Saturday, 27 February 2010

Even the weakest

After being away from home for a couple of days and after the major leaf pruning, even the most pathetic of the coffee plants seems to have had a boost. In spite of a spindly stem it now has healthy new growth top and bottom, just as the rest of them. Maybe the guesswork that went into the height of the growlamp has actually paid off.

Meanwhile I have been feeling very fragile. Something to do with the snow I feel and not helped by the 2-3 cm fall last night. I have to journey today and driving in the snow is not my favouritist thing in the world. Still needs must.

All the false sunlight that's helping the plants has got me to thinking about holidays. I had an email from a friend in Nepal asking if I was going to come over with my beloved when he takes a gang of hardy trekking women to Everest in the summer. But sadly because it will be right in the middle of the rainy season in the Kathmandu Valley, the thought of spending my well earned time off heading straight for more inclement weather is absolutely off the agenda.

So the question is where to? I want guaranteed sunshine and not the hint of any natural disasters whatsoever, which from the current round of news doesn't seem as easy as I first thought... any suggestions are very welcome before I decide to have a staycation under my very own growlamp!

Tuesday, 23 February 2010


Trying to make a cup of coffee and being responsible for the wellbeing of plants, dog, house etc is easy compared to my husband's very first call out as a member of Borders Search and Rescue.

Up until now, he has been a probationer, and I'm not entirely sure (and neither is he) as to whether or not he has/if he has/when he has attained full status. So tonight when he was home and the phone went for his first full call out to rescue a young missing person, and he grabbed his bags with a plea to me for "apples in the bag please" - to which I was only too happy to help - it all seemed very exciting.

Then the phone went again. I'm sure the voice on the other end said that the person had been found, and I relayed the information. However, 15 minutes later I was replaying this in my head and suddenly I wasn't so sure.

I am only reassured by the fact that there has been no further phonecall to suggest otherwise, but after going through what I thought I'd been told a couple of times, I was even more sure I might have got the message wrong. I mean we were just at the point of deciding what to have for dinner, which is always stressful for me these days as hunger is not one of the things that I feel a lot.

Suddenly coffee plants seem a whole lot easier to handle. The stress of cutting off leaves is nothing compared to the literal life and death situation of a Borders Search and Rescue person.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Out and about

Sadly have been unwell since I last wrote... some ghastly thing that's going round the village which entails having a splitting headache and feeling sick. Still at least I managed to do a web investigation re pruning the coffee plants.

I think I was a little premature there as mine are nowhere near large enough for pruning. Still I did take the scissors to them and cut off the leaves that were going brown. A couple are now looking very puny and I'm not at all sure will last.

As I had been in bed all day yesterday and it was the most gorgeous day today, with fantastic blue sky and sunny but cold, I decided that as my head was slightly better I'd go outside and get some air.

A short way from where we live is Mellerstain House a beautiful Robert Adam country house which was finished in 1778 (it took 53 years to build!) and has fabulous gardens and parkland. It is the annual Snowdrop Festival and the gardens are open this Sunday and next, so as John is away on Helicopter training with Borders Search and Rescue today, I took our dog, Nell, and went for a 2 hour stroll around the gardens and lake.

It really is quite a spectacular house, and the lake is just lovely. It was frozen in places and there were a whole load of ducks just sitting about on the ice, and a couple of swans that launched themselves off it to get a swim.

The snowdrops were like a carpet in places and made me feel that spring is round the corner even if we still have snow lying.

Nell loved it, but because you're supposed to keep dogs on leads it wasn't quite as much fun as she usually gets when out in woodland, but just being out and about was good for both of us.

Friday, 19 February 2010

The bar has been raised

I've been checking on a daily basis to make sure there's no scale at my abode. So far... none. However, the other day I noticed that some of the top leaves were going brown again. I couldn't believe it after all the cost of the growlight, but then thought maybe the light was too close to them. So now the light bar has been raised.

I'll need to keep an eye on this and try and work out what on earth I'm going to do when the plants grow to their adult height. Apparently, according to one website I accessed for the first time today, this can be 10 metres if the plants aren't pruned. Hang on... no-one ever mentioned pruning before! How? When?

