Rays of Light

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Evening walks are a treat at this time of year, with the extra daylight hours. As the sun starts to move lower in the sky, you can catch rays of light as they hit the ground.

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We’ve also had our first evening meal in the garden, and gin & tonics, listening to people cheer and/or groan at a TV football match a few houses away, and watching the Mexican Fleabane slowly start to close up for the evening.

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Mexican Fleabane in our concrete block wall

The incredible diversity of flower shapes and colours in the garden, for attracting pollinators, is fun to observe. Watch and see where the bees like to go best – foxgloves are a favourite…the detail is stunning when you look closely.

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We like to do some Spring cleaning and de-cluttering. A few weeks ago this table had a big potted ivy on it and twice as many objects as there are now. The ivy had to go as it was covered in insects secreting sticky liquid all over the mirror and everything else! It feels so much fresher and cleaner after being pared back.

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Posting pictures like these, of our everyday life, feels like an incredible thing to be able to do, given how this week has unfolded for so many other people.  To have something you can even call ‘everyday life’ is an immense good fortune. We hope that in some small way this blog contributes to a message that every day of every life is special and we should act accordingly.

Current library bookshelf:
Philip Pullman – The Amber Spyglass

Lucy’s current playlist:
James – Nothing But Love

 

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Seasonal life and light

Since we last wrote it has become Spring! As the season changes, we can really appreciate the fact that we are on a turning Earth and every day feels different, with more of nature awakening.

Mornings now mean sunrises, each one different, and sometimes it’s possible to look at it directly when it’s low and orange. How exciting to glimpse it through the trees…

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…and once you are past the trees, you get to see it owning the sky.

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In the last two weeks the ground has transformed into colour with snowdrops, winter aconites and crocuses, making our walks bright and cheerful.

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There’s also an abundance of hazel catkins this year, eye-catching where they hang on otherwise bare trees. As the sun sets at the other end of the day, it lights up their intricate details.

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We hope your days are warming with the spring and bringing hope and change.

Current reading:
Ali Smith -Autumn
Sara Taylor – The Lauras
Ann Patchett – State of Wonder
Neil Pasricha – The Happiness Equation

Lucy’s current playlist:
Milagres – Glowing Mouth
Christine & The Queens – Wandering Lovers
Lamb – Gorecki
Foo Fighters – Walking After You

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

 

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!

Sun Dogs, Gloves and Cakes

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This week we are on staycation, meaning that Lucy is off work, and Brian is having more leisure than on regular house-husbandry days. It’s also half term, and we’re enjoying some family time.

This week is also a good opportunity to get moving on some cost-saving ideas. We’ve already made a few changes since becoming a one-salary/one-home-maker team:
– Lucy’s mobile phone switches provider this week, saving £36 per year
– We’ve now moved nearly all our email archive into a new inbox as our internet provider will be the next switch, saving £200+ per year
– We’ve been conducting experiments on our electricity usage and whether we change supplier or just change our habits as a result, we should make savings there too.
– We’ve tested the area around our bungalow to see if damp is likely to occur and found that the concrete path is too high and in some places slopes in the wrong direction, and been discussing what to do about this
– Lucy has had her second home-haircut from Brian, definitely salon standard!

The last few days have also given us some perfect autumn weather and we took advantage of this with a long walk yesterday through woodland (also collecting free chestnuts), a community orchard (picking some free and delicious apples), a pretty village, and a church. It was the perfect day for Lucy to try out her fingerless gloves which she has just finished:

Completed fingerless gloves

Completed fingerless gloves

And on the walk back, the sky treated us to a stunning ‘sun dog’ alongside the setting sun. There were two, but the one on the right was misted over by cloud.

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Then as we emerged from the woods back to the car, the nearly full moon was hanging so low and big in the sky it was truly breath-taking (it made one of us go ‘Whoah!’ anyway).

A gibbous moon

A gibbous moon

Today the first of our gathered cooking apples were to put to good use in this spiced apple cake.

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This may seem back to front, but earlier today Lucy also went to the library and got books about Christmas crafts, decorating homes with natural materials, and…giving up sugar!

