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Sunday, 30 January 2011

This and That

One down one to go! Here is the first new compost bin finished. Not sure whether I like the colour but it looks good and certainly more attractive from the guest room window! Now just have to make another to replace the other green plastic one!

My gardening efforts are bearing fruit too - here are my pea shoots poking through. I spent two afternoons last week gardening - trimming back and tidying up our boundary with the next door woodland. Having just a post and rail fence planted with rosa rugosa between us and the wood is lovely but it does mean that the blackberry brambles and weeds don't take any notice and just continue onwards into our garden. I kept at it with the shears and rake and pulling up the weeds etc till my arms were all of a tremble and it took several days before my muscles recovered! Still it was good to be out in the fresh air and I certainly slept better!

On Thursday I met up with a friend in Bridport and we went to West Bay where we had a walk along the coast for an hour or so. Boy was it chilly - the wind was from the East and I think it was straight from Siberia! It was lovely though to be out and enjoying a walk with a friend and we got back to West Bay in time for lunch here where we had a lovely big bowl of warming Tuscan Vegetable soup and some fresh baked bread - wonderful after our walk on the cliff tops!

It was a grey day although it was at least dry. This lovely litchen was the only spot of colour but isn't it lovely?

I read an article in the paper at the weekend here which was about whether or not on-line networks such as Facebook are diminishing us as humans. I had to wonder whether many of the criticisms levelled at Facebook might also apply to blogging.

The author said that "skimming people lightly but in greater number can be hard work" and is giving rise to what some call "online sociability fatigue" and he goes on to suggest that "the ties we form through the internet are not, in the end, the ties that bind but they are the ties that preoccupy".

The conclusion he drew was that we must find a new way of thinking which puts the medium back in its place, which frowns on compulsively checking for messages (this is my problem I must admit!) and refuses to follow the electronic crowd otherwise we may end up slaves to a glorified electrical machine. What do you think?!

I have to say that a walk in the real world with a real live friend beats sitting in front of the computer chatting to virtual friends any day!

However I feel that in blogging I have met some lovely people and some real friends so I wouldn't want to pack it up altogether so I guess it is as with most things in life a matter of finding a happy medium.

The twigs I picked a week or so ago have burst into leaf - what a lovely green isn't it?

Last week's fresh flowers were daffodils again! I noticed that there are daffodils in bud alongside the road near here so it won't be long till we have swathes of golden flowers nodding in the breeze. Speaking of breeze I must stop waffling and go and see if my washing is dry - yes it is out on the line in the sunshine and though the towels will not dry outside some of the thinner items have already been brought in and ironed smelling of fresh air - I love it!! Did I ever imagine that getting my washining dry out in the fresh air might one day be a cause for rejoicing!!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Can't keep away!

The one resolution I am finding really hard is spending less time on the computer! I had promised myself I would only post once a week and visit other blogs perhaps for a few minutes daily - well I have failed on the once a week bit anyway! Still I wanted to share with you the fabulous sunshiny day we have had here today. I walked into town this morning (more exercise - tick!) to meet with a French friend for an hour of French conversation over a coffee in a cafe there and noticed these lovely catkins swaying in the breeze - made me think of Easter!!
As it was such a fab day I decided to go out again this afternoon for a short walk in the woods (another Brownie point!) This time DH came with me.

Just look at that sky!

The woods were beautiful - birds were singing and everywhere was full of the promise of spring...

Not sure what these are going to be - Lords and Ladies (arum maculata) perhaps? - but they seem to think Spring is on the way!

I picked a little posy of twigs and am hopeful that they will burst into leaf in the warmth of indoors.

I have been busy making marmalade and having sorted out the freezer I also used up some crab apples given to me by a friend with some damsons purchased at Stourhead months ago to make some crab apple and damson cheese which I love spread on bread. I also made crab apple and parsnip soup for supper last night but I don't think we'll be having it again as it was too sweet for our taste! Still I am keeping up my resolution re doing more cookery and doing well on the waste not want not front!

Am I the only person who never reads the instruction manuals that come with the various items of equipement? I have had my sewing machine for over 25 years and on Tuesday I went to Hansons in Sturminster Newton to do a day course entitled "Know your sewing machine"!! I learned a lot of things I hadn't realised before so it was a day well spent although maybe I would have been wiser to have done it 25 years ago! I learned how to use the double needle (see bottom of the photo) how to do piping and that the seam ripper is the tool for cutting button holes once they are sewn (I only discovered how to do those last year!). I won't get a job in a clothing manufacturing sweatshop as my zip took me ages and then I got it back to front but as I don't want a job and certainly not in a factory of any kind maybe it doesn't matter.

