Sunday, May 29, 2011

Tiny footprints and baby wings.

Life can be incredibly fragile and cruel sometimes. As easily as life gives, it can take away.

Two months ago I met a lovely lady, a midwife from Tennessee. We were basically two midwives from two different continents, thrown together when she answered my advert seeking a roomie for the conference in Eugene.

We spent the best part of a week together at workshops, having dinner, laughing, sharing anecdotes about our families and children. What leapt out at me about Daphne was the love she radiated for her children and her husband. What I neglected to tell you was that her and her husband were expecting her third child at the beginning of July.

This morning I found out that her baby was born six weeks early and is now on life support which is likely to be turned off over the next few days. It will probably be nothing short of a miracle that will save Baby Ansley.

Some cruel twist of fate has decided that gentle, loving, midwife mama, Daphne is worthy of an angel with wings. Life is just so terribly unkind. Why has this decision been made to take Daphne's beautiful baby and not leave her earthside with them where she is much wanted and much loved?

It makes me wonder how anyone can believe in any God when these cruel things happen. I'm not trying to start a religious debate by the way. Daphne, however, is a devout Christian and I am sure that the support of her Christian beliefs and her church family will be of some comfort to her.

After discovering this news I then had to get into the car and drive to facilitate a class for 16 expectant mums and dads. I had to stand there, looking them in the eyes and answer their fears about childbirth by explaining that it's a rare occurrence when things go wrong, knowing darned well that my friend is living every mother's nightmare.

How do you bring up this conversation with women? Childbirth is only as safe as life gets, life is fragile, sometimes nature is cruel and sometimes babies are taken prematurely. Maybe this is life's way of population control, some vicious and spiteful attempt at survival of the fittest.

There is a huge part of me that wants women to understand the word nature. To appreciate that it cannot be controlled, that things are not guaranteed as the text book says. To have a healthy appreciation for this helps women realise that scans are not diagnostic tests, it can't pick up everything. That continual monitoring won't always pick up if something is going awry but more likely is going to show that something might be awry when it's not. That, when they are in labour, they may have to allow the inner animal to take over and strict birth plans may lead to disappointment. The other part of me wants women to feel safe and confident in their abilities to grow healthy babies and birth them. I want them to believe in their bodies and listen to them so they respond if there is a niggle that concerns them. I don't want them to worry about the minute statistics and fear that they might be the 0.05%.

But, then there is Daphne, sitting tonight with her husband, holding hands over the plastic incubator which is likely to be their daughter's only experience of life on earth.
Beautiful Daphne, a midwife, with a healthy appreciation and respect for nature now experiencing it's cruelty firsthand.

If you pray, please say an extra prayer tonight. If you don't, maybe you could direct your thoughts and energies. We can't control nature and Ansley's fate is probably already decided, but it certainly can't help to at least envelop this dear family with extra love whilst they mourn.

Thank you and give your children extra hug this evening x

This is an edit to add that Baby Ansley got her wings yesterday afternoon May 29th as she lost her fight. Her funeral will be on Tuesday 31st May at 4pm GMT (10am central time). Please send some special love that day to Daphne and her family. Unless you have walked but a footprint in the shoes of someone who has lost a loved one, not least that of a child, taken too soon, it is impossible to understand. However, love can help to heal.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Earth, Air, wind, fire and ... tiles!

We've had the builders in this week as we're having the hot tank put in the roof to free up space for a shower in the bathroom as well as engaging a special system called an ecocent that draws all the hot air from the bathrooms to recycle it to help heat the tank.
All sounds great in theory because we're on oil, so along with the PV's we'll hopefully be able to reduce our oil bill considerably over the next few years.
However, as with every house project, nothing ever goes smoothly.
We currently have power showers, but with the new system with have high pressure gravity showers, this has meant purchasing new showers. That, in itself hasn't been an issue, but of course, the showers we've removed have left one or two places where the tiles have had to come off to sort out plumbing.

Ye Gads, trying to find matching tiles that are anything older than about six months is really like trying to find the Holy Grail. I have been in and out of tile shops, buying and taking back due to things being the wrong dimensions, the wrong style, the wrong colour, the wrong thickness. Finally we have tiles in.
I could get matching tiles that were just so subtly different that they would have looked like we'd not managed to match the tiles so i thought it'd be simple to go for a contrast *throws head back and howls with laughter*. Suffice to say, I'll be glad if I NEVER see the inside of a tile shop again, although I am currently contemplating tiling around my work area in the kitchen, but at least I won't have to match stuff up!

