16 August 2016

Around Here

Well that was a long break!  I hadn't intended to pause quite so long between posts but life has been busy trundling along and blogging has very much taken a back seat.

Inspired by this lovely blogger I have been doing some planning.  I usually think ahead to our next project(s) but these past few weeks I have planning much further ahead.  She planted a seed a while ago now when she blogged about planning for a whole year at a time.  When I first read the post I thought it would never work for us, but the thoughts stayed with me and so I found myself sitting down and planning a whole year for Cameron.  At the moment it is mostly just a framework, I have organised the first six weeks and will work on the next six soon, with our Advent project that will take us to Christmas.  I spend quite a bit of time each weekend planning the following week and whilst I will still have to do a little each week I am hoping it will reduce the time I need to spend.  In a way I had already started to do this as the work I am doing with Alice at the moment we started back at Easter and it will take us up to Advent.  I will plan her next year in early 2017.

We have been enjoying lots of lovely books recently.  I read a chapter book to them both every lunchtime, it always needs to be suitable for them both and is often aimed at Alice rather than Cameron, to balance things up for him I also read them a different book each at night.  We are on Swallows and Amazons for Cameron and the Little House in the Big Woods for Alice, these are both my old copies from my childhood, the latter I bought when I was seven the former when I was twelve.  It has been lovely to revisit these old favourites.  I am reading a fascinating History book myself, about the social history of the Home during the different periods of prehistory.  The author is an archaeologist who has been working on this period for many years, I have read other books by him and have enjoyed them.  I am glad I found this on the shelves of my library.

Last Friday I had intended to write a daybook post, the in the kitchen and around the house categories would have made interesting reading on that day.  I had taken delivery of a big food order from a wholesale company part of which was frozen.  We have a large chest freezer in our garage which was in desperate need of some attention, it is not it was full but there was not much space due to the large quantity of ice that had built up inside.  In order to be able to get the vegetables, fruit and butter in there I needed to empty it and scrape out the ice.  Have you ever emptied your freezer and found unexplained objects in there, perhaps it is just me, I think I went through a period of not labelling things thinking I would remember what they were!  The ice came out easily, not really knowing what to do with it I put it in the bath to defrost!  The unexplained objects were put in boxes in the kitchen to defrost along with several very old (2011) bags of fruit, we had a delicious blackberry and apple crumble for tea that night.  Now that the frozen items were dealt with I could check the rest of the order off which resulted in big bags of food on the hall and porch floors.  Cameron slept through all these goings on (he was very tired after a long cycle ride with friends the day before) and when he did he was most bemused by the ice in the bath and the food all over the floor!

We visited a local pick your own recently, it is a place that I have driven past numerous times but have never actually been too I wanted to take a look round to see what it was like.  It was a really wet day and we were the only ones there, but we came home with four kilos of plums and plans to visit again, hopefully to pick apples and pears in a few weeks time.  I have had a go at fermenting some of the plums, not sure how they will turn out but they smell good!  The emptying of the freezer made me realise how many blackcurrants I have in there so I have used a kilo to try my hand at blackcurrant vinegar.  We have tasted this but have never made it before, I will let you know how I get on.  The weather here has been cool and wet for the past three weeks but that has gone now and it has warmed up considerably and everything is drying out.  I have been wanting to pick some comfrey leaves to make into a salve, I already have some plantain leaves soaking in oil to do the same with them, but they need to dry when you pick them.  I think that will be this weeks job as long as the weather holds!

I would like to say a huge thank you for the wonderfully supportive comments on the recent post I wrote about home education.  They were very comforting to read, thank you all so much.

07 August 2016

How does your garden grow?

Another month on and my garden is still doing well.  We went away for a fairly long period at the beginning of July and I was worried how the garden would fare in our absence.  We are fortunate to have a lovely neighbour who is always more than happy to water it and generally keep an eye on it whilst we are away.

I am not going to take you another tour as I did last month just show you what has changed and grown.

The view from the gate has changed.  The honeysuckle is now in flower and has the most wonderful aroma as you walk past it.  It is as unruly as it looks, it gets a severe haircut every year but still.  The Rowan/Mountain Ash tree behind it is now in berry, a beautiful orange shade which will ripen to a deep red by the autumn.

