A Walk on the Wild Side

Encouraged by the return of the frogs, I’ve decided to give their hotel a bit of a spring renovation.

Their hotel is basically a big pile of stones, broken bricks and broken slates in the North-East facing corner of the garden.

I did put in a small pond in that corner for them, but over the last couple of years that corner has become so overgrown, and has such a dark aspect anyway, that the pond plant I put in died and the pond became really stagnant and unpleasant. It also filled up with fallen leaves which made it even more uninhabitable.

Last autumn though I cut the plants surrounding that corner right back. There was also a large tropical fern in that corner which doesn’t seem to have survived the winter. The upshot is that the corner is much lighter and more open than it was.

With a trowel I took all the rotten leaves out of the pond and spread them around it on the soil. Then I put a layer of wood ash over, as I had to empty my ash pans anyway (still having evening fires as it’s still cold!!) so that was handy. Finally a layer of compost.

I have some raspberry canes in a pot in another part of the garden, but I’ve only ever had three raspberries off them, so I ripped out a few canes from the pot and stuck them in around the pond, hopefully they will take. I watered them and put some stones in between them to stop the cat digging them up when he finds the nice fresh soil.

I built up the pile of stones a bit more too for the frogs. All the while dodging the raindrops, we’ve had some severe April showers today!!!

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A Close Shave

Just had an ‘incident’, the blackbird chick decided to make a break for it, flew across the garden onto the top of one of the water butts.

What it didn’t bet on was the cat, who was there like a streak of lightning and actually had it for a moment.

The parent blackbirds kicked up a massive fuss, which succeeded in drawing the attention of our stupid but loveable cat, and the chick got away.

Douglas however has returned to the scene, and is convinced that the chick is hiding by the water butt somewhere.

It isn’t. 🙂

Just as I thought!!

Perfect timing!! Just as I finished the last post, what should hop out from the ivy than a blackbird chick.

I tried to sneak up on it to take a picture, but it was too quick for me. I managed to catch it disappearing into the fir tree.

The Frogs are Back!

They are back!! I was worried that with the arrival of Douglas the cat, and the bitterly hard winter we’ve just had, that our resident frog population had been wiped out. It’s very built up round here, lots of bricks, concrete and tarmac – not the most friendly of frog habitats.

But I have just checked one of the smaller ponds and there are two medium-sized frogs in there, basking in the evening sun!

A couple of years running we had frogspawn in the spring, but haven’t had for the last couple of years for some reason. I’m sure there are enough adult frogs – maybe they are just self-regulating the population.

The blackbirds are knocking around too, they nested in a neighbour’s garden in the end this year. I think there are fledgeling chicks around somewhere – I can hear them but I haven’t seen one yet!!

Living the iLife

At Green Cottage we use a pair of iPhones for all of our communications needs. This is quite good because it means that we don’t have to have the cable modem or wireless router switched on to surf the web, which means a significant energy saving on the solar powered circuit.

There are quite a few handy apps for the green-minded too – Earth Envi, TreeHugger and Sceptical Science are three good ones. I also have Meter Readings, which enables me to track our electricity consumption. MR will also track your gas and water, but electricity is our only metered utility.

The readings I’ve entered over the past couple of weeks are showing an average consumption of around 5kWh daily, which I’m pretty pleased with – the UK average is around double that, and our consumption includes the use of a dishwasher and washing machine, as well as all of our cooking.

As for identifying patterns, I’m not sure – we tend to use more electricity on weekends when we are at home, cooking, washing and relaxing. And maybe we use less power towards the end of the week because sometimes we can’t be bothered cooking and get a takeaway, which means less use of the oven, hob and dishwasher.

There is also a cycle with our solar powered circuit – it will run happily for days on the power of the sun, but at this time of year it does eventually run down and we have to recharge the batteries from the mains, which bumps our consumption up for that day.

Fun in the Sun

We are having a bit of a community fun day today in our local park, with all sorts of stuff including home made food, herb planting, face painting, information stalls about recycling and all sorts of other stuff.

The weather is amazing. April is the new June!!

Spring is Sprung

Inspired by lepotager’s fantastic photo update over at Trafford Eco-House and Hardworkinghippy’s inspiring account of self-sufficiency gardening over at Powerswitch, I have taken a few photies of what is going on in the garden.

We seem to have a slightly different microclimate here in Bury than other people do in the region – things seem to germinate a bit later here for some reason, and generally take a bit longer to get going.

I am normally very impatient to get things going in the spring, and will germinate some seeds in a propagator on the kitchen windowsill to give them a head start. But they invariably end up a bit pale and etiolated (‘leggy’), so I always end up wanting to put them outside ASAP.

This is what I did with this year’s seedlings, I put them out in our new greenhouse thinking that they would do much better in there. But the cold weather has really dragged on this year, and although the cucumber seedlings are OK, they seem to have got a bit scorched by the cold. The tomato seedlings are looking decidedly dodgy, and in fact the only really healthy looking ones are the pepper seedlings, which according to the instructions from RealSeeds, should have been the most difficult ones of all to germinate!

I have also tried to fill every available corner (including the top of the small toolshed) with pots which I have seeded with various things, lettuce, radish, parsley, stuff like that. Not much to look at yet but all of the seeds in the pots seem to be germinating nicely.

I think I am really coming to the conclusion that actually, seeds know perfectly well when they are supposed to germinate, and trying to force them to hurry along can just have the effect of exhausting them at exactly the time they need to be gathering their strength.

No sign of any frogs or frogspawn this year. Maybe they haven’t survived the harsh winter, or the arrival of our furry monster. Fingers crossed there are still some in the garden somewhere though.

We have already had our first crop, chives for a potato salad!!

Agile Working

I am working from home today using my employer’s Virtual Private Network (VPN), which has a number of advantages all round. For me, it saves me sitting in traffic or on the tram for a couple of hours a day that I don’t get paid for, to go into an office where I don’t need to be. For my employer, it saves having to provide office accommodation for me when I don’t actually need it, so someone who actually does need it can use it. And for the planet it means that I don’t have to burn a load of fuel to shift me and whatever lump of metal I am travelling in across the conurbation and back for no good reason whatsoever.

All I need is a mobile ‘phone, laptop and a wi-fi internet connection, which means I can work outside in the garden if the weather is good (although it can be difficult to see the screen when the sun is bright). Power for the wireless router and cable modem is provided by my solar PV panels, adding to the environmental friendliness of this mode of working.

Welcome to the future. It ain’t so bad!!! 😉