August has been rather soggy in comparison to June and July. The garden has flourished and it's been a month of harvests - cucumbers, yellow courgettes, green beans, basil and a tiny bit of rocket.
We've not had a glut of anything yet, and I don't think we will this year. We eat courgette most days, but I've kept a watchful eye on them so none of them have grown too enormous. We've grown plenty of cucumbers, but we've been picking them small and pickling them (none of the jars of pickles make it past the end of the week though so this isn't a winter storage strategy).
There are plenty of things that haven't done so well. None of the other squashes have even fruited yet, and we've only had a few tomatoes ripen so far. The cucumber plants are looking decidedly yellowy (although still producing plenty of cucumbers). And the kale was completely decimated by caterpillars.
I didn't get round to planting out my poor pot bound rainbow squash until this morning, and I imagine they'll have been munched by slugs by tomorrow.
There's plenty I haven't told you about in this whistlestop tour of our garden in August. The shrivelled tomato plants that never made it past the seedling stage, just stood slowly drying out in the little greenhouse. The tiny woody beetroots, that also never made it out of their seedling pots. Piles of sticks, empty plant pots, tools not put away.
But let's not look back - let's look forward, and with great excitement, because our chickens arrive on Sunday! We're rescuing four ladies through the British Hen Welfare Trust, which rehomes hens who have come to the end of their commercially productive lives and would otherwise be sent to slaughter. Our hens have been producing 'barn eggs' - they've not been in cages, but they also have never been outside. We're daunted (having never been responsible for anything other than ourselves for more than a few days at a time), but we'll do our best to give a few hard worked ladies a cheerful retirement.
Best get on with finishing building their house...
I'm lucky. My job gets easier in the summer, and while there's still lots to do, I can slow the pace down a little and work at home a lot.
I do still like to take a couple of weeks conpletely off work though, and this year I picked the last two weeks of August.
It's a shame I missed the heatwave, although now it's a bit cooler it's easier to get things done outside. Or at least it would be if it stopped raining.
The sun has shone a little, and we've had friends round for blackberrying, had a couple of days out, and some general pottering. My sister and my three nephews came for a camping trip - we managed a fair bit of playing outside and an hour in the tents before camp was transferred into the living room.
I always have a feeling that I should be doing significant with my holidays. I 'should' be going on grand days out, conpleting epic projects, hey, even getting to the bottom of the washing basket.
But somehow much of the time I take off work is spent just breathing, expanding into my space a little more. Catching up on the watering, digging an extra bed in the garden, sorting out storage in the bedroom, lingering over breakfast in a cafe with a book.
I've still got a week left. A friend is coming over today to help me dig the foundations for the chicken run. I've made lentil soup for lunch, because somehow it seems like we might need warming up. I'll spend some time helping on her allotment later in the week.
I'm planning a trip to Biddulph Grange gardens one day too, and a couple more days will need to be spent in the garden preparing for the chickens, who we're collecting on Sunday. Can't wait. Shame I haven't got next week off too to play with them.
Six months ago today we moved house. We were exhausted after two years of decorating, cleaning, packing and bureaucracy, and the night before moving day we only had two hours sleep. We both cried. We tried to sneak to our favourite cafe for a last consoling cuppa but it was full, so we got drinks to take away before driving, in two separate cars, over the hills to our new house.
The removal men were already here, and had unloaded one van into the garage already, as instructed. We opened the house, and as the sky turned grey and a few flakes of snow started to fall, they (rather hastily) unloaded the other two vans into the living room while I rang the plumber and tried to turn the heating on.
I can't say that first night was fun, and being snowed in for the next few days was adventurous rather than pleasant, but it gave us a chance to unpack, and to move all our possessions from the one warm room (which we'd intended to use as a temporary store) to a rather colder room (which we'd intended as a living room).
So much has changed in six months, so I wanted to look back a little on the progress we've made.
We moved on February 26th, and from then on through March, there was quite a lot of weather.
We did some necessary work - filling potholes in the drive, and making a path across the lawn to the door - and the snowdrops arrived.
