Monday 30 September 2013

If you go down to the woods today

You'll pass a small herd of alpacas, a few assorted large horned cows and you'll find lots of little fungi.

If only I knew exactly what I was looking at maybe I'd be making wild mushroom pasta right now.

We had a busy weekend full of all the normal things - football, books, a fast grocery shop, walking in the country park, more football and a bowling party for the eldest.  It was a bit rushed to be honest.  I'd like more time to just hang with the little people.  Everyone is a bit tired at the moment.  I've just held the littlest boy as he sobbed himself to sleep - he doesn't want to be in his new room any more.  He needs to be nearer to me in case he doesn't feel very well in the night.  He wants it all put back the way it was.  Oh dear.  Actually I want a few things to go back to the way they were - if only it was that easy.

I did a little garden tidying today while everything was nice and dry.  Underneath some dying peony foliage I found this little caterpillar and a cyclamen that I'd forgotten existed.

I do love these delicate little flowers.  This plant asks for nothing, quietly appears every year as everything else is dying, and blooms in an elegant understated way.  And the leaves, oh the leaves - beautiful.  Heartshaped and painted darkly, a perfect foil for the pale flowers.

I pulled up the borlotti beans in the garden, amongst other things.  Some of the pods were dry and contained the beautiful painted beans.  Some were still fresh, and the beans were a pale green.

I'll be making vegetable soup with a handful of them.  And maybe some houmus.  There aren't loads, so I'll be eeking them out.  The fresh ones are delicious, really worth growing.  I shall save some of the driest ones for planting in the spring.

I also found my new favourite salad ingredient, growing in between two rows of runner beans.

Delicious crunchy radish seed pods.  I planted a row of radishes between the beans ages ago, but they didn't really do very well.  However now there are these wonderful little pods to pick.  I know you can get a particular variety especially for the pods (rats' tail???) but these work just fine.  Other half ate them at lunchtime without even asking what they were!  Handy, if I ever feel the need to feed him anything suspect.

I do hope you have a good week.  I'm so tired I can't keep my eyes open, so it's off to bed for me.  Let us hope I am not required to be on call to the little people.  Sweet dreams.

Saturday 28 September 2013

The tail end of September in the garden

It's all looking a bit scrappy out there now.

This is a small space that's going to be a wildlife area.  There's the start of a logpile and lots of overgrown grass, which I think may be harbouring frogs.  No doubt there are lots of slugs in there as well.  Hopefully the frogs will eat the slugs.  Whilst I strongly believe that wildlife is a wonderful thing, I'm not in a hurry to stick my hands into that grass the see exactly what's lurking in there.  I have small boys for that.  Why have a dog and bark yourself.

Some of the strawberry leaves are turning this sensational shade of red.

Last year my eldest cut the leaves of off his strawberries in autumn, as recommended by Monty Don, and they were really neat and clean for ages afterwards.  So when I have a moment (!) I'll try and get round and do it again this year.  Or maybe he'll do it for me.  Sounds unlikely now I've said it out loud though.

Bob (Flowerdew) says that you also have to nip off all unripe figs at this time of year.  So being a slave to all that Bob says, I did.  Watch the sap though.  I got some on my arm and it did really irritate for a while.  And it's devilish sticky.

Unfortunately these little figlets are only good for the compost heap.

Elsewhere... there's still a little cricket.

Apples, almost ready.

Pears, still really hard.  Should I be ripening them indoors?  I've no idea, it's the first year I've had more than two!

The odd mushroom, being enjoyed by some unidentified wildlife.  It's almost all gone now.  Must have been delicious.

Tomatoes, ripening very slowly now.  They will soon be finished, ripe or not.

The pepper plants have been composted now.  I wasn't much impressed with them this year.  The flesh is very thin and the fruits were fairly sparse.  I honestly don't think I'll bother again.  Although you may have to remind me I said that in February when I look through the seed box and find a packet or two of leftover seeds.

In the pond there are some lovely fat beetles.  If they see you coming, they dive.  Apologies for the poor photo, it was quite gloomy and I didn't make a very good job of it.

Also a late waterlily.