My willow trellis for the clematis.
Today I've released my frustration by burning things.
Yeah, the hidden pyro in me has been pulling up crap and playing with my new incinerator.
What is it with a pair of secateurs and an incinerator that draws me in so much. It's so cathartic!

I've also planted out some beans

and made some eccles cakes. D'ya want the recipe?

Eccles Cakes made in Banbury!

Puff pastry (ready made stuff!)
4oz cranberries
4oz sultanas
4oz sr flour
1tbsp oil
4oz brown sugar
1 egg
1tsp all spice
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 lemon and zest

Beat your egg, sugar and oil in a bowl, then fold in the flour, baking powder and spice. Add the lemon and zest and your sultanas and cranberries (I saw the recipe the other day using carrots and walnuts - sounds nice too!)
You then want to roll out the pastry and cut it into around 10cm diameter circles. Put a blob of the mix in the middle and then close the pastry over to make a kind of cornish pasty style casing (brush water around the edges to make it stick.
When you've done them all, ensure your tray is greased and then brush milk over each cake and add a sprinkle of sugar. Use a knife to make three air vents!

 180 deg C for around 30 mins, although keep an eye because any escaped fruit will burn.
Nom Nom!!

How big are these beetroot? Not from my garden but the farm up the road! Looking forward to pickles!
First of the season's Elderflower cordial.

Monday, May 23, 2011

It's curry time!

Some recipes for you because I know I've been neglecting this part of my blogging for a while now. My dear sister got quite irrate with me the other week because I'd been promising her my scallop/prawn curry recipe and okra recipe for ages and she quite literally phoned me from her stove top, pan in hand to demand the information NOW!

So, just for her, here are a few recipes (curry like) to keep you going this week:


You'll need:
A few potatoes, peeled and diced
An onion - finely chopped
Garlic - as above
chick peas (or lentils or beans) - I always have these as a store cupboard staple
Tin of tomatoes
fenugreek, cumin, caraway, tumeric and seasoning
Coconut oil or cream (not so much of a staple, but I do tend to have the oil in as I love to cook my curry bases with this - it's delicate and not overpowering and so, so good for you!
fresh coriander (growing in the yard, so also free!)

This whole recipe, if you keep most of it in store will cost you about 1.50 to make and I feed six!

Fry your onion and garlic lightly in olive oil and a little coconut oil if you're using it
Add your diced potatoes and gently brown to allow the potato to seal. This will help reduce the chance of it collapsing and creating a mush in your pan.
Add 1/4 - 1/2 tsp of each of the spices and season to taste. Oh, less of the tumeric, you only want to add a faint hue.
Add the chick peas and the tin of toms along with about a cup of water.
Let it all simmer along for around half an hour but stir regularly as you don't want it to stick.

When you're ready to serve you can add your tbsp of coconut cream if you didn't use oil and a handful of fresh coriander.
You can serve with rice, chapati or on its own.

Scallop and ginger curry
Okay, so this is a bit of an indulgence, but if you're going to do a curry that kicks arse, then this is the one to do to seriously impress!

You'll need:
2 cloves of garlic
enough scallops (smallish ones without the roe) for your hungry guests
fresh ginger about a finger sized piece sliced small or grated
fresh tomatoes chopped
cumin seeds, cardamon pods, coriander seeds
fresh pepper (you'll grind all this together in a mortar and pestle)
one lime
fresh coriander

Fry your onion and garlic in a little coconut or olive oil. If using olive oil I like to add a knob of butter too - kind of helps things to not stick and adds a nice base to everything
grind all your spices and add them to your browning onion and lightly fry them.
Add your ginger and chopped tomatoes and allow the mixture to simmer gently.
Add the scallops and allow them to lightly cook. You don't want to leave them too long or you'll end up with rubber bung curry and that is not nice!
Add your lime juice and seasoning.
Just before serving add a generous handful of coriander.

Okra and mango  - side dish!
Dead easy using veggies that many people don't know how to cook.

