Saturday, 30 January 2010

How many feet does one girl need?

The answer is many if they are for your sewing machine.

This morning I woke up with a throat full of sand and an ache in every joint. But we had stuff to do so up I got and made us bacon butties as we planned. The first job of the day was to go to Swillington Farm and sign up for a half share of their CSA. For the princely sum of £33.50 a month we get a veg box every week and the opportunity to go and volunteer in the garden their which will give us some valuable experience and much needed exercise. You do;t have to volunteer which is quite nice, but we would both like to. When they start it up again we want to join the goat CSA, which gives us raw unpasteurised milk and they are also doing a sheep one which basically entail us giving them a loan which they will pay back and give us 4% on top which is paid in meat. That one seems to have the smallest return for us but we see it as helping a local shepherd get a flock up and running and we get to go help out. All experience and helping the community, 2 things that are very important to us. They were also having a sale on their frozen meat due to a canceled farmer's market. We got a lot of meat for £10 and it's all organic too!

After this we headed into town to the market to get the last bits of meat we would need and our monthly eggs. We are trying out the whole menu planning thing at the moment so bulk buying is an important step. However we need to make sure what we buy actually makes the meals we've planned. It's an organizational challenge :o) We then headed to my favourite fabric stall to buy the material I need to make a wedding quilt for a couple of our friends who are getting married in April. I may have bitten off more than I can chew with this but we will see. After a bit of complicated math and a change of backing material we were all set. So we headed home.

Now what does all this have to do with feet I hear you ask. Well dear readers you have been patient so I will tell you. When we first arrived in town we headed to a little vintage/second hand place that had just opened. In there they had 2 Singer treadle powered sewing machines which they were using as part of the displays. They just had things draped on them and were kinda serving as tables. But they were intact and beautiful. In the drawers of one of them was a box of bits; feet, bobbins, thread etc. Spadger being the cheeky person he is went and asked them if they would be willing to sell the box. They said no as they were not for sale just part of the decor. I don't think they were lending much to the decor myself but I may be biased as I wanted them :o) So I felt a little sad that here was something I had been searching for and I couldn't have it but I thought "hey, you'll find them one day". One our way home we stopped at the local Poverty Aid which is a big charity warehouse so Spadger could look for shelving. Now they always have Singers in there but they are usually converted to electric. Still they have all their decals which mine is missing and I think they are beautiful so, I always have a look and a bit of a dribble. They had one that was hand cranked which also had a pile of feet with it. I pulled the 3 feet out and decided that now was the time to be cheeky myself. So I went and asked if I could buy just them. The young lad serving went to ask if this was ok and can back saying yes. I was ecstatic. However my joy was not complete. He said £2. I assumed £2 each which would be £6 and a total steal. Nope he meant £2 for them all!!!! Woot and wahey said I (internally of course, didn't want anyone to think I was nuts).

The feet I got as an adjustable hemming foot, a rolled hem foot and a felling foot. They are all types of hemming feet and are all very useful. I am soooo happy.

Tomorrow I intend to play with them all. Tonight though I am in the midst of making chicken and vegetable pie to be served with roasted beetroot, carrots and baked potatoes. I may feel like hell but I have had a great day :o)

Thursday, 28 January 2010

All photos are accurate. None of them is the truth.

Hey guys

I've not blogged in a while. I always feel that a blog without pictures is a bit wrong as I love photographs. For many years I harbored fantasies of being a photographer but for one reason and another life didn't work out that way. So rather than new and shiny pictures I thought I'd share some old ones with you.

When my parents got divorced they sold our house and split the money so I got some as well. This went into a trust fund til I was 21. When I finished uni me and a friend decided to backpack around Italy. We went for 5 weeks and out route went like this. Naples, Pompeii, Rome, Perugia, Sienna, Florence, Ferrara, Venice, Verona, Genoa, Milan. I can say after 5 weeks traveling this country that I did not "do" Italy that year. I would need to go back many times to completely do the country. There were many other back packers who "did" Europe in the time we barely scratched the surface of Italy.

Naples was an interesting start. We got there late only to discover the pensione we wanted to stay at would not let us in til morning. One very expensive night at a hotel later we had leant to be slightly better organized. In the same dorm as us was a young lad whose bag was as big as me! He even had dress shoes in there. Me thinks he had ideas of an Italian Countess sweeping him off his feet. There was also an older lady whose bag was a tiny beach bag. She’d been traveling for years so had packing down to a fine art.

Pompeii was amazing. Though I caution anyone going to make sure they have plenty of water. Man the heat just radiates off the walls in that place. It was incredibly interesting though and so very stark.

