03 July 2020

Sustainable Living June

This blog has always been about living life in a mindful and intentional way, for me this means that most of the decisions we make have been thought about carefully, even if we decide to continue as we are a decision has still been made.  When we take a product from a shelf in a shop or tap a button on a screen, should we stop and think about how it has got this point before we do so?  It can be hard to make decisions over many aspects of our lives, we are often far removed from the means of production and it can be hard to find out how this operates.  Maybe we shouldn't be thinking is there a more sustainable replacement for something, rather do we really need it at all?

To help me keep on track I have come up with some words that I will be using to keep my decision making mindful and intentional, and my life in general as sustainable as I can make it.  If you you want to join me you would be most welcome, either using the same words for inspiration or your own that are more meaningful to you.  These are the words (you can read my thoughts behind some of them here and here) that I have been using in June:

Regular readers here will know that we get a veg box delivered every week, we eat a lot of veg, but some weeks it is not quite enough for us.  I usually top this up at a farmers market and a shop that is near one of the home ed groups that the children go to each week.  As these have both stopped for now the only place that I am able to top this up is at the supermarket, I try to buy as much organic as possible, organic veg at a supermarket is always wrapped in loads of plastic.  I have been trying to keep this to a minimum, each week when I do my menu planning I have been pulling my recipe books off the shelf and searching for new recipes and reminding myself of those that I haven't made in a long time to make more use of the ingredients we have in the pantry.  Black bean and squash burgers, Tofu Nut Balls, Middle Eastern inspired wraps and Sweet Potato Timbales were all delicious and I will definitely be making them again.  A Tofu Walnut Loaf and an Onion Salad both of which sounded like a tasty combination of ingredients on paper were not a hit at all, they were both in one meal which was a bit of a disaster!  I also had a go at making a fermented chutney which was delicious, I have been eating it with my fermented breakfast pancakes.  Whilst looking through my recipe books I was reminded of recipes I had made before including a Savoury granola, it is a mix of nuts, seeds and herbs cooked in the oven with some oil and mustard.  I have been enjoying this on my salads this month.

Like most people around the world I have not had a hair cut for months.  I had been meaning to sort out an appointment when lockdown started so it is actually over six months since it was last cut.  As it is long it is not too much of a problem, however the ends are not looking good.  I remembered that I had read about making hair conditioners using herbs, so I gave this a go to see if could help the ends of my hair which are becoming very dry. There are lots that you could use depending on what nourishment your hair is need of, I used elderflowers, soaked in hot water for half and hour to make a 'tea' and then I dipped the ends of my hair into the liquid.  I was a little sceptical I have to admit but it has made a real difference, my ends are still a bit dry but nothing like as bad as they were.  I am converted! 

We have several solar panels on the garage/workshop building at the back of our house, they are connected to a bank of batteries where the power is stored until we need to use it.  Pretty much everything that needs power in that building, the exception is the chest freezer, runs off this power supply.  We also use it to charge phones, tablets and my laptop.  At the end of May we started to run a cable into the house to see if we run some of the things in the house off this supply too.  We have used it to run my sewing machine, the hoover, the digital projector and the stereo for a solar powered cinema and Cameron's gaming computer.  The savings are not huge each day, but the pennies do add up.  

We had some very unexpected news this month.  My husband came home from work one Friday and told me he had been offered a promotion.  As the main earner in our household (I have a  very part time job earning a little) it has been on my mind, throughout the period of lockdown, how safe his job is and whether he would have one to go back to, when the time came that he could consider going back to work.  I am so thankful that not only is his job safe but that they have valued his contribution to the company over the last ten years so much they want to acknowledge that with this offer.  He has accepted it and is loving the challenge that his new position is giving him.   

Most of what I have been creating this month I shared in my last post.  A purple linen skirt, a new sock project and more rows on my shawl.   I was so excited to discover that my local sewing shop was opening up to allow customers into the shop.  They stayed open throughout the lockdown but you could not go inside, everything had to be ordered and paid for over the phone.  I like to look and feel fabric before I buy it, I could never buy it online.   I bought some linen to make a dress for myself, which is nearly finished.  I need to make a few adjustments as the fit is not quite right, luckily I am able to do that without unpicking too many stitches.  I will share it when I am done.  There was a slubbing in the linen not far from the length that I needed, the shop gave me the extra for free which was rather unexpected, they told me they would be unlikely to sell that 50cm or so.  I was able to arrange the pattern pieces such that I have managed to cut out the pieces for a top as well.  I shall be sewing that up too when the dress is complete.  

The children and I spend every Tuesday morning creating, on one of these days this month we sat and made the pictures in the photo.  They are created using a special paper that lets light though it, some call these window transparencies.  We used a book for inspiration and came up with our own designs for these summer inspired window transparencies.  

