Four Years

Rose Pat Austin 002 Wm

Rose ‘Pat Austin’


Today rusty duck has reached the grand old age of four. Doesn’t time fly!

I think it’s fair to say I totally underestimated the challenge of establishing a garden in the middle of an old English wood.Β  The ever encroaching trees casting their shade, abundant rain and the relatively mild Devon climate providing the perfect breeding ground for slugs. The roses knocked back by blackspot and devoured by rabbits and deer. The neighbour’s sheep, and cows, blundering their way across the lawn. The almost total absence of any plant that grows from a bulb. Thanks for that, Mr Mouse. And the army of squirrels, poring over their map table underneath the rhododendron bush, plotting their next move.

Β Should we retreat inside the cottage for some respite perhaps? Um..


Bedroom 005 Wm


The acrow prop prevents the main beam, and consequently the roof, from collapsing whilst the structure underneath is reinforced. The dark brown area near the ceiling, new lime mortar, marks the spot.


Bedroom 004 Wm


Cob blocks on stand-by


The upper part of the house is constructed mainly from cob (clay soil, sand, water and straw). In modern times the mixture is compressed into blocks to make building work easier. As it turned out the current repair could be confined to the chimney stack, requiring stone rather than cob. The builder used bits of rock we’ve accumulated from the garden over the last few years, the exact same approach as would have been taken hundreds of years ago. What goes around comes around, eh?


Β As regular readers will know, not every project goes smoothly. Remember last year and Mike’s foot poking through the cavernous hole that had been the hall ceiling just a few moments before? And the plumber who turned tail and legged it in the middle of a job? Sometimes it’s hard to see the funny side. But in the end you have to laugh. Or else you’d cry.

It’s been an interesting four years. For your continued support of rusty duck, I can’t thank you enough. It really wouldn’t be the same without you. I suppose I should also offer thanks to the wildlife. For without them half of the tales wouldn’t be there to be told. No need to imagine what their reaction might be..

Squirrel 018b Wm

‘Till next time..

J x


2017-10-27T09:20:12+00:00June 29th, 2016|Tags: , |


  1. Pauline June 29, 2016 at 10:52 am - Reply

    Jessica, it has been a wonderful four years, reading all your tales of the wildlife , your house alterations and your garden. I really look forward to your posts, it usually means I ought to put the kettle on for a coffee as I know I’m in for a good read! Keep on writing…!

    • Jessica June 30, 2016 at 8:47 pm - Reply

      Thank you for your kind words Pauline. There is no shortage of material when we have a garden is there?

  2. Janet Purdie June 29, 2016 at 11:15 am - Reply

    Lovely post Jessica. You have achieved such a lot, in retrospect. And you deserve a gold star for positivity! Best of luck for the next four years!

    • Jessica June 30, 2016 at 8:56 pm - Reply

      Hi Janet, thanks and welcome.
      For better or worse we’ve started out on this adventure and the only option now is to keep going. The only question sometimes is how!

  3. ontheedgegardening June 29, 2016 at 11:26 am - Reply

    Happy birthday Jessica! Keep up the good work and keep on telling us all about it. πŸ™‚

    • Jessica June 30, 2016 at 8:57 pm - Reply

      Thanks Gill.

  4. Christina June 29, 2016 at 11:40 am - Reply

    Congratulations, I’ve loved reading your amusing posts – sometimes feeling guilty that they were amusing for us but not so much for you! Gardening in a different environment always throws up more challenges than we expect – part of the fun of life; here’s to the next four years.

    • Jessica June 30, 2016 at 9:00 pm - Reply

      Yes, we’ve both had challenges albeit very different ones. Who knows what the future may bring, with the climate becoming ever more unpredictable.

  5. Marian St.Clair June 29, 2016 at 12:50 pm - Reply

    I’m always excited to see a Rusty Duck post in the inbox. Thanks for sharing and making life more fun!

    • Jessica June 30, 2016 at 9:07 pm - Reply

      Thanks Marian. Hope you’re settling back into the routine after that fabulous tour!

  6. jenhumm116 June 29, 2016 at 12:54 pm - Reply

    Many congratulations on such an entertaining 4 years.

    And that Pat Austin, she gets around doesn’t she?

