A Few Lovely Things this week…

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Treasures on the beach- mermaid purses (shark eggs)

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Veg boxes- two ways

A delivery from Growing With Nature ( plot to plate less than 2 miles)

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Learning…

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Building wooden towns -and then knocking them down…

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music two ways….piano by CC, gramophone by me..wish I could play the piano!

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Finally getting around to stripping the lavender flowers from my dried bunches.

Family

During the last week in October CC, our little boy and I went on the boat to Northern Ireland to spend a week exploring and visiting relatives from both sides of our families. We stayed in a Georgian cottage in Hillsborough complete with peat fire ( although I couldn’t bear to burn the peat, it is traditional there), Aga and antique furniture. The cottage certainly had an atmosphere, I am convinced it was haunted !

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We enjoyed lots of walks in the woodland two minutes from the front door.

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And loved trips out to the Ulster Folk open air museum and the truly fantastic Titanic Museum at Belfast docks. The Ulster Folk Museum had so many buildings to explore, including a bank, blacksmiths,printers, farms and a court. Going inside old buildings in a natural setting gives you such a tangible taste of history, truly interesting.

The Titanic museum was a stunning collection of artifacts, photographs, a ride which took you on a tour of the shipyard and a stunning interactive tour of the inside of Titanic using surround screens.

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Our little boy is finally asleep at a decent hour so I am taking this opportunity to catch up on my digital diaries. On the domestic front we have been busy stocking the pantry with home made and home grown. the appalling weather ( three weeks of almost constant rain and gales!) has given us an excuse to cosy up in doors and make some preserves, including Sloe Gin and pickled beetroot. We had a great harvest of beetroot this year, it seems to be the only thing that the slugs don’t like.

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Renovations and A Holiday

We’re going backwards a little here, trying to document what happened earlier in the year. Being pregnant and working full time , blogging wasn’t my first priority ! We had a fabulous trip to Cornwall, visiting the Eden Project again and, having been Poldark fans, we visited several locations, including historic Charlestown and Wheal Lesisure, the tin mine. The walk along the coast was truly stunning, this stretch of coast line is managed by The National Trust and is truly pristine. IMGP0340 IMGP0346 IMGP0277 IMGP0286 IMGP0288 From September 2014 until now we have been renovating our kitchen, utility, garden and flooring in our downstairs. Doing without a kitchen for a month was certainly a challenge, but we enjoyed the new kitchen all the more for it. IMGP0125 IMGP0356 We found a neighbour who wanted a garage, who was a builder and who lives just at the back of our house, so we were able to recycle it- great ! Unfortunately the previous owners of our house had not been very responsible and had buried a previous asbestos roof beneath the garage foundations, poor CC had to remove it safely, although our local council,Wyre, were absolutely fantastic, offering advice and giving us the materials for removal. Underneath the foundations we found….another set of foundations. Thankfully we found a local farmer who needed hardcore for the foundations of a barn and he was happy to come and bring us a trailer, CC filled several large loads. On a lighter note, my brother helped us to put together the new rabbit accommodation – very smart ! IMGP0361 CC also built me four new raised beds for my vegetables and I have enjoyed planting them with a huge variety I could not have dreamed of with our previous little vegetable bed of 1 metre by 1 and a half metres. The kale and broad beans ( sown with organic seeds from the Eden project) have been particularly successful this year.

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The garden is still very much a work in progress, my father helped build the lawn with CC and his advice has been invaluable. We are now looking for a suitable, sustainable stone material to edge the beds and lawn.

Summer’s End

*   What happened to the summer ? It seemed as though the weeks were endless and September was a world away. Autumn seems to have come early this year and we’ve been making the most of the ripe profusion of blackberries growing in dense pockets in the lanes around our house.

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*  Making the most of our treasure ; first  Blackberry and Bramley jam, next a couple of pies for the freezer and then blackberry sauce to enjoy in yoghurt and on pancakes.

