Category: Gardening

The Gardens a Mess but BBQ like Kings Anyway! (by )

To sort out our drainage (clue - there wasn't any) our garden has had to be ripped up - I am quiet sad about this but electrics and plumbing where the priorities for the building works and everything else is just added glam. But this does mean that the garden is a mess - half the deckings gone - the painted part mostly (boo!) and because I'm going to use it to make planters it happens to still be lurking in the garden along with the smashed garden ornaments and plant pots. I like to eat outside and would normally have started this at the end of March - the weather has been dismal too be fair but I was starting to get twitchy and take us out for picnics and stuff instead. This weekend having already picnicked and having spotted the dutch oven that my bro and fam had bought for us a couple of years ago and that had still not been used, I was was like... RIGHT! It Is Time. And so it was.

The girls helped me clean and move what is left of the garden furniture after snowaggedon destroyed most of it and builders demolished a significant proportion of the remainder.

first BBQ 2018

Camping chairs are in play and once I dig out the shed there will be the long table and benches which we normally use for parties - it will be our garden furniture from now until it falls apart (something I don't think is far off). Same with all the half gazebos we have ended up with - they will be steadily worn out as the replacement for our canopy that the snow broke.

Tricoloured peppers

Food wise I went simple and we had jacket potatoes and chopped veg - the kids ate the veg raw and I lit up the second BBQ popped the griddle on and cooked up the left over bacon from my parents visit - Al being veggie means I don't want meat cooked on the dutch oven set at all due to how you clean it i.e. you kind of don't.

tatties wrapped and ready for the flames

Of course the Dutch Oven needed curing or seasoning, I wasn't sure if it was already seasoned so did one lot of oil burn on it just incase. This is where you rub some sort of fat on it - veg oil, lard - what ever and then heat it up so it smokes off. This creates a protective layer that prevents the cast iron from rusting and also makes it a non-stick surface.

dutch oven in bucket BBQ

And yes these are the old bucket BBQs we bought when we first moved in and yes we have had to weld new bottoms on them and paint them with heat proof black metal BBQ paint and yes they are now really falling to bits... it's on the to do list to sort! But we really just need somewhere to light a fire and put the lakwan, cast iron pans, girdles and dutch ovens in - they work so much better than trying to cook veg burgers on a grill over the hot coals!

I also put frozen raspberries in cream soda which worked really really well.

Cream Soda and frozen raspberries

The potatoes cooked fine and we got to just enjoy the sunshine in the garden - Mary of course was grumpy because she'd wanted pancakes because the chickens have started laying again but we are still putting everything away in the kitchen and I haven't yet found were I stashed the flour!

Country File Live photos 2017 (by )

Country File Live was an amazing event with just so much going on - because I was working there I barely got a chance to snap things as I passed - the girls and Al also had a fab time but still felt that they had barely scratched the surface - Jean took photos on her iPad which we'll pop up in a different post. These are the snaps I took on the first day.

Snake with the reptiles and amphibian group Country File Live

This beautiful snake was part of a demonstration including handling by the Oxfordshire Amphibian and Reptile Group (I think!).

Blue dragonfly at Country File Live

I caught this blue dragonfly whilst taking a nap on some bails in front of the bee hive (head injury recovery means I have to take random naps but it is very surreal to conk out in public but I think it's working well).

Birds on the lake Country File Live

There was a lake with a wibbly wobbly bouncy but secure temporary bridge across it. It contained various birds and plants coming and going.

Tree face Country File Live

There were some great flower displays in the Wild Life Zone.

Metal Duck Country File Live

I love this duck - it is exactly the sort of thing I would buy Al if I had more money 🙂

Bikes and flowers in the wild life zone Country File Live

This bike display cheered me up even though it had just been bucketing it down!

tractor tractoring country file live

Tractors! I live like machines like tractors.

Ye old tractor Country File Live

I love old machines like tractors.

Vintage tractor Country File Live

Probably a good job I didn't have more time or there would have been hundred of flower and machine pics!

Old tractor Country File Live

I'm working on a series of machine colouring sheets for an event in the autumn as well to be fair - but I would have still taken all the photos regardless.

