Dear Minimus...

 Thank you so much...

Dear Minimus, my Pond Cottage resident cat, let me explain why at five o'clock this morning I grabbed my favourite pillow and evacuated the cottage. I'm not ungrateful when you wake me up to show and share a little mouse surprise. But a large live rat! Eek!

Rat Under the Bed!

I put the light on just in time, as your rat (aargh!) slowly wriggled underneath my bed. And you just sat there, squeaking at me, looking oh so pleased with yourself. Clever Minimus. I love you very much. My less adventurous friends (not to mention Non-Gardening Partner) think I'm batty sleeping in a shed in my garden. Maybe they're onto something.

No time to de-rat the cottage - I had a mountain to climb! Ten hours later, home, bathed, knees still seeming to work, I decided to sleep in the house for another night. NGP's ever pragmatic, ever helpful comment : after a day, either the rat will be outside, escaped, or will be inside, dead. In a few weeks time I should smell the latter...

 Clever Minimus.
Minimus the Rat-Catcher Outside Pond Cottage

Up Mount Oxford

Mount Oxford - oh boy! What a wonderful trip! This was our third attempt to get to the summit. And again it wasn't to be. My friend and I had climbed up for nearly four hours - the trig at the top of the mountain was maybe twenty more minutes away. We could see it. And then the clouds rolled in, and there was nothing to see at all. So funny.

 Mount Oxford summit, twenty minutes away
Somewhere Up There...

We stopped in this inspiring place to have a late lunch and re-evaluate. It was common sense to go down, and we are terribly sensible women. One has to be, hiking in the mountains when aged over fifty-five. Otherwise the newspapers come up with lines like 'Elderly woman has fall trying to reach summit of challenging mountain'. Oops...

 See those clouds...
Head Gardener Climbing Mount Oxford

But we promised Mount Oxford that we would return in the near future. We would start an hour earlier. We would scramble up that last humpy bit and proudly lower our elderly-woman bottoms onto the tussock grass by the trig. And we'd 'do the loop' this time - we'd scamper like young nanny goats across the tops, then down the other side into the beech forest. NGP would pick us up at View Hill, the other road-end. Promise.

 A tall perennial.
Perennial Daisy Flower

Friday 13th March

Today I allowed myself an 'elderly-lady-pottering' day. I walked and played with the dogs, threw tennis balls for Winnie, hung out two loads of washing, watched some cricket on the TV, read my detective book (featuring DI Frost), and did some of my jigsaw. The day was nicely punctuated by two lovely visitors, for whom I made cups of tea and coffee. It turned into the most perfect non-gardening day - guilt-free, with time to reflect upon yesterday's wonderful mountain scramble.

After lunch I took the vacuum cleaner and hot soapy water over to Pond Cottage to do a rat-check. Young Minimus my cottage cat was completely unconcerned by me swishing the broom into the corners. As I scrubbed and dusted she sat in her basket washing her bottom. A sure sign that there was no rat left inside. Phew!

Saturday 14th March

Back to gardening today - I have new shrubs to plant, and weeding to do. There is nothing complicated about either of these tasks, and they are not worthy of more than a short sentence.


Success! The new Viburnums have been lovingly planted along the boundary - they are an extension of my informal hedge. The Choisyas are planted, too. All have been watered, by me, hand-holding the hose. There's a reason for this.

 Flowering a bit early - they should be in flower in early winter.
Viburnum Tinus

Earlier in afternoon a truck kept turning up to dump 'fill' in the holes by my neighbour's driveway. This made me a bit cross. Reason : I've spent ages filling up similar holes along my boundary, just using my wheelbarrow and shovel. You can probably guess where this is leading. Yes - I felt a frisson of envy.

 One of the best ever yellow roses? I think so!
Graham Thomas Rose

Talking to Myself...

So I made myself hand-water all my screening shrubs while I gave myself a severe talking to. I'm proud of the way I garden : it's just me, not machinery, not even money. Well, not often much money. I'm modular and (unlike my neighbour) I like things to look cared for, and I finish things. My plantings along the boundary are growing well and will soon be screening his mess. Everything is on track. I am a legend.

It's like this, I explained to the clump of bamboo, recently liberated from a pot and loving its soily freedom. I loved climbing for four hours (so hard on the knees) up Mount Oxford. Pay helicopter money to be whisked straight up to the top? No way.

Who Needs a Truck?

Then I hung up a new painting (so groovy) and two more retro flying ducks on the walls of Pond Cottage, watched by Minimus. I praised her cleverness, gave thanks that the cottage was ratless, put clean sheets on my bed, and smiled. Yippee for the little things. And yippee for hand-gardening. Who needs a truck?