Thursday, 14 September 2017

Goodbye August.......

August...the long month of Summer freedom; it's supposed to be so. This year seemed a little different, we didn't get the balance right. Last year we somewhat 'over did' the holidays and this year we didn't quite grasp the opportunities. They were there and in our thoughts but somehow events just swaddled us and the opportunities didn't manifest so we're all left a little deflated.

We're glad to see the back of August this year, it's been a month of 'goodbye's' so 'Goodbye August.....'

The most significant of our goodbye's was losing our dear friend Jenny. As with every sad event that happens we're trying to see the positives in the situation.


        


 

Our dear little Jenny chose us to be her family way back in 2008. If I'm being brutally honest, I didn't ever want a dog. It was just another element of chaos added to the list which I was already fighting to gain some form of control over. My late husband decided that our family needed a dog and he rather liked the idea of taking her to work with him. Of course the reality of the situation didn't ever come to fruition. She was of course a feisty little lady to whom in the early days behaving on the farm and in tenants houses would have been virtually impossible. She possessed killer instinct and in those early days when she exercised her own will she would chase virtually everything in sight!


                    


  


We were instructed to collect our little girl at just five weeks. My heart ached back then....five weeks is just too young. As an attachment parent, I would have preferred it if she had of left her family when she had become a little more independent. It was not to be and in hind sight she did incredibly well. Having an extra 'thing' to look after was just beyond me. In a world where I was surrounded by family chaos, deprived of sleep and struggling to keep, afloat another element almost tipped the scales. I really disliked that dog for the best part of eighteen months! I know, mean. She was cute as a puppy but grrrr, the chewing, the pooping, the barking.......it was like having another toddler in the house. Of course the kids loved her and I sort of did too...
In 2010 we decided to breed her....well when I say 'we' it was actually my idea and dear darling husband was quite opposed to his little girl 'up the duff'. Finding a suitor was a challenge, all of the good looking potentials had had their tackle removed. I confronted many a dog owner on the street and even left a note under the collar of one unsuspecting pooch outside the supermarket! Eventually the guy that we bought little Jenny from came up trumps with Tiger (there's a blog all about puppies way back at the beginning of my blogging journey). Jenny gave birth to six puppies, four of which survived. Our puppy journey was an incredible experience for us all and one I shall never forget and little Jenny was a brilliant mother.


I love this one....okay dog, you can have the bed......


As the children became older and as Jenny matured, I loved having her around. Despite the barking (which incidentally became a blessing and alerted me to the presence of people),  and the jumping up, she became one of the family and a loyal friend. She was trained to the whistle and would always return with a couple of toots. She retained her character.
Jenny loved coming out with us, loved travelling in the car, loved chasing things, loved catching rats (and the odd pheasant in her younger days!) and she had a passion for terrier racing. Only a month ago we allowed her ( we didn't have much choice. She knew....) to race at the fun dog show in Glympton and she still won all three of her races against all of the younger dogs.



It was with great reluctance that I took our dear little friend to the vets with a suspected bone in her throat. She was an incredibly healthy creature. I only ever took her to the vet for her initial puppy vaccinations and reluctantly to be micro chipped. They commented that she had lost a little weight since 2010! Anyway, the suspected bone turned out to be a tumour on her lungs and the vet wanted to put her to sleep there and then. I couldn't do that to my little friend....she left the examination room with perky ears and her tail wagging. I took her home.
Of course I knew that she was very poorly and I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't let her suffer. That afternoon one small boy wanted to test out a boat he had made so with a trip to the river planned I asked our little girl if she wanted to come...of course she did. She wanted to be around those who loved her. She enthusiastically trotted to the hall to have her harness and lead put on and independently walked to the car. She was perfectly happy lying on a blanket with us watching the fun.


Little Jenny remained in an unchanged state for a further two days but on the Friday of that week you could hear the increase liquid on her lungs and I knew that the next day I would have to put and end to her life. The children all knew and had had time to adjust to the situation. She snuggled up with my lovely friend and I that night on our camp on the sitting room floor. She really snuggled up, she wanted to be in my arms. I stroked her and told her that it was okay to go......she fell asleep with my hand placed upon her peacefully. What a blessed end to a beautiful life.



Life is not the same without our lovely dog but we feel so blessed that she chose us......



