homestead :: domestic bliss

There is no denying that it has turned much cooler since the unexpected mini heatwave over the recent Bank Holiday weekend, but like most people I feel that we have said goodbye to summer now….ready or not.

My first reaction has been to swap the cooler cotton duvet cover for the extra warmth of my cosy flannelette. This seems a little early compared to other years and I may even throw on a blanket tonight or just grab a hot water bottle. The heating has started to come on in the mornings too now so the temperature must have dropped low enough to trigger the thermostat. Are we possibly looking at a long cold winter? I may need a new warm coat.

The kitchen is a blissfully warm place to be right now. After months of salads I am ready for a change to warmer, more satisfying meals using root vegetables and pulses and looking forward to roasted veggies with a good handful of herbs scattered on top and our favourite nutloaves. I am also being mindful of minimising our food waste and using up all the vegetables from the weekly shop in whatever creative ways come to mind.

We ended the week with a few oddments – a couple of leeks, one carrot, a courgette and two baking potatoes – once chopped I added some celery and onions together with a packet of brown lentils and made a good old warming Lentil Stew – enough for two days. Eaten with a chunk of bread and butter it was everything that I love about autumn food.

Whilst browsing my recipe books looking for some new ideas I noticed a recipe for Carrot and Walnut Loaf that I haven’t made for a very long time – a bit different from our usual nut loaf – vibrant warm colours with the mix of carrot and tomato paste – so thought I would make some to freeze ready to take with us to the cottage – when we eventually get to go. We have only just got the car back from the garage after 3 days…..I was expecting a very large bill…..one that you have to sit down for……however, due to one thing and another (won’t bore you with the details) the lovely garage man only charged us for the parts and no labour costs.

It has become almost a daily ritual for one of us to make a batch of soup – this week I made tomato and red pepper and a healthy green soup using a bag of the ready washed watercress, spinach and lettuce – throwing in celery, leeks and frozen peas – plenty of iron and no doubt calcium. I had a recipe for parmesan crisps that I have wanted to try for ages – I can tell you they are simply more than moreish and keep crisp in the fridge for days. I will add the instructions to my recipe tab.

The blackberries we gathered are now partly cooked and in the freezer. This little fellow below crawled out of them, luckily before they went into the pot.

He is so cute and so tiny – I have never seen a snail so small – he is on some kitchen paper here and magnified in the photo – measuring only about 0.5 cms in reality, smaller than my little finger nail. After surviving the ride home and then being rinsed in salt water I decided he should now have the freedom to live in the garden. I might regret that!

This is the longest few days we have had at home for the last two months so there has been a lot of ‘jobbing’ going on here. Plenty of domestic chores – stripping beds (as well as walls) , scrubbing floors and generally all those day to day normal household tasks. And lots of tea – mostly ginger, sometimes green or even just ordinary black.

But in and amongst and during some of the rainy days I have been sorting through my kitchenware – this is a category I both love to collect (mmm…. just how many blue patterned bowls do I really need) and find hard to part with. The one in one out rule does not work here so the new drinking glasses (only £4 for six from IKEA) – although they are a replacement still needed a home. The paper cocktail umberellas are used when Little L comes to stay – she always takes her glass of milk with one and a stripey paper straw of course – it has become a bit of a tradition now, granny’s little treat. I always loved them when I was a child and my granny used to save them for me when she had been out drinkng cocktails. I can’t say I go out for cocktails in the same way – mine just come courtesy of Sainsbury’s!

Progress on the pantry is steady – DH has stripped the walls of both paper and the old magnolia paint beneath and has started filling in holes. The back window wall needs a skim of plaster as does the ceiling – so now we wait to have someone come to do that.

The garden has been an absolute picture of colour this year and there are still plenty of bright spots here and there – but the colder wet weather is certainly bringing them to an end sooner than usual. It has been touch and go with the outdoor tomatoes but at last I think they are on the turn – just a little more sunshine should do it. Little L helped me sow a few more lettuce seeds – I may have to make some kind of cloche to help them on their way.

