big ideas from a little garden

tales and stories of how we make the most of our garden and our terraced house.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Sleep Tight Daddy.....

My wonderful Dad and beautiful sister.
One of the reasons I have had an absence from the family home was that my Dad had fallen ill. He had battled illness for so much of his life.
He was born with a blocked portal vein feeding his liver and over time his liver deteriorated because of this. He was prone to internal bleeding and ascites.
This led to increasing poor health.
Around 2-3 years ago he was put forward as a possible candidate for a liver transplant. However, this was not to be. If he could not feed the liver with a healthy portal vein then the operation would never be a success. We were informed that by controlling his condition and the associated symptoms then there was no way they could predict the length of his life. There were just so many ifs and buts.
He spent many years going back and forth to Llandough Hospital in South Wales having his stomach drained. He had built up a rapport with his nurses and doctors. The repeated appointments had become routine for him. Being followed up by a regular endoscopy or colonoscopy. Invasive procedures that had just become a day to day way of life.
In June my youngest sister, Steph got married. Dad was in attendance as the proud Father. Steph was radiant and beautiful. My Dad could not have been more happy and proud of her. I have no doubt many of the family were shocked at how poorly he looked. Even though he was clearly a very sick man we did not know just how little time he had left.
On the Thursday after the wedding he was admitted to hospital for a routine drain. This time, however he would not come home. The fluid in this stomach had become infected in recent months. This in itself had complicated matters.
Over the coming weeks he was to become more poorly until eventually he passed away.

I am sure in the future I will feel able to post more about happy memories and joyful times. But for now I cannot.

All that remains to be said is that My Dad was loved. I miss him everyday.

Books books and more books.

It seems an age since I last posted here.
Here, at the tinyholding we have had a roller-coaster of a few months.
I, myself, have been away, staying with my parent(s).
There comes a time in a child's life when you have to be the adult. Your parents have given their adulthood to raising you and the rest of the family and it is time to return the favour.
It will rarely be a happy occasion that brings this about but it will inevitability happen. Hence a prolonged absence from the tinyholding for myself.
However, more about that later.
Back to life on the ranch.
The house still is still in dire need of expanding walls. Where on earth do we accumulate all this "stuff"?
Have the Mummy and Daddy books been up to no good under cover of darkness? Austen and Shakespear springing forth volumes of Charlie and Lola? Or do they split, amoeba like, in the dead of night? Perhaps they spit out wee little volumes if fed after dark in a gremliesque manner? What ever is happening we do seem to be climbing some sort of literary mountain, unfortunately I don't mean this in a metaphoric sense. We could build a whole new house with the many paperbacks that I hoard.
I know I should be whittling down the library but I just can't part with the written word.
Somewhere, someone had an idea! They then expanded the idea into a dream. They wrote it down, slaving over each word and sentence. It was edited, published bound and illustrated. How on earth am I to put that aside and dispose of other peoples work?
I love books, can you tell?
I have ever encouraged the barefoot babes to follow in my footsteps. But of course no two people are the same. Hence a whole new collection of genres and authors.
I have recently parted with so many children's books that they have simply outgrown.
Board books, touchy feely books, musical books, books with just pictures, books with silly stories, books with simple rhymes, books with clever rhythms and melodic tomes.  Everyone loved and read over and over. If my children take one magical memory from their smaller years I hope it is the melodic tone of their mother reading to them until the drifted off to sleep. Many of the books have found a new home. However, I couldn't part with "snuggle down ducklings".
I have also retained all the hardback beauties that we have sighed over together. Children's classics such as Milly Molly Mandy, Little Alfie, Flower Fairies, Brambly Hedge, Winnie The Pooh and Peter Rabbit.

Then we have the mountain of practical theory books I require. Herbalism, massage, aromatherapy, botany, reflexology, not to mention physiology and anatomy. There are many to help one dispose of pesky insomnia. Wonderful bedtime reading.

Who can resist a craft book? Cross stitch, patchwork, quilting, sewing, painting, spinning, dying, cooking, gardening, all of them requiring a good book to show you the way.

I have come to the conclusions that I will never be able to part with these friends. So the next project? Bookshelves......I wonder if I should buy a book about building them?

While I ponder this conundrum. Spend five minutes looking at this bookish extravaganza !

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Phyto Success...

I would like to share my success with you all.
I am now a proud and happy phytotherapist. I even have certificates to prove it.
Quoted from the e-mail sent from the collage,
"Congratulations on completing the final examination for your Master Herbalist Level 5 NCFE Diploma course.
On behalf of the College we have reviewed your performance throughout your course and in line with NCFE regulations, your overall result for the course has been awarded a "DISTINCTION".
It is worth noting that this is the highest achievement you can achieve for this course. Well done on this excellent achievement, your effort throughout the course has been of a very high standard and we wish you all the success for the future."

I'm rather pleased.

Onwards and upwards. I am now a quarter of the way through the Massage diploma.

Poor Maggie RIP

Seems the bloody fox has had his fill again.
Here at the Tinyholding we never did get Maggie to go voluntarily into the eglu at night.
I had warned her that if she didn'g go to bed then the fopx would pay her a visit.....
Late one night last week I was laying in bed (not able to sleep) When I heard and cacophony in the garden.
DD had shut the birds up for the night but had not been able to find Maggie. He had been out there for quite some time with his furrowed brow and his torch. Hwe was justa as determined as he had been all the other nights he had hunted for her. This night, however, she was nowhere to be seen. We feared she had already been taken during the day but couldn't find any evidence.
Eventually we had to call it a night. We just couldn't find her. we were hoping that if she had not been taken she would go to be high up in privit and be fine.
Alas this was not so. DD and I jumped out of bed and DD went out to try to reach her before the fox took her. He was unlucky.

