Thursday, 27 August 2009

Endings and beginnings

Its been a good summer and its not over yet. The days may be getting shorter but there is still warmth in the sun and flowers in the garden.

Just in the last few days though the end of summer feeling has been growing. The dew is heavy on the grass in the morning and takes longer to disappear in the sun so that wellies are needed for my early morning allotment visits rather than the canvas shoes I've been wearing all summer.

Around me the combine harvesters have been busy and the fields are left with the stubble remaining after the crop has been harvest. An end to the summer crop but the field now ready for the next one, an ending soon to be followed by a beginning.

The pattern is repeated all around. Lots of seed heads with ripe seeds ready to go and chance their luck that they end up in a suitable place to germinate and produce a new plant next year.

The end of summer, beginning of autumn is often seen as a time of winding down and of decay as plants shed leaves and die back but amongst this are thousands of potential new beginnings.

We have endings and beginnings at home this year as our eldest son leaves home for university, ending the time that our family lives under one roof but beginning a new way of life for him as he moves away to live on his own. Life for us will be different too as we adjust to being a family of three rather than four.

So as we busy ourselves with lists of things to do, things to buy and things to take, I am trying to make sure I focus more on the new beginnings rather than the endings.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Summer harvest

This has been a good year in the allotment and garden which is reassuring after some of my failures last year. Last year I hardly got any courgettes as the young plants suffered so much slug damage many gave up altogether. This year courgettes have done really well, the photograph above was taken when I returned from holiday and I had loads of marrows to pick.

My runner beans also thrived while I was away. I squeezed a small wigwam of canes into the garden and the plants have outgrown that and are now scrambling all over the adjacent shrub producing loads of flower and beans.

My dwarf apple tree is also doing well, its only 5 feet tall and this year has about 30 apples. The variety is Discovery which has always been a favourite of mine, its one of the earliest apples and I like the way the flesh is tinged with pink under the red skin.

The harvest is getting underway outside the garden as well. We'll have to wait just a bit longer for the elderberries which are only just starting to turn

but there are blackberries everywhere. It looks like being a very good year for them as well.

Lots of lovely sized berries. I have been picking blackberries in the lanes around here for years now and I've got to know where to go for the earliest ones and which bushes don't ripen until into September.

I've always picked blackberries. When I was growing up everybody did and we would be disappointed if we got to a favourite spot and found that someone had been there before us and there were very few left.

When I was picking when the children were small, I rarely saw any evidence that anyone else was picking at all. There were always loads of berries and no tell tale trampled grass that showed someone had been there first.

Things are changing back again now though and over the last few years more people are picking again. It seems to be fashionable to "forage for wild foods" now. I wonder if this will be short lived or whether we are returning to the way we have always lived?

At least there is plenty of fruit this years so lots of us will be able to enjoy traditional blackberry and apple.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

A day in my life

The 14th this month was a very ordinary day spent mostly at home. I had my early morning coffee at the allotment after dropping my son off at work for 7am. Almost every "day in my life" this year I have written that I drove my son to and from work but this will be the last month. He has given in his notice now and will finish in three weeks time. This gap year has gone really quickly and six weeks from today we will be taking him to University.

The rest of the morning I spent at home doing the usual things, a load of washing, making the bread, and a general tidy up.

I am trying to have a bit of a clear up and turn out at the moment. My eldest has been going through his stuff prior to leaving for Uni and it has inspired me to do the same. I find it difficult to get rid of stuff but at the end of the morning I had two small carrier bags to take to the charity shop.

I went to our nearest charity shop after lunch, best to get rid of the bags straight away, if I leave them hanging around I might start taking things back out again.

My youngest son came with me to browse the books so I took advantage of the extra manpower to take my Ecover containers to be refilled at the Organic shop. These aren't that heavy but they start to feel it by the time I've walked all the way back to the car park so I was glad of the help.

My son bought a book but I managed to come home without buying anything so at least we had a net decrease in things in the home.

After picking up my eldest from work we spoke to my husband in America. I am still amazed by the whole web-cam Skype thing, its so different from when he used to go away just a few years ago. Then we used to get two very short phone calls during the week, anything more would have been too expensive. The children were quite small and found it a long time between phone calls so he started faxing a letter to them each day. He would write a page early in the morning and then fax it from the hotel at breakfast time which meant it was waiting for them after school. I remember it being quite expensive but not as much as a phone call. Now of course we can talk and see each other over the Internet and it costs us nothing extra. Amazing how things have changed. I still have those faxed letters though, you have nothing lasting from a phone call.

Dinner was chilli beans with tortilla chips and grated cheese served with lots of veg from the allotment. The rain while we were away made everything grow well so there is lots to choose from.

I watered my pots on the patio in the evening. This is the very first aubergine I have grown and I'm very proud of it - quite an attractive plant as well, very good for growing in a pot.

While watering I noticed that my nasturtiums were covered with caterpillars determined to eat every scrap of green leaf. I had seen a cabbage white fluttering around so I suspect that was the culprit. I picked them off and was wondering how to get rid of them when I thought- chickens. Whenever I empty the compost bin or do any gardening I am always followed by Sage and Onion who seem to eat anything that wriggles. I was sure they'd like these juicy caterpillars, but no, they wouldn't even try them. They gave me this typical chicken look that seemed to say "humans can be so stupid!" and then they turned and walked away. So you learn something every day - hens don't eat caterpillars, well, mine don't anyway.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Holiday photographs

We are back from holiday and I have over 800 photographs to sort through. Don't worry, I haven't posted all of them although this post is a bit picture heavy.

We all enjoyed rediscovering Shetland after a break of five years since our last visit. Pleasingly, not much had changed and our favourite spots were just the same.

We had lovely weather, perfect for walking, exploring and admiring the view.

Blue skies, blue sea and white sand, perfect for paddling, skimming stones and if you are very hardy (my youngest) for swimming.

In Shetland you are never more than three miles from the sea, a real treat for us as we only get to see it a few times a year - I could sit and watch it for hours in all its different moods.

We saw seals and very briefly an otter but the real stars for me were the very cute puffins. This is the nearest I've ever got to them and they really did look sweet. Puffins have not done well the past few summers, the sand eel population is falling possibly due to rising sea temperatures and there are not enough to feed the young birds. After a couple of really bad years this one has been slightly better although not all birds are laying eggs. It would be a shame to lose these little birds.

Although the best time for wild flowers would have been a little earlier in the summer there were still plenty for me to photograph. The meadows had a slight blue haze due to the Devil's bit Scabious.

I was particularly pleased to spot this Oyster plant which is quite rare and only found in a few locations.

All the walking and exploring meant we were ready for tea, I liked the Fair Isle tea cosy.

It was a great holiday for all four of us, long summer days and evenings spent watching the sunset, lots of memories to store up and revisit in the winter months.