Saturday, 25 October 2014

A Walk Around the Village

Would you like to come for a walk with me around the village.  It's a chilly autumn day but it's still a lovely village.

Ok I'm cheating a bit as these lovely plants were flowering about two months ago.  They were planted by a resident of the sheltered housing on our route.  Aren't they lovely?

Down the footpath and past this field of winter wheat; the copse has a small pond in it and a resident population of crows that add ambience to cold windy weather.....

 ...past a Victorian farm house with fading sunflowers in the garden....

...and on to the alpacas (don't they look like pushme pullyous in this photo)

...yes that's right alpacas.  These lovely creatures are opposite the local secondary school; in a series of roomy fields that they share with wild (but not cross) bunnies...

...we turn past the ruined gateway of a large old house, now used for residential care for elders...

...and down the most picturesque road in a very pretty village.
This road always screams Christmas to me from about October onwards....

...across the bridge over the river which winds through the village and a quick stop to admire the derelict building only now becoming visible again as its protective camouflage of foliage falls away...

...past the village cemetery...

 ...we wander down the road and past a few fields until we come to silage henge...

...because despite all the lovely houses and picturesque views, this is a working village...

...people still farm the land around...

...they grow veggies in their gardens - and compete fiercely in the local show...

...they keep chickens and sell eggs...

...they drink in the local pubs; all five of them - yes five!... in local businesses as well as commuting...

...and worry that the current governments drive to build houses will change their home beyond recognition....
...whilst at the same time wanting their children to be able to live in the village they grew up in, 'cos life isn't simple and it's often contradictory...

...but that's all part of living in a real village not just a pretty postcard place.
The main road through the village.  Village amenities = 2 convenience stores & post office, 5 pubs, 1 social club, 2 community halls, 2 doctors surgeries, 1 chemist, 2 hairdressers, 2 garages, 1 Indian restaurant, 1 Italian restaurant, 2 churches and 1 train station.

Well that's it for today time to go home and enjoy a hot cup of coffee and some cake.  I hope you enjoyed our walk.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Sturm und Drang

The weather is wild and windy, in full autumnal storm mode ably assisted by the tail end of Hurricane Gonzalo; we've had gale force winds and driving rain with a noticeable drop in temperature.   It doesn't compare to a true hurricane but the weather is noticeably wild and make a trip to the shops a bit of a battle.

The lawn is full of fallen leaves and the sky full of scattered crows battling their way across the landscape against a backdrop of grey clouds and torrential downpours.  The rain eases and stops every so often (enough so that you almost think about going out but by the time you finish what you're doing and have got your coat on it's pouring down again); but the wind is constant, howling down the chimney and finding it's way through all those small gaps in the doors.

Some of us resort to curling up with a blanky and sleeping the storm out.

Jean-Luc and I will be firing up the central heating this evening and snuggling up in the cosy warmth.
We'll be dining on the leftovers of this leg of lamb, which we roasted on Sunday. 

Jean-Luc has made up a mint and tomato sauce with horseradish and juniper berries to marinade the lamb in.  It'll be cut into slices and cooked up as Lamb Henry.  Yum.  Perfect comfort food for this weather.
Hope you're all keeping warm and safe in this dreadful weather.

On another track, while Jean-Luc was lifting grass on the veggie beds I was making another batch of calendula salve.

I love making this salve; it's a simple recipe and smells delicious.  We use this salve for scratches, bruises, burns, insect bites and for dry or chapped gardening hands.  It's lovely having something in the bathroom cabinet which we know the ingredients of and which works.  
The recipe is from the ever reliable Rhonda at Down to Earth .  

Calendula and tea tree salve

  •  1 cup of fresh or dried calendula petals that haven't been sprayed with anything and have been organically grown.
  •  1 cup olive oil
  •   ¼ cup melted beeswax
  •   5 drops of tea tree oil
 Pick petals when they're dry and add them to a white bowl - you can see any bugs better on a white background.  Strip the petals from the flower heads and when you have a cup full, dry them out for a day.  The next day add them to a jar that you can seal with a lid.
(You can use pre dried calendula petals but make sure they're not herbicide sprayed and from a reputable herbalist or health food shop.)

 Pour in a cup of olive oil.   Put the jar out in the sunshine for about two weeks. This solarises the mix and gently extracts healing properties from the calendula as the oil gently heats up every day.
 When the oil has been sitting in the sun for two weeks, take the jar inside and strain the oil, removing the petals. You can use either cheesecloth or a fine wire strainer.  Press the petals with the back of a spoon to release all the oil. Add the tea tree oil tand the jar in a container of hot water to heat the oil slightly so it will mix well with the hot wax.

In a double saucepan, melt the beeswax, allow it to cool down a little then add it to the oil. If you want to add vitamin E do it now. 
Stir the salve to emulsify it. It lightens the colour and completely mixes the oils with the wax. Pour into a sterilised jar and seal. Store this in the fridge. It will keep for at least a year.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Vegging Out

Once again Jean-Luc had been labouring mightily in the garden; it's been a lot of measuring so I was allowed to assist as well as providing tea.
And as usual he did a magnificent job.



Yes we've been laying out the veggie beds.  3 beds, 8 feet by 6 feet = 144 square feet of glorious cultivation space.  We could have fitted in four beds but that would mean cutting down the magnolia tree so No, it wasn't going to happen.
The next step is to put in the raised bed surrounds and fill them up with some grit and compost.
Then comes bark chip footpaths and a compost heap (under the magnolia tree).

