Tuesday 30 June 2020


Better late than never, isn't that what they say. Its been a week of ups and downs again here, yet in the current climate that shouldn't really surprise me. The important thing is that there have definitely been more ups - warm sunny days, walks by the river, fields of wildflowers, and best of all....sea air.

Most days I've been gathering strawberries fresh from the garden and just like last year I have enjoyed a plentiful supply. Not bad for what began as two small plants which I almost threw away. They are very nearly all gone now but they have been delicious while they lasted.

For Lily's birthday she received a butterfly kit, so for the last few weeks we have watched while the tiny caterpillars grew and grew, formed chrysalides and eventually emerged as beautiful butterflies, which we then released into the garden a few days later. It was a great little project and something she would have ordinarily been enjoying at school this term.

Midweek we had initially planned to go to the beach but, unfortunately, fate had other ideas. It was a huge disappointment, as I had been so looking forward to breathing in some fresh sea air and feeling the soft sand beneath my feet. Instead, we settled for spending what turned out to be a rather pleasant afternoon in the garden, cooling off in the paddling pool, our earlier misfortune quickly put behind us.

The following day was forecast to be hot hot hot, so we decided on an early morning walk through the fields before high temperatures would have made it far too uncomfortable. The pond and the stream which runs through the woods were almost completely dry, and a still quiet replaced the more usual noise of running water. At a clearing in the tress the wildflower meadow appeared alive with butterflies and bees, as startled rabbits darted off into the undergrowth flashing their white tails.
While we were out we called in at the farm shop so that I could buy some rhubarb and we also treated ourselves to some delicious chocolate ice cream.

With not having been able to travel very far, we have spent a lot of time down by the river over these last few months. Although, much as I love it there, for me it doesn't come compare to being by the sea and following our setback earlier in the week it was with huge delight that we finally made it to the shore. Sandcastles were built, shells collected and it just felt so good to sit and gaze out to sea as shadows grew longer and the sun sank lower in the evening sky.  I hope we will get to enjoy many more visits there this year.

Disappointingly, by the end of the week our spell of good weather had broken and it was a very damp Mog who announced her displeasure at this (rather loudly) at 4am on Saturday morning. The sunflowers have been on the receiving end of quite a battering from the strong winds and rain, although fortunately, having been propped up again several times, they all seem to be okay. The tomatoes are beginning to flower now and the beetroot and carrots appear to be growing well so I hope this means we will get to enjoy some of our produce in the next few weeks.

With the summer weather seemingly on pause for the time being, we are concentrating on our last few weeks of home learning. There are only three weeks of the school term remaining now and although at the beginning of the year I could never have imagined it would turn out to be anything like this, I think that despite one or two tricky moments we have successfully navigated our way through this unfamiliar territory.

J. X

Monday 22 June 2020

A Day Out

At the beginning of last week we had planned to visit some nearby gardens and as luck would have it, being that at the time my car was still out of action, the day dawned bright and sunny. In fact, it was so much warmer than I'd anticipated, we set off a little earlier, so that we could take our time.
With lunch tucked away in my rucksack, along with several bottles of water, we set off walking along a narrow track, through the fields and down towards the river. All the while bees and butterflies were crossing our path, enjoying the early morning sunshine, all eager to reach the abundance of wildflowers at the foot of the hedgerows.

We stopped for a while at the side of the river in order to enjoy a mid morning snack of flapjack and a cooling drink. Lily was mainly preoccupied with climbing on the rocks and searching for minnows, the field behind us was filled with oxeye daisies swaying in the gentle breeze.

We continued along the path, crossing the bridge, then along the quiet narrow lanes to our destination. With all the picnic tables packed away for the time being, we found a cool shaded spot beneath the trees to enjoy our lunch. While I was eating, out of the corner of my eye I noticed what I thought was a leaf moving. Watching closer, I saw it was actually a small mouse popping it's head out of a hole, then disappearing again.

The gardens were looking so beautiful in the sunshine and, as you can tell from the photographs, with visitor numbers being limited, it was lovely and quiet there. We followed the path as it weaved around the rockery, admired the kitchen garden (always my favourite) and orchard, and watched as the brilliant blue Damselflies hovered above the ponds.
Lily was beside herself with glee to discover some water sprinklers and it was with a slightly soggier child that I left a little while later.

