Monday, 15 June 2015

Losing The Plot

As the year slips by and my time is rapidly consumed with the finishing touches at La Petite Maison and also now the more recent project of tackling the garden,

where already roses (Gertrude Jekyll) are blooming gloriously outside the back door,

I have been sadly neglectful of my much loved allotment. So it was with trepidation that I ventured along Sweet Pea Lane towards the plot. 

 Sweet Pea Lane (in a previous year)

My fears were justified and what only a few months ago was a carefully tended and productive patch of earth now appears unkempt and uncared for, with knee-high weeds crowding around gooseberry and blackcurrant bushes, mocking me and showing off their irresolute determination for plot domination.

Folks (including a grumpy and negative Mr Long Suffering) have said I should give the allotment up and concentrate on the garden and living, but for me the allotment is part of living. It is a special place; another world; one that cannot be found in a back garden, no matter how lovely the garden. A place alive with the sound of birdsong, where nature envelops and draws you in; and hitherto unnoticed wildlife is all around - in the evening I saw a badger lumber up the embankment at the bottom of the plot, through the froth of Cow Parsley and over the railway line, his claws clattering noisily against the stones.

Cow Parsley along the Railway embankment

I am horrified at how quickly I have lost control of the allotment and the speed at which nature is reclaiming the land as her own; casually and effortlessly overthrowing my feeble attempts at maintaining an upper hand against the vociferous weeds.

Steeling myself for some back breaking digging, I began on the bed below the Cox's apple tree.

A young robin flew to the low branches of the tree and watched me with his head on one side, as the weeds were pulled up and I began exposing more and more of the bare earth.
He followed me as I moved next to the gooseberry bushes at the lower end of the plot. The weeds were choking them to such an extent that if I hadn't known they were there I would have been oblivious to their existence.

Although a lot more work is needed, some of the produce, especially the rhubarb, has flourished in spite of the neglect.

The Heartsease Violas that last year I crystallised and used to embellish mini fairy cakes, have self-seeded freely among the paths.

I cannot bring myself to disturb them by uprooting them and repositioning them, regardless of Mr Long-Sufferings grumbles that they make the paths look untidy.

Columbines have self-seeded too,

nodding their dainty bonnet shaped blooms gently as the breeze catches them.

There is much to do, and so little time to do it. I am tired! Oh so tired! Life and the work on La Petite Maison over the past few years have taken their toll and depleted my energy and reserves, but my day at the plot has rekindled my enthusiasm for allotmenting - already I am making plans; a new raspberry bed to be established; young blackcurrant bushes need to be moved. Sunflower seeds only lately sown due to the inclement weather are ready to be planted and surely it is not too late to sow that packet of wildflower seeds?

Admittedly the garden is a priority this year, so the plot may not look at its best or fulfil its productive potential, but I am darned sure that I am not going to lose it and I am certainly NOT going to voluntarily give it up!


Monday, 1 June 2015

A Homemade Kitchen

Following on from the saga of The Floor in the extension, and the sneak preview in Tying up the Loose Ends, I think it is time that I finally (and may I say - nervously?) reveal to you my Homemade Kitchen.

Before I do unveil the result, I should add that there are still a couple of little tasks to be done, such as two small bits of skirting board to be fitted. I had been holding off on this post until all was completely finished, but from experience I know that these minor little jobs could take months before they are finished, (just like I had to wait for a whole year before William fitted a door handle to the door in my bedroom).

So as I peer out of the kitchen window at the Clematis that I planted a few weeks ago; 

Clematis Guernsey Cream

I have decided to go ahead and reveal all, regardless of these trifling issues.

This is the kitchen that all my men-folk, (with the exception of one), were highly sceptical and scathing about, when I broke the news to them that I was not going to go down the conventional route of a fitted kitchen (purchased from a kitchen supplier); uttering - after an awful silence, prophesies of doom as I announced my intention to make it myself (with a little assistance of course).

For anyone who knows my family, this announcement will not appear to be unusual, as I have come to the conclusion that there is a family curse that instils in us all the compulsion that at every opportunity we must use our talents and creativity to make something ourselves, (preferrably out of recycled materials rather than buying new), no matter how time consuming and difficult, instead of taking the easier option and purchasing it ready made off the shelf. Something we have been doing long before Kirstie Allsopp and Great British Sewing Bees came along.

Anyway here goes; the new kitchen / living area extension to La Petite Maison as it evolved;

Work commences;

 mud everywhere, as foundations are laid on a day when after a week of sunshine, the heavens opened and poured forth a deluge of torrential rain. (A warning of things to come perhaps?)

With walls in place - a new structure begins to materialise.

Breaking through the existing house wall resulted in more than the old blockwork being smashed -

two of my toes were also broken when an old concrete block took revenge.

The Floor goes in - a story (or nightmare!) in its own right.

And finally, several months later - my new kitchen................

put together by The Elder of the Much Appreciated Men-Folk along with Yours Truly, otherwise known as Dad and Me.

The curtains and tablecloth made with linen fabric from Cabbages and Roses, that I have painstakingly sewn during the snatched moments when I wasn't wielding a paintbrush.

(I painted all the woodwork in Slaked Lime Eggshell from Little Greene Paint Company.)

An old beam above the range - sourced from a reclamation yard then sanded and treated with lye and oil.

A cupboard made out of old floorboards.

The solid wood Oak Worktops - treated using the same lye that I used on the floor and then oiled using white worktop oil and a lot of elbow grease.

A brand new Belfast sink - found on Gumtree.

In the corner is a wood-burning stove, that has already provided a source of warmth and comfort on a cold, grey day when everything seems to be going wrong,

(and if the atrocious and unseasonable weather continues throughout June, then the gardening that I am desperate to be doing, will be postponed once more, and I shall toast my feet in front of the stove again before the week is out.)

My Men-Folk appear to have forgotten their ominous predictions and although still looking for faults and criticising something that is not exactly one hundred percent square, funnily enough they appear to be happy to claim the credit for My Homemade Kitchen themselves!