seasons :: sweet summer

The pleasure of a perfect summer’s day…. the warmth of the sun, dappled light falling through a canopy of trees creating cool shady spots beneath, an abundance of colour and scent in the garden and the taste of all summer has to offer with freshly picked fruit and vegetables.

An air of excitement and romance. Summer, for me, definitely has the feel good factor.

And it is Picnic weather. Eating outdoors is one of my favourite activities in summer, especially if I can take along my little trusty camping stove and whistling kettle to make a cup of tea, and not to forget a pile of picnic rugs to lie on and a good book or my sketchbook. All these things, but especillay that distinctive sound of the whistling kettle, brings back so many childhood memories spent in a state of absolute summer bliss.

I have all the necessary ingredients available to pack up a picnic at a moment’s notice and also make little treats that I would not normally indulge in; so a good stock of plain vanilla ice cream in the freezer is of prime importance for creating simple quick desserts using fresh fruits.

Yesterday I bought lolly moulds for £2 from Ikea – I will need to find some old fashioned wooden lolly sticks though as I am not keen on the plastic ones provided with the set. When Libbie comes to stay in the school holidays I thought she might like to make ice lollies, I think I might like to too!

Filo pastry is so easy to use and I have a number of recipes where you just beat up some eggs with a little milk, sour cream or fromage frais – whatever is to hand, add seasoning and pour it over any mixture of lightly steamed summer veg spread over a filo pastry case. Then add grated cheese – here I just used cheddar but hard or soft goats cheese, parmesan or a blue cheese would be just as good and finally a sprinkling of fresh herbs to suit your taste.

I have herbs growing everywhere in my garden – freshly picked herbs added to any meal are delicious. Chopped mint on Jersey Royals with a knob of butter, torn basil leaves in tomato dishes and rosemary scattered over a tin of roasting vegetables.

The vegetables and salads I am growing are not very far on this year with all the wet weather and lack of warmth and sunshine. I am so envious of all those bloggers displaying ripe red tomatoes already but hopefully mine will soon make up for the late start.

Having a working oven again is just brilliant – to turn it on and find it heats up (and quickly) is an absolute wonder. I am excited again about cooking and already delving into my pile of recipe books.

Thank you for all the comments on my previous post about the adverts – I am finding out from WordPress if these are their usual amount of ads – if so and nothing can be done I may buy into their ad free plan. As a reader myself I would not want to be bombarded with them and I always have an ad free read myself on other blogs because I more often than not read blogs through the wordpress reader and my own PC browser settings are set so that hardly any get through. I will update you all more on this soon.

Today we have no firm plans, maybe a bit of gardening or perhaps we will make a picnic and go off for the day. I will let you know.

Finally welcome to all the new readers …enjoy the journey but most of all enjoy summer while it lasts. x

Help…..

I was so disappointed yesterday to learn that one of my readers is not happy to comment any more because of the amount of pop up advertising on my blog. Because I am logged in to WordPress I never see this advertising even when I visit other free WordPress blogs (the ones that end in ….wordpress.com). I believe that on Blogger you have the option to turn off the ads – on a free WordPress blog you do not – you have to pay for that privilege.

However, I checked out my blog on DH’s computer and sure enough my site is bombarded with ads yet when I looked at some other free WordPress blogs they had none. I have no idea why this should be and have sent an enquiry to WordPress support – but I do not expect an answer from them. WordPress have been bombarding me with emails recently to upgrade to their paid plans and this will stop the adverts but this does feel like blackmail if they are heavily advertsing on my site to push me into a paid plan.

I have not as yet decided what to do – I have been unhappy for a while now with the constant changes at WordPress and I may move to Blogger but perhaps you could help my decision by letting me know in the comments if this is affecting your reading and or commenting and if you are seeing more adverts now than previously.

And thank you Simone if you are reading this for alerting me to the problem.

