Wednesday, 9 July 2014

...

I hate it when blogs end with no goodbye. They just seem to quietly drift away until one day you realise that you haven't seen an update for a long time. I just don't seem to feel the need to write this anymore, though I do still enjoy writing. It's purpose, for now, is done. I may come back, I may start a new. But for now I'm going to just enjoy Summer.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

First harvest


There's not too much coming out of my garden at the moment but this little contribution tasted great. Purple sprouting broccoli and leeks, I really must get some more sown for next year!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

The Big Allotment Challenge

image from www.clker.com/
Gardening programmes on TV can all too often be a bit dull. Much as I used to enjoy Monty Don (I used to love Real Gardens on Channel4) I now find that Gardeners World is very repetitive and must be watched with the remote control ready to fast forward. I was pleased to discover The Beechgrove Garden last year, a more magazine based style that keeps moving. It shows a traditional style of working that isn't really for me but I do enjoy the show and I'm glad that it is no longer just shown on BBC2 Scotland.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Planting a copse

Old Shrubbery
Our big project of the weekend was to get the copse planted at the end of our garden. I have a fantasy in which we harvest wood for the house from coppiced trees. It will be a good few years before many of these babies are up to being harvested but we have taken the first few steps.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Plant of the week: Daisies

Daisies
It's been a very busy weekend in the garden here, I'll be posting about it soon. But for now here is a photo of the plant that I am so pleased to see in our lawns here. We don't have many daisies but it is lovely to see our lawn slowly travel away from it's original monoculture into a far more interesting mix. This is a small established clump but the few that I transplanted a couple of weeks ago are also looking well.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Time management


I've never been great at managing my time but recently I have been getting worse and worse. I've also noticed that now that my boys are older they also seem to be requiring more of my time too despite gaining more independence. Perhaps it is because I used to be able to do two things at once when they were smaller but today they will require my full attention. Regardless of the reason the amount of time at my disposal feels as if it is shrinking daily.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

The Wonder of Weeds

I've just watched an interesting little programme from BBC4, 'The Wonder of Weeds' presented by Chris Collins (available on BBC iplayer until next Monday). It was a mixed bag, some good, some boring but it was the last 10 minutes that truly held my attention. From an abandoned house Chris Collins showed how weeds were turning it back to nature, initially with the short lived plants that lived, died and rotted down to produce humus allowing new plants to move in and colonise the location. Ultimately the land is prepared and ready to grow trees again thanks to the succession of weeds that each had a role to play in it's transformation.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Permaculture studies: Permaculture Fundamentals, notes on lectures 1 & 2

A while ago I stumbled across a free permaculture design course here: http://www.permaculturedesigntraining.com/ . I've always wanted to attend one of these but have never felt comfortable with spending so much money on myself with so many other demands on the purse. I'm going to give this course a try, I'm not going to promise to complete it but it will be interesting to see how far I get. To help keep me accountable I have decided to share some of my notes and thoughts about these free lessons here. Please note that I actually watched these over a month ago but have delayed posting this as I wished to finish some further reading on the subject.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Spring meadow

Narcissi slit planted between the groups.
There is so much to do in the garden at the moment but so little time. Here I've been working in what I'll call the Spring meadow. It mainly lawn with mature trees but this time of year there are large areas of narcissi. Lovely, but it feels a bit like municipal planting at the moment with large groups plonked here there. As removing them would probably be an exercise in futility and they are much loved by the early bees I am doing my best to extend the groups. Digging into the middle of a blind bunch I can harvest lots of plants that can be slit-planted throughout the rest of the lawn. I can get away with this as the bulbs are small.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Knuckle down to weeding

Fist veg bed, before
It's been a long time since I have done any work in my veg patch. The rain has made working here pretty much impossible. Having said that I am glad that I didn't prep the beds any sooner as the heavy rains would have leached much of the goodness from any added compost.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Trees!


