Monday, 31 May 2010

The herb border is establishing nicely

At the edge of what will, sometime relatively soon, be the patio, David has built a double retaining wall, which we have filled with a mixture of sieved soil and compost to create a herb garden.  Here you can see the onion sets just starting to come through.

This seems a much more attractive idea than putting a fence up to stop anyone falling off the patio down into the garden!  It's also highly practical, as I can then access my herbs without going down into the main garden, which, at the moment still retains the vestiges of the original lawn.  No more wet feet after collecting herbs when it's been raining!

I've transplanted coriander, chives, thyme and marjoram from the pots they were growing in into the bed.  Also rocket and nasturtiums from where they had self-seeded in the vegetable beds.  Bordering the steps down into the garden David created square planting areas, for larger herbs.

I have transplanted the purple sage and rosemary into the two squares by the steps nearest to the patio doors. 

Bay went into one of those over by the greenhouse.  I was going to transplant my lavender into the other one, but it's too leggy, so I'll take some cuttings and with any luck I can put some in next year.  Until then a Skimmia is looking after the site - keeping it warm, so to speak.

I'm delighted with how well the herbs have settled down, I took the opportunity to split the plants up whilst I was disturbing them, and in a year or two the border will be full.  I've sown some mixed salad seeds in to fill it up for now, no point in wasting the space, is there?

potatoes for free!

Last summer I grew potatoes from nothing, so to speak.  This year I've done the same.

I'm sure you must all have come across potatoes in your vegetable rack that look like this?  Yes?  So you snap off the growths and get on with preparing them for eating, yes?  No!  Not if you want free potatoes, you don't.

Cut off the growths with about an inch of the potato, and plant it in the garden.  Sometimes you can cut a potato in about half a dozen pieces, each with a shoot on, and plant each of them.  Each piece will grow into a potato plant, yes, really, each one a new plant.  Each plant will produce a crop of potatoes.

Admittedly, the crop will not be as large as from a seed potato, but then it's cost you nothing but a little time and effort.  The magic of nature works for you - aren't you lucky?

That's what I did about 3 weeks ago, and look at the growth they've put on!!  To obtain a larger yield of potatoes, simply pile earth up against the stems of each plant.  The obliging potato will generate new roots into this fresh soil, and they will produce the tubors for you.  Even better magic, and more free food :-)

loft conversion update

A brief update on the oak parquet flooring in the loft extension:-

As you can see, it's still a workshop in the loft extension.  A veritable hive of industry.
Many of the oak blocks need to be sawn down to size, I was going to leave it to your imagination to picture the dust.  But then I thought - "If a picture's worth a thousand words ..."  I can sit here, silently, and simply show you! 

This is the slanting windowsill below the escape Velux window.  This sawdust hasn't heard of gravity!!

This is where the dust is generated - it's a beautiful, rich tawny shade which the camera doesn't do justice.

Although the main body of the floor is laid in a sort of chequed design, we decided to go for a more straightforward layout of blocks under the storage area.  I love the simple "brickwork" pattern.  The last photo shows where the two areas blend together.

I still love the way the grain shows through, and all the different shades.  I'm looking forward to seeing it when it has a protective coating applied, it should really glow then:-)

Sunday, 30 May 2010

my poor neighbours!

Last evening the door bell rang.  A police officer stood there in his shirt sleeves, radio in hand.

Had I heard anything at about 9pm the night before?  Somebody had thrown a brick through my neighbour's living room window!!!!

I was out visiting a friend, my house had been empty, so clearly I couldn't help.  I'm lucky I didn't return home to a brick through my window, I suppose.  I hope the variety of shrubs I have in front of my house afforded me some protection, it would have been difficult to have found a good place to take a shot from.  If they had ventured onto the path or driveway, the security lights would have perhaps startled them. 

Who knows?  I just feel sorry for my poor, elderly neighbours:(

Saturday, 29 May 2010

stolen purse, the work of a moment!

My neighbours parked their car on their drive.  They went indoors.  He took the two dogs for a short walk to the park.  She sat down in the conservatory for a little while, dumping her handbag on the coffee table instead of putting it in the cupboard, where it normally lives.

