– crafting a simple, sustainable and organised life –
I live in a small old mill town nestled into the Pennine hills in Yorkshire with my long-suffering husband of thirty some years. I have two beautiful daughters who have flown the nest (most of the time!). I paint and draw (a little) when time allows, make and bake sometimes but not often enough and garden and grow things as much as possible. I recycle and up-cycle, hate waste and I couldn’t live without my time planner and lists.
Just to let everyone know I am taking a little blog holiday. Nothing is wrong here, we are all good but life, now lockdown is over, is beginning to speed up again and I need to get back up to speed with it and as the saying goes….. ‘something has to give’.
Last week I celebrated two things – my 66th birthday and a haircut – two events that brought a bit of normality back into my life. Although we couldn’t get together with all my family and friends on my birthday I had a steady flow of visitors dropping off cards and gifts (and social distancing on the doorstep of course) and phone calls all day.
I hope everyone reading this is also well, enjoying the mildly better weather and the extra freedoms we have – let us hope it continues.
So I will just go on pause for a week or two to gather my thoughts, but I will be back soon.
At last we are here in Scotland at the cottage but staying in the caravan in the garden of course (as those regular readers, who know the flood story, will know).
And what of the garden? Well did you ever read the Secret Garden as a child? Then perhaps like me you can remember having an image in your mind of the moment when Mary discovers the entrance to the hidden garden and unlocks the door to discover a wild and beautiful place – well that is just what our cottage garden looks like now after 6 months of neglect. Very wild but also quite beautiful. My heart was both heavy and lifted at the same time.
Everything has grown in abundance including the wild flowers and those that are definitely weeds. The goosegrass is draping itself around so many plants and weighing them down.
Sadly, we cannot leave it in this state as even a wild garden has to be managed or the most vigorous plants eventually take over and the smaller vulnerable ones are crowded out. If left unpruned the trees and shrubs grow so tall the reduced sunlight causes the undergrowth to die back and with little light plants like ivy soon settle in and can sweep through a wood floor like a fire. It is a fine balance I have to strike in this garden to keep it in check but also keep it looking quite natural.
After an initial tour of the garden I estimated it would probably take us about 2 years to get it back to what it was like before, but now having spent a couple of mornings in the garden I might revise that to 3 years hard labour! Everywhere I look trees and shrubs need attention, the invasive weeds removing and many plants need thinning out or cutting back. The ivy is heading for the farmers field next door and some of the weeds have settled in so well they have tap roots more than 2 feet long.
But it is not all doom and gloom, despite the rather wild and shaggy appearance, and the fact that some areas have been fully taken over by something far too vigorous, there are delightful little corners to discover where self seeded foxgloves and poppies have made a new home.
The picture below is by the lower woodland pond and I now have a very green mossy path with daisies that was once bark chippings – but I quite like this and will probably keep it as it is. The little seat by the pond has disappeared altogether into the undergrowth – it may take me a while to uncover it.
There will be plenty to keep us busy for a while – thankfully we do not have to maintain the caravan other than it needs a wash down on the outside to remove the green winter film it collects. And of course there is soup to make – mushroom maybe and tomato.
On our very last visit here back in January we did not get to replace the empty gas bottle so that was on the priority list, there is nothing like running out halfway through cooking a meal. So a trip into our nearest town of Stranraer was required in the afternoon…..that and it was good to take a break. Frequent rests are much needed at the moment until our backs are stronger and can cope with the strenuous work in the garden. Being at home for so long during lockdown just pottering around the house and our very small Yorkshire garden has left us with weaker unused muscles.
The weather was so lovely yesterday that whilst in Stranraer, which was eerily quiet, we decided to take a walk down to the harbour and round through Agnew Park. The light and cloud formation was incredible – I will leave you with a few pictures.
It is time for bed now – I am not sure I am making much sense in this ramble – I have an early start in the garden tomorrow….weather permiting. x
Six months, half a year……… gone already. I was wondering to myself what I had to show for it. Time is such a puzzle – often passing slowly at a snails pace and then too fast for comfort.
I am wondering too what promises July holds – my birthday mid month – so one of my favourite times of the year; warm weather, picnics, trips to the seaside, country walks – blissfully perfect summer days. Covid will not spoil this month for me and neither will this rather wet and windy spell of weather.
The start to July has been, like most of June, a bit of a wash out and has not felt very summery at all, but I remain hopeful. Our walks have been in the drizzle this last week, but it is good to get outside and breathe the fresh air without a mask. Each time I have picked a few flowers from the hedgerows to press or dry to collect the seeds. I am excited everytime I come across white foxgloves – I am not sure what it is about them, I just love their pure and majestic splendour, especially amongst a group of pink ones…..and I encourage them into the garden.
And how is everyone……getting to grips with the new rules and freedom? We rarely venture out but we did go into town last Monday for non-food essentials – to replenish our low stocks. I need not have worried over our safety as the town was deserted and some shops not even open. Luckily, one of our healthfood shops was up and running but with very low stocks, even now I am not sure if he is just selling his remaining stock to close down – I didn’t ask as maybe he doesn’t know either and maybe his future will depend on customer numbers.
We had WH Smiths to ourselves – I only wanted blotting paper for my flower press BUT I found myself browsing the magazines before I left – it feels like a long time since I have had a browse of anything, but with no-one to disturb me I carried on and could not leave empty handed when I saw a copy of Country Living Vintage Home magazine alone on the shelf. There is a new edition coming out in August too.
Finally I made my way round to the local sewing shop which was a little busier so I didn’t loiter in there for very long – I bought some fabric to finish the patchwork quilt but I am now having second thoughts about the colours and may use it to make little Sweetie a dress instead. I have this idea (always dangerous in my case) to make a summer dress with a floral cotton skirt and a knitted cotton bodice – I would say a crotched bodice but I don’t crotchet. If any reader knows of a pattern for a toddler that has a knitted bodice and fabric skirt I would be delighted if you could send me a link.
I managed to get the interfacing to make my new tablemats (did I not mention these before?). How could I resist this tea towel fabric with the colourful vegetables – the reverse will be plain white with one or two of the vegetables embroidered onto one corner. I have taken a tracing and will do a practise piece.
