This week a few of us got out and about, where we live, to take some landscape photos and hopefully capture the setting of the sun. Here are a few of mine.
Yesterday was E’s birthday so we had a family day out to Nuffield Place, near Nettlebed in Oxfordshire. The estate was opened to the public by the National Trust in 2011. It is the time-capsule home of the philanthropist William Morris, Lord Nuffield, the founder of Morris Motor Cars and one of the richest men in the world during his life time. He lived in the house from 1933 until his death in 1963.
Lord Nuffield gave much of his wealth to good causes (about £8 billion in today’s terms) and his house reflects a relatively modest lifestyle. Lord and Lady Nuffield’s personal possessions remain as they left them with the decor and furnishings intact, making it a perfect example of a complete 1930s country home. I was amazed by the stories of his generosity, the fact that he never had the latest car to come off the Morris production line and what a modest lifestyle the Morris’ lived. Truly inspirational.
Inside the house, many of the rooms are open and full of the Morris’ own furniture. It has the feel of a warm and loving house even though they never had any children. I particularly liked the drawing room where they would have entertained their friends, and Lady Nuffield’s sewing room which had a sweet fireplace.
Outside the gardens are lovely and there were lots of alliums in flower
I loved the succulents growing in the dry stone walls
the relaxed topiary
and finally..the Morris MG parked at the front door
I bought some wild flowers – white clover, red campion and mallow to plant in my wild flower area at home and to remind me of such a lovely place full of visual inspiration and positive values.
In my blog way back in February I spoke about my plans for the garden area in front of what is going to be my new work studio. It was a mound of soil covered in black plastic and had been like that since the builders left 18 months ago.
But it is no more!!!! The Landscapers arrived last week and in three days it went from:
The horrible old patio in front of the studio has been made bigger and replaced with gravel. We have new steps and retaining walls:
The slope has been retained with sleepers:
and I have started to plant up a border:
The poor box plants which have been sat in pots for about 2 years, particularly my peacock are waiting for large holes to be dug so that they can be planted. I particularly hope that the ball and cone will recover as they currently look a bit worse for wear:
Next job is to get the grass seed down to join this garden with the side garden, make a wildflower meadow in the space to the side of the studio up to the retaining wall and refurbish the studio inside as it hasn’t been used for years. It also needs a new roof. So, not a lot to do then…..
Pictorial record of some of the garden at the end of a gorgeous sunny day on 6th May
This week saw a trip to London to see our eldest son play with his School Brass Band at the Royal Albert Hall. They were taking part in a concert called ‘Echoes 5’ organised by Bucks County Council Music Services, along with 59 other Primary Schools. There was lots of singing, African Drums, Woodwind and Brass. It was a truly amazing experience to see schools working together in such a great way after such limited rehearsal time – they all spent lots of time rehearsing their own parts in school, but only came together for one full rehearsal.
Great to see music in Schools being promoted and supported in such a positive way in a time where local government services are struggling with cuts.
Last week I was lucky enough to be given some wild garlic by some foraging friends so I stuffed it in the food processor with some walnuts, Parmesan, lots of Olive Oil, salt, pepper and chili powder. I then put it in an airtight container with a topping of more oil to seal it. It will keep in the fridge for about 3 weeks and is great with fish, as a salad dressing or as a pesto with pasta. You could even mix it with lentils or butter beans to make a great vegetarian burger.
It has been the warmest day of the year so far here in the Chilterns. I have spent all day in the garden and one of the things I have done is to plant some Hardy Annual Seeds to give me some flowers later on in the summer which can be cut and brought into the house.
Around the wigwam which I made a couple of weeks ago I have planted a mixture of Sweetpeas – Old Fashioned Mixed and Painted Lady. I also have some of these plants in the cold frame which I planted earlier in the year.
In front of the wigwam in rows moving forward are:
– Scabious Tall Double Mixed
– Sunflower Mezzulah Semi Dwarf
Hopefully they will be producing flowers in the next couple of months if the hens leave the bed alone..
Last weekend I took the older boys orienteering for the first time. I hadn’t orienteered for approximately 20 years but since getting to know the lovely @gallop484 on Twitter who is mad keen on the sport I felt inspired to give it another go.
So with my rusty map reading skills and no compass we set off down the road from our house to an event in Bradenham Woods in the Chilterns which had been organised by the Thames Valley Orienteeing Club. It is just one event of six which have been organised in our local area between now and August.