My herb bed is producing in abundance, everyday I am out here picking for meals often twice a day.  I have plans, in the next week, to start picking to dry herbs as well as to soak in oils for eating and medicinal purposes.  You can see the tallest of the sunflower plants just off centre in the photo.  It is in bed which is slightly higher than the herbs so it is not as tall as you might expect.  The flower head is appearing but is not quite there yet,  I suspect I shall miss its display as I am away for two weeks at the end of the month!

The turnips,


and garlic are growing well and are about ready to be harvested.

I planted out my broad bean seedlings and they have more than doubled in size this month.  They are covered in flowers so I hope we will have some beans to harvest soon.

The french beans have also grown considerably in size.  They have yet to produce any flowers, I do hope that they are not growing tall to the detriment of bearing fruit........

In the polytunnel the cucumbers are growing really well, all six plants are producing several fruits.

The courgettes on the other hand are big plants with plenty of flowers but the few fruits that do appear are not growing very well, I am going to give them a feed this week to see if that helps.

The beetroot seedlings are growing really well.  I haven't been able to get beetroot to germinate over the last couple of years.  It is one of my favourite vegetables so I am really pleased to have these plants this year, even if they will only supply us with one or two meals.

The kale seeds that I sowed at the beginning of July have germinated and started to grow.  Just need to keep those pesky slugs and snails at bay!

I have harvested three pounds of gooseberries and eight of blackcurrant this month.  We have continued to enjoy a continuous supply of salad leaves and have eaten most of the pok choi plants that I shared last month, they were delicious!  I have already sown more in the hope that they will have enough time before the light starts to go to grow into big enough plants to harvest.  This is the first year I have grown this plant after getting some in a veg box a couple of years ago.  Now I know how quickly they grow and are ready to harvest I will sow less at a time and more often to ensure a more steady supply.

What was growing in your garden in July?

01 August 2016

July in Photos

I cannot believe July is over, that was a super fast 31 days full to the brim of adventures and time outside.  I usually join Hawthorn Spellweaver for these posts, but not this month.  She kindly took the trouble to email me the prompts for July, as I was away the first two weeks of the month, but I am rubbish at checking the email address for this blog so I didn't pick up the email until the end of last week.  Sadly I hadn't taken any pictures that matched the prompts for July so I will give you a selection of my own choosing.

We started the month by travelling south for a family holiday.  We had dry warm weather, which makes camping so much easier, we picked the location for a few reasons but one is that the south of England generally has warmer weather over the summer than where I live.  In the weeks leading up to our holiday it was much drier and warmer where we live, I was worried we were in for a cold, wet week!

We enjoyed hours of cycling on fantastic off road tracks through beautiful countryside.

The area is famous for its wild ponies and cattle.  Some of the properties have commoners rights attached to them which allows the owners to graze their livestock on local land*.  They often came wandering though our campsite.

When it comes to food on holiday I have, in the past, done a lot of cooking prior to going away, reheating it when we were to eat it.  It always meant a huge amount of work in the week leading up to going away which often meant that I was exhausted by the time we actually went away.  I tried a different approach this time taking a box of basic ingredients and buying fresh ones locally.  There was a fantastic farm shop a two minute drive from the campsite which supplied most of our needs.

We don't usually take a planned 'holiday' from home education mostly because we don't differentiate between family life and learning.  July ended up being a month when we only had one week of our usual rhythm, and on one day of that week we had great fun at a friends house making huge bubbles.  It was a really easy activity to set up and provided plenty of entertainment.  The bubbles were amazing to watch as they wobbled through the air, seemingly fragile, but covering considerable distances on occasions.

Last weekend we travelled to visit friends and their local air show, I had never been to one before and had no idea what to expect.  It was incredibly busy, especially to us small village dwellers, but we managed to find a quietish spot looking out to sea with the crowds behind us.  There were so many different displays going on, WWII planes, parachute displays, a beach assault, gyrocopter and helicopter displays.  The highlight for me was definitely the Red Arrows we saw them twice and they were fantastic on both occasions.

My diary for August is looking very empty, I have plans for a few of the days but nothing else at the moment.  I know that we will slowly fill it, but I am looking forward to a very slow, gentle month.