    • Jessica June 30, 2016 at 9:09 pm - Reply

      She certainly does. I’ve had mine years, she lived in our previous garden, then in a pot for three years and now here. The only trouble is she doesn’t like the rain very much and therefore complains bitterly about living in the south west!

  7. Sigrun June 29, 2016 at 1:25 pm - Reply

    Hi Jessica, you have done a lot of work in the last four year, in- and outside. Its normal, that there are a lot of jugs in the near of the wood, in our garden too. I’m waiting for your posts of the next four years!


    • Jessica June 30, 2016 at 9:12 pm - Reply

      Of all the creatures of the wood the slugs must be the worst. I’ve tried just about every known deterrent. The latest is pistachio shells.. we are eating a lot of pistachios at the moment πŸ™‚

  8. Anne Wheaton June 29, 2016 at 1:34 pm - Reply

    Congratulations on four years. I didn’t realise that cob blocks existed – not much call for that sort of thing in our part of the country. Acrow props I do understand though as there has been one in our cellar for about fifty years holding up the dining room floor. Looking forward to another year of your adventures.

    • Jessica June 30, 2016 at 9:16 pm - Reply

      It costs Β£9 per day to hire one of those Acrow props, can you believe it? Hence its replacement with the bit of 2 x 2 you see next to it.

  9. bittster June 29, 2016 at 1:39 pm - Reply

    Oh my gosh it’s not every morning that I actually laugh out loud when I see a photo.
    Congratulations and thanks for four years, it’s so much more entertaining when I’m not the one sliding downslope bottom first πŸ™‚
    Isn’t it amazing the mess we can get ourselves into and then the amazing things that get accomplished along the way? I would have never tackled half my projects if I knew what they would become.

    • Jessica June 30, 2016 at 9:22 pm - Reply

      I don’t think we’d have taken on this house if we’d known what it would become. But we did so now it’s a case of taking it in bite sized chunks. And even one of those is a generous mouthful.

  10. FlowerAlley June 29, 2016 at 1:50 pm - Reply

    I have enjoyed your posts. Thank you for continuing to share your adventures.

    • Jessica June 30, 2016 at 9:29 pm - Reply

      Thanks. I enjoy yours too, it’s great to share adventures thousands of miles apart.

  11. Cathy June 29, 2016 at 2:27 pm - Reply

    Congratulations Jessica – and at least one smile per post you have made me smile an awful lot in that 4 years!! πŸ™‚

    • Jessica June 30, 2016 at 9:32 pm - Reply

      I think we share the same sense of humour Cathy. Thanks for being such a consistent reader. πŸ™‚

  12. derrickjknight June 29, 2016 at 2:47 pm - Reply

    Wow. Just wow!!

    • Jessica June 30, 2016 at 9:33 pm - Reply


  13. Peter/Outlaw June 29, 2016 at 2:52 pm - Reply

    Congratulations on your anniversary Jessica! Your posts entertain us and especially strike a chord with those of us living in old homes. Here’s to many more years of us enjoying your travail and triumph.

    • Jessica June 30, 2016 at 9:36 pm - Reply

      They may take more work but I do love the character of an old home, imagining what life must have been like for all the people that have gone before. Still so many mysteries to be uncovered too.

  14. New Moons For Old June 29, 2016 at 3:43 pm - Reply

    Here’s to the next four!

    • Jessica June 30, 2016 at 9:37 pm - Reply

      Many thanks.

  15. Henriet from Holland June 29, 2016 at 4:02 pm - Reply

    According to my husband, a pelargonium and geranium enthusiast, you could try geraniums to cover difficult bits of garden. Slugs hate ’em, deer are not known to eat them, weeds find them discouraging, they have all the white/blue/purple type colours, and propagation is just too easy. He asks me how often you add to your blog, his impression is that it must be about twice a day!

    • Jessica June 30, 2016 at 9:45 pm - Reply

      I do need more geraniums, you’re right. I’ve bought a few already this year and they do seem pretty resilient against those who nibble. I aim for a couple of new posts a week but it slips a bit.. frequently! Time is short. But also I’d rather wait until there’s something worthwhile to say rather than post for the sake of it.

      • Henriet from Holland July 1, 2016 at 6:19 pm - Reply

        Your posting frequency is just fine! It is my enthusiasm in communicating bits of your adventures that makes him feel it must come so often.