Have a great weekend. x

dear diary :: catching up with life at home

I am back at home now. Looking out of my window this morning the world outside was damp and grey with a blanket of fog. I wondered what was best to do with my time. It certainly wasn’t gardening weather so I opted for pottering about the house. There is always plenty to do and although we arrived home last Thursday night I have not completely unpacked yet – not through laziness (well maybe a little) but once home I seemed to hit the ground running.

One of the reasons for coming home was to attend my extra six week Therapeutic Yoga classes I signed up for on a Friday afternoon. These classes are all about breathing – breathing into different areas that correspond with the chakras, concentrating on how the breath feels and making notes. After completing a series of yoga positions we breathe into those same areas again and notice the difference, breathing is deeper and easier and it is amazing how different you feel….more alive, relaxed, open – I am so glad I decided to do this course and will carry on in my own time when it comes to an end next week.

After the class I was feeling exceptionally calm and relaxed so it was a bit of a shame that DH and I had to pop down to town to buy some food for the weekend – an hour in Sainsbury’s isn’t condusive to relaxation but we needed to stock up with fresh fruit and vegetables. At the moment I am making quite simple meals, fresh vegetables with chickpeas in a stock for flavour and a little brown rice mixed in, last night was roasted vegetables with couscous and tonight a brown lentil stew with sweet potato and leeks and a thick chunk of bread.

Last Saturday was a day spent finishing some half started projects. DH has been fitting a door knob and lock to the new shed door and we brought the cooker down from the cottage to replace the one at home here. Although it had survived both the flood and being put in a skip it has stood in the conservatory all this time with no real home. As some readers will know my oven here at home as been on the blink for some months getting hot one day and not another. On the days it refused to heat up we resorted to using the small oven but this was not ideal as it did not cook meals that well. So we managed to heave the cooker into the back of our car to bring down home. Once we had given it a thorough wipe down (it is still like new) our electrician son-in-law helped to swap them over and wired it in. The old one will be no use to anyone and it is well over 20 years old and was second hand to us from my sister.

I like things that last a long time there are so many products that are disposable these days.

The replacement cooker from the cottage is a very basic stainless steel Zanussi with old fashioned solid hotplates and no separate grill but at least the oven works. We bought it new when we first had the cottage and we chose something quite robust in case we let the cottage out. It will do us fine until we can replace our kitchen and buy a new intergrated one.

To freshen it up I put sliced oranges in a bowl of water with a few drops of lemon oil, placed it in the oven and turned the oven on. The aroma was gorgeous and now the inside smells clean and fresh too.

And now I have an oven that works I feel like trying some new recipes again so have been revisiting old cookery books.

In and amongst I have been doing a little housekeeping inside – hoovering, sweeping and washing floors….. and socks….

…..and a little housekeeping outside – deadheading the annuals in pots, feeding the plants and tying in the wandering clematis.

I also cut and tagged the pale pink and white aquilegia and the bunches are hanging upside down in the shed to dry out so I can collect the seed.

The garden is looking lovely and buzzing with bees – my peonies had burst into life whilst we were away – I had waited for this moment for so long now watching the buds grow and fatten…and now they are simply beautiful and I cannot stop admiring them… they are just in the right spot to see them from my kitchen window as I wash up. What a shame they are usually over very quickly but for the moment I can just stand and stare.

The lettuce and courgettes are just about ready for picking and my seeds have sprouted – we just need a little more sun.

Tomorrow it is my usual yoga class and on Wednesday I will see the doctor about my knee as up to now it is not getting any easier. DH has to have his front tyres changed this week – more expense but overall I think our spending has been a bit lighter during June even with the trip to Scotland.

We have plans to try and look at kitchens again while the summer sales are on, at the same time we are trying to progress our cottage plans and arrange some time between commitments to have our summer holiday. Oh and not to forget making progress again on the pantry.

beaching :: lovely moments in the garden

It feels like we are settling into summer now – clear blue skies, warm sunny days – not too hot and no rain, no winds.