Ever wondered what 39 trees look like? Here's a photo I meant to share in a previous post. Most of these are only 1yr whips and they are currently heeled into my veg patch waiting for more clearing to happen in my coppice to be.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Making a vest


Old pyjama trousers
My sewing skills are still very amateur which is why I hate to purchase fabric but have no hesitation in re-purposing old clothes. These are an old pair of pyjama trousers that were so comfy that I continued to wear them long past their sell by date. Whilst some of the fabric was only fit for the compost much of it was still in reasonable condition.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Wrist warmers for J


My latest knitting project, wrist warmers for J! When he works from home it doesn't take long for him to notice that the level of warmth within our home is substantially less than in his office at work. Coupled with him being sat still in front of a computer for most of the day inevitably his hands get cold which makes typing uncomfortable.

When I first offered to make him some I'm sure that he thought that it would be a bit of a joke but the next time he worked from home he was wearing them; all day. I think that he surprised himself!

The pattern was a simple tube knitted on double-pointed needles. As he is slimmer around the wrist than above the thumb  I enlarged the tube above the thumb hole for comfort and cast off using an elastic cast off technique. I wasn't so impressed with this as it left the end looser than I intended but J is happy with them.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Coppicing

Hazel stool
Thanks to the water logging we haven't got very far with this years pruning. I tend to prune plants very heavily and then leave them a couple of years to recover. If the garden were smaller I would probably rethink this but it works well for here.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Wireless internet

Dish at the end of our garden for
our wireless internet 
Spring is the time for big purchases, at least according to J. We now have wireless internet to bring our online speeds up to spec. Good enough for J to occasionally work from home.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Spring clean


Our neighbours have always kept the exterior of their property tidy but this has recently been taken to extremes with their regular brushing and tidying of the gravel. It all seems a little over the top until you realise that they are trying to sell their property and, in the process, are trying to make it look as good as it possibly can. Unfortunately, if you turn your back to theirs you will be faced with ours, a lot less pretty.

I admit it, we hadn't tidied up the front of our place for two years. Thanks to the tractors driving past there was a vast build up of muck, soil and weeds along the bottom of our front wall. Not only looking a little grotty but pretty disgusting. It didn't help that we still had a pile of subsoil sat on our driveway left over from some building work 3 years ago. The regular brushing of our neighbours had it's effect, we decided that it was time to smarten up a bit!

It is amazing what a few hours of hard work can do. J removed the subsoil pile and generally tidied up the driveway. This also included a drastic prune of our wisteria that was beginning to take over the roof of our garage and looked as if it intended to cover up our solar panels. I grafted at the front, removing most of the plants from our little border and introduced a couple of large primulas and snowdrops. My rose, that hasn't been happy for a while, had a drastic chop too and will hopefully come back bigger and better. But the hardest work was cleaning up the edge of the road. There had been such a build up of muck that all sorts of weeds were flourishing that needed hoicking out.

It was hard work but I was amazed at how quickly it all pulled together. Just a couple of hours of hard labour and our home looks so much more inviting to visitors. The results may not be comparable to our neighbours but it is no longer an embarrassment.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Make do and mend

Mending finished!
Much as I enjoy handicrafts there is one aspect that I never seem to get on with and that is the mending. It's not that I hate it, more that I would rather be doing something more interesting.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Too wet for wood

Odd bits of wood waiting to be chopped
I've recently taken a short break from blogging and in the mean time this post has been sitting in my drafts waiting to be shared. Thankfully it is no longer so wet and I've been able to make a start at some of the work in our garden again.

Wood is very important to us. But one of the issues with this past winter's rain is that we've not been able to process any. Dry cold winter days are excellent for chopping wood and in past years the majority of ours has been completed by February. But when it's wet it becomes dangerous to use heavy tools or machinery and it seems as if we have had nothing but wet for the last few months.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Handspun, crocheted socks!

Handspun, crocheted socks from odd balls of wool.
I had to share these ugly mutts, I love them so much! They are made from yarn that I span when I first started spinning hence those bright solid colours. This yarn has been hanging around for a while preventing me from spinning more. After all, why should I spin when I have yarn to use? Sometimes I am too practical for my own good.

Spinning is a lovely therapeutic thing to do. Because the wheel doesn't come out often it hasn't lost it's thrill.

Crocheted socks are a crackers thing to make, they just aren't as comfortable to wear as knitted. But I do enjoy the process of making them and I find crochet is far more portable than knitting on double pointed needles.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Washing.