We have been busy cleaning and putting tools away in my new shed, which is now painted a lovely shade of grey and ready to take the harsh wet winter weather here. The festoon lighting has been taken down – drying off in the airing cupboard to prevent any rust. I decided they seemed a bit too delicate to be out over winter. I felt a bit sad to see them go and the garden feels a bit empty at night without the little trail of lights streaking across the darkness.

My dad’s old stool will have to go away too and the garden seats covered if this rain ever stops long enough for us to get all the outside jobs done. With such a turn in the weather there seems to be more of an urgency this year to get everything under wraps.

And surprise, surprise in my inbox…..I only mentioned that I needed this the other day as I was running out of face cream – a 20% discount voucher from Neal’s Yard. I decided to stick with the intense serum but drop to the cheaper Hydrating Frankincense cream to save a little money. I also had £12.90 in reward points to use so the two items were a lot less than expected.

The Liz Earle shampoo was covered using my Boots advantage points so I was well pleased with my savings this week. In fact the whole week has been quite a low spend week which is a good start to the month.

I decided I need to ease myself back into some craft work and hesitantly took the baby jumper I had been knitting out of the basket – I abandoned it sometime in May whilst making the Christening dress and never got back to it. I really couldn’t remember where I had left off but had a faint recollection that it involved some hand sewing of the seams before I can knit the last little bit of rib around the hood. I am pretty sure it will be far too small now for Sweetie so I only hope that Freddie might like it despite the bit of pink.

I have almost finished the first of the library book stack The Life of Stuff – an interesting read though I am glad to be at the end as hoarding is quite a depressing subject. I am dithering now between Christmas at Thrush Green and Not in your Genes for my next read. Do I want to be entertained or educated….

Have a lovely weekend everyone and welcome to new readers.

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.

sEAsons ~ the delights of Spring

And Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast
rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.
~Percy Bysshe Shelley, “The Sensitive Plant”

Crocus Iris Snowdrop

The weather was so lovely at the weekend you could sense the fresh clean smell of Spring in the air – I just had to down tools inside and go outside for a while.  In the space of a couple of hours I had tidied up a few of the borders, gathered the last of the leaves and replaced some of the earth scratched up by the local cats.   The cats can be quite a problem so to protect the emerging plants and prevent them from being uprooted I pushed a few more twiggy sticks around the shoots – at least the crocus in the lawn are safe.

It is very encouraging at this time of year to see little buds appearing on most of the plants and signs of life poking through the ground here and there – I just hope any future frosts or snow does not damage them.

I also had a visit to our local independent garden centre because I still had £60 left on my voucher (the one the partners gave me when I left work).  The expiry date was 2nd February  this year but I managed to persuade them to extend it for another month as they have very little stock of anything at the moment – the season for them has not yet started and they do not sell many garden tools or gardening products like the large national garden centres.

In the end we decided on a Braeburn apple tree on M27 rootstock for our Scottish garden as it is a good time for planting and we will be visiting our cottage (caravan) in a few days time and can take it with us in the car.

We have a bit of a mystery in that in Scotland we have a Bramley apple tree and it has always fruited well – abundantly well last Autumn – but they are not self-fertile and are actually classed as triploid (requiring two other apple trees)  but there are no other apple trees or crab apples in our garden or the neighbourhood yet it keeps on producing fruit.  The Braeburn is self fertile but might be a reluctant fruiter so far North – we are banking on the mild Gulf stream climate that we have at the cottage to help it along but it may not like the winds.  We will give it a go.

With the remaining money I chose another of the glazed Heritage pots to match the one below that I bought last Autumn only a smaller sized one this time.I have always thought the one I got to put beside our front door looks a bit lonely so now it will have some company.  With the last £6 on the voucher I bought three pots of lovely pink tulips to go in it.

Today the weather is much cooler again and quite windy – good for the washing though – I have been working my way down all the dust sheets from the decorating at my daughter’s house.  I think we have more than we need now between us so the worst of them will be going out, they are not even fit for the rag bin.