The event was really well organised and we were helped to register and decide which colour course to try (different colours equal different levels of difficulty with White being the easiest, through Yellow, Orange, Light Green and Green). We were advised to go for the Yellow course which had 11 control points to find, all shown on a map
You must find each control point in order and you are given an electronic punching card at the start which you use to register at each point. You can just see this in the top left of the photo. At the end of the course the information on the cars is downloaded to give you a print out of your overall time and split times between each point, and the next day you can see how you did compared to everyone else who did the same colour course by visiting the TVOC website.
We started off quite well finding Control Points 1 to 3 fairly easily.
We were a roll. ‘This is easy’ said the boys. I was thinking we would be home within the hour drinking tea. Then we got hopelessly lost.😦
We all got really disoriented and couldn’t work out where we were on the map. Forty minutes later after lots of moaning and ‘I want to go home’ we eventually worked out where we were and from then on in it was a breeze.
Finding the control points really kept the boys engaged, it was good fun and getting lost meant we all got a lot of exercise. We didn’t even come last!! Next time though I will definitely be taking a compass.
Last weekend I went on a willow weaving course run by Windrush Creative to learn how to make my own garden supports – wigwams for growing sweet peas and beans up; supports for perennials such as Delphiniums and Peonies etc.
The course took place at Cogges Manor Farm which is in Witney, Oxfordshire. Cogges is a Victorian Working Farm and is operated by a Heritage Trust who lease the farm from Oxfordshire County Council. It is a magical place, great for a day out with children and where you can feed the animals and explore the beautiful Farm House.
Because the weather was so lovely we worked outside which gave lots of visitors to the farm an opportunity to see what we were doing. Our lovely tutor Linda gave us lots of help and guidance and started us off making a willow wigwam. This involved using 8 strong willow uprights (straight willow branches) to form a circle, before beginning to weave thinner willow in and out of the uprights.
It took me a while to get the hang of twisting the willow in and out of the uprights but once I got going I made my wigwam pretty quickly and also used Cornus to inject some red.
I had a lovely day and Windrush are so professional and lovely. They provided us with a gorgeous home made lunch of baked potatoes, home made salads, bread and cake and there was a selection of tea, coffee, water and biscuits available all day. The course ran from 10am until 4pm and for £69 including lunch I though it was fantastic value for money.
Last week I went ‘home’ to Lancashire to see my parents for a few days taking the 2 youngest boys along for a bit of a holiday. I haven’t lived there for over 20 years, since I left University, but I still consider it to be home and am proud to be a Lancashire Lass who hasn’t lost her accent, or love for meat and potato pies and chips with gravy.
We spent quite a bit of time just chilling out at Mum and Dad’s, playing in the garden, swimming and doing local walks. I went to visit my brother’s grave as it is nearly 3 years since he died. He is in a lovely spot next to fields and it is a really peaceful place although it still upsets me to think that his life was so short; he died at the age of 37.
Towards the end of the week I took Mum and the Littlest to Sizergh Castle, a National Trust property on the edge of Kendal. Sizergh is a medieval property set in beautiful countryside at the gateway to the Lake District. It is still lived in by the Strickland Family and boasts a lot of ancient wood panelling some of which was in the V&A until it was returned to the house in 1999. You aren’t allowed to take photos inside the house and although there were some interesting artefacts it wasn’t my favourite NT property. I found it a bit dark and gloomy and it was very draughty.
In the gardens there is a lot to see, and I would definitely recommend a visit during the Summer to see the Herbaceous Borders and the walled Kitchen Garden which looked very bare when we were there, because of the time of year. However, Littlest loved the very scary Scarecrow🙂
He also loved pulling faces at his reflection in the water tank
We loved the hens, especially the Lemon Cuckoo Neiderrheiner Cockerel who was strutting his stuff
and generally running around to keep warm on what was a very cold day
After lunch we went into Kendal to visit Williams Wools, a lovely wool shop on the High St which is owned by Adrienne Williams
Th shop is a lovely haven of yarnie goods..there are local hand dyed yarns, as well as Rowan, Arancunia, Noro and many other brands. There is a really comfy sofa area in the middle of the shop and lots and lots of samples on display for inspiration
I bought two skeins of Botany Lace to make a striping shawl, the variegated mustard yellow/grey in the middle and the solid mustard yellow on the right
It was a lovely few days in a lovely part of the world.
