Green Is The Colour

If months were colours then May would definitely be green. There are little shoots and leaves appearing everywhere and I’m sure if you could stand still for long enough you would be able to see things growing. The hanging baskets have been planted ready for Summer and they’ve been left in a sheltered place until the risk of frost has passed.
I’ve had a bag of dahlias tubers from Sarah Raven sitting on my kitchen table for ages – I’m convinced that I get more excited with the contents of this package than those contained within a Tiffany’s box. The ridiculously dull little tubers have finally been planted and I’m already excited about them popping up next to the salad and vegetables and adding a burst of colour. I could easily turn into a dahlia addict……

May Planting

The pansies are still flowering well so I haven’t replaced them yet and I’m pleased to say that the Mr Fokker anemones are finally in bloom!

Unfortunately, the war on slugs and snails has begun (well in truth it’s more like a little scuffle at the moment). The hosta pots have now got a band of copper tape around the rim which will hopefully deter the slimy molluscs  from crossing it and helping themselves to an all day breakfast. I’ve also surrounded the chrysanthemums with crushed egg shells but this appears less successful as there are already holes in the tender leaves. I want to try the slug pubs and up turned grapefruits but in the meantime I would love to hear if you have any favourite natural solutions that would help? The chickens would have a feast but would probably do more damage than the slugs!

Slugs & Snails

The cats are also doing their best to help me with the gardening jobs. They love a spot of weeding (digging for no reason) and pest control (pouncing on anything that moves). It is lovely to have them outside in the garden with me and they love to show off, climb trees and race around the paddocks. They have been particularly entertained by the baby rabbits who are thankfully faster than they are! In the photo below Bella & Milo are absolutely transfixed on a rabbit on the other side of the window.
Isn’t it funny how the small things in life can make us happy? I’m so pleased that the French Tarragon has started to come through again this year – I expected the snow and frosts to have killed it so I’m really chuffed to see it again :-)

Stripey Cats & fields

The weather forecast remains poor – wind and rain for most of the weekend so garden plans are put on hold for now. Enjoy your weekend!

Snow Scones

There’s nothing nicer than watching the seasons change and relishing those foods that are oh-so-soon-gone. After a poor, rainy Summer the Winter seems to have gone on forever so I was eagerly anticipating Spring. Unfortunately Mother Nature has decided to delay Spring for a while longer. Instead of cold, sunny days and daffodils we now have 6 inches of snow and biting winds. What the heck, if Mother Nature can be contrary then so can I… Summer fruit scones and homemade strawberry jam for afternoon tea!

Fruit Scones and Jam

Scone Recipe
350g self-raising flour, plus more for dusting
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
85g butter, cut into cubes
3 tbsp caster sugar
75g sultanas
175ml milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
squeeze lemon juice
beaten egg, to glaze

These are so simple to make! Mix the flour, salt and baking powder together and then add the butter, rubbing between fingers until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the caster sugar and sultanas then combine well into the crumb mixture. In a jug combine the milk, vanilla extract and a squeeze of lemon. Don’t mokey around once you add the liquid to the dry ingredients – the secret to a light scone is to handle the mixture as little as possible. Gently roll the dough on a floured surface and cut out the scones out with a small cutter. Glaze with a beaten egg and put the scones on a baking tray into the oven at 220c for approx 10mins.
These are best served slightly warm from the oven with clotted cream and homemade strawberry jam. As a Summer treat they are great but as an antidote to a snowy Spring day with a nice cup of Assam tea they are amazing!

Fruit Scones

Snow has a particular beauty. A beauty that is perfect for a dark January day when the fires rarely go out and mittens are stuffed into pockets. This beauty doesn’t extend to March however when the birds want to build nests, the hares want to box and the plants want to grow. Mittens should be safely tucked away again… so safe in fact that they can’t be found again in Winter!
The chickens seem very confused (and this wasn’t helped when I gave them a little taste of fruit scone in what they consider the depths of Winter!).

Snow in MarchAs for the kittens; they refused to go outside this weekend. I can’t blame them. They stared out the open front door for a few seconds, sniffed the snow and then ran back indoors. Milo did step outside once and very quickly leapt back inside when the cold stuff hit his paws.

Warm Inside

I look forward to the snow thawing as I’m pretty sure Milo only went outside to bury his collar. You see, Bella has taken to her collar really well and parades around as if she’s wearing a diamond necklace. Milo unfortunately has worked out how to get his safety collar off and hide it from us. This hide and seek game was quite endearing… only this time we can’t find it!

