Saturday, 31 May 2008


I mentioned a while ago that I fancied having a maypoling session in the garden. Well, weather permitting it's happening tomorrow.

Quite a few families are coming along to join us in what I hope will be a really fun afternoon. The lady who is providing the maypole and basic tuition is also going to bring her accordion so that we can have live folk music as we skip round the pole!

We have spent a lot of today tidying the garden. I'm hoping there will be plenty of space for the maypole. Weather permitting we'll find out tomorrow!

I'm pondering what to do with the hens. They don't like being in their run as they're not at all used to it, but I have suggested that folks bring picnics and I'm worried that the hens will get after the food! May just have to see how that one goes.

Late afternoon we went for a swim. We had the pool to ourselves for the last half hour which was wonderful. We used to go on a morning but have found now that if we go at the very end of the day session it's very often deserted.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Dry run

After seeing some adverts on the tv Nana suggested that her and Hermione go to Amsterdam on the ferry.

She feels it would be an educational experience and fun. Now, don't get me wrong, I think it is fabulous that my kids have such a 'hands on' and enthusiastic Nana, but I have been troubled by visions of the pair of them wandering lost in Amsterdam's red light district. Nana is a lady of many talents but navigation is certainly not one of them. We have lived here for eighteen months now but a few weeks ago she got lost on the drive back from Tescos which is about six miles away!

Anyway, we headed up to Newcastle today as I wanted to buy some particular shades of wool so I decided it would be a good idea to give ferry travel a dry run. We boarded the ferry at North Shields and sailed across the river to South Shields.

Then we came back again.

Miles loved it and sat mesmerised throughout. Hermione wasn't quite as enthused with her new found mode of transport. She became increasingly on edge after hearing the captain announce about everyone having to leave the boat - and assumed he meant there and then in the middle of the river as opposed to when it reached the other side!

Over dinner tonight there were moans and groans of persisting sea sickness. I think the North Sea crossing may be off the agenda for the foreseeable future and in some ways I'm a little relieved.

Since we were up that way we called into Jesmond Dene for an hour or two and Miles saw a live peacock for the first time. He was very impressed. We looked at the other animals, messed by the river, made daisy chains and chased around the terraced garden till Hermione stumbled into a big nettle patch and that changed the mood significantly. She dove straight into my bag knowing she needed some urtica urens but unfortunately I had my child birth kit not first aid kit with me. Doh! Nothing for nettle rash in there. I really don't know why I even hang onto my childbirth kit. Never say never I guess.

On the way home we went through the Tyne Tunnel. So, we went over the Tyne and under the Tyne today. Every year I plan on going to the English Heritage open event at the Tyne Tunnel. I think it would be a great opportunity to see the inside workings of the Tunnel. One of these years I might actually make it.

Nana has just reported that the hens are behaving oddly. Apparently they have become afraid of their Eglu and won't go to bed. I suspect we've had a cat they don't recognise in the garden. Or may be a smaller fury creature actually in the Eglu? Best be off to try to calm them and get them tucked up. Oh the joys!

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Pumpkin soup....

...for the weary mama's soul *sigh*. (I know the phrase is chicken, but I just don't *do* chicken!)

After having waited a long time for a space to become free, this evening I joined with a group of seven other women in an evening of meditation and visualisation. It's a weekly meeting so I can look forward to having this floating, loved up and illuminated feeling on a regular basis. Bliss!

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Bananas, waste and choices

Did you know that Britain throws away 1.6 million bananas every day? That's not all we are binning off in colossal quantities either. Read more about it here.

We waste food, I'm sure most people do. It only ever seems like a little bit, but I guess when you add it altogether it's far from being a small amount. I have to say I'm quite blown away by those figures in the article.

I've been thinking a lot about food waste this week. I think that when you strive to produce your own food you start to view it in a different light. It holds more meaning. It's not just a price tag in the shop, it's the end product of a process which has required time, effort and patience.

In the past I have often cooked four different evening meals for a family of five. It has been quite unheard of to cook only one meal. Offering and honouring food choices has been part of my parenting philosophy. It was important to me to give my children control over what they would like to eat.