I have recently finished a gorgeous shawl commission for a lovely customer who lives in France. The shawl is my own design and the yarn was dyed by me in colours requested by the client.
If you would like your own uniquely designed shawl knitted in yarn dyed in your preferred colour scheme get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
I didn’t get much time yesterday, at the Railway Museum, to look for pattern and form, but a few things I really liked were:
The velour seat covering in the train coaches which I think dates back to the 60’s
The vintage advertising signs
The fantastic drain cover which I loved
and the steam escaping from the funnel up into the clouds
Today saw a family day out to Bucks Railway Centre which is a Railway Preservation Centre based at what was Quainton Road Station near Aylesbury in South Buckinghamshire and about a 30 min drive from where we live.
The primary reason for going today was for the Littlest Collins to see Thomas. He is completely mad on trains and really loves Thomas the Tank Engine, something we never really experienced with the two older boys. We arrived for when the Centre opened at 10.30am and although busy it wasn’t so busy that there were long queues to ride on Thomas so we decided to do that first. Littlest one’s face on seeing Thomas when we got out of the car will stay with me for ever. He was so so excited it actually made me cry..the lovely innocent joy of a nearly 3 year old.
After this we went into the main museum. Quainton Road was opened as a station in 1868 and closed to passengers in 1963 under the Beeching report recommendations. It opened as a museum in 1969 and is run entirely by volunteers and has a number of steam locomotives on display
Outside we find a loco that had been built in Glasgow to operate on the South African Railway
The boys also had a blast on the Miniature Railway
I found some great vintage advertising signs
and some old suitcases and associated paraphernalia on the platform
It was a great day and if you are ever in Buckinghamshire and fancy a visit you can find out more information here
Another thing some of you may not know about me is that my husband is Jewish and as such we celebrate all of the Jewish fesitvals and rituals so that our 3 boys have an understanding of their cultural heritage. This means that every Friday we celebrate the start of Shabbat (the Sabbeth) with a loaf of Challah bread. Challah is a loaf of yeast-risen egg bread that is traditionally eaten by Jews on Shabbat, on ceremonial occasions and during festival holidays.
It is quite a sweet bread and the only person that actually seems to really like it is the littlest member of the family. This and the fact that it goes stale very quickly means that the hens normally get an extra treat on a Monday or a Tuesday.
However, this week I decided to use it as a base for a really quick Bread and Butter Pudding.
I buttered the Challah (you could use Brioche), sprinkled it with about 2tbsps of vanilla sugar (sugar flavoured with vanilla pods) and 100g of currants and then poured over 1 1/2 pints of milk mixed together with 4 eggs.
I bunged it in the Baking Oven of the Aga for 45 mins. In a conventional oven the temp would be about 160 degrees C.
Inspired by the lovely iMake blog (there seems to be a theme developing of me being inspired to write posts by others which makes me, amongst the things below, not very original) I thought I would share a few things about me and my life, nothing too personal such as my age or how much I weigh, (not that those are that interesting) but a few quirky things. Here goes:
1. I can ice skate backwards
2. I am petrified of flying
3. I love wearing head scarves
4. I have 2 small dogs
5. I am a qualified Accountant but hated it so don’t do that any more
6. I love beach combing and making pictures from what I find
7. I can’t sing
8. I am very short sighted
9. I love 1950’s inspired clothes especially dresses
10. I have met and had dinner with Alan Titchmarsh
Once again I am sat here at 3′ o clock in the morning after waking up and being unable to get back to sleep. I don’t know why this happens to me so often but it does so I accept it for what it is, some very quiet time in what is normally a very chaotic house. I knit, catch up on podcasts and drink herbal tea and am usually back in bed by 5am for a couple of hours sleep before the boys get up and the day starts with a bang.
Tonight I have caught up on the blogs that I follow and one of my favourites A Playful Day really got me thinking about my life. She talked about the difficulties life can throw at you when you have a new baby, how ‘The Plan’ goes out of the window and that life is not perfect. And it really struck a chord.
I spend way too much time trying to have the perfect life; the perfect house, the perfect garden. Trying with all my might to do everything to please everyone and be the perfect friend and you know, most of the time it just doesn’t happen and that then makes me feel miserable.
I always think that everyone else is living a charmed life and that they seem to be able to do it all, so why can’t I? A Playful Day’s very honest post, in a world of blogging, Twitter and Facebook where we can all pretend to be living the dream was refreshing to read. In the main my life is great and I love most of it but it is never going to be 100% perfect and sometimes we all need reminding that that is actually ok.