Poor Maggie, you were such a character. We will never forget you!

I *heart* Laugharne.

I was recently booked for a series of tours of Laugharne castle as Lady Dorothy Perrot. she is the 16th century wife of courtier Sir John Perrot. (Rumoured to be both the illegitimate son of Henry IIIV and a pirate to boot). Lady Parrot's parentage is rather grand also as she is the daughter of the Earl of Essex and Lettice Knolleys (one time favourite of Elizabeth I until she married Dudley...ooooh, the scandal!)
Playing such a noble character deserved a fine dress. so the Red Velvet came out to play. But what do you know? Dorothy has not been eating lettuce! It doesn't fit. Not even a little bit! God damn it! Poor old Dorothy had to slum it for the day in some particularly fine blue wool and lace. however, all it not lost as the blue is clearly ahead of it's time by around 20 years. Dorothy is clearly a trend setter.
I have another five bookings and Lady D and I am determined she is either going to be back in her red or have a new posh frock. being that it is always sunny and warm in Laugharne I am thinking I may have to make a new lighter silk dress. (To avoid roasting).
Perhaps a deep forest green with golden underskirt? And fine black french hood to boot?
It's been a long time since I felt so inspired to sew.
I need to get my hand back in for a rather special dress for next year (oooh, teasers!)

Laugharne this year was as sunny, relaxed and beautiful as ever. I simply love Dylan Thomas land. However, before we start hearkening to children's Christmases in Wales, lets be clear. Although DT had a rather fine boat house to live and write in Laugharne is the home of the Perrots! First and foremost!
"Who does that Thomas boy think he is? Shakespear?"  Can't you just here Lady D's ghost in her outrage?

It is a magnificent castle full of character, scandal, stories and people who love it. I really is a pleasure to work there.

Ceri from the History Chefs
We were lucky enough to be teamed up with The History Chefs.
They are a branch of the celtic learners network and truly lovely and inspiring people. Ceri and Colette, put on a spectacular show and gave delicious tasters of their Tudor goodies. Yummy!
With such cooks in residence, perhaps that is why Lady d is having trouble squeezing into her gowns.....

The highlight of the weekend was meeting Geoff, an ex school head and an expert on the Perrots. After quizzing me about my characters life I was awarded the gold star! Bloody glad I did my research!

All in all it was lovely weekend. For that I have to thank Tara, Shelia, Ceri, Colette and of course my lovely and every helpful DD x

I can't wait for the next one.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

A Windowsill of Promise.

Here, on the tinyholding we are still living in garden limbo.
Full of promise!
DD has been taken away from home for the last few weeks with pressing work matters.  I know, I know, work doesn't matter!  However, we all know that work does matter and without it there would be no tinyholding.
This, in itself, has not stopped my planning. Nor has it stopped the growing.
We currently have a dining room windowsill full of promising seedlings and new young plants.
Upon the windowsill itself we have the beginnings of our herb garden. There is thyme, rosemary, parsley, both flat and curled, coriander, chives and many more.
Upon the top of the freezer, next to the window, there are pumpkins, courgettes, chard, lettuce, tomatoes and others.
I have seed trays and have been saving loo roll inners to pot up peas and beans.
There are pots to start off sunflowers, marigolds and nasturtiums.
In such a tiny space there lies such promise.
However, the promises are treading water. DD and I are struggling to find time for operation garden revamp. It will happen but we are slightly behind schedule.
I am thinking about redressing the situation. Perhaps this year we will have a mainly pot based veg garden. The important thing is to not lose the plants we have.
We have already had one major mishap. Buffy cat has proved herself persona no grata. She insists on making all windowsills her own. She takes no prisoners and you can often hear an annoyed exclamation from DD as she dive bombs the desk to get to her space. It is not making her a popular puss! To add insult to injury, last weekend Boglin got up in the morning and went to feed them. (First up, first job!)
Buffy and DD get their way!
She came creeping into DD and I with such a look of worry and horror. All of the plants were in a higgledy piggledy mess upon the floor. Buffy had struck again!
Fortunately Boglin had picked most of them up and not too many were terminal. We have lost a pumpkin, a tomato and the sweetpeas. Luckily I have more seeds and can replant. However, I was more than a little cross.
DD and I are currently in disagreement over the puss cats. I am a firm believer in putting them out for the night during warm weather. Particularly if they are causing problems. DD is far more soft hearted than me and wants them to be allowed in. He has his way for the time being but mark my words Buffy, one more stunt like that and you will be out!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Tears on the Tinyholding.

