Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Mud, Leaves and Pumpkins


I'd originally had high hopes for this week. In my mind I'd envisioned bright autumn days, walking on the fells, enjoying picnic lunches on the summits, then returning home at the end of each day exhausted but happy. Unfortunately, the weather had other plans. It's dismal, cold and very very wet, and disappointingly it's set to stay this way for the remainder of the week.

On Sunday, however, there was a brief window of opportunity. The afternoon was predicted to be dry and if we were really lucky there was also the slightest chance of seeing just a little bit of sunshine.

We didn't go very far. Our walk was just long enough to stretch our legs and breathe in some fresh air. Being stuck in the house is not for me and I know I can get (very) grouchy if I can't get outdoors for at least some part of the day.

Waterproofs and wellies on, we walked down the track and through the fields just past the pond.

Mushrooms are growing all throughout the woods just now. These Inkcaps appreciate the wet weather at least.

After a lot of rain parts of this walk can become very muddy, which as you might imagine, Lily enjoys very much. She also likes to walk in the nearby stream, which is the reason her wellies look 'clean' in this photograph. What you can't see is that her jeans are completely mud splattered up the back. : ) Not to mind, I'm more than used to this by now and  they are easily washed. 

Once past the clearing we walked back amongst the trees once again. Following the recent wet and windy weather the leaves have been falling thick and fast. They carpeted the woodland floor but they squelched rather than crunched beneath our feet.

Before we left the woods, we sat for a while, enjoying the sun as it broke through the sparse canopy of the trees. This is my favourite section of the walk. The light is so beautiful here and it's also where we stop for chocolate. : )

Another reason for getting out was so that we could call in at the farm and choose our Halloween pumpkins. It took us a while, as there were a variety of interesting shapes and sizes to choose from but we settled on a medium sized white one and a small orange one, and at some point over the next few days we will be carving them in time for the weekend. 

J. X

Sunday, 25 October 2020

Quiet October Days


The clocks went back last night and the end of the year looms ever closer. The days are getting shorter and recently have been rushing by much faster than I am comfortable with. Leaves fill the porch, there is a small heap of conkers on the coffee table and pumpkins and gourds of various shapes and sizes adorn the mantel. 
My days have become reassuringly repetitive. During the week, once work and school are over, there is time for little else. Unless the weather is really bad, Lily will then play outside until darkness descends, only coming indoors under duress. I don't know why this should surprise me, she is her mother's daughter after all :)

One or two mornings each week I go out for a run. I relish this time when the lanes are quiet, often not passing  another person  for the most of my route, only sheep in the fields, and the occasional fell pony or squirrel.  At the moment I have to be really careful to avoid slipping, as the ground is covered with damp leaves and acorns. Any conkers I spy are quickly gathered and brought back home with me to add to our ever increasing collection.

As is always the case in October, the weather is so very changeable. Wet and windy days can become bright and sunny in a moment, but so far this month most of our walking has been done in wellies. Last weekend we enjoyed a long awaited trip into town for a new pair for Lily. I hadn't been shopping, other than for food, since March, so it felt good to be back doing something 'normal' again, albeit with additional precautions in place. And suffice to say the wellies have enjoyed plenty of use already. 

As the days become darker, I find I spend more and more of my time in the kitchen.  When it's pouring with rain outside, there's nothing nicer than hunkering down indoors, whiling away an afternoon baking a delicious cake or some biscuits. A few weeks ago I couldn't resist treating myself to an oak leaf shaped biscuit cutter I found online. I knew it would be perfect for gingerbread, especially at this time of year.

My favourite part of autumn, however, is just getting outdoors and enjoying the changing colours of the season. This deer park is one of my favourite places to walk, especially as the weather turns colder. The deer are often hidden amongst the trees, so it was a lovely surprise to see some run across the path just in front of us. 
This week sees the start of our half-term break. I hope to get out and enjoy some more walks when the weather permits, but mainly I intend to relax and enjoy my time at home. This afternoon, however, we are going to the farm to choose our pumpkins. 🎃🎃🎃

J. X

Saturday, 10 October 2020

Into Autumn

Autumn days are gathering pace, and now that we're fully immersed into our school and work routine once again, it's reassuring to feel some sense of normalcy. Everyday life, although not completely back to how it was before lockdown, has at least taken on it's usual rhythm for this time of year.

We've experienced some beautiful sunny days and enjoyed some lazy weekends. Hurried early mornings and long walks have, instead, been replaced by leisurely breakfasts and shorter rambles through nearby fields and woodlands. Wearing our wellies, as it's very muddy just now.
Acorns crunch underfoot and the trees are shedding their leaves at an alarming rate, reminding me it won't be long until the clocks go back and the days get even shorter. 

It looks so beautiful in the woods at the moment. The dappled sunlight through the trees shifts in the breeze, making patterns on the ground. Squirrels appear suddenly, scurrying along collecting nuts, before quickly disappearing out of sight again.

