Friday, 29 October 2010

A weekend away, drawing fun and plans for the week

Walsall Arboretum
brilliant sunshine and dark clouds and Autumn colours

Taking advantage of the half term holidays, we visited the grandparents this weekend, knowing that on our return we didn't need to be up for school this morning.

We had a lovely rest, although Alex and I never sleep so well when there but still a nice visit. Imogen systematically goes through all the play things she has there and you really know she has arrived after a short while ... leaving a trail of toys everywhere before moving on to something new.

We spent Saturday afternoon at Walsall Arboretum and park, which we thought would be lovely after a sunny morning but yes the clouds arrived as we did. So we sheltered in the downpours and came out with the sunshine, and we did go prepared with an old towel to dry the slide!

On the see saw with Grandad
Walking the ropes

A lot of the weekend was spent drawing, Imogen is really getting detailed in her drawings these days, her attention to things is very good. I'm going to scan or photograph a few for a picture post soon I think, she's so into her drawings at the moment.

Back to the South, sunny morning (this was Monday - took me all week to actually post this) after a long lay in which was lovely. Quiet day of reading, drawing and a film on the tv. Other things planned for the week ahead include visits to libraries, going to "Meet the Author" events locally to "meet" Axel Scheffler and Emily Gravett (all looking forward to these), and a trip to the cinema. Lots of fresh air, fun and some relaxation, my kind of week. More on the rest of the week soon (it's been soooo good!) ............

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Seasonal felting and other delights

Autumn lady collecting the harvest

An autumn lady has arrived on the Season corner with her basket of chestnuts, and is proudly watching over the pumpkin harvest.

Autumn lady

What a lovely way to spend some spare time on these darkening evenings. I have now made two more basic figures ready for Winter projects - a little swap for a lovely lady and a commission for another lovely lady, more to do. I think I'm in the mood for lots more felting for a while.

Other pumpkin delights -
Imogen's carvings

At the weekend we had our allotment pumpkin day which was lovely and successful. Imogen carved the pumpkin above - a face and a bat she drew on the pumpkin and then carved with little help. A beautiful sunny day, typical that the only rain shower we had was at the event and a good downpour at that, leaving us with this lovely rainbow as we packed up to go home early evening.
Rainbow at the allotment

Other Autumn delights greeting us lately are the numerous spider webs, like these on our Bay plant and the car. There was a thread between two cars that were a good 6-8 feet apart too - just a pity it was not easy to photograph, couldn't believe a spider had managed that one.

Autumn Spiders at work

Thursday, 14 October 2010


Just because I think this is lovely ...

Autumn Leaves

Come little leaves said the wind one day
Come over the meadows with me and play
Put on your dresses of red and gold
Summer is gone and the days grow cold
Soon the leaves heard the wind's loud call
Down they fell fluttering one and all
Over the brown fields they danced and flew
Singing the soft little songs they knew
Dancing and flying the little leaves went
Winter had called them and they were content
Soon fast asleep in their earthy beds
The snow laid a white blanket over their heads

~ George Cooper

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

It's Autumn on our Season corner ...

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower
~Albert Camus

I'm not one for changing the season corner a soon as the season changes, but I do get around to it eventually. It really is Autumn now, although the glorious sunshine and temperatures in the 20's again recently make one wonder. But it is here, the evenings are getting darker, the mornings are bright, crisp and "smell fresh" as Imogen likes to put it.

We've squirrelled acorns, acorn hats, conkers (horse chestnuts), sweet chestnuts and other autumn delights. The leaves are falling (although slowly) and turning all the beautiful shades of Autumn.

So here are a few of our nature finds, along with a small pumpkin grown by us (we have larger ones to eat and store), a knitted pumpkin I made a few evenings ago. I have also added some needle felted acorns with real acorn hats and a needle felted pumpkin made recently.

Real pumpkin, knitted pumpkin, felted pumpkin;
knitted and felted acorns

Mother Earth is there with the root children returning to their beds for the months ahead, before Spring returns. Another of my needle felting creations embraces the corner with her rainbow as we see many rainbows in the autumn months.

Mother Earth and the root children
Autumn Rainbow lady


I will now be working on some Winter needle felted treasures for the Season Corner and for swap gifts too ... many ideas, just need to start creating.

What about the Allotment?

For someone who likes to grow vegetables and work on the garden and allotment, my blog has been severely lacking in posts hasn't it?

This year has been a challenge keeping on top of everything for us, with other commitments taking up our time that would normally be spent at the allotment. Coupled with the weather - late Spring, cold Spring then sudden hot and dry late Spring and Summer; the plants and us have just struggled to keep ahead.

There have been successes. Our Broad Beans and Garlic planted in Autumn last year did very well and large harvests nourished us and replenished our stocks of stored food at home. We continued to pick much Chard, Cavalo Nero and Kale (all from last year that overwintered well). until the hot days meant they bolted and were replaced with newly sown plants this year.

