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Discovery…


You know how you sometimes discover something in a corner of your garden?

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Well, I discovered a rather tall mast the other day. I don’t know if it’s 30 or 50 feet high, nor do I know how on Earth I managed to overlook it for several months!

Okay, so I sort of do know… It’s by the East gable of the house where I don’t really go that often, and you can’t see it from the windows. Still, it’s A BLOODY TALL MAST! You would have thought I would have seen it.

The question now remains what to do with it. The best suggestion so far is to hoist the Jolly Roger at the top and create my own – very literal – pirate radio station where every other sentence is “Avast, me hearties”, “Hey-ho and a bottle of rum” or just plain “Arrrr”…

On a more realistic level I’ve been googling vigorous climbers… But what will grow tall enough? Hops normally only grow to 20 feet, and clematis montana to 30 feet. Both will probably leave me a bit short.

Pulling down the mast is just not within my capabilities, nor is getting somebody to do it within the budget, so I clearly have to keep it for now. The birch tree next to it should partly camouflage it, but it could be fun to make some sort of use of it. After all, how many gardens have a whopping tall mast in them? It HAS to be made into a feature, but it needs some sort of purpose.

(And it’s probably too weak to carry even a smallish windmill…)

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A friend who grew up locally has told me that it was most likely used to mount a TV antenna to receive German terrestrial TV signals, which sounds likely. After all, I grew up in a country that had only one national TV station until 1988 so many people in the South and East of Denmark either watched German or Swedish television. Considering that I don’t own a telly set, though, this is not really useful for me.

……………………………………………….

It still astounds me that for over 2½ months I didn’t notice this. I mean, it’s taller than the HOUSE!

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Silly Sightseeing…


A house is not just a house; it’s embedded in the natural and cultural landscape that surrounds it. So I try to visit some of the local villages and towns and see what they have on offer, so to speak.

Today I went to Nysted, and when you visit the church of a small town on a Thursday, you’re VERY likely to be alone. And leaving me alone in a vaulted, late-Gothic church is just… Well, it leads to this:

There really isn’t much to see in the church apart from the baroque altarpiece and a few portraits and memorial tablets, but the sound was phenomenal. I know I muddled up the lyrics (it’s been 18 years since I was last in a church choir), but I just HAD to play with the sound of the space.

I always wear shoes with hard soles when I visit churches, simply because they make a sound that resonates under the vaults. And when I’m alone I may occasionally hum a few notes, just to hear them reflected from the vaults… But today I felt rather confident that nobody would stop by, so why not go all-in?

I spent just over half an hour in that church. Nothing much to see, but it was so much fun to play around with the acoustics! I need to sing more, because singing is fun – and I am badly out of practice as you can hear. My voice is decent enough, but it needs training to be good.

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That Elusive Dream…


You know how every gardener secretly dreams of having that dark, loamy soil that they talk about on gardening shows? Well, I have that. I am located in one of the most fertile parts of Denmark, farming-wise, and my soils shows why.

It’s black and rich and almost greasy to the touch.

When I cross the field (the farmer has told me I can do so, otherwise I’d never walk through a field of crops!) downhill towards the bog and the lake, the soil turns a lighter colour in the field, which is probably because it has been so intensely cultivated for centuries, but then when I get down towards the bog it becomes soggy and dark.

It really is amazing to have this sort of soil to work with. In the old garden I had perhaps 4 inches of decent top soil and then a thick layer of clay, but here the loamy soil just goes on and on as you dig. It retains moisture, but it doesn’t become waterlogged as the old garden tended to do, and I don’t think I could imagine better conditions for growing just about anything I would want.

Yesterday while walking around the garden with the dog I’ve borrowed for the weekend (the owners think I’m doing them a favour, but really it’s the other way around!), I realised my garden is virtually infested with shrews. There are small holes all over the lawn, in the beds and under the shrubs. It’s a protected species here in Denmark, so I’m quite pleased to see so many signs that they are happy in my garden. Sure, they might eat some roots of some of my projects, but I can live with that – after all, the shrews were here first!

The wildlife is really going to be an important part of my garden. Having the bog and lake nearby means I don’t really NEED to do much to create a local wildlife habitat, but obviously I want the wildlife to come to me… Of course I want the cute little birds, but I also want the bugs, the insects, the frogs and newts and yes, the shrews.

When I ordered my load of berry shrubs for my Eastern Hedge, I also ordered the materials needed to “build” a pond. A square liner for the pond itself, as well as a stretch of narrow liner to create a small stream through the garden. The stream needs to be carefully arranged, since it will be powered by a solar pump and won’t flow on cloudy days – so I need to somehow create levels of standing water if I don’t go for the “dry creek” look.

The pond itself will be around three-four metres across and just over a meter deep, while the stream will be around 20-25 metres long, meandering down through the garden and collecting rain water from the greenhouse and shed roofs. I’ve also ordered a roll of coconut matting that will line the stream so in time it will become a sort of muddy, natural surface, rather than a black liner…

The exact location of the pond, though, remains to be determined. There are no plans of the drainage system from the gutters and the septic tank, so I guess I just need to start digging and see what happens… Which pretty much sums up my gardening philosophy!