The formidable Miss Pecky, centre stage.
It was a tragic and sad day on Friday. Here on the tinyholding we have had a fox strike the egg laying committee.
Around 1.30 am Friday morning I heard a small kerfuffle in the garden. Quite a small argument that I put down to one of the birds having a strop because one the others had shuffled onto her perch and woken her. It was not the giant cacophony you would expect from fox strike. I lay there, in bed, weighing up the idea of waking DD and getting him to go and look. I decided that if there was one more squawk I would do so. There was just the sleepy silence of another tinyholding night. And so, I drifted off to sleep with the idea that all was well.
I don't think I will ever forgive myself for my complacency.
Upon Friday morning DD went to do his usual head count while letting them out and feeding them. He was horrified to find the door of the coop open and Pecky mauled at the back of the garden. The other birds were visibly shaken and subdued. They were crowding around him for comfort and safety. None of the usual exuberance or chatty bocking. He did a head count and couldn't find Darcy. It was only then that he realised we had not been woke by Darcy's enthusiastic morning glory. His usual dawn call of  "these are all my girls and this is my garden!"
Further investigating found a subdued and heartbroken Steve the Duck. Splodge, his Mrs Duck was also absent.
DD meets Darcy.
All the other birds were present and correct but clearly terrified.
DD came to me wanting to be proved wrong. Wishing that Pecky had died in her sleep and been pecked by distraught siblings. Hoping and Praying that Splodge and Darcy had gone to ground for some reason. I took myself to the scene and confirmed the worst. We had a fox!
The tell tale scattering of feathers in a quiet corner showing where Mrs. Fox had enjoyed her Pecky themed meal. Then taking Darcy and Splodge to her hungry cubs.
Poor Darcy was probably trying, with his diminutive stature but enormous character, to protect his girls. He was a dainty young man and no match for a hungry fox. Indeed, in Mrs Fox's eye he would have been a perfect meal from the children's menu.
Splodge was a dopey, loveable and curious duck. She wouldn't have stood a chance. Steve, however, upon closer inspection had not allowed his wife to be taken without a fight. He had sustained bites about his neck and his wing had clearly been injured.
He must have put up a brave fight. We have watched him since the incident and he seems to be recovering. Upon the first day I was very much in two minds about a cull.
The decision we now need to take regards this brave little soldier.
We cannot allow him to free range with a garden full of hens and no duck for company. Drakes and Cockerels are build differently and a Drake showing too much attention to a hen can damage her.
Do we bring him a wife or do we rehome him? If he does not recover fully the decision to cull may yet come to pass.
The Boglin child has pleaded with me not to let him die or to cull him. Therefore, I am trying to keep my word. The jury is, sadly, still out.

Bless you and rest in peace our absent friends.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Sweetpea growing and greenhouse lust...

our idea of heaven!
Yesterday saw the beginning of "project garden".
While journeying to worship at the great god "Sainsburys", DD and I pass B&Q. Of course, with the sun shining and the garden plans fresh in our minds we were never going to be able to resist a quick drop in to look at greenhouses. We had plans for a modest, yet functional greenhouse. Well suited to the size of the tinyholding.
Within ten minutes DD and I had revised our plans to incorporate a huge 6x8 haven of glass and tempered metal. We looked at the perfectly functional polycarbonate numbers. We toyed with the idea of  a narrow structure. We then threw all sensibility out of the window (excuse the pun) and priced up a beauty. We plan to have it freshly dug to the left and right. A large variety of edible tender plants and of course a small potting bench. Duck boards running through the middle, to be sun warmed and ideal for bare toes. There will, obviously, also be lighting and heating in there.
We sigh dreamily, conjuring images of summer evenings to come. The sun setting over our verdant greens and a warm glow as we sip chilled white over a seed tray and kisses.
In truth, it is more likely that we will be sipping wine while not getting much done and swearing at the slug population that are decimating out broad beans. But we all need a dream! And ours is of a greenhouse. We are clearly simple people with simple needs.
There is little chance of myself wandering around a garden centre, diy shop or even the dreaded Tesco without eyeing up the plants and garden goods. And so I confess, m'lud, I did buy a few plants. I was a very good girl though and didn't spend all of my pocket money. I am now the proud mummy of six pepper seedlings, 2 chilly seedlings and a pot full of sweetpeas.
Everlasting showoffs!
Around our courtyard we plan to mix edible peas with sweetpeas. I personally, love the showiness of everlasting sweetpeas. However, what they give in bucket loads of appeal with their flowery goodness they do lack with their scent. So the obvious answer? Well, MORE sweetpeas of course!
There were also pots, troughs, benches, water features, tables , chairs and BBQs! All of them I wanted there and then.
On the other hand, I do believe that absence makes the heart grow fonder. It is well worth the wait and in time we will love the garden all the more!
Roll on summer!

Friday, 30 March 2012

The calm before the storm

The site of the chicken bordello to be.
Because it's going to take something like a storm to make a difference.
Currently the chickens are happy pecking away in the devastation that is our excuse for a garden.
I first need to have a general tidy up. The place looks a bit like a scrap yard.
There is the broken bench that they like to hold their knitting circle on. that is going to be taken apart, painted and repaired. Then it will be fit for tinyholder's bottoms and not just a chicken perch.
the knitting circle will have to find new digs
There is also a matching char that will be getting much the same treatment.
I am in two minds with what to do with the broken branches that had been cut out of the hedge last year. Should I break it down, bag it up and keep to burn on chilly summer evenings?  Or should I just put it into the green recycling? The largest branches I will keep to put into the new chicken bordello we have planned. I don't wish the girls to be too put out by their smaller environment so I plan to build high as well as wide. With this I can put in a variety of branches and perches. Maybe a couple of high up nest boxes for them to lay in.
Then there is the Somme like garden itself to turn into a haven of growing.  A good dig over and loosen up of the soil should just about do it.
a courtyard to be.
There is also the garden path to clear off. this will be a back breaking task in itself. Although we do plan to replace the path in the near future it is unusable at the moment.
The court yard will benefit from a good tidy and a hose down and it is fit to go. In  time the walls and fences will be utilised as a structure to grow things up. But with a tidy up it can be used as somewhere to sit now.