So you'll need a load of Okra, I find that Waitrose tends to be pretty reliable for it, Sainsbury's a bit hit and miss, Tesco even more so and Morrisons will probably stare at you. Yeah - Okra is obviously food for snobs LOL!
Dried mango pieces

Okay, so preparing Okra is easier than you think. You need a bowl of water on standby because the insides are sticky and full of seeds.
I like to top and tail as you would runner beans. Then I slice them lengthways but keep them thin. Put them into the water and this is the important bit, you need to dry them as much as you can. I tend to prepare them a few hours before I'll need them an put them into a colander with kitchen towel soaking the water. If they're too soggy they'll not brown well.

Gently fry your onion in butter - decadent, but far nicer end result than oil.
Add your chilli and 1/4 tsp cumin (don't go crazy here - this is a light flavoured dish. you want the mango and fried okra to win through)
When this is nicely browning, add your Okra.
You will now need to fry this for quite a while and vigilantly turn it in order to brown all over.
Once you've gotten an even brown colour you can add your dried mango. I cut it into thin strips.
Don't use fresh mango, it doesn't have the same effect!

Allow the mango to gently infuse with the okra for around 15 mins.
and serve!

Right, now you have mama's best curry recipe I can't put that in a bottle and sell it now!


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rebozo, reparo and re-go-slow!

I can't believe we've been in six weeks already. The weeks seem to be flying past. The weekends go the fastest, probably because Mr Beehive literally flies in on a Thursday evening and out late on Sunday afternoon.

Of course, with us being in our own house, we manage to fill the weekends with DIY and jobs that need doing.

We need to find time to explore where we now call home, rather than putting it off, so he's going to be around more over the half term holiday and we have planned to do a few things. It's so easy to get carried along by life rather than carried away with it, so half term is going to be our time to reconnect as a family and be present for a bit.

This weekend he put together the chicken house which I'm thrilled with. All we need now is the run, which my dad is coming up to help me build and the girls themselves. It'll be a real blessing when they're here and laying as pancakes were the demand for breakfast this morning!

We're also having work done on the heating and water system over the next few weeks. We are in a village that has no gas so all our heating comes from oil. We are starting to cut back on it by installing the first of two wood burners, the other one will go in the kitchen/diner area which is large and with that and the range will mean we should be able to cut back downstairs. The main change though is that we're going to put photovoltaic panels on the front on the house and put an ecocent system in the roof.
The eco cent works by extracting the heat and hot air that is produced in the bathroom and using that, alongside the energy created by the PV's, will help to heat the water in the tank. Hopefully this will gradually reduce our need for fossil fuel, potentially reducing it completely in the spring and summer, maybe we can just use it in the winter for really early mornings or cold evenings.

Of course, with putting this system in, we no longer need the electric showers that we have, so we're having them taken out and will be putting in regular ones. Whilst we're at it, we're going to use the space that housed the old hot water tank to put in a new shower.

We realise with making all the mess to create this, we may as well do the remedials and redecorate the two bathrooms too. Being all dreamy and having my head in the clouds, I have clear images of how I want the upstairs bathroom, in particular, to look. It already has a roll top bath and classic sanitaryware, but it just needs "old-i-fying" a bit more. So we're going to replace the tiles and taps to something more representative of the look and I also want to do "something" with the floor.

The floor is currently a very strange concoction. I believe that previous owners probably brought in a bucket load of sand from the beach, threw it randomly across the floor and then dropped paint on the top. This is before they bothered to level the floor, ensure the nails are all down and everything is neatly sealed. Hence we have a rather nasty floor, which isn't pleasant to walk on but, Boy! it gives great exfoliation!

My lovely handyman managed to talk me out of my unrealistic dreams of a bamboo floor due to the fact the stack doesn't have enough in it to lift the toilet high enough to run the floor under it.

So look what I'm up to now!!

I wish we lived in a dolls house because I'd be done by now. I am beginning to think that my "lovely" handyman actually is trying to teach me a lesson for all the ridiculous ideas I keep thrusting his way. This is his idea! Stripping the floor back to it's lovely original wood - which, when it's done, I know he's right!

This is two hours of work - both dry removal - on the right (which works better!) and using some paint stripper - on the left -  that basically appears to have no stripping ingredient in it! I think the floor probably contains the same properties as kevlar and the stripping ingredient is fairy liquid!