As soon as we arrive at the cottage, daylight permitting, the first thing I do is grab my camera and go for a walk around. It is 6 weeks since our last visit – far too long for this garden; I am sure it would turn completely wild in only twelve weeks! There is always so much to see and so many lovely surprises. The first thing that met me this time was the vivid pink of the rhododendron and the beautiful sky blue of the delphiniums.

Come with me on a stroll around my Scottish garden – of course off camera there is a mound of work to do but for the moment I will just ignore this and just capture the delights that I have found.

This is what we call the the back garden although it is really at the front of the cottage and leads into the woodland – we are quite secluded down here with the canopy of trees. The rhododendron has been magnificent this year and the ground beneath is littered with petals like giant confetti.

Around the pond in the lower wood the primulas I planted two years ago are beginning to spread now and light up a dark corner.

The wild fuschia that is beside the edge of the pond has become so tall and leggy that a branch had broken and fallen across the path, we cut it off but the rest of it will need some maintenance pruning on our next visit.

We took the pond cover off today – a bit late this year but we have been so short of time on previous visits. The pond needs a good clean out too – I really look forward to this, heaving out buckets of mud!

And my little seat by the pond is only just visible – peeping out from under this wild geranium that has seeded itself.

The woodland walk is one of my favourite spots I tried to introduce plenty of leaf shapes and keep everything very natural looking choosing plants very carefully. The ferns just set themselves – they seem happy in dry or wet ground.

Below is the border that runs down the lane side of the house and has a lovely low dry stone wall at the back beyond which runs the daisy path. This is very much a work in progress – the escallonia in the centre on top of the wall is all that is left of the hedge that died in the severe frosts a few years ago. I have yet to decide what to plant to each side of it. I am going to introduce some tumbling rockery plants to the top of the wall for a bit of colour.

And of course the seaside garden – the valerian has formed quite a mass now and is looking good and blends quite well into the wild landscape beyond whilst adding a touch of colour.

Tomorrow we head home again, in the short time we have been here we have managed to cut the grass and the hedges and weed some but not all of the borders – my bad knee allowing. At this time of year I am very selective with my weeding and let some of the seedlings grow on so that I can transplant the ones I want to keep like foxglove and aquilegia, alchemilla mollis and geranium and the annual pink poppies and biennial forget me not.

There is still a lot to do but it will all have to wait now for another day, another visit. For now I am going to sink into bed with my Miss Read book and cup of cocoa and no doubt I will be sound asleep in no time.

dear diary :: driving north

On Saturday with the rain still lashing down and the road spray coming up to meet us we made our way along the M6 as we headed for Scotland and by the time we crossed the border the sun had appeared and the world looked suddenly like a veil had been lifted. 

We pulled off the road just past Gretna in the sleepy little village of Dornock to eat our soup and sandwiches. We parked near to the little church we discovered on a previous visit – the one with the historical gravestones with viking links I mentioned in this post.

By now it was a long time since we ate breakfast but once our rather ravenous appetites had been fully satisfied, almost to being a little stuffed (who was it put in a bag of crisps and some biscuits), we took a gentle stroll down the lane to see what we could find. 

Exploring is always a favourite pastime of mine so we followed the lane round to the right as it skirted around the bottom of the graveyard.

The wind coming across land from the Solway coast in the distance was quite forceful but for anyone with a love of the sea lying in this tiny peaceful graveyard, as overgrown and wild as the surrounding countryside, and only the sound of the wind and birdsong must surely be a heaven of its own.

To the left the lane meanders round a bend and past a cluster of outbuildings and barns and a very large house stands complete with a magnificent copper beech in the grounds and a tiny blue seat outside the gates waiting for passers by to stop and rest a while. 

The verges sheltered a little from the winds by the stone wall were laden with heavy drooping branches of elderflowers.

Once back on the road we decided to take the route through the centre of Annan, a nearby small town famous for its connections to the Scottish writer and philosopher Thomas Carlyle who is know to have said ‘A man without a goal is like a ship without a rudder’ and ‘Music is well said to be the speech of angels’, amongst many other quotes.

