Archives for category: countryside

Private road1My brother says it is just a private road. But actually it is The Private Road. There is a sense of mystery and ominous foreboding as the long linear line of trees overpower with their shadows and their height. But we still dare to use it, openly by foot or bike and if in an emergency skulking along in a car. It feels like such a bygone route running parallel to another ancient route – The Ridgeway.

And I wonder where the path ahead leads as we wait on the eve of a new year. May you travel courageously and safely remembering to enjoy the journey and slow down to appreciate the views. Don’t always let the signs stop you either!

Much love to all, Tessa

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

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During November we went to Wales for two long days of walking. And what a fabulous time we had especially as the weather was crisp and clear instead of the forecast of greyness and fog. We were walking above the clouds and the views were nourishing for the soul. Richard had his maps although we laughed as they were over 15 years old and paths had been added and full forests had grown up since he had them – I offered to scratch out and add in but we will most likely invest in a new map next time.

I returned to the fray revived and refreshed and looking at these photos reminds to see all problems and challenges in perspective.

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

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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!

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

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:

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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.

Insurance
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.

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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!)

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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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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

Ingredients:
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

Method:
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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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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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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My countryside photo shoot this month was a walk to the beach. I spent an Easter week in Cornwall in a rambling country farmhouse five minutes from Millook beach and felt refreshed wandering in the wild wind, enjoying salty air and wide horizons. The clunk of seaside pebbles and gleam of daffodils and primroses makes Cornwall a very special place.

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

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This year’s autumn lasagna ingredients

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Layer 1 – Tulip bulbs

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Layer 2 – Narcissus tete-a-tete bulbs

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Layer 3 – Crocus bulbs

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Top with winter flowering pansies

I have been working incredibly hard on various design projects and decided it was time to take a break and grow a lasagna. Inspired when off to buy chicken food at my local garden centre, I bought 3 different types of bulbs and wintering pansies.

Ingredients
A pot and compost
20 x crocus bulbs
12 x narcissus tete-a-tete bulbs
10 x tulips bulbs
6 x winter flowering pansies

Method
Place gravel at the base of the pot
Fill the pot halfway with compost
Place the tulip bulbs on the surface and cover with compost
Place the tete-a-tete bulbs on the compost and cover
Place the crocus bulbs and cover over with compost
The final layer is the winter flowering pansies. In the past, I have also used ornamental cabbages which look fabulous and amusing although they can smell a bit… cabbagy.

The beauty of this lasagna is as each layer dies, the next will appear in a blaze of glory taking you all the way to April. And I feel very pleased as normally I’m shivering in November and trying to poke frozen soil forcing daffodil bulbs into the ground – too little too late. Go on… and cook your own floral lasagna.

First day of the holidays - 'suping' in Sweden (surf upright)

First day of the holidays – ‘SUP’ in Sweden (surf upright)

Early morning swims

Early morning swims

Canoeing, exploring and picnics

Canoeing, exploring and picnics

A dream treehouse with pulley system to kitchen

A dream treehouse with a pulley system to the kitchen

Cousins

Cousins

An arty sessions

An arty session with Granny Lin

We have recently returned from a fantastic visit to Sweden to see my brother, Anna and their children after three long years. It had been such a hectic and emotional time with the end of the school year and when we got there we could stop, breathe and unwind. When my children woke up early they crept out into the dappled sunlight to find a dream treehouse built by Andy for his girls. They climbed up and explored. Elva woke up and called out, “Papa, papa there are people in my treehouse.” “They are your cousins!” Nomi who is only three then asked plaintively, “Papa, papa where are MY cousins?” The children reunited and we all relaxed in beautiful Sweden enjoying the incredible sense of clear blue skies, open horizons, outdoor living and our wonderful family.

Asthall lr Asthall2 lr Asthall3 lr Asthall4 lrAsthall9 lrAsthall6 lrWe rushed in at 12:00 on the dot for my daughter to attend the children’s carving workshop and I was overwhelmed by the sculptures, the flowers and the manor house. Once Isabel was sorted out, I could slow down and celebrate the On Form exhibition. On Form is a top priority to visit in June and is a fabulous biennial exhibition of sculpture purely in stone. The glorious setting of the seventeenth century Asthall Manor and beautiful gardens surrounded by the Cotswolds set off the sculptures to perfection.

My favourite sculptor this year was Tom Stogdon who uses roughly cut stone pieces to create organic shapes. They remind me of stone walls where there is much thought and skill in using individual pieces to create a satisfying whole. I love the way his sculptures interact with their surroundings and especially Stone Overlap which frames the countryside, is reflected in the pool and draws people towards it. Tom Stogdon has also created abstracted cityscapes inspired by London and Oxford where we were able to identify landmarks from the simplest shapes. The repetition of forms and texture in his work create a sense of calmness. Another sculptor I appreciated was Aly Brown and her piece Parvati, a slender torso, whose sinuous curves continue as they reflect into a natural pool dotted with lily pads. Aly said that a recent comment she had overheard was, “How does she make stone bend?” When you look at her work it is hard to believe it is stone as it flows like liquid. Then there is Adrian Gray, a stone balancer, and David Worthington’s Experiment in Colour VII who dared to add colour to marble – perfect against the red poppies.

Not only is there sculpture, but ponds, wild flowers, a dramatic swing, a tree house to die for and the connection the manor holds with the Mitford Sisters who lived there between 1919 and 1926. There are many events to enjoy too: Aly Brown gave free carving workshops to children which Isabel loved and on the 18th June you can watch Adrian Gray balance rocks.

I can’t recommend On Form highly enough as a day out whether you are passionate about sculpture or see it as a backdrop for a social occasion – our friend Jon’s words not mine!Asthall7 lrAsthall5 lrAsthall10 lr

Asthall12 lrOn form is at Asthall Manor from June 8th to July 6th, 2014.
Opening hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 12 noon to 6pm
www.onformsculpture.co.cuk

About this post: My 2014 resolution is to visit a creative place every month.
January – The Ashmolean: Malcolm Morley
February – Oxford School of Photography
March – The Ashmolean: Cézanne and the modern

April – The Jam Factory
May – Art in Ardington