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Showing posts from November, 2009

YAWA: Your Events Diary For December

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The darkest days of the year are upon us here in the Northern hemisphere, so our thoughts turn to Christmas and our hopes and dreams for the perfect garden and plot next year. However, if you're fed up of curling up in front of the fire and fancy something a bit more outdoorsy, then the You Ask, We Answer team have found the following gems to whet your appetite.

Anytime: Want to blow away those winter blues and cobwebs? Getting out for a brisk walk during the daylight hours, particularly on a cold, crisp, clear morning could be the perfect antidote. Here's some ideas of where to go.
Throughout December - Christmas Markets, Fairs and Fayres. Many of our towns and cities hold some kind of Christmas market, usually in early December. I've had the pleasure of attending events in Bath, Birmingham, Bristol, York and the Eden Project so far. This website has details of all of these, plus all others in the UK and much further afield in Europe and the USA. A great way to get in the f…

Ohhhhh Christmas Tree

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Today's Advent Sunday and ever since I was a little girl this is always the day we get the Christmas decorations down from the loft and I decorate the Christmas tree. It's a family tradition which NAH is more than happy for me to continue with ;)

So you can imagine my delight when the nice people at Dobbies offered to send me a sparkly Snowtime Fibre Optic Sunburst Christmas Tree for me to try out. A package promptly arrived from Scotland via Parcel Force and as I was away on holiday at the time and my neighbours were out, it was taken to my local post office for me to pick up later.

I unpacked the box this morning and assembled everything within a mere 5 minutes. There's 3 legs to attach to the base, the tree's branches (a single unit for this 4ft tree) to slot into it, plus the transformer to plug into the base and the wall socket. The base also contains the light and the revolving disc to drive the changing colours within the fibre optic lights spread throughout the…

Of Awards, Women Pioneers and Missed Biscuitry

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It's a bit of a mixed bag today, but I've a few things to tell you which are all demanding to be written about right now, so here goes...
First up is this sparkly new bit of bling, courtesy of Kitchen Garden, aka The Constant Gardener with her vegetable growing hat on. I also see Rothschild's Orchid has given this to me this week, so that makes it double bling. Rather cheersome, after a week of wind and wuthering weather. Thanks both of you, it's much appreciated :D
As usual I'm going amend the rules for this award so that they work for me. I see it's been doing the rounds of most of my regular gardening reads already and I'm confident it's only a matter of time before everyone I have in my sidebar links, plus all my bookmarked favourites will receive this award. So instead of nominating 15 of my gardening friends, I'd like to draw your attention to a non-gardening blog which I've come across recently via my site statistics. It's called White …

Postcard From Liverpool

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Last Thursday, whilst the poor people of Cumbria were enduring Britain's heaviest rainfall in 24 hours, NAH and I were not that far away in Liverpool for the day. Surprisingly we had no rain at all, although it threatened to do so for most of the time we were there. It was tremendously windy, the kind you can lean on without falling over and the antics of a pigeon on the ferry across the Mersey [cue song - Ed] amused us greatly: it was clinging onto the deck for dear life, but the wind was still managing to push it ever closer to going over the side.
We'd decided that the ferry was a holiday 'must do' and this was my first ever visit to Liverpool. Here you can see one of the classic Liverpudlian vistas: The Three Graces aka the Royal Liver Building, the Cunard Building and the Port of Liverpool Building (from left to right). NAH and I think the view's been spoilt somewhat by the brand new Pier Head ferry terminal in front of the Royal Liver Building: you can just …

A Taste Of My Garden

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Yesterday afternoon NAH and I visited our local farm shop* to see which unusual apple varieties they have on sale at the moment. Whilst there I spotted the pictured shelf of honey. Now Allington is less than a mile as the bee flies from my garden, so there must be plenty of the nectar from my flowers in each and every one of these jars :)
* = a thinly veiled excuse to have the largest slice of chocolate banana fudge cake ever in the tea room :o

ABC Wednesday 5: S is for...

