Meanwhile back at the ranch…..

We came back from Glenelg straight into a visit from David and Karen, so no chance for the liver to dry out. We’ve been rather starved of house guests from the wider world since the Covid lockdown started, so we made the most of it. As a result, Keith and I are now on day 5 of a dry week to recover from the combined indulgences of Glenelg and company. We have a curry pencilled in for tomorrow though, so that means beer o’ clock will recommence. Moderation in all things, even abstinence, is the motto here at Ruthven.

David has a fine poly tunnel going and brought us a bag of mini cucumbers for pickling (which Keith has moved onto today as rain has stopped play in the garden), some mystery Incan green veg which went pretty well with halibut and tales of various unusual types of melon and a sophisticated netting system to hold them above the ground. I can see Keith’s poly tunnel plans ratcheting up a notch. However, it turns out David’s aubergines have suffered the same ill fate as my own (white fly and heads falling off – a fairly fatal combo) so I feel somewhat vindicated. Keith has been exuding silent (and not so silent) aubergine criticism of late.

Lyra and I have been out to inspect the old haunts. The hedgerows are steadily turning red with hips and haws and the elderberries have started to colour up. Round by Keith and Sarah’s the scrog trees are festooned with tiny, probably horribly sour, scrog apples. It is going to be a good year for the birds! Not many flowers are left compared with Glenelg. There’s the odd head of knapweed and convolvulus in the hedge, but really it’s all about fruit now (though not, it appears, sloes – Raymond has been scouting and the blackthorns I found earlier in the year are fruitless). Our orchard is gearing up for a bumper crop. The red apples are almost ready to eat and the green ones are huge, one tree is bent double under the strain. Anne next door is threatening to go into hiding so we don’t press gang her into apple pressing. We may need to hang about outside the coop with a club to pick off unsuspecting shoppers (a good use for the floral bandit facemarks perhaps??). Mystery fungi also abound. There’s a giant fairy ring outside Butterlaw. (Talking of fairies – I remarked yesterday that it was a strange thing that the overnight washing up fairy never seemed to appear on the days I was last down. Lachlan explained that the fairies’ union operates a strict closed shop and if he were to unilaterally wash up there could be uproar. Hmm – this is on a par with his earlier declaration that Ghandi would not want to see him bringing in the coal).

Game abounds, much to Lyra’s excitement. On our last walk but one she chased a deer, a hare, a rabbit and a flock of partridges. The deer effortlessly floated off over the next field, separated from Lyra by a ditch, its head and hind quarters rising and falling above the corn in what seemed almost slow motion until you watched Lyra puffing away to keep pace, her little legs going like the clappers. The hare made more of a visible effort, but even with madam going at her top speed (which is not shabby) its legs were like scissors slicing through the grass ahead of her. As Lyra started to flag after almost a full field length, the hare just opened up the scissors a little more and ratcheted up the pace. At the fence Lyra casually slowed and turned, pretending she had decided not to bother after all and might just see if I had a cheesy treat. Face was saved. A rabbit appeared next and applied a totally different evasion strategy. It hadn’t the speed of the hare but darted here, there and everywhere until our poor pup was totally befuddled. The partridges were the final straw. As Lyra passed their roost they took off like a small bomber squadron. She made a desultory pounce, but her heart wasn’t in it. She slept like a log all afternoon.

Two dryish days in the garden saw me take off another four dumpy bags of weeds. Is there no end to the buggers???? I have also been digging out some areas for new planting. There are now some promising gaps to fill with the stockpile of plants I have been amassing from seeds and cuttings all summer. It is the time of year when I conclude that everything is in entirely the wrong place and must be moved. When not grovelling around extracting weeds, I am therefore engaged in a 4D puzzle of where everything should go to optimum effect (if you are wondering, the 4th D is time as you need to factor what is up when – a failure of the 4th D is usually why things need moved as I will have planted them in spring in a space, entirely forgetting some late summer plant lurking underground a bit too close). One of the usual puzzle problems is finding somewhere for the surplus to go in this exercise (there is always something left over). The overflow bank is getting quite full now, but I have started another border down by the compost bins in front of some tree stumps (ironically this unprepossessing spot seems to have the best soil in the garden) and there is, of course, the New Border behind the hedge. This seems to have fairly dire Rooty soil (unsurprisingly) and I can see me having to improve it a fair bit before I let rip. However, there’s nothing to be done until the edging goes in so I shall have to hold fire for now. It gives longer for the ideas to percolate.

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