Tiny and Insignificant – I Think Not!

It would seem we have swopped one pest for another. In our old house we were kept awake at night by the scurrying of mice above our heads.  Over the years we tried many DIY methods – chocolate on traps, Sonar and shop bought bait to name a few. Always we ended up calling in the pest man. He came, laid his special (and very expensive) bait and four weeks later his method had appeared to do the trick……. until the next time they came to call.

Last year in our new house of only a year we were plagued by tiny moths. The long suffering spent many evenings leaping around the room, air swatting to reduce the population. Tell tale signs of white empty egg cases were duly noted around the edges of the carpets but not particularly worried about.

Big mistake…….it turns out they were carpet moths so called because they literally munch carpet.

Carpet damage was found while putting our house back to rights after a week long visit from the family at Mole Hall. The rollaway bed I have to confess does not get moved out that often – a carpet moths dream. The bed under creates a dark place hidden from view and inaccessible to the vacuum  – a carpet moths enemy!

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The long suffering duly helped me pull out the bed ready to vacuum underneath. As I wielded the dust enemy over the carpet the fibres were fast disappearing up the nozzle revealing large unsightly bare patches.

My cry of alarm caused long-suffering to drop to the floor and join me on all fours as further detective work revealed the evidence of the attacker. Tell tale white cases in the pile surrounding the bare patches identical to those last summer we had chosen to ignore were plain to see.

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A quick google on the phone allowed us to identify at once what we were dealing with…….

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The native carpet moth – Tinea pellionella to give it its Latin name are tiny, destructive and difficult to eradicate. Their natural habitat it outside when they would be winter dormant but with central heated houses their lifecycles increase dramatically.

It pupates and emerges from tiny white cases looking like a single grain of rice these are normally hidden behind furniture – especially heavy not moved often- and the nooks and crannies around skirting boards or as in our case last year can also appear on walls and ceilings.

The tiny emergent moth – wingspan 15-17mm – lives just long enough to mate, laying up to 300 eggs on the carpet where the cycle starts all over again.

Further research has thrown up that we need to vacuum more often and be thorough about it……..More damage from the dining room!

This although helpful will not solve the problem. There are DIY sprays readily available, however we are thinking the pest man route once again will be our best hope at complete eradication. I fear more than one treatment will be needed, meaning the much needed redecoration will be put on hold. Judging by the long-sufferings face at this news it will be a welcome relief of his decorating skills………… For the time being at least!

Have any of you had the carpet moth visit and what – if anything – worked for you?

 

Snow & Ice… But This Time Last Year…

More of the white stuff has fallen and is still falling this weekend.

It is bitterly cold outside – and in – as we are both confined to the one room warmed by the wood-burner. The rest of the house is cold on account of our ’emergency level’ of low oil. Unfortunately the long-suffering forgot to check the oil gauge as red light and pump sign flashed frantically on and off warning of dangerously low levels.

 

In his defence it is situated behind the door, not always visible, and this is our first whole winter in our house, nevertheless his shoulders are slumped as it is his job in our house to check these things.

A quick phone call to our supplier would not relieve the current situation for at least 10 – 14 days! The recent Beast from the East has meant delivery times have been extended to cope with the backlog. The present ‘mini beast from the East’ will no doubt have the potential to extend delivery times further still.

As I leave the comfort of the wood-burner and add some warm layers to make a hot cup of tea in our freezing kitchen, my mind drifts off to warmer climes……..

This time last year we had no such worries as we relaxed at the end of nearly two months away on a warm beach.

GROUNDS-11Thailand was the last leg of our indulgent long holiday after four weeks touring New Zealand in a Motorhome, followed by two weeks in Australia.

We stayed at The Shore Katathani resort for a two-week relax and unwind from an amazing adventure packed six weeks of travelling. Our villa – expertly researched by the long-suffering was a dream. Set into steep lush hillside with beautiful sea views and its very own private infinity pool he and I were not disappointed with his choice.

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The steep walk up and down many steps/ramps gave us ample cardio in-between just lazing around and generally being waited on, and if the heat got too much and sweating man made an appearance we could always take the ever available golf buggy up instead. With high humidity outside and air-conditioning inside, drawing back the blinds in the morning revealed condensation covered glass doors out to the view. Luckily the Long-suffering duly obliged with his window cleaning skills!

Primarily Thailand was our down time however, we did do one all day excursion involving a ninety minute coach journey followed by a speed boat trip to the Phi Phi Islands archipelago in the Andaman Sea.

Maya Bay shoot location of the film ‘The Beach’ starring Leonardo di Caprio was one of a few islands our tour guide took us to.

