Do you find yourself sometimes remembering things from your
childhood that you didn’t know you knew?
Well today was one on those days…..
……someone had very kindly given us a couple of buckets of apples, ‘a mixture of windfalls and picked, not sure what they are… anyway would you like them?’ Yes absolutely!
So over the last couple of days I’ve been ‘processing them’, peeling, coring, chopping and then bottling them. Feeling very close to my mum all the time…
I often find that when I’m doing the sort of jobs that would have had us sitting for together processing whatever had come out from their very productive garden – wheelbarrows full of dad’s leeks or onions – whatever it was that week.. It’s often the smells for me that bring back memories…. somehow they seem to trigger them… I remember not that long after my mother died taking the family to our local pick your own and suddenly being overwhelmed amongst the raspberry canes with memories of mum and picking raspberries in the garden along with her cat.
Anyway sitting here typing this with the smell of apples strong on my fingers and filling the house, the memories of mum opening jars of apples for family puddings came flooding back….in later years mum tended to freeze most produce from the garden and so have I. But over the last few years I have returned to bottling or preserving fruits in jars for use later in the year.
me it has several advantages over freezing:
they don’t need defrosting! – I’m not always the most organised where
meal planning is concerned!
they don’t take up space in the freezer
they’re not using electricity to be stored
you have ready to eat fruit
they last a long time in the jar and don’t
deteriorate as some fruits do in the freezer
you can make the most of seasonal gluts or
Anyway after an afternoon peeling, slicing, cooking etc. (which I would have had to do if they had gone in the freezer), I now have 14 jars of ready to eat stewed apple for lots of lovely puddings this winter…. crumbles, pies, tarts, cobblers, stewed with rice pudding, cold with yoghurt …… and some forgotten memories of mum and family life….
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Earlier this week I was looking through Instagram and came across @creativecountryside who I started following a while ago but in the busyness of the last few weeks, Instagram has been slipping down the list of priorities…. However a few unexpected moments waiting for one of my sons, found me with my phone and some wi-fi!
Her photos and blog posts reminded that I haven’t been spending much time in the garden apart from watering which has been essential in the last few weeks and I haven’t been able to take time to stop and look and really connect with what is happening there and how the seasons are changing the feel and sense of the spaces … so I thought I’d share a few corners of our not very big garden and what is happening here at the moment….
At the front of the cottage, the roses and clematis have been spectacular this year and while the roses are now coming the end, there is still plenty to enjoy.
Every year I wonder what is going to pop up in unexpected corners. This year this marjoram(oregano) has self-seeded itself and is peeping through the creeper on the front fence…
Courgettes are beginning to get going…
The knautia and geraniums are busy scrambling through and over in every direction…
In the dye bed, marigolds are getting into the swing of summer too…
Back in the garden by the house I have had a change round this year and my favourite scarlet pelargoniums are at floor level so that….
…. the baskets and walls have trailing tomatoes.
Each year since my sons were little, I have grown mangetout (sugarsnap) peas in pots by the house…. we all graze on them as they produce the pods, effortlessly contributing to our five a day ….
Another change this year…. instead of my usual trailing pelargoniums we have trailing nasturtiums with their fiery flowers.
Yesterday I was able to visit John Arbon Textiles for their Mill Open Weekend at South Molton. What a haven of woolly loveliness it is too! And for all those vintage machinery geeks it must be a feast for the senses. There is something about that fragrant combination of ‘sheep’ and machine grease that is strangely good.
John Arbon undertakes most of the tour and led us through the process of taking scoured fleece to beautiful worsted yarns ready for all our woolly pleasure.
Through carding (I hope I get all the terms right!!) and gilling
and then spinning and plying
and then to my favourite machine of the mill – the skein winder…
I wonder if I could have a motor attached to my yarn swift?
and so after a gap and much time to think and consider….the journey continues…..