Rome was a place I could have stayed for much longer. We arrived there having phoned ahead to the hostel we wanted to stay at. They weren't sure if they would have places but they said to come anyway and if they didn't they would help us out. As it turned out they didn't have room but the network in Rome is great. If one hostel has no room they phone another until they find you somewhere. On our way to the hostel we got a bit stuck and were approached by a very attractive Australian who asked if he could help. In a moment of amazing providence he worked at the very hostel we were looking for. Bonus. We got there and were asked if we minded being in a mixed gender dorm and ended up sharing with an Aussie, a Canadian and an American. All the travelers and staff were amazing there and we ended up going out on an evening and staying in playing games with all of them. It was a hell of an experience.

The Vatican was probably the most memorable bit of Rome. We bypassed most of the queue as we had dressed appropriately in trousers and had shawls to cover our shoulders and head if necessary. Honestly, who goes to the seat of the Catholic Church in shorts and a crop top!!!! The museum was amazing and St Peters was a vastly spiritual place. It was very peaceful and beautiful. Michelangelo's La Pieta made me cry. I got some very kind looks from the various clergy :o)

La Pieta from here

The Pantheon is an amazing building Spadger keeps informing me it is a poured concrete building which is quite impressive given some of the hideous examples of the same art here in England.

Florence was my friend's favorite place. Again it had a campsite with some really friendly people and the Duomo is very beautiful. At the Uffizi gallery I got to stand in front of Botticelli's Venus. Truth be told I thought his Annunciation in one of the other rooms was nicer. I also got to see the Statue of David. Very impressive but he looked wrong as he wasn't on the correct pedestal. There was info explaining that he is crafted to stand at a particular height, this brings everything into proportion. As he was then he had one huge hand and a walleye.

Florence was full of beautiful statues and, less appealing for me, many people pretending to be statues. I really don't like those, no one should be able to stand that still!!!

Venice was my big love. It is possibly the most beautiful place I have ever been. The cabals were green and clam and did not smell as many people claim. San Marco is a glittering edifice with an amazing view from the roof. We saw Mass while we were there and it took my breath away. The Doges palace was the high point though. As we stepped out of one room an looked out over the court yard we were imagining a handsome man in period clothing riding his horse in and jumping off to whisk us away. Just at that point a thunderstorm happened. It couldn't have been more perfect if it had tried. This was the only point over the 5 weeks that the temperature dropped below 40 degrees Celsius. It hit 19 and as soon as the storm finished it went right back up! To finished Venice off we attended a Vivaldi concert in an old church.

I know I've missed some places out but these are my favorite bits. The end of the journey involved me having my camera stolen in the "nicest" hostel we stayed in. Lockers and all sorts. We just stowed our stuff under our beds as we had for the rest of the holiday in much worse conditions. Not same in the sterile place with cameras on the walls. I had to go to the police station to file a report so I could try and claim on insurance (which didn't work). Trying to explain to armed men in a foreign language was terrifying.

Going to Italy was one of the best experiences of my life so far. I took what at the time were my best pictures (I think I've improved since then) but I could have taken hundreds more. One day I would like to go back but I think that is slightly prohibited by my lifestyle and philosophies these days.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Blog tag

Kinda like freeze tag but without the standing still. The idea is you list 3 blogs you have found recently and then tag 3 other blogs to pass it on. I think it's quite a nice way of introducing your followers to new blogs. So cheers Bright and New, I look forward to browsing though all the blogs you mentioned :o)

3 blogs I've found recently
Cold Antler Farm
Soule Mama
Luck and Bliss

3 people I'm tagging
Things Rattling Around In My Head
This Homemade Life

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Nature abhors a vacuum. And so do I.

So today is gonna be a busy day for all. Spadger has a greenhouse to build and I have a house to tidy. We've been a bit slack of late so it's a mighty job. In amongst this we have Spadgersdottier to entertain too.

All the washing up is done. I'm about to tackle the rest of the kitchen including the floor. I really hate scrubbing floors! Spadger has all the panels ready to go and is outside with Spadgersdottier now clearing the area for the greenhouse to live.

The outdoor workers called for tea so now they have that and one of my birthday buns. I have a mug of hot squash and I have 2 sides of the kitchen clean. I've even washed the back door! The amount of light that gets through clean glass is lovely.

