Blog Archives

You get out of it what you put into it

Heading into June I can’t help but beam with a big smile as the hard work put into the garden is finally starting to give back. In early Spring we were blessed with the Daffodils and these were followed by the Purple Tulips at the end of April. This was their first appearance since I planted the bulbs in the Winter. I’d even decorated the garden with Plum Slate Chippings and these were pushed aside as the bulbs revealed their green tips.

   
 

We have been truly blessed by the wildlife that have used our garden as their Kitchen. The birds didn’t take residence in our nesting boxes however we are now starting to see their babies feed. Last week we had the baby Starlings join us which is quite fitting as we love Game of Thrones!! 

We created a hotel for our Solitary Bee and are pleased to announce the babies survived and emerged from their little tunnels. This was put back out in the same place last month and this week the same bee has returned to start this years batch. On closer inspection we actually have two bees both using the homemade hotel. This is pretty exciting, I love it when nature appreciates what humans try and do to assist in their lives.

   
 

At the beginning of May we dug up the worst part of the lawn and lay some new turf. It was one of the most knackering of Bank Holiday Weekends experienced but that was purely down to the Clay. The benefits of this hard work are now clear especially as I gave it the first cut, this means it is actually growing! We spent the best part preparing the ground with sharp sand, ground purifier, feed, and fertiliser with top soil. The photo below shows it from before we started to the first lay right through to its first cut.

   
   

The BBQ’s have started and we even bought the Chiminea that I’ve been desperately after. These are the moments that you truly enjoy what you have. As I reflect back to the title of this post it’s clear for all to see. Understand that the hard work you put in to whatever you do in life, will eventually pay back. As I walk around the garden I think back to the work put into it over those many hours. 

   
 

Right before I wander back out into the Sun we are currently enjoying I must apologise for the long absence. If truth be told I’m finding life is very busy right now but please be assured I will still be writing and when I get the moment to write then I’ll be here again.

Thanks

Mark 

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2014

Sitting down in our local Tap House me and my fiancée were enjoying The Mills Winter Ale. The background, a buzzing atmosphere as many chatted away. It wasn’t long before we asked each other the standard New Years Eve question.

Now before I go into it, I must add that this was the first time since we’ve been together that neither of us were struck down with a cold and we were away from our house on New Years Eve.

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The question?…. “What are my highlights of 2014”

Immediately I dismissed it as a pretty standard year, 2014 appeared quiet and a lot calmer to that of previous years. It wasn’t until I thought a little harder about the question that it became apparent that 2014 has had its fair share of positives and some sad chapters as well.

In a year that saw a fantastic family wedding, an intimate In The Woods festival, camping trips and glamping in York, a birthday weekend away in Canterbury and many disappointing sporting woes from my beloved Leeds United it was hard to really answer this question with so much going on.

For those of you who have followed my blog since I started it in 2013, I’m hopeful that you’ve started to paint a picture of me and my life. I will always share what I feel comfortable with sharing and it’s because of this I feel that my followers understand how valuable I rate life. I will therefore answer this question honestly.

One of my main highlights of 2014 involved me and my fiancée moving into our first house together in February. I initially moved in with Lisa when I left Stratford and despite having a lovely place together then we made a decision to get a bigger place with our own garden. We have certainly benefitted from this and have spent most of the sunny days out in the garden cooking BBQs, growing plants and encouraging wildlife in to enjoy it with us. We have done many jobs to make this house our own and have just agreed an additional 2 year extension to our contract which is fantastic news.

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The bird feeder was one of my Christmas Pressies and despite the return of our resident scatty Wood Pigeon, it’s clear he isn’t afraid of heights and is giving it a go. Unfortunately he is just a bit too big to use the feeders. The scattered seed on the grass from other birds is his reward.

On a professional level 2014 saw me secure the biggest promotion to date in my working career. I became a Branch Manager in August and have been responsible in ensuring the Branch has finished the year in an excellent position. I work for a Builders Merchants and 2014 has seen the Banbury depot succeed at its highest level in recent history. Five months into my new job and I am fully aware of the numerous challenges that await, however it’s important at times like these to enjoy the successes and ensure I benefit from the welcome festive break. Time to recharge these batteries!

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With my new job I enjoyed my first Managers Christmas party and was very fortunate to be treated to a weekend around Cheltenham Races. It gave me the perfect excuse to get smartened up in a year that saw my fiancée improve my style and construct a far more fashionable wardrobe for me!

It is from this that 2014 sadly saw the passing away of one of my biggest influences in my professional career. In 2000 I started working in the Building Industry for a company called Underground Supplies. I was interviewed by the MD, a gentleman by the name of Andrew Bygate. I recall the meeting I had with the Recruitment Agency prior to this interview as if it only happened yesterday.

The lady at the Recruitment Agency advised me that Andrew was a positive man who admired forward thinking and driven individuals. I arrived with this in mind and following the interview Andrew simply said to me that he would be back in touch via the agency to let me know if I was successful. It was at this point I simply asked Andrew for the job. He looked at me, slightly perplexed by my forward nature before smiling and simply saying “ok then, the job is yours, well done”.

This was the start of nearly a decade working with Andy (Andrew was far too formal, once I started working for him!) Andy was diagnosed with a Brain Tumour in 2006 and undertook the biggest fight and challenge in his personal life. Andy fought hard and carried this on throughout 2014. Unfortunately Andy lost this battle in late 2014 but fought so bravely and inspired many people who crossed paths with him, this included me. Thank you Andy for inspiring me to succeed and play a major part in where I find myself today.

