Back to school

Small daughter went back to school today.  It’s always one of those days that I look forward to with a mixture of relief and disappointment, and despite my good intentions of getting So Much Done that I didn’t do over the holidays, I’m finding myself missing her being around and checking the clock to see when she’s going to be home again.  And not actually doing that much at all.

It seemed like a good idea to remind myself of what we’ve been up to over the last couple of weeks.  It’s ended up as a much longer post than I intended to write, but I hope that you’ll forgive that in the name of distraction!

Small daughter has reached that age where she’s not really impressed with the idea of helping with tidying up in the garden (not that she ever really was, to be honest), but she did like the idea of “tidying up” the raspberry bushes by picking the fruit so that we could make jam.  The nice thing about the holidays has been that, apart from a few days here and there and our family holiday, we didn’t really have any plans so we could do spontaneous things like make jam without too much thought.  I use a jam maker to make the jam – yes, it could be classed as cheating by traditionalists, but it makes a good jar of jam!  It’s a Tefal one and it’s years old – I think it may have been discontinued now – but it still works just fine.  Small daughter mixed the raspberries with some blackcurrants we picked earlier to make up the weight, added a bag of jam sugar which happened to be in the cupboard (don’t you just love it when that happens?!) and we left it to do it’s thing for an hour or so.

After the process has finished, it was just a case of ladling the jam into jars and waiting for it to cool and then – the most important part – the quality control sampling.

You’ll be pleased to know it is very good jam!

It’s not on sourdough bread, though, as our Aga was off again (don’t say anything!) but it’s back on again now and bread production is back in full flow.  I found this Herdy tea towel when I was doing some clearing out.  My husband bought it for me quite a while back as it matched my mug but I thought it was too nice to put out in the kitchen – I don’t know about your house but our tea towels seem to get used for all kinds of mopping up things as well as drying dishes and often end up with peculiar stains on them that refuse to come out however much I wash them.  I’d obviously put it away safely, but it’s now in service as my official Sourdough Cover and when it’s out by the Aga, that’s a sure indication that there’s a new loaf on it’s way!

Look, I’m using my bread bag!  The loaf fits in there very well; I was a bit worried after I’d washed the bag and it shrunk quite a bit that it would be a bit of a tight fit but there’s plenty of room in there.

Thank you very much for all your comments on my plastic-free update post, and to everybody who used the links to try out the Koh cleaner and the Brew tea – I’m really pleased to hear that you’ve been happy with them both!  I would never share a link to anything that I didn’t personally use and have found useful or enjoyable so I appreciate you trying them out on my recommendation.

I posted links to the blog post on Facebook and Instagram and thoroughly enjoyed the conversations that came from them!  On Julie’s recommendation, I ordered these plastic-free scrubby pad alternatives which are … interesting … to use!  They’re quite stiff compared to the non-scratch foam scourer pads that I used to buy from the supermarket, but I’m hoping that with use and some hot washes (they can go in the dishwasher) they will become a bit more flexible.  Knitting Fiona commented on the blog post about knitting hemp scourers and maybe that’s something I should look into – but they’ll have to go on the very long list!  Never mind the idea of SABLE (Stash Acquired Beyond Life Expectancy), I have the project equivalent – now what would the acronym for that be, I wonder?!

The weather has been a bit hit and miss over the last couple of weeks; we’ve had some lovely sunshine and some torrential rain.  All good for the garden, I guess.  I’ve been spotting flowers when I can – it’s too easy for me to rush past, or think that “nothing grows except weeds” so it’s good that I can write about the garden here and add photos so that when I look back I can remind myself that it wasn’t all urban jungle! 😀

Clockwise from left: a solitary gladiolus flower from a bulb that small daughter home brought home from Brownies (or was it Guides?) once and we stuck in a pot to see what would happen.  It’s taken a few years, but this happened!  A dahlia from a variety pack picked up from Aldi earlier in the year; passion flower (oh, I LOVE these just as much as poppies – they’re so exotic and elegant and purple!); another dahlia from the same Aldi packet.  I think this one is a pompom dahlia, I can’t remember what the first one is called.

I always have company in the garden these days, which is an absolute joy to me.

