(Another) five (good) things – on Friday

And this time, it actually is Friday!

(So.  Now I’m trying to keep up by getting ahead of myself.  Which means starting to write a post on Wednesday at the latest so I can hit the publish button late Friday, or at least early Saturday.  Let’s see how that works out).

1.  Snowdrops.  Oh how I am loving them this year.  I’ve never before realised the vast diversity there is in this one tiny flower.  This year I’m really looking, properly.  Getting right down under the flower to look inside.  I’m enjoying the delicate range of pale green markings on the inner petals, the difference between the singles and the doubles, the subtle variations, even the leaves are not all the same.  We’ve visited the Rococo Gardens at Painswick for the first time, and what a treat that was.  We’ve seen the snowdrops at Prior Park Gardens.  We made our first visit of the year to Heale Gardens.  I bought 3 small pots of different variety snowdrops, which I shall plant in the lawn in our garden to (I hope) naturalise and spread.

2. Eggs.  After too many weeks of not quite enough eggs (and certainly not enough to be giving them away, as we usually do), the hens have decided the spring has sufficiently sprung, and begun upping their production.  Now we’re getting 2 or 3 eggs most days, and I shall soon be able to offer them to sons, daughters-in-and-out-law, and others.  Back to an egg-based main meal at least once a week.  Unless this new spell of cold weather makes them retreat again.

3.  Sauerkraut.  A few weeks ago, inspired and encouraged by listening to this R4 Food Programme I decided to have another go at making sauerkraut.  My first attempt, last year, was a stinking, massive fail (though it did at least go into my compost bin not the food waste).  This time I used a smaller amount of cabbage (just 1lb, finely shredded) and a small amount of sea salt (only half a tablespoon), as recommended by Sandor Ellis Katz, the inspirational fermenter featured in the radio programme.  As described in the programme, I ‘massaged’ the cabbage and salt by hand for several minutes in a large bowl, then transferred the whole lot into a preserving jar (0.75l size – more than big enough).  I didn’t have a weight to put on top but thought my glass milk saver might fit just right, and it did.  A week later I tasted it and it was delicious.  I’ve been including some every day in my lunchtime salad.  Last week I decanted it to smaller jars and have kept it in the fridge, so now I have a second batch – red cabbage this time – in the larger jar.  Yesterday I made a much larger quantity – 3lb this time, and I’m using the (much too large!) German sauerkraut pot I acquired on Freegle a couple of years ago.  If this batch goes well, I’ll be emboldened to experiment with other vegetables and different flavourings.  Even plain like this, it adds a zing to my salads.

4.  Running.  It feels presumptuous to say this already, because I’ve only been for one very short run since getting my half marathon place, but I really, really enjoyed it.  I’ve got the medical  all-clear to give it a try (taking care that my bad leg/foot don’t start swelling more).  I’ve made a plan to build up slowly over the coming months.  And I’m actually looking forward to my next run – once the muscle aches from the first one subside.  You may want to remind me that I enjoy it, as the weeks go by and the runs get longer….

5. Plans.  You’ve probably figured out by now that I’m a great planner.  I enjoy planning out my time, my projects, arranging to see people.  In fact, you might not be too far wrong if you wondered whether sometimes I’m more wedded to the planning than the doing.  Anyhow, this week has been a week when careful planning has enabled me to fit in more than I might have expected, and that can only be a good thing.  Other plans are being considered that may turn into something quite exciting (or not – only time will tell).  Long may it last!

And to finish up, for no reason other than to remind you that spring really is just around the corner, here’s a photo I took this week of a tucked away spot at Bath City Farm.



Posted in Do what you can with what you have, Five (good) things on Friday, Food, Inspirations, Local food, Seeing differently, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five (good) things on Friday

My goodness, here we are again.  Friday morning.

(Okay, I know it’s Saturday now.  But  truly, I wrote this yesterday).

Missed a few (again).  Life’s been busy, as ever, but definitely in a good way.  So, here are a few choice ‘good bits’.  Quite a few of which are ‘watch this space’ good bits.

