Week ten: lazy days

So here we are at the end of week ten, and we’ve survived half term. Actually, it’s been lovely: the weather continues to be glorious, and we have taken advantage of the slight easing of lockdown rules to go on a couple of socially distanced walks with a neighbour and her daughters. Her twin girls fall between Things 2 and 3, and in normal circumstances at this time of year the kids would be in and out of each others’ houses all day making up dance routines (or TikTok-ing, this year), splashing in the pools and bouncing on trampolines. It’s been lovely seeing them back together while we grown ups put the world to rights. The best fun was when we walked through the woods to a brilliant rope swing where we spent a good hour jumping off over a stream bed before following the meanders back to the path home.

Following the path through the woods

Rope swings have been a bit of a feature of our exercise this week – we also visited one in Gernon Bushes, near Coopersale, which has been there for years and which someone has kindly fixed a seat to this year! The first time I went on it I faceplanted spectacularly as I forgot to let go….

This route took us through what’s known locally as the rhododendron path – it borders the Gaynes Park estate, and while they did a lot of clearance last year they have left this beautiful section on the way to the motorway bridge. The bushes are several metres high in places, and dense with flowers as you can see. We brought a cutting home at the children’s request to see if we can grow one for the garden.

Things 1 – 3 on the rhododendron path

As I type this morning I am recovering from my long walk of the week – solo today, and covering 8.5 miles. I was hoping for 10, but it was getting hot and I was getting hungry so I took the quick way home instead of retracing my steps! I picked up the Essex Way on the edge of the woods and then followed that to the outskirts of Ongar, past St Andrew’s at Greensted – the oldest wooden church in the world, and very pretty. I love this route as it follows the green lanes with very little road in this stretch. I hope to walk the whole of the Essex Way to celebrate my significant birthday in a couple of years – I have covered the stretch from Epping to Willingale while training for the Shine Marathon last year, and would love to do the rest over a few weekends.

The devil is in the detail…

This week’s making has been very small scale, unlike my walks! Apart from a bit of crochet in the queue for the chemist and the Co-op (the virus shawl has become my queuing project!) and whipping up a couple more pairs of MBJM Four Seasons shorts from some remnants of jersey and stretch denim, it’s all been about the cross stitch.

Four Seasons shorts – so comfortable!

Thing 3 and I tried some cyanotype printing with some garden plants, with moderate success – we enjoyed watching the paper change colour and developing the prints in water. I think we need to find an acrylic sheet to hold the plants down flat while they develop so we don’t lose definition in the middle.

Cyanotype printing

Thing 2 and I have been baking – this week we made soft pretzels, cinnamon rolls and Hummingbird Bakery chocolate cupcakes with coffee icing from the Cake Days book. All very unhealthy but so delicious. Baking is Thing 2’s happy activity – she does love to cook, and with 16kg of flour to get through it’s nice to have alternatives to bread. We used cinnamon sugar on the pretzels instead of salt, I recommend this as a great breakfast. I also insisted on raisins in my cinnamon rolls.

Cinnamon rolls

And here’s my cross stitch update – there’s still a few gaps in this section, but it’s almost finished. The cross stitching technique, with its capacity for detailed colour changes, really captures the pointillist style of Seurat’s painting – looks better from a distance!

Centre top panel of Sunday Afternoon on the Island

What’s growing this week?

The garden is lovely – the roses are heavenly, and while out walking the blasts of elderflower and honeysuckle are blissful. The garden is full of bees (especially when my beloved discovered a bumble bee nest under a raised bed) and they are loving the lupins, lavender, cotoneaster and the mass of foxgloves that have seeded this year. I spent some time yesterday cutting back periwinkle and mahonia to give my hollyhocks a chance for some sun, and cutting hawthorn shoots away from my physalis plants which have self-seeded beautifully so I should have a good show of ‘lanterns’ this year. Strawberries are ripening every day, and its so decadent to be able to pick and eat them warm from the sun – the raspberry canes are blossoming too, so with any luck we’ll get a good crop. Home grown lettuces have been the basis of this week’s salads, and I think we’ll have fresh peas with dinner tonight.

Honeysuckle in the garden winding round a dead buddleia tree

The hedgerows and fields are producing new flowers as well – I spotted my first bindweed of the year on my walk this morning, some beautiful escaped sweet peas, mallow and grass vetch.

One of the most lovely flowers this week has been the poppy – the Oriental one in the garden is still in bud, but the fields are splashed with red and this rubble pile at the local farm is covered with them. I love the way they almost glow in the early morning sun. You’ll also spot the farm cat and – not a flower – a fledgling magpie who let me take a photo of him before he flew off. Unlike the green woodpecker, who squawked indignantly at me and flew off across the field!

That’s it from me for the week – I’m posting early today so I can sit in the sunshine this afternoon! Term starts back tomorrow, much to the Horde’s disgust, although Thing 1 now only has to do GCSE subjects and Things 2 and 3 are on a four day week.

I’ll leave you with an image of a baby blue tit we found on the ground while out walking – no, I didn’t bring this baby home with me! Feeding a baby mouse with milk is one thing, but I draw the line at smooshing up worms. He was a noisy little chap, shouting away at us and demanding food – I made Thing 2 put him back as close to the nest as we could.

Hungry baby blue tit

Hope your week was as good as mine! One of my favourite moments was a comment about last week’s post that said reading it was like taking a holiday in someone else’s life. Thanks Olivia! Olivia is one of the museum world’s treasures, with her wonderful stories, so this was high praise indeed.

See you at the end of week 11…

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Still on Jilly Cooper, sorry… the doings of Rupert Campbell-Black and co are much more interesting than the current omnishambles of real life.

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