June has arrived, and what a cold misty day it is! It's 14 °C in the greenhouse, 12 °C in the chicken coop, and I bet about 10 or 11 °C outside. Fine rain and mist here is largely impossible to distinguish. One of my plans for this post was to include some pictures of my garden: I said either two or three years ago now (either on this blog or the old one) that I wanted to have a nice garden and was certain it could be done even with delinquent chickens roaming it. Now, two or three years later, it's beginning to shape up a little. It's still very definitely not Sissinghurst (!) but it is looking quite nice. I planted potatoes, onions, and spinach in April and that's doing well, my spiraeas have also bloomed nicely (though the strong winds yesterday blew most of the blossom away) and my greenhouse is looking particularly nice as all the seeds I planted in April and May are beginning to sprout. Also I planted a mock orange (Philadelphus) a week ago. It's very small but it seems to be doing well. I might get another one to go next to it, just to try and kick start it. But, for now, it's so cold and wet I'm reluctant to go out! If the weather improves (which it is set to do) one weekend this month I'll put some pictures up. For now I have two things to share, one - the picture above right - this was taken a few weeks ago and is the blossom on my apple tree - the first time it has blossomed since we planted it three years ago. The second, just for fun, a short video of Ruby wilfully disregarding my attempts at a tidy garden:

And speaking of hens: I'm very sad indeed to say that Tilly, who I said in my May post was beginning to become rather unwell, died in the middle of May, exactly a month after Charlotte. We're down to two hens right now, Agnes and Ruby. They both clearly get on with each other but Ruby and Charlotte were best friends and so were Tilly and Agnes so they're missing their lost friends. We will be getting two new hens, both ex-battery hens, in mid-June and I'll put some pictures up then. It's a strange thing, the original Brontë hens are all gone now and I'm so sad about Tilly. I was so proud of her - she was tiny when we got her, dramatically underweight and with some serious feather loss under wings, on her stomach and bum, but she put a little weight on (she was on the very low end of normal when she was at her best), and she was always a little hen, but her feathers were incredible. She had a huge tail and an abundance of feathers everywhere. And she was a good hen. Not one to be messed with (more than capable of defending herself), but very sweet. It seemed for a while after Charlotte died she was going to be the top hen but Ruby narrowly beat her to the title, then within days she began to show signs of illness. I thought she would make it, but no. But yes, two new hens will be on their way shortly. Right now they'll be in the battery farm but I believe they'll be rescued within a week or less. I keep checking for updates!

Now then, books. I'm in the middle of two big ones right now - Ulysses by James Joyce: this I've read before (twice) but I had a sudden urge to re-read it and actually, this time around, I'm getting on fairly well with it. This is not to say I understand it! But I am enjoying it and feel more comfortable reading it. Perhaps when I get to the fourth of fifth read I'll get it, but for now it's a nice book to read. So that is a surprise! And the second book - The Faerie Queene. This is proving very hard. I have a post to go up tomorrow on the first six cantos of Book II (if only I'd actually finished writing it over the weekend! That I'm sad about). I hope for June I'll have posts up on all of Books II and III. It's very hard, though. I feel if I can complete Book III then I'll be more settled into it and see the end in sight and that will be more motivation, but right now it's tricky. I do still like it, but it's the hardest project I've ever undergone, reading and writing in detail. I need everyone to wish me luck! I like to think I'll finish before September but really I have no idea when I'll be done.

What else? I'm nearly finished Hardy's short story collection Wessex Tales (1888) and I'm enjoying that, a big relief after the essay debacle. And speaking of those essays - I have seen a Hardy scholar mention there are three 'important' essays by Hardy, two of which I've read ('The Profitable Reading of Fiction', 1888, and 'Candour in English Fiction', 1890) and the other one I've skimmed - 'The Science of Fiction'. I've decided I am going to read that latter essay but it won't be this month and it's unlikely to be this year. It seems appropriate to complete the three! I'm also in the middle of Euripides' plays. I now just have nine more to read, and I hope to finish at some point in August. The final 'big read' - Pickwick Papers - this month we're up to Chapters IX - XI.

Other reading plans: I am happy to see Cathy at 746 Books is hosting 20 Books of Summer again! I love this challenge, and this will be my third year of participating, but I'm afraid I've never actually completed it! But still I live in hope, and here are my 20 books I have planned for June, July, and August:
  1. The Clouds by Aristophanes.
  2. Virginia Woolf by Quentin Bell.
  3. Felix Holt, the Radical by George Eliot.
  4. The last nine Euripides plays: Iphigenia in Tauris, Ion, Helen, Phoenician Women, Orestes, Cyclops, Bacchae, Iphigenia at Aulis, and Rhesus.
  5. Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell.
  6. A Group of Noble Dames by Thomas Hardy.
  7. Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy.
  8. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein.
  9. Henry VI Part III, and III by William Shakespeare.
  10. Richard III by William Shakespeare.
  11. Henry VIII by William Shakespeare.
  12. Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare.
  13. The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser.
  14. The Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson.
  15. Phineas Redux by Anthony Trollope.
  16. The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope.
  17. Congenial Spirits by Virginia Woolf.
  18. Flush by Virginia Woolf.
  19. His Excellency Eugene Rougon by Émile Zola.
  20. The Joy of Life by Émile Zola.
I honestly don't know if I can fit them in but I do know either fifteen or sixteen is my record, so if I can read seventeen it's a success! And the ones I'm most looking forward to - The Clouds, the Virginia Woolf biography by Quentin Bell, and The Prime Minister by Trollope (I'll have to finish Phineas Redux before I get to that, and I'm not relishing Phineas Redux).

