Tag Archives: Garden

101 Challenges: It all started with the garden


I know you’re all wondering where I have been.

If I’ve nipped off into early retirement.

If one or even both of my injured legs have fallen off.

If I’ve pulled all of my hair out and ran around the house screaming, completely starkers and been taken away by men in white coats, in a van, with blue flashing lights.

I can tell you the reasons I have been ignoring you distracted, cannot be explained by any of the arguments above.

OK. In the spirit of honesty, I did have a little shot at the screaming bit. But in my defence: I was neither running nor naked. In fact, I stood quite still as I let out the tiny, shrill utterance. And no men came running. Only concerned children appeared at my feet. I tried to ease their distressed expressions (they believed I had yet again injured myself) by telling them that, “Everything is well, Mummy is just loosing her marbles.”

The elder two, apparently pacified, returned immediately to their previous, more entertaining activities. But the youngest one remained. Her faced advanced from worried to sceptical and then, she questioned, “Do you even know what marbles are?

♦♦♦

I’m going to tell you what I’ve been doing for the last few weeks.

Why exactly I’m losing my marbles not finding time to blog.

But be prepared, it will take several posts.

It all started with the garden

And to be more precise: it all started with the bamboo.

With the help of spades and Pseu and buckets and Perfecting Motherhood,  and a heap of thoughtful advice from PiP, we started to realise the enormity of the task in hand.

After more than a little digging and carrying, we decided the intelligent decision would be to purchase a wheelbarrow. Which my husband then duly decided that, having a wheel, like a bike, must mean that the tyre requires a ‘good pumping’ before the very first use. Naturally leading on then to an ear-splittingly loud explosion.

It seems even our new neighbours are used to our carryings-on as no one came running and no one called the fire brigade.

As it turns out, a wheelbarrow full of bamboo roots and soil and ants and once complete worms is pretty much unshovable up hills and down dales with a flat. So we paused our digging momentarily, and poured out our woes to a good-natured shop assistant who kindly gave us a replacement wheel, free of charge. I can tell you, that action was a little ray of sunshine in those damp, dark days. We have finally given up on finished digging up bamboo roots and I can go to bed of an evening, without seeing their demonic dancing before my eyes.

Of course, it wasn’t as simple as that.

It actually went more like this:

We dug out the mass and transported the world-taker-overer the bush in our once shiny, no-soil-trodden-in-the-carpet, rented car. My husband then gently coaxed the very unsure gentleman at the recycling centre to take the evil infiltrator damn bush off our hands. Then we dug and discovered and dug and found. I flipped out about the sheer mass of ants (they have conquered, there we have no chance, there are at least three billion of them, which is only slightly more than the total number of roots we attempted to dig up). We panicked (rather a lot) about the proximity of the roots to the house and we dug and sweated and swore and hacked up worms and detected even more roots. We argued and I cried and we exploded tyres and got a sunburn with sunblock on on an overcast day. We discussed putting a pool in the hole or even a lake. Then we dug and unveiled even more far-reaching roots. We agreed stealing a panda from China would have been an easier way of solving the problem.

And then finally, after quite a lot of wailing and hallucinating, we decided to stop with the digging and start with the filling.

Which opened up a whole new can of worms in itself.

We caused the share prices in potting soil to rise steeply as we continually packed the car with sacks of the black stuff.

Then the gardener, who’d just laid our new terrace, politely informed us that: grass wouldn’t grow as the soil we’d used was far too sour. I think his heart went out to us and our enormous cavity in the ground, because he offered to deliver us some free humus the next time one of his workers would pass by. We almost bit his hand off and we happily waited for his truck to arrive. But despite his generosity, the hole still had a great big gaping, well, hole in the middle.

We’d wanted the outside to be ready for my fortieth, so we marched on with other garden work – which coincidentally provided us with extra suitable soil – including: building a wall made from giant plant pots (with the help of two hard-working friends). I subsequently stocked those with flowers and herbs – meaning I finally fulfilled my herb garden task! And with massive success. We now have ample supplies of fresh mint and coriander and chives and sage and rosemary and parsley and erm… thyme.

The thyme looks great and has grown tremendously. But when we ate it, we discovered that it was erm rather chewy and erm very bitter and also, it didn’t have that all-engulfing smell that fresh thyme normally has when it’s cooking…

Finally, I ascertained that we’d been eating – thyme – the bush.

Oh well. It still looks pretty.

I bought a new thyme, the herb, and now she’s sitting happily on the kitchen windowsill next to her new friend, Basil.