I always like this time of year  – I feel energised to start cleaning and clearing, blowing away the cobwebs that have gathered in the corners over the winter and at the moment I am a little more motivated after feeling rather lethargic and probably a little lazy since Christmas.

homestEAd ~ out in the garden

Another glorious day today, bright, sunny and clear blue skies – after stripping the bed and throwing the bedding in the washer I was tempted out into the garden and ended up staying out all day…with the washing.  I planted Allium, narcissus and tulip bulbs, cleared the last of the leaves that had fallen into the borders and spread a bit of manure around some of the plants.CyclamenThe Cyclamens are now planted in the front border by the footpath providing a splash of colour, although there is still quite a bit here and there in the garden.HebeMeanwhile DH spent time on the new shed.  It is has now been slotted into the space at the side of our house and waiting a fit out inside – a few tool hooks and some shelving.  We are reusing some white melamine that was once part of the wardrobe in my eldest daughter’s room, it is still in good condition so a shame to waste it and it will create a bit more space in the garage.

The shed is draped in polythene sheet for the moment to protect it from the rain and allow it to dry out enough to paint.  It will be so good to get the gardening equipment out of the garage and back to where it should be. Once the shed is finished DH will be concentrating on painting the front door.  We have plans to get a new one but to make it look more presentable for the time being we are going to paint the present one.

I may have mentioned that we had been contacted by the National Statistics Office to take part in a survey.  We agreed to be in today and the nice gentleman came at 5pm which was helpful as by then it was far too dark to garden.  The questions were not difficult – mainly about education, career and our present circumstances.  It was hard remembering just how many GCE’s I have though and what the subjects were;  no-one has asked me that for a long time.

I still have the selection bags to make.I tried out a couple of prototypes (apologies for the colour – flash light is never great) using the wrapping paper and some old cut up Christmas cards as tags.  I will probably go with the one on the left with the string tie though each tag will be different.  I have made a note of the paper size I used on the trial one so I can cut them out and make them up all at once and have a bit of a production line going…putting 5 assorted fun sized chocolate bars into each bag will make 8 bags.

Tomorrow I shall have to decide whether to make the bags or clean out my freezer – I doubt I will get both done as I will need to iron the bedding I washed today and also pack to go back up to our daughter’s for the celebration this weekend.  I am really looking forward to seeing Little L and Sweetie again.

But not the packing!

So a few more jobs off the list – shame I have to add some new ones on.

homestEAd ~ a few pleasureable chores

Roses

I woke up to sunshine this morning and no rain in sight – still quite cool though, but I don’t mind that – I can just put a jumper on.  I had a few chores and errands to attend to – the most important was a visit to my friend.

It was so lovely outside I decided to walk over to my friend’s house with these flowers and a card – she has just lost her dad  – I know just how she will be feeling.  It is twelve years since my dad died and the loss never goes away.

I like to customise my gifts of flowers by wrapping them myself to make them a bit more special.  I also like to give small posy sized bunches of flowers rather than large bouquets but these can be hard to find in a supermarket so I just bought a small bunch of those ballerina blush pink roses from Sainsbury’s.  I removed all their cellophane packaging and then wrapped them in plain brown parcel paper lined with the pretty tissue paper that came in the carrier bag with my Neal’s Yard creams and tied them with cord.  I always keep a stash of used tissue paper – it comes in useful for many things – a quick smoothing over with the iron and voila it is like new and this has such a striking pattern I couldn’t throw it away.  I added a little brown parcel tag that I had stamped with a simple message.

Once back home I filled my bathroom cupboard with the stock of lotions and potions I had bought on Wednesday.  Unlike my recent hesitation with keeping too many grocery products I do like to see a good stock of toiletries – I only buy them when on offer and as few of them come from the supermarket stocking up means I can avoid having to go to town or Meadowhall all the time when something runs out.

