Monday, 28 June 2010

On Ilkley Moor by tat....

The garden was left to its own devices for a whole weekend whilst I packed up the tribe and travelled across the Ridings to visit some very dear friends of ours who live at the foot of this beautiful landscape.

Like us, they turned their backs on the city life, like us they were drawn back to Yorkshire, but unlike us they run up mountains for fun. (I'm strictly wellies or heels, I dont even know if I own a pair of trainers!) They have my total admiration and awe but i'll leave the Fell running to them, I'm more of a moocher than a sprinter!

We had an amazing time, and did get to walk this stunning path by the local river. We took a long way round, and got a little lost, but then if we'd known the way we'd have missed the view...

All that walking was a bit much for some, although I think one of these ramblers was just trying it on!

I had a brief moment of gardeners guilt wondering how everything was doing in my absence, but I neednt have worried because we returned to find more blooms bursting out all over.

I love this plant, it was in the garden when we got here...I think its a Penstemon but I really dont know...any advice?

and this shrub which i think is a black elder had decided to go for it and in the space of two days was laden with pink clouds...

We also pulled our first crop of beets, gorgeous fat little boltardy beets. Were excited about them now, lets see if we feel the same after weve been eating them all summer, cos theres plenty more where they came from!

Anyone for Borscht!!!

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Innies and Outies!

Strawbs are here at last. At least they are indoors. Our outdoor berries still have a way to go. Last year was my first go at growing strawberries from some runners taken from Grandpas garden (I did have his permission). To be honest I was somewhat underwhelmed by the result - mostly because the birds got there before me and then the children - and then the slugs!

This year I potted some Elsantas to go by the back door. Only I kept forgetting to bring them down the garden and they stayed on the shelf in the greenhouse - and I am so glad that they did because now Ive got strawberries (almost).

With any luck this might be on my breakfast by the weekend - wahey! BH has very kindly bedded up the outdoor strawbs with plenty of straw today and im going to give them a feed and net them from birds - but still...I think next year they're going in pots and straight in the greenhouse.

On another note, here was my favourity garden moment of the day. These geraniums are at their best at the moment, another week and they start to flop and need chopping back. It was particularly windy and I couldnt resist grabbing a pic of them - this gardening malarkey has turned me into a right sucker for a bloom!

Friday, 18 June 2010

The big dig...

At last our building work is moving forward. After ploughing all of our resources into chasing damp out of the house it was a day to celebrate when the digger came to dig out the footings for our extension. It has always been our plan to build a 'room with a view' at the back of the house as like so many houses of its period all the windows are on the front. Believe me, after all the digging and weeding and pruning and planting and so on, I just want to be able to sit and look at it.

But as excited as I was, these two lovelies were much more so... a proper digger to play in - how cool!

The footings are dug out now and look very extreme. They go much further than our extension as we had to investigate up to the septic tank - how lovely! Im sure our neighbours think we're planning a swimming pool or something, I can't wait until the building works done and we can put everyones minds at rest.

In the meantime BH built this fab logstore. I think he was feeling construction withdrawal - and finally picked up on the hints about the piles of logs everywhere. I'm really pleased with it, particularly the steps we put in at the side, i'm planning to plant some ferns and snowdrops along the edges.

My mum says when her logstore is full it makes her feel rich. I know what she means now - and its certainly the closest to rich we'll ever be. But after chopping them all and stacking them all its definitely a satisfying feeling!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

A grand day out...

Just in case anyone thinks that Yorkshire food is all black puddings and treacle tart (not that there is anything wrong with them), I thought I would mention our local Michelin Star Resteraunt, the Pipe and Glass - that's right Michelin - out here in the wilds - we know good food when we taste it!

BH took me there last year before they got the award and we were blown away. Food is sourced locally and the quality is amazing. The restaurant is in a 15th century gatehouse and has a really warm and cosy atmosphere - log fires aplenty! The menu has lots of local game and shellfish showcasing the fabulous richness of our local harvest.

But just in case you think im having delusions of a career as a restaurant critic, let me tell you why i'm really mentioning them. On the day their star was awarded, before it had been made public and unbeknownst to me, I phoned the chef proprietor and asked if he would play host to thirty inner city school children as a reward for there hard work at cooking club. I didnt really think they would, but hey - nothing ventured, nothing gained...and they said yes!

Today was our visit and they couldnt have made us more welcome. The chef/owner James, his wife Kate and there gorgeous baby boy met the children off the bus and welcomed them without reserve into their establishment. We spent the morning learning how the business works, what jobs people do and touring the kitchens.

Chef Mackenzie sat the children on the lawn and talked them through a sumptous table of ingredients, showing them everything from celeriac to fresh and live langoustine. Our children were amazed and enjoyed tasting fresh herbs and smelling vanilla pods and cinnamon sticks.

We toured the herb garden and got a detailed tour of the kitchen (I have total stove envy!) and to top it all the children were kept refreshed with freshly baked cookies and juice served to them by the waiting staff.

