Sunday, 31 August 2008

Misty morning

The last day of August and this morning I could almost feel the summer slipping away. We woke to thick mist and I went for an early walk along the canal a few miles from home.

It was very quiet and still. The was no movement in the water of the fishing lakes (old flooded gravel pits) except when birds moved leaving ripples travelling across the surface.

Everything was a soft grey colour and very peaceful, it felt as if the world was just waking up.
The mist had settled everywhere, little droplets of water on the grass, falling from the trees and picking out the outlines of hundreds of cobwebs.

A perfect walk, full of the restful quietness that comes with autumn.

Friday, 29 August 2008


I know spring is the season generally associated with having a good clear out and getting everything clean and tidy but autumn also seems to be a good time to get things in order.

It is the time of year when I tidy up the garden, pruning and cutting back, moving plants or getting rid of those that are too big or taking over the garden. This year the same clearing and tidying process is taking place inside the house as well.

I can't take the credit for these bags ready for the charity shop though, they are full of books that my youngest son has decided that he has outgrown. He tells me there are 139 books altogether.

He is usually such a hoarder, I was really surprised that he could part with so many. As we dropped them off at the Oxfam bookshop, it was me that felt a bit sad, there were hours of bedtime stories in those bags.

I have followed his good example and cleared out some clothing and a few books of my own. I have listed some of last years school textbooks on Amazon and am hoping to recoup some of the money I spent on them. I'm not sure how well they will sell though, a lot of other people have had the same idea and there are loads for sale at very low prices.

Of course visiting the charity shops does give the opportunity to buy stuff as well and I must make sure that I don't get carried away and return home with more than I donated. Only one purchase this time, a pure wool Witney blanket that was too good a bargain to be missed - even the chickens approve!

Friday, 22 August 2008

Late summer

I have just checked the British Airways website and my husbands flight home from America is due to land on time so he will be home for the Bank Holiday weekend. We haven't got anything planned and he will probably very tired but we will be able to spend time in the garden which will do him good after two weeks of meetings!

Two weeks ago when he left it still felt like summer but now it is starting to feel as if the seasons are starting to change.

The crab apples have ripened. I shall be picking some soon though there are plenty and I will leave some on the tree for the birds to eat this autumn.

The shortening of the days is noticeable now and the chickens are roosting earlier. The sun is lower in the sky and more of the garden is shaded. This afternoon the late sun lit up the stems of the ruby chard.

The autumn raspberries are ripe. We don't have very many but there are enough for a late summer treat.

Of all the changes in the garden, for me this flower always marks the start of autumn. The autumn cyclamen, Cyclamen hederifolia comes into flower just as the summer flowers start to fade. This plant self seeded into a clump of Ophiopogon planiscapus : 'Nigrescens' and I really like the contrast of the pink flowers and the black leaves.

I hope the weather stays fine so we can enjoy the late summer sun. Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Food from our front garden

The first plums from out little plum tree. It was planted last autumn and in its first year it has fifteen plums. I wondered whether it would have any at all as it was in blossom when we had the late fall of snow back in April.

The tree is in our front garden which is a small plot about 6 x 15 feet beside the drive. It was originally lawn but it was hardly worth the effort to carry the lawn mower round from the shed in the back garden to cut such a small patch of grass so I got rid of it and planted perennials. Now I am trying to squeeze in some edible plants to make it productive as well as decorative.

In this photo the poor tree looks a bit dwarfed by the existing plants but I am making sure the area around the trunk is clear of growth so I hope it will soon be growing well, although not too well because it is only a small space!

I also have tomatoes in my front garden, three plants in pots by the front door. Not probably what you'd expect by a front door but its a good use of space and when they (finally) ripen, I think they will look good next to the red geraniums.

