Monday 28 October 2013

A little time out

We all went to a party on Saturday.  Not the Pre-Children kind of party, but the sort where you arrive at 3pm and are at home on the sofa with a cup of cocoa by 9 o'clock.  About halfway through the boys needed a little air.  You know how it is; they start climbing on the furniture and bouncing off the walls.  They try and they try, but they just can't help shoving each other a little and starting a bit of a wrestle.  So we wandered down the road to a little pebble beach to look at the sea.  Well, the Bristol Channel anyway.

I love the colours of the waterside in winter.  All those pale steel blues and greys and browns.  I always think I'll make a quilt with those colours one day.

We scrambled around a bit and picked up some sea glass.  It was pretty quiet down there.  Just us and a few birds and one or two other wanderers.

We worked off some of the madness before we returned to the party.  There's nothing like fresh air to improve moods.

The clocks went back, but it meant nothing in our house.  I was woken up at 5.30am when the eldest was stood apparition-like at the end of the bed saying, "I'm just looking for the binoculars mummy, I need to see the nebula".  Well of course you do.

I spent Sunday morning watching the him playing football.  The rain was horizontal for a while and really heavy.  The score was something like 17-1 to our team.  I don't like matches like that, I really feel for the losing team.  It must be very dispiriting to the boys that lose, to turn up every time and get beaten so thoroughly.  And for the coach who tries so hard to help them.  A lesson in being gracious in victory for the eldest.  There's no merit to be had in gloating over an easy win.

The weather didn't improve during the afternoon.  We drove to a nearby town and looked in a bookshop and a library, and restocked our reading piles for the half term.  The drive home looked something like this.

But whatever half term throws at us, we're ready.  And I'm just happy to have the little people at home for the week.  If it's a week of being inside with books and drawing and games and baking and a little wrestling that's fine.  I just like being here.

Friday 25 October 2013

The third thing

It's been one of those days.  I had a long list of little things to do before the hysteria of half term.  But no sooner had I sat down to a late breakfast (I always have a late breakfast at about 10am) of oats, cashew nuts and soya milk, BAM, power failure.  By the time I eat my breakfast I have usually left it a bit too late, and my mood and ability to cope with anything is fairly low.  I do not like to be disturbed at the crucial refuel moment, especially as it is when I like to sit down and have a quiet read, something I don't do at any other time during the day.  So it was not a happy moment.  And it took the whole of the rest of the morning, several phone calls and one helpful electrician to establish that the dishwasher is the problem.  So long as the dishwasher is never switched on, all is well.  The dishwasher man cannot come until Tuesday.  The electricial thinks it might need replacing.  Sigh.

Now I'm not superstitious, but people do say that these things always come in threes.  I've had fridge problems, laptop problems and now dishwasher problems.  That's three!  I'm done.  Touch wood.

After order was restored, I had a quiet moment in the garden.  I pulled up the Sungolds, and salvaged these last few.  The biggest boy will eat these, they're his favourite.  I found a label with the date 22 February on it.  So I've been nurturing these plants for some eight months.  Totally worth it though.

I found this squash in a greengrocer's at the weekend.  No idea what type it is, but I'd love to grow some next year.  It's only little, I don't know if the seeds will be viable, but I'll give it a go.

I've been looking for a little autumn inspiration.  Some warm food and some warm wool are what's needed I think.

I especially love this blanket.  I fear the wool is a little out of my price range though.  My price range is more along the lines of "let's see what's stuffed in the back of the cupboard".   Unfortunately I happen to know that there aren't twenty-eight skeins of luxury baby alpaca back there.  Not to worry, I have something far less classy in mind.

I'm treating you to a rare photo of the hamster today.  The sun was out, warming his little house, and he popped out for a quick wander, to check that all his stuff was still in its place.  He's so very nocturnal, we hardly see him at all during the day, so we always get excited when he appears.  And don't worry, although he's in the sun I keep a very close eye on the temperature and close the blinds as soon as it creeps up.  During the summer months the sun doesn't penetrate this far into the room fortunately.

