It's the official 'End of Summer' here in the UK as the clocks go back from Daylight Saving Hours to the Greenwich Mean Time. This means lighter mornings and darker evenings with the sun setting about 3.30 around the winter Solstice.
This makes it the perfect day to start tidying up the garden and greenhouse. I cleaned the old tomato vines out of the greenhouse, raked it over and planted up the winter crop of chard. We both love chard and planting it the greenhouse gives us a delicious cut and come again crop throughout winter.
Tiny Chard seedlings.
We also have some kale that has survived the predations of snails, slugs and the sneaky and incredibly persistent small green caterpillars, which those lovely butterflies I've been admiring all summer on the bee and butterfly friendly border, have laid on them. Oh the irony!
I hoed and raked over one of the veggie beds (removing all traces of the local cats visits!)
I then turned to a much nicer job and harvested some herbs, the last few calendula flowers, the fennel harvest, some rosemary and sage. These are now drying in the summer house. The summer house is great for drying herbs and we have put a cheap set of pine shelves in there for that purpose.
While I was doing that Jean-Luc was painting the wall in the front room; we had it decorated last December but last month we had to have some work done on that wall as it became obvious that we had rising damp. :-(
At the same time as the rising damp was sorted out we had the outside toilet converted into a secure tool shed.
This is quite different from Jean-Luc's shed.
Jean-Luc's shed isn't for storing things, oh no! It's for doing 'stuff'; it is in fact a 'Man Cave'.
I'm not sure what a man cave is for but it definitely isn't for storage.
Actually it's a workshop; it will have a workbench, shelves and cupboards for nuts, bolt, screws, hand tools and other accoutrements of a potterer and aspiring amateur woodworker.and artist.
Truthfully we originally got this shed for storing garden and other tools but when we stepped into it Jean-Luc just stood there and said 'Wow. The light's really good in here, it'd be great for painting wouldn't it', and so it became his man cave.
The compromise - to get all the stuff from the old shed out of my pantry/ storeroom - was to convert the outside loo.
The next job is to replace the front of the pantry as it is wooden and starting to rot at the bottom; and then remove everything from the pantry, clean it down, paint it and set out my shelves and worktop. Not an easy job with a store cupboard, two freezers and a whole set of shelves - but it will be done!
A pantry/ store before freezers and all the stuff from the shed.
In amongst all the angst and worry about my father, garden and
greenhouse remind me of that important fact; that life carries on, the
world turns and my tomatoes need to be harvested.
As well as over 8lbs of ripe tomatoes (41/2 lbs already frozen as pasta sauce and turned into tomato and roasted pepper chutney), we have over 6lbs of green tomatoes to make into chutney; one load of green grape chutney - all those small tomatoes - and one of ordinary green tomato chutney.
Tomato and roasted pepper chutney
We also had a small choggia and golden beetroot harvest which were delicious roasted; sadly there weren't enough to make into relish but our local farm shop came to the rescue with some lovely produce.
I also 'forced' Jean-Luc to go foraging and we picked enough elderberries to mix with some damsons (a gift from a friend last year which we'd frozen) and made into jam - it is delicious and tastes remarkably like blackberry jam.
And last but not least, our chilli harvest - although I'm not sure why the picture seems to have cropped itself.
All this harvesting and preserving activity has really helped me to ground myself, one of the unexpected benefits of trying to pursue a more simple life.
I've been a fan of Julies blog and knitting for some time.
Julie designs and makes the most amazing animals; delightful creations full of personality and chutzpah.
I am constantly at awe at her skill and creativity.
I mean how good are these! And look even more tiny toys for the animals. Amazing!
Julie also sells the patterns to these lovely animals so you can knit them yourselves -something way beyond my ability to do.
So - and here's the weird and totally lovely thing; after a day discussing with various family members, my fathers move to palliative care I was stressed and upset. I went to bed and spent a surprisingly peaceful night dreaming of knitting these animals - complete with a Halloween theme of pumpkins, black capes and miniature burning horned skulls knitted in red angora to mimic flames.
I know! I was surprised too - I love the randomness and bizarre accuracy of dreams.
So thank you Julie for a peaceful nights sleep and a wonderfully surreal dream.
The autumn equinox has passed and the northern hemisphere
moves from summer to winter as the seasons change.This use of seasonal change as a metaphor for
the changes in our own lives is not new but never has it resonated quite so
loudly with my own life before; for things are definitely changing here in my
life; things that cut to the very core of who I am and how I identify myself.
Firstly and most importantly, my father is 82 and growing
ever more frail; we visited him recently and the day after we returned mother found
him collapsed in a chair and he was taken into hospital with pulmonary oedema and
kidney failure caused by ongoing heart failure; thankfully he is recovering and
is now much better but the heart failure is chronic and untreatable in an 82
year old in overall poor health. Over the
past few years he has had several small heart attacks and strokes and as well
as suffering from diabetes and arthritis, he is almost completely blind and in
constant pain. We haven’t rushed down to
hospital as he is improving and the consensus it wait until he’s back home
again rather than all rush in; 5 children and attendant partners and grandchildren
make quite a crowd and he finds it very overwhelming even when we stagger
We are all
desperately worried that should he get flu or another virus, this winter might
be his last.My visit made it even more
obvious how limited my time with my father might be and the disadvantages of
living so far away.We had some lovely
conversations and a heartbreakingly poignant moment where we said goodbye; just
in case we didn’t see each other again.I hope beyond hope that I do see him again but I know that his failing
health may mean I won’t. It is a real possibility that I may very soon not be
my father’s daughter; the first step on becoming not the next generation but
the first generation – mortality growing ever nearer, one step at a time.
My father and I are massive Terry Pratchett fans.
Secondly I am officially menopausal.It is not so much the physical changes of hot
flushes, night sweats or the loss of fertility that get me down; no it’s the
mental symptoms of massive mood swings, the crazy, mad evil witch queen of the
planet Zorgthat I seem to be
channelling.Jean-Luc has been the
personification of caring calm (especially in this last crisis with my father)
but I do worry that my constant tears and angry outbursts will really stretch
his patience and soon begin to wear thin.The menopause is really a trial in how far you can push something before
it breaks; and I think that includes love and relationships.
Thirdly; and thankfully finally for you dear reader; it is a
very real possibility that by April next year I may have no job.I work in local government and with the
current insane focus of central government on austerity and cuts in public
service to help pay off the national budget deficit in part caused by bailing
out the banks which have escaped the financial censure which is being visited
on the more essential public services.This has resulted in local councils battling with massive budget
challenges and paring back services to the absolute legal minimum, with
associated job loses as staff costs need to be cut by several thousands.This means that as nice as it is to be able
to offer the public the services my team provide; the truth is the council can
probably no longer afford to.That means
I’ll probably be out of a job.I have
always (until recently) been passionate about my work; I’ve loved doing what I do
and it has formed a major part of my how I’ve identified myself.
And so as these things in my life change so do I.I am moving from one season of my life to
another and what this will look like I’m not yet sure but it will be an
adventure, albeit an internal one.
On a much brighter note tonight is the final of The Great
British Bake Off and my money is firmly on the incredibly charming and talented
Nadiya; she of the deadpan humour, wonderfully expressive face and beautiful
bakes – that peacock was stunning!