It's going to be hard work but so very well worth it.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Start at the very begining.

I long for something like this!
The sun is shining, the birds are singing and the egg laying committee is in full swing. It is time DD and I got our butts in gear and started to turn the Somme into a garden haven.
We have such grand plans. However, they all seem to stem from a glass of fizz while standing in the sun with a bantie on a shoulder. We are clearly some sort of booze swigging, land locked, pirate wannabes.
Last Sunday saw such an event. We have now revised all our plans. A pneumatic drill is being hired and the garden path is coming up! *happy dance*
There is nothing more boring than a regimented garden with a straight path. Veggies organised into neat rows and clean washing flapping in the breeze.
Well not for us. We have decided we will stagger the garden constructions (shed, greenhouse and the chicken bordello). This will enable us to utilise as much of the sunshine in our east facing garden. The courtyard will become a white washed sun trap. Covered in pots of aromatic herbs. I have some fab ideas regarding growing vertically as well as on the ground. No post, wall or bit of fence will not have a purpose.
Peas, beans and even cucumber will thrive (I am sure of it).
We have pinched the idea of covering the small area between the kitchen wall and the fence with some corrugated plastic. Affording a sheltered area for bikes, a small bench and table and some quail in a covered run and house.
However, as exciting as these plans are, we first need to clear the garden, and that will take a lot of time, strength and a large skip. The old nazi shed has to go. It was put up by the previous owners. Odd people, they had planks of nails along their fence to stop cats walking on it. The carpeted, curtained shed was, I feel sure, the Old Man's safe haven from the Old Dear. Or perhaps she would lock him in there for punishment for not bringing her the local puss population to boil into stew.
Anyhow, all this has to go.
Frankly, I can't wait.....

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Worthy Causes and Armchair Dictating

Before DD and I consolidated our lives I had the privilege of residing in Sunny South Wales. I love the area and all it has to offer. I lived just a couple of miles from the sea, and some times I miss it.
Tythe barn, Henry's and herb garden
However, most of my time that wasn't spent at home with my cubs, I was in the employ of Cosmeston Medieval Village.
It was a fascinating, rewarding and often exhausting job. I loved it!
I personally bred and loaned the Geese (embdens), Chickens (Dorkings) and Ducks (Calls) to the village that provided the often ear shattering background melody to the village. The Call Ducks did an excellent job of drowning out the volume from the passing, unauthentic traffic from the adjacent road. The chickens provided the local youngsters with the "ahh" factor each spring, as they would proudly strut from their recent hidy hole, with a fluffy mess of chicks about their feet. The geese made sure the staff were kept on their toes with the occasional nip. Perhaps, in retrospect, the geese shouldn't have been encouraged to forage in my pockets for tasty treats as youngsters. A full grown embden with a mission to get it's obnoxious beak in you trews is not something to be taken lightly.
Then there are the gardens.
They were the passion and handy work of Mistress Angharad (the character I portrayed)
It was here I found my green fingers and love of herbs.

The Village itself is a reconstructed village, circa 1350. During the 70's there were plans afoot to place a car park upon a site known as castle field. This was to service the newly made lakes and conservation area that had been formed on the site of an old quarry. While clearing the field it was discovered that just below the surface lie the foundations of a building.
Enter GGAT (Glamorgan and Gwent Archaeological Trust). They went about excavating the site and soon found that many more buildings lay about the area.
William and Pip
The first building to be reconstructed was the byre. Initially this was nothing more than an experiment by the archaeologists. Rebuilding the structure upon the foundation. Using the evidence in existence at to how it probably would have looked. Evidently, this was such a success that in time we were to see a small village emerge.
The birth of Cosmeston as we know it.
This village, for the last 20 years has been a site of special interest. It has provided the Vale with a worthy tourist attraction. It has also run a very successful and worthwhile educational tool to schools from as far away as France and America.
It has been staffed by both paid staff and volunteers for many years. Providing informative tours in a first person capacity while costumed in authentic clothing. It really is a gem! Is it viewed as the jewel in the Vale's crown?
It is not!

Although it is a wonder to behold. Staging popular history themed evens through out the year. Populated by staff, actors and re enactors from every walk of life. Ranging from babes in arms to elderly enthusiasts. Providing a wealth of knowledge and amusement to the public.  It now seems that it is time to close the chapter.

 It is believed that the council can no longer fund the site, due to council cut backs. Declaring it is run at a deficit. It has been decided that it is time to change the face of the village.

The village itself will still be there. However, there will be no costumed guides, no rare breed animals and no events.

The two managers who have worked tirelessly on the project for over 20 and 30 years respectively are finding their jobs are among those being cut. The 20 strong staff are being informed their services are no longer required. Subsiquently, the village will become free to the public to enter and view to their hearts content.
However, they will no longer be able to participate in a vibrant taste of the fourteenth century. Experiencing the sights sounds and, yes reader, scents of the bygone era.
noisy calls
The cottages will no longer swell with the sound of laughter and no one will bid you a "Good day madam or a Bless you sir" as you cross the hearths of these inspired reconstructions.
There will be no fluffy chicks or ducklings to lighten the hearts of youngsters and ruffty tuffty gents alike.
There will be no opportunity for a shy school child to throw the pig an apple, and see her ambling along with snuffles and grunts of gratitude for her tasty treat. Last but not least, no more gambolling lambs come March and April. Heck, even the passing walker will miss this sight, surely?

