Thursday, 22 April 2010

Dances with Goats: April at Tumbledown.

Well a stroll around Tumbledown Farm is long overdue. I have finally retrieved my laptop from the strange mumbling techy guy in the darkened little shop somewhere on an industrial estate in Peterborough, but alas he could not save my hard drive. I lost everything on it. Luckily most things were saved to disk although I fear some were not. I am trying not to think about those. I am extremely happy to have it back. However since its return, I have barely had a chance to use it.

Blossom on the Greengage Tree.

Spring has arrived at Tumbledown kicking and screaming this month, and I really mean SCREAMING! 

It all started last week. I had been visiting friends in the West Country at the weekend and I did not return until Tuesday. The Aged P's had gone on a jolly outing to the district Hospital for Aged P No 1's weekly dip in the pool hydrotherapy session when I arrived home. I slowly extracted myself from the car and stretched my legs after a rather slow and extemely vexing four-hour car journey. I decided to cheer myself up with a visit to the greenhouse. I was half way across the veg plot when I heard the all too familiar shriek of a baby goat, it was making the sound it usually makes when its loving mother steps on it with her size nines. "Hmmmmm" I thought to myself as I started sprinting back across the veg plot and into the goat house "I'm sure we're not supposed to have any of those yet!"

What I found was that Delovely, one of mums favourite milkers had rather sneakily decided to have her kids a week early whilst everyone had gone out for the day and since no one was expecting her to kid she was out in the day area with the rest of the herd. So there she was in the middle of the goat house having carefully removed all the straw off of the floor trying to clean up four babies on a freezing cold stone floor. So before I even had a chance to think about unlocking the house and relaxing from the long drive etc. etc. there I was in the middle of it trying to help the poor girl out who to be honest was somewhat in shock.

She kept counting one, two, three, four.... then looking at me as if to say, "I can't cope with that many." So she made an executive decision, she cleaned up the boys and ignored the girls. This is typical goat behaviour and I expected nothing less! She tried her best, but well, four is hard work you know, and working out where is safe enough to put your feet without stepping on one of them is even harder!

All the babies are doing just fine. They get along together very well, there are two boys and two girls. One of the boys is booked to go to a herd in Scotland already, the other we are planning to keep as a stud male here at Tumbledown. The girls we shall keep here at Tumbledown and see how they develop. If the are promising then they will remain here, if we find that they are not quite up to show standard we may look for pet homes for them later in the year.

At the moment they are growing faster than I can keep up with them. I am having to be their mummy now. Delovely decided it was all a bit much like hard work and left the bottle-feeding to me. So now I am in a constant state of tiredness and slightly nibbled around the edges.

I told my little brood yesterday that they now have blogging obligations and a photo shoot would be required. So at just a week old the quads went for their first stroll outside for your benefit yesterday. The sun was shining and the grass they tell me was rather good. Although they seem to prefer nibbling my trousers more.

Stilton of course came out to supervise us, although he didn't think much of the nibbling kiddies and kept his distance.

All was going well until Delovelyson (don't talk to me about the name!) decided to do his best Forest Gump impression and started running, running to where I don't know, but he did not want to stop, he just kept on running. I've never had any formal Rugby training but I must admit I am rather proud of the tackle I eventually caught the little bu*$$%er angel with.

The garden is springing to life so quickly I am not sure I can keep up with it now. It just explodes at this time of year. There is so much to see and do, and what with mum and the babies to look after now I seem to have even less time. There are a few things that have caught my eye so far though that I must share with you. Things I really love...

Aquilegia viridiflora "Chocolate Soldier"

O.K. So this is not going to be everyone's cup of tea but I am thrilled with it. This is the first flower just coming out on my Aquilegia "Chocolate Soldier". I have fancied this plant for a few years now and never managed to find it in a garden centre so had to grow it from seed. It feels like I have been waiting a year and a day for it to flower -I sowed the seed the Christmas before last and this is the first year the plants have flowered for me. I just adore the delicate, sweetly scented chocolate brown flowers and the green sepals. To me this is a really special little plant, all the more so as I have been waiting so patiently for it.

I do love my greens and browns. Spring can be so brash with its Kerrias and Forsythias bursting through and frolicing all over the place. Sometimes it is plants like this little Euphorbia cyparissias that really make me smile.

Even the new growth on this heuchera is looking good with the sun behind it at the moment.

 Helleborus x ericsmithii

I must admit I am rather partial to this hellebore too. It is a beautiful pale white that turns to the most wonderful dusky pink over time. I love its dark stems, gorgeous!

...and another favourite!

Everything in the greenhouse is still merrily growing away. I love to go in there and see how everything is doing. I also have a small collection of Auriculas in there I have not yet shown you. They really jolly the place up. I am rather fond of them, and they smell surprisingly good too. Just don't ask me their names...

Of course the most beautiful thing in the greenhouse without a shadow of doubt is dear Stilton. He tries to keep up the pretence of making himself useful, but quite frankly he is fooling no one!

So I have rambled on for long enough, yes indeed I can here Destiny calling. He's a noisy little git! He must be wanting another bottle, a mother's work is never done. *Sigh*

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Easter at Tumbledown.

