24 October 2014


I listened to a programme on the radio this week.  I was driving at the time so only half listening distracted by the road and a car full of chattering children.  The programme was discussing the impact of telephone exchanges on the lives of young working women, there were interviews with women who had worked as operators, many of these operators went on to marry engineers who worked in the same buildings at this point I tuned in and turned the volume up!  One of my grandmothers was an operator the man she married, my grandfather, was an engineer.*

A while ago I read about Prayer Shawls.  I had seen them mentioned on many a blog post and had mistakenly assumed they were made to be worn in church to keep you warm, many churches in my country are cool/cold all year round.  A prayer shawl is usually made as a gift to be given to a friend or person in need. Knitted and interwoven with your thoughts for the recipient in mind

Last year a friend of mine had a tough year, she struggled to keep it together and at the beginning of the year I felt a strong desire to make her a special gift.  I don't  manage to see her that often but wanted her to know that she was in my thoughts.  I cast on a shawl in January and slowly knitting the rows often in between other projects with deadlines.  The pattern was chosen specifically for her, not one I would have ordinarily have knitted, there was lots of lace which is not my favourite.  As I knit each stitch, each row it was woven with my thoughts for her and her future.  It is not very big as I expected it to be, despite blocking, I do hope she likes it.

My grandmother was a knitter, she wanted to teach me as a teenage but I wasn't interested, if I could turn back the clock............. She made me many things including a jumper for my eighteenth birthday.  I still have it.  A traditional aran jumper which I wear every autumn/winter.  I got it out of the back of my wardrobe last weekend to air it, in anticipation of the colder weather this week.

I always have a small light knitting project on the go, something portable which I can take anywhere. It's a great conversation starter!  I was knitting at a recent home ed meet up and some members of the group came over to watch and ask about what I was doing.  I was using dpn's which not everyone has seen or come across.  Somehow myself and another mum ended up setting up a monthly knitting group in our local independent bookshop, a knit and natter with a difference.

The web of life is intricate.  It takes you on a journey that is sometimes unexpected, but usually exciting.  Linking the past with the present and the future. It is keeping my memories of my wonderful grandparents alive.


*They didn't meet like this, but through their shared loved of dancing.


Project notes here

22 October 2014


...is for Xylem...

...the tubes in a tree which transport water from the roots to the leaves.  The water travels by two methods, transpirational pull through negative pressure that pulls the water from the roots and soil or by root pressure, water traveling by osmosis (a difference in pressure) into the root from the soil  creating a positive pressure that forces liquid up the xylem.  As the water evaporates from the leaves more is drawn up through the tree to replace it.  These tubes only live for one year, new xylem are grown each year from the cambium, a layer of tissue between the inner bark (phloem) and the xylem.  As the tree grows the inner rings of xylem become the heartwood, the outer rings the sapwood.  

The dead xylem is visible as the rings of a tree when it is cut down.

Joining in with the Alphabet Photography Project

20 October 2014


...this week of...

...happiness a wonderful walk with the children, time with friends, a quiet week, knitting and sewing time

...sadness the behaviour of a child which has crossed a line from exuberance to intent and another child getting hurt in the process, but its the mothers reaction that has made me sad, the child has no boundaries and cannot deal with all his power and control

...creating a hat, my first appliqué, lists for packing, lists of food, a few rows on a scarf

...reading The Secret Life of Trees by Colin Tudge, to the children  The Hut-Man's Book by G.D. Fisher and these picture books* you can read a short review of them here, 257. We Gather Together by Wendy Pfeffer, 258. Christopher's Harvest Time by Elsa Beskow.

...learning about the water table, groundwater and aquifers, rhythm, spiders, Central American cultures, Sukkot and Judaism

...thinking about a friend of mine whose Husband is very ill

...wondering about a day out being organised in December and whether we should go 

...hoping I can get all the preparation to go away sorted in time

...looking forward to a Canoe expedition we are starting on Saturday

17 October 2014

Our days....

One of the things I most often get asked as a home educator is what does a typical day look like.  I find this incredibly difficult to answer as I suspect most of us would if asked the same question.  I have often said that to an outsider it might look like we are not doing very much, most of our days are probably similar to how you might spend a weekend (if you have children that is).  I also suspect that they are waiting to hear how we do our lessons and mentally ticking off the various subjects as I mention them.  We don't do any teaching in this house something that I know is hard for people who are not home educating to comprehend, most of us have learnt in a school and that is all we know about education.  It is a radical idea to throw out the lessons, the teaching and let learning happen, it feels like you are stepping into a big void that has the potential to swallow you up and then spit you out saying now that was a daft idea.  In order to understand, or at least comprehend, where I am coming from all your preconceived notions of education need to put to one side, to deschool yourself, difficult I know I have done it too. I do do some preparation, as a framework for the day to ensure it has a good flow to it.  I have read on blogs of other home educators what a day in their house looks like, they have kept track of everything their children have done in a day.  It is something I have been meaning to do for a long time, just out of interest I did this for one day this week.....