The kitchen is clean. Yes it has really taken me this long! It is the worlds smallest kitchen (this many be an exaggeration, I take no responsibility for it's accuracy) which you think would make it easy to keep tidy. Instead it means 2 cups on the side make it seems untidy and it's really easy to think it's a big job to tidy so I don't have time right now. Here is a picture. No I didn't make it so small to make a point :o)

Click to see a bigger image

I took the 1st photo stood as far to the end of the kitchen as possible, The 2nd and 3rd I'm stood in the connecting doorway with my back pressed against the door and the cooker, the 4th leaning backwards over the sink and the 5th in the back doorway. I hope that gives you an idea of how small it is. Since we moved in Spadger has made a folding extension to the main sideboard which goes up in front of the back door, the tiny bit of sideboard that the bokashi bin sits on and added the 3 shelves. Without those we would be lost

After a quick trip out to buy more coffee beans and some popping corn I have finally finished cleaning the living room. I am a sewer which means the whole house eventually ends up covered in threads. The vacuum cleaner doesn't pick these up very easily. However I have just discovered an attachment on it which does. Huzzah. I have vacuumed, polished and tidied. I have never seen the downstairs looking so spotless. I have charged Spadger and Spadgersdottier not to mess it up on pain of death. I think they believe I am in earnest. I would like to give upstairs the same treatment but I need to make a start on tea. A couple of weeks ago Spadgersdottier decided for the second time that she wanted to be vegetarian. We have no problem with this but it means we are trying to introduce her to new foods. Tonight I am making curry as I know she likes that. I'll use vege mince as the main ingredient with plenty of peas and sweet corn. I'm than roasting some pumpkin for her to try and boiling some haricot beans as well. I'll keep these separate and then if she doesn't like them me and Spadger can have them and she wont have to fuss about picking them out.

So the pumpkin was a miss but the beans went down well. The curry was damn nice if I do say so myself. Spadger is busy making cheese. This is his second attempt and it seems to be working much better this time. I think this evening will involve a game of Scrabble and not much else. It's been quite I nice day today. Not sure when I hit a point that a days cleaning could be considered a good day. I wonder what this means :o)

Friday, 22 January 2010

For peace of mind resign as general manager of the universe

One of the suppliers my company uses gave us these little plastic phone holder things that have a calender on them. Each day has a fact and a little saying. Today's face is that in 1984 the Apple Macintosh computer was officially introduced. The saying is the title of today's post. One day I would like to be Empress of the universe, secondary title would be Countess of Joy. My main manifesto points are one hug a day at least and a pastry of your choice. I think these are both important daily requirements.

Anyhoo all that is totally besides the point of today's post. Today I wish to talk about the weather. Yes dear readers, we have reached that point in our relationship where we are going to make small talk about the weather. Today it is raining. Well actually it's pouring. I can see small poodles and tiny cats collecting in the guttering. After so much snow I'm not sure our water table can cope with much more water. However I suppose too much is better than not enough. Though only just. It seems to me that there are a lot of places at the moment which suffer from either too much or not enough water. It is the most precious substance on the planet but it is under appreciated and abused by most people in the "civilised" world.

Cholera, typhoid fever, hepatitis A and dysentery are all caused by dirty drinking water. Yet here and in many other countries with perfectly acceptable drinking water we spend "£2 billion on bottled water when a billion people around the world don't have safe water." Quote from BBC How mental is that? But this is not the only way in which we abuse our water supply. We leave taps running, wash clothes more than they need and then there is the eternal debate on whether hand washing or dishwashers are better. (from what I can gather the studies that say dishwashers are better base their data on hand washers rinsing their dishes too. We never do that)

Currently only some houses in the UK are on metered water. I for one believe that everyone being on meters would be better. That way people will be forced to look at what they are using. Now I'm not saying that this will actually change anyones attitude. Lord knows that paying for something doesn't make people take ownership. I used to work for British Gas and my experience there taught me that a lot of people would rather blame the prices and the fat cats than their usage for the massive bill. In Australia there are very strict regulations on how much water households can use and I think that kind of regulation could be applied elsewhere.

General thought is that you can only go 3 days without water, you would think that we would look after it better.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”

Today's title is from Siddhartha Gautama, better known as Buddha. It is particularly pertinent to how I feel at the moment. Anyone who read yesterday's post will know that there is a little bit of upset in my life at the moment. I can't help but think of the past in relation to current events. This morning I received a message from another part of my past, one I would much rather leave behind.

Letting go of things is something I find very difficult. It is something I constantly battle with and I turn to the wisdom of Buddhism often to try and help me with it. There are certain parts of my past that I would much rather just forget about, this person is one of them. I have managed to have no contact with them for the last 4 years bar one previous email. It is a terrible shock when I get a message from them, to the point that I feel a little bit sick. It is totally ridiculous that something so small can make me feel so bad. One day I hope to be able to think of them and the part they played in my past without any rancour. But currently this is beyond me.

