Sunday, 2 August 2015

Postcards from the edge of Wales








where we stayed



giant jelly








bilberries

mystery caterpillar

mystery fluffy things


Just back from a fab week up in North Wales, where the mountains meet the sea.  I'd forgotten how much I love it up there.  We stayed in "a picturesque unspoilt fishing village", and it actually was.  No chippies or trashy shops or any shops at all in fact.  So quiet, and with stunning views across the estuary to Snowdonia.  It was one of those holidays when you come home thinking you might like to move there forever.  Mountains in one direction, beaches in the other.  Loved it.

There was rain at times and clouds hanging low over the land, but we got out and did it all anyway.  We tackled a little of Snowdon (the highest mountain in Wales) although we only made it halfway, partly because of the rain and partly because of the smaller legs.  We cooked sausages up there and channelled Bear Grylls at every opportunity.

I met the lovely Annie which was an absolute pleasure.  So good to talk to someone about blogging, no-one round here knows I have a blog as far as I know.  

We did a really hard walk on the last day.  Not a long one, but quite arduous and scrambly.  The littlest boy was an absolute star.  He wore a red band round his head and marched on up front until his legs wore out.  We were all tired by the end of it.

The biggest boy got to see red kites and ospreys, which made him happy.  The middle boy got to survive in the wild.  And the littlest boy had some time at the beach.  Their best activity was going down to the sea in the evening, just a minute away from the house, and skimming the lovely flat slate pebbles and scrambling over the rocks.  

All in all a top week.  It's back to reality now though, it'll take me a couple of days to settle back in.  In the meantime I shall be googling houses to buy in North Wales.  

Thursday, 30 July 2015

The Colour Collaborative: July: Mend


I like mending.  Not the actual act of mending something, but the whole principle behind it.  In our throwaway culture, mending something stands out as someone caring, both for their possessions and for the planet.

When I was growing up, there was a mending basket, mostly full of wool socks.  And there was darning wool in shades of brown, grey and dull green.  Can you even buy darning wool any more?  It came in loose hanks and it was fine enough to weave a neat darn across a toe.  I learnt to do it, although my darns were sometimes on the chunky side.

An elderly relative told me a while back how when she was young and the sheets wore away with age, you would cut them in half up the middle, swap the pieces around so that the outer edges were together, and sew them back up.  So you ended up with a soft faded white sheet that had a seam up the centre and the thin worn parts on the edge.

I'm not under any illusions as to how hard it must be not to be able to afford new things when you need them, but I do think it's sometimes too easy to throw things into landfill and buy more.  We care very little for the cheap modern imports that are sold in vast quantities.  Giant brightly coloured plastic toys (and millions and millions of small ones) and every imaginable non-essential item are destined for the rubbish tip after a short life.  Mountains and mountains of brittle black plastic electrical units, turned swiftly into garbage.  I know I'm guilty of this too.  Somehow these things slip into my life.  I'm going to try harder to cut right down on them.

It infuriates me when someone tells me something can't be mended.  Some things are built with a deliberately short life expectancy.  Some things are built into sealed units so that small parts can't be replaced.  It's wrong, the world can't sustain this sort of enforced consumerism.  Everyone knows this, but the thirst for money and possessions drives it ever onwards.

Mending is something that happens a lot around here.  I sew, I stick, I nail.  A faded quilt is stitched with matching cream thread.  A tear in the sofa cushion is machined in almost identical brown, a throw is darned in gold that barely shows.  The boys of course test my mending abilities to the full.  A while back they managed to snap the lid of the tan wood toy box.  They thought they had me for a while, but I glued and nailed on some chipboard and battens and it all works again.  It's not the prettiest thing in the world, but it's functional, and I'm happy to live with imperfection.

Someone (and the golfer is the number 1 suspect) has smashed in the door of the empty guinea pig hutch.  If you need me, I'll be sizing up the hole.

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.

Monday, 27 July 2015

The July allotment


The allotment has been looking after itself a bit this month, with less watering needed, thanks to the frequent showers and the lovely moisture retaining soil (unlike the horrible dust at home).

The harvests are coming in thick and fast.  Mountains of blackcurrants, a sudden rush of early courgettes, dozens of beetroots, piles of French beans and bunches of sweet peas with the delicious scent of summer.

I've brought in the onions and the last of the garlic and there's a lot of weeding to be done.  Then there will be space for the next things.  I do need to put some serious hours in though.  I've been spending more time at home writing lately, and of course it shows.  The weeds are galloping about the place with gay abandon.

One of the things I didn't plant is this poppy.


It's appeared out of nowhere amongst the borlotti beans.  I'm quite blown away by how such a pretty thing can just pop up.  I shall leave it to seed and see if there are more next year.

I've often said that the plot isn't immaculate, but despite the limited time I put in, it's still amazingly productive and a very good place to be, especially right now in the height of summer.  However weedy it may be, there's always something to bring home, and that makes it all worthwhile.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Wild plums and other fruitiness





the community orchard








There's been a flurry of putting by food in the kitchen.  At this time of year there's often more than we can eat, so the freezer starts to fill with boxes of blackcurrants and beans and cooked beetroot, ready for the less plentiful season.

I took the biggest boy with me yesterday and went to pick some wild plums.  They grow near the streamside, and there are a few different trees, and at least two different types of plum.  Maybe not strictly wild, they must have been planted by someone as they're all in a row, but no-one looks after them and as far as I can see no-one harvests them.  In years past I've seen dozens of them squashed into the path.

Many of them were too high to reach, so I shook a few branches so that the ripe ones fell down.  Some fell down my top, and quite a lot of stuff ended up in my hair.  I did notice the odd earwig dropping out of the branches as well and later on I found a small (unharmed) grasshopper up my sleeve.