My washing machine is dying. When on a spin cycle it sounds like an aircraft that is about to take off. So, expecting the worst some day soon, we bought replacement bearings. Unfortunately there is no way to replace the bearings because our washing machine has a sealed drum. We are not happy.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Herbal teas

Image source: Twinings.co.uk
You can't beat a herbal tea for being a sly, deceptive creation. In the supermarket you examine the shelves looking at all the tempting flavours and hoping that your eyes will land on the one that may actually taste good. You take it home, boil the kettle and enjoy the aroma that fills the room as it brews. Three long minutes whilst the infusion sits steeping. Finally the bag is removed and you lift the drink to your lips. The aroma swims about your head, making sweet, sweet promises. Finally you take a sip, hoping that this time it really will taste as good as it smells.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Fruit Juice

images from tesco.com
What is up with Tesco fruit juice at the moment? We enjoy fruit juice but because of the price only have it occasionally but recently I've been stocking up. The Tesco value apple juice has been only 16p for a litre carton. 16p! Can it even be made that cheaply? I'm assuming that there must be a huge pile of this stuff sitting in a warehouse that needs using up.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Presents

Birthday gifts for twins
My eldest attended a birthday party on Saturday. But along with the party is the unspoken rule of having to purchase gifts for the child. I don't mind this, especially as I know that this is the only party that they have ever had. But how am I meant to know what to get 11 year old boys that I barely know?

Friday, 21 February 2014

Permaculture



Dead hedge, the brushwood will dry and rot down offering a
fantastic habitat for the wildlife and some kindling for the fire.
I've always been interested in permaculture though I have no idea of where I first heard of it. Growing up in the vicinity of Glastonbury probably meant that I could have picked up on the idea from anywhere! I've read a few books over the years and also enjoy a subscription to Permaculture Magazine (I love this magazine, you never quite know what the articles are going to be about, they cover a wide range of different subjects).

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Irish dancing

image found in my 'clip art' folder, unfortunately I have no idea where it came from

A friend has recently started an irish dance school. My youngest son is a bit of a mover so I thought that it would be good to introduce him to a different kind of dance. It hasn't grabbed him but I keep dragging him in to watch the lessons whilst I dance instead.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Stuff

Not a picture of my junk room!
I should have guessed that I was going to get hit hard with a cold. And so I have. But it's nearly gone, hurray! I still feel lethargic but finally there is a bit of fight in me to get going again.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Feeling bleurgh.


It's been a few days of coughs and sniffles here. Both boys have been hit hard with colds, I'm not so bad or at least I wouldn't be if only they'd let me get enough sleep. So far they have felt the need to wake me each morning at 6 just so that I know that they don't feel good. Why??? I've been cuddling them late at night, at least let me sleep through to the alarm!

The result is that I've not got much done. And you know how it is, once you stop doing stuff it can be hard to get going again. But I have to. Despite still feeling lethargic (still lacking a few hours sleep here) I'm not ill and the boys are no longer so bad either. Tomorrow is a new day and we've got a lot to do. Fingers crossed that we get through it all with no tantrums from any of us.  


Friday, 7 February 2014

Enough.


What can I say? 

Rain. 

I'm fed up with it. 

Give me some sunshine.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Looking at the lawn

crocus
Spring is definitely on it's way. I cannot miss the crocus' that have pushed their heads out of the earth.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Good bye young oak tree

Damaged tree
This weekend we have had to say farewell to one of the prettiest trees on our property. It was a lovely oak that was damaged a few months ago in storms, we found that it had split down the middle. Since then it has been braced with ropes but that hadn't prevented the split from continuing down to the base.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

January review, February planning


How did I do in January?

Wellbeing: Enjoy the outside
I didn't really achieve this. It's very muddy and claggy out there. Felling the tree last weekend meant lots of walking on the lawn with the results that I feared, compaction and loss of grass in some places.

Home and Garden: Kitchen, start garden planning
The kitchen has moved on albeit at a snails pace. The first few seeds have been sown for my garden this year

Health: Walk!
Update posted here, another one blamed on the weather

Celebrations: Grandmothers birthday
I missed her birthday but yet again due to weather and floods. But we did finally visit with gift in tow.

I'm not too happy with my list of excuses blaming the weather but none the less they stand. I do feel as if I've achieved a lot this month, but it isn't all visible and wasn't all planned.

