Saturday 5 October 2013

Life?! Don't Talk To Me About Life!

Okay, so Winter didn't end until the middle of May, Spring ran by at full tilt, Summer was glorious but I'm not quite sure how we got to October SO quickly. Where has this year gone? I can't believe that it's over 3 months since my last post...really not sure how time has flown by at such a lick - maybe there's a hole in the space-time continuum again?!

Actually, I think it's because despite the very late start, we've actually had a fabulous summer and actually done lots of 'stuff - unlike last year where we constantly getting rained off!.One thing we have done is finally completed one side of the front garden project that we began way back in March 2010....yes, that does say 2010! Things happen slowly around here  :-P

Anyway, the front garden has gone from this - the laurels were taken out by our Tree Surgeon, his lads and their Land Rover you do!
Then I brought in a bit of hired in teenage muscle from the school where I'm a Governor. They cleared some smaller roots, weeded the whole area and dug a trench to reduce the pressure on our old and somewhat wonky dry stone wall...a trench which I promptly began filling in with stones from the cleared area to help with drainage...yeah, right! Nothing to do with not being prepared to slog barrowloads for stones uphill to the stone come everywhere is uphill in our garden?!

To this in Autumn of 2012 after Himself had rotivated it:

And in April this year after re-weeding, much raking and rolling to levelling:

With this - Himself's lastest invention!

To this! A glorious, lush, green open space of approximately 220sq metres.......that is currently being covered in Autumn leaves! 

So all I need to do to do now (HAH- ALL!!!) is to finish clearing the other side of the drive - which is only about half the size, sort out/ fill in the huge holes where the laurel stumps were, get it something like level despite the rapidly changing gradiant of the slope and then get Himself in to finish the job and seed it. Simples! Should be done in time for Spring seeding...should be!

We've also finished the bottom pond up in the Japanese garden - but as that is several blog posts in its own right you'll have to hang on a bit!

We've had a superb year with the fruit and vegetables. You may remember that last year my vegetable garden looked like this:

So many of my vegetables drowned, rotted or just didn't bother poking their heads above ground because it was so cold and wet for so much of the summer...seriously depressing after all the work I'd put into getting everything ready in spring and we got very little that was edible as even the stuff that did manage to grow ended up woody and tasteless. You can read about last year's garden disaster here if you plough through past the trip to the Lake District, the wedding and the Olympics! 

This year has been a different matter altogether :-D The long, long winter meant I didn't even plant any seeds until April when the light started to improve and nothing was planted out until early June when the weather started getting better and better. the result? A lush green verdant vegetable garden!

Carrots - taken me SEVEN years to get decent carrots!, parsnips, 3 sorts of cabbages, spinach, rainbow chard, kale, French beans, runner beans......

....leeks, peas, raspberries, eating apples, cooking apples, redcurrants, blackcurrants, gooseberries, rhubarb and my first ever blueberries.The bare soil is where the potatoes, onions and garlic had been - which is soon to be planted with broad beans to overwinter. The overwintering onions and garlic are going in where the carrots are about to come out!

 The greenhouse was equally productive, with 5 different types of tomatoes, cucumbers and my first aubergine to ever get to an edible size!

The 4 varieties of chillies and the 2 types of peppers cropped superbly and most are now nestled happily in my freezer.

We did have some anomolies amongst the 'Costulo Fiorentino' tomatoes - but I ate the red parts and am still here to tell the tale!

'Fort Sweetcorn' protected our best ever sweetcorn crop from the ravaging attacks of the foxes and badgers, allowing us to finally enjoy our full crop of sweetcorn rather than just getting the oddments the animals had kindly left behind! We've had roughly 50 corn cobs - all delicious so far :-)

Because I had interplanted, 'Fort Sweetcorn' had the added bonus of protecting the squashes as well. These 3 varieties cropped well but the Butternut squashes didn't and I have NO idea why.

A recent and decent hour's work!
...and the next day's pickings!

