The Pig Yard

April 09 - This month was busier than usual because we had the Easter break at the beginning so have a four day weekend allows us to get out and about whether it is in the garden or out on our bikes. Not only did we have extra time we also had some very good weather. The latter part of the month will be remembered for the outbreak of Swine Flu in Mexico City and the ensuing scare about a pandemic - only time will tell whether it is scaremongering or a reality.

We managed to get some time in on the vegetable plot and it is really showing signs of the efforts made. Jane has her greenhouse full of seedlings coming along and despite being extremely busy at work this month she has remembered to keep them watered.

Steve has been putting in time digging up some of the vegetable plot that hadn't been dug for the past year so it was heavy going. Our soil isn't the best and when dug tends to form large dried lumps rather than a fine tilth so it takes quite a bit of work.

Many years ago we started to lay bricks around the borders and our good friend Nick helped to finish them off but over the years they have been frosted and damaged so we decided to have a new kerb laid which is an interesting technique - a machine digs a narrow trench and then is filled with concrete and shaped by a machine to give a mower friendly shape. It should be maintenance free and we will wait to see how it survives the usual garden knocks or weather it cracks during the freeze/thaw effect of the British winters.

Prior to this being done Jane was determined to make sure the borders were in a fit state so she completely weeded the area, replanted the smaller plants and dug out some of the larger plants that had overgrown their location. There is now space for some new plants.

Jane is the avid cyclist and will often cycle to the next village to visit the shop or just to get some exercise. There are occasions when Steve will join her but only because during the week he is very much desk bound. Our bikes are both Claude Butlers with aluminium frames so relatively light and Steve is much happier to travel further a field now he has panniers so he can keep his raincoat and "stuff" rather than just have it tied to the cycle rack.

This month we've managed to get out quite a few times together with journeys of between 10 and 15 miles.

On one of our cycles we decided to sneak through the barriers stopping cars getting onto the unfinished road which runs from close to Sixfields on the western side of Northampton to the A45 close to Kislingbury. The road will be called Upton Valley Way North when it's finished. We had great fun cycling the road with no traffic on it but it won't look like this in a few months when it is opened.

Click here for a map of the area...

On our journey from home over to Dave & Lucie's flat we've found a route that takes us across some paths and part of the country park at Upton. As you can see when it has been raining there are some places where small streams flow across the paths.

For Jane to get this shot she asked Steve to cycle back and forth several times. Steve is not the most patient person and although it was obviously fun the first few times through, it began to pale on the fourth or fifth time.

Jane had decided to take us on a visit to Hazelborough woods just outside Silverstone the last weekend of the month to see the bluebells. she'd already been during the week to make sure they were out so she was knew what it was going to be like but Steve was knocked out by it.

It was a beautiful spring morning with the last of the showers passing through before nine o'clock so there was a freshness in the air and the light kept changing as the fluffy nimbus clouds scudded across the sky. One minute the bluebells would be in patches of sunlight and within moments the cloud cover would change the whole scene. Surprisingly the images in full sunlight were less colourful than those when there was full cloud cover.

Nature is full of aberrations - hence evolution. These white "bluebells" in the midst of the blue stand head and shoulders above the rest, however if they were seen in isolation they probably wouldn't warrant a second glance. Of course the camera struggles to take all of this in whereas the eye captures it instantly and just runs on into the distance.

After a wonderful walk we stopped off at Bell Plantation in Towcester for a cup of tea. We cannot go anywhere without visiting a tea shop.

Another pleasant afternoon in the garden and as always Jane is busy. Here she is trimming the Virginia Creeper away from the guttering otherwise it just grows all over it and then starts covering the roof as well; it has even been know to get into the roof. She took the secateurs to the clematis at the front of the house and the wisteria which was just coming into flower.

This was another busy afternoon pruning, cutting and clearing to make way for new growth in the spring and summer. Like all good gardening afternoons we finished with a bonfire - the wind was in the right direction and the neighbours didn't have any washing out.

It's amazing how much difference four weeks makes. By the end of the month all the plots have been dug and prepared. Jane has been busy planting out seeds and the broad beans on the left of the picture are quite a size already.

Of course the trick is to keep on top of it now and make sure it doesn't get out of hand; always much more difficult when during the week we are both working long hours.

We always know that summer is on the way when the first swallows fly in. We've had swallows nesting in our garage for more years than we can remember - that's not many at our age. Of course they do tend to leave their droppings all over the cars so Steve wants to put garage doors on but Jane won't have anything getting in the way of the swallows rearing at least two broods a year.

As a consequence Steve now has a mark on the bonnet of the Porsche where one of the chirpy chaps had left its mark and Steve hadn't noticed until it was too late. This guano is really caustic - it must be the lime.