I am really enjoying the extra time that I am able to give to my garden this year.  It has not had so much attention since I became a parent when it has always come far down the list.  Everything in the garden is growing really well, not much is ready for harvesting yet except an abundance of lettuce and salad leaves.  The extra time I have been able to spend gardening has meant that I have been able to grow a lot of tender herbs, in the polytunnel, this year.  I grow these most years but they often die off for lack of attention.  I want to try and grow enough to freeze or dry them for use during the colder months when they won't grow.      I have tried a new one to me this year, holy basil or tulsi, I love the herbal teas I have tried made with this herb and was delighted to see that the seeds were available from the company I buy my seeds from.  I have about fifteen plants and have been enjoying tea made with my own leaves, I hope to pick and dry some to keep me going for as long as possible.

I have been doing yoga stretches every morning for about the last five years or so.  I started with a sun salutation which is a series of poses that flow one from another, it is a great way to warm your muscles up each morning. Over the years I have gradually added more poses and now do between twenty to thirty minutes every morning sometimes more.  I have found that if something is on my mind it is a great way to help to make sense of it or release it.  I have also found a way to include a short meditation at the end of my stretches.  I have long wanted to find the time to fit this into my week and during lockdown have been doing some meditating but it has always been a bit hit and miss as to when I would do it during a week.  I have found both of these practices hugely helpful to get through the challenges of the last few months.

I have found more time for reading articles online this month.  One I came across offers an interesting perspective on what we should be prioritising as we find a sustainable way forward for the future.  I want to hope that these perspectives will be part of the thinking for the future, but the queues that were pictured in the media when clothes shops were reopened here in the UK doesn't fill me with much.    The last year has seen a huge increase in people protesting about climate change, last month has seen protests about the discrimination that people of colour face in their day to day lives.  As I have learnt about the level of this discrimination and how it pervades through every part of people's lives it has been hard to comprehend how this is possible.  How we could have been so ignorant about how this has been going on right under our noses and why is it that there are sections of society who think this discrimination is acceptable.  I have been thinking about whether once these protests stop will people continue to demand change and action?  We need to be doing more than paying lip service to the latest issue and thinking about the changes that need to happen on how people think and act.  It is not going to be a quick fix, just as coming out the current situation or slowing down climate change isn't either, when you have generations of people who think in a particular way, changing that viewpoint and thinking is like a muscle that needs to be constantly worked at to keep it strong and working well.  I have always been a little hesitant to speak out and say what I think about issues such as these but this last month has made me realise that not doing so makes me complicit.

We were invited to join some friends for a physically distanced barbecue this month.  They have a large covered area outside where we could sit far enough apart but not so far that we could still chat.  It was a strange but lovely evening.  We had to remember not to get too close to each other but it was good to talk to face to face with someone other than family.

I am sorry there are not many photos in this post.  Sadly my good camera broke this month, I am not sure what is wrong with it, whether it is repairable and where I could get this done.  I have not taken many photos this month!

Thank you once again for reading through this very long post.  I realise that it may seem that I do an awful lot, I suspect you do to, if you were to write it all down like I have here.  You are most welcome to join me, either use the same words or your own which mean more to you, let me know in the comments below and I will head over and have a read.  I will post my Sustainable Living July roundup on Monday 3 August.

27 June 2020

Sew Happy

One of things I thought I would have lots of when we were in lockdown is time.  Oh how wrong I was.  I thought this might be, because we didn't have to be anywhere by a certain time, I was not using my time so efficiently.  So many of the jobs I do still need to be done, the house needs cleaning, the laundry bin needs emptying, food needs thinking about, buying and cooking and of course there is the education of my children.  We have done this from our home for years but now we found ourselves at home, and rather than their needs being fulfilled in part by me and in part by classes, groups, and playdates on every week day, now it was just me and my husband when he was on furlough.  

My time to do the things that I wanted to do was in small pockets, dotted throughout the day, much as it always has been.  I have become the master of breaking projects down into small pieces, choosing things to do that are small enough to be achieved in the time I have or things that can be picked up and put down easily.  It has been a long time since I shared anything I have made or am working on, so grab yourself a cuppa and somewhere to sit comfortably this is a long read!

Way back in April, remember then?  No me neither.  I found a lovely free embroidery pattern online.  I have always loved embroidery, and would love to improve my skills, but am not drawn to kits nor have I found any patterns I would like to purchase. My sewing has always been fairly freeform and that is the kind of embroidery I wanted to do too.  This pattern seemed like a good place to start as it gave advice on what stitches to use, and videos of how to do them.  I didn't however want to do the embroidery for the sake of it, so I did what I always do, I let it sit in my thoughts and waited for an idea to come to me.  Eventually it did whilst the children were sitting knitting with me, they both have me made drawstring bags to hold their projects in, I have made lots of these bags as gifts but I have never made one for myself.  I would embroider onto the fabric for the main panels.  As this was the time of total lockdown I had to make use of what was in my stash, I found some linen which would be perfect to embroider on, the lining is also linen, light green.  I also found a small piece of green fabric with cream flowers which was a perfect match.  The tape for the draw strings was more difficult to lay my hands on.  I have a drawer of ribbons and tape and it is rather messy so diving in there is always an interesting activity, perhaps I should tidy it?  I am rather pleased with the finished bag, I am currently using it for my sock knitting.

