Friday, 31 January 2014

rain rain go away ...


Top row: tulips, twigs and sunset

Middle row: hellebore, tulips and a walk by the canal

Bottom row: sunrise, pen and ink drawing, tulips

I am sure I am not the only one fed up with the rain, it has been non-stop for the past week, interminable, constant rain.  Depressing, yes!  Scurrying in and out to fetch logs, feed the birds, put out the re-cycling.  I know, I know ~ we should celebrate the weather whatever it throws at us, but I'm afraid I can't.  I have occupied myself with reading orgies and a little pen and ink sketching, cooking, cleaning, de-cluttering, but cabin fever is setting in.

I am quite happy to see the back of January - it was rubbish.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

bookworm ~ a year of books ...


What more pleasant pastime is there on a winters' afternoon, when it is cold, grey and raining, than to light the fire, make yourself a steaming mug of tea, snuggle yourself into your favourite armchair and read a book.

Laura at A Circle of Pines is featuring 'A Year of Books' on her blog which I shall be linking this post to.  When there is plenty to do out of doors in the summer months  I read maybe a couple of books a month, but during the winter I get through at least one a week ~ so far this year I have read seven.  One or two are books I have read previously from my own shelves, others were Christmas gifts ~ I move from fiction to factual, dependant on my mood and often have three on the go at any one time.  I love to lose myself in the world of someone else's imagination, and if it is beautifully written with exquisite descriptions, so much the better.

My first choice at the beginning of the year was

The Sea Sisters by Lucy Clarke

Two sisters, one life-changing journey...There are some currents in the relationship between sisters that run so dark and so deep, it's better for the people swimming on the surface never to know what's beneath ...Katie's carefully structured world is shattered by the news that her headstrong younger sister, Mia, has been found dead in Bali - and the police claim it was suicide. With only the entries of Mia's travel journal as her guide, Katie retraces the last few months of her sister's life, and - page by page, country by country - begins to uncover the mystery surrounding her death. What she discovers changes everything. But will her search for the truth push their sisterly bond - and Katie - to breaking point? The Sea Sisters is a compelling story of the enduring connection between sisters.

The Sea Sisters

Followed by

Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield

Bellman & Black is a heart-thumpingly perfect ghost story, beautifully and irresistibly written, its ratcheting tension exquisitely calibrated line by line. Its hero is William Bellman, who, as a boy of 11, killed a shiny black rook with a catapult, and who grew up to be someone, his neighbours think, who "could go to the good or the bad." And indeed, although William Bellman's life at first seems blessed—he has a happy marriage to a beautiful woman, becomes father to a brood of bright, strong children, and thrives in business—one by one, people around him die. And at each funeral, he is startled to see a strange man in black, smiling at him. At first, the dead are distant relatives, but eventually his own children die, and then his wife, leaving behind only one child, his favourite, Dora. Unhinged by grief, William gets drunk and stumbles to his wife's fresh grave—and who should be there waiting, but the smiling stranger in black. The stranger has a proposition for William—a mysterious business called "Bellman & Black"


From my bookshelves ~ As It Was by Helen Thomas, Simply Imperfect by Robyn Griggs Lawrence, A Moment of War by Laurie Lee, I Can't Stay Long by Laurie Lee which is a series of essays.  I love his work.  Here is the description of when his daughter was born from the essay 'The Firstborn'

She was born in the autumn and was a late fall in my life, and lay purple and dented like a little bruised plum, as though she'd been lightly trodden in the grass and forgotten.  Then the nurse lifted her up and she came suddenly alive, her bent legs kicking crabwise, and her first living gesture was a thin wringing of the hands accompanied by a far-out Hebridean lament.

How good is that!

