Sunday, 16 February 2014

Lightening Up

It is astonishing to find that finally, after what seems like years, it is lighter when we get up in the mornings.  In fact, we will rise in daylight every day from now on until late October, when the clocks go back again.  What a relief!  It feels like we've finally made it into the light after all these months of dark, cold, wet, miserable weather.  Yay for Spring!

Puppy woke me at 7.30 this morning, crying to go out.  I couldn't blame him, as there was a certain light in the sky that promised magical moments to be had by all.  The air was cool but there was a warmth in the sun that made me feel lighter and more relaxed; I too wanted to go outside.  A perfect day to hang washing out, I went round the house gathering clothes and school uniform and had a line full, flapping gently in the breeze by ten o'clock.  Pea felt the stirrings of Spring too and wanted to be doing stuff, so we decided to go for a walk. I went in search of the boys to deliver the good news and found H2 coming out of the garage with bits of wood tucked under his arm and hammer in hand.  He announced he was too busy to go for a walk as he had a major project in mind and wouldn't have time anyway.  Delighted to see him thus occupied, rather than zoned out playing cyber games, I agreed he could stay home.  H1 caught the tail end of the conversation and said that he couldn't go either as he had tons of homework and revision to do.  I have heard this excuse many times before from him, so I was a little suspicious to say the least.  He insisted that if he didn't revise and therefore failed his exams, he would be made to re-sit them and it would be my fault for making him go for a walk.  Highly unlikely, I said, but just make sure you do more than ten minutes revision then.

Having been completely taken in by the brightness of the sun, Pea and I had only put on jackets, rather than out big winter coats.  As soon as we turned up the lane we felt the stiffness of the chilly breeze, which made for rather a bracing walk.  It was so nice to be out in the countryside enjoying the sunshine rather than battling against all that horrid wind and rain.  We passed fields of heavily pregnant ewes, discovered swathes of bluebells pushing up through the earth along the verges and Pea had an excellent close view of a buzzard resting on a broken branch.

We walked down to the woods where quite a lot of trees had succumbed to the gales we have had over the last few months.  Most of them are Pine trees which seem to fall like skittles in the slightest breeze anyway, but it is still sad to see.  On our way home Pea and I just happened to turn our heads at the same time and we both saw something we have never seen before; a red squirrel.  I held my breath and watched it bounce across the lane in front of us, then it skipped up a bank and over the wall into the woods on the other side of the lane.  We both stood there with our jaws almost on the floor!  We know there are red squirrels on the island, but haven't heard of them this far North.  Sometimes the nasty grey squirrel can have a red-ish tint to it's coat, but this one was shining a brilliant red as the sun caught it and reds have a much lighter frame and little tufts on their ears, as did this one.  Wow, it was over in a few seconds but so exciting.  Almost at the same time we spied a Goldcrest flitting about on the wall near us.  Goldcrests are Britain's smallest bird; they have tiny needle like beaks that poke about in moss and under leaves looking for insects to eat, we were like children in a sweet shop and didn't know whether to wait to see if the squirrel would come back or watch the Goldcrest!  After a few minutes we began to breathe again and walked the rest of the way home in a slightly dazed state.

Pea was very keen to make a start on the vegetable garden after dinner, so as the boys were, for once, happily occupied in the garden (I didn't ask what they were doing but it seemed to involve bits of wood and saws), we all spent a few hours outside for the first time since we moved here in Autumn.  The dogs loved sniffing about and discovering new smells and things to scratch at.  Pea and I surveyed the slightly daunting task ahead of us and made a start.

This is the area we have chosen for our future veggie plot, mainly because the soil looks so good and we think it was used for growing veg in the past.  As you can see though there are an awful lot of weeds that need to be dug out first.  My back ached at the mere thought of all that work, but knowing one day soon we will be able to sow seeds and put plants in gave me the kick start I needed.  We worked hard between us and soon discovered that once upon a time, there were raised beds here; we dug up some well rotted planks of wood and found a weed suppressing membrane that covers almost the whole of our chosen plot.  Noooo!  This means we will have to first dig the weeds out and then scrape the top layer of soil off the membrane, cut it away in sections and scrape the soil back.  Not what I hoped for, I must admit.  It will be even more worth it after all that effort and I will make sure we eat something out of the garden every day of our lives!