...the day started as it sometimes does with breakfast.  I get up before the children and use that time to prepare myself for the day.  I lay the table with all the things they need for breakfast, they help themselves and then clear it away.  Sometimes they eat their breakfast first thing, sometimes a hour or so after they have woken up.  My eldest (E for the rest of this post) did this my youngest (Y for rest of this post) decided to do some colouring first.  Whilst they were both engaged in this we had a conversation about the Robin Hood story, what the various characters may or may not have done and whether it was true, a myth or possibly based on some truths which moved us onto the game of Chinese Whispers a game which is difficult to play with three but we had a go anyway with interesting results, I started with my head hurts, which ended up with no egg yurts!

The house was looking a bit like a whirlwind had been through it so we all spend a bit of time tidying up and putting away, until we could actually see a few surfaces again.  By this time Y had had breakfast and they had both got dressed something that doesn't always happen quite so early in the day, often they get dressed to have lunch.  If we are going out in the afternoon I usually insist they get dressed early on, if we are at home all day I am less bothered.  Having tidied up they then decided to play with the lego in E's bedroom building little objects and playing with the mini figures.  At some point Y wandered downstairs with a Where's Wally? book and looked at it on the sofa.  E followed soon after and sat at his desk playing with a spinning top and watching how it spun, he then attempted to spin it on a slopping surface playing around with the angle and the material, he also tried moving a piece of paper under the spinning top whilst it was spinning, successfully.  A sword fight took place next, with lots of fair play and negotiation about what was going to happen next, how injuries were being managed and other imaginary sword fighters also engaged in the 'battle'.  We had a bit of screen time next with Y watching a few programmes of Nina and the Neurons on CBeebies and E playing a couple of online games and reading a bit more on Tank Encyclopedia.  

We have been practicing the concepts rhythm and beat, last week we listened to lots of different music and played a drum to the beat of each, this week we listened to some poetry and beat a drum to it doing so loudly and quietly I also read out some poems that I had chosen from a wonderful poetry book Rhythm Rhymes (published in the 1960s and now out of print I would expect).  Doing this short activity for a couple of weeks has done wonders for my children's sense of rhythm and beat they can 'hear' it in the music they listen to and I hope if they do play music together they will find their sense of time too.  Next week I think we will either do some conducting the beat and working with playing quietly and loudly or we will move onto some singing and finding our voice.  It was great that when we had finished our rhythm activity they put some music on, danced around to it (in time - hurrah) and played drums.

Whilst I was preparing our lunch, leek and potato soup, they carried on dancing and drumming interspersed with a bit of drawing on paper and on the blackboard we have in our dining room.  At some point they drifted upstairs (leaving me to listen to their music - that happens a lot) and played with lego again acting out dramas with their mini figures.  Lunch was eaten and we sat and shared a chapter of The Hutman's Book about the Moors and a poem Meg Merrilies by John Keats.  If we have lunch at home we always finish our meal with a chapter from our shared book and a poem which I choose related either to the story/book we are reading or the time of year.  On Tuesday which is our 'nature' day we also have chapter from a book Come our of Doors by C.D. Dimsdale which details what nature is up to for each week of the year.  I have tried various ways to share stories and poetry with them and this is what works for us.  I started with the story and then slowly added the other elements.  I know some people start the day with this but my children were not interested then, now it has become an important part of our meals at home together and it finishes our morning too.  If we are going out for the afternoon we will do so after lunch is cleared away.

The day I recorded all that we did, we would usually go out to a friends for the afternoon, for play and singing.  It was cancelled this week so we were at home for the afternoon too.  We played two games immediately after lunch, Home Builders and Winter both co-operative games and firm favourites here.  E really struggles with losing so I bought Winter for him one Christmas and it was a really good move he much prefers these games to ones which have a winner.  We have four of these games now.  It is great that we can now all play these together as Y is old enough to engage in the discussion and be part of the game.

Earlier in the day, when the children realised that singing was not going to happen, Y expressed an interest in walking up the village to the park in the afternoon, as it was dry we decided we would go out for a short time.  I also wanted to pop into the garden centre in the village, it is just a small one but it does sell most things you need, I was after some spring bulbs and hoped they would have some.  Sadly they don't stock them I shall have to go elsewhere.  As we were walking up the village we played I spy with colours and talked about how you could drive a car when you couldn't walk.  They played on the park equipment and we all played tig until we were exhausted and set off home playing I spy and talking about what makes a sentence.

