end of last year, things are finally getting back to normal.  Yesterday, myself and Grete went out and bought a sofa (actually, a pair, a 3 seater and a 2 seater), to replace the ones we’ve been using ever since Grete’s parents gave them to us.  Before that, we used the other sofa and chairs that Grete’s parents gave to us.  This will be the first time, since we’ve been married (1998) that we’ve owned a new sofa.

We almost went for just a 3 seater and one armchair, but we do every now and then have company, so a 3 and a 2 it is.  Not that much more expensive, the armchair is 2/3rds the price of the 2 seater anyway.  Delivery ‘up to 7 weeks’ but hopefully will be faster.  Although Grete did an amazing job with the sofa covers a couple of years ago (turns out, it’s more like 2 1/2 years), it’s finally time to accept that we need to replace them.  The small two seater is okay, it doesn’t get much use, but the 3 seater is dead.  The cover Grete made is worn through in places, and I spend most of my time re-adjusting it after it gets scrunched up from a few hours use.  The sofa has a duvet on it, under the brown cover, just to give the cushions some padding.  It’s dead, it needs to go, and we were pleasantly surprised that it didn’t cost the earth to replace.

Now I just need to work out how to get the 2 out of the house without killing either of us, and hope the delivery guys can get the 2 new ones in. I know they can, because clearly somehow we managed to get the 2 existing ones in, but it’s the kind of thing I worry about.

Pruned Apple TreeI had a couple of weeks of holiday at the end of March, and had hoped to get into the garden to start tidying it, but the snow kind of put paid to those plans.  This weekend however, has been glorious, so rather than waste it, I went out today and finished the apple tree pruning that Grete started a few weeks ago.  I don’t know if the tree will survive, but at least we’ll be able to see out of the kitchen window for most of the summer.

As Grete suggested, it’ll probably generate a bumper crop of apples this year, just to annoy us.

Have to say finally getting out into the garden and getting something done really helped clear the winter funk out of my head.  I love Autumn and Winter, but it’s nice to finally get some decent Spring weather and get started.  Check back in during the Summer when I traditionally lament how much I hate gardening.

Cold you say? (Picture heavy)

Some of these are a little out of focus, sorry about that, it was cold and I was in a rush (to get the car sorted and get to work).

Our tree – looking like someone dusted it with icing sugar.

Our poor willow tree – small but feisty, looks so sad despite the natural decorations.

Couldn’t get this close-up (of one of the last remaining leaves on the willow) to work well – my hands were too shaky in the cold.

Nature’s natural Christmas decorations – frozen spider webs.

Spider webs up-close (sorry for the terrible photography).

The Story of our Willow Tree

Myself and Grete, we both like trees.  We were sad when we had to fund cutting down a very large tree in the garden (for various reasons) and we promised we’d plant some to make up for it.  We tried a cherry tree, but got it badly wrong and the tree it was grafted onto was the only thing grown (and would have been huge, so that had to come up).  Then we saw a miniature willow tree and that sounded perfect.

So this year we got it, planted it and cared for it, within only two days it had sprouted a load of extra leaves and branches (more than the cherry tree ever did) and we thought we were onto a winner, and then it went wrong.

We’ve got several large ants nests in the garden, and either I plant the tree in one, or they moved into the soft earth shortly after.  They swarmed all over the tree, and although I couldn’t see them doing any specific damage, they weren’t helping the root ball settle in.  We also got a spot of super-hot weather (just two or three days) and the tree didn’t get enough water.  The new foliage died.  We were sad, we were killing another tree.

But I took some corrective measures, more top soil, and some solid application of the end of a lump of wood on the ground left the tree solidly bedded in.  I watered it every day.  I tried to kill the ants (but failed, as usual).  I watered it some more.  And it stuck it out, survived a few weeks of miserable weather and made it to the long strip of hot weather we’ve had.  I’ve been out every day making sure that tree has enough water (even if the rest of the garden is turning into a desert).

I think it’s paid off – it flourished, new leaves, new branches, thickening of the branches already there.  I think it might pull through.

But now we have aphids.  Not one or two, but billions.  We’ve never had aphids in the garden that I can remember seeing in any number, so it looks like we’ve brought them in with the willow and they may well be a specific willow based aphid.  I’ve just been out to squish them, again.  The ants look like they’re milking them.

I need a ladybird infestation!

Anyway, I don’t think the aphids will kill the willow, but they do generate some annoying issues (honeydew and the stuff that feeds on it, including wasps and mold).

So I’ll be out making sure they stay as dead as I can for the next few weeks, washing them off and squishing the hangers on.

I’m rootin’ for you miniature willow (pun intended), we can do this.

Willow when we got it in April:

Willow in mid-June:

Willow now:

My hands are too shaky, I don’t own a big enough tripod and the camera is really not good enough to take photo’s of  ants and aphids, but I tried anyway.

Just aphids.

Ant vs Aphid (I think it’s milking them)

And last, but not least, more aphids.