All of which lead to a flurry of cooking...this is the early stages of 'Old Dowerhouse Chutney' - a recipe from the Blessed Delia which has become a family favourite! :-)

This was one afternoon's work (it's a phone photo, so not as good a quality)

My grand total so far is:
8 jars of raspberry jam
8 jars of plum jam
8 jars of blackcurrant jam (with lbs and lbs of extra fruit in the freezer)
2 jars of Spitfire Sauce
4 jars of pickled cucumber
4 jars of pickled onions
3 jars of green tomato ketchup
3 jars of chilli oil
11 jars of green tomato chutney
14 jars of Old Dowerhouse chutney and
after my first ever experiment with American canning
5 jars of pickled French beans

The cooking apples are almost ready...but I'll need to stew and freeze most of them which may lead to a freezer crisis as both my freezers are full to bursting point. I'll just have to eat a lot in order to make the space then *sigh* .... a tough job, but I'm sure Himself won't be averse to helping out!

The only things that didn't work were the salad crops and herbs ...because the slugs and snails feasted on them :-(  I did plant some salad crops in trays in the greenhouse, which worked quite well but we didn't have the big crop I was hoping to get out of the ground.

That didn't bother me too much, but one event broke my heart!

My much loved (by me anyway!) 21 year old Land Rover finally failed its M.O.T., needing over £2k's worth of work on its chassis ... maybe I'd driven him through too many rivers and through too much deep mud over the years? - aaah, happy times!

Anyway, Himself sold him to the owner of the panel shop nextdoor to the garage and he's going to strip him down, rebuild him and then use him, so at least he will carry on being loved by someone else. I don't think I could have stood it if he's gone for scrap!

The final journey - and, yes dear readers, I wept!

He's been replaced by an eco-friendly, fuel efficient really girlie Kia Picanto...just not in the same league really. It's SO girlie that I couldn't even bring myself to put up a photo of it! Himself has promised me that I can have another Land Rover when we get rich......! Ho hum!

Monday 17 June 2013


 Ooops on many counts really. Firstly that it's taken me so long to do a new post - partly down to having trouble with uploading photos to Blogger again  - thanks for that Blogger :-P. Secondly, I've been being jolly busy! And finally, I recently realised that although I've been using the tea house for almost 2 years now (Yes, TWO years!!!) I've never gotten round to doing a post about finishing it off - shame on you Lizbeth!

So, sorry people, but here - accompanied by a drum roll of your own choosing, is.........wait for it!
The Finished Tea House! Ta Daah!

Okay - the nearly finished tea house! Firstly, the electrics had to be fitted - and have a nice dimmer switch to add ambiance. Then it had to be lined with 2" thick insulation panels because I am officially a wuss in cold weather.
Then the insulation had to be covered with plywood - including all those complicated little corners - Himself does love a good challenge!

See what I mean?!

 Despite the zillions of screw that he used, Himself wasn't convinced that a couple of panels weren't about to ping off - so he braced them......

I was a tad more worried about the bracing pinging off than I was about the panels falling down!
 Then he fitted a sort of picture rail to hide all the joints.
 Built me a cupboard for all my gubbins and rammel. (necessary bits and pieces!)
 And finally, I got to paint it. It took three coats in total of a very nice soft mushroomy-greyey brown
 ...including in all those complicated little corners!Very fiddly, with lots of edges to cut in - it took me AGES!
 I had to do plenty of filling after the first coat because the plywood was very uneven in places and faults, screw heads and general unevenness show up best at this point, and as a decorator's daughter, I know full well that 'preparation is all'!
 The finished Tea House - and, yes, I know I've not posted about building the courtyard yet, but I'm on it!
 The 3 little pictures were a gift from a grateful client and are very sweet Japanese countryside scenes. the purple agate mobile was a Christmas present from my best friend - who knows me so well!
 Looking out over the veranda and pond. It is lovely when the weather is warm and sunny to be able to do treatment sessions with the doors open - when we can hear the sound of the stream running, the birds singing, the copper mobile outside gently playing and the squirrels jumping on the roof!
 Looking across the pond into the tea house.
 The Reiki Precepts that I do try to live by - although I don't always manage it!
They are:
Just for today do not worry
Just for today do not anger
Honour your parents, elders and teachers,
Earn your living honestly and
Respect all living things
(although personally, I'm not sure that slugs and snails count!)

