Oh the Humidity

Yesterday I took myself out on a walk in the woods. It’s been horribly, horribly humid the last couple of days, but I’d decided I was going to go walking no matter what. No excuses.

When I got out of my car the air was like soup, but I thought once I got deep into the woods and into the shade it would probably be nicer. Nope. It was just as soupy. It was 25c outdoors, which is just about my perfect temperature under normal circumstances, but the humidity is just the worst. I spent a few months in Malta some years back, and even when it reached 42c it was easier to cope with than the weather here. Hot and dry, I can deal with. Hot and moist? No. No way. It’s exhausting.

If you’re in the UK and experiencing this drought, you may have noticed a distinct autumnal quality to the woods lately.

But we aren’t experiencing early autumn, it’s simply the trees dropping their leaves in an attempt to stay alive by diverting all the resources they have to essential functions only. That’s kind of how I’ve been feeling lately, now I come to think of it.

Some areas of my local woods are looking distincly forlorn, but other parts are doing just fine. Better than normal, in fact, because now we aren’t having any lockdowns, a lot less people are coming here for their exercise. As such this area has gone back to being overgrown just like it was pre-covid. There’s a lot less litter about, too (although still lots of abandoned poo bags, which is just flipping disgraceful).

On the 15th of August we were forecast rain for the next day, so I got every container that didnt have holes in the bottom out in the garden to catch any rain we might get. That’s in addition to the water butt. The ground is so hard and dry, if we do get any significant rain it just runs off instead of soaking in, so I thought I’d catch what I could.

We did get rain the next day, but it was only a few spots that evaporated almost instantly. Very disappointing. So that’s where they have stayed, empty, since the 15th. In fact, this morning is the first time since I don’t even know when that it really rained, and goodness me am I relieved. I’ve only been watering the plants I cannot bear to lose, and I especially couldn’t stand to use up all the water it would have taken to keep the grass green. It’ll bounce back just fine, and at least I haven’t had to worry about cutting it.

This morning we had a deluge and not only is the water butt completely full once more, things in the garden that have been struggling for weeks are already looking transformed.

That’s the very same bush, would you believe.

It’s still raining gently this afternoon, and although it is still humid the air has definitely cleared significantly. Hopefully it will be tolerable for work tonight, because last night was… damp. I managed to grab an impromptu night’s holiday after only being there for an hour-and-a-half, and I was already drenched in sweat. It doesn’t help that the forklift trucks are powered by a half-ton battery which gets hot when you use it, so you’re basically spending 8 hours sitting on a heater. Yuk.

Me, personally? I’m very much looking forward to real autumn and (hopefully) a more manageable climate to exist in for the time being. I’m also seriously hoping I manage to get my act together in terms of weight loss so I can have a much more comfortable summer next year, one I’m able to much better cope with.

Then again, I’ve been saying that for two years now! Still, I can but try.

Hayley x

Cramming

I’m currently coming to the end of a very long weekend and I’ve had some serious exhaustion to contend with. I’m talking the ‘my family thought I might be dead’ kind of deep sleeping. It’s been… something else.

I’d guess that on one of the days of my extended weekend I must have slept for about 20 HOURS. I suppose I needed it? For the life of me, I just couldn’t seem to stay awake. I was infuriating my colleagues last week- night work is especially hard in the summer as it becomes so difficult to sleep during the day. On the hottest day everyone looked like a sleep-deprived mess. Everyone except for me, that is. I slept for 11 hours straight.

I finally seem to have slept myself out, so now with one day before I go back to work, it’s time to CRAM. I promised myself I’d get everything straight this weekend, and I don’t intend to break that promise. My main goals for the rest of the summer are to keep the plants alive, to practice painting, to get my fitness levels up and to drop some more pounds. And to paint, paint and paint some more. Today I need to get loads of boring organising and cleaning done so that I can keep it in order from now on and mostly concentrate on those goals.

Yesterday was a garden pottering day whilst I eased myself back into staying awake for more than five minutes at a time. I don’t have nearly as many tomato plants as I’d planned, but the ones I do have look really robust and healthy. Good ole tomato plants. Most excitingly, the tomatoes have started to appear already.