I don’t really like aubergines..I find them a faff to prepare..all that salting to get rid of the bitterness and I’m not keen on the texture of them either. So what do you do with two aubergines that turn up in your veg box? Well they sat in the fridge for a week while all around them all the other veg got eaten, until they looked very sad and lonely. I refuse to throw food away but knew if I made something like moussaka I wouldn’t want to eat it..and then when I was in the supermarket I saw jars of aubergine pesto on sale and thought ‘I could easily make that and the aubergine will be all chopped up so no texture issues..hurrah’. So earlier in the week, that’s what I did and it was nice with some pasta and rocket but it only used up one of the aubergines and with the addition of Parmesen cheese I did find it very rich.
So this morning, with the remaining aubergine, I made a variation on the Pesto and here is my Lonely Aubergine Dip. It’s really scrummy and would taste great on it’s own or with fish.
Chop the Aubergine into thick slices, brush with olive oil and grill for 10-15 mins until slightly charred. Put the slices into a food processor.
Add 2 tsps of Dijon Mustard, juice of one lemon, half a bunch of basil, 2 cloves of garlic, one tbsp of Balsamic Vinegar, good glug of olive oil.
Whizz it all together to your preferred texture.
It has poured down nearly all day today so apart from walking the dogs I have spent time doing housework..(yuck!!)..knitting (hurrah!!) or in the greenhouse planting seeds.
For the first time I am planting Asparagus Peas, which apparently will taste of asparagus..who would have thought that! The seeds should grow into small shrubby plants with sweet pea like maroon flowers which are then followed by small seed pods, and I am told, are delicious cooked in butter with a little salt. The pods should be picked when they are an inch long otherwise they go tough. I have sown the seeds in modules and left them in the greenhouse to be planted out in the vegetable garden in late May. Because they are a member of the legume family they will fix nitrogen into the soil which will be an ideal spot for planting brassicas (cabbages, broccoli etc) next year.
I also planted some tomato seed. I am going to grow a variety of different tomatoes this year, all in the greenhouse. Some will be for cooking, some for eating. Today I have planted two cherry types. The first is a Determinate type (bushy) called Minibel which is a compact plant I will grow in pots, and will not need training up a support. It could also be grown in hanging baskets outside.
The second is the well known Gardener’s Delight which I grow every year and can be grown outside during a good summer or under glass. It is an Indeterminate type which means it needs to be grown up a support and the side shoots removed as it grows.
Both lots of seed are in modules in a heated propagator as they need a constant temperature of 15-20 degrees to germinate.
Kirsty x Continue reading
I’ve been so busy in the garden today that this is my second post..wozza. After weeks of not really being able to do very much, the sun has been out, the auto vents in the greenhouse have actually opened and I really feel that Spring is in the air. Sod the fact that it is forecast to rain for the next 4 days!!
After getting the onions in I retrieved my camera and dahlia tubers from the kitchen and spent some time in the warmth of the greenhouse. I lost all my dahlia tubers last year to frost so have bought some new ones from Sarah Raven. She has a really great selection and I choose 3 smaller ones as I want to put them in a mixed herbaceous border and don’t have huge amounts of spare border space..more on that later!
The varieties I chose were Jescot Julie which is a vibrant burnt orange with purple undersides
Ambition which is a rich purple
And New Baby, a small ball type dahlia in a deep tangerine orange
They will all work so fabulously together in a border during late summer and autumn. I love the combination of purple, orange and the green of the leaves. Each of these colours are equidistant on the colour wheel and therefore are really harmonious. I wouldn’t want to wear these colours but they look great in the garden. Anyway, at the moment they just look like a dried up mass of tubers, which is exactly what they are!
The tubers are tender so I can’t plant them out in the garden until the frosts have passed. So I have potted each one up in a two litre pot in multi-purpose compost and will leave them in the greenhouse, as this super interesting shot shows🙂
By the time the frosts have finished they should be bushy plants. I will then pinch out the tips and remove all but five shoots sprouting from the tuber to encourage strong growth and lots of flowers. Both the pinched out shoots and the removed shoots will then be potted on in a gritty compost mix around the edge of a pot and covered with a plastic bag. After 4 weeks these should have rooted to give me new plants for free..how good is that..and by mid summer there will be no difference between the mother and daughter plants.🙂
With three boys a lot of our garden is laid to lawn for games of football and cricket, but every year I find myself reclaiming a little bit more lawn to make extra border space because I love flowers so much and do not have enough room to grow everything I like. So today I started digging up a little bit of one of the front gardens to extend what was a bit of a mean border to say the least.
