Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Pinterest pins.

I have just added hovering 'pin it' buttons to my blog images! Thank you, Code it pretty for your tutorial. I have previously tried but failed due to a, now that I know, silly mistake. Pinterest have their own page here.

For some reason it doesn't want to work with all the images but is picking up most of them.

More garden work

loaded shelves
I've been busy, busy, busy filling up these shelves with plants

Newly sown seed trays
More seeds sown and my last clump of leeks spread out into deeper pots

Snake gourd
The snake gourds are looking good in their determination to reach the sky

Mystery plant
And even a mystery plant. It looks like a cucurbit but is not the same as my courgette or squashes. It is self sown so possibly a pumpkin seed from the compost. It looks happy so it can stay, I can't wait to see what it produces.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Individual choices

I've been adding a few blogs to my reading list including The Compost Bin which, thanks to a recent post, has led me to Life after Money . This is about a woman who consciously made the decision to manage on less money in order to have more time. She's been on TV a few times, including 'Super Scrimpers', but as I've given up on this programme this is the first time that I have come across 'Mean Queen' (I have found most of the tips on Super Scrimpers to be common sense and what I hope most of us are already doing - if not then I really do not want to be depressed by the amount of waste shown!)

Scanning through some of her older posts I found this one, Focus on my wheels. The post is just a daily catch up on her car maintenance spending but I love, love, love the final paragraph:
It might seem a bit odd for me to have a car, when I am on a very small income, sitting in a freezing house with no central heating and I don't have a television set, but that is how I prioritise my needs. My frugality gives me the things which I consider are important.
It is very easy to judge people, especially when it comes to their spending. But at the end of the day it is all about choice, and making choices that suit you and your family. Every household is different and we really aught to enjoy the diversity that this offers rather than criticise their choices.

Monday, 29 July 2013


Lots of lavender cuttings
My garden isn't really suitable for lavender, there are so many trees that finding an area of full sun is pretty tough going. But I love how useful these plants are so I am determined to make a space in the garden for them. I currently have one tucked away in a small, dry, dark bed. So far it has survived well enough to require a good trim. Rather than waste these trimmings I have turned them into a mountain of cuttings. If they all take then I will simply give some away.

I don't know the variety, I suspect Hidcote but the label is long gone. Hopefully I can make some hedging similar to that I saw in the Kitchen garden at Kingston Lacy but it all depends on how well these do.

And the lavender flowers? Unfortunately I didn't have enough to make it worth drying but I have used some of them to make some lavender cakes. Unfortunately I can still taste their oil on the back of my throat so a little less next time I think.

I am not the biggest fan of lavender scent, as a child I associated it with old ladies. But it has slowly grown on me over the years and I would like to have enough to use the flowers for crafts. The flowers I trimmed with these cuttings have already been grabbed by my son who is intending to make us more lavender cake. It will be an experiment.

Friday, 26 July 2013

A map of my garden

Map of my garden
I don't know about you but when I read about somebody's garden I always wish that I had a map so that I could mentally place photos within it. With this in mind I decided that it was time to draw a map of my own garden and, with a little help from an air photograph, here it is!

I don't have a front garden, the house faces the lane. There is a second entrance at the top of the picture (overshadowed by a large tree). Our garden is just under an acre in size. When we first moved here it was all completely overgrown. The last couple of years have been spent clearing and mowing but I am now just beginning to put my own stamp on the place.

I mentally split the garden up into different areas. There is the 'front' garden which is the lawn by the house, a tiny pond area and an overgrown herbaceous bed that contains an apple, a plum and an unknown red leaved tree. This is all overshadowed by a large yew tree that keeps this area dark all year round. To the north is the workshop, there is a driveway here and it is also where we have our wood piles. Travelling west across the garden is the 'middle' lawn. This is like a small arboretum with trees that I have not yet identified. It is lovely and cool here at the moment with all our hot weather. South is my vegetable patch, where most of my work so far has been. There is a lovely rose arbour walk going through the middle. Continuing west you will find our 'orchard' that contains two apples and numerous self-seeded plums/damsons. The final section of the garden is where we currently have a permanent bonfire, it is mowed but the ground is fairly rough. I've always wanted this to be a wild flower meadow but I suspect that the soil is too fertile. There are quite a few overgrown shrubbery areas throughout the garden that have not yet been tamed.

There is still much to clear but I'm happy with how far we have come.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

The Lorax

Pictures inspired by the lorax, by my boys

I love this book, I was introduced to it a few years ago by a supply teacher who always keeps it in her bag for unplanned lessons. It has a good environmental message without getting preachy and is still one of our favourite stories. It is still regularly read and inspires much discussion about our responsibilities to the planet and why we should be trying to reduce our footprint. It is also a good reminder that we all can play a part rather than bemoaning the fact that big businesses may appear to negate our best efforts.