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... Secateurs
Secateurs (aka pruners, pruning shears) are probably the tool which I use most frequently when out in the garden or up at the allotment. I'd previously not given much thought in choosing a pair and as a result, I've needed to buy a new one every couple of years. More recently I've resorted to the gear assisted type, such as those developed by Wilkinson Sword (now rebranded as Fiskars) as I've found my increased usage has led to a rather painful elbow at times.
However, earlier this year I decided that constantly replacing my secateurs was a waste and I should go for the kind where the parts can be replaced. Thus I decided to finally bite the bullet and buy me a pair of Felcos to celebrate my birthday [she really knows how to party eh? - Ed]. I even had a nice stash of garden gift vouchers, courtesy of Gardeners' World magazine, to cushion the expense: we're talking about the Rolls Royce version of garden tools after all.
So I wended my way down to t…

Vegetable Growing: What I Would Teach

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Food security's a hot topic at the moment and I reckon it's set to become even more so over the coming years. Fluffy Muppet and Soilman had some thoughtful posts and debate on this subject earlier this year, and now Matron's joined in too.

Her piece focused on our ability to pass on our vegetable knowledge to those that don't grow their own, which Soilmanfollowed up by posing the following question:
If you had to give three specific bits of help/advice to a total vegetable virgin – once the oil and fertilisers have gone – what would they be?
As usual his response to this question is pithy, smile inducing and thought provoking. Lots of people have left their ideas in the comments already, but I wanted to have a think about it and respond on here. Matron's original post said:
Growing food locally using sustainable methods has been placed at the top of the Government's food security agenda following its first ever assessment on the safety of the country's food sup…

Garden Visit: Dunham Massey's Winter Garden

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Last Monday, NAH and I took advantage of a relatively good weather forecast to visit Dunham Massey, a vast stately home and estate just outside Manchester. It was a sunny, showery day and our drive around the outside of the estate's boundary walls to its entrance was marked by vast piles of burnt orange beech leaves being whipped up by the winds over the walls and flying across our path. It felt a little like being caught inside a childhood Christmas snowdome, with leaves instead of snow and made an exhilarating start to our day.

The house itself is closed for the winter, but the parkland and gardens are open year-round. I was particularly keen to visit because a newly planted winter garden had been opened just a fortnight prior to our trip to Cheshire last week and I wanted to be one of the first to see it. It's meant to be the largest winter garden in England and we have only a few gardens open at this time of the year, so I was intrigued in seeing what this actually means. …

Postcard From Chester

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Hello, I'm back and rather nicely refreshed after a week in a cottage just outside Chester. As you can see from the above image, Cheshire is famed for its black and white architecture. This is a scene from our walk around the town walls last Tuesday. I'll be taking you on a longer tour shortly :)

I also have a trip to Dunham Massey to show you their newly opened winter garden; a tour of Port Sunlight, an early example of a Victorian/Edwardian garden village; plus a brief sojourn in Liverpool. We enjoyed ourselves immensely and plan to return to the area for a much longer holiday at a later date.

Here's a taster to whet your appetite. You may be familiar with this Liverpudlian scene already as Anna has featured it twice as part of her posts for Out on the Streets. I recognised it immediately and couldn't resist a quick snap myself (we were running to catch the hop on hop off city bus tour at the time) just to show you it's still looking good in November and from a dis…

How Advertising Works in Chippenham #11

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Decide to make your living through writing in stoneFind a derelict but prominent place to show off the kind of thing you can doWait for a blogger to have a good look at your wares by the railway viaductWait for that blogger to tell the blogger with the camera what you've foundEt voila!In case you missed it first time round, just like I've done for so many years, compare the word area with the rest of the piece. My thanks to Mark for telling me I should take a look again at this body of work ;)And here's a wider view of the first thing you see when you hit Chippenham's high street should you walk into town (like I do) from the west. Welcoming isn't it?