Ah well - luckily, the lovely handyman won't see the mosaic tiles I bought for him to fit in the downstairs bathroom until AFTER he's done this one mwahahaha!

So back to the theme of staying present I worked on creating a zen garden with LMB's help this weekend. We have a small patch of barren earth that was covered in cobbles. I can only think the cobbles were there to hide all the stones and rubbish that was buried underneath it. We dug and sifted and sorted. In the end we resorted to the fact that we'd need to get part way to Oz, then re fill with so much compost or imported top soil that we may be better off thinking of new plans.
Having a ton of slate chippings left from the paths round the veggies, we decided, inspired by our years of Montessori, and, more importantly, to remind us of our Montessori friends, to create a small Zen garden. So this is the beginnings. To finish it off, we'd like to install a small solar powered fountain or water feature in the middle. I think it'd look really cute!

Oh and finally, this was an awesome day! A Rebozo workshop, lead by a doula and NCT teacher. The rebozo is basically a simple Mexican scarf, made of cotton with a weave in it and used for just about anything, carrying, warmth, wrapping etc. However, this day was exploring the ways the Rebozo can be used with clients in labour to help turn posterior babies or to massage tired muscles.  I did a workshop on the Rebozo in Philadelphia in 2006 with some traditional Mexican midwives , including Naoli Vinaver, but I've never felt confident enough to use it. It's amazing what a few years of experience, working with women and learning some important pregnancy related anatomy does for you. This was a seriously amazing day. I do have notes and photos from the day which I am happy to share with any doula, midwife or childbirth teacher if you just contact me below, however, I'd highly, highly recommend a hands on day with Stacia Smales Hill!

This is me having a lumbar stretch - unbelievably relaxing and restorative!

Now this is a great way to live in the present!

Have a lovely week!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Take a walk with me...

Complete, at last! Painted, carpeted and fire has been used. Well Mr Beehive and I were determined to try it out so we were sat (almost) with the windows open last Saturday evening reaping the benefits. It's a ferocious little beast and we're chuffed to bits with it. I can't lay my finger quite on what adjective it seems to bring to me about the room now, but it seems...neater? more spacious? more delicious? I don't know, I just know I love it!

The next project is the bathroom.

I have been revising this week so haven't got anything too much to tell other than I went to visit our newest family member on Tuesday. Her name is Pip and she lives on a farm at the moment. I won't reveal more than that right now, suffice to say that she doesn't need milking, she won't provide meat or eggs but she will provide love...

I thought I'd take you for a walk through my garden today as it's a nice day.

I've been sneaking away from revision every now and then to do a bit more. My biggest challenge is the patch at the front that has been suffocated under couch grass.

There are literally thousands of bulbs underneath which have been planned with the seasons in mind. So far we've seen snowdrops, acconites, tulips, bluebells, daffs. There are also a couple of old heritage English roses that I am so loathed to take out. However, the whole area is wild.

So I've decided that, rather than trying to fight and tame this, I will leave it wild and so am just adding to it rather than taking away. I've been looking up various natural and wild flowers that I can plant that are native to the area and that will attract wildlife and am currently growing cornflowers, delphiniums, calendula, hollyhocks and some bleeding hearths and many others in the garage ready to plant out in a few weeks. So:


Yummy gooseberries on their way...lots of jam and fool this year!

Ox-eye daisy
Oops! Forgot to add this in. My new border courtesy of Mr Beehive. We're attempting to try to hide the leftovers from the pond extraction ie: breeze blocks and crumbly bits! Hopefully my clematis will grow over much of it and then I'll just plant annuals in the bed itself.

I also have some links for you today.

I wish I had the patience and time to make this:
 I love the old beach chairs that seem to be coming back en vogue, I keep coveting several on ebay now and then!

I'm also coveting these tiles which sadly come in at around 20 pounds per tile *shocked*, so I need to look further for something similar but cheaper for the bathroom!

I was intending to have a go at doing this with my strawberries, but never got around to it. Maybe next time I plant some.

