Thursday, 31 December 2009

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to everyone who visits me in this space and I hope that 2010 brings good health and happy times ahead.

This photograph was taken a year ago on New Year's Day 2009. I like the way the path is visible for a short distance and after that we can't see what direction it takes. It seems particularly suitable for a new year photograph, we can see just a little way ahead and we think we know the direction we are heading but we can't see into the future.

I used to think New Year's Eve was all about resolutions and making plans for the new year but this evening I find myself thinking back over the last year, grateful that it was such a good year for me and my family. Lets hope that 2010 is a good year too.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Happy Christmas

A photograph of some holly for Christmas although this was taken before the recent cold weather.  The birds have stripped the berries from the hedges over the past few days. This morning as well as the usual blackbirds I saw two Redwings in the garden. They are not very regular garden visitors here and many years we don't see them at all although they are probably in the surrounding woods.

The snow is melting very rapidly now as the temperatures have started to rise.  I think there will still be some snow for Christmas Day but not that much, more of a sludgy muddy Christmas rather than a white one!

Happy Christmas to everyone. 

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

More snow

More snow turning the woods round us into a fairy tale scene.  The silver birch trees were bent to the ground with the weight of the snow.

Traffic and road conditions were dreadful last night but today things were improving although the roads were very quiet. The road surface was very slippery, snow on top of ice, and we saw many vehicles sliding sideways.

I am lucky that I have had no need to drive anywhere and my car is on the drive covered with six inches of snow while I venture out on foot. The snow is inconvenient, my husband is staying near to work for the second night to avoid travelling and I have a rather grumpy teenager who isn't able to see his friends, but I do like to photograph it.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Shortest Day

Today is the shortest day in the northern hemisphere and is traditionally thought of as the first day of winter. These two photographs were taken yesterday afternoon when the sun was low in the sky shining through the trees.

Today though we didn't see the sun at all and it has been snowing again. This was how my garden looked this afternoon - appropriate for the first day of winter.

Luckily I haven't had to leave the house this afternoon but I hear that the winter weather has caused a lot of disruption to travel in the area, I hope everybody stays safe in the snow.

Friday, 18 December 2009


Very beautiful today, soft and fluffy, sparkling in the sunshine.

The chickens were not so happy though.  They wouldn't walk on the snow at all and even on the path where the snow had melted, they minimised the chance of touching it by standing on one leg!

The snow was fun today when I didn't have far to go although it was slippery driving to work and there wasn't much evidence of gritting but tomorrow I want to collect my son from university. So, no more snow please, at least not until I've got him safely home.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

December sky

Dramatic skies over the village, taken a few days ago.

Monday, 14 December 2009

A day in my life

The 14th of December and another "day in my life" post. I have written twenty one of these now, beginning in April 2008 and so I am building up a series of snapshots of my daily life. By choosing the same date each month, the day of the week varies so I have recorded work days, weekend days, days out and very ordinary home days. 

Mondays are usually at home days but recently I have been working more to cover staff illness so it turned out to be a work day. So up at six o'clock and a few household tasks to do before work. I put a casserole in the slow cooker which is a bit of a rush in the morning but lovely when I get home in the afternoon, sorted the packed lunches and opened the chicken coop.

I left home just after seven to take my son to the station and then arrived at work by 7:30.  My early start meant I could finish early and I was home before three o'clock. The casserole smelled great as I opened the front door but the house was cold (it was 4C here today) so I turned on the heating and made a mug of tea. This year I have put chocolates in the Advent calendar for me as well!

It was a very ordinary afternoon and evening.  I picked my son up from the station after school, we had the sausage casserole with jacket potatoes followed by apple crumble.  

A little bit of knitting, I'm still working on the top down jumper and I'm pleased to see its grown quite a lot since last months post.

My husband phoned from Boston, its cold over there as well with snow earlier this week and then, just as I was coming upstairs to quickly post this before going to bed, eldest son phoned from University where he was about to go out! - wish I had some of his energy.

The house is getting cold again now (the heating switches off at nine o'clock) so I know it is bedtime, good night.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Holly and tree-carvings

Last weekend I was out collecting more evergreens to bring into the house. The birds are eating their way through all the berries around here so I decided to pick my holly early.  It is now in a bucket of water in the shed where it should stay fresh until its time to bring it into the house.