I love the Pipe and Glass...Not just because it serves the most creative and delicious food, but because they made our children feel so special and put such a lot of effort into fostering a love of food and cooking in eight year olds. Thankyou P and G!

And now they have accomodation too ( i took a sneaky peak - tres luxurious!) so BH if your reading this, here's the link,, hint hint!

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

and then there were three...

We had one more hatchling this morning, bringing our grand total to three. I know this sounds quite unimpressive, particularly as she was sat on 10 eggs, but trust me, last time we only got one. Jessica's sister moved her eggs around so much that by the time it came for hatching they were positively scrambled...

We think one of the chicks is a Buff Orpington/ Silver Pencilled Wyandotte cross, I don't know what that makes it, an Orpandotte? a Buff Pencilled Wyanpington perhaps, we'll have to wait and see!

But for now we think they're just about perfect. BH has tucked them in for the night and we're going to give the remaining eggs one more day. When our last batch didnt hatch we gave them extra days and finally admitted defeat. BH carried the last egg all the way down the garden and placed it in the bin. Just as he was closing the lid he heard it cheeping from inside the shell, an emergency dash back to Mum followed with our our first chick hatching later that you never know...

Monday, 14 June 2010

It's here, the day we've been waiting for...Hatch Monday! and we've not been disappointed at all...

Jessica, one of our Bantam Buffs has been a model mum, sitting on her eggs perfectly to full term and this morning she was rewarded with her first chick!

Look closely and you can see one brand new (highly camouflaged) chickadee...

I checked her at 7am and thought nothing had happened, only to get a text 15 minutes later to say that mum was concealing this little beauty. BH had lifted her tail feathers to be greeted by a 'cheep cheeping'. Clearly I'd been too respectful of her personal space!

By lunchtime the new arrival was all fluffed up and ready to make its debut.

Another egg hatched at tea time, but i'm letting Mum get settled with her new arrivals before photographing them any more. Who knows what the morning will bring - I can't wait...

We have no names for our newbies so any suggestions would be more than welcome!

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Our edible garden...

Its full steam ahead on the plot at them moment as the week of rain has got things bursting out all over - particularly the weeds! We've moved on a bit since our first two raised beds. But more growing space does mean more weeding!

Weve moved on from the early days of tomatoes and potatoes and the current growing list includes globe artichokes, figs, blueberries, black currants, gooseberries, rhubarb, swiss chard, kale, sprouts, cabbage, purple sprouting brocolli, radishes, lettuces, broad beans, peas, beans, onions, garlic, rocket, pak choi, butternut squash, winter squash, cucumbers, peppers, strawberries, raspberries, damsons, apples, far too many courgettes, beetroots and of course - tomatoes and potatoes.

So you can see why the growing space is ever expanding!

If its not planted up, there will no doubt be another courgette planted in it by the end of the week! My plan was to grow loads of them to make pasta sauces which we could freeze. I am starting to wonder if weve over done it - just how many courgettes can one family eat!

The chickens have their home on the plot. We bought their house on ebay and BH built the pen. The door is actually our old baby gate reworked - genius or what?

We recently scrapped some very rotten old coldframes and cleared a space between the green houses. This needs some serious tidying but in the meantime its become the perfect place for a spot of supervising.

Last year BH presented with me the most romantic gift a girl could ask for - hand built compost boxes - I swear that man knows the direct route to my heart... We took the covers off them in February and found that all those slimy peelings and cuttings had turned into the most awesome soil. It really is magic!

However this popped out of the heap today...

Its a 'Grow Your Own Grandpa'!!!

Friday, 11 June 2010

Chicken whispering

Soon after we arrived we bought our first chickens. The plan was to buy some ex battery hens and keep the budget to a minimum.

That was the plan. In reality we bought our first hens, 3 beautiful Cream Legbars from a local breeder (well they do lay blue eggs and they're pretty fancy). We then fell in love with some Buff Orpington bantams at the Driffield Show, (I waited until we'd got home to tell BH that I'd bought the cock bird as well as the two hens). A trip to the Sledmere Game Fair led us to our Rhode Island Red and a Silver Pencilled Wyandotte. Result - the most expensive eggs in Yorkshire!

Since then our chucks have become not only part of the family but a bit of an obsession, particularly with BH, otherwise known as 'the chicken whisperer'

BH and Rocky have a special relationship. By special I mean that he can feed him by hand, he'll sit on his knee and even on his shoulder. As for the rest of us, we live in fear of the ginger terror as he regularly chases me around the garden - the rooster that is. He's even earned the nickname Nuggets from a friend of ours as I think that's what he'll be if he chases her again!

But where theres a Rooster, theres also chicks. Heres a pic of our first hatchling.

She's a couple of weeks old now. Were so proud!

We did manage to rescue some chicks from the school hatching program. Some turned out to be cockerels so they've been dispatched already but the hens are going strong. Weve named them 'The Four Marys' as they're very hard to tell apart. Here they are free ranging on the heap...