Apparently to be self sufficient in veggie production the minimum amount of cultivation space we'd need would be over 630 square feet.  Obviously we won't be anywhere near self sufficient and that's not what we're aiming for.  What we want are tasty seasonal veg, more variety, a greater choice than the supermarkets offer - rainbow chard, Jerusalem artichokes etc.

The two beds on the left will be for veggies and the one on the right will be a fruit bush bed.  I'm aiming to grow rhubarb, gooseberries and currants there; and hopefully fit some raspberries in too.

I also want to grow some salad potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes in containers.  These crops take up a lot of room so I'm looking to grow them in my incinerators which I use at large pots.

There's also a gap between the greenhouse and fruit bed which I will probably fill with herbs - not mint and lavender, which need to be confined to large pots to stop them advancing on the rest of the garden from the opposite end from the lysimachia - a vegetative rock meeting a floral hard place.
These will be oregano, rosemary, sage, chives, dill, tarragon and hyssop to name but a few.
We already have fennel in the garden and lavender, lemon balm and mint in pots.

I can't wait to get growing next spring.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Perfect Poetry

I was cleaning out my files the other day and I came across this poem.

Jean-Luc sent it to me when he was courting me.

I know courting is a very old fashioned expression but it certainly applies to an exchange of poetry.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Give me the strongest cheese, the one that stinks best;
and I want the good wine, the swirl in crystal
surrendering the bruised scent of blackberries,
or cherries, the rich spurt in the back
of the throat, the holding it there before swallowing.
Give me the lover who yanks open the door
of his house and presses me to the wall
in the dim hallway, and keeps me there until I'm drenched
and shaking, whose kisses arrive by the boatload
and begin their delicious diaspora
through the cities and small towns of my body.
To hell with the saints, with martyrs
of my childhood meant to instruct me
in the power of endurance and faith,
to hell with the next world and its pallid angels
swooning and sighing like Victorian girls.
I want this world. I want to walk into
the ocean and feel it trying to drag me along
like I'm nothing but a broken bit of scratched glass,
and I want to resist it. I want to go
staggering and flailing my way
through the bars and back rooms,
through the gleaming hotels and weedy
lots of abandoned sunflowers and the parks
where dogs are let off their leashes
in spite of the signs, where they sniff each
other and roll together in the grass, I want to
lie down somewhere and suffer for love until
it nearly kills me, and then I want to get up again
and put on that little black dress and wait
for you, yes you, to come over here
and get down on your knees and tell me
just how fucking good I look.

- Kim Addonizio

Friday, 10 October 2014

Hedge v Fence

Jean-Luc has been very busy in the garden this week.



Can you see what's changed?  
It's a little difficult to see but peer closely.......

 Yes Jean-Luc's taken out the fence between us and our neighbours.
It's not as drastic as it sounds as the fence doesn't actually mark the boundary between the two properties.  The true boundary is a hedge, but at some time in the past previous owners have erected a fence in the garden about a foot in from the hedge.

A foot doesn't sound much but it makes managing the hedge difficult for our neighbour and the panels cut down the light into the garden quite a bit; as we're planning to put the veggie beds in soon we decided they had to go.
It wasn't an easy job as the fence had concrete posts and baseboards and the posts were concreted into the ground very, very securely.

So we had to dig under the baseboards to lift them out; then dig down as far as possible around the posts to give some room for Jean-Luc to sledge hammer the posts down and then use an angle grinder to cut through the iron bars that reinforced the posts.  The concrete footings for the posts were far too big to dig out so Jean-Luc then had to hammer the remaining reinforcing bars back over the remaining stumps of the posts and rebury the remains.
He did a sterling job and it only took him 3 1/2 hours to do it - amazing work!

The garden looks much more open now

and I have more border to fill up next spring - room to move some of the lysimachia.

Of course all the work was inspected and approved.

We're grateful for the supervision.

Monday, 6 October 2014

'small promiscuous behaviour at the end of the road'

I'm guessing from my various witterings on this blog that you've gathered I'm an advocate of living as simple and sustainable a life as possible; this is partly out of a desire to try and make and grow as much as we use as realistically possible; and was inspired by reading Rhonda at Down to Earth's fantastic book.  

The other part of living a simpler life is to try and become as financially resilient as possible.  We have both turned 50 and we bought this house last October.  We don't have a massive mortgage but we want to pay it off quickly; we also want to ensure we remain debt free as well.  This means several things - living off of one wage (the other goes directly into savings), not having a credit card, saving to buy things we need and shopping differently.

It's the shopping differently that I wanted to write about a bit today.  I caught this really interesting article on the BBC website; which is where the title for this post comes from - a hilarious quote from the head of consumer research at Deloitte - I thought I was food shopping!

Unknowingly Jean-Luc and I appear to be following a trend.  We no longer shop weekly; what we do is about once a fortnight we go through the store cupboard, pantry, fridge and freezer to see what staples and bulk goods we need and Jean-Luc picks it up from the supermarket on the way back from work - he also checks for any bargains in our usual purchases and bulk buys those for the pantry.  I then top up our fresh fruit, veggies, bread and milk at the local store, market or other stores in town.  We don't stick to one shop and we go where the bargains are...... apparently the same as many others.

To be honest I don't mind being part of a trend like this - it's a swift kick up the pants for major supermarket chains that have slowly been monopolising the market and eroding the high street and local shops; not to mention the ludicrously low prices they expect to pay suppliers and farmers while demanding perfectly shaped fruit and veggies; all year round supplies of seasonal produce and charging them for instore promotions.  If you're interested in reading more about this then Joanna Blythman has written some excellent books and articles on a variety of food based topics including supermarket domination of our foodchain. 

Right time to go and be promiscuous at the end of the road again the Nu is out of kibble.

 Quelle horreur!