Neal's Yard

I love the iconic blue glass bottles from Neal’s Yard and the fact that using these means they can leave out preservatives from most of their products.  They are fully recyclable but I often find uses for them anyway. The little serum bottles I wash out and refill with my own mix of essential oils and use this for massaging my tense neck and shoulders after a hard day or my feet when I have a home style pedicure.   Sheer bliss.

Most of the ironing is done now – I find ironing the linen quite rewarding – I love getting into a freshly made bed at night, somehow I am sure I sleep better.  You cannot beat the smell and feel of line dried linen, especially on a windy day – I try to catch it just as it is still slightly damp and then spray with a linen spray and iron immediately – the mix of outdoor freshness with a little scent makes it a pleasurable task – this is my all time favourite with Orange Blossom and Bergamot essential oils – I am hoping I can recreate something similar myself when the bottle runs out as it is no longer available.

Ironing

DH has been working his way up the cherry tree pruning branch by branch – it looks a little stark now but I know come next summer it will be heading for our windows at a rate of knots once again.  What a shame the scaffolding around the house isn’t nearer the cherry tree – it would have served a dual purpose.  As I mentioned to Mary (who is a bit concerned as to DH’s safety)  I think climbing the cherry tree might just be his boy scout side coming out and he will soon realise he is getting a bit past that now!!

Tomorrow if the weather holds we have planned to attend the Bakewell Open Gardens event – we attended a couple of years ago and found some fascinating places we didn’t even know existed.  The nice thing about Bakewell is that the open gardens are in a different part of the town each year so they are full of new surprises.

If by any chance it does rain as forecast then it will be more ironing (yes there is still more to go yet) and maybe some paperwork to attend to (for paperwork read bills to pay!)  I have already prepared the guest room for my mum coming – I might just add a few flowers by the bedside tomorrow.  I think she may well get a shock on Tuesday morning when she wakes up and opens the blind to see the builders staring back at her from the scaffold!!

homestEAd ~ the grass is always greener

Yesterday was quite a long day over at daughter’s house.  I was too tired even to write a post.  I didn’t even feel that satisfaction of a job well done either as progress was slow to non-existent.  DH was similar, he is doing the hallway – preparation stage, so not a lot to see other than filled in cracks and holes.

Isn’t it always the way that one day you seem to make a lot of progress and then the next hardly any.  This was definitely a hardly any.

I am challenged at the moment by both the hot weather and a bit of dithering on my part over the patch of garden I am ‘transforming’ at present.

Before I cleared this part it had been home to the many raspberry plants but had also acquired rosebay willow-herb and the large-leaved Persicania (Knotweed).  The raspberry plants have since been relocated to the back of the garden and we will make a proper frame to support them soon.

I thought I had a plan – my idea was to put gravel down on this bit of garden on the other side of the path to create a little seating area with a few plants mainly in pots and an obelisk towards the back corner and incorporating the plants already in situ.

My problem here was twofold – next doors fence which is stepped due to the gradient has a little gap at each bottom right hand corner and the gravel on the other side of the fence keeps spilling through.  So an edging board is required to prevent this – and that will need help in the shape of a bit of muscle to hammer the supporting pegs and boards in place.

The second problem is the two existing plants to the left of the photo beyond the pole – a large patch of Johnson’s blue geranium (flowering over) and the yellow flower I pictured in my last post (still blooming).  I was going to work around these and put some stone edging around them to make a border but after playing around in a variety of ways nothing seemed to work well and in the end I decided to keep the design clean and simple – remove the plants and gravel the whole area otherwise the whole thing was in danger of becoming bitty.

To be able to make a start today I will have to wait until the afternoon when there will be some shade over the plot.  There is quite a bit of earth to remove to get to a level low enough for the path edging to contain the gravel once it is laid.  There lies another problem – what to do with all the spare soil – probably a raised bed in the vegetable patch by the shed.

The aim of this garden transformation is to make the garden look more appealing and low maintenance.  Most of their neighbourhood are young,  first time buyers, both working so they seem to prefer all lawn or all gravel or a mixture of both but nothing that needs very much maintenance.

