20 August 2014


...is for Orchard...

...a rare sight these days.  At one time many villages and farms would have had an orchard to provide the community or a family with a source of fruit and sometimes nuts.  This orchard is mainly apple with a few pear trees.  The trees would be grown as standards* with grassland underneath which was grazed by livestock or cut for hay.  Most of the orchards that are still around today predate the second world war when small scale mixed farming was the dominant form of farming.  Sadly they are now very much in decline as a result of funding to make land more productive, which often meant they were destroyed or because they are often positioned near to villages and towns and are vulnerable to development, they are classed as agricultural land so have limited legal protection.  I was lucky enough to work right next to an old orchard as my office was in a converted farm building.  We still go and pick the apples every year.

Joining in with the Alphabet Photography Project.


*a tree that is large about 20 feet tall and 20 feet wide and therefore widely spaced in an orchard setting, with a crown high enough to allow animals to graze beneath without them reaching the branches.

18 August 2014


...this week of...

...happiness meals with veggies from the garden, play games with the children, a tidy house, days out with friends

...sadness at the continued blood shed and hatred in the world

...reading The Summer Garden by Paullina Simons, to the children The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, and these picture books* you can read a short review of them here, 203. Delphie and the Birthday Show by Darcey Bussell, 204. Party! by Jess Stockham, 205. Zoe and the Fairy Medicine by Jane Andrews, 206. Lila and the Secret of Rain by David Conway, 207. L'ours au Soleil by Stella Blackstone, 208. Weasels by Elys Dolan

...creating a shawl off the needles and now blocking, the beginnings of two sewing projects, the arms on a cardigan, a slipper

...learning about castles, the body, digestion, bees, penguins, Antarctica

...thinking about our rhythm for September

...hoping that I can get all the things done that I want/need to do this week

....wondering about things to do in the Autumn

...looking forward to music festival this weekend

*as part of the 300 Picture Books Challenge


I hope you have had a lovely week too......................enjoy the one to come!

15 August 2014


Some of my earliest memories are wrapped up in gardens.  The garden of my childhood was a large one with trees for climbing, dens behind old fence panels, a concrete half buried Anderson shelter which was often knee deep in water, it was also a garden of produce, veggies, a homemade cold frame fashioned with old bricks and window frames and fruit, apples picked from the tree as an after school snack. My grandparents had productive gardens, a wigwam of runner beans covered in red flowers, a pot of parsley by the pack door always full like a green hairy head for the pot, picking or digging up the veg for a family Sunday lunch.  One of my aunts living in North London had a long thin garden full of produce.  When I left home I always wanted a garden of my own.

My wish came true, eventually, and the small patch of land I call home has been turned from a patch of grass to a more edible (to humans) one.  It will never make us self sufficient there is not the room to do that and coupled with frosts as late as May and as early as October it would be tough to make it a reality without several polytunnels.  There are often a couple of weeks of the year when all the vegetables we eat are taken from our garden.  This last week has been one of them.

I am a menu planner.  Each week I get an email detailing the contents of a veg bag we have delivered to the house which is how we buy our veg.  I use the contents of the bag to plan my menu and shop for the specific ingredients I need to make the meals I have planned.  I don't plan our meals for specific days but obviously as the week goes on there are less meals left on my list.  This week my plan was based on my own veggies and those I had in the fridge, leftovers from a recent scout camp.

It never ceases to amaze me how one year you can grow something successfully and the next it will either fail or produce little.  I love french beans and usually grow dwarf varieties, some years they have bought a whole new dimension to the definition of dwarf and barely produce a meals worth.  This year they have been, excuse the pun, highly productive and we have been picking them for weeks.  This week I cooked them in a Bengali style, and with a potato dish of yellow spiced potatoes, dahl, rice and naan made a delicious meal.  We have also eaten our potatoes with a quiche and a Lentil Salad.

We live in one of the wettest parts of England, our annual rainfall is over a metre of rain.  We have had very little rain in the last two months and coupled with high temperatures the garden needed constant watering.  The rain has finally arrived but sadly it has bought with it much cooler temperatures dropping to below 10°C overnight.  The courgettes which have been doing so well seemed to have stopped growing.  I had planned on two meals based on the number that were on my plants, but best laid plans.......we did manage one meal a simple pasta sauce with slow cooked onion and garlic, chopped courgettes and grated parmesan cooked on an open fire by the side of a local lake on the only dry evening of the week.

I tried growing broad beans this year for the first time, my father in law always grew them and told me they were easy to grow, we usually get ours from a local pick your own most of which I freeze to eat over the following months.  They are easy to grow, well this year they have been, and like the french beans we have had several meals from our plants. I have made several different salads with them and a delicious pâté.  This week I tried a new salad recipe, one with an interesting list of ingredients, which I wasn't entirely convinced would taste good together but I was proved wrong.  We didn't have many beans by the time I made it, darn that cooler weather, so I reduced the quantities but it was delicious.

The cooler weather means that I have added soup back to our lunches.  I had some lettuces that I bought back from scout camp.  They were rather past it to be honest and most people would have probably thrown them in the compost days ago.  But I cut off the worst bits and was left with a rather sad small pile, another raid on the fridge and I found a small piece of cabbage so that went in too.  So it was cabbage and lettuce soup loosely based on this recipe.  The children were a bit non plussed, I thought it tasted great.

So that has been my week in the kitchen, next week I am hoping that the garden carries on producing enough to make a stir fry, some courgette fritters, a bean salad, pasta alla genovese, cucumber soup and lots more leafy salads.

13 August 2014


...is for notebooks...

...it seems I have quite a collection.....