I have also spent a fair amount of time recently thinking about the future. I discovered from Jenna at Cold Antler Farm that I am suffering from a condition called Barnheart. This condition rears it's head most often when I think of the future. I long for our farm and this longing seems to get worse with every passing day.

It is a combination of these unhappy thoughts of my past and desperate long for my future that make me think of the wisdom of Siddhartha. Dwelling on my past is not going to change it, nor would I really want it to. I am who I am because of every action I have taken and every choice that I have made. Dreaming of the future will not make it come any quicker. By doing either of these 2 things I am ignoring the present which is the only tangible one of the 3. I am missing moments that will make looking back on my past more enjoyable and that are building my future.

I need to spend a little bit more time centred in the present. I think most of us could benefit from that.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Even sunbeams get the blues

My day did not start well. I got a phone call from my Dad to say he and my Stepmum have separated. I only spoke to them on Saturday! Amazing what can happen in a couple of days. He said it was mutual so hopefully it will be quite amicable. My little brother seems ok, a little shaken but alright. He's a year older than I was when my Mum and Dad split up.

This will be my 3rd familial divorce. Mum/Dad, Mum/Stepdad, Dad/Stepmum. Not a great history really. It got me thinking about the divorce rate in my family and it goes like this.
Mum and Dad followed by them both splitting from a following marriage. My Nana and Grandad on my Mum's side have been divorced for longer than I've been alive. About 4 years ago my Grandparents on my Dad's side separated but have not divorced yet. My Uncle on my Dad's side split with his wife before Christmas. On my Mum's side one of my Aunts got divorced years ago, the other has just filed for it. My uncle on my Mum's side is still happily married. One of my Cousins has just filed for divorce.

It's not a happy list is it? Now I certainly don't believe in staying in a relationship that is making you unhappy. I certainly don't believe in staying "for the sake of the children". That's a sure fire way to make everyone unhappy.

However I can't help thinking that the ease of divorce makes people either jump into marriage when their not ready or giving up too easily.

So it's not been the best of days for me. I was supposed to be going to a couple of friends' dance performance this evening but I'm not feeling all that sociable really. Me and Spadger will be sitting down and watching the first season of Being Human on the projector. I could really do with George the werewolf's sense of humor. I leave you with a quote from Disney's Stitch. Things are never as bad as they first seem.

"This is my family. I found it all on my own. It's little, and broken, but still good. Yeah - still good."

Sunday, 17 January 2010

In the kitchen with bruises

Ah a post not dedicated to snow. What an oddity. The snow has pretty much gone now. There are a few piles, the remains of dead snowmen, lying around but that is it. So there was no snowman competition on my Birthday. However I had a great day. I went pattern and fabric shopping in the morning and got the most amazing pattern ever!

Then in the afternoon my friends came over and brought cakes and scones and we had tea and chatted. It's been ages since we all got together and it was lovely! On the evening 2 of them came with us to the local alternative night. I got to wear my corset for the first time. Man they are hard to dance in. You don't notice how hard you breathe when dancing till you can't. I woke up this morning with bruises from it. I guess when corsets where around the most strenuous thing most folk did was play the harpsichord. At least as tight laced as I was anyhoo.

Today I am making cake. It's tradition at my workplace that you bring cakes in on your birthday for everyone. Now I don't buy cakes so I must make them. I'm planning pumpkin muffins, rainbow sponge cakes and maybe some biscuits. I also want to get some sewing done today as I don't think I've done any in a while.

Ah as always when I try to do a lot of baking at once it's all gone a bit wrong. The sponge cakes I decided to make as a loaf so it's easier to transport. This is in the oven now but it is not cooking in the middle. My bread needs to go in the oven in 10 mins and there isn't enough room for it all if the sponge doesn't cook. Eep. Ah well. I'm feeling quite relaxed about it still.

I have been experimenting. Now as I'm sure I've mentioned before I am a recipe type of gal. However of late I have been learning to experiment. Today I cooked 3/4 of a pound of shredded pumpkin. Once I'd drained all the water out of it this became only 3 and 1/4 ounces!!!! My recipe called for half a pound. SO I scrapped that recipe and adapted another. I have a batch waiting to go in the oven (when I find room!). They should be banana, cherry, pecan muffins. instead thy are pumpkin, sultana and pumpkin seed muffins. Don't tell anyone, but I'm quite excited to see how they turn out. Once I've got all the above either in or out of the oven depending where it is at I think I'll make some plain chocolate biscuits and then that should do.