This island has recently been in the news, reported to be temporarily closing from June this year due to the extremely high visitor numbers – 5000 or more people a day.

From our experience last year, controlling visitor numbers can only be a good thing for the conservation of these beautiful islands and reefs.  Nothing prepares you for the sheer volume of people on what is promoted to be an idyllic beach. The posters depict it almost devoid of people and boats. The reality is anything but!

Brochure Picture………

Reality……….

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There were quieter moments walking through the lush vegetation out to the lookout, a welcome retreat from the masses.

We also visited Monkey Island……

For our part we preferred to view the Macaques from the boat which was just as well as the shore was busy with other tour boats, although the monkeys from a distance seemed at ease with the attention!

Bamboo Island our first stop…….

and Ko Phi Phi Don………..

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Sadly all the islands on our visit were just parking lots for the many boats lined up along the shores or bobbing in the water. I am sure in the non tourist times when the masses have left they would once again resemble the idyllic Islands the Brochures suggest!

An encroaching storm meant a rough and wet ride back to Phuket as we sped accross the water, even the plastic ponchos we were kindly supplied with were in danger of being ripped from us by the strong winds whipping around the open to the elements boat. Exhilarating to say the least!

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Back in the vicinity of the wood-burner our time away from the british winter last year is but a distant, happy memory. Nevertheless spring is around even if it is currently under a blanket of snow!

 

 

Out from the Cloud!

This week I have been full of optimism once again at being able to continue my horticultural line of work. With a spring in my step and gentle warmth on my back I worked happily under the early spring sun reassuring me that a new growing season is just beginning. The gardens are full of promise as they wake up from their winter slumber.

Gone is the self-doubt and despair that winter always brings upon me as I tread carefully on slippery paths. Everything is heavier – soil, wheelbarrows and weed buckets. The cold and damp send my hip and leg into spasms. I lurch sideways as I over compensate for ‘being careful’. The dreaded limp becomes more pronounced and the familiar ache in my lower back groans with the extra effort of stability as I slip and slide. I question the logic of this labour intensive occupation!

I work less days in the winter now than before ‘The Accident’, such is my very real fear of damaging the good work my surgeon made putting me back together. I am lucky in that my regular clients are understanding, most have known me before and after. There is not so much to do, the gardens are for the most part winter dormant, nevertheless I still feel guilty every day I am at home.

Luckily some horticultural tasks can be achieved at the drawing board in the warmth of the dining room/office. A time to plan new gardens and borders.

In Winter my mood like the weather becomes unpredictable. Time alone becomes my friend and enemy in equal measure. I am either manic and ‘can do’ as I throw myself into new and put aside projects or the opposite as I head down into the pit of despair becoming despondent, reclusive and unable to concentrate or settle to anything productive.

A can do moment in January saw me enrolling on a beginners oil painting course. For the long-suffering any new hobby – there are many – give him welcome birthday present ideas and this year it was a floor-standing easel to assist me on another journey, this time as an artist!

The Kitchen has like the dining room become dual purpose, at least until the days are warmer when I will decamp out to the summer-house in the garden.

The class started with tonal studies, followed by gradually adding more colours. We have worked on portraiture, landscape and as now back to still life. Some are finished and some will need more work.

Efforts so far Portrait……

Still Life…….

Landscape……..

I have even in past years been manic with knitting projects…………

In previous years for the Grandchildren at Mole Hall a blanket and toys!

This year a knitting project for a new grandchild due in June …….

 

My worry of retiring from a job I love is the catalyst for my despair days. Hours of on-line searching for a less strenuous way to earn a wage plunge me downwards and bitterness rears its ugly head once again.

But in the end gardening is all I want to do, still….. Gardening makes me happy, and is the one thing above any other that I feel confident at. This week my mood was instantly lifted I was outside surrounded by nature – birds, early insects, rabbit munching young shoots, hopping away as I arrived. The resident dog, dropping her ball on my trowel as I weeded, eyes excited, tail wagging, expectant for me to throw one more time. A different garden the resident cat sat on top of an arbour purring as he too enjoyed like me the warming sun, his eyes lazy, half-shut watched me as I toiled away below.

Moving out of the winter season will steadily see my hours increase as the mornings get lighter and the working day gets longer. There will be less time and inclination to spend on indoor pursuits, although I am determined this year to keep up with writing, painting and photography. But for now thoughts of changing what I do will become a distant memory – that is until the next winter when old doubts will rise again!

 

Snow days in Spring!

We are snowed in! Our rural village in a Valley makes driving conditions hazardous if not impossible madness. Luckily the long-suffering came home early from London on Wednesday evening his man-flu all the excuse he needed to beat the forecasters warnings of heavy snow.