What is it about a robin in the garden that makes me feel so happy?  I don’t know, because I love seeing all the birds that visit our garden (except, perhaps, for the huge crows that stalk around in a particularly menacing way), but there’s very definitely something about this cheeky little bird that keeps it’s beady eye on my when I’m gardening.

There have been so manay butterflies on the Buddleja too – it’s been flowering for such a long time, which is wonderful for all those insects that need it.

I think the top one is a Painted Lady, the bottom one is a Peacock and we’ve had Red Admirals too but they were too shy to be photographed.

We’ve also been visited by a leaf cutter bee.  These are solitary wild bees and the females make nests using circular sections of leaf that they have very carefully cut out.  Look at those beautifully neat circles!  Isn’t that clever?  It might not make my rose leaves look too attractive, but I love that a bee (or perhaps more than one) is visiting our garden and we are helping her to make her nest by providing a plant that she wants to use.

The bees in the shed have moved on now so I can get in there without worrying that I’m going to disturb them.  I haven’t tried looking to see if they’ve left any kind of nest but I might do at some point when I know there definitely aren’t likely to be any bees there any more.  Does anybody know if they all move on or whether some might stay?

Oh, I wanted to show you this!  I’ve got an oak-leaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) in the garden and it has white flowers – until this time of year when they turn pink!  This is the front of the flower, a delicate salmon-y pink …

and this is the back!  There’s nothing salmon-y about that colour!  Every year this takes me by surprise – you’d think I’d be used to it by now!

In the vegetable garden … I’ve got a good crop of onions this year …

although despite my efforts to keep on top of these little blighters, I might not have much in the way of sprouts again …

I really must improve my netting system!

I found these in the garden, too.  They look very much like the mushrooms I buy albeit mushrooms on steroids compared to the button mushrooms that come in the box from Aldi, – they’rehuge!  However, knowing nothing about foraging fungi and not wishing to hasten my demise (I’ve watched far too many episodes of Midsomer Murders!), I decided to put them in the garden waste bin rather than the fridge!  Luckily our pets aren’t interested in eating things from the garden unless they have four legs and a long tail or, occasionally and very sadly, a pair of wings so I’m not worried about them – although it probably is a message to me to get on with tidying up in the garden!

We did make a start the other week.  It’s only been about two years since we decided that we needed to re-grout the paving flags outside the house …

and we finally got round to doing it last weekend.  We used this stuff called Easy Joint which was indeed very easy to use and we’re wondering why we waited so long!  Cutting back all the plants has made a difference as well – it’s surprising what a bit of a tidy up can do! 😀

All of that effort couldn’t go unrewarded and small daughter (whilst “not available” and doing teenager-type things whilst the hard work was going on) was miraculously at the front of the queue for treats afterwards.  She had an ice cream milkshake and I had a Coke float (a scoop of vanilla ice cream in a glass of Coca Cola) – I really can’t remember the last time I had one of those, but it was soooo good!

There was also a treat of the yarny kind.  I took myself off to Black Sheep Wools to pick up a ball of my Hidden Gem yarn and it wasn’t until I was back in the car that I realised that right there, on my knee, was a ball of my Hidden Gem yarn that I had bought at my local yarn shop!  Every now and again, we have these moments that bring us up short and remind us of just how lucky we are, don’t we, and that was one of them right there.  Did I ever imagine that I would be able to buy my yarn at a yarn shop?  No, I certainly didn’t except for in my daydreaming imaginations – but I am so very grateful that I can!

I wanted to have a play around with the colours and see what happened to them if I knitted something other than socks.  I started off using my own pattern for a cowl which I promise I will share at some point, but it came out a bit stripier than I had wanted.

So I tried again and this times I was a bit more deliberate with the pooling, using yarn from both ends of the ball.  There’s no pattern this time, either, and I like the way it’s turning out with the plain knitting.  This is more of what I had in mind!  I just wanted to see how the colours worked together in a way that was different to how the turn out in a sock, and I am not disappointed.  I’ll show you how it turns out!

