Middle of Spring

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It’s time to take a moment and acknowledge that we’re in the middle of Spring. Our tomato plants are growing, the evenings are long and light and we’re onto our last bag of coal for the fire so we hope that temperatures will keep rising too!

Here is where Brian is up to in one of the major tasks in our garden. This space used to be a concrete path that made the house damp and a flower bed that never really worked because of the shade. Now it’s being turned into a seating area that will get the morning sun and be protected from direct sunlight for the later part of the day. We still need to decide what to put on the ground. It’s too muddy to leave uncovered but we don’t want to just use concrete slabs.

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This week we’ve bought some new plants for the garden: a blackcurrant bush, a red Geranium, two Achilleas, a Salvia and the blue Lithodora below. The garden is heading towards being more low maintenance, colourful, relaxing and also more easy to socialise in.

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Soon it will be warm enough to sit outside and read a book in the evening after work…below is Lucy’s current stack from the library. Although at the moment its a bit too chilly for outdoor reading most of the time, our big living room window creates a wonderful warm reading space on the sofa which feels almost like being outside.

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We are lucky to have a ditch in our garden and Brian has also been improving the water flow and creating a sandy patch for bathing birds by trudging up and down on the clay bottom in wellies which has already attracted a tiny bathing Goldcrest. At the deepest end, this week we spotted a male Smooth Newt with a frilly back, and there’s lots of frogspawn too. As the moon waxes over recent days, we’ve also seen it reflecting in the water, a very beautiful sight.

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Lucy went to her first choir session last week, a free trial, which was very enjoyable and definitely fun to continue if we can integrate the cost into our budget without causing problems anywhere else. This is a challenge that will be motivating and inspiring, similar to when we had a loan to pay off or wanted to prove to ourselves that Brian could leave paid work. There are still areas where we can make savings with a few changes to habits and routines: toiletries, food, electricity usage for hot water.

If this is your favourite time of year make sure you take time to slow down and enjoy it so that it doesn’t flash past too quickly. Things change on a daily basis in Spring. Any day now we should see the first swallows arrive (and house martins, then swifts). The glass ones in our lean-to are eagerly awaiting the first sighting of some real ones!

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Spring walks and garden finds

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Over the last few days the signs of spring are everywhere, especially at ground level. We spotted a bright patch of Sweet Violets on a walk. Their fragrance is stunning, almost jasmine-like but entirely unique.

It seems to be a very good year for Lesser Celandine. In the woods, verges and in our garden there are more  of these perfect yellow stars reaching up to the sun than we can remember seeing in past years.

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Many of the trees are still wintery and bare although on closer inspection there are buds forming. However, there is plenty of blossom to enjoy, such as on this Cherry Plum tree in a churchyard.

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One of our favourite non-native wild flowers grows in our garden (although it doesn’t really like to be there and never gets any bigger). Lungwort has beautiful jewel-like flowers in rich purples and pinks.

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Now our holiday week is at an end, although we made it last into Monday morning by having breakfast together in the city before Lucy went to work. That was a very special start to the day and well worth £10! And today in the garden, Brian found something unusual underground while clearing the rubble from our demolished concrete path: we think this is a leg bone from some butchered beef:

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Whatever it is, it has been down there a long, long time. Amazing what you can find outdoors!

Simple Living Review: March 2016

 

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Taking time to appreciate the simple things

March: always the month for us which rushes past the fastest, and this can sometimes mean spending very little (too busy to go shopping) or sometimes spending a lot (too busy to be frugal!). It has been an expensive month this time, but we saved about £25 so we’re still in credit.

We spent an average of £15 per day on food and drink, even higher than last month, however that has to be balanced against the volume of practical jobs that got done as a priority over cooking from scratch. If we had paid someone else to do things for us instead, it would come to a lot more than what we overspent on food and drink!

Our other main purchases were:
– Minor bicycle repair
– Two fills of petrol (unusual!)
– Library borrowing of DVD (Wild)
– Ikea reading lamp
– LED lightbulbs and outdoor light
– Two Lilac bushes
– Sunblock
– Jeans and t-shirts (Brian’s first clothes shopping for almost a year)
– Silver necklace chain to replace one which broke in 2014
– Gifts

March projects and progress

03 01 Stool holes

Warning! Varnished stool slots

From cutting slots into our kitchen stools (above) on 1st March to reducing the height of the Christmas tree on 31st March (below), Brian has had quite a relentless month of practical work of all kinds. The serious tree work was the biggest challenge, and he had help from his friend Andy on a couple of days which made a big difference. Dealing with the trees (and some hedges) has created numerous piles of plant material in all sizes from thick trunks to tiny sticks, which will now keep him busy sorting and storing them for use on our fires next winter.

Here is a before and after of the Christmas tree:

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It may look horrendous now, but this will grow again and is already being visited by the same birds as before, including blue tits in a nest box. The important thing is that it is now manageable for the future.

This month’s books and music

Music
Song of the month:
Manic Street Preachers – Postcards From a Young Man
Owen Pallett – The Secret Seven
Martha Wainwright – These Flowers
Meilyr Jones – Love
The Smiths – The Boy With the Thorn in His Side
Gossip – Heavy Cross
Years & Years – King

Books (I only finish books I enjoy, so all my listings are recommendations):
Book of the month:
Elizabeth Gilbert – Big Magic
Matthew Quick – Silver Linings Playbook
David Nicholls – Us
Carson McCullers – The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (re-read)
John Boyne – The Absolutist
Natalie Goldberg – The True Secret of Writing