In a small and muddled garden. Dorset. England. Thoughts about gardening and thoughts while gardening. Housework, politics and book reviews too. Esther Montgomery.
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Friday, January 30, 2015


Every year I produce good quality compost. It steams when I turn it. It's scentless and beautiful when completed - rich and black and finely crumbly.

Which was useful when we had an allotment. Less so now we don't because although plants in our garden might be grateful for its nutrition there's no space between them to dig it in.

I've tried plonking it on top of the ground hoping some of the goodness will seep down when it rains. There are several problems with this; the dominant two being

a.)          It solidifies to cow-pat consistency and forms a crust over the earth.
and b.)      The ground gets higher each year so plants land up living in little dips.

I've tried mixing this kind of compost with spent potting compost to thin it down - which helps somewhat; but after a while the thin potting variety washes away and one is left with 'proper' compost (i.e. the stuff I make) on the surface after all.

Surely the answer isn't simply to give all our vegetable waste to the council to take away?

Advice, anyone?

(Don't say give it to a deserving gardener - I don't know any.)

Other Compost Posts
This Should Really Be on the Other Blog (incidentally, is compost an aphrodisiac?)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


I had a brilliant idea. I'd look carefully at Woolly Aphids. So last year (2014) I let them live longer on my apple tree than I would have done in other years - or should have done in this. ('This' being the year past - not the year now.)

It wasn't so much that I saw them as pets or disliked my self-image as a ruthless killer; I suppose I'll have to admit it was that I didn't have time to sort them out.

Looking at the positive side - I'm quite good at making something interesting out of a mistake. I wiped some away on a tissue. Did you know Woolly Aphids have red blood? I didn't. Do aphids have blood? Or do they have sap in their veins? Do they have veins? Whatever they have inside them is red. See? If I hadn't given them a bit of leeway I would never have known.

Then, about a week ago, when I was pruning the apple tree (at the wrong time of year it turns out - I'd thought winter is the best time to prune apples; it turns out it's summer for espaliers) . . . anyway, when I was pruning the apple tree I came across a lumpy thing, a black thing, a nest? I looked it up. It has something to do with Woolly Aphids. Were they wintering inside? Or were there eggs? I put the cut twig by the bins intending to go back later and photograph it. Quite a few twigs had reddish swellings. Umm. Woolly Aphid damage. I put one of these twigs with the other - ready for my photographic session.

I reckoned I'd need to shine a light on the twigs if my works of art were to come out clearly. Did I want to fix up an angle point lamp in the late afternoon? No. I'd put it off till tomorrow.

Tomorrow came. Bin day. We towed the bins out onto the street. (Our council is quite keen on bins. Each house has at least three. You can have a little one to put in your kitchen too. It (the council that is) went into overdrive when it delivered ours and gave us four sets. When I fell over because our garden path was filled with so many bins and I couldn't get round them Ming phoned the council in an angry kind of way . . . )

Bin day. We took out the bins and wheeled one over my prize collection of Woolly Aphid exhibits and . . . the question is - were there aphids in that black nesty thing? What about the red lumps? Have we let them loose? Have we spread them round the garden front and back? Will our garden in June look as if snow has fallen?

There! Another disaster to add summer interest.

(P.S. I said 'June' randomly. I can't remember if they were there in June. Probably They seemed to come and go a bit, unperturbed by precise dates.) (Like me.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


It's not long before the referendum on Scottish independence. *

So I need to say it now that whatever the outcome - Alex Salmond is my hero.

I've not heard anyone else say that.

By chance we went to the same university and our times overlapped. He won't have a clue who I am - but everyone knew who he was.

He was slim in those day - with big brown eyes and a Castro style peaked cap. That's how I remember him anyway. And he'd be seen rushing along the streets of St Andrews, bent on getting independence for Scotland.

And everyone laughed. Maybe not everyone - but what I'm writing how I remember things. How you remember something is as much part of history as facts are; and can be as powerful in shaping it too.

There was him (locally) - and Margo Macdonald (nationally) . . . and . . . beyond them not many well known and respected politicians in favour of independence. As far as respect goes, maybe it was only Margo Macdonald. For Alex Salmond was young.

There was rumoured to be a Scottish Independence Army made up of landowners and gillies. Alex Salmond was neither and no-one even vaguely thought he had anything to do with armed revolution. But the (probably mythical) Scottish Independence Army had guns because they hunted deer-and-capercaillies. They might be dangerous. Stupid people can be. They might control a large landmass of Scotland but the world they inhabited was a little world of their own. So they were (perhaps a little uneasily) dismissed. After all, only nutters wanted independence. Nutters and unrealistic dreamers like Alex Salmond. (And Margo Macdonald, of course.)

The SNP symbol didn't help. A money bag into which the riches from North Sea Oil revenue would fall if only it could be rescued from the UK and the North American companies granted licences to drill by the Westminster government. And it wasn't even a very big money bag. There was nothing grand or glorious about the SNP's little twiddle.

(Does anyone know if it really is a money bag? Seems unlikely)

So, there he was, a lone voice; laughed at because he was young and because he had this great enthusiasm for independence; and because the oil which many thought was Scotland's only hope for a strong economy was diminishing fast; and because independence was supported by a mixture of no-one, him, and a load of lunatics.

And now? He's a respected politician. He's admired as an orator. He's leader of a proper party in a proper Scottish Parliament he helped create. What's more, on the 18th of September Scots from the age of 16 up will vote on whether they'd like the independence he believed in all along.

It's not clear what will happen. The 'yeses' and 'noes' are currently running neck-a-neck.

If it's a 'yes' vote he will go down as one of the great men of history. If it's a 'no' the taint of failure will pervade his biography instead of glory. But even if it's a 'no' that won't in any way diminish what he has done.

He did it from scratch.

And, in a way, he did it alone.

So I need to say it now - before the referendum - Alex Salmond is my hero. (For all that I'm English.)

P.S. Ignore the oil.  Oil is irrelevant.