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  Ah! Glad you could drop in! Just sidle past the man-eating rhubarb by the front gate and come in.

  As you wander through this page, don't be put off by the amount of work to do: I wouldn't expect you to do it all by yourself - or all at once - and don't worry that some of the jobs look a bit difficult, or that they may call for effort.

  Cup of tea and a biccie? (If I can find the biscuit tin...)

  If, instead of edging past the rhubarb, you bypass the front gate and march down the loke to your left, the first sign of hedging work will be seen on your right - the rather vigorous Triffid bramble which menaces burglars and trespassers and sprawls across the front of Fruity Corner.

  In front of the bramble's lair roots there's a bed with sage and marjoram and oregano and strawberries, and blackcurrants and a self-set goosegog, and oh, lots of other things, some of which will have to be moved, 'cos the herbs especially are burgeoning.

  Behind the bramble lies Fruity Corner, a suntrap which has become overshadowed by a rampant lilac and a rather nicely-shaped holly tree. The lilac is being reduced by around 2/3 of its present size, and the holly is being relocated, as far away as possible.

  In front of the bathroom widow is a fig tree in its third fruiting year, and which grows in a sunken bath. Round its feet, and escaping everywhere are wild strawberries. There are also fritilleries, but they aren't adventurous at all. The tracery of branches on which grows the pink flah almost dead-centre of the pic is a Japanese Quince and behind the quince and clambering up the gable-end is a Black Humbug. The big planter has a Hunza apricot in it, with cranberries crawling over its toes. Other pots have things in them which aren't doing very well. (Chinese gooseberry and asparagus.)

  The little planter in the foreground has a fig branch pegged-down in it, for the molishment of extra figses. Out of view is a white grape which, if it survives, will crawl up the other end of the wall (towards the front of the house) and double back above the Black Humbug.

  Walk down the loke a little further, and a scene of Devil's Station will assail your eyes. I am building a gridge and workshop, and shall be hanging a conservative conservatory on the front of the gridge bit. Most of the structure was standing in next-door's garden last year. The really spongy-with-woodworm bits have been sawn or broken into firewood and any plastic sacks you may see lurking behind, under or on things (or even flaunting themselves) are full of firewood. For the greater overview see the AD - but beware! There are no return links, as this was a standalone website, and not intended to have been viewed by all and sundry. However, now I have a willing workforce, I think, like a stately home garden, I can open it to the public innit.

  Keep approaching
the bit that looks as if a hurricane's hit it and you'll think that a hurricane's hit it. In fact, what's hit is infinitely more deadly: it is I, and my helpers (see what advertising does for you?) Sam and Imogen - and/or vice versa.

  Now, please allow me to explain how it is that so little has been done for the last two years or so: another web page will be prepared to chronicle the dastardly behaviour of the DWP, who are, by the way, the subject of a little competition currently being run on uk.rec.gardening and shortly to be extended to uk.rec.sheds and the (sorry, closed to all but Zetnuts) Zetnet newsgroups.

  Briefly, I became eligible for my state pension in 2005. I asked for it in 2005, a few months after it was due, because I had been actively seeking employment, but nothing of the sort had been offered, and my funds were severely depleted. Filled in the form and it was 'lost', whether in the post or the department, Bob knows. Filled in another, and nothing happened, and all my letters to them went unanswered. It took me about two years from that time to actually receive anything other than an extremely grudging and equally miniscule crisis loan. Despite many letters, it was only after I'd involved my MP and the then Minister that the DWP even bothered to acknowledge any correspondence, and only when I sent it by recorded delivery, at that.

  Even now, I haven't got all the backlog, and the latest outrage is that they are trying to tell me that I'm not eligible for my 2005/6 and 2006/7 winter fuel allowance because I "was not at the time in receipt of pension or benefits..."

  OK, some of the problem might have been down to the Post Office Online Postcode Database, which didn't include my mansion cottage or the three adjoining ones in the terrace, but that's a pretty poor excuse, especially as they could have consulted the Online Register of Electors, which is correct.