But, like many of my projects, it is a work in progress…….. so more on this later.
The shopping experience in town was better than I expected but I think it will be something that I only do now once in a while.
Little L has been busy too making this birthday card for DH. It has great significance for us as DH is called Grandad Monkey by Little L to distinguish him from her other grandad. DH once jokingly called her a little monkey and she immediately told him she was not a monkey she was a little girl but the term stuck and from being quite little this is how she has always remembered him.
We also saw my mum last weekend; it was lovely to see the smile on her face. We had homemade tomato and red pepper soup for lunch followed by a homemade cheese and tomato quiche, new potatoes and salad and a fresh cream chocolate sponge for dessert. All her favourite foods. We left two large slices of cake in the fridge for later….she was so grateful for our visit, it really cheered her up and we had a lovely chat, not that either of us had done very much to talk about.
The rain has set in this week so washing and gardening have not taken place and instead I have been cleaning and ironing. I always thought it was our busy lives that prevented me from having a cleaning routine but now I know that is not the truth; since lockdown I have had all the time in the world to get myself into a solid routine as far as the cleaning goes, but I now realise I tend to follow the weather and although I do like to clean and tend the house… if it is nice I am generally out in the garden.
The garden has been really neglected this week but I must give it some attention before we go away. Besides being quite windswept it is looking rather sad and sorry; flowers struggling to come out and those that have are wet and soggy. The lawns are waiting to be cut and everywhere we have tiny cherries blown from the tree – sadly, too hard and bitter to eat.
I was inspired by a page I noticed in the Country Living Vintage Home magazine I bought on making seed packets – what better way I thought to use my flower sketches from my sketchbooks.
So with a bit of scanning and printing, and adding lettering onto the pictures I came up with these – they are just prototypes at the moment but you get the idea and I will post about them again when I have made the whole collection.
We are presently waiting in the wings (so to speak) wondering if a trip to Scotland is ever going to materialise. We hear on the news from Nicola that Dumfries and Galloway have a sudden spike in cases around Gretna and Annan, Lockerbie and Dumfries and we canot get to the Mull without passing through these places. Is it OK for us to go we wonder, we are self contained at the cottage but will the locals be worried if we do?
I have become quite lazy over the last few months of lockdown and the thought of packing now feels like an enormous effort. I cannot for the life of me remember what we have stored at the caravan and what I brought home. I have a very handy packing list but this does not tell the whole picture, so it might just be a case of guesswork.
I have already baked an apple cake and two tiny crumbles to take with us and I have nut roast in the freezer. Everything else we will make up there but I will need a menu plan as we intend to take the food with us so we are not invading the local shops; as much as they want the business they do not want the virus and as part of the area is in lockdown we will respect that. If we take everything with us we will be completely self sufficient.
So I have nothing left to say other than my next post will hopefully be from bonnie Scotland. The journey and days at the cottage will be a new and different experience I expect like all the changes we are coping with since Covid took over our lives.
Goodness me, I don’t know about you but if I have to have one more conversation on the topic of the virus I think I will go mad! No matter who I phone or chat to the conversation always ends up, unintentionally of course, back to the virus – how we are doing, what we are doing, comparing notes and our understanding of the rules…..our lives are now defined by something we cannot even see and it is exhausting going over and over the same discussions.
I will say here in this post that we are all still well, still being cautious and ‘alert’ and that is enough on the subject I shall say no more!
So on to some much more mundane things – during the hot dry spell I had a tidy up in the shed – it always amazes me how much I manage to store in there and how many of the items I use most of the time. It certainly earns its keep. To free up a bit more space inside the shed some of the garden things that won’t hurt to be in the weather outdoors have now been reallocated to new places.
There is a space behind our shed out of sight where we store the bins, both wheelie and composting and the bags of potting compost, empty plantpots, and a stack of white plastic patio chairs for when we have garden parties. The fence between us and our neighbour provides a good vertical storage area as DH hammered in some nails to hang the wire netting cones and the riddle.
It is the same fence to which DH fixed the bracket for my hanging basket in the garden. I am well pleased, especially since the nasturtiums are now flowering at the same time as the foxgloves.
I do like a few strong clashing colours and they brighten up this corner of the garden as you can see in the longer view below.
We had a couple of very pleasant, lazy days sitting in the cool shade of the garden and sketching whilst it was far too hot to do anything else. It has been too long since I had my paintbox out and I am quite rusty. Foxgloves are the trickiest flowers to capture even after many attempts, but they were the only flowers near enough to the seat in the shade to sketch – I will persevere.
Something new is appearing in the garden daily now. The rose that I dug up and moved, because it always suffered from brown spot and never did much where it was, is now in a pot on the patio and is blooming. It has recovered well from it’s heavy prune – I felt I had been a bit brutal at the time but it has thrived with healthy green leaves and is in bud – it looks more like it did when I first bought it many years ago.
The petals of the peony above will have fallen now, swept away by the force of the winds last night. Such extremes of weather we are experiencing at the moment – one minute I am rushing around watering like mad and the next staking and protecting – but there is only so much you can do and then you have to leave the rest to chance.
The tall spires of the sidalcea in the sunny border are almost ready to bloom when we have the next bout of sunshine and will look like a mass of pale pink marshmallow.
For some reason the zinnias that I sowed indoors in April have not taken off yet, they have been quite reluctant to grow at any pace and may well miss the season altogether at this rate.
Whilst the cistus (rock rose) has been tremendous this year with so many continuous flowers appearing each day.
I have waited patiently for these little orange beauties to grow and open – Californian poppies – free Sarah Raven seeds with the May issue of Gardener’s World. I have not been disappointed, the colour is stunning.
Then there is the courgette plant which must like this position so much it has grown to giant proportions and producing flowers that are a full 10″ wide. I am not sure I will be decorating my salads with these – rather using them as the salad bowl maybe!