This winter and spring I’ve gained ‘a shed’! Now some might say ‘so?’ but to a maker it means a lot…. now I can do my messy stuff out of the house and not have to put everything away all the time…. and so I’ve been experimenting with dye – largely acid dyes on wool but I have plans….
This week is National Gardening week and I am sure were I to visit my local garden centre it would be packed with people. I have had to learn to be more patient though, as I garden in a frost pocket! This week is National Gardening week and I am sure were I to visit my local garden centre it would be packed with people. I have had to learn to be more patient though, as I garden in a frost pocket! My garden and the surrounding countryside is a great source of delight for me. Both for the produce we grow and for the inspiration for my sewing.
Last year I introduced a small cut flower bed – I love having flowers in the house but enjoy them in the garden too. Growing them especially for cutting seemed to ease the guilt of picking them. So this year I shall repeat the plan – dahlias, cosmos, and calendula, some bulbs like freesia, cornflowers and of course sweet peas. For me a summer without sweet peas would not be summer. They smell so delicious and attract all sorts of bugs that help pollinate the garden.
I also love visiting gardens and the here are some of my favourites. Some are open all year but others particularly those that open through the fabulous Yellow book National Garden scheme are only open for shorter times. This often gives you the opportunity to get into those private gardens that you would never normally be able to visit and help raise money for charity.
So here we go – my ten favourites
RHS Rosemoor – I first visited this garden when my eldest son was tiny – I have the strongest memories of sitting holding him in the rose garden awash with the fragrance and emotion. Fabulous as you would expect an RHS garden to be – roses, bulbs, kitchen garden ideas, winter garden inspiration and a lovely meadow.
Kiftsgate –a typically English garden with some surprising moments created over the twentieth century by three women gardeners
Hidcote – very near to Kiftsgate, this National trust garden is one of our great gardens with many plants named after it e.g. Lavender ‘Hidcote’. It’s a series of garden ‘rooms’ which allow you to take many ideas for your own more humble garden
Sissinghurst Castle – this is an absolute must for garden lovers – created by Vita Sackville West and her husband Harold Nicolson, it reflects his architectural planning and the romance and intrigue of her life. Today it is cared for today by the National Trust.
RHS Harlow Carr – The RHS’s most northerly garden in Yorkshire is a treasure trove of differing styles from the Winter Walk to the teaching gardens, the kitchen garden to the Alpine house and of course there is also a wonderful Betty’s of Harrogate Tearooms on the site too.
Forde Abbey – this has lovely formal and informal areas but my favourite part is the Walled Garden (I have a not so secret thing about walled gardens…) this is a fabulous example of a working and productive walled garden and I love it!
Goren – this is not a garden in most senses of the word but a series of meadows opened to the public through the Yellow book scheme. You can wander through about 50 acres of wild flower meadows and see dozens of wild flowers and grasses, orchids and butterflies, enjoying beautiful views of the Blackdown Hills.
Great Dixter – another must for garden lovers! Created by the late Christopher Lloyd on a Lutyens design and now maintained by the Great Dixter Charitable Trust and Fergus Garrett, this is another truly inspirational garden. Lloyd’s ability with plants and colour is legendary and having visited several times at differing times of the year, I can honestly say that you must visit if you can!
Hestercombe – when I first visited Hestercombe it was a frosty winter’s day and I was in the house for an in-service training session back in the early 1990s. I can’t remember what the day was about but I do remember going into the garden during a break. In those days you could only go into the Lutyens and Jekyll formal part in front of the house. Frost rimed every step and tile and the whole effect was magical in the winter sunlight. There were very few plants but the structure was breath-taking. Sometime later the garden started opening to the public and seeing it with plants was a whole new experience – magical. Since then the virtually unknown 18th century garden in the valley behind the house has also been restored together with its follies and leats which feed the Lutyens gardens.
