January Dawns

When we mentioned Brian coming down with a cold in our last blog, what then actually happened is that we spent the next 10 days with some sort of flu-like virus. Lucy lost her voice for the new year and was then off sick for a few days before returning to work. We had to cancel plans with family and friends. Even so, we were safe and warm, together and without any pressure to accomplish more than the basics of daily life.

When we were ready to venture outside again, the atmosphere had changed from December to January. Our local jackdaw couple were attentively preening each other in an oak tree.

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We walked in the fields at sunset, a thin crescent moon overhead. The quality of light at dusk was so beautiful, when the day offers little in the way of sunlight these moments are memorable.

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There are treasures in the garden all year round. Busy little wrens, dunnocks and robins have been picking around for food and singing to us, and there are lots of gulls around, lining up on rooftops. On New Year’s Day morning we had a jay in our cherry tree, seen from the living room window while we were huddled around the TV watching a ballet! There is an exquisite flower out at this time of year too, Wintersweet, which has a powerful exotic fragrance similar to ylang ylang. Brian sowed these seeds around 15 years ago, and it has been producing flowers now for the last four winters.

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While the leaves are off the trees it is the perfect time to admire the beauty of the branches, and we have a 20 year old curly Hazel which comes into its own at this time of the year with its fantastical shapes.

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Now that we both feel better at the end of this first week of 2017, we’re excited about all the things we will do, make, see and discover during the coming seasons.

Current reading:
Dave Goulson – A Buzz in the Meadow
Ali Smith – Hotel World
Lucy Scott – My Tiny Garden
Kazuo Ishiguro – The Buried Giant

Current playlist:
Solange  – Weary
Paolo Nutini – Iron Sky
Christine & The Queens – Saint Claude

 

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Looking to the moon and wildlife

With all the division and separatism going on in the world it seems almost incredible that everyone on the planet sees the same moon, sun and stars when they look into the sky. But we do, and the moon that will visit us all over the next few days will be a very rare full supermoon, the closest full moon to Earth since 1948. Find out more here. It was already looking big yesterday.

There is something deeply moving about a full moon and seeing our enduring, regular visitor glowing above all the changing world below. I’m still here, it seems to say, and it reminds us that so are we, able to be looking up at it once more.

Watching wildlife is another everyday way to find inspiration. On our staycation a week ago we saw these coots drifting across a mere in a very zen way.

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It’s the time of year for making Christmas cakes. We make three (one each and one for Lucy’s parents) and we currently have one made, and one in the oven right now, the smell of boozy fruit and spices filling the house.

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A jolly Santa watches over the baking process

 

Thank you all for reading and don’t forget to look for the moon!

Simple Living Review: June 2016

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Looking outside at the summer sky

We came to the end of June with a renewed sense of the power of living simply.  As events in the wider world continue on their course, it would be easy to feel powerless, but within the many articles we’ve read recently there have been some timely reminders of true positivity. Not going ‘la la la, everything’s fine!’ but acknowledging the reality, harnessing the inner and outer resources that we do have, and working together in the most positive way possible. Keeping our own lives simple is a way of avoiding wasting the limited time we have here on the planet on things that really do not matter. We’re always trying to live up to the title of this blog!

What did we spend and do this month?
We paid a year’s worth of insurance this month so we didn’t save anything overall, we also had an expensive month for food and drink (£15.15 per day), but considering we don’t go on holiday or to many events, having a curry night while watching Glastonbury on TV, for example, is a treat well worth having! Our food treats provide some of the most memorable and grateful times of our lives.

Other spending:
– Petunias for the garden
– A kettle (not had one since 2014)
– Music downloads
– Shoe insoles
– Moisturiser
– Some health supplies
– Some gifts
That’s it. It was a very sparse month on the Excel budget sheet!

 

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Bumblebee on Cosmos

 

The garden is full of colour and creatures. We plant things which attract a lot of bees, and it’s a great year for baby birds. Recently we are also being visited every day by an energetic and very loud Song Thrush, which sits in a tree or on a rooftop singing for hours on end and is becoming less shy every day, allowing us to walk quite close.