As we come out of our hibernation I know I will be sorry to leave this slow and leisurely time behind but we have duties to fulfil – a drive up to North Yorkshire to visit to my mum today – just for the afternoon, but it will give my sister a little time off – she must be quite exhausted doing all the caring. We will be travelling light but with a basket laden with all my mum’s favourite foods; a homemade quiche to have for lunch with salad and a few new Jersey Royals, a fresh cream chocolate sponge cake for afters and half a dozen small tins of creamed mushrooms to have on toast for her tea and a further half dozen tins of whole plum tomatoes, items I can get in my local Sainsbury’s that are unavailable where she is and will stock up her store cupboard for a few weeks.
Scotland is opening up too for travel from 3rd July so we will be making plans to go up to the cottage and stay in the caravan on site sometime soon – and I will get to see my beloved garden (or perhaps jungle) at long last. I feel a lot of hard work coming on.
Wishing you all a wonderful weekend whatever you may or may not be doing. Stay safe. xx
Back to rain and dull skies at the end of last week, but my lawns are loving it and have perked up a lot since that very dry spell we had a while ago; the ground had become quite hard in places and a drought on top of everything else is the last thing we need at the moment.
Thank you for all the comments and suggestions on my last post it is always interesting to hear how other people think and deal with life. Apologies for not answering each one individually. I will check out the Adriene yoga Jayne – it will be a while yet before my class begins again, so thanks.
It appears the world is in a big mess at the moment but then it always has been in one way or another – life is just messy and no matter how hard we work at trying to sort out the mess, more comes along.
I feel I had a very lazy week again last week and very little housework has been done, intended, but not done. A few hours in the garden, a lot of exercising and phone chats and a little time in the kitchen making a quiche is the sum total of my activity. I feel quite worn out – not by hard work but by the emotional turmoil we find ourselves in daily after watching the news – I don’t know about you but as the easing of lockdown and the relaxing of rules continues I feel as if I have been left stranded and need to find my way home – what is our new normal? – I need to know what I am doing and where I am going.
By last Friday we felt a change of scene was in order so we packed up a light lunch, put the sketchbooks in the car and set off over the Strines, part of the Peak district, that lies to the south of Holmfirth and the north west of Sheffield; a beautiful stretch of moorland, farmland and a collection of resevoirs – a haven for both wildlife and walkers. It was drizzling but we didn’t care it was just good to get out once in a while.
We sat in the car with our picnic admiring the view over Bradfield and then decided to check out the garden centre we once visited down the road at Loxley. We were in luck – the rain had kept people away and only four cars in the car park.
So we had a good hour wandering round ( following the one way system of course and distancing where necessary). They did not have the plants I wanted but I did buy some terracotta saucers, a plant pot, 2 bags of large cobbles and some seeds (White aquilegia, I keep losing my plants in the winter, and some basil). We were also given a free packet of lily bulbs that were going to be thrown away at close of day.
After a short walk to the village on Saturday morning to catch the post and a visit from the person who came to take our throat swabs, for the government Covid survey we have been asked to take part in, I went out in the garden. There was plenty to do; not much weeding but a lot of dead heading as the heavy rain had caught many of the flowers in the pots leaving them soggy and rotting before they had chance to open.
I played around with a few of the cobbles laying them out in different places – I am not 100% sure where they are going – it is just an idea at the moment and may not work out – luckily they are large enough to lay and then move, unlike the smaller gravel stones. I will keep you posted on this one.
The peonies in the sunny border have been gorgeous this year – the tight little buds unfold slowly to reveal such an expanse of froth and frills – sheer delight – though they continue to be at the mercy of the weather – the wind and rain are not helping them to bloom for very long but whilst they are still hanging on there I will savour every moment.
Yet more frills on the patio…..this is the clematis I bought last year with a token I had for my birthday, I planted it this year in a deep terracotta pot. Called Tranquilité it is a very compact plant only reaching about five feet making it very suitable for the patio. It does well in shady positions too so I can move it around the garden when I need to brighten up a dull spot.
As the honeysuckle flowers on the obelisk by the fence are beginning to fade and die, and before long the towering foxgloves will drop their petals leaving seedpods behind, this is one little corner that will need a new focal point. I found this old wicker hanging basket in the shed and planted it with the last of the Tom Thumb nasturtiums I grew. DH then made me a wooden bracket to attach to the fence so I could hang it up and let the nasturtiums tumble over the sides so that when the flowers come out (and I hope there will be a mass of them) there will be a lovely burst of orange hovering above the green foliage below, and if I am really lucky they will bloom whilst there is still the purple of the foxgloves to clash with.
There has also been a little maintenance required in the garden – reseeding in areas where the shrubs had overhung the grass; since March we have been doing some major pruning of the large shrubs in the shady corner, leaving us a bit exposed and overlooked now by the occupants of the house behind us but the viburnum and escallonia are both very vigorous so by next year we should be quite private once again. This is how it was before on the left – a very lush corner and now on the right with a bit of a big hole!
There is a conifer hedge beyond the shrubs that runs across the length of the bottom of our garden. You can just see a bit of it in the photo on the right – it belongs to the neighbour behind us and runs down the side of their garden as our two gardens meet. The face of the hedge on our side died years ago after a bad frost and not much of it remains in this corner – our shrubs always covered up the fact that the hedge is brown and quite dead leaving an unsightly hole in this corner. Unfortunatley, conifers don’t regenerate and as they have overgrown the boundary line we cannot put a fence there ourselves but once our shrubs regrow the unsightly mess will be hidden from view. I keep hoping one day our neighbour will have it removed and put up some fencing – at least a fence does not die.
Other little places are flourishing – this lavender and nemesia are many years old and they sit together like old friends in this vintage bread crock and keep on flowering every year.
This year I moved it from behind the rock rose which was overshadowing the pot; the lack of light had made the lavender a little straggly as it searched for sunlight. Now it sits on the patio in full sun and it must like its new home as the lavender has begun sprouting from the base again so next year I will be able to remove the long straggly older branches.
And this little space where I have the two mini greenhouses working hard this year is soon going to be the new site for…..
…one of these modest sized greenhouses. They are locally made and have real glass not styrene glazing and are quite well made for the price. It will be painted of course, as I want it to be as much a decorative feature in the garden as functional. We decided on a six foot wide / four foot deep (like the one on the right). Only having a small garden I don’t want it to dominate the space, rather merge into it.
