Slow Living :: July 2015

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July is a time when the garden really steps up a notch and we begin to get some sort of reasonable harvest from it (as chaotic as it currently is).  It’s also the time other people’s gardens are in full swing and our neighbour very kindly gave us a small plastic sack of blackcurrant boughs (as she’d hacked back an old blackcurrant bush that she will be replacing in the autumn).

We had a team effort stripping the currants off and then split the 6lbs into half for making syrup/cordial and the other half for wine.  From the syrup we made some rather delicious blackcurrant sorbet (as well as enjoying it as a drink).

We’ve also been busy harvesting and drying various herbs from the garden and keeping them either for cooking or medicinal uses (to that effect Moo has been infusing oils with calendula and lavender for later use in making skin products).

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We celebrated my second son’s 19th birthday with a cheesecake made my Moo (short of a few snaffled strawberries) and enjoyed meeting up with friends to enjoy some of the sunny weather.

 

 

Slow Living :: June 2015

June was a busy month and it was hard to find time to blog.  30 Days Wild saw us getting out of the house every day (even if it was ‘only’ to walk the dog – something that I hadn’t done for a while due to mobility issues whilst pregnant and afterwards, when I had to be careful of any sudden pulls or jars), but I have had to take it carefully as I still have some residual difficulties with my knee, back and neck.

It was Minnie’s third birthday during the month.  Moo made a wonderful birthday cake: sponge flavoured and coloured with berries, layered with whipped cream and more berries, covered with a marshmallow frosting made from marshmallows she made herself, coloured with – yes, you guessed it – more berries (our strawberries have been busy in the garden!) She decorated the cake with a particularly impressive calendula bloom, surrounded with pinks and violas.  It was very pretty and tasted amazing!

June is the month for foraging for elderflowers and making elderflower cordial/syrup – some bottled in the fridge and some frozen for later in the year.  It’s wonderful for adding a dash to all sorts of things (including the crumble above).  I also made a mint syrup from chocolate mint in the garden (I have a few different mints) and Moo made various ice creams and sorbets.  We were gifted some rhubarb and, along with a punnet of strawberries, Minnie made her first crumble (which was served with some homemade vanilla ice cream made by Moo).

It’s been hard to get into the garden and do much.  Arty wants to be held all the time and isn’t great about being laid down (if he’s asleep he swiftly wakes up again).  He seems to know when there is work to be done, or if there is something else I’d like to do, but whenever we are out, he will sleep through with no problem at all (even in a busy indoor play area!)  Still, I managed to get a bit done and helped Minnie’s pot on the experimental tomato cuttings.

June also saw Erk back from university and doing a national tour of family and friends.   It may have been ‘slow’, but all-in-all it was a tiring month!

30 Days Wild :: Day 5

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A bit of wildness in the garden, whilst trying to catch up with work that needs doing (there’s a lot of it and very little of it is easy to do with a very young baby in tow).  We will be leaving a few ‘wild’ areas around the garden as we steadily overhaul it.  Moo drilling holes in the sides of pots to help air get to the tomato roots (due to be planted in them).  Unfortunately I can’t do much in the way of drilling, even with Arty in a sling.

 

Slow Living :: March & April 2015

violets-300x300Living in the moment may well be good advice, but as I mentioned in my Slow Living February post, I find doing so in February particular hard. Much as Imbolc (Candlemas) brings the promise of greenery and warmth to come, I long for the coming of Ostara and the Spring Equinox and the year seems to shudder and lurch towards this turning point.  Being heavily pregnant exacerbated this and, as I got larger and required crutches to get around, I became increasingly frustrated because I was lacking for fresh air and countryside (Minnie and the poor dog were similarly frustrated, relying, as they do, on me to give them a good daily airing!)  Pregnancy may well make one slow down, but not necessarily in the way one might like.

Craft

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With a baby due and being unable to walk far, it’s unsurprising that I did a bit of knitting, but it has only been some, because I struggled to be enthused (I blame the heaviness and anaemia that mean I feel perpetually exhausted). I’ve been sporadically knitting up a cardigan for Stinkers and have repeatedly cast on and frogged a lace scarf for myself because it just hasn’t been quite right, even though the yarn for the scarf is gorgeous hand-dyed stuff from the Natural Dye Studio.

In preparation for labour I made up some essential oil blends for a massage oil, a facial spritz and a post labour bath.  As it happened, I didn’t end up using them in labour, as I had a caesarian instead, but the mixes can still be used in the bath and refreshing facial spritzes are always useful!