I also have some herbs, chives, thyme and two different variegated sage. I am wondering what else I can plant. In the winter when the sun is low in the sky the garden doesn't get any sun at all and it is quite a cold spot with the frost often staying all day so it will have to be something quite hardy. Unless I can think of anything else it will probably be spinach beet.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Recent Knitting

Knitting seems to have disappeared from this blog lately. Partly this is due to the time of year, I am busier outside with the garden and also its the school holidays so no knitting in the car at the station car park. Another reason for not posting is that I don't much like my photographs of my finished knitting. There must be a knack to taking good knit-photos which I don't seem to have.

This cardigan is a good example. It is my favourite cardigan of this summer, I've worn it a loads, I'm really pleased with the way it fits yet when I try to photograph it, it ends up looking like a limp dish-cloth!

It is knitted from a bag of wool I bought in a charity shop. Eight balls of Sirdar Balmoral Natural Tweed (double knitting 75%wool/25%alpaca) for £5. A bargain, but unfortunately not really enough for an adult garment. I decided on a deep V neck to reduce the amount of yarn required and then had to choose between a cropped cardigan with long sleeves or a longer cardigan with 3/4 sleeves. I went for the second option.

This is the second top down raglan cardigan I have knitted and I do like this method, much easier to adjust the shaping as you go along and no sewing up.

I kept the design very simple, just a little waist shaping, a narrow garter stitch edging and nice shell buttons from my button box.

Of course there has also been some sock knitting. This pair is knitted from some wool I bought in Belgium last summer and again they look better than the photo.

All the socks I have knitted up to now have just been a simple sock pattern so I thought I ought to get out of the rut and try something different. I am knitting these at the moment, one finished, one to go.

I've enjoyed knitting the lace pattern though I do have to concentrate a bit more. I've made a few mistakes while watching television and thinking more about the film than my knitting.

This cushion cover however was perfect television knitting. Another charity shop bargain, six balls of cotton yarn for £1.99. I was intending just to knit dishcloths but I liked the look and feel of the knitting and decided to make cushion covers to replace my old worn out ones. Again, one done, one to go.

So, one sock and one cushion cover to go and I really should try to get them both finished because my husband is bringing some wool back from America next weekend and I know I will want to cast on as soon as it arrives. Wool seems to be so much cheaper in the States than here so I placed an order with Knit Picks to be delivered at his US workplace. I have 13 balls of swish double knitting in lemongrass heather - easily enough to knit a cardigan that is both long and has long sleeves! To qualify for free delivery I had to spend $50, so sock wool for two pairs of socks will be arriving as well - I wish we could get yarn for that price over here.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

A day in my life - August

Its the 14th of the month and so I am writing about my day. Jenny has listed the other participants in "A day in my Life" in this post.

Thursday 14th August has not been a typical day for us. Firstly because my husband is away in America for two weeks so its just the three of us and secondly because it was "A" level results day for my eldest son.

The day started very peacefully. I am not governed by alarm clocks for the next two weeks and I didn't wake until 7:00am. I am enjoying my little lie ins.

I got up straight away to make a cup of tea and went to let the chickens out.

It was a beautiful morning here. In complete contrast to the wind and rain of the last two days there was blue sky and no wind. It was very still and quiet. The grass was wet with dew

and everything looked fresh and clear in the sunshine.

I drank my tea and caught up with a bit of blog reading before making sure that my eldest was awake in time to be at school to collect his results. I dropped him at school and then went on to the allotment to keep myself busy while waiting to hear from him.

I weeded, picked a few late blackcurrants and some vegetables for dinner. As it was a dry day I collected seeds from the parsnips I had allowed to flower and go to seed. These will be stored in a paper bag in the shed where it is warm and dry for a while and then in a jam jar in the cool of the garage over winter.

The exam results. Well, he was disappointed. I felt so sorry for him as he sat looking at the piece of paper which in the end is what he has to show for all of his school career. We need to take a few days now to think, there must be a plan B, its just that at the moment we don't know what it is.

A group of his school friends had decided to play cricket on the village playing fields and he went off to join them. A good idea, no point in sitting at home moping.

