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Plunton on Sunday afternoon from the veg patch gate.

The Indian Summer weather slightly caught us by surprise this weekend but as we had lots of plans was most welcome. On Saturday we went up to Lanark for the Smallholders and Growers Festival. It’s a small one-day agricultural show aimed specifically at what most farmers would describe as hobbyists – that would be us! There were really useful stalls covering everything from bee-keeping (Solway Bees are based just down the road at Twynholm and said we could pop by any time) to pigs and cattle and renewable energy. We picked up leaflets on several sheep varieties, poultry (including, ex-battery hens) rare breeds, pigs and even Dexter cattle. We’re unlikely to invest in livestock of any sort until the Spring but it was nice to ask stupid questions without feeling a fool! Perhaps most useful was the forestry talk Matt and Iris attended. The Woodland Trust will come out and do a free survey to help us plan our wood and will provide ongoing help and grants of up to 60%. We’ve asked their local rep to give us a call to see what we can do as we’d like to get trees groing this autumn if we can.

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The revamped planters (and Iris getting her sandals on)

Saturday evening and Sunday were given over to landscaping. We inherited two old Belfast sink planters with the house which were languishing by the rotten back door on the north side of the house, where they were getting very little sun and had consequently failed. I’d emptied them of their contents last week so on Saturday we moved them to the front of the house and raised them up on bricks removed from the old kitchen inglenook – they fit perfectly either side of the kids’ bench against the front of the sun room. We cleared out the clogged up plugs, filled them with crocks for drainage and topped up with compost. I’d picked up some plants at the Festival so I then planted in some spring bulbs and a mix of lavender, nepeta, a crawling sedum to drip over the front and cover the damaged rims and a small spiky grass. I’m pretty pleased with the final effect and hopefully they will do well in the sunshine and not suffer too much from the exposure. We’ll be gathering more shells from the beach to top dress them to cut down on weeds. If this weather holds out that might be today’s outing with Arthur and Kester.

Sunday saw more graft in the form of preparing a rabbit-proofed area for our veg patch. We have decided to site it at the end of the front garden against the existing boulder walls. It’s a south-facing slope and we’d already sunk the gateposts and a couple of fence posts through the week. By lunchtime we’d sunk the rest (and located a drainage pipe) and strung galvanised wire across the top. In the afternoon we fixed on the chicken wire. We have left a flap of about 30cm on the ground which we will hide under the turf to stop rabbits burrowing underneath and we folded over a similar amount at the top to reinforce it. It’s not the most attractive structure but it should work to protect our crops from rabbits and, if necessary with a bit of reinforcing, deer and the odd escaped sheep from the field. Matt is finishing off the gate as I type, using bits of scrap wood from projects in the house. The kids, meanwhile, had a ball playing in the garden in the unseasonably warm weather!

The finished fence...well, almost.

The finished fence…well, almost.

This week’s tasks – well, Matt is off to London for the day on Tuesday so there’s a logistical nightmare to sort out as he needs to drive to Dumfries for the train. I’m hoping to do more jam-making, looking into soap-making, there’s a parents’ meeting on Friday morning and a Harvest Service in the afternoon which Iris will be taking part in, which also means looking out tins and jars for donating to the local food bank and then we have a weekend off as we head to Kerry’s wedding in Alnwick on Friday afternoon and meet up with lots of old friends. Phew!

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