It was tea making time when we got home so whilst I got on with that the children headed upstairs to play with playmobil creating a campsite with a cafe.  Over tea E told us funny jokes and we talked about numbers, adding them together and taking them away, what the biggest number is and how we imagine numbers in our heads.  I shared lots of books with Y after tea, reading them together on the sofa, Y listened in and read some of his own too.  Then it was time for a bath and bed, ending the day, as always, with my settling each child in bed and asking them what was their favourite part of the day.  At this point I go to bed too, settling down to read my book until my eyes will not stay open anymore.

The rest of the week we had more writing and drawing, more lego and playmobil playing, more reading books together, more interesting conversations about a huge variety of topics, a den built played in and then carefully packed away together (not all on the same day), a walk in a local wood and spotting three red squirrels, a day out at forest school, baking biscuits, planting spring bulbs (yes I did find some), more dancing to music.  This is the ebb and flow of our days.

It was interesting that I posted earlier in the week about science, I was pondering whether we needed more in our week and then look what happens when I write it down.........

15 October 2014


...is for Waterfall...

...I could sit and watch them for hours, the wonder of nature.  This one is Aira Force, a 65ft drop on Aira Beck, which is surrounded by the most beautiful woodland.  If you are ever in the area do pay it a visit, especially if it has been raining recently (it makes the waterfall more spectacular).  The name comes from Old  Norse, eyrr is a gravel bank, á a river, at the point this river meets Ullswater (a lake) there is a gravel bank.  The Force part of the name is from fors, waterfall.  The waterfall on the gravel bank river.

Joining in with the Alphabet Photography Project

13 October 2014


...this week of...

...happiness spending my birthday in the woods in the sunshine, catching up with some friends we hadn't seen for months, making bread together

...sadness at what is happening in the Middle East

...creating rows on a scarf, rows on a hat, birthday cake, apple butter and chutney

...reading The Secret Life of Trees by Colin Tudge, to the children  The Hut-Man's Book by G.D. Fisher and these picture books* you can read a short review of them here, 248. I Love You by Giles Andreae, 249. Maudie and Bear by Jan Omerod, 250. It's Not Fairy by Ros Asquith, 251. I Love you Just the Way you Are by Tammi Salzano, 252. The Princess who had no Kingdom by Ursula Jones, 253. A Lion in the Meadow by Margaret Mahy, 254. My Own Special Way by Mithaa al Khayyat, 255. A Rainbow Shopping Day by Vivian French, 256. Noah's Ark by Georgie Adams

...learning about rhythm, buddhism, hedgehogs, birds, trees

...thinking about sewing projects 

...wondering about how and whether to fit some science into our learning

...hoping to sow some Spring bulbs in the garden this week

...looking forward to a quieter week

10 October 2014


I spent some time earlier this year researching festivals and noting their dates.  If they fit in with what else we are doing then we observe them.  It was the Autumn Equinox last month and as I was reading about it I was struck by the similarity of what the author suggests to do at this time of year and what we are already doing in our own lives which I do through my own experiences with my mother and grandmother.

While the summer speaks to me of being outside as much as possible enjoying its warm envelope and long days, the autumn is about readiness and preparation.  Preparing for the cold times ahead when the home is the heart of our lives and where we are wrapped in warmth. Preparation of food for consumption in the wanter and early spring by preserving it so that it keeps.  In the part of the world we live the growing season has a beginning and end, defined by the seasons, we are not able to grow enough food to live on all year round.  Often at the end of our growing season we have a glut of produce most of which would not keep unless it is eaten straight away or preserving it, allowing us to eat our produce for longer.  There are many ways that good can be preserved, using tried and tested recipes or, with much trepidation, new ones often you have to leave whatever you have made for a few months before eating it is a long time to wait to see if a recipe has worked!


We are lucky enough to have the space for a chest freezer.  It is in our garage and is model that is designed to be located in an unheated space.  It is usually quite full at this time of year and I am getting better at organising it, although you wouldn't think it when you open the lid.  One item we have in abundance in there is frozen fruit.  We are not big jam eaters so if we have a lot of fruit either from the garden, foraged for or given to us I usually freeze it in the first instance and use it up over the following months.  Last year I froze over 20lbs of fruit, this year I suspect it is the same I have yet to add it all up.  I use this fruit to make puddings and cakes mostly but I am going to make more fruit leathers with it this winter, experimenting with different flavours!

