Friday, February 23, 2018

A Newsy Week

See that field on the other side of our garden fence?



It's become a nursery. Yip, lambing season has officially begun, a sure sign that spring is not far away. Each morning the farmer buzzes in with a trailer hooked up to a quad bike and deposits the new mums with their little lambs. Our days now have a background chorus of bleating between mums and babies. 



They are too adorable to watch. Every so often a lamb will confuse another mum for its own and receive an unceremonious headbutt to shoo it on its way. 



I don't think I've shared my latest news with you! I am now an official allotmenteer! I feel so very lucky as getting an allotment is just about impossible. There are long waiting lists, demand outstrips supply, and those that do have allotments do not relinquish them easily. But I guess I have found myself in the right place at the right time in our new neighbourhood. I happened to call up right at the time when they are calling for their annual renewals and it also so happens that quite a few people were moving on or wanting to split their full-size plots to half for various reasons. So it was meant to be!

We do have a lovely big garden at home but there are a few problems when it comes to growing veg.

* First, its really well established and every inch has been utilised so no space for growing vegetables

* Second, it's a coastal garden and so we get salty winds that blow off the ocean - not good for a lot of plants.

So that is why I thought I would look at getting an allotment. Never did I dream that I would be lucky enough to get one so quickly!



My tomato and sweet pea seeds have germinated nicely. They live in the Orangery which gets light from one side... can you tell? πŸ˜€These won't be going to the allotment, I think the tomatoes will have to live in the Orangery in order to have the best chance of the fruit ripening, the sweet peas are destined to be grown over a pergola here at home. But I'm excited about planning out my crop and hope to get a start on that next week.

We had a birthday in our family this week! My 'baby' turned 18. How on earth did that happen?


She had a lovely day filled with gifts, flowers, messages and a lovely lunch at a restaurant with spectacular views of the city and Plymouth Sound.



Another bit of excitement - and really, I totally get if you read this next bit and are left a bit cold but fellow planner addicts will relate πŸ˜…. I got a new Travelers Notebook!


I absolutely adore this Japanese notebook system because of the simplicity and the look and feel of the notebook. It harkens to a bygone era and that appeals to me. I will do a full post on the Travelers Notebook but for now, I just wanted to share my joy in getting this Travelers Train edition. It's so pretty. I fell in love with it the moment I first saw it on my Instagram feed. The only problem is that you can only get this particular edition in Japan and I have no plans of going to Japan soon. However, I found a seller on Etsy! What luck. Shipping was super quick and economical... now I can't stop staring at it πŸ˜…. It's all set up and has become my daily go-to. More on all that another time though.

And finally just for fun... it appears that I don't only grow plants in the Orangery but cats too....


She adores slipping in here and napping in the warm sunshine. Our temperatures are plummeting at the moment and there is a really cold wind blowing so to nap in the warm Orangery is like heaven to a kitty cat.

March arrives next week and along with it lots of lovely things to look forward to! I'll chat a little more on that next week, until then, have a lovely weekend!

Saturday, February 03, 2018

The February Garden

Now that the days are a little longer - not warmer - but definitely longer, I find myself wanting to spend more time in the garden. 


Taking a walk around the garden to spot the changes and new arrivals is something I do all year round. November through to January are usually the quietest times. Everything has been put to bed and not much is stirring. However, in January the snowdrops herald the start of things to come. 

As the weeks have passed and we have slipped into February, I am noticing green shoots, spring bulbs perhaps, pushing through all over the garden. 


Beneath the apple tree, a carpet of Hellebore's has started to flower. They are exquisite! I had quite a few hellebore's in my last garden and was sad to leave them behind. I am thrilled to have them in our new garden as I associate them strongly with Lent. They are known as the 'Lenten Rose' because they look similar to some roses and of course they flower through Lent. I plan to transplant any self-seeded hellebore's all over the garden around March/April so that I can see them from every window next year.

Witch Hazel
At the bottom of the garden, and I wish it wasn't so far away, is the most beautiful Witch Hazel. I love the delicate blooms set on the bare twisting branches. What a joy to see on these cold winter days.