We bought and planted new bushes. I wish I could gleefully crow that that means I fulfilled another challenge. But alas: no. Only three have survived. The rest have been slaughtered.

One didn’t even have the chance to blossom before some ravished rodent chomped its way through the roots.

A second found itself de-stemmed by the gardening firm who arrived to lay the terrace and the new stone steps.

Another came a cropper when my exhausted husband forgot about it’s whereabouts and accidentally mowed over it with the lawnmower. ‘Twas only a baby.

Then two had a mishap, on two separate occasions, with the strimmer!!

We turned our attention from bushes to arches. We marched through DIY stores and I found an arch that I adored, and I soon loved it even more, because being the last one in the shop and the display model, it was actually reduced to almost half price! They even freely included the cobwebs and the spiders!

We somehow, managed to wrap the metal thing around two of the kids and were able to transport the already-built-up-for-us arch, home.

We found some budget, out-of-date concrete mix in the cellar, thought, “that’ll do” and rammed it in the ground.

Immediately afterwards, I planted what I’d believed to be two so-pale-purple-they-were-almost-blue clematises. Of course, once they both flowered I discovered that one was actually bright purple.

We marvelled from the new terrace at our wonderful handiwork. At the glorious colours. At the perfect precisional placement of the arch against the stone steps.

Then a hurricane force wind appeared and we watched in full Technicolor horror as the trampoline flew past the window, smashed into the arch, removing it completely from it’s out-of-date concrete, taking both blue and purple flowers along with it, and everything landing jammed up against the carport.

After a few wrestling moves that quite frankly, would open the WWF’s eyes, my husband managed to free the now slightly askew arch from the carport’s clutches.

We bought some new cement mix and started all over again. As you do.

The clematises weren’t happy. They haven’t grown much. And have only occasionally revealed to us their pretty petal components. But I can’t blame them. Firstly, they believed themselves to be twins of the identical persuasion. Then, just as they were starting to get used to one another, they were traumatically wrenched from their new homes only to be put straight back with the renewed aroma of fresh concrete within nauseating proximity.

I took my anger out on the weeds. I yanked them out one by one with a grab and twist hole-leaving contraption. I ached and the weeds just laughed and spread. My husband mowed over them and conceded that, at least they were green. But I had hatched another plan during our frequent trips to the gardening centres and DIY stores.

Weedkiller.

I bought it.

I brought it home.

I pointed it.

I sprayed it.

And then I laughed menacingly.

OK. That last bit was just for effect. 😉

But anyway, the weeds slowly withered and turned brown.

And I whooped around the lawn.

As you do.

Then the grass, slowly withered and turned brown.

And my husband pointed his finger at us all and questioned, “Who poured weedkiller?” on his precious well-tended grass. I reluctantly raised my hand.

Luckily though, the weeds grew back and there are now quite a few patches of green where the lawn used to be.

We put a few finishing touches to the garden like stepping stones to the featuristic archway. And we decided we’d do something exciting at the front door.

I had a vision of a stone garden. At first, I thought with plants dotted around but the only things that grow well there are, you got it, weeds. So we hit on another idea. A metal sculpture set in a stone garden.

Metal sculptures are quite ‘in’ here at the moment, so they’re easy to find. But having picked and laid the stones first, we decided that we’d prefer the sculptures to be in their pre-rusty form. And stay like that. “Easy!” we thought. We’ll just varnish them.

We traipsed back to the DIY shop and were greeted by a friendly assistant, she is, of course, more intimate with us than she is with her own family by now, due to our regular visits. After a little bit of consultation, we purchased our very own bottle of spray varnish.

I would like to point out at this point that I really wanted to buy a brush and a conventional slap-it-on varnish. My husband had to sympathetically pacify me by showing me that none of the slap-it-on varnishes were for metal that would live outside the home. Only this particular can of spray varnish said it would work the miracle of protecting metal objects standing outside, from the splish-splash of the rain. I felt unconvinced. Firstly, the metal object shown on the can was a wheelbarrow, not a shiny sculpture and secondly, I thought the fine mist provided by a spray can would take a right old battering in German storms. So we agreed on several coats.

I trust my husband, you know.

Despite him mowing over my bush. And using out-of-date cement. And exploding wheelbarrow tyres.

We returned home and started spraying. Then I recalled: I’m asthmatic and had to wander off and suck on an inhaler for a while.

After that, I could only wave from the closed window as my husband set to work with his aerosol.

He sprayed.

It rained.

And the next day the shiny metal sculptures had started to rust.

So he sanded them down, then sprayed them again.

Then sprayed them again. And again. For good measure.