Saturday 23 March 2013

Narnia revisited!

Some of you may remember that a couple of years ago we had a really bad winter, with snow up to my thighs for a couple of weeks (ooh err)?! 
Some of you may also remember that this time last year we were in the middle of a heatwave and wearing shorts and tee shirts - oh how things change!!

Anyway, when the deep snow came 2  years ago, I went in search of Narnia and found it, but failed to find the lamp post. I was going to do a snazzy link to that blogpost, but the blogger gremlins have stolen it so you'll have to either trust your memory or me on that one! We've got snow again at the moment - not thigh deep this time (yet), but a good six inches so far and more forecast for the coming week...time for a quick chorus of "I'm dreamin' of a white Easter" anyone??

My wonderful friend Bilbo Waggins from The View From Bag End managed to find the snazzy link for me, so you can read about my first trip to Narnia here, once you've read her blog! Thanks Bilbo :-)

So, looking out of the sitting room window this morning I decided it'd be a good time to revisit Narnia to see if I could find that flippin' lamp post this time.

 Suitably layered and wellied up, I set off down the drive ....or what I think was the drive!

 I wandered on down through the trees until I spied the gate in the distance........
 stopping only to check out the splash of colour on the berries,
 I trudged on until I made it to 'The Road'. I took a well earned rest break (well, it's a long way down our drive!) and had a chat with our lovely neighbours as we gazed up Tony's drive and looked at how pretty our wall is! Our neighbours had been far more advernterous than me and had ventured as far as 'The Newsagents', brave people that they are....but then, their drive is a lot shorter and flatter than ours!

I decided to head back to warm my feet up, pausing briefly to admire our 3 sentinels - our elegant, magnificent, protected Horse Chesnuts.

Trudging slowly uphill through more trees, I thought I spied something....something black, something man-made. Could this be it? Had I found it?

The lamp post. I could go home now!

So I did!


Saturday 9 February 2013

A Winter Walk

 During our recent heavy snow I was elated gutted to have to have a 'Snow Day' as the school I was due to work in that day was shut ....devestated I was!!!
Instead, I filled my time by going for a walk in a local park with my wonderful neighbour and his dog and trying out my new camera that Himself surprised me with at Christmas - a Panasonic Lumix FZ150 for those who're interested. A camera for those who aren't! :-P
The park is set in a valley, surrounded by several large housing estates, but the place seemed almost deserted when we arrived and human activity was only given away by the footprints in the snow and, further on, the faint sounds of screams and laughter. We were on the valley floor and the activity was on the slopes!

The snow was about 7" deep and crunched wonderfully underfoot as we walked. The trees hung low, weighed down by the snow and the air had that magical quality and silence that only snow can give.

Sally dog proved tricky to photo as she is so fast and loves playing in the snow. This is a rare still moment!

The stream oozed silently between the banks, not quite water but not yet ice.

A splash of colour in a black and white world.

We reached the lake and revelled in how different it looked to normal.

The gulls appeared singularly unimpressed with the change to their land and lakescape!

Tony (bless him) had brought a bag of bird seed to entice the birds in for me to photograph :-)

The swans quickly muscled in on the act.

The swan was happy with its unexpected meal.

Sally loves playing with other dogs - and they don't seem to realise that they haven't got a hope of catching her! :-D

We walked round the lake and along to where the sledgers were having great fun. That slope is quite a bit steeper than it looks! Sadly, Tony wouldn't let me nick a child's sledge ....

I could have had hers - she was homeward bound anyway!

And back to the car park past this magnificent tree.

There is a saying that "happiness never decreases by being shared" and certainly Tony and I shared a lovely hour or so that day - one which will stay with me for a long time. Simple pleasures eh?!