Sunday, May 09, 2021

Firepit Gravel Garden Project

Bank Holiday weekends are a great time to get bigger projects done don't you think?

When we bought our house the garden was pretty much a blank slate with little to no interest factor. Devoid of character. So it's fair to say that we have a very long-term project in our hands and that suites me just fine. I'm always in awe of people who build gardens from nothing to being something quite spectacular years later. That's the goal!

One of the things I was quite keen on having in our garden is a firepit seating area. I can just picture enjoying a cup of hot chocolate or roasting marshmallows with family and friends throughout the summer and autumn months.

Step one was to mark the gravel area. The idea is to have lots of lovely plants surrounding it so I placed the few anchor plants around the area to get a feel for what it will look and feel like one day. To ensure that we had the right spacing we put some garden furniture in place which gave us an idea of whether it needed to be slightly bigger or smaller and marked the outline with the hosepipe.

Next came the heavy work, lifting the sod and digging a trench to sink the recycled coping stones that we had found in a bit of a dumping area behind the hedge you see in the photograph above. On a side note, that area has been cleared out and we plan to make it a secret woodland garden which will be another fun project.

The only thing we had to spend any money on was the gravel. It took more gravel than we anticipated but overall this was not an expensive project at all and we are thrilled with the result.

It's been in place for a week now and we have yet to use it thanks to lots of rainy weather, but we are looking forward to adding good friends to the mix and enjoying many happy evenings of fireside chats in the future. 

I'm also looking forward to those hydrangeas growing year after year, I can just picture their big mopheads adding to the magic in years to come. All that's left is some solar fairy lights and I think we are done!

Have a lovely week everyone!

Saturday, May 01, 2021

Enjoying the Garden in Spring

 Hello Lovelies,

How are you doing today? Well, it's a Bank Holiday weekend so...YAY!

Her favourite place to nap

Before I go on I just wanted to thank you Penny and Nicole for your kind and thoughtful comments on my last post. You are both so lovely and I appreciate your kindness.

The Garden Past

I thought I'd share what's been going in the garden of late. I was browsing through our garden pics of a year ago and was surprised by the progress that we have made.

Victoria repotting her cactus collection

When we first arrived all the beds were squished up along the sides of the garden. Not only that but they are so overcrowded, positively squished.

Poor plants! I found one rose bush that was all but choked out. The plan is to have more beds and entertainment spaces than lawn. I just love a lush English cottage garden full of colour and wildlife! That's the end vision at least, we have a long way to go.

Clemitis about to bloom

Step one was to clear out the narrow beds of invading ivy, holly, and sticky weed. I can't stand sticky weed, it's the pits!

Last Years big clean up

As we watched the beds over the summer we realized how many fabulous plants there were and how they really were not getting to show off their best being relegated to the outside reaches of the garden. So we (and by we I mean DH) got to digging and widening the beds. Then we added another and this is where we are today...

I cant wait to see the beds come into themselves this summer!

The Garden Future

... (hopefully like in the next few months future not years future) DH will be doing a bit of hard landscaping with a patio under the Gazebo area with a gravel fire pit seating area beside it which will be surrounded with some of my favorite plants...Hydrangeas. I'm picturing fairy lights strung up around the gravel fire pit area and lovely summer evenings spent laughing and sharing with friends. When autumn rolls in we will cozy it up with blankets, warmed cider, and perhaps sausages sizzling on the open fire. In winter I look forward to seeing the gravel fire pit garden flanked by skeletonized hydrangea heads coated in their delicate frosty cloaks.  Can't wait!

We are also going to create a memorial rose garden for my grandma, she loved roses so it's a fitting way to keep her close to our hearts and thoughts.

Delicate White Hydrangea - new addition

I picked this lot up at Sainsbury's for a bargain. They are usually so expensive in the garden centers for this size so I snapped this lot up when I had the chance. I have actually propagated 4 new plants over the autumn and winter but these have taken a bit of a hammering with the late frosts and will take a while to recover and of course, grow up.

Hydrangeas are one of my favourite shrubs. I now have 11 in my garden. 

I've missed showing you my spring pots full of daffodils and tulips but take my word for it, they were just beautiful this year. My plan is to plant all the bulbs that were in the pots into the garden for next year's spring show and pot up fresh pots this autumn. That way our spring garden will just keep getting better and better each year.

My daughter's garden project this year is to create a mini cottage garden on our deck. Her vision is to have a wall of flowers that we can enjoy over the summer. She has started the lot by seed. She has cosmos, lavender, stocks, delphiniums, sunflowers, wildflower seed mix, and the list goes on.

What I'm Enjoying in the Garden Right Now...