So that is all my news of last week and I have no definite plans for the week ahead other than I need to tidy out the shed, order the greenhouse, definitely need to do some housework and sew together the little jumper I knitted. If I manage all that I will be a happy bunny.
Tonight we will venture out and go shopping, strictly the supermarket, we have not wanted or needed to go into the town centre yet – we have all we need and more to get by.
Hello everyone – I hope you are all well and safe. We are. Well safe at least from the virus and thank you for your messages of concern, I had not realised I had been away quite this long. Truth is my neck, shoulders and lower back have not been good again lately so I have been trying to stay off the computer and do more exercises to release the build up of tension I get in these areas; it seems most things I want to do, whether it be sewing, cooking or reading blogs, involve long periods with my head down – not a good posture.
It has also been difficult recently dealing with my mum from a distance as she goes into decline both physically and mentally and I am feeling the strain. Mum has just realised, now she is able to go to my sister’s house, that she doesn’t have the strength anymore to manouvre herself in and out of the car without the help of my sister’s husband and that shopping is looking like an activity she will not be participating in any longer.
The restrictions imposed on her, both from the Covid virus and her mobility, are now sending her into a state of depresion and witnessing the news on TV day after day of the recent events is making her feel quite angry. She is never able to disassociate herself from what is going on in the world, even though there is little she can do about it. The recent removal of the statue and the ongoing protests are causing her a great deal of irritation, though, I suspect this is an easy target for her anger at the moment when in reality she is probably angry with the fact that she is so immobile. My problem is trying to calm her down each evening when I phone her and we just keep going over the same topics with me trying to find a way for her to accept that people feel very strongly, enough to gather and protest even in these dangerous times with a killer virus still out there. I have always been a person able to see both sides of an issue – perhaps not always a good thing.
As the assistant in Sainsbury’s said to me the other day when I got chatting to him in the vegetable aisle “it is not just the case that Black Lives Matter but rather Every Life Matters”….he was black so had an interesting point of view on this and I tend to agree with him.
As for the fate of the statues – this is a hard call and I suspect will be yet another division in our society where we already have the north / south, rich / poor, leave / remain, black / white divides.
In our local town we have dear old Harold Wilson on a pedestal (for those overseas readers – a past Labour Prime Minister born locally of a working class family) located prominently just outside the railway station – I suspect many of the young people passing him daily are not even aware of who he was or what he is celebrated for. He took the place of an earlier statue of Sir Robert Peel who just crumbled away! Although Harold was a great campaigner for the rights of the underprivileged, like most of the people commemorated by a statue, he also had a few stains to his character. In Harold’s case, although far from being racist, he did authorise military aid during the Nigerian Civil War, an act that directly cost the lives of millions of black Africans (largely the Biafrans), in return for a supply of cheap oil. The photos of emaciated black children dying of hunger caused a huge political outcry when they were published in Britain and although the Nigerian Civil War of the 1960s is quite forgotten today it is still an episode in our history of overseas intervention by British military that remains.
Our local history is very much built on the textile mills owned by wealthy people like John Ramsden, Joseph Armitage, the Brooke and Brook families, John Crowther, Joseph Quarmby and many others. As far as I am aware there are no statues of them around the town, which is just as well as not all of them can be celebrated for their contribution to human welfare by any means; loss of life and limb for their mill workers was a constant daily threat, but they provided us with our many fine public buildings, schools and churches and were the major source of employment here.
In our little township one mill owner was quite philanthropic and like Sir Titus Salt of Saltaire provided homes, schools, a convalescent home and some pleasure grounds for his mill workers as well as good wages, a dining hall and baths. In fact one of these houses built in 1857 was the first house we bought after we married in the 70’s. It had a garden that stretched down to the mill stream and overlooked the pleasure grounds. The whole terrace has now been listed.
Originally built as under and over dwellings (quite a usual feature in the north) most of the houses, like the one above that we lived in, have been knocked through now to make one four storey dwelling. Sadly a lot of the original Georgian windows had already been replaced in favour of a more modern style, as on the ground floor kitchen window. As it was two houses originally we had a front door number 23 and a back door round the other side of number 21.
So our world is in a state of great unrest at the moment – but then looking at our local history I am reminded that it always has been in one way or another and I think about the words of John Ruskin, to the Merchants and Manufacturers of Bradford, regarding their plan to build a cloth exchange, 1864 during the time of the great wealth of the mill owners who were bringing about so much rapid change (rapid for those days).
“Change must come; but it is ours to determine whether change of growth, or change of death. Shall the Parthenon be in ruins on its rock, and Bolton Priory in its meadow, but these mills of yours be the consummation of the buildings of the earth, and their wheels be as the wheels of eternity ? Think you that ‘men may come and men may go,’ but mills go on for ever ? Not so; out of these, better or worse shall come; and it is for you to choose which”.
So will we choose for better or worse?
And now we are preparing for the new changes allowed to our movements as shops open once more and tourism starts up again – I feel a sadness that our economy is so reliant on us once again going out to ‘spend, spend, spend’. We seem to go around in circles trying to balance the environment with the effects we have on it by spending and tourism.
I find the best way to overcome any feelings of hopelessness is to either go for a walk or go in the garden as nature is very calming and grounding. So a walk around the block is an excellent tonic.
This verge covered in spring by a mass of daffodils is now dotted with moon pennies and gardens that lay bare before are suddenly filled with all the delights of summer perennials.
In and amongst the exercising and walking I have done a little making and baking. A choclate cake for DH’s birthday…
……and trying out a new recipe I found on the internet using fresh raspberries. It is such an easy recipe – a deliciously melted chocolate brownie mixture, in to which you drop the fresh raspberries and bake in these tiny spring form tins…..
….and eaten when still warm from the oven and topped with fresh cream of course.
Not everything in the kitchen has been baking though – I had a roll of puff pastry and goats cheese to use up, so made my favourite savoury goats cheese and walnut tart – quick to make and always a favourite in summer to have with salad.
I also found time to finish the padded bench cushion so we can while away some time in the garden in between weeding and dead heading.