However, the goal is not to give up sugar completely, but to try to half the amount she eats, and favour home-made cakes on special occasions over processed stuff as everyday treats. This is something we’ve both done before with varying degrees of success, but any way in which we can be healthier is worthwhile, even if you don’t cut something out completely (if you find this sort of thing works for you, you are a moderator – if not, you are an abstainer – try the quiz here!).

Tomorrow is our holiday treats day, as we’re going into the city to spend the cinema voucher Lucy’s parents gave us last Christmas on seeing the new James Bond movie! There’s enough on the voucher for popcorn and treats as well (but not for Lucy – she’ll do something like paint her nails instead, as opting out of cinema snacks is an easy win towards the sugar goal!)

Thanks for reading, and we’ll be back at the end of the week for a proper update on our October spends, saves and simple living goals.

Listening to Trees

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This weekend has been very relaxing and restorative. Like many, we were exhausted and paying the price for a week of spending too much time involved in the election: voting in it, watching it, and reading about it afterwards. This is not a political blog but it’s probably obvious that our approach to life wasn’t reflected particularly well!

So, we needed some positivity and peace, and we found it in the woods today when we went to look for bluebells and orchids. It was such a beautiful day, a perfect warm breeze carrying the smells of wild garlic and bluebells.

It felt wonderful to touch the textured barks of different trees and engage with something real and honest. Brian remembered that it was possible to listen to trees and hear their internal sounds – with a stethoscope, which we didn’t have! – but we tried it anyway, pressing our ears to the lovely cool trunks and listening carefully. And we did hear something – it sounded a bit like someone was inside the tree moving furniture, making muffled bumps and knocks with large silences in between. Is this the sound of the tree pumping all the water it takes up? Whatever it was, it was a very calming and soothing experience!

We also saw a big red deer, a holly blue and a green hairstreak butterfly. Being out in nature was exactly what we needed this weekend, and the fact we then came home and ate a big bowl of ice cream each didn’t hurt either!

Holly Blue butterfly on a Bluebell

Holly Blue butterfly on a Bluebell

Wild Garlic - it's edible and smells amazing

Wild Garlic – it’s edible and smells amazing

Bluebells and Orchids

Bluebells and Orchids

A simple Sunday picnic and walk

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Today we treated ourselves to one of our favourite simple days out: making a cake, and taking it to a nearby nature site to eat after a walk.

After filling the house with the scent of lemon drizzle cake baking, we cut it in half, made a flask of hot water and packed up mugs, teabags and milk. We went a few miles down the road to a nearby village which has a woodland and meadow walk, where we heard all kinds of birds in full song for Spring including a blackcap which we spotted in the hedgerow.

The village also has a beautiful churchyard which is looked after for wildlife and is full of wild flowers. Importantly, it also has excellent benches for picnics where we could rest, savour our tea and cake and admire the view.

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There were lots of wild flowers not yet open, and so that is a good excuse to come back again soon – with more cake of course…

Time for sunset walks & moon watching

One of our sunset walks

One of our sunset walks

Over the last few days we’ve been heading outdoors as much as we can. We did do the conventional thing on Saturday and had a look in the sales, but within a few minutes we’d remembered what a waste of our lives it is, and all we bought was one glass tumbler for £3.50.

Every other day, we’ve headed out for a local walk, either in our village or very nearby. No long drives, no unfamiliar routes, just pure leisure! We’ve seen all sorts of birds including a male bullfinch, a flock of long-tailed tits and a little grebe diving on a frosty mill pond, and four graceful deer running across a field very close to us.

Long-tailed tit taking off from the hedgerow

Long-tailed tit taking off from the hedgerow

Because our whole days have been pretty leisurely, we haven’t been heading out until the afternoon, so we’ve caught some spectacular sunsets. And then on the way home, we get to see people’s Christmas lights and trees in the dark! We’ve also been much more aware of the moon and how it changes from day to day.

Today we made an earlier start and had breakfast in the woods and enjoyed a full day’s sunshine and light through the trees. A friendly robin visited us to see what we were doing.

This is what the Christmas break means to us – time to appreciate everything around us.

Sunset walk with rooks and jackdaws

Sunset walk with rooks and jackdaws

Taking the time to notice the moon

Taking the time to notice how the moon changes from day to day