Saturday, 29 March 2014

Gardening At Last

The weather is improving day by day and giving us opportunities to spend time in the garden.  Sometimes the wind still bites and the rain still falls but the sun warms hands and faces and occasionally forces us to set forth without being cluttered up with coats and jumpers.  Today was one of those days.  After the rain stopped, the sun melted the clouds away and beckoned us outside.

What a difference a few days of warmth, sunshine, lengthening daylight and soft rain have made.  Everything in the garden, the hedge rows, the lanes and the fields is bursting into life.  Lambs play and doze, birds sing a fresh new song and plants push up from the damp earth and search for the sun.  It is a joy to be a part of it.  This afternoon Pea and I took the dogs for a long stretch and saw a lamb that had just been born.  The mother had licked him clean and we watched him take his first few wobbly steps towards her.  I think she was getting ready to give birth to his twin, so we moved away and left her in peace.  The bird feeders outside our kitchen window are full of beautiful birds all day long; they eat an incredible amount of seed and need re-filling daily.  It is like feeding a small child, but it gives us such a lot of pleasure to see them, it is worth every penny.

We have finally planted three rows of Pink Fir Apple potatoes and sowed a short row of radish.  To save space in the kitchen garden we sowed the radish over the top of the potatoes as they will be up and eaten before the potatoes need earthing up.  It was so exciting to have the first crop in our new garden at last.  I have waited four years for this!  In the end though, Pea and I dug out the trench and then she and H2 planted the potatoes. I got to sow the radish seeds.

The temperature in the poly tunnel increases the moment the sun shines through and makes it a very cosy place to be.  My trays of seeds love it and have started to grow this week.  The first to peep through the surface of the compost were the poached egg plants (Limnanthes), which will edge the kitchen garden and attract lots of hover flies and bees to pollinate the vegetables.  Yesterday the first of the borage seeds came up and a few sweet peas are on the move.  Love it!  We planted a few more packets of annual flowers this morning; nigella, poppies, cleome and a few rows of feverfew.  As there are so many plants coming up all over the garden and I don't want to risk digging up something special by accident, when it comes time to plant out my annuals, I will dig up a weed or rogue patch of grass and replace it with a flower.  That way I can weed and avoid killing something I want at the same time.

At this time of year you can almost hear things growing.  Once it starts there's no holding it back.  It will only get better from now on; the worst is over, long over.  The days are getting warmer, longer and a lot more fun!  There is something new to see everywhere I look and every time I go out of my back door.  H2 and I saw a young hare on our way to school one morning.  It lopped along in front of the car, taking it's time and looking for a gap in the hedge to make it's escape.  We gave it plenty of room and slowly drove by as it huddled up in the grass.  We got a really good look at him, which made our day.

I love the Spring time as it is full of the promise of many wonderful things to come.  Life feels more positive at last, lighter, easier and more fun.  There is so much to look forward to and even a bad day doesn't feel quite so bad if the sun is shining and the evenings are light and bright.

Enjoy the change of season and the beauty all around. xxx

Sunday, 16 March 2014

I can't believe it is over 2 weeks since I last wrote a blog post.  I didn't feel I had that much to share with you.  Nothing apart from the usual cleaning and cooking happened and the weather was a bit miserable.  Earlier this week though, Spring really made herself known.  We have had three beautiful warm, sunny days and everything in the garden and the countryside has burst into life with full force.  I sat in the garden on Wednesday lunch time and it really felt hot in my sheltered spot.  The birds were singing with every ounce of their beings; owls were hooting to each other in the woods in the middle of the day and the four cockerels that live on farms around us spent an entire day cock-a-doodle-doo-ing!  Love it.

The weather was quite nice last Sunday, so Pea and I set about pulling the weed suppressing membrane from under the soil in the soon to be kitchen garden.  It turned out that it wasn't as difficult as I feared it would be.  It was in four long strips, about six inches under the surface.  Once we had found one end and dug some of the soil away, it was just a case of summoning all our strength to pull until we got to the other end, then we cut it off.  Revealed underneath was a mass of roots from the hedge, running like veins along the length of the bed.  Under all that was clay.  H2 was delighted and dug himself a hole to stand in (not sure why) and then pulled out lumps of clay to make things with.  I warned him that he couldn't leave the hole there as this was meant to be my veggie plot, but to compensate I found another area in the garden where there was clay and he dug a hole there instead.