....one for shopping lists, another for keeping track of things I need to do for the Scouts, one for bloggy things, one for keeping track of learning,  a book for homemade cleaning recipes, another a list of birds we have spotted on days out and the last a list of books and resources for our home education journey.....

...I wouldn't be without them what about you?

Joining in with the Alphabet Photography Project 

11 August 2014


...this week of...

...happiness finally making it to the waterfall for a walk - with friends, taking the canoe out for the day and cooking supper on a fire by the lake, veggies from my garden

...sadness that the weather has turned wet and wild preventing us from going on our wild camping trip, when the weather was hot I was too busy with volunteer commitments

...reading Citadel by Kate Mosse, to the children The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, and these picture books* you can read a short review of them here, 197. Yummy Scrummy by Ashley Birch.  198. Star Seeker by Theresa Heine, 199. Autumn by Anita Ganeri, 200. Stuck by Oliver Jeffers, 201. Betty and the Yeti by Ella Burfoot, 202. Felix the Fast Tractor and the Coal Delivery by Catherine Cannon

...creating homemade toothpaste, a christmas present, blackcurrant smoothie, rows on a shawl

...learning about river flow, weather, clouds, the solar system, alphabet, autumn festivals, our bodies

...thinking about christmas presents, yes I know it is early but as I make as many as possible I have to start now!

...hoping to harvest my whitecurrants and garlic this week

...wondering if I have enough veggies in my garden to cancel my veg bag for another week

..looking forward to a day out on a classic coach with a visit to a castle

*as part of the 300 Picture Books Challenge


I hope you have had a lovely week too......................enjoy the one to come!

08 August 2014


Nowadays it is easy to keep in touch with people, sometimes too easy, so much so that it can become overwhelming, but that it is a whole other story.  Do you ever find yourself wondering what people you have known in the past are up to now?  Those people who you haven't kept the latest address or phone number for, from the time when such detail was necessary, showing my age now!  Every now and then I look old friends up on the Internet, this only works if you can remember their name, something which often alludes me.  A few weeks ago I traced someone I have thought about often over the years, the only person apart from my husband who I have intentionally shared a house with, that sounds a bit weird doesn't it?  Perhaps I should explain that I have had many live in jobs or lived in shared student houses where I had chosen the room rather than my fellow housemates.

We met as we were both looking to move and had not found anyone to share a house with and we got on well, I was a student, she was working, we were the same age. I knew little of her circumstances and often thought it strange that someone so young seemed to have so little support from their parents, she often ran out of money before the end of the month. We lived together for about a year until I had to move out as I was struggling to find a work placement for my college course and ended up moving back to my parents house as I couldn't afford the rent.  We stayed in touch for maybe a year or so after that.

When you are growing up, or certainly when I was so I going to assume it is the same for everyone, your experience of the world expands slowly through the years.  I knew how I lived with my own family so I assumed that everyone else lived, if not the same, vaguely similar lives.  I had of course heard stories in the news and read about how others lived but it is hard to make sense of them when they are beyond your own experience.  It was after celebrating my birthday that I discovered first hand how different others lives could be, on that day my parents and younger siblings travelled to be with me, I forget what we did but we spent the day together.  After they had gone I found my housemate visibly upset.  Her first words to me were, 'No one has ever done that for me' and it all came pouring out, her life at boarding school, separated from parents for most of her life hardly seeing them even in the holidays.  I didn't doubt this to be true, she never spoke to her parents on the phone the whole time I lived with her, I have often wondered if they actually knew where she was living.  Despite being a long time ago now, I have never forgotten that day, I can still picture us sat on the sofa in our house having that conversation like it was yesterday.  In many ways that day was a turning point in my life although I didn't realise it at the time.  I had met someone who did not grow up in a loving family unit and was now alone in the world struggling to find a way through it.  Thankfully this is no longer the case she is, I have discovered, an academic at a prodigious university.

Learning is an interesting premise, confused too often with teaching they are not one and the same, you cannot teach if your pupil does not want to learn.  Experiential learning, learning from experience is something we do constantly.  We make discoveries for ourselves rather than reading or hearing about them.  We can learn from our mistakes, by reflecting and trying again, remember learning to ride a bike assuming you can of course!  If we have no experience of a situation we view it through our own previous experiences, it is hardly surprising therefore that we live in a world full of misunderstanding.  I not only learnt, and have continued to, about others' experiences I have also come to adjust my own children's view of the world.  I can tell them about things until I am blue in the face but they are not going to understand them fully until they have experienced something similar for themselves.  If we want to we are all learning all of the time.

I am debating whether to contact this old friend.  As I walked away the last time we met I had a strong sense that she no longer wanted to see me again.  It may be that this was a test to find out the strength of our relationship, if so I have spectacularly failed.  She may not want any contact from me, I am a reminder of a past she wants to forget, I will never know unless I extend a hand...........


Scuse this bit just claiming my blog, not a shameless bit of self promotion!

06 August 2014


...is for Meadowsweet...

...a perennial herb that grows all over the place.  It spreads by its roots, sending up a long reddish stem and can be up to 120cm tall.  The flowers are a spray of cream and have a heady perfume, garlands of it were traditionally worn at Lammas.  The dark green leaves have a similar smell and were used as a strewing herb to give rooms a pleasant aroma in the days when such things were needed.  The leaves and/or flowers can be used to flavour wine, beer, vinegars, stewed fruit and jams. Medicinally it is helpful for stomach upsets and many other digestive problems, and is a good anti-inflammatory for arthritis and rheumatic conditions.  In the 1890s anti-inflammatory chemicals were extracted from this plant for the world's first patent drug, an 'aspirin' it was less irritating to the stomach lining than modern aspirin.  Natural dyes can be obtained from this plant, black, reds and yellows depending on the mordant used.

Joining in with the Alphabet Photography Project