Craft It Forward

We all have different talents and it’s good to acknowledge these special attributes so they don’t become forgotten. My husband, for example, is an extremely practical and tenacious man which means that he can turn his hand to almost anything (…except the ironing which persistently confounds him for some reason). He also entertains me by turning his socks the right way around whilst putting his feet in them – although this has to be seen to be believed!
My talent is usually knowing what the time is (with an accuracy of less than 15 mins). I never wear a watch although I own several as many people feel sorry for me and buy them as gifts.  I’m also pretty good at matching colours without a swatch which means that I can walk into a fabric shops and just know what the perfect shade would be (this also makes it a nightmare for those who are with me- “it’s near enough” they say. “It’s nothing like” say I).
The kittens have a talent for being  effortlessly cute and cuddly as well as growing at least a centimetre a day! However, the chickens surely must have the most delicious talent  of consistently providing us with the tastiest eggs.

IMG_4538

So, you can imagine that I also have a very good idea of where my weaknesses lie. The top one (of a verrrry long list) is impatience. I have no patience for fiddling around with things like embroidery, sugar craft, jigsaws, sudoku, untangling christmas tree lights etc. It’s not that I can’t do them it’s more like I can’t be bothered to spend time doing them and there always seems to be more intresting and/or pressing to do.  So,  as much as I thoroughly enjoy reading all of the wonderful craft posts,  I know that deep down my talents lie elsewhere.

One of the blogs that I love is Gardening Nirvana and last week dear Alys was thrilled to be involved with a “Craft it Forward” project. She explained that the first five people who left a comment on her blog would receive a hand crafted gift and the only condition was the lucky five have to pay the  craft favour forward. Once the five bloggers had safely added their comments to Alys’ blog I contacted her to say what a great idea it was and then THIS happened! (the link can be found in the word THIS!). Thanks Alys x

Oh well, I like a challenge and it may just lead to a new hobby. If you would like to be involved then please hurry and comment – the rules are very simple:

  1. The first five people to comment here will receive a handmade gift from me at some point during 2013…. I apologise in advance for what the postman brings.
  2. You won’t know when, and you won’t know what, but I can assure you that it will happen…. heck, even I don’t know when or what!
  3. I will email you for your snail mail address so it will be private
  4. As one of the famous five you have to agree to do the same for five other people

There’s no time like the present – I’ve already thought about embroidery, crazy patchwork, stump work, decoupage and water colours. My Mum’s really good at crafts so I’m sure she’ll help me out and try not to laugh too much at my attempts.
Last night we went to a family dinner party and took along some champagne, a dozen organic eggs and a potted cyclamen. There’s no time like the present so I had a little go at glamming things up …. starting with the tatty recycled egg box.

IMG_4540I was pleased with how much improvement a simple decoration of flowery tissue paper, buttons and raffia made…

IMG_4535 … so the cyclamen plant was attacked next with some old brown tissue paper and more raffia…

IMG_4546… these gifts were gratefully received and it was nice to know that I had spent some extra time and thought on them. Don’t worry – you won’t get eggs or a plant in the post!!

So my main questions are

  • who wants to enter the Craft It Forward challenge?  
  • what on earth can I make???        :-)

Footprints In The Snow

Snow in Kitchen Garden

Hopefully all the plants are tucked up safely and enjoying a nice sleep. I’m trying to enjoy the snow whilst it lasts… people grumble about the snow (I realise it makes life more difficult, travelling is a big worry and it will ultimately turn to a brown, messy slush….) but there’s really magic in each snow flake, you can see it sparkle, so I enjoy it while it’s here.

Garden Snow Collage

I love to see different footprints in the snow and I try to follow where the rabbits and foxes have been. It’s interesting to try and work out  who the little footprints belong too… although with my over active imagination I imagine following prints around the back of the shed and unexpectedly coming face to face with a Yeti!

Winter views

There’s not too many outside jobs to be done at the moment so I started to put together a wish list of  plants for the kitchen garden this year. I’m a huge fan of Sarah Raven so I’m starting with her catalogues as she has a great range of products and her customer service is brilliant. After what seemed an endless task of chores today I finally sat down with a cup of apple & ginger tea and started to paw over the catalogues… but more of that next time!

seed catalogues

This weekend is the RSPB Big Birdwatch so I’ll be spending an hour tomorrow counting our feathered friends (chickens not included) to see how they’re fending. I’ve never done this in the snow before and I’m hoping it will make the process easier! The results are sent into the RSPB and the information gained throughout the UK provides a useful snapshot of which species are in decline or booming!