*   After a bit of detective work ( messages in bottles) we’ve finally found a milkman who will deliver in glass  from a dairy not 1/2 a mile away. After trying to search the internet many times we happened upon empty bottles on local doorsteps and wrote letters which we put into several in the hope that one might reach its intended recipient, we finally got a telephone call from a lovely local farmer ( who said she was not on the internet).  Our first lot at 6am was thrilling!

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*   We’ve set ourselves the challenge to try and get further afield for supplies without the car; using the bikes and our local ferry we have extended our range this summer. This allows us access to a hardware shop, bank and larger grocery stores without using petrol. We’re lucky to have a coastal bike path that is car free with stunning views of our bay. The wind turbines were spinning quickly today in the brisk breeze.

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*   The large ships from Heysham appear to float on the sand as they make the most of the deeper waters in the tidal channels.

*   Making the most of the warm weather we’ve been camping in Northumberland, despite gale force winds on the first night ( we really thought we’d lose the tent on our coastal site)we enjoyed visits to more castles – this time the castle of Lindisfarne on Holy Island. This island is part of the inner Farne islands and accessed via a causeway-( be sure to check the tide tables carefully before embarking or you may find yourself stranded!) The castle itself was an Edwardian gem – furnished by Edward Lutens after being purchased by the owner of Country Life magazine ; the walled garden – a Gertrude Jekyll design- was a true delight and has inspired me to try growing more medicinal flowers in our little garden.

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*   After spending a few hours making several batches of home made beer ready for Christmas we’ve had a lot of bottles to prepare ! – these made me smile in the castle.

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*   On our final day we got rather carried away with the romantic setting of Hulne Abbey – (the location of Maid Marion’s House in Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves)

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September

Is it really the end of September already ? Time has really flown this month; the start of the new term for us means a very busy time, but we’ve found time for some wonderful trips out. Beginning at the start of the month with the family meal and a visit from my brother. We took full advantage of our little local ferry and enjoyed exploring Fleetwood.

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We had lots of family attending the annual family meal this year, it was lovely to see everybody.

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We attended Blackpool’s annual ‘Ride The Lights’ event- much better organised this year. This time it actually looked safe enough to cycle ! Might take my bike next year.

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*   On the home front we’ve been blackberry picking several times – the fruit harvest is bountiful this year. I used the blackberries to make Blackberry and Bramley sauce and blackberry and bramley crisp. CC has been home brewing again – two batches this time- ready for Christmas.

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CC blackberry picking.

*    Inspired by Bea Johnson ( ZeroWaste Home) we’ve started Zero Waste shopping ourselves and found it cheaper, less work and tastier ! We’re very lucky to have a great selection of shops in our local village. Most shop keepers have been happy to dispense our goods into glass jars, one lady in the butchers was initially a little confused but really made an effort to accommodate us ! I have also been trying to give Zero Waste gifts – beginning with a jar of chocolate Tiffin for a classroom volunteer.

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*   For the last two weekends we’ve joined my parents in Embsay to explore the Yorkshire Dales. The first weekend saw us taking a trip on the marvellous Bolton Abbey Steam railway. The trip from Embsay was so relaxing, I really wish we could travel like this more, there is such a charm to the cheery little railway station in it’s bright livery and the solid wood and upholstery of the older carriages.  ! Our government is currently spending Billions on a high speed rail link between the North and South; I can’t help feeling that spending the money on maintaining and improving our current ( very extensive) railway network would improve the lives of so many more ( rather than just a few commuters who can’t afford to live in London). Let’s bring back the local station !

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*   Our little train took us to Bolton Abbey to explore.

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*   This weekend saw us walking around Embsay, an interesting tour of old and modern combined. A reservoir and evidence of much earlier engineering. A stunning stone porch on a house dated 1688.

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*   And finally to Skipton to enjoy the carnival atmosphere next to the canal; their puppet festival. Followed by a ride on an old Route Master double Decker to Yarndale. ( more evidence in the town of Guerilla knitting)

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*   Finally a walk through Skipton’s Castle Woodland. Just beautiful in the sunshine.