March was a month of early mornings, sunsets, and not quite believing how lucky we were.
We did some more practical things - started on the never-ending task of fixing our dry stone walls, reclaimed some of the stone from the collapsing old barn, put up a greenhouse, demolished an outbuilding, and spent yet more time staring at the view. And I finally achieved my dream of hanging washing out on my own washing line.
In April it snowed (again), and then got rather soggy (again). I optimistically planted seeds (and rebuilt the greenhouse after it blew down), and we spent a lot of time taking wellies on and off in a futile bid to not have the house fill up with mud. Crocuses arrived, and then a parade of daffodils lined the driveway. I went on a dry stone walling course, and we acquired a proper glass greenhouse from a friend. We ate breakfast outside wrapped in blankets in the middle of the month, and by the end I was gardening in a t shirt.
May was a month of grass and wild flowers. I acquired a push along mower, and a scythe, and we opened our fields to the cows from the neighbouring dairy farm. I planted raspberry canes and made raised (ish) beds and it was finally warm enough to take my socks off.
June was lush. The garden grew faster than I could keep up with it, but by the end of the month the second greenhouse was up and stocked with tomatoes and cucumbers, and the courgettes and squashes were in the ground. We had our first salady harvests, I finally finished rebuilding my first dry stone wall, and socialising was done mostly outside. Oh, and we started dismantling two of the bedrooms on the first floor.
July was hot. Too hot really. The surrounding grazing land turned brown, and the local farmers were feeding last year's hay to the cows. I traipsed back and forth to the greenhouse with watering cans, cursing myself for not plumbing in the water butts properly before the heatwave arrived. We dug in our first home made compost, and had our first harvests of raspberries, courgettes, cucumbers and beans.
And now we're in August! The weather has turned a little - we've still had some hot days, but it's more like a normal English summer, and now I'm off work for a fortnight it's been raining rather a lot. We've been picking blackberries, harvesting more courgettes than it's sensible to eat, and our first calf arrived (and several more since). We had the excitement of scaffolding as the local farmer kindly removed our chimney from the roof, and Peter has been dismantling the chimney walls inside. We're also building a chicken coop ready for the arrival of our own mini flock next weekend.
I don't think we've done too badly for our first six months. This was a big change for us, and we're finally starting to feel like we live here (probably a good thing as we've started dismantling walls).
I wonder what the next six months will bring?
Im off work this week, and while I'll be spending most of the time catching up on things that probably should have been done weeks ago, we thought we should probably have a bit of a day out too.
There are lots of touristy places around here, but we wanted one we hadn't been to before, and we also wanted a cafe with a view, as the sky was looking rather grey.
When we moved we switched our old wildlife trust membership to our new local one, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, so we thought we'd investigate one of their visitor centres.
We walked round the lake first, and through a little maze.
Eventually we made it into the cafe, and I confess the food wasn't great but the view was cheery and we stayed for a while before wandering around the local market town.
I'm not sure it'll become a favourite haunt. It's a bit too far away, and the cafe wasn't good enough to tempt us through quite an industrial drive too often. But it's good to investigate these places, and now we can get on with ticking off all the other local Wildlife Trust reserves (which reminds me that I never did finish the ones in our old wildlife trust...)
The local lanes are lined with bilberries. We've been watching them ripen over the last few weeks and in early July we finally got round to picking some.
Bilberries are tiny, and they don't really taste very nice raw. It takes a long time to pick a worthwhile crop. But it's a pleasant evening's work pottering up and down the lanes in the sunshine, and it gave us a chance to inspect some of our dry stone walls.
Eventually we picked a couple of tubs full and headed home.
This lot went into the freezer, and then into a couple of batches of scones, which I seem to have neglected to take photos of.
Next up is blackberries, and I've already spotted a few ripe ones while out running, so I must pop down the field and check ours at the weekend. There's something cheery about eating food that just grows without being planted.
Sit down and make yourself comfortable. I'm Jenni, and I write here about our new forray into country living, which includes growing food, knitting, baking, wandering around the fields, and seeing which local cafe serves the best cake.