dear diary :: all about the garden

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.

Have a great week everyone and stay safe. x

dear diary :: staying home, staying occupied

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.

homestead :: the pantry tour

Don’t we all love a good before and after story – well this is one with quite a transformation. The space we now call the pantry started life as a downstairs cloakroom positioned just off the kitchen and one that we hardly ever used; sometimes it was a job to squeeze in there at all.

It was really a forgotten and unloved space with a basin and toilet, tiles and wallpaper from the 80’s.

Many of our neighbours have knocked down their cloakroom walls to incorporate the extra space into a bigger kitchen. With our layout this would not really have helped us so we chose to take out the basin and toilet and make the room into extra storage; after all it had become a dumping ground anyway!

So after a good declutter and a little rearranging and a lot of hard work from DH we have gone from this…….

….to this……

and finally this.

……..And this…….

………to this

These Ikea cookie cutters are too big to fit into the large glass storage jar on the windowsill so I found two of those clear licker sticker hooks and attached them to the window to hang them on. I quite like the way they are both decorative and useful.

I now have a home for my juicer too and as DH has put in some sockets I can use it in here – we could also fit in a small microwave should we ever decide we wanted one.

Starting at the wall cupboard to the left of the window on the back wall – we had to cut this ordinary wall cupboard down to half its depth as the base units we used beneath are actually Ikea wall units too, without doors, but we didn’t want the wall cupboard to stick out quite as far. We used a full length door with aluminium frame and frosted glazing so I can hide away medicines and homeopathic remedies in here as well as small jars of cake sprinkles and other baking goods.

The bread bin is a new addition (John Lewis Home £16)- we chose it because it has a flip up lid which I prefer, it is stainless steel and not as wide as our previous roll top wooden one so saves on space too.

We had one of those ‘left over’ narrow spaces which has actually turned out to be quite useful. The long slot at the bottom stores cooling racks, my glass pastry making sheet, large chopping boards and other things too large to store elsewhere. In the slots above I managed to find some clear plastic long and narrow fridge storage containers that slide out and are good for holding packet foods, such as stuffing, and my selection of herbal teabags.

There are three large open shelves beneath the counter top which go right into the corner and I can store less used items here – the maslin pan, baskets and mats and cake making and decorating items as well as some cake tins.

Above the counter top DH built some fixed shelving. I liked the look of the painted wooden brackets that we got from B&Q. I doubt I will need to alter the depth of the shelving in the future as the glass storage jars will last a lifetime (well mine anyway) and I don’t envisage needing to replace them. It is wonderful to see at a glance now what we have and what needs replenishing.

The very top shelf is now home to my old tin collection.

The tall fitment has shelving that is flexible – I have been moving the shelves around until I have (I think) finally found the best combination of shelf positions. The top few shelves have stores of staple foods such as canned foods, nuts, dried fruit, baking goods, packets of pulses and tomatoes, tea, coffee and oil. I can now buy stocks of these when on offer.

The shelves lower down contain my baking trays and tins.

The smaller undercounter fitment at the back of the room is again fitted with flexible shelving but for the moment I am happy with this arrangement and have used these large white plastic bins from Ikea as drawers and these contain snacks and crisps.

On the two lower shelves I bought these two wicker baskets from Ikea for £6 each. I like the fact they add a little rustic feel to stop the pantry looking too clinical. I keep onions in one and potatoes in the other. Most of our other veg is kept in a larder fridge. Tomatoes, bananas and ripening fruits are kept out on the counter top.

The drawers beneath the wall cupboard – two narrow and three deeper all have a purpose. The top one contains our old cutlery set that we were given as wedding presents – very useful when we have a party or get together.

Under this I keep all those odds and ends of gadgets that are used infrequently like an apple corer and pie slice.

This drawer is a work in progress – I will keep the paper serviettes in here but I am on the look out for better drawer inserts that don’t leave wasted space.

A drawer for tea towels and kitchen hand towels.

And the final drawer for aprons, tray cloths and tea cosies.

Organising the pantry has been one of the hardest things and DH is quite amused when each day he struggles to find something but I feel everything is at last in the right place. I shall be on the look out for anything that is not used and I am adamant that this space will not require decluttering as I won’t be filling it up with unecessary purchases. Other than a new icing turntable and a larger scraper for cake decorating I am pretty much sorted with equipment.