* all land in England is owned, the right to graze your livestock on land owned by others is a very old one in some cases it has been around since the time of William the Conqueror (nearly 1,000 years)

27 July 2016

Critiquing the Unknown

As I walked past a bench, in my local town, I caught a snippet of the conversation the ladies sat there were having.  It might have just been a conincidence that they were discussing home education, but as Cameron had just walked past I couldn't help but think that that had something to do with it.  Their words pricked me like a pin, widening the wedge that I feel is being driven into me by some.

When you chose to do something that is 'different' it is inevitable that you will come up again a difference of opinion.  When that opinion becomes a challenge or a criticism it is harder to deal with, especially when it is made by people who have no experience of home education, it is akin to reviewing a book without reading it.

I am under no illusion that home educating is an easy choice.  Every decision I have made and will continue to make has been considered carefully with each of my children's individual needs at their heart.  A few days ago most school children in England finished school for the Summer, it is the end of the school year here and for Cameron's peers at school this is a big time in their life.  After seven years of being at the same school they will move up into the school where they will remain for the rest of their school life.  Cameron will not be joining them, he will continue to be educated at home.    My decision has engendered criticism amongst a small proportion of my friends and family.  Talking about it to a friend recently she suggested that some are critical through fear, that by my actions I am myself being critical of them and their choice of education for their children.

I am not anti school.  I never have been.  My niece has just finished her A levels and her school life.  She absolutely loved school and is really sorry it has come to an end.  She is a really thoughtful, perceptive young woman about to go out into the world on her own, for whom school was absolutely the right setting for her to learn.  She was the right shaped peg.  Schools, by definition, cannot completely individualise each child's learning.  Teachers only have so much time for planning, I know how long it takes to plan for my two children so to do so for a class of 30, even allowing for some similarities and repeating in subsequent years, it would be a huge task. So you end up with a plan that will suit some, hopefully most, children but not all of them and however hard you try, round pegs won't fit into square holes properly.  I am absolutely sure my children would be the round pegs.

There are plans to make the English National Curriculum more knowledge based a move which I will admit to being completely baffled by, knowing facts is not my idea of preparing our nation's children to be the employees of the tomorrow.  I believe they need skills such as motivation, self confidence, problem solving, initiative and organisation all of which need to be learnt not taught and are much harder for them to learn quickly.

So to the ladies on the bench I would like to know why you think that it should not be permitted to home educate a child at secondary school age (11 - 18).  I would like to know why you think that the National Curriculum is the only framework for learning.  I would also like to inform you that if my children wanted to learn about nuclear physics* it is perfectly possible to do that outwith a classroom.


*what I actually overheard was......education at primary level is all very well but at secondary it shouldn't be allowed, they wouldn't be able to do nuclear physics at the kitchen table now would they...........


I am sorry if you were reading any other posts here in the last week and found yourself unable to leave a comment. One of the links I had added to the last post I published seemed to corrupt my blog and disabled all links, it took me a while to work out what the problem was. A huge thank you to the lovely people who emailed me to let me know, it was much appreciated!

19 July 2016

Spring Makes

Over the Winter months I joined in with a lovely linky party where each month we shared what we had been making, I have missed this during the Spring, it focused me on writing about it.  My time hasn't allowed for as many posts of late so my making has stayed hidden from the world.

It has been a busy season of birthdays which means more making for me, there are far too many for me to make for them all, but I make what I can find the time for.  It has taken me so long to get round to writing this post, its ironic that when I am busy I have so many blog post ideas floating about in my head and half written on paper and when I life is quieter I have more time to write posts and am scratching around looking for ideas.......

Alice has a birthday in Spring and it goes without saying that I spent much of my time making presents for her!  She also wanted me to make party bags for all her friends (and their siblings) whom she had invited to her party, so of course I said yes.........

....nine bags made entirely with fabric from my stash, small leftovers pieces from larger projects.  They seemed to take forever to make, but it was worth it when I saw the looks on the children's faces as they were given out.

The birthday girl herself got more clothes for the the best dressed dolly in England and a drawstring bag which I don't seem to have taken a picture of and I can't find the bag.  The bag contained a book on learning to knit and the pieces to make her own knitting needles, we are going to start on that new journey next month.

I made another noughts and crosses game, using slightly different ribbon this time as I couldn't get hold of the spotty one I used last time.  This was sent off along with several beanbags, to a very old friend of mine's children whose birthdays are on consecutive days.  It was a rather heavy parcel, due to the weight of those beans, something I had foolishly not considered before making them.