        • Jessica July 1, 2016 at 9:27 pm - Reply

          You’re too kind.
          I got the referendum result completely wrong didn’t I. Totally gutted to be leaving.

  16. Josephine June 29, 2016 at 5:28 pm - Reply

    I’ve so enjoyed my visits to your wonderland. Four years, really !
    Such fun !

    • Jessica June 30, 2016 at 9:47 pm - Reply

      Thanks Jo. Time really does fly doesn’t it. You and I must have been following each other for most of that time, I’m really chuffed that we still are.

  17. Dorothy Borders June 29, 2016 at 5:41 pm - Reply

    Happy blogiversary! I’m so glad to have found you. I’ve greatly enjoyed your words and pictures – especially today’s wonderful pictures of the rose and that cheeky squirrel!

    • Jessica June 30, 2016 at 9:52 pm - Reply

      That squirrel is still around and still raiding the bird table. I’m thinking I might put the seed feeder back on the window for a bit, in the hope that he may have forgotten about it by now.

  18. Freda June 29, 2016 at 6:26 pm - Reply

    Smiles and hugs Jessica, and congratulations on both the blog and the garden. x

    • Jessica June 30, 2016 at 9:53 pm - Reply

      Thanks Freda. Garden is struggling in the rain. I think you’ve had the better weather this month!

  19. jannaschreier June 29, 2016 at 6:56 pm - Reply

    Four years. Wow! Congratulations; that’s a lot of posts. And you still think of plenty to say. Long may it continue!

    • Jessica June 30, 2016 at 9:55 pm - Reply

      The stories create themselves. I just need to find the words. Thanks Janna.

  20. frayed at the edge June 29, 2016 at 7:18 pm - Reply

    We loved the photo of the squirrel sticking its tongue out at you!! (when I read/see something good on a blog, I pass it over to Malcolm to read/see too).

    • Jessica June 30, 2016 at 9:57 pm - Reply

      That photo still makes me smile each time I see it πŸ™‚

  21. Amy at love made my home June 29, 2016 at 8:10 pm - Reply

    Happy Blogaversary! Here’s to many more!!

    • Jessica June 30, 2016 at 9:59 pm - Reply

      Thanks Amy.

  22. Sam June 29, 2016 at 8:32 pm - Reply

    It’d be boring if it was too easy, wouldn’t it?! I admire your optimism, dogged determination and spirit. And you ARE creating a beautiful garden and home – and generously sharing it here with us, so thank you! Here’s to many more years of rusty duck πŸ™‚ x

    • Jessica June 30, 2016 at 10:06 pm - Reply

      I could take a bit of boring just occasionally! But then you’re on a hill too so you know just how hard it is. The results will be worth all our efforts in the end.

  23. CJ June 29, 2016 at 9:13 pm - Reply

    Is he actually licking your window?! Words fail me. The wildlife is a devilish thing isn’t it. I have a 3m square of strawberries at the allotment and the mice are taking pounds and pounds of fruit, leaving me absolutely none. It’s all netted, but they just laugh at that. I found piles of strawberries stashed underneath the broad beans, gently rotting. The rotters. It has been quite an overwhelming year for gardeners I think, I know I’m struggling here. There’s always next year… CJ xx

    • Jessica June 30, 2016 at 10:13 pm - Reply

      I used to have a bird feeder stuck to the window. It had to come off when the squirrels found it, grrr. There was obviously some residue left but I love how it looks like he’s sticking his tongue out. Yes, this year is a tough one. You’d think there’d be enough food around for mice but they do seem to prefer ours. I’m sorry to hear about the strawberries πŸ™

  24. justjilluk June 29, 2016 at 9:34 pm - Reply

    Enjoyed every moment.

    • Jessica June 30, 2016 at 10:14 pm - Reply

      Thanks Jill.

  25. pollymacleod June 29, 2016 at 10:07 pm - Reply

    Congratulations Jessica. You sell the rural idyll so well ! πŸ™‚ I enjoy your posts and your sense of humour. Your Pat Austin is gorgeous and that photo of the squirrel is priceless.

    • Jessica July 1, 2016 at 7:52 pm - Reply

      I do often wonder if it would be easier to live somewhere else. Then I look out of the window and go off and research yet another slug deterrent.