Garden tasks at this time of the year are mostly cutting back spent perennials and generally tidying up. It is tempting to catch a bad case of spring fever around February and begin planting the years vegetable seeds or plant up some spring pots. However, the reality is that we are only halfway through winter, still a little while to go yet before we can truly herald the arrival of Spring. 


There are few tasks that you can busy yourself with though, chitting early potatoes for one, which I have yet to do and sowing a few early seeds as long as you start them off indoors.

Today I sowed some 'Sweetness' Cherry Tomato seeds and this year's sweet pea seeds. The tomatoes will stay in the Orangery over the summer, hopefully, the fruit will actually ripen. I'm afraid I have not had much success with tomatoes in this country. In a few months, the sweet peas will be potted in a lovely big pot and trained over the pergola in our driveways centre island. I think it will look very pretty in the summer


I have also potted up a very pretty Peony (Sarah Bernhardt) which will sit just behind our fish pond under the pergola again. I love peonies and now is the time to plant them. I've tried from seed before with little success so this time around I picked up a bare root to plant so we shall see what happens. I chose to plant it in a large pot so that it can come with us should we move. They really should not be moved from their place of planting for the first four years so a lovely big pot is a good place for your peony to start it's life if you are planning on relocating during that time.


My final garden task for today was re-potting two hydrangeas that I bought last summer and I am glad I did! I filled two large pots with potting soil and lifted out the first plant from its original pot. It was riddled with Vine Weevil Larvae - ewwww! They are disgusting! These garden pests eat away at the roots eventually killing the plant. However, the plant shows no sign of ill effect until it is too late so I am glad that I re-potted them today. I hope they survive the shock because I shook off every last bit of soil that they were in and ran the roots under water to make sure the larvae were dispatched with. Time will tell.

That's it from my garden today, is anyone else itching to get gardening?

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Blog Update

{As I ramble on about some blog musings, enjoy the photographs I took of the little robin having a bath in our pond yesterday. He is just so adorable!}


Around January each year, I do a bit of blog housekeeping. I usually think about the direction my blog has come from, is it still travelling along the same path etc, and then I consider some techy stuff.

So, on the techy side, there is a change. If you follow my blog or have me bookmarked and you wish to continue to visit me here, please can you make sure that your bookmarked URL reads www.underanenglishsky.blogspot.co.uk


I am leaving the {dot}{com} address behind. My reasons are simple, this blog is a very personal one. I write about what matters to me, about family, faith, homeschooling (which is now reaching its end), and about my love for nature and life in Britain. I write occasionally about my gardening exploits and often about seasonal and liturgical observances. They are all simple musings about an ordinary life, a diary of sorts. 


Last year I considered getting a bit more serious about blogging, but to be honest, I'm not one to write in order to gain more followers or to make an income off my blog. I write for the joy, it is personal, and I enjoy the interaction I have with you. I don't want to be writing things that give the answers to all of life's challenges, you know the type of posts, "10 ways to..." or "How I..."


So I'm keeping it simple and true to where this little blog started. I will continue to write about the things that matter to me; family life, home-keeping, faith, lovely creative interests, endeavours and just observing a life simply lived and small things appreciated. 


On where this blog is heading... well I don't really know. This year our homeschool journey comes to an end and if I'm honest I'm at a loss of what to do next. For 14 years I've raised and educated my darling ones. Now what? That's something to be figured out so I know that there will be no more homeschooling posts after July and I suppose as I figure out my way in a new season so my blog will reflect that. 


In the meantime, thank you to all who continue to visit and take time to read this blog, thank you to all who leave comments - I really love reading them and try to respond to each one.

underanenglishsky.com will cease to bring you here on 13 February so remember to update your bookmarked URL's to https://underanenglishsky.blogspot.co.uk 
If you have subscribed via Bloglovin or here on my blog you don't need to do a thing, you will continue to receive posts from this blog

Blessings to you all...

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Finding Beauty in the Ordinary

A small snippet of Domestic Bliss...can you find beauty in the ordinary? 


