Digging Days Part 2 – Alone in the garden

I’ve had a strange bank holiday weekend. It feels as if I have spent quite a lot of it on my own. In all honesty, I haven’t been alone that much, just more than usual. When you spend most of your waking (and sometimes sleeping) moments with a small child it seems awfully quiet when someone else takes over.

The Husband has been dealing with Babykins for the last few nights. It’s bliss to not have to jump out of bed and try and settle him down before he disturbs the rest of the household. I’d love it if he could consistently sleep all through the night, solidly for twelve hours. I just don’t think that it’s part of his make-up.

Anyway, I’ve been getting my shut eye alone, while the Husband has taken to the spare bed next to Babykins’ cot. He has got up with him early in the morning and been busy, busy from the get-go. Yesterday, by the time I’d surfaced, they had disappeared to the allotment. They had collected the green waste and taken it to the local tip before I’d eaten breakfast!

The older two were enjoying their ‘holidays’ at Grandma’s so I woke up to an empty house. I can imagine many parents of small children sighing and wishing for the same experience but let me tell you, it was weird. I had a glimpse into the world of the ’empty nester’ and I did not like it one little bit! It seemed that suddenly, nobody needed me.

When the biggest and smallest boy came back from their errands, we decided that I would go down to the allotment myself and try to get on with some planting. That is the usual division of labour. I leave the hard, back breaking work to the Husband and then faff about deciding on which direction the rows of seeds should go in. Or in this case, Charlotte potatoes.

I felt a nagging sense of guilt as I got started on my own. Surely I should have been looking after the children? I put it to the back of my mind and tried to enjoy the experience of being in the sun, fresh air and peace and quiet. On days like this when my emotions make me feel mixed up, I am grateful for the time I have spent doing yoga. I am really out of practice with the physical side of yoga but I find myself coming back to the mental side of things again and again. I don’t really have the words to express how it works for me, I wish I did. The best I can do is to say that learning about yoga philosophy has given me a sense of being ‘mindful’. Sometimes just acknowledging feelings is enough to allow me to move on. It isn’t always that simple, but often it is.

Getting interested in blog world is another strangely mindful experience. When I started reading other people’s blogs I realised that documenting everyday life somehow makes you value ordinary, daily existence. It’s just like writing a diary, something I’ve always like the idea of but never really got to grips with. Perhaps it is the ability to really capture moments in time with pictures as well as words. There’s something very therapeutic in reflecting on the things in your life that have given you pleasure.

Anyway, don’t feel too sorry for me and my lonely moments (er, it’s ok, I know you don’t!). I enjoyed having a bit of time to play at taking photos of the buds and blooms that are around at the moment. I have been quite pleased with the results from my iPhone camera.

It wasn’t long before I had a visit from Babykins and the Husband. I had a fun, if slightly strained time (I knew he had no spare clothes with him) helping Babykins get to grips with mud and water.

Not long after he had gone, the other two arrived with Grandma. They worked together for a while, taking straw to the strawberry patch but they weren’t really in the mood to cooperate with each other. Grandma decided to take the Middle Miss off to the shops and Son Number One stayed behind with me.

I was trying to finish digging over the patch where the broccoli had been, in order to plant the rest of the seed potatoes. Fortunately, this was a job Son Number One was happy to help with. We did some digging, We did some raking, then I made the holes and he planted the spuds. When we had no more potatoes left, we decided to fill in the rest of the bed with a few rows of peas. I was very glad I had a helper at this point because I wanted to construct some sort of support for them to climb up. It would have been a tricky job on my own. It’s been a long time coming, having a boy who was more of a help than a hindrance in the garden but it’s happened this weekend.



The joy of…..Lambing time

Son Number One is in love with the farming experience. At Christmas, when I asked him if anything was as exciting as the festive season he replied “Well, maybe lambing time”. I remember feeling the same excitement as a child when we visitied a friend’s farm. There must be some deep connection with our collective agricultural past. As you may know, sister and brother-in-law live on a Cumbrian hill farm. It’s in a beautiful, quiet spot on the far eastern side of the Lake District National Park. The hill on the horizon is Loadpot Hill, this picture was taken on the footpath to Whale (yes, there is a little hamlet called that). The River Lowther is just below the first row of trees. If you click on the picture to enlarge it you will see a white spot next to my arrow. That is the gable end of their home.

We set off for our Easter fix of lambing time activities straight away as school broke up on the 29th of March. This year we had arranged to stay with some friends in the holiday cottage. It’s actually the old farm house and looks out onto a yard full of cows. Our boys were very much looking forward to being involved in the working of the farm. I think it’s fair to say their expectations were exceeded!

Our car parked up in front of the cottage

The (sheep’s eye) view from the kitchen window. The mesh is to ensure they don’t decide to join you at lunch time.

