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 😂 - 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.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Nature Study:: Lichens, Journals & Nature Tables

The trees and shrubs in our garden are covered in lichens. Initially, I thought that it was harmful to the host plants but once I delved into lichens and learnt a bit more about them instead of looking at them in dread I am very pleased indeed that we have them coating just about every tree and shrub.


Lichens are good because they are an indicator of clean air. Living on the coast it makes perfect sense as to why our garden is a lichen heaven. The strong winds that blow off the ocean blow away any pollution and germs. Lichens generally thrive where the air is clean although there a rare few that will grow just about anywhere regardless of the air quality.


Lichens are not a singular plant they are actually two species, algae and a fungus living in a symbiotic relationship. The fungus forms the outer layer/body (thallus) in which the algae partner can live, protected from damaging conditions such as high levels of light and lack of water.

The algae partner provides the essential carbohydrates from carbon dioxide and water with the aid of sunlight.


Now, tell me, do you keep a nature journal yourself? I have kept one alongside my children for the past 9 years or so. I love it! It has moved from being something I did to encourage my little ones to journal, to becoming a favourite personal pass time, one that I will certainly continue for the joy of it even after my youngest has graduated our homeschool. I might even try turning my hand to some Urban Sketching as I love the idea of capturing a moment and preserving it forever. It's a great way to record your travels too, which I plan on doing much more of now that we are British citizens and have lovely British passports!


Epiphany saw us packing away the Christmas decorations and taking the tree outside ready for collection on Wednesday. I'm always hugely relieved to pack Christmas away. I like to jump straight into the new year and always find myself itching to get going by the 2nd. Now that all is cleared away I have started building our winter nature table. Our nature year poster is up on the wall and of course, our lichens and winter twigs have their place. As always, our copy of Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady is on display on our nature table. I don't think I will ever get tired of reading her diary. It's such an inspiration.


I'll be sure to post a picture of our nature table as it starts to fill up, it's a bit sparse at the moment but I'm sure after a few walks we shall gather some lovely finds to display.


This week we will be reading from 'The Book of the Country Side' which is a lovely book that looks at the plants, animals and birds of the British countryside through the four seasons. I love this book! 
For younger readers (although I we are quite charmed with this book too) reading from Enid Blyton's Nature Lovers Book - this is such a lovely book to read to your young children. I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy if you can. Finally, if you are looking for a great book filled with nature craft ideas through the seasons then grab your copy of Nature Smart. This was one of the first books I purchased in our first year of homeschooling and we have used it through the years. All three of these books will be kept in our library for our daughters to share with their own children one day - that's how much I love them! 

Anyhoo lovelies, that's it for today. Will see you back here very soon :)