We are spending a minimum amount for maximum reward and keeping most of the mature shrubs that give the garden some shape and interest. The turf from B&Q for the extension to the existing lawn (well grass) cost about £50 but well worth it.  It covers the patch that had two really old straggly shrubs well past their best and removing them has opened up this space considerably and added some visual length to the garden.

The new grass has grown remarkably well despite this hot weather and was the greenest kid on the block by far (apart from the astro turf next door!).

There was great excitement yesterday for the first cutting and we all stood round afterwards admiring.  The join and difference in colour is not as noticeable now it is cut (I should have taken an after photo so you will have to take my word for it!) and with some extra care and attention and a bit more grass feed and weed the older part should start to thicken out and green up to match.

The large silver Senecio (or Brachyglottis as it has been renamed – I hate that name so I always revert to its former) in the middle of the picture has almost finished flowering and will be due a bit of a trim to contain it in the space.

So before I go round to sort my daughter’s garden I have a little bit to do in my own then back to work again tomorrow  – only 7 days to go now to the big day.

Thank you to everyone for your great suggestions for when I leave work – I am storing up the information and when I get some time for myself to think about my next moves I will be sharing them with you.

Oh and welcome to my new followers – I can never quite believe anyone would want to sign up for my daily ramblings!

But for now while the sun shines I need to make …a seating area!

Back soon x

 

homestEAd ~ rEAdy…stEAdy…decorate

After sorting out a few things at home yesterday it was time to go back to my daughter’s house across town to continue helping them get their house in order.

When I say in order I am not referring to a bit of tidying or cleaning – no, by order I mean the complete works – decorating, finishing off half completed jobs and revamping not to mention the outside of the house, painting the front door and window sills, laying turf and putting down gravel.  Then there is the shed (needs a coat of paint) and the garage (ditto).

So welcome to Where the journey takes me 2 – Painters, Decorators, Odd Jobbers and Landscape Gardeners Limited.

My daughter has a small house but in the eight years they have lived there they have only finished the two bedrooms and put in a new bathroom.  We offered to help them sort the rest of the house out ready to put on the market at some future date and to make it a nicer environment for them to live in until then.

About 3 years ago they removed the dividing wall between the tiny kitchen and the dining room to make one large space and all the cabinets, worktops and the laminate floor were put in place.  It just needed decorating and the dishwasher installing which DH and SIL were responsible for doing and was finished just before our holiday.

At last they have a fully functioning kitchen and dining room and it is looking much more like a usable space.  In the dining area they have a dining suite that belonged to my mum and dad, it was one of the first pieces of furniture that they saved up to buy when they got married.

The suite is an original vintage 1950’s  – The sideboard design was first shown at the Festival of Britain, 1951 and there is one permanently displayed at the V&A.  It is mahogany with Bombay rosewood veneered doors that feature a striking double helix pattern cut to reveal white birch beneath.  It was designed by David Booth, made by Gordon Russell of Broadway and sold in Heal’s of London – although I believe my mum and dad bought it from Robert Brothers department store in Sheffield.  We have lovingly cleaned and polished it and this little family treasure looks really quite nice in its new home.

My role in this makeover (when not polishing furniture and making cups of tea) is as the landscape gardener – before our holiday I removed many old woody shrubs that had grown far too large for the space and extended the lawn – not the best time to lay turf with the hot weather but it has survived and is looking green and ready for cutting.

They have quite a few Hydrangeas which adds a nice bit of colour to the garden along with these lovely yellow flowers.  The name escapes me, I have never grown them but they do have a really long flowering time.

Tomorrow if the weather holds I will be preparing another area of the garden to lay gravel and make a seating area.  The ground is so hard now I am having to break it up with the pick.

It has been a lot of hard work, some days we have been there until 8 o’clock at night and we were glad of the break when we went on holiday.  It took a lot of ‘getting back into it’ today first day back on the job – I estimate it will take us another three weeks to complete everything if we are lucky.

I hope everyone is enjoying the rain and a rest from all the watering.

Back soon x