  26. Diana Studer June 29, 2016 at 10:09 pm - Reply

    Congratulations on your fourth blogaversary!
    I much enjoy following your renovations … at a comfortable distance from the noise, the dust, the good grief – now what?!

    • Jessica July 1, 2016 at 7:57 pm - Reply

      I think you’re far enough away to be safe. The good grief – now what?! is all too familiar!! Thanks Diana.

  27. Marianne Willburn June 29, 2016 at 10:21 pm - Reply

    So much work – but so worth it when you look around and see what you have done. Hopefully the encroaching woodland works less quickly than you two do! Congrats – it’s really tough to be consistent with posts and photos AND actually have the time to do any DIY/gardening!

    • Jessica July 1, 2016 at 8:01 pm - Reply

      You have hit the nail on the head Marianne. I could spend so much time working on the blog that there is no time left to actually do anything to blog about. It’s a fine balance which often involves too much midnight oil.

  28. Anna June 29, 2016 at 10:24 pm - Reply

    Many congratulations on four years of blogging Jessica. You’ve given me a lot of laughter along the way. Long may ‘Rusty Duck’ bloom and prosper.

    • Jessica July 1, 2016 at 8:05 pm - Reply

      Thanks Anna.

  29. Jeneane Hobby June 29, 2016 at 10:39 pm - Reply

    Happy Birthday Rusty Duck! I don’t get time to read you properly but I keep a sideways glance on your progress and ‘glass half-full’ approach to your challenges. That peeping Tom photo is priceless! All the best for continued progress on the home front and years more blogging. Jeneane OXO

    • Jessica July 1, 2016 at 8:09 pm - Reply

      Hi Jeneane and thanks! Blogging time does get squeezed, so I quite understand. It’s very hard to keep up with everyone all the time.

  30. Sue C. June 29, 2016 at 11:18 pm - Reply

    Congratulations on 4 years. Your tales of cottage, garden and wildlife are always entertaining and amusing. They cheer up the wettest and dullest of days.

    • Jessica July 1, 2016 at 8:15 pm - Reply

      We’ve had too many wet and dull days recently. Thank you for your kind words Sue.

  31. Sue Garrett June 29, 2016 at 11:38 pm - Reply

    You have achieved a lot in four years.

    • Jessica July 1, 2016 at 8:19 pm - Reply

      When things are overwhelming, as currently, it helps to have the blog to look back at what we have actually achieved. If you are close to it, you don’t always see it as clearly. Thanks Sue.

  32. smallsunnygarden June 30, 2016 at 1:19 am - Reply

    Four years worth of congratulations – you deserve them, Jessica! I’ve loved your blog from the first time I saw it till… please don’t stop!! πŸ˜‰
    I think that squirrel post in which Nutkin has the last raspberry is probably the most memorable of all for me, though there are others in the running! I know it must be a difficult project, keeping one foot ahead of sprouting trees and chin up through indoor anomalies; but thanks for sharing it with us!

    • Jessica July 1, 2016 at 8:24 pm - Reply

      Writing about it helps keep me sane. It’s cathartic and saves me a fortune in therapists! I love those squirrel photos too. I was sitting at my desk clicking away on the remote shutter release and didn’t realise what I’d got until much later.

  33. casa mariposa June 30, 2016 at 2:26 am - Reply

    I’m so glad you started blogging! Your blog is wonderful. πŸ™‚

    • Jessica July 1, 2016 at 8:26 pm - Reply

      You’re too kind Tammy. Thank you.

  34. Kris Peterson June 30, 2016 at 4:06 am - Reply

    Best wishes on your fourth anniversary! I’m so pleased to have discovered your blog. It never ceases to make me smile, if not laugh out loud. I share your combination of amusement and angst over the various critters that share/ravage our gardens. My raccoons are back – are your sure you don’t want one?

    • Jessica July 1, 2016 at 8:33 pm - Reply

      Thanks Kris. You know me, animal lover that I am, I would love a raccoon. But it would only get impounded at Heathrow and that wouldn’t be fair on the poor critter now would it? πŸ™‚

  35. Christina June 30, 2016 at 6:22 am - Reply

    Dear Jessica, congratulations on four years of blogging! You have achieved so much in your garden and in your cottage in this time. Can’t wait to see how things are continuing…
    Warm regards,

    • Jessica July 1, 2016 at 8:38 pm - Reply

      I do tend to forget how much we have done, what occupies my thoughts is how much still remains to be done! Thanks Christina.