Let me tell you a story of how important this village can be.
During my time as a guide I had the pleasure of escorting an enthusiastic primary school group about the village. I always enjoyed touring the "littlies". Taking just as much joy from the experience as the children themselves. Teaching them about our rich heritage, along with a large and hearty dollop of laughter. During this particular tour, I led the children through role play. Acting out a manorial court. Of course, as the conclusion neared it became obvious the villainous gossip would find herself in the pillory.  I encouraged the children to shout out and act as if they were boisterous village children. Well one young lady (who had not left her teaches side all lesson) screamed the loudest. A picture of sheer joy at being involved.
During the tour she had been eager to answer a few questions, but when given the opportunity, she hid her face in her teacher's arms. The other children seemed to cope with this young girls evident crippling shyness and compensated by giving the answers she wanted with a nod from her.
When she cried out I noticed the teacher wiping away a few tears and a grin as large as the youngster's. I thought little of it.
After I had escorted the group out of the village and bid them "farewell and God speed", the teacher caught my eye and asked for a "word".
I must confess I wondered what it was that I had done wrong.
I was then told that this special little girl was an elective mute. She had not uttered a single sound of her own volition in 5 years. Until that day!
I would like to say it was my doing. I am, however, aware that in her own or any other familiar environment there is no way I would have coaxed a single squeak from her. It was the village and it's magic that had done this for her.

This, dear reader is what we stand to loose.

I have never really been one to begin to rock the boat. Certainly, I am apt to voice my opinions over wrong doing and poor ethics if I fell it is necessary.
I seem to have found my voice in this instance.
There will be a peaceful march from local one council office to another next week. I am, as yet, unaware if I will be able to attend.
I am, however, co ordinating it from my pc.
I have started a facebook petition that will be delivered alongside and existing petition signed by locals.
I don't expect it to make the council change their minds.
However, maybe there can be some sort of compromise so this gem and resource is not lost forever.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Phytotherapy laws...

I am currently sitting the final part of my phytotherapy diploma. Once this is complete I will be legally allowed to peddle my knowledge to my hearts content. No doubt there are the dubious among us that don't believe anything can be changed with a fist full of greenery. Well, more fool you!
Phytotherapy or Herbalism, even herbology. It's all the same horse in different pyjamas. It has been around since the first cave man realised his tummy felt better after a meal or infusion of mint. That same wise cave man may also have found his wife was more receptive if she had nibbled on some feverfew, and her headache was miraculously banished. The famed herbals are countless and invaluable. So to all you doubters I thumb my nose at you and say “ner ner na ner ner”
Herbalism has been passed from mother to daughter, from practitioner to apprentice even swapped between neighbours for a millennia. It has kept people from the brink of death. It has made simple country maids more alluring to the hunky blacksmith. It has been a household essential.
Then comes the sting. The modern world has decided it cannot be practised in a “hedge witch” manner. You need a qualification to practise. A diploma will suit! or so I thought.
So years of study, one phytotherapy diploma, one clinical phytotherapy diploma and countless other complimentary essentials. I am on the right track.
Wrong! After all this study “they”, whoever “they” are, have decided that this will no longer be enough come May.
It is not a simple matter of nipping off to the local uni and signing the next 3 years away. I have my two delicious cubs to raise. My wonderful DD to care for and be cared about. I have a gaggle of loopy chickens that need my daily attentions. And a garden I plan to thoroughly enjoy.
There is a serious lack of complimentary therapy correspondence courses out there. Granted any sort of therapeutic course needs a substantial amount of clinic hours to be able to feel competent. The courses I have undertaken take this on board.
So the options are.
  1. don't peddle herbs (well that's not likely is it dear reader?)
  2. move the entire family to Scotland or London to go to university (hardly fair on team duck!)
  3. enrol with the University of east London and commute to London for 500 clinic hours. (on reflection 500 hours over 3 years is not too bad)

Well it seems option three is the way forward. Despite my having spent the last couple of years studying I now have to start from scratch for a Phytotherapy BSc. This seems to encompass the majority of the diplomas I have already done, but places them all under one umbrella.
Still it would be nice to have BSc after my name rather than simply Sac Dip.(it sounds so wrong)
Perhaps over the year to come I can do a doctorate in botany or some such thing. Just imagine Dr Nelly!

It's a good job I love the subject. All together now, deep breath. Ahhhhhhh, herbs!
*wanders off to channel the spirit of Culpeper*

A desk sized sewing kit.

