Showing posts from September, 2011

Roots and wings in Wales and Provence

I have puzzled all my life about taking wing and putting down roots.   When I was child we left my home town in the North of England and spent some years living in New Zealand.  Returning as a young adult I was proud of my wider horizons.  But watching and listening to my beloved grandparents, I couldn't help but see that wider horizons apparently weren't necessary for a happy life.  My grandfather lived all in his life in a Northern mill town apart from a period in the army as a young man, about which he never spoke, when he went to Afghanistan and India.  I always felt he was very happy in his skin, very assured on his own territory, a Lancashire man to the soles of his feet who was rooted in his place and happy to be so.  He didn't want to travel.  He was not narrow minded and indeed generous and tolerant in his assessment of people but he liked to be home.  "What's the point in going places?" he would say.  "I've everything I want here."  He

Autumn blows in

September can be a golden month, all soft gold light, tawny leaves, rosehips and shimmering dews.  Not today though.  Today there is a cold wind blowing with the faint, steely smell of winter in it.  Grey clouds scud fast on a low sky above the ridge.  Everywhere there are things to do before the cold weather comes. The second hatching of chicks this year produced these three: two Scots Dumpies, with the grey and white feathering now settling as they lose their fluffy chickness and emerge from the spiky teenage stage, and one brown Barnevelder, still a bit scraggy about the neck.  They are going outside in a week or so to a new chicken house which Ian has been weather proofing. I like the design of this one very much, with the area under the house to extend the run for the chickens when they are confined, a ramp down from the house and such refinements as a double nest box, just seen at the side, and a peephole at the back.  Ian tells me that this is a ventilati

Beetroot and pears

I didn't appreciate before I started to grow food on a reasonably large scale - domestic scale still, but lots of it - that there is no stage between the one where you get excited about the three real pears on your little pear tree, bring them inside to a bowl on the kitchen table, feel them gently every day as they ripen (pears ripen much better inside than on the tree), finally eat one in ecstacy, the juice running deliriously down your chin, and the stage where you are bringing them inside in buckets. How can this be?  It was the same with the damsons and the plums so I suspect our gloriously warm and dry spring (do you remember?) was just what the fruit crop wanted.  The same holds true for vegetable crops of course.  One day you are cutting your first beans and eating them simply dressed with butter and drooling at their deliciousness.  The next you are wilting slightly in the face of trugs full of the things marching into the kitchen, each bean as long and thick as your


I have been reading the diaries of Dorothy Wordsworth. I read them years ago when I was doing my degree and studying William Wordsworth's poetry. I would like to be able to tell you that her diaries illuminated his poetry for me but I don't think they did. I was too young, too green, too self-absorbed. I got stuck on the way her creativity was subsumed into his, both of them taking utterly for granted the supremacy of his talent. I was a feminist, still am, but then I was a certain-sure feminist without much capacity for complexity or subtlety. I am not sure how much I can claim to understand about the human condition now, but having got to my fifties I am far less certain about any of those ideologies which used to seem so clear. Now I am entranced by her observations, intrigued by the minutiae of their lives and grasp more fully than I did at twenty the depth of her love for him. But what strikes me most reading it now, and which shows that I am not and never was a schola


Damsons are beautiful fruit, black and smooth with a bloom on them that makes you want to stroke them.  They look like velvet.  The little Shropshire damson tree has never fruited before but this summer, its fourth, it has had a bumper crop. In August 2009 Ian and a friend picked bags full of wild damsons from the hedgerow.  Last year we went down to the footpath hoping to gather more but the tree was bare of fruit.  Were we too late.  Had someone or something else been there before us?  We didn't know but it was wonderful to see our own crop ripening on the tree. The fruit produces a jam which is dense and dark, its sweetness undercut by a delicious sophisticated tartness.  The downside of damsons is their stones.   Unlike plums, they are not easy to stone when they are uncooked so today Ian and I have both spent what feels like hours fishing stones out of the jam as it cooks. This drove Ian to internet search for what other people do with damson stones and we might

End of month view accompanied by random facts

August end of month (hosted by Helen ) finds my garden looking a bit less tired than it usually does at this time of year.  I would like to take the credit for this as I have been trying harder not to let the garden grind to a halt in July but I suspect the thing that has had most impact is a rainy August which has prevented things from getting too dry and dusty.  I am having a bit of an attack of needing to do something different just now as well so I am intending to enliven (maybe!) my usual pictures with the odd random fact about me.  Don't expect them to be interesting, just random. This is the usual side garden view taken so early that there was no sun on the back border which is the main place in the garden where I am trying to think about autumn.  My garden is definitely a spring and early summer garden, or at least it was.  I am gently extending its season I hope. I thought you could see so little of it that I would allow myself an extra couple of photos from a bi