Sunday, 31 March 2019

Mini pond - it's a "thing"!!

I discovered this container many years ago in my next-door-neighbour's back yard.  She had it standing up with the curved (left of the pic) side at the top so that it looked rather like a little fireplace.  Every summer two pots of geraniums stood on the deeper side (right of the pic).  I told her that when she wanted to get rid of it I'd take it off her hands!  She died a few years ago and the new house owner didn't want it, so I asked if I could have it - yes, I could.  It sat outside my front door and every year it was home to pots of things not yet planted but that needed to be kept moist.  Not really successful as an object, but it did the job.  (By the way, Any suggestions on original use?  It's not a washing sink as there is no escape hole to let water out.  And it would originally have been the same height all round).

Then, a month ago, in a local paper, I read an article about "mini ponds".  The writer suggested sinking a washing up bowl into your soil, but look! I already had a container!  Got some help getting it to the desired spot, washed it out, and found some large pebbles and a couple of bricks and filled it with rainwater.  In washing it out, I found it had it's own built in fossil - a fan shaped piece of coral, I think ... so as we are a mile inland from the Jurassic Coast, surely it's local stone?

  • The jumble of bricks and pebbles create a little cave in case a toad arrives (hoping!) 
  • the stone in the middle of the water is not completely submerged so that bees can land (although the article did suggest wine corks, but all my wine has metal screw tops at the mo').
  • The left hand side of the container is shallow enough so that should a hedgehog get in, he can get out again without drowning. 

 Next - you need to give shelter and protection from predators (a couple of cats use this garden as the end of their perambulations and also we do get sparrowhawks).  On the left of the pic is the original border edge, so I dug out the turf between the old edging and the mini pond and planted things that will give some good cover and provided a little toad shelter - terracotta, so should keep coolish.

 But I wanted to plant around the container, not just on that one side, and had a light bulb moment then!  I had some slabs from a path being laid and some had been broken in the attempt.  What if I put those broken pieces next to the container, but with a gap for some planting?  You can see from the pics that there is a small amount of soil left for that purpose.  It looked OK, but not really very professional.  So I added a whole slab each side and  removed more turf to have the slabs sunk into the grass (making for easy mowing).

You can see my footprints, I was out there early for the pictures, and the dark marks are dew.  So now I have some little areas at each end of the container to plant, and when established should look more natural and give Mr Toad, should he ever arrive, even more cover to mooch around in!  (of course, if frogs come, they can use the covers also - or maybe I will even get newts!!)

Here's a miniature Iris in full bloom and behind it, although unseen at the moment, is a large lump of the common yellow flag Iris, often seen near water.  My garden is at the top of a hill.  It gets full sun from dawn onwards until around 4.00pm, with the exception of  an area of shadow from a holly tree which gives the mini pond area some shadow from around 1.00pm onwards.  So I steer clear from any plant that says "likes cool, damp conditions".  However, when filling the mini-pond (which I guess in high summer will be daily), the overflow slides off in the area where the Iris are planted.  Win-win!
And here, some bulbs in pots are ready to plant out elsewhere, but giving colour and interest now.

And there it is, ready to go.  Well, I say ready to go... in fact the blackbirds that nest in my hedges found it within an hour, and have daily baths!  You can see at the top left of the pic that I am tidying up the border and the edging, but didn't get as far as the mini-pond because I was far too excited!!  Look carefully at the back of that border and you can see huge clumps of primroses - and I never planted one!  It's been a good year everywhere here in the South West of England for primroses,  and I've been particularly lucky as they seem to love the conditions in my garden so I just left them seed.  We have a grass area outside out hedge on the road side which is not owned by us.  It's maintained by the local authority.  I think some of those primroses are headed for that area shortly.

  I'll come back in a couple of months to show the area with completed planting and perhaps a wildlife report too..... "Come on Mr Toad!"

Friday, 29 March 2019

Mrs Mac suggests - what to read in APRIL 19

We've had some lovely Spring days - today I was out without even a jacket (until the sun started to go down, taking with it the temperature of course).  I've put in a mini pond  in my garden, in the hope that at least a toad will take up residence..... I have given him/her a little shelter, should I be lucky.  I have a post with pics (dated 31 March 19)and will do another later in the Summer.

On to reading.  In April, I want to read. Hahaha!, of course I do, I always want to read!  But what; that's the question.  I have found myself reading a lot of books set between the two World Wars, and wonder if I should pick another.  No, a decision has been made now -

 I am going to finish a series.  

With one book left on my shelves of the Lewis Cole Mysteries, it's

Hard Aground - Brendan Dubois

There is another, but just published, so I'll wait a while before ordering the last.  I found them difficult or non-existent in the UK except for the first, so I was ordering second hand from the US (and it was fascinating to find that nearly every one available were ex-library books!)  So I found myself wondering where these small towns were.....

Have a lovely reading month, everyone.                                                                                      

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

White Houses - Amy Bloom

I am not American, and I know little about Franklin D Roosevelt,  a little more about Eleanor his wife.  I didn't buy this book either, it was passed on to me.  But after reading I know more about both of them, because the author has taken facts, and woven them into fictional conversations together with known facts, based on what was happening at the time.

