Showing posts from October, 2010

It's really autumn now

When you live somewhere like this the seasons really matter.  I thought I was always someone who noticed seasons.  When I lived and worked in cities I would take out my knee length boots and winter coat in November and pack away my summer stuff.  I would lament the days when I left for work in the dark and came home in the dark.  I would chase the light at weekends, walking in parks, kicking leaves, hating that time when the leaves lost their crispness and turned to sullen slipperiness. But up here it is something else again.  Firstly autumn itself can be glorious in a way I have only glimpsed before, impossibly beautiful like the day in my header picture, so I have been quite won over by its beauty.  I have stopped treating each whirling leaf as a harbinger of doom and started living more firmly in the now.  Secondly there is a ludicrous amount of stuff to do in the garden.  I have never had so much garden as I do now, love it though I do, and gardening in autumn is always busy with

A week of whizzing around

No blogging this week because too much whizzing about.  Last weekend elder daughter, her husband and their eleven month old baby came to stay for a few days.  I blogged here about Joseph's birth.  Nearly a year has passed and now he is a chuckling, smiling, just crawling, chubby legged baby with the most amazing appetite and a thoughtful, cheerful approach to life.  Everyone thinks their grandchildren are beautiful I imagine.  Well mine are!  It is also lovely to see my daughter and her husband as parents:calm, funny, co-operative, loving, competent.  I'm sure I wasn't half as good at it. Then a changeover on Tuesday and as they leave we leave too to visit my parents in Devon.  Wouldn't it be wonderful to live near your family?  All my adult life I have lived two hundred miles or so away from my parents and now I also live quite a way from three out of the four children.  I must have spent months, maybe even years of my life on the M6, stuck in traffic jams in Birming

Blessings and the reverse

Five of the good things about today: Eleven month old grandson on the swing, giggling with delight. Roast beef and yorkshire pudding and all the trimmings for lunch, cooked by lovely daughter. Being told by exceptionally nice Swiss family that the holiday cottage is the best they have ever stayed in. Roast beef sandwiches for tea. Eleven month old grandson concentrating hard on eating carrots, picking them up with the utmost care, moving them carefully around his mouth, carefully expressing them onto the high chair tray, and then carefully picking up another. I was going to combine this with some not so good things in the interests  of balance but I am having trouble coming up with five.  This is the best I can do: The hens have just about stopped laying and even good, free range shop bought eggs are not the same. Claudia Winkleman's dress and makeup on Strictly.  Seriously? Perhaps it is meant to be ironic and I am just missing the joke. No, sorry.  It was just a good day

Expert or dilettante?

Are you an expert at anything?  I remember my son, who was pretty good at lots of things,  saying when he was a teenager that he would give up being a good allrounder if he could be really astonishingly good at one thing, preferably rugby.  What do you think?  Is it better to be generally ok at lots of things or a real expert at just one thing? I've been musing about this partly as a result of starting a new project, a machine-made quilt.  I will blog about this properly when I have got a bit further with it if it doesn't prove to be a disaster!  If it turns out well it will be a quilt for the double bedroom in the holiday cottage.  Here is a taster of the materials and how they are coming together. Here is the material as it begins to pile up in its squares. And here it is making up the nine block pattern which is the structure of the quilt. The pattern is I think called Shoofly and makes 12" square blocks. I really hope I can make something which I am happy with. 

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and 10.10.10

It has been an odd few days.  Ian was laid low with the flu and spent Friday and much of Saturday in bed.  Most unfairly all that lying down affected his back so he was doubly stricken.  He is generally so energetic and so rarely ill that it quite takes me by surprise to have him really poleaxed by something.  Heroically he got up on Saturday afternoon and insisted that he was OK to go out in the evening. The reason for going out was a special occasion: a dinner at The Wizard Inn in Alderley Edge with family and friends of Alan Garner to celebrate the fact that Alan's book " The Weirdstone of Brisingamen " has been in print for fifty years.  In fact its fiftieth birthday was 10.10.10. I first read the Weirdstone when I was about eleven years old and I can  hardly now remember the time when I did not know the story.  Two children, Colin and Susan, are drawn into a battle with evil forces which seek to capture a bracelet which Susan wears on her wrist.  This is the Fi

This morning

This morning the sun rose over the misty valley.  It was so perfect a morning I went out with my camera in my dressing gown and slippers.   I didn't walk on the grass, heavy with dew. The house shone in the sun. The kitchen garden glowed. I wanted to get dressed and walk out into the view but there was a birthday cake to make for my much loved father in law's ninety second birthday.  What a morning to be alive in.  What a place to live in.  What a day.

End of month view

September rushed past in a blur and here we are at the end of month view again. Here is the side garden.  From this distance it all looks a bit fluffy although from closer to you can tell that the bed at the back of this picture is working quite a bit better than the bed at the side.  The side bed has been planted mainly for spring and summer.  The back bed works well in spring, is a bit empty and sad in summer and comes into its own later in the summer as the crocosmia Lucifer and the sedum bulk up, the rudbeckia shines and the dahlias and cosmos fill out to take the space earlier occupied by the oriental poppies.  It is in this bed that I am intending to put the miscanthus which (having seen and admired Karen's fabulous grassees) I have ordered from Knoll Nurseries. I love this sedum and, wonderfully, it loves our soil and produces enough extra plants every year to allow me to spread it about the garden. I love this dahlia too.  When the new grass goes in I shall have to

A book review - A Taste of the Unexpected

I have been looking forward to reading and reviewing this book for ages.  Mark Diacono is the head gardener at River Cottage and runs his own garden at Otter Farm where he grows all sorts of exotic and unusual things: apricots, Japanese wineberries, Szechuan pepper and kai-lan are just a handful.  He also writes for The English Garden (pause for small "what about my Welsh garden" rant) and his are always amongst the articles I really read rather than skip over.  This is a book both about growing unusual things to eat and also about cooking them.  I love growing food, I love cooking it, I love eating it.  When the book came in the post it felt like Christmas. I am a speed reader, a skipper and skitterer over things that bore me and an express train reader with things I like.  But I have taken my time with this.  It is a book so densely packed with ideas and information and written with so much knowledge and even love that it seemed wrong to take it at my usual gallop.  Even

Three nights in Provence

Outside the sky is a bruised, fast-moving grey and the wind is battering the garden.  Through the kitchen window I watch the black and green of the elder tree thrashing and twisting.  The hens are firmly in the henhouse.  The wind whistles in the chimney and tugs at the doors.  The old house hunkers down between the yew trees, its back to the shelter of the rock. In another world a few days ago the sky was this colour: There was a wind there too, the mistral blowing hard and cold from the North, but the colours were vivid and the light was strong.  Hundreds of enthusiasts were re-enacting an assault on the castle at Les Baux.  It was an extraordinary spectacle with horses and geese as well as soldiers and archers and peasants.  In the audience were numbers of children also dressed in their chainmail or carrying their wooden swords.  For a moment the lure of dressing up was strong and I would have loved to ride side saddle in medieval dress on a black horse if only I had a dress o