SnowChicks

I’m sure Bella and Milo will want to join us in the garden room for a spot of birdwatching too but I somehow think that their furry minds may not be on conservation!

IMG_4108

Wonderful White Stuff

The snow is lovely but the wildlife is certainly suffering a bit. The birds seem to strip the feeders as fast as we can fill them up and it’s a job to stop the drinking water from freezing. I’m giving them left over scraps and fruit cake so they’ve now invited their mates over too!
Goosey sadly died in the week. This was not unexpected as she’d not been herself for quite a few days, looked tired and frail. We gave her some extra vitamins and checked her over but at six years old she’d had a good life.  She looked like she had died peacefully in her sleep and I’m so relieved that she didn’t have to put up with the snow! The other chickens seemed a bit quieter than usual – I’m not sure if chickens feel loss but it wouldn’t surprise me as Goosey was their boss for a long time and it must have seemed strange to them. We built a little SnowChicken in the enclosure… Goosey would have pecked those little sunflowers seed eyes out in a jiffy!

snowchicken

We spent some time today in the chicken enclosure and cleared some paths for them to make it easier to walk around. They don’t seem too bothered about the snow although I’m worried about them getting hypothermia. The only one who doesn’t venture very far is Bluebell, one of the new girls, who has decided to have her first moult and looks perished… I’m tempted to knit her a little jacket but I know that she wouldn’t want to be seen in it unless she had the shoes to match!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about Bella and Milo so here’s a bit of a catch up. They’ve both really made themselves at home and it feels as though they’ve been a part of our lives forever. They get on really well together and if they’re separated for any reason start mewling until they find one another. I can’t believe that they’re four months old already.

BellaCat

They both seem to have a mild obsession with water – dripping taps, water bowls, rain on the window panes. Milo especially loves to flick the water out of his bowl and even stands with his paws in it! They don’t bother with the sink in the kitchen but they love to sit in the utility room sink and poddle little wet footprints everywhere!

MiloCatI’m not sure why Milo looks a little cross-eyed in the photo above… he’s not normally!

Baby, it’s cold out there!

Well, it’s finally starting to feel like January around here and after a very wet and mild December we have snow forecast for overnight. It somehow feels wrong not to have frost and chilly winds this time of year and I do like the excuse to wear thick woolly tights and scarves! I’ve recently moved the plant pots to a more sheltered area and the bay tree and fig have been protected as much as I can. There are loads of cobwebs everywhere and even Cedric looks like he’s got whiskers (it makes him look a bit friendlier!). I’ve tried not to be too tidy so that the wildlife can benefit… but it’s messing with my mojo a bit.

Frosty Garden

The chickens are always cause me extra concern this time of year – trust me, if I could scoop them all up and build a giant nest in the house for them I would. My husband constantly reminds me that they have their own little quilts made from feathers but I still fret. We’ve now insulated the hen house and added extra bedding – it doesn’t look pretty but it will hopefully do the job. Goosey, one of the old girls, has slowed down and looks tired so we’ve given her some extra vitamins and do an additional check each night to make sure she’s okay. The other chickens are being really good with her – they’re probably scared that she’ll get better and back to business of being the boss!

Frosty Doodles

I usually like to try something new each year with hope that it will turn into a hobby and so in November I enrolled onto a watercolour lettering class with Val Webb. If you haven’t already had the pleasure of seeing any of Val’s artwork then I strongly recommend her website especially if you like faeries, nature and all things whimsical (Alys – you’ll just love it!).
My paintings still need a lot of work but I really don’t mind as I’ve found the whole process of water colouring SOOOooo relaxing that the end result of a more chilled out me is always worth while. Her instructions are clear and practical and I’m really looking forward to practicing some more.
I helped my sister and family move house last weekend and I gave her the painting below in place of a New Home card.

Home watercolour

Must go – although I have so much to write since I last blogged. Work and homelife have been really busy since new year so this is the first time I’ve had chance to post in 2013 and I’ve missed it! I’ve also missed following my favourite blogs so I’ll make sure to spend a little time each night after work in Blogland catching up with them all. I hope to include the kittens in a post very soon X

Catching Mist…

There is something comforting about misty mornings. I have a lots of fond childhood memories that involve me trying to catch the mist and take it indoors…. unsurprisingly, I never managed to do this but I always admired the spiders who could catch mist and frost  in their webs.
You may have noticed Cedric in the photo (above right). I’ve put him to work in the Kitchen Garden after he’s now spent a good period of time in the shed. I’ll be letting you know a little more about him soon….

