Saturday, 26 December 2015

Boxing Day garden and plants for the future

This morning whilst waiting for my daughter and her family to arrive for a visit, I took a wander around the garden and amazed at how much is in flower. Little pink camellias are bursting out all over the place but my biggest surprise is that two passifloras are in bloom.
 
This little yellow flowered climber is scrambling up a wall, I like it's gentle variegated leaves.

There a lots of these hebe plants around the garden, I saw the chickens trying a leaf of this one, thankfully it appears not to be very tasty for my feathered friends.
And this lovely osteospurmum is busy flowering near our farm gate entrance. 
Greeting us as we come home on the other side of the gate is a cheerful chrysanthemum daisy. I also spotted common daisies growing in the lawn and honeysuckle in flower too!

Then my daughter, her partner and my two grandsons arrived. Having a new baby, they came with all sorts of bags and boxes and paraphernalia, so while they were getting themselves sorted and Mr J made us all a cuppa, I asked four year old number one grandson to come and help me with a task outside.

First we had to say hello to the chickens, who until a week ago were living at my daughter's house and my grandson was very pleased to see them again. It seems that they may have missed him too as they raced over to greet him and squatted down next to him for a stroke. I was a bit envious of this, they haven't let me touch them since they arrived.

I explained to him what I wanted some help with and so we found the correct tools, a spade for me and a trowel and hand fork for him and we headed off through the gate into our paddock (which will eventually be our fruit and vegetable garden). We walked to the very back of the paddock and spent a little while choosing the right spot for our task. I dug two holes and he helped to plant a hazel tree sapling for him and a tiny holly plant for his baby brother. These little trees will grow and mature as the boys do and will always remind us of them coming to see us during our first Christmas season in our smallholding.

After a buffet lunch, we exchanged gifts and I had several cuddles with grandson number two who is now six weeks old. My daughter is incredibly thoughtful and had found some lovely gifts including some cane fixers, so that I can build supports for the plants or fruit cages.
My grandsons gave me some vegetable seeds including these organic seeds of rainbow shades of carrots, courgettes, pumpkin, Swiss chard and rocket.
 
This afternoon, Mr J and I have retired to the sofa in a happy state of post-Christmas relaxation and I don't suppose it will be too long before we are both 'inspecting the inside of our eyelids'.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Christmas Eve at Home

The weather has been typically wintery, storm Eva has been demonstrating her strength for the most of the day and it's feeling a bit nippy (and very wet) outside.
I had the oven heating up by 5.15am and spent several happy hours pottering in the kitchen making pastry based treats for my family using organic flour for the family and then another selection with gluten free flour for myself.
So when my daughter and her family join us on Boxing Day, they will have a selection of sausage rolls, mince pies and tarts to go with cold meats, salads and fresh fruit.
At 5.15 this evening, we ran outside to see 'Father Christmas' fly overhead, and even though I know that it is the International Space Station, I still like the idea that young children can see this magical, mythical character travelling across the sky. Sadly, it was too cloudy to be able to see the ISS (or Father Christmas).
So Mr J and I came back inside and enjoyed brie and cranberry tartlets and crudités for supper and are now looking forward to a gentle and quiet day tomorrow.
This evening our home is warm, dry and cosy, our larder and fridge are filled with fresh food and the house is full of love, I am acutely aware of just how fortunate we are. I wish everyone a peaceful, gentle and love filled Christmas.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Uplifting day of preparation

With only two days before Christmas I feel we ought to be racing from pillar to post doing all those pre-Christmas things that people do. Instead, we've had a productive day in preparation, for my daughter's family visit on Boxing Day, for the plants to have a sheltered spot in which to grow, for the chicken condo.

We have of course, done a food shop, replenishing things that have been eaten and storing away a couple of nice things for the Christmas holiday, but I don't feel the need to have loads of food in the house. We don't need more than we can eat before it spoils or that we have space for in our little freezer. We don't suddenly need lots of extra alcoholic drinks in the house, I am not drinking alcohol at the moment (as part of trying to help my adrenals recover) and Mr J likes a glass of white wine or two, but that's it.  So we were in and out of our local food store by half past nine this morning which left the rest of the day for us to do things that we find more fun.

I lost a good hour this morning being entertained by the chickens between shovelling barrow loads of hay and sawdust from the stable. With each load I told myself that in three or four years' time, the ever-growing heap of composting material would be a huge pile of sweet smelling, crumbly, rich compost with which to enrich the garden.

I put some meat into the oven so that it's cooked, cooled, carved and frozen in bags of two people portions, which makes for easy food at a later moment. I headed back out into the garden while the meat slow roasted in the oven.
First task was to do something about the decking outside the back door which becomes very slippery when it's wet. My sister had suggested that we used some chicken wire to make the decking more grippy. Last week I found some offcuts of chicken wire in the area behind the piggeries, so armed with a staple gun, I got that sorted out. It may not look terribly pretty, but it is functional and I hope, a little safer than before.