I just need to shape it into a curve now,and plant it up before I move on to make the right hand border just a bit bigger!
Today there has actually been some sunshine and I decided to plant my onions sets. They can be planted anytime from now as long as your soils isn’t waterlogged, and as I have raised beds the soil is nice and crumbly and just right for planting.
After digging the bed a few weeks ago, I raked it over and added a general fertiliser. I tend to use calcified seaweed but you could use any general fertiliser that provides nitrogen, phosophrus and potassium
This bed has not been used for onions, garlic or shallots in the past two years to reduce the risk of disease and it has not been manured this year either. Manure contains a high level of nitrogen which can affect onion growth so best to keep that for crops such as potatoes and runner beans who love it.
I planted them in rows approx 25cm apart with approx 10cm space between each onion. They are planted pointed side up and just under the surface, so that you can still see the point. I will need to keep an eye on them until they produce roots as birds tend to pull them out until they are rooted; I’m guessing that they think the onions are worms :) They will need to be watered in dry weather and kept weed free and hopefully I will have a crop by August.
In the greenhouse the sweet pea seeds I planted have germinated and I will grow these on before planting outside in May.
The leek seeds have also germinated and I have moved these from inside the house to the greenhouse where they should be ok.
In the house, a number of my pepper and chilli seeds have come through but I will keep these inside until the risk of all frost has passed, They can then live happily in the greenhouse.
This week I have been dyeing yarn for a shawl commission, which will be winging it’s way to France when it is finished. It’s always quite stressful dyeing yarn for people when they can’t just pop around to see the colours. I can photograph them and e mail them, but the colours are never as true as they are in the flesh so you just have to hope it will be ok. It does help that I now have a brand new SLR camera which takes much truer photos than my old compact or my phone which I used to use a lot because it was so easy to upload photos to Twitter etc. But no more!! It’s actually quite easy to upload images from the SLR as there is an SD card port on my Laptop and it will mean I can be more organised about photo storage too.
The colours that had been requested for the commission were silvers and silvery blues. Because these are very similar I also dyed some dark grey so that I can use this as a darker contrast in the middle of the shawl border.
The dark grey, which is blurred in the background is ‘Blackbird’. On top of this is the main colour for the shawl, ‘Woodpigeon’ and the two colours in the foreground are ‘Lapwing’ – the small ball on top and ‘Stock Dove’ on the bottom.
All my yarns are dyed in skeins and then I have to wind them into balls before they can be knitted with. The smaller ball has been wound round a friend’s hands..it looks like a traditional ball of wool that you see in pictures or drawings. The ball on the bottom looks more like a cake and has been wound using a swift and a ball winder.
A swift looks like an umbrella and is used for holding the skein.
This keeps the wool at an even tension while it is being wound onto the ball winder
So now the wool is all wound I had better get on with the knitting. Design is a secret for now🙂
When I was at Unravel last week, one of the exhibitors was Jenny Barnett. Jenny is an extremely talented artist who for many years worked as a designer in the ceramics industry for companies such as Wedgwood and Coalport. Now she works with wool fleece and cloth and produces needle felted sculptures which are exquisite in their detail.
The kit I bought was to make a fox. My first choice had been a Hare but Jenny had sold all her Hare kits so I opted for Mr Fox. Jenny provides everything you need to make a model; the wool fleece (roving),needles for stabbing the fleece which felts it and makes it hold structure and even the beads for the eyes and the needle and thread to sew them on. You can buy kits from Jenny here
The instructions were very clear and included drawings of what to do at each step. I started off making the body by taking a piece of the fleece
and rolling it into a cone shape before stabbing it with the thicker of the two needles provided until it looks something like a stalactite, shown on the right of the picture below. I then started to make the face using the sponge provided as something to anchor the shape onto and to have something to stab the needle into rather than the kitchen table.
Next came the ears..it looks a bit more like a fox face now…
Then I sewed on the eyes and made a little nose before joining the head to the cone shaped body. Four little rolls of fleece became the legs and another the tail before adding details onto the chest and end of the tail so that it became…
Overall I was really pleased with the end result. The older boys recognised it as a fox; Littlest thought it was a dog and E just laughed..but I really enjoyed making him and now he needs a friend so Mr Hare will be ordered soon.
