Saturday 31 July 2010

Friday 30 July 2010


Back in June, when I went to the Wealden Times Midsummer Fair, I bought a bar of 'Moroccan Mint' soap from Bohemia and Flower. All their soap is handmade in small batches using organic ingredients, then wrapped in brown paper stamped with their logo. Simple and stylish.

I swing between using a bar of soap in the shower, or Dr Bronner's liquid soap in eucalyptus. I like natural herby scents, though I usually find peppermint too strong. The moroccan mint soap uses spearmint essential oil, not peppermint, and is fresh and invigorating without being overpowering. I love it. Their soap base uses organic coconut, sunflower and olive oils, and they don't use palm oil which is a huge plus in my book.

As my bar slowly disappeared with use, I knew I would replace it. My three new bars will keep me going for a while. Bohemia and Flower's online shop has just launched, so you can try some for yourself.

Sunday 25 July 2010


I've been thinking and drifting over the last week. My week on the farm gave me a little nudge. I really loved being in the middle of the countryside, with space all around, and no neighbours over the garden wall. Don't misunderstand me, I'm lucky to have lovely neighbours, but when you live in a terrace as I do, silence is sometimes hard to find.

The things I really miss are the peace and quiet, total darkness at night (not a streetlight in sight!) and nature and the farm animals right there outside the door. I could also walk from the farm up on to the moor, without seeing a soul, without needing the car. I loved that. I also loved the work that goes hand in hand with the animals. Of course, when you dip your toe into someone else's life, the grass is always greener. I'm not under any illusions that this is an easy life. But it did remind me that I have slowly become more sedentary than I care to admit, and it grates. Since I started blogging, I certainly spend many more hours hunched over the computer than is good for me. I need to change that before middle-age spread sets in!

The horses and ponies were all out at grass, so apart from checking them daily, topping up their water and giving them hay where necessary, I just had to keep an eye on them. I'm very comfortable around horses - I was lucky enough to have my own pony from the age of about ten, right through until I left home. My Mum was a passionate rider, so it was a given that my sisters and I would ride too (some more enthusiastically than others!). Our stables were half a mile from home, and I had to 'do' my pony morning and evening, rain or shine, every day. I used to go to the stables on my way to school, and end up with the faint whiff of manure lingering on my school uniform for the rest of the day. That conjures up a memory or two!

I was always wary of the geese - never turning my back on them, and only entering their pen with stick in hand. They always seemed rather threatening, and definitely worth respecting. The chickens and ducks were a breeze in comparison. And the eggs. Who can resist a clutch of fresh eggs?

Walter loved the freedom and all the space. He had his mate, Bluejay (above) to play endless games of chase and tumble with, and then there were the kittens, whom he was very wary of. He was appalled when one of them started playing with his tail! Several people commented in my last post on the little jack russell - she's called Slipper and is about twelve years old, and she has her own armchair for a bed.

If you'd like to read a little more about the farm, which is run along sustainable principles and is powered entirely by its own wind turbine, see here, where Lisa blogs occasionally. There's also a beautiful small eco-cottage, Nancy's House, available to rent, if you want a taste of the good life.

This week reminded me of my dream to live out of town, and that one day I will achieve this. I can't afford to move yet, but I will in the future. One day. It's good to have dreams. I also need to appreciate and make better use of what I already have. A little gratitude goes a long way.

Sunday 18 July 2010

in pictures

My week of farm sitting has drawn to a close, though I think I'd rather still be looking after my animal friends. Here's the first snapshot of my week:

A few thoughts to come in another post about my experiences over the last week....

Thanks to everyone who took part in the book giveaway. It's lovely to see faces old and new leaving a comment. My winner (thanks to the random generator) is number one - Silverpebble! Emma, it will be in the post this week.

Tuesday 13 July 2010

paper patterns

One of the treasures I came home with after my recent family visit was a box of old stamps. Given to me by my father, some of them date back to the forties, maybe earlier - I've not had a chance to go through them thoroughly. There are some wonderful images, illustrations and designs from all over the world. It's no secret that I love a good stamp, so this collection is a real treat. I have a few ideas about how to use them - they certainly won't be stuck in an album, I'm not in to conventional stamp collecting.

Virtually all the stamps are torn or cut off the corners of envelopes. If you turn them over, you can see the many different designs that were used for security and air mail envelopes back in the forties and fifties. They're quite different from the modern variety, which are quite bold and graphic. These patterns feel softer and less defined.

There aren't any larger pieces of paper which are usable, sadly.

* * *

On another note, I'm farm-sitting for some friends this week, over on the north coast. It's good to be out of town for a bit (though I'm back home during the day for work). I have a menagerie of animals to keep an eye on, and in some cases feed and water....cows, horses, a shetland pony, two dogs, two kittens, chickens, ducks and geese. I'm a little frightened of the geese, but feeling braver each day! I also have the bonus of free helpings from the enormous veg garden.

I'll draw the book winner on sunday, when I'm home again properly, so if you'd like to join in, there's still time.

Sunday 4 July 2010

from the garden

Dahlia Rip City

My dahlias are starting to flower, and much as I love the colour in the garden, I love it even more in the house. Usually just a single stem in a simple vase. This flower head is the biggest 'Rip City' I've ever seen. It's taken about five days to slowly unfurl and show off its deep red velvety petals. I brought it inside yesterday, in the hope that a little more consistent warmth would do the trick. Nearly there.

Friday 2 July 2010

giving away a favourite book

One of my most treasured and well-thumbed books is Derek Jarman's Garden. Do you know it? It's a delight, recording how the late film-maker and artist Derek Jarman created his garden at Prospect Cottage on the shingle at Dungeness, Kent, in the shadow of the nuclear power station. Dungeness can be a bleak and inhospitable place, and provides a challenge for any gardener.

Jarman tells the tale of how the garden evolved over the years, beginning in 1986, and ending in the last year of his life (1994). He incorporated many indigenous plants, and others he introduced himself, along with driftwood sculptures, rusty old tools and discarded objects. He also used many hagstones (thank you Emma for introducing me to that word!) in his sculptures. I've always found Dungeness to be the best place for finding hagstones. With a little patience and searching I can usually find a handful or two.

The stunning photography is by Howard Sooley. A mix of vibrant colour shots and black and white give the book a quiet sense of place and manage to portray the desolate beauty of the shingle garden perfectly. The narrative mixes poetry and prose, drawing you into the tale so that the pages turn effortlessly from one to the other.

Today I was lucky enough to find a near-perfect copy in my local Oxfam going for a song. I couldn't resist it, and thought one of you might like it?

Leave a comment, and I'll draw a name in ten days or so..... I'm going to restrict this to uk post only, it's not the lightest of books!