I have indulged in this from Katie's mercantile in the US. There is something really Little House about it and I also love the practicality. I now don't have the excuse to not make fresh bread every day and sweep the floor with a besom broom ;-)

Here's some music I've just been pointed towards - a little mellow for a midweek mooch

And just to finish, I so wish I could crochet, not to mention speak fluent Dutch ;-) I think I'd have no excuse to ride my bike if I had one of these - life would be so complete, hey?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Birth is Boring!

Normal birth, doesn't make good telly - fact!

Someone said earlier today when I was chatting about this subject, that birth language is subjective which I totally agree with. What might be euphoric for one woman could be hellish for another.

That said, I'm struggling to reflect on Ms Swinton’s description of birth being murderous.  Violent, however,  I can associate with. Birth can be violent, both naturally and due to interventions. However, birth can be beautiful and serene.

I also think that women are programmed to find things that make them feel failure whether it's down to thinking their hair is crap, they look fat or they "failed" in their birth and the media plays into this. Every week we're told how we're not feeding our children right, how we should be slim, how we should have curves, how we've lost the art of x, y and z!

My answer is to make birth more normal - let women see "real" birth, let women see birth that doesn't have to be on their backs, but sometimes it is. That birth doesn’t have to be induced, but sometimes it is. That for many women birth takes a long time, not a lot seems to happen externally and won’t make good tv viewing. When I think about the types of births I’ve witnessed on the television, it is always the calm, three pushes and it’s out (supine of course !!) or the emergency or highly medicalised.The births I've witnessed as a doula, however, tend to be incredibly long, consist of making more cups of tea than an army requires, lots of back rubbing and nothing more mind blowing than deciding what position is working best for the current contraction.

Women need to see birth as an every day part of life. It can be (for the most part) amazing and incredible, it can also be scary, and occasionally tragic.

I don't know the media is all to blame, I think women have to take some responsibility too.

Women who have normal (dare I say, boring) births where things just pottered along, don't tend to shout it from the roof tops, those that have more of a dramatic story or had serene and tranquil home births often get their stories out there more because they make for more interesting reading or more controversial discussion.

There is also not the occasion in most girl/woman's life to be a part of birth. Girls don't tend to grow up having witnessed their own mothers giving birth to their siblings. There is no "red tent" where women talk about their boring normal births, thus what we learn is from books, the media and our "louder" friends.    

Birth, for the most part, is hidden away from the public eye, apart from when the media gets it’s juicy paws on it and pimps it up. Even One Born Every Minute spends less time on the normal births than it does on the ones that have an interesting story or a dramatic complication.

Each "side" then tends to draw this debate from the other (bit like the breast vs bottle) that then paints this picture that birth is either callous and degrading or fairy lights and lotus births, which is normally the extreme in both respects. All those births that don't fit either category are not spoken about.

Women need to know that a natural birth will do its own thing. 

This, for one woman, if left alone, may result in no interventions, no epidurals, maybe even no hospital, for another woman this may result in chaotic busyness, lots of noise and people, various implements and possibly surgery. I am still convinced though that many of the latter births could have avoided c section, were an earlier step such as an epidural or an induction avoided, but that's another blog post!

Women need to know that their bodies are designed to birth and they need to know that they can do it and there are things they can do to help themselves. One of those things they can do to help themselves is to surround themselves with people who have had straightforward births and also to believe in themselves.
They also need to know that birth will follow its own course. 

Look outside the window. How many things do you see that are exact and precise straight lines? Okay, now how many of those things are made by Mother nature rather than by man?
My point is that if we try to control something that is, by its very nature, twisted, curved, independent, we are more likely to “fail”. If more women believed in themselves and their sisters before them told their ordinary, boring birth story, less women would be scared, more women would be empowered, more women would be open minded. Less women would feel that they needed to consent to intervention because their birth is long or because their contractions are not regular or having a little rest because they'd know that normal birth can be long, intermittent at times and...boring!

Ms Swinton's comments remind me of a story that I use in classes; a midwife in Pennsylvania works with the Amish community. This means she sees many young primips birthing at home in a community where birth isn’t hidden behind screens. They are incredibly focused and aware and they do believe in their body's ability to birth, however, because they are new to birth, they still feel they can control it. 