The garden is definitely one of my happy places! I love quietly watering the plants as needed with a cup of tea in hand. It's soothing to the soul watching the water fall on the leaves and form little crystal beads that sit so delicately, adorning each leaf and flower jewels. I love watching the insects move from plant to plant ignoring my watering efforts and just getting on with their own business.

Soon the clematis will be in flower. I have a feeling I should not have cut mine back when I did as they seem rather small. From now on I will let it climb all over the fence without cutting it back in the autumn. I'll see what happens to it next year.

My Peony is growing by the day! I planted this little plant last year and am looking forward to more blooms this year. I'm always amazed that these plants die back to absolutely nothing over winter and then come back so lush and full in the summer.

The Virginia creeper and the roaming jasmine are slowly waking from their winter slumber. I plan to fill the pots in front of the little garden shed at the end of May. I wonder what would look good? Last year I had sweetpeas but they were a big disappointment so it will be something new this year.

What's happening in your gardens right now?

Do you have any plans? Please do share, I'd love to know.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Catching Up

Hello my lovelies! Its been an age...I know. This year has started off on a very rocky start. On the 31st December we went into yet another lockdown and I have to say that I have found this one to be really tough! 

On top of that my dear grandmother contracted Covid whilst in hospital for other health issues in January. After a thee month battle with covid, which weakened her body along with this other issue she sadly passed away two weeks ago. She loved reading this blog and I'm going to miss seeing her comments and then the two of us discussing some of the things I write about.

And finally (can I take this as bad luck comes in sets of three?) my DH has been dealing with a restructure at work and it's been touch and go whether we would be facing redundancy or not. It is ongoing and hopefully will be resolved soon but as you can imagine I have had little to no time to feel or engage in anything other than trying to get through one day at a time.

Seasons in life...some are tougher than others!

In other news, I have been working on separating my blog content. All my homeschooling posts are now housed on my website Building a Household of Faith. Since writing my one and only post of the year...there have been developments. I have been blessed to once again be given the opportunity to write for The Curriculum Choice which is a ministry very near and dear to my heart. I wrote for them for the longest time and stopped once our homeschooling came to an end. As that ministry door opens up it seems appropriate to separate some of my content. All those old posts are still here but no longer tagged according to their categories.

As I mentioned in my last post, Under An English Sky remains my little heart place where I will focus as I said before on my home, crafting, gardening and so on. As some semblance of order begins to take place in my life I am finding a little more head room to do a little of what I love and sharing it here with you.

All these pictures are of my beautiful home town by the way. I just love Chester and thought I'd share a little of the serenity of one Saturday morning walk around town with you. This was still in the height of lockdown and the city was generally empty. It's looking busier now and it is good to see life return to this beautiful place.

I suppose lockdown has a way of halting life and not much living gets done. Often over the past few months it has felt distinctly like Groundhog Day! 

Crafting and creating has just not happened since December. But I'm pleased to say that that too is changing. I've been forced into action as my knitted dishcloths all began to deteriorate and get a little yucky! Yesterday a good stack of 100% cotton arrived and the knitting needles have been clicking away to restock the kitchen drawer! I have a few ideas for my shop regarding my favorite dishcloth pattern so watch this space or follow along on IG for updates! Oooo, so excited now. The ideas are beginning to flood in!

Okay my lovelies, I'm going to love and leave you for today. I shall be back very soon with some gardening news and of course crafting news! Have a fab day!

Monday, January 04, 2021

Homeschooling Help & Encouragement

 Hello my lovely friends, I hope that your year is off to a GREAT start! 

I wanted to pop in and have a little chat about homeschooling. As you know we have completed our homeschool journey. Both our daughters are now studying at university after having graduated from our homeschool. One took the American SAT route and the other a slightly different route, gaining university entrance through an art and design course she did at college. Both girls are happy and doing well in their respective courses.

But I see just before Christmas I had the privilege of being able to come alongside another homeschooling mum who is trying to navigate her way through the high school years of homeschooling. What a blessing! My heart was just so happy to be able to share with her our journey and how to progress along a path that is different from the traditional English way of gaining entry to UK universities. 

In sharing with her I was reminded of the beautiful journey that our Lord led us on. Of the privilege, I had to raise and educate our daughters in a way that was God-led and as a result to see Him open doors for our daughters in the most amazing way. I will always have a heart for homeschooling and honestly, I wish that I could have had many many more years of homeschooling. I should have had lots more children 😄. Being a wife, mother and home educator has been and is the most blessed calling I have had.

I realized in speaking to her that although our own journey has concluded there are others who are following and need guidance, help, and encouragement. So you will still see posts of that nature here on Under An English Sky. I hope that now that we have successfully completed the journey that my insight and experience will prove to be of some use to those that follow. If there is anything, in particular, you would like to know then please do leave questions in the comments and I will work on posts addressing those things.

