-----In 2004 we bought a falling-down house and 30 acres. This blog documents our progress-----

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Rescuing the olives

What with all the attention focused on the orchard, the poor olive trees planted up on the hill got neglected. The enclosures were broken into by next door's sheep and escaped deer, and many trees were eaten or at least severely squashed. :-(

olive grove damagee

Dad very kindly made an emergency trip to make repairs so hopefully they'll bounce back. Ultimately though I think we're going to have to invest in a big fence for them too like the orchard. *sigh* Here's an example of a repaired enclosure:

example of repaired olive fence

And here's what we can expect to have lots of, one day. :-) Despite everything, we have fruit on a couple... so it's not all bad.

olive with fruit

Just for the sake of future records (not that I suspect anyone but me will ever be interested) here's the saga in full as described by Dad:

On Feb 14th Dad emailed:

Watered orchard. Found great damage to olive grove. 12 trees nearly destroyed by roos or sheep. Broken down barriers. Must go next week to repair and replace all tree barriers".

On Feb 21st Dad he did as promised and wrote back with an update:

"I got home at 0200 this morning after spending the past two days to save the olive grove. I understand from talking to your new neighbor down the hill that there have been deer on the block only last week...
I set about to replace the damaged plastic pickets with new ones, using 4 each tree not just 3 pickets as it is apparent that the trees get much more protection from would-be grazers with 4. I acquired all the now unneeded pickets from the orchard, having considerable trouble to extract them until I figured a way to use a chain and pin in a hole to grip them to pull with the picket-extractor... (Overall I regret buying the plastic ones, but at the time it seemed the best thing.... They are still the best for safety around stock, especially horses... but on your block will always need to drive a pilot hole first with a steel picket, extract it and then drive the plastic: time-consuming and frustrating but the only effective way to get the penetration in your soil type)
I was able to gather only half enough plastic pickets to do all repairs from the orchard, and began my work of repair. After finding it took nearly an hour each tree... I took the decision to use the 50 new steel pickets bought for Tex to fix the fence. I gathered all steel pickets we had on the block about 10, and ultimately extracted 18 of my steel stakes from around the hobbithole site. In the end I had just enough to do all repairs on all the trees as needed. There were only 4 tree enclosures which did not need to be replaced urgently since these were in satisfactory condition if I only beefed up the fixing. So I finished at dark yesterday, 830pm feeling as knackered as Dave felt the day he made the first enclosures.

I posted the pics of the tree damage (typical), the plastic post replacement, the all steel post replacement, the wiring clipped to strengthen top, and some pics of the little olives which demonstrates that your grove is ready to produce if only the animals can be kept away. I think the chief damage is from hares (from below) so I redid all wire wraps with apx 6 inch of fold along the ground. I also strengthened the overall by clipping nearly all the holes in the pickets to the wire instead of only top and bottom holes. The use of 4 pickets allows further distance from the wire for the centre of the tree. On all the trees cropped to the ground there are new leaf buds forming. I judge none of these trees will die. One of the trees damaged in the first year subsequently die even though the wire was fixed. So you have only 1 fatality to date, but if I had not acted promptly this time I fear most of the grove would have been destroyed. We are quite lucky I took a stroll up the hill when watering last weekend so noticed the damage soon after the attack and had time to go within a very short time".

Friday, February 15, 2008

our first peaches

Originally uploaded by lynetter
The first ever fruit from the orchard, picked by Dad and Vida 2 days ago. There was also apparently another peach that had ripened already and fallen - they ate it up there and Vida said it was very sweet.

Seeing this is so wonderful as brings us one step closer... although growing 8 peaches successfully is still a long way from self-sufficiency, but hey it's a start... :-)

You can see these same peaches growing on the tree barely a month ago here.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

revised cottage plans

We have at last got the finalised plans for the cottage at Amherst. Here they are, click to make bigger:

Front of cottage elevation drawing

Floorplan for cottage

Hoping to get elevation drawings also for the views from each side of the house too. I'm no good at imagining what it will look like from floorplan drawings and want to be sure I like each of the house's "faces" before we start renovating.