In the kitchen there are still a few things from the allotment

I'm thinking borscht, salsa, lentil and vegetable soup, cucumber salad and something involving courgettes.  They hold no fear for me any more.  Production has slowed to three or four a week.  I can deal with that in my sleep.

And a final gift from the allotment - pink roses.  Last year I had hardly anything planted there, and I was mainly just tackling weeds.  But there were roses, almost until November which seemed like such a luxury, and a little reward for the effort put in.  There's an old rose bush by the shed, and it's hit it's stride now, after an early flush, and there are lots of beautiful buds.

In amongst the decay of autumn, a little last loveliness.  Enjoy the rest of the weekend all.

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Trouble in a canoe, art and a happy clam

Just a few pictures from my week so far.  On Sunday I took the boys in a canoe at the Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve.  It did not go well.  Four people, all sticking their oars in, did not make for plain sailing.  The middle and the littlest did really well, but the eldest (up front) and me (at the back) had long and vocal differences of opinion about how we needed to get through the water.  In the interests of getting our money's worth we stayed in the boat for a good hour.  By the end of it the two of us were not in good moods and everyone was wet (don't ask) and some of us had been tocked on the head with an oar.  If Saturday was Swallows and Amazons, Sunday was a little more like Deliverance.

It wasn't all bad though.  The waterways were lovely - a bit like paddling down the Amazon I fancy.

At the end some swans came and had a little peck of us.  Literally.

Back at home I've been decluttering a bit, and sorting out a bedroom for the littlest boy.  Yesterday he moved into what was an office.  I cleared all of the art off of the walls first, then spent a very trying day moving desks and beds and chests of drawers.  I also dropped the hoover on my foot.

When the littlest boy got home from school he was so excited.  He has the biggest capacity for utter joy imaginable, and it really doesn't take very much to make him happy.  So a room of his own was off the chart, even though it is very bare at the moment, and still has a huge desk in it, which will stay for a while until other things are re-arranged.  He has his soft toys and his quilt and he is happy as a clam.

I made the boys hanging signs for their door handles a while ago.

The top one is the littlest boy's, and the bottom one is the big boys'.  It's supposed to be a spoonbilled sandpiper - a very rare bird that the eldest one loves.  But I'm not kidding myself that anyone could actually recognise it.  The littlest boy also made sure that his other door signs were moved to his new door.

It says "keep out", but I can't remember what the bit above it was.  All done on chopped up cereal box.  I love that he wanted to keep it and carefully moved it to his new door.

On Monday he did a bit of pre-breakfast painting as we were up early.

I do feel he has captured my essence, although my hair is slightly more brown than blue in real life.  The sign says "entr" (enter) - not sure exactly where I am entering.  Much as in real life.

The biggest painted a birthday card for a friend.  I just typed "birdthday" by mistake, but maybe that would be more appropriate.

I'm thinking we should handmake all our birthday cards.  So much more personal no?  And quite a bit cheaper too.  I shall ask to borrow the watercolours.

Sunday 22 September 2013

Life on the ocean wave

Or Frampton-on-Severn lake to be more precise.  One of the local sailing clubs had an open day yesterday, with the opportunity to be taken out on a boat.  Remembering the family motto, "If it's free, it's for me", we saddled up and headed for the water.

The top picture is the big boys in their boat.  Me and the littlest man went in a smaller one together.  I tried to ignore the four inches of water in the bottom that was slopping about and getting our feet wet.  Everyone had an experienced sailor to take them out, but once we hit our stride we were allowed to pull on ropes and steer a bit, much to the boys' delight.  The littlest boy had huge fun making the boat go all over the place.  I was trying to control him and keep my feet out of the water and duck when the boom went over and not get my hair tangled up in it and not to slide about too much when the whole thing tipped alarmingly to one side.  The boys did the leaning out over the edge thing as well and somehow managed not to fall in.  I took my little point-and-shoot camera and almost lost it when I climbed out and it fell onto the pontoon.  Thank goodness it didn't fall between the boat and dry land and into the water.

The boys wanted another go, so I took all three of them out in another boat.  The sailors were friendly and informative, and happy to let us have a go at driving.  There were lots of children sailing by themselves in little boats, and we saw several people we knew from the boys' school.  All in all it was a wonderful afternoon; something different to do, somewhere different to visit - we didn't even know the lake existed - and a great new experience.  I'm so grateful that people put in the time and effort to make events like this such a success.

