Monday, 11 June 2018

Pantry Painting

And yet again, without meaning to, I have not been blogging.
Actually nothing much is going on here apart from the everyday, ordinary stuff and it can be hard to create a blog out 'oh I sat in the garden and what a beautiful day it was'.
However some things have happened.
I have refurbished the pantry. Well I call it the pantry; in fact it is a brick out building between the kitchen and what was the outside loo and is now our outside odds and ends shed and was probably originally a tool shed.  It also has the entrance to the old coal hole which extends behind the ex loo.
Pantry on the left and ex loo on the right.
Internal entrance to the coal hole, where we keep bags of kindling, my treadle sewing machine which Jean-Luc is going to renovate at 'some point in the future' - ahem and the obligatory bag of coal.
This is where the external entrance to the coal hole would have been, you can see the old lintel just above the air brick. It's obviously been bricked up at some time but originally there would have been a wooden door here so the coal man could deliver his coal here without needing access to the shed interior. Cleaner, as any coal dust remained outside and more secure for the household.
So when we moved in we inherited this lovely space that I claimed as my pantry.  After the first initial cleanout I've done little more with it than brush and sweep it out.  It's been a plan of mine to paint it and give it a fresh start but somehow it's never quite reached the top of the list.  It's dark and dingy but keeps a very good even temperature and has bags of potential.
Things came to a head this spring when after a very wet winter we noticed the door and front walls were rotting (a previous and in my opinion, idiotic, owner had replaced the original brick wall with wood) .  Jean-Luc did his usual carpentry magic and replaced them both but that left the interior covered with dust and sawdust.
So faced with the need to drag everything out and clean it down it seemed an prime time to bite the bullet and paint the pantry.
I didn't touch anything above the beams or on the ceiling as they are covered by dubious wiring.  Rewiring the place is another future project but that really has to wait.
The rest of it I painted in simple magnolia; mind you it took 2 coats of undercoat and two coats of emulsion and in total five - yes Five! days of painting to finish the place.  Painting old brickwork is no fun and the quick coat of undercoat a previous owner has slapped on was no base for neat paintwork.
Had we limitless money I might have had it plastered or tiled in lovely old Victorian public toilet style tiles, but we don't so I didn't.  I painted the shelves a lovely 'Putting Green' green and left the pine shelves alone - by that time I'd had my fill of  wielding a brush.
Another couple of days of bottle and jar washing and everything was back in place.
The before and after photos were both taken in the same glorious light conditions we've been enjoying but the transformation is amazing.  It looks clean!
I am ridiculously thrilled with it and keep popping in to look at it.
It holds all my bulk house hold cleaning buys like Ecover washing liquid and loo cleaner; my  supplies for making soap, laundry liquid, balms and the finished products and all my preserves and jars.  The big cupboard on the right is my store cupboard where I intend to store bulk buys of food staples.   Gods forbid there is an apocalypse and I run out of coffee! No I'm not a prepper.
 It also holds our overflow freezer and the lovely cheese safe Jean-Luc made me.
All I need now is to make some cheese.....

 ps the reason I am so thrilled with my pantry is because this below was my pantry at the old house - some shelves crammed into the passage between the bedroom (left), spare room (right) and the bathroom (where the photo is taken from).

  I love having a pantry.  I love having somewhere I store the things I've made that benefit our household.  I love looking at my shelf of jars and preserves and knowing that we have homemade, tasty yumminess over the winter and we have made the best of surplus fruit and veggies.  I love the security and peace of mind it gives me and the pleasure I get from doing it.
On a cold, wet day when nothing seems to go right, I can step through the door look around and think I did this.
And it's a damned sight more fulfilling than filling in grant forms or writing reports.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

A Miscellaney

Spring hasn't so much arrived as popping in for short visits; one minute glorious sunshine, the next biting winds and cold rain
However, in the midst of this climate confusion we have some small glories.....
The greenhouse is finally in production with tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and masses of beans - borlotti, dwarf French beans, red and green broad beans; as well as the inevitable chard and beetroot.
The greenhouse now comes complete with its own fertility goddess.
This wonderfully booby and frankly cuddly lady is a copy of the famed Venus of Willendorf
It was immensely fun to crochet and just seemed perfect for overseeing the ongoing productiveness of the greenhouse - I expect truly magnificent seedlings and bumper crops this year!
Outside in the herb beds we have shades of green in as its fluorescent new growth.  You can practically see the plants growing as you gaze into this gorgeous colour.
 Clockwise from the east we have Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum), Salad Burnet (Sanguisorba minor), Lemon Balm (Melissa officianalis) and Golden Hop (Humulus lupulus).
I'm wandering up the garden several times a day just to stare at the colour. The woodruff only went in last summer and is already on it's way to taking over - it will need strict management and keeping firmly away from the salad burnet and hop but I'm hoping it and the lemon balm will cancel each other out; I have to say though it is gorgeous and perfect ground cover.

