25 April 2015


I have read somewhere this week that the sales of vegetable seeds overtook flower seeds last year.  I do hope that it is not just a passing fashion.  Growing your own is not an easy undertaking, sometimes it can feel like an uphill battle but the rewards are amazing.  I have been growing my own for the past twelve summers, we inherited a patch of grass when we bought our house which we have turned into a productive wildlife friendly space.  It is not huge but it is enough for me to keep on top off, just, with everything else that we also like to do.

The main lesson I have learnt in all those years is to grow only what is suitable for my climate, seems simple, but there are many plants that I thought were and are grown successfully by others in my area.  My limited space means that I have to choose carefully, whilst always growing what we actually like eating.

I live in a terraced house, the middle of five.  All our plots are long and thin, the back of the house is the middle of a 100m plot (it's about 5.5m wide), we have a front and back garden.  Immediately behind our house is an access strip as wide as a car which is shared by all the houses in the two terraces (there is another block of five) so we have to keep that land clear.  It makes a great safe place for children to play.  My back garden where I currently do all my growing is about 35ish metres long.

All the permanent plants we grow have to be very hardy, but even then some don't survive.  I think I may have lost yet another Rosemary bush this winter despite being assured it would cope!  Living, as I do, in the UK our maritime climate brings us all weathers, sometimes in one day.  We are at 54.5°N, 270m above sea level, on the edge of a small village.  There is open land in front of our house as far as the horizon, which is a 700 - 800m high ridge of hills about eight miles away and where most of our weather comes from.  We get a lot of rain, 510mm so far this year, more than three times that on average over the year, and wind blowing right across that open ground and not much sun.  Temperatures in the summer months average around 17°C, there have been a couple of summers since we have lived here where the temperatures barely got into double figures.  I always wait to buy my children sandals............

You would be forgiven for thinking it was all doom and gloom, but plenty of plants thrive, it has just taken a while to work out which ones they are.  We are also fortunate that land around fifteen miles south of us is at sea level which has a warmer climate and longer growing season (by about a month) there is an abundance of pick your owns farms in that area which provide us with all the fruit and veg that we cannot grow.

My garden is looking a little bare right now, I am busy sowing seeds, but you can see pictures of it here and here.  What about you?

22 April 2015


This time of year always feels like a bit of a marathon, with lots of birthdays, it feels like I am never without needles in my hands, either sewing or knitting.  I have endeavoured to be a little more organised this year, starting things off a bit earlier which has paid off as I now have over a month to Alice's birthday which is the finishing line.  I have already started on some sewing which is cut out and getting more and more creased as it waits on the back of a chair.  But now that I can focus on her presents I am completely undecided as to what to make!  I don't want a finishing straight of late nights so I hope my mojo comes back soon.  In the meantime I have cast on a cardigan which I hope I can finish in time, I am not a fan of knitting to deadlines, I have just less than five weeks......

Late night making would put paid to my reading time which is rather precious to me.  I have found that I sleep so much better if I read before going to sleep, I spend anything up to an hour.  This is not something I could contemplate when the children were younger but now that they are getting older, the small bits of me time are treasured and used wisely.  My current reading is a large book which has kept me occupied for a few weeks now.  A history of the British Landscape as sculpted by man, it starts with prehistoric times and takes you right up to the modern day.  The author is an archeologist based in the Fens, which he has a slight bias towards in this book, naturally I suppose as this has probably been his major area of study.

Joining Ginny

20 April 2015


...this week of...

...happiness spending time with my parents, catching up with friends I haven't seen for two years, sunshine 

...sadness at the tragic death of migrants off the coast of Italy

...creating a storysack, some fabric baskets, rows on my shalom, the front piece of a cardigan, the start of a cardigan, lots of peg people, 

...reading The Making of the British Landscape by Francis Pryor, to the children 18 Mulberry Road  by Frank English

...learning about planets, fractions, the Buddhist and Sikh New Year Festivals, wool, sheep, knives, whittling, leaf cutter ants

...thinking about plans for a camping trip that Alice has requested for her birthday

...wondering if I am trying to fit too much into my weeks

...hoping to start planning a new learning project

...looking forward to sowing more seeds in my garden

17 April 2015


For many years the advent of Spring, with its warmer temperatures, marked a change in our rhythm.  You see for a few winters we took to hibernation, only venturing out to visit friends or do our weekly shop.  We are prone to having winters that are grey and heavy, with lots of grey cloud which brings the rain, damp cold is the very worse kind.  It gets inside you and chills you to the bone.  So when my children both reached that age where they were too heavy to be carried all day, but their legs were too short for walking about fast enough to keep me warm we virtually stopped going out in the Winter.

That time seems so recent, yet so far away now.  As the children grew I was determined to spend more of the colder months doing things outside but each time I tried something new, attempting to venture out seemed like trying to hold back the tide and when we were out all they wanted to do was go home.  I was clearly choosing the wrong activities.

I know that some people go for a walk at the same time everyday, I thought this sounded like a lovely idea.  But it just didn't work for us.  I thought perhaps if we did the same walk every week round our village, that might work?  No.  What has worked is setting aside one afternoon a week, usually the same afternoon to focus on being outside.  Going for a walk, a bike ride, birdwatching.....this year we have decided to vist the same wood every month to see how it changes through the seasons.  We did this once before, about three years ago and the children requested we did it again.  Our walks have taken us all over the place, up big hills, around lakes, through castle grounds, along rivers.  But what has been so wonderful is that we carried on doing this right through the winter without really noticing.