We bought ourselves a new bed at the beginning of the year, it didn't have a headboard as the old one did and sitting up reading was not very comfortable and giving us both a crick in the neck every evening.  I needed to make some cushions.  My husband wanted something plain and his was made using an old cushion cover from our futon sofa, I was able to make use of the zip so it was an quick and easy project.  I fancied something a little more patterned and thought I would do some random patchwork using pieces of fabric from my stash, we were still in full lockdown.  I didn't have any suitable zips in my stash so I used an envelope method where the fabric overlaps at the back.  I once again made use of the linen I used for the bag above for the edging and the back.  In fact the fabric at the top right is the flowery trim at the top of my bag too!  As both of these cushions covers were made to measure I had to make the cushions to go inside them myself.  I had a bag of sheeps wool which a friend had given me years ago, I had made use of some of it but luckily there was still some left.  I washed it, carded it, made a cover and stuffed it.  I had exactly enough wool for both cushions.  Reading in bed is now a lot more comfortable.

A dear friend of mine had a birthday back in May.  I wanted to make something to send to her but it needed to be light to keep the postage costs down.  I have made many of these fabric baskets as gifts and for us.  They are so useful for keeping things in and fold flat for easy postage.  The basket on the left was sent to my friend, along with a small green felted bowl.  This was made by knitting on large needles to create holes in the knitting then you wash it on a hot wash to deliberately shrink it.  It makes a lovely tight, thick strong 'fabric'  which is perfect for a little bowl.  The basket on the right was made as a gift for my friend's daughter who has been finding life during lockdown hard and also because I love to make things to gift to people for no other reason than it brings us both pleasure.

A long time ago, I think perhaps last summer?  I bought a metre of purple linen fabric with the intention of making myself a skirt.  I had washed it and it sat in the bottom of my ironing basket, waiting patiently.  Back in January I finally got round to ironing it and cutting out the pieces.  I don't have a dedicated sewing space so I have to be creative storing my work in progress, I found a suitable hanger and hung the pieces in my wardrobe, a ingenious solution I thought except it was out of sight, and out of mind.  When the weather started to warm up in April I discovered those pieces amongst my summer skirts!  It is now all sown up and being warn a lot, hence the creases in the photo above.  The pattern was a free one I found online, however it was unlined,  I don't think linen hangs very well unless it is lined so I adapted it to make it a lined skirt.  Luckily, as I had bought this fabric so long ago, I had a zip and thread otherwise it might have had to sit there for a lot longer waiting until my local sewing shop could open once again.

It hasn't always been about sewing these past few months.  Alice and I tried out needle felting for the first time back in December last year, we made some felted stars using biscuit cutters to help with the shaping.  We have become rather hooked, excuse the pun, and had a go at some other shapes which we felted together and attached to some blank hair slides that I had in my sewing box.  Alice made the one in the middle and I the other two.   A girl can never have too many hair slides.....

Alice loves needle felting so much that she requested a couple of books that we had looked at online for her birthday, along with her own needles and felting wool.  One of the books was full of ideas and tutorials to make dolls and fairies.  When she sat making her first one, I couldn't resist having a go myself, they are fiddly but such fun to make.  The tutorials are really easy to follow with lots of photos which makes it easier for me to follow it, I don't do well with only words.    The fairy in the middle was sent to my friend's daughter along with the fabric basket above.  The other two have been added to our collection of things we have made for our seasonal table, for Spring and Summer, they sit in the little driftwood tree that a friend made for us.

I wouldn't be without my knitting, ever.  I always have a project on the go.  This is the cardigan that I made for Alice for her birthday.  She is still wearing it a lot despite the fact that it is on the small side, she loves it.  The buttons are a little on the large side but they were the only ones she liked that I had in my stash, once I am able to take her shopping with me again we will look for some that are a little more suitable.

This is turning into a year of making socks, I am not the fastest knitter so this is my fourth pair this year.  They match rather nicely with my sock project bag too!  I made a mistake in the first pattern repeat, one that does not effect the overall pattern, it was creating a twist.  I decided to leave it in rather than rip out many rows to get back to it.  I just need to make sure that I do the same with the second sock too, otherwise they won't match!