I have also been making and freezing soup.  We eat a lot of soup in the winter and they make a great addition to a picnic.  It is always handy to have some on standby..............I have been using courgettes and cucumbers from the garden.  The courgettes have been made into this recipe frozen before the cheese is added.  The cucumbers using this recipe given to me by a friend:

Cucumber Soup
1 cucumber
1 bulb fennel
1 onion or 6 shallots or several spring onions
1 pint vegetable stock
Pinch cayenne
1 tbsp parsley chopped

Chop onion and slice fennel, fry in butter.  Slice cucumber and add with stock and cayenne to pan.  Simmer until fennel is soft.  Blend and add parsley.  I omit the parsley if I am freezing and add when I have reheated.


I grew gherkins for the first time this year.  They were moderately successful and I would grow them again.  They didn't fruit as much as the cucumbers but I think that may be down to neglect on my part, they weren't getting as much water for a start.  The gherkins that did grow were large, I expect that if you want to have a mass of smaller fruits, like the sort you buy, you need to tend to the plant more and pick the fruits more.  The few I did pick at a smaller size had gone mouldy by the time I had enough to fill a jar.  I think I need to learn more about growing gherkins before trying again.  Undaunted I decided to pickle the large ones I had by chopping them into pieces and using a recipe I adapted from Festivals, Family and Food:

Dill Pickles
Pickling Spices
2 Tablespoons Salt
1 fluid oz White Wine Vinegar
2 pints water bought to the boil
Jar - clean and sterilised

Wash and scrub the gherkins, slice into pieces.  I chopped mine into bite size pieces, some slices are whole, some halved, some quartered.  In the bottom of the jar sprinkle some dill and about 1/2 teaspoon of the pickling spices.  Add the gherkin pieces until jar is almost full.  Place a bit more dill on top.  Mix together the salt, vinegar and water to make a brine and pour into jar whilst it is still hot. Store for three months before eating, I hope they taste good!

I have pickled onions for years, I remember doing this each year with my mother making a huge batch as my family loved these.  I have grown pickling onions in the past but I don't find the sets for sale that often round my way, I often end up buying the onions to pickle.  I grew onions this year and about half of them were very small, I know that you are supposed to use pickling onions for pickling (they have a slightly milder flavour) but I thought I would pickle my tiny ones.  Although I have been pickling for years I have yet to share my recipe:

Pickled Onions
Pickling Spices
White Wine or Malt Vinegar
Jars - clean and sterilised

Peel onions and put in a big bowl.  Make a wet brine with 50g salt to each pint of cold water.  Pour the brine over the onions placing a plate and a weight on top to ensure that all the onions remain in the brine.  Leave for the desired amount of time, 24 hours will give you crisp onions (my preference) you can leave for up to 48 hours depending on how crisp you like them.  Meanwhile prepare the vinegar with a teaspoon to a tablespoon (we prefer the latter) of pickling spices to each pint of vinegar.  You can place the spices in a muslin bag or strain them out at the end, either way put them in pan with the vinegar and boil steadily for 15 minutes, leave to cool.  I usually find that 3lbs of onions needs 1 pint of vinegar.  Drain and rinse very thoroughly.  Put the onions into your jar(s) and pour the cool vinegar over, seal down and leave for three months.

I have made one jar with my own onions and will buy some more pickling onions to make some more, we eat a lot of pickled onions in our house!

I have also pickled cucumbers using this recipe.


We have once again made rosehip syrup this year, using rosehips picked in a friends garden.  They are supposed to taste better after a frost, sweeter apparently.  I made mine before the frost, just, I should have waited as we had a very heavy one this week!  I froze my berries before I made the syrup  which has the same effect as a frost, apparently............I have been enjoying this on my porridge each morning.

Fruit Leather

I first made fruit leather last year it took me a while to get the temperature and times right for my oven.  So do persevere if they don't work at first they are well worth it!  I had only made them using apples so I tried blackcurrants this time, cooking them with a little honey into a puree.  I strained them through a sieve to get rid of the pips, spread them out onto the baking tray and cooked/dried in oven.  They were really good although a little sharp I might use a touch more honey next time.  I have a freezer full of fruit so am going to experiment with a few other fruits and combinations..........

I still have a few more cucumbers that need attention, probably into pickles.  Sadly the apples orchard that we usually go and pick apples in yielded a poor crop this year only enough for a weeks worth of eating apples.  This means I was not able to freeze apples as I usually do or make apple chutney and apple butter.  I will just have to find another source of apples for this year!

Do you do any preserving?  Do you have any recipes to share.............