Stove in living room

Did I mention the yard and the cows?

The children were given small jobs to do and that definitely added to their enjoyment. All six year olds like to think that they can do a task as well as an adult, and in the farming world, sometimes they can. No wonder Son Number One’s confidence goes up in leaps and bounds with each visit.

In this day and age, when freedom to play outdoors is limited, what small child could fail to enjoy building a straw bale den, covering their wellies in muck and then washing it off in a tumbling stream, collecting eggs ‘straight from the hen’s bottom’ or herding sheep in a family team. There are few adults who don’t get some pleasure from the experience of bottle feeding a hungry lamb. We did all those things.

Last weekend we sneaked back for one last fix of lambing time. I would be misleading you if I said it was a perfect weekend because actually, we had a fair bit of sickness in the family. All the children have had a bug, which I suspect was ‘slapped cheek disease/fifth disease’. However, I would still do it again. You can’t beat chasing sheep in such a beautiful location, especially when you find out that it rained at home and was fine ‘down on the farm’.

I will leave you with some more images of our trips. Don’t forget, if you fancy a visit yourself, you can find details here. The rates are very reasonable and I think there is still some summer holiday availability.

My Weekend: Part One – labels, baby clothes and sentimental thoughts

I took the plunge last week and registered to sell at the next NCT Nearly New Sale. I haven’t given myself much time to get organised as it is next weekend (details here) and I have plenty of items to price up and label. Truthfully, I don’t think I’ll get rid of half my stuff. Not because it’s difficult to sell things at these sales, but because I have SO MUCH of it! I have already taken two bin bags full of clothes to the charity shop and this is what I am left with. I’m sure there is more stuff hiding away too.

I am ready to get rid of the baby clothes. There probably won’t be another baby in this family and if there is, I figure I’ll just go back to another nearly new sale and re-stock.

Inevitably, there are lots of memories bound up in baby clothes.

There are some items that I am NOT ready to part with. Each of the children has one outfit that really reminds me of their birth or the time just after it. It isn’t necessarily the first outfit they wore; that is the case only for the Middle Miss. Son Number One was dressed by the midwives as I was in no fit state. They went to his wardrobe and picked something they thought was suitable. It was a nice outfit but it wasn’t my choice and it was a bit too big. I never really liked that outfit. The thing I really associate with his early baby days was a pale blue, velour dungaree and cardigan set. My Mum bought it and it was perfect. A good fit, a sweet colour and soft as soft.

Middle Miss had a white all in one jersey outfit with a little bit of trim in taupe and red. It was one of the few things she had without feet in it. Ideal, I think for a newborn, everyone loves to inspect their tiny fingers and toes. I can still remember going with Son Number One and my Mum to buy it. I think he may have pointed it out for his new baby, who was still mysteriously inside Mummy.

I don’t think I bought anything for my little Babykins. I didn’t know what sex he was going to be and I found it really hard to find the kind of neutral, newborn clothes that I wanted. Most of the white things were extremely basic or had Whinny the Pooh on, which I’m not keen on as a decorative feature. After he was born, my Mum brought me just what I was looking for. It was another little dungaree set, this time in a soft white velour. I probably wouldn’t have bought it because I couldn’t justify the price (it was from Mammas and Pappas) but I really loved it. He spent a lot of time in that little outfit and it’s matching snow suit.

The other things I am going to keep are a few hand made items. I have let quite a few knitted things go because they just weren’t in good enough condition. However, there is one little set that was knitted by my Mum in a mixture of green and yellow. The pattern in the yarn is not particularly fashionable but I always liked how it looked on my babies. I also remember the glove having lipstick on it for ages from where Grandma had been kissing Middle Miss. That’s a strangely odd and sweet memory.

The other two things that I kept were dresses. The first, made by my cousin. This dress was beautifully made and the colour suited Middle Miss, who was all blonde hair and blue eyes, so much. I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of an item made with love and care by a family member who has been like a sister to me at times. I’d love it if I could pass it on to any children Middle Miss might have. Probably wishful thinking but I can dream.

First birthday with my late dad.

The second one was made by my Mum. I don’t think she ever liked the result but I did. I thought it was vibrant and fun (the print is of frogs and lily pads). I have a small boys shirt and waistcoat in this fabric too. They will be making an appearance again in about six months I think.

After all that sorting I had a few sentimental moments as I sat in the sun with my coffee…..

enjoying seeing the buds growing on the lilac tree

and the camellia in full bloom


Still lots of sorting to do though and this blogging lark isn’t helping me get it done. So if it’s all quiet for a while, don’t worry, I’m just stuck under a pile of baby clothes. I’ll fight my way out by next weekend.

I’ll leave you with a nice cheery picture of my latest tub of narcissus, picked out for me by Son Number One whilst he was on a shopping trip with Grandma. The boy is learning how to please Mummy, flowers are always good.