Yesterday I went to the library and got this book - some great inspiring photos although some of the buildings can hardly be called sheds!! And the Gardeners journal from a charity shop - so now I can keep notes of how I get on with my gardening resolutions!

Wouldn't you just love some of these sheds?

A girl can dream can't she?

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Baby steps toward my goals!

You thought you'd got rid of me didn't you? But here I am again like the proverbial bad penny! These lovely daffodils are this week's fresh flowers - I refuse to buy flowers which have been air-freighted from sunnier climes and am finding it difficult to find many with the Union Jack on the pack just now but these fitted the bill nicely and serve to remind me that Spring is coming. I did actually see some in bud along the side of the road this morning too.

You asked (well some of you did!) me to let you know how I got on with my resolutions so here goes:

Gardening: Well I did spend an hour or so outside this week mainly doing what you might call outdoor housework - tidying up and removing leaves etc but most of this week's gardening was of the indoor kind - reading the seed catalogues and books...

DH has been busy in the garage with timber and tools making one of these compost bins to replace the ugly green plastic ones which were here when we moved in 2 years ago - it keeps him out of mischief and leaves me to get on indoors on my own.

The Sarah Raven catalogue arrived this week and lo and behold she is selling a similar compost bin for the princely sum of £180 - mind you if DH charged for the hours of labour he has put in no doubt ours would be even more expensive!!

Meanwhile I planted some peas in pots of compost indoors in the hope that we will get some pea shoots for salads etc - I did this last year and they were successful but as you will see from the pack the peas are not a recent acquisition having been bought when we lived in France so whether they will germinate again this year I don't know as it says best before August 2010 on the box - watch this space!
Exercise: I have walked to town 3 times this week so hope that will count towards being more active!

Next up Cooking: Well I made a couple of loaves of soda bread - Nigel Slater's recipe from his Simple Suppers programme - the first of which was very successful but the second not so although we did eat most of it. I had a couple of ends of loaves of bread in the bread bin and in the spirit of waste not want not I made the apple pudding shown in the pic. The topping is made with breadcrumbs from a sunflower loaf and it's delicious.

Again in waste not want not mode I used up the leftover veggies in the fridge along with a tin of red kidney beans and one of tomatoes and made this casserole which we had with dumplings. Sorry photo is a bit yellow but I took it in electric light in the kitchen. Today I have bought some oranges for marmalade too so will let you know how I get on with that later.

Have you ever noticed how once you start being interested in anything it seems to pop up everywhere? Well having got back on my (slightly) green bandwagon I have found this week filled with books and TV programmes etc along the same theme. One such was a news item regarding the new European law coming into force in 2012 banning conventional battery farming of chickens along with news that some eggs which had been laid in Germany contained dioxins - said eggs had come into the UK food chain having been processed in Holland and then sold to manufacturers in UK. Now I suddenly realised that whilst I am carefully buying free-range eggs I had also been buying occasional items containing eggs and of course these would be unlikely to be free range or organic. So if I am serious about going for free range I will in future need to read labels! (Another reason to make food from scratch as then you have a better idea of what goes into it)

Did anyone see the TV programmes Hugh's Fish Fight? I saw the first and third ones and was horrified at the apalling waste of fish so many of which are thrown back into the sea dead and also the very high density of fish in the fish farms from which so much of our salmon comes. I really do feel that if we all truly knew what we were eating we might easily starve!!
Have however been to the Farmers' Market this morning and have some lovely fresh salad leaves along with a nut pasty(?) for me and a pork pie for DH (he is as thin as a lathe so no need to cut back for him) and some fresh baked bread all locally made for supper and will not get too bogged down with all the horror stories - we can only do what we can but as the ad for one of our supermarkets says "Every little helps"!!!

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Food for thought

Over the Christmas holiday I came across this journal given to me many years ago by my pen pal in America and which I had used to jot down my thoughts etc in diary form. I hadn't used it for many years - it sat forgotten on the bookshelf - and I started to read through some of my entries.

Anyway it got me thinking of how my life has changed since the time I used to write in the journal and what with New Year being a time for reflection on times past and of the future I got to thinking how I would like to change my lifestyle back to how it used to be back then. I was always busy and often stressed but I seemed to do so much more. I worked on the allotment as we grew a lot of our own veggies, I baked bread, went for walks and came back laden with blackberries or crab apples which I turned into preserves, I bought organic whenever possible and I was a vegetarian. We kept chickens and as far as we could we tried to live a self sufficient green lifestyle.