Yesterday saw me leaving home at 8am to drive to Unravel at Farnham Maltings in Surrey to attend Unravel, a 2 day knitting festival. I only went for one day as I failed to persuade E to be in charge at home for the whole weekend. He says I spend too much of my life surrounded by yarn as it is, so I guess I was lucky to even escape at all.
Farnham Maltings is a fabulous creative space based in the heart of the lovely Surrey town of Farnham. It is home to artists’ studios, has a theatre and runs numerous courses and exhibitions. In its history it has been both a tannery and a brewery. You can read more about its interesting past here.
The 2013 theme was focussed around the Best In Show illustration which was commissioned by Farnham Maltings from Illustrator Amy Blackwell and gorgeous project bags with the image were available to buy. I of course had to grab one even though I have a trillion project bags already. Oh well, I can always hide my yarn in it.
My friend H and I started the day doing a two hour workshop on dyeing using dye powders derived from plants and natural sources with the very talented Judy Hardman. You can’t do a huge amount in 2 hours but we got to mix a variety of naturally derived dyes to get different colours
The second row are purples and reds from Logwood, Madder and Lac with the yellow of Weld at the end
The third row shows Teal, Saxon Blue, Logwood Purple (which gives a grey) and Sorghum
We then dyed small skeins of wool and silk using a microwave to fix the colours. It has definitely enthused me to try more dyeing from plants, both using available powders as well as plants from the garden. A selection of yarns dyed by Judy were on show which were beautiful. Unfortunately she wouldn’t let me take any of them away😦
I love Unravel for its support of independent dyers, pattern designers and small British yarn companies and wasn’t disappointed this year.
I saw my lovely friends Max and Margaret on the Millamia stand and got to have a sneak preview of their latest adult collection Colour Coded which is beautiful and I cannot wait to knit the sweetest 3/4 length sleeve tie neck cardi. Don’t think Margaret wanted her photo taken!!
I also got to meet some lovely people who I chat to on Twitter. Danielle who runs A Stash Addict was exhibiting for the first time.
I bought a skein of vareigated pink/purple sock yarn to knit a small shawl
And there were some lovely woolly sculptures
It was a compete overload of visual amazement, a day of joy of catching up with old friend and of seeing new friends. I was bowled over to meet the very talented designer Ruth of Rock and Purl and Green Triangle Girl who broadcasts the fabulous knitting podcast and blogs at A Playful Day and can’t wait for next year.
I can’t believe how much I have achieved in the garden over the last few days. The combination of warmer weather, longer days and a more positive attitude has really made a difference.
When we extended our house 18 months ago we had a patio installed in front of the French Doors at the end of the kitchen. Because the garden is lower than the house, it had to have a brick wall built under the flagstones and then steps built on three sides down to the lawn. This made it look quite harsh and hard and so I decided to soften it by planting yew all the way around. This will eventually knit together into a small formal yew hedge, but at the moment it looks like this:
I got my lovely Husband to dig the trench last weekend just before it snowed and my Dad helped me this weekend to get the bare rooted plants in. They had a good layer of horse manure added to the bottom of the trench. I can tell you, that stunk the car out when I brought it home from the garden centre, and as it was pouring with rain, I couldn’t even have the windows open. Anyway, I now need to trim the tops of each yew to roughly the same height and keep it well watered. Hopefully by next summer it will look more like a hedge.
While Dad finished off I got some Old Fashioned Sweet Pea seeds into cardboard pots and spent some time in the greenhouse where it was a bit warmer. I will start them off indoors and as soon as they germinate they can go into the cold frame.
When we built the extension a lot of the garden got trashed and I moved a large number of perennials, roses and shrubs into the veg garden. Most of these have now to either been moved or given away so that we can grow lots of veg again this summer. I made a start on Saturday by moving a Viburnium Tinus and a Hebe Buxifolia to the borders either side of the back door. This allowed me to clear out two raised beds which I will be using for potatoes so they have been manured and turned over ready for some Maris Piper tubers to go in in a few weeks time:
The bed behind them has Asparagus crowns in it which were planted 2 years ago so I’m hoping for a good crop this summer.