One story she tells is of the young mother to be who is sitting upright in bed, pristine clean sheets (white!) and a pressed nightdress. Her birth goes very slowly whilst this young woman doesn’t want to be seen to make a noise or break a sweat. Eventually, many, many hours after she first called the midwife, she gets out of the bed with a large noise, rips off her clothes and within an hour, the baby is born. Once the mother realizes that she is not in control of her birth and she needs to listen to what her body wants her to do and this may be messy or noisy, but that's okay, she births her baby. Ina May Gaskin also talks about this in both Spiritual Midwifery and her latest book, Birth Matters: “Letting your monkey do it” is what she calls it.

So yes, birth can be violent, birth can be beautiful, birth can be messy, it can be very boring for the most part. Birth is subjective. However, those of you who have had “boring births”, please make your stories known too. Women have to know that empowerment isn’t about being in control, it isn’t about being controlled either, it’s about a symbiosis. Working symbiotically with your body and baby and believing that both of you can do it. Sometimes, occasionally, there will be a situation that will require medical help, but for the most part, given time and support, birth is long, hard work, messy and surprisingly boring! 

Spread the word!!!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Making Butter

In honour of the fact I now have a fully installed, working, wood smelling and burning stove,
I have decided to share my quick and easy butter recipe with you because, let's be honest, who can resist a nice hot piece of toast with lashings of dripping butter - yeah, yeah, cholesterol and calories are watching, but everything in moderation I say, even moderation itself !


You'll need:

A pot or two of double cream that is towards the end of its shelf like or, like I used, even a week or 10 days out of date (as long as you've kept it refrigerated!) DON'T use single, it's too thin to turn.
Very cold water - I tend to put a pile of icecubes into a jug of cold water and leave it in the fridge while I'm getting ready.
butter paddles or palette knives or flat wooden spatulas
and a food processor or whisk

So first thing is to let your cream warm to room temperature. Don't heat it in a pan, literally let it stand out for an hour before you use it.

When it's ready, pour the cream into your food processor. Use your whisk attachment if you have one.

The cream will stiffen to start with, just as it would if you were wanting a thick whipped cream.
As the cream moves through whipping, you'll begin to see what looks like the cream cracking or curdling. This is the separation of the butter from the buttermilk and now you need to turn your processor speed down as it turns FAST!
This is the butter milk. You can see the butter globules around the side. The large lump of butter I've removed. It will form one or two large lumps.
Suddenly you'll see you now have yellowy buttery substance in the middle of your bowl and a watery creamy liquid surrounding it. This is your fatty butter which has separated from your buttermilk.

Separate off the buttermilk and that's great to put into a cake - or you can make a nice soft creamy bread for your butter later ;-)

This next step is the really important step:

My water here is still not clean, so I will remove the butter, pour out the water and repeat the process.
You don't want your butter to turn rancid, so you have to ensure you get out all the remaining buttermilk. This is where your cold water comes in.

Pour your cold water into the bowl with the butter lump. Let the processor turn it on a very slow speed.
You will need to repeat this step several times. For the first couple of times you'll still see "dirty" water. Eventually the water goes clean.

When this happens, the next thing is to take your butter out and I like to put it into to a piece of cheesecloth here and give it a good squeeze.

Lift it out of your cheesecloth and place on to a wooden board (better than anything else as butter is fatty and sticks).

Using your paddles (or adapted paddles), you are now going to literally, pat the butter on each side at the same time. You're trying to get out as much of the water as is possible, but it can also be used to help to "rectangular-ise" your butter.
Turn your butter and keep patting.

When no more water flies out (it will spray out as you pat!) you are ready to wrap in clingfilm.

If you want to add salt or herbs, you'll need to add them after the water step. Put a little of either into the processor and gently stir it in. Remember though, salt will become more flavoursome through the freezing process, so if you're freezing the butter, either leave it out, or add far less than you'd normally deem right.

You can freeze it for up to 3 months or eat it within a week if stored in a fridge.

Enjoy x

Sunday, May 08, 2011

A good dose of rain!

Isn't it wonderful?

I think I positively leapt out of bed on Saturday morning as there had been a downpour in the night. Normally I would be fed up with the grey and dreary, but not down here. Rain means that my garden will be so much easier to dig. Rather like the difference between burnt toffee and a lovely gooey fudge!

I don't think the garden has seen any water from the skies since we moved in and probably much before that too judging by the state of it.