Rainbow sponge cake, check. Pumpkin muffins, check. (well only 7 came out of the tins without breaking. So gone wrong cake for us) Chocolate chip cookies, check. Bread buns for the week, check. So after all that I decided I wanted to make the butter this week. I will never volunteer for this again!!!! My arms are blood read and I am knackered. However I made butter and that does give me a sense of accomplishment. When I make the scones later I will feel really proud of myself. I think Spadger can do it until he makes me a churn though. I'm too tired to do any sewing now. So I'm going to wait for my tea (yeah we're a bit late tonight), maybe watch the latest episode of QI on the iPlayer and then make the scones. All in all it's been quite a nice weekend. I will share pics of all I bought on Saturday with you this week some time.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Opera rocks

More on that later :o) Needless to say it was fab!

The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age

It's my birthday tomorrow and for the first time ever my thoughts are a bit mixed. I love birthdays and don't think I'll ever want to stop celebrating them. I don't subscribe to the idea that getting older is a bad thing, in fact I think it's ridiculous. My birthday has always been a little bit of a let down since I left tiny childhood however. With it falling so close to Christmas I always fell into that danger period where I was offered the choice of a bigger present combining the 2 celebrations if I wanted. Invariably this means getting that present at Christmas so your birthday is a bit sparse. As I got older I discovered that my birthday falls between the payday before Christmas and the next one for most people. So everyone is skint and all partied out by the time my birthday comes around.

For my 3 years at university my birthday was great. It fell after we had all returned for the second term and all our loan cheques had cleared by that point so we all had money. Plus at uni all my friends were up for whatever crazy fancy dress scheme we could come up with.

Now I have a different dilemma. What do you do for presents when you now live in a way that means you don't want new or useless stuff? I don't feel I can ask for anything that is a true frippery anymore when there is more important stuff. Things like jewellery are pointless as I never go anywhere to wear the nice pieces I already own. I make clothes now. I have no interest in the latest CD/DVD/computer game. So what do I want? I've asked Spadger to get me some notions. Things like zips and thread and stuff like that. For all the ideas I have for sewing I never seem to have the "bits and pieces". Not the most exciting present but one I will actually use. This should help me transform my gigantic fabric stash into useful stuff.

I think presents are the last real hurdle between me and a truly frugal, "simple" life. I love opening gifts and really like it when people have put thought into it (see my glee over tea towels this Christmas hehehe). But when you have decided that you don't need anything it doesn't always mean that you have stopped wanting stuff. I think Birthdays may always be the time when I want to fall off the lack of consumption wagon.

So the plan for this birthday is simple. The local alternative night actually falls on my birthday this year with it being a Saturday so we're going out for a dance. I finally get to wear my corset out! A good nights dancing after a day spent in fabric shops seems like a great day to me :o)

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Always plan ahead. It wasn't raining when Noah built the ark.

So we are almost half a month into the new year and big changes are afoot already. Spadger is totally fed up with his job to the point where he won't be in it for much longer. At the very least he will be demoted. In today's financial climate what could possibly make someone want to leave a fairly stable, relatively well paid job? Dissatisfaction is the simple answer. I am not exactly thrilled with my job but I've had worse so can manage for the moment. So with a very real possibility of a drop in income we need to reassess our current budget. Now when we first got together I pretty much supported us and we managed on very little money. Over the years we have gotten better off and, while we have never lived to excess, we have been able to live better and more to our principles. We are now faced with the challenge of staying with those principles without feeling like we are going without.

Enter the might entity that is menu planning. It is a concept I have come across many times in my ready of many frugal and green blogs. The general idea is to have a rotating menu set over several weeks. You can then bulk buy things and also grab stuff while it is on offer knowing that it will get used. Importantly you must remember to include all meals in this, not just the main one of the day. The rotating part is to stop you getting bored by having the same meals every week. By planning in this way we should be able to cut down what we spend on groceries by buying in bulk/seasonally, reduce the amount of packaging things have, reduce waste when we don't eat all of those impulse buys (come on who hasn't found stuff in the bottom of the fridge or the back of the cupboard that they've forgotten about because it doesn't get eaten regularly?) and hopefully eat healthier too.