It's so good to be moving on this again.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

"The Laskett" podcast with Sir Roy Strong

One of my favourite books about gardening is "The Laskett", by Sir Roy Strong. I loved it when I read it a few years back, but I love it even more now I realise how much of it has stuck with me. Whenever I see a drift of bulbs on a lawn, or a something painted in gilt, it reminds me of this book.

So I was thrilled to stumble across a podcast that featured an interview with Sir Roy Strong, recorded while wandering around the garden. Here's the link to download ( right-click & save) - it starts about 2 minutes in.

(I love the concept - someone should do a series of interviewing people about their gardens while walking in them).

I highly recommend the book, I'm surprised it's not more well known - it was sheer fluke I stumbled across it.

Here's the link to buy it from Amazon.

Rather than include the (I think misleading) description on Amazon, however, I've researched to find some reviews that I think are more accurate.

From the Independent:

His garden, lovingly transformed over 30 years, is almost too personal to share with others, Strong admits; its construction roughly tallies with Strong's marriage to the opera designer Julia Trevelyan Oman, and the pages of The Laskett drip with affection for her. This triangular Herefordshire site is filled with serpentine walks, vistas, alleys, statues, memorials and visual jokes. There's an obelisk, a folly, and a shed called "Random House" (after his publishers). Avenues, ornaments and formal gardens mark the publication of Strong's books (the Hilliard Garden, Elizabeth Tudor Avenue and the Shakespeare monument) and Oman's productions (Glyndebourne, Covent Garden, the Ashton Arbour, after Sir Frederick, and the Nutcracker Garden). The V&A Temple marks the end of Strong's tenure at the museum. Other features celebrate pets and friendships: the Beaton steps (shouldn't that have been the Beaton path?) evoke Cecil Beaton, himself a keen gardener.

Throughout, Roy Strong is a delightful guide, as unembarrassed to admit his horticultural mistakes as he is to parade his wild enthusiasms, for example for gilding: "We gilded the balls on Muff's monument and on the column to Elizabeth, both to sensational effect... nothing, but nothing, can replace real 22-carat gold leaf."

I suspect not all readers will be as charmed as I am by the knowledge that this man dubs his cats things like Lady Torte de Shell and the Reverend Wenceslas Muff, but I defy any animal lover to read the two-word inscription on Muff's monument (BRAVE and LOVING) without a lump in the throat.

From Country Life:

This is the story of a garden. It is also a story about love. Theatre designer Julia Trevelyan Oman has since passed away, but the book opens with Sir Roy's 'elopement' with her (an elopement that deemed necessary to escape the press; at the ages of 35 and 40, they were unlikely to be pursued by irate parents). The evolution of their garden at The Laskett, their rectory-like house in Herefordshire, is a monument to the love they had had for each other and the friendships they had enjoyed with other people.

From the beginning, Sir Roy knew that it would be a garden of sentiment, where plants evoked memories of people and places: a rosemary bush descended from one that belonged to Dr Trevelyan Oman's nanny, 'Dooks'; a catalpa given as a house-warming present by Lord Plunket (it died; the replacement is known as the 2nd Lord Plunket); even a flowering cherry, given by the father whom Sir Roy detested, planted in a remote corner surrounded by conifers, obstinately refusing to die. Work began soon after the couple's wedding in 1973.

Every time a new book or new stage production brought an influx of funds, some long-planned garden project would be fulfilled. Consequently, professional milestones are commemorated in such features as the Die Fledermaus Walk, the Nutcracker Garden and the Shakespeare Monument (built with the money that went with the Shakespeare Prize, which the author received in 1980). There are areas dedicated to favourite cats, statuary inherited from Dr Trevelyan Oman's father, and 'Flora'- a 'second' of one of the four cast-stone Seasons, commissioned from Italy for the Prince of Wales's garden at Highgrove.

The key to the garden is a temple constructed after Sir Roy left the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1987, after 13 years as director. A Greek inscription translates as: 'Memory, Mother of the Muses'. Not only did the muses live in a museum, but the garden reads as a kind of autobiography, shaped by memories shared by the creators. To underline the point, bushes of rosemary, for remembrance, grow over the steps. The Laskett is a unique document of our time.

Despite the famous names, I found the book to be endearingly down-to-earth and, frankly, inspiring as an example of what you can do with little spare time and some imagination.