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Raiders

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We couldn’t resist another visit to Northumberland, there were so many places left to see !

Northumberland is an area long associated with attack and the need to defend from raids from the North Sea. During our last visit we saw lots of evidence of these defensive structures, from walking the remains of the Roman Wall begun by Emperor Hadrian in 122AD, to visiting Alnwick Castle and exploring a gun post from the Second World War.

 

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Familiar faces at Alnwick Castle- used for the scenes of Hogwarts in Harry Potter.

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The castle itself was extremely busy ( and too commercial for us !). However, just outside of the town was Hulne Park, containing the remains of Hulne Abbey, a beautiful windswept place with not another person spied during our 6 mile walk !

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The abbey ruins were also used ( as well as Alnwick castle) for the film Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves – the abbey grounds being Maid Marion’s house.

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Hulne Park was full of deer, pheasant and several hens ( escapees).

I also love to have the chance to cook on my little camping stoves – nothing like eating fresh food in the outdoors…….

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We’re also quite partial to food indoors as well………especially during a return visit to the excellent Barter Books and their rather special cafe in the old station waiting room.

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Spring Cleaning

*   ‘The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing.’ (The Wind In The Willows- Kenneth Grahame – 1908)

*     There is something in the air at this time of year, a discernible change in temperature, the beginnings of the scents of spring narcissi and the sounds of birds working industriously nest making, when one will suddenly wake with the urge to sweep away the dust and grime of winter and throw open the windows to let the sweet new air blow through the house. Our Easter holidays have seen us taking time to clean our little nest. 

*    First the windows inside and out to let in the spring light. Use a large bowl of soapy water and dry with newspaper. I recently saw an advert for a Karcher window washer; what a waste of time and energy !, Newspaper is by far a better method and leaves windows looking beautifully clean.

*   Next an overhaul of the utility room, repainting the dresser and hanging some jaunty bunting.

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*      A really good scrub down of all surfaces with a spray of vinegar solution and a paste of sodium bicarbonate.

*    And finally some spring propagation of tomatoes, courgettes, marigolds, sweet peas using our rather lovely paper pot maker. This is particularly useful for peas and other legumes that don’t like to have their roots disturbed as they can be planted directly into the soil and will bio-degrade naturally.

*   Although the weather started with Arctic winds sweeping the country, the weather pattern has changed direction and the sea frett has begun to move over the land, bringing with it the warmer, damp air and the smell of the sea in our coastal village. This has meant the opportunity to begin our little garden once again.

*   I was inspired by the planting in Kirby Lonsdale ; where every little house really made the best of their outdoor space.

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*   Followed by the obligatory cream tea – this time at The Royal Hotel on the main street.

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*   This beautiful old building welcomed us with a roaring fire and squashy settees.

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*   Making the most of the time left of the Easter holiday we visited an old favourite – The Hazelmere Bakery and Tea room in elegant, Edwardian Grange-Over-Sands.

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*     A beautiful walk from Kents Bank along the shore line to Grange – crossing the railway and up through the town and finally the reward of what we think is the best afternoon tea in England !

*     Yesterday saw us enjoying the food market at Parrox Hall- a medieval house which is across the road from our little terrace.

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*   Then making a large pot of soup with the vegetables we bought.

Recipe For Simple Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

Splash of vegetable oil

Knob of butter

A selection of root vegetables in any quantity

A tin of tomatoes ( optional)

2 Litres of Vegetable or Chicken Stock

2 or 3 bay leaves

– Chop your vegetables roughly; (you could use a food processor but sometimes I like to chop by hand and listen to Radio 4 .)

– Heat your oil gently and add a knob of butter.

– Gently sauté your vegetables for around 2 minutes, then place a lid over your saucepan and let cook until your vegetables begin to soften ( about 10 minutes)

– Add the stock and tomatoes ( if using) and simmer gently for around 20 minutes.

– Remove from the heat and blend using a hand blender ( or use a potato masher to squish the vegetables to a rough pulp)

Delicious !