Tractor! Country File Live

I like the gubbings of machines.

Tractor bits Country File Live

I think they are pretty

Tractor parts Country File Live

These were all from a huge monster of a machine

Tractor gubbings Country File Live

Many people were taking photographs - elderly men mostly and a press officer.

Tractor swirls Country File Live

Everyone feels they need to ask me why I am taking photos of tractors or make jokes about it - this happens at car shows too.

Being a little bit batty at the Garden Stage with Oxford Mammale Group at Country File Live

We got Batty with the Oxfordshire Mammal Groups.

Foxes and Badgers with the Oxford Mammal Group at Country File Live

And met the cuddly foxes and badgers.

Oxford Mammal Group explain mice with cute cuddlies

And a squeaky little mouse 🙂

Mouse, fox and badger skulls country file live

And skulls of said animals - well actually in the photo there is a mouse skull, fox and badger.

Giant papier mache stage beetle at Country File Live

Insects also featured heavily including butterfly nets creches, many types of bees and this giant papier mache stag beetle!

Milk churn urn flower pots country file live

Milk churn flower display - this is similar to what I wanted when we lived at The Bakery though I was going to bare paint them so they didn't rust away.

Sheep sculptures at Country File Live

Sheep sculptures - love these though more from a making point of view if I am honest - I remember going to a Garden Show and seeing large metal dragons like this which I adored! If we ever get to do the Salaric Emporium idea and have a tea garden then this sort of thing will be in it (along with dinos and fairies!).

yellow water lilies on the lake Country File Live

These beautiful yellow water lilies where on the lake.

Go Wild Country File Live

Loved the giant Go Wild sing 🙂

Water plants Country File Live

Water plants on the lake - oh I probably should have mentioned that this was at Blenheim Palace.

Geese arriving on the lake at Country File Live

The geese kept landing and taking off from the lake and were pretty impressive!

Geese at Blenheim Palace Country File Live

There was plenty of garden ideas - especially those to help you have a greener more wildlife friendly garden - I like this shed but I'm pretty sure ours is falling down and couldn't take the extra strain!

A shed of flowers for the bees Country File Live

Food is a huge part of the event too - I caught sight of this fab cheese stall!

Cheese at Country File Live

And Kendal Mint Cake Laqueur!

Kendal Mint Cake Liqueur at Country File Live

And to end - more animal sculptures 🙂

Horse and deer sculptures at Country File Live

Welcome to the Jungle (by )

Rescued Plants

This is my kitchen at the moment - it is full of rescue plants - peppers, courgettes etc... with fruit and flowers already on them. I hate waste. So my friend rescued these plants and bought them to me.

The plants, like many were left to die - this is normal practice at nurseries and garden centres and farms for the not as pretty plants or the ones who will have small yields - they are not economically viable for the businesses but for people like me they are perfect!

Yeah sure some wont survive but some will and like with our rescue chickens anything you get from them is a bonus!

But this for me also highlights something - we are actually living in a post scarcity society but we use this artificial construct called money to hedge everything in - to make things scarce, to control the economics and the populace with it. Everyone is so scared of being called a slacker or enabler that no one is really talking about this issue properly (except perhaps Dan Holloway.

The fear of being seen as a free loader or scrounger is high, most of us are shortening our lives drastically by working in high stress environments at "make-work" that has no real worth. And at the same time alot of the work that is valuable - fruit picking, rubbish collection, cleaning - is seen as demeaning and not paid well.

Then the idea that everyone needs to be climbing forever upwards in their jobs - up and up to more money, more responsibility, more time at work (or commuting too), more stress. This leads to mental breaks and fatigue, it leads to bad immune systems - it leads our medical professionals chronically exhausted and more likely to make mistakes.

It makes the waitress who is a good people person with excellent memory and quick service - a failure - even though they are making many people happy.

The pressure grows and automation is here and we still have not adapted, automation should be a good thing but it has been used to impoverish many instead of freeing up our time for science and art and moving our society forward and onwards.