It chucked it down.

They rusted.

He called the manufacturer and they informed him that unless the sculptures are kept indoors, they would rust. He begged for an idea of something, anything that could protect their silverness.

They told him about a plastic coating that’s used on planes. So of course, he bought some on the internet.

Are they still silver? Judge for yourself!

N.B. More 101 updates coming up.

A one woman disaster zone


I had an accident at the weekend and I’d love to tell you what happened, but I can’t.

I can’t tell the doctors either.

It’s not that I was knocked unconscious.

It’s not that I was drunk and had a black out.

It’s just that I don’t know.

I worked steadfastly in the kitchen most of the day, cooking a special dinner for the men working outside in our garden.

I’ll just go over that point.

The manly ones spent around eight to ten hours slogging away outdoors, while I chopped and stirred and whizzed and peeled and ran backwards and forwards to the fridge (and to the shops for that matter, for forgotten ingredients). Then I went outside and planted in my newly built wall, for the best part of an hour, while the strongly ones rubbed their tummies and slugged on their beer.

In those eight to ten hours not one of the three gentlemen were injured.

Not one of the two children, running up and down the length of the garden with wheelbarrows and shoveling dirt, were blemished.

But in that one hour, something happened to me.

But I can’t tell you what.

Because I don’t know what.

I didn’t notice anything happening to me, that’s the problem.

I planted and I looked at my new wall and I felt good.

When I later went to bed, I had problems sleeping.

I arose in the morning and my heels itched like crazy and I noticed a couple of little marks. I decided that I must have been bitten by some evil creature – so I plastered it in anti-histamine gel.

But the swelling increased and it started to hurt.

My husband offered to call me a doctor. I (am trying to avoid doctors, seriously I’ve already over fifteen appointments, between the kids and I,  this month, so far) declined but took up his suggestion of reducing the inflammation with some raw onion.

The onion tried it’s best but failed. So I ran myself a nice lavender bath.

I rested my feet a bit and worked on a project for a while. Later on, as I tried to stand up the pain was immense. I stared at my feet and one ankle, frankly, looked as if someone had shoved a hard-boiled egg under the skin. I felt some concern and my husband appeared notably worried, but I waved off his doctor ideas and decided we should pop out for a bite to eat instead. (As all sensible people do when their ankle is drooping down towards the floor).

I headed towards the car but had to stop for a little rest. Feeling very sick from the pain, I started to entertain my husband’s ‘visit the doctor’ plan. I braved the two-minute drive to the restaurant then looked at my foot, which had miraculously grown again and finally, I admitted defeat.

The doctor saw me right away. She prodded and poked and inspected the now extremely red and bulging area.

“There’s something in it!” She proclaimed.

At first, she believed it to be ticks, but thank goodness, that was not the case.

In a few short minutes she’d managed to remove five foreign bodies from my heels. Two from one and three from the other.

I had no idea what they were or where they came from.

She bandaged me up and sent me to the chemist for antibiotics.

It’s healing well (I know because I’ve been backwards and forwards to my GP continually to have it checked out) but I’ll be bandaged up until Sunday.

I now look like a different type of mummy!

But I implore you:

How is it possible to embed five foreign bodies in one’s foot, while throwing a bit of earth in a pot and ramming in a few tiny plants? I didn’t use my heels as spades. I didn’t hammer the ground flat with the back of my foot. I didn’t roll around the grass and I didn’t go near any bushes. I had trainers and socks on. I used my hands.

???

Still, at least none of the men turned into mummies.

And:  I got to postpone my lady doctor appointment. 😉

A Monster Challenge


I have to make this update short. For two reasons.

The first is this beautiful bamboo:

Isn’t it gorgeous?

NOT!

Well OK, it was until yesterday. Until yesterday, we were so proud of something growing so beautifully in our garden. So proud, for once, that our black fingers had turned green…

Then yesterday, after a colleague had planted a niggling suspicion in my husband’s mind, we went to the garden center to find out exactly what type of bamboo it is.

The colleague had told my husband scary stories of bamboo taking over the garden and the neighbour’s garden. Of it murdering other plants in gardens of those with green fingers. And of it requiring a digger to come to separate it from the earth it had now taken over.

My husband had gulped. Sweated a little. And had needed a caffeine hit to calm his sudden nervous disposition.

The little voice echoing around in his head kept telling him that we have black and not green fingers. And despite that, our bamboo had been thickening and growing taller and looking generally well.

Plus there was a strange root growing diagonally out of the vegetable patch which he’d discovered belonged to the bamboo.