I think it’s really cool that seeing that first fruit of the season gives me the same buzz that I got from first growing tomatoes two years ago. I’m not sure why- they’re pretty easy to grow, but I’m not complaining. I’ll take my dopamine wherever I can get it.

I bought this young sunflower indoors from the garden back in May, in an attempt to save it from the garden pests. They had nibbled it down to slightly less than a single leaf, damn them. It’s a Mongolian sunflower, and all of my seedlings were eaten bar two, so I didn’t want to take any chances. It has taken such a long time, but it’s finally bouncing back.

My wish is that I get at least one head this year so I have seeds for next year, rather than having to buy more. The same goes for my ‘Tumbling Tom’ tomatoes. Apparently, they are the only variety of tomato that is a true trailing plant, and the seeds were way more expensive than any other I’ve ever bought. There were only a few in the packet, and only one plant survived. Thankfully it looks like it’s going to fruit prolifically so I can also save seeds from that plant (although they may not come true when I sow them next year). I don’t care about stuff like that- for me, that’s a huge part of the excitement. You never know quite what you’re going to get.

I’m very excited that my hollyhocks look like they’re finally going to flower. They were supposed to flower last year but didn’t, so I can’t wait to see what this variety comes out like. Unfortunately, they are absolutely riddled with hollyhock rust (a common fungal infection) so they aren’t exactly looking wonderful, but a ropey hollyhock is better than no hollyhock in my opinion.

The pests really are outdoing themselves this year. I’ve heard other UK gardeners saying the same thing- that the aphids have just gone crazy this summer. Ladybirds eat them, but I’ve only seen one single ladybird this season. One is nowhere near enough. My RHS Gardening magazine tells me to be patient and that the ladybirds and lacewings will eventually come to eat the aphids up, and to not be tempted to spray the plants. Not that I would. We don’t do pesticides in this garden, no matter how annoying the bugs get.

I guess we could also describe our flock of garden sparrows as pests, but I find them hilarious. I suppose it must be handed down the generations that us particular humans aren’t a threat, because every year they try harder and harder to get inside the house. Well, one has actually succeeded so far this year after making it into my brother’s bedroom.

We have both of our bird boxes occupied, but one couple must be new to the area because they don’t like us so much. The shout at me if I get too close and practically dive-bombed my mum while she was out there. One even touched her cheek as it flew by. I don’t have photographic evidence, so here’s a photo I’ve recylcled from 2020. It’s the same box, so I think it counts.

To get a blog posted was in fact on my to-do list this weekend, so I don’t feel bad for taking the time to do it. Having said that, it’s time I cracked on before I run out of energy. I’ve got A LOT to do.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Me and My Brain

Right, I am finally getting somewhere when it comes to understanding and working WITH what I have in the brain department rather than against it. Of all my artistic pursuits it’s clear to me now that painting is the hands-down favourite of them all, so in order to have the best chance of actually, well, painting anything (as opposed to just thinking about painting and not actually doing it) I have now perfected the permanent painting set-up in my room. It is WORKING!

As soon as an obstacle is placed in front of me, procrastination sets in. I would just paint but first I have to do such and such, but such and such is booooooooring so I’ll put it off and then put it off some more. But now, I walk into my room and BAM, everything is ready to go.

I will share that space with you soon, but first (this is not a ‘procrastination’ first but a real one) I need to spend this week doing a different kind of painting. Then I’ll show you this little area that I’m so excited about.

To say I’ve been putting off decorating for about 20 years would not even be exaggerating. Over the last three years or so I’ve been very much intending to give everything a refresh, but every time I booked annual leave in order to do it, it so happened that I found myself quite badly depressed.

On these occasions I’d go so far as to say my week off left everything in a worse state than before.

It doesn’t help that decorating is one of those tasks I find incredibly boring, but in this instance I think I’ve come to the very limit of how long I can put it off. I just have to bite the bullet and GET IT DONE.