Ed note: The lovely guy who bred Jenny also passed away in the same week. Our thoughts are with his family.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

My first home ed graduate :-)

I am pleased to say that the stress of exams (IGCSE's) is now a distant memory. My darling daughter has survived and more to the point, so have her siblings and I!
It struck me the other day that actually the completion of these exams marks the end of our Home ed journey. My first guinea pig has crossed the line and survived unscathed (I like to think), the experiment of an education far from the norm. In September my beautiful and talented daughter will take her next step in the world towards her future career. As yet she is still undecided as to exactly what that next step will be (A levels or a vocational course at college). She is excited about the freedom and new skills she will gain and the fresh opportunities that she will be faced with.

Eleven years of home education has been a huge amount of fun. Of course there have been some ups and downs (more ups than downs thankfully!) it has been an amazing journey and one that in hindsight, I am eternally grateful that I took. It was a path unknown, a path barely trodden that over the past decade has become a true lifesaver and real option to so many. The home ed community is more than just a gathering of add balls, it's a family of people who share similar values and many differences. It's a real choice for those who for whatever reason decide that 'the system' is not for them. It's a fun existence, an existence of real courage and determination.

We were sitting out having a picnic along side a gated road earlier this week; a gathering of five families. We sheltered under the shade of the trees chatting, laughing and making merry whilst our young people happily created their own adventures of life in the wilds of the British countryside; paddling in the stream, catching crayfish, smothering each other in mud whilst reinforcing friendships and socialising. Two children came back that night to stay over; a house full of children, just how it should be. Sometimes sleepovers can be riots but this one worked well, it was peaceful and joyous. The boys took to the sofas whilst the girls slept out under the stars on the trampoline. They're so lucky to be able to live as children have in years gone by.

So as summer rolls into being we are enjoying the long lazy days. Work seems to rapidly be grinding to a halt; it seems silly not to take full advantage of the glorious weather that we have seen this week. Plans for short camping trips are in the pot. No long expeditions this year!

With talk of guinea pigs, I should finish with an introduction to our latest family addition. Meet April....



The little Lady has wanted piggies for the past two years or so and finally we have one. Little April is just 8 weeks old and came from a litter of three. Piggies are sociable creatures so we are hoping to find her a friend really soon but for now she is enjoying cuddles all around!

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Spring foraging

It struck me this last week, what an amazing spring we are having this year. The beautiful array of flowers has been staggering and very much in abundance. For the likes of us foragers, this has meant more delicious pickings :-) So, I thought I would share some of the FREE pickings available to us all to nibble and share.

I have been foraging for many years now, I'm not entirely sure when it started or how exactly but thinking back was probably about twelve or so years ago when I began to experiment with hedgerow jams. When you become enthused with things you naturally want to absorb all the information surrounding that area of interest. So I'm guessing it started with berries and then spread to leaves and other tasty hedgerow finds. Yum!
There's a lot out there and it can be very daunting when you first start out. My advice is (and this is what I practise myself) just get out there and have a wander around. Look at the verges when you go out walking and see how many species of plant you can already identify. You may surprise yourself. What I used to believe to be a mass of weeds now has become a collection of nourishing pickings and as well as the nutritional value, when you explore wild plants further, there are many medicinal qualities about them and much interesting folklore to be intrigued by too.
My ability to take in vast amounts of information; and remember it at any one time, has never been great. Therefore, the way that I have learnt so much over the years is to add about three different species to my repertoire a year.
This year my best new discovery has been Hogweed. Now Hogweed comes in two varieties (I'm sure there are more but these are the two that you need to know). Standard Hogweed and Giant Hogweed. Standard, is the stuff that you are most likely to see out and about and now that I have identified it I realise that it really is everywhere.



Giant Hogweed is enormous! Apparently it was brought over to the UK as an ornamental plant and grows mainly by water. If you need to familiarise yourself do look it up.
When I googled Hogweed; just to confirm that it is safe to eat, I discovered that top British chefs are trying to establish it on the menus of some of the top London restaurants!
You do need to pick this stuff with gloves, not because it stings but because there is something within it that can cause skin irritation especially if the sun reacts with it. This is not a problem for everyone and once cooked is not a reason for alarm, it's merely a precaution.



I fried up some young shoots in a little butter (choose the young over the old as they will be more succulent) and they are rather tasty!

The next plants that you may find in abundance are dandelions. We used to feed these to our bunnies when I was a child. They have quite a bitter taste but if you pick the young shoots and combine them in a salad they are pretty tasty. You can eat the flowers too! Apparently the sap of the plant is good for ridding one of warts ( a poultice of cider vinegar works well for warts too).


Another plant that is quite new to my repertoire this year is Cow Parsley. It's a member of the celery family and can be found growing virtually everywhere at this time of the year. There are some similar poisonous plant varieties so best familiarise yourself before tucking in. The trick I have discovered is that if you pick the plant, the stem is C shaped. The leaves also smell very much like celery if you rub them.

