Sunday, April 20, 2014

Climb every mountain...

Well, 'tis done!

12 hours and 20 minutes of it.

We're back after, what I can only describe as, a pretty gruelling charity challenge doing the 5 peaks in the Lakes.

We all met on Friday evening, that is Mr Beehive, myself, the guides and the rest of our comrades for the duration, at a local campsite in the Langdale Pike region. We intially set up the campsite and began team building by preparing a meal for 20 on four burners with two vegetarians and a vegan amongst us and limited pots.

A cold night followed with little sleep of any worth or decency. Temperatures fell below freezing and despite wearing all our base layers under all our clothes, using season 3/4 sleeping bags, we were still kept awake through cold and Mr Beehive's pillow had frozen to the tent by the next morning!

An early rise with a 6am wake up call, some seriously 'hearty' (read that as lentil knitting) style museli, a cold wash and then layering up for the day ahead.

We parked the cars up at a farm at the bottom of Dungeon Ghyll and began our marathon (well, half really) efforts up Crinkle Crags, Bow Fell, Esk Pike, Great End and then the Capitain (sic) of all...Scarfell Pike, the highest peak in England.

I could spend hours giving you blow by blow accounts, but really, you'd be bored to tears.

It was far from easy. It certainly pushed me close to my limits of both physical and mental endurance. The ups were hard and tiring, the downs, wearing on the knees. The distances challenged my ability to stay calm and some of the ridges pushed me to my boundaries if not out of my comfort zone. The tireder we got, the harder it became.

The final summit, Scarfell, all 900+ metres of it was a mixed joy. Sheer thrill of achievement was tinged with the fear of the 4 hour descent we'd yet to master.

If truth be told, this was probably the hardest part of the day. We'd already walked up and down summits for over 8 hours. Every bone was aching and I had nerves that were occasionally shooting electric sparks of pain up to my hip from a slip earlier in the week in a particular supermarket that would catch my unawares, particularly as I moved from one rock to another. Each step just seemed further and further away and the path we were aiming at, despite seeming not far, appeared as a distant mirage on the horizon.

Incredibly, 12 hours and 20 minutes after we'd parked our cars early that morning, we were passing back through the farmer's gate and returning to our cars...perhaps a little unsure of our ability to physically operate the clutch!

I am so proud of  Mr Beehive and myself

It was an outstanding day. The weather was kind to us and the sun shone. Our noses burned and WE. DID. IT !!!! 13.6 miles (or more!) of seriously tricky terrain, rocks, boulders, scree and little grass. 13.6 miles of ascent followed by descent followed by further ascent.

The bump to the right of the picture was our starting point!!

The scenery was beautiful, the views at the tops, breathtaking, in fact one of the guides from the Lakes themselves, said that our view from Scarfell was probably one of the best he'd ever seen in all his years up and down the mountain!

To top it all off, we have managed to raise over £3000 for the National Eczema Society. We've been blown away by the generosity of family, friends and colleagues (HUGE THANK YOU to all of you!!!!) and there's still time to donate by using the link on the side of my blog.

Will we do it again? Er, perhaps not next week, but will we do something as challenging again, something to push us to our limitations? Indeed we will. We might push ourselves to do the 100Km Thames Path walk next year and maybe I will enter that ballot for the VLM for 2016 ...just you'd best start saving your pennies for another charitable cause next year.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

It started with a kiss...

Well, more like a terribly unflattering photograph which equated to a kick up the bum.

We knew we were going to do this climb to raise money for eczema research because this was a subject very close to our hearts. Many of you know, our eldest has suffered dreadfully for the last three years in particular, leading to stays in hospital as the skin is a barrier to infection, so when your skin is broken all over, you are susceptible to strep or staph or any other infection. He's also been on skin and oral steroids repeatedly and has been on the receiving end of mickey taking at school and numerous curious stares or questions. All of which, we have tried to give him the tools to cope with and help educate others so that they will be more understanding. However, we feel that more can be done nationally and this is why we're climbing five peaks in the Lakes on Easter weekend. But not over the course of a weekend, no, in 12 hours! Yup, a little bit barking.

So, this all sounded good on paper last autumn when his eczema was at its worst and my mama bear instinct had gone into 'save the world from eczema' overdrive.

However, it wasn't anything we were particularly doing much about. Five peaks? How hard can that be eh?