I think it all changed when we went to France where it was difficult at that time to find much organic produce, being a vegetarian was very hard, I was cooking for just the two of us and my husband is definitely a meat and two veg lad so whereas cooking a vegetarian option for my daughter and myself as well as meat for him didn't seem too much of a hassle now it seemed that I drifted into eating what he liked as it was easier.

I love the quote on the bookmark - so true!

Then I came across this book in the library - I was shocked by what I read. I know that a lot of food is wasted but hadn't realised just how much perfectly good stuff is sent to landfill or used to make biofuel. Apparently if we wasted less there would be sufficient food in the world to feed everyone but we in the developed world demand cheap food which must look good (no knobbly potatoes nor twisted carrots allowed) and be available as and when we want it regardless of season. Then when we get it home we often don't use it all and it goes to waste again.

Next time I was in the library this book called to me and I took it out. It tells in diary form of a year the author (who must be a social historian I think) spent living as she might have done in the 1790s - a project she undertook as she too was shocked having read "Not on the Label" by Felicity Lawrence. The Garden Cottage Diaries was an interesting easy to read book which I really enjoyed. Again it got me thinking.

Then yesterday I read about Carol Klein - someone who I aspire to be more like both in attitude and looks - I once took a photo of her to the hairdressers asking for a similar style! - and I discovered that she is just one year younger than I am. If you saw her programme on Friday and saw her at the top of that ladder hacking at an overgrown clematis you will be as surprised as I was to see her age and especially to discover that she has apparently had both hips replaced.a

So there is no excuse - I must get up off my bum and get going - I have been under the impression that I am now an old lady (I have had a bus pass for some time now!) and therefore can't be expected to do this or that but now I see age is not a number it is an attitude. So my resolution for 2011 is to get out in the garden more and to grow more food, to return to my preferred vegetarian diet, to purchase less and to use everything I buy (I have started washing out my plastic bags and reusing them as my mother taught me!) to waste less and to consume less and to make more of my own food from scratch. Maybe then I will sleep better at night having spent my days working in the fresh air and being physically active. I have no desire to return to the 1700s as indeed the author of the book said herself - she relished electricity and a soft comfortable bed, to have water on tap etc. but I want to be more in control of what I eat and how I live my life.a
I do seem to have ranted on a bit but you will also be glad to know that another of my resolutions is to be more active and to spend less time sitting at the computer - to this end I will be blogging less and it may be that I don't get to comment as often as before on all your posts for which I apologise.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Day Out

I had a day out yesterday - I went up to London to see this exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum. I also met up with a fellow blogger - Loraine from The Balancing Kiwi - who had an appointment in Hammersmith which tied in well with our meeting at the V &A.

We met in the cafe there and had lunch together and got to know one another - she was every bit as charming as she seemed from her blog and id didn't take us long to be chatting like old friends. After lunch we went to buy tickets for the Diaghilev exhibition and the earliest we could get were for 3.15 (should have done that before lunch perhaps?!) which gave us plenty of time to wander round other parts of the museum and we eventually found ourselves in the jewellery rooms. Wow! what amazing stuff they had there - not that any of it would have been suitable for wearing to do the weekly shopping of course!! Some incredibly old stuff and also some fantastic modern pieces.
After a cup of tea to refresh ourselves we made our way to the exhibition we had come to see which was excellent and appealing on several levels. For me it was the costumes and the textiles that appealed most but it was interesting from the musical aspect, the art - Picasso and Matisse were artists whose work was displayed, the political and the dance of course. The costumes were stunning and what struck us was how much larger the dancers were than nowadays - some of them might have fitted me! Sadly no photography was allowed but for more images you can try Google Images here

This was a backdrop which was enormous - how it was transported I don't know but I loved it and was reminded of a friend who does batik and a card she made me years ago. Don't you agree? Although her's was just postcard size and the one in the V&A enormous.

It took us an hour and a half to see the exhibition - as some people we had shared a table with whilst having a cup of tea had told us it would. We left the V&A feeling as if we had been to another world and were suddenly returned to the dark wet streets of London. Loraine and I parted at the Underground station and I made my way back to Hammersmith for my coach home tired but having enjoyed my day out so much. Thanks for coming with me Loraine.

By the way I am sorry if you feel a bit drunk viewing these pictures but they were scanned and I didn't get them in the scanner quite straight and haven't got time to figure out how to tilt them to the vertical properly!

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

January colour post

My muse has left me I can't seem to string together a post - What! I can hear you say You who is usually so verbose! I will be back once I get my brain in gear. Only one or maybe two more colour posts and Spring will be here!