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Autumn Pleasures

*   Autumn is my absolute favourite time of year here, the chance to have cosy nights by the fire, the abundance of hedgerow fruit for picking and despite going back to work, the chance to have lovely long walks enjoying the scent of the leaves and the smell of wood smoke. We began our month by bottling the Sloe Gin we had left ‘steeping’ in our cupboard, the addition of cinnamon has given it a lovely amber colour; we’re hoping to give these as Christmas gifts this year and as they’ll need at least three months in the bottle I hope they’ll be ready ! We’ve had a little tipple and it tastes lovely.

Our First Sloe Gin

Recipe For Sloe Gin

1 lb Sloes- wash well

1lb caster sugar (I’ve used 8oz because I don’t like very sweet things)

0.7 litres of cheap Gin

Cinnamon sticks

Sterilized bottles

(Makes two  0.7 litre bottles)

1. Thoroughly wash the sloes, removing any bits of branch. Place in the freezer for at least a week.

2. Fill a larger Kilner jar with the sloes, add the gin and then mix in the sugar. Add the cinnamon sticks to the mixture.

3. Place the jar in a cupboard or larder. Swirl the contents around every few days or so.

4. After two or three months sieve the contents through muslin a few times until the mixture looks clear.

5. Pour into sterilised bottles and add a pretty label. (I’ve used my lovely Cath Kidston ones CC bought for Christmas last year)

*   CC has also been enjoying the Good Life and has made a beautiful woodstore for our logs from a recycled pallet I found in school. He thinks it’s a bit wonky but I’m delighted ! It should ensure that our wood has time to season and dry before we burn it.

CC’s wood store

*   After spending three weeks away this year sadly my vegetables did not stand a chance against the caterpillars and slugs and a wet summer ensured that the slugs have bred bountifully ! It was quite upsetting to see a garden full of plant skeletons where all my lovely vegetables should have been. I was cheered enormously by a very generous gift which came right our of the blue from friends of our who stayed with us at Easter – they’ve sent a lovely selection of goods – including COPPER SLUG RINGS !!!! , I’ve been wanting to try these for a while and I will now use them to sow Bok Choi in my planters – I’ll keep you posted on how it goes. THANK YOU so much guys – a wonderful gift.

*   On the brighter side apparently it has been a very poor year for butterflies so I can console myself believing that my little garden became a temporary wildlife oasis. The meadow in miniature is now fully grown and Gerry and Flo have been let loose for the first time yesterday to munch to their heart’s content , they were extremely excited !

*  My brother has been spending weekends here and we’ve had some great days out together as a family . I finish with some pics of last weekend.

Back To School

*   Sadly our summer has run out already, CC and I went ‘home’ to Canada for most of it and only got back a few days ago. Since this was my last day of holidays we went for a hike in Bowland, eeking out the very last of our hours of freedom ! We’re still several hours behind and sleeping at all the wrong times, despite this we still managed a good walk up Nicky Nook, a picnic on the top, enjoying the 360 degree view, today you could see for at least 50 miles in every direction. We rounded our trip off with a visit to The Apple Store ( not the computer shop), great tea and scones in the characteristically eccentric surroundings of Wyresdale Hall. http://wyresdalepark.co.uk/cafe-gardens/

*    I finish with some images of our time in Canada.

Messing About In Boats

*   ” There is nothing, simply nothing, half so much worth doing as messing about in boats….simply messing about in boats. ” (Ratty – The Wind In The Willows)

*  CC and I went to visit my parents and brother on their holiday canal boat, what enormous fun, especially operating the locks.

*   Under our inexperinced hands we manged to get one of the ropes tangled in the rudder and had to make an emergency repair.

*   We’ve also visited our favourite woodland on Beacon Fell. The views are so lovely at the top.

*   On a far more domestic note, manged to hang my washing out today. Large window between rain showers meant that it was mostly dry. I do get ridiculously happy about drying my clothes on the line. I just love the smell !