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I’m not quite sure what the other school mums thought, but I didn’t care as I was having so much fun bustling around the undergrowth along the village bank taking photos and coming up close and personal with autumn. My treasures were complete when I found Toady. He was completely disguised amongst the leaves and his warty skin creates fabulous texture and just look at those golden eyes. Incidently, to tell the difference between frogs and toads look at their feet as frogs are webbed but toads have dear little toes!


About this post: I plan to have a countryside photo session once a month during 2015.

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If you are anywhere near Wantage in Oxford, do pop in to the Vale & Downland museum to see the Rope Of Words & Dance exhibition from 20 – 31 October. These two beautiful artistic books are produced by Lin Kerr, Megan Kerr and Christopher Ellott and all 14 illustrations from Rope of Words can be viewed. This exhibition will coincide with the Betjeman (not just) literary festival. Lin will also be giving a lighthearted workshop titled Scones and Scissors. Megan and Lin will also be giving a joint mother and daughter talk titled: Collaboration: Rope of Words and Megan is giving a writers’ workshop titled: Creative Writing Workshop on Magical Realism. So it’s all happening!

My mother interviewed my daughter about her recent business enterprise which draws out principles that are relevant to any small business, and I so enjoyed reading it on her blog, I thought I would share it here:



My grandchildren have just started a business, and the complete business plan is in place. I interviewed Isabel who is 9½. I was inspired by her lovely packaging.

Decide on your product
Lin: I saw a box of eggs that Grampy bought and it had your and Nick’s names on it. How long have you been an egg farmer.
Isabel: Ummm we’ve had the chickens for two and a half months but they have only been laying for about a month.

Work out the details of your product
Lin: Tell me about your chickens.
Isabel:We have four chickens and their names are Willow, Maple, Tulip and Lime and they are Neros.

Start-up Costs – outlay
Lin: How much were they and how much money did you have to put into the business?
Isabel: They were £12.50 each and Nick and I each put £25.00 into the business.

Estimate running costs
Lin: How much do they cost to feed. How many eggs do they lay per week. How much do you sell the eggs for?
Isabel: They cost Nick and I £6 every three weeks to feed them. Well, Mummy has three chickens and we have four, but we each pay half for the food.

Lin: Are there any other costs?
Isabel: Daddy said he would insure them for the first year. Dad insurance works like this: We had to each pay £1.00 (a one-off payment) and then if they die in the first year, he’ll replace the chicken.
Lin: What about the hen-house?
Isabel: Mummy said the chickens can share her hen-house, so we don’t have to pay rent.

Estimate production
Lin: How many eggs do the chickens lay?
Isabel: They lay about one egg a day, sometimes we get three eggs and sometimes five eggs a day.

Estimate selling price based on recouping outlay and making a profit
Lin: How much do you sell the eggs for?
Isabel: £1.40 for 6 eggs.
Lin: What about packaging costs?
Isabel: Our egg boxes are donated and I make the labels.
Lin: Have you got your outlay back yet?
Isabel: Yes and now we are making a profit.

Estimate labour time
Lin: What work is involved?
Isabel: I collect the eggs and feed the chickens on weekdays. Nick does it on weekends and cleans the hen-house every second weekend. Mummy cleans it every other weekend.


Who is the target market? Building a customer base
Lin: Who do you sell your eggs to?
Isabel: We have three regular customers: You, and two of our friend’s mothers.
Lin: How do you promote your eggs?
Isabel: We have an honesty box with the eggs outside our house (passing trade) and we told our friends, and Mummy told her friends. (word of mouth)

Contingency Plan
Lin: What will you do if any of your chickens stop laying?
Isabel: Get rid of it. (Country children are rather matter-of-fact!)


Well Done Isabel. I wish you and Nick lots of success.

And as you can see, these are the same issues we have to address ourselves…

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My youngest daughter loved her owl top and was despondent when she outgrew it. I squirreled it away and then on her birthday it reappeared as a cushion much to her delight. To ‘upcycle’ the top, I stabilised the appliqué with Bondaweb which is an adhesive that fuses to fabric when heat is applied so that it doesn’t fray. I then carefully cut out the owl design and sewed it onto a square of pre-washed denim fabric. (Always pre-wash fabric to reduce further shrinkage). I sewed the front and back of the cushion together and popped it over a pillow pad. All done!

This birthday had a bit of a theme as I also made my daughter a Union Jack pillow. It looks complicated but it made from strips of fabric sewn onto a large 60cm square of fabric including recycling old pairs of jeans. The possibilities are endless… my other two children have their own Union Jack pillows. Thanks Ali for all your inspiration – what a great friend. Titanium the cat is not a pillow, he is just so lazy he wouldn’t move while I bustled around taking photos!