1.  Take one jar. Remove the lid and attempt to cut the middle out of it.
2.  Use all the utensils in the kitchen that you may think will do the job.
3.  Discover they won't.
4.  Almost remove the pads of your finger and thumb on the metal.
5.  Shout up the stairs "Nothing, everything is fine", when DD enquires about the banging and swearing.
6.  Finally carve the hole by using the rusty blade of an old waiter's friend.
7.  Use a sharp pair of scissors to "tidy" the edges.
8.  Bleed into the sink a bit.
9.  Swear and curse as you utilise every housewives trick to try to remove the sticky glue from the glass jar.
10. Decant mint sauce into the washed jar and use the mint sauce jar instead because it has a nice paper label that is easy to remove.
11.  Clean up the blobs of mint sauce from the kitchen counter.
12.  Hunt down some nice fabric.
13.  Pick off the bits of fleece/unspun silk that linger in the bottom of the sewing basket.
14.  Sniff to check it doesn't smell of manky old sheep.
15.  Draw around the lid on to some stiff card.
16.  Do it again.
17.  And again.
18.  Cut out the circle and place it upon the fabric.
19.  Cut roughly around the card placed upon the fabric.
20.  Do it again because it is too small.
21.  Place cotton wool balls in the middle of the fabric scrap.
22.  Place the board on top of the cotton wool.
23.  Glue the fabric around the edges.
24.  Staple the fabric around the edges because the glue isn't sticking.
25.  Push the padded circle into the lid ring.
26.  Realise you didn't account for the extra width of the fabric and staples.
27.  Cut a smaller circle and repeat actions 19-25 leaving out action 23.
28.  Glue some contrasting cord around the edge to make it "pretty".
29.  Hunt down some sewing essentials.
30.  Drop pins into DD's electrical gizmos and hope you don't all explode.
31.  Screw the top back on and enjoy you handy work.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

An Unexpected Award

I have kindly been given the Versatile Blogger Award recently by elf sufficient and would like to pass on the love.

1. I would like to introduce you all to the Kirby Family  via their fun and informative blog. They are some of the world truely good people.
2. I also enjoy reading and indulging in my love of all things earthy and herbal at By Earth Root and Flower
3. I couldn't pass up an oportunity to show you all my beloved DD's Blog now could I?
4. And last but by no means least I have recently been reading the blog of a friend who shares not just a name but an ethic for a way of life. NorthernMonkeyGirl's blog.
5. And last but not least. A recent blog I have looked at and follow is from The barefoot gardener. A person after my own heart.

Things about me.
1. I am studying phytotherapy, reflexology, aromatherapy and massage.
2. I read between 3-6 books a week.
3. I am named after my Great Grandmother Nelly Bladen.
4. An apple never falls far from the tree. I am the daughter of a Derbyshire man and fell head over heals with a Derbyshire lad. (While living in Wales)

Dickens' Chickens and the Great Escape.

*an escape tunnel?
As the weather has warmed up the egg laying committee seems to be forming itself into a Dickensesque criminal gang. They seem to be taking on the persona of a stereotypical Victorian underclass. I must say, they have gone about the garden in a most efficient way. Turning a lush, verdant jungle of naturalism into the slums of a the criminal underbelly.
They have successfully prevented any regrowth of grass and the ducks have enjoyed making the garden path into a thick swamp. Perhaps if you listen carefully at night you can hear the cries of Able Magwich? Struggling in the mire of the once, clean and functional garden path.
In good time shovels and brushes will be deployed, and it will be restored to it's former glory. Then it will be covered in fetching pea shingle. Just right for bare tootsies. But, for now, the gang can enjoy the haven of scratchability they have bestowed upon the grounds for just a little longer.
Due to this lack of green stuff they have spent a week or so gazing through the fence with desire dripping from every feather. Next-door's unsullied lawn taunting them with it's fresh growth. Clearly, the cabbage, sprouts, lettuce, broccoli, and other sundry good they are presented with is unacceptable. They will deign to present us with regular eggs but we do not, at any point, feel the look of longing is for the benefit of anything other than our own guilt. Surely if they look at it long enough we will put in a small chicken sized gate to allow them access to such superior pasture?
Well, they have given up waiting! Late at night they gathered around the brazier outside the egloo. Warming their wings and listening intently to the master plan.
Pecky has assumed the roll of Fagin. She is, and always will be the leader of this motley crew. Commanding her minions to do her bidding. Egging on Poppy to mob DD as he kindly takes their feed down to the feeding station. Taking advantage of Poppy's placid nature. Clearly the Nancy of Pecky's rabble of Molls. She is a sweet bird, never any trouble and always clean and tidy. She never seems to get into any scrapes and shares her food with the smaller girls.
"They willl never expect you to come flying onto the bowl and scatter the grain far and wide while they are carrying it. Then they are silly enough to refill them! Two meals for the price of one!"
Violet and Rosie are being instructed in the ways of the street urchin.
"Look cute girls! You know the silly male food provider cannot resit letting you hitch a ride upon his shoulder. Make sure you come running to his feet in an endearing way. Fluff your feathers and take on the cuddleablitiy of a loved and cherished bear. Then, when you have gained his confidence, check his pockets! There may be tasty treats within. Utilise the shoulder ride. I feel sure one of these days you will find grain in his ears. Be thorough!. Rest assure, he is soft hearted and will think it is a friendly nuzzle" 
Then there are Snowbell and Gwynn. The hardened ladies of the night. Selling their favours to any passing crow, for the right price. Tail feathers in the air and a confident swagger.
 I am sure that they are saying "'ere lovey, Fancy a good time? Just one fist of grain will take you halfway to heaven" I wonder if I check their privet hidy hole I will find the tools of their trade? lipstick, perfume and white stilettos?
Of course there is Darcy to contend with. Ever on the scene, "protecting" his girls. Come too close or ruffle a few feathers and he will fix you with his steely eye.
"One false move, mister and I'll cut ya!" He has attempted to enlist Georgie Pup as "Bullseye" but she just doesn't cut the mustard as the ferocious hound.
Enter the Ducks, stage left. Our ever present, ever pious missionaries. Sent into to slums to "improve the souls" of the underbelly and low lives.
They have little interest in the Garden of Eden next-door. As if they know it can only lead one astray and into the path of evil. They try to show the chickens the error of their ways. They are clearly leading by example. Splashing in the puddles and making mud pies is a far more wholesome activity. "My dears, look not to greener pastures. Have joy in the mud the lord has provide."
Yesterday saw The Plan come to fruition. They Have dug their tunnel and found a path to Eden. You could observe them scratching at the lawn and shuffling their feel. Distributing the soil dug from the tunnel about the garden. The Human Beans will never suspect a thing.