A Day of Updates II #2 – The Garden is Glorious

The garden’s really coming along, the little planters we bought for the patio really brighten the place up.  We had a couple of BBQ’s last week during the nice weather and it was really pleasant sitting out there surrounded by the flowers.  The grass in the front has come through pretty much all over the soil, but at the back it’s very very patchy and I think we’ll need to do some extra sowing.  I suspect the birds ate a lot of the seed.

The big apple tree has a thousand apples on it, more than ever before which is odd considering we pruned it really close before the spring.  Grete is frantically picking up the small ones that drop (probably about 10-20 a day, seriously) and keep the thick down before they all fully grow and drop.  It’s a huge job getting them off the ground when they’re big and slightly rotten.  The small apple tree seems a little sick, the leaves went brown and pretty dry although it looks like it’s recovering and starting forming apples.  Hopefully it’s nothing serious.  The cherry tree we bought has done – nothing.  Not a zot.  No change at all.  Not sure if it’s dead or alive.  The Acer is healthy enough and looks happy surrounded by the lush grass.

The little plants in the big borders look lonely, but we really only stuck them there since we had a load of spares.  The shrubs are growing and hopefully next year it’ll look a bit more even and full.  The plants in the front are slowly spreading as we hoped they would and it should look spectacular when they all flower next year.

I’ll post some photo’s in another update when I get time to sort them out.


Before Grete had major back issues for half a week, and before I really accepted I should be resting due to a potential hernia, we cleared/dug over the back and front garden areas ready for some grass seed, and then put the seed down.

It took ages for it to show through and we’d started to assume the pigeons had eaten it all – but then a couple of days ago we spotted a thread of green!  It’s odd though, if you look down vertically onto the soil you can’t see the grass, if you look at an angle you can and if you look at it horizontally, it’s clear to see!

Back garden

Long shot!Close up near the AcerUnder the apple tree

Front garden

A bit weedy

The front doesn’t look as good because neither myself nor Grete have been in any condition to get out and keep it weeded, but hopefully the grass will pull through.  The back is looking excellent and we hope the grass will stop the soil washing down the bank in the first sustained heavy rains we get.  The other side of the apple tree is on the same kind of slope and the grass keeps it all in place.

The apple tree has gone crazy as well, I thought the pruning would keep the apples away this year but the tree appears to have decided to wreak revenge by growing twice as many apples.  The thin branches are dropping under the weight of the slowly forming apples already.  I suspect I’ll have to take action to get rid of them before they mature otherwise the branches are really going to suffer.

The Sunday Tree Massacre

I picked up a book earlier and nearly made it into the lounge to do some reading, when on a complete whim and mostly because the sun was out, I dragged my lumbering body outside and pruned our two biggest trees.  By pruned of course, I mean heavily chopped back.  And by heavily chopped back I mean massacred.  They do look a lot better though – hopefully I got them before they expended too much energy waiting for spring and they’ll survive.  I suspect they will since the huge tree at the bottom of the garden was ‘removed’ and it still manages to grow back each year.  Grabbed some photo’s of the trees, the pile of wood we now have to get rid of and our troll, who’s settled into the garden nicely.  Click for full size pictures.

Our little troll (by the shed) Tree at front (down to 1/3rd height) Apple tree at rear, seriously pruned Apple tree at rear, with house in background Pile-o-wood (with bright sunshine) Long shot of the wood (and sunshine!)

Tree Time

Grete sorted out tree out today.  It’s only small (since our house is small) but it’s bright (fibre-optic) and shiny and festive.  Here’s a few (bad) photo’s.



And after

And two cool shots while Grete was turning the tree to put the beads underneath.

So this is Christmas

We’re ahead of the game this year, kind of.  Although we’re always late starters as far as Christmas is concerned, this year we’re better than normal, and as of today, it’s officially Christmas in this household.

  • We got an advent calendar (chocolate naturally) before the 1st of December and hung it up before the 1st of December, this is essentially a Christmas Miracle come True.
  • We bought presents for people the weekend just gone and some of the ones we have to post are already wrapped, and we’ll be posting them during this week.  Yes, we are posting parcels to people, as Christmas presents, instead of just you know, forgetting, or not bothering.
  • Grete has writers cramp from writing out our Christmas cards which will be posted before Christmas, not like the year we posted them after Christmas.
  • I have just retrieved our tree from the cupboard upstairs, and we’ll be putting it up in the next day or so.  We didn’t bother last year because we weren’t sure Fizz would cope with all the glittering things that hang off it without trashing the house, but she’s (slightly) more relaxed now (pictures of the tree as soon as it’s up, I promise).
  • We’ve already started buying the food for Christmas, so we don’t have to spend 19 hours queueing in Tesco two days before hand.

So there you have it, Christmas at last.  Nearly the end of 2008, near the start of 2009 and that means we’re uncomfortably close to 2010.

Of course, in some ways, it’s always Christmas in this house, since our Santa Clause stuffed toy sits on top of the book shelf in the lounge all year round, bringing us good cheer and joy.

Oh yes.