Our numerous tomato plants did well, providing many tomatoes and now the green ones that won't ripen now will be used to make chutney. We've had salad and herb leaves aplenty. Beetroot have again performed well, still many in the ground to pick. Our fruit trees and plants haven't disappointed either, even the one in the garden survived the Squirrels this year - far too many for them to nick all of them.

Disappointingly our runner beans got hit early with blackfly and the heat/lack of rainfall (as last year) and took a long tome to recover. We have had some good pickings in the last month or so, especially the delicious Borlotti beans. We've picked pumpkins and still have some to cut from the plants, but I won't mention the lack of courgettes!

So onto the planning for next year. Alex has changed jobs and doesn't work the long hours he used to, plus he works close to home - he can now walk to work - so hopes to have more free time to spend at the allotment. He's put in some hours recently to get it into shape, creating more bed space, and recycling/composting/burning unwanted stuff. With Imogen at school I may get time to spend up there a little more until I return to the workplace part-time in the future. Imogen loves to go to the allotment and help, but sometimes last year she was either unwell or the weather was too wet/damp or too hot (talk about extremes) for her to be out there helping.

We have a lot of seed still of the things we want to grow, some bought, some saved; we will need to remedy some beds that need some more support and organic matter, green manure seed is scattered and well-rotted manure will be spread.

It's a great time of year to reflect on your veg growing, and start planning, and planting for the months ahead. Broad Beans are in, Peas and Garlic are going in soon. Cavalo Nero and Kale are in and doing well, so should keep us in good supply for the Winter and Spring months.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Great day out ... and I met Toby

Southampton Allotment and Gardens Association stand
(photo taken towards end of day - couldn't get it all in before as it was always so busy!)

We had a lovely day yesterday at the Hampshire Pumpkin festival I wrote about in my last post. Alex went early to set up the allotment association stand, providing details of the allotments and gardening, and selling wares made from things grown by members.

walking and dancing to the park

They had a great day, when Imogen and I arrived about an hour after it opened their stall was heaving with customers.
Busy stall selling soup, cakes, jams, chutneys, etc

anyone for soup?

Alex was serving the pumpkin soup (from a 45kg pumpkin! - above) we spent most of Friday making, along with a mini roll that I had been making the dough for all week, freezing and then baking on Friday evening. We reckoned that we had made enough for 200-250 servings, and another member made some for probably about 50 servings. It was all sold by about 4pm which was fantastic. The cakes made by the two ladies running the stall with Alex sold out within 2 hours, and the jams, chutneys and preserves sold well too with them only taking home a small amount compared to what they brought with them. Taking out costs, and a 10% donation of takings to the Jubilee Sailing Trust, they made over £500 for the association, more than they ever have anywhere else.
Imogen on the Jungle Run

A good time was had by us all, Imogen and I went around the show for a while, we saw some familiar faces, Imogen made a scarecrow at the Scrapstore stall where we saw a good friend from school so I chatted a while to her Mommy and Nanny (who used to live 4 doors away from our house when she was a little girl). Imogen had some fun on the Jungle Run bouncy castle.

Pumpkins on parade
Pumpkins being weighed

We then watched as they weighed the big pumpkins ... and they were big. Unfortunately the Paton brothers didn't break the World Record, but did break the British one with a whopping 1504lb pumpkin!
The winning 1504lb pumpkin - New British Record

The scoreboard
Toby at the weighing of the pumpkins

Toby Buckland (of Gardeners World fame) was there with a pumpkin grown at their garden - 244lb, and he later walked past me 3 or 4 times as they were filming random shots of him walking through the show, which on the 4th time I was almost laughing and he said hello to us. He then came around to a stand next to ours - Well Seasoned - a new venture promoting seasonal food, nice people. Alex asked Toby if he would have his photo taken with our scarecrow so we were introduced and shook hands and got a pretty good photograph.

Toby and our scarecrow "Sydney"

Imogen had a lovely day running around, marvelling at the pumpkins, drawing, crafting and dancing in her costume which we had some lovely comments about from customers at the stall and people around the show.

Dancing in her costume

Friday, 8 October 2010

Hampshire Pumpkin festival

Last night Alex diligently sat and cut up, de-seeded and peeled a 45kg pumpkin (not the one in the picture above - that was a 1000lb+ one from last years show!) ready to be made into pumpkin soup for the Hampshire Pumpkin Festival being held tomorrow at Royal Victoria Country Park in Netley, Hampshire. He will be there representing the local Allotment and Gardens Association along with some other members who have lots of baked goodies for sale too, some pumpkin based. Imogen will no doubt play her part too as she was very good at helping to sell their wares at the annual show in August.