Farmers have a high suicide rate because they are lonely riding their tractors and if they are a tenant farmer then making everything work is hard... there is a small team normally a family and you are bouncing around to various pockets of land owned by other people who can pull the land from underneath you at any time.

We - at least in this country have mountains of food, clothing and housing that gets wasted - sometimes people actively destroy it so that people can not rescue and use it. Sustainability is an issue but large poverty gaps cause more environmental impact because ethical/environmental buying is often more expensive in the short term. As always being poor costs more than being rich but if you don't have the capital or a means of saving in the first place you are always going to be stuck with the short term - falling too pieces - no room so having to get rid of stuff on a seasonal basis - issue.

And people being judgemental of others really grumps me - oh they aren't really hard up they are part of the throw away culture... not taking into account they live in like two rooms with no storage - or people in expensive bamboo clothing sneering that they are better for the environment than me with my synthetics... most of my cloths are charity shop buys or made from scratch - I use acrylic wool to knit with because I am allergic to actual wool. They will then go on about all the booze and meat they've eaten or the drugs they've taken - drugs that have high environmental and human traffic/slavery costs.

They don't see that they are buying an image (and yes I realise this makes me judgmental).

I'm aware my house is ramshackle - we tend to repair and repair and make things a bit clunky - this is our way of trying to save the environment. Others give money to charities and make other little life changes. There is much we can do but being negative about it tends to put people into apocalyptic mode where they feel it is already too late and/or just another stress to an already stressful life.

I remember when we were struggling for money having to buy stuff I knew was not the best for us or the environment but it was cheap and was going to go a hell of a lot further - that is the place most people are at. They try when they can but alot are scrabbling around for the weekly food shop money as it is.

So many of the changes do have to come in via government policy - something which I fear is currently going backwards. Change needs to be coming from the top down as well as the bottom up - all the domestic recycling in the world is going to be pointless if our big institutions and businesses don't also get behind this.

And the middle needs to get a wiggly on - I'm talking about the small businesses, charities and organisations. There is so much each and everyone of us can do from using repair cafes to checking where our office paper supply comes from or the straws the pub you work at are biodegradable etc... This is part of why we are with ecotricity.

Two of the reasons I am so obsessed with running my junk modelling and upcyled art workshops and sharing the tutorials for free is a) it is using the waste without burning it or using energy, bleach, extraction methods to recycle it and it becomes for at least a short time something that brings people joy and teaches them a skill and often is even practical, b) many of groups I am working with do not have a lot of money and upcycling is relatively cheap though not always free, I myself am passing on alot of stuff that I picked up as a child in 80's and 90's were there was no choice due to the recession and we were lucky we had a large extended family and a practical skill set to draw on - I saw the results in families that did not have that and I know many families currently don't have that - so I share what I do know.

I am not perfect - sometimes I get over whelmed and miss things but I do try. It is also a decade since I wrote my piece on why recycling is stupid.

Good Solstice :) (by )

Re-reading Women in Roman Britain on the Summer Solsist

Do to the heat I am letting the chickens roam around the garden meaning that they come to see us when ever we are in the garden or stupid enough to leave the kitchen door open. Jean has declared I am an embarrassing parent for calling them Dinosaurs - especially when I do so on social media - parenting achievement UNLOCKED!

Today is the Solstice - it is also a heat wave here in the UK - my attic was getting up to the 40's when I realised that the heater I have up there is the aircon unit we got when I was pregnant with Jean and couldn't breath properly etc... so that went on complete with pipe to the outside - it got the temp down to high 20's when I switched it off this evening - cooling the attic is important as it is a) my art studio and b) it will have a knock on effect with the rest of the house.

I am warm enough - starting to get a bit too warm - mainly worried about kids, cats and chooks!

Means I get to sit in the garden and draw and read and write - re-reading Women in Roman Britain at the moment which I read nearly 20 years ago for my Classical Civilisations A'level course work. I also made myself iced coffee with decaf filter, coconut milk and sugar free dark choc syrup. It tasted pretty good to me 🙂

Writing little snippets of story ideas for The Punks Universe and a kids story and researching the Middle East via podcasts and documentaries.

