Tuesday 30 June 2015

The June allotment

Photos from the plot this morning (apologies for putting the apple picture in twice, I only just noticed and I know it will all go wrong if I try to change it).  I got there at about 5.50am, and yes, I think I was the first there.  I'm an early riser, so occasionally I go straight to the allotment for a little tidying and watering.  In the summer it means I can avoid puffing up and down with my watering can in the hottest part of the day.  Plus I've got a lot more energy and enthusiasm in the mornings.  By the afternoon it's almost all gone.  I revive slightly after the children go to bed for some reason.

June is the month that the harvests really kick in.  I picked the first of the beetroot and French climbing beans.  I've also been picking gooseberries, artichokes and broad beans, turnips and radishes, and a few pretty flowers, larkspur and roses.  I stopped picking the asparagus around midsummer's day and already it's thickening up into a little forest.

A few other crops are finishing as well.  Turnips and radishes have turned woody and the broad beans have finished, so I did some pulling out of things.  It means there's a little space for more although I'm not sure what yet.  The weeds are coming along brilliantly as always, but hoeing them in this hot weather is fairly effective.

I roasted the beetroot for tea.  The biggest boy accidentally left a bit on his plate.  I take great exception to people leaving things that I've grown (and sweated over) myself and by now everyone knows it is a dangerous thing to do.  Apart from anything else, as I told him, it was a little bit of heaven on a fork.  Eyes were rolled.

Over pudding, there was a conversation about today's visit to the school by a police horse that went something like this.

Biggest boy (to littlest boy):  You were really disrespectful to that policeman, you weren't behaving like it was a proper school thing.  You shouldn't have been messing about and talking and poking me in the back and going "Riot, riot, I predict a riot."   I did try to tell him off, but honestly, I nearly choked I was laughing so much.  Where does he get it from???

Sunday 28 June 2015

Goose, flamingoes and unfeasibly big feet

Summer at the wildfowl and wetlands place.  I sat at the top of the tower looking out over the river.  It's one of my favourite places, and somewhere I remember sitting around six months ago, watching the sun set.  It's so different in summer.  Cows grazing out on the salt marsh, flowers everywhere, ducklings and chickies.

The goose is a nene or Hawaiian goose, the world's rarest goose.  It's a captive one, part of a breeding programme.  The flamingoes are Caribbean ones I think, and the picture is especially for Dee who does like a nice flamingo.  In the picture underneath the flamingoes there are two tiny moorhen chicks.  In fact they had another brother as well, three of them, being shepherded around by their moorhen mum.  The penultimate picture is an older chick.  I love how huge their feet are.  All the better for walking nimbly over lily pads.

The last picture is a day flying moth called a scarlet tiger I think.  Butterfly Conservation say that it likes marshes, damp meadows and riverbanks so it's in the right place.

The planter with the lavender was in the cafe area.  It had thyme, sage and curry plant in as well, and all of the planters were filled with herbs.  They looked really pretty, and the pollinators loved them.  A great idea for container planting, I'm taking notes.

I'm bracing myself for the last three weeks of term.  There's always so much on the calendar right at the end of the academic year.  And I'm still trying to do a little writing as well, I can't imagine I'll find the time for much in the summer holidays.  The biggest boy has only fifteen more days of little school, then it's off to the vast pond of secondary school.  He's ready though, and looking forward to it.  Adventures await.

Wishing you all a good week.  CJ xx

Thursday 25 June 2015

The Colour Collaborative: June: Found

In the darker recesses of our house, tucked away in drawers and on shelves and squirrelled away in treasure boxes, there is a little selection of natural treasures.  I try to discourage wholesale plunder of the countryside and coast - in my experience boys would collect pebbles by the sackful if they could - but a few things come home with us from time to time as reminders of happy days of exploring and adventure.