I have mentioned here, many times, that I am knitting myself a shawl.  By sheer coincidence it has the exact same pattern on it as the cardigan that I knit for Alice.  I am knitting the stocking stitch part at the moment so this is very easy to pick and put down, I can also knit it whilst I am reading or watching something.  I bought this yarn in a local-ish yarn store, it is spun from locally bred sheep and is wonderfully soft and a delight to knit with.  It was, as you would expect, expensive to purchase (I used money I had been given for my birthday and Christmas, the perfect present) but I can see why as it has the most beautiful drape and is creating a wonderful 'fabric' if you can call knitting that.  There is a narrow edge strip all the way round this shawl, some of it has buttonholes knitted into it and some will have buttons sown on.  This enables you to wear the shawl in a endless number of ways, something that attracted me to this project in the first place.  I am hoping it will be in use year round, as a extra layer of warmth in the colder months and as a means of keeping off the cool that we have in the evenings in the spring and summer.


Embroidery tutorial here
Drawstring bag pattern and tutorial here
Fabric Baskets are in this book 
A Line skirt pattern and tutorial here
Needle Felted Fairy book is this one
Cardigan Pattern here
Sock Pattern here
Shawl Pattern here

21 June 2020

Thankful Abundance

Today in the Northern Hemisphere it is the Summer Solstice (if you are in the Southern Hemisphere you can read my Winter Solstice post here) the longest day when the sun is closest to us and at the height of its power.  This is a time for transformation and growth both for us and the natural world around us.  It always feels like a time of confliction for me, knowing that I and the world around me have lots of energy, that I feel the need to be outside and doing things all the time but in the background is the shortening of the days.  I am feeling the need to find peace with this to enable me to fully enjoy this time of year.

I am the Sun -
And I bear with all my might
The earth by day, and the earth by night.
I hold her fast, and my gifts bestow
To everything on her, so that it may grow:
Man and stone, flower and bee
All receive their light from me.
Open thy heart, dear child, to me,
That we together, one light may be.

C. Morgenstern

Over the past few months the earth has been waking up and putting on its wonderful display and abundance for us all to enjoy.  The seeds that have been dormant over the winter have swelled, ripened, and pushed up their green shoots through the good brown earth.  They have been assisted by the sun and the rain, warming the soil and enabling the seeds to unlock their potential.  You may also have planted your own seeds in the soil too, which have now become the hope of a harvest to come.  It never ceases to amaze me that we can sow our seeds, and in some cases they are so tiny, we water them, keep them warm and with time and care we can harvest and nourish our bodies with their produce.  We too sowed seeds way back at the time of Samhein which we have been thinking about and blossoming into a more focused plan in the time since then.  Now at this time of the height of our energies, our creativity is at its peak, this is the time to really work on them and make them happen.  

The warmth and the light makes spontaneity feel so much easier at this time of year, those ideas and plans that most probably come to you all through the year but you struggle with the energy to make them happen, now is the time take the opportunity to bring them into being.  Your energy is at its peak now, so now is the time to go with the flow and celebrate this part of ourselves.  If you don't feel comfortable doing things in this way maybe now is the time to give it a go?  Start with something small and see how that feels to you.  I do hope it feels right and more natural, it is not about loosing control, if that is important to you, it is more about living in the moment.  Something that can so often get lost in the busyness of life.  I don't know about you but I have found it so much easier to live more in the moment these past few months.

Everything feels so heightened and strong at this time of year, including our emotions.  Sometimes they can take us by surprise and blind side us with their intensity.  It is so important to find the time and a way to make peace with them, to let them go especially if you feel that they are holding you back, there are lots of ways that you can do this perhaps you could express them in a journal, speak them out loud or whatever you need to do to enable you to move on.  If it is your thing you could write on a piece of paper, I leave behind..... or drawing them if that works better for you and then put them into a fire to help with the symbolism of your leaving them behind to help you move on.

I have already mentioned the shortening of the days and what this means to me.  We know what the shortening days mean and what that brings with it!  I also know that we are living in very uncertain times at the moment and the future feels even more challenging than it usually does, the shortening days feels a bit too much on top of everything else.  We have been working up to this time since the Winter Solstice now we must continue the cycle back towards that time again, releasing on the way, our fears and worries over what that means.  I am going to work on embracing this, rather than wishing it were not to be.  I know that resisting this is not going to change anything and it is not a good use of my precious energy.

As we begin our journey back to the time of darkness, the shortest day, we can celebrate our achievements, share the knowledge and experiences that we have gained and continue to work on and with those seeds and plans that are important to us.  We can also slowly welcome the change in direction that the shortening days bring, not resisting it but trusting that we will be ok, we can embrace this slowness by letting it be and easing us into the time of renewal and rest, rather than it being the abrupt change that occurs when we are not in tune with the cycle of the seasons.

The sun god reaches the height of his power,
As all of the plants are now in flower,
The longest day brings us strength and vigour. 
As we pursue our aims and goals with rigour.
Love is fulfilled in the warmest of days,
Blessed by the fertilising Sun god's rays,
Summer fruits ripen and fill us with pleasure,
In carefree moments we will always treasure.
All of nature is filled with sweet bliss,
Fruitfulness blesses each honey soaked kiss
Now is the time of abundance and light,
We rejoice in days so happy and bright,
Knowing that we grow in wisdom and might

I hope you can find the time and energy, despite the uncertainty of these times, for those projects that you really want to work on.  I hope you can find a way to make peace with the shortening days and what that will bring to us in six months time.   Solstice blessings to you.