A few weeks ago I treated my boys to the film. It was okay but not great. I feel that a lot of the message was lost in the complication of the added story. My youngest didn't get the 'buying fresh air' element and my eldest was really too old. Okay but not great.

The one part that was a success was an extra on the DVD about how to draw the characters. Both of my boys stunned me by grabbing paper and giving it a go producing pretty credible results. I only wish that this bit had been longer and the film shorter!

Are you a Dr Seuss fan? My favourite story of his is the butter battle, a book we picked up from the library when my eldest was a toddler. I had never expected to find a young children's story about nuclear disarmament but if you need one, this is it!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Just a little garlic

We have harvested all of our garlic. They are currently enjoying the sunshine drying out. It's been a pretty good haul this year, half of which popped up from plantings that disappeared with the bad weather last summer. I wasn't sure what to expect of these considering that they had been in the ground for almost two years but I left them growing between the other plants as they appeared to be healthy, they have bulked up nicely and harvested you can't tell any difference.

My initial plan is to make a plait, I've always loved these and they are quick and easy to do. Long term I will probably mash and freeze the cloves before they start growing again but if they do sprout they'll go straight into a pot. Waste not, want not!

This years garlic was started off in modules thanks to our late spring. This has been such a success that I'll probably do it this way again. I tend to plant in spring as I've never had much success from autumn sowings. By doing this I can get away with using garlic purchased from the supermarket. I've actually achieved better plants this way than by using cloves purchased from the garden centre, it's better on my pocket too. Ideally I would plant from my own garlic but somehow there never seems to be any left over.  

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Kinston Lacy inspiration

These blackboards make great, versatile signs.
Kingston Lacy is a National Trust property within comfortable driving distance for us. I must admit that I do find a lot of the house and garden pretty boring having been several times now but I do enjoy the grounds and I love the Kitchen garden/allotments area. It was here that I focused my attention the other day whilst looking for inspiration.

Lavender edged beds.
We were greeted by a volunteer offering us some of her freshly picked strawberries. They were absolutely delicious, hot from the sun and very, very sweet. I was amused by my son turning them down, apparently he's had too many of our own! Alas, ours are now over but I hope to increase our stock for next year.

Same view, but closer!
The Kitchen garden is stunning, the plants were all looking healthy and made me itch to increase the size of mine. But it wasn't too perfect, there were still a few weeds dotted around to prevent me from feeling hopelessly inadequate.

Sweet peas
I thought that these sweet pea wigwams were lovely. I can imagine recreating these with an opening to place a bench inside. Who am I trying to kid, the bench would never make it in there. My boys would fill it with junk and turn it into a den! Still, it is something I fancy trying and I must scout out a spot to place one in next year.

I also enjoyed an amble through the allotment area. I don't have an allotment so I'm not sure of the standard size but I did get the impression that these might be half size plots. They were far more everyday than the kitchen gardens but still had a beauty of their own, even those that were fighting the weeds for dominance. There is something very satisfying about seeing plots looked after by 'normal' people after the prettiness of the Kitchen garden, somehow they seemed to balance each other out nicely.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Organising my potting shed

Potting shed is complete!
So what do you think of it? I'm really pleased with how my shed has turned out. The interior has been painted throughout in white which has brightened up the whole space. The walls only have one coat as I knew that the resin in the knotty wood would keep coming through no matter how many coats I apply. The goal was to make it feel light, not to turn it into a summer house.
Tool boxes
My first priority was to fit in all of my tools. There are nails across the top for hanging hand tools but all of the larger ones are sitting in boxes to keep them all in one space.

Old mini greenhouses as shelves
On the opposite side I have used old mini greenhouses as shelves. Their plastic covers have long since decayed and are quite rusty in places but they will do the job for a few more years.

Boxes of compost, leaf mould and horticultural sand
 The window itself is south facing should I need to leave any trays of seeds in the shed. In front of it is this fantastic trolley that I picked up in a charity shop a few days ago. Ugly but strong, it makes a great surface for working on as well as being able to store buckets of compost, leaf mould and horticultural sand.
 All good sheds deserve a bit of bunting just to put a smile on your face as you walk in.

A blackboard
 A blackboard may not strike you as essential and I confess that it is there to be decorative rather than useful. There was a big white space that was crying out for something so that something became this. It is 'rustic' as I didn't see the need to trim the edges straight!