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What fantastic colours pumpkins are – their glowing fiery orange is perfect for a winter garden. I am so excited by my eight pumpkins that have been ripening. But how was I to know when to pick them? I scuttled back to my computer to do a search and this is what I discovered:

  1. They need to be a deep rich colour
  2. When you tap them they must ring hollow
  3. Their skin must be tough enough to resist a finger nail poking into them

Once the pumpkins had passed those three steps, I placed them in the green house to ‘cure’ for a week. And now they are being stored in the garage (a cool dry area) and should be able to keep for upto six months. We’ll gobble them up before then though as I plan to make delicious soup.

Spicy Pumpkin Soup

3 tablespoons butter
2 onions, roughly chopped
700g of pumpkin, peeled, seeded and diced (approx half a small pumpkin)
2 apples (peeled & diced)
5 – 10ml mild curry powder
pinch of nutmeg
3 cups chicken stock
1 ½ cups milk
Juice and grated skin of 1 orange
Salt, pepper, pinch of sugar
Chopped parsley
Yogurt or cream to swirl in when serving

Sauté onions, add pumpkin & apple. Sauté for 3 minutes to develop flavours. Add curry powder, nutmeg, and stir. Add stock, orange rind & juice. Simmer for 20 – 30 mins. Stir regularly as it can stick to the pot. Liquidise, add salt, pepper, sugar, milk. If you wish, add a little more curry powder or even a touch of cayenne pepper for a more spicy favour.

Serve with a dollop of yogurt swirled into it and chopped parsley or fresh coriander sprinkled on top. Serves 6 decent helpings or 8 delicate ones.

Pumpkins always bring back happy memories as I think back 10 years when my big boy was a delicious two-year old and posed with a pumpkin in Beatrix Potter’s garden. He will always be my little red-headed pumpkin no matter how old he is!




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What I love about this time of year is the new start. We let go of the lazy summer days and return to a little more order and routine when September comes around. I love summer but it is also invigorating to ‘get a grip’ on the day and jobs that should be done. The countryside is likewise; winds clear away the leaves, excess greenery dies down, the fields are ploughed ready for winter crops and then we are rewarded with a little extra glorious sunshine. I didn’t take the best photos on this morning’s walk but they do capture the vastness and clearness of the countryside with its crisp fresh air as we ready ourselves for winter.

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About this post: I plan to have a countryside photo session once a month during 2015.

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I recently fulfilled a minor ambition which was to go cycling with everything we needed. Over five days we cycled from Ilfracombe to Plymouth which is 100 miles mostly on disused railway lines and quiet Devon lanes. There was something satisfying about taking the bare essentials packed into one set of panniers and two backpacks and taking off on our bikes.

Because we were cycling slowly through the countryside, we watched the land change from seaside to forests to moors and back to the sea again. I loved taking photos of the scenes and textures although my only frustration is that we were travelling so light, the only camera I had was an i-Phone. I especially enjoyed taking photos of the flags and delightful details at Yarde Orchard. We stayed in a yurt there and with its wood burning stove and bunk beds, it looked just like a little hobbit home.

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This month the countryside was a little different as we were in Spain and I had great pleasure in photographing the almond trees. I love the way the silky covers cocoon the shiny shells. When the trees are shaken the almonds fall like clackity rain and the harvest is ready. The children found that the supply of almonds was perfect for writing messages which provided endless pleasure. It is delightful to wander around enjoying the different fruits and foods that grow in Spain from olives to grapes to carobs to figs. Although figs will never be the same since I’ve discovered they are pollinated by wasps and EVERY SINGLE fig contains wasp lavae which is part of the pollination process and some larvae haven’t had the decency to vacate by the time we come to eat the fig. I’m sure I’ll get over it eventually! Thank you Marilyn and Nick for making us so welcome.

About this post: I plan to have a countryside photo session once a month during 2015.

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One late July evening I saw countryside drama unfold as the gigantic combine harvester rumbled relentlessly across the fields annihilating everything in its path. Poised for unsuspecting game was a gunman at the ready. The tension of him waiting and me watching while the harvester ground towards us was stretched to breaking point. At the last possible moment, three muntjac deer flew out but they were reprieved – this time they were not the quarry. The harvester broke through the final barrier with no shot being fired and the hunters exchanged a few rueful words against the gleaming dust. I was the only one shooting that evening.

About this post: I plan to have a countryside photo session once a month during 2015.