I have space now to stock up on a few basics that I find on offer and a place for all the items that are little used such as the maslin pan and the Easter basket. I couldn’t be more pleased at how it has turned out.

No pantry would be complete though without a notice board where we can jot down the items we need to buy on our next shopping trip.

DH painted the wooden frame of this whiteboard, originally pine coloured, to match the paint colour of the walls.

He then made a little wooden pen holder tray to fit along the bottom.

I have tried hard to only use plastic storage where it will be used for a long time and where possible have opted for glass, metal and wood. The old tupperware that I had some foods stored in will now be used for the freezer or storage in the garage so nothing is wasted.

The flooring is only temporary and we used some stick down dark grey vinyl tiles onto a sheet of hardboard – it will be much better than dusty floorboards until we have the new kitchen fitted and the same wooden flooring will be put down throughout.

So that is the end of the tour – I hope you enjoyed it as much as I love using it, and I am sure you will be seeing a lot more of it very soon – like my tablemats it is just a joy to photograph.

homestead :: inspired and tired

Have you ever been inspired by a friend – one who can launch you into action? 

As you know we went to see some old friends last Thursday in the dales.  One of the reasons for the trip was to have a grand tour of their new home that they have had built for them.  It has been four years in the making but is absolutely stunning – well out of our price range and even though they are a few years older than us, they have chosen to upsize rather than downsize which means they will be able to accommodate their whole family at Christmas which will be lovely. Not that I am envious! One advantage is they are now able to enjoy their retirement to the full knowing the whole house and garden are pretty much in a finished state – no big maintenance jobs, no decorating – it is all done.

At one time this friend lived just down the road from us and I would visit a few times during the week when both our girls were at school – popping in and out for coffee and a chat.  I remember how visits to her house always made me want to rush home and have a thorough clean of mine.  She is one of life’s naturally organised people – her home is immaculate, her meals healthy and delicious, the garden flourishing and their finances in order and buoyant and she still has time for herself and her craft work.  She is very imaginative when it comes to reusing, repairing and repurposing too and this is evident even in their new house.

Their new abode is light and spacious – under floor heating from solar panels, lights that dim by remote and objects and furniture kept to a minimum.  Coming back home made my house seem small and cluttered even though I keep on having major decluttering sessions, but not only that I began noticing areas that do need some attention – a little editing and improving.

So guess what I have been doing all week and how tired I feel!

As I said to Sadie (Notes from an ordinary life) if I am ever missing from my blog you will know I am decluttering and cleaning.  It takes all my concentration and I stop for no-one, well usually, although I did spend the day with little Freddie again yesterday – but who could resist that.

I have a number of challenging areas around the house and I have spent this last week trying to organise these better.

My first challenge was to find a new place to put the Easter decoration that I made so I can use it once more next year. In the end I decided on top of the wardrobe in the spare room as it has a high ceiling and blends in quite well. Really I should dismantle it but it is so pretty I wanted to display it again next year.

Challenge number two was this box containing my elder daughter’s CD player and speakers. We have stored this now for 10 years because my daughter’s house is much smaller than ours and up until the baby was born this year was like a building site. Even now she really doesn’t have a spare inch to accommodate it – so it will remain with us until some point in the future when they move to a larger place. It has been residing in the downstairs cloakroom with everything else that didn’t have a proper place; as you know we are in the process of transforming this into a pantry so I have to find a new home for it. Because of the temperature fluctuations it is not something I would store in the loft so it presented quite a problem.

After much trying it here and there I came up with the idea that it would not look quite so bad if it was in a more decorative box that wouldn’t look out of place in the spare room. So during a trip to Ikea on Monday I spotted these boxes and although it needed two of them it has done the trick and visually looks so much neater. I will be able to use these afterwards to store toys for the grandchildren.

Whilst in Ikea I saw these little Christmas tins for 75p each and I thought they would be just right to put in a few homemade biscuits or a tiny fruit cake for a gift.