My goodness I cannot believe it is Easter already! I have spent little time online over the last couple of weeks having had to look after dear mum following her knee replacement. She is home and well but progressing very slowly in terms of mobility. Last week we had the added trauma of Titch our aged Devon Rex cat having yet another stroke. He has been extremely poorly and we did not think he would make it, but to our amazement he has perked up over the last few days, although he now has the new name of Mr Wobblehead. After his last stroke his head hung at a slightly odd forty-five degree angle to his body, now it just rather disconcertingly bobbles back and forth. This week the little chap has regained his movement and appetite and is once again causing his daily ten minutes of chaos between power naps.

The photo above is of Eros. A long-term family member and Tumbledown garden dweller. Mum and dad rescued him from a skip in South East London more than thirty years ago. He has travelled around with them ever since.

We have a habit of collecting things at Tumbledown. Dad is a collector: a collector of well just about anything. His eclectic collection includes the watering cans below; just don't ask me how many of them we really do not want to know!

The daffodils are all out this Easter. Jolly and yellow. I am usually not a fan of acid yellow in the garden. In fact I have murdered more than one forsythia in my time, but this week has been so cold, wet and miserable that I am clinging to their yellow show as the only sign of hope for sunnier times to come.

The fields around Tumbledown are full of daffodils. This area grows large numbers of them. The farmers have been suffering with the weather this year. The cold spell at the start of the year delayed the flowering season and meant they missed Mother's day. They seem to have been struggling to make the Easter market too. The field next door is full of people busily picking the daffs this morning, frantically trying to get a few more bunches of flowers before the end of the Easter weekend. I hope its worth their while. I must admit I love living in a flower growing area and getting to see whole fields of flowers out of my window.

 Forsythia (The one that got away!)

 Muscari armeniacum

Since the weather has been so horrid this week I have spent most of it like a caged animal inside the house or in the greenhouse. The seedlings are all doing well. 

As a bit of fun for Easter I even created a mini succulent garden inspired by the wonderful Kathy Brown. Yes I have been indoors far too much and sadly my laptop has died (I fear I may have overloaded it with photos...sob). I even resorted to photographing some more of the Tumbledown clutter...

Of course it would not be a proper Tumbledown report without the cats. Although it was hideously windy the boys did come for a stroll down the field with me one afternoon. Well when I say a stroll I mean that Leo came on the off chance that there might have been a pheasant or two to catch, but he soon disappeared off into the long grass in search of feathered friends.

Silvi did his best to come and join in, but well he is Siamese and a bit delicate and did not really take to the spring breeze. After a few minutes of shouting he retreated to the comfort of the house and his favourite radiator bed.

Stilton being a true gardening cat was out enjoying the daffodils and keeping an eye out for the Easter Bunny.

Happy Easter from everyone at Tumbledown, 

RO xxx

Thursday, 1 April 2010

A Garden of Surprises: Burghley House.

I stole a few moments for myself at the weekend and paid a visit to Burghley House and Gardens near Stamford. I mentioned my fondness for Stamford at Christmas and this trip was really a chance to visit the house rather than the gardens, but you know me, I never go anywhere without my camera... but oh my the house, if I were aloud to take pictures I would still be there. What a place to behold. I LOVED the kitchen. The Heaven Room was just out of this world! All I can say about Burghley house is WOW! You will have to see it to understand what I am wibbling on about I am afraid. So you will just have to peruse a few snaps of the grounds and sculpture gardens instead and that was only the first room.

The Gardens are a rather unusual mix of old and new. I think the best word to describe them is quirky. They were surprisingly child friendly which was something I had not expected at a stately home. "The Garden of Surprises" was a big hit with kids who were merrily splashing their way to a long afternoon nap by the time I arrived.

The child friendly nature of the grounds was less surprising when I made my way to the end of the formal gardens at the back of the house and discovered a Wendy house and climbing frame sneakily nestling behind the imposing yew hedge: The residents of Burghley House have three young children at home.

 The boathouse.

The part of the garden that surprised me the most was the contemporary sculpture garden. Much of the glorious landscape at Burghley was down to Capability Brown. Part of the lower gardens were however lost and in the 1990's they were reclaimed for the Burghley Sculpture Garden with the aim of exhibiting innovative sculptures made using both traditional and contemporary techniques.

Martyn Barratt "Gnomen"

Mike Kenny Sculpture

I'm afraid I was in a bit of a dreamy mood when I visited the sculpture garden and was not as well good as I should have been at noting the names of the sculptures. I really surprised myself how much I liked some of the modern works. This Mike Kenny Sculpture "Like Milk Spilt upon a stone" reflected the light in so many ways and left beautiful shadows it really drew you in at every angle.

I was really taken with Rick Kirby's sculptures. Strangely enough this was not the first time I had seen his work. I have been driving past one of his heads for sevearl years now as it lies on the street just outside Calne Library in Wiltshire where I used to live.

Rick Kirby Vertical Face 1

Rick Kirby Vertical Face 1

Rick Kirby Vertical Face 1

 Rick Kirby Vertical Face 2

From the Garden of Surprises