2014 saw one of my biggest personal challenges and one that me and Lisa were able to complete together. We had more than a few personal battles to overcome but on a bright dry day in Wales, we climbed and descended Mount Snowdon. If ever there was a challenge and one that needed team work of the highest order then this was it. Towards the end of the decent my legs packed in and I needed some heat pads and assisted stretches to keep me intact until the end. The important thing is we got through it and loved the breathtaking views and experience we shared together.

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So as we head into 2015 another book starts, one thing which is pretty certain is that we will be asking ourselves this same question again on future New Years Eves.

All I can say is I hope my readers and followers can take a moment to reflect and look back on 2014. It’s always nice when you can recall some stand out memories. Have a great 2015 and I look forward to sharing some more moments with you as I head into a big year!

Mark

Blue Tit Update – March

Following on from my post about putting up the bird boxes in our garden, there has been a hive of activity going on.

March is typically when Blue Tits will start to feed themselves in preparation for the busier nest building month of April. With the weather being so mild it could be easy to think the nesting season has already started. The chorus of bird songs filling our blossom trees around our garden are a pleasant reminder that we are in Spring.

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There have been some long visits to our Peanut filled bird feeder and this photo taken on Mothering Sunday confirms our local Tits are starting to feed themselves up for a busy April.

We have had a couple of the Blue Tits visit our Bird Boxes and in the early mornings there have been sightings of garden greenery being taken into the boxes. It’s not clear if they have taken residency or put down their deposit 🙂 but they are getting close to making a choice.

It’s very exciting and I hope to have some further positive updates and photos should our Blue Tits decide upon a home for their Nest Building. More updates to follow next month.

DarcyB
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Bird Boxes up ready for Spring

This weekend we took full advantage of the sunny weather and did some jobs around the house. In the UK we have been very lucky this weekend with sunshine allowing temperatures to hit just under 20c. There is an extremely positive feeling that Spring is here and we may escape the snow that plagued us last March.

One of my first little jobs this weekend was to remove the horrible buff yellow slabs we have on the front garden. I removed these and laid down a deep bedding of 20mm Gravel which will make it easier when parking the cars but also it looks a hell of a lot better.

A tip run and some moving around the garage sandwiched the main job in the garden. We are keen lovers of nature and have been impressed with the numbers of tits and other house birds that occupy our garden. It’s a colourful canvas of action and noise with them all chirping and fluttering around our suburban neighborhood and at this early part of Spring it’s important to do our Spring Watch duties.

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I’ve put three bird boxes up in the back garden. Two of them are suitable for tits and small birds whilst the other is for Robins and Wrens. The location of the one for the tits is between 3-4 meters high and in a South facing position which means they will stay warm but not too hot. These have been kept away from the bird feeder to prevent too much disruption from other birds. The open fronted type for Robins and Wrens is North facing and around 2 meters high which will be camouflaged by our hanging plants on the fence.

This Sunday evening we were amazed to see that the two hung up on our Garage were visited by a couple of Blue Tits. They went into both boxes probably having a viewing before deciding if they meet their high standards. This is really encouraging after only a few hours of being placed up. I will keep my blog readers updated with any other news.

One thing is for sure, Spring is in the air, let’s hope it’s not a false dawn!

DarcyB

A big crop? Nah give me uncertainty anyday!

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One of my favourite things is the garden, it’s something that brings me and my girlfriend closer and also it gives us the excitement of creating our own little haven. Last year was our first attempt of growing some fruit and vegetables and in the end we were presented with a couple of beetroot, green tomatoes, deformed carrots, slug ridden lettuce and a lifetime supply of beans. 2012 wasn’t the best year for us gardeners and if it hadn’t been for the colourful Pansies and Roses aplenty it would probably have resembled amass of green shoots that would have been best suited in an allotment.

Roll on this year and 12 months later there is certainly something different going on outside in our garden. We have not let anything put us off our debut year and have gone for it again. The three-week spell of consistent sunshine has helped and where we decided upon giving the carrots a miss this time around, we have certainly been rewarded with some other successes. Now I know it’s tempting fate but already the beetroot are twice the size of last years efforts and the Tomatoes look as if they may just be a bit embarrassed this year with a red tint already evident. It’s at this point I would like to thank the bees for pollonating our gardens plants, what shortage?!

Now there is all this talk in the papers about self-sufficiency. It’s where people like ourselves who have relatively small areas to grow a few token gestures will never quite get there. I however, think this is well and truly over hyped and taken out of context.

Tonight I decided to explore the growbags and raised beds to see what was ready for harvesting, I really do love that word. It paints pictures of being sat in a tractor travelling across the acres of land pulling up the years crops. My girlfriend always smiles when I use that terminology, it’s my way of being all proud and somewhat smug when there is something that can be eaten grown from scratch. I feel like Richard Briers from the Good Life, I love feeling like Richard Briers. For all the days of nurturing the seedlings to the endless evenings of watering them and seeing them grow (well some of them) and suffering the heartache of pests attacking them, it does make you slightly envious of our Supermarkets who sell big bunches for a few pennies.

So my reward tonight…..? Well I managed to find 4 potatoes in the grow bag, a couple of beans were plucked off the bean stalks and the largest beetroot I have ever seen* pulled up from the raised bed. I tell you what, self-sufficiency is well and truly overrated and overstated. Give me the uncertainty anyday of what I will find edible in my garden, that’s what keeps it interesting for me.

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* Away from the Supermarkets, I can only compare this to 2012!

DarcyB