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The Berry Project


Last week there was an evening when I was kind of bored, sitting in my Copenhagen apartment and not really knowing what to do. But then, there’s always the internet, right?

By the end of the evening I had ordered the following:

  • A white currant
  • A red currant
  • A black currant
  • A red gooseberry
  • A yellow gooseberry
  • A red raspberry
  • A yellow raspberry
  • A blackberry
  • A boysenberry
  • A black-leaved elder (“black lace”)

There’s a decent hedge along the West edge of the garden, but the East side only has a wire fence. It’s not that I really need a hedge for privacy reasons, considering that the nearest neighbour is nearly half a mile away, but first of all the wire fence just isn’t all that attractive and second of all I rather like the idea of a garden as an enclosed space, especially since I am surrounded by open fields.

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On my recent Tour de Denmark, visiting family and friends across the Great Belt on Funen and in Jutland, my mother offered me an additional berry shrub. I actually wanted jostaberries, but because they are still fairly rare the prices were just too high for what I wanted to pay – but my mother’s shrub had several branches that had arched down to the ground and rooted, so I came away with three cuttings with fully developed root systems.

They look a bit puny right now, but so did my mother’s when we planted it 2 years ago – and now hers is a full shrub 5ft high and 7ft wide, so I feel pretty certain that my three little twigs will be a good start to my hedge.

The jostaberry is not very well-known, perhaps because it only became commercially available in 1977. It’s a hybrid between a gooseberry and a black currant, so it gives very large berries that have a gooseberry flavour when not-quite-ripe and a black currant flavour when fully ripe. And it gives LOTS of berries… In many ways it’s surprising that it hasn’t become more mainstream, considering that it’s a thorn-less berry shrub that gives an ample harvest and can be cut back more or less as much as you want to.

It feels good to have made my first REAL stamp on the garden. The East edge is one of the long sides of the garden (around 230ft), so planting that up with berry shrubs will be a very visible alteration to the garden – but still in keeping with the original scheme, since the vegetable garden is also on that side.

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In other news, snowdrops are popping out all over the place, even in the lawn. They are all over the garden; in the borders, under shrubs, in the lawn… There are also a few clumps of aconites, but the snowdrops are really a favourite of mine, so I am very pleased to see so many of them.

Another welcome resident of the garden is this:

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I love day lilies, and this one is probably my favourite, considering the history of the garden. It’s very likely to be the common, orange day lily, since it has been a common feature of Danish country gardens for the best part of a century. That’s the one my grandmother has in her present garden – and had when they lived on the farm – and also the one my parents had in my childhood garden. There might be prettier varieties out there, but this is the one I love for sentimental reasons.

Tomorrow I might have a look around the garden to see if there’s an obvious spot to plant some of the day lilies; it looks like the clump could do with being divided, and anyway it’s sort of in a bad position, nestled beneath some fuchsia shrubs. Not only will the colours clash violently, but I also think the day lilies would like to live somewhere where there aren’t overhanging shrubs…

Tomorrow I’ll also have my first ever guest in the house. That’s a “little bit” daunting! I love this place so much, but I am realistic enough to acknowledge that it’s quite a mess at present. And yet I want guests to see what I see; potential! If I get the kitchen looking decent and provide a nice bedroom for my guest, perhaps the rest will seem like “potential”?

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New Beginnings


I’m moving out of my little shoe box apartment in Copenhagen and into my own apartment that I’ve had rented out while I was married. (I’m kind of glad I kept it now, even though at times it was a financial drain.)

However, I’ve decided that most of my belongings should go to the house, rather than the apartment, so today a man and two women came and moved it all for me.

IMG_6297 Most of the boxes are books, so they will remain boxed-up until I have renovated the sitting room (floor, walls and ceiling) and can get a nice book case to cover the entire end wall. There are just under 3,000 books in my library, so I kind of need a large book case. (Preferably with excess space, as my books tend to breed – or else I just happen to buy new books all the time.)

So far I have the impression that my furniture really fits the house. It is sort of old-ish (1890’s to 1960’s), and though most of it’s dark wood – oak, mahogany, teak – it is all in a scale where it will not overpower the space when the walls have been done up and there’s a wooden floor. It will be a bright and airy house, with plenty of open floor space – and perhaps very much a Scandinavian house.

In other news, the snow has melted:

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There are little aconites and snowdrops all over the garden, and this pleases me immensely.

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There are also several groups of arum italicum which I love, and the hellebores are fiercely large – though probably of the Easter-blooming variety. I have a feeling this garden and I will get along very well…

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Objects In The Garden


“I’m lucky enough to have inherited several garden gnomes with my new garden… Most of them have accidentally ended up in the trash, but one of them is 4ft high (including his pedestal) and made of solid concrete. He remains in situ until I get somebody to help me get rid of that dreadful thing… There’s also a lion holding a crest by the drive – perhaps suitable for a grander house, but hardly for a rather modest house in the countryside.