14 June 2020

How does your garden grow?

It has been a long time since I posted about my garden and since several of you have asked me recently to show you some photos I thought it was about time I did a tour again.  I live in a terraced house which means my garden is long and thin.  We have a very large wild rabbit population living in the railway embankment that runs along the back of our garden.  The first thing we had to do when we moved in was to fence of the entire garden and rabbit proof the fencing to ensure that anything we planted would grow.  We were amazed when we did this to discover that what we thought was a dead twig in the ground was a Holly tree which has now grown to a healthy height.  It seems that rabbits will eat anything!

So come up the steps and through the gate, which my husband made, and I will show you round.  (The words will refer to the photo below throughout this post):

Once we are through the gate, we are looking down the side of the garage/workshop building which is behind our house.  We have an access strip behind all the houses in the terrace which enables all the houses to drive their cars round the back of the houses should they so wish.  We are not allowed to build on this strip of land and it has remain accessible to everyone at all times.  It is a great safe place for children to play.  Sorry where was I.  So, down the side of the garage and workshop we have a narrow path with a wood store on the right and a long narrow bed on the left.  My lupins are still doing well and continuing to flower, beyond them I have some heather plants, nasturtiums and a lemon balm mint which I make a pot of tea with daily.

At the end of the path we come to a paved area and the garden opens out to its full width.  There is another wood shed on the right here (we have three in total), on the roof of which are some of solar panels providing power to the garage and workshop.  This is also where I hang our laundry outside, providing it is not raining - we get a lot of rain!  The lowest bed is my herbs, the chives grow rather well as you can see and are taking over the paved area too,  I love the flowers, they are really tasty to eat in salads, as do the bees so I leave them on for as long as possible but as you can see I have not managed that every time as they have spread rather a lot!  I also have marjoram, sage, salad burnet, comfrey, yarrow and plantain in this bed.  The right hand pot has a horseradish plant in it, I was told when I bought it to leave it in a pot as it can take over so that is where it has stayed.  To the left of the photo is a step up to a path which winds its way to the top of the garden.  The ferns arrived from I know not where and do get rather large if I don't keep them in check.  The higher bed has a fruit cage with a blackcurrant and white currant bush.  We have had to rebuild this this year, we often get strong winds and despite us using lines to hold it down it had not survived.  We have used metal joints on it now and made it a bit smaller, hopefully it will be able to withstand the battering it gets!  Reducing it in size has meant that I have a bit more space for growing vegetables.  I have planted sunflowers and green beans in front of the cage and sown carrot seeds to the side.

As we walk up the shallow steps of the path there is a large unruly honeysuckle growing along the fence.  We inherited this with the garden.  It has had a very severe haircut this winter, not that you would know.......there is also a Rowan tree and behind it a Hawthorn.  We didn't plant either of these trees, we suspect that the birds bought them to us by sitting on the fence and pooping out the seeds.

At the top of the shallow steps is a trellis.  There is a lovely climbing plant growing on this trellis, its leaves change colour in the sun.  I think the recent dry weather has not been to its liking, it doesn't seem to be doing as well this year.  There is some aquilegia growing in front of the trellis, another plant that 'arrived' in our garden.

On the other side of the trellis is a very small wildlife pond.  The birds love to come here to bathe and drink.  We also have a couple of resident toads in the garden.  The large yellow float, a buoy we found washed up on a beach, is to stop the pond freezing over in the winter.  Just out of view is a nest box which is used every year by blue tits, if you are quiet, when passing, you can hear the chicks.  Alice and Daddy made the small wattle fence round the pond, replacing a rather old rotten wooden fence.

From the trellis the path bends to the right round the back of the fruit cage.   To the left is another wattle fence also made by Alice.  Ahead are three large rhubarb plants and a hedge of rosehips, when we bought the house these plants were down both sides of the garden, we have left this one small section which is now about 7ft tall!

As we walk along the path the bed to the left has purple sprouting broccoli plants that I planted last year and are just starting to run to seed.  Next to them is my broad bean frame, the plants are growing well despite the fact that it has turned cool again, they grow well here as I think they must like the cooler temperatures.  Next to them are onions and then Jerusalem artichokes.  The three light stems next to the fence are the holly tree I mentioned before.

As you come round the bend in the path you are facing the polytunnel.  On the left is the purple sprouting broccoli on the right the rhubarb and next to them a large patch of wild strawberries, another plant that has arrived in our garden and grows just about everywhere!  We have just planted a small apple tree in this bed, a tree that I grafted by hand.  It will be a few years before it is producing fruit for us but we are looking forward to the day it does.