  36. croftgarden June 30, 2016 at 8:51 am - Reply

    I wish you every success and the stamina to cope with the next four years. A garden is never finished, always a work in progress, that is why creating a garden is so satisfying but not for the faint hearted.

    • Jessica July 1, 2016 at 8:45 pm - Reply

      It gets to about this time of year and I’m already starting to think “there’s always next year”. That’s what makes it so satisfying I think, the opportunity to have another go on a regular basis. Little by little we can tweak and it all comes together, if only for one year until it all gets overgrown and we rip it all out and start again.

  37. Em Parkinson June 30, 2016 at 9:10 am - Reply

    Congratulations! Am about to email you…..x

    • Jessica July 1, 2016 at 8:46 pm - Reply

      Great to hear from you Em. Very best wishes for Monday x

  38. Mark and Gaz June 30, 2016 at 9:23 am - Reply

    Time flies so fast when you’re having fun! Happy Blog Anniversary!!

    • Jessica July 1, 2016 at 8:47 pm - Reply

      I thought about writing that in the post.. and then thought better of it πŸ™‚
      Thanks guys.

  39. ginaferrari June 30, 2016 at 10:06 am - Reply

    I know I’ve not been reading for four years but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed time spent here over recent months. Happy anniversary!

    • Jessica July 1, 2016 at 8:51 pm - Reply

      Thanks Gina. I hope your foot is getting better!

  40. Backlane Notebook June 30, 2016 at 1:47 pm - Reply

    Well done for sticking at it and it will be so worth it. Great that you can re-use stone found in the garden plus those cob bricks to make the repair a lot easier.

    • Jessica July 1, 2016 at 8:56 pm - Reply

      We’ve been trying to use the right materials and traditional methods wherever we can. It’s not always possible or practical, more’s the pity.

  41. hoehoegrowHoe hoe grow June 30, 2016 at 5:17 pm - Reply

    I love reading your posts Jessica ! Long live ‘Rusty Duck’!
    I also enjoy (if that is the right word!) your trials and tribulations of life in an old house! I can empathise as ours can be equally as fickle – we noticed a chest of drawers in the dining room suddenly looking slanted and realised that the floor was giving way! The floorboards were totally rotten and suffering from dry rot. How we laughed !

    • Jessica July 1, 2016 at 9:01 pm - Reply

      Eeek. These things do happen! Lucky you spotted it before too much damage was done. If things look slanted here my first thought is that it may be the wine..

  42. Wendy June 30, 2016 at 7:50 pm - Reply

    Well done, Jessica. I’ve always loved reading your blog and look forward to your future posts. I had to smile at the photo of the cheeky squirrel – tenacious and fearless, as ever. Good luck with all the challenges in home and garden over the next four years!

    • Jessica July 1, 2016 at 9:03 pm - Reply

      It had to leap from the kitchen roof to get on to that window sill. Tenacious and fearless is right! Thanks Wendy.

  43. Denise June 30, 2016 at 9:54 pm - Reply

    Hear, hear to all of the above! I’ve been enormously entertained by your blogs, nay educated even. Top stuff! Inspiring stuff! Even grey stuff!! Many blogging contrafibularities and pericombobulations to you! Xx

    • Jessica July 1, 2016 at 9:06 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much Denise. I knew you would come round to grey, eventually πŸ˜‰

  44. Rick June 30, 2016 at 11:24 pm - Reply

    Thanks rd for all your entertaining posts, unfortunately, although my current house is only just over 100 years old, I am still trying to get the gardening bit right after fifty.

    • Jessica July 1, 2016 at 9:08 pm - Reply

      I don’t think we ever get it right. What would we do next year if we did?

  45. Lucille July 1, 2016 at 9:24 am - Reply

    It comes to something when the wildlife starts to pull rude faces at you! Congratulations on four years of a very entertaining blog. Re slugs: I am nurturing a large tub of tadpoles to unleash an army of frogs on the garden next year.