As we sat at the traffic lights we spotted a sign ahead we had not noticed before pointing to the harbour.  Now for those who do not know this area Annan is located to the north of the Solway Firth but is a little way inland so the harbour it refers to, as we found out, is on the River Annan that winds its way inland from the estuary.  We followed Port Street all the way down until we couldn’t go any further and this is the harbour.

I was amazed at how narrow this channel is but it obviously does have boats going in and out at high tide. There was plenty of decay round about – some quite sad looking boats have been left to rot on the harbour side – a sorry end for some of them.

The same sad end for the Albert Hall which was thought to be a former town hall. All around Annan there are run down buildings and many run down areas that remain neglected as the local council, like in many other towns, struggle to improve or maintain them. Property is lingering unsold, or unwanted or just unloved….

….. but every so often you come across a little pocket of delight and someone who takes pride in their surroundings.

We continued our journey to Castle Douglas and just made it in time for a quick look around the impressive craft shop on the main street. Closing time in many of these small towns can be 4 o’clock but luckily for me the craft shop stays open until five. It has an expansive stock that is far better than any Hobbycraft shop over two floors and an annexe or two – you can buy anything from wool to watercolours – but on this visit I was purely ‘window shopping’ from the inside of course.

Afterwards we joined the queue for our usual tea of chip butties and a piping hot cup of tea from Moore’s award winning fish and chip shop.  Saturday tea time is a busy time but well worth the wait.

Fed and watered once again we continued on to Newton Stewart so we could shop at the tiny Sainsbury’s – it was the best part of the day with the evening sun reflecting off the sea as we drove around the bay. 

We usually buy fresh butter, cheese, yoghurt and milk from here together with a fresh loaf and rolls and some frozen peas rather than bring them from home. DH treats himself to a bottle of red wine and I go for the bar of dark chocolate.

At last we reach the cottage and still in daylight which is not difficult at this time of year in Scotland – even down in the south it is light until very late. So much has grown since our last visit – this is the view that greeted us from our caravan window looking out to sea – a pure mass of frothy flowers. I just love it.

Bedtime beckons…I will be back tomorrow with more tales from the garden. x

dear diary :: rain, rain, go away…

…and it did for a couple of hours but just enough to get out into the garden for a bit of a snip. I do like this fine rain we have had for days now – it is so refreshing and gives the borders such a thorough soaking – but there were flowers to dead head and a few seeds to sow.

It was only last Thursday that we were sitting in the sunshine on the market place in Masham enjoying one of the award winning ice creams, an apricot and ginger cone from Joneva.

On Saturday I had a bit of an enforced duvet day as my knee had swollen so much all I could do was rest it. I used the time to listen to the little samples on Audible as I had to use up my 16 credits so that I could then cancel my membership. I have more than enough audio books to listen to now so it was pointless rolling over the membership again this year.

On Tuesday my knee was still swollen so I had to skip Yoga, but did manage today’s session.

This week was all about the budget, our savings and future plans as we had the appointment with the financial advisor. He was a lovely man, very knowledgeable and no hard sell so was well worth the time and it cost us nothing. He went through our current financial situation and pensions with us and we agreed that the tasks we needed to do could be done ourselves so no follow up services required at this time. There are quite a few tasks and I will be posting about this soon.

We will be heading off for Scotland again soon – I get to the point when I just need to be by the sea again. I dare not think what state the garden is in up there and I will not be doing a lot with my bad knee, but it will be nice to get away.

Tonight we picked the first of our homegrown mixed lettuce leaves – at least they have continued to grow in the rain.

Welcome to all those new followers and to all my readers who are following the garden posts there is an update now for today in the June page. Click here

Have a lovely weekend everyone. x

windows

Joining in with the monthly meet up photo challenge – the theme for the year is windows. I have always been attracted to windows so this is a great opportunity to display those captured moments when we are out and about.