We went to the garden center, me full of annoying optimism and my man with his glass half empty.

I encouraged, “Our fingers have turned green!” With no real evidence. The pampas grass has been cut but has no green shoots. The marguerite is brown. Every pot of anything we put on the front step as a ‘welcome’ withers and dies.

And just in case you’re not convinced that we’re completely clueless at gardening: last year I planted wild meadow flowers in the little piece of soil we put beside the front door. I placed a rocking bird there to frighten birds away from eating the seed. The great metal thing kept being carried off it’s stand in the wind and ended up being driven over by a neighbour. As at times happens to real birds. The seeds did grow. I couldn’t, in fact, figure out why they grew so tall. It seemed as if they were making their way up to the kitchen window in an attempt at blocking out all daylight.

But I digress.

Our first trip to the garden center yesterday saw us panicking rather more when the garden-know-it-all informed us that, from our description, it could indeed be that we had the garden suffocating variety.

My husband (generally of good humour) asked if we should dig up the beast and put some kind of plastic don’t-let-your-roots-wander-beyond-this-place device in the hole and replant the pretty green bush into it.

The man looked into our inexperienced souls and cracked up. It turns out we’re hilarious. It turns out we could make a concrete hole and that wouldn’t stop the beast. It turns out, this gentleman has insider knowledge of one monstrous bamboo who burst in right through a family bathroom.

Now at this point, I forgot that I’m an optimist and I joined my husband in a state of complete panic. Because we, garden numpties, had planted the house-wrecker right next to the house. And the terrace for that matter.

See:

We drove home. Slightly erratically. With a running commentary from the back seat by an ADHD boy full of ‘good’ ideas.

We returned to the center a few minutes later with a cutting, as suggested by our possible saviour.

I think, there may have been a slight glint in his eye as he identified the branch and delivered the bad news.

We drove to the DIY store in haste and purchased a pick axe and a wheelbarrow. But we couldn’t start digging it up last night because darkness was already approaching and we need to make sure we get every single last bit of root out, according to our hero.

The second reason I have to hurry with this update is: my ADHD son is on new medication. I’m sure it’s just not in his system properly yet. I had to send him outside to burn off some energy as he was somewhat penetrating.

And I’ve just discovered he’s tied a rope to the bamboo in an attempt to begin the excavation…

So, films watched:

  • The guard: brill.
  • 30 Minutes or less: cool.
  • Flypaper: great.
  • Xmen first class: good.

I’ve also helped at AD’s school with the healthy snack. I had to prepare enough food for 70 kids. Apart from the panic over whether it would be enough food, I really enjoyed it. So much so, I’ve agreed to do it again!

I’ve also been floating which I can only recommend. It’s good for your back and skin and makes you feel very well rested. Afterwards, I felt quite energetic for about two weeks!!

And last night, I left my man sweating the bamboo situation out on his own. I took my eldest, Joni to a rock concert, put on locally by a very good cover band. We had a great evening, boogieing the night away. So much so, (I’m a wild dancer ;-)) that I have aching muscles all over this morning.

And now I need to save the garden save the house save the world dig up a monster.

Please take a moment and welcome four new challengers:

Makes Me Wander

Believe Anyway

whyyyjen (who gets the award for putting her list together in the quickest time!!)

workingberlinmum

Me! Me! Me me me!

Ahoy there me challengees!


Challenge success

Home grown tomatoes
Home grown tomatoes

Phew. I was starting to think that the summer holidays weren’t going well in terms of challenges.

Then I sat down and looked at what I’ve actually done in the last two weeks and I discovered:

Doesn't look anything like radishes
Doesn't look anything like radishes
  • I have posted eight articles
  • I have three new countries: Luxembourg, Mexico and Northern Mariana Islands (I tell you, if I could do a tour of the countries on my flag counter, I really would)
  • I can tick off ‘Grow vegetables and eat them’ because my incredible gardening skills have provided us with: celery, apple, cucumber, tomatoes, and radish beetroot
  • I have been to a crap restaurant
  • Tried a new recipe
  • I took the children on a boat trip on the Danube (and it was really lovely)
  • I’ve added some new challenges

Rubbish restaurant

Crap restaurant
Crap restaurant

After our boat trip, we walked and walked and walked until we reached town. With one clueless optimistic person in high heels. Before walking and walking and walking back to the car, I thought I’d give the blistered one a chance to put her feet up and the unable-to-be-worn-down ones, the opportunity to refuel. After some debating, which included which restaurant had the best shade/ultimate view/comfiest seats/space for five together/least cigarette smoke blowing around – we picked the wrong restaurant. We used the facilities without having to hand over a body part. Then took a pew.