The other thing I wanted to talk about is the heart behind this blog because for the longest time I have felt very much 'at sea' with some of the huge life events that we have lived through. Nothing awful but things like house moves, the girls graduating, you know...seasonal shifts. They are not comfortable and for a long time, I have not felt at peace. For all that 2020 brought, one thing it did bring was the space I needed to reconnect, to ponder, and get comfortable with this seasonal shift.

My outlook on life is returning to the pre-seasonal shift as I am learning to accept the changes and growing comfortable with them. So back to the heart behind this is very much a heart for the Lord Jesus and for my role as a Christian, a wife, a mother, and a homemaker. I write about ordinary moments and of things that warm my heart and home and will continue to do so.

If you read this this months newsletter you will have noticed that 'Hope' is a bit of a theme for me going into this new year. And hope is something that encourages us and gives us something to look forward to.

"For I know the plans I have for you", delcares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." ~ Jeremiah 29:11

Isn't that such a wonderful thought? That our Lord has plans for each one of us that will give us hope and a future no matter which life season we are in. 

Well my lovely friends, that's about it for today. See you back here very soon!

Friday, January 01, 2021

Goodbye 2020!

 Hello, my lovelies! Can you believe that we have stepped through the doorway into a new year? It seems so strange to be here. 2020 was a long year - yet it seems like we have been stuck in that strange state of limbo that Sleeping Beauty found herself in. One minute she was enjoying her birthday party and the next she's waking up and it's 100 years later! I'm sure we can all relate a little to that story this year.

Are you wondering why we are here...on blogger? Well, let me tell you. I asked a little while ago which platform you preferred to read my blog on. Some said here, some said the new platform, and most said that they didn't mind which.

I've spent a bit of time pondering on it all and really delving into why I keep this blog and my motives behind it. And the plain and simple truth is that I love to write. I love to share my faith with others. I hope that readers are encouraged when they visit this blog.

I love to write about faith, family life, homemaking, crafting, and homeschooling. Everything that is dear to my heart. I desire to encourage others in their walk to raising Kingdom children and walking a faithful, simple life.

To serve those purposes this platform - good old blogger - is all I need. WordPress is fab but I feel it's aimed at people who are hoping to make a living out of blogging and it has costs that reflect that. Making a living out of my blog is not my intention so I have decided to let go of my WordPress site when the two-year subscription I paid for expires in March and rather continue my writing and recording of life's simple pleasures and moments right here. Thank you for being patient with me while I explore different things.

I have re-routed the domain here so no need to change anything and if you still subscribe here then again - no need to change anything.

Yesterday we took a walk through the forest - our final 2020 walk of which there were not enough. We've had very cold weather in the UK since Boxing Day and although Chester has remained snow-free it seems that snow has fallen all around the city which is slightly annoying for this snow lover.

Thankfully we only have to drive 10 minutes outside the city to get our snow fix. I love how the ground crunches underfoot, how the air is so cold that it makes your breath catch and your limbs tingle - you know you are alive!

Even the lake was frozen. The last time I saw a frozen lake in winter was when we were living in Chesterfield a good 6 years ago! In fact, we've had very mild winters in the UK since 2015 with a brief snowy interlude when the 'Beast from the East' arrived for 3 days when we were living in Devon.

 As you know I love, love, LOVE the seasons and how different and distinct each is. Mild winters, therefore, are just not my thing. I don't want prolonged blizzard to weather it's just that I feel winter should be wintery - frosty a bit snowy, that sort of thing. So needless to say I'm rather happy with the current state of weather affairs. 

After a walk that left us chilled to the bone, we came home, made a nice hot cup of tea, and fire. Bliss.

The highlight of our walk was meeting this little fellow. He landed on a branch along the path and we stopped to take his picture. Well, it turns out he quite likes people and he bravely hopped closer and closer until he was hopping around my feet and looking up at me. 

I've never had a robin do that before. He was utterly enchanting and totally made my day - small things.

And now here we are, 2021 stretching ahead and 2020 finally behind us. Looking back and looking forward. Although 2020 has been an exceptionally challenging year - one which I hope our planet will not see again in a hurry - there have been blessings too such as finally buying our first home here in the UK and getting to work 9 months of the year at home and landing a part-time job which I start next week! It has not been all doom & gloom.

For me, 2021 is a year of hope. Hope that the vaccine will go a long way to getting COVID under control. Hope that we can all get back to meeting together and enjoying visiting, hugging, and fellowshipping together. 

In this month's newsletter which you should be getting shortly, I have gone into more depth on my thoughts on hope and 2021 plus I have a little challenge for you! If you do not receive the newsletter and would like to receive it please do sign up below.

And so my lovely friends here's wishing you a very happy New Year. Let's step into the new year with hope and trust that better days are to come! I'll see you back here very soon.