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April vegetable preparations

April vegetable preparations

May vegetable preparation

May vegetable preparation

May vegetable preparation

May vegetable preparation

June vegetable patch

June vegetable patch

July vegetable patch

July vegetable patch

July vegetable patch - looking up and looking down

July vegetable patch – looking up and looking down

Along with the greenhouse, I also inherited a vegetable patch which is the perfect beginner size. After studying my book The Veg Grower’s Almanac, and considering my (small) crop rotation (beans/peas/fruiting vegetable and brassicas and root vegetables), I chose from each category and began. Every morning I visited the seeds and it was exciting to see them bud and unwind until the day arrived on the 11 May when it was time to plant them out. I tried to space them out as requested armed with my metal ruler (the pedantic designer in me likes to measure) but it was hard to believe they needed as much space as my almanac proclaimed. So I cheated and planted a little extra. I planted 11 runner beans, 6 courgettes, 4 pumpkins and 8 potatoes plants. The kale isn’t doing a thing, so it doesn’t count. July is here, and I have a glorious unruly jungle. Beans and orange flowers burst forth while courgettes and pumpkins are at fisty cuffs for space. And it is such fun especially eating the courgettes thinly sliced and fried with butter. The pumpkins are still dark green and I look forward to their orange autumn glow.

Meet my unsupervised sunflower

Meet my unsupervised sunflower

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I inherited a greenhouse with my new garden and was not quite sure what to put in it. This dilemma was removed when the UNSUPERVISED poppies took over. Before I knew it I had glorious poppies growing and as my daughter pointed out, they were unsupervised and unplanned. They gave me such a thrill, the flower lasting but a day before disintegrating into floating petals and leaving a very stylised seed head. I now have an unsupervised sunflower taking up residence – the only one that survived is the one I didn’t plant.

Inspired by my own greenhouse, I wandered over to the village allotments where I very much enjoyed taking surreptitious photos of other people’s sheds. One is even rumoured to be a salvaged Nissan hut. I love studying allotments which appear chaotic and confusing but as you walk within, you can see each has its own order. We garden differently just as we file papers differently. I also love the joy that allotments bring: growing vegetables from seed is deeply satisfying.

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About this post: I plan to have a countryside photo session once a month during 2015.

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We have a new house sign and finally after three months in our new home we can consign our nasty old sign to the bin. I wanted a hand-painted sign (but not hand-painted by me – too wobbly) and found Osbourne Signs by doing an internet search. I gave him a brief including size, colour and an example of the type of sign I was looking for. I was very unhappy with the first result as the spaces between the letters was awkward and the serifs too thick. It is always hard to express disappointment to a supplier, but I did so as diplomatically as possible and I also created a full size printout using font and spacing that I preferred. His hand is remarkably steady and the final sign is painted beautifully. I was delighted with Take Two. The old sign and in fact the even earlier sign which was still lurking in the garage can now be relegated for good – too niche to ebay! Old sign2 lr

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The countryside is frothing with Queen Anne’s Lace as it skirts the borders of the fields softening the edges with its filmy flowers. I love cycling through them and seeing them glitter in the sun. This flower is known less prosaicly as ‘Cow’s Parsley’ which developed into an interesting conversation with a young friend of mine. We decided that as it is on the edge of the fields, just as parsley may decorate our meal, it garnishes the grass for the cows. I very much enjoyed my mini photo shoot this month and rushed out early one morning when I had ten spare minutes as the light was perfect and the grass was dew-dropped. There wasn’t time to go further afield so later in the week I cycled off in the early evening for another session. It is quite challenging to capture their impact as the delicate flowers create a diffused texture which becomes flattened in photos. Although cow’s parsley can be eaten and has a fresh spicy flavour, don’t confuse it with its sinister cousin hemlock, which did for Socrates. I personally don’t take this risk of misidentification!

About this post: I plan to have a countryside photo session once a month during 2015.

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Visiting the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford is always a treat, and this was no exception. It holds one of the world’s finest collections of anthropology from around the world and I always spot something new in this treasure trove of the unusual, interesting and macabre (think shrunken heads). This time I spotted a ‘witch’s ladder’ which was a twisted rope pierced with cockerel’s feathers and was used as a spell to sour milk or kill old folk. It was found in the wardrobe of an old woman in 1911 – was she the victim or the perpetrator? There was also a delicate little flea trap made of bamboo that was worn in clothing to catch itchy fleas.

We caught our breath in the gallery cafe of the Natural History Museum adjoining the Pitt Rivers. The lighting and recently restored neo-Gothic architecture was fabulous and I was frustrated not to have my camera with me. I did what I could with my i-Phone and am rather pleased with the result above.


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In April, the fields around where I live turn violently yellow which is eye-wateringly bright as the oilseed rape blooms. I love the sensation of being surrounded by yellow, yellow, yellow. When my children were very little it was a wonderful way to introduce colour as we got sucked into yellow contrasting with brilliant blue almost like being engulfed by a Van Gogh.

About this post: I plan to have a countryside photo session once a month during 2015.


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