I went out into the garden to see the chickens. Sage decided to join me on the bench but wasn't to sure about the camera.

This afternoon I didn't really feel like doing much at home so I went with my younger son to Borders for a good browse through the books. We both love bookshops and when we go as a family we are always the ones that don't want to leave, so it was nice that it was just the two of us and nobody was asking us to hurry. In the end all we bought was one magazine but I did treat myself to a coffee and the trip made a welcome little break.

On the way back we stopped for me to pick a few blackberries. Its still early for them and there were only a few but they were a good size, must be all the rain we have been having.

Back home and comfort food was called for, sausage and potato pie. This went down well and there is some left over which the boys can have cold for lunch tomorrow.

After dinner had been cleared away my eldest son decided to go out on his bike for a short ride before it got dark. My husband phoned from America and then I settled down to write this post.

By 8:30pm it was dusk, the chickens had gone into their house and I went into the garden to shut them safely in. It was definitely getting dark and I knew that my son didn't have any lights on his bike, so why wasn't he back. I was wondering what to do and imagining the worst, as mothers do, when he arrived home on foot. He had got a flat tyre while several miles from home and after pushing his bike for a while had realised that this was going to take too long so he had pushed the bike into some woodland and jogged home. It was now quite dark and we drove to retrieve the bike down very narrow lanes with overhanging trees. In the blackness it was quite difficult to identify which gap in the hedge he had pushed his bike through. He had hidden it thoroughly so it wasn't visible from the road but of course now it was dark and not visible at all! We did find it together with his helmet, gloves and jacket and he took the wheel off and loaded it into the car. It was a very quiet lane and we didn't see anyone, probably just as well, we would have looked a bit suspicious grovelling around in a wood in the dark.

Anyway we are home now, the bike still in the car to be unloaded tomorrow.

Its been quite a day. Time for me to go to bed.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Our apple tree

Its been very, very windy the past couple of days and we've had a lot of heavy rain. It doesn't feel like summer at all and we have spent the most of the days inside.

From time to time I look out of the kitchen window at my apple tree which I am worried might be about to fall over. It is about five years old and for some reason has grown very unevenly with all the branches growing out to one side. I don't know why this has happened, its in a relatively sheltered area and the direction of growth is towards the north east so its not growing towards the light.

Its not easy to see from the photograph how unbalanced it is. Although its been like this for a while it wasn't until the apples started growing and the branches were carrying the extra weight that it started leaning.

Yesterday I picked quite a few apples from the ends of the branches and pruned some of the branches. I know its completely the wrong time to prune but I wanted to get rid of some of the weight. There are still a lot of apples left on the tree.

Any advice on this? Should I pick the rest of the apples? prune the tree harder? now or later?

If I get a stake and pull the tree more upright, the branches will still be all on one side, does this mean I should remove some of these in the hope that it will grow more on the other side?
Any thoughts would be appreciated.

As it was stay-at-home weather this afternoon, I have been busy with the apples

and a few frozen blackberries left in the freezer,

making this.

As the apples were picked early, I wasn't sure if they would store well so I stewed them. They cooked up well and we will enjoy them in the winter.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Slug proof salad?

With all the damp weather this summer there have been loads of slugs. The soil at my allotment is quite stony and well drained and in a dry summer slugs don't cause much of a problem. This year they have caused a lot of damage and although I would rather not, I have had to resort to using slug pellets. I have been using these slug pellets which are suitable for organic gardening and have the soil association symbol. Since I have used the pellets the slug damage has been reduced but as the picture of my red oakleaf lettuce shows the slugs are still having a good meal at my expense.

I was annoyed to see the damage and then I noticed the small seedling right next to the munched lettuce - its a very tiny lambs lettuce. Looking around I found several more of varying sizes and there doesn't seem to be any sign of slug damage.