  1. Reading Lucille’s blog (Useful or Beautiful), I saw the most gorgeous baby jacket and knew I had to knit it for our expected new arrivals.  I asked her for details of the pattern, and learned it was the much-written about Baby Surprise Jacket, designed back in the 60s I think, by Elizabeth Zimmerman.  Buying the pattern seemed to involve buying an expensive book, not something I particularly wanted to do for just one pattern.  So I put a note on our local Social Streets page asking if any knitter happened to have the pattern and would be willing to lend it to me.  To my surprise and delight, a neighbour’s sister had just finished knitting it and was happy to let me have the pattern.  Within days I had the pattern and had started to knit.  It’s an intriguing garment to knit, because it’s a single piece which is then folded like origami.  For now I’m just following the instructions, and trusting that all will be well with it in the end.  So far, 12 rows in, it’s looking good.  I’ll post a photo when there’s more to see.
  2. Here at Bath City Farm a lot of hard work (by other people, not me) has resulted in the planning application for our proposed new cafe building being submitted.  We await the outcome with bated breath, but it certainly feels like a milestone reached.  I’ll keep you posted…..
  3. 9 years ago we ran the Royal Parks Half Marathon in London as a family – me, Malcolm and both our sons.  It was a glorious October day, and I loved it.  Since then I’ve unsuccessfully entered the ballot every year, and when I entered it this year it was with every expectation that I wouldn’t get a place.  So of course I got one.  Which means that all being well I will be running a half marathon in October this year.  Not bad for someone who hasn’t run at all for several months – assuming I manage it.  Which I plan to do – using the opportunity as a spur to regain lost fitness and at the same time raising some money for Bath City Farm.  Time to get those running shoes back on and start training!
  4. We had a (train) trip to Aix-en-Provence, which was a delight in itself.  But the icing on the cake (or perhaps more appropriately on the chocolate eclair – quite a few were eaten) was managing to track down an exchange partner I haven’t seen for almost 50 years.  We spent a day being shown around her home town of Arles with her husband, and best of all had a long phone conversation with her aunt, a long-time very close friend of my family who I haven’t spoken to since 1968.  A moving experience, and we intend to rebuild the family links and nurture them.  Who knows, maybe it will carry on into the next generation.
  5. When I returned home I collected a package that had arrived for me at the City Farm, which held two lovely cotton tote bags made by a blog reader who has become a friend. She’d made them herself – one for me and one for us to sell in our little Farm shop.  I’m very touched, and have already made good use of the one I chose for myself (it’s the one with a beautiful bold poppy print).  Thank you so much!
Posted in Community, Family, Five (good) things on Friday, Retirement, Travels | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Five (good) things on Friday

Sorry, missed a week.  Because it was a very busy week.  With many good things.

And here’s another busy week.  Also with many good things.

(Best of intentions – Friday came and went; so did Saturday and Sunday, with thoughts of 6 on Saturday/Sunday – still no posting.  Can’t think of anything to alliterate with Tuesday, so here with an apology is a belated 5 on Friday, complete with no photos.  But at least there is a bonus 6th).

  1. A week’s visit from our close friend from Denmark meant cramming in as many get-togethers as we could manage.  A day out in Frome, where we browsed charity shops for second-hand baby clothes (four lovely garments bought, for just £5 – and they all look as though they’ve never been worn).  For lunch we stumbled across somewhere we didn’t know about – a former church that has been beautifully restored and converted to a cafe/bakery, a meeting space, and a gallery.  And the food was good too.  Definitely somewhere to go back to!
  2. A classical concert in Bristol, preceded by a meal out.  This was our Christmas present to my step-father.  We picked it out as something we thought we’d all enjoy, and we did.
  3. Reading – I am so enjoying being able to read again.  Right now I’m reading a fascinating book called Hope’s Edge.  It’s by Frances Moore Lappé who (if you’re my age) you may recognise as the author of Diet for a Small Planet.  The book is her (2008) revisit and update of the same issues she highlighted back in the 1970s, around hunger and the causes of hunger, and what all of us can do to change things (for the better….).   It’s an interesting and thought-provoking read, and has encouraged me to reduce the amount of meat I eat.  Something I was wanting to do anyway.  I came across the book by chance in the local Oxfam bookshop.
  4. We were privileged to see both sons’ work – one is Production Manager on a touring dance production; the other did much of the design work for a high-profile TV show.  It was fun to be able to be proud parents (again!), and to share that with close friends and family.  And we are both in awe of their talent.
  5. I had a morning working on the allotment, and managed to cover a whole bed with beautiful compost, and emptied one of my plastic compost bins by mulching all the raspberries and fruit bushes.  The fruit will definitely benefit from being fed, and I took great pleasure in using the contents of the compost bin – a year’s worth of veg trimmings, coffee grounds and tea dregs, and the hens’ bedding (shredded paper from our home filing) and poo from cleaning out their house.  Do what you can with what you have.  Added to which the pleasure ticking off a few things from my ‘to do’ list of course.

And because I make the rules in this space, I can add a sixth (again…).  This week I received my first pension payment – several years earlier than I had been led to expect, due to a rather obscure rule whereby I could take my (work) pension unreduced once the sum of the number of years I’d been in the scheme and my age (in years) reached 85.  This reminds me of those riddles where you add and subtract a string of numbers, take away the number you first thought of, and the other person knows what you’re left with.  Which in my case is a modest but very welcome occupational pension.  And hurrah for that!