I have already used this space for potting up seeds and it feels like such a luxury to be able to put my hands on whatever I need. I know that in time it will fill up with more essentials but I hope that I don't let it get too cluttered, I love how it is now.

Friday, 19 July 2013

100th post! RSPB nature sanctuary, Arne.

Bay at Arne
A couple of days ago I was introduced to a lovely place, the RSPB bird sanctuary at Arne. It has some wonderful heathland and grassland walks but our main focus that day was the small, almost deserted beach. It was incredible being there with our families for several hours with just an occasional visitor wandering past. It felt very decadent having a sandy beach to ourselves!

My youngest was happy just to play in the sand though my eldest braved the mud to splash around in the water. This did concern me when he kept wading out to find a deeper patch, it is not a swimming beach and I have no idea of the nature of the mud here and how safe it is. Thankfully he listened(!) to me and came closer to the shore. Actually both boys behaved well, I was quite impressed. This is a definite lesson for me to push all of us out of our comfort zone more often.

Whilst waiting for our friends to arrive we also had a quick look in the nature/visitors centre where there were a few guides waiting, I believe that an organised walk was about to start. The guides were great, volunteering information about the reserve and talking my boys through each item on the nature table. It looks as if owl pellets are in my future, I'm not sure what to think of that.

I would love to revisit Arne when it is cooler and explore the other paths. When we finally left the beach and it's cooling breeze it took but a moment to find the more humid heat. The walk back to our vehicles felt like quite a slog thanks to the weather though it was really no great distance. All in all a fantastic day.

Can you believe that this is my 100th post? - I can't! Let's see if I will make it to 200...

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Weeds et al

Summer is such an exhuberent time in the garden with all the weeds trying to outdo each other. It hasn't helped that with my big lawnmower out of action I'm having to use a small push along which takes up to 4 hours to complete the garden. Thankfully most of the weeds are not too bad, the worst is a small patch of bindweed in the old greenhouse area that I'm trying to keep on top of.

The majority of the weeds are nettles which I find quite easy to deal with, the only issue is the quantity but each year I manage to get a little bit more of the garden under control. I love this image above, it reminds me of a crowd of old, bearded men.

There are also several stumps to remove. The big tree stumps I just have to live with but these smaller ones I would rather have removed. But with only me prepared to put in the work it may be a long time.

Contorted pear
This last image is not of a weed but our contorted pear that had a major 'prune' last winter. We were a bit worried about whether or not it would come back but it had so much brittle and dead wood in it that we had little choice about chopping it back. It is in a favourite play spot for my boys and with their love of tree climbing it was just a matter of time before there would be an accident. It looks as if we may have been lucky as it is finally resprouting.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

New shed!

J preparing the foundations
When we first moved here we had a budget for a few extras that included two garden sheds. Actually it was to be one shed but for the size that we wanted it was better to get two. Our storage shed has been up for some time as we needed somewhere to keep occasional use stuff. But the second has spent the last two years still in bits.

The plan was to lay a patio area on to which the shed would sit. This was clearly not an inspiring project considering how often it was put off. But last weekend J, fed up of the woodwork hanging around, got started.

As you can see from the above photo the patio idea was ignored in favour of digging out small trenches and using concrete blocks for the frame to sit on. Our soil is so lovely in much of this garden that this took very little time at all though I did feel a little concerned at how small the outline felt.

Shed with walls up

As is usual with self-builds(!) as soon as the walls went up it felt like a more sensible size, plenty of room for me to potter.

Completed shed with coat of timber paint
And here is the finished structure. It may not look like much but I am so pleased to have a space near the vegetable patch for all my regular tools. It's a bit dark inside but I have plans!

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Shopping for plus size clothing

I don't enjoy clothes shopping. I know what I like and I know what flatters me. This isn't what I find in the shops.

I am a size 18 but size 18 clothes don't usually fit properly which isn't so surprising, there are many different shapes of us out there! I find that tops are often too short and don't cover my generous tum, if they do they could do double duty as the family tent or will be something my grandmother would wear. I've also noticed that plus size women aren't supposed to have breasts, just one big blob that includes the stomach. This is why I regularly buy a 20 or even 22 so that I can adjust the fitting to be just a little more flattering.

My biggest bugbear is the lack of clothes available. As an 18 I am able to walk into most shops and find my size. But of the clothes that would actually suit my shape they are usually nowhere to be seen, just a rail of 10's and 12's with an occasional 16 (strangely the 14's don't often seem to be on show either). I understand that this is because it costs more to make the larger sizes so the result is that there are fewer available on the shop floor. I realise that some stores are better than others but this is certainly true for the cheaper end of the market where my budget currently dictates that I go.
I have come to accept this over the years but I spent yesterday shopping with my mother who is a petite size 10. She walked away from the experience shocked by how little choice I had and possibly with a little more understanding about why I choose to wear what I do.