The author tells you it is fiction, but it is the conversations and the intimate happenings that she has made into a fiction -what is true is that all the main characters are real people, (although I have to say I particularly enjoyed Parker Fiske, a man who is a fictional character). Eleanor Roosevelt, the great do-gooder, and Franklin, husband and President are in the White House. And so is Lorena Hickok, journalist, and Eleanor's lover. This is the story of a woman who loved a President's wife, and who outlived both of them. A fascinating trip into history, well researched before writing, Bloom has a really readable style.... every word believable, every fact in the right place. This takes the reader from Hickok's dreadful childhood via Franklyn's terms as President into her old age, and if you feel no emotion when reading her final thoughts on Mrs Roosevelt on the last page, you have no heart. 
How difficult to have been a lesbian at that time when your lover had the eyes of the whole country upon her. In fact, how difficult to have been "different" at all.  Of course, for a man to beat his wife seems even now to be acceptable in some circles, but to take a lover of the same sex at certain times in history has been at the very least, difficult.
Recommended - especially for reading groups.

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Song of the Sea Maid - Rebecca Mascull

I really enjoyed reading this one, especially I was reading it in the week that International Womens' Day fell, and this was a tale of an orphan child who came up with a similar theory to Charles Darwin but some time before he did!  Well - it is fiction, but historical fiction, something that the author is especially good at.  I like a well researched book, and the notes at the end will enlighten the reader no end.

It's the middle of the 18th Century, and Dawnay Price, who had been found on the streets of London as a a tiny child, filthy, bedraggled, starving is handed over by her finder and benefactor into the care of an orphanage until old enough to be passed to employment as a maid or seamstress, seeing as that was all girl orphans were apparently fit for.  But Dawnay Price is desperate to learn.  To learn about things, to learn how to find out about those things, and of course to write.  Because the orphans get taught how to read, but what good is writing to a kitchen maid or such?  By stealing ink, quill and paper she starts to copy words out in the dead of night, thinking that no-one knows.......  And this is only the start of her wonderful adventure, travelling to Portugal in her early twenties to do research, travelling on to Minorca to do the same.

I really liked the style of writing, because it seemed whilst reading that it really was true to 18th Century prose but still easy to read.  Her notes afterwards will tell you how the author achieved this.  It's written in the present tense and the first person which worked really well for me.   What also worked well was the weaving of real life happenings into Dawnay's story (did you know that Lisbon was nearly totally destroyed by an earthquake and tidal wave in the 1750s?) so if you like historical fiction, you may find that this is just the kind of read you'll enjoy.

Just a PS about this cover.  Wrong!  Wrong! Wrong!  Downay dressed down, as we'd say now.  She never wore the kind of dress shown on the cover, indeed she was a very plain dresser  and usually wore her hair inside a cotton cap.  One doesn't wear  a party frock whilst looking at the ocean floor - ever!

Sunday, 3 March 2019

The Conditions of Love - Dale M Kushner

 Eunice is around ten years old at the start of this book, and it will take you through  to her adolescence and the rest of her teen years.  She's in love with her father, a man who turns up just once since he left home when she was a baby, and oh! how lovely and how handsome he is.  Her mother, on the other hand, yearns for Hollywood - the stars, the famous, the entire lifestyle.  The first third of the book describes this time in Eunice's life and the people she meets beautifully (as does the rest of it), and we get to understand how a fatherless child might feel.  During a flood in her home area she is lost, and would have died if she was not found by a woods-woman, Rose, who keeps bees and lives in her own home-built cabin.  This third of the book is entirely different, except that Eunice is continuing to tell you her story.  I loved Rose, a woman who had lost everything but made a life anyway.  And finally, the last third tells if the meeting of Eunice's love of her life and the early days of that relationship.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   And if you think I have told all - you'd be wrong, for this book is full of things!  Also, for me, an absolute joy to read, honestly.  A lovely writing style (and this is Kushner's first novel) and a tale to be read in huge chunks if you can - I cannot recommend this one enough.  Go.  Find.  Read!

P.S. ...... the cover picture is wrong - the bird in question was a turquoise parakeet, not a blue budgerigar........ but that's all I could find wrong with this lovely book. 

Friday, 1 March 2019

Mrs Mac suggests - what to read in March '19

Hello!  The second half of February was obliterated by a gigantic gallstone attack which laid me low and stopped me reading - what a bummer is that?!!  And watching daytime TV didn't really make up for it, either.  Anyway, yesterday I picked up a book and felt good reading a few pages, so I am off and running today, and hope that you will be too.

Spring came early to the UK with a few days of high temps and sunshine.  All my miniature daffodils are out, so are the wild primroses which appear every year in new places around the garden, as they seed themselves where they will.  So of course I could suggest reading a gardening book of some kind for March.  But that may not appeal to everyone, and I've been scratching my head.

Ahah!  let's go with
                            A book set in another country

which gives you oodles of choice!  I mean!  Crime/travel/history/love...... whatever.  You will find something easily and so will I.  In fact my next book is set in the American Midwest, and it's                

The Conditions of Love - Dale M Kushner                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Early One Morning - Virginia Baily

I was attracted to this novel purely by the cover (as I suppose this is meant to happen!) and it has very little about the contents on the b...