The pebble above was one I found with the middle boy on a very beautiful afternoon at the remote Kimmeridge Bay in Dorset.  It's an important area geographically, being part of the Jurassic coast, and it's also a marine reserve.  All in all a place to treasure.  It's not easily accessed, and we got there late in the day when the tide was up high over dark flat rocks.  The sun was low and everything was a hundred different shades of grey.  It was stunning.  We slithered up and down the rocks looking at the fossils in the big boulders and searching for crabs.  It was one of those perfect moments that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

We found this lovely dark grey pebble.  So simple but so striking.  It sits on a shelf in the bedroom and I look at it every day.  Sometimes I pick it up and feel how smooth it is and run my fingers over the seam.  I love it and I love the memories of a small hand in mine, the taste of salt sea spray and the sharing of childhood wonder.

The two big feathers are from a pheasant, but I'm not sure about the small one.  Unusual feathers are a rarity, most of the ones we see are still firmly stuck in a bird.  I don't mind the little people collecting these at all (once they're not in a bird any more).  They're exquisitely patterned and I keep them where I see them every day, in a pewter pot on the mantelpiece or the piano.

Shells from a holiday a few years ago.  It wasn't the best shell collecting area, but that just made the finds all the more special.  Chunks of thick ridged scallop shell, beautiful tan speckled cockles and an old barnacle encrusted slipper limpet.

A jar of sea glass that lives in the kitchen.  We regularly visit beaches that have a good supply.  Not a natural find, but one that I'm happy for the boys to bring home.  Little chunks of broken bottles that have rolled backwards and forwards with the pebbles so long that they have that smooth opaque quality.  The subtlest shades of blue and green, along with a few more vibrant pieces.

Our two nests are precious finds indeed.  This one was on the ground at the country park.  It had been built in an evergreen tree, and if you look you can see bits of dried tree in there, together with the softest feathers and animal wool.  There are llamas at the country park (or alpacas? I should know the difference), so no shortage of the finest quality softness to line a nest.

This one was on the ground in our back lane.  It had fallen out of the ivy, long after the babies had fledged.  It's bigger than the other one (a blackbird's nest?) and not lined in the same way.  The eggs don't belong to the nest, we found those separately, but I keep them in there anyway.

I love how you can see a little trial beak mark on the tiny blue egg.  A tiny bird had a go at getting out on that side before he finally nibbled his way out on the other side.  I'm guessing this is a hedge sparrow's egg, and the white ones are probably wood pigeons, although those are just guesses really.

When I look at our found treasures all together the thing that strikes me is the subtle beauty of the natural colours.  There's nothing bright or jarring here, just muted greys and whites, browns mixed with cream and a hint of blue.  The calm serene colours that nature does best.

To visit the other Colour Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts, just click on the links below: 

                     Annie at Annie Cholewa                        Gillian at Tales from a Happy House

                     Sandra at Cherry Heart                           Jennifer at Thistlebear

                     Sarah at Mitenska

What is The Colour Collaborative?

All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways.

Sunday 21 June 2015

One mile an hour

A Sunday afternoon walk, and a new low as far as speed goes.  A two mile walk took us two whole hours.  Honestly, I don't know how we manage it.

We were headed here, to the lovely Tudor manor house and church at Owlpen.

The trouble is, someone is always lagging behind.  The biggest boy likes to look for birds in every hedge and bush.  The other half likes to admire the architecture and landscape.  I like to photograph things.  And the littlest people are either commandoing through the undergrowth in the manner of Bear Grylls (or so they imagine, in reality it is more like a rhino approaching) or hitting things with sticks.  It makes for a pleasant afternoon, but we are SO slow.  Before children we used to walk for miles.  We're going on holiday to the mountains of north Wales soon, we're supposed to be in training.  At this rate we'll be spending the night halfway up.

Owlpen Manor is gorgeous, but it's not very easy to see from the road.  It dates from 1450, and now it's used as a wedding venue, that sort of thing.  If I was a different kind of blogger I'd spend the weekend there and give you a review, but as it is you'll have to imagine me sidling into the bottom of the garden and taking a few sneaky photos.

