Wednesday, 27 May 2020

In the Garden

As well as going out for many walks and picnics in the local area, the warm sunny weather has meant I've also been spending much of my time in the garden. Recent restrictions have made me realise just how fortunate I am to have this little plot and I can't begin to tell you how much I have come to appreciate it, especially during recent weeks.

In the damp winter months I can feel quite resentful of what I feel is wasted space. Being so wet and muddy it rarely gets used during this time of year and aside from clearing up the leaves and repairing any storm damage I tend not to give it too much attention. Instead, I allow my mind to wander to thoughts of a house extension, surely it would be much more beneficial,  and how wonderful it would be to have that large dining kitchen I've always hankered after. I get  like this every year, so you would think I'd know better by now. Oh well, I can always dream.

Recently, however, I couldn't imagine not having this precious little patch of earth. Whether I'm sowing seeds, being able to grab a handful of spinach to enjoy in a sandwich, pegging out the laundry, or simply enjoying sitting in the sunshine with a cup of tea. As long as I don't have the dilapidated shed in my field of vision I am quite content. And I am hopeful even that might  get replaced before the end of the summer. I also must not forget the importance of this space for digging, making mud pies and poking worms, the opportunities for making a mess are endless.

Anyway, here is a little glimpse as to what is out there just now.


The Sweet Peas are doing well. I planted these using harvested seeds from last years plants. There is some new growth on the Lavender and I am keeping the mint in a pot from now on after it all went a bit wild last year. There are Sunflowers and Rosemary in the background. Just out of shot are eight tiny chilli seedlings.


Beetroot.


Sunflowers. I plant these up against the fence so they are supported as they grow. There are twelve of them at the moment. Some are from the seeds I got for Lily's birthday last year and the rest are a smaller variety which I think are red in colour. Some more Lavender.


Strawberries. It  looks as though there will be a plentiful supply this year.


Tomatoes. I was later to sow these this year but it looks like they are beginning to grow a little faster now.


There are also some carrots and spinach in the vegetable patch, and each morning I take these little pots outside to sit in the sun. Lily and I have planted some apple and lemon seeds. They've grown even more since I took this photograph just the other day and I'm looking forward to seeing how they progress.

As the temperatures are set to rise, the garden will have another purpose this week. We're setting up the new paddling pool!

J. X

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Further Along the River




The weeks are drifting by quickly, and no sooner had I become used to a new routine, it all changed again and I find myself at home full time now, joining in with everyone else who's  losing track of which day of the week it is. It's a steep learning curve. I'm someone who likes a certain amount of structure to my days, so this doesn't come easily to me, but I'm working on it and for the time being at least, I'll be getting plenty of practice.

Being able to get outdoors is a huge benefit. Aside from experiencing a couple of cooler, blustery days the weather continues to be glorious and time spent roaming the countryside is even more relaxing when there are no time constraints. Without the necessity to rush home there is always plenty of time to stop for a picnic, watch the tadpoles and ducklings, or even have a paddle. Sometimes we do all three. We've walked and we've cycled, often taking the same route each day, it seems there's always something new to see and a I find comfort in the familiar, well trodden paths.










We often enjoy a picnic lunch down by the river. The cool, damp air beneath the trees quite a contrast from the warm sunshine. It's simple fare, usually just egg and salad buns, fruit, crisps and flapjack, quickly thrown together in the hurry to get set off, but eaten outdoors in the fresh air it tastes so much more delicious than it would have done at  home.
The recent dry weather means the river levels are low just now. Much of the water lies still and every so often we catch a glimpse of small silver fish leaping up above the water leaving behind a circle of ripples.








Well rested and with all our lunch eaten, we gather up our belongings and begin to head for home.
Whether walking or cycling, our journey takes us high up above the river now. All around us the cows quietly graze, the young ones far less interested in us now than when they were first let out into the fields. The Hawthorn trees are in full flower and we have to brush past the Cow Parsley as it froths over onto the pathway. As we cross the stream there is a final chance for a game of Poohsticks before we arrive home once again.

This week I'll be finding my feet in a new pattern to my days, but as long as the weather continues to be kind, I'm sure I'll be spending much of them outdoors.

Stay well.
J. X

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Seven



We celebrated a birthday here last week. Lily turned seven. Seven! Even though I say it each year, I can't believe how fast she is growing and changing. There are times when I would quite like to press a pause button. She is so kind and funny, she has a wicked sense of humour, and I delight in her love of animals and nature. Her laugh is infectious and she has an abundance of energy, running rings around me at every opportunity.