We perused the menu and I decided to have a crêpe. As did my son. Only when he ordered it, we were told that that item on their minuscule menu would not be available until September!?!

So I picked a ‘red and white’, so-called because of its mixture of red berries and white ice cream and frozen yoghurt.

I awaited my fresh and delicious dessert.

I am still waiting.

Apparently, they don’t have any berries and they’re all out of frozen yoghurt.

So I had a coffee.

And shook my head.

New challenges

I’ve been trailing through the internet and going through brochures I’ve collected from all over the place, and discussed it all with the kids and this is what we’ve come up with:

  • A trip to Sensapolis
  • Making soap together
  • Going to the University’s Botanic Gardens (which I had actually thought were closed to the public)
  • Attending a live performance of a Wild West Show (with real horses/stuntmen etc)
  • Visiting a stone age/bronze age museum
  • I also decided I will attempt to teach Akasha to play chess (I know she’s only four, but she keeps asking)

The boat trip

View from the boat
View from the boat

It only took an hour but I think we all really enjoyed it. It was informative and child friendly, but in answer to your question Perfecting Motherhood, no, there was not a loo on board. But three out of four children managed to pee on the grass. And one out of three children succeeded in urinating on her shoes. We’re high achievers in this family, you know.

Missed opportunity

The challenge that Tilly and I truly missed when writing up our initial lists must be this one:

  • Form a group of 101 101ers (2/101)

Because in the last couple of weeks another 3 challengers have joined our group:

Ebony Delights
Manchester Meanders
and Manchester’s Artistic Son

And had we added that challenge, it would now look like this:

  • Form a group of 101 101ers (12/101)

Perhaps we should add it anyway, Tilly?

It’s not all butterflies


 

Enter the garden at your own risk:
I thought I’d go out to our flowerbed
For a brisk
Pull of weeds.

It’s a tiny space
Maybe two metres square
Of little pretty flowers
But now the weeds, they are there.

A little welcome by our front door,
Doesn’t feel like a welcome home any more.
Invaded by Ivy,Thistle, Black bindweed,
Upon our soil these squatters do feed,
Helped along by Chickweed, Dandelion, Plantago and Speedwell
Our entrance is overtaken, undermined and Hell
I’ve got the job of clearing it,
Swell!

I traipse outside,
Gloved hands,
Armed with a bucket.
You understand:
For the remains
Of the uninvited guests.
That is my quest.
To tear from the earth
Their very roots
And then bring them to rest.

To start it is a hot, hot day
33 degrees in the shade.
The sun shines steadfast on my back
But determination,
I do not lack.

Straight to the beggars
My rubber gloves go
Only to meet my next fearless foe,
A wasp like creature advances on me.
I can’t say exactly what’s to hand
Being in a foreign land.
But one thing I know
He doesn’t want to go,
Buzzing at my legs
On the attack
All I can do is slap back,
Faster than me
He flits all around
Convinced of the gloves
I stand my ground,
But sure, I’ll be lunch once more
Like the mosquito, before.
Sucking my blood
And leaving a lump
For me to scratch and jump
To the chemist
For medication please,
That wretched pain to ease.

Won is the war with the buzzing beast
Thistles and Speedwell my eyes do feast
Away with you
My grip is tight
I pull
And tug
And heave
And rip.
Then come the ants to do their little bit.
I’ll tell you a fact,
Just between me and you:
I don’t like insects,
No not at all,
I know they’re only tiny
So miniature and small,
But I think, personally
It’s the way they do crawl.
It sends a shiver right up my back
My knees feel wobbly,
My palms are damp,
Thank God, I’ve never been forced to camp!

The ants are there
There’s them and there’s me
Ten thousand to one and they have six feet!
And nausea hits me in the mid day heat.
They run and they run as fast as they can,
I should have really thought about a jar of jam.
Disarm the foot soldiers!
And face those weeds head on
Battle of the ants having been won.

Weakened by the many feet
The suns strong beat
The wasp like fiend,
I was not, shall we say,
Particularly keen.
But come what may the weeds must out
Against all of Mother Natures clout,
I fought with Thistles, prickly thorns
The strong roots of grass
And even when my trusty gloves
Ripped alas
I strived on.
Until the very last weed, my friends
Was gone,
Into the bucket blue
I did not say good-bye to you,
Just took you to your resting place
Far away from my home gates!

Our door will welcome you, friends
Once more
With pretty flowers
And
silent feet
The ants, aplenty,
Unfortunately
I can not delete…