Our other chucks are named after the Mitford sisters, as I was reading a biography of them at the time and it seemed quite fitting for them being as they are a bunch of flighty, precious, occasionally vicious and often squabbling sisters. So we have Nancy, Diana, Pamela, Unity, Jessica and Deborah oh and Rhoda our rhode islander.

Here's Nancy getting her nose into the camera - total attention seeker that she is!

Our two Buffs worked in tandem to hatch the chick and Jessica was feeling so left out when Deborah became a mum that weve let her go broody on her own clutch. Shes due any day now, so I'll keep you posted...

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Bring me sunshine...

Todays post is in the spirit of a raindance, although the last thing we need right now is rain, we've got plenty of that right now. Outside is grey and dismal and I cant believe its almost midsummer, so here are some pics of our first midsummer up here. Maybe if I focus on them enough the sun will come out again!!!

We even got to our local beach and went in the water. Not bad for a bunch of townies.

The kids got their first real taste of digging in the sand...and got a bit carried away...

I dont think we can still quite believe that we live so close to the sea. I know we're so lucky to be able to play on the beach without a long haul bank holiday drive and maybe a few more rainy days is the price we pay for it.

Also on the plus side I havent had to do any watering today apart from in the green houses. You do look a bit weird walking down the garden with a watering can in a downpour but needs must when there are tomatoes at stake!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

How green does your garden grow?

I didnt grow up with a passion for gardening and i wouldnt say i was particularly green fingered, but in my early twenties a great friend of mine (and amazing gardener) Kim drew me in to the all consuming world of horticulture. She tempted me in at first with a few visits to garden centres, some free cuttings and that was it, i was hooked. When BH and I got our first flat together we had 123 plants in the tiny backyard, including tomatoes and peppers.

I obsessed about the garden here before we moved, planning out planting schemes in my head, drawing up crop rotations and all that. The garden had been very loved but then untended for some time so it needed plenty of tlc. Never having worked a big garden before i had no idea just how much hard work it would be.

These are my first raised beds. We built the before we'd moved up just so that we could get some stuff in the ground and my lovely sister Pip watered everything for us. It looks all overgrown and untidy, but the day we built and planted it we had to leave it to drive back to London. I was miserable in the car going back to London when there was all this soil to be played with here.

These were our first greenhouse tomatoes, lovingly tended by Pip and my Dad until we got here (each swears they did the lions share of the work - who to believe!?!)

But nowadays its a whole family effort

One day it might even look like this...

at least thats the plan!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

The long and costly road...

We always knew we had our work cut out with our new home but nobody prepared us for how much work and at what cost. Sat amongst packing cases in our living room we were debating which room to decorate first - decorate, hah! My mum spotted water coming down the wall and panic ensued to see which tap had been left on upstairs. When nothing could be found we realised that the water in the ceiling was actually from the floor and the chalk walls were soaking it straight up like a sponge. We'd fallen in love with our house after a dry spell, but after a week of rain every wall in the house was damp.

What followed was months of floors being dug up, concrete poured in, false walls, insulation, drying out, electric osmosis cables which repel the water and an ever decreasing bank account. Thankfully my BH (better half) is a very handy man and did most of this himself but even so i still shudder at the memory of it!

By the time we got to this I think we'd both aged 10 years and learnt more about damp proofing and insulation than anyone should know in one life time.

That was one room done - then it was a case of ploughing on through the rest. Our initial plan had been to build a two storey extension that summer, but that had to go on the back burner for another two years whilst we chased mould spores out of the house. Im glad to say were almost thinking of building know rather than repairing but the constant mess and upheaval meant that this house didnt really feel like ours until recently. The big day came after the mouldy corner bath and blue carpet came up out of the bathroom, the insulation was put in (that word again!) and our bathroom was finished - at last a bath that we could lay down in.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Where it all began...

Almost two years ago we made the move from Enfield, North London to the wilds of East Yorkshire - my home village to be precise. Despite living here for the first 18 years of my life, i'd been away a long time and some serious readjustment followed. My husband is a Londoner born and bred and so this was an even greater culture shock for him. In our first few months we seriously wondered what we'd done, committing to a life without Starbucks when we'd spent years with retail therapy on our doorstep. But we'd found our dream house (we'd actually walked past it on our wedding day and admired it), we have two children who needed a garden that we could never afford in London and we needed to stop watching reruns of River Cottage and start living it.

An offer was accepted, i found a new job and husband was persuaded to become a stay at home dad for the forseeable future. Before we knew it we were here and living the dream, building raised beds, planting veg, soaking up blue sky.

But before you think this is all smug loveliness, we also discovered rising damp, occasional social attitudes that I thought hadnt been legal since 1973 and that I'd forgotten just how flippin cold it can be up North!

Despite this were still here, the chickens have arrived (more of them to come) and now I cant imagine living anywhere else (unless it had fields, and more land, and barns and stables and room for goats...)