Mapperton – a bit of a hidden treasure in Dorset. Tucked away behind and below a beautiful sandstone manor house are a series of gardens down through the valley. At the top is a croquet lawn, on the next level is the Italianate garden laid out in the 1920s, complete with grottoes, stone ornamental birds, animals and fountains. An orangery was added in the late 1960s and below the wall and summer house are fish ponds which lead to the wild garden with its wonderful specimen shrubs and trees.
So what are you doing in your garden this week and where will you visit this year? Please share your favourite gardens to visit.
I have been thinking a lot lately about how I look after myself.
This comes at a time of year that many of us find difficult for all sorts of reasons and I know that I’ve spoken about this before.
But this year seems somewhat more poignant for some reason. Partly I think more and more of us are opening up about the challenges we face and are not prepared to simply pretend to our nearest and dearest that everything is ‘fine’. But also it feels like the time is right to stand up for ourselves and take some feeling of ownership for how we feel.
At a time when this world seems to be spinning towards a place where the individual matters less and less, more of us are standing up in our own small way and saying that isn’t right. We do matter. Whether we do this by how we vote or how we treat each other is a matter of choice.
In a long teaching career I was able to work in several communities with lots of different families that worked their family magic in differing ways. That did not matter – what mattered was that they had found ways to show their love and support for each other and to demonstrate that to the world outside their homes.
Recently as a volunteer at my sons’ school I was able to attend a training session on ‘normal magic’ where staff were shown ways to support each other and their pupils through simple ‘normal’ ways that look after our mental health and well-being. Although a really useful session I was struck afterwards by how sad it is that society is changing in ways that does not look after our mental well-being. A society where there are increasing numbers of homeless, where there are so many damaged children growing into damaged adults, where employers place so much value on productivity at any cost to their employees, where families are under so much pressure that they spilt and break and where a government puts so much value on results that children’s rights to be children are simply stated as a mean score aged seven and eleven.
Now I am not saying that children do not have the right to the best education possible but that we should remember that they are children not adults. Children need time to simply ‘be’, time to make sense of what they learn, time to learn at their own pace, time to learn in the way that is best for them.
As adults looking after ourselves we need time too. Time to make sense of what is happening around us, time to do what we have to do and we also need time to simply ‘be’. Humans did not evolve to live at the speed society whizzes by at today.
We should not feel ashamed to take time for ourselves, to nurture our own well-being for it is only if we do this that we will be able to share ourselves with those we love and to be able to nurture others.
For me sometimes I find taking a few moments for mindfulness can really help (I have found some really helpful free resources here) – but so can creativity – the simple repetitive acts of sewing, knitting or whatever you do can really free the mind to heal itself and be ready to face the world again.
So what are you going to do today to look after yourself?
‘Every person can play a part in helping drive better outcomes for women. Through meaningful celebration and targeted bold action, we can all be responsive and responsible leaders in creating a more gender inclusive world. So around the world, International Women’s Day provides an important opportunity for ground breaking action that can truly drive greater change for women.
Use International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8 to:
celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women because visibility and awareness help drive positive change for women
declare bold actions you’ll take as an individual or organization to help progress the gender agenda because purposeful action can accelerate gender parity across the world’
So today I’d like to celebrate some inspiring women that I know. Two years ago when I was starting my journey with Orchard Fruit Textiles I had a lucky break. A former teacher I knew told me about a new group that was starting locally called Creative Women Together run by a truly inspirational woman – Helen Botrill. Helen has had her own creative business – Kindred Rose and now uses her skills to support and encourage women with creative businesses through The Creative Business Network
Without the support of Helen, I would truly have had no idea of where to start and how to move forwards. Also through her I have met so many inspirational women with their own creative businesses. There is something about a group of women – there is no competition even amongst those of us with similar skills, if you need help or advice – someone will come back to you with support, on those days where you doubt yourself – someone always encourages you and reminds you of what you can do and what you’ve already achieved, on those days when you’ve had a success – everyone is always pleased for you.
Now I’m not saying that a group of men can’t be supportive but our Creative Women Together group is truly an example of how mutual support is driving positive change for us.