She went through to the living room to fetch something.  When she returned to the conservatory she saw a navy suited figure leaving through the door.  Sensibly, she didn't accost him.  She looked in her handbag, her purse was missing.  Maybe it had fallen out in the car? 

He was returning home with the dogs.  Outside my house a young man in navy worksuit nodded to him, smiled and crossed the road.  He carried on home, next door to me.

She met him and asked if he'd seen a young man in navy.  Yes, he had.  They looked together for her purse, it wasn't in the car.  They called the police.

Despite several officers called out, they didn't find the young man.

So, beware of opportunist thieves!  They strike whenever they feel like it, they don't leave a calling card.

My neighbours have a house with wrought iron grilles at the front door, and a wrought iron gate across their drive.  The gate was left open whilst he walked the dogs for a quarter of an hour.  It took less than that for the theft to take place.

Guard your belongings - don't let them get away with it if they visit your house!

Monday, 24 May 2010

I came upon this tiny article entitled "Make your own eco-barbeque" by Sarah Davies listed on

Using charcoal isn't very environmentally friendly, but modern BBQ's aren't designed for wood. If your washer is beyond repair, or a friend is getting rid of theirs, remove the drum before its recycled (its easy, just unscrew from the back). Stand it on a stone surface, add a mesh over the top and you have a perfect wood barbeque, or firepit. The holes that used to let water through are great for letting oxygen to the fire, and as the wood burns, the ash falls through them

Now I happen to have two of these very drums sitting in the garden as we speak.  Yes, I know!  How often does that happen??  Now I don't have to go out and buy a new washing machine just to be able to recycle the drum out of my old one. 

Whew, what a relief that is!!

David has kindly compacted the broken bricks which form the base of the embrionic patio, and now my new teak table is sitting, proudly, gleaming with freshly applied teak oil, so that I can enjoy my meals in this unlooked for sunshine:)

the top picture is the "Lazy Susan" which fits over the centre of the table and revolves so that it's easy for guests to help themsselves to the lovely grub - who knows, maybe from my stainless steel bbq?

A (Mostly) Vegetable-Free Edible Garden by Gem –

I thought you might be interested to read that I'm not the only one out there who regularly eats flowers in her salads - Gem's mum eats more than I do:-)

I, too, have Jerusalem artichokes, lovely and nutty flavour.  They grow five or six feet tall, so only plant at the back of borders, unless you actually want them to provide shade!  Mine are behind the potatoes, but Gem's mum is really not into vegetables, so I won't talk about them.

I regularly eat nasturtium flowers and leaves, chives flowers and leaves, fennel leaves and seeds, rocket leaves, flowers and seed pods, beautiful purple spinach, grown for beauty as well as flavour, bay, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, lavender flowers, marigolds flowers, land cress leaves and so on ...

A (Mostly) Vegetable-Free Edible Garden by Gem –

new tooth

As you may remember, I managed to break a pre-molar on the morning of my final exam on the 10th May- curses upon the seeds in delicious seedy breads! 

(You would think I would have learned my lesson, really, wouldn't you?  Eleven years ago I was obliged to have a molar extracted as a similar thing happened, but I developed an abcess below it, and there was only a 20% chance of it surviving even with extensive root canal work, and we were due to go away for three weeks etc etc, so out it came.)

Anyway, I visited the dentist last Wednesday on an emergency appointment - it wasn't hurting, so I didn't need a same day appointment or anything dramatic.  I explained what had happenened, she had a look and said she could simply build it up with white filling, as there was an existing white filling adjacent to where the side of the tooth had broken away.

I said "great", she said it would have to be private, I said "fine".  When she got out the anaesthetic, I reminded her I was a coward and needed enough for an elephant.  She laughed, and said I'd had extensive root canal work a couple of years ago and survived it;  I pointed out that I only survived it because she gave me enough for the elephant.  She smiled, and injected for about a minute - I was starting to feel numb before she removed the needle - it's great when they actually listen to their patients, isn't it?  She got on with drilling, packing and setting under UV light, and in less than half an hour I was outside again.  Numb, but happy.

The cost, I hear you ask?  A bargain at £70.  And I really, really, really, felt no pain.  I have an excellent dentist, it may take me half an hour or so to drive to Southport, but whilst she remains in the practice, I'll continue to make the journey:-)

Saturday, 15 May 2010


Does anybody remember the song "I Believe" from years ago?  I believe The Bachelors sang it, and I loved it as young girl - probably drove my parents demented going around singing it - I used to sing a lot in those days - out loud - I know, it's OK though, I mostly sing silently nowadays, don't worry!