The apple is in blossom and looks just wonderful.  I think this must be about the most perfect mixture of pink, white and green to ever occur and I cannot stop sighing over it.
I was wandering through the village the other day and I was taken with the texture and beauty of these wonderful lichens on a hawthorn hedge covered with rain drops.
More lovely lichen accompanied by deliciously delicate ivy leaves.
Now on a more serious note - would I be cynical in thinking North Korea's sudden rapprochement with South Korea has less to do with Trump's imagined diplomatic skills in peace brokering and more to do with the sudden geological instability of North Korea's primary nuclear testing side due to its missile testing programme?
I'm grateful for anything that stops nuclear testing programmes but frankly I'd rather it wasn't because radiation pollution and collapsing mountains had made the area unusable.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Blue skies smilin' at me.

 Nothin' but blue skies do I see.

 Real tulips from Amsterdam.
The prison bars are rough horsetail, a native UK wild flower and cousin of the Equisetum that can be a real plague but this one isn't as prolific.  This one has an exceptional ecobunny pedigree, having been given to me by the county ecologist years ago.
 Lawn reclamation begins.  We have raked, mown, hollow tined and brushed in sharp sand. 
Now we wait for a bit and then the reseeding begins. 
After some thought we're not sure if we will pave between the veggie beds - watch this space.....
There is a cat in this picture - honest.

Monday, 16 April 2018


Spring is here!
Dutch tulips are blooming.

 Wild Garlic.
 Heavenly snakeshead fritillary
 The magnolia has flowered in anticipation of some bees or butterflies - fingers crossed.

Positively Japanese inspired blossom

 Tomatoes and peppers planted up
Vegetable seeds planted
 A beautiful relic of summer past
This is the sad state of the grass between the veggie beds after a winter of rain and snow so we have bitten the bullet and have plans involving bricks or pavers - cost will probably dictate which; the rest of the lawn will be hollow tined, scarified and dressed with loads of sharp sand and seeded. 
We may even cut down the large yellow conifer just beyond the second bed on the right as it is getting far too big for the garden.  We inherited it when we moved in and on reflection it was a mistake to keep it as it's slowly creeping across the lawn.  I'm hoping to plant a flowering currant and a ceanothus in its place, under planted with spring bulbs - much better for the bees.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Raindrops keep falling ....

Well the weather is finally warming up but the rain continues unabated.
After two days of being stuck indoors I girded my loins and waterproof (ish) coat and went for a walk.  Miraculously the rain stopped for a while and I took some photos to try and wring out some small moments of beauty amongst the dampness.

 The picture sadly can't convey the gorgeous aroma of this blossom - delicious.
 This handsome fellow was trotting around in the middle of the road, obviously realising we all needed the visual boost of his beautiful plumage on this rainy day.
The rain had started again but left a field of diamonds on this hedge.
It all helped distract from the fact that the garden is a swamp and nothing has been done in the greenhouse yet for fear of plummeting temperatures and trench foot from wading through aforesaid swamp.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Food God

As Winter makes yet another bid to return from it's temporal exile, the day saw blue skies interspersed with brass coloured clouds and hefty flurries of the white stuff which refused to settle; this was accompanied by freezing temperatures and Baltic winds just this side of gale strength. Brrr.
Jean-Luc decided this was perfect weather for staying inside and cooking - hooray!
And so we now have about 11 or 12 meals lodging in the fridge and freezer; including, shepherds pie, chicken, mushroom and leek pie, a quiche, fiery Goan curry, John Torrodes turkey meatballs with a lime pickle sauce (honestly it's delicious served with papardelle or tagliatelle), Bolognese sauce, Thai green curry and a Kerala coconut curry.
It's meal planning without having to be tied to a particular dish on a particular day and gives us loads of flexibility if plans change.
Convenience food at its best - homemade with fresh ingredients just waiting for us to eat it.

Friday, 16 March 2018

The Garden

I long to write a post on the garden, about my endeavours out there and the joy it brings; alas the weather has been truly bloody awful for much of the winter and the only time the garden is remotely dry enough to work in is when it's frozen solid.
The lawn is so wet we have a transitory pond and I believe crocodiles once again inhabit the bamboo - makes a change from the cat ambushing me from it.
I have done some weeding, pruning of the fruit bed and tidied the greenhouse but none of these make pretty pictures; in fact the only pictures would be of empty pots on shelves and sad looking plants sticking up out of mud.
This year we will be mostly addressing the drainage issue or by all the small gods I will dig a pond in the middle of the lawn!
Until summer arrives I will leave you with  pictures of past glories we can only now dream about.

Look colour!