Surviving Another Milestone

This is the final week that I will be participating in the ‘Do Something Yummy’ Blog link up to raise awareness for CLIC Sargent, the charity that supports children and young people with cancer. If you want to know more about their “Yummy Mummy” week, please click here. If you want to read more blog posts on this theme, click here

Son number one had surgery this week. Three years and seven months since it was put in place and five months since his chemotherapy finished, he finally had his portacath removed. If you’ve never heard of or seen a portacath, they are quite hard to visualise. Essentially, they are a device that allows strong drugs to be administered, without a canula or a Hickman line being in place. I won’t go into how they work, in case you are squeamish. If you want to know, click here.

The whole thing is just under the skin. In Son number one’s case, just below his left collar bone as you can see above. Our consultant kindly let us have the X-ray image you can see below. It has served him well but I’m sure he’ll be glad it’s gone. It must have been uncomfortable if he ever took a knock to it. Getting rid of it is another milestone on the road to normality.

This week has been a reminder of what it is like to have sick child at home. The operation has left him feeling uncomfortable and sore. The dressings are pulling on his skin, making him sit and stand in a really strange and awkward looking position. His left arm is pretty much out of action. He spent the day after the op moving between a chair, the sofa and his bed, mostly watching TV of some sort. It was mighty tricky keeping Babykins from climbing up onto him.

When he was first sick, I had a period of feeling quite stressed. I don’t think I really understood my feelings at the time but I have re-visited them this week. I know now that having a sick child at home can make you feel very trapped. You can’t go anywhere or do anything. You feel torn between wanting to nurse the sick child and entertain the healthy one. Although you are  extremely grateful for all the help you get from family and friends, all you really want is your own version of normality to return; to be able to cope with looking after your family and running your home on your own.

By the end of this week, I was ready to run away and have some time alone. It’s amazing what an hour and a half of silent hooking can do for you. I think the psychedelic colour scheme of my little bird reflects my state of mind when I was making it. I am now back to making sensible, normal, yellow chicks.

I am thankful that this period of recovery is a minor blip. I’m sure that in another week he will be running around again, full of vim and vigour. Hopefully I will be too.

Half Term Holidays: Sheep, Birds, Castles and Gardens.

Half term seems to have been very full this year. We seem to have crammed plenty into nine days off (school was closed yesterday for teacher training).

First of all we had a visit to the in-laws in Cumbria. Son Number One always looks forward to this because he adores going to visit his cousins on their farm. They had a lot of fun together, going right up onto the fells to feed the sheep.

I think he would be quite happy if we suggested that his Aunt and Uncle adopt him. Not only do they let him do farming activities, they nearly always feed him his favourite meal: sausage and mash.

While we were away, the Husband and I had our first Night Out Alone since……well, neither of us could clearly remember the last time. We had a lovely steak dinner and were still home by about 9.30. We must need more practise.

On Thursday, the Husband went back to work (booo) and I had a lovely day out with the oldest two (hooray) while my Mum looked after Babykins. We met up with one of my old antenatal class pals and her two boys at Salthome, our local RSPB reserve. They were running a ‘dissect an owl pellet’ activity for the children. I’m not sure who enjoyed it the most, me or them. I was amazed that in one pellet, there were at least three small rodent skulls. It was possible to identify quite a few different bones, such as the vertebrae, ribs and thigh bones. Who knew that owl ‘sick’ could be so interesting. I’d love to go to the next session they are running, which is aimed at adults. You can find the information about it here.

I must confess this is an old photo of a different activity. I just wanted to put it in to show the lovely murals in the classroom. I wish I had taken some more photos because they really capture the environment. There are even paintings on the ceiling. One depicting what it would be like to look up through a pond and see tadpoles and other water creatures swimming by and one showing the sky with birds in flight, as if someone has removed the roof.

The children took full advantage of the play area (I might just have joined in too). There were lots of good places for a game of hide and seek.

Son Number One is quite keen on bird spotting and managed to identify the coots and moorhens correctly when the hide guide checked his knowledge. I was very proud.

It was a real treat to just enjoy just the two of them. I must try to do it more often.

As the week went on, I kept thinking that we should take advantage of our extra day of holiday and go away for a long weekend. My Mum was thinking the same thing too. We decided to phone up Flowery Dell lodges, just outside Richmond.

Luckily for us the ‘Juniper‘ was available. It was the perfect space for us, being on one level (no stairs for Babykins to climb) and with three bedrooms, a single, a twin and a double.

The weather on Saturday was stunning: clear, sunny and crisp. We explored the site with my brother and his wife, who had come to visit. First, the little play area, where there was a lot of fun to be had climbing….

trying to climb (but getting stuck)….

and balancing…

When they fell off, their Uncle ordered them back to the start and off they ran, giggling.