This morning armed with a ruler he walked out the back door to measure the extent of the recent snowfall before diligently clearing the front path for me the resident hippie. The snow had drifted off the paving slabs last night and the ‘freezing rain’ had landed causing a skating rink effect. The long-suffering showed off his agility as he ice-danced his way to the gate. It turns out he had a depth of 16cm to clear.

Once the pathway was clear we both ventured out on foot to explore this winter wonderland while it lay still, pristine and relatively untouched except for the milkmans cart and a few tracks of hungry wildlife searching for food.

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The ground beneath as our feet crashed and crunched down through the thick ice covering the powdery snow below, made for difficult walking. Our feet sinking with every step, we marched rather than walked. Every raise of our feet sent slivers of ice  skimming across the surface the smaller shards tinkling as they went.

Without the benefit of any sunshine, the grey skies and cold winds caused instant wind chill against any exposed skin although for the most part we had it covered. It was left to me to provide the sunshine and contrast against all this white and grey, as a marker/muse for the long-sufferings photographic hobby in my sunshine yellow coat.

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and some from me….

 

Back home Whats App went into overdrive, the first photos – arriving from our son were quite alarming – ‘snow in the loft’ and required an immediate phone call to check all was well!

It was, apparently normal, for an Edwardian house exposed to the elements. My son and daughter-in-law still have a water tight roof just not under the eves if the wind is blowing the wrong way!

The next photos from the renamed family The House at Mole Hall……

formally at ‘The house of two halves’ was a more pleasant perusal. Grandchildren out playing in the deep snow!

IMG_2777IMG_2780IMG_2779IMG_2778The recent snow then, inconvenient for most, but great fun and free entertainment in the great outdoors!

 

New Wheels – Mini Road Trip!

The Mazda MX5 RF has just been announced as the What Car top Cabriolet for 2018. The long-suffering is feeling smug with a told you so look on his face. It may be top car but I (and him) have not seen another one on the road since his purchase last summer!

In June 2017 the long-suffering suffered a mid life crisis and as such traded his old ‘sensible’ Mazda 3 Saloon for the new ‘convertable’ Mazda MX5 RF. Of course ‘he bought it for us…..to make us drive out on warm, sunny days/evenings/weekends’. Who is he kidding!

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Practical it is not in our rural location – hedges are high while we travel low, dwarfed by large oncoming vehicles in the middle of narrowing roads and liable to bottom out as we swerve to avoid collision into a potholed passing place!

However what it lacks in practicality – small boot, only room for two – it more than makes up for in its frivolously fun drivability. With the roof down, wind in our ‘greying hair’ I am transported back thirty years to our first date in long-sufferings original soft top, the characterful lopsided Triumph Spitfire.

The RF has an electronic retractable hard roof meaning boot space is tight. On the upside with the roof retracted we are a little more enclosed than the traditional MX5 – my hairstyle if not perfect at our destination does not now resemble a birds nest!

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Although the hip outwardly groans getting in, once down into the seat it is comfort supreme, my exit is a little more tricky and as after any journey of more than 30mins I revert once more to my ‘Quasimodo’ style of walk until limbered up again.

After a few evening drives out locally to Weymouth……. IMG_2337Studland…….

and Lulworth Cove…..

we were ready for a two day mini road trip to Cornwall……….

Day 1….. Our early start on a warm July day paid off and we arrived at Trebah Gardens – our planned excursion – just after opening. The leisurely stop for breakfast along the way had not happened as in a blur we passed breakfast vans and cafes at speed. Long-suffering muttering ‘there will be another one further on’ of course eventually there was not!

Instead almost at Trebah, hunger getting the better of him he pulled into a garage, where we had words over inedible warmed bacon rolls – me, and spilt hot chocolate over the RF floor – him!

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Trebah Gardens –  beautiful 26 acre sub-tropical ravine garden.  Australian tree ferns, lush waterside plantings, majestic, stately specimen trees, blue Hydrangeas on mass and its own private beach. A gardeners delight!

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Gunnera Plantation

IMG_0862Bamboo Forest

After lunch on the private beach, our next stop was Portloe – a pretty unspoilt fishing village in the Roseland Peninsular. We walked up one side of the steep valley before stopping off at the Lugger Hotel where we sat outside drinking cold beer looking out to sea.

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On to Portholland beach – a granite wall backs the rocky outcrops of this beach, between the small hamlets situated to the east and west with a total of only forty residents between them. We sat for a while in the warm sun reclining in two travel deckchairs we had crammed last minute into the boot along with the cabin size case, holdall, coats, and walking boots. Not such a small boot after all it would seem!