Anyway, I loved that song - I've "googled" the lyrics for you, and here they are:

I believe for every drop of rain that falls,
A flower grows.
I beleive that somewhere, in the darkest night,
A candle glows.
I beleive for everyone who goes astray, someone will come
To show the way.
I believe, I believe.

I believe above a storm, the smallest prayer
Can still be heard.
I beleive that someone in the great somewhere
Hears every word.

Everytime I hear a newborn baby cry,
Or touch a leaf, or see the sky,
Then I know why, I believe.

rep last stanza

Erwin Drake, Irvin Graham, Jimmy Shirl, Al Stillman

I still hum it often, though I couldn't have told you the words until I'd looked them up just now!

Anyway - what I firmly believe is that every cloud has a silver lining.  It may be tarnished and difficult to see, but look for it, it'll be there.  Polish it up if it needs it, until it shines.  It's yours, look after it and remember what you've learned.  Enjoy life - you only get one:)

It's all over!

Well, I told you I'd let you know how I got on, so here's the short account of the morning ....

I thought I'd better have something more substantial than my usual home made fruit smoothie, so fried some organic mushroom and sliced pepper with tomato and served it up on two sliced and toasted gluten-free multi seed rolls.  So far, so good.

I was really enjoying my cooked breakfast when I felt a little pain in a pre-molar, ouch.  A bigger ouch every mouthful I took!  I realised that I must have a seed stuck in  my tooth, so went to excavate it with a toothpick.  I tried to just flip it out, but it hurt every time I touched it, then, horror of horrors, it started to sink further in to my tooth, alongside an old filling!!!  Seconds later, half my tooth was sitting in my mouth, along with the guilty, black seed, which appeared to be none the worse for its experience, unlike me and my poor tooth!

I managed to eat the remainder of my (by now cold) breakfast without chewing too many times on the "wrong" side of my mouth!  What a nuisance, and the exam was at 0920, so my plan was to have an hour in the library first, so no way I could contact the dentist to make an emergency appointment:(

So, I read my copious notes, and felt quietly confident that I know my stuff, so to speak.  Which is true, I've worked, not shirked, and my grades have been good.  I've loved my time at university, met some great people, and learned an immense amount.  But ..... my memory is not the best:( 

So, seated with several other lambs to the slaughter candidates for the exam, I put the three pens I'd brought with me on the table.  Three pens, you ask?  Yes, three pens, you never know what's around the corner.

The instruction came, complete the front of the exam paper.  I pressed the end of my pen down and whoosh!  It exploded!!  Small pieces of metal and a spring flew away from me on their own sweet trajectories.  Fortunately, all the pieces were gathered up for me, but, despite laughing, I was thinking "Oh dear, things go in threes, first the tooth, now the pen, what's next?"  Boy, I'm glad I'm not superstitious!!!!

It's OK, my friend behind me assured me, I've just broken my nail.  Whew, no problems then.  Or does it have to be the same person breaking three things?  Well, the second pen refused to write, too.  I scribbled frantically, but all I achieved was a hole in a spare piece of paper!!!!  How could this happen?

I pieced together the exploding device, and it wrote for a while, in fact I nearly completed my details before it died again:)  I re-repaired it, yes, of course it's a real word, people are always re-repairing things, ask anyone, and completed the front, I also filled in the details of the exam, room, module etc on the small form, and handed it in, then realised that I'd put April down, not May for the month!  Was that the third thing????

I turned over the exam paper and read the questions.  I kid you not, I was spoilt for choice!!  There were several questions I could have answered well, fortune was smiling on me.

Now I know fortune was laughing in my face:(  The third thing to go wrong was the sieve I have for a brain.  You know what a sieve is, right?  Yes, of course you do.  Sadly, all the mesh of wire that retains the stuff in the sieve all disappeared at once, so there was nothing left to hold all the information in, and it dissipated in the blink of an eye.  I expect the cleaners wondered what all the stuff was they found on the floor later, assorted wonderful words of erudition, jumbled and trodden on.