My plan is to get everyone in the house to write a list of their favourite meals. I can then use this as a basis for my list. I also want to look at ways to alter these meals as well. For example replacing the meat with pulses etc. Spadgersdottier has recently decided to have another go at vegetarianism so I need a repertoire of veggie meals anyhoo. I have been vegetarian in the past but I really had no idea how to cook at the time so from a health perspective it was a disaster. I like the idea of incorporating more veggie meals into my diet again. By making our diet more vegetarian as well it means we can get even better meat because we will be buying less for more money. Both me and Spadger would prefer it if our carnivorous sides were fed with animals that actual saw sunshine!

The first thing I am going to do is sort out our freezer again. I started keeping a record of what was in it at the end of last year but it sort of petered out and once again I have no idea what is in there apart from a ton of pumpkin! I think February is when all this will start as we need to get our lists together and look at where we are gong to buy things from to get the best deals . Not to mention storage of goods too!

Is it wrong that I'm quite excited about this idea?

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

How ace are bugs?

Oops, though tI'd posted this yesterday. so a bit late but here you go.

Well it definitely looks like winter is slowly ending. I could see grass and flower beds this morning. Out overwintering garlic was standing there with it's little shoots poking out of the snow looking very proud with itself for surviving. (we have a habit of anthropomorphising everything in my house, you'll get used to it)So I am now starting to look forward to the next season which is spring. Spring is my second favourite season. The first, surprisingly enough is Autumn. So it goes Autumn, Spring, Winter then Summer. I like the changing seasons best. In Autumn everything is getting ready to go to sleep and puts on one last show of gorgeous colour before doing so. In Spring everything is waking up, dusting off it's Sunday best and trying to attract all the bugs for pollination.

I love bugs. I think I really started to notice them when I got into photography as I could see them close up (not as close as I would like. Man I'd love to be able to afford a decent macro set up). Most people dislike all but the prettiest bugs and many gardeners see them all as pests. However there are beneficial insects which can really help out.

If they are not having a detrimental effect, then leave them alone as they all form part of the natural balance between flora and fauna which gives us the beauty we all strive for.

Quote from here

Now this site has a list of bugs which fit under 3 categories; friends, some bad habits and the enemy. This made me smile quite a bit. Makes gardening seem more like playground warfare, which I guess it is. But the 3 categories are important. Only one of them is solely bad. So out of lots and lots of different bugs and other garden animals only a few are bad. However chemicals and pesticides are indiscriminate. They will attack everything. Then other animals will each these infected animals and bugs and so the poisons pass into their systems. They leech into the water systems and eventually get into our bodies. So in the end we are harming ourselves. Does that sound like a good idea to you? Nope. didn't think so. So what do you do to stop your crops being devoured by slugs and aphids and everything else? Well you can introduce the helpful bugs to your garden either by buying them in or good old fashioned encouragement via the right plants. You can use various organic recipes to keep the nasties at bay. You can use companion planting where you plant things next to each other that help encourage the right bugs, discourage the bad ones and generally support one another's growth.

These are all things I need to learn more about. I am a gardening novice and am quite black fingered really. But I plan on learning this year. I am in charge of the herbs, salad and peas in our garden this year! Since I like all of those it's the best motivation for me to learn. Plus the more bugs I can encourage in the more pics I get to take :o)

Sunday, 10 January 2010

The death of winter

Hey guys. Well the snow is still on the ground but there are mixed forecasts, some saying sleet, some saying snow and some saying thawing. So we will see if there is still enough for a snowman next Saturday. I think this is the death of winter, or at least the extreme cold and snow we've had. The 3 of us have spent the weekend sledging. This is the 2nd year running we've been able to do this which is great. This year is definitely better though. We tried out 2 different sets of hills. The first was over the road from Kirkstall Abbey, which is where we went last year. We also went to the hill just at the bottom of our road. It was quieter and steeper and has no trees. Man you get some speed up. This is the hill we went back to today. I didn't take part today as I have a misaligned pelvis and one day of sledging is about as much as I can take. So I stopped at the bottom of the hill and took pictures. There were a couple of gentlemen and their sons on sledges made of sign boards. They very kindly sold us one of the boards. I guess they made a tidy profit today as they sold another as well. They work for a sign company so I'm guessing the boards didn't cost them too much.

I managed to get a few pictures of the ice. I was hoping to get some of the icicles we saw the other night but most of them had thawed yesterday.

Now these are the icicles on our guttering. Quite impressive I thought.

There are also a few on the bin and a set of stalagmites/stalactites on the water barrel.

I can't remember the last time I saw proper icicles. It is just not cold enough for long enough anymore. We seem to have lost the seasons bit here. We get a couple of warm days in summer and a couple of cold days in winter and the rest of the time it is just damp in one way or another. These last couple of years have been more like the ones from my childhood, at least with the winters. Now if we can just get some sun in summer.