The fruits were perfect miniature plums, pink and yellow and surprisingly sweet.  There were other bushes with round yellow ones that weren't quite ripe yet.  We'll no doubt return in two or three weeks and see how they're doing.  We filled a bag, but there are masses more.  It amazes me that no-one else bothers with them.

On the way home we stopped by the community orchard to see how the fruit there was doing.  The Victoria plums won't be ready for a while, but it's all looking good so far.

At home I washed the plums and started cutting them up to remove the stones.  Then I had a moment of genius and dug out the cherry/olive stoner.  Almost all of the mini plums fitted in there perfectly.  The littlest boy was thrilled about that too, and took charge of the stoning.  He sat in the kitchen with me and stoned every last one of them while I made lunch.  In fact it took him a bit of time after lunch too, and the kitchen was lightly sticky afterwards because sometimes the stones shot out in all directions, but it was a satisfying job.  I do so love filling the freezer at this time of year.  Maybe next time we'll make jam.

Monday, 20 July 2015

An ending with chips and the lightfingered acquisition of a few cherries

marbled white

chalkhill blue

six spot burnet moths

small skipper or Essex skipper - not sure which




Everything rolls around in the end doesn't it.  We got to the end of term on Friday, with a giant exhale.  The biggest boy walked out of the school gates for the last time, it'll be secondary school for him in September.  The last couple of weeks were filled with trips, a play, an Oscars night, a Year 6 assembly and last but not least the leavers' service in church.  And then it was all done, and he walked home from school, while I stayed in the playground for a while with the other two.  I watched him go, all alone, and something tore inside me a little.  There's a lot he'll do on his own now.  And of course that is how it should be.

Friday evening there was cricket for the bigs and a beavers end-of-term shindig for the little.  Afterwards we had chips, just to top off the sweets and chocolate and fizzy drinks and heady emotion from earlier.  On Saturday we detoxed with a walk up Painswick Beacon.  The open grassland has drifts of wildflowers in places and it's good for butterflies.  There were lots of marbled whites, as well as the other ones pictured.  I hope I've labelled them correctly.

Today we hung around close to home, settling into holiday mode.  We saw a friend, signed up for the summer reading challenge at the library and dodged the showers in the garden.  I read a couple of pages of the tidying-up book at the weekend, and I've pretty much cleared the room that will be the middle boy's bedroom, in a wild fit of decluttering.



The kitchen is full of berries and cherries.  The cherries were partly purloined from my neighbour's tree.  I filched a load that were hanging over our side, and then confessed.  He told me to help myself to some more as well.  I'll need the stepladder I think.  There are masses of blueberries, two bowlfuls today alone.  I made muffins with some of them.  The blackbird family are doing their best to help out as well.

Wishing you all a wonderful summer.  CJ xx

Butterfly and moth names edited, thank you Countryside Tales!

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Garlic, fallen tomatoes and Moominmamma's Best Buns













It's a happy time of harvests in the garden and down on the plot.  Bowlfuls of berries of every kind, colanders of salad leaves and the first of the cucumbers.  There will be Sungold tomatoes tomorrow, although the bigger ones will be a while yet.  I found the biggest green one on the floor earlier.  Everyone blamed everyone else.  It wasn't me.

I've sown more sugar snap peas to replace the ones that are coming to an end.  Should have done it earlier of course, there will be a gap in production which won't go down well with the littlest boy who likes to eat them every day.

Do you see the feathery green tops?  Carrots no less!  I'm very excited, although the tops will be wasted with no piggies to feed now.  You may recall I've never properly managed carrots before, so this is a bit of a breakthrough.

The pear is the single solitary one for this year.  Last year there were so many the branches were breaking off.

There's a little pile of summer reading.  I've no idea how Marie Kondo's book got there.  It may have fallen into my Amazon basket late one night.  I woke up the next morning and it was all like a dream.  It promises to change my life.  I haven't read it yet, but I've thrown out some of the several hundred old exercise books that the children brought home from school.  Not the littlest boy's plant diary though, it's a gem.  His seed didn't grow at all, but he still gamely wrote about it every week.  The biggest boy laughed so much he had tears running down his cheeks.  He likes to quote from it on a regular basis.  "My pant has not grown at all.  I think it is because it didn't have anuf water."  He doesn't do it in front of the littlest boy, so no feelings have been hurt.  And it is of course all done with great affection...

I'm working my way through everything Barbara Kingsolver has ever written.  And I'm reading "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" to the smaller two.  It's actually my copy from when I was little.  It cost 40p, and it's in mint condition.  I was a very neat child.  In fact it occurs to me that I may not even need my life changed by Marie Kondo, it's probably everyone else that makes a mess.

I picked up a picnic food book, although some of it is rather fancy and time consuming for the sort of picnics we have (ones thrown together at the crack of dawn).  Some of it might take most of the day to prepare.

"The Moomins Cookbook" is visiting again from the library.  The Moomins really know how to eat well.  There's Snufkin's Favourite Bean Dish, the Fillyjonk's Leftover Pie and Moominmamma's Best Buns.  All interspersed with enchanting quotes from the books.

"Eventually Moomintroll stood up and mechanically removed the picnic basket from where it hung on the branch.

It was full of small packages of sandwiches, two of every kind, each wrapped in silk paper.  He set them down in a row next to one another, but he wasn't the slightest bit hungry.

All of sudden, Moomintroll realised that his mother had written something on the sandwich packages.  Every package bore words like 'cheese' or 'only butter' or 'expensive sausage' or 'good morning'.  On the final package she had written: 'This is from your father.'  And in that package was a tin of lobster that Moominpappa had saved all spring.

At that moment, Moomintroll came to think that perhaps this wasn't so dangerous after all."