Misty Cobwebs

I love to see the garden when it’s all wrapped up with silvery threads and a sense of inevitability, in fact, Miss Haversham would feel very much at home. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have tea with a famous literary character? I’d have to get the best china out for Miss Haversham, and although she would probably not be polite company, I would have to try and stop myself discussing our mutual  aversion to dusting!

When the mist clears

All of this is soon forgotten, as the mist clears, the cobwebs seemingly vanish and I turn my thoughts to the glamorous task of cleaning out the chicken house!

Weeds Part 1

The new Kitchen Garden was designed to be both productive and beautiful. It’s like entering another world and it has such a tranquil quality that I almost hear the plants growing. It’s a very new garden but somehow it feels extremely old, as if it’s always been there, and perhaps it has – I’ve simply dreamed about it for such a long time!

It looks neat and tidy with clean lines and tidy raised beds… each bed has a purpose and each wall will support different plants to hopefully provide year round food and interest.

However, the rest of my garden doesn’t look like this! Half of it is still undergoing building work and has the beginnings of a driveway. The remaining areas are covered in nettles and thistles (but I like to think of these as a wildlife haven rather than a jungle!).

West Garden

One day I hope to transform the area under the trees into a woodland garden with lots of ferns and bluebells. In the meantime it will just be mowed and used as a path to get to the chickens!

The weeds near the shed have grown so much that even the pheasants don’t venture in it anymore! There is a wooden seat against the shed so please believe me when I say there are weeds here!

But as long as I can reach the doodles, and they can still look out of the enclosure without straining their little necks too much, then that’s okay. They seem very happy and we’re getting lots of eggs from them again! Even our little one-eyed chicken has settled down nicely and is usually the first to snaffle the food!!

I hope you enjoyed “Weeds Part 1″… Part 2 is somewhat scarier and may have to come with a suitable warning as those of you with a nervous disposition may be adversely affected!

Healthy Weeds

I’ve had such a lovely morning – even the subsequent housework hasn’t dulled the pleasant post-gardening feeling that I’ve been left with! Many of the plants in the small greenhouse were taken out for a taste of fresh air and a good watering of rain. There is likely to be a good frost again tonight so they’ll be nicely tucked up again before night fall. It’s good to know that happiness can be found in such simple things – a cup of tea, a radio and a little shed of tools. Most women treat themselves to a regular manicure… I treat myself by getting soil under my nails!

The Hen House looks lovely through the trees and I can watch the chickens without them realising it! Usually, as soon as the Girls see me approaching they come charging to the gate, flapping and clucking, until they are either fed or let out! The new Girls are settling in well and, although there are two separate groups, there is peace in the Hen House.

The Strawberry Pot is enjoying it’s sheltered location and I’m looking forward to all the lovely Summer recipes. Mmmm…….

Broccoli & Figs
These are both new to me! I’ve grown the Broccoli from seed and I’m so pleased… I hope it survives to adulthood as it’s one of my favourites. The fig tree was bought a couple of weeks ago. I’m not sure whether to plant it against the South facing wall or keep it in a pot so that it can be moved in severe weather. It’s a “Brown Turkey”, so is suited for our climate, but advice would be appreciated from those that know what they’re doing!

I love this little sign and I wanted it the moment I saw it on Etsy.com!

Wouldn’t it be fabulous if every visitor removed a few weeds whilst waiting for you to answer the door? Or, would it tempt you to delay your welcome until a whole patch had been done? Ha ha ha :-)

On second thoughts… cancel the sign! I would probably lose a lot of valuable seedlings and special plants too! I have to confess that I sometimes have to let weeds grow a little before identifying them properly. This is because I’ve recently been guilty of removing perfectly healthy little plants thinking that they were buttercups and daisies! It’s all part of the learning curve x

New Chickens!

Easter is in the air and there is no better time to adopt chickens! We welcomed six new girls to our flock yesterday… you can only see five in the picture below as number six kept hiding! We chose an assortment of different colours and hopefully we’ll be getting extra eggs soon too. Some of the eggs should have blue shells, and although this doesn’t affect the flavour, they’ll look really pretty in the egg basket! 

The new girls!We haven’t decided names yet as we need to get to know them a little better :-)
We discovered that one of the chickens is blind in one eye! We were informed by the seller that this is a deformity from birth (not trauma or infection). She explained that the bird is healthy and will lay well but we could choose to exchange her if we were concerned at all. Mmm, this was an easy decision! The little one-eyed chicken seems really happy and it’s our privilege to give her a happy home… if it doesn’t bother her why should it bother us?  We just need to find a good Pirate name for her now!