So that is another task out of the way.  I didn't do any gardening this week and made use of the sunshine by just sitting and enjoying the sounds of nature instead.  At long last the days of seed sowing have begun!  Yesterday saw the first seeds going in cell trays in our poly tunnel.  It was so lovely to spend a quiet hour in the unique atmosphere that only a greenhouse or poly tunnel can give.  The smell of damp earth warming up in the Spring sunshine is so comforting to me and reminds me of years of happy growing.  I love sowing seeds and the anticipation of flowers and vegetables to come.  Even though I know what they will look like from the picture on the seed packet, it still fills me with excitement to imagine what they will look like when they are growing in my garden.  What other plants shall I grow them with?  What colours would look good together?  What about the position and surroundings?  How good will they look at different times of the day in different light?  See?  So exciting!

We ended up with 18 pots of Sweet Pea seeds of two different, both highly scented, varieties and a tray full of borage to attract bees, half a tray of sweet peppers and lots of poached egg plant (Limnanthes) to edge the beds and to attract beneficial insects.  Lots more seeds to sow over the next few months, but it is so gratifying to have actually made a start.

My sister-in-law gave me this beautiful Cath Kidston glass for Christmas.  I haven't used it as I'm so afraid of crashing it on the taps when I wash up, so it has been sitting on the dresser all this time.  I have decided to use it as a mini vase and I think it looks really pretty with these tiny daffodils in.  Very Spring like and very cheerful.  I love it!

As a treat for having had a week of feeling pretty down in the dumps and then a week of being rushed off my feet and worn out (in a good way, though), I bought myself lots of chocolate to enjoy over this weekend.  I started off with a bag of man sized chocolate buttons.  Man size?  You must be joking.  I don't know any man that size...

I was hoping to follow that up with a Toblerone and a packet of small chocolate bars.  But even after a day of shopping, gardening and dog walking, I couldn't manage it all.  I have no stamina.  I sat curled up in the chair last night, chocolate to one side of me, fire going, late blackbirds singing in the garden, the children reading and watching telly.  It all served to make me very sleepy indeed.  I love the feeling of my muscles tightening after a day in the garden, the fresh air making my head spin and the warmth of the fire closing my eyes.  I am a grown woman, not too old, and I couldn't wait for nine o'clock so I could go to bed!  Needless to say, I was almost too tired and kept waking up all night having had very strange dreams.  So annoying.  Will try not to do too much today; although I do have to get a load of washing out on the line, cook dinner, make a pudding of some sort, take the dogs for a walk....But hopefully that is it and I can rest a little this afternoon.

What is the point of a life if we don't take time to smell the roses?  Or the primroses, or the forget-me-nots...?

Take time to relax today and thank you for reading. xxx

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

A Mother's Lot in Life

I must admit to not feeling at my best today.  I woke feeling fine; the sun was out again and the birds sang merrily.  It all began when the boys asked me what delights and joys my day held.  I replied that I would be making something nice for tea, stupidly thinking that they would be thrilled.  Not so.  They greeted my announcement with suspicion and wariness.  What is wrong with them, for goodness' sake?  What is wrong with me?