So fast forward a couple of months. We've just had Christmas, well, that is me, my chins and I....the photos were less than flattering. I was at least a stone heavier, if not two if I'm truly honest, but that's more because I do have ridiculous ideals in my head and appreciate that I am 5ft 8 and have the build of someone who is always going to remain in the 10 - 12 category rather than 6 - 8. In fact, size 8 and you will probably be able to snap someone of my height and stature, so, as I said, ridiculous theory.

BUT, something was needing to be done. I wasn't going to get far up mountain peak 1 if I did armchair exercise with the remote control.

We joined the gym. Yup, he and me...
We started, intially, on a six week programme. Then I was lead astray!
I began to get high on the endorphins after doing a work out. 2 times a week became three! I watched my crazy pal, Soph, do three half marathons last year starting from the same couch I had been sitting on.
She fed me runner bumf and showed me elicit hang outs for 'mummy' runners.
I had been running on the treadmill, but not since 2010 had I set foot on the pavements.
So, one morning, I decided to see how a treadmill compared to the hills and fields around me.

Mwahahahahaha, how we laughed!

So, jumping through pot holes, dodging tractor pitting, rabbit holes, cars and wearing fluorescent orange in order to be seen, I began a slow but committed journey to the asylum  becoming 'a runner'. My arse wobbled like jelly at first. One morning on my pre awake run across the fields, I saw FOUR hares! They fled when they saw me...probably assuming I was a genetically modified carrot panting towards them - (Woody Allen anyone??)

A gigantic breast in a scene from Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex

 I saw sunrises that beat any extra half hour under the duvet. I bought kit that I never thought I would be seen dead in. I wore out a pair of shoes...yup, can you believe it!! Yay, Run Forrest Ruuuuun!!!

1 mile to begin with, then 2.5, then 3.5 and my first 5K in 6 years! Then an increase to 5 miles, then 6.5 (that's 10K) and another race on Sunday (10K), a half marathon in the wings for October and the VLM not seeming such a' mad thing that other people do' in my sights for 2016, a full stone lost, muscle gained and the ability to run/walk up a hill without dying. I'm not fast, but I'm a robin ;-)

I think I'm nearly there for those peaks.

So, that's my training, the other half is in the gym twice a week and comes home very sweaty. He has also needed to tighten his belt, but he doesn't have the nutty runners bug like I do, which is probably good because at least one of us needs to remain sane and, if he ran too, who would cheer me on from the side lines on race days???

So BRING 'EM ON !! Is where I'm at now, feeling better than ever, stronger and more mentally prepared. 22km seems no where near as daunting as it did six months ago (although I am aware that 22km undulating is far superior to 22km on the flat!) my biggest fear now is the weather. If it rains and we get wet feet, the rest of the walk will be hell, despite having changes of socks. So, please pray or plead or whatever you do for some decent weather that isn't wet at least.

See you over the hill (s) !!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Ducks and Daffodils

It's officially the first day of Spring tomorrow, according to the Met Office, but really, the weather has been messing with us so much. Yesterday and Wednesday actually kid us into thinking that maybe Spring is coming. The front garden is a sea of beautiful purple crocuses...well, bar one straggly yellow one that seems to have escaped the meticulously planned theme!

However, today we are watching the rain rush down the road outside the front window again and, on my first day off since half term, the plans I had for sorting out the duck shelter(...oh, we're getting ducks...did I tell you?) and putting up the fence to protect the beehives have been well and truly scuppered.

So yes, ducks! I managed to convince Mr Beehive as he has such a love of duck eggs, that we could house our newest members to our little farmstead in with the hens. Well, okay, so I convinced him whilst lifting a rather large tin bath that I found in a little antique shop for only £25, out of the car! I guess my persuasion tactics tend to be a little fait accompli before I've even really gotten going. I firmly believe in the 'tell it how it is' way of communication! So, I wanted to apply some mastik around the seals to ensure that we kept the water in and also try out my siphon contraption to see if we could easily empty the water rather than having to lift the bath up or use a jug or bucket to empty and refill. But for now, the rain has got the better of me...although there may be a bright side: if the bath retains the rainwater that has fallen in it, then the mastik won't be there's a positive thought!

Half term is over, it went with such a rush as per usual. I never feel I have enough time to do the things I want to do with the kids and miss our homeschooling days for this reason. Still we made it to the Dr Who exhibition in Cardiff and met up with our lovely ex-au pair for a couple of days.