There are lots of superstitions and folklore surrounding holly, most of which seem to be concerned with bringing bad luck.  It is supposed to be bad luck to cut down a holly tree and most especially bad luck if that tree self-seeded in that position.  I have a holly tree which must have grown from a seed dropped by a bird and I have let it grow although I have to prune it hard to keep it manageable, I don't want to tempt fate by cutting down a holly tree in my garden.

In the hedges near here there are often quite large holly trees which are left standing and the hedges are cut around them, possibly because they were once left to grow when a superstitious person was given the task of hedge cutting - at least the birds benefit from the extra berries on a full grown tree.

Thinking about cutting into trees, I wonder whether there is good or bad luck associated with carving initials on trees. Beech trees have always been popular for this because of the smooth bark. Most of the initials become so distorted as the tree grows that they become unrecognisable but these two carvings I noticed at the weekend were done on a large scale and have stood the test of time.

Here is a heart with a barely visible arrow through it.

I think the person who carved it wanted to make a big statement as the adjacent tree has LOVE in large letters carved along a branch. 

I wonder who carved these and how long ago? Perhaps they return to the woods sometimes to see if the carvings are still there, or maybe they have been forgotten?

Tuesday, 1 December 2009


Although the change from one month to the next is an artificial man-made boundary, today it was as if nature recognised the date and chose the first day of December for the first real white frost of the winter. 

This morning I could hear the sounds of ice being scraped off car windscreens before the early morning commute and in the garden there was a thin layer of ice on the tray of water the chickens like to drink from.  

I was glad of my coat, scarf and fingerless gloves when hanging out the washing on the icy line. I returned to the house barely able to move my fingers and was almost glad to tackle the pile of breakfast washing up so that my hands would thaw out.

Of all the months of the year, November is my least favourite and although the change of date has no real significance, I am pleased we are now in December.  We have hung up our Advent tree although the pockets are less full this year, only after the 19th when everyone is at home will we need chocolates for four.

The time leading up to Christmas is a quiet time now that the boys are grown.  I remember when they were at primary school, there were plates of mince pies to be made for Christmas Fairs and Cub-scout parties, there was the school play and the end of term carol service (both with more mince pies), lot of cards to be written, raffle tickets to be sold and an endless stream of Christmas artwork to be fastened to the fridge, it all seemed non-stop and Christmas lasted for weeks.

At the time, I loved being caught up in the hustle and bustle and imagined that I would miss it once the boys were older but now I find I don't mind at all. I appreciate the calm and slower pace that comes from having fewer things to do.

I walked in the lanes just outside the village today and brought home some catkins and ivy which are now on the mantlepiece next to the Advent candle.  Just the sort of quiet Christmas preparations I look forward to this year.

Monday, 23 November 2009


Yes, it is definitely wintry here.  Although Autumn started early, it slowed down and seemed to be lasting for ages but the wet, windy, wild weather over the weekend has brought down many more of the leaves and everything is left looking greyer and bleaker.  We were lucky in the south to escape the terrible flooding and devastation in other parts of the country so although the ground is sodden I will not be grumbling about the amount of rain we received here.

It is indoor weather, nothing to entice me out to the allotment or garden so a good opportunity to catch up on some inside jobs,

like jam making!

November might not be associated with jam making but this year I cooked and strained both my red currants and crab apples and then froze the juice.  This week I defrosted the juices, mixed them together and made redcurrant and crab apple jelly.

If jam making was a little late in the year then I made up for it by getting ahead with writing my Christmas cards although I won't send them until December. I buy most of my cards from Oxfam but I have started getting a few cards made from my photographs this year. This is the picture I chose for my Christmas cards.

I also want to make some blank notecards. I took the photograph below in Lerwick, Shetland this summer and have turned it into a sepia print.  I  don't usually edit or change my photographs very much as I like to think they are an accurate record of what I saw at the time so this is a bit different for me. I think the effect suits the old traditional stone buildings but I'm not sure if I like changing the image this much and am still undecided whether to have it made into cards or not.

I seem to be suffering from indecision at the moment, at the weekend I couldn't even decide what cake to bake.  I ended up making one round of plain and one round of chocolate.