Finally, I have just finished reading

The Lost Garden by Helen Humphreys

Fleeing war-torn London in 1941, gardener Gwen Davis leaves the "wild, lovely clutter" of the city for the safe haven of the English countryside. Unwilling to watch her beloved city crumble under the assault of incendiary German bombs, she accepts a position at a requisitioned estate in Devon, supervising the farming of potatoes for the war effort.
A 35-year old spinster with a wicked wit and a fondness for literature, Gwen arrives at her new post to find that the group of "Land Girls" she's to supervise have little interest in planting. They're far more eager to cultivate the human crop -- a regiment of Canadian soldiers stationed at the estate, awaiting their assignment. Allying herself with the Canadians' commanding officer, Gwen strategically wins the girls' cooperation by agreeing to a series of evening dances at which they may mix with the soldiers. Pleased to again be in control of her environment, Gwen makes two life-changing discoveries. The first is the existence of feelings she's never before allowed herself to experience. The second is a hidden, abandoned garden on the estate, the secrets of which Gwen is compelled to unlock.
With poignant, poetic mastery of her craft, Helen Humphreys has produced a smart, no-nonsense, and utterly sympathetic character in Gwen Davis. And as her affecting story unfolds and she plumbs the mysteries of gardening, readers too will explore the depths of the soil in which grow the tender shoots of love

The Lost Garden

I am looking forward to joining in with A Year of Books and finding out just what floats everyone else's boat.

The next book from the top of the pile will be The Husbands Secret by Liane Moriarty

The Husband's Secret

Imagine your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret - something so terrible it would destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others too. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive . . .
Cecilia Fitzpatrick achieved it all - she's an incredibly successful business woman, a pillar of her small community and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia - or each other - but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband's devastating secret.

Friday, 24 January 2014


Saturday, 18 January 2014

a year in the life of a kale plant …


One vegetable that I always include in the veg patch is Kale. At first, many years ago, I only grew it to feed my goats and hens but gradually realised that I could eat it too. Now, apparently, it is regarded as a super-food with celebrity endorsement from Gwyneth Paltrow, and it even has its own website Who knew!

scarlet kale April seedling

It is an invaluable veg for use during the hungry-gap between January and March when there is little else to eat in the garden – then towards the end of March it bolts and flowers, ready to produce seed for next year’s crop. But before then you can pick plenty of leaves for meals right through the year.

Scarlet KaleFully grown - July 

These plants withstand everything the weather can throw at them and survives frost (which makes it taste all the sweeter) and being covered in snow, coming out unscathed. The only downside is that, like all members of the brassica family, it attracts pests, namely white fly and cabbage white butterflies, although they don’t seem to do as much damage to the Curly Kale, as they would, say, to Brussels sprouts.

frosted scarlet kale - 18 December 2011Frosted - December 

I grow three types, Cavolo Nero, Curly Kale and Scarlet Kale (Russian) – all three are eminently photographable, and can be included in all manner of meals. I prefer to chop it finely and steam it, or perhaps stir-fry – but it can be made into a health-giving juice or crisped in the oven, or turned into soup with butter-beans and orange.

Curly KaleSpriglets – the following March 

From a distance, huge undulating pillows of green and dusky blue. Close-up coarse, frilly leaves with a tough central rib. In the mouth roughly textured a little chewy, sweet and slightly bitter. Kale is both pleasingly humble yet vibrant and big flavoured, a forerunner of the full-headed cabbages we know today”. Nigel Slater

sunlit curly kaleBolting – following March 

From the sowing of seed in March (it germinates in a few days), to planting out in April – it stays in the veg patch for a full twelve months – and even after it goes to seed, produces little spriglets along the stem in a last ditch attempt to give you a few more dinners. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but it is worth giving it a go and experimenting to find a way to use it to your satisfaction – it is nothing if not versatile.

Scarlet Kale flowers Flowering – beginning of following May

As one professional grower puts it:-

“Basically, if you keep eating it, you’re just never going to die”.

  So good are it’s health-giving properties.

Scarlet Kale Flowers If you have never grown it before why not give it a go – before long I’m sure you will find it indispensable.