It is impossible to take a photo of the whole of the inside of the polytunnel so I have taken a few.  We use it to extend our growing season and to grow plants that would not thrive outside.  I have a mixture of beds and pots in here to make as much use of the space as possible, last year it was very full at the height of the growing season.  Currently I have courgette, cucumber and lettuce plants in the beds and tomatoes in pots on the floor.  The large plastic bottles are full of water which heat up during the day, they help to keep the temperatures raised slightly as they release their heat at night.

I have a small amount of staging where I keep all my pots and seed trays on a lower shelf and those that are in use on the top.  It is full at the moment....

...so full that I have lots of pots on a bed that is not yet in use.  I shall be planting out two squash plants in here when they are a little bigger.

Back out of the polytunnel and round to the left we are facing another trellis covered in another unruly honeysuckle.  This is where we hang the hammock, you can see that here, using the orange krab to the right of the photo.  Below the krab is a wormery.

The path swings round to the right again through the trellis.  On the left are the wormery and three compost bins, one is full of horse manure, one is maturing and the third we are using on the garden this year.  On the right is a bed that is mostly covered for now, in the farthest end I have recently sown turnip seeds.

At the top of the garden is a raised bed, this was a patio when we moved in, the pavers on the path came from here.  We have removed the patio and made it into a productive space.  This is the left hand side which is my garlic plants.  To the left are some raspberry canes another arrival in the garden, we are good at that kind of gardening!  To the right of them is some very large, run to seed kale and cabbages, I am leaving them for now and hope to collect the seeds from some of them soon.  The flowers are rather delicious to eat, I have been adding them to our meals.  The wooden slats are where we are in the process of building supports for an espaliered Apple tree we recently have planted in the bed behind the kale and hope to train it over the wall using wires attached to the slats.  It is another tree that I have hand grafted so it is not very big at the moment.

That is my garden!  I hope you have enjoyed the tour.  I shall try and remember to do one next month when I hope that things will have grown a little bigger!  Just need the temperatures to go up a little......

10 June 2020

A Peek in to my thoughts

Outside my window the sun shines occasionally, the clouds appear and disappear sometimes dropping rain but all is calm.  A calmness that feels so at odds with what is happening in the rest of the world right now.  Where I live has always made me feel separate from what is going on in the rest of my own country let alone the world, now it feels even more remote.

I am feeling the full gamut of emotions from disbelief to anxiety and everything in between.  How is is possible that a life is so little valued, that persons in authority, who are there to protect, can cause so much harm to so many.  What does the future hold for us all now, it really needs to be a place where everyone feels safe, feels heard and has a voice.  Is this possible?

I am thinking that it really needs to be ok to take time to process events that seem so utterly dreadful that we don't want them to be real.  If we look like we are carrying on as normal, maybe that is what we need to do as part of our processing.  We need to pause to be at our best, to deepen our attention so that we can respond wisely and allow us to get in touch with how we feel about what we see, hear and read.

I am wondering why it is that some people feel the need to point fingers, to bring to attention issues that are detracting from those that are most important.  I am also wondering what will end this.

I am pondering two quotes I have heard this week 'the child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth', part of our village, our community is hurting if responding to this is optional does that make us complicit?  The second is Martin Luther King, 'riot is the language of the unheard'.

I am listening to many Podcasts to help me make sense of what I have seen and read and my reactions to that.

I am reading, slowly, as much content as I can online.  I want to understand why we find ourselves in this place and to be part of the process to ensure that it doesn't happen again.

I am learning that my ideals of believing that we have a duty to educate the next generation does not work if the beliefs are that of entrenched superiority.  This is not my fault, but I am complicit and now I can wake up and respond.  I need to be willing to be open about how I feel right now.

I am hoping to be a compassionate witness, to speak out, to be an advocate.

06 June 2020


Last week we celebrated the end of Alice's eleventh year round the sun, a year that has been full of change.  She wasn't able to do what she would have liked for her birthday, which is to spend a whole day with her best friend.  She had to make do with her family instead, luckily her birthday was on a bank holiday this year so Daddy was at home too.  She spent many hours playing and talking to friends on video calls and several friends and some family joined us on Zoom to sing her Happy Birthday with her cake.

So at the end of year of change Alice, I write these words for you.

You have found talking about things that matter to you so much easier this year, your emotional thoughts have slowly come into focus more for you and you have been finding ways to express these.  You can explain what you mean and find the words without getting so frustrated.  You have always been good at telling us how you feel about things but sometimes you needed our help to make sense of what you were feeling.  This may have been because you started the year knowing that a dear friend was going to move away.  She lived a forty five minute drive away which wasn't that close but now she is hundreds of miles away in another country. It was hard for you, knowing that she was leaving when she was still here.  I tried to make sure that you got lots of time together in those last weeks whilst knowing that it would not ease the pain for you.  We talked a lot about how we could keep your connection alive despite the distance.  You wrote each other letters and you started to video call each other once or twice a month, not knowing at the time that this would stand you in good stead in the last few months of your eleventh year.  You have found this separation very hard, there are times it has made you cry, a lot, you were frustrated but at the same time you understood why.