  So, here we are doing catch-up, and measuring-up for materials to complete the gridge and workshop, and buy things to replace the straggly Lonicera wossname hedge which is only good for nesting-places for birds. I do expect that the replacement hedge of fruitbearing trees, shrubs and so-on will provide some suitable nesting-places, and I shall leave one stand (shelter belt?) of Leylandii. You'll see this in the triffid pic, and I promise you, I'm going to give it a haircut very soon. I was going to trim it months ago, but every time I het out the stepladders and scaffold-board, I find some bird has set up home there. I think they've all gone now, which will leave a small widow of opportunity to get stuck into. (Oo-er, missus!)

  Water has passed under the bridge, and as the twilight creeps up it is even now falling from the sky, which it has been since this morning, so even more will be passing under it pretty soon. Precious little done in the garden because of it - just some Jalapino seeds planted, and some of a larger, milder chilli which tastes strongly of red pepper, until it introduces itself properly. These will live in the greenhouse, if it is completed before the winter.

  I've tomatoes, Shirley, and Tumbling Tom, and Garden Pearl, and one called Black something-or-other, which looks from the illustration to be heavily coloured with purple. This last I shall try to cross-pollinate with black nightshade in order to get an even blacker fruit. While I expect it to be perfectly edible, I shall be taking care with the fruit next year - you never know what you might get when mixing genes like that...

  I have some willing workers, weather permitting. Their usual day is Saturday, but as they have now left school other days are sometimes utilised. (Where on earth do they get the energy?) This is just a beginning - it gets worse...

  A little later and they're getting into the swing of things. Smoke? What smoke? I can't see anything.

  Still, somebody seems to be enjoying it.I want a fan. Something powered with a Merlin engine at least.

  The bare patch in the foreground had the lonicera hedge over it - yes, it sprawled over a good six feet of useful soil. Well, fairly useful. It's improving a bit, and some of it has been planted. At the back, there are some apricot saplings and a peach, which will be grown in cordons and/or espaliers, or a tangle of the two. Unseen, and right at the back there is an allegedly evergreen thornless cut-leaved blackberry - however, the new shoot coming up from the base has some very evident thorns...

  In front of the woody stuff there are some blackcurrants and raspberries. In front of those there is a mixture of nicely-flavoured strawberries and alpine strawberries. Oh, and weeds. The lesser bindweed - don't talk to me about the lesser bindweed! Just turn yer back and it's climing up yer legs. Stand there too long and agggghhhhh-choke-choke-thump.

Later - weeks later, in fact...

  The weeds are on the march. I'm really going to have to get down to some serious uprooting. I thought I could keep them under control by pulling up a few every time I passed by.


  I've been leaving the fat hen and the black nightshade because fat hen can be eaten in salads or cooked. It tastes rather like a cross between spinach and asparagus. Black nightshade carries small black berries which can be made into an acceptable ersatz blueberry pie filling. No, the ripe - repeat, RIPE berries are not poisonous, and when unripe, are unlikely to do any more harm than green tomatoes. You can marvel at the weedery in this view of the gridge which shows (or rather, doesn't show) the berberis which has been and done and gorn, and the Jerusalem artichokes which I didn't get up before they began to sprout, and certain improvements to the gridge/workshop/conservatory.

  The wood for further improvements is leaning against the (present) front of the gridge, leaning (with some sheets of corrugated uPVC) against the workshop, and a lot more is stacked inside the workshop area. Some progress has been made in the workshop since taking the pic this afternoon (14/08/'08), and several more handsfull of weeds have been added to the liquid manure bucket. (Phwoooar!) The bucket in question is in the foreground of the pic showing my valiant workforce preparing a bed for some late marrows (or squashes, or pumpkins - or whatever I saved the seed from innit) to keep the late runner beans company.

