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Just back from Cotehele. We didn't realise it was an apple day. Since the reason we were going was to look at their new-ish orchard this was a bonus. There were knowlegeable and enthusiastic people to talk to, apples to taste, and samples of freshly pressed apple juice*. J talked to a gardener about how they train the young trees into a goblet shape and found out when they will have a 'graft your own' workshop in March. We had a quick look at a couple of rooms that have been opened to the public since we were last there, and had our picnic lunch by the quay.

* Juice was from apples from the old orchard, from local varieties, but as with most places this year the crop was poor. The juice was good, however!
Damp, damp summer. So damp that a potholder I had hung up on a hook in the kitchen, presumably a bit damp, has gone mouldy. Grrr! I will wash it and hope it recovers.

Smug. I just managed to be of use to someone who knew even less than I did about a Mac and email. Couldn't get yahoo to send or receive via Mail on their computer, did get a gmail account set up and running and sending photos using Mail. So, smug! And I walked there and back (10 minutes or so of brisk walking) in the dry or only very slight drizzle for a minute or so, quite an achievement today.

Gluts. Finally, a zucchini/courgette glut. Not wildly too many, and I will NOT make chutney this year, thanks to having a backlog from previous gluts. But enough to be finding lots of ways to eat them. My runner beans are producing enough for one person most days, but J's are in overdrive. Raspberries are finally producing fruit that I get to eat, not the blackbirds, though up at the field the blackbirds are winning. Next year I will grow courgettes/zucchini  and cucumbers here, and J will grow pumpkins and maybe a summer squash or two at the field.

Mouse, or maybe vole, noises above the living room ceiling. No evidence in any room, but worrying. I have some new 'kills all known rodents and nothing else' bait, but am not sure where to put it where they can get at it.

One water butt needs replacing. The tap has split, and the rim where the washer fits has partly gone, so replacing the tap won't work. At least it is the butt where the tap is over a drain so the drips and overflow don't cause problems and there is not much urgency about replacing it. Not till just before the next drought, anyway.

So, all in all, the joys of autumn have started.

drains

There is nothing good to say about a blocked drain. Yesterday I noticed that the drain outside the kitchen had overflowed when I used the washing machine. At least I noticed after the second essential load was done. First step, see if I could feel what was blocking it. Lots of drain nasty (but only sink, dishwasher, and washing machine, nothing more revolting) came up, but it was still blocked. Cleared the first bit of the U-bend, stuck the hose down and tried to force water through, no luck. Next step, caustic soda. Lots of fizzing, water drained a bit, but still not clear. This morning put more caustic soda down (I had run out yesterday). Still no better.

Interval to look at contents of moth trap set up last night--154 moths, 31 species, including 2 elephant hawkmoths and 2 green pugs.

Bought drain rods. Emptied water butt that stands over rodding point. Worked out how to prise up cover using a mattock. Worked out how to use drain rods, and did so, and was not sure they got as far as needed. Took rods out, stuck hose down and blasted water through. Semi-result, water started coming through black and mucky instead of clear as it had been. Took hose back to drain, and blasted water in. Water drained away! Did another load of wash to clean clothes that smelled of drain, and it didn't overflow! Memo to self, put drain-clearing enzymes down sink and drain regularly...

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Moths

I was cutting the grass around the meadow, which hadn't been done for a while, and noticed a couple of scarlet tiger moths fairly near the ground on a tall stem of grass, mating. I avoided them, but the cord from the mower shook the grass. They didin't seem disturbed at all, and were still there an hour later. I enjoy having a small breeding colony of them in the garden, and don't begrudge their caterpillars  the first crop of comfrey leaves. They sometimes move on to the strawberry leaves, but not till they have sampled everything else and it is late enough in the year that the strawberry plants aren't harmed.

Then I saw a large moth, presumably one of the hawkmoths, sitting on the grass ahead of the mower. I stopped, picked it up and took it to the house and put it into a container, and finished the mowing. (I think I emptied the grass box 6 times.) Then to identify the moth. I started with the hawkmoths, and it was clearly a striped hawkmoth. I phoned J, who was very excited and a bit doubtful of my identification as it is rare here, with a few reported each year. He had seen one in the Pyrenees but never in this country.  He came to see it, agreed with the identification, we both photographed it, and put it on the apple tree in the meadow. He will report it to the county moth recorder.

June

June was wet--over 10 inches of rain. There was about half an inch of water outside the front door on one occasion, but it drained away within about 20 minutes once the rain stopped. I saw the sun a few times, and it did get over 20C, once or twice. Plants are growing slowly, some of the bean and pea plants have been nearly demolished, and a couple of winter squash plants have been totally eaten. I think I had breakfast outside once.

...and a mouse

Only one, so far, but a field mouse not a house mouse. If it were in the garden I would think it sweet. As it was indoors, I am glad it met its fate. I am not sure if there are still rustles and noises over the ceiling.

Not a mouse

Nothing in the traps yesterday morning. Instead, in the middle of a U3A meeting, there was a click and squealing. As the creature was still alive, with just one leg trapped, I got a bucket and cardboard, to do the equivalent of the glass-and-card trick for wasps and spiders. I managed to pick up the trap, still attached to the creature who was trying to drag it under the television table which was too low for the trap, and put it into the bucket. I went into the garden, and let it go under the trees. I had a good look at it while it was in the bucket, but didn't have time to identify it since there were 9 people expecting coffee at any minute. I registered that the fur was dark grey, the ears were small, and the tail short. I double checked the ID this morning, and it was a field vole.

I don't know how it got in, or why, since they usually stay outside. (I have had yellow-necked mice in the house and they usually stay outdoors too.) I hope it was the only one and that is the end of the problem. But I must put some mint in the airing cupboard, just in case!

Mice

I have suspected that noises off meant that mice have been running around between the living room ceiling and the study floor for a little while. Just now I was sitting in the living room and a mouse ran across the floor in front of the fire place. I didn't see where it went, but hope to see it again in the morning--I have put down two traps and a saucer of poison. I must also inspect the airing cupboard, and put steel wool into all the gaps I can find. I shall also harvest some of the mint that is threatening to take over one of the borders and put it in the airing cupboard and in any holes in the walls or floor that I can find to try to repel mice. At least this time food in the kitchen is in containers that should keep it safe.

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Apr. 18th, 2012

The south west of England is officially in drought. We have had 8.5cm of rain in the past 17 days. That is likely to mean April is one of the wettest months this year, rather than being the driest as usual.
Visited Godolphin yesterday. We have been meaning to for ages, but L's viist propelled us into doing it. The house is on a very human scal, and the family lost interest in living here before they updated it totally, but it is the garden that is amazing. It still has the layout of (some of) the medieval garden, complete with ponds. No water in the ponds, but they have been excavated to the original size and the water inlet is visible. Walking in a 700 year old garden was special. Walked to the top of Godolphin Hill, great views, icy wind. If it had been warmer we would have explored the garden and the woods (remains of mines--tin, not WWII) more.