Monday, 28 September 2015

Autumn Cut

We've had a long weekend, of four days at home (three for Liz, who had to work today), which has meant being able to get quite a lot done.

This year, we've been maintaining the hillside differently to the previous year. Instead of cutting it all back every time, I've only mown a pair of paths up from the main entrance: one up to the apple walk, and one to where the plum arch will one day go. These two points are where you can then go through to the middle section of the hillside, where the clearings are. The rest of the orchard I've left uncut, and the grass has grown up and gone to seed, and there's achillea, scabious, and...well, brambles, gorse, ragwort, and thistles.

However, it's probably looked better for this, and the colours have gone from a bright green, to deeper green, and on to browns and golds as the grass flowers. We think it's probably been better for wildlife, too: and it's taken less work, as trimming the paths only takes about thirty minutes.

As autumn comes, though, we need to cut the grass down. If we let it be, it'll eventually form ugly tussocks, again, and brambles will grow up and cover everything, and we'll be back to where we were in 2012. We'd like to, eventually, plant the orchard with lots of prairie-like flowers and grasses, which will make excellent foraging for bees and other insects, as well being attractive. However, we're a long way from that, simply because of the scale of the area. For now, we need to cut everything back in the autumn, which will keep it neat over the winter, and stop the grass getting too thuggish.

That's what we've done, with me mowing with Sigrid, while Liz raked up. We've built a few bays out of old pallets, and heaped the material into these. It should, over the next twelve months, break down enough to use as mulch.

Needless to say, it's been hard work, and taken a day and a half, but the hillside looks much tidier, and should hopefully go through the winter in better state. While we had the brushcutter out, I've also done the verges, and also cut down the grass in the copse, and along that side of the garden. I didn't manage to do so last year, and the daffodils didn't look as good, buried in long grass, this spring.

Long overdue, we've also sorted out the composting area, below the wood shelter. There was a lot of rubbish in there, which we've shredded, or moved to the log piles in the back, or in the copse, and we've made space to put out the four Dalek composters. We've emptied the oldest compost into these: it's not quite ready to use, but hopefully will have finished breaking down by the spring, when we'll use it on the fruit cage beds. That meant we could get all the accumulated material into the middle and right hand bays, leaving the left one empty. That should be enough space to see us through the winter, as, once we stop weeding, there's not as much being produced. The Daleks and, hopefully, the right hand bay at least, can be used in the spring, and we can go into next year with more composting space. We never quite got on top of it all this year, which has left us with heaps in front of the compost bays, which isn't lovely.

The other outside job that we've been able to tick off is getting the cables for external CCTV cameras routed into the roofspace. They're unconnected at either end, and are waiting in the loft (to bring together into the central loft space, and the down into the dressing room, where the controller will live), and at the camera points (ready for me to mount the cameras).

That done, we had a few hours yesterday to start tidying the workshop, which has been in a bit of a state for over a year, since we started the insulation work. We've emptied a lot of it into the preservatory, and I'll continue tidying on Wednesday.

Today, as I was on my own, I've drained the radiators of the cleanser mix, and refilled them all with 'fresh' water (it's not, really; it's from the accumulator tank), and added sealant. That'll run through the house pipes and radiators for a few weeks, making sure there aren't any pinholes or weeping joints.

Draining twenty-something radiators, and refilling them, took almost the whole day, but I also managed to take a number of cuttings: a pot of each of the Lemon, Inca Gold, Walther Funcke, cassis, and white achilleas; Verbena bonariensis and 'Bampton'; and the actaea we got at Tatton.

After we painted the apple walk a couple of weeks ago, we didn't get round to tying the apples back onto the framework, so I've gone up and done that. Finally, I've got hold of some extra long coach bolts, which I'm using to better secure some of the wood shelter's frame.

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