Seems I am still a long way away from having any grandchildren (well that suits me – I am far too young to be a granny?!) but I do have the most beautiful little Grand-dog… here he is just after he arrived at my daughter’s home over the Jubilee weekend.
His name is Mouse… which is probably taken from the fact that he was definitely the smallest in the litter and even now only weighs about half that of his brothers and sisters. He was part of an enormous litter – 11 puppies in total – 9 girls and 2 boys!
There is also a dog named Mouse in the series of Harry Dresden books by Jim Butcher which Richard has just been reading – but we are putting that down to complete co-incidence!
We went to meet Mouse on the Sunday of the Jubilee weekend and he was adorable. We took Welly with us – all part of the socialisation programme! Mouse thought Welly was an excellent toy, bit his ears, his bottom and would have had a try for his nose just to make him play. However Welly, elder statesman that he is at 10, looked at the puppy much as an elderly bachelor would regard a newborn baby, looks of scorn and slight fear!
Well, we adored him and look forward to seeing him grow into a beautiful Golden Retriever just like his mother – a wonderful family dog – we can’t wait to see him again!
All my herbs are growing like mad now and I hate wasting them, so am always looking for ways of
using them. These two hair treatments are lovely – it’s so nice to produce your own natural products – and they’re really easy to make!
Parsley Hair Tonic
Parsley stimulates the scalp and gets the circulation going, which aids hair growth and adds shine.
You will need:
1 large handful of parsley sprigs
2 tbsp water
1. Place the parsley springs and water in a food processor
2. Process until ground to a smooth purée. Apply the green lotion to the scalp, then wrap your head in a warm towel and leave for about an hour before shampooing as normal.
Lemon Verbena Hair Rinse
Add a delicious fragrance to your hair with this rinse. It will also stimulate the pores and circulation. Lemon verbena is worth growing in the Garden, if only so that you can walk past and pick a wonderful scented leaf.
You will need:
I handful of lemon verbena leaves
250ml/8fl oz boiling water
1. Pour the boiling water over the lemon verbena leaves and leave for at least an hour.
2. Strain the mixture and discard the leaves. Pour this rinse over your hair after conditioning.
It’s been so warm this past week I was determined to set foot on the beach at least once! I adore beachcombing – it’s relaxing, therapeutic, invigorating and just plain old fun!
Finding pretty shells is an obvious attraction, but some of the plant life is fascinating. Sea holly, beloved of many flower arrangers, looks stunning in its natural setting, alongside grasses and samphire and other weird and wonderful looking things that I don’t even know the name of.
Thrift is another favourite – such a cheerful little plant – I really look forward to seeing it every year – but goodness knows how it manages to grow in such barren rocky areas.
I love the colour palette of the seashore, and I’ve used it for inspiration when decorating – restful and cool blues and greeny-greys alongside pale blonde sand. But there can be vibrancy too, as in the thrift and in startling yellow/orange lichens. We are blessed with turquoise blue seas down here and that is a wonderful colour to use as a starting point for any water-themed project.
On my recent beachcomb, I picked up a spider crab shell. The detail in both colour and texture is extraordinary. I’ve no idea what I’ll do with it, but I’ll store it away for future use!
The flavour of elderflower has become popular once again. Historically, the cordial has a strong Victorian heritage, however versions of an elderflower cordial recipe can be traced back as far as Roman times.
Elderflower is just starting to come out now and the flowerheads are best collected fresh and new when the tiny buds have just opened and come to bloom before the fragrance is tainted with bitterness. Make sure you shake the elderflowers to expel any lingering insects before you use them!
This recipe produces one of the most delicious drinks ever concocted. Many people prefer it to French champagne because of its light and refreshing taste. Lovely for a warm summer’s evening…
To make about 5 litres, or 8.5 pints
You will need:
750g/1¾ lb caster sugar
475ml/16fl oz hot water
4 large fresh elderflower heads
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
Juice and pared rind of a lemon
4 litres/7 pints water
1. Mix the sugar with the hot water. Pour the mixture into a large glass or plastic container. Add all the remaining ingredients. Stir well, cover and leave for about 5 days.
2. Strain off the liquid into sterilized screw-top bottles (glass or plastic). Leave for a further week or so. Serve very cold with slivers of lemon rind.
Buying an old property often means you get rather more than you bargained for… and I don’t just mean dry rot, woodworm and a leaky roof – I mean resident wildlife!
I hadn’t been living at Victoria Farm long when a chap knocked on the front door and politely told me I had bats! A bat enthusiast who lived in the village, he had seen bats going in and out of an attic in one the old farm buildings we have here.
So, he came along one evening with his bat detector/counter, sat in the dusk watching a hole up in the gable end of the building and then, having checked up in the attic, told us we were the proud ‘owners’ of a lesser horseshoe bat nursery roost! I know, not the sort of thing you get told every day, but there you are, that’s rural living!
The bat gets its name from its horseshoe-shaped nose. It is one of the world’s smallest bats, weighing only about 8 grams, with a wingspan up to 25 cm and a body length of about 4cm – so less than 2 inches – really tiny!
Bats are protected and cannot be disturbed. Luckily for us, the attic has always been unused and their roost is no inconvenience at all. We respect their space, keep the access free of vegetation, and they get on and do what mummy bats do.
Contrary to what you might think, they don’t make a lot of mess. As they eat only insects their droppings are fine and powdery – we call it ‘bat dust’.
Over the 27-odd years I’ve lived here now, the colony has grown and, at the last count, had around 140 little bats in it. If we sit outside on a warm summer’s evening, you can see them flitting about and flying off down the valley but, other than that, we are not aware of them.
The colony is made up of breeding mothers and their young. Females give birth to one pup weighing less than 2 grams at birth. The bats are only with us for three months each year – June, July and August – so I expect any day now, they will start arriving, finding their place in the roof and settling down to give birth and rear their young. The mothers, and their daughters, will then return to the roost next year and so the cycle continues…
Sadly, lesser horseshoe bats are in decline due things such as the disturbance of roosts, changes in agricultural practices and the loss of suitable foraging habitats. Well, be assured – no-one is going to disturb our bats – long may they thrive!