I think we made a good start although we have quite a bit of work left to do.  We sat in the garden and surveyed our work with cups of tea in hand and a satisfying tightening of muscles!  The air was going chilly as the sun began to set over the sea, so I fetched the washing off the line while Pea and the boys tidied the garden and their bits of wood and tools.  We had a little wander around the garden and gleefully spotted tiny shoots, buds and bulbs popping up everywhere.  We don't know this garden yet so we are only working on a small part of it while we see what crops up over the next few months.  I think there will be new surprises almost every time we go out to look.

Enjoy your evening and thank you for

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Spring and Winter

Yesterday saw at least two seasons in one day.  The morning dawned chilly and bright; it felt like a day for Spring cleaning so I stripped the beds, cleaned the insides of the windows and dusted, polished and hoovered.  The washing blew on the line in the Spring sunshine and I had high hopes of everything coming in dry.  At lunch time I took the dogs up Muddy Lane and to my surprise, it was actually really warm.  Gorgeous, in fact.  I got very warm in my layers of clothing, and slowed my pace a little to enjoy the sound of the birds singing and to notice the tiny bobbles of buds on branches of trees and hedges.  The breeze was a little keen though and snow covered the mountains, but it was a treat to be out there enjoying it all.

I worked up a bit of an appetite with all my activity and knew there was a slab of marzipan in the cupboard; well of course I knew it was there, I bought it.  It was meant for a Simnel cake, but weakness is a wicked mistress and she taunted me with the knowledge until I gave in (it didn't take much) and began nibbling.  In fact I nibbled most of it with a cup of tea.  I am a disgrace.  I forgave myself as I have a nice clean house and two worn out dogs.

  The sun stayed all day but as I was heading out of the house in the afternoon to fetch H2 from school, I noticed the sky over that part of the island was jet black.  MAL sat on the front seat, eyes wide as she stared ahead.  As we drove closer to school, a few spots of rain hit my windscreen but in moments had turned to sleet and then hail.  It hit the car like pebbles being flung sideways.  As the sky darkened the hail gave way to snow.  Yes, real snow!  It swept across the lanes, gathered on the windscreen wipers and blurred the landscape.  Within a few minutes the lane in front of me was white and snow kept falling.  I was really excited by now but also a little worried as the hill I had just come down would be an uphill one on the way back and my car can't cope with hills in slippy conditions.  I arrived at school and the mums were hopping about in anticipation of a day at home tomorrow, making snowmen, sitting by the fire with hot chocolate and wearing fluffy socks and slippers all day.  By the time H2 had come out it had stopped snowing and all but melted.  It took moments.  Noooo!  So disappointing, although I was pleased to be getting home safely without having to abandon my car and walk miles and miles home.  The temperature had dropped somewhat during the brief snow storm, so we were fully expecting more to come, but it didn't.  Instead we awoke this morning to yet another day of gales and heavy rain.  The noise is incredible; the bins in the yard are moving about by themselves and making quite a racket too.  The rain hits the windows and back door constantly and the wind rattles, moans and roars around the house and in the trees.  Thankfully the dogs have realised there is no hope of a walk today and have settled down in their cosy beds; I have watched a bit of the Winter Olympics with my cup of tea, cleaned the bathroom (what a joy) and plan to make some peanut cookies to have with rice pudding for tea.

I have neglected to take any more photos recently, due to either being busy or too cold to take my hands out of my pockets to use my camera.  I will rectify this for my next post.  I will go now and force myself to make cookies.  Have a good day, keep warm and dry and thank you for reading. xxx

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Saturday Afternoon

Guess what?  Yup, it's raining again.  And it's very windy too.  There is very little that can be done on a day like this, but at least it is Saturday and we all had an extra hour in bed this morning; except Pea, who had an extra two hours.  After a lovely sunny day, the wind got up yesterday evening and it howled and made the trees groan and creak all night long.  The rain and hail hit my bedroom window for hours on end, but I just wriggled further under the covers and dragged my quilt over my head.  It was lovely to wake this morning and remember there was no need to be up and about early and instead to carry on dreaming, snuggled up in my lovely cosy bed.  That is until Puppy began whimpering and scratching to be let out into the garden.  Peace shattered, I forced myself into a vertical position, pushed my feet into my slippers and headed for the kitchen and the comfort of hot tea.