In the way that life can often throw things at us, with unfortunate timing a month after your dear friend left, you had yet more change.  A French class you have been part of for five years had to come to stop, we weren't sure for how long and luckily it was just a pause but at the time we did not know that.  It wasn't quite the same watching French videos on YouTube to keep your learning going, you missed the lovely lady that runs the class, you missed the friends who you only saw then.  A visit to the dentist in the same week we found this out, we learnt that he was moving back to his home country, he had been your dentist all your life and you had just found the confidence to sit in the chair by yourself.  The cumulative effect of these was so unsettling for you.

Whilst they were difficult things for you to process and make sense of, I hope that they have made it easier for you to think things through and talk about them, a skill that will stand you in good stead as you make your way in the world.

You have continued in your usual determined way to master the skill of reading, this is not something you are ever going to find easy but that has not stopped you trying very hard to learn.  You have started to look at books yourself, reading them in your own way something you have never done before.  You have read to me a lot less this year, I think this has actually helped you, you need time to help things bed in before trying again.  I am proud of your determination to overcome your difficulties.

Whilst you have found reading difficult there are many other things that you can do with ease, often things that I find really hard.  You built a complicated wooden kit from scratch, I read the instructions to you and you got on with, it was completely incomprehensible to me.  You have discovered a love of needle felting this year, you have made fairies, animals, dragons and many other things.  I have enjoyed learning to do this alongside you as it is new to me too.  You haven't needed a pattern to start with, although you asked for books, for you birthday, to help you develop your skills.  Many of things you have made have been presents for your friends, I love that you want to make them things rather than go out and buy something.

Your body is beginning the changes from a girl to a woman, we have talked about these changes and what they mean.  It has been hard for me watch my little girl changing but I am also loving this time to be by your side holding your hand and guiding you through.

The last few months of your year have been very difficult for you, as they have for everyone, for you the lack of face to face interaction with your friends has been very hard.  You love to be around people all the time, you are not keen on your own company.  It is not surprising as you have been attending home ed meet ups since you were a few months old, being around groups of people has always been part of your life.  You are loving the video calls that you have, one for each day of the week, but they are not the same, by the end of your birthday it hit you hard.  We will get through this my love, it is hard whilst we are living through it but one day we will be able to look back and think about what we coped with and how much stronger that has made us.

I hope your twelfth year is a little easier for you, Happy Birthday my love, I am proud to be your mum.


02 June 2020

Sustainable Living May

This blog has always been about living life in a mindful and intentional way, for me this means that most of the decisions we make have been thought about carefully, even if we decide to continue as we are a decision has still been made.  When we take a product from a shelf in a shop or tap a button on a screen, should we stop and think about how it has got this point before we do so?  It can be hard to make decisions over many aspects of our lives, we are often far removed from the means of production and it can be hard to find out how this operates.  Maybe we shouldn't be thinking is there a more sustainable replacement for something, rather do we really need it at all?

To help me keep on track I have come up with some words that I will be using to keep my decision making mindful and intentional, and my life in general as sustainable as I can make it.  If you you want to join me you would be most welcome, either using the same words for inspiration or your own that are more meaningful to you.  These are the words (you can read my thoughts behind some of them here and here) that I have been using in May:

May has been a wonderful sunny month, mostly, the temperatures have definitely gone up.  I love to eat salads all year round but I do love the vegetables that are available at this time of year that means we can have a greater variety.  We have had a butter bean salad with fried capers and lots of salad leaves, a mixed bean salad with fresh herbs, a carrot salad with ginger and mint, roast almonds with beans and salad leaves, a white bean salad with lots of chopped veggies and herbs, and a broccoli salad with toasted sunflower seeds, sour cherries and grated cheddar.  I have also been making our old favourites which we eat year round, coleslaw, roast beetroot with feta, chickpeas with wonderful herby, paprika dressing and a couple of filling rice based salads.

We have a wood burning stove which produces lots of ash which we usually put on the garden.  Some years ago we discovered a series of historical farm programmes made for the the BBC, each series focuses on a particular period.  We loved them so much we bought the DVDs and watch them regularly.  One of them, based in the Tudor period, shows how to make lye from wood ash using straw and stones in a bucket.  We have been meaning to have a go at this since first watching it and this month we did.  We have made about a litre.  We have used to wash the dishcloths, really greasy items like the old cloths I use in the place of kitchen roll when making onion bhajis which I deep fry,  I have also put a couple of tablespoons in the washing machine with my white washing and it has definitely made my whites whiter.  I would love to venture into soap making, I think that might just be our next use for it

