Flying Ants


I was at Max’s again yesterday, and on one of my forays to the top of the garden I checked the black plastic compost bin which we lovingly refer to as the dalek. This bin is not a pretty beast, but until we get something a little more aesthetically pleasing in place, and indeed a composting system, it is serving a purpose.  This purpose is hiding things from ourselves.  We bung stuff in, dandelion and dock roots, mind your own business, creeping buttercup and other such demons, and forget about it.  The same goes for the other one.  Yes there are two.  Should we be worried about an invasion?  Perhaps we should contact the Doctor.  Anyway, for some reason I thought I would have a look at what was going on inside.  Nosiness I suppose.  It wouldn’t be the first time I had got into trouble for being overly curious.   Not this time though.  After a couple of seconds I realised that the piece of artwork I was looking at was an ant nest, some of the residents ready to fly.  I rushed to get Max’s Dad and we peered and wondered and admired their handiwork.  Quite how or why the shapes had been formed, I have no idea.  Any clues anyone?  All I know is that nature is indeed a wonderful thing.

The Curious Incident of the Dog, a Stick and a Bad Shot

Ensete ventricosum 'Maurelii'

It was a mistake to admire the wonderful Red Abyssinian banana, Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelii’, in Max’s garden this morning.  I think it is what is known as “tempting fate”.  Like a ruddy phoenix this tender African has recently risen from the ashes.  Last winter it was left outside with only a thin fleece for protection.   Remiss of us.  Some might say cruel.  Even our mild North Devon winter is a harsh environment for a plant that prefers to stay above 7C.  It was touch and go for a while, “compost heap” was muttered on more than one occasion.  But we were patient (unlikely as that might sound) and prodded and peered for any sign of life for weeks on end.  Then a tentative new leaf began to emerge, and all of a sudden this burnished beauty took off like rocket.  Now it is lush and lovely.  Any neglect has been forgotten and hopefully forgiven.

Until tea time.  Sat on the bench half way up the garden, watching the white horses play on the distant sea, we enjoyed an afternoon cup of tea whilst taking it in turns to throw a stick for Max. Someone (not me and not Max) lobbed what amounted to a wooden club right into the border. The unfortunate banana received a direct hit, ripping one of its wonderful leaves down the mid rib. Later I tidied up the wound, carefully removing the damaged section, all the while apologising profusely.  It is now sporting a rather cheeky peek-a-boo look.

I gave the missing piece to Max’s Dad to make himself a hat.  Out of tragedy comes high fashion.


Last week Lord Mantle announced that he had found some photos of the garden taken before we began our attempt to reclaim it.  Later, when studying these shots, it occurred to me how quickly we forget what has gone before.  It does well sometimes to look back at what has been achieved and give yourself a high five or perhaps a more ladylike equivalent.  Nothing like a bit of reflection to bolster the spirit.

This has not be instant gardening.  The soil is dire and full of stones, Lady Mantle’s old gin bottles, metal, glass and Spanish bluebells.  We have worked hard.  However you would be wrong to suspect that it has taken a long time to turn around this garden.  It is only its second year and although it is still work in progress, it is beginning to look the part.   There have been mistakes along the way, shuffling has had to be done and visions synchronised.  But working as a team and laughing along the way has meant that a daunting, neglected wilderness is now a colour soaked, fun-filled oasis. Most importantly, it is now loved.

Well done L&L Mantle, you have made this garden your own, as the philosopher Yazz once sang “the only way is up, baby”!

The Meaning of Life (apart from 42)

For one reason or another I seldom post photos of beds or borders.  Generally the pictures I take are rather disappointing .  What I thought was a mass of colour and texture turns out to be rather dull.  There is little movement, no depth, no heart. So I stick to individual flowers, or new boots and the like. This evening as I sat and watched the 2m teasel outside my front window tango in the wind, depositing the reservoirs held in its leaf axils to the ground beneath, only to be refilled before the next gust, my mind drifted back to earlier this week.

Here is Max’s garden.  In the sunshine.  Full of flowers.  And joy.  Surely that is what it is all about.

Same But Different

Another day of absurd weather at The Farm today.  It was however quite different from yesterday, when mizzle turned to occasional heavy rain then straight back to mizzle.  Today it switched from bright sunshine to head hurting rain in the blink of an eye.  Literally.  There was no hope, unless you happen to be called Usain Bolt, to avoid being caught and drenched before you had time to react.  Actually Mr Bolt would make a very useful member of the team, I wonder what he is up to after his retirement later this year.  Surely there would be no harm in asking…. Anyway, I spent most of the day stewing in my waterproofs and watching the sky.  Oh and barrowing rocks, woodchip and not-quite-rotted-enough manure (separately I hasten to add) to revive an area “adjusted” by the fence builders.  All was most fragrant.  This job was made all the more exciting by Slasher jet washing my primary route as I worked.

Some folk around here were quite happy with the deluges.  When I arrived this morning the present duck residents charged me.  This was in the, frankly insultingly wrong, impression that I was Farmer Tony who always throws a shovel of grain for them.  I was very pleased to see that the newbie, Frank the Aylesbury drake, has been embraced into the family.  For those unsure which one he is, look for the one who is twice the size of everyone else, is white and hopping.