They started to ask questions like 'Have we had it before?' and 'Do we like it?', 'What's in it?' and even 'Is it nice?'  I mean, really?  My usually lengthy fuse suddenly shortened itself dramatically and I felt a real annoyance build up inside me in a nano-second.  'When,' I began 'Have I ever given you anything to eat that wasn't nice?'  Wrong thing to say, H1 proceeded to list the things that I have apparently force fed him over the years, and then he claimed to like everything anyway and didn't know what I was getting so stressy about.  Too late, my fuse was shortening by the second. 'Anyway,' I continued, making the boys jump as they had obviously moved on from this boring conversation and were quite taken aback that I was still in the middle of it.  Solo.  'It is something you've had before, actually, and you liked it.'  Sensing a weakness here, they proceeded to dig and poke at the wounded animal. 'When did we have it last?'  Oh for God's sake.  'A while ago.' I replied.  'Was it in this house or before when we lived in the cottage?  Did we have it in England?'  Right, enough answers from me.  I am the adult around here and I decide what we eat.  'I made it when we lived in England, you all enjoyed it and you all lived to tell the tale, so it couldn't have been that bad.  Stop quizzing me about my cooking; I have never given you anything poisonous yet,' I huffed, 'Although the temptation is growing daily,' I added this bit quietly, under my breath with my head in a cupboard, but H1 (also known as Radar Ears) heard me.  How come he never hears me when I ask him to vacuum his bedroom, but the moment a bad word or sarcastic comment slips out of my mouth, he is on it like a Black Widow Spider after a fly.

Actually, as it is pancake day today, the whole conversation was a waste of time as the thing I was going to make (sausages in cream sauce with mashed potatoes) will have to wait until tomorrow.  Or I may just not bother making anything at all and send them all out to forage for food in the wilds.  We usually have lemon and sugar on our pancakes but a couple of years ago I ran out (ie, I forgot to buy any) and instead we had chocolate spread and chopped bananas.  Absolutely gorgeous.  I bought a jar of chocolate spread yesterday that H2 spotted in the back of the cupboard and his eyes lit up like giant dinner plates.  'It's not for now,' I cautioned, 'It's for pancakes tomorrow tea time.'  His shoulders sagged and his face screwed up in agony as if to say Tomorrow?  Are you mad woman?  Who can wait until tomorrow?  I held firm and shoved the jar to the back of the cupboard. Again. H1 seemed happy with the pancake topping ideas and didn't comment.  For a change.  Pea was silent and listened to the exchange while pretending not to.  She won't be happy with the sugar content of our planned tea.  She will eye the sugar bowl as if there may be a possibility I have laced it with cyanide.  The chocolate spread will be left untouched but she will eat more bananas than everyone else put together.

Puppy has picked up on the general atmosphere and has added his voice to the throng.  He demands my attention by nibbling at the backs of my legs when I am washing up or cooking.  It actually hurts and gets him the wrong kind of attention, but he doesn't seem to care; any attention is better than none at all.  If that doesn't work, he will shove his head in the kitchen bin as far down as it will go.  Yesterday he emerged with a ball of sticky tape in his mouth.  Oh fine, I thought, eat it if you want, I don't care.  He chewed at it for a bit then spat it out on the floor and left it there.  This morning he ran about opening bedroom doors and stealing things that happen to be lying about on beds, under beds and in laundry baskets.  I then ran about grabbing things off him before he chewed them beyond recognition, and put them all back from whence they came.  Even the addition of bad language aimed in his direction didn't deter him and he was at it again before I had resumed my current task.  A small plastic David Tennant was the last thing to be pilfered but I think he escaped unscathed.  I have used him as a paper weight on the kitchen work top, (DT not Puppy) which seems to work quite well.

The only things I have achieved today are a line full of clean washing and a carrot cake for tea (after loading up with pancakes) and that's it!  I am wrung out, strung out and feel very un-pretty and un-sparkly.  I am not sure at this moment whether it is a blessing that I don't have a husband, or not.  If he was my dream man he would give me a hug, make me a cup of tea and tell me I'm beautiful (even if I look like a mad professor), but a rubbish husband would add his demands and complaints to those of the dogs and children, house and garden and make things ten times worse.  Glad I haven't got that to worry about at least.

Puppy has been silent and conspicuous by his absence for the last hour.  This is worrying.  Not sure I want to go and look where he is and what he's been doing.  I may not be able to handle it.  When I was a very small child, I would hide behind a chair when we had visitors, with my backside in the air and my head buried in my hands.  If I couldn't see them....