Although it is still a little early for us, the farm shop already has their pumpkins on display. Lily quite likes the idea of a white one for a change, but that might just be because they are HUGE. I suspect I will get an orange one as well, just because. 🎃🎃🎃
Whilst we were there we bought some decorative gourds. I have them on the mantel along with some conkers I collected when I was out running this week. Without any pockets, I needed to keep them in my hand for the final stretch home, which wasn't as easy as you might think given that they were really quite large. Lily is very happy with them, however, as is Mog, who despite me having had some new cat toys delivered for her this week, much prefers to chase conkers around the hallway. But please don't worry, she never attempts to eat them.

In the kitchen there's a definite comfort food vibe going on. I love this time of year for cooking up nourishing tasty meals and I've been making some of my usual go-to dishes along with one or two new-to-me recipes which I'm sure will become firm favourites. 
In two weeks time we will have begun our half-term break, then we will be slowly heading towards the end of the year, but before then I am looking forward to enjoying some glorious autumn colour and indulging in kicking through some crisp fallen leaves. 🍂🍂🍂

J. X

Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Turning Cooler


This week has seen a sudden shift in the temperatures and the days (and nights) have been much cooler here. The garden is beginning to look rather tired now and most of the flowers are past their best, aside form the dahlias and the last of the orange sunflowers. These flowered a little later than the rest and seem much more appropriate for this time of year. I must remember to sow them a little later next season. The garden has served us well this year but it will soon be time to pack away the outdoor furniture and give everything a good tidy to prepare for the winter months ahead.

I'm still settling into my new daily routine but I'm pleased to say it's all beginning to come together quite nicely. Weekdays tend to be when I'm at my busiest and are pretty much taken over with work and the school run. I also try to squeeze in the  household chores whenever I can, in order to leave the weekends as free as possible for more favourable pastimes.

Last weekend, while the weather was still lovely and warm, we climbed Graystones and Broom Fell, near Whinlatter Forest. The original plan was to walk up Broom Fell first but, having turned off the track a little earlier than we should have, we ended up completing the walk the opposite way round : )
Our route initially took us along a forest track through the trees before opening up onto the open fellside. The clear day meant we had some beautiful views, over the sea to the west and Scotland to the north.

Once we reached the top we turned back on ourselves to walk along the ridge across to Broom Fell. Although we could clearly see the cairn in the distance, for a while it seemed as though we weren't getting any closer, but soon the summit was within reach and we were greeted with the most stunning view of the Skiddaw range infront of us with a glimpse of Bassenthwaite Lake below.

We enjoyed a picnic lunch at the summit before taking the more direct path down the fell which ran alongside a ruined wall.

The descent from Broom Fell, looking towards Graystones. The bracken is giving the fellside a wonderful autumn hue.

On the way back to the car park we took a short detour alongside Aiken Beck. There is a small waterfall here which we will visit at a future date. A winter walk to look forward to on a frosty day. I can see myself enjoying a hot chocolate whilst sitting on that bench.

As the week continued, the temperatures fell and the warmth of the sunshine was replaced with a distinct autumn chill. The central heating has been switching on earlier in the evening and I've been needing to wear my gloves on the morning commute. On Saturday we donned our wellies and went for a walk in the woods. The trees are beginning to shed their leaves and the ground was covered in acorns, crunching underfoot as we walked. The hedgerows are still providing an abundance of elderberries and fortunately I had a container with me, so we returned home with it full to the brim. They're packed away in the freezer now and I'll be using them along with some blackberries to make more compote as the weeks go by.

Here's some I made during the week. At this time of year I love to stir a large spoonful into my porridge at breakfast time, but it's just as delicious on yoghurt and I imagine it would be very tasty on a rice pudding as well : )

This is how I make mine.

Approximately 900g of fruit (I used 525g blackberries and 375g elderberries).
450g granulated sugar.
The juice of 1 lemon.
½ teaspoon of ground cloves.

Put all the fruit into a large pan. At this point I like to squish the fruit a little bit using a  potato masher but you don't have to. Add the sugar, lemon juice and ground clove. Bring to the boil and simmer for approximately 15 minutes, stirring all the time. Pour into sterilized jars. This made just over three jars.

On Sunday morning it was incredibly cold, although it was a beautiful sunny and clear day, and just perfect for what I had in mind. We drove to the top of Kirkstone Pass, parked up opposite the inn and climbed Red Screes, dropping down to bag the summit of Middle Dodd while we were there. The walk itself was short and very steep but the views were simply breathtaking and we could see for miles. It made me think, I've been able to spend a lot of time outdoors this year and I'm really feeling the benefit to both my mental and physical wellbeing. As we head deeper into autumn I realise this precious time will become less frequent and it will be even more important to make the most of all that this season has to offer.

