A glorious September morning

My daughter had asked me if I could drive her to school yesterday, as a treat for her birthday. Being on annual leave, it gave me the opportunity to treat myself as well.

Over the past six weeks, I had been working so much, there had been no time for early morning walks but with the weather being so glorious on this Thursday morning, I really enjoyed a walk round a local park after

having a coffee under the trees. This reminded me of the day I had walked to the same park for the first time, once lockdown had started to be eased, except now we could be heading in the opposite direction. Thus, it appears to be a case of make hay while the sun shines.

I’d already taken a walk through the same park on Wednesday with a friend but then our objective had been to seek out a pub in the neighbouring village. It had also been gloomy rather than brilliantly sunny, so here is the upshot of my amble round the more formal part of the park the next morning.

There seem to be more crows about this year. Or perhaps I have not taken the time to observe my local environment in such close detail before.
The bark on the silver birches is so beautiful.
Even though I am favour of less formal gardening and the zealous management of nature more generally, I still enjoy a formal garden from time to time.
Besides, there was also a wilder part to the park just beyond the garden. Here is the local river, round which untamed nature has been left to flourish. This does include Himalayan Balsam, which perhaps does need to be managed, but I dare say it is good for something.

All in all, I was so uplifted by the relaxing start to the day, I then had a productive time at home. This included planting out a rosemary seedling. After managing to kill off the last one, I hope this will survive in the forest garden, where it should not be in ground which gets too damp.

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Building the bed by the back door

There wasn’t a lot of soil left from excavating the hole for my pond in the winter of 2018, once I’d spread it round the garden. Thus, the bed by the back door

had ended up with but a thin layer over the sand, where the patio slabs had previously lain.

It had therefore always been on my mind to work on this area. So, on Sunday/Monday I moved the strawberries in the bed to the compost bin, put down newspaper over the soil and then covered it with manure.

The final layer for now is cardboard, the idea in the short term being

that it will reduce the chance of pigeons nabbing the straw for nests. Then I will cover the cardboard with manure/compost in due course.

One of the other volunteers at Old Sleningford earlier in the month told me that, contrary to received wisdom, she had been successfully growing in manure which was still quite raw. My experiment with beans grown in this way has not been as successful as I would have liked but this may be because of dry weather or bird activity rather than anything to do with the manure. In any case, I don’t have much to lose – the soil everywhere in the garden is too poor for a fantastic crop of garlic, and at least the soil in the new bed will be enriched.

Posted in Gardening, soil management | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

Commonwealth War Graves Harrogate

Last year, I enjoyed visiting two sites through the Heritage Open Days scheme. I may never even have heard of the places we visited had they not come to my attention through being listed on the website. Such is the case with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the cemeteries they started and now maintain.

There weren’t as many choices on the Heritage Open Days website this year. However, I think the chance to learn more about the work of the Commission and the stories behind some of the servicemen and women buried in Stonefall Cemetery in Harrogate overshadowed any sadness at the diminished range of venue.

Sadness was reserved for the stories we were told, as we were being shown around the war graves by Elizabeth Smith, one of the Commission staff.

Flying Officer L.A.Hannah was about to take off at an airfield in Lincolnshire. His plane was carrying a crew of six other men and a cargo of bombs. The plane caught fire, so the only way to save his crew and the airfield was to continue to take off. After the crew had parachuted out, he continued flying to avoid the plane blowing up over the village below.
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A walk along Ripon Canal

I was recently introduced to wetlands near Ripon, a small city in North Yorkshire. In spite of going to nearby Old Sleningford Farm for six years, I still don’t know the area terribly well, because we have largely driven to the farm and then driven home again. On the other hand, now my daughter is older and no longer keen to get involved, I’m trying to add value to the day out. So, the wetlands were to be our next little adventure.

I’d had difficulty locating them on the map and on the way to the farm yesterday morning, I couldn’t see any signs for Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, who manage the wetlands. Fortunately, Rachel at the farm was able to give me directions which worked and there was even space in the car park when we arrived. Perhaps the space can be put down to the wetlands being somewhat under the radar.

As is frequently the case, my companion was nonplussed with the idea of a walk, so I suggested we could walk along the canal for just ten minutes. Up to the point where I could see what looked like something. Perhaps it would turn out to be a sign or the entrance to the wetlands.

In a sense, it turned out to be both. There were certainly signs giving information about the wetlands but it appears they are too dangerous for people to walk through. Instead, part of the fence/tree line barrier had been turned into a one-sided hide, so that visitors can see in and observe without causing damage to either the wildlife, the habitat or themselves.

It’s a shame that the birds were difficult to take photos of. On the other hand, having declared that the canal where we live is far superior, my daughter did concede that this reflection was particularly good. We will return and walk further along the canal but I think we need to take a walk closer to home first!

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Don’t mind us!

It is well and truly harvest time. So, my vegetable share from the local farm has become quite big as well as varied. Nevertheless, it would be such a shame to leave windfalls laying on the ground, even if they are consumed by the resident ducks.

With an always-hungry teenager about the house and the increased potential for self-isolation now schools are going back hovering over us, it makes sense to get as much fresh stuff in while we can. Most of it will get consumed as is but I will also do some preserving, so we shouldn’t suffer from scurvy!

Returning to the ducks, I was quite charmed to come upon them in the orchard as I was picking up the windfalls. They were so blasé about my presence.

Posted in Days out, Health, In the kitchen | Tagged , , | 21 Comments

The best of August

Last night, I felt so content. Happy. Autumn is in the air and I love it. Beautiful days and cool, dark nights.