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Newly fledged blackbird

 

Its also the time of year to stand outside in the evening and enjoy the fragrance of Night Scented Stock. They are so easy to grow, and the scent is unbelievable. During the day, they smell of nothing, but after a certain point in the evening, start to release a rich and intoxicating clove-like perfume. Just as we love our flavoursome food, we love natural wonders like these as they are so simple, so accessible and are truly what matters, giving us great pleasure in our lives and inspiring us every day.

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Night Scented  Stock

 

Lucy’s Books & Music Corner:

Music
Song of the month: B-52s – Breezin’
Duran Duran – Pressure Off
Patty Griffin – Standing
Christine & The Queens – Tilted / Here
Arcade Fire – Wake Up
Benjamin Clementine – I Won’t Complain
The Last Shadow Puppets – Moonage Daydream (Glastonbury)
Tame Impala – The Less I Know The Better (Glastonbury)
Coldplay – Adventure of a Lifetime / A Sky Full of Stars (Glastonbury)
Sia – Alive

Books 
Ali Smith – How to Be Both
Ann Patchett – Bel Canto
Anne Enright – The Green Road
(And we read a lot of newspapers)

Fun for Free – Bin Lid Bird Bath

Mostly this summer has been hot and dry, and when our ditch dried up we started worrying about our garden birds. There was no need to go out and buy a bird bath however as we remembered we had this bin lid (the bin itself has tomatoes growing in it):

The bin lid bird bath (the white blobs are sticky tack to plug the air holes)

The bin lid bird bath (the white blobs are sticky tack to plug the air holes)

Filled with water and sitting out on the lawn, it wasn’t long before it started to attract customers for drinks and baths.

Our first visitor was a blackbird

Our first visitor was a blackbird

And soon after, a large wood pigeon

And soon after, a large wood pigeon

So simple, but exactly what our garden friends needed. We were happy to help!

Plus: Fun for almost free…
Not quite free, but costing under £2, today Brian and his son have been dipping shop-bought pretzels in chocolate! A lot of fun for very little…they’ve not dried yet but we’ll be enjoying them later.

Chocolate dipped pretzels!

Chocolate dipped pretzels!

30 Days Wild in June: the month has ended but the wildness continues!

We realise we haven’t finished off our 30 Days Wild in June updates on the blog – its’ been an incredibly hot week here, and to keep the house cool we’ve been keeping the windows open and the lights off, making blogging very difficult (too dark to see the keyboard!). There’s also been the distraction of enjoying Wimbledon! Having just finished watching tonight’s match, there’s another sort of ‘tennis’ going on outside the window, a singing match between two blackbirds trying to out-flourish each other. It’s very entertaining, and reminded us to finish our 30 Days Wild blog before it gets too dark again!

21 June: This was the day of the secret squirrel! We went to look at a tree we like, and it took us a while to notice a furry sunbather camouflaged on the trunk. We’ve never seen a squirrel do this before!

Spot the secret squirrel, on a black poplar (Populus nigra)

Spot the secret squirrel, on a black poplar (Populus nigra)

22 June: A bittersweet wildlife moment today. Brian heard a skylark singing it’s beautiful song over a field where it must be nesting…a field that is shortly going to be concreted over for housing.

23 June: Lucy was cycling home, wondering what today’s wildlife encounter would be, and the next thing she knew a bird (didn’t see what kind) had done a poo on her sleeve. That’s not the kind of close encounter we wanted!

24 June: We went outside to listen to our best blackbird singer and took a little film of it performing in front of a dramatic cloudy sky. He included some of his best trills and silly noises for us!

A landscape of evening clouds

A landscape of evening clouds

25 June: On an evening walk we passed a tree that has become a rookery, with jackdaws too – both species were heading in for the night.

26 June: This glistening green beetle is one of our favourite species, but can be hard to photograph as it spots us and flies away. This time we managed to catch it just as he was noticing we were there…

He can see us...

He can see us…

27 June: We had a jay in the garden – not a bird that visits very often, so it was a treat. The other birds weren’t so happy to see it as it was probably quite interested in finding their nests.