Jean got to Scouts, Mary had a bath, I cut down and pulled up stinging nettles - remembered to feed everyone - so winning at life.

The Jan Recap… (by )

It's the end of January so what has gone on in the household snell-pym in the first month of 2017?

For a start there was the end of Christmas, I am still making the last few Advent vids ready for Christmas next year. We delivered presents though sadly not all the presents so we still have a back log!

Also mine and Mary's birthdays - mine involved a coffee, meal and shopping with Al before hospital stuff but we have only just done the proper celebration with kids and friends this weekend just gone which was also Mary's birthday. There was also posh vegan/Gluten Free brunch. Mary has so far played in the Waterstones cafe with her friend Lilly as her party is going to be in two weeks time. We've planned the party and got stuff ready for it.

This includes me working out how to make upcycled unicorn head bands and tail belts and little roll and pop up horses for the kids to make.

My mother was hospitalised so there was a trip to Essex and the adventures of getting home on the train which were unexpected.

DIY wise we have fixed several toys, remounted a coat rack which had pulled off the wall, dealt with networking and upgrading Jean's computer.

We got a telescope - an amazing thing which was a pool of Christmas money instead of presents for Al and Jean and part of mine and Mary's birthdays. We've seen binary stars so far. It was an undertaking to assemble and we now need to build a storage/transport box but it is assembled and being looked through though we've only had like three clear nights!

I've had three lots of testing at the hospital which took it's toll and norovirus hit the household. I missed a theatre meeting about performing a monologue and a poetry recording evening but I am being given second chances at those so that's all good.

I also missed my Krav self defence one off class and a poetry book launch which made me sad but on the other hand I was live streamed reading poetry at Food For Thought.

Talking of poetry I have also been typing up and editing poems from the BOOKCASE (Not shelf) of notebooks I have. The shear number is insane obv. not all of it is usable but a lot is so I have been organising Turquoise Monster and have even started submitting work again (as in 2 poems so far). I've written three poems this month predictable all about Trump. Of course I am doing my poetry writing challenges so I've drafted a good few more mostly not about Trump.

Jan has also been me gearing up for the poetry writing challenge that I host over at Wopo.

I have also designed, refined and created mini poetry scrolls, story scrolls, made bookwallets etc... for blank scrolls for others to write poetry on, personalised pencils and made write your own poem kits, made and put together 100 mini zine surprise pouches, story boarded two more zines, drafted half a short story, edited a couple of flash fictions, tried to write daily on this blog and started on the mammoth task of trying to sort out the Salaric Craft blog.

Also Storystorm - what used to be Picture Book Idea Month has rebranded and moved to Jan. so I have been idea generating and expanding on those ideas for kids books.

Alaric has been making a cufflink holder for the cufflinks I made him for Advent, the girls have been making invites and decorations for Mary's party and we have all been working on the cosplay outfits for True Believers Comic Festival which is this weekend coming. This has involved sewing, sticking, painting, metal twisting, papier mache and buying new wellys.

I had to get a third print run of my colouring book Love: A Stranger Dream made and in general have been trying to sort out The WigglyPets Press.

I have been teaching myself origami and have folded lit. hundreds of things from geometric modules to make bigger things from to little stand up foxes to pretty little boxes.

We've organised things for getting back down the allotment, so just sorting out containers for soil etc...

I've knitted four hats, made an Ironman craft kit, taken the kids to two (not us) birthday parties. Three projects are still currently being designed and refined including mending a rocking horse that is older than me. I accidently made a pair of slippers from an old coat whilst trying to make a portal gun (please tell me this happens to other people!).

Alaric made my laptop usable again (for now) and we had a chicken fatality 🙁 and we had to fix the chicken run and stuff and general animal stuff to sort out. We've got our new electric car and there was pie making!

NB pie was not chicken Al is veggi!

Jean is still at Scouts, Jujitsu, and Drama and Mary is doing her Ballet, both girls are missing climbing but for one of the parties we did get to go "caving". Alaric is still doing Krav and Hackspace each week. Oh and of course we had to do my tax (sobs!).

There were also visits from and too various family.

So that was January - it snowed and it rained and there was scary fog.

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