I believe you might have given me the inspiration for a new post…”

The above was my comment on a post in Jean’s Garden, and I could have gone on and on – but didn’t want to make a rambling, long comment about my own garden on her blog. Her post was about art objects in the garden, and while I dare say my garden gnomes are hardly art – nor remotely pretty – it made me think about something I’ve long wanted in the old garden, but that would be too costly.

I love stones and rocks… But in the old garden on a fjord meadow they didn’t seem appropriate. I placed some smaller stones around the garden – souvenirs from around the world – but didn’t buy actual large stones in.

The new garden, though, is surrounded by fields, and boulders seem to crop up in them out of nowhere. The recent freeze has pushed several boulders out of the ground, so I need to get in touch with the farmer and ask him if he would mind if I took them (he obviously won’t), or if he would place them by my rear garden gate when he removes them himself, which he will definitely have to do pretty soon before his winter barley gets too high and begins hiding them in spring.

Using local boulders – that sprung from the ground a mere, well, stone’s throw from the garden really appeals to me, because I want the garden to be firmly anchored in it’s surroundings. Most are in sizes I can carry – or at least lift into the wheelbarrow on my own – and some are just large enough that I can’t – but can roll them over the lawn to where I want them. So I could manage on my own – which is important.

They will mainly fit in around the pond when I get that dug out – and as obstructions in the small stream I’m planning. Not large features, but semi-submerged remnants from the landscape around the garden and reminders of how the landscape was formed during the last ice age. And how it apparently still moves and shifts under the surrounding fields!

I think local, natural stones will fit in better in my garden than actual pieces of art. After all, the house is enough of a man-made statement in the garden for me.

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Slowly, Slowly…


Things are progressing very slowly at my house in the country. Not frustratingly so, but rather lazily and relaxed.

I am still working on the walls of the small sitting room, and that’s okay; it’s a labour of love, and I don’t want it to be stressful. Still, I am looking forward to the day when I can stand in a finished room, look around me and say to myself “Yes, this is just as it should be!”

Perhaps that’s reflected in my latest purchase:

Kanvas

27 yards of canvas???

It’s for curtains for the house, and that greyish sage green, coarse fabric should, I hope, look good against rough walls of white, rendered bricks. The reason I ordered so much fabric is that I want the same curtains throughout the house, and a) there are a lot of windows in a house compared to a small apartment and b) it is a cheap fabric, so I’d rather have too much than too little of it so I don’t run out and find they don’t make the exact same colour or texture any more.

It will be quite a project, turning this huge pile of fabric into curtains, but there’s no rush. After all, I can live without curtains as long as I’m working on the house – and then get a friend down to help me with the task of cutting up this vast swathe of fabric and turning it into separate panes. Yeah, real men make their own curtains, right?

Planning such a thing as curtains helps me see the house as it will be, and it will be lovely! As I look around me at the salmon-coloured walls of the large sitting room, the room transforms itself inside my head; the walls change colour and texture, the dropped faux-wood ceiling disappears and exposes the beams, the mangy old carpet turns into wooden flooring. Over there by the fire is where my great-grandmother’s sofa and armchairs will go, down here in the far end is where the large book case will cover the end wall and my desk will stand just there by the window. Under the desk will be my woollen rug so my feet are nice and warm when I sit there, and under the sofa arrangement will be a new rug that I haven’t quite imagined yet.

Bord

I’ve also bought the dining table for my large kitchen (when the wall to the small sitting room is knocked down): Solid oak, contemporary but still rustic. When the leaves are added to the ends it becomes nearly 10 feet long and easily seats 12-14 if needed, but it will also be my main work space in the kitchen – hence the need for something sturdy! And it came with a set of 12 solid oak chairs, though the chairs are lighter and more organic in their shape; somehow more welcoming to sit on than if they had had the same square, heavy style as the table.

Stole

The curves of the solid wood are so nice to touch…

All these pieces of the puzzle are still only put together in my mind – the dining table and the chairs are currently stored in the garage, my great-grandmother’s sofa set is in my aunt’s attic and so on, but I can somehow see it all coming together as a coherent, relaxed space.

Oh, and I bought myself another little trinket…

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Yes, Mr. I-Hate-Cars has bought a car. It’s a pretty, little thing – and would have felt dangerously small on Houston highways between pick-up trucks and SUVs, but in Denmark it fits in better. And 40 miles per gallon fits in nicely with my wallet…

A car simply makes it easier to have a house in the country. Easier to get down here, and easier to get around while I’m down here. Easier to bring a few friends down here – though of course I’d need a small bus if I were to provide transport for enough people to fill my dining table!

But… This house… I am so in love with it still! The project has expanded from merely redecorating to a rather more full-scale restoration with historic building materials and a “softly, softly” approach, so it will take me years to finish it – and that’s okay. Initially I thought I could have the internal walls repainted and the floors changed by Easter, but that’s not happening – and I really don’t mind. All delays are my own, and there are things I need to learn from scratch in order to achieve my vision (like rendering un-fired brick walls with lime-based render) but unskilled people have been working with these materials for thousands of years, so surely I can too!

(I won’t, though, be turning 27 yards of fabric into curtains by hand-sewing them! There must be limits, even for me…)

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