Off the beaten track……..

And finally our stop for the night Mevagissey….

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A walk where we shouldn’t with the aid of a kindly villager!

Evening Sunset View from our B&B terrace

Cornwall-19 Day 2 – After a good nights sleep and a ‘Full English’ for breakfast we set off heading east to Charlestown our morning stop-off on our route back home to Dorset.

Cornwall-36The working Port here dates back to the late 18th Century and little has changed in Charlestown since. It has a lovely old charm with little in the way of any large scale developments and creates the perfect setting for period dramas such as Poldark, Mansfield Park and Hornblower to name a few.

We explored the resident Square Rigger ship moored against the harbour walls, an area busy with tourists and a party of artists busy sketching and painting the scene before them.

The Shipwreck Rescue and Heritage Centre centre located in an a historic China Clay building kept our attention for a good hour, following the history from its early beginnings as a small fishing village to present day. We walked underground tunnels where the clay trucks were pushed out to ships in the port for the once thriving China Clay industry which followed on from the transport of copper from nearby mines. The construction of the port dock and harbour began in 1791 by Charles Rashleigh.

We had time after our light lunch sat overlooking the port for a quick walk on the beach before heading home roof down until the rain stopped play, however this small inconvenience only served to enable the long-suffering to demonstrate once again how quick and with very little effort – just the push of a button – we could be watertight once more!

My thoughts on this Cabriolet of the year….. It is fun, economical – compared to my 4×4 – a responsive drive – according to long-suffering and it IS making us take time out especially spur of the minute which suits my personality.

However It is NOT practical for visiting gardens that have either plants for sale or any gardening related paraphernalia as there is just not the room for impulse purchases unless the boot is empty and even then there is a severe height issue!

Having said that I did manage to squeeze in the boot some iron sculpture for the garden from Trebah, but the coveted tractor seat had to reluctantly be left in the shop.

This year 2018 I shall hope for a good dry summer and lots more garden visits after all isn’t that what he bought it for? Oh and maybe I will spot another Mazda MX5 RF on our travels this year. Are there any other owners out there to back up the accolade?

 

Buses, Ferries, Coastal Walk, Gondola ride, Zoo with a Spicy ending too!

Day 3 – After a good nights sleep and hearty breakfast we were back out front of our  hotel ready for the long-sufferings planned itinerary – fine tuned by the very helpful Concierge waving us off from the lobby!

For the first time since arriving we turned right out of our hotel and up the hill away from the harbour to catch a bus north to Coogee Beach.  After 19,000 + steps worth of  walking the previous day our legs were still feeling slightly fatigued.

The bus journey to Coogee Beach was almost the same journey our daughter from the house of two halves in Cyprus had taken ten years previous during her own travels in the ‘Sunshine State’. And now here we were following in her footsteps!

IMG_1257Coogee Beach was our start point for the 6km clifftop coastal walk to the famous Bondi Beach.

 

A medium effort walk along paved paths, some boardwalk’s, steps and steep inclines awaited us as the trail snaked and hugged the sandstone cliffs affording stunning panoramic views and beautiful beaches to stop at along the way.

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IMG_1265Clovelly Beach

 

Gordons Bay – small, tucked away between Coogee and Clovelly, the tiny rocky beach covered with boats reminding us of a small Cornwall fishing cove.

 

Waverley Cemetery – here we were rerouted away from the coastal path due to a wild storm in June 2016 causing a landslip, buckling the board walk with it. A temporary route took us on a straight path through the famous state listed cemetery opened in 1877. Had it not been for the diversion we would not have experienced the real beauty in this graveyard with its huge sculptural memorials and crypts. I can think of no better place of rest than high up towards the sky overlooking the beautiful blue of the ocean as far as the eye can see.

 

Bronte Beach – surfs up!

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BONDI SURFER-1Bondi Beach – The view as we rounded the last corner was spectacular of this famous beach.

 

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IMG_1280Once on ground level we were on the beach discarding our walking shoes for the soft sand between our toes. We were slightly overdressed although this I think was a blessing given the competition all around!

 

Bus to…Watsons Bay – walk and steps up to Gap Bluff viewpoint. Lookout from tall ocean cliffs facing the Tasman Sea affording stunning panoramic views. Peering over and down from the safety of the angled barriers onto the rocky platform and crashing waves constantly pounding the rocks below it is hard to believe people would willingly throw themselves over the top to an almost certain death. Sadly like our own Beachy Head The Gap is now synonymous for the horror of suicide as well as the Beauty of its location.

 

A short walk through the park down to the wharf short stop for chips and cold beers before our Ferry arrived to whisk us off to…….