We had another cow moment on the way back.  We climbed over a small stile out of their field (just visible in the fence below) and as we each went over, the cows became more and more interested in what was going on.  Actually, I think they were bullocks because, well, you know.  Anyway I think that's the correct term but what do I know, just an ignorant city girl.  By the time I went over second last they had decided they wanted to get up close and personal, and by the time the biggest boy, who was last, was climbing up they were actually all trotting directly at him.  The littlest boy nearly fell off the next stile because he was shrieking with glee and laughing so much.

A farmer was hard at work, making the most of this longest day.  I always fancied being a farmer's wife.  Baking cakes and growing vegetables and keeping lambs in the bottom of the Aga, that sort of thing.  Nobody is to leave any comments shattering my illusions.

Love this tree growing right out of the bottom of the wall of this house.  The sort of thing a mortgage surveyor would make you chop down.  Oh that would make me cross.

The corner shop, only posher.  This one was opened by Prince Charles a couple of years ago.  We have a One Stop Shop here, it's not quite in the same league.  The posh one has bunting and a vintage "Postal Telegraph" sign.  We have kingsize Dairy Milk bars on BOGOF and two dozen cans of Stella for a tenner.

Uley church.  There was a notice in the porch saying that one-third of the country's 2,000 varieties of lichen are found in churchyards.  They like all the ancient stone.

Stained glass in a window put in in the early 1800s.  Wonderful detail.

On the drive home we stopped at this amazing viewpoint.  The river is in the distance.  The drop below is really steep, I imagine it would be amazing to hang glide off the edge.  Oh how I would scream.

You might be able to just make out a pointy mountain in the photo below in the far, far distance (centre horizon).  I told the boys we are going there to train next.  It's in the Black Mountains, not far from where the SAS train in the Brecon Beacons.  I have captured their imaginations and they're all terribly enthusiastic about it.

I've had a look, and it's a distance of four whole miles (!) which, because of the height of the thing (just under 2,000') is estimated to take between three and a half and five hours.  If we walk at one mile an hour, and a normal person walks at four miles an hour, then we will need to multiply by four.  So twenty hours should see us do it, although we may have to add in meal breaks.  I do hope I haven't bitten off more than we can chew.

Friday 19 June 2015

Five on Friday

Joining in with Amy and Five on Friday.

Those sad hostas are trying to pull themselves together in the front garden, post-snail attack, and I have filled my blue pots with these sorts of things.  The snails are wandering round the patio going, "I'm sure it was around here somewhere Mavis".  I wonder what they'll be eating instead.

There are nice things coming home from the allotment now, enough to fill our plates, although some of the smaller people are a bit dubious about artichokes, broad beans and turnips.  There have been enough strawberries from the garden to have strawberries and cream.  They're a bit earlier this year I fancy.  Last year they weren't properly around until Wimbledon week, I distinctly remember, it all seemed rather fitting.

I finally remembered to photograph this scarf, which I made from the exquisite silk that Ellen sent me a while back.  It's just a simple Bias "Before and After" Scarf, happily easy to knit.  The silk is divine, it feels like a cloud round my neck.  And best of all there is more of the yarn left, enough to make something else.  I love the subtle striping  with these short rows, but no doubt a whole different pattern will emerge if I make something wider.

A bit of cake.  I've been spending some time doing the writing course, so there's been less time for baking, but yesterday I felt the need for a coffee and walnut cake.  It's from a Monty Don cookery book, and Monty says it's his favourite.  Quite popular round here too Monty.  The internet is a vast place full of information isn't it?  I've lost myself in thousands of posts on writing.  It's like a million connected forests, all moving round so you don't know which one you'll wander into next.  I think I need to take a step back for a moment, it's made my head buzz.

At the end of the day when everything is spinning too fast I have a little knit.  This is a blanket for the littlest boy.  Shades of grey.  Oh how that dreadful book has ruined the word grey.  But I refuse to stop using it.  We shall overcome.  The blanket is grey with a light blue stripe so far.  I'm thinking a few different colour stripes.  It feels nice and warm.  Ah yes, summer is here, beautiful June, and I'm blogging about scarves and blankets.  Out of step as ever.  Next week, Christmas cake and making the most of your festive bird.  CJ xx