The large dish is beginning to fill out nicely now with the annuals I planted, brightening up a dull corner.
…and the peonies have opened at last. This is one I bought a few years ago with a beautiful yellow centre. I always think you can never have too many peonies in a summer garden.
So not a lot going on here – but enough at the moment – I am making the most of this time while I can to recharge my batteries. I have a hairdressing appointment booked for the middle of July – all being well – DH needs a hair cut even more than me! We look forward to the day we can go to Scotland and see our garden up there and also visit mum and the grandchildren for a hug – it is a bit of a strange time now when we are not yet safe from the virus but not quite as much at risk – I am not even sure what the rules are anymore, but then we have not introduced many changes here yet and the only shopping we continue to do is our once every other week trip to the supermarket. Maybe we will venture out more soon when I feel the coast is clear.
Stay well and safe everyone – I will be round to catch up with everyone’s blogs soon.
And if you are reading this Suzanne – I couldn’t leave a comment but I am really sorry to see you say goodbye on your blog – I will miss you. x
Hello there – I hope you are all well and still managing to dodge the virus. The weeks are passing quickly now as we are rolling on into June and the recent warmer weather has been so welcome; though we desperately need rain – a good soaking would do my lawns the world of good and today looks like it might be the day as we have quite a gloomy cast to the sky.
We are still well here and following the old lockdown rules….well pretty much, and trying hard to keep our 2 metre distance when we have to go to a supermarket but in my region it seems like lockdown, even this ‘easedown’, is suddenly being ignored by a number of people who are resuming a more full on normal life very quickly – I see children from many different households playing together outside in the cul-de-sac, visitors coming and going to the houses nearby – even my neighbour had a professional family photo shoot last weekend and two visitors appeared on the drive later and disappeared indoors with three very large helium balloons for their son’s birthday. I have seen cafes open with people sat inside drinking coffee around a very small table and a carpet shop open – and I thought both of these businesses should still be closed.
I am feeling a little bit cross with Boris at the moment – I felt his ten minute speech outlining the easing of lockdown was not complex just rather unclear in delivery; even his own ministers gave a different version each time when questioned afterwards for further clarification. The initial three word advice of ‘Stay at home’ was very clear – replacing this with a 50 page document that resembles the Highway Code (that one tried desparately to memorise before a driving test) is not quite the same.
So in his own defence Boris has to resort to telling people to just use good old fashioned British common sense – something that I think is quite open to many different interpretations. Does he mean the same common sense he has shown during this pandemic when he carried on shaking hands, long after it had been deemed unsafe, or like the times he appeared in the earlier briefings almost shoulder to shoulder with Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance as they talked about the 2 metre distancing rule and then all three of them caught the virus, or forgetting to include care homes as being a potential risk and dropping the idea of testing, or even like his own father who totally ignored his advice to the public not to go to the pub for a drink – do you mean this kind of British common sense Boris – well, there is little hope for us then?
But enough about this dreary topic – I write to record and remember for myself and some topics are just worthy of an airing from time to time but there is enough to hear on the news each day without me ranting on and at the end of the day everyone will choose their own way through this with common sense in place or not. So lets move on quickly to life here at home.
So far it is good and as you can imagine I have spent most of my time in the garden – this lovely warm spell has given the seedlings a growth spurt but I am still reluctant to plant out yet as I have not had the opportunity to completely harden them off while the temperature continues to drop overnight almost to frost point, and now we have this raging wind sweeping down off the moors above us and just as the garden is beginning to look quite delightful in places too.
I must make a note to self to plant more alliums come September – I just love the way their heads bob around in quite a disorderly fashion above the other plants in the borders.
We managed to find a few pieces of wood so that DH could fix another shelf to the underneath part of this old galvanised steel seed tray bench which has become my potting bench. Having an extra shelf will allow me to keep pots and bits and pieces to hand and will no doubt be a good place to put the trays of plants to harden off overnight….when that time comes.
I have also been repurposing and recycling – not in a big way but it has helped me to use up a few odds and ends that I might otherwise not have had a use for and I have spent a few enjoyable days in my workroom creating new out of old.
I like the idea of altering and reusing a card and giving it a longer and new lease of life – some cards are just too nice to throw away and I have a box full of old card fronts so I made a couple of special cards for two dear friends of mine using cut down pieces of old cards that had once been sent to me, and a third to use up some decorative papers and embellishments from my craft collection with a few punched out mini butterflies using the punch given to me by the friend who I have made the card for.
I have a stock of blank tri-fold concertina cards that I bought so long ago I cannot even remember why I bought them – but they do make rather nice birthday cards and I was able to find a relevant birthday verse on the internet to paste inside.
Although I quite enjoyed the cutting and pasting they are not my usual style of card making – though my friends seem to like them – but I much prefer to originate my own work and the beginnings of these cards below are much more satisfying to make, but as yet the idea is very much a work in progress. Here I am using some of the flowers I pressed a while ago and mounting them onto the blank concertina cards to form some kind of nature notes card.
To continue with this I am waiting now for a new batch of flowers in the press, I have been snipping away in the garden…..forget-me-nots, buttercups and more daisies and collecting anything that catches my eye like some tiny maple keys in the supermarket car park.
The repurposing has not stopped at card making. I discovered a length of fabric that I bought many years ago to make a bench cushion in a drawer in the loft whilst checking to see if I had anything suitable to make masks out of. The woven upholstery weight blue check cotton fabric matched the little blue painted bench that we had back then. Sadly the bench fell apart from old age a couple of years ago and the cushion never got made.
We have a new metal bench now on the patio with a mesh seat that definitely needs a rug or cushion for comfort so yesterday I cut out the cushion pieces and made a filling from an old cot duvet I had put aside to take to a textile bank. It is perfect – I folded the wadding over into 4 layers and recovered it with the Vilene covering to stuff the cushion.
I decided to hold the wadding in place by doing some mock tufting – I didn’t want to put buttons on as sitting on them might be uncomfortable so I just used some heavy weight sewing cotton to draw both sides of the cushion together at the intersection of each of the large checks on the fabric, I also inserted two ties at one end of the cushion so it can be rolled up when not in use and tied in place for storage. It is not quite complete yet – a little more tufting to do but it does feel quite uplifting to get some of these projects finished and the repurposing means I have a new item at little cost and will no doubt last for a long time to come – probably longer than the bench!