Babykins seemed amazed by the chance to explore such a wide open space. He is often tethered to a push chair while we are out but not this time. He practically did a double take as he trotted past this little water feature. Thankfully it was well designed and he couldn’t actually get wet.

The light was so beautiful. It lit up the bright white bark of these birch trees.

and shone through dried up leaves of the beech saplings.

It made super-dooper tall shadows.

Suddenly, there was a change in the weather. Cloud came in and unbelievably, snow started to fall. There was quite a blizzard and my brother and his wife decided to make a run for it, just in case.

It only lasted about 15 minutes and then there was full sunshine again. Very unusual.

The night was very cold and frosty but we were cosy in our little lodge.

Of course, the great thing about frosty nights is the clear, blue-sky days that often follow them. Sunday was a stunner so we went off to explore Richmond. First of all the castle, with it’s virtually intact keep.

We climbed to the very top. I can’t think why I didn’t take a photo of the view. We looked out for dragons, knights and damsels in distress, but there were none to be seen.

After all that climbing we needed refreshments.

How about that for afternoon tea? I’m very fussy about tea shop teas. Any that have proper, non-drip teapots and milk in a little jug score highly with me. Those scones were whoppers. I couldn’t eat any dinner until after 8pm.

Our last day of the holiday was spent at Thorpe Perrow Arboretum. I’ve often wondered about visiting this place but somehow never got around to it. Turns out that Monday was a great day to go. We met some friends there and apart from our party, there was only one other little, young family there. We had the whole of the grounds virtually to ourselves.

It was almost worth the entrance fee for the pleasure the children had getting close to the robins. Son Number One tried very patiently to tempt one to eat from his hand. I think if his sister hadn’t been jumping around quite so much he might have managed it.

Even she got close though.

And how about this? I did use the zoom function, of course.

I really enjoyed walking through the grounds. There were plenty of snowdrops in bloom and the mixture of trees meant that it was still interesting, despite the season.

Babykins got to stretch his legs again. Thank goodness for reins. He would have been swimming with the ducks otherwise.

At this time of year, you have to enjoy the detail of plants.

The main attractions as far as the children were concerned were the animals and birds of prey. In fact, it couldn’t have suited Son Number One more. It was a near as he is going to get to ‘Deadly 60‘, one of his favourite TV programmes. Because there were so few people there, we all got to stroke a corn snake and hold a buzzard and a barn owl.

The meerkats were very cute too.

We walked over the board walk through the bog garden a few times. Each time I looked as carefully as I could at this stunning toadstool. I couldn’t work out if it was real or not. I took a few photos, zooming in as closely as I could. See what you think….

Now look more closely….

I should have realised when I saw the fairies in their tree stump.

We had a great time but I’d love to go back there, just me and the Husband and explore the grounds. Maybe in another 15 years or so….

The Promise of Spring

We called into our allotment yesterday. It has been somewhat neglected in the last few months. This is not good. In the next few weeks we should start planting the seeds for the new season. There is a LOT of work to do before we can begin.

At least the children showed plenty of enthusiasm for digging their patch over.

There was all the usual excitement over the first worm to be dug up (poor worm).

Wallace was let out of the shed to do his duty as the door stop. If only he could actually provide tea.

We have had quite a good sprout harvest. Sadly, we should probably have picked a lot more of them by now.

I planted a whole row of cabbage seeds way back last spring. I didn’t do a very good job of marking where they were though. When they started to germinate, I couldn’t work out what was cabbage and what was weed. I didn’t have this problem with any of my other seeds so I assumed none  had grown. So I got a surprise when I spotted this:

Just goes to show how long it has been since I was gardening.

Our purple kale has been standing for well over a year. It looked like it had some new shoots on it so we nibbled a few raw leaves. It’s surprisingly tasty that way. The biggest surprise of all is that Son Number One declared both the raw and cooked versions to be ‘yummy’. I don’t think this photo  really does justice to the colour.

I was also pleasantly surprised to find some shoots on the purple sprouting broccoli. There will be MUCH more of this in the next few weeks. These seeds really took off. I foolishly planted three whole rows last summer. The Husband got the job of separating them out from the original clumps of seedlings. He took great delight in telling me I had overdone it by about 40 too many plants. It will make a change from a courgette glut.

Guess what was on the menu for our supper last night. It was a veritable feast of brassicas (and toad in the hole).

There are plenty of reminders around that we are only just leaving winter behind……

For example, this is what remains of last summer’s runner beans.

But spring is certainly on the way.

I can’t wait to eat our first rhubarb of the season. Maybe next year we should try to ‘force’ some, buying forced rhubarb is very expensive. We’ve got the right variety ‘Timperly Early‘. Again, I don’t think this photo does justice to the beautiful colour and texture of the unfurling leaves. There is so much spring promise in them.