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:
- The Clouds by Aristophanes.
- Virginia Woolf by Quentin Bell.
- Felix Holt, the Radical by George Eliot.
- The last nine Euripides plays: Iphigenia in Tauris, Ion, Helen, Phoenician Women, Orestes, Cyclops, Bacchae, Iphigenia at Aulis, and Rhesus.
- Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell.
- A Group of Noble Dames by Thomas Hardy.
- Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy.
- The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein.
- Henry VI Part I, II, and III by William Shakespeare.
- Richard III by William Shakespeare.
- Henry VIII by William Shakespeare.
- Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare.
- The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser.
- The Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson.
- Phineas Redux by Anthony Trollope.
- The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope.
- Congenial Spirits by Virginia Woolf.
- Flush by Virginia Woolf.
- His Excellency Eugene Rougon by Émile Zola.
- 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 :)