It’s actually funny reading back what I’ve written so far because I started this post yesterday. At the exact time I should have started the decorating, as it happens. I did locate everything I need for the task, so that’s something, but the entire day was spent doing anything but decorating.

I intended to get started but somehow I found myself in the garden. I did a bit of weeding and whatnot, then got the carrots sown in the small raised bed. I’m actually really excited about these, but it’ll be at least three months till they’re ready. Hopefully they’ll be worth the wait.

After that, I took Newty out for a walk, something that I had been intending to do no matter what. It’s been too long since I last went to the woods with my bestest mate.

It was the perfect spring day for walking. A bit chilly, until you get started that is, then exactly the right temperature. With added sunny spells. Then the tiniest bit of refreshing drizzle right at the end of the walk.

As much as I’ve been enjoying the sunshine we really could do with some rain. The water butt is nearly empty already.

Ok, I get it. I’m still procrastinating. So I’d best finish up here and get the hell on with it.

After just one more cup of tea.

Hayley x

Just Can’t Get Enough

It’s a tradition that every single British bank holiday should have atrocious weather, but this Easter weekend has surprisingly been an absolute beauty. I’d go so far as to say it’s been almost perfect.

I knew the most sunshine was forecast for Saturday and Sunday, so I made sure I spent plenty of time in the garden on those days. Today is nice, but not quite as nice. I keep banging on about the tulips but DAMN they are performing. I just can’t stop looking at them! Most of them I planted the year before last, and although I’ve read that tulips don’t normally do as well in their second year, it seems that no one made mine aware of that.

I’ve been trying to pick a favourite, and I’d say that so far Princess Irene is the winner. At least I think they’re called Princess Irene. I am the worst with labelling so that’s just a guess.

All of my tulips are from Farmer Gracy. I first discovered Farmer Gracy from an Instagram ad so I was a bit suspicious at first, but everything I’ve ever bought from there has been spectacular. I noticed yesterday that my giant allium, which is in its second year, has got its head. That was one of my favourites from 2020 so I’m glad it’s making a decent comeback.

In a few months it should look like this:

What an absolute stunner. Also the bees LOVE IT.

In other garden news, I have decided that I am pretty much done with starting seeds off super early. It’s just too much of a pain in the behind, for very little benefit. The only thing I’d say was worth it is the chillies and the tomatoes. Even though it’s been fun to grow the chillies, I hardly ever eat fresh chillies so it’s kind of pointless that I now have SIX chilli plants. My sister is going to take one of them, and I want to keep one for myself, but I need to remember to only grow things that will either be beautiful or actually useful.

The tomatoes are another matter entirely. I eat a lot of tomatoes and some that I accidentally sowed in February are doing really well. I didn’t have any compost so I reused some I found in the garden that must have had tomato seeds in it from last season.

What I wanted to grow didn’t germinate at all, but the tomatoes are looking nice and healthy.

What can I say? It’s a learning curve. I am actually enjoying the trial and error and finding out what works for me.

In 2019 I had great success with marigolds, but last year they were all eaten by slugs. Even though they are supposed to be a natural slug and snail deterrent. I tried again this year and of the twenty seedlings I put in one of my cold frames, only three haven’t been munched to oblivion. I wondered if something else was eating them, but on closer inspection the telltale slime trail was indeed present.

The other cold frame has been ok because I tried a little experiment of putting Lava-Lite No-Slugs on the ground. It’s a pet- and child-safe deterrent that the slugs and snails simply don’t like to cross, so now I know it works I’ve ordered some more. As it happens I also recommend their solution for fungus gnats, which I only use for indoor plants. It doesn’t kill them, they just don’t like it and go away to annoy someone else.

I also did my first springtime walk in the woods last week. Greater Stitchwort is one of my favourite wildflowers and it’s everywhere right now.

It was also nice to get out for some proper exercise – something that I’ve been avoiding recently. I was planning more walks this week, but I’ve caught a bug (thankfully a non-covid bug) so instead I’m going to be resting up until I’m better. Exercising and not being able to breathe through your nose do not really go hand in hand!

In fact, I think it’s time for a nap.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x