If you’ve reached this point then thanks for sticking around – I did say this was a long post!  Have a lovely week – I’ll catch up with you soon! xx

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22 Responses

  1. Sarah Hardy says:

    A lovely post as usual x

  2. Anonymous says:

    Everything in your garden is lovely. Here in Oklahoma it's dry, hot, & brown
    Hopeful for a early fall. Was 100° here today.
    Am waiting "patiently" for your taat top down sock kal. Love your patterns & have learned a lot from you. Just wanted to thank you for all your help, my husband likes you too cause he gets new socks lol

    • Winwick Mum says:

      I am getting on with the TAAT tutorial, I promise! There's so much going on behind the scenes here and I'm hoping to have it finished very soon! 100 degrees is pretty hot – hope it cools down for you soon! xx

  3. sustainablemum says:

    So many lovely things happening round your way. How amazing to be create your own yarn, wow! I love those circles created by the leaf cutter bees, I will be looking for those everywhere now.

    • Winwick Mum says:

      I wondered about the holes in the leaves for years until I heard about them, but this is the closest I've seen them to the house so they must have been deemed to be very useful ones! 🙂 xx

  4. selina says:

    awesome post
    loved how your pavers turned out too, looks like a totally different area, though the wheelbarrow should go back with plants in it :))
    interesting knitting with the 2 variations
    thanx for sharing

    • Winwick Mum says:

      The wheelbarrow is already back! It's full of houseleek (Sempervivum) which are all very tiny but now that I've weeded it again then hopefully they're grow a bit bigger! 🙂 xx

  5. Jools41 says:

    What a diverse (and enjoyable) post. We have a lot of block paving, which is providing a nurturing environment for all manner of plants that don't do nearly so well in the border … grrr! We have finally given in on trying to keep it clear and a very nice man is going to come and make it all lovely again and seal it – hopefully that will do the trick and it will look as nice as your photo. As to the projects – how about a box labelled NITI (not in this incarnation), just a thought! Jools

    • Winwick Mum says:

      Oh NITI sounds perfect, ha ha! 🙂 Yes, we had the "nurturing environment" between the paving cracks as well – I actually quite liked it but some of the plants that were growing there were starting to get quite big and when you've got to step over them to get to your front door, you know you need to do something about them! 🙂 xx

  6. Sandra in Canada says:

    What is a jam maker?

    • Winwick Mum says:

      It's a machine that you put the fruit, sugar and water into and jam comes out! It looks a bit like a large slow cooker and has steaming functions for jelly, a self-cleaning option (result!) and does all the stirring and temperature checking so that I don't have to stand over the stove 🙂 xx

  7. happy hooker says:

    Thanks for the link to Easy Grout. Will have to give it a go. Your paving looks great. I used to make Coke floats many (too many) years ago when I worked in a local Wimpy. Reading that was a real blast from the past for me! Some of my rose leaves have been eaten away too. I never see the culprits, but if it means there's a bee's nest somewhere that my roses have helped build, I'm not complaining. xx

    • Winwick Mum says:

      Wimpy! I haven't thought about that in years! I didn't know they sold Coke floats in there – they used to be my treat when I went to stay with my Grandad and he'd buy them for me (and one for him!) in a cafe in town 🙂 xx

  8. Susan Rayner says:

    A wonderful post and it reminded my husband and me of the summers we used to spend with our parents so many years ago now (back in the 50s and 60s) lovely and gentle!! Love the photos too! Thank you!

  9. Luisa Holistic Massage & Healing says:

    I do love seeing robins around, I think they are kind of magic and very cute and I also love crows they are very intelligent birds and if you sit around and watch them fly they sometimes gift a wonderful couple dance in the air 😊
    Lovely post 💚
    Luisa xx

    • Winwick Mum says:

      We have a lot of crows around here but I must say that I am much less fond of them than robins! I've seen them steal the baby rabbits from the fields and fly off with them which I never like to think about too closely, but I will look to see if I can see them dancing and perhaps I will be able to think of them more fondly 🙂 xx

  10. creativemummybear says:

    What a lovely post! Your jam looks delicious. My new favourite treat is jam on sourdough bread – yummy! xx

  11. Geeha says:

    I have just received an email about your special Xmas robin socks, I wonder if the photos above were a hint. Will you be having a link to get commission or shall I go ahead and order?

    • Winwick Mum says:

      You may well have your robin yarn now, Geeha, but the links to the yarn shops in the right hand side bar are both affiliate links – thank you for asking! xx

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