So if you thought my icicles were nice here are the ones at my mum's. Mighty or what? They're at least 3 feet long!

And just for pretty's sake here are a few other pics. But be warned dear reader, too many photos in icy conditions (especially after spending a couple of hours watching your dearly beloveds sledge) will lead to hands like this.

Friday, 8 January 2010

From a tiny seed

Our order of seeds arrived today. This is most of the seeds we are going to need for this years vegetable garden. We got them from The Real Seed Catalogue. These are all heritage seeds, some of which are varieties well over 100 years old. As we've looked into growing our own fruit and veg the kind of seeds we use has become more and more important. Here in England the weather is temperamental to say the least. We tend towards moderate and damp but we do get really warm patches and really cold ones too. We chose this company as they test all the seeds themselves, in Wales, to see how they fair in our climate. The ones in their catalogue should all work fairly well for us here. The reason we chose heritage seeds is simple. Less messing.

Most seed that you get from a garden centre of big catalogue are F1 hybrids. These have been bred to perform "better". This usually means more uniform in appearance and the plant fruiting all at the same time. While this is good for a commercial grower it's rubbish for us at home. F1s are bred from 2 or more kinds of plants to encourage certain characteristics. This means you can't really save seeds from them as they will revert back to the parent plants or just be sterile. Heirloom Plants breed true to type which means you can save your own seeds. In fact the company we bought from tells you how to save seeds from each different plant and actively encourages you to do so. What's that, a company encouraging you to not buy from them? Yup, that's right. So we have a bunch of really old varieties, a couple of which are weird ones such as yellow carrots and a cabbage tree! Did you know that orange carrots are relatively new, like the last couple of hundred years?

Anyhoo to get these cool kinds of veg they have to be a bit sneaky. According to EU regulations you can only sell certain kinds of seeds, those that have been certified, to the public. This is leading to many old varieties dying out. So by getting these seeds we have become members of the real seed club and that gets round it.

I like growing our own as we get the perfect ones and the ugly ones that supermarkets aren't allowed to sell. Under EU regulations (again) Vast amounts of fruit and veg are refused entry to our supermarkets based solely on appearance. Thankfully this abominable practice is being abandoned. So Will we eat wonky fruit and veg again?

Now I'm all out of pretty snowy pictures at the moment. I'm sure I'll take more this weekend.
So for now I leave you with a satellite picture of the UK at the moment.

Image courtesy of BBC

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Everyone has dreams

When I was younger all I wanted to do was be a doctor. As I got older I wanted to be a teacher. My hidden desire for many years was to be a photographer. I went into training in a call centre as a substitute for teaching. But none of these things stayed with me for long. I was not one of those people who knows what they want to do with their lives and that's it. I had the traditional goals of marriage, children and a career but nothing more fixed than that. And, as with most women, all of these vague goals were to be achieved before I turned 30.

I am now 9 days away from my 28th birthday. So let's look at my 3 goals.
Career: I don't have one and don't really want one anymore. I am working towards a homestead/farm. In an ideal world I will be able to give up any "normal" job and the farm will sustain us.
Marriage: Hopefully one day. Me and Spadger have talked about it so it's just a matter of time. He says the proposal has to top the first date which is a bit of a tall order so we'll see.
Children: Me and Spadger aren't procreating. I'm sure there is another post in that somewhere. However he has a beautiful daughter that I am proud to say calls me her Stepmother. I have a ready made family with out having to go through labour, sleepless nights and nappies. Can't put a price on that really.

I wonder if there is anything more to life than these 3 goals. Once I would have said no. Now I'm not so sure. What is truly important in life? I am far beyond the belief that the latest phone, newest clothes and biggest house will bring me happiness. The consumer rat race is not for me. So what will bring me happiness? The Buddhist view point is that happiness comes from your own perceptions of everything.

Seeking happiness outside ourselves is like waiting for sunshine in a cave facing north.
Tibetan saying

I would be lying if I said that not reaching any of these goals would not make me unhappy. However I choose now to live my life one day at a time and try to find myself lying in bed each evening happy with how my day went. I don't see how I can do anymore.

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama

This is something I think we have forgotten how to do. We no longer live in small communities and with greater amounts of disposable income than our ancestors had we seem to be finding less and less reason to help each other. Do you know the names of your neighbours? We do. Not many people can say the same though. On one side of us we have had several different tenants and the only ones we have known the names of are the owners, who are back in at the moment, and the lovely Polish people who were there when we moved in. No one else really made the effort to talk back to us. The little girl from next door came round to borrow a shovel the other day to clear their path of all the snow and it got me thinking. I can't remember the last time I would have felt comfortable asking a neighbour to borrow anything. How awful is that? We are becoming so insular and loosing touch with our communities.