However, as it is still officially summer, here are some highlights I didn’t get round to posting about earlier in the month.

Most of the bean seeds from an old packet failed to germinate or were eaten by the pigeons upon emerging from the ground. This one is therefore particularly special, with its pink flowers.
The soapwort has grown massively since last year. I wonder how big it will get in 2021? In the meantime, I’m as entranced by its flowers this year as I was last.
A week after the photos of the bean’s and soapwort’s flowers, we were exploring walks in the Methley area when I spotted some blackberries. My daughter didn’t feel they would be good to eat because of their proximity to the train line. But I think that’s lichen on the branches of the tree?
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Moving online

I hear that more and more people are shopping online these days. Even before the pandemic, it was an increasing trend, but now there appears to be panic that the high street is dying and so we should all get back to the office to keep cafés and restaurants going.

Well, the kind of buying I’ve been doing wouldn’t do much in this regard. Certainly, I’d be coming home empty handed if I was looking for what has come through my front door this week.

First up is the organic flour and other goodies from Side Oven Bakery. It uses the wheat and oats from its farm to make flour and porridge oats respectively. But it also makes an interesting range of other products, such as porridge with chocolate and cranberries, which I decided would make an interesting topping for crumble.

Normally, I would buy the flour at Carr House Farm when it has an open day; or from Hunters, a shop in Helmsley. And I would get porridge oats from the local organic farm (not grown there). However, getting stuff delivered has added a certain spice to life when I’m mostly at home battling with a computer for work and social activity. It does also cut down on the amount of miles I drive.

The second purchase is of a completely different nature. One of my favourite genres of novel is historic crime fiction. In the last day or so, I’ve discovered my local library is now open again. This means I can finally pick up a book by Frances Brody that I reserved some six months ago but I’d wondered if I could get hold of the genre in French.

Now, this is something I doubt Leeds Libraries has on its shelves. So, I did an internet search and found just what I was looking for. Set in the time of Francis I, a contemporary of Henry VIII, it will hopefully illuminate a period in history on the other side of The Channel which I know sorely little about.

Better World Books, the company I bought from, raises money for charities who support reading around the world. It’s a shame the author won’t get a fee from my purchase but I am glad to help others less fortunate than me get the opportunity to read. And as always, it is good to be supporting the re-use economy.

After giving away some of my daughter’s clothes to two families through Freegle this week, it really does feel that I am on track with my principles in spite of the restrictions caused by the pandemic.

Posted in Good for the environment, In the kitchen, Reading | Tagged , , | 15 Comments

Thyme to plant

A couple of months ago, I got a thyme plant with my vegetable share from the local organic farm. I’m not a particular fan of this herb but I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, either. Still, where was I going to put it? Everywhere I have earmarked for new plantings didn’t take into account this offering.

Finally, it came to me when I chopped down the evening primrose which had self-seeded in the herb garden. Not a bad place for them but they do tend to get large and floppy, so were completely covering the spare ground by the fence.

I had thought the area might be too shady behind the bay tree but I’d rather have the thyme here than any rosemary. After the unfortunate demise of the latter in 2018, I have finally succeeded in growing several replacements, which is one of the reasons there seemed to be no room for the thyme.

Posted in Gardening, herbs | Tagged , | 13 Comments

Churning butter

Occasionally, I’ve made butter from cream and it has involved a degree of labour – but not as much as today.

I was churning away manually with a bowl and whisk. An hour in total and starting to get quite weary, when I decided to throw in the towel and move to mechanical means.

That’s when I realised an essential difference between today’s butter, which came off the non-homogenised, raw milk from Red Lodge Farm, and shop-bought cream. The former results in butter milk as well as butter but with the shop-bought cream there is no butter milk.

At least I got quite a workout with all the churning this morning and enjoyed a lengthy siesta this afternoon. Making butter instead of just drinking the cream may seem an unnecessary activity but is not making anything for yourself good for the soul as well?

Posted in In the kitchen | Tagged , , | 28 Comments

Harvest come early

It’s almost a week since I last ventured into WordPress land. Working from 7 in the morning till 6 at night doesn’t help matters. However, it is the weekend, of which I’m already nearing the end of my second day, so life is improving.

One thing I had had time for during the week was picking up fallen crab apples. These are mostly ones that have been got at by coddling moth, so I’m a little underwhelmed by my attempts to curb the infestation so far.

Last year, I was too lazy to pick up fallen fruit (from the cooking apple tree, which was then the one with the infestation). The upshot is that all the good work with the pheromone traps came to nothing.

This year, I am therefore collecting any fallen fruit and if it is no longer viable as food for me, in the council collection. Alternatively, the apples get zapped in the microwave and then put in the Green Johanna.

That’s what I did last Sunday, when feeling the pressure to pick fruit off the tree before they all fell. (I made crab apple jelly with the fruit I could salvage.) To be fair, there is still quite a lot of fruit on the tree, but I can’t imagine it will be there for much longer.

I also noticed today a Scrumptious apple hidden in the undergrowth. Fortunately, this is unblemished and unlike last year’s crop looks like it might actually taste like a Scrumptious. In any case, I feel it needs to be appreciated as an eating apple, so this will happen in due course.

None of these apples should be ready quite yet. It’s not the end of my world that they are but it’s not great for the world if harvests shift. Especially if the timeline becomes unpredictable from year to year. Especially in a country like Britain where planning by higher authorities seems somewhat lacking.

Posted in climate change, Gardening, In the kitchen | Tagged , , | 10 Comments