28 June: While walking through the biggest housing development in the village, we found that there are lots of housemartins nesting there! This is because they have just the right sort of wooden roof supports for the nests. It was a fantastic surprise to find them and we even saw several baby faces peeking out from the nests.

29 June: An afternoon walk on a nature reserve, we saw lots of wildlife but got particularly close to these two young pheasants, who let us take a photo before heading into the undergrowth with their mother:

Probably the first photo these two have ever been in

Probably the first photo these two have ever been in

30 June: To end our week we spent the evening in the garden looking at Venus and Jupiter, which were the closest together that we’ve ever seen them. We had a go at taking a photo through our binoculars as evidence:

Venus below, Jupiter above

Venus below, Jupiter above

You can find professional images of the two planets here!

During the month we definitely spent more time away from the TV and out in the garden, or on walks, or just looking out of the window. We’ve remembered how important it is to try and break away from our own thoughts and be aware of what’s going on around us, everything from the little insects and frogs hiding down on the ground, up to the swooping birds and incredible clouds in the sky. There’s so much to take in!

30 Days Wild in June: the first 10 days

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We are doing 30 Days Wild, making a conscious effort to engage with wildlife and the natural world every day in June. Here’s our first update, from the first 10 days.

1 June: Read a wildlife gardening book from the library and discussed making a pond

2 June: Went out in the garden at nightfall to look at the rising full moon and Saturn through binoculars (Saturn appears as a gold blob – but still exciting to know it’s there!). There was also a newly fledged blackbird in the salad tank this afternoon.

3 June: Watched urban peregrines during lunch break: could see the wings of the chicks as they exercised from within the nest platform

4 June: There were an amazing amount of bees in the garden. We tried taking photos but they were too quick for us so we just enjoyed the sounds of their buzzing.

5 June: Lucy ate her breakfast outdoors next to a pond with a moorhen and chicks.

6 June: Although we enjoyed UK wildlife today of course, the highlight was visiting a wildlife park with loose small monkeys! Lucy got to stroke the tail of a tamarind as it scampered past – very soft!

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7 June: A morning in the woods where we admired this cardinal beetle on cow parsley. Then an evening walk where we saw a glossy red fox running with a young rabbit in it’s mouth.

8 June: Put garden clippings all along the back of the garden where we keep a long strip of habitat piles. Once it got dark we went out to listen for hedgehogs. There were lots of interesting noises, and a few bats flying around, but we haven’t seen hedgehogs for a couple of years. We’re not giving up hope though.

9 June: Scattered leftover native cornflower seeds near the roadside coming home from work.

10 June: We had an unexpectedly close wildlife encounter: a fledgling blackbird (probably the one in the picture below) came into the house and got into a panic, and had to be gently escorted back outside by Brian! Then we had an evening walk alongside farm fields, and heard a tawny owl – our first in the village for several years, but we would probably hear them more often if we had more evening walks.

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Immersing ourselves in the natural world so much lately has been brilliant and makes our lives better every day. It also means we spend more time thinking and talking about ways that we can help wildlife: creating a pond, putting up nest boxes for sparrows and planting more wild food sources are some of the ideas we might be writing more about soon!

Nature Every Day

My best wildlife photo so far, a blackbird in full song

My best wildlife photo so far, a blackbird in full song

By Lucy

I’ve signed up for 30 Days Wild, a challenge with The Wildlife Trusts (in the UK) to do one wild activity for every day of June.

This is good timing as I’ve been trying to increase my daily awareness of wildlife this year already. Although trying to protect wildlife and the environment lies behind virtually every decision I make in life in one way or another, I often let the busyness in my mind block my actual everyday appreciation of it. During the winter I even realised I was often cycling all the way to & from work without noticing anything that I could tell Brian about when I got home – and yet being out in nature is one of the main reasons I say I love cycling! I had just got into some really bad habits.

In an effort to switch my internal chatter off and tune back into my surroundings, I’ve started recording a daily wildlife update in my diary. This can be anything from nature: creatures, plants, scenery, weather or astronomy. If I sit down at 10pm and have nothing to write, I know something needs correcting in the way I live my days!