National Comment Leaving Week

Visit NaBloPoMo

OK, it seems that only Helen, Mark and I have committed ourselves to National Blog Posting Month: Helen's been going great guns, telling us all about gardening life in Toronto and whilst Mark also lives in Chippenham, his brilliant blog is very different to mine or Helen's, so also well worth a look. I'm still on holiday (back tomorrow), but as you can see, I managed to set up my posts before I went away :)

If the thought of all of that is making you feel a bit tired, how about having a go at National Comment Leaving Week instead? It could be just the thing now the nights are drawing in and it starts tomorrow, November 21st and ends on the 28th. All you need to do is leave five comments per day on other blogs and return one comment that's been left on your site lately per day. That's a total of 6 comments per day.

It could be a good way of exploring those blogs you've had bookmarked for ages but never got round to reading, or seeing how some of …

What I've Learned From Mr Treeman

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A line of silver birch trees brightening up a gloomy November's day along one of the paths on our estate. Just a few of the many trees that have been planted in our neighbourhood and which help to make it one of the better public spaces in Chippenham
Following my report on Chippenham's Double Whammy Chestnuts a while back, I've eventually managed to talk to someone from our local council about them. As expected, it took quite a while to track down exactly whom I should be talking to. Here's what I've learned in the process.

Who exactly I should be talking to:
As I live in Chippenham, Wiltshire, it should be someone from Wiltshire County Council (WCC) right? Er, it depends...If the tree's on a main road or on a highway structure such as a roundabout, it's the responsibility of the Highways Agency, who are contactable via the county's CLARENCE hotline *If I want to discuss something like tree flailing which happened at the wrong time of the year, that's…

ABC Wednesday 5: R is for...

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... Rickey!
I'm not really a fan of Eastenders, but I can't help but remember Bianca's call of Ricky! whenever I see Heuchera 'Lime Rickey'. This was a most popular plant in the displays at the RHS shows early last year and I also admired it at several of my lime tolerant plant workshops at The Botanic Nursery before I finally caved in and bought one from there last summer.
It now nestles in a pot in a shadier corner of my patio. This particular Heuchera is descended from the woodland line, so it's not one for full sunlight - a lot of this can make the leaves look washed out. It also likes a moist soil and produces white flowers in the summer which are attractive to bees. As you can see, it's still wearing the lime hues that it's named after at the moment. I actually value it even more during the winter. As the colder, frosty weather kicks in, the leaves will take on a more buttery, yellow colour - a most welcome trait in the darker days of December and J…

Musing About Moss

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I have a confession: I have done absolutely nothing about the moss in my garden this year. I told Threadspider as much last week when we were admiring the patterns the moss is making in the block paving drive outside her house. It's similar in effect to the the scene pictured above from my patio, except hers is more on the diagonal.

This damascene conversion came about when I closely inspected the gravel path in the back garden early this year. A limey clay soil underneath the gravel (no membrane installed) which is waterlogged over winter and shaded for much of the day means moss is pretty much inevitable. Up close and personal it's rather beautiful, so I decided to let it stay for once and it's a lot less work as a result. I felt rather smug when Dan Pearson extolled the virtues of moss at the Hay Festival in May.

I've also let it remain in my lawn: so mine was the only one to remain green in our neighbourhood during September's drought. Patio crack infills? Yes, t…

Enjoying the Red, Yellow and... er, Orange?

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I had to go to Corsham last week to visit my dentist, but as I arrived early, I took the opportunity to have a brief exploration of the town's Millennium Garden. I've only really looked at it in passing before and whilst it wasn't the best of times of the year to have a closer look, there was still quite a bit of interest.
I was especially taken with the above Acer. Bright red stems and buttery yellow leaves did much to raise my spirits on the kind of miserable day which November seems to specialise in. I also admired its bright orange berries...
Hold on, Acers don't have berries, never mind bright orange ones!
A closer inspection revealed my error: the rowan tree nearby had lovingly adorned the Acer with lots of its berries.