Then came the knock at the door. "Your Cockerel is in the garden"

So, I hotfooted it into the garden next door to retrieve Darcy.  Imagine my inner smirk at the "towny" as I chased down Gwynn. I feel certain being thought of as a lad will do her trade no good. What self respecting crow would want a dalliance with a transsexual chicken?
We played around and around the garden for a good few minutes until she decided her home turf was the place to be. Silly bird. I now observed the escape tunnel and went about blocking it up. Grasping her firmly I lobbed her back over the fence. She shook herself off and all too soon returned to Eden. This time taking Poppy, Darcy and Snowbell with her.
This time it was Teenbeast and DD who did the honours. I had been excused due to a booking of Taxi of Mum. 
Upon my return from Boglin's horse riding lesson I asked DD why he had so many scratches. Through gritted teeth he said "they got out again"
The breech is now blocked sufficiently by DD and all secret alternative routes have been hunted down and blocked.
The one joy in all this was the donating of the two eggs laid in Eden. Happy neighbours. I only hope the next eggs the consume from the committee comes via a glut not an adventure.
* not one of our birds, but this photo struck a chord.

Do Children Sleep in Grow Bags?

My adorable cubs.
Today's job de jour is to clean out the temporary holding cell of Cubbage Clothing (the boiler cupboard). Sort the clothing into piles that fit and piles that don't. Then to Re-file in a more appropriate place.

I no longer feel that a stack of freshly laundered clothing is improved any by having a boiler drip onto them. I did briefly entertain the idea of cutting out the middle man. No longer putting them through the washing machine, and further reducing the energy bills by making the Cubs sit in there, fully clothed. They could have a wash and clean their rancid school uniforms at the same time.
However, I felt this was a little too akin to Chinese water torture and prefer to come up with my own ingenious ways of tormenting the kids.
I am finding that being a member of the PTA and just turning up at their schools is quite sufficient to cause maximum embarrassment to them and elicit cries of "Oh Mum! how could you?" I have attempted to blink out of existence at a moments notice. All in the spirit of saving them the soul crushing humiliation of admitting they were born of man but I just don't seem to have made much of a success of it as yet. *note to self, Must Try Harder*
They are currently missing in action (at their Dad's).
So I have thought this would be a fine opportunity to go through their possessions and remove any that I, as a responsible despot deem surplus to requirement.

I always find it a harrowing experience. Entering the lair of the Teenbeast is not to be taken lightly. You will find an array of pants and socks that could either save humanity from cancer or wipe out the national debt. (let's face it after a bubonic like episode the country would have less mouths to feed). There are the tangled bedclothes that seem to show he was wrestling with inner daemons during his sleeping hours. I ask you, dear reader, why is he incapable of keeping a fitted sheet on a mattress? Does if offend him in some way and he has to wrest from it's anchoring corners to be flung aside?
However, I shall do my duty as dotting Mummykins and reassemble his carnage and find a space to store his darling, precious garments. (What will be left of them after the refiling! mwahahah)

Next up will be the Abode of the Boglin Princess. Why is it that small girls permanently smell of biscuits? I may take on an experiment to feed her just cabbage in the weeks to come, and see if the slightly damp, vanilla scent diminishes slightly. I also have puzzled, over the years where all the glitter comes from. After a just ten minutes in her company you will go about your business, only to be told that you have a fleck of glitter upon your person. Where does it come from? Does she sweat glitter? Maybe it is an essential part of Boglin hair? Her barnet is often so boglinesque that I swear a mouse is in residence. Perhaps he is a Disco mouse and adorns his downy fur with multi coloured glitter for his disco nights?
Dear Boglin has a large array of garments. She is a fashionista extraordinaire and could wear a different outfit everyday of the year without having to use the same garment twice. However, around 80% of this wardrobe of delights is now far too small. It was only a couple of month ago I culled the Boglin's wardrobe, and yet here I am again.
I am aware she has a hearty appetite. I do wonder if she is allowed to eat as many servings of lunch at school as she does here. If so do they have an outside caterer just to fill her needs? Or are all the other children shadowy waifs, who have the grey pallid faces of the underfed. Sitting at her feet, begging for scraps from her plate, as she has once more eaten the whole kitchen out of food?
Despite her healthy and hearty appetite, I hasten to add, that I have seen more fat on a sparrow's knee cap. She is still clinging to the delicious shape of a small girl, although age is creeping in and turning her into a teen! She may eat for Britain but she has a the balanced diet nutritionists around the world applaud. She loves fresh fruit and veg and can easily put away as much as any full grown man.
If she is enjoying such a healthy and fulfilling diet it has to be going somewhere. She sure as hell is not overweight in any sense. She is a beautiful image of an eleven year old girl. The only thing that can be done to accommodate this consumption of good home cooking can be height. Ergo, this must be the answer.
With good health among children comes good growth. My two are certainly taking this as the rule.
In conclusion, they do not sleep in grow bags. They have a good and healthy diet!
NB. I may have to raise the door frames to stop them bumping their heads within the next year or so.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow......

our glorious view.
Here at the tinyholding we have been waiting with bated breath for the snow to reach us. It seemed like everyone and their dog had snow except us. We just had ice and drizzle.
Late yesterday afternoon if finally happened. The Somme has turned into a winter wonderland. Crisp white and pure. Not a sludgy puddle in sight. It's simply beautiful. Our spectacular view now sports acres of blue sky over acres of white field. It makes you blink in it's brightness. The view cannot fail to be breath-taking but extremes of weather make it more so.