THIS IS THE BLOG POST I ENTERED INTO THE http://www.countrywives.co.uk BLOG COMPETITION. IT WAS RUNNER UP AND HAS BEEN PUBLISHED ON THEIR BLOG:
I have thought for a long time about whether to post about how as a family we live with Aspergers Syndrome. Today, I went on a course for parents of children and have come away from it feeling that it is important for me to blog about it; to have a record of what it is, how it affects us as a family both positively and not so and also so that my eldest son, aged 10, who has the diagnosis, has something he can read which is written by me, his Mum and not by a Health Professional or Researcher.
Anyway, the boring blurb bit first, just in case you don’t know anything about it…
Aspergers Syndrome is a form of Autism and is part of a range of disorders under the umbrella of ‘Autistic Spectrum Disorders’. Children diagnosed with Aspergers tend to be described as the ‘most able’ autistic children. They are usually educated in main stream schools and do not have as many difficulties with language and learning as other autistic children. It affects more boys than girls.
The main difficulties they do have are:
- Socially – They struggle with getting on with people, making and keeping friends and being part of a group. My heart broke when I received an assessment report which had observed my son ‘wandering around the playground’ on his own during the lunch break looking completely lost. They also tend to have difficulty relating to how other people are feeling which means they can be perceived as selfish or uncaring. I will never forget the day my son told a workman in our house he was ‘fat’. The workman left, never to return..or the day he walked into our friend’s house and said ‘it stinks in here’. I was mortified but to these children, they are simply stating a fact, saying things how they see them.
- Communication – They struggle with the wider aspects of language such as understanding body language, people’s facial expressions and tone of voice and they find it hard to give their own body messages too. They sometimes also find it difficult to put their thoughts into words and at other times they will talk about an area of interest over and over even if you are not interested in the subject. They are however, unlikely to listen to what you may want to talk about. So in our house we have lots of endless conversations about the relativity of time (yes truly my 10 year old son knows everything about this) but he never wants to listen to his brother chat about school or me talk about knitting (no surprise there really🙂 )
- Rigid Patterns of Behaviour – They can tend to like to arrange or do things in a particular way or have set routines which when changed or broken cause stress and anxiety. My son struggles with the transitions at school moving from one term to the next, going on holiday somewhere unfamiliar or just going somewhere new. After every school holiday he develops a stammer or facial tic such as constantly blinking. This can go on for a number of weeks before it settles, by which time it’s nearly the holidays again.
My son probably showed signs of having Aspergers from an early age..I just didn’t recognise it. He was my first child and I just thought he was incredibly hard work. He never played with toys or amused himself; I could never take him to the hairdressers..he would have the most enormous meltdown, the hairdresser would say that she couldn’t cut his hair and we would leave the salon. Eventually he did allow my lovely next door neighbour, who had been a hairdresser before she retired, to cut it as long as she did it very quickly. I am so grateful that I didn’t have to resort to cutting it while he was asleep; he would have ended up with scarecrow hair🙂 Now he still doesn’t like the hairdressers but he will go as long as he doesn’t have to have too much cut. He also does not like having his nails cut as he says it hurts. Lots of children with Aspergers display these hypersensitivites to sound, light, smell, and texture which can cause them problems with eating food. He also hated getting new shoes or putting on new clothes when he was little and his tantrums could last for 2 hours over putting on his coat. Eventually I used to sit and read a book while I waited for him to ride it out.
Now he’s older, we don’t have tantrums and it is easier to reason with him about why he needs to do certain socially acceptable things such as showering, washing hair and changing clothes regularly. He doesn’t see the point but understands that to be part of society you need to do these things. However, we are hitting puberty and he has become very argumentative and gets very angry, so we are now facing battles over homework which he sees as belonging to his school day and not something to be undertaken at home. Those with Aspergers tend to live their life in separate compartments and find it difficult when things lap over between these various aspects of their day to day lives. He has also always struggled with friendships; we have never had friends over from school and he struggles in groups. He gets called ‘weird’ at school and appears eccentric because he wants to talk about some of the most off the wall subjects. However, he has recently become friendly with a boy in his class and I hope that when he moves up to High School where the peer group is much larger he will find his niche.
He is also the most loving boy with a strong sense of what is right and wrong, extremely bright and a very talented violin player. Life will always be more difficult for him that most of his peer group but I know that with our help and support he will hopefully thrive and be happy.
Further information is available through the National Autistic Society who can also put you in touch with local groups that can offer support. Their website is