So for lack of outside jobs, I've instead made bread and cake as it is a sort of bread and cake kind of day. Oh and there is one more thing in favour of ducks....they certainly won't mind all this rain!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Itchy Gypsy feet

Half term is upon us - yay! However, yet again the weather is nothing short of hideous - not so yay!

I do have a raft of jobs awaiting me outside in both the barn where the beehives are patiently waiting another coat of paint and in the greenhouse where the seeds are screaming at me to put them in the propagator but I can't stand the thought of either task today, it's just too cold. Not a sharp, snowy type cold as we were used to in Connecticut or Edinburgh but a type of cold that ensnares your bones and chills you to the core. I simply cannot summon sufficient enthusiasm to do more than knit today and fiddle about online.

I'm on a perpetual mission for the perfect crust to my bread:

so I've been researching proving baskets today to see whether or not they are a waste of money or actually worth their outlay to improve my bread. My conclusion to all this is that the jury online is still out, thus Messers Ebay and co have provided me with a supplier of proving baskets that are not too expensive for me to carry out this experimentation for myself, so watch this space.

Yesterday I briefly popped into town. Our town is not one that over excites me unfortunately. It is a very basic market town that has the usual culprits in rather boring mainstream stores and nothing particularly independent or exciting. I do miss Edinburgh for this. Wherever I've lived in the past I've always managed to sniff out one or two really fun places to hang out or visit. In Belgium I loved 'Le Pain Quotidien' (whilst no longer particularly independent after they're springing up all over now!). After dropping the boys off at nursery, a friend or two and I would meet there at their gorgeous rustic trestle tables for breakfast (you will start to note a bread and food theme!). In Wilton in CT there was the Cafe at Cannondale Station as well as Whole foods (okay, so not exactly independent per-se, but heaps better than Tescos!) and Anthropologie. Edinburgh was inundated with vegetarian cafes, unusual shops and ... an Anthropologie - excuse me whilst I moan in pleasure at all the lovely vintage style homewares that they brought over to the UK... oh yes please !

Where I am now however, seems to lack lots...We have no good independent cafes or book stores, there is a knitting shop but my kids refuse to come in with me because it smells of fish...and...there is a certain je ne sais quoi and a surplus of pensioners that's for sure *sigh*. We don't have a particularly fab market...there is a weekly one selling fruit and veg, cheap birthday cards that you get sent by your granny and lots of pop guns...don't ask me!! Every so often we do have a wonderful french, farmers or artisan market. We have recently acquired a health shop, but it's in its infancy and the shelves are still lacking somewhat. Oxford has more vibrancy, but it's too far for a quick trip and needs to be a day planned in somewhere. We do, on the otherhand, have more pound shops than I've ever seen in one place and as the day progresses, the local factory that roasts coffee beans becomes staler and more bitter in the air....I'm not really selling my town am I?

I'm a closet hippy and more of a nomad that I like to admit; I'd love to live in Portland in Oregon

photo from

 or Oxford or perhaps Stroud would float my boat.

 Canterbury was lovely when we went at Christmas.

Edinburgh was awesome but too far north (yeah, I know, not as far as Portland) and San Francisco still has my heart! However I am fairly easy to please: A GOOD coffee shop that brews its own, a good indy bookshop, a wool shop, a cooperative grocery store (not 'The' Coop but a wholefoods coop) and that'll do to start with!

BUT there are somethings to be salvaged. We have a tourist information bureau that also doubles as a cooperative for local craftspeople and some of the gorgeous items in there can make for lovely gifts. So finding these beautiful ceramic bee buttons which will make the perfect addition to my latest WIP did lift my spirits slightly. I have also discovered a large wholefood cooperative in Northampton.

At least I can put today to good use now as I have an excuse to sit on my bum and knit more of her sweater whilst planning a trip to The Daily Bread in Northampton next weekend!

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

A mini spring clean in February!

I'm not sure quite what this weather is playing at at the moment, but it's giving me whiplash, not to mention the bulbs that are bursting through and the birds that are not eating the seeds from the feeders and building nests frantically because there is some kind of muddled early spring.

It has been a 'glorious' day here today, cold, yes, but no rain, lots of blue sky. However, the forecast is predicting further gales and rain overnight tonight. I'm not sure if we're going to get any snow this year but I sure wish this wet weather would do one!

I don't work outside the home today so it's always nice to be able to use a day to its fullest to catch up on the things that need doing.
I was able to hang washing out on the line which seems to be dry too...This to me, is always a sign that spring is coming when you have days mild enough to dry a load within just a few hours.