I started my cleaning and decluttering in the shower room – this is on the list for a complete renovation but not until we get a new kitchen installed and that is after the pantry. I won’t linger on how grubby it felt – it is never my favourite job. The contents of the cupboard are pretty much pared down but even so I still managed to weed out a few bits and pieces – old sun tan lotions and tanning creams past their use by date. When I declutter the toiletries and makeup items I always keep a ‘use up’ box of odds and ends that need using up, a lot of these are often freebies that have come with a purchase, things I won’t be replacing or buying again but I don’t want to waste them.

The shower always takes a long time to clean but the sealant had been renewed when we had the Aussie cousin to stay and the grout is OK so it just needed a bit of elbow grease to thoroughly clean the tiles and glass. After cleaning the toilet and basin – I always use a squirt of furniture polish over the outside of the pottery and the taps to give it that showroom gleam.

I treated myself to a new bath mat from Home Sense which has much improved the appearance of this room. The old one was looking past its best and looked liked someone had taken a bite out of one corner!

My linen cupboard was next – there was nothing to go out here as I am already down to the bare minimum of sheets and duver covers but I cleaned down the shelves and rearranged a few things so it looks remarkably fresher. I bought the boxes from the Range and they have been very useful for storing the family heirlooms – Christening dresses, vintage linens and my wedding dress.

The craft drawer that holds my stash of fabric had a once over- one day I will get around to turning my fabric stash into a patchwork quilt!

As I made my way from room to room decluttering and cleaning I also made a note of things to look out for to add a bit of styling. I found this tiny succulent in Ikea to put in our family bathroom. When I have a moment or two I will also change some of the pictures. I bought a couple of new frames in the summer with the intention of printing out and framing some of our photos – another job for my list.

It is very much a work in progress – a thorough clean and tidy and the addition of one or two new items can make all the difference. I am loving the rooms I have completed so far but soon I will have to tackle the office come craft room – it is the hardest place with the large paper mountain.

One sleepless night at the weekend I decided that I really must embrace the scanner and scan the invoices and receipts that I wish to keep rather than put them into a folder or box. I know many people do not keep their receipts but ever since the flood at the cottage I was so thankful that I have always kept receipts and records – because of this we managed to get the full amount for our damaged contents and could not be beaten down by the insurers. As the insurers were satisfied with scanned receipts I am sure this method will be accepted should we ever need to make a claim in the future. Once the older receipts for our household goods are scanned on to the computer I will have a lever arch file and a box file less on the shelves. It is a bit of a tedious job so I am scanning a handful each morning and going forwards new receipts will be done each week.

Once this is done I will make a start in the filing drawer and scan on important papers to gain more space. A lot of the paperwork I keep is ‘just in case’ so once scanned I will still have a record without the storage problem.

My wardrobe will be the next place for an overhaul. I have reduced the number of items by quite a bit this year. I seem to wear a kind of ‘uniform’ each day of leggins and a t shirt or jumper now I am at home; I can’t remember the last time I wore a skirt, which is a shame because I have quite a pile of them. Last time I decluttered I let a number of them go to charity but I think it might be time to cut my losses now and get rid of a few more. I will start by getting rid of the ones that feel a little bit on the tight side.

I found another cosy jumper in Sainsbury’s last week – good to wear around the house over a t shirt and for my Friday visits to the neighbour.

One of my intentions this month was to try out some new recipes. This week I chose these little mushroom and leek pies. The recipe used a shortcrust pastry that had added mustard powder for flavour. DH was not keen so I improvise and used grated Parmesan cheese that have given them this speckled look. They are baked in a muffin tin so are quite deep. Apologies for the lighting it has made the pies look a bit insipid – they were actually a lovely golden brown colour and quite delicious.

October is all birthdays – I have three this week alone. I already had the gifts for two of them bought in Stranraer at Baxters where they still gift wrap. They are little printed linen make up bags. The crocus tub is for a dear friend, men are always difficult to buy for but he is a gardener so will love these.

Because of all the birthdays I needed cards so I spent a day making some with the flowers I pressed recently, I also made a few thank you notelets at the same time. Some work better than others but my favourite has to be the chamomile heads.

So that has been my week so far and tomorrow, like the rain, the tidying continues whilst the momentum continues. Or you might find me napping on the sofa. x

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