Grow

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I’ve posted a separate entry regarding what we’ve been up to in and around the garden during March and April:  March & April Gardening.  It’s not been a huge amount, certainly not as much as I would’ve wanted to do, but have had to be realistic this year.  There’s been plenty of help – gardening is a team effort here – but without my ‘organised head’ on, I’ve forgotten to remind people to do the watering I haven’t been able to manage, or the various little jobs that you notice need doing when pottering around the garden (because pottering isn’t something I’ve been able to do much of).

There’s also been the ongoing frustration of the garden itself being sorted ready for new plants.  Having moved here last year and the first few months being taken up with care of the (many) pots we’d brought with us, lapsing into morning sickness (which doesn’t exactly inspire one to get into the garden) and then moving into issues with mobility due to getting bigger and heavier, it’s been difficult to get much physical work done.  J is wonderful, but works long hours and the weather really hasn’t been conducive to getting the bulk of ‘groundwork’ (digging up turf, mending runs and building fencing) that has needed doing.

It’s been quite some lesson in patience for me.  I haven’t always borne it with grace…

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A bit of fun exploring colour with the little Minnie.  Moo already understands what happens when various colours of mixed, but it was an exciting activity for a 2 year old!

Celebrate (and Bake!)

March and April are busy months for celebration in our household, with J’s birthday at the beginning of March, followed by Ostara (Spring Equinox), my father’s birthday shortly afterwards and then various birthdays of friends and family in and around and through these months (including my own in April).  Once March starts to get closer to the Equinox, I find my mood begins to cheer and there’s a palpable shift in energy (although it clashed rather with physical ability this year!)

Moo has been busy making various cakes that have mostly featured chocolate (far more cakes than those pictured below!)

I had the pleasure of attending a friend’s Blessingway (she’s due some six weeks after me) and had a lovely day of celebrating her pregnancy and the impending arrival of her baby (a few of my friends are either expecting babies, or have already given birth).

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By far the biggest event of the past couple of months for me, however, was the birth of my youngest son, Arty.

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March & April Gardening

Nesting manifested more as sowing seeds than cleaning and was certainly more manageable for me to achieve than mass amounts of cleaning and tidying (J brought in compost and pots and I was able to sit at the dining room table and sow seeds).  I still wasn’t able to do much though (being already prone to anaemia, the tiredness meant that I mostly just wanted to sleep).

There have been a few gardening surprises. The peppers sown last year are STILL flowering and fruiting!  They look rather sparse for the most part, but are sprouting new leaves and fresh growth.  I continue to be rather perplexed by them, but can’t complain that they’re still going!  The peppers are rather small, though.

There was also a tomato surprise. Having sown more than a few tomatoes, with some already coming into flower towards the end of April, we had a number of seedlings come up in a tray of salad, which I duly rescued and potted on.  I have a feeling that the tray was a mix of our own compost plus some soil from outside (from where we had grown some tomatoes in the ground last year) which would explain the sudden appearance of tomatoes amongst the lettuce sown.

With these and the other tomatoes that had been purposefully sown, the tomato plant tally came to 56, although some of the seedlings haven’t done well – I think they’ve suffered with the fluctuating temperature in the conservatory and lack of proper care due to me struggling a bit with basic things like walking and forgetting to remind other people to water them.  I think the best thing will be to cull the obviously poorly ones (sadly mostly the Black Cherry variety that I was so keen to grow.  We’ve sown four varieties this year:

  • Alicante (left over from a seed packet Nin was given last year)
  • Black Cherry (sadly these aren’t doing as well as I hoped, so we’ve only got a few decent seedlings)
  • Latah (a bush variety)
  • Mirabelle (all doing pretty well)

The surprise tomatoes, as you can see from below, are looking good.  I hope they’re cordons, because I’m going to treat them as such.

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Aside from the tomatoes, the following were also sown over the past few months

  • Basil “Purple Ruffles”
  • Basil “Sweet Genovese”
  • Chives, thick leaves (Nin wrote these notes, not sure on this one!)
  • Coriander “Cadiz”
  • 3 Courgette “Black Beauty”
  • 4 Cucamelon
  • Curly Kale
  • 12 French beans “Borlotto LIngua di Fuoco”
  • 4 Lovage
  • Parsley, curled
  • 2 Pumpkin “Hundredweight”
  • 6 Sweet peppers “Corno del Torro”
  • Mustard “Red Zest” (very pretty looking purple-leaved mustard)

Now hopefully we can get the outside space finally ready to plant some of the resultant plants in!