  'Late', by the way, refers to the time of year the beans and the marrows were planted, not to their viability, and the bucket isn't the planter with the blueberry living in it!.

  Much fun was had extracting heaps of flints, pamments, brickbats, stones, a scent bottle, broken glass, bits of wrought iron, etc from the bed. I found one flint which was the shape of an eolithic hand-axe, and I'm not quite sure it isn't, despite its entire back being the fossil imprint of the inside of a large sea shell. I'm suspicious, as I did find a broken hand-axe within a yard or so of where the fossil was dug up. Soon, I'll put up some pics of things I've dug up in excavations - from the recent marrowbed, and earlier, from the holes I sank into an old rubbish tip where now stand a pair of sawn-off telegraph poles, which were planted for gateposts. Artifacts include glass stoppers from vinegar bottles, Camp 'coffee' bottles, two bottles which had anatto butter-colouring in them, and some other bits and bobs.

  Some of the flints have been put to use already, see pic, (12/08/'08) and the next day yet more were unearthed. I fear I shall have to move the Pungent if I want any more from that mine...

  The splodge on the front elevation between the top(ish) of the door and the window is a brass 'coach' lantern in the style of a vehicular candle-lamp. I gutted it, removing the mains bayonet bulb socket and its attendant wire, replacing them with the innards of a garden solar light from Poundland and the phone lead from a deceased fax machine, which connected the LED and circuitry with the solar charger, which is over the top of the front door. This arrangement gives just enough light to locate the keyhole. The small tube of sealant I deemed necessary (as the usually horizontal charger is now vertical) cost more than three times as much as the whole light...

  The greenery growing up the wall between the window and the front door is an evergreen honeysuckle put in this spring. I might get one of those horrid plastic garden arches and let the honeysuckle rip, forming a porch. Also, varigated ivy might join it. (but not <song="Slanders and Fwann"> bindweed. It won't be too long before the arch is invisible.

17th August 2008

  More has been done to the gridge/workshop/conservatory: wood and stuff has been shuffled about and offered-up in places, and some more weeding done, though you might not believe it from this pic . The stand of Jerusalem artichokes has grown a bit and been clobbered by clumsy lumps of timber, and has been tied up with garden twine to prevent further outrage. The crop will have to remain in situ until the autumn, and the part which is inside the workshop won't mind too much because the roof will be covered with uPVC sheet. Indeed, the part outwith it will (in time) be under polycarbonate Twinwall, which will allow me to dismantle the Heath-Robinson (but effective) cold frames which are crawling up the gridge wall.

  The old bath is made of GRP, and has a hole in it, which I didn't notice when I acquired it. While I could repair it, I've decided to cut the top ledge off it, invert it, and use it as a waterproof goods-carrier on a sidecar chassis. Where the Workmate is standing is where there was a hedge of Lonicera nitida, the bases of which can be seen behind it. The winter viburnum which stands behind the stumps has been trimmed back and the trimmings planted in damp compost, where they are rooting merrily.

  What I thought was fine leafmould under the Workmate was just that - but only an inch or two deep. Under that there was some pretty badly-laid tarmac. This is still there, and is covered in planters. The viburnum was only trimmed back far enough to permit a row of runner beans where the lonicera roots were. This will give you some idea of how it was...

  ...and this will give you some idea of how it is now. The runners on the right were planted later than the rest.

  The light green tree in the invisible 10 gallon tub is a lemon, grown from a pip I planted four years ago. I have some more from the same lemon, varying in height from the one shown, down to about six inches. The big one has evil long claws thorns... Most of the rest of the planters have tomatoes in: the thing crawling up the salmon-flavoured scaffold pole is a Chinese gooseberry, and in front of it is a two-year-old pomegranate. Also amongst the planters there's a sort-of small yam, or rough-skinned sweet potato: the turmeric hasn't shown yet, but is rooting. There are three planters with a small species of bamboo, and the big black builder's tub has horseradish in it.