I've re evaluated my views on that this week and we are piloting a new way. The emphasis has moved from autonomy to commonality and I hope that as a spin off there will be less food waste around here. From now on I will cook only one evening meal. I no longer see my role as providing everyone with a food choice - it's my role to provide everyone with nourishing food, which they may or may not choose to eat. If they choose not to eat the meal then there is always the fruit bowl or nut drawer.

I've no doubt there will be resistance - well, I should say there *has* been a little resistance already. However, in truly caring for and respecting my children I must respect the world they live in. One meal as opposed to four will to my mind be sure to create less waste. Individual autonomy has lost out to a greater purpose. That may be a pain in the butt for some but I think that overall it's the right way to go.

Getting back to the subject of bananas though, even before I read this article it has still always naffed me off that so many people believe a ripe banana is *bad*. Spotty bananas aren't bad - they're full of flavour and by far the best for making smoothies, ice cream and banana loaf.

Hawthorn salad

Garden gifts - aka lunch.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Unplugged Project

The theme for the Unplugged Project this week was metal.

We made bird deterrents from old pie cartons.

Ever so simple but I'm hoping they will be effective - not that I want to scare all the bids away, just the ones that keep eating my broad beans!

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Lacewing Hotel

Did you know that lacewing moths eat aphids in large quantities? I didn't till yesterday. Certainly one to welcome in the garden!

They need somewhere to shelter in winter so we have made them their very own hotel from recycled junk. You can buy fancy hibernation boxes from sites such as this but I'm sure ours will do the job just as well.

Apparently you hang them in low trees from about August time. Mustn't forget!

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Rockpool ramble

We went on a guided rockpool ramble with friends this afternoon. The ramble was organised by these people and when we arrived we found that we knew the leading ranger from home ed trips to one of our local nature reserves.

Despite bracing winds and the fact that Hermione managed to slip on a rock and land in a pool quite early in the ramble, a good time was still had by all!

I know that the coast is there for us to explore whenever we want but it's nice to do it with an expert on hand ready to answer all of those questions which I would really struggle with. The ranger recommended this book as one of the best identification aids.

After the ramble we sewed felt fishes and Hermione had her face painted. We all had good fun which I'm really pleased about as there doesn't seem to have been as much laughter as I would like round here this week.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Potty Train

Well, I'm still tearing my hair out. Clumps not strands today.

Spent the morning trying to get the Potty Song out of my head. Certainly not a good one to be overheard singing in the checkout at Tescos. For those who've not heard the Potty Song you can check it out here. 'When you go you gotta get low....

Spent the afternoon driving twenty five miles through hideous bank holiday traffic, stuck behind every caravan on the road in order to get to the dentist. Hermione and I were booked in for a check up. Miles was going to have his first dental experience too which would most likely be a ride up and down on the chair with mouth firmly closed. Arrived to be told I had come at the wrong time and should have been there an hour and a half ago *arrrghhhhhh*. Turned around and drove twenty five miles home in even worse traffic.

Topped the day off with another evening of IT irritations. Wandering the streets with tray and/or sandwich board looking like an ever more attractive option in my business plan.

Roll on tomorrow!

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Tearing my hair out here

Has anyone here set up an online shop? Goodness, I'm tearing my hair out here! It took me a few months before I figured out how to put a link in my blog. Whether I will ever manage this shop malarkey is yet to be seen. I may end up just having to wander round the village with a tray, touting my wares.

So pleased I opted for chardonnay not hawthorn blossom tea tonight *grin*

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Feeling tempted...

I've been reading about wine making over at Sallygardens. It sounds quite straight forward and I'm tempted, but in all honesty probably shouldn't take on anything else until I've been on the bee keeping course and fully explored that avenue.

Both of the children are not firing on all cylinders right now. Bunged up and bogged down with summer sniffles. We're taking things easy, pottering and chilling. Still doing bits and pieces on the education front. Hermione read half of Harold and the Purple Crayon to me tonight. It's a good book for early readers. Not too many words per page but doesn't have the 'reading book' feel. She is doing ever so well with her reading now. I know I keep labouring this point but I was starting to worry it may never happen.

We picked our first plain lettuce from the garden tonight.