 

Taronga Zoo – after many weeks of all things high up the long-suffering has – whilst still not cured – become slightly less uptight about the whole ‘scared of heights scenario’. Just as well, as on arrival at Taronga we were offered the option of the Gondola to the top of the zoo! The photo opportunities this afforded swung the decision in favour, much to my amusement!

 

The zoo opened in 1916 and covers a vast area of 69 acres and houses 4000+ animals of which we only managed to see a small percentage. Nevertheless in the two hour time frame we had before it closed for the day a lot of ground was covered – including ground covered twice due in part to my useless sense of direction!

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Back down at the bottom our ferry was there waiting for the crossing back to Circular Quay and the now familiar steep walk back up to our hotel.

 

After a short rest, refreshing showers, quick change and we were ready for some food.

IMG_1275Walking back down the hill for eats, the Spice Room took our fancy and although busy we were squeezed in at a recently vacated table for two. Here we enjoyed good food – a shared buffet for two – lovely atmosphere and charming service… the perfect wind down to another hectic day. 20,624 steps and counting 15.56km and we still had to step back up the hill!

Tomorrow day 4 would sadly be our final day in Sydney and Australia……….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally The Muck Heap Decreases!

Last year….at the beginning of November I took delivery of 50 bags of farmyard muck. Bags a novelty for me as previously in our old large garden with its heavy clay soil we only took delivery of huge trailer loads dumped straight from the farm.

 

We intended to do the same ‘no-dig’ top dressing activity as before only in this garden it would be for different reasons. On our old clay soil it was used to build up over many years a decent depth of workable topsoil leaving the worms to take it to the depths below. This garden is on thin stony soil and in parts underwater after prolonged winter rain from the runoff of the fields at the back. The added muck will do much to feed the soil and add some bulk to hold the water during times of low rainfall.

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I am sad to say as I write in this first week of a new year the pile remains, although it has recently lowered sufficiently enough to enable me to hang out the last of our house guests bedding. Many things good and bad have come between me and the muck……..

An infection – one of many health and safety perks of my chosen career. A rose thorn decided to track its way up my arm, I had removed the offending invader with needle and tweezers I thought. Not so, as a few days later after an emergency visit to a doctor, my ‘sorry to bother you its probably nothing’ turned out to be serious needing strong antibiotics and a warning if things did not improve I could end up in hospital! A lesson here for the future then, ignore at your peril! I was out of action in mine and my clients gardens for over a week.

 

A harrowing and uplifting week in equal measure was spent going through my late mothers belongings. Treasured memories abounded from her most personal of things and many photos of a bygone age. Now in my own home as I sit at her newly installed writing desk – she did not write, by the way, her writing took the form of numbers in the many business ledgers she meticulously kept – I feel she is not so far away and maybe even looking over my shoulder as I write!

 

Work was busy -new clients, new designs, new challenges – gardens never stand still.

Decorating started in earnest after the muck pile arrived, the long-sufferings excuse not to muck spread in the cold and wet! I was also too busy choosing paint and blind fabric.

 

And then in the last week of November on a cold, wet night the first of the many house guests from the house of two halves arrived by courier in a crate. After a day of car, air and finally van travel on her own she was beside herself to see a friendly face prompting her usual stress wee all over my boot.

The long suffering and I had previously been out to make sure Lanna ‘mad dog’ had all the creature comforts she could desire. Food, chew bone, snack biscuits and lastly a comfy bed. On this last item there was much debate, It quickly became clear we had in mind a Great Dane and not a medium sized springer spaniel!

 

Just as I was enjoying having a dog to walk again on bright frosty mornings, the rains came and apart from a brief respite for snow, have not stopped much in subsequent weeks. The fields became a slippery quagmire sucking at my feet as I performed acrobatics just to stay upright although I did once have to submit to a downward dog saving myself from a full body splat at the last minute!

 

‘Mad Dog’ for her part was oblivious to my exertions so intent was she on running free reunited at last from the dried barren wastelands of Cyprus to the lush green fields and exciting woods of Dorset –  flushing out the hiding pheasants along the way.

 

Two weeks later, a day late, due to heavy snow the rest of the family from the house of two halves arrived for an extended stay before taking up their new posting – thankfully in this country – in the New Year. Once again our house was transformed….

 

With them as well as the clutter came sickness bugs, sore throats, colds, nappy rash, teething, but through all of that there was Christmas, fun, food – when tummies allowed – laughter, reflection and eventually new chapters for all.

 

 

And the muck heap…….with all the increased – happy – demands on my time it continued to berate me every day I walked out the back door! Must try harder!

Happy Productive New Year to all my readers wherever you are!