So here we all are, ready for a whole week of half term adventuring.  The rain is hammering down on the Velux skylights and the wind is at full throttle but everything inside feels very cosy and autumnal.  We're ready, bring it on.

Sunday 20 October 2013

Someone stop me

Now I've got the ability to post photos again I may run out of control for a post or two.  I'll work through it I'm sure.  But it's just been so nice out, I've been snapping away.

Thursday was the day of the teacher's strike, so we took the opportunity to go to Slimbridge in the sun.  It was utterly beautiful - warm, wonderfully lit and a kind of bonus day with the little people.

Today we had the usual morning of football.  The biggest boy was captain this week.  The team fought really hard, but lost by a goal in the final minute.  A good game though, so he's happy.

This afternoon we went to the country park.  As we wandered round I had a sudden urge to start a new knitting or crochet project.

Oh how I love wool.  Such a miraculous product of nature.  Warm, cool, fire retardant, water repellent, absorbent, elastic.  Clever, clever, clever.  Nothing matches natural products.  I just have to decide what to make.  I shall spend a happy hour or two on Ravelry I think.

Being as it's mid-October, we headed for The Conker Place after admiring the sheep and alpacas.  We go there every year.  For some reason the boys have an obsessive need to collect their own body weight in conkers.  Last year there weren't any.  This year, plenty.  Three carrier bags full are now in my kitchen.  We played conkers all evening.  Simple pleasures.

It's a lovely spot, overlooking the river, with beautiful views of the South Gloucestershire countryside.

As well as conkers, there were a few fungi.  Some really enormous ones.  I put some little feet in the shot, to give an idea of scale.  The biggest ones had been knocked off of the dead tree stump they'd grown on.  I don't know what type they are, unfortunately.  It would be nice to know what they all are and which ones are edible.

Despite a morning of football, there's always energy for more.  The biggest boy would play all day every day if he could.  It's in his genes I think, his dad was apparently the same.

I spotted this growing on an apple tree on the way out.  Mistletoe anyone?

We're not quite ready for that yet.  Still enjoying autumn.  Some of us haven't even stopped wearing shorts yet.

Have a good week all.  I'll be back before you know it with more photos...

Saturday 19 October 2013

Flying again

I've worked out how to get photos onto the computer again, after a fashion.  A lot of everything I do is "after a fashion".  Especially when it comes to technology.  But anyway, I have pictures.

My eldest, the birdwatcher, chose to go to Cotwold Falconry Centre as a birthday treat.  Last year we went to the International Centre for Birds of Prey, which we loved, so this year we thought we'd try something similar.

It was wonderful.  As soon as you enter the lovely rural premises you are surrounded by birds.  There are eagles, like the stunning sea eagle above and top, as well as owls, vultures, kites, caracaras and so many more.  Some are tethered in sheltered but outside display areas.  And some were in aviaries.

During the day there were four hour-long flying displays.  First up was a vast eagle owl.  The backdrop was beautiful.  The Centre is on an estate, and the land behind this fence was given over to deer.  Every so often the herd would drift into sight.

The birds were encouraged to fly as far away as possible.  The staff have no worries about them not coming back.  They are more concerned to make sure they are properly exercised.  The further they fly, the more they are rewarded.

Once they have eaten, all the birds want to do is preen for a while and then sleep and digest their meals.  So it was explained to us that they are quite happy in aviaries or tethered, as everything they require is provided.  They are not wild birds, but ones that have been bred in captivity, and several of them are rare birds that are being bred to preserve the species.  They did seem very well cared for, and many of them had the opportunity to fly freely in the countryside every day.

It was a fairly chilly day, but everyone had a pretty good time, even the littlest boy who was feeling a bit peaky.  He is such a trouper, he kept going the whole day, despite everything.

The Centre is at Batsford Park, near Moreton-in-Marsh, a beautiful part of the world - the north Cotswolds to be precise.  It's about an hour and a quarter at least from our house.  It would be nice to visit the area more often and do some exploring.  As it was, we only really had time to spend at the Centre.  But I'm not complaining, it was such a privilege to get so close to these amazing birds.