GBBD: Flowers in the Rain

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Click to enlarge image if needed. From left to right and top to bottom: Fuchsia 'Genii', Anthemis tinctoria 'E.C. Buxton', Cosmos 'Chocamocha', Dahlia 'Moonfire', mophead Hydrangea, Fuchsia 'Garden News', Campanula with leaves, doorstep Cyclamen, strawberry, Sedum, Centaurea montana, Helianthus, Fuchsia 'Hawkshead', Clematis cirrhosa 'Freckles', Clematis 'Elsa Spath', and tender Cyclamen.
I'm actually on holiday as of yesterday, but I'm sure Friday's drenched flowers will be in bloom today - as is my Dahlia Delight - because we're having a spell of mild, rainy and windy weather at the moment. So whilst the garden's definitely very 'backendish', there's still quite a lot of floral bounty around. It just takes a little more time to find it. Lesson learnt this month: Cyclamen has a lovely ethereal scent. I hadn't noticed that before, but then I haven't put some in the hanging basket nex…

Things in Unusual Places #7: Children

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Further to my Advertising post last week, it's amazing what you can pick up in garden centres these days ;)

Do click on the image to enlarge it if needed.

Muck & Magic Update

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You may recall I spoke recently about the problems of Aminopyralid contamination here. Yesterday, I finally received (after finding out the outcome weeks ago) the government's official response to the e-petition raised which requested this herbicide would not be reinstated for use on farms:
The Government acknowledges the difficulties that the use of manure containing traces of aminopyralid has caused some gardeners and allotment holders. In issuing approvals for two new products, it carefully considered the advice of the independent Advisory Committee on Pesticides (ACP).
The restrictions on the new approvals are intended to ensure that manure containing aminopyralid does not leave the farm:
The new products may only be used on grassland for grazing (not for forage) or amenity grassland.
The labels must state that manure from animals grazed on grassland treated with aminopyralid should be returned directly to grassland - i.e. kept on farm. Similarly, labels will contain a warning …

You Ask, We Answer: Marmite

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Staying with yesterday's quirky theme, today seems to be a good one for saying something about one of the more unusual items in our British cuisine. You either love it, or hate it: can you tell which one I am? The clue's in the amount I put on the knife...

...yes, I hate it. My mum still proudly tells the tale of how she put Marmite on my bread soldiers when I was little and I immediately threw them on the floor whilst pulling the most screwed up baby face you could ever imagine. NAH of course loves it, so I have to bear the sight and smell of this muck spread most lunchtimes :(

I find it surprising how such a lovely product such as beer results in jars of yeast extract. Well, I suppose I shouldn't be really because the yeast used for beer making has enough at the end of the brewing process to start another 5 batches of beer. Thus a home has to be found for the other four fifths, otherwise over time our breweries wouldn't have enough room to produce any more beer and w…

ABC Wednesday 5: Q is for...

...Quirky

My blog is often described as quirky and I take that as a real compliment: it's probably the best way I'd like you to think about Veg Plotting. But what does quirky actually mean? The Free Dictionary defines quirk (pronounced kwurk) as:
A peculiarity of behavior; an idiosyncrasy: "Every man has his own quirks and twists" (Harriet Beecher Stowe).An unpredictable or unaccountable act or event; a vagary: a quirk of fate.A sudden sharp turn or twist.An equivocation; a quibble.Architecture - a lengthwise groove on a moulding between the convex upper part and the soffit. It goes on to cite Collins Thesaurus' alternatives for the adjective quirky as:
odd, unusual, eccentric, idiosyncratic, curious, peculiar, unpredictable, rum (Brit. slang), singular, fanciful, whimsical, capricious, offbeat, out there (slang) We've developed a reputation for being quite quirky and original.
Well, perhaps I can't fulfill definition number 5, but I aim to do something wit…

Looking at the Whole Picture

Instead of choosing an evening class this Autumn, I've joined the University of Bath Gardening Club. I'm unsure of the exact connection with the University - apart from us meeting there - it's certainly not the reserved domain of dons or students and everyone's most welcome. The programme of speakers is put together by Derry Watkins of Special Plants, so the standard is extremely high. Fergus Garrett treated us to a tour of Great Dixter: Past, Present and Future last month and I'm particularly looking forward to future presentations from Keith Wiley, Charles Dowding, Catrina Saunders (Head Gardener at The Courts) and Derry herself.