Posted in Do what you can with what you have, Five (good) things on Friday, Inspirations, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Losing the plot, regaining the plot

Well I really lost it with the allotment in the autumn.  The mix of insomnia and two bouts of (minor) illness put paid to all my plans to have it in tip top condition ready for spring planting.

No autumn planting happened.  No muck spreading happened.  No planning of fruit cage and other crop protection happened.

But now it’s now, I’m well again, I’m sleeping (much!) better (hurrah!!), and it’s time to get on and just go from where I am.

Do what you can with what you have.

And as ever, I’m an optimist when it comes to what I can manage to achieve on my allotment.  Never more so than in January and February, when everything seems possible. Already I’ve managed to make a start on the left-over jobs.  I’ve cut down all the autumn fruiting raspberry canes (see below for what they looked like back in April), and removed those that had spread to where I didn’t want them.  I’ve moved my fruit bushes closer together ready for the cage I’m planning to protect them from the birds.  I’ve cleaned out the hens’ pen.  I’ve made a start on the big tidy up.

Last weekend I collected my seeds ordered from our local allotment society.  This is a great buy, as we get a significant discount and it also means I have all the seeds I need right at the start of the season.  I also buy my seed potatoes and onion sets through them.  The onion sets have arrived, and the potatoes will follow shortly.

Next thing is to plan, buy and construct a proper fruit cage, to provide protection for the fruit bushes from the birds.  This will be my Christmas present from us.  My woodwork skills are limited (that’s a generous exaggeration – actually nil apart from being able to accurately use a saw) – but I’m open to learning.  I’m also open to buying something, if that would be longer lasting and effective (and not outrageously expensive).  And I’d also like to buy/make some kind of structure to protect my brassica plants from pests (aka lovely creatures but not where I want them).

If you have any suggestions / cautionary tales / ideas to share, do please let me know.  I’d love to hear them, and it will be really useful in helping me make some decisions.

Posted in Allotment, Food, Growing, Local food, Reflections on life (and death) | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Five (good) things on Friday

Hello again!  I’m so sorry to have been absent again for a while.  Still gradually recovering from the long-lasting bout of flu, which has left me with a wheezy cough and depleted energy levels.  But fortunately still able to enjoy what energy I have (mainly in the morning through till mid-afternoon, when I slump rather) – and it’s getting better, so no real complaints.

I promise I will catch up with replying to your comments, which I really truly do love to receive, and catch up with dropping by and visiting your blogs and commenting.  In the meantime, I do hope you’ll bear with me.

So, another ‘Five (good) things” post feels like an easy way back in.

  1. Two really interesting talks – first of all, a talk in the local (council owned) Victoria Art Gallery linked to a most beautiful exhibition of prints by Howard Hodgkin.  The talk was by Andrew Smith, a printmaker who worked very closely with Hodgkin to produce the prints to his exact requirements.  So very interesting, and such a fascinating insight into both the painstaking process of making the prints, and also the way Hodgkin himself worked.  Then on another evening at another gallery (the Martin Parr Foundation, at the Paintworks in Bristol), a talk by Martin Parr himself outlining his life and work, illustrated with fascinating slides and delivered with great humour. If you live in the UK you’re probably familiar with his work even if you don’t realise – he’s made a series of interesting BBC1 ident films that I’m sure you’ll have seen, and there are more to come in 2018.
  2. Time to go out on the allotment and do some jobs I should have done last month but didn’t.  In particular I’ve cut down and thinned out all the autumn-fruiting raspberry canes, and saved some spares to pass on to fellow allotmenters.  I’ll offer any surplus on Freegle.  I was cold and tired but very satisfied when I finally finished and came back indoors.
  3. Exchanged an unwanted Christmas gift for something I really do want.  Well, to be fair the gift wasn’t at all unwanted, in fact quite the reverse.  I gave a short list of some things I would enjoy to close family, thinking they might perhaps talk to each other….  Well no, and both sons and partners gave me the same book.  So – I took the duplicate book to one of the independent bookshops we’re fortunate to have here in Bath, explained the problem to them (including making it clear that the book hadn’t been bought from them), and they kindly agreed to do a swap.  So now I have two inspiring allotment/garden books, and will enjoy both.
  4. Enjoyed watching the garden birds on the new (squirrel-proof) feeder oldest son and his partner gave Malcolm for Christmas, as well as the two broken feeders I mended, refilled, and put out again.  Such a pleasure to see!  And helped by Malcolm’s photos and the bird book we’ve had for ages, we’re learning to recognise new-to-us species.
  5. A much-loved regular circuit walk around Bristol docks, including a stop for a flask and snack, then a cafe stop for a delicious light lunch and coffee.  So beautiful in the muted January light. 
Posted in Community, Five (good) things on Friday, Local, Uncategorized, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day (and a new year), and I’m feeling good – except I’m not!