On Friday I made a quick trip to the allotment to see if there was anything to harvest.  Once I was there, and the squeaky gate was closed, it felt, as it often does, like a whole other world.  The sun came out and the bees were everywhere collecting nectar to see them through the winter.

For various reasons I felt very pensive, and I spent longer than I should have just pottering around, looking, thinking and taking a few pictures with my little camera, which is often the only one I take to the plot.  Change is hard.  Loss is hard.  But just as I had news of a death (not someone I knew particularly well, but enough to make me stop and draw breath), I had news of a friend's pregnancy as well.  The flowers were still blooming.  The bees were still buzzing.  And they will, on and on, year after year.  At a glance everything looked the same.  I took a deep breath and snapped out of it.  Finding the joy in every day is the key I think.

There are still things to harvest.

The crystal lemon cucumbers (top right, under the little yellow courgette) have been incredibly prolific.  I did think I might not grow them again because they're not hugely convenient to use, but in fact maybe I will, just because of the sheer volume of the crop.

The Amazing Courgette plant is still producing courgettes, although more slowly now.

You can see that it's escaped for the plot and is headed off across the grass now.  I saw courgettes trained vertically up canes on another plot.  They were incredibly neat had lots of air and light around them.  Elsewhere I have more chillies than I really know what to do with.  This was a 99p plant I got from Aldi a few weeks ago.  It was already a good size and covered with flowers and fruitlets.  Aldi always let their plants dry out - I'm not sure why, but no-one ever waters them, so they go past their prime very quickly and then they're reduced.  The chilli recovered beautifully, but two tomatoes I also bought at the same time never really recovered.

We're off out somewhere this afternoon, to make the most of the warm weather.  It's the Autumn Equinox today, the tipping point as the nights start to become longer than the days.  But the forecast is for a warm bright day, so I will be making the most of everything.  We will do some football and a birthday party this morning, and go out and enjoy each other's company after lunch.  As my friend would say, happy days.  Hope you have one too.

Thursday 19 September 2013


Boys have temporarily been banned from the grass, or what is left of it.  There's a huge bare patch which is either dust or mud, depending on the rain levels.  I've sprinkled some grass seed over it, but I have a feeling it might not be germinating.  In the meantime there is football on the patio and lots of inside stuff.  The chess set is back out after a long break.

There's also been lots of drawing, making, writing and reading.  I look out for old classic books for the children when I can.  I remember loving Paddington bear when I was little.  I read it to the boys the other day and we all laughed so hard at his decorating disasters.

Also loving Beatrix Potter.  This is a particular favourite of the littlest boy, who is all about the Flopsy Bunnies.

The oldest has a new i-Spy book, so we're also a little bit obsessed with leaves at the moment.  We were thrilled to find an Indian Bean tree on the way to school.  Twenty-five points!

The littlest boy needs a bit of encouragement to read.  (By encouragement I of course mean bribery).  He has been promised a small rabbit soft toy from the local country park when he's done a good amount of reading.  While he loves to look at books, reading the actual words isn't for him.  He resists almost every single time.  Yesterday he received a postcard from the rabbit.

It said, "I am typing this with my paw.  Please do lots of reading so that I can come and live with you.  I really want to come and be at your house, so read everything you can so that I don't have to wait too long to be your rabbit.  I don't want to live in a shop any more.  When I come and live with you will you take me out on adventures with you please?  Lots of love from Rabbit xxx".  As you can see, the typewriter ribbon got away from Rabbit a little...  In case you were wondering, the postcard is propped again a jar of hamster food, it's not my breakfast muesli.  The little man is planning to send a postcard back saying, "Dear Rabbit, I love you and you can come and live at my house and have adventures".

For the grown-ups a little collection of P G Wodehouse is being amassed.  I had forgotten how utterly wonderful his writing is.

I'll leave you with a delicious quote if I may.

“Freddie experienced the sort of abysmal soul-sadness which afflicts one of Tolstoy's Russian peasants when, after putting in a heavy day's work strangling his father, beating his wife, and dropping the baby into the city's reservoir, he turns to the cupboards, only to find the vodka bottle empty.” 

Hope you have a good day.