Even in these slow living times I cannot believe how quickly the weeks go by and housework has taken a back seat here lately – I haven’t felt much in the mood during the hot weather and a quick tidy round and a hoover has kept things ticking over nicely.
Adding a few fresh flowers instantly brightens the place up and hopefuly detracts from seeing any dust! I love the way the colour of these tulips I bought last week blend in perfectly with the colour palette of this picture, an oil painting by the Scottish atrist Hazel Campbell…it was quite accidental but rather a nice accident.
Whilst we have been staying at home I have developed more of a routine and one that allows me to distinguish between week and weekend in these lockdown days that just roll on in quite a monotonous way. I have been washing on a Monday and Tuesday and avoiding the weekends; I quite like keeping the weekends a bit more special and not cleaning or washing; eating a ‘proper’ Sunday dinner (even a vegetarian version) also helps to keep the weekend a little more defined.
So although I am often to be found in the kitchen when I am not in the garden or workroom you would notice that I am cooking and baking rather than cleaning.
I picked out a few untried recipes from my folder, one of which was a new nut roast recipe that I wanted to make – just for a change. This one contains chopped tomatoes from a packet or tin, so has quite a loose open texture and goes well as a substitute for a Sunday roast with the usual veg and gravy or cold with salad. The recipe made a full 2lb loaf tin so half of it was cut up into slices to put in the freezer for later.
We had the first slice with roast parsnips, cabbage, cooked apple and a Yorkshire….smothered in gravy.
We have a birthday tomorrow on Bank Holiday Monday – it is DH’s but I won’t disclose which year – I will just say in the later part of the sixties, but thankfully not yet seventy – I only say thankfully as the years are galloping away now and feels like there is still so much we want to do and see in so little time.
To cheer him up I will make a cake and maybe we will go out in the car for a run, not to a popular beauty spot….just somewhere off the beaten track with a flask of hot chocolate and some cake and maybe take our sketchbooks. And then no doubt there will be a Zoom get together with some of the family.
Stay safe everyone and a warm welcome to more readers and followers….and apologies for anyone who has noticed my lack of comments recently on my favourite blogs – I am still reading along as time allows. x
Well, our road map for the immediate future is laid out before us and we should be ready to go…..but with the destination unknown I am feeling much more cautious than Boris to set off and therefore may not be relaxing the ‘stay at home’ message quite so quickly; in fact I will be still adhereing to Nicola’s message a little longer before I switch to just being alert.
I have never been a political blog and don’t intend to start now – and I do appreciate how difficult it must be to navigate your way through such a minefield as this, but I do feel that I would have handled things a little differently – a much earlier lockdown for one, and the cancellation of the two big mass gatherings that took place even as there was devistating news coming out of Italy and Spain which should have rung alarm bells back then. And now the plight of the care homes – another disaster waiting to happen in an overlooked sector of the population as all efforts were concentrated on the NHS alone.
It is only by the stringent efforts of the management company and residents at my mum’s retirement apartments that they have not, as yet, had any cases in there, but these places could be the next care homes as the carers visiting here have not been able to get hold of PPE and go from person to person unprotected potentially passing the virus around. My mum and all the residents have now been issued with a visor (or visa as she refers to it) by the management company for their protection and I believe the carers have at last managed to get hold of some PPE.
The visors have a different colour band at the top, mum’s is red, her friend has a green one but B is now concerned that she will not have enough matching outfits as green is not her colour! She is also the one that has mistook the message from Boris and has been trying to book a hairdressing appointment as she believes they can now open up.
My mum was also disappointed as she thought she would be able to go to my sister’s house now for tea and we had to say that no she still can’t, not just yet – ‘maybe soon’ I said to which she replied ‘oh yes maybe in a day or two’. It is harder to grasp the new ease down rules as they are more involved than just the stay at home message which was loud and clear (though only for some).
As the general public are now being advised to cover their faces I decided to make some masks for the family including a tiny one for Little L with unicorns for when she has to go with mum to the supermarket. I do feel like I am about to rob a bank wearing mine!
If we choose to we are now able to drive to any beauty spot in England no matter how far the destination – for us that would most likely be the Peak district in Derbyshire, the Yorkshire dales, the Lake district or the coast such as Whitby, or even Roundhay park in Leeds (I could meet up with Sybil) – but for two reasons we won’t be. The main one is out of respect for the people who live in these places and the second on a much more practical level, although we can pack up and take our own food, there will be very few public toilets open and without the facilities we might normally use in cafes and pubs I do not see how anyone could go very far anyway. As the weather warms up again and with the spring bank holiday approaching is it not highly likely that people are going to flock to all these beauty spots as a means of escape. I thought that travelling around spread it around, after all was that not how Covid 19 arrived in this country in the first place?
So DH and I will stay in our own little bubble here for a while longer – we are pretty much self contained and a few more weeks are not going to make a huge difference to us in the scheme of things and if it was to help save even one other person’s life it would be well worth it. We have resigned ourselves to the fact that we will not be able to go to the cottage (caravan) any time soon, but we always thought that would be the case – in fact the tiny villages around the area have got ‘village closed go home’ signs up across the entrance; so no point in fretting – what will be will be.
There are only two adjustments we may make – one is to take some bags of garden prunings to our local tip when the coast is clear and suss out the local garden centre when the immediate rush has passed as we desparately need compost and manure; however, if either places are found to be teeming with people we would not venture in – nothing is that important.
Since Sunday the weather has turned so cold it has felt like a return to winter and I have been warmly wrapping both myself up and the plants against the chill.
The fat filled coconut I hung out on Sunday afternoon has been devoured quickly by the birds and almost gone.
I like to think of myself as a hardy all weather gardener but with this arctic climate descending upon us my fingers have, at times, felt like they have suffered from frost bite after only the first few minutes out there – I would not have been surprised to find ice in my little blue pond. The main jobs to tackle in the garden was a quick check round and watering the bulbs with tomato feed – most of them are over now although the tulips are holding on for dear life and the alliums, like the peonies, are deciding if the temperature is suitable for making an appearance.