J. X

Saturday, 19 September 2020

Almost Autumn


I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this post will publish OK. I've left it so long since my last one that I no longer have the option to revert to legacy blogger and this is my first time of using the new format.
I've been busying myself adjusting to the rhythm of a new school year and adapting to a new job role, so although it means life is slightly more hectic than usual at the moment, I'm sure things will settle down once I find my feet and establish a new routine.

Lily is enjoying being back at school and being with her friends again. I have been surprised and reassured at how quickly the children have adapted to the new measures which have been implemented. And I am happy to be back working once again, I hadn't realised just how much I had missed the interaction with my colleagues.

The nights are closing in much earlier now, but although the mornings and evenings are beginning to feel much fresher, we are still being blessed with bright sunny days and by mid morning the temperatures are high enough to be without a sweater. The fine weather days also mean I've been cycling to work more regularly and, even though it's not all that far to travel, every little helps with my attempts at keeping fit, so I hope to keep it up as long as possible.

As always, at this time of year, the lovely people of the village leave their excess windfall apples for others to help themselves, so I've been putting several in my backpack as I've been passing and have made apple sauces for the freezer and a delicious apple crumble. The tree must be quite large, as there are at least two large buckets full left on the wall every couple of days.
The hedgerows have also been generous with their offerings of blackberries and elderberries. I now have a freezer full of them both. I've made several jars of jam and my usual blackberry vodka is steeping at the back of the cupboard in readiness for December. When I get a little more time this week, I will make some blackberry and elderberry compote, ready for stirring in to my morning porridge.

Today, I've pulled the remaining carrots from the garden and this week I will be enjoying the last of the fresh beetroot before digging over the raised bed. The sunflowers are all but gone now, the tomatoes are (finally) beginning to ripen and it won't be long before the grass receives it last cut of the season.

Back soon.
J. X 

Saturday, 5 September 2020

Sunny Summer Days

Summer is beginning to fade and although there may be some warm sunny days ahead, there is no doubt autumn is on it's way. It's a while since I've been in this space. This year, more than ever, I felt the need to fully embrace our summer break. The abrupt ending of school back in March, followed by the challenges of home learning, and a whole new way of going about our daily lives had left me more depleted than I realised. And yet, this situation has also made me appreciate (even more) the simple things in life which make me happy. Summer has been different in many ways and even though we haven't travelled very far this year, it still feels as though we've enjoyed a proper holiday.

The garden has been my sanctuary for much of this year and this last month, especially, it's been wonderful to see some results. The apple trees are growing fast and I'll soon need to re-pot them.

The carrots are extra tasty. (After a good wash, of course)

The tomatoes, which were planted a little later than usual, are just beginning to ripen now.

The sweet peas are coming to an end, but throughout the summer they have provided me with some delightful colour on the kitchen windowsill, filling the room with their delicate scent. 

The long sunny days have been blissfully unhurried.

In between the rainy days, the skies have been the bluest of blue with soft wispy clouds.

The little lemon trees are growing fast.

Much of the home grown beetroot has been eaten now, and the rest has been pickled ready to enjoy during the cooler months.

The sourdough starter was a non-starter for me, so I went back to baking bread the way I usually do, using the no-knead recipe. Much more simple and a lot less work : ) I'm glad I gave it a try, however.

Some trips out were more spontaneous than others.

At least I had a swimsuit packed for an unexpected evening dip.

No time to cook dinner, so it had to be a chip supper. A rare treat.

Lakes, rivers, or puddles. Always where there's water. And why I always carry a spare set of clothes.

An early start for a walk up Brock Crags, overlooking Brother's Water.

Looking up Threshthwaite Glen in the early morning sunshine.

Skipping down the fell.

A trip to the beach on this occasion.

Plenty of space to run.

A shaded walk beneath the trees.

Walking uphill again.

A perfect picnic spot looking towards the fells.

Back at the river again, fishing for minnows this time. It had been a few years since I last did this but I hadn't forgotten how.

Beautiful purple heather on Whinlatter

As far as the eye could see.

Looking over towards Skiddaw.

Gathering blackberries.

I've taken a photograph of this field most years. When it turns to gold, for me it indicates the arrival of late summer.

Another early start to climb Hartsop Dodd.

Looking towards Ullswater.

Gray Crag above Pasture Beck. Another beautiful picnic spot. And yes, it did involve a paddle : )

Caudale Moor. 

We collected lots of blackberries. Some are for spiced blackberry vodka, all the rest are in the freezer ready to make jam and compote. 

Hallin Fell. We set off very early for this one, which turned out to be unnecessary, although it did mean we got the summit to ourselves on what was the most beautiful morning. Ullswater looked like a millpond. Our last hurrah to the summer days before autumn term began. 

Lily in the distance.

School started back mid-week and I'm happy to say we're beginning to settle into a routine again. Some changes are taking a little bit of getting used to but I'm surprised at just how quickly we're adjusting.
The nights are beginning to draw in now and there's a chill in the early-rnorning air, but I'm hopeful we'll still enjoy some warm sunshine during these late summer days.

J. X