Unbelievably, it is 28 March today – where does the time go??!

I suppose that time flies when we’re busy, and we have certainly been that this month…..

Edward has been making great progress with making fencing and archways for the side garden and along the terrace in front of the house, while I managed to clear the pile of manure onto our borders and made a start on emptying the compost heap behind the big barn (to be re-located near the meadow).  Then, in the middle of March, we had our trip to the north of England….

This was to be our first trip back to see family and friends in the north, since we left in July 2015.  As is always the way with us, as the time drew near, we worked harder and harder to get on with our projects around the garden!  However, the enforced break did us some good and, of course, it was absolutely lovely to meet up with so many of our friends in Harrogate, Hull and York and family in the midlands.  Sadly, while we did our best to fit in as many as possible, there are some people we just weren’t able to see and we know our family were disappointed we couldn’t stay longer.  On hindsight, we realise we tried to do too much in the 4 and a half days we had and perhaps in future, we will plan things a little better!   A big thank you to everyone who made the effort to come and see us, put us up and took us out to dinner – it was lovely to see you all again and hopefully, we shall see you again soon, perhaps at La Biochère in the Mayenne 🙂

Home again

And so, we arrived home in the evening of Sunday 19 March, after an overnight trip on the ferry from Hull to Zeebrugger and the 6 hour + drive back through part of Belgium and France.  Mouse was waiting for us but as usual, Colin was nowhere to be seen!  Clearly, our neighbour had been doing a great job of looking after them, as their bowls were full to overflowing!  We feared the worst – last time we went away, we thought Colin was a different cat as he had gained so much weight!  He turned up mid-morning the next day, none the worse for wear and actually looking a little slimmer…. He seems to suffer from separation anxiety, which can mean he overeats or, on this occasion, he develops bald patches in his fur 🙁 Poor Colin!  But it wasn’t long before they settled down again!

Frustratingly, the weather turned the next day – driving rain and high winds.  In addition, Edward appeared to have picked up a cold on the trip to England.  So, while we were desperate to get back to the gardening and fence/archway building, it wasn’t until the end of the week that we were finally able to….

Another section of terrace fencing has been added and the trellis on the middle archway has been completed….

Two new posts for the third and final archway have been inserted and this will soon be constructed to complete the picture 🙂

We have plans for various climbing plants to grow over the archways and along the terrace and in front of the railings, we hope to dig out a narrow border for some annuals and herbaceous plants….

Meanwhile, my priority changed a little, from grubbing out brambles in the bank at the side of the house, to weeding the big bank opposite the small barn.   No small feat but this time last year it looked like this….

Now, it was more a case of weeding between the herbaceous plants and shrubs, that have established surprisingly quickly in just one season….

And, I was pleasantly surprised to find that many of the annuals from last summer have self-seeded all along the bank, so not only do we have lots of lovely poppies, cosmos, marigolds, cornflowers, coreopsis and lots of other flowers will also make an appearance this summer.  Also, I found that the globe thistles had also self-sown and lots of little seedling were starting to come through – bonus!!  I love this plant, so am happy we shall have plenty more to come – I carefully dug up some of the seedlings and popped them into seed trays to give them a good start and also so that I can choose where to plant them later….  I did the same with some of the cosmos too – I have plans for those around the garden…

Almost two days later and I finally managed to finish weeding the bank – interesting that it was weedier where I first starting clearing it last year.  Then I realised it was because I hadn’t sprayed off the first section, obviously, glyphosate does a good job of clearing perennial weeds at the roots….!

Seed-sowing and lawn-mowing

Yesterday was probably our best day this week – lovely sunshine for most of the day and very warm…

I feel that I am more on top of things this year, unsurprisingly really, given the huge amount of work we had to do in the garden last year….  I spent the morning sowing seed that I had saved from last year’s annuals and from packets I hadn’t got around to sowing last year… not bad for a morning’s work…

The cold-frames are definitely coming into their own at this time of year!  Edward had planned to build a green house after our mishap with the plastic one….

However, I think this will be done a little later now and the cold-frames will be a good substitute in the meantime 🙂

Amazingly, some of the cuttings I took at the end of February have already rooted, so I was able to pot these up to free up space in the cold-frames for the seeds…..

Can you spot the cat??!

After all the recent rain the weeds and grass have put on a massive spurt of growth and Edward decided it was time to mow the lawns.  Easier said than done!  First job was to buy some fuel from our nearest town, 20 minutes away.  Starting the mower has never been that easy, despite the service it had at the end of last season and Edward wasn’t confident that it would go now, after a few months off.  So, while in Villaines, he popped in to see the man at the garage, who suggested it could be the relay for the starter motor.  He advised Edward to use jump leads on this part, which would indicate if this was the problem and would be a way of starting it up…. Back home, Edward did as suggested and managed to get it started – hoorah!!

But, one run up and down the orchard and the belt came off and it stopped cutting…. We managed to get it back on and Edward started it up with the jump leads again…. it lasted for another couple of runs before the belt came off again…. On the second try, there didn’t seem to be any way for the belt to go back on because it appeared to be too long – how could it have stretched so much??  Luckily, Edward had passed Claude, our neighbour, on his way to fetch fuel, and he’d explained the mower might be problematic.  Immediately, Claude’s trailer was on offer, if Edward needed to take the mower into Villaines…. And so, flummoxed by the incredible extending belt, we borrowed the trailer, loaded up the mower and Edward went into Villaines for the second time that day…  Some time later, he returned, with the mower, belt put on correctly (!!)  plus a new relay, which he was going to change over.  Apparently, and typically, when the mower mechanic sat on it, it started first time – bl**dy thing!  More delay ensued while Edward made the change, only to find it wouldn’t start again – grrrrrr!  Finally, he resorted to using the original relay and, voila, it started!  This time, it lasted a couple of minutes before the belt came off yet again, and again, and again…. How frustrating!  Eventually, Edward replaced the belt and now we have a mower that starts, with a belt that doesn’t come off after a few seconds – success!

Reluctant to pack up tools, when the evening was so lovely and Edward was still mowing, I decided to smash some slates.  The pile needs to be cleared and there are plenty of areas that need it.

I began by finishing the pathway at the end of the small barn….

Truth be told, most of the pathways here need to be topped up – mole damage and lots of walking on them has reduced the slate to dust in places but I’ll do some of the other areas first….

Edward had the idea of putting slate down by the stone seats – in the winter it’s just muddy and in the summer, weeds grow under and around them.  So, I made a start on these and think it will make quite a difference…

So, today, it’s a later start for me.  I seem to have picked up the cold that Edward has had and we didn’t make it to our French lesson this morning 🙁 However, the sun is shining and Edward is making headway on the final archway – time for me to smash more slates, I think. ♥