I did, however, manage to pick up a few items. A couple of compromise tops all of which need adjusting to provide a better fitted bust and one strapless sack that looks a lot like this one from Primark . With my more generous though shorter figure it has a very different look to that of the model but it is definitely comfortable to wear in this current heat - the whole reason I went shopping in the first place. Just don't expect to see me to wearing it away from home!

Monday, 15 July 2013

A hot weekend

I don't think anybody here can have missed just how hot it's been this past week. I don't deal well with hot weather so it's been early mornings for me to get anything done.

As part of my, as yet unshared, latest project I decided that a blackboard would be a useful addition. After badgering J for a suitable offcut of wood I set to painting it with some blackboard paint I had found  hiding in the loft. My previous experience of this stuff is that it takes hours if not days to dry properly. Yesterday it took 5 minutes to be touch dry and I was nailing it up just over an hour later.

It was hot.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Roses in bloom

Rosa Mundi
I'm loving roses at the moment. This top image is Rosa Mundi, a rose I saw at Lytchett Minster open gardens. This particular example looked as if it was splashed with paint and really caught my eye. It's on my wish list now.

Rambling rose on the back of our house.
I have no idea of the names of the remaining roses, all I can say is that they are well established in my garden. This gentle yellow rose happily scrawls on the back of my house. It starts off as quite a bright yellow bud that pales as it slowly opens. When fully curled back it is a fluffy mess, reminds me of meringue. It has a great scent too. It is repeat flowering, there was even a few flowers in the depth of winter whilst we had snow on the ground.

Rose growing wild
Here is a pretty single that is currently living life free from pruning in a wild patch of my garden. I thought it looked so sweet with the wild flowers.

Scrambling over the arch
This final rose is currently taking over my rose arches, it is covered in buds waiting to explode. A delicate pale pink with a delicious perfume. Very vigorous. I have a similar one else where in the garden but a stunning magenta rather than gentle pink.

After 3 years of hating the overgrown prickly monsters that have needed taming in my garden I think that I may have, finally, fallen in love with roses.

Rose walk in my garden

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Oak not so good

Oak tree with split down trunk
A few weeks ago we had some pretty windy weather, in fact the whole area lost electricity thanks to a lightning strike on a local substation at the time. We only noticed the damage to this tree a few days later.

It wasn't hit by lightning, just split. It's a really nice shaped oak tree. We've considered removing it before as it is in an awkward place but it is so lovely that so far we've allowed it to stay. It looks as if mother nature disagrees. With a split going straight through it's centre it is unsafe and will have to get the chop. I hate getting rid of nice specimens of mature trees but at least it will help fuel our heating next winter. Temporarily it has a brace around it, if we can put off felling until autumn we will! A tree without leaves is a lot easier to deal with.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Dauphinoise potatoes

I fancied trying something different for tea so, finding half a pot of cream ageing in the fridge, I googled dauphinoise potatoes. BBC good food came to my rescue with this recipe.

I highly recommend this meal, it was an easy, trouble free recipe that tasted delicious. I only had half of the required cream so I substituted with milk which worked well and is not quite so bad on the waist line. It did make a bit of a mess of my oven when it bubbled over! With all of the faff in one stage you can make it and then just forget about it until it is cooked, I will definitely be cooking this again.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Burning wood

Wood is an important part of our life here. Our central heating and hot water is supplied by a wood burning boiler. The cheapest way to buy wood in is by the timber lorry load! This should last us several years. The downside of this is that we have to process it ourselves which is quite labour intensive but has many side benefits. It has helped that we have made our heating more efficient so can get away with burning less.
The photo above shows the big stack on the left hand side, a horse in the middle to help chop and shorter lengths on the right hand side. These will be split and stacked outside to dry before getting moved into our woodshed, you can see some stacked wood drying in the back right of the photo. 

It's hard work but incredibly satisfying. Working with wood is a bit like gardening, it helps me to feel grounded. The tasks are repetitive allowing the mind to wander - but not too far! I can never get away from the fact that the timber I am handling is probably older than I am and deserves respect. What I most enjoy about this process is working in partnership with J. We know what we're doing and it takes surprisingly little time to create a good stack of logs.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Health: stretch

Honesty - stretching for the light!
Flexibility has been raising it's head around here again. As in J and I are losing it! Me, I'm just not active enough. J lives in a world designed for shorter people and has always had back issues as a result but these are made worse thanks to long hours spent driving.