Not sure what happened to the cleaning fairies, but they failed to materialise last night (again) to do the washing up and so the kitchen looked like a chimp's tea party had taken place in my absence.  Just about every cup, mug, plate and glass we own had been used and left casually on the work tops and in the sink.  Actually if they were in the sink that wouldn't be too bad, but they were in the washing up bowl that was filled with now stone cold, dirty, grimy water.  Oh, YUK!  I hate that.  Why can my children not just rinse out their cups and put them away?  It doesn't take a minute and I have requested on many occasions that they do this, they always say they will but rarely do.  They will even go as far as to protest strongly against any of their actual involvement in such behaviour and H1 is excellent at displaying his disbelief at my suggestion by rolling his eyes heavenwards, dropping his shoulders and exclaiming 'God-uh!', as if I am an amoeba in a laboratory.  Despite this elaborate smoke screen, there are still dirty pots swimming in cold water on a daily basis.  This morning however, I needed a good mug of tea before I tackled the mess.

H2 was already up and snuggled under a blanket in the lounge watching the Winter Olympics, H1 came in and the three of us settled down to watch the snowboarding.  In total contrast to what was going on outside our own windows, in Russia the sun was shining, the snow covered the mountains and the sky was blue; beautiful.  The snowboarding action was pretty hot and H1 and I sat holding our breath when the two British men had their turn!  I always get really into this kind of thing, but don't bother with sport (apart from Wimbledon) usually and never play any myself.  Another cup of tea was required to watch the final and to calm my nerves when one of our boys dropped from Bronze medal position to 6th place.  Boooo!!!  It was really good though and a lovely start to my Saturday.

A bit later on I headed into the kitchen to start on the washing up and found H2 having his 'breakfast' at the table.  He had made two slices of toast with lemon curd and added a packet of mini Ryvita.  'You can't have that for breakfast,' I said.  H2 looked at me with a lovely, warm smile and said 'Course I can!' and proceeded to make Stone Henge with the Ryvita.  I decided this wasn't worth pursuing, so I left him to it and washed the pots, then dried them and put them away.  I don't know why I bothered putting them away as they will all be back on the draining board again, probably before I have left the kitchen.  I should just leave them all lying about and have some nice pictures on the walls instead of cupboards.

When everyone was finally up and dressed, we took the dogs out for a walk during a lull in the rainfall.  The wind pulled at hair and coats as we walked, heads bent, up the lane.  The rain began again before we had been going more than a few minutes.  We carried on as long as possible but I then thought of the two wet dogs and four wet coats we would have to get dry on reaching home; so we turned round and went back.  Short and not very sweet, but at least we'd all had some fresh air and a bit of a stretch.  We had yet more tea and raspberry buns to warm up, then I drove Pea to see her boyfriend.  The roads were quiet but there was a lot of water lying about which slowed things down a bit.  When I got home, the boys were messing about in the garden, trying to make a pull-up bar (don't ask, I didn't) but came in soon after in search of food and warmth.

After lunch we all began to settle down for the afternoon, or at least until I have to go out into the storm and fetch Pea.  The dogs managed to reach the settee before we did and had to be dragged off and persuaded that their cosy beds with warm blankets were a much better option.  They didn't seem convinced and sulked until we put the fire on.  Dogs.

Mum just sent me a text to tell me she was enjoying sitting down with a DVD and her knitting.  She thinks she was born to sit down, which would explain why she loves the Winter months so much, what else is there to do after all?  In weather like this, not a darn thing apart from read blogs and buy books (mum's idea).  For me it's the warmer part of the year that sees me at my best.  I am a mere shadow at other times and long to feel the heat of the sun seep into my bones; sit and read in the garden and wander about in flowery skirts and bare feet with a glass of homemade lemonade clinking with ice in my hand.  As I look out of the window, all that feels like a distant dream that will never come true.  It will be lovely to see the children just hanging about in the garden, busy doing nothing, lost in their own thoughts.  