Last summers lambs lettuce set seed which germinated in the autumn but didn't really start growing until the spring. I was picking the leaves in mid March. This year the germination is much earlier and it looks as if I will be picking leaves this summer. I don't know whether slugs will eat lambs lettuce but at the moment they seem to be leaving it alone.
So it looks as if the main constituent of my salads will be lambs lettuce rather than my favourite red oakleaf. It makes more sense to eat what I can grow easily rather than struggle to grow slug food!

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Byways, pinks and purples

This lane not far from home cuts through the countryside for about a mile and a half in a completely straight line. It is a byway and it follows the course of an old Roman road. A few years ago I tried to walk along it and it was impassable being very boggy and rutted. Now it has been surfaced, (though probably not to the standard of the Romans) and it is easily accessible.

I have mixed feelings about paths like this being opened up and surfaced. Its great that it makes it accessible to more people but this path is a byway which means that it is legal to drive along it. While we were walking we only saw one jeep type vehicle and one motor cycle and both were travelling relatively slowly but I do know of other byways where the tracks have been almost destroyed by racing vehicles and once again they become impassable for walkers. The other side of the argument is that unless these paths are used then they will become overgrown and unusable once again so any method of keeping them open, walkers, horses, bikes or vehicles is a good thing.

There is a network of footpaths, bridleways and byways throughout the country and if rising fuel prices force us to make more of our journeys by foot we might find them increasingly useful as the old paths are often shorter and more direct routes between villages than travelling by roads.

Our walk was very peaceful. Everything was very leafy and green. At first glance there didn't seem to be much colour or any wild flowers. As we walked I did spot many flowers and it was then that I noticed that on this particular path they all seemed to be pink or purple. I've never noticed that before. Here are some of them.




hogweed seedheads



Monday, 4 August 2008

Swiss breakfast

I have been sorting through all the photographs I took in Switzerland and quietly reliving the holiday. We had such a great time that it would be difficult to pick out a favourite day but I think eating breakfast in the revolving restaurant at the top of the Schilthorn mountain was an experience that we will all remember.

This trip was also the most expensive thing we did so to take advantage of a 25% discount we went very early in the morning. From our holiday chalet we took a cable car, then a train and then finally the cable car to the summit. The final cable car was in two stages and as we moved to the cable car for the second leg of the ascent we were in thick cloud and the temperature was 2C. As we travelled up the last part I was beginning to wonder how much we would see from the top but just before the summit we emerged from the cloud into the sunlight.

This was the view when we got there, really magical.

This is a view of the restaurant. It was well worth getting up early because we were able to sit at a window table and enjoy a lovely breakfast while the inner part of the restaurant rotated giving us ever changing views of the mountains.

This is a view of the Eiger, the Monch and the Jungfrau taken from the restaurant.

The breakfast buffet served in the restaurant was described as "all you can feast" and I think my two boys took that as a bit of a challenge! The food was excellent especially as it was served 10,000 feet up a mountain and all the food had come up the mountain by cable car. The boys feasted on scrambled egg and sausages before tackling cold meats, cheese, yoghurts and croissants - they certainly got value for money. I was too distracted by the scenery to do much more than sip my coffee and look out of the window but as it was Switzerland I did try a bowl of traditional Bircher Muesli. My normal breakfast muesli is just as it comes out of the packet with milk but Bircher muesli is soaked in either apple juice or milk and yoghurt overnight. Fruit such as grated apple or berries are also added.

Since coming home I have found some recipes for Bircher muesli. The basic recipe seems to be oats soaked overnight in milk or fruit juice with yoghurt and fruit added. I have been trying to recreate my Swiss breakfast, soaking Waitrose orchard fruit and berry muesli in a mixture of milk and yoghurt overnight and then in the morning adding some raspberries from the garden. The muesli at the restaurant was a very pale pink colour and I've found that by adding just a small amount of stewed blackcurrants I can have my own version of pink Bircher muesli at home.

So now I can imagine I am in Switzerland each morning although the view from the window is rather different!