Our walk home took us back alongside the river once again but on the opposite bank this time, the trees providing some much needed shade from the heat of the sun. Of course, while we were still a little way from home, the unpredictable weather provided us with a sudden heavy downpour of rain. Fortunately, this had been expected so we had some thin waterproof jackets with us. Although, I admit I was a little reluctant to wear mine. The rain, falling in large warm droplets, felt so refreshing against my bare arms and legs and the air was filled with that wonderful petrichor scent that only occurs when it rains after a spell of hot, dry weather.

It was such an enjoyable day out and I hope, now that restrictions are beginning to relax a little, we will be able to go a little farther afield another time.


Saturday 13 June 2020

Where Elderflowers Grow

Watching the rain through the window just now, it could be difficult to imagine how different the weather was just a matter of days ago. The sun was shining and the breeze was soft and warm, perfect for collecting elderflowers.

In these parts there are an abundance of elder trees, especially amongst the hedgerows, although they often go unnoticed until the beginning of June when they become covered in large creamy white flower heads. Therefore, with a bag in hand and a small pair of scissors just in case, off I went on my mission, certain in the knowledge I would be able to gather more than enough flower heads to make some delicious cordial. Previously, I have gathered my flowers whilst enjoying one of our favourite walks, but with this being inaccessible for the time being I needed to source some a little closer to home.

The flowers I wanted were easy to reach - often the large blossoms are typically much too high or obstructed by thorny branches and nettles - so I soon had enough for my needs and we continued up and along the side of the hill, pausing along the way to spot a wide variety of wildflowers, moths and caterpillars.
During a brief pause for a rest Lily asked me why I had a yellow nose. Being a little relieved not to have passed anyone else by this point, I realised my face had a light dusting of pollen from all the elderflower I had been sniffing. Oh well, their delightful scent had proved a little too tempting for me 😊

On returning home I prepared the syrup, the flowers and lemon steeping in the sugary mixture overnight soon filled the kitchen with their delicately sweet aroma.

In the same way that making wild garlic pesto marks the arrival of spring for me, the making of elderflower cordial is another indicator of the year passing by. In little over a week the longest day will be behind us and very soon it will be raspberry season.  This week I feel as though I've been a little more productive, and with a very gradual shift towards a semblance of normal life resuming again I'm beginning to feel a little more optimistic. Other concerns have been alleviated for the moment, so I'm feeling grateful for this time to be able to sit back and appreciate what is important.

Next week I have plans to visit a National Trust garden and I'm looking forward to being able to take small tentative steps out into the world again.

Stay well.
J. X

Friday 5 June 2020

Holiday at Home

I don't know about anyone else, but the longer I leave between posts, the more difficult I find it trying to get into the swing of it again. It's been a strange sort of week here, for various reasons the last few days have been a bit of a struggle and I've finally run out of steam.
This week much of my time has been spent at home and I'm sure that my lethargy is in part down to not getting out and about as often as usual. With so much confusion regarding the restrictions I'm still quite anxious about what I can and can't do, added to the fact that I'm no longer working I feel as though I'm lacking some purpose to my days. Having said all that, I continue to be safe and well, and for that I am truly grateful.

I have also been very grateful for the recent sunny weather. It's been glorious here. I admit, I am a little concerned that this could have been our summer, but I really hope that won't be the case and in Lily's words we've enjoyed a 'holiday at home'.
With several days of high temperatures forecast it didn't take long to decide to put up the paddling pool and I've spent so much time outdoors, making the most of the sunshine, home schooling definitely pushed aside for the time being 😊 It felt so wonderful to be finally wearing my summer clothes and flip flops.

The garden produce is growing fast, strawberries are beginning to ripen (and I can confirm they are delicious), the sunflowers are getting taller and even the Sweet Peas have reached the top of their canes. Everything appears to be much further along than this time last year. I've replaced the bolted spinach with some more of the tomato seedlings and, as they've done so well this year, I had enough to be able to answer a request for some on a local giving site.

Mog has been enjoying this warm weather too. Usually, if she's not asleep in the house she will be out in the field looking for mice, but for some reason she will spend much more of her time in the garden if Lily is out there, although I've been careful to keep her away from the pool. An old tree stump is her favourite place to lie down but even she eventually had to search for a shaded spot beneath the leaves.

This afternoon I am heading out for a walk. I need to blow away the cobwebs and take some much needed exercise. I am also hoping to gather some elderflowers so that I can make cordial.

Stay well.
J. X