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!

Spring Brights

Spring FlowersMy poor little plastic greenhouse didn’t survive the high winds and neither did the pots and trays of seedlings. I’m not too disheartened though as the remains of the greenhouse was found next to my car and luckily there was no damage to the paint work! I’ve scooped up the soil and battered seedlings (RIP) and decided to wait a couple of weeks and plant directly as I can’t risk growing more seeds indoors (crious cats) and the greenhouse is now modern art.

Forced Rhubarb

I uncovered the rhubarb that has been forced (don’t think me too cruel) and was amazed at the beautiful colours of the leaves and stems. The rhubarb plant to the rear in the photo above is the same variety – this has been left to grow normally so I’m going to do a taste test at the weekend to see if the forced rhubarb is really sweeter… or just grateful to see daylight at long last!

Freedom

Brrrrrr. It remains cold out there so there’s not a lot of change to see in the garden. However, the days are certainly getting lighter and the Spring flowers are starting to put on a show. The wind has damaged quite a few plants and the covers keep blowing off but it has simply taught me to choose hardier plants this year.

March Garden

The kittens are now 6 months old and this weekend they went outside for the first time. They have bells on their collars to give the birds fair warning that they’re around and after much encouragement they slowly made their way to the Kitchen Garden. Milo may be the bigger cat but he’s a scaredy cat! I haven’t got any clear photos of him as he kept close to the hedge line and darted everywhere – the best I could manage was the wet paw prints he left behind. He loved playing on the walls and was particularly interested in the hessian covering the asparagus. Bella who is not so reserved, happily climbed, sniffed and explored. The fur on her side is growing back now – they’ve both recovered really well (in fact it was me who was traumatised!).

Bella outside

We’ve not introduced them to the cat flap yet as I want them to get used to being outside first. We have four days off work at Easter in so it will probably happen then when we can give them lots of time and attention.

Tired Cats

I’ve sown the first seeds at last – carrots, beetroot, chard, kale, broad beans and spinach all directly in the beds. Others such as tomatoes, aubergine, squash, sweetcorn and chillies have been brought indoors where they can get a cosier start. The only problem is where to keep the plant pots as the cats love soil and plants and the utility room is now their bedroom. I decided to put them on top of the oak beams in the garden room… I just hope they don’t fall on anyone’s head!

Mee…oww!

Poorly CatThe cats are safely back from the vets and seem to be really pleased to be home. I’m sure after a couple of days rest they’ll be back to normal. Milo is quite groggy from the anaesthetic and is sleeping it off but Bella is trying really hard not to give in… she’s prowling around and trying hard not to fall asleep sitting up! They’re having a post op check up in a couple of days and they’ll be able to venture outside in a week or so – just in time to help me sow the first seeds  :-)

March Garden

 

Early March

The days are noticeably longer and there is a whiff of Spring in the air. When I went outside this afternoon my mind was set on scratching about a bit but, in all honesty, there wasn’t that much to do. I pulled up a few weeds, did a spot of sweeping and then spent the rest of the time wandering around having a good look at the plants waking up from their sleep. Unfortunately, all the weeds are waking up from their sleep too so I’m currently trying to stay ahead of the game.
The sun was out for a few hours this morning and I once again had to restrain myself from sowing seeds – it’s still too cold and we don’t have  a greenhouse yet! The seed box is laughing at me but I won’t play it’s games ;-)

Kitties

The kitties are growing so fast… they’re being neutered tomorrow and I already feel anxious. I know that it’s the responsible thing to do but it doesn’t stop me fretting about them. I just have to keep focused on them being able to go outside, chase rabbits and fall sleep in the Kitchen Garden. It will be lovely to hear the cat flap swinging to and fro again… I just need to get some collars with bells on to give the birds fair warning.

Shoots and Teacups

The garlic has started to peek through but if you watch very carefully  you can almost see the shoots trying to hide from the freezing blasts of wind that have now come to torment us. Last year I used the Utility Room as a greenhouse with good success… but the Utility Room is now the Kitten’s Bedroom and as much as they’d love to have soil and seedlings to play with I’ll have to be more creative with space this year.

The “Nicola” seed potatoes from Sarah Raven arrived in the week so I’ve started to chit them in an old egg tray. I smiled when I notice that one was  heart shaped  as hearts are dotted all the way around our home and it seemed a good sign for the growing year  yet to come.

Garlic and Spuds

I’m quite excited because I’ve made some really tasty bread and it was soooo easy to do that it feels like I’ve missed the point! It’s from a book called Artisan Bread In 5 Minutes which shares the secret of a no knead method of bread making. I followed the most basic recipe and I’m hoping it’s not just a bit of a fluke but it was lovely – I’ll keep baking and let you know. Do you use this method of bread making, and if so, is it successful for you? I’m going to be a bit more adventurous with the recipe next weekend.

Crusty Bread

I seem to have acquired a new obsession – vintage teacups! I’ve decided to hold a small afternoon tea party in early Summer and this has given me the perfect excuse to collect them. I’ll be going full out – home made fancies, crustless sandwiches, scones and gorgeous little cups of tea. They’ll  be bunting, flowers and lots of vintage loveliness and weather permitting we may even be able to sit outside (okay, I’ll stop it now, I’m just getting carried away!).

Teacups

My Thinking Place

The lid of the seed box barely contained the multitude of packets inside and I had a familiar feeling when I peeked in… you know that feeling when you finally open the Christmas decorations box? You’ve not seen these things for a few months and yet instantly know the magic is about to begin! This time last year I didn’t even have a seed collection which just shows you how far (or obsessed) I’ve come in a year!
I’ve spent quite a lot of time over Winter looking through various seed catalogues but before ordering any more seeds I promised myself that I’d sort out the packets of seeds from last year.

Seed Sorting

1. The seed packets were spread over the table and I discarded any empty packets and those well past their expiry dates. I managed to spill some delphinium seeds so if these start to sprout up from between the tiles at least I’ll know they’re not weeds!
2. They were then sorted into vegetables and flowers and packed away by grouping them into beds. If I was properly organised I’d file them in order of sowing but in truth I like shuffling seeds like a deck of cards and rummaging through them.
3. The lid was so much easier to put on… but I’m sure this won’t be the case when the new seeds arrive!
4. Mmm…. don’t kitten’s have the sharpest little teeth?
5. I highly recommend Mark Diocono’s book “Veg Patch: River Cottage Book 4″. I used this to help me plan what veg to grow this year. The rough plan is as follows:

Kitchen Garden Plans

There are a disproportionate amount of sofas in this house… especially when you consider how much time we actually sit on them. A really nice place to relax is on the chaise longue in the garden room. Feet up, a good book, mellow music and furry friends….. purrfect (well it was until I noticed my bum print on the seat!!). The only problem with a thinking  place is that it provides opportunity to change one’s mind so the 2013 Kitchen Garden plan has already been altered!

Winter Kittens

The view out of the window (as seen from the chaise) was taken a few days ago after another day of snow but it’s all green again now and the sun was out today… it must be very confusing for the wildlife. I managed to spend a few hours in the garden today, tidying the beds and smiling to myself. Spring is nearer than ever.

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Where’s your thinking place?

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.

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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!

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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