Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Homegrown and Homemade weekend

We have had a wonderful extended weekend with garden pottering and kitchen dabbling for me and serious hedge trimming, path strimming and harvesting for J.

Homegrown fruit and veg were turned into pies, bakes and cakes:

Pumpkin soup for lunch later in the week

baked plum, apple and hazelnut
Blackberry & apple pie and cheesy bites
Pumpkin pound cake courtesy of joyofbaking.com

Plants were pricked out ready to give us food next spring - assuming the slugs don't get this batch that is:

Tiny Cauliflowers, chard and broccoli
The only chard and white sprouted broccoli to survive the slugs!
And the allotment gave us beans, peas, apples and potatoes, peppers and hazelnuts as well as much needed time to pause and admire the gentle turning of the wheel.

Friday, 24 August 2018

Looking forward

It seems desperately early to be thinking about next Spring but one of the lovely things about looking after a garden is that it is a hopeful thing, allowing you to look forward to anticipate and to plan. So this week I have been doing just that and indulging myself in the process with the joy that is bulb & seed shopping! Coming across H.W. Hydes was an unexpected joy - whilst not certified as organic they do grow pesticide free as well peat free bulbs which is wonderful for anyone trying to minimise their impact on the natural world whilst enjoying a beautiful garden.

tulips need company!
So to add more colour to last year's pots I've ordered a mix of spring and early summer bulbs - various short narcissus, an unusual orange crocus, some purple and dusky pink tulips and alliums.

flowers in waiting
Feeling the need to pep up the cutting garden too, I headed over to the wonder that is the Higgledy Garden website and ordered a mix of godetia, achillea, sunflowers, sweet peas and cornflowers in a rainbow of colours. These seeds arrived really quickly so I now have lots of lovely blooms to come. These will extend our season and mean that we'll have homegrown cut flowers well into next summer.

homegrown pretties
Joy from the garden
cornflower chaos

Tuesday, 21 August 2018


The "kitchen table-garden"
Today was pottering in the back garden day - trimming back the dead lavender flowers and giving the plans a light prune, weeding and tidying the small strawberry plants I didn't get to last week and sorting through the lettuce pots removing dead plants and adding some new ones to the "kitchen table-garden" from the tray on the kitchen windowsill.

Strawberries post tidy
We bought one of those cut and come again trays from the supermarket a few weeks ago and a bit of sorting through and pricking out of the stronger ones has given us a couple of good servings of small leaves for a fraction of the cost of salad bags and minimal plastic to boot, which given that all our seed-sown plants withered in the heat has been a great bonus. Several of the plants are still going so hopefully we get at least one more cutting from them. 
Lavender after haircut
The lavender has sent up a few (very few) new flower spikes so I've left those on for the bees and butterflies that are still looking for food. It won't be quite the feast they had earlier in the year but every little bit helps.

Marjoram still feeding the bees too.
There are very few things in flower at the moment despite all the annual seeds we threw into the border in late May. Unfortunately last month's heat hit so many things but I've noticed that a few things are recovering, so with a bit of luck we'll have a some more colour out there in a few weeks time.

A dash of colour

Monday, 20 August 2018


Today is Day 1 of reconnecting - simple steps to help me decide what this new reality is going to look like. Step 1 not relying solely on bought-in ready-made food - so leftover pastry and odds and ends from the fridge became quiche and a rough jam and apple tart this morning:

Simple foods that will do several meals over the coming week. The quiche was great at lunchtime!

Reconnecting with the garden will have to wait for another day as the rain has at last returned!

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Planning and plotting and rediscovering what's important to me

One of the changes my illness has brought about is an abundance of time but not necessarily the energy to make the most of it or the ability to know how I'm going to feel from one day to the next. It has also meant that my determination to live a simpler, greener, less wasteful life has taken a bit of a hit - as anyone who's been through a long illness will tell you the amount of waste you suddenly generate from pill boxes, syringes, wrappers and single use items is staggering and so much of it isn't easily recyclable either. Not a lot you can do about this but it has had knock-ons in other parts of my life too and whilst I am feeling relatively ok, I want that to change. The new regime coupled with dealing with the fall-out of the illness itself has seen my reliance on bought-in, pre-made and pre-packaged everything rise to a point that would have seem unimaginable just a year ago. A re-think is long overdue!

This weekend has been wonderful and has helped me rediscover my cooking mojo - we had friends to lunch on Saturday and it was a joyful opportunity to share food and catch up on their lives, it also gave the men in our lives a chance to meet too which I think they all enjoyed judging by the intense train related conversations which ensued! Whilst it left me really tired on Sunday, I now have a new determination to make the most of the good days and to cut my reliance on shop bought ready meals and quick fixes - don't get me wrong, these have been a huge help over the last few months, especially on the days when even putting a kettle on or slinging a ready meal in the microwave has seemed like a huge chore, but I need a change, I need to regain a bit of control over how I live. So, re-inspired by Jane at Shoestring Cottage and Rhonda at Down to Earth I have begun to plan, to try for that control, that way of living that I was striving for before events overtook us.

Starting simply with a meal plan using the food I have in the house - produce we have dried or frozen, ingredients that I stockpiled before the diagnosis and ready-mades that I have laid in since - I have drawn up a plan for the coming week and an outline one for the week after.  Building in wriggle room for tired days or days when appointments take over, I'll see how it goes and check back in at the end of the two weeks. At the moment I'm intending to make the most of good days to sort through shelves, check stores, make my own meals and make extras that I can pot up and freeze for the rougher days. It should help J a bit as we'll identify what foods we need to be growing next year and what we can leave out as they've languished at the bottom of the freezer for a couple of years! I hope this will be a prelude to working my way through the house sorting through stuff, finding ways to make life easier, less cluttered, less crowded so that we have the space to do what we need to do and what we want to do when we can, so that whatever happens with my health, it's still our life we're living, our choices we're honouring.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Return of the prodigal blogger

5 years, 5 years, it can't be that long since I sat down to put thoughts to screen can it? So many seasons passed, crops sown, failed, grown and harvested without making it to screen. Ah well, we'll see if I'm more diligent this time won't we...

So much has changed in the last few years, the usual things that happen in families - much celebrated arrivals and sorely grieved departures, ventures begun and ventures ended and now a new normal for us following a diagnosis that everyone dreads but no-one ever expects which means that soon I will be officially retired about 20 years earlier than planned. The support we have received since learning of my cancer has been phenomenal, our local NHS team and all the peripheral support services have tended, supported and brought me to a place which means I have a future, just not necessarily as long or as clear as I may have thought it was. Our friends and family have loved, cared and supported us and the known-only-online folk have all raised our spirits and provided wonderful distractions when we have needed them.    All this continues and we are so very grateful for it.

And the garden, well what can I say? - even in the dark days when chemo meant I couldn't play with compost and I was so tired that just the thought of lifting a plant pot hurt - it provided solace, support and strength. Just knowing that J was working hard to make sure it was there waiting, ready for me to return, to be able to put my hands in the soil once more, to sow seeds, watch them grow, tend them, harvest them and watch the wildlife enjoy them helped beyond measure. And now, well who knows ? Then again when does anyone know what the future has in store for them. So I'll plan and plot, tend and harvest, watch and enjoy doing what I can, while I can and if I prove a better blogger than before I may even remember to write about it too...