I know that much is written about the lack of time children spend out of doors, the lack of connection to nature.  What I always knew to be true was that the more time you spend outside the more time you want to spend, and that this would naturally lead to loving it rather than hating it.  We always fear the unknown.  So what started as a birdwatching trip once a month has turned into birdwatching every time we are out and about.  We have started to be able to spot birds by their flight and their song.  A very wet winter afternoon spent identifying trees by their winter buds has led to both children being able to identify a number of trees in this way far more reliably than I can!

I spent so much of my childhood outside.  I grew up in a town but we lived on a road with few cars, less people owned cars in the 70s, large gardens and there were lots of open spaces and tree belts nearby.  We rode bikes, built dens, cooked on fires in all weathers.  I worked outside for over ten years, all year round.  I need to spend time outside to feel recharged and connected.  

It makes my heart sing that, for now, I have found what works for us.

15 April 2015


"All was quiet on the farm"*

For the past few weeks I have been monopolising one of the small tables in our living room, much to the disgust of my family especially as on some days I spread out onto the sofa too.  The monopoly has been caused by some small knitted creations which I was picking up and working on each time I had a few spare minutes.  Knitting rows and then occasionally unpicking them as some of the creations had no pattern to work from.

"Cat was asleep, Dog was asleep, Cow was asleep"

How I would love to have my own dedicated crafting space, where I could leave my works in progress out and return to them in the knowledge that they will not have been strewn around the place.  If I am not monopolising the table then it is the back of a chair in the same room which sometimes has sewing in progress draped over the back of it, it has the perfect back for draping.  Once I have gone to the effort of ironing and cutting out material I don't want to fold it up and put it away, I will forget about it then and have to re-iron it, so it sits as a reminder that it needs attention and often gets knocked on the floor.

"Sheep was asleep. Pig was asleep, and so were all the Piglets"

Those small creations came about as a result of a conversation I had with my sister in law, some time ago, about presents.  She and my brother have four children all born in a four week period, my own daughter has a birthday during that time too, if I am to get presents sorted for them all in time I have to start early!  With two older siblings and mum being a childminder it is really hard to know what to give the youngest two (twins) as they have so many things in their house already.  Somehow that conversation got onto story sacks.

It was all so peaceful - till.... snore! and Cat woke up.  Cow woke up.

I had just the book in mind, one that I had long thought about turning into such a project.  One of my own children's favourite books when they were younger, Snore by Michael Rosen.  A very simple story of a snoring dog who has woken all the other animals on the farm, they would like to get back to sleep if they can just stop him snoring..........

"Sheep woke up. Pig woke up, and so did all the Piglets"

I needed a dog, a cat, a cow, a sheep, a pig, some piglets and a rooster.  I thought about sewing them with felt but they needed to be robust and I wasn't sure I could achieve that.  My twin nephews will be two next month and, as a childminder, mum wants to use it with her minded children when they have outgrown it.  It needed to last, I thought knitting them would make the animals stronger.  I had patterns for most of the animals some of which I had made before, the others I had to make up with varying amounts of success.

I have whipped up a bag for the animals, to keep them all together, and another bag to store everything in.  I have added a second book to this sack, a story written by a local author about bedtime.  I hope it gets lots of use!

Oh and the rooster?  He was my favourite to make, he, naturally, wakes the dog up!

Now my family can have the table back, until the next project that is............


*All text in italics is taken from the book, Snore by Michael Rosen

13 April 2015


...this week of...

...happiness the first seedlings of the year, sunshine, going outside without a coat, a beautiful family walk

...sadness at the tragic skiing accident in the French Alps

...creating two bags, a fabric basket, a knitted dog, piglets and cow, rows on my shalom

...reading The Making of the British Landscape by Francis Pryor, to the children 18 Mulberry Road  by Frank English

...learning about comets, asteroids, meteors, meteorites, meteoroids, shooting stars, nests, eggs, sound waves

...thinking about present making

...wondering about how to fit in everything I need to do before I go away

...hoping to move some plants this week to make way for an exciting new project

...enjoying this

...looking forward to seeing my parents

10 April 2015


When buying food sometimes it feels like navigating through a maze.  The decisions to make can feel impossible.  I wrestle with food miles and it's like trying to hug an eel.  How far is too far, is how it is transported important.  I lose myself in the aisles floundering over every item.

It is hard to make sense of what you read.  What food production can do to an economy, monoculture destroying habitats, hedge funds skewing prices, fair trade a label not a given.

I read signs locally sourced, noble I am sure but a tad meaningless?  Locally sourced is the easy bit.  The quest for perfect and cheap food is stifling locally grown squeezing it until it no longer breathes. Food distribution chains are convoluted and long, at what price?  Should I feel remorse with each purchase, weighed down with these burdens, tangled up in the ethics.

Maybe, I am overthinking..............

I do need to be mindful. Thinking about the seasons.  Buying only what we need, food waste is terrible, we are so disconnected from food production that throwing it away is all too easy.  Reading the labels.

I am not evangelical, just quietly doing what I think is right.