Saturday, 27 July 2013

The "Good Life" & simple pleasures

I know the summer isn't over yet but just sitting back in our sun drenched garden and looking over what I've achieved so far this year it's really quite satisfying and I thought I'd share it with you.

At the beginning of the year I decided to double the size of my little veggie patch and have a proper go at growing my own veg this year, as last year's effort were pretty poor really. 
So I decided to grow my usual runner beans, carrots, lettuce, peppers & tomatoes as I'm comfortable with them but then I also decided to try potatoes, peas, broad beans & courgette.  My strawberry's, chives, mint and rhubarb were already there, they just got relocated. 

In March I very excitedly bought my seed potatoes and left them chitting in the house in anticipation, but the weather was so cold and miserable and not owning a greenhouse it meant that I wasn't able to get on and sow any seeds or crops, and I was beginning to think that maybe I was going to fail miserably again this year.
The weather did finally start to improve a bit and I took a chance on getting my veggies started.  I had some advice from a very nice head gardener that was staying with us for a weekend and I used his experience & knowledge to the full. Once all the sowing was done we made the decision to get some hens, as we thought it would be nice to have fresh eggs everyday for us and to share with our guests for breakfast.  Also we had an opportunity to buy a secondhand greenhouse from a friend which we did, as tomatoes and peppers definitely grow better in a greenhouse.  These 2 decisions did result in virtually the whole garden being re-arranged to accommodate them.  The shed was moved - there is a funny movie of the shed move, check it out How to move a shed and converted into the chicken house & run and the greenhouse was installed in the place where the shed had been.  

The weather then did sort it's self out and everything took off.  My gamble with the weather for my early potatoes really paid off as I started digging them in early June and they have been fantastic.  Considering I have never grown a potatoe before in my life I am really pleased with these.  We still have some left to dig but basically they have provided us with lovely tasty potatoes for about 6-7 weeks now.  
My strawberry's and lettuce have been prolific, the lettuce basically was because I went a bit mad with the seeds not thinking that they would all be ready at the same time, but I'm sure my friends have appreciated them!  The strawberry's did very well - probably the best they have ever done. 
I had never grown broad beans before either and I have been really pleased with these too, although they did get infested with black fly which I think may have ended their production a little earlier than if they hadn't had black fly - i don't know? The kids really liked them though, which was a bit of a surprise as I remember as a kid hating them! 
My rhubarb hasn't done very well, I'm not sure why, but we have now moved into the runner bean, pea & courgette stage.  It's quite nice to have a constant cycle of something.  Very soon now we should start getting some tomatoes, they are just about starting to turn.  To keep the cycle going a bit longer I have sown a second batch of lettuce, not as many this time, so they should keep us going to the end of the summer.  We still have some apples on our little apple tree still to mature and then the big finale of blackberries that are prolific at the bottom of the garden, they really are doing well this year and will certainly be a bumper crop to look forward to. 

On to the hens......
We finally got 4 Rhode Island Reds on Wednesday this week which was very exciting as it had seemed to take forever to prepare their house and run.  The kids were really looking forward to this and I have to say have virtually moved in with the hens since they came home.  I think deep down we didn't really expect to get any eggs for a few weeks, thinking that they may need to settle in first but to our surprise the first morning about 10ish the first egg was laid, what a result.  The kids again were so excited and thought it was amazing. They are very quite birds and I must admit you almost wouldn't know they are there, but they are lovely and have already become part of the family even after just a couple of days, and it's great that on top of being lovely they give you something everyday.  So far only 1 hen had been laying the egg but today 2 have laid so each day it's getting better & better.  We are going to purchase 2  Light Sussex hens next week to add to the family as a bit of variation and in total that will hopefully be 6 eggs a day. 

As I said at the beginning, sitting in the garden looking at what we have and what we are being rewarded with everyday really is very satisfying and enjoyable.  All it takes is a little effort and a bit of space and it's amazing what you can do.  I am loving this summer for everything that I have achieved and nurtured, even down to the increase in numbers of butterflies and bees that we have enjoying our garden.  
So lets hope that the summer sunshine continues and maybe I might have inspired or encouraged someone to have a go next year!


Tuesday, 2 July 2013

A day at the races

Salisbury Races Family Day 

Last Sunday a gang of us took the kids to the family fun day at Salisbury race course.  I had never been there before so wasn't quite sure what to expect really, but Rosie had convinced me it was going to be a good day out.

The weather was absolutely fantastic the whole day and suncream was most definitely required, for some more than others though (Jane & Rosie) We managed to get there for about 11.40am and the gates opened at 12.00pm so that wasn't bad, it's only about 25 miles from Lyndhurst.
The entrance fee was a mere £6 per adult, kids under 16 are free, and on top of that all of the kids were given a voucher for a free 99 ice cream each, bonus!!!!
Once we got in we set up our picnic spot in between the toilets, kids entertainment and the big TV screen so most things were covered.  As we were 4 families we took up quite a bit of space compared to everyone else but I think we chose well.  Out came the picnics and the drinks and the men then wondered off to check it all out.  One of us, Graham would say he's a regular horse gambler and likes to give the impression that he knows what he's doing, so he was itching to get betting.
Almost next door to our picnic spot was the children's entertainers that did a bit of Punch & Judy, magic, singing, dancing etc that seemed to be going on all the time.  All the kids stuff was free to use but the craft/activity tent had to be reserved due to limited spaces.  Beyond the craft tent there were bouncy castles and trampolines, and if you were prepared to queue for it there was a face painting tent as well.  So plenty going on all day long to keep the kids busy with the addition of the regular excitement of watching the horses thunder down the track.

During the day there were 7 races and I believe the last one was around about 6pm and as it was such a lovely day it all seemed to go by so quickly, I could have stayed there all evening as well.  From memory I had at least a place in the first 6 races, sadly I missed out completely on the last race but in one of the races I got 1st and 3rd, woohoo! 
All the men decided to follow Graham's lead and go for the accumulator but sadly non of them won on it, Fred & Ty dropped out on the first race and then Tim & Graham lost around about the 5th race.   Graham was very quite really throughout the day so that probably meant that his choice of horses wasn't going so well, especially when in one race his jockey fell off - on a flat, straight track for god sake!!!!! We did all have to laugh - a lot!  I think overall though we all probably either broke even or made a couple of quid, and considering all except Graham were only betting £1 or £2 each way, we didn't do bad.

I have to say that the excitement as you stand near the fence and watch, hear & feel the horses thundering along and then realising that your horse is in with a chance, it really is great.  I thoroughly enjoyed my first day at the races and I would certainly recommend it to anyone, but especially families, as the kids were so well catered for that they didn't ask for anything the whole afternoon and they slept so well that night.