And for February?
I usually consider February to be the coldest month though the longer days make it more enjoyable that January. I don't think that our wet weather is anywhere near over so I need to take this into account with my plans

Wellbeing: more music
Home and Garden: keep sowing seeds
Health: My son and I have started irish dancing, I want to get a lot of practice in.
Celebrations: Candlemas
Arts and Crafts: Yarn crafts
Self Learning: pick up guitar again


Monday, 3 February 2014

20 miles in January

Do you remember this post Health: Walk! My plan was to cover 20 miles in the month. I knew that it wasn't going to be easy to find the time, what I wasn't expected was a month of floods! I didn't succeed but I'm not beating myself up about it either. I achieved almost 16 miles which I think wasn't bad considering how limited my options have been for getting out and about. The land is still saturated so I'm going to let this one fall by the wayside for now and consider another challenge for February.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

spinning

Bobbin sat on spinning wheel.
I have an old Ashford Traditional spinning wheel that doesn't come out nearly as often as I wish. Which is a pity as spinning is a really therapeutic activity. Some might say monotonous but personally I find it very peaceful and relaxing. Mahatma Gandhi encouraged everyone to spin a little everyday for spiritual as well as economic reasons. Sounds good to me.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Kitchen update


Last weekend found us removing yet more of our fitted kitchen. This is a photo of the end wall that used to have units all along with a narrow top unit sat directly on the bottom as there is so little headroom in this kitchen. It felt claustrophobic and dingy. But what I really hated was that it blocked my access to the window in the corner.

Monday, 27 January 2014

First seedlings of 2014!

Seeds in propogator
My first seedlings have come through! Two pots of lettuce, one cabbage, one basil and one rosemary. The herbs are going to stay in the window and I'm really hoping to get a few leaves from them. They will struggle as the house doesn't get much light but there is no way that they will grow in my soggy clay soil.

Friday, 24 January 2014

What to do with stale bread.

Bread and butter pudding
When visiting my mother earlier this week she sent us home with two loaves of bread. These have sat on the side for a couple of days going stale. I hate waste so put on my thinking cap as to how to use these. My first thought was bread and butter pudding. This is loved in this house providing I don't put any fruit in. You would have thought that my boys were in heaven they loved this so much. I forget sometimes how easy it can be to make them happy.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

A little bit of sewing

New purse and pouch
I am so happy that I managed to squeeze in a little sewing this week. For some reason I'm not finding the time to craft at the moment but the creativity that this offers is very important to me so I've really been missing it.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Growing up a little at a time.

Organised pastries
My youngest son seems to be growing up in leaps and bounds. But every now and then he does something to remind me that he's still my baby. Look at the image above, it makes me smile. He was asked by his grandmother to arrange the pastries on the plate. He looked at the plate and very quickly established that there simply was not enough room (he can be quite analytical). So he stacked them in a tower.

Still my little boy.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Plant markers

Slate markers seen at Stourhead Gardens
Earlier this year I noted the slate markers at Stourhead and thought that they were a great idea for community gardens.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Feeling frustrated

Muddy, claggy field
I'm doing okay with my 20 miles in January goal... but I wish that I was doing better. This is not down to me for a change but due to the saturated landscape. There is a limit as to where I can walk from the house, at the moment each route I take is pretty much identical and I'm beginning to get bored with looking at the river, wonderful though it is. But I'm not ready to give up, just wishing that the land would get a chance to dry for a week or two. Fingers are crossed.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Spring cleaning.

Garlic cloves in modules
Okay, it isn't yet spring but the sun shone for a bit. I had a busy day getting started on the garden. When I say getting started I mean doing what I could without having to step too often onto our still water saturated land. So the shed it was then.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

My 2013 Christmas decorations: stars



Each year I make a few new decorations for the tree. This year, inspired by some that I saw in a Haskins garden centre, I'm making stars. Very simply made, a pile of stars using a cream calico fabric. Lightly stuffed with the contents of an old, lumpy pillow and embroidered around the edge with blanket stitch in bright colours. They still looked a little plain so I added a dorset button to the middle of each. I like them.

If I were to be picky I wouldn't use the large buttons again, the smaller ones look best. But as these are for my tree I'm keeping them as they are.