I really don't mind the ordinary task of washing dishes and here's why...

* It warms my hands in winter πŸ˜‚ - I always have cold hands!

* I love the smell of Fairy dishwashing liquid. I buy a different fragrance every month - this month it is original which transports me back to my childhood. There were no fancy fragrances in dishwashing liquid then!

* I love the view from my kitchen sink. I can see the birdfeeder from here which is always very well patronised by an array of birds.

* I like to gaze upon the garden noticing what's coming into bloom. It reflects what is unique to each month in natures rhythm of life.

* If I turn my eyes heavenward I see the trees, some stark branches devoid of leaves, another evergreen whose leaves sway in the winter wind, in contrast against the blue/grey/misty/cloudy sky - so many skyscapes in winter.

* I ponder on things, the mundane action of washing allows the mind to relax and meander along in gentle thought.

May you find beauty in your ordinary today...

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

January Loves

January has been such a lovely month so far. I know that it can be a hard month to love but this year instead of giving any airtime to the January Blues, I am loving what it has brought.


Beautiful, crisp mornings. Driving home after dropping my eldest at the bus stop I was so taken with the beauty of the morning. It was cold and frosty but those colours! Our home is up around that corner - I don't mind driving down these narrow Devon lanes one bit when such scenery surrounds.


We live in a National Trust nature reserve so when we go for walks along the coastal path we often encounter a herd of Dartmoor Ponies. This little one was munching away on bramble leaves and clearly enjoying its lunchtime view.


Today's joy was watching this little robin have a bath in our garden. It's a windy and misty day today hence why this photo looks a bit 'faded', in fact, you cannot even see the ocean the mist is so thick. But this little fellow was clearly enjoying his bath.


January means Daffodils and Tulips are in the grocery stores and every single January I make a point of buying these spring flowers to brighten up the dreary days. It reminds me that spring is not far off. On this particular day, the sunshine was streaming through the windows and the tulips looked beautiful in the light.


I've spent a lot of time baking and cooking this month. I made this focaccia bread to go alongside a vegetarian curry last week. I was very happy with how it turned out as I had attempted focaccia years ago and it did not work out as planned. But this recipe proved to be a hit, I think it is going to become a bit of a staple in our home. It would be delicious to have with homemade soups. I have included the recipe at the end of the post.


Custard shortbread cookies and 18 applesauce muffins were churned out of the kitchen this week. I used the last of the applesauce I made in the autumn. 


There is plenty to love about January...you just need to look for it and have the right mindset 😊. What lovely things have you taken joy in this month?

Focaccia with mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and rosemary

You Will Need:
500g strong white flour
2 tsp salt
7g sachet fast-action dried yeast
2 tbsp olive oil, plus a little extra for kneading
350 ml tepid water
10 cherry tomatoes
10 mozzarella pearls
4 rosemary stems, cut into 2cm sprigs
2 tsp sea or rock salt
2 tbsp olive oil for drizzling

Directions:
* Grease two baking trays.

* Place the flour, salt, yeast, oil and water into a large bowl and mix together to form a dough then continue kneading by hand in the bowl of 10 minutes. The dough will be quite wet and very soft.

*  Tip the dough onto an oiled surface and continue kneading for a further 5 minutes, do not use flour as this will make the dough hard. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with oiled cling film and leave in a warm place to rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

* Tip the dough out and divide in half. Flatten each half into a baking tray, pushing the dough to the corners. Cover with oiled cling film and leave to prove in a warm place for 1 hour or until well risen.

* Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C/ 425 degrees F/ Gas Mark 7

* Using the end of a wooden spoon dipped in water to prevent sticking, press holes in the dough at regular intervals in rows about 4cm apart. Make sure the holes reach to the base of the tin.

* Fill the holes with the tomato, mozzarella and rosemary sprigs, sprinkle with the sea/rock salt and drizzle with the oil.

* Bake in the oven for 20 - 25 minutes or until the focaccia is well risen and golden brown.

Recipe courtesy of Lakeland and featured in the February 2018 edition of Your Home magazine.