For lunch today, I made a cheese and spring onion omelette using eggs laid by the girls over the last two days. It feels rather special to be eating food that I know has come from happy hens who have spent their day scratching about in the garden, finding grubs and worms, flying insects and beetles.
This afternoon, trying to make best use of the short daylight hours, I tackled the next section of post and rail fencing by attaching windbreak fabric to it. I am not sure that I like the finished effect as it blocks our view across to the next field but it will help reduce the howling winds that rip across the garden. I will give it a couple of days and if I still don't like the look of it, I will have a careful think about how else I might achieve the same wind protecting result from a different material or method. It's all a learning process and we don't have to do anything by hard and fast rules, we are fortunate enough to have the time to make mistakes and try again.
Foiled by inclement weather, I had to stop just before I managed to finish this L-shaped section of fence. Mr J stopped his task to hold a golfing size brolly to try to protect me from the lashing rain but I was soaked and getting cold, so we did the sensible thing and retired to the warmth and cosiness of the kitchen. A cup of hot tea was in order.
 
Mr J took the lovely photo of the sun peeping through the trees during the early part of the afternoon, I hadn't seen it until we came back in from the rain and I think it's delightful.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

A sanitary problem

Oh dear! No sooner do we start to get settled into our new home and the maintenance issues start. Last week I noticed what I thought was a minor issue but rather than wait for it to become a big problem, I did the sensible thing and phoned a local plumber to come and have a look at it. Jack the plumber (it's how he introduces himself!) arrived on time this morning and I showed him the leaky loo. I love our bathroom, it has a very calm feel about it and a gentle elegance to its style. The loo is a mid level one, so the cistern is neither high level like the Victorian style nor a close coupled modern design. It's like the one in the picture (photo taken from VictorianBathrooms4U)

Now before noses become upturned, it wasn't leaking from below the rim, it was the pipe that flushes clean water into the loo that was leaky. So he inspected the issue carefully and announced that it would probably need a new part. Actually, he apologised that he couldn't fix it immediately - I was starting to like this plumber, he was honest, open and explained the problem clearly to me, showing me what needed to be done.

We discussed the options, a new pipe or a new loo, neither are great news for the purse just three days before Christmas and also neither option was going to be happening before Christmas. He tidied up before he left, including sweeping the bathroom floor and promised to phone me in a while.

Jack the plumber headed off to his suppliers to see just how much the part was going to cost. He phoned a couple of hours later to give us the news. The manufacturers of said loo do not supply individual parts, we were going to have to buy a replacement set. So Mr J and I had a quick discussion about whether we pay for the set and installation or whether we just get a cheap and cheerful loo, which would be considerably cheaper than the price of the pipe and fittings for the existing loo, and pay for its installation (which could involve additional plumbing work that might mean opening up the wall to access the pipes set into the wall). Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place, in the end we decided to get the existing loo fixed - hooray, I like this loo.

So for the next couple of weeks we are without the loo in the bathroom. Luckily we are a two loo household, so at least we still have the convenience of a convenience!

Monday, 21 December 2015

The rain dance

It's our anniversary today or at least the day we have chosen to nominally call our anniversary as we can't recall the exact date that we decided to go out with each other. It's also been a busy day and a rainy one too.

Since I became ill with thyroid and adrenal problems, I usually manage only about four to five hours a night before pain wakes me and keeps me awake. Last night I slept on and off for almost seven hours and woke up feeling pretty good about it.

Anyway, once it got light enough to see a couple of feet in front of me, I let the chickens out of their little house and into their run for a scratch about. I headed into the stables to continue to clear them and get them ready to be made into the chicken condo. My vision for the condo is a large secure run with a cosy nesting area at the rear, which will give the girls somewhere to be on rainy days when they don't want to be out and about free-ranging. By the time I went back inside for a cuppa it was mid-morning and pouring with rain yet again.

Mr J and I spent a while chicken watching and then turned our attention to the inside of our house. Since we moved all our belongings here, we have tackled a little bit of sorting out each day, not feeling any great rush to put things away until we know what we want to keep where. Today's effort was very productive, all of our clothes are now folded and put away in drawers, a mirror has been hung above the fireplace in the bedroom, a clock put up on the wall, the ceiling light's standard light bulb replaced with an energy efficient one and a new lampshade installed.

During lunch the wind and rain outside got terrible and I was worried about the chickens getting too cold and wet. So Mr J and I went out to put together some sort of make-shift additional shelter for them. In torrential rain and the wind gusting at us we constructed an extra shelter around their pen so that they wouldn't get so blown at and the rain wouldn't pour into their run. Unfortunately, the chickens didn't seem entirely impressed with our efforts and clearly demonstrated their contempt by huddling next to the gate into the field, eyeing their now not-so-chic henhouse and making disdainful clucking noises at us. Cue the comedy sketch. Mr J and I each took a position to try to 'funnel' the girls towards their drier and wind-protected run. They were having none of it. It would have been easier to catch a greased pig than to encourage this trio towards a comfortable place. And as we were about to give up, they suddenly decided to make a beeline for home and enjoy their newly sheltered shelter.

We headed back indoors, soaked to the skin, rain dripping off our coats and hats, muddy boots and soggy trousers to make tea and laugh at ourselves. And at that point, the sun came out!