Still Winter

IMG_6554

IMG_6565

IMG_6566These photos were taken last Monday and Tuesday, the 11th and 12th of March. The blizzards we had on Monday were quite dramatic for this part of the world. Checking the forecast for the next few days is not a very cheery experience. Temperatures are forecast to be low and more sleet is predicted.

I love snow (I have written about it many times) but really, in March, it’s just not funny anymore.

Advertisements

What a difference a week makes…

IMG_1783

IMG_1789

IMG_1795

IMG_1794

IMG_6387

IMG_1840

IMG_1821

IMG_1819These photos were taken last Saturday. The snow didn’t last more than a few hours but it was a reminder that despite the new shoots appearing we are still in winter. Strange to thing we were paddling at the beach just seven days before.

The snow play and the lost hill

The met office finally got it right for my patch this weekend. We had lots of snow on Friday night and now it has all gone. It melted almost as fast as it arrived. Yesterday could have been our last opportunity of the season for snow related playtimes.IMG_1474IMG_1445 IMG_1449 IMG_1450 IMG_1451 IMG_1461These were some of out antics from last weekend.

If you live in a climate where living with snow is a regular occurrence the British obsession with it must seem strange. We pore over weather forecasts, worrying about driving to work and if the schools will be closed. Children (and -ahem- some adults) stay awake at night, constantly peeking out of the window to see if there are any flakes falling yet. We moan or get excited about it in equal measures. We don’t really cope with it well, and it’s not surprising really is it? Our snowfall is unpredictable, some years there is barely any. Hardly worth investing in special car tyres for example. We live on a crowded island too. Our roads only just cope with the volume of traffic at the best of times. Add a blizzard and a few crashes and there’s bound to be mayhem.

But, I still love snow. It’s one of those things that gives me a feeling of childish excitement even though I’m now a parent. I used to share this excitement with my Dad. He loved to get out and play in it and, unluckily for the rest of us, was a mean shot with a snowball. I could rely on my Dad to take me sledging whenever it snowed, even if it was a school night. I’m sure we must have been with my Mum and Brother but I don’t have memories of that. What I do have memories of is heading off to our local sledging spot, often in the dark.

Dad prided himself on finding the best spot. He didn’t necessarily want to go down a steep slope like most of the other people on our local golf course. For him it was all about how long you could spend going down hill. To be fair, he also avoided the crowds because he was a teacher in the local secondary school and didn’t really want to be among the pupils in his spare time! So Dad and I had our own private hill and it did seem like a good long ride down to the bottom. There was a pond near the bottom that you had to be aware of. Falling in to that would have been a disaster but, at the time, it just added to the adrenalin rush. Sometimes Dad would go down the hill on his own while I waited at the top but more often than not, he would lie on his front on the sledge and I would lie on top, holding on to his shoulders. Dad did the steering by sticking his toes into the snow and by leaning one way and another. It was such a thrill to be barrelling down hill, feeling as if I was teetering precariously on top of this speeding sledge. It is such a vivid memory for me.

Now that I am taking my own children sledging I wish I could find that hill. It can’t have changed. The little conifers that we used to pass through to get to it must be considerably bigger but it must still be there. Somehow I just can’t seem to work out which hill it was that we used to use. Yesterday, despite not being able to find the hill, I did resurrect Dad’s sledging technique. Going downhill fast with your face inches from the snow is really the only way to go sledging and I think I have passed on this family tradition to another generation.IMG_1587

 

Slug Paradise

We may not be enjoying the wet summer but the weeds and pests are. When the weather is bad, it’s easy to let your gardening duties slip. Unfortunately that has happened in our allotment. The Husband spent the day on Saturday trying to get to grips with the lush growth that has sprung up. I hope that you can see the fruits of his labours in these photos.

Our salad leaves and beetroot can be seen at the front of this ‘after’ picture. I don’t understand why some of them have bolted? I always thought bolting was a result of lack of water. How ironic that I planted them next to our water butts to ensure they could be well looked after. I suspect our water butts have been overflowing this year.

The tall yellow flowers in the first picture are parsnips that have gone to seed. I’m quite surprised that he cut them down because the insects love them and we’re suckers for bees and hoverflies. The daisies and dark red flowers (hollyhocks?) are in Son Number One’s patch. They do look pretty, even if they are a bit floppy and wild.

I think you can see the most dramatic change here. The patch of purple sprouting broccoli (psb for short) has finally been cleared. I’m really disappointed that we didn’t eat more of it. I discovered that psb and not wheat was what was giving me major stomach aches. I wonder if a different variety would be less difficult to digest? I love psb so if you’ve got an answer, please let me know. The bed next to our greenhouse has strawberries in it. As usual, they have produced lots of fruit, but sadly, most of it has rotted. The chap who does gardening at my children’s school told me he put his strawberries in pots this year so the fruits don’t touch the ground. Very wise. How did he know it was going to be such a wet year? I don’t think I will be making strawberry jam this year. To the left of the greenhouse are my onions that are still doing well. We consciously chose to plant more of these this year as they are so low maintenance. Potatoes and onions grow without needing the love that seedlings do and they don’t need much processing when they are harvested.

We have had some successes this year. The tough, perennial plants that can thrive despite an onslaught of slugs and a lack of sunshine are doing really well. Above are our globe artichokes. They are producing lots of lovely heads that are crying out to be preserved in oil. Just another ‘to do’ job to add to the list.