Monday, 13 January 2014

the new growing season …

No finical separation between flower and kitchen garden there; no monotony of enjoyment for one sense to the exclusion of another; but a charming paradisical mingling of all that was pleasant to the eye and good for food.  The rich flower border running along every walk, with its endless succession of spring flowers, anemones, auriculas, wallflowers, sweet williams, campanulas, snapdragons and tiger lilies, had its taller beauties, such as moss and Provence roses, varied with espalier apple trees; the crimson of a carnation was carried out in the lurking crimson of the neighbouring strawberry beds; you gathered a moss rose one moment and a bunch of carrots the next; you were in a delicious fluctuation between the scent of jasmine and the juice of gooseberries.” (George Eliot – Scenes of Clerical Life 1858).
Yes, in only a few weeks time the growing season will begin again.  Out will come the pots and trays, the greenhouse swept clean and seed packets ruminated over, checking that everything will be ready for the seed sowing hiatus.  Visions of how the garden will come to life over the next few months full of colour, scent and delicious things to eat.  There is a sense of anticipation in every gardener, to begin anew, full of ideas and planting schemes and praying that it will be a successful year without too much interference from the weather, pests or disease.
2013-08-03 Courgettes, tomatoes, onions, rhubarb, eating apples, summer squash, plums, chillies, cooking apples, strawberries and redcurrants, peas, potatoes, curly kale, purple sprouting broccoli, rainbow chard, blackcurrants, gooseberries, broccoli, beetroot, carrots, cucumbers, parsnips, salad leaves, strawberries and runner beans plus a few more that I haven’t got space to show.
My own garden is run loosely along the lines of a cottage garden, with fruit trees, currant bushes, vegetables, herbs and flowers ~ some would say, a bit of a jumble.  But my ‘bit of a jumble’ produces plenty of vegetables for the table, fruit for desserts and flowers to fill all the vases.  The collage above shows a small selection of the produce that was harvested.
This year will prove more of a challenge as I no longer have the extra growing space of my allotment but, I have had all winter to make plans, and hopefully will maximise the use of every bit of space I have.  I look forward to sharing my progress with you throughout the coming year.  Fingers crossed it’s going to be a good one.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

the winter garden


In winter the sun sinks to its lowest point in the sky and pinpoints everything with a sharp clarity lacking at other times of the year.  As it slants through bare branches it exaggerates every twist and turn, picks up textures on paths, trunks and buildings and deepens the winter palette of olive greens, tomato reds and faded browns, black and beiges.  I see this stripping away as the gardening equivalent of the life laundry ~ less clutter and less summer froth define what your garden is about, or should be about, giving you the chance for some quiet reflection.”  Val Bourne

SDC15957 I miss being out in the garden

too much rain too much wind

and sometimes frost





but sometimes the sun comes out

SDC15899 and shows up the seed heads left for the birds



SDC15818and the sheep in the fields

enjoy the sun on their backs

even if only for a little while Primulaand the primroses flower

whatever the weather

Sunday, 5 January 2014

just my luck …


Woke up on Friday morning with a sore throat. Uh-oh!  Woke up Saturday morning with a  stinking headache and bathed in sweat. Uh-oh! From then on it was downhill all the way. I haven’t had a bad cold for several years and thought myself lucky ~ now I am paying for it. I blame this mild winter. Not cold enough to kill all the germs that are lurking. My bedside table looks like a chemist shop. I hate being ill.




Hopefully next time I post I should be over the worst. Fingers crossed.

Did I mention that I hate being ill!

‘Til next time – Mrs. Grumpy.

Friday, 3 January 2014

perhaps the best way to start the year …


Wrapped up warmly and walking in the freezing cold on the storm-battered coast

with sunshine and blue skies

going back to the inn, log fires and totally scrumptious food –

what better way to start the year.

I was so relaxed when we arrived home I slept and slept and slept

  unravelling from my pre-Christmas state.

Back to normality.

Christmas packed away for another year.

The house cleaned and surfaces cleared of festive clutter.

That’s more like it.


SDC19413 SDC19416