Last week it was the turn of the redoubtable Mary Keen, garden designer and regular Telegraph columnist. I'm not that familiar with her work or her writing, so I didn't quite know what to expect from her talk's title Looking at the Whole Picture. She took everyone by surprise immediately by declaring her talk was to be withou…

Christmas Carols & Fantastic Fireworks

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Saturday was one of those days which ends in a cloud of happiness. Firstly I attended a Forgotten Carols workshop led by Ali Burns - a descendant of Robert Burns - who has found and researched a wealth of traditional seasonal songs. She's also set many of the texts she's found to her own music, including one of our choir's favourites, The Field Mice's Carol.

We were based at Holy Trinity Church in Trowbridge for the day. It had just been painted and had a cosy, welcoming feel owing to the unusual choice of shades of reds and pinks for the decor. We learnt five new songs, all very different: from our merry start with Sing Nowell! through to the oldest, Christ Has My Hart, Ay dating from 1567 which was an amalgamation of two Scottish texts.
Ali wove tales of how she found the songs and their origins into our day and I was surprised to learn there are very few Christmas songs originating from Scotland. We also sang a completely different version - words and tune - of The H…

Poppy Day

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Norfolk, June 2009
A million blood red poppies fell slowly to the floor And I heard a million voices that I had heard before Calling from a foreign field, the earth, the sea, the sky Telling all the story of why they had to die.
Liberty and freedom, motherland and home These are words to cherish but the dead lie deathly prone. Have we learned the lesson, all they gave was it in vain? Is this a better world we live in built upon their pain?

A million blood red poppies, remember them and pray
They gave their tomorrow that we might have this day We must strive to greater effort for peace and goodwill to reign Never should one single poppy fall to the floor again.

Cyril Frederick Perkins (1920 - ), WW2 People's War
WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar.
NB This site also gives details on how People's War material can be re-used for publication. As Veg Plottin…

Unusual Front Gardens #5: Topiary

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Like last time, I'm indebted to fellow Chippenham blogger Mark for this example. He told me about its existence early on in my front garden series, but it wasn't until I went to his house a couple of weeks ago to pick up a spare dalek compostbin that I finally got to see what he meant in all its glory. It looks like a couple of neighbours have a friendly rivalry going, because this is what's on view next door:

The creature on the right might be a crocodile - what do you think?

Seasonal Recipe: Garlic Mushroom Soup

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This is a great time of the year to go on a fungus foray. If you're worried about your identification skills, then it's best to go on an organised hunt with an expert. Your local wildlife trust, The Woodland Trust, the Forestry Commission, National Trust or similar organisations in your area often have this kind of activity at this time of the year and you're usually allowed to take your share home with you.
Of course, your fungi might be a little gourmet for soup, so you might like to google elsewhere for a more upmarket recipe for your spoils. However, if your haul includes field mushrooms, then this is the recipe for you. When I was little, we frequently visited my aunt and uncle near Swansea. One of my strongest memories from that time was going out mushrooming with my uncle. Their house was on common land and we had to get up early to beat one of the local smallholders to the pick of that day's crop.
I absolutely adore mushrooms. The merest mention of them in Tol…

How Advertising Works in Chippenham #10

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Decide on a completely new product range for your garden centreAssemble your publicity materialEnsure it has a prominent display in the latest Garden Club newsletterWait for a blogger with a camera to spot something's wrongEt voila!For me this is wrong on two levels: Victoria has also explored the topic of garden centres' chosen product ranges recently - worth a look not only for her views, but the ensuing conversation in the comments. My local garden centre's also displaying a banner alongside the main road which reads: Our themed Christmas store now open. Guess what the theme is?In the interests of balanced reporting I should also add they're organising a project to coincide with National Tree Week, where representatives from each school taking part will have a session at the garden centre on how to plant a tree and look after it. They'll then choose two trees from a selection of native species to take back to plant in their school grounds :)

ABC Wednesday 5: P is for...