I have mentioned that May has been a sunny month in these parts.  We British talk about the weather as a past time because it is very changeable and totally unpredictable.  We can have warm temperatures one day and jumper needing cold temperatures the next day in the middle of the Summer.  One year when Cameron was little it was cold in the Summer we carried on wearing our winter jumpers right the way through.  We are not guaranteed long spells of warm sunny weather, so when we get two weeks of wall to wall warm temperatures it is worth talking about!  The blue sky and the warmth have made this past month so much easier to cope with the life that we are needing to lead right now.  Throwing open all the windows and giving the house a good air makes it feel a much healthier place to live after the months of having to have them shut as it is too cold, wet and windy.  Not to mention the fact that line dried washing smells wonderful and it dries in a day rather than the two or three days it can take in the winter months, I have finally found the bottom of my laundry basket this month!  Sunshine and blue skies are guaranteed to make us feel happy here.

I thought I hadn't made very much this month, but when I wrote it all down I realised that was not the case at all.  The embroidery that I started in April has now been turned into a small bag for knitting projects.  I have made several of these bags as gifts and have been wanting to make one for myself but there are always other things above it on my list.  I had a good look through my fabric and found exactly what I was looking for to make the embroidered pieces I had made into a little bag.  I am loving that I am forced to go through my stash rather than go to the local haberdashers.  I know that I have got into a routine of automatically going out and buying what I need rather than having a look at what I already have to see if there is anything suitable.

The cardigan I was knitting for Alice was completed in time to be gifted to her.  It is a bit of tight fit which is a real disappointment.  I measured her against the measurements in the pattern and my knitting gauge was right.  She loves it though which is the main thing.  The yarn was some I found in a charity shop and cost very little, I also have plenty left, enough to make another one in a bigger size if she wants another one.

I have been knitting more rows on my shawl, which is the only project I have on the needles right now, I am over half way through.  I finished knitting the socks that I shared here.  I have gifted these to a friend and failed to take a photo of the finished item before I sent them off......I have plans to cast on more socks but that hasn't quite happened yet.

I made some birthday bunting, a project that I have been meaning to do since the children were really little.  I have appliquéd the letters onto the flags.  I wanted them to be a surprise for Alice and sewed them when she was on her video calls each afternoon.  They took me several days to make as I only had an hour or so at time and not having a dedicated sewing space means that some of that time is spent getting everything out and putting it away again.

I think I will do a separate post with all the things I have made recently otherwise their photos would take over this post!

All the lovely warmth and sunshine we have had this month has meant that all the seeds I sowed in late April and the beginning of May have sprouted and many are now taller and stronger.  The frosts stopped in the middle of the month when I got busy planting things outside, the broad beans, onions, French beans and sunflowers are all in the ground now.  We also planted out eleven hazel plants and two apple trees that we have been nurturing in the polytunnel over the winter.  We are hoping the hazels will grow and create a hedge in the front garden and provide us with a harvest too.  We don't have any squirrels here so hopefully they won't all get pinched!  The lettuces, various salad leaves, cucumber and courgette are all in the ground inside the polytunnel, none of these will reliably grow outside because of our unpredictable weather.  I also have some squash and gherkins which are nearly ready to be planted out in the polytunnel too.  It is going to be full in there again this year.  Now that the ground outside is warmer I shall be sowing straight into the ground with the root veggies this month.  We are still harvesting purple sprouting broccoli, kale and cabbages, they are all running to seed a bit now but the leaves and flowers are edible and tasty on all these plants.  I am loving all the extra time I get to spend in the garden with being at home all the time.  It is has never looked so tidy and well weeded!

When we moved into our house and started landscaping the garden we knew that we wanted to create a place for our hammock to hang up.  We bought it from the maker at a wonderful market in Ecuador full of beautiful and colourful homemade items.  We loved all the places we stayed at, which had hammocks hanging between the trees in the garden, when we were travelling there.  We had had it for four years when we moved here and had had no where to hang it in that time.  We built a trellis with two posts that were spaced to accommodate a hammock between them, there is a third post which creates a triangular shape over which a large unruly honeysuckle grows.  I have spent many hours in the hammock this month.  On those days when I just need to rest and recharge I can be found hanging there knitting or dozy, watching the birds flying around busy feeding their young.  We have many bird boxes in our garden, and there are nests in the wood shed and the honeysuckle above the hammock.  It is a wonderful place.

We celebrated a birthday in our house this month, Alice's birthday, that is another post that I need to write......I knew it was going to be difficult for her as she loves to spend time with her best friend on the day and then have a party with another set of friends on different day.  I tried to make the day as special as possible for her without being able to be around her friends.  We had a lovely day together and she loved it all, I think it will be a birthday she will remember for many years!

Thank you once again for reading through this very long post.  I realise that it may seem that I do an awful lot, I suspect you do to, if you were to write it all down like I have here.  You are most welcome to join me, either use the same words or your own which mean more to you, let me know in the comments below and I will head over and have a read.  I will post my Sustainable Living June roundup on Friday 3 July.