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Beans, beans, beans

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‘Twas a strange day in the Nant-y-Bedd garden today.  We were working together! It was, albeit a bit later than usual due to the inclement weather, the time to construct this year’s bean tunnel.

A lot of ‘harvesting’ of hazel rods had been going on recently and in order to get the cars out of the yard, something had to be done.

The Runner Bean tunnel is widely admired by our visitors, but they only usually see it covered in beans.  So here you can see the skeleton and the amount of work that goes into it.

First the sticks have to be cut and brought into the potager.

Just some of the hazel sticks

Each stick needs to be fairly straight and without branches in the wrong place, otherwise they tend to break as they are bent.

Then the framework starts to take form.

the first few hoops

From here on it’s a case of getting matching pairs of hazel rods and tying them in to the the top ‘stretcher’.

adding more hoops

It is very much a two person job, pushing the rods into the soil, bending them over at the right height and then tying them into the arch position; one under, one over the stretcher.

teamwork!

Eventually we have 25 rods each side, giving 50 planting positions for the plants.

To make it more secure, and with the winds we have had in some summers this is essential, we run a further sideways set of rods to keep everything in just the right place.

Pretty much finished

By the time you visit you’ll hardly be able to see the frame for the green beans hanging down.

A tunnel of ?????

The beans are nearly ready to be planted out, and then they will be climbing faster than you can believe. Come and see for yourself.

Oh yes! the string to pull it all together is natural sisal baling twine – none of your plastic stuff!

A case of mistaken identity

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You may have seen our recent article in the magazine of the Small Woods Association (SWA) of which we have been members for a few years now.  We put a copy on Facebook and Instagram, but here’s the story behind it.

The SWA are a lovely bunch of people, both staff and fellow members, who are really interested in making the most of the thousands of small patches of woodland scattered all over the country.

Last year, a bit frustrated that many of the events in other peoples woodlands were all so far away, we offered a day here at Nant y Bedd, with woodland stuff in the morning and the chance to enjoy the garden in the afternoon.  They pretty well bit our hand off to accept, particularly after Russell from SWA came down to have a quick recce.  He was so taken with what we are doing that he arranged what was probably better than usual publicity for our event.

We were really fortunate with the weather and a group of about a dozen woodland owners plus a couple from SWA had a cracking day exchanging ideas, catastrophes, and successes before tucking into their picnics.  Sue gave them a garden tour in the afternoon which seemed to also go down very well.

SWA members cluster around Cedric

A couple of months later I opened an e-mail from the editor of the SWA magazine saying that the reports of our little patch that he’d had back from the SWA staff sounded perfect for an article.  Never ones to turn down free publicity, we agreed before he could change his mind.

There wasn’t any urgency as the article was due in the Spring 2018 edition so “sometime in January” would be fine.  Dangerous words ‘no urgency’ particularly with Christmas in the way.  Sue was pencilled in to write it, as she has the “management plan” in her head {one day I’ll get to know what’s in it}, but come the New Year and still no obvious progress from the distaff side, I sat down one snowy afternoon and rattled off the required 1300-1400 words – actually in my enthusiasm it came in at 1643 (and that’s not 17 minutes to 5pm!).  However it was liked by Derek the Editor – and not cut – so pictures were now required.

Choosing a good selection took a while and they were sent off to the Art Director (aka the Editor’s wife in the next room!). Four were chosen, although only three made it in – more on this later.  We sat back and awaited the proof.

If you were beginning to think that the title of this blog was a bit odd, now you’ll see why.  The proof landed in the in-box on a snowy March morning and immediately I noticed something wrong.  I’d changed identity.  The sub-heading called me Neal! Without bothering to read the rest, I immediately pinged a reply, to which I got back an e-mail addressed to “dear George”  signed “Winston”.

Ah,here was a kindred spirit – someone who doesn’t take life too seriously!  This simple e-mail started a raft of correspondence during which we each tried to outdo the other – Vladimir, Boris, Alphonse, Pascal, Chang, Ludwig, Sebastian and Christiano all made an appearance along with others.

Anyway here’s the finished article.

…and the picture that got away?

I can see it!