Then I cut each one in half and sandwiched with jam for the plain one and buttercream for the chocolate one and ended up with two half-cakes.

Of course ther was still a decision to be made, which one to eat......first?

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Calm after the storm

After all the heavy rain yesterday, today we had clear blue sky and sunshine. It was a pleasure to be outside and feel the warmth of the sunshine and a good time to check on the lettuce plants.

This is an experiment of mine to attempt to grow some salad for the winter in my small greenhouse on the patio.

 I sowed some lettuce seeds at the end of September, a little over a month ago they looked like this.

I transplanted them three plants to a pot and now they have grown well and look really healthy.

Today I transplanted them again just one to a pot.

These went back into the greenhouse and I am hoping to start picking some leaves in a few weeks. If this project is successful I will be measuring food yards rather than food miles.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

A day in my life

Its the 14th and time for my monthly "day in my life" post.

We are being battered by stormy weather at the moment and today has been continual wind and rain. Just the sort of day to stay inside, warm and cosy with some knitting and that is what I have done for most of the day.

I did have to go out this morning to go shopping. Youngest son is going on a geography field course soon and the one item on the kit list that he didn't own was waterproof trousers.  The weather today and the fact that the course is in Wales convinced us that they were necessary. Actually it would have been quite useful to have been wearing them today.

My reward for braving the winter weather was this lovely soft jumper from the charity shop,

100% Shetland wool in a soft heathery plum colour (much nicer in reality than the photo) a bargain at £6.95 don't you think.

Back home in the warm and time spent with my knitting.  I knitted a jumper with this wool last winter but was never happy with it so its been unravelled, skeined, washed, wound into balls and now I've started again.

Its a top down raglan and will be either a jumper or possibly longer, more of a dress to wear over jeans, it depends on when I run out of wool. Sleeve length is also undecided for the same reason. Simple undemanding knitting, plain apart from a lace panel front and back and perfect knitting for watching a film or chatting.

Family phone calls this evening including speaking to eldest son.  So different to when I was away at University, I remember saving up all my 10p coins and then waiting outside in a queue for the phone box, tonight we talked over the internet and it was great to see as well as hear him - he looked fine and is enjoying university life.

Thats about it, a rather lazy but enjoyable "day in my life" for November.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Autumn photographs

I always take a camera with me even when I am just going for a short walk around the village.

Although I often walk the same route there is always something to photograph, some small detail which catches my eye.

Water droplets on a leaf,

hogweed still in flower and looking far to delicate and summery for November,

bleached dry grass sead heads at the end of the year

and holly to make me think of decorating the house next month (though I expect the birds will have eaten most of these berries by then!).

Monday, 9 November 2009

Autumn allotment

Its been a busy week or so and I’ve not had much time to sit with my laptop. My husband had a couple of days holiday at half term and then my parents came to stay for a few days so I seem to have been out of my routine for a while.

Back to normal this week though so chance to catch up both with blogging and housework!

When I have had some spare time during the past week I have spent it at the allotment. The warm weather all through October allowed the weeds to keep growing and I feel the need to give it a bit of a tidy up. I have lots of little grass paths dividing up the plot into smaller beds so that I don’t have to step on the soil and its a good time of the year to trim the edges and pull up any grass that has started invading the borders. Of course it all looks very neat and tidy afterwards which is very satisfying although at the moment only a small proportion of the plot looks tidy, the rest is on the “to do” list!

I have planted my over-wintering broad beans hoping for more success than last year when the barely germinated beans were pulled out of the soil, pheasants were the culprits then I think. According to the seed packet the beans will take 24 weeks from sowing to cropping. Perhaps that is part of the reason that I find gardening so relaxing and calming, it forces me to slow down. No matter what I do, it will still be about six months until I can eat my beans - certainly not fast food.

I do have something to harvest at the moment, leeks, parsnips and for as long as the deer leave it alone, swiss chard.All these I sowed earlier in the year but I also have some freebies, self sown salad plants which are a welcome side effect of not being too tidy earlier in the year. Rocket, lambs lettuce, land cress and even some red oakleaf lettuce all looking very healthy. I sometimes think the self sown plants do better than the ones I carefully sow which is my excuse for leaving the spinach beet to go to seed and grow wherever it likes!