Many of the vegetable and salad plants are still under cloches whilst the bedding plants are packed into the mini greenhouse waiting anxiously for the moment I can put them into planters and borders without the fear of frosts.
In the borders the forget-me-nots are fading fast as the aquilegia, in their many shades of pinks and purples, have become the star of the show – springing up in all corners of the garden and gracefully dancing around in the wind… whilst I hold my breath in case they topple over and snap – there are far too many of them to stake them all.
And just in time the tangerine geums have emerged like a little beacon poking their heads out from amongst the sea of sky blue.
Waiting in the wings of the mini greenhouse the second round of seeds I set of pansies and nasturtiums, zinnias and cosmos are growing at quite a pace now, despite the weather, but I will pass on pricking them out at the moment – it is too much of a chore to stand in the cold and so will wait for the warmer weather to return at the weekend.
With little to do in the garden I have spent more of my time indoors where there has been far too much listening to the news and drinking tea; so yesterday I busied myself in the work room – paying bills, checking statements and finally doing a bit of sewing.
I also opened up my flower press to discover this spray of dicentra (bleeding heart) that I had put in there only last week. The colour of course is quite muted compared to the vivid pink when they are fresh, but still very pretty. I just need to think of some way of using them.
Whilst it was still warm last week we had many of our meals based around salad. On Saturday I made some little pea, mint and goats cheese fritters to go with it and yesterday we had leek and mushroom pasties in a flaky pastry (the pastry bought of course – the ready roll is so quick to use).
The fritters were easy enough to make – based on a thick pancake batter, I am sure they can be modified very easily to use up most vegetables or a variety of different cheeses. A few minutes in a hot pan and they were golden brown and ready to eat.
By Sunday we had run out of a few fresh foods – it is a quiet day usually in the town centre Sainsbury’s – a smaller branch, but we can usually find all we need and if not select an alternative…..but shopping this Sunday was horrendous – there were few people inside and no queue but little in the way of social distancing and I kept having to move out of the way as people came from nowhere and reached across me to grab something from the shelf. All a little too close for comfort.
And not wanting to linger any longer than I had to in there I just reached out and grabbed the first bunch of flowers near to hand – but aren’t these tulips delightful such a cheery colour and only £2.50.
If the cold weather continues I might carry on with the sewing – I have a few bits and pieces of mending and one or two projects to finish off….then there are more cards to make and the final sleeve of little Freddie’s jumper to knit.
Oh and maybe I will bake a few buns or perhaps some crisp melting moments covered in coconut to go with a hot chocolate. I doubt I will be sitting outside under the parasol anytime soon.
Have a great week however you are interpreting the new rules. xx
Wasn’t it a glorious day on VE day, warm, sunny and calm; just perfect for afternoon tea on the lawn and a chat with the neighbours. It was very much a spur of the moment thing for us when my friend from up the road rang and said “were we doing anything in the lower part of the cul-de-sac for VE day tomorrow and did we want to join in with the upper part who were going to be out on their lawns for afternoon tea at 4pm?”
I had not heard of any celebrations and neither had my immediate neighbours but we thought it was a good idea to join in so I hastily made some leaflets and at clapping time that evening gave them to all the houses round about in the close telling everyone if they wanted to join in to be out on their front lawns the next day at 4pm. Not everyone in the cul-de-sac joined in, but the majority of people were just glad of getting out of the house and doing a little socialising – be it at a safe distance.
The next day, early in the morning our cul-de-sac swung into action – it was suddenly ‘bustling’ as neighbours appeared one by one and lawns were mown, bunting and flags went up, and chairs and tables put in place – the activity only ceasing to observe the two minute silence at 11am.
Preparations continued indoors as people baked and maked until at 4 pm they reappeared carrying trays laden with pots of tea and plates overflowing with sandwiches, cakes, even pizzas – whatever spread could be created at such short notice.
For some, like us, it was done in style with ‘proper’ white linen table cloth, cake stands, vases of flowers and china tea pots; for others a hastily found picnic table or rug spread on the lawn and a couple of mugs of tea with a few homemade ‘doorsteps’.
After tea we got to chat with neighbours new and old and heard of their experiences of Covid 19 and the lockdown and most of them, I would say, are concerned as to how the ‘release’ and easing of the lockdown will unfold. Many suggesting they will be taking it more slowly perhaps than the government will be advising and making their own easement plans even before Boris announces his plans today. Coming out of lockdown will be like coming out of hibernation and I will be with the slow and careful camp for sure. I think the tortoise will win the day.
As this hot spell continues I have suddenly got a heap of jobs to do in the garden potting on as well as a little pottering. It is tempting to plant up some of the pots and baskets with annuals but with the cold spell forecast and possible late frosts, I decided to hang fire and transplant some of the seedlings into bigger pots in the meantime. What a shame I didn’t get to buy my greenhouse last year – I really need one now as my mini greenhouse is rather full and limited for head room as the seedlings in the trays are starting to gain height.
Outdoors I have my vegetables and salads tucked up under cloches that I remove during the day – it was so warm the last few days you could almost here the seedlings growing and I have been astounded that there are signs that the potatoes on on their way as they finally push through the earth making little mounds like a mole – I had given up hope as I feared the seed potatoes had not sprouted very well when I planted them.
Sadly the forget-me-nots, that are currently covering my borders like a carpet, will be over very soon. Such a pretty little flower – I keep refilling the jug on the kitchen window sill and adding in some of the clematis montana, which has flowered profusely outside my front door, and the odd buttercup that I find hiding in my borders…they add a lovely touch of colour.
As the garden is unfolding into a wonderful canvas of colour just waiting to be painted I felt the desire to idle away part of the day sketching in the garden yesterday. It has really been far too long since I have put paint on paper and done anything worthwhile in my sketchbook – in fact I had to hunt around to find it as I gathered up brushes and paints to get started. I find the best way to get back into painting is to do some very quick 2 minute sketches – just getting something down on paper without bothering too much of the result.