Delicious. Much more tasty than the veggie lasagna we (attempted) to eat with it. I've never been good at making lasagna, but the upside was that everyone tucked into their salad!

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Todays pickings

We seem to be picking things from the garden much sooner this year than last. We picked spring cabbage, spinach, rocket and radishes today.

This is the first time we have grown rocket. I'm surprised at how easy it is. You sew it directly into the ground where you want it to grow, no transplanting or thinning out to worry about. It's a 'cut and come again' crop too although I don't know as yet how long it will keep coming.

Monday, 19 May 2008

I'm so excited!

I've just bought this tent. It's eight berth, 22 feet long and has over 6ft headroom. One of the sleeping compartments can be opened up to make a dining area. Space for all of the family, including Nana who has expressed interest in camping too, but only if she doesn't have to crawl in, (hence buying this particular tent with headroom).

Guess I'd best go and tell Craig, the reluctant camper. Wish me luck!

Sunday, 18 May 2008


A couple of weeks ago I managed to persuade Craig to go camping. He was far from keen and we have no equipment. I decided to post on our local home ed list to ask if anyone could let us borrow their camping stuff. Within a few days we were equipped with tent, roll mats, airbeds, sleeping bags and the offer of company!

Yesterday we packed up and set off for Woodhouse Farm camp site in Yorkshire. It was a really pleasant location with what I thought to be good facilities. I didn't make it as far as the pub and restaurant but the men folk seemed to enjoy it when they had a jaunt up.

This was one of the views from our tent.

The children settled really well considering it was their first time camping, leaving lots of time for us to sit outside the tent chatting till it grew pitch black.

I woke this morning feeling rather stiff. We were in a four man tent but I can only think that means four exceptionally slim men who know each other very well. As two adults and two young children we felt quite cramped. Thankfully my aches and pains were soon forgotten as I was lured out of the tent by the smell of veggie sausages sizzling in the pan. They smelled that good that I even forgot that it was the wrong side of 7.00am!

We later packed up and headed off to Newby Hall. I thought the admission price was quite steep but we did have a great time - and certainly didn't see everything that is there.

We played in the big adventure play areas, sandpit and interactive water feature.

We went on the train ride round the gardens and on the pedal boats.

Hermione managed to drag Craig onto the shuggy boats but thankfully for him it wasn't long after that she was befriended by a pleasant young boy her own age and they were inseparable for the following couple of hours. He was a much more willing shuggy boat buddy.

We crossed the suspension bridge rather nervously, watched a mother duck and her ducklings and wandered through a couple of the formal gardens.

By late afternoon we were getting tired and all headed for home. The unpacking can wait till tomorrow *grin*.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Bleary eyed

There were so many things I *should* have done last night, but instead I finished making this.

I'm really happy with it. I've been making necklaces for a while but I've never found a suitable natural material for the chain part, (one that doesn't stretch or make you itch I should say). Yesterday I discovered some hemp and I think it's ideal - non stretchy or itchy. Very versatile hemp isn't it? Eating, smoking, stringing - not that I smoke it of course!

Off to do what I should have been doing last night now....

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Feel the fear

We headed off to one of our usual home ed hang outs this morning. It was quiet. Some folk were camping, some were unwell - some were just AWOL! Those who were there still all seemed to enjoy themselves though, we did despite the fact that we had to pass on our usual jaunt to the park afterwards because our packed lunch was still on the kitchen bench, doh!

Back at home Nana got on with her crocheting, Hermione with her nifty knitting. Miles and I pottered in the garden.

The blossoms are falling from the apple tree and the grass is littered with petals. They look so pretty and disguise the hen poops beautifully!

I sat down on the deck and realised there was a bee crawling right beside me. I must have just missed it. I'm not sure who had the lucky escape - it or me? My first instinct was to move away. I've been scared of bees since being stung as I picked laveder as a child. I can still remember that evening as if it were last week. Thankfully I didn't jump up and run today. I remembered that next month I'm going on a weekend course to learn how to keep bees. As I understand it I will be expected to handle parts of the hive - an inhabitted hive!