Why don’t you share your celebration or bold action? #IWD2017 is #BeBoldforChange
Ok so who has done the RSPB garden birdwatch this year or indeed the School Garden Bird watch?
We’ve been doing it at home for quite a few years and when I was still teaching I would encourage my classes to watch the birds and do the bird count.
I ‘m lucky enough to live in the country and be surrounded by fabulous habitats for native British birds of all sorts. We have blackbirds, thrushes, wrens, woodpeckers, nuthatches, house sparrows, dunnocks, blue, marsh and great tits as well as the long tailed tits which always make me laugh. Then there are chaffinches, goldfinches, greenfinches and occasionally bull finches, just to mention a few. Not to forget the robins and especially the one robin that often sits by my sewing window keeping me company for many hours.
Just about two years ago right at the start of Orchard Fruit Textiles, I was lucky enough to meet a truly inspiring maker and wonderful person – Sarah J Perry of Sarah J Perry Designs.
She truly does have the gift for taking thread and fabric and bringing an image to life. While she does embroider many animals, it’s her birds that truly inspire me especially the three-dimensional sculptures that seem to be almost alive. The first I saw was a little wren perched on a mossy stick and somehow I could not believe that it was not one of those that flit in and out of the mossy twigs by my house.
January – new starts -new shoulds. We all love it don’t we?
Well I’m not so sure about January personally but I do love the seasons. We are so lucky to live in England with each season so distinct. Spring flowers with the promise of warmer days, summer with its long bright days and colourful flowers, autumn with its wonderful colours and the slide into winter and cosy days with time for those quiet inside tasks.
The seasons really inspire my work. Daily walks remind me of the plants and flowers around me. As I walk I take photos and sometimes sketch little reminders to bring into new embroideries. Sometimes I’ll include colour collected from the plants themselves or pressed leaves. Colour inspiration comes from what I see around me and how those colours make me feel.
Sometimes it’s the smallest detail that grabs my eye. Even in these dark winter days the wonderful Devon hedge banks around me are full of life. This week there were tiny wild strawberry plants flowering in the frost – a promise of warmer days to come.
Sometimes it’s the bigger picture a view from the hill across the tufted grass of the bog to the silent birch trees beyond – blend of purples and browns that merge into the winter sky.
Many of us at this time of year begin with new resolutions and intentions for the year. Having received a really fascinating new book over the Christmas period – ‘Natural Processes in Textile Art’ by Alice Fox, I feel compelled to try some of her techniques and see how they might creep into my own processes. I too look to my environment as a stimulus to my stitching and how nature gives us colour and form. Interestingly for me, many of her basic printing techniques are ones that I have used many times with my classes over the years but never with fabric and never combined with stitching.
Alice uses many found objects in her work and while as the year goes on I intend to use many of the natural objects that I find, unlike Alice where I live it would be very unusual to ‘find’ metal objects along the lanes and by ways of Devon. Luckily my partner has a serious collection of bits of metal and so starting with rust marks seemed obvious.
After an cold half hour or so ferreting around in his boxes of ‘scrap metal – ferrous’ I came back indoors with a collection of different shapes and set to. I have used just a length of left over cotton and some silk thread to attach my items to the cloth. Most things were simply couched to the fabric – leaving varying amounts of metal uncovered. One item I trapped under some surface darning as Alice had suggested. This created a simple warp and weft effect trapping the washer under a sort of floating piece of stitching.
It’ll be interesting to see the marks made by rust on the fabric and stitches as they develop over the year. As always hand-stitching gives you time to be with the process and couching each item by hand gave me a different perspective on the different shapes and textures. Taking time for slow hand work is completely different to my free machine embroidery however both give you time to completely focus on the task in hand and appreciate the process fully.
I will hang this outside and record it’s progress through the year on my Instagram account #rustdiary – do check in if you’re interested -you’d be most welcome!