Now you all know what I'll be doing this weekend...

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Art imitates life

Not long after writing my last entry I got an email from a friend to say her mother had died. Having just named my last post 'Bereavement in the family' and the fact that her man is one of my followers, I'm sure you can imagine how I felt. I shall have to take more care in future.

And then Jenny emailed to say she can't even look at the blog without being under the influence of gin, as she's worried as to what I might have written about the death of the twins. I've tried to reassure her but it has, so far, had no effect. Now I'm concerned that she will blame me for what might be an almighty hangover.

I never realised what a responsibility this blog writing business would turn out to be!

Friday, 12 February 2010

Bereavement in the family

My friend Jenny came to stay last night. She was very complimentary about the lighting system and was asking all sorts of questions. Then she dropped the bombshell.

She was really sorry but the twins had caught scale from the orchids and inspite of tender loving care in plant itu, they were no more. This happened some time ago, but Jenny didn't have the heart to tell me.

The sibs have been told, and as far as I can tell there doesn't seem to be much effect. I think they are enjoying their new "daylight" so much that they don't have time for what is, after all, a past event.

If only our lives were so simple. Mind you, today was such a gloriously sunny day and I managed to get outside for a bit and bask in the bright warmth. It was easy to forget all that's going wrong in the world with sunshine beating down on my body, so in a way I know how the coffee plants feel.

p.s. the only thing that worries me is that Jenny's orchids are fine. I wonder if this was some dastardly plan on their part after being usurped in the 'favourite plant' section of Jenny's heart? I shall have to keep an eye on my own orchids. I don't want any of that kind of behaviour in my home.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

An expensive habit

It all started nearly 4 years ago.

On coming back from Nepal my husband, John, and I planted 8 coffee beans in sandy soil as per instructions. We waited and waited and waited and six months later shoots appeared.

Coffee plants are absolutely extraordinary as they do the opposite of what would be expected (at least by me!). The beans rise up through the soil and then the beans split and the leaves come out from the underside of the beans. They look like tiny spaceships on the top of a spindly leg.

Six of the plants grew separately, but there were two that grew together... and known to us as 'the twins'.

They were repotted and lovingly watered daily, sprayed weekly and talked to as much as possible... and their growth was the slowest I have ever seen in a plant. Nevertheless after almost a year a dear friend of mine, Jenny, had built herself a hideaway and as a moving in present I wanted to give her a plant. The only problem was I didn't know whether we had the type that needed a companion to germinate or not. So I decided to give my friend the twins just in case, but in a strange way it felt like giving away a pet!

Anyway, I went on the web to see if I could talk to someone about growing coffee and the expert I eventually found from somewhere down in the South of England told me that she had never heard of anyone being successful at growing coffee plants in their own home in the UK. When I told her I lived in the North of Scotland... well she was shocked.

The only problem I found was that the plants do not like change... not one tiny bit. And then we moved. We left our home of 22 years just north of Inverness to move 34 miles south of Edinburgh. The coffee plants really objected and showed us by dropping most of their leaves and we were left with spindly stalks and a few shiny leaves on the top. And so it has been for the 18 months we've lived here in The Scottish Borders. They have started growing leaves at the bottom of the stalks, leaves going brown and then dropping off. Growing leaves at the top of the stalks, going brown and then dropping off.

Finally I decided that perhaps they were not getting enough light and went to Dobbie's giant plant emporium to see what we could find. We found a really helpful assistant who told us we needed the kind of lights that are used for growing marijuana... of course they didn't sell such a product!

A web search showed that there were plenty of lights to choose from and eventually we decided on a £59.99 light contraption (including p&p... what a bargain!). John then took our Ikea clothes rack (£29.99) and rigged it all up. Then the plants were repotted into larger pots (don't know the cost as we had them for a number of years) and Westlands West Plus Advanced (£3.91).

A grand total of £93.89!

Luckily they love it and have perked up no end... so nearly 4 years, almost £100 and if we're lucky at this rate in 10 years time we'll have enough coffee beans for a cup of coffee... can anyone beat that for the price of an espresso?