Finally, the soft fruit bushes are growing well, particularly the gooseberries. I have lot of plans for these. Hopefully, that will be my next post….

 

We’re Weathering the Weather….

I think I am getting used to this weather now. Slowly, my mindset is beginning to change. I am now resigned to the fact that summer has ‘failed to install’ as the image doing the rounds of Facebook jokes. I no longer expect sunshine so I am no longer disappointed when I wake up to rain. I do worry about my poor in-laws though. Will they ever be able to get any silage or hay made on their farm? How will they feed their cattle over winter without a harvest of summer grass?

The children all have new wet weather gear courtesy of sales, eBay and the hand-me-down box so whatever happens, we can get out and about. At 18 months, Babykins doesn’t have a concept of what summer should be like. He just wants to get out and explore. Last Friday night he dragged me to the front door  and practically demanded that I put his wellies on and take him outside. We trooped up and down the street, jumping in the epic puddles that had appeared. I couldn’t help but laugh at his outfit – shorts, wellies and a wooly hat. It could only be appropriate in a British Summer.

Dark skies are a bit depressing but they somehow allow the colour and beauty of summer flowers to shine. I hope that wherever you are, you can find something to enjoy in this terrible summer we’re having.

Out and about on a school night

The appearance of the sun on Monday galvanised me into action. I have been wanting to go to Saltburn again to view the new Jubilee themed yarnbombing. I packed up the car with sand toys and a picnic, scooped up the children as quickly as I could from school and headed over there. It was still half past four by the time we arrived. Nothing ever happens fast round here.

By the time I had unloaded the children from the car and attempted to squeeze all my bags under the pushchair, time was running out. The cliff lift was only open until 5, the yarnbombing was at the top and there was no way I was pushing my groaning pushchair up that hill. We just had enough time to go to the top, inspect the knitting and ride back down again.

It was very satisfactory actually. I am so impressed with the skill and sense of humour of the knitter or knitters. Riding the cliff lift is a fun experience. The inside is wide enough for a pushchair or wheel chair. You get a lovely view out to sea and the windows themselves are worth looking at. They have beautiful stained glass that my photo really doesn’t do justice to.

Once we were back down at promenade level and had negotiated the inevitable toilet stop, we had a little walk on the pier to see the Olympic yarnbombing. But there was no holding the children back – they were ready for some sand action. They scampered off onto the beach via the steps. I was left with the fun task of trying to get Babykins and the pushchair down the very rutted and ridged stone slope (see first picture).

I was tickled by how the older two had arranged their shoes. They were wedged in behind a big rock “Keeping the sand out of them, Mum”. Wishful thinking.

They indulged in much digging and fetching of water, the eternal childhood pleasures of a trip to the seaside. It felt as if it was the first time that I had been able to sit back and let them get on with it. When they were younger I think I supervised the sandcastle building a bit too much. Nowadays I am just too preoccupied with keeping an eye on Babykins to worry too much about the older ones.

I finally managed to get the picnic out and persuade the children to keep a bucket of water nearby to rinse their sandy hands in. Nevertheless, I think Babykins managed to ingest his fair share of sand. Why is it that at home, he is very keen on using cutlery but when his hands are holding half the beach he thinks its a good idea to use his fingers?

Despite my preparations, there was one essential piece of kit that I had left behind. I normally have my swiss army knife in my bag (you never know when you might need scissors or tweezers) but typically, on the day when the ring pull came off our can of sweetcorn, I’d taken it out.

No problem, Son Number One had the answer.

Him: “Why don’t you take it up to one of the cafes and see if they’ll open it for you Mum?”.

Me: “Yes son, but I don’t want to pack up all our stuff and I don’t want to leave you guys on the beach on your own”.

Him: “I can do it”.

I pondered for a moment. He’s at the age where he wants to be more independent. He needs the practice at asking for things from people like shop assistants. Not long ago he would have been terrified of the idea of speaking to someone he didn’t know. I would be able to see him the whole time and there were no traffic issues.

Me: Alright then, off you go.

Result! The kind ice cream parlour owner helped us out. She was even sensible enough not to send him back with a sharp can lid. What my boy will do for sweetcorn.

Time was getting on again and Babykins was starting to get cold. The Middle Miss requested an ice cream and I was happy to oblige. They had done a good job with their picnic tea in difficult (sandy) conditions and I was all in the mood for treats. Alas, the ice cream shop had been shutting when Son Number One went to get our can opened. Instead, we had a couple of portions of chips and sat up on the prom to eat them. As far as I am concerned it’s practically obligatory to eat chips when you go to the seaside.

As we sat, the light changed. The sun shone just that bit more and was lower in the sky. It really lit up the beach beautifully.

We decided to finish our trip by walking the full length of the pier.

You can just about make out the cliff lift in this picture. The carriages are half way up because it is closed.

The shadows were really starting to lengthen as we headed back to the car. It was half past eight by the time I got them home and into bed but I had one of the best trips with my children that I’ve ever had.

I don’t regret going out on a ‘school night’ though I wouldn’t stay out as long on a regular basis. In the ‘summer’ we are having, you’ve got to take the chance when you can.

I hope enjoyed reading about our little trip. Make the most of the the sun today because tomorrow it’s going to rain. Again. A lot.