I also took the opportunity to install some brushwood fencing over existing wire fencing in order to give our hives a little bit of security from the road and prying eyes. It's bizarre that people do steal beehives, but...they do and I want to try to minimize the risk as much as I can.

I work part time and on my days off I always aim to do around an hour or so in the gym. I then decided today once I'd done the grocery shop, to come home and have a good sort out of our utility area.

We have been granted planning permission (yay!!!) for the old garage/barn/outhouse that we currently have, to be knocked down and a new structure built in its place. We intend for this to be a garage with a kitchen and store at the back to enable us to take all our produce making ie: cider, smoking, honey production etc to a separate kitchen from our one indoors. It will then have an upstairs space with a bathroom which we may use as a studio for Mr Beehive to work from home in, or as a guest room to enable us to have guests over without having to lever three or more kids into the same room. However, with this taking priority and eating most of our finances, storage and organisation in my utility is not and whilst the kids continue to grow, so do not only the amount of shoes, but also the variety too.

Inspired by threads on pinterest I decided I needed to do something that made it look a little more organised, so here is the end result courtesy of an existing piece of Ikea shelving found in the back of the garage.

That's better! Can you spot my new bee jacket?

Tonight I'm going out with some new friends from the beekeeping society, it will be both interesting and probably totally overwhelming, but I figure that to do this properly, I'm going to need friends in the know. A friend from orchestra is a member of this group and she has invited me along, so I am going to have a rare evening out from home and maybe even a sneaky midweek pint as I'm not driving ;-) Dutch courage you know!

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Painting Beehives at The Beehive

Today we've been busy constructing our beehives and painting them in the old barn. I ordered these national hives from a seller on ebay last year and it's taken until now to get to this point in the chores list. 

We're hoping that we can finish painting them next weekend and aim to get them out where we want to site them in the next couple of weeks so that the smell of the paint dissipates before the bees arrive. We've ordered a nuc from a breeder in Sussex who expects them to be ready by late May. Plenty more time to read further and panic more!

We should get our planning permission (or refusal) back this week sometime.  We're hoping that there won't be any problems considering we're re-building and slightly modifying something that is already there, but planning permission is a funny animal these days. Keep your fingers crossed for the Beehive this year in both the flying and human varieties!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Sunny Sunday setting a false sense of security

Okay, okay, so the title for this entry encompasses alliteration but that wasn't really my intention!!

It's a glorious day outside today, what with all the rain we've been having yet again, one should be filled with gladness, rather than that rather cynical sense of doom that this delightful mock March day will soon be underneath a few centimetres of snow or, at the very least, the carpet of green shoots appearing in my front garden will be shocked to death or burnt brown through a late cold snap.

However, rather than dwelling in this frame, we have taken advantage of the warmth and sunshine to get outside and do some desperate tidying and sorting out after a good long walk over the fields with the dog this morning.

The chooks have been recipients of their annual rake over ;-)  We rake the top layer of muck off their run area and then re-lay it with fresh bark and wood chippings from a local horse yard. We've also decided to lift some of their run off the ground because they've been living in a quagmire since the rain began and I feel desperately sorry for them. We have put a couple of pallets in to give them an island higher than the swamp and the other is for them to have their waterer on so that it doesn't continually get crap kicked into it.

Mr Beehive has been smashing up various parts of the patio and back path still on the search for where various drains go. We 'think' we've finally found the majority of outlets, many of which were just hidden over with a patio slab and sand. This could well have been partially to blame to our flood in 2012.

We're currently awaiting the return of our planning permission to see whether or not we get the go ahead for knocking down our old garage/barn before it falls down and rebuilding a new garage/studio/annexe. Hopefully, if we do, we should start on this over the summer. It will give us a spare bedroom alongside a studio area that Mr Beehive could use when he works from home and where I will take my sewing. We might have to evict the drum kit there too!

Other new things this year will are the fact I'm now back playing my clarinet again on a regular basis. I'm currently playing with a local wind ensemble. Interestingly I was asked to play through a lady I met on a beekeeping course, who I'm hoping will mentor me when we get our bees...which are still on the horizon. We now have our hives, but they need painting and assembling. They will go right in the far corner of this picture:

I think we'll either need another one of these sunny days for this...or a new garage that isn't going to leak all over newly painted hives!