Apparently the front cover picture of the previous issue set off a lot of “elf and Safety correspondence due to the position of the lady’s legs – she was properly attired whilst using a chain saw to fell a small tree! So as not to get the safety brigade up in arms again it was decided to pull my chipper photo – which was both very safe (everything turned off) and rather humorous.  C’est la vie!

A big thanks to all at SWA, particularly Arbuthnot – or should that be Derek!

You might have noticed that it’s been raining!

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Quite a lot actually.  The hydro has 5 days to go in this quarter and it is already our highest single quarter of generation since we started in 2012.  So in my book, that makes it the wettest quarter for 6 years and that doesn’t take into account all the additional rainwater that couldn’t fit into the turbine’s 3kWh limit.

Look how much is ‘going to waste’ here!

All that wasted electricity!

Sue has been manfully (or should that be womanfully) trying to carry on with the Spring (!!??) tasks in the garden, but I’ve found the time to fire up the forge, dust off the circular saw and make some bits and bobs that sunshine stops me from doing.

A couple of our very old cold-frames were falling apart, so with the help of a few recycled (cadged from a skip!) windows, knocked together two new ones; all mod cons, double glazed, half-open and full-open latches and hand-forged lifting handles!

Rolls-Royce cold-frame

curly-wurly handle

Then, for indoors, I finally got round to replacing a number of screws, bent hooks and the like which were making the (newly painted) kitchen look a bit untidy.

I was helped in the motivation to get forging by Sue buying me a day working with a genuine blacksmith for my birthday – so thought I’d better brush up my skills a bit before going along.

Hand-forged hook (and poker)

A ‘nest of hooks’ – deliberately made in different sizes for different jobs, but they just look right all together.

 

And now, something cutesy to finish up with.  These four little ‘rays of sunshine’ appeared.

Two girls, two boys and all supposed to be black!

 

 

Starting the new garden year – on video!

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We were very lucky last week to have a wonderful documentary film-maker staying with us. By some sort of serendipity she phoned us looking for somewhere to stay in the area whilst she did some film editing and looked at a property she was interested in.  So we offered her the use of the garden room in return for making a short video for us.

Sophie Windsor Clive, for that is her name, has done a super job, despite having only one day when the weather wasn’t dull, windy, rainy, snowy and what ever else the elements could throw spanners into the works. Thanks Sophie!!

It is, of course, a view of the garden that most people wouldn’t see – the garden in January.  This is an important time in the gardening cycle.  The work done now sets the tone for the rest of the year.

We hope this insight will arouse your interest in visiting us later in the year.

Just click on the arrow button and enjoy!

Is all wildlife friendly?

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As you will know, we pride ourselves on our wildlife friendliness.  But is all wildlife as friendly as we’d like? We know that our local badgers have a liking for the occasional tulip bulb – OK, have a liking for a LOT of tulip bulbs – but have they now forsaken vegetarianism for a liking for a bit of flesh and blood?

Over the past few nights there’s been a lot of ground disturbance around the duck house.  So we dug out the night vision camera and here’s the result.

Anybody about?

 

Is that a camera? Do I get royalties?? Should have brushed my hair!

Tricky-looking catch on this door

 

Oh well, I’ll have a little dig here then.

Ah! This looks a bit more promising. If only I can move this old garden fork…..

 

…that’s better.

Bit of a squeeze

 

I’m sure there’s something down here

 

Mmm, don’t think I can get any further. Maybe have another look tomorrow!

Fortunately, we don’t think he was after the ducks, maybe a mouse or three, but I can imagine the consternation in the hutch.

The sharp-eyed among you will have noticed that the dates on the pics are a bit in the wrong order, but it makes a better story that way.  We’ve now moved the hutch a few yards and the latest pics suggest that the ducks are quite safe, but we’ll make sure they are safely in bed every night for a while!

Christmas on the Beech

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No, that’s not a spelling mistake in the title.  We’re talking here about beech trees in the dingle, not lovely sandy stretches in the Bahamas.