Other people’s windows have always fascinated me – whether they are the well presented, the shabby, the unusually placed, the tiny or the hidden… wherever I come across anything of interest you can bet I will have taken a photo. These are a few I have taken when I have been meandering out and about.

Bonsall, Derbyshire
Winster, Derbyshire
Gawsworth Hall, Cheshire
Kirkandrews, Dumfries and Galloway
Little Ouseburn, Yorkshire
Renishaw Hall, Derbyshire
Portpatrick, Dumfries and Galloway
Kirkudbright, Dumfries and Galloway
Stanton in the Peak, Derbyshire
Broughton House, Dumfries and Galloway
Wollerton Old Hall, Shropshire
Gainford, County Durham
Portpatrick, Dumfries and Galloway

meandering :: the Bonsall magical gardens

A stroll around the beautiful village of Bonsall in Derbyshire on the trail of their Magical Gardens last weekend. This post is dedicated to Lucinda from Lucinda Sans blog to provide her with a little piece of Englishness. (Sorry Lucinda no tea shops though).

Bonsall is set in the hillside above Cromford village, the nearest main town being Matlock and with Derbyshire being completely landlocked the nearest place to a seaside is the stunning Matlock Baths along the dale; complete with illuminated ‘promenade’ running alongside the river and traditional seaside shops.

Bonsall we found is a village with two parts – the upper and lower levels and a very steep climb between the two. If was a very hot day and we really felt the heat as we went up hill and down dale on this trail – you need plenty of puff to complete it – but there are refreshments waiting at the top should you need them.

For me the village open gardens are not always just about the gardens on show but discovering the unusual, the quirky and that mysterious ingredient that makes a village special and more than just a collection of buildings. And this one is different to many – it has been named not just active but hyperactive as the residents all pull together in so many ways to deliver a wonderful village life here that most people would envy.

Starting to climb up the steep hill to the top; the cottages are snuggled into the hillside with gardens that require plenty of terracing made out of the beautiful soft grey of the Derbyshire stone, covered in moss and a tumbling of flowers everywhere.

Notice above the way the same plants, red geraniums along the front wall and in the background lavender, have been placed in rows but in differing pots giving a very striking arrangement.

These little water fountains and wells are everywhere in the village but this is quite a notable one as I love the way it is the community centre at the top of this hill for the bus stop and post box.

Every now and then a little lane would appear off to one side with more gardens to discover.

It was steep going up but seemed even steeper on the drop down the other side. As we continued further down into the valley it was noticeable how the planting becomes very lush with trees and vegetation. Flowing alongside the road is a little stream, often disappearing under some of the houses and then popping up unexpectedly in a garden or two.

Above must have been the tiniest garden on show – a strip only three feet wide between the cottage wall and the roadside where the stream had been left uncovered and only paved to enable access to the front door. Stunning.

This house below is one of my favourites. No showy planting here – just a relaxing vista of greenery, such a peaceful garden with the gentle sound of the trickling water from the well in the corner.

Every now and then there was an alley way…and a footpath….. it would have been so tempting to have explored where they go but with 30 gardens to see no time for detours.

Some gardens had the quirky – I absolutely would love this outside lav and what looked like an adjoining laundry in my garden.

Then there are the eye catching corners where plants have just grown into an unusual or quirky display!

Still winding our way down the hill (it goes on for ever) the road opens out into an open space with houses round about and we find the village cross – this must be the highest set of steps for a village cross that I have ever seen and forms the centre of the upper village even though it is halfway down the steep hill. The road going off at the left corner leads you to the church. I will take you there another day.

On the way to the church are more tiny cottages with verges crammed full of wild flowers and cottage flowers mixed together producing a wonderful untamed show.

Sometimes just a little splash of colour in a pot is all that is needed to make a big statement.

This garden below so appealed to me – the tidy ramshackle – a brilliant collection of bits and bobs brought together in a display by the shed. Notice how the well cut short grass round about gives it more prominence. It reminds me of those little unkempt gardens they try to replicate at the Chelsea show.