 

 

Do you see the nettle in the foreground? They are amazingly nutritious and are particularly tasty made up into a soup :-)


Hmmm, one of my springtime faves....'Jack by the Hedge' or 'Garlic mustard' as it is often referred. 
I've noticed in the last few days that this plant is currently in flowering mode. Again, look it up if you want to be sure.


This is a picture of one of the flower beds in my front garden. Hmmm pretty weedy hey! Well, right in the centre there you can see quite a lot of Ground Elder. For many gardeners it is seen as a real pain but it is in fact edible and can be used much in the same way as spinach.


A close up :-)


Here's another garden weed right on my doorstep. Clevers/Sticky Willy/Goose Grass. It's the stuff that sticks to you and was the inspiration behind Velcro....useless information!
Small shoots chopped up and added to a salad are tasty but the thinker, older plants...well, they just get stuck in your throat!

One more......


Hawthorn. Right now the blossom is just opening too. The flowers are really tasty and together with the leaves they used to be considered the 'bread and cheese' of the hedgerow.

Okay.....another one slipped in!




Primroses....pretty aren't they. The flowers are fully edible and look lovely added to salads. You can dip them in egg white and then sugar to crystallise them too for cake decorations.


So here it is, my lovely Spring foraged salad. Yummy!


Really scrumptious when accompanied by some stuffed pasta, beetroot and apple bread, halloumi cheese and a little pesto (garlic if you've been lucky enough to find some!). XX






Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Grand shed opening!

I know what you're thinking.....crazy hey! Yep, it all happens in my life.

So, you may recall the seed being planted last month when my lovely little shed/ex wash house was re-roofed. Well things have been cooking rather nicely over the past two months and I would like to share our little moment of madness; albeit rather a lot of fun, with you my dear friends.

Back in February, our very kind maintenance man and friend re-roofed the lovely old red brick shed that resides in our garden along with my adjoining neighbours shed too. Poor thing was leaking here and there and one of the main timbers was severely taking the strain of the weight of the rather buckled corrugated iron roof that it supported.
I knew that re-roofing was on the agenda at some point but wasn't given any real idea about when this might actually happen.
One day I came home from something or other and upon walking into the shed thought it seemed surprisingly lighter than usual. It was of course 'roofless' at that point. Hmmm! Now that was a surprise!
As all of my sheddy things were still present and the nature of being open to the elements, it wasn't long before I was admiring a fine new roof and for once, no leaks :-)
Yeah! I did a little hop, skip and jump at the mere excitement of having a 'leak free' place in which to store said stuff. Then of course my little mind went berserk and started working overtime about the possibilities that a new roof could mean for an old shed.
I mentioned my excitement and a host of potential uses to Mr Maintenance and under his breath he mentioned that my neighbours shed was 'very tidy'!
OOOOHHHH! Mine wasn't in the slightest bit tidy.......
Well, that did it. One little comment was all it took to fuel the start of 'shed envy'.
I instantly set to work looking on Pinterest for shed inspiration (if you haven't yet discovered Pinterest you really are missing out).

I'm embarrassed to reveal these but here we go!







Yes, I know...I could barely get through the door!

My neighbour was equally inspired to transform his shed too :-)
The past two months have been incredibly fun. Dear P started off at super speed and left me on the start line, so to say. We would pass on the way in and nod on the way out....most hilarious! One night Small boy came in to my room at midnight to inform me that P was in his shed...in his pyjamas! Hehe!
Visiting friends have been collared to help too not leaving without a spot or two of paint on their being.



I built shelves and a work surface out of an old door.





The walls were give a lick of paint and the fireplace a rub up with grate polish.


For many weeks P's shed seemed to be advancing (or so we imagined) at rapid speed whilst ours; if the truth be known, was changing at a snails pace. I had so much to move around and re-home. The utility items had to move into the house, the garden stuff had to move into the woodshed....the list is beyond imagination truly it is. My house have never looked more disorganised. It's been a crazy couple of months.
Saturday we announced that we were done.....poor P was under pressure. We joked over the fence about underfloor heating, swimming pools and surround sound systems ...hehe, most amusing!
Sunday night I dropped into the conversation that I had invited a few friends for the grand opening on Monday and so it was. Monday, 19 of us supported the grand opening. It was really a rather lovely excuse for a social get together :-)





 The moment of anticipation.....

 

    

 



  



                                 Ta dah!
Note, the transformation cost me a mere £5.09....:-) not bad hey!
* P's shed was warm and insulated.....the envy continues.......