I wrote this a couple of weeks ago, in anticipation of posting on 1 January 2018.  Life and a bout of flu intervened – hence the ‘except I’m not!’ tagged on this morning.  

So here we are in 2018.  Another year seems to have flashed past (a symptom of aging perhaps? or of busyness? or maybe just of life).   Another moment to think about what to keep, what to change, how to be.

I don’t usually do much in the way of New Year resolutions, but I do like that sense of a ‘new’ start, and reflecting on how things have been and how they could be (whether different or the same).

I’ve decided to adopt a guiding principle for 2018.  This isn’t something I’ve ever explicitly done before, though there are many guiding principles I try to follow.  But this one feels particularly apt to and for me, at this point in my life and at this point in our (communal) lives.

It is:

Do what you can with what you have.

I’ve come across it often this year on a blog whose author I can’t recall at the moment – I will credit here as soon as I can.    It carries within it so much, don’t you think?

In essence I think it’s about making the best, the most, of what actually is.  Of what I (we) actually already have.  Of avoiding consuming more whenever possible.  But it’s also about recognising where we are and seeing what we can make of it, where it can take us, not just in terms of material goods, but also making the most and best of our intangible wealth – our health, our ideas, our love, our knowledge, our relationships.

And I fully acknowledge that I’m in the privileged position that I have all I could possibly want and more.  The point being what then can I do with that to help others with less, and to make the most and best of what I have rather than acquiring more.

For me, that resonates both when I’m thinking about material possessions but also about personal relationships and the wider world we inhabit together.  It means as well making the most of the things I’ve learnt and thought about through my reading, my studying, my conversations, and considering how I can apply them in my community (in every sense of that world).

If this sounds rather woolly*, it’s probably because it is.  I’m thinking this one through as I write it, as I often do.  I find that ideas evolve and grow as I write, as I speak.  Then it’s up to me to figure out where and how to use them.

And for us, this (new) year, there will be one big (tiny) and very welcome change.  In May we will become grandparents.   We were right to think of our ‘gap year’ as a gap between caring responsibilities.  We will embrace our relationship with this tiny new life, and make of it whatever good things we can, with what we have.

Cot blanket for our first grandchild


*woolly – kind of punny I know, but I love that the thing I use to make something useful and (I hope, beautiful) fits well here.  The idea comes, and then we figure out how best to use it to create something useful and/or good (and hopefully beautiful).

Posted in Climate change, Community, Craft, Frugal, Inspirations, Reflections on life (and death), Retirement, Seeing differently, Uncategorized, Whatever next? | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Five (good) things on Friday

Well, here we are again, another Friday come around.

  1. Not one but two traditional pub events on consecutive days.  Saturday evening was our Farm Christmas ‘do’ for staff and trustees (and a couple of prospective new trustees came along as well – so nice to meet them!).  It was a skittles evening with a buffet at a local pub I’ve never been to before, but will certainly go to again.  An unpretentious ‘local’, this is a really old-fashioned pub experience which you don’t often find these days, when most pubs have either been done up beyond recognition or have effectively turned into restaurants.  The building is really nice, and they’ve got a great skittles alley.  We had a lot of fun.  Then on Sunday afternoon I went over to Bradford-on-Avon to join in with a traditional ‘singing carols in the pub‘ event.  It was the last of a series of four, each in a different local pub.  There was a band, handouts with the words, a lot of people who could really sing, and a very welcoming atmosphere.  The place was jam packed – barely space to stand – and we all sang out.  It was great fun, and I left thinking that I really should do this kind of thing more often.
  2. Sleep continues to improve, slowly slowly, giving me more energy to do things during the day and (sometimes) enough to enable me to go out in the evening too.  And what a difference it makes not to need to make an early start in the day, when the medication dictates a slow re-entry in the morning.  Porridge, hot milky coffee, and time to read the newspaper.  Such luxury.
  3. Arrangements have been made for a lovely holiday period.  Christmas Day to be spent with immediate family (both sons, both partners, our one surviving parent); a larger extended family gathering a couple of days later; and another small gathering a couple of days after that.  What matters (of course) is being with the people.  I know we will eat and drink well on each occasion, and the preparation is being shared between us so (I hope!) no-one will feel over-burdened or overwhelmed.  I’m looking forward to  getting together and seeing everyone again.
  4. Several (needle) projects coming to fruition, and I’m pleased with all of them.  I hope the recipients will be too.
  5. Reports of some positive medical research breakthroughs that may perhaps one day be of benefit to some close friends who currently have rather bleak outlooks ahead of them.  Here’s hoping.

Carols in the pub


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