This weekend we're doing the usual morning football things.  We went to Stroud this afternoon and bought a few books for the children.  Bookshops are just right on wet days.  We ended up sheltering in a couple of them while there was a deluge.  I am enjoying autumn this year.  Things in the garden and allotment are not as pressing, and there is a little time to curl up on the sofa now the evenings are dark so early.  In fact I'm off to do that right now, with a little stitching and a dark, murderous DVD.  I'll be checking the doors are locked later.

Sunday 13 October 2013

All is safely gathered in

Technical problems here, so just a short post.

I've been collecting up my apples and pears from the five trees in the garden.  They're only young trees, and so the harvest has been small.  But they are delicious, particularly the apples.

I've got Cox's Orange Pippins - just a very small tree in a pot, Egremont Russets and Ribston Pippins, which taste superb.  Apples don't last long in this house though, so before long I'll be buying them from the supermarket again.  Our local greengrocer closed last week, which is a shame.  It would be nice if another one opened, but I don't hold out much hope.

We've had a week of birthday celebrations here as the biggest boy turned 10 on Thursday.  A whole decade!  There's been bowling and pizza, new books and a new memory card for his camera, and yesterday a much-anticipated visit to Cotswold Falconry Centre.  I have photos, but Photoshop has been wiped off of my laptop, and as I can't locate the disc, at the moment I can't transfer pictures onto the computer.  I had a bit of a technological meltdown mid-week.  It is so utterly frustrating when for no apparent reason it all goes wrong.  But no doubt it will all be sorted in the end, somehow.  In the meantime I might just have to rely on picture-free posts.  Yikes.  Hope a good week is had by all.  I shall be trotting up and down on school runs, doing all the normal weekly things and almost certainly grumbling about technology.  But I do love it really.

Wednesday 9 October 2013

Allotment wandering

I paid my allotment rent this week.  Despite worrying constantly about where I will ever find the time to keep my plot, I found myself writing a cheque for £12 (brilliant value no?) and taking it round to the clerk's house.  The next day I went to the site and had a wander with my camera on the way to my plot.  As I closed the gate behind myself and looked down at all the productive little gardens the thought came into my head, "Of course I must keep it".

Will you come for a stroll too?

My plot is in the far corner of the site, so to get down there I try to take a different path each time I visit.  So I get to have a look at all of the different plots, to see what people are growing and what is working and what isn't.  Some plots are utterly immaculate, some overgrown.  There is always inspiration in one form or another.

Halfway down one of the paths to the bottom I found a fig tree.  I'm not sure if they'd had any ripe figs, but it did give me an idea of what to do with one of my little pot bound trees.

These plots are near mine.  The one with the green shed is a thing of beauty, it really is.  It won the best allotment prize for three years in a row, before withdrawing to allow other people a chance.

Down at the bottom there's a hedge (running behind the green shed) and a stream.  In the hedge are all sorts of signs of autumn, some planted, some wild.

At my plot the cosmos are still flowering like mad, and at any given time there are bees frantically collecting nectar.

I removed the tomatoes, cucumbers and squashes and did some weeding.  As I worked leaves drifted down from the tree at the bottom by the stream.

Birds were singing, as always, and it occurred to me that one of the things I love about having an allotment is just being there amongst all of the growing things.  I'd happily spend an hour just wandering about and looking.

The shed next to me has had a break-in.

Such a shame, there have been a few lately.  My shed doesn't have a window, so I escaped this time.  As I said, we're in the corner furthest from the gate.  Sad to think that people have walked all this way down through the allotments to destroy and steal.  How could they not see the magic all around them?  There is so little of value to a thief to be taken - just a few tools maybe.

I've made a decision of sorts about the allotment I think.  I'll keep it for as long as I can, and try not to lie awake at night worrying about it.  If I can't hang on to it, and it gets weedy and is taken away from me by the lady with the clipboard, then so be it.  But the boys and I do love our little piece of land, and we are so very lucky to have it.  And besides, I have all sorts of plans, and things I want to grow, and a big old shoebox full of seed packets.  Come February, there'll be no stopping me.