Gooseberries Gone!

For the first time ever I have lost most of my gooseberry crop to birds. Not only have they taken most of the gooseberries they have broken many of the branches. I grow my gooseberries as cordons so that it is easier to deal with sawfly, lets more air in to reduce the chance of mildew and makes them easier to pick but it may be that this also makes it easier for the birds to access all of them. I’ve never had to net them before but it looks like I will have to now.

The red currants are also being picked off but hopefully I have time to do something about them.

Yellow Barred Longhorn

Whilst watering my 1 year old maiden apple trees in the fruit forest nursery I came across this little beauty. I couldn’t believe how long his antenae are! He is a male yellow barred longhorn, a diurnal moth who apparently is most commonly found on forest and woodland floors – so nice that he recognises my fruit forest in an sub-urban back garden as a forest!


The edge of one of our wild areas, where it meets the grass path, hosts a beautiful speedwell. I think this one is the birds-eye speedwell.

Speedwell is also known as Paul’s Bettony and is used as a medicinal herb.

A long blooming, easy to care for perennial, Speedwell is prized as a garden flower by some but others see it as invasive and a quick “Google” on Speedwell seems to show up more results about how to manage it than about it’s benefits!

Small Tortoiseshell catterpillars

Although I leave a lot of nettles to grow in my hedge and other wilder areas of the garden I rarely see any catterpillars on them. Just down the road from our house is an expanse of nettles growing under oak and chestnut trees and this week there have been loads of catterpillars on them. These look like the catterpillars of the Small Tortoiseshell butterfly which is one of our more widespread species and we often see it in our garden.

Tawny Owl

We are very fortunate to have a lot of mature trees near us plus woodland down in the valley below us. We frequently hear tawny owls calling to each other (the female with the “tee-wit” and the male replying with the “te-woo”) and screeching. Occasionaly I am fortunate enough to see one flying or being mobbed by smaller birds in the day time.

I was therefore very pleasantly suprised when our dog Charlie went a little bit berzerk at dusk leading me up the garden to our oak tree. Fortunately I had a torch and I was able to see this tawny owl. I am amazed that the camera on my phone, along with the torch managed to capture a few shots of it!



Amber died last week. It was on Monday, the start of a new term. She had been steadily losing weight for several weeks, she had a lethargy about her though she did show signs of energy at times. She ate less and spent a lot of time watching the world go by or her sisters, Ruby and Sapphire, feeding and scratching.

I had opened the door to their room and she was lying there, at first I thought she had already died but a closer look showed that she was still breathing, and her eyes flickered open and closed to greet me. I gathered her up and tried to make her more comfortable but a few minutes later she breathed her last and her eyes closed on the world for one last time.

I miss her. Of our three hens, all warrens, she was my favourite. Her feathers were more golden than the reddy brown of the other two girls, thus her name. She glowed when the sun caught her feathers and she had white eyebrows which made her very easy to identify even at dusk. She was the smallest of the three and was occasionally henpecked by the others but they got along really well together most of the time. I think Ruby and Sapphire miss her as well.

We rarely eat meat, and we would / could not eat Amber, especially as we don’t know what she died of, but as part of the cyclical economy that is nature, we may find ourselves consuming part of her at a future date as she is now buried several spades deep at the end of our vegetable garden.

Will we replace her? Amber is not replaceable! She was her own, unique being. But we will look to add to our small flock in time. We will first keep an eye on Ruby and Sapphire to make sure that they are fit and healthy and then we will probably introduce a couple of new girls since we understand that it is almost impossible to successfully add one chicken to a group.

And Amber will continue to live on in my memory as one of the most beautiful hens.

Worm Power

If food waste was a country it’s carbon footprint would be the third largest behind the USA and China. Therefore it is very important that we don’t waste food. There is always some waste such as vegetable peelings, apple cores, banana skins,etc and the way this is dealt with in many cities is to transport it away to compost, landfill or energy generation.