The big snow of just before Christmas, knocked quite a few branches off trees, particularly some of the conifers in the garden, but nothing too catastrophic.  It was only when I went up to clear the pond pipe and check the hydro intake, that I saw it.  I couldn’t see what I was after, but I could see a lot of tree lying head down across the stream – as reported in the previous post.

One you’ve seen earlier!

OK, so it doesn’t look that huge in this photo but the bit where it split off the rest of the trunk is about 2 foot in diameter and it’s probably 60 foot tall/long.  It is also on both sides of the stream with a steep drop on one side.

The problem was how to make it safe in the first place.  Cut into the wrong bit and there were half a dozen spiky branches just waiting to making a horrible mess of the intake screen – which would have meant turning off the hydro just as it is starting to generate some useful quantities.

First, gain access to the site

After a couple of hours of careful tree surgery I was finally able to see the intake and get access to the pipe – after a fashion!

Much of this ‘brash’ is still there……

….. because it is acting as a fence against the forest sheep, the wire having been smashed down in more than one place.  Still plenty of useful firewood in there eventually though.

Then it was on to the ‘business end’, where once again it was holding the fence down, offering a motorway sized entrance to wildlife.

I had hoped that a cut through just above the wire would allow it to swing the main length up and away, but there were too many branches propping up the main spars so it had to be done in smaller sections until the fence was released and could be repaired.

Getting to grips with the bigger stuff…..

… which is where they still lay, pending a bit of additional muscle (hopefully in the shape of family) as I can’t move this size of log in the length I want on my own.

The smaller (relatively speaking) logs I threw into a rough pile on one side of the stream..

roughly removed..

… and then built a nice cord-wood style stack between a couple of alders.  This pile is roughly 4′ x 5′ x 6′, or according to ArbTalk about 3.2 tons!  And that is probably less than half of what will eventually be harvested.

Tidy!

All that was needed now was a bit of time and the job would be done.

But, guess what?  It snowed again and the tree next up the slope also split apart and dropped three more branches exactly in the same spot. Not quite as big, but equally tangled and disruptive.  So, like the old Flanders and Swann song about the gasman, it all started again yesterday or if you prefer “it all makes work for the (retired) working man to do!”

Still, in a year or two we’ll have a lovely big stack of my favourite firewood to keep us warm – just a lot of carrying, splitting and cutting in the interim!

 

White Christmas comes early

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For those “dreaming of a white Christmas”, the dream came true rather early this year, and for us even earlier than for most.  It was Friday 8th when when woke to about 3″ of snow on a gloomy looking morning.

Looking up the dingle

I decided to try to get a few shots before it all got messed up and dirty (not knowing what was coming a couple of days later!).  Those of you who also follow us on Instagram will have seen this pic before – it’s now our all-time top-ranking photo on that site.

Another one from the same day.

What’s that white tree down by the pond?

Saturday was snow free and the weather forecast for Sunday was either ‘heavy snow’ or ‘heavy rain’ depending on whose forecast you believed.  Well here’s the answer. On Sunday alone we got about 10 inches, which a couple more overnight into Monday.

Bird feeder with added insulation!

Post box proves it is a colour photograph

Wonder why we couldn’t get an internet connection!

Even where there wasn’t much snow the patterns were still interesting.

patio by the tearoom

.. but mostly the snow lay thick and spectacular

Another Instagram post – teazles looking like cotton wool balls

This one was hiding something – see later!

 

Comfortable looking chairs – but not much room to put your cup of tea

Fluffier and fluffier!

Even down in the Spooky Forest things got a covering

Dear old Cedric looked most dignified with his white ‘tache and beard

Blue skies and deep snow – could be Switzerland

But then it began to thaw – but still froze overnight

Turbine icicles

The souffles are going down – looking more like wedding cakes now

But with every silver lining comes a cloud – this huge (you don’t get the scale from here, but the hydro intake is somewhere in the middle of all that ) beech tree split apart just above ground level fortunately without doing too much damage.  Plenty of firewood and lots of exercise will be the result.

This was what was behind the pretty conifer earlier

“our” waterfall benefits from the thawing snow

Finally most of the snow has gone and last night we had this beautiful sunset.

Red sky at night ….

White Christmas?  Doesn’t look so likely now, but we can dream!

 

 

 

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