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!