I took part in a swop for the Summer Solstice, we were all paired up with someone to send a parcel of goodies to.  I sent my swop partner, a knitted washcloth and a bar of soap, a drawstring project bag, two homemade beeswax food covers and a book which was one of my favourites last year.  It was well received!

I made an appliqué sun for our seasonal table, we had it hanging in our tent for the summer camp.

Over the last two years I have made many play capes.  Each time I make one I am left with a quarter of a circle of fabric (plus a few strips too depending on how accurately the shop has cut the fabric).  I have kept every single one of those quadrants and had amassed quite a pile of them.  I have had a few ideas for projects to make with them none of which have come to fruition until I came across a photo whilst surfing online and knew that I had found just the thing.  Rainbow wings.  I have no idea where I found that original photo or whether what I have made looks anything like the same.  I made it up.  I used bias binding across the top of the wings with elastic sewn in to attach the wings to the child.  I need to redo this, it has pulled away in places as has the elastic but they still get used all the time despite the fact that they are currently held together with several safety pins!

I have slowed down a little now the summer is here.  I am hoping to make myself a dress and I have a few projects on the needles, some of which are nearly finished.  I know come the Autumn I will be busy making and creating again!

15 July 2016


Outside my window it is overcast but bright, it was forecast to rain all day but it has yet to arrive.....

I am thinking about some dear friends who I don't get to see that often.  Today is their wedding anniversary, we travelled to Utah, to be with them on their wedding day eleven years ago.  They have had a really hard month, coping with the news that one of them has been diagnosed with cancer.

We have just returned from a wonderful family holiday, I am thankful for this time we were able to all spend together enjoying each others company.

In my kitchen is two sourdough starters bubbling away, a container awaiting granola to be made, pumpkin seeds soaking before baking to make a tasty snack, a box of seeds, a pile of washing up on the side.

A friend of mine is having a baby at the end of the month, I am creating a small knitted item as a present.  It is a long time since I have knitted a baby knit and forgot how quickly they knit up, unlike the cardigan for myself which I also have on the needles.

We are staying at home today, a much needed day at home.  I am going out later to do a D of E pre-expedition check.

My garden has survived my being away and grown loads, I am wondering whether I should sow some more seeds soon so that I have a good steady supply of some of my vegetables.

I am reading Solar by Ian McEwan one of my favourite authors.  I have yet to decide whether I like this book, the main character is abhorrent.  I have had many reading 'failures' recently so am feeling a little unsteady about my ability to find a good book to read.

A home educating friend, who returned to her homeland in the US a couple of years ago, is coming over for a visit.  I am looking forward to hanging out with her on Sunday and Wednesday next week.

Around the house the children are creating a huge lego village upstairs, books are on tables, chairs and floors, the holiday washing is hanging to dry and sitting in piles waiting to be ironed or put away, the top step of the stairs holds a pile of bits waiting to go into the loft, for once the house is reasonably tidy, I always tidy before going away, and it has yet to be lived in enough for it to any messier.

I have been reading a recently published book on Home Education, it is providing me with the support I need right now, particularly a favourite quote which I have written out for myself for those times when the words of others are hurting 'You are not doing it wrong; you are just doing it differently from them.  But some of them cannot see beyond the confines of mass thinking'.

I thought I had managed to keep July to be a fairly quiet month but somehow it has become rather full, I am working to keep just a few plans for August, a week of camping and nothing else in the diary for now.

We don't stop our rhythm and learning for the summer, it continues to rumble along in its gentle way, but I also use that time to think about and plan the coming year for Cameron (I do so for Alice at Easter).  I am pondering and looking at different curriculums, picking the bits I want, to make our own.

I have started to use my camera entirely on manual mode, I am learning, slowly, the different features and settings.  I have tried reading about it but it goes in one eye and out the other, by doing it I am learning so much more.

I am wearing the same blue linen trousers I had on when I lasted posted a daybook, along with a jumper and my wooly slippers, it is chilly here today.

As I sit and write I am listening to the children laughing upstairs, downstairs it is still and quiet.

A peek in to my day.

10 July 2016

How does your garden grow?