So, the questions were great, my answers, alas, were not so great.  I could have written for another hour or so, then maybe I would have mentioned Foucault, or aberrant discourses and the way in which they form.  As it was, my words remained pretty monosyllabic.  As a first year, I would have considered I'd done well.  As a third year - well, what do you think?

People think I'm unduly pessimistic, but I was only confident of achieving 60 to 63%, I doubt I'm anywhere near that, so even if I do really, really well in the essay part of the module, I'll be lucky to be at a 2:1 level for this module.

Consequently, all aspirations to a further three years of academia are off.  I'll see what the local further education college is offering for September, and register with them for something.  There are lots of brain challenging opportunities out there - it's just a matter of searching them out.

And, I'll continue to write my short stories, maybe even a longer one.  Watch this space!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

patio progression!

David is progressing well with the creation of the patio area - we're hoping to get it finished this summe - I'm so looking forward to holding a bbq!!!

Top photo shows existing herbs which have been establishing themselves nicely in one of the vegetable bed pending the creation of the herb bed. 

Middle photo shows the nearly completed herb bed, which will run the length of the patio - no more wet, yucky shoes when going out to harvest a few handfuls of herbs after a British shower - hooray:-)

As you can see, I've planted up one or two smaller specimens, but the larger ones need a fork taking to them, and my back's not been up to it today:(  But I have sprinkled a few seeds in there, including some salad leaves, even though they're not herbs - it's my bed, I can be creative:-)

This photo proves how hardy chard is - some of these plants are three years old now, and still flourishing with no molly-coddling through the winter, and they've been transplanted to the lower bed, and have survived this treatment, too :-)

Strange phrase, molly-coddling, isn't it?  Anyone know where it originated?

Sunday, 9 May 2010

wish me luck!

Last time I caught sight of a newspaper the government question was still up in the air, and there's a hung parliament in my brain as well as in the country.  I feel like I've been reading non-stop, but, of course, that's nonsense - unless somebody else has been here hanging out the washing in the sporadic sunshine!  Sometimes I can understand why people try to gain a sneaky look at the exam papers - today has been a horrible day:(

The time has come, or at least, at 0920 in the morning it will have come.  I shall be seated, turning over my exam paper and hoping that there are two, just two, that's all I ask for, two questions that I'll be able to answer with such authority that I will get as near to 70% as it's possible to get, then my first should be 'in the bag' - provided there's a following wind, of course:)

So, wish me luck!  Cross your fingers that the books I know best will appear on the paper, and the subject areas I'm most comfortable with will be there, just waiting for my pearls of wisdom.

Oh, and I also planted some vegetable seeds this week - better late than never, as they say, and it's encouraging to see tiny specks of green peppering the rich loam - though that could be moss, I suppose!

Think of me tomorrow - I'll let you know just how terrible it was when it's over:)

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Long time no see!

I'm sorry, I've just been informed by my brother that I haven't posted anything for a month now!!  I have no excuse save dissertation, essay and revision - are they good enough?

The paperwork is all now handed in, so there's nothing I can do but sit and wait for the results to be published - it's going to be pretty tricky walking around with crossed fingers, toes and arms, but I'll do my best.  I wonder if it will work?  No, you're right, of course it won't!  Oh well, just wish me luck for my exam on the 10th - come Monday lunchtime I'll be in the pub with some other students, trying not to feel sooooo much older than them, and we'll be celebrating the fact that this stage is over.

I'll then be debating whether or not to put in an application for my MPhil/PhD, or not.  If I believe I've got a first, then I will, if not, I'd just be wasting everyone's time, as I can't justify the expense of a PhD when I don't need one:(

Everyone says "don't worry, you'll be fine", which I'm sure is done with the best of intentions, but, at the end of the day, what will be, will be - in fact, it's done - well, except for the exam.  I reckon I'm good for about 60-63% in the exam, that's all, and on a good day, as I  have a memory like one of those things that don't hold water very well.  So, the names of characters in books, plays etc and all their memorable lines will be jumbled, or mis-accredited, and the dates, if I remember any, will be allocated to the wrong events, hence only 60ish percent.  Give me an essay any day!!

Well, that's it for now, time to return to some books to the uni library, then more revsision before bed.  I really will post something interesting soon - honest!