Jenna at Cold Antler Is having a bit of a tough time at the moment. The sheer level of response from the Bloggosphere makes me glad that there is still some kind of community feeling in the world. Even if it is in a very widespread global way.

Wow so that was a bit of a ramble. How I got from the goals of most women pre-30 to community spirit I'm not sure. Ah well, you guys signed to to look into my butterfly mind :o)

So today I entreat you to say hello to the people you pass on the street, make the effort to become involved with your community and revel in the glorious feeling of connecting with your fellow man.

And just for AngelMC here are some more snowy pics :o) Kristen the place you mentioned in yesterdays pics is Kirkstall abbey. It's a 12th century Cistercian abbey that is 10 mins from my house.

This is the canal by our house. It's frozen solid with snow on it. Man the ducks we're disgruntled

Wednesday, 6 January 2010


Image courtesy of Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz

So last night, while watching the snow, I felt like I was living in a snow-globe. It's just like God/Allah/Creator Spirit is shaking everything up then putting us back on the dresser and watching the snow fall. The long range forecast has this kind of weather, or at lest the temperatures, being here for a month. This means I am in with a very real chance of getting my eternal birthday wish of enough snow to build a snowman granted.

Spadger's declaration

However many others do not share my glee at the snow. In fact, most don't. There are complaints of the cold, how hard it is to drive anywhere, how days off work only make it harder to get through it all. Man when did everyone grow up? Children have the best idea. They just want to play in it. They know that school work will have to be caught up on but they are able to forget about it and live in the moment. My exclamations of "please can I just have 10 days more snow" and the small squeal I let out when it started snowing again today are met with derision almost. Now I am a responsible adult. I would not call in and say I couldn't get to work when I could just to go and play in the snow. However I do wish to be snowed in, to not be able to make it to work. Now this could in part be due to my job not being the fulfilling thing that the farm will be. But mostly it is down to my love of snow.

Snow makes everything pretty. Even the most run down areas look lovely in snow. When I was really small we used to get snow most winters. This has changed as I've gotten older and now it seems we never get it, or it waits until Easter! The last couple of years we have had snowman snow. This winter is the coldest one in 30 years I heard on the radio today. But instead of appreciating this season we moan about it. London and the South get brought to a standstill at the slightest covering of snow. The North of England (I'm in Yorkshire) and Scotland have had much more but have just carried on. Sure many schools have been closed and roads have been hell. But we've just tried to carry on as normal. Whilst moaning of course.

I just don't understand how people can make the complaints the first thing they do. I mean, I understand that very few people over the age of 10 feel about snow the same way I do, but come on. Lighten up a bit folks.

Ok, rant over :o)

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

More snow and a refashionistas dilemmas

On the way to work this morning

The view from my office

Argh. Somehow managed to not save everything I wrote this morning. I know I pressed save. Ah well. Quick recap then. Tis snowing and I am giddy as a loon. Am also slightly miserable as I am at work with no sign of going home yet. They keep talking about it but no one has made the final decision yet. The last time I went out with a ruler (yes I actually went out with a ruler!) it was 3 inches deep. It hasn't stopped since then so I'm sure there will be much more now. The forecast is for snow for the next 3 days at least with temps not getting much above freezing. It's slowed down a lot now but the sky is still heavy.

Well my whole department has gone home now and it's just me sat here waiting for Spadger to say we can go. Sigh.

The view from my house today

Not long after the above we went. Now I am home from a walk thorough the Abbey grounds and down the canal side (which included a flask of tea and chili chocolate muffins!) Te snow has currently stopped as 5 inches :oD Glee glee glee. The first thing I did when we got home was make a snow angel.

Someone beat me for ingenuity by making a wall angel at the Abbey.

A quick bit of tidying up and then I think I shall get on with some sewing. We are due for more snow this evening. I'm hoping for enough to stop us from going into work tomorrow.

I finished taking the sleeves off a dress and turning a too short jumper into a cardigan. Not bad for an evening's work. Almost had a hissy fit at the bias binding I have as it's too thin but I made it up as I went along and all was well. I'm off to play Scrabble with the man now. I wonder how long it will take for me to swear at him.

I leave you with some more pics from today's snow. How can anyone be unhappy when there is beauty like this in the world?