I don't have his excuse but for the last few months I have been finding it uncomfortable to get up in the mornings. I always used to be a fidget in bed but now I seem to stay in the same position and I can really feel it when I wake, my body is so stiff. I'm only in my 30's so I really ought to do something about this!

I have lots of books and fancy routines I could follow but back to this years plan of 'just do it' I'm ignoring the research and using common sense. Every time I want to watch the TV I stretch. Starting with a full body stretch I work my way down the different parts of the body. Slowly I'm becoming more mobile.

I enjoy stretching and I love how it makes me feel when I have finished. Yet again I have to ask myself, why did I ever stop?

Friday, 5 July 2013

New toy for me!

Okay, so I've had this for about a month now and it's even been mentioned in my planning but I've yet to blog about it. So here it is, a rather poor photograph of my Singer 15-96. It doesn't work though most parts will move. I foresee this being a winter restoration job and I can't wait to get my teeth into it but I don't want yet another half done project lying around so I need to put it on the back burner for now.

I've always wanted a treadle sewing machine and having tools that don't need electricity just seems like such a sensible idea. Also I could do with a new sewing machine as I use mine a lot but it just isn't up to the job. It is a cheap Brother that has done me well so far but unfortunately its stitch isn't very straight. I can't afford to buy better so I've gone backwards to the old reliable singers.

There is a lot of work to do on this but when it is finished it will look good and also be useful. Thankfully singer parts are readily available. I may possibly change the machine itself but I won't decide on that until I've got it running.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

June review, July planning

Last months plan:
Wellbeing: Keep my blog updated.
Home & Garden: Rearrange bedrooms/living space

Health: Stretch
Celebrations: Midsummer
Arts & Crafts: work on the sewing machine.

How did I do? Pretty well! No progress on the sewing machine but I'm not upset about that, there will be time when the weather goes downhill.

Now for the next month:
Wellbeing: Make sure that I take time to appreciate my garden
Home & Garden: Keep on top of the veg patch
Health: Stretch - keep going!

Arts & Crafts: Puddle art to do
Self Learning: How to store our harvest

Wednesday, 3 July 2013


How is my garden growing today? Well, the June drop has finally started, lots of little apples on all of the trees and some on the ground. They'll need more thinning before they get too heavy.
The damsons are looking pretty good too, I'm going to be busy come autumn. Ideas are needed on how to preserve these.

My gooseberries are so big the plants are keeling over. I haven't had gooseberries for years and I can not wait! I don't think that there will be enough for preserving but we should get a few good meals out of them.
And finally my peek-a-boo strawberries. These are planted under the gooseberries and are doing really well. So far most have been left alone by the birds despite not being netted. I'm sure that they will cotton on soon though so we need to be on the ball with picking.

I still can't tell which currant is which but they should start colouring soon and I'll then know how to look after them properly.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013


Borders - something my garden doesn't yet have
We regularly visit Stourhead gardens. They are a lovely place to amble on a pleasant afternoon though preferably without my boys who take it in turns to complain as we progress through the estate.

I am always slightly underwhelmed by Stourhead. I grew up not far from it and was always told what a great place it was but we were never able to visit. This meant that it's magnificence grew in my mind to such proportions that reality could never eclipse the fantasy. I still enjoy going though!

Great use of slate
My favourite bit is the walled gardens. I always enjoy seeing a good vegetable patch and dream that mine too may one day be just as organised. I think that the use of slate to label what is in the beds is fantastic, this is an idea I would like to use myself if I can source some cheap slate.
I love espalier trees
This final image is to remind me that I love espalier trees. The problem is that I haven't a clue where I could put them in my garden. Something to ponder.

None of these are the standard views of Stourhead which can be found with a quick image search. These may be less inspiring in the traditional sense but to me mean much more.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Nine Springs

There is a park in Yeovil called Ninesprings. I have vague recollections of visiting it in childhood with another family. We dragged our boys around it recently.

My boys are not walkers. They groan at the thought of being dragged out on yet another boring day out. But this park agreed with them from the start. I picked up a map from the noticeboard and we made our way up the hill completely avoiding the stream. My lads ran, fought, ambushed and generally had a lot of fun playing with illegal sticks and doing their best to wind us up. They had already agreed that it was an okay place before we even reached the spring.

The Spring. They loved it. They immediately stripped off and started paddling despite the temperature of the water. This is a lovely little grotto constantly being fed by fresh spring water. We must have stayed here for almost an hour.

The remainder of the stream downhill varied, some bits were great, others stagnant. But it was fun. And we can't wait to return again but hopefully with some suitable footware for them to paddle in!