    • Jessica July 1, 2016 at 9:13 pm - Reply

      Hi Lucille, thanks and welcome! Frogs are just what we need. I’d also thought of ducks but frogs don’t have such big trampling feet.

  46. hb July 1, 2016 at 1:33 pm - Reply

    Marvelous. Your work is inspiring and beautiful. Thank you for sharing the adventures.

    $%$*%#&^ to the squirrels!

    • Jessica July 1, 2016 at 9:15 pm - Reply

      Thanks Hoov. You’re too polite to the squirrels though.

  47. Seagull Suzie July 1, 2016 at 5:31 pm - Reply

    The slugs are terrible here in Devon-I had no idea either! Slightly better in this garden but in my Brixham garden they were everywhere. Congratulations on four years of hard work and entertaining blog posts.

    • Jessica July 1, 2016 at 9:17 pm - Reply

      Aren’t they just! I never had nearly so much trouble ‘up country’.

  48. Rosie July 2, 2016 at 2:21 pm - Reply

    Congratulations on your fourth anniversary. I always enjoy visiting Rusty Duck. Here’s to the next four years:)

    • Jessica July 2, 2016 at 10:06 pm - Reply

      Thanks Rosie πŸ™‚

  49. germac4 July 3, 2016 at 7:41 am - Reply

    I missed this post (we had an election yesterday…say no more!) …a big congratulations on your fourth anniversary, I always look forward to reading your posts. Good luck with those mischievous squirrels!

    • Jessica July 3, 2016 at 9:27 pm - Reply

      Oh don’t, I’m still reeling after our referendum! Thanks Gerrie. The squirrels will always get the better of us I fear πŸ™

  50. pbmgarden July 3, 2016 at 1:04 pm - Reply

    Jessica, I’d like to add my congratulations as your blog turns four. I enjoy your stories and writing style. Did you begin your blog when you moved into this house? You’ve taken on more than I would even begin to know how to deal with and you’re making such good progress. Best, Susie

    • Jessica July 3, 2016 at 9:33 pm - Reply

      Thanks Susie. I started the blog after we’d moved in. Once I’d begun to take in the enormity of it I wanted to record it. It’s certainly been fascinating to be able to look back on it and see how far we’ve come. It keeps me going.. just as well really because we’ve only just scratched the surface.

  51. snowbird July 3, 2016 at 8:54 pm - Reply

    Congratulations! Here’s to many more years of adventures, whether you want them or not!!! xxx

    • Jessica July 3, 2016 at 9:35 pm - Reply

      Thanks snowbird. Life is never boring is it. πŸ™‚

  52. Sue July 4, 2016 at 5:00 pm - Reply

    Wow … how times flies when you ‘follow’ a good blog. You’ve achieved so much during the last four years, but yes, your wildlife tales and photos are simply the best. Happy 4th Birthday … and here’s to many more.

    • Jessica July 6, 2016 at 12:02 pm - Reply

      Thanks Sue. One thing is for sure, I’ll never go short of wildlife tales.

  53. Sarah July 4, 2016 at 8:45 pm - Reply

    Congratulations on your 4th blogging birthday. It has been wonderful to share your garden, home and the numerous companions you have introduced to us along the way! You certainly have a challenging garden but you have done so much to produce such a fantastic garden! Sarah x

    • Jessica July 6, 2016 at 12:05 pm - Reply

      Thanks Sarah. I wish I could be getting the measure of the garden in a shorter space of time but given the difficulties it constantly throws up I shall have to be content with the slower pace. It will get there in the end.

  54. linda July 6, 2016 at 12:48 am - Reply

    Love your blog Jessica…I don’t get over here enough…your building stories are funny, I am sure not to you though!
    Congrats on 4 years…keep ’em coming!!
    Linda :o)

    • Jessica July 6, 2016 at 12:06 pm - Reply

      Plenty more building tales to come.. thanks Linda πŸ™‚

  55. CherryPie July 6, 2016 at 11:15 pm - Reply

    Congratulations on four years of blogging. I have really enjoyed your adventures and hope to read many more of them πŸ™‚

    • Jessica July 7, 2016 at 12:43 am - Reply

      Thanks Cherie. May all of our adventures (yours and mine) be nice ones!

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