I believe it so much better to deal with your waste on-site if you can and make it part of a circular economy in your own back garden and so I compost as much of the waste that we generate as I can as well as receiving food waste from some of our neighbours through the ShareWaste scheme.

I currently have several compost systems on the go which I must write about sometime. There is:

  • a more traditional three bay “cold” compost system where garden waste goes into the first bay, is later turned into the middle bay, etc until it has composted down and is ready for sieving and using on the garden
  • a Hotbin which we use for most of our own food waste and neighbour’s ShareWaste
  • my new worm “bath” which replaces the old Dalek worm bin that was invaded by rats last winter.

The bath was recovered from a local skip and it is one where the taps and plug hole are at the middle rather than at the end. I have raised it off the ground with some bricks and timber plus fastened some supports at the front corners to make it more stable. An old, damaged metal casserole dish fits under the plughole to collect the “worm pee” and an old door recovered from another skip has been sawn down to size to fit on the top to keep rats, the dog, cat, birds and sunlight out and to keep the interior of the worm bath cosy for the worms. I have added wet cardboard waste, some older compost with worms in and some partly composted waste in it to provide the initial bedding for the worms and will shortly start adding small amounts of food waste mixed with chicken bedding (mostly wood chip) to see how the worms get on. I am fully expecting to have to order some “proper” composting worms in the near future but I want to see what the small red worms that have appeared in our compost are like first. Hopefully we will shortly be producing compost and liquid gold worm pee tea!

For more on worm composting see Red Worm Composting

Global Sharing Week

This one nearly passed me by, and not because people weren’t sharing the information with me!

Global Sharing Week this year is from 16 June to 21 June and the theme of the week is “The Power of Sharing to Change the World.” The week aims to encourage sharing but also to increase awareness of the concept of a real sharing economy – sharing goods, resources and ideas between people.

It always amazes me how much “stuff” we have that sits idle in our houses, garages and sheds. Our lifestyles and advertising encourage us to “have our own”, so I have a full size ladder, two step ladders, several power tools including two drills(!), a cupboard full of clothes I don’t wear, shelves of books I have read (and a few I haven’t) – and they all sit idle, gathering dust, until that one time in the year that I might want to use them. So much of the Earth’s resources tied up in idleness! And if we multiply that by the number of similar houses in my street then it is just plain stupid!

There are are lots of ways in which we could change this. We are involved in a car share so that our car is available for others to use rather than it being sat idle in the drive most of the time. I also joined several online groups to share my ladders and power tools and have offered them to others in my street. This hasn’t worked brilliantly so far but that is where Global Sharing Week comes in, it gives me a kick up the backside and gives me ideas as to how I can share my stuff more effectively and hopefully reduce the stuff I have sitting around idle.

So why not visit the website and see how you can share more.


Chapel Allerton Open Gardens 2019

Today is the day of Chapel Allerton Open Gardens 2019 and this year we are taking part! Between 1 and 5pm our side gate will be unlocked and visitors will be able to tour our garden for a donation to a couple of local charities – St Gemma’s Hospice and Friends of Gledhow Valley Woods.

We have been dodging rain showers, some torrential, to tidy the garden and remove all the trip hazards. Ours isn’t a manicured garden by any means, my description of it on the advertising blurb is:

“Inspired by Permaculture Design and a dog, this garden consists of part original garden, part disused tennis court and part disused bowling green. There are now about 30 trees, lots of fruit bushes and vegetables in a no dig garden, composting to grow soil, green manures, chickens and two ponds. Oh, and a friendly dog!”

Chapel Allerton Open Garden no. 12

Hops growing up south facing wall

The Inner Garden

Glass wand by Kev Trigg

Another glass wand

She’s not impressed!

The flower meadow

Another wand

And another

Pond 2

The Fruit Forest

Another view of the Fruit Forest

My favourite glass wand

The stained glass wands were made by Kev Trigg of Corvus Stained Glass and are available from the Glasshouse Gallery in Chapel Allerton