Although we never intended to celebrate with a big party this year, we certainly didn't expect things would be this quiet, but Lily was still able to enjoy her special day. The day before, we baked chocolate brownies, although not quite all the broken chocolate made it into the mixture - some things are just far too tempting.  


Lily was thrilled with her birthday gifts. She got books, a new paddling pool, a solar system and a practical joke set, as well as some other gifts which were all very well received. However, she would probably say her two favourites were a Super Soaker and bubble machine. Oh, and the Whoopee cushion is getting a lot of use, heard randomly around the house, usually followed by squeals of laughter.


We spent a happy day at home, mostly in the garden, but there was time to indulge in a little painting indoors. The bubble machine was put to good use before a quick water fight ensued, then it was time to sing and blow out the birthday candles. I am so grateful for technology which enabled others to share the day with us, she also received some birthday wishes online from her teachers and school friends.


In the end, even after all her hard work, Lily decided she wouldn't bother with any of the brownie after all, but she was more than happy to help herself to the Smarties.

J. X

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Another Week


Another week, or has it been two? I've reached that stage where I can't quite remember. Following a return to a steady routine, the days are passing me by quickly but gently. Home schooling is taking up much of my time. I'm learning to adapt the curriculum work to suit ourselves and chip away at it gradually each day in an attempt to avoid any unnecessary battle of wills. I'll possibly have just about got the hang of it by the time the schools open again.


The weather continues to be glorious in our little corner which is enabling us to make the most of our time outdoors. Walks are unhurried and several times now we've ventured a little further afield than usual.  Last week I couldn't resist another visit to the woods to see the bluebells. Many of them are beginning to fade away now and in the dappled sunlight, beneath the canopy of the trees they appear as a purple haze. 





The hedgerows are full of blossom and there is a soft sweet scent in the air as we walk along. With all this fresh new growth the world is turning a brilliant shade of green, and with an abundance of cow parsley the lanes and pathways are becoming more narrow as a result.











Along with a change to our walking routes we've also been out riding our bikes, the quieter lanes being an ideal opportunity to get Lily used to feeling more comfortable riding on the roads.
A couple of  short journeys to get the hang of it, then we travelled a little further, meaning I was able to call in at the farm shop for some sugar, which I hadn't managed to get from the supermarket last week. (I was eager to bake some cookies and I can confirm they were definitely worth carrying the extra weight home in my rucksack for 😋) On one of our rides we took along a light picnic lunch and enjoyed a stop off by the river for a rest and a quick bite to eat, and it was lovely to see the decorations and bunting hung around the village for VE day.  



Last weekend, while the weather was still lovely and warm, we camped out in the garden. We never got the opportunity to go camping last year, the good weather never seemed to coincide with time off work and school, and I have no idea what this summer will bring, so we pitched up in the garden for what turned out to be a pretty good night's sleep. The night was quiet and still and we stayed lovely and cosy in our sleeping bags. The following morning, however,  the wind had picked up, so at 6.30am we made a hasty retreat into the house to make breakfast.

J. X

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

No-Knead Bread Recipe



A few of you have messaged to ask about the bread I baked, shown in my previous post. It is a favourite of mine and, as with anything that comes out of my kitchen, it is very simple to bake and takes minimal effort. The crispy crust makes it especially delicious served with soup or stews, and in this house it is also traditionally enjoyed on Christmas Eve, dipped in baked camembert and cranberries.

There are, of course, many variations of this recipe online but this is the one that I use.
You will need:

400g Strong white bread flour
½ teaspoon of dried yeast
1 teaspoon of salt
300 ml warm water
A large oven proof pot with a lid



Weigh out the flour and put it into a large mixing bowl, stir in the salt and yeast. Pour in the warm water and mix well together using a wooden spoon to make a sticky dough. Cover with cling film or reusable wrap and leave for at least twelve hours , I leave mine overnight.


The dough will become bubbly and VERY sticky.


Put your empty cooking pot into the oven at 200℃ to heat through for around 30 minutes, then with well floured hands, carefully turn out the dough onto some baking paper and gently shape into a round.


Very carefully, using the baking paper, lower the dough into the pot and put the lid on.
Bake in the centre of the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the lid then bake for a further 15 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool.


I believe you can also bake this using plain flour, although I have yet to try this myself. If anyone has done, do please let me know how it turned out.

J. X