As I was walking round my garden looking for suitable subjects for the photo scavenger hunt, garden category I realised it has been a long time since I had taken any photos out there and shared them on here.  I did write about my hopes for the garden early on last year but sadly those hopes were not realised, four courgettes about the same number of cucumbers, one meal of broad beans, no French beans you get the picture.  A few things did really well despite the lack of sun (or warmth) I had my first red tomato in years, we have just finished eating last years garlic and the potato crop, exclusively gave us a couple of meals a week from August to March.

This year it is looking to be a much better year, let's face it anything could be an improvement on last year!  All my seedlings are doing well and we seem to be managing to keep the pests at bay.  We have been fortunate to have had just the right mix of warm sun and rain the perfect combination for a gardener.

So come with me and I will take you on a little tour (all text relates to the photo above it)......

This is the view from the garden gate, a necessity to keep the rabbits out, otherwise all of this growth would be nibbled to nothing (you can just make out the fencing on the left side of the picture).  There is a narrow strip of land down the side of the garage/workshop building.  There is a path down the middle a bed to the left where the orange flowers (orange hawkweed) are growing along with out of control mint and a few heather plants, to the right is a small wood store.  At the end of the building the garden widens to it full width approximately 6m, it is nearly 17m in length.

Immediately behind the building is a small paved patio which has a larger wood store on the right hand side (you can just see it on the right side of the picture) and my washing line, a whirligig, which you can see in the first photo.  My entire garden is on a slight slope as you move away from the house, in order to be able to cultivate this we have created a series of beds each one slightly higher than the next in the first part of the garden.  This mass of green is my unruly herb bed which has taken over some of the paved area.  The chives, in particular have spread everywhere but the bees love the flowers so they stay until they are done with them at which point I cut them off in a vain effort to stop them spreading.

As we move up the garden, using the path that you can just make out to the left side of the first photo, the bed on the left of the path is one of my wild patches.  Only two of the plants in this thin strip have been planted by me, a honeysuckle and a euphorbia, the rest which includes a Rowan tree, a hawthorn, lots of buttercups, columbine or aquilegia and an abundance of wild strawberries have either spread from next doors garden or have been provided by the birds!  I do very little to this patch and the birds love it as much as I do.  The children love to go and forage in this spot for the little red fruits of sublime sweetness.

On the other side of the path is a big fruit cage which houses a blackcurrant and a white currant both of which are laden with fruit.

The path curves round the back of the fruit cage past a trellis covered with this lovely climbing plant, Actinidia kolomitkta on the left, the leaves change colour in the sun.

Behind the trellis is a very overgrown wildlife pond.  It is quite difficult to get in there to weed so it tends to only get any attention in the autumn/winter to cut it all back.  The birds love this spot too, they use the pond to drink and have a bathe, there is a small willow tree which provides food for some.  The trellis has a small bird box on the this side which houses a blue tit nest year after year.

The above three pictures are of the next bed up the garden.  This bed is always used for vegetables and this year houses, courgettes, red onions, turnip, carrot, leek, garlic (the pond is behind them)  and the odd stray potato plant from potatoes that we have failed to dig up!  The path weaves round three sides of this bed in a reversed C as you move up the garden.

The path then weaves its way through this trellis covered in a very unruly honeysuckle to the top of the garden.  The wooden box is a wormery which needs some attention as sadly it is falling apart, we were given it twelve years ago and it has provided us with some great compost.  Over the winter we hope to take it apart and rebuild it using the parts of it that are still sound.  On top of the wormery are some bean plants which have now been moved......

...into this bed, round a frame I built with sticks I found in our supply.  It is a little wonky but I hope it does the job.  I will add more rounds of twine as the plants grow bigger.  This is a narrow strip of bed that runs alongside our polytunnel without which we would struggle to grow as much as we do.  Inside there are amongst other things....



...and a salad leaf bed.

At the top of the garden we have a bed which is the full width of the garden.  When we moved here it was a raised patio area which had a surface reminiscent of stormy sea.  We removed the paviors and used them to make the path, threw some soil in and made a big bed.  This year it is home to....

...red cabbages...

 ...white onions...


...and pok choi as well as white cabbages and carrots.

As we return back to the house this is the trellis from the other side, looking through to the garlic.

I leave you with a view of the green roof that covers the garage and workshop roof.

That is my garden in June, I hope to be back again in July with larger plants to share with you and maybe even some more produce.  What is growing in your garden?