What Happened this Summer? Only the Phone Knows

The blackberries and sloes are early this year. You can almost hear them chanting: ‘Here we are. That’s it. No more summer, any more.’ How did it go so fast? What even happened?  Tip. If you can’t remember how you spent your time, look at your phone, and piece it together with whatever photos are there.

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Strange Things on the Shelf

Twas the night before Glastonbury, and all through the house… people are gone.  The cat lies mournfully with an entire bedroom to herself and my phone is alive with stressed messages from family, friends and colleagues. They are all preparing to dance in the fields of excess, with crowds, heatstroke, mud fever, cocktails, and far too much fun. It’s quiet and sensible here. What to do with all that ‘not going to Glastonbury’ free time?  Step out and admire the flowers? No, better than that. Let’s clean the cupboard under the sink.

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How to Enjoy January

According to Wiccan beliefs, a geranium near your front door is useful for warning you when strangers are approaching. Oh, the wonders of Google. Is the geranium going to bark like a dog?

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The Best Kinds of Foraging

Advent Sunday. A day to light a candle, and think about shopping. Exeter this week was full of city noise, bus fumes, and Black Friday frenzy. I went there to meet someone, not shop, so it was easy to despise everybody else for being too consumerist, but then I had to hang around waiting, and that changed.

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Village Life and Social Media

Sedum, like many succulents, symbolises tranquillity, and we have plenty of that down here.  This village is so quiet, you can walk around it and wonder if everyone has gone on holiday. But it has a population of several thousand, and last week we managed to annoy most of them in just 20 minutes.

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Travelling South of the River Exe

If you are in Exeter and bored with shopping, you might decide to nip down to the sea. Watch out if you are in a car. Building sites and roadworks surround the city, drivers go nowhere slowly, the air is fuggy and social media is full of angry feelings. It is different on a bike.

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How to Organise the Perfect Garden Party, for up to 30 People

The hedges are full of cow parsley, and the ditches are full of rain. Midsummer is the time to party and we were allowed up to 30 people. So we did. There were a couple of glitches and we learnt some lessons. Here are the tips.

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Different Ways to Seize the Day

The Laburnum is out, summer is here, and it is getting busy. This week I did three things that are good for the soul. Swimming, metal detecting and rodent trapping. Which was best?

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March Jobs in the Garden.

Einstein suggested that time is not constant. He probably started thinking about this after a tough slow winter. One day he was glad that February was done, the next he was staring at his Camelia bush wondering where the hell March went. I know how he felt.

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How to Volunteer and What’s Good about it?

The Begonias are making an effort. In summer they will do a takeover bid, swamping everything nearby, but in winter they are welcome. Collapsing under the weight of frost one minute and presenting bright pink flowers the next, Begonias are a symbol of caution.

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New Year, New Sport. Nordic Walking.

The Heather is flowering. Perfect for lucky posies. The village freecycle system has exciting daily doorstep offerings, with anything from cabbage steamers to vanilla candles. This week it’s busy with everybody trying to Fengshui horrible presents away. I could put a pile of posies out in case anybody needs extra luck, but it’s best to leave the flowers on the bush. They are, right now, what bees like best.

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Roses and Tomatoes at the Wrong Time of Year.

A confused rose has flowered and the tomato glut keeps weirdly glutting. As well as the normal November business, we are forced to eat tomatoes and pick roses. Is this a sign that things are different this year?

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Hedgehogs in the Pampas Grass

The garden is bleak. Leaves rot on slimy paths, sunflower skeletons collapse against broken garden chairs, abandoned balls wait for dogs that don’t visit and snivelling chickens hang around the back door, hoping for company. Above all this the Pampas Plumes soar towards the sky. ‘Look at us’ they say. ‘See how we glow in the sun. Autumn is wonderful’.

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The Clematis is Flowering. It’s Pumpkin Competition Time.

The Winter Clematis is out. It’s time to launch into a frenzy of preparation for the pumpkin competition. Hopefully the other entrants are all small children so I am in with a chance.

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How to Carve a Pumpkin Properly

A lonely pumpkin lurks amongst cauliflowers. It is hard growing cauliflowers and getting any sense out of them. You get flowers but no caulis. This Pumpkin is the main player. It will be carved, illuminated and sent out to ensure that every evil spirit of bad luck unpleasantness will take one look and go ‘OH NO it’s a pumpkin with a candle in it, I will go and dump bad luck on somebody else, can’t possibly enter that place’. Here comes Halloween.

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Hazel, Magic and Mythical Creatures

The hedgerows are groaning with hazel nuts. A chance to wear your fingers to the bone picking nuts to make stodgy nut roasts. Or maybe roast something else and leave them for the dormice? Hazelnuts are their favourite food.

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Elderberries and Avoiding Bad Luck

All of a sudden those early summer elder flowers are berries, groaning with antioxidants. I should make syrup, but flocks of greedy starlings get there first. What is an antioxidant anyway? Google says it is an invisible thing that cures everything and comes free in red wine and berries. Berries are free if you get them off hedges or quite pricey if you prefer blue ones imported from America.

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