Preparing for Winter

November 26, 2011

Not for the first time in recent years, has there been a mild October and November – although I believe this year was record breaking.  A few years ago, when we were having a new roof put on the block of flats, the roofer disappeared for weeks, during that fine, mild autumn, and when he then complained about trying to finish the work in a cold wet December – he finished on 24th(!) – I pointed out the weeks of one of the best Autumns for years when he was away [doing other jobs, no doubt] – he pretended not to hear me.

Preparations this year are different and it is probably worth giving some detail as it gives an idea of the current situation chezes (sic) moi.  For I have three places to look after, still.

The Greenhouse is tricky, for the second heater appears to have developed an erratic thermostat.  Not that I thought much of the thermostat, or indeed the heater as a whole, to start with.  Using the remote sensor system, as previously blogged about, I’ve gone out late at night on more than one occasion to try and adjust the heater down, for it was holding the temperature too high.  It’s not that it really needs the heat yet (even this late in the year), but I want it working correctly for when the frost/snow does finally arrive, especially if I’m not around to fine-tune (or even, coarsely adjust) the heater.  Or get yet another heater.

As for the last two years, the old heater, just acting as a blower, is on all the time, to keep the air circulating.

If necessary, I do have a lot of bubble-wrap that I could use to make a smaller ‘greenhouse’ within the main one, and put all the valuable plants into that.

As well as moving the summer pelargoniums in last week, the Cymbidium again is in bud.  I fear that neighbours 60′ trees now overshadow the garden so much as to limit summer growth.  Unfortunately the Pleonies were killed off by the cold last winter.

This year's Cymbidium flower bud - only one so far.

One new problem is that I find I cannot reverse the Mercedes into the ‘back yard’ at Mother’s – it just will not go, and how I’ve tried.  I could get it into the garage, poking its nose out, but I’d have to clear the garage (again, it gets cleared and filled with monotonous regularity), take the doors off, and while the car’s there, not have access to anything in the car or the garage.  The reason for this is that the car needs some work to stop the rust now, before it gets serious, but it is the sort of job that could take more than a week (especially at this time of the year), as paint dried, and I cannot block neighbour’s access to his hardstanding for that long.

For the second year, I face winter with no gas central heating – a long running legal battle.  The tenants in the flat below used to be profilgate in keeping their heating on (which helped keep me warm), but I guess they’ve either moved out without telling their landlord, or else the fuel price has finally forced some economy in their living standards.  I’m really not sure which of the two it is!

Fruits of a (late) Autumn

November 15, 2011

A couple of days ago I took a late Autumn walk up a favourate hill.  In part it was a valedictory run out in my MB, which goes off the road in a couple of days while I try and get the parts to repair it, and then get an MOT for it.

The old girl recently broke down, but within walking distance of Mother’s, so it doesn’t count as a ‘leaving me in the lurch’ breakdown that my old Saab specialised in.  Luckily I had a spare MB at Mother’s to help me out.  Having finally repaired the MB by the side of the road, (who would suspect two or more spark plugs failing at the same moment?), and using parts from the other, to get it running and thus back-to-base (and there is much more to this than I report here, believe me) this was a run out before the MOT expired.  I know the work that needs doing to the old thing, I just have not had the chance to get it done this year.

Anyway, on what is one of my favourate walks, I was struck by the fluoresent pink ‘flowers’ – or rather fruit coverings – of a plant I’ve never seen before.  The upper branches were bare, the lower had a few leaves plus these ‘fruits’.

This does not look like a native plant to me.

And here is a photo of a leaf, with a rather unusual insect.

And so onto the hill.  And what I noticed most was the ‘fruit’ so often associated with the time before the first frost – Fungi.  I found one that I knew was edible – a puffball, but sadly I’ve forgotten more than many people know about identification of fungi (similarly with wild flowers) so I stare at it, knowing full well I used to know what it was, edible or poisonous etc, but not a clue now.  Oh how cruel the 50th year is.

In the walk, I was surprised as the hare that I surprised, in that I surprised it in the first place.  Humans, with mobile phones, and broadcast inane conversations (which suggested they had not a clue where they were, or did I just mishear that) annoyed me far more.

It was almost dark by the time I got back to the old car.  Too late to pick some rose hips (far too late for brambles despite a bramble flower I’d noticed up the hill).

November is rather late for a bramble to flower...