On an evening, whilst watching repeats go around on the TV, Father Brown, Midsommer Murders (the 8 o’clock slot is my main viewing time) and if I don’t mind a late night – New Tricks often follows on, I have been doing a few rows of knitting but remain sceptical that it will be finished in time before little Freddie turns two next year – such is the pace that I go at!
This was my second attempt at the neckline – I pulled back the first as it did not fall into a well formed edge the first time and failed the inspection – in the words of Sybil on her blog, I failed miserably – so after consulting the wonderful Youtube masters of knitting I discovered how to form a fully fashioned edging with stitches that lean to the right or left – though I would say my attempt is probably more ‘fashioned’ than fully. The sleeves should be fairly straight forward if I can manage to increase on the correct rows – at least there is no pattern on the bottom of them that requires more concentration than I can muster by the evening.
Amidst all the fun stuff I really must get back to doing some targetted exercises for my knee – although gardening is good exercise for some things I do need to keep up with the stretching and strengthening exercises as well – though of the two types of exercise ….. give me gardening anyday – so much more variable as well as pleasurable. All daily walks, for our allowed daily hour, have recently been suspended as I have taken to resting and icing my knee again – is there such a malady as ‘irritable’ knee because that is what it is – if it does not like something it is very quick to grumble – it reminds me of Mrs Pringles leg in the Miss Read books!
Of the family there is litle change in the news – Mum is getting used to her own company inside her own four walls – entertained only by Talking Pictures and reruns of Miss Marple on TV; elder daughter , coming to terms with turning 40, and her partner are working all hours as they juggle childcare around Zoom log ins for lengthy meetings and younger daughter copes 24/7 with the two energetic weenies.
It would seem we have all made our own way along this unknown journey, sometimes just casually drifting along and sometimes with intent and whilst for some it has seemed like going into a very dark tunnel with no end in sight, for others the time is whizzing by as they rush to tackle a list of jobs on the ‘one day’ list and now scramble to get them finished in time for the inevitable return to the frantic world of balancing work and home life. How many have vowed to make changes, but how many will?
I too am planning on change – during the lockdown I have reconnected with our home in a big way and have had the space to identify exactly how I would prefer to manage my time in the future, doing more of what pleases my soul, and what gives me the greatest amount of satisfaction. A new balance is going to be my goal – but one seriously weighted to having more time for ourselves.
I leave you now as I feel the cold weather already descending upon us, waiting with bated breath for the Boris briefing today – in the meantime anyone for a nice hot cuppa and a scone? xx
Amazing things happen when you stay at home – well they do for us. We relax. Usually we are busy either packing or unpacking, coming and going so this must be the longest period we have spent at home for many years and I am loving it.
For longer than I care to remember we have been up and down to either my mum’s, my mum in law’s (when she was still with us) and my daughter’s houses visiting and then there were all the trips up to the cottage. It was quite normal that we only spent one weekend in four actually at home. In fact one year, whilst both of us were still working full time, we spent every weekend away from home for 13 consecutive weekends. I can’t say I can recommend it. This was during a period when my mum in law’s house (90 miles south) had to be decorated to go on the market when she moved into a care home, we also had my mum to visit (90 miles north) and we went up to our cottage in Scotland in between whilst renovation works were in full swing.
Having to stay at home has meant much more time to undertake all those things I have been meaning to do for ages – in fact I know I will not have enough time to get through them all before normality decends upon us once again.
For much of the time I have been busy in the kitchen, making sure nothing goes to waste.
Remember the birthday cake that I cut down for my daughter. I was left with three circles of cake. Little L drew in some strawberries for me but I decided to cut up the circles and freeze them until I could buy raspberries on our next shopping trip – no popping out to the shops for bits and pieces at the moment, we make do or wait.
And it was worth the wait!
I cut the cake into small pieces and added a layer of fresh raspberries then poured over a raspberry jelly that needed using up; once it was set I topped it with custard, double cream, more raspberries and a sprinking of almonds and dark chocolate strands.
As well as making trifle I was reminded reading Suzanne’s blog and her crimble crumble that I was going to use up the last of my frozen blackberries and a container of apple to make some blackberry and apple crumbles. Thanks for that Suzanne – they were delicious with ice-cream.
I also had some watercress left over from the ‘green soup’ DH made so I made one of my favourite summer recipes Watercress and Spring Onion quiches. Just the right size to eat with a little mixed salad and warm potato salad.
There is always plenty to do in the garden and this week the weather has ranged from cool to very hot. Yesterday I washed all the plant pots and left them to dry in the sun ready for potting on some of the seedlings that have now outgrown the trays.
Each day I come across more delightful little surprises. The tulips that begin life as a pale cream, then acquire pink markings as the petals open out…..
…have now magically transformed into a vivid pink as if someone has painted them overnight – maybe it is those fairies at the bottom of my garden by the toadstool!
This shady corner has some self seeded purple aquilegias growing amongst this bright green euphorbia that has worked its way under the fence from next door. A welcome gate crasher. I love the way nature can make its own wonderful colour combinations if left alone. It is always much better at garden design than I am.
The garden is looking quite good now with all the attention I have heaped upon it so far this year. This week we have been doing some much needed hard pruning of a few leggy and overgrown shrubs – so one or two areas of the garden are looking a bit sparse and exposed – hopefully it will not be long before they grow back to some mass again and give us our privacy back. I will show you some before and after photos soon of our hard work.
Because the weather has been so pleasant I thought it would be nice to make a special tea to sit and eat in the garden so that we could admire our handiwork. As we had trifle and some individual quiches I decided to bake a few fruit scones after lunch and make a plate of sandwiches with tomatoes, cucumber and a slice or two of cheese.
It was such a treat to sit out in this warm weather and while it is especially peaceful at the moment – only the birds could be heard as they busily flit around the garden hunting for worms in my freshly weeded borders.
We both agreed we should do this more often and as it happens it was good practise for the VE day street party celebrations we are taking part in today – don’t worry it is a social distancing party where we will all be sitting more than the recommended 2 metres away in our own front gardens eating our own afternoon tea – but I daresay we will all be singing together.