It doesn’t matter to me to know the name or status of everything I see. I’m as happy noticing ‘flowers’ as I am noticing something I know the name of, and as happy looking at blackbirds as I am encountering something rare. It’s all wonderful, and I don’t want to waste another day not appreciating it!

I found this super-bright caterpillar in the soil when gardening

I found this super-bright caterpillar in the soil when gardening

Egyptian goose couple that came right up to the bench I was eating lunch on

Egyptian goose couple that came right up to the bench I was eating lunch on

Sunlight on Life

DSCF1742At the end of our week off work, we are feeling very fortunate to have had this time together and to be able to choose how we spent each day. It has been a very mindful week, with lots of time spent outside in the warmth of the sun. The sun can only shine on the present moment, and we can only reside in the present moment.

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It has been a week of peace and productivity: walking, chatting, playing catch and card games, sowing seeds, laughing, pottering in the garden, taking photos, reading, knitting, watching birds and frogs, eating delicious food and Easter chocolate, relaxing, seeing friends and family (and being treated to a very generous family meal out), and making a composting toilet in the woods!

Here is our composting toilet project – this was taken during construction, since then more cover has been added. But from this position, the person on the ‘throne’ gets a wonderful view, while being concealed from anyone on the paths. The toilet is a mango chutney barrel with a friend’s broken toilet seat attached on a piece of wood.

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The other big achievement this week was that Lucy did her furthest drive ever in our car – taking the three of us about 65 miles to the coast, which may not seem that big a deal, but having always been a very nervous driver and not having driven at all since Christmas, it was a major event! It means we are ending the week with more confidence and skills than we started it with.

Seedling protection

Seedling protection

The garden has been coming to life and is full of very busy & noisy birds, frogs and emerging insects. All the seeds we have sown are coming up, and today these seedlings received protection from blackbirds and wood pigeons who like to pull things out of pots.

Who, me? Yes, you!

Who, me? Yes, you!

There were so many wonderful sights, sounds and treats this week, it has been a very special family time together. Peaceful, productive and sociable, we couldn’t have asked for more.

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Simple Springtime Scenes

The sunny weekend got us outdoors for most of the time. It’s wonderful to enjoy again the simple pleasures of feeling the sun on your skin and warm breeze blowing your clothes and hair.

It was perfect weather for drying laundry:

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And while Lucy was cutting kindling sticks there were plenty of busy birds around, including this blackbird which appears to be impaled on a piece of bread:

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We went out to the garden centre for some compost, and our first plant of the year: some cheerful polyanthus. We also bought a mango chutney barrel because we think we can turn it into a compost toilet! We’ll definitely be writing more on that soon…

In the woods, the early morning sunlight was shining on the mossy logs. A perfect place for a breakfast sausage roll and pastry as enjoyed today by Brian!

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The blue skies show up the interesting colours and textures of trees – dead or alive – and it seems amazing to think that soon there will be green leaves everywhere.

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The season cycle is greater than any human routines we might try and impose on the world. That is something we’re very grateful for.

Wormery Day

by Lucy

Today it was time for the annual job of digging out all the lovely compost at the bottom of the wormery.

Here’s what was behind the door:

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I half filled 3 compost bags before I started reaching the layer where things weren’t rotted down fully. This can go on all our growing beds before we plant out, and then later on we can add some more to give things a boost.

Like last year there were a few items that had found their way into the wrong bin: this time it was an asthma inhaler, a toothpaste tube and two wrappers from hemp seed bars. The bar wrappers were a useful indicator of the age of the compost, as we haven’t bought those type of bars since last Spring!

Digging out the wormery is not actually a very smelly or mucky job, UNTIL you get to the layer where things have only half-decomposed.

Today will be remembered for the fact I encountered the STINKIEST THING I HAVE EVER SMELLED IN MY LIFE. I don’t even know what it was: it was white and gloopy, and resembled the faecal sacs which parent birds take out of their nests. My best guess is that it was some semi-rotted garlic. I flung it as far away as I could but the stench stayed in the air for quite some time.

This was a lovely satisfying job to do on a Saturday afternoon though, and as well as gaining us 3 free bags of ‘black gold’, the added pleasure is watching the birds which come in to see what they can scavenge afterwards. It doesn’t take them long!

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