The garden above was so tiny it was called a ‘peep over’ and you viewed it from the garden gate. The owners had cleverly used an open metal gate to allow more of a view and presumably let more light into the garden. I so wanted to walk down that little gravel path. Instead I walked up the hill by the side and peeped over the wall. What you don’t see from the gate is the ‘hidden’ table and chairs beyond the planting – so well thought out.

On the way further down the hill now and back to our starting place in the lower village. Here you will find the Fountain Monument in the centre and the tiny village stores – if you are passing do go for an ice cream.

I will leave you with yet another photo of how you can make any little nook and cranny, shed or corner look appealing.

homestead :: the garden journal

I decided to turn my handy little notebook I keep with jottings on all things to do with the garden into an online journal. This is just a record of what I am planting and doing each month in both gardens, the one here at home in Yorkshire and the one at the cottage in Scotland.

At the moment I don’t want to start a separate blog so I am writing this in the pages section and you can read about my daily gardening exploits if you are interested by clicking on the link ‘The Garden Journal’ which you will find both along the top menu bar above the header picture and in the side bar and this will take you through to the relevant pages.

Each month will have a new page and depending, of course, which garden I am in at the time it will say by the date.

I will still be doing the ocassional gardening post on here – but the more day to day stuff will be in the journal. Pages unlike posts will not notify any followers when I update in the journal so I will let everyone know of any updates at the end of my normal postings. Hope to see you there.

feasible :: June intentions

Halfway through the year already and not a lot done. Actually that is not true – I have done quite a lot but not very much of what I originally intended to do.

The little room ear marked as my new pantry is still a dumping ground and the kitchen no more than a bit of a rough plan in my head.

May went far too quickly probably because I was so focused on the Christening that I hardly noticed it passing by. June will be different; must be different because I have a lot to catch up with and half-started projects to finish.

So here are my intentions for this month:-

On the homefront there is still the pantry to sort – it is so long since we drew up the plans I have almost forgotten what we had decided upon.

In the garden it is very much a matter of feeding, weeding and some light pruning – then sit back and enjoy.

I have been trying to scale down my wardrobe so that it is much leaner and both my summer and winter outfits fit into the one space. This is very much a work in progress… without the progress at the moment…and I have decided not to replace garments when they are worn out or no longer fit but just move on to wear something else less worn in it’s place. It is true I think that we wear our favourite few items 80% of the time but I am going to try and have a wardrobe that only has a few favourite garments that I will wear all the time.

The house is ready for a good clean, it has been ready and waiting for days now – I find I just cannot get down to doing it, either I have to go out or when I am in there have been other more important things demanding my attention. My intention is to set aside a day each week and give each room ‘a good going over’ as they say.

If there is time I will make a few more simple cards – I really enjoyed making the last batch and it helps keep the costs down.

I must also finish Sweetie’s jumper and fingers crossed that it will still fit her.

This is now the time for salad, freshly picked leaves, new potatoes covered in mint and melted butter of course and a host of summer veg cooked or raw. I intend to make a few new dishes to have with salad – try out a new quiche filling and make nut roast to slice cold.

The best part of summer is making the most of the outdoors while the weather is fine. I intend to go off meandering….a lot….there are more Open Garden events, Well Dressings, Galas and just generally having a mooch around towns and villages…..down alley ways, over bridges – there is so much to discover and June is a good time to do it.

Scotland will also be on the list this month and another trip to North Yorkshire.

Finally I have booked the appointment with the financial adviser – I am interested to know what he makes of our situation and I am hoping that he will point us in the right direction for a few good investments.

There is plenty to do before his visit – collecting all the information together of our income, outgoings and assets – not a bad exercise anyway as it will help to keep this handy should anyone ever need it.

June is interspersed with appointments for this and that but in between I am hoping for some days when I can really get down to making a big difference in the house, cleaning and sorting. I know already on sunny days the garden will be beckoning me outside though – the temptation will be too much!