The tinyholding cubs have had a marvellous time. Snowball fights happened (Poor DD got in the way and found himself a target). They built a snowy shutter over the front window to make it look like we were trapped inside from the living room. Steamy jacket potatoes were requested. Hands rewarmed under cool water.  Soggy gloves, jeans and socks steaming gently on the bathroom floor (for the laundry fairy to pick up of course).

However, the egg laying committee are not so enthralled. As usual the naughty ducks met us at the back door for breakfast but we had to go and hunt down the chickens after they had been let out.
Darcy was the first out. Obviously doing the macho "I'll see if this white stuff is safe, ladies!" fluff, fluff, strut!
Then followed Snowbell. After all nothing a silly as this white stuff will keep her from the choicest picks of breakfast. Maggie saunters out second. The baby of the bunch this is her first snow. She lifted one foot after the other like a cat on a hot tin roof. The others followed suit, slowly but surely. Eyeing the ground with suspicion.
All bar the two banties, Rosie and Violet, seemed to be tucking in. Fearing the worst DD went to investigate. He had nothing to worry about. Passing Rosie on the path after she had plucked up the courage. DD gazed into the coop. There sat Violet. Her feathers fluffed. If she could she would flap her wings about her in a chilly arm flapping way. She eyed DD and seemed to convey, "Brrr. Do you think I'm stupid enough to go out there? Bring me my breakfast Jeeves, and be quick about it!"
She finally decided to give it up as a lost cause and went to get her own.
Wandering barefoot back down the path. DD stopped to give Rosie a stroke and tickle her neck. She almost climbed him. She made it quite clear that his arms was where she was supposed to be. After all, he was warm, up of the ground and willing! He obliged and picked her up. Gave her the obligatory cuddle and tried to put her down. She was not having it! In his arms was clearly the place to be and that is where she wanted to stay, thank you very much. After doing the "get the chicken off me" dance she finally found herself back in the snow. I'm sure she gave him a *look*
Well, they had better get used to it, because it seems it's in for a while. Personally I'm quite happy with it. However, I don't have to go anywhere. No doubt after a week or so I will feel the same lack of patience as the birds. But for now...
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.....

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Tearing Down the Walls.

Here, at the Tinyholding DIY is a constant on going process. Think, painting the forth bridge and you will be along the right lines. Our latest undertaking is to tame and beautify the dining room.
Up until this point it has merely been a functional space. It was where we stacked the recycling, ate our meals and journeyed through to reach the kitchen and bathroom.
Well, no longer. It is now officially a building site.
We started by stripping the walls. Not just of wall paper, my friends. Oh no! Here at the Tinyholding we like to do things in style. After removing a few feet of the god awful "old lady" wallpaper it was clear that the 100 year old plaster had given up the ghost. It no longer provided a suitable base to adhere wallpaper to. It was now being held in place by layer upon layer of hideous patterns. Stripping it away was an interesting excavation of the last 50 years of DIY fashion. To be honest, I doubt the good taste of those that have gone before.
Interestingly, we discovered that there had been a cupboard in existence at some time over history. We unearthed the original lintel over the fireplace. Found the "interesting" evidence of other DIY'ers handy work. Most importantly, we have found that the plaster and wallpaper was holding the bottom stair in place.
DD, himself undertook the dusty job of removing the plaster. Inch by inch he removed the offending substance. Inch by inch we covered the house in a thick layer of dust.
There was dust upon every surface. All the trinkets and ornaments around the house had left an imprint of where they lived. Ever the poor cat, Slinky, was dusty. Wandering out from her hidy-hole, she looked like she was coated with years of dust. Showing a close liking to a feline version of Miss Haversham. We were almost expecting her to start quoting about her lost love and asking for Pip and Estella.

The next stage was to plaster the walls. Or so we thought. As it turns out the walls are in such bad shape, the most economical and achievable method was to board the walls. Cue much muttering, measuring and cutting from both DD and his Dad. The boards themselves weigh a ton, and having to move them about has proved to be a challenge in itself. We have had the rather frightening moment when DD almost found himself flattened, pancake like beneath a pile of them. Nesty came rushing to his aid, shouting "come quick, DD is being crushed to death!!!!!!!!!"
Huck, certainly came into his own at this juncture. Flexing his muscles he embarked upon a rescue plan. I felt myself very clearly and defiantly directed by the men of the household in operation "save DD"
For my own part, I was the supplier of both minced tarts and port (after all Christmas was on the horizon).
I spent my time cleaning up the layer of dust (I even dusted the appliance vents) and making cranberry sauce (see recipes).
To date, the building site still stands. The rather wonderful furniture is in residence but the walls/floor are yet to be completed.
Painting the fourth bridge? You bet!

*stay tuned to see updates*