Dorset buttons are a type of button that used to be produced within Dorset. Mine are based on the blandford cartwheel and made using whatever rings I had around (I think one was the plastic bit left around the top of drinks bottle, not ideal) and embroidery thread. Looking up a tutorial to share I saw noticed several names used to describe the cartwheel design, I have no idea which is correct. All I can say is that the old ladies who taught me when I was a girl called it the blandford cartwheel and that name has stuck with me. 

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Storing coriander



Coriander packs straight from the freezer
I love coriander, an indian meal is not complete without it in my book. I also love to use it fresh in salads but my boy complains loudly. Unfortunately, despite trying every year, I have not yet succeeded in growing this plant, it either runs to seed or just doesn't get going. Thankfully I can now buy large bunches from the supermarket but I still never seem to have any when I need it.

Dried coriander just seems tasteless to me. I have tried coriander paste in a jar before, it was a bit like mint sauce but without the vinegar and was handy to use but ultimately expensive and still lacked flavour. Thankfully I have, thanks to an accidental throw into the freezer, found a solution that works for me. 
Coriander is broken up whilst still in the bag
After a quick look to check that the leaves are healthy, they now go straight into the freezer. Once frozen within the bag it is easy to crumple the plant including the stems and tip into a storage box.
Frozen coriander ready to use. 
A big pile of coriander ready to flavour my curry! Though it doesn't look as good as fresh the flavour is retained and that's the important bit. Time to cook some dahl, I think.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

My 2013 Christmas decorations: baubles

Decorated baubles, drying
I believe that this is the only craft that my boys helped me with this past Christmas and even then it was hard going getting them interested initially. But once they realised that glitter would be involved as well as a drying line across the room for J to bash his head on they were all for it!

Monday, 13 January 2014

A Cheesy Chips day

Cheesy Chips
Some days I have lots of get up and go, other days I get by on determination. But occasionally the dark grey skies dampen my enthusiasm to such an extent that I just want to forget the chores and snuggle up with my boys and watch a film or play games.

Friday was just such a day.

It was far from the worst weather day we have had recently, it just happened to be the day when we all wanted to say, 'Stop!' So we did.

Almost. We were good in the morning and forced ourselves to do the essential tasks that keep our household ticking over. But lunchtime came... and we had cheesy chips. These are a treat in this house, a very rare event. And my boys were satisfyingly pleased to receive this unusual lunch. The afternoon rolled out in a snuggly, cuddly but most definitely lazy way. Lots of discussions and quite of few biscuits thanks to an unopened tin left over from Christmas.

It felt good to take a break.

Friday, 10 January 2014

My 2013 Christmas decorations: wreath


After putting up all of this years decorations I looked at what was left in the box, a handful of faux foliage based items that looked chic in our old house but I've never been able to make them work here. So I let them be. Then I watched a 'how to do Christmas' type programme where I saw them using cable ties for many, many uses and I was inspired me to sort out a wreath for the front door using the odds and ends left over.


The wreath base is from an orange leafed wreath that I had purchased many years ago. The orange fell out of favour but I've been reusing this base with fresh foliage for several years. But this year it just felt too wet to gather the greenery so I had been putting it off.


Cable ties are a fabulous way to put this together. Quick, secure, I am so impressed! And if I want to re-do it next year then I can simply cut them at the back and it will simply come apart. So much easier than winding wire or, more usually for me, string around again and again to hold it together. Just a quick wrap of ribbon and it was finished. 5 minutes tops.


I still prefer fresh foliage wreaths but it wasn't going to happen this year so this has been a great compromise and has coped well with the bad weather that has hit us over the Christmas season.


Thursday, 9 January 2014

Health: Walk!

I've got to lose weight. And get fit again. The easiest way to do this is to set myself a goal but not of weight to lose but of something I can more easily control.

This January I am going to walk 20 miles. I know, this doesn't sound like much and in the past I would have easily completed this in one week. But the problem with January is that, thanks to meeting up with lots of different people over Christmas, colds and bugs are continually passed around. I want to make my goal achieveable and if I go over it I won't be upset!

This year I have the bonus that I can be more flexible with my own time. I don't need to be constantly supervising the boys though I dare not leave them alone for too long either!

I hope that I succeed.

It's interesting to read over old posts from this time last year. This one seems quite apt and reminds me of how far I have come: January mission