Friday, 29 May 2009

Help! Somethings eating my herbs!

It's been a hot and sunny day today at Tubledown Farm. The hay field is now up to my waist in height. Several orange-tipped and blue butterflies have flitted past me, although sadly they had no time to stop and let me photograph them.

I was busily trying to snap a greedy bee on the Thalictrum when Stilton rushed up to me.

Stilton the incredible gardening cat wasn't too pleased. Apparrently he had warned her to stay away from the herb bed...

That cheeky little Amber was up to no good!

There was nothing I could do except put her into solitary confinement and reach for the bottle! My poor herb bed.

I'm starting to worry that putting the new veg plot next to the goat house wasn't such a good idea...

Meet the Family.

Before I carry on blogging any further about Tumbledown Farm I feel it is time to introduce you to "The Girls". Tumbledown Farm is home to a herd of Anglo-Nubian dairy goats.

We have been breeding and showing Anglo-Nubian goats for 27 years now. They are my mothers pride and joy and through years of line breeding she now has one of the top show herds in europe, if not the world. Goats from Tumbledown Farm have made it as far afield as Brazil, Jamaica, Trinidad, Spain, Holland, Germany, Belgium, France, the West Indies, the Middle East and Africa.

The girls rule the roost. They have the best part of four and a half acres of grassland to roam.

They are not ones to miss a treat and come running if they think they are missing out on something.

They love to nibble the apple trees and willow that surrounds the smallholding and they even get a range of scones and tea cakes as after milking treats.

This year we have three new additions to the family...

April (front left) and Rosie.

Amber (9 days old today).

Welcome to the family girls!

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Buscot Park

I visited one of my favourite houses and gardens last week. Buscot Park House is a special place for me as it is home to many Arts and Crafts pieces of exceptional beauty. It displays a number of significant paintings by Pre-Raphaelite artists such as Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. I have always been someone who has found it easier to connect visually to things, whereas many people can lose themselves for hours in a book, I find it easier to get lost in a painting. Pre-Raphaelite Art has been a passion of mine since childhood. It was not until I began studying archaeology at University that I realised quite how much images such as those of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema had influenced me.

The Juggler -Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema

The Saloon at Buscot is a room I could spend many hours in. Hanging from the walls are four large oils by Burne-Jones depicting the legend of Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty). Burne-Jones' friend William Morris composed verses to accompany each of the paintings.

The Briar Wood
The fateful slumber floats and flows
About the tangle of the rose.
But lo the fated hand and heart
To rend the slumberous curse apart.

Although the house is now owned by the National Trust the second Lord of Faringdon and his family are living at Buscot and administering the house and grounds for the Trust. A fact I sadly forgot last week when I was busily photographing a beautiful white clematis growing around one of the lower ground floor windows of the house. I enthusiastically crouched down to take a close up of one of the flowers when I peered in the window only to find the present Lord of Faringdon peering back at me. Sat in an arm chair by the window, quietly reading a book in one of his private rooms, the Lord of Faringdon unfortunately found the stream of afternoon sunlight through his window was being obscured by some daft member of the public peering in at him and brandishing a camera. I wanted to explain to him that I was not in fact a crazed stalker but just a keen gardener who wanted to take a close up of the rather pretty clematis growing around the window, but felt it was probably best to just back away and leave the poor man in peace to read his book.

The Four Seasons Walled Garden

The first part of the garden visitors to Buscot enter is the Four Season’s Walled Garden. This was a walled kitchen garden in the 18th Century but the present Lord Faringdon has turned it into a beautiful ornamental garden divided into four quadrants with statues of the four seasons around its perimeter.

The Four Seasons Walled Garden

The Buscot Park Garden is probably most famous for its Water Garden designed by Harold Peto. It was laid out in 1904 for the first Lord of Faringdon. The water garden was devised to create a link between the house and the large lake which is one of the main features of the original eighteenth centaury parkland landscape. It essentially consists of a long central canal leading down to the lake, flanked by box and cypress hedges.

Peto Water Garden

Peto Water Garden

Some of the most enjoyable features of the water garden are the sculptures sheltered in the hedge, on the seats surrounding the main circular pool in the canal and the fountain within the pool itself. As with the art inside the house, the sculpture is beautiful yet quirky and makes the garden more of an enjoyable treasure trove than a formal water garden.

Lion bench in the Peto Water Garden

Woodland Avenue

The park at Buscot consists of a number of beautiful woodland avenues. Swathes of wild flowers and grasses grow in the dappled light of the trees. The avenues are interrupted in several places by sculptures and two small gardens. The Citrus Bowl garden as described in a previous post consists of a sunken garden filled with citrus trees.

The Swinging Garden

The second of the small gardens to be found in the woodland is The Swinging Garden. It is by far my favourite part of the Buscot gardens. It is a circular garden designed to be a place of fun amidst the formality of the Park. It is a particularly beautiful and peaceful place surrounded by four large chain suspended garden seats where people can sit and contemplate the garden.

The Swinging Garden

The planting is largely on a green, silver and white theme, not one that has ever previously compelled me to recreate it at home, but The Swinging Garden’s serenity and beauty has most certainly caught this Orchids attention!