Sitting next to the bee, crawling ever closer, the title of a book I bought years ago, (but never have read), flashed into my mind - 'Feel the fear but do it anyway'. I don't know if the book is any good, but I like the title and I hope that ths is what I'll manage to do with the bees.

Oh, and I don't just mean friendly looking bees like this...

..I also mean big bumbling swarms like this.

Changing the subject completely here, to something else that's buzzing around my brain a lot of late, I've been thinking more and more about a need I seem to have acquired - a need to be part of the working world, to make money, to feel a certain amount if independence.... I'm not sure where this need has arisen from. It's certainly not like I'm stuck for things to do. Parenting is undoubtedly the hardest 'job' I've ever done. I just feel the need to grow inside. To stretch myself in different directions. To create something more than 'what is' right now.

Having said all this, my profession, (as was pre motherhood), holds no appeal to me now. Although still a law abiding citizen, the legal process just doesn't do it for me anymore *grin*. I've thought about homeopathy, but although I am deeply fascinated by it and would struggle in my day to day life without it, I can't imagine running a practice.

I want to do something creative. I want to work with my hands. I want to join the skills we have within our household and do something together. I'd really like to set up an online store to sell the woollen creations we make - bags, waistcoats. bowls, decorations etc.

I guess the only thing that is holding me back is the fear. The fear of our creations not being 'up to scratch', the fear of failure, the fear of disapointment.

Wandering along, looking at the hawthorn blossoms which seem to have appeared over night, I realsied this afternoon that if I don't, 'feel the fear and do it anyway', in relation to lots of things, I risk missing out on many opportunities.

Have you ever tasted fresh hawthorn blossom tea? I did for the first time last year. It's delicious.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Watercolours, flags, conversation and cuppas etc

Another busy but very enjoyable day today. Friends came to visit this morning and we chatted about how children do and don't learn, (amongst other things), over a lovely cuppa tea. The children played ever so well - ever so quietly in the case of Miles, which should have alerted me to the possibility of all not quite being as it seemed. Most of the felt pen is now off the door. Only traces remain. Any ideas for removing black felt pen from white acrylic paint?

This afternoon we went to visit friends. Again the children all got along ever so well so I was able to indulge in adult chat again. Two adult conversations complete with cups of tea in one day! My apron strings are flapping and I *think* it feels good. I guess this means my babies are growing up, starting to make their own way albeit in very small steps right now.

When at our friends house this afternoon I noticed she had some flags hanging on the wall. Apparently she bought them at Laura Ashley. This reminded me that flags I've made for Miles bedroom are still waiting to be put up. Something else on the 'to do' list. Along with finishing the matching patchwork door hanging for his wardrobe.

Colour explosion by Miles.

Tulips and peacock feather by Hermione.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Wood and wool

We went to our local home ed art group again today and all had a good time. The children took turns drawing portraits and then we wove wool round willow sticks to make some very South American looking webs. Once in the rhythm they were very easy to do and very relaxing. We made more at home this afternoon from our big stash of yarns from Freecycle and some old willow that was lying in the garden.

Here is one that Hermione made all by herself.

We decided to hang them on the wall in the garden. It's a high wall which can look quite stark - although much less so now!

As pleased as I am with my willow dome, I've thought for while that it needed something in it. The other day I happened to spot a large part of a tree trunk on waste land not far from us. After a wee bit of persuasion Craig headed off complete with sack barrow to bring it home. After much chopping and sanding I had a seat for my dome.

Complete with a little carving.

I'm thinking of giving it a very light stain and mat varnish to protect it. On the list to do when the sun comes back.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Snowtubing etc

What a busy weekend we have had! Lots of activity, lots of fun but thankfully lots of laid back pottering too.

Here are some of the high points.

Hermione and Miles joined a friend in celebrating his birthday. Full on fun and jelly all round!

I picked the first of this seasons crops - a radish. Very pink and peppery. That was yesterday. Today I also picked the first of our spinach and chopped it up with some more radishes and wild garlic flowers from the garden. You can't beat home grown!

Hermione and I went snowtubing with a bunch of home ed friends. The weather could have been better. The regulations of the dry ski slope were that we must wear long sleeved tops and gloves - not ideal in the baking mid day sun, particularly not when you have to hike up a steep slope carrying your snowtube after each ride.