Wish I could get away with doing that

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Here Comes The Sun

Happy Saint David's Day one and all!  Happily March is here at long last; the sun is shining, the sky is blue (and a bit cloudy too), it's still half-term and it's not raining!  What more could I ask for? Happiness is called Spring and it's here at last.

It is still a tad chilly, I must admit, but I will live with that because the sun is shining and I can get washing out on the line and when I bring it in later on, it is actually dry!  Oh joy.  The smell of fresh bedding that has been wafting in a cool breeze all day is the best ever and we all sleep so much better on cool, garden scented cotton sheets.  This half-term has been lovely.  The children broke up from school a week ago during a very wet and windy February and somehow in the last week the weather has improved, it is lighter at each end of the day and everything suddenly feels brighter, fresher and full of promise.  Or is that just me?  The delight I have found in getting back to gardening after a four year enforced break has been unmeasurable.  Pea has got the gardening bug too, which in turn gives me even more pleasure in the activity.

Pea and I escaped the house, dogs and boys for an afternoon of garden-centre-excitement recently.  We did ask the boys if they wanted to come with us, but the withering looks they shot us made me question my reasoning in asking in the first place.  'Why?' their expressions asked, but politeness intervened and they just said 'Um, no thank you mam.' and so we left them, heads bent over games, curled up on the settee with the dogs.  Seeing them thus settled, I could relax and enjoy my time with my daughter.  Needless to say, garden centre plants are pretty expensive, hence the reason I grow most of my plants from seed, but we did splash out on some small pots of herbs and a scraggy looking Dianthus that was on sale on account of it looking half dead.  I am a sucker for sad, pathetic things so of course I bought it and took it home.  I re potted it the next day and it looked better already.  It is snuggled up in the poly tunnel at the moment until it has recovered enough to be planted outside.

On waking to a promisingly pleasant morning, we all drifted into the garden to engage in various activities; the boys basically ran about finding hiding places and dragged Puppy along in the guise of sniffer dog to hunt out criminals and other unsavoury (thankfully imaginary) things in the garden.  Puppy seemed to relish his new role in life and threw himself into it with delighted abandonment.  Middle Aged Labrador spent an hour rooting about in the newly dug kitchen garden like a truffle pig, and dug up lots of tiny potatoes that she proceeded to eat.  A bit later I found her being sick next to a clump of cheerful Crocuses.  Potatoes do not agree with her, evidently.

Pea skillfully persuaded me to buy a pot of Muscari the other day.  We had gone out to buy some netting and a few poles to create a make-shift fence to keep the dogs off the cultivated part and came home clutching a little pot of blue flowers as well.  I love Muscari and it is one of the few bulbs not already in the garden, so it was lovely to plant the very first things in the soil that put our mark on the place.  As we dug over the soil, I discovered a brick path and on further investigation we found it edges the tatty bit of grass that mascaraedes as a lawn.  We dug out the grass and revealed a horse-shoe shape that neatly defines the lawn and actually makes it look like it has a purpose in life.

Look!  A little path!  I think you would have to be a pixie to actually walk on it as it's only one brick wide, but it looks good and will make cutting the lawn so much easier.  Of course with all the digging, the dogs wandering about and the boys walking here and there, there were a few minor casualties.

I rescued them before they got trampled into the mud and put them in a tea cup of water on the mantelpiece.  H2 said he spent all morning carefully stepping around a huge clump of flowers only for me to tell him he needn't have bothered as they are weeds.  It seems he didn't bother trying to avoid the daffodils and trod on them instead.  Great.

 So things are starting to take shape and it's only the beginning of March.  I have high hopes for the next seven months!  Soon I will be taking on the role of volunteer befriender with a local charity that supports older people who need some help with various aspects of life, such as getting out and about after being poorly or maybe they have lost confidence and would like some support and a friendly face while they re-build their lives.  Hopefully I will be of use to them and in turn, enhance my own life skills and experiences.  I will have gone some way to justifying my place on Planet Earth and can enjoy my garden and home knowing I have earned the right to be happy.

Have a lovely weekend and thank you for reading. xxx