The garden has been in a very sorry state, which I'm sure I am repeatedly bleating on about. However, what i was seeing was the superficial stuff. I swear I am digging out a second home from under the ground. Anyone need some hardcore?
I think the reason is that our cottage was originally two, so where our veggie patch is now, used to be the driveway for the second cottage. Rather than removing the hardcore, the 10 inch nails, the broken china etc, they just piled the topsoil on the top, hence there are large patches that were making me wonder if I might have struck buried treasure or needed to call in an archaeologist to show him the remains of my own personal Roman villa!

Anyway, this week I've been working on a pathway between the veggies. My plan is to have a garden that looks something like this eventually:

All beautifully lined up neatly with walkways between so i can weed easily - a sort of cottage-kitchen garden thing. So I ordered a bulk lot of blue slate pieces from ebay and have today started the outlines of my pathways

Lower slabs have gone and I'll be putting the weed supressing membrane down and then covering with the slate. The edge here is the leftover bits of rockery that were dug up! May as well recycle!

Rows of Box to edge the pathway.

More box to edge along the side of the peas, strawberries and onions.

I hope it'll turn out okay. My vision is often far greater than my manageable achievement.
Inside the house is chaos as well. We haven't had the use of the living room for a week now as we're having the first of the two woodburners installed. So we've gone from this:
Looks like an old coach tavern - suitably nicknamed "The nasty, guilded hood". 

To this, which is far less fussy.
Our builder has plastered it now and we're awaiting the fitting of hearth and fire. This should have happened a little sooner, only I managed to go to London on Thursday taking the key for the garage with me. We're re-using some of the Horton stone that we took off the pond top as our hearth - doh!

So, it's starting to look a little like "ours". My back aches - but I'm looking forward to seeing a bit of muscle tone on my arms after all the digging in months to come.
I'd like to order a few weeks of sun in the day and rain at night please and then I'll be sorted !

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

We're in!

What a fortnight, but we're finally in.
I won't bore you with the details of extraneous packing info, suffice to say, they did manage it all in 5 days and we finished (bar the garage which holds the dregs) in another 5.

Now we're settling into village life, which has a current great pace to it. I'm getting used to having to think in advance as to what we actually need and doing it all in one run into the town (makes me sound like I live on an island in the Hebrides!) as there isn't a cash point or even a shop in the village, however, it does mean that the boys can just walk to the park to play footie with their school friends as they have already done.

I've been working like Barbara Good on prozac on the garden in order to ensure we have some crops for the summer and believe you and me, it's not only done wonders for the garden, but my trousers are falling off, so there must be something to be said for the waist line too.

The living room is currently under dust sheets and the accompanying inch of dust whilst Andy, our local builder and registered fire fitter is in fitting our new woodburner. There is much excitement for this to be in as not only will it help reduce our bills as we can lower the heating in the winter, but it will also neaten and increase the size of (very slightly), the lounge.

Over the next few months we have plans to put PV panels on the house and an air flow system in the roof, move the tank up there too to enable us to have a shower put in the main bathroom (and a re organisation to make the most of the space in there), we are having a carpet put in the living room once Andy has gone and I'm taking a rotavator to a patch on the front garden that, much as I'm adoring the "wild" look at the moment, I'm beginning to see more dandelions and couch grass than I am bluebells and aquilegia.

We have a wonderful hiding place under an enormous 50ft conifer and its friends that the is some persuasion by the PV guys to cut down, but I am fighting that one as it seems the perfect place to hide and have a den and, let's be honest, every child needs a den!! So I'm going to make a sign out of a piece of wood from the bequeathed pile in the garage that states it's a "secret garden" and all the spoilsports and their solar panels can make do with the rest of the sky!

So, I thought I'd give you a quick tour so you can see how we've progressed:

I have now put up the fruit cages over my currants, gooseberries and blueberries. I've removed the shrub, slightly hidden from view in the middle left of the picture and that's now allowed me two more raspberries and a third that I found hidden under some unkempt thyme.

LMB's room, saved by the 25 year old cabin bed that has been residing mournfully in my parents' loft! I think I've done them as much a service by lightening their beams than they have done enabling LMB to have space in her room.

I do have other photos to show you, but unfortunately Blogger is refusing to cooperate with my upload, so you'll have to wait with baited breath for the next batch.