The Swinging Garden

Friday, 22 May 2009

Bee -utiful Buscot!

I've had an exceptionally busy week working away in Oxford. I did however manage to sneak in time for a quick trip around Buscot Park Gardens. Unfortunately I've no time for long posts now as I'm off to Stratford on Avon for a couple of days to see Julius Caesar and to have a good nose around Hidcote (weather permitting).

In the mean time here are a few pictures of the bees enjoying the orange blossom in the Citrus Bowl Garden at Buscot.
The Citrus Bowl Garden, Buscot.
The bees were going wild for the sweet smelling orange blossom.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Flower Power!

It was a wet and blustery day in South Lincs yesterday and the wind howled through the cow parsley in the hay field, but there still were a few interesting sights to be seen in the garden.

Choisya ternata 'Sundance'

Thalictrum aquilegiifolium

Orange tip butterfly on Hesperis matronalis.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Drive Time!

Stilton isn't particularly pleased with all this long distance driving I've been doing. In fact this week he has offered to drive me himself!

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Stilton, Ruler of the Universe: A Brief History of a Girl and her Love for Tonkinese Cats.

Thousands of years ago, cats were worshipped as gods.

Cats have never forgotten this.


Anyone who knows me knows that I love cats. I am fond of many animals but for cats I have great affection. They are creatures that can offer loyal companionship, frequent head bumps and the occasional wash if you need it, but ultimately they live their lives on their own terms. They are without doubt the ones in control; for which I respect them immensely.

Antony and Cleopatra.

I have lived with cats all my life. For much of it they have been Tonkinese cats. The first were Antony and Cleopatra. Tragically Antony suffered from Pica (the art of eating inedible objects) which is something that Oriental breeds appear to have a predisposition for and he met his untimely demise after eating a pair of my mittens. So along came Berenice, a beautiful blue girl from the same litter to keep Cleo my lovely brown Tonk company. They undisputedly ruled our lives for 16 years.

Bubbles and Berenice.

Tonkinese cats are not only creatures of great beauty and elegance but they combine the soft, intelligent temperament of a Siamese with the effervescent, gregarious persona of the Burmese. This is why five years ago when I had the chance to a have another cat in my life I chose Stilton, a charismatic, confident and extremely loving brown Tonkinese.


Stilton is the apple of my eye, a gorgeous, very communicative and extremely loyal friend. He loves to play and never ceases to amaze me with his intelligence and inventiveness. His favourite games are hide and seek (which he plays with both humans and other cats) and fetch.

Stilton fetching merekat.

His inquisitive mind often gets him into trouble.

I cannot help but love Tonks; they bring so much warmth into your life. I hope once I have regained a little more order at Tumbledown Farm to have the opportunity to breed them. I have no doubt that Stilton will feature frequently in this blog. After last years campaign for Stilton to be the new lead presenter of Gardener's World he has got a taste for fame, and who am I to deny him? He is after all the ruler of the universe, well my universe anyway.

I believe cats to be spirits come to earth.
A cat, I am sure, could walk on a cloud without coming through.

~Jules Verne.

Friday, 15 May 2009

The beginning.

Well this is my first attempt at blogging, so I feel I better say a little about myself. I am the only child of two hippies. Two hippies who had a dream. In the late seventies they fled the smog of central London to live the ‘Good Life’ in the Fenland countryside.

At first it was a few chickens, then some ducks and a couple of geese. Then a goat or two, and a horse or three. Until, before they knew it they had a smallholding with a vast menagerie of animals. For most of my childhood we were pretty much self sufficient producing all our own fruit and vegetables, eggs, dairy, and meat. I led very much a sheltered and idyllic childhood full of animals, butterflies and fairies. Many happy days were spent watching wildlife in the long grass at the bottom of the land or in the neighbouring fruit orchards.

My love of animals and nature spread to an interest in the surrounding landscape and during my teens I began to volunteer at Flag Fen, a local archaeological site. I found the traces of prehistoric wetland activity fascinating and by my late teens I was ready to leave the comfort of our cosy small holding and study archaeology at University.

Some ten years later my love of animals and nature has led me to specialise in Environmental Archaeology, which investigates the long-term relationship between humans and their environments. In 2006 I completed a PhD exploring prehistoric coastal wetland exploitation through the study of footprints and animal bones. I had the pleasure of working in the Severn Estuary for a number of years recording data from Late Mesolithic sediments in Wales. I now work as an Environmental Archaeologist in the somewhat struggling sector of commercial archaeology.

This summer at the age of 30 I have suddenly found myself embarking on a second childhood. Twelve years after flying the nest for pastures new I have returned to live on my parent’s small holding. Encroaching years and my parent's ill health has meant that the place has become very run down. The garden is a veritable wilderness of cow parsley and nettles. Trees and shrubs tower and sprawl in an unruly fashion having escaped pruning for several years. My aim is to tame the wilderness and restore the property back to the self-sufficient small holding and beautiful gardens it once used to be. A daunting adventure, but one I am very much relishing.