The festival is in it's 12th year and promises an "afternoon of Autumnal fun for all the family with pumpkins taking centre stage. Pumpkin food of all kinds, bbq, Pumpkin Olympic games, Big Draw art activities, storytelling, all kinds of stalls and art and craft activities. Make a Scarecrow & bring to our Scarecrow Avenue. Tex Mex band ’Snakeoil’ and Southampton Ukelele Jam to entertain you plus dancing".

"Celebrity guests include children’s author Helen Cooper reading from her award-winning books Pumpkin Soup and Pipkin of Pepper as well as BBC Gardeners World presenter Toby Buckland who are bringing along one of the Gardeners World grown pumpkins for the weigh off".

The festival costs £1.50 for adults and 50p for children with proceeds going to the Jubilee Sailing Trust charity which offers sailing opportunities for both able-bodied and disabled people. A really worthy charity.

Last year the winners were the Paton brothers who have been growing big pumpkins for competitions since they were 13 years old, and have taken their pumpkins around the World. They hold the British record for the heaviest pumpkin and are this year aiming to break the World Record. They were on the local news last night estimating the weight of their largest one. They are bringing 3 to the show - all weighing well over 1000lbs!

last years winning pumpkin

If you are in the area, this is a great afternoon out. It's a lovely park too with mini-railway, pebble beach, parkland and plenty of areas to walk. We were there last year in glorious sunshine, which looks to be repeating itself this year, and had a lovely time looking at all the giant pumpkins and some other veg, taking part in some crafts, listening to music, watching dancing, etc.

Looking forward to a lovely afternoon out, Imogen and I have drawn and coloured in some pumpkin faces, spider webs, etc to decorate the stand and will no doubt dress up for the occasion.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Proud moments ...

I feel I just have to share this. As some of you may already know, Imogen pretty much self taught herself to read about 10 months ago. She only looks for clarification of a word sometimes, but has usually worked it out herself anyway. It was just after Christmas last year after playing with a little girl aged 6 in the library who sat and read a book to her. Imogen then wanted to read one to the other girl so announced she is going to learn to read and asked me to find a book that would help her. We picked up a couple of early reading books that day, looked at how to form the words and away she went ... and never looked back.

Her reading abilities are now really good, she is able to read books well above what most people would expect of a just 5 year old. She puts feeling and inflection into the reading too, and her comprehension is brilliant. She's never been pushed or coerced into reading, she never will be by us or school, she can be proud of herself for achieving this herself; and I'm damned proud of her achievement too.

So moving on, she started year R at school recently, and there was a parents group meeting about what they will do in the year, and about reading and key words for the year. They are a very forward thinking school - no pressure on reading for those who cannot, but they will have one-to-one reading time with the teacher where she will read to them. I sat through this meeting thinking "Yes, but what about competent readers?" but felt that was a question for me to ask the teacher on my own rather than in the group, as most of the children aren't reading yet. So I parked the thoughts, and thought I'd wait until they started to bring home books for reading with the parents.

That day came this week, on Tuesday there was a book in her back to take home. Now this is when I had an interesting conversation with her teacher who came over to me as we picked the children up after school. Her first words were "Can I just talk to you about Imogen's reading? She's phenomenal isn't she?". Well of course I agreed, because her reading is for a 5 year old. We had in a previous meeting mentioned that Imogen can read herself so they knew that, and she was introduced to this on her very first day when her laptop wasn't working and Imogen told her it's because it says there "No Signal", and also read other things around the school. (Note to teacher: careful what you leave lying around that little girls might read!).

She went on to say how they sat together today to read a book and Imogen said I can read that, and did. The teacher thought this was "fantastic". She commented on her knowledge of words and use of letter sounds was "amazing", and then went onto say that Imogen probably won't have one of the key words pouches that the children also take home to familiarise themselves with words (if they want to) as Imogen knew all the Year R ones, and most likely the Year 1 & 2 too! A challenge for them to see what they can do there, especially as Imogen can quite confidently work out most words even big ones, and is better at pronouncing dinosaur names than me.

So there was a book for her, a higher level one which is well within her capabilities but they are starting there to get to know her abilities, and if she becomes bored of these they will get books from higher years for her. The other thing that she mentioned was that if all they can offer is reading practice, then they will look at introducing fun to it and find fun ways to help her learn things like expression in stories and punctuation.

So very very proud that my little girls efforts to teach herself something all those months ago, still inspires her to want to read everything (even the subtitles go on the TV when she watches it, so she can read along); and so very pleased the school have recognised this so early without me going to them first and have a positive approach to it rather than leaving her to just get on and read by herself (a concern I might have had). To have your daughter described as "phenomenal", "fantastic" and "amazing" warms the heart immensely.

Just so very very proud of Imogen anyway, her love for books knows no bounds, she loves to read with us, loves to still be read to also, and long may that love of both books and learning continue. Many, many more reasons to feel proud of her, and very lucky to have such a wonderful loving child to share life with (she has her moments - who doesn't?).