Monday, September 26, 2016

Did they know it was the last day of summer?

Last Wednesday I had trouble getting to work.

On the whole my journey is predictable. I’ll exchange a few pleasantries with the chickens, I’ll tut at the weeds in the gravel, poke my nose into the garage to see the swallow family lined up on the rafters and finally make a diversion into the greenhouse to water my aubergines. 

It’s about fifty paces from house to studio but yesterday the unexpected congestion had me distracted all morning. 


It was the noise that stopped me in my tracks. In addition to our resident family, a huge gulp (what a lovely collective noun) of swallows were congregated around the telephone wire chattering feverishly. Like a group of over excited school children on a day out it was impossible to do an accurate headcount but there must have been forty or fifty.

A migratory stop over?

Restless. Swooping, diving, pausing briefly then taking off for another loop over the birch trees. 
How do they know when to migrate? A subtle change in the weather?

The only three birds that remained calm were our fledgling lodgers. They sat plump, content and open beaked while mother raced around preparing breakfast for them. Shoulders still slightly downy, they cut a fuzzy outline against the morning light. 

The fevered assembly debated for a couple of hours... passport? money? toothbrush? tickets? and then as quickly as they had arrived, they were gone. 
Covering up to two hundred miles a day they're probably half way down France, drawn by the warmth, en route for South Africa... but hopefully with a return ticket to Britain, dated April 2017, tucked safely into their pocket.

Just one family remained for a couple more days. I guess mother wanted her youngsters to streamline those shoulder pads before they set off on their long journey south.

(Sadly for one bird the journey's over. And I don't even think the cat was responsible, it just chose the wrong route… through the closed garage window.)

Friday, September 9, 2016

To Do or not To Do

It’s a real tonic to put aside the ‘to do’ list once in a while, and take the time to enjoy what someone else has ‘done’. 

With this in mind we visited Somerleyton Hall a couple of weeks ago. Beautiful brick boundary walls, tree lined driveway, fat herbaceous borders, drifts of meadow flowers, clipped yew and picture perfect courtyards. 




The air of tranquility belied the phenomenal amount of effort required to sustain such an inspiring garden.
Until I poked my nose into the cordoned-off greenhouse.
Charmingly dilapidated, I had found the heartbeat of the garden in the unravelled hose, the upturned seed trays and bags of compost... 

...it was the palpable birthplace of those magnificent borders.

So what's on my 'to do' list this weekend? 
Get into the greenhouse and sow some biennials.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Late August


 Morning,


noon, 


and night.
The combine's hum,
draws the harvest home.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Fish on the menu

"Summer cooking implies a sense of immediacy, a capacity to capture the essence of the fleeting moment." 
Elizabeth David

Pop to Aldeburgh first thing in the morning and you’ll see damp fishing boats parked on the pebbly beach next to small black huts advertising the day’s catch. Almost still flapping, silvery skins glistening you literally “won’t find anything fresher”, to borrow a chalked up phrase.

 Know your fishes...
"Plaice, sole and haddock join the crustacea as some of the month's best eating. Sea bass is a rare delicacy, steamed whole for a surprisingly short time." Jeremy Round

Friday, July 29, 2016

Always dress appropriately


Just back from two weeks in Japan where I learned a lot about bicycle etiquette.
Knitted armlets and fingerless gloves will prevent the forearms from being scorched in the midday sun.
Never leave the house without a hat and remember to adjust a floppy brim to ensure good visibility.
Lipstick to match your bike frame indicates thoughtful attention to detail.
Dismount at a busy crossing and be careful to not get your chiffon skirt caught in the spokes.
Hand covers come in all manner of designs, faux lace can add a touch of elegance to your profile.
A loose shirt allows for some air circulation in a sultry climate.
If you must read a text, (or find a Pokemon) mid-journey, stop and place one foot on the ground for stability.
Brolly for shade, brolly for rain, always carry a brolly.

(P.S. Potential fine 50,000 Yen however!)














Thursday, July 28, 2016

High summer

Been catching each of my new roses as they come into bloom. I will treasure 2016 as the summer of anticipation… especially for the one mystery rose that got separated from its label… really had to restrain myself from prising open a bud!
Just space on the page left for Madame Alfred Carriere which has kindly waited until my return from holiday.
Clockwise from top, Rosa pomifera, Rose de Rescht, Gertrude Jeykll, Buff Beauty, Rhapsody in Blue, Tuscany superb.




Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Garden maths

 I've been busy "adding" to my rose border.


Take an old paintbrush and a pot of black paint


and some old hoe heads that have been waiting for their moment of glory...

Friday, July 1, 2016

Suffolk skies

With Wimbledon fortnight well under way, what better excuse to relax and enjoy some changeable weather!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Fleeting flowers

After days of heavy showers I’m resigned that my irises are over for another year. They do not die gracefully. Rather than scattering faded petals on the whim of the breeze, each bloom coils into a slimy knot and then slowly atrophies. I will enjoy tidying up the spent stalks. 



A couple of weeks ago, while they still looked good I spent a glorious day painting outside... and I wasn’t the only one enjoying the warmth of summer on my back. 
Nearby, the chickens were so spreadeagled in the sun they looked as though they had been spatchcocked ready for the barbecue. Wings fanned and bodies sprawled, the only clue they were still alive was the sound of gentle communal purring. 

Now that’s what I call happy hens!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Open Farm Sunday

Last weekend we took advantage of Open Farm Sunday to go and have a poke around the local Kenton Hall Estate; a multi generational farm with with an inspiring enthusiasm for diversity which includes not only arable, beef and pigs but also wedding venue, glamping and cookery school! 

No wellies necessary, the weather was perfect; the tractors had been scrubbed up, lawns cut, there were teeny piglets to make us ooh and ahh, and magnificent Longhorn cattle with their suckling calves. Of course in the food tent there was also home reared ham to nibble, outstanding beef to savour and tasty bacon to bring home. 



There were dozens of local food producers, all rightly fanatical about their artisan wares. Breads, sauces, cakes, honey, and superb Baron Bigod brie, hand made from raw milk.
I had already met this young man from Fen Farm Dairy at a food festival last year... I just loved the way he cradled his brie with a tenderness normally reserved for new born babies!