But for now we are cosy indoors watching the Winter Olympics, leaving Lego lying about, playing games and day dreaming of a garden full of flowers, bees and butterflies.

  Keep calm and carry on! Thank you for reading. xxx

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Winter's End...?

February is, in my opinion, the last month of Winter.  The days are lengthening ever so slightly, the birds sing a song of hopefulness and whatever the weather throws at us now, we at least know it can only get better.  Life stirs in the garden and countryside; the first lambs are in the fields, buds and tiny leaves warily emerge from dark branches and bare earth and when the sun makes a brief appearance it has a welcome warmth that speaks of the summer days to come.  We're almost there...the worst is gets better from now on.

 I cannot believe the amount of rain we have had since before Christmas.  And it keeps coming.  I wonder how much more the land can take, but around here at least, it seems to be coping really well.  Pea and I went for a post tea time walk yesterday and for the first time in weeks, we could actually walk on the part of the lane that has been under water for ages.  Amazing!  That in itself was quite exciting and helped us to feel that things, weather wise are on the mend.  Today however, it has been hammering down for most of the morning and the winds have been quite strong too.  Oh, boredom how I loath thee!

In a feeble attempt to keep flagging spirits afloat, I had a poke about in my cupboards one afternoon for tea time inspiration and unearthed three almost-empty jars of stuff that needed using up.  I hate having jars hanging about like this as the children just shove them to the back of the cupboard and open new jars.  No one wants the dregs it seems and the lure of prising off a lid to hear that soft 'pop', is just too much for them to resist.  So I did a very make-do-and-mend thing, and made a tray of assorted tarts.

Jam, lemon curd and mincemeat topped with icing.  The children polished them off in no time and I made some space in my cupboard; everyone's happy.

For many years when the children were babies and toddlers, my only other passion in life was gardening.  I have kept gardening diaries for years with notes of what needs to be done when, what the weather was like and the results I achieved.  I still have those books and spent an evening flicking through some of them recently.  I was surprised at how much I knew back then!  It was nice to see I had written a note on H1's first birthday in February, that it had been snowing; still time then.  When I was going through my divorce I didn't feel much like gardening and as I was selling the house as well, I didn't have the heart for it.  While the children and I lived at the cottage, there wasn't a lot of opportunity for gardening as most of it was laid to lawn and the boarders were well stocked with shrubs, so we just enjoyed the views and spent time playing in the fields.  I did miss the act of gardening though; getting my hands in the soil, planting seeds, creating a boarder.  Our new home affords ample opportunity to do just that and it was one of the main reasons for moving here in the first place.  So after four years, I am finally able to start writing my gardening diary again.  I bought a new note pad, (always a joy!) and spent an hour at the kitchen table, surrounded by gardening books and packets of seeds.

The race with the weather is now on as we have to dig out a good sized plot, weed and prepare the soil for the first sowing of hardy salad leaves in mid March.  The potatoes and shallot sets will be ready to go in about then too, so I hope it dries up somewhat so we can get cracking with it.  Can't wait!  I have to admit that as much as I love being outside with nature and getting my hands dirty, I am a bit of a fair weather gardener.  I find no pleasure in digging out sodden earth with frozen hands and feet while the winds whip round my head and rain soaks me to the skin.  I would much rather be indoors with a cup of tea and a slab of cake.  I will wait until the sun warms the soil and my bones before I start doing serious stuff like that.  It is so much nicer to be sowing seeds with warm fingers in a warm poly tunnel, feeling the sun melt the tension and winter's chill from your back.

In reality I am getting a little ahead of myself; it is still Winter and there is still the possibility of snow before the Spring finally melts away that particular threat.  I am still bundled up in too many clothes and drinking too many cups of tea.  I still have to force myself to take the dogs out for their walks and we are still wanting to eat hearty meals and puddings.  But the seed has been sown in our minds of bird song, skirts and dresses blowing in a gentle breeze on the washing line, cucumber sandwiches and Victoria sponge for tea, daffodils in the garden and  lazy walks down lanes bursting with catkins and fresh leaves.

It's coming.  Hang in there!

Enjoy dreaming of Spring and sunshine and thank you for