It was great fun though. We thoroughly enjoyed it and hope we can do it again some time - preferably when the weather is much cooler.

A friend gave me some Jerusalem artichoke tubers. According to our gardening guide they can grow up to ten feet tall. I'm very excited about them. Miles helped me plant them in the flower borders. I think they would take up too much room in the veg plot. Gradually more and more veg is migrating into the flower borders.

This afternoon Hermione and Nana went to a family get together. They had a great time. My cousin had hired a Spanish restaurant in town for four hours and everyone congregated there to eat, drink and be merry. Crowded places aren't really Miles thing so I stayed home and pottered in the garden with him. Hermione returned in disguise as Miss Muffet.

We went swimming this morning to escape the heat. Both Craig and I were surprised at the progress Hermione is making with her swimming. Another surprise this morning was when she picked up the book I'm currently reading from the side of my bed and started reading it. That's not something she's done before. Her reading is really coming on too. Thankfully it was just an Anastasia book and nothing too odd *grin*.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Hot and prickly

Well, like most of the country I believe, we opened our curtains to see another beautifully sunny day dawning this morning. I resisted the cries of 'beach' in favour of a day in the garden. I sensed that we were all on the point of sun overdose and decided that any heated situations were probably best had at home.So glad we did stay home as by mid morning Hermione had a nasty outbreak of prickly heat - and a prickly mood to match. A dose of Sol Britannica improved the mood very quickly but her skin is calming much more slowly.

The rest of the day was spent in and out of the house - but by and large I would say indoors. I was very keen to potter in the veg patch but acutely aware that another day in the sun, even with cream and hats, was probably not best for the little ones.

My veg patch is a cause for concern right now. If gardening really is the new sex then I think I'm having an anticlimax. I could put it another way but I won't be crude. Basically lots of things that I have brought on from seed have not transplanted well into the ground. They are week straggly plants. Nana no doubt felt she was helping today when she trundled off to the garden centre to buy some veg plants - and she was helping - but I couldn't help but feel a bit deflated.

I think various things have gone wrong. Pots have been too small for some things, the conservatory was too warm, possibly planted too early in the hope of extending growing season...... It is all very disheartening but hopefully it won't put me off trying to do a lot from scratch again next year.

Sitting eating lunch today I opened yet another of our jars of chutney from last years gluts and remembered why I do it. This chutney is delicious. Sad thing is I don't have a recipe to be able to do it again as I just used whatever was in the spice cupboard at the time.

Craig spent a few hours at the weekend trying to fine tune my rain harvesting system so I'm hopeful that it will be fully functioning soon.

My third lot of runner beans have gone in this week. The first were killed by frost and the second by slugs. I've now decided to grow them in the border of the garden which means they have had to be netted in for thier own protection from hens and the rabbit. Wish them luck!

Things are still trundling along on the education front. I know I rarely mention it in my blog these days but that's because Hermione is still quite focused on improving her reading, writing, grammar and maths. She's using her Horizon books on an almost daily basis. There still is activity on the education front but it just isn't that exciting to post about *grin*. I am very pleased that she's developed enthusiasm in these areas though - even if it is to the exclusion of other project type stuff we have done in the past. That will all come again I'm sure.

I was presented with a little posy of flowers the other day, and later a picture of the posy too.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Rewind, repeat, fast forward....

We had such good fun at the aquarium and the beach on Tuesday that we decided to do it all over again today. We were joined by great friends which made it all the merrier.

Sandcastles, beach ball, frisbee - the works *grin*.

Just as on Tuesday the seals were the firm favourites at the aquarium. The viewing area is very effective. I only hope their enclosure is at least adequate for them.

I love the coast so much. Even as a youngster it always really lifted my spirits.

'...water is the life blood of earth, and just as you need water to sustain yourself, so does the earth, when we pollute our oceans we are polluting ourselves, so take care of the oceans...' Chitra

Returned home, opened my Amazon parcel and quickly hit 'fast forward' to December. Amongst other things Unplug the Christmas Machine: A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back into the Season by Jo Robinson had arrived. I will be prepared this year *grin*.