So that's how summer is looking! Still can't believe it's June.... 

Hope it's more seasonable weather for everyone else! Happy June, everyone :)


  1. As always, I'm terribly impressed by your reading plans. But I'm sorry to hear about little Tilly. Best wishes with your upcoming newbie hens!

    1. Thank you, she is a real miss. I am excited to get the newbies though. They should be out of the battery farm any day now... :)

  2. Happy June! It sounds beautiful in England about now. And maybe I feel like that because here in California we are getting ready for 100 degree temps, which is unusual. I find that the end of spring means freezing, cold wind at 50 degrees during the day, for us. It's more like winter than the beginning of summer.

    Love the hens. They are like having children around. Sorry to hear about your loss. : (

    My kids want to get chickens with a Hobbit chicken coop to house them. I think they just want the Hobbit chicken coop.

    GOOD LUCK with continuing the Faerie Queene! I know you'll do it.

    All of your book choices for the summer are impressive, as always. I am curious what you will think about #7 and #8.

    1. Thank you :)

      That Hobbit chicken coop is amazing! Just looking at it now... Wow! I want one too! Our chickens have a Flyte so Fancy one, not sure what make. Houses twelve but I can't imagine trying to squash twelve in there. I like them to have room to move, they've spent a year of their lives crushed into a cage after all.

      Ah, the Faerie Queene. I have no confidence at all that I'll finish! All the other long reads I've known, even if I've struggled, that I'll finish but I really don't know about this. Book II is not so much fun, I find it a little all over the place.

      Not relishing Gertrude Stein - I know you and Cleo weren't so into it! :)

    2. GS is weird - her whole life is weird; but I cannot help but feel curious about her lifestyle, rubbing shoulders w/ artists and authors. It was a bit intriguing. Mostly, I found her travels around Europe interesting. But again, it was all so very strange. It wasn't all that bad, I guess I'm trying to say.

  3. I'm still sad about Tilly. Losing one pet is terrible but losing two in such a short time is much worse. Ruby looks huge and healthy though and the ruler of the roost! :-)

    Our temperatures are around 17-22C but we are supposed to get up to 28-30C this weekend. With our hot-spell earlier, my apples are already about a couple of inches in diameter and my figs are getting quite big. However, after having about 200 blossoms on my prune plum tree I noticed the other day that I have one plum growing. Ugh! I swear I'm going to pull up that tree.

    I haven't been able to get to The Faerie Queene only because I haven't had the time to devote to it. So I have no idea when I'll finish it. I'm rather bugged about it, but that's life, I guess.

    Your book list sounds great. As I said in one of my posts, if I get 5 books read this summer I will be thrilled. The thought is rather depressing.

    I hope your summer is great and your reading even better!

    1. Yes, that short gap was awful. It was dreadful, that morning after Charlotte died seeing Tilly puffed up like a little rugby ball. Even now I'm nervous about looking at the other two, keep picking them up to see if they've lost weight. But they're both fine, and yes, Ruby is huge! She's so heavy!

      You've got apples already?! I don't think we can expect ours until August / September. It warmed up later yesterday (27 degrees in the greenhouse!). Cool start this morning but sunny, think it'll be hot later.

      FQ, yep, a struggle. Looking forward to finishing Book II! I saw Jean found it a bit random as well so glad it's not just me!

  4. Ha! That video of Ruby is adorable, and the image of the apple blossom is lovely. Sorry to hear about Tilly. xx Very best wishes getting all these read!

    1. Thank you! Glad you liked the video! :D

  5. condolences on the demise of C and T. but ruby looks fat and happy! whoever compiled that reading list has amazing capabilities re books! there seems to be a lot of that hereabouts... i'll try to keep up, but it's doubtful i'm in that league... currently i'm thoroughly enjoying "queen victoria" by lytton strachey. great writer...

    1. Thank you :)

      I couldn't get into LS's Eminent Victorians but I shall give Queen Victoria a go, sounds interesting. I've got another essay by him saved somewhere as well - Landmarks in French Literature. Must get to that too!

  6. I really liked Bell's biography of V. Woolf...so much so when I saw a copy of it at a library sale for a mere 50 cents several years ago I happily (and greedily) snatched it up. :)

    1. Wow, 50 cents?! That's good! Glad you liked it, not sure why I haven't read it yet! Will be reading it either July or August, going for Congenial Spirits first :)

  7. I still can't believe it's June either!
    I'm sorry to hear about Tilly, but I'm sure her months with your family were beautiful for her. As they will be for the new hens coming.
    And that Ruby video is just too cute :)

    1. Thanks Camilla. She was a happy little hen, always very bright and enthusiastic.

      Ruby does have her moments of being cute :)

  8. I've just spotted that the Classics Club has announced their latest #ccspin - you basically submit your #20booksofsummer :-)

    1. I know, I have to do it! I've never not done a spin (though I've *not* read my spin books plenty of times unfortunately!). Going to think about it now, love spins :D

  9. I really liked that cool weather! It was wonderful. This warm weather is nice too, except that our hotel room gets soooo stuffy. No wonder you Brits like summer, if this is what it's like! Also, look up the fire in Earl's Court last night--it was two doors down from us and we spent half the night standing on the street in our pajamas....

    1. It was pretty stuffy last night, even all the way up here!

      Can't believe Earl's Court! Goodness, that must have been a little scary! Wonder what started that. Did you hear three ambulances burst into flames in Surrey? Some are speculating that was down to the heat and oxygen tanks. Don't know though. There was a storm up here yesterday afternoon - absolute deluge for about ten minutes then back to heat again. :)


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