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...Potato
The day after our Food Bloggers' day in Oxford, a few of us got together for a more detailed session on tomato and potato plant breeding with Tom Wagner (pictured left alongside Vicki of the Heritage Seed Library) of Tater Mater. Today I'm concentrating on the potato part of the workshop and the above picture shows a small selection of Tom's new varieties, which Patrick will be growing back home in Amsterdam. As you can see, there's an amazing variety, all seeking to increase the different characteristics (or genetic resources aka germplasm) available to future plant breeders.
Tom has crossed hundreds of different potatoes to produce new ones. In order to do this he has selected potatoes with a tendency to produce berries - the seed capsules sometimes seen on potato plants - in addition to their more usual tuber production. As the seed is the product of a cross pollination made by Tom, the seeds will take on characteristics from both parents - unlike the tuber…

Dahlia Delight

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After all that wind and rain on Sunday it was good to get out into the garden yesterday for a good breath of fresh air. Some of my Dahlias have been a bit late to the party this year and as it's November, I wanted to celebrate them with you before the frosts finally turn them to mush. The top one is D. 'David Howard': I thought I'd lost him over the winter, but at last a lone stem appeared, then this single bloom last week. The bottom two are from the ones I ordered after seeing the spectacular display of some of the National Dahlia Collection at the RHS Inner Temple Show last year. Unfortunately I've lost the order form, so I can't tell you which ones they are. They were also late in flowering as they suffered from a capsid bug attack early in the summer. As they've all struggled against the odds, I'm especially pleased to see them, no matter how briefly.
Update: I've looked back at my photos from the Inner Temple Show and the pink one is D. 'K…

Blogaversary: Approaching The Terrible Twos

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Some dates have a resonance. Your birthday is one of these of course, plus any where one of life's milestones is met along the way: graduation or marriage for instance. Sometimes other dates acquire significance, seemingly at random. For me, today's one of the latter.

Five years ago, it was the date I finally 'phoned in sick at work and told them I couldn't take the stress anymore. A year later, it was when I and several of my colleagues commenced our Diplomas in Business Analysis *. Then two years ago I decided to join my local choir and I also finally realised my career break really needed to become a little more permanent.

It was that very same day I decided to start this blog without a clue about what I was doing and where it might lead. Your company on the rollercoaster is much appreciated, it's been heaps of fun over the 800+ posts I've made. However, now we're at the notorious terrible twos stage, who knows what tantrums I'll find alongside the uni…

GBMD: All Saint's Day

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Rotary Glade, Westonbirt Arboretum Why blow'st thou not, thou wintry wind,
Now every leaf is brown and sere,
And idly droops, to thee resigned,
The fading chaplet of the year?
Yet wears the pure aerial sky
Her summer veil, half drawn on high,
Of silvery haze, and dark and still
The shadows sleep on every slanting hill.

How quiet shows the woodland scene!
Each flower and tree, its duty done,
Reposing in decay serene,
like weary men when age is won,
Such calm old age as conscience pure
And self-commanding hearts ensure,
Waiting their summons to the sky,
Content to live, but not afraid to die.

Sure if our eyes were purged to trace
God's unseen armies hovering round,
We should behold by angels' grace
The four strong winds of Heaven fast bound,
Their downward sweep a moment stayed
On ocean cove and forest glade,
Till the last flower of autumn shed
Her funeral odours on her dying bed.

So in Thine awful armoury, Lord,
The lightnings of the judgment-day
Pause yet awhile, in mercy stored,
Till willing hearts …