Interlude: Ollivander’s apprentice

Nina is having a witches and wizards party tomorrow, and R has almost all the gear: the Harry Potter glasses (adapted from a Groucho Marx disguise from Osh’s party last year, with the nose ripped off), the black robes (S’s old dress ripped down the middle) and a preppy tie (from Lucinda, S’s high school friend in Dublin). The only thing missing was the wand, so rather than buy a plastic one we thought we’d make one.

First, we went into the forest looking for a suitable stick


We saw Tom and Molly on the way in; they were off on their bikes to “jump on the mulch pile”. There were some really great corkscrew-shaped vines in the forest, but we didn’t bring any snippers to cut them. We eventually found a nice birch stick over by the Alfred Nicholas gardens.

The initial plan was to make two, and we fished a blackwood log out of the wood pile for the other one, but it was going to take too long to pare back and the blades on the plane are finally blunt (after 18 years – not bad).

A birch or blackwood wand for sir?

We chopped the stick, planed it back and then gave it a whole lot of caressing with the belt sander. We gouged out some wiggly channels with the router to give it some interest.


We painted it with gold spray paint left over from Christmas, and then once it was dry we sanded it off again, leaving gold in the channels and in bits of the grain.



R tried to make the window go up and down in the car on the way to pick up S – the wand works with “Downio” and “Uppio” (and papa’s finger secretly on the control in the front).

Cherry tree

When it comes to the garden, I tend to favour the “profusion” school of thought which, if done right, eventually looks like “stuff just grew there”, is low maintenance but still pretty and useful (food on the borders and so on). Not saying I’m doing it right, just saying there is actually a strategy in play.

There’s a very fine line between “profusion” and “mess”. The garden needs to look organic in its layout without looking like it’s untended. An idea to kind of make it look a bit more “on purpose” is to plonk something formal in the middle of everything else. A clear bit of intention can halo effect out to the surrounding bits. So the theory goes.

Anyway, the formal bit up the hill is going to be around the recently-moved cherry tree. We’ll make some perfect circles there that blend (purposefully) with the surrounding bushes/hill/scrub/rocks.

We’ve pegged out a perfect circle around the tree. We’ll build rock wall where it’s needed, put an edge of stones around the perimeter and a hedge just inside.

Old faithful bit of string with a knot in it gets a perfect circle.
New rocks to the right of the uphill steps
The bit leading away from the steps is turned into a little entrance path. The first English box hedge plants go in. We’ll pull up the rosemary and put them elsewhere.

Update: April 5 – half of the rear wall done with stones reclaimed from the path that’s not going to be a stone path anymore.



One year, two months and 11 days after first rigging up the chicken run, we have an egg.

Other people buy ready-made coops off the internet and chickens that are laying already. They’re probably more clever.

Frame goes up 2nd Jan 2014.
Chicken lays egg 11 Mar 2015

Wish we knew which chicken is responsible so that we can give her a big high five.

Update: definitely Popples. Caught her going nuts while the other three chickens stood around looking confused.

Coming into autumn

Well, that wasn’t much of a summer. Last year March was pretty hot and dry, but autumn’s arrived on time this year.

Mind blown. Strawberries reverse their seed-flesh colours as they ripen.
Belladonnas also come in a yellow/white shade. Didn’t know we had this one!
The magic of working retic. Probably not needed for the rest of the year though. Flowers are Liriope.
Just a few strings of bark left on the big tree.
My favourite gerbera returned from the dead



By mid-April autumn is in full swing. The rains are here, the weather has cooled, and it’s time to weed and compost so that the wet weather can help put some goodness into the soil and prepare it for spring.


Last year’s prunings are this year’s plants. 4 baby hydrangeas made it through the summer without any input from me.


Fuchsias making a good show. I’m even kinda liking that cyclamen. First time I’ve had a cyclamen (a) not die; and (b) produce flowers after the ones that it came with have wilted away.



Tidying up the meadow pathway. Two wheelbarrow loads of weeds came out.


Normality in the hills

There was a bit of a blow last night, and one of the little trees down at the bottom of the yard split in half. The rest is leaning over Dave’s fence and there’s a suspicious bulge in the ground, so the rest will have to come down, too.


Phew! Fell in the right direction.