Creative freedom

I overdid it last Saturday in my “current condition” when I was weeding out the big veg plot, so had to opt for something a little less physical on Sunday to pass the time. So for the first time in about 10 years I picked up some pastels I found in the cupboard and did a few sketches.

My first attempt at a blue tit sketch was going well until I bungled the feet… smudging out and trying to redraw just resulted in some big black oversized blobs.

Blue tit sketch by Lucy

So I tried again, this time with another one of my favourite British garden birds, a wren. Was more pleased with this one. More surprised than anything that I could still pick up a drawing medium, make some marks, and create something that resembles something else.. that’s actually recognisable.

Wren sketch by Lucy
One thing I’ve realised is that I really, really miss “doing art” and being freely creative. I definitely need more of it in my life, where it’s not restricted by client briefs, timesheets or deadlines. Just me doing some art because I feel like it and because it makes me happy.

I was originally thinking of doing some small pictures to hang in the nursery when we start to move things around. I’ll probably still do that but now I’m thinking I could make a few Smallest Smallholding-inspired things and see if I can tempt some buyers to part with a little cash in return for a jaunty, rather sketchy and messy picture of things in nature. What do you think?

The Squash Arch

squashes growing in the greenhouse

My squashes have been growing at a rate of knots in the greenhouse and in the past, this has been the time that I’ve really started to neglect them and just left the plants in their pots, restricted and begging for more nutrition. Bad veggie mum. But this year I’m a bit more prepared… although I have way too many squashes and not enough space to put them all!

Whilst I need to have a think on the best way to accommodate the bigger cucurbits like the spaghetti squash, knucklehead pumpkins and courgettes, the munchkin pumpkins will have smaller fruits that will happily scramble up and over the arch.

Squash arch in the garden

Taken a couple of weeks ago, the squash arch is in and ready for planting, just as soon as the squashlings are ready! (Can you also spot the black and white furry beast in the veg plots?)

I kept a space free between the big veg plot and the bare patch of the asparagus bed, and have bolted together a metal arch between the two to grow the squash over. I found the metal arch in Poundland for £6.99, and although it probably won’t last more than two or three seasons, it was the next best option (no plastic, thanks). Originally I had wanted to construct the arch with hazel or willow, but Wasseldine, my local supplier, were all out by the time I got around to enquiring about some bean sticks and poles. Organisation skills… not.

Squashes are thirsty and greedy little beggars, and with our sandy soil we needed to add in some manure and compost to give them plenty to feed on. As I’m doing no-dig this year I decided to just dump a load of manure and compost onto the space I’d been saving for my plants, and plant direct into that. Easy peasy.

They will of course need support to scramble up, so we’ve started fastening some garden wire as extra support. I was originally intending on putting in mesh panels but Rich decided to go for a more aesthetically-pleasing option (hopefully it’ll work just as well).

Spanish Flag plant

Image ©Sarah Raven – Spanish Flag scrambling – a perfect companion to scrambling munchkin pumpkins? Only time will tell.

While I wait for my squashlings to get a little bigger before planting out, I’ve put in some mina lobata (Spanish Flag) plants to start scrambling. The idea is to have both the red and white of the Spanish flag flowers intertwined with the squash vines and fruits… it’s all very pretty in my mind so hopefully it’ll come true before the blackfly have their way this year.

Spring cleaning

Whilst we start tidying and preparing for the spring growing season outside, I’m also tackling years of clutter and accumulation of “stuff” inside the house. As the growing seasons gets into swing,  I’ll definitely be spending more and more time outside. But as I also work from home a lot, I need inside to be a calming and ordered space to live in.

Cherry blossom

My house is now calming and not orderly. It’s filled with clutter and stuff and boxes and tools and animals lounging about everywhere. I don’t mind the animals at all. But I mind the stuff, and the piles and the clutter. In this house, with no attic or cellar space, we are seriously lacking in storage and so “stuff” tends to be left out, on show, teetering in piles or dumped in boxes whilst we try and find somewhere to put it. Added to that, we’ve been attempting to renovate for the past eight years, and our late bunbun Moppy got a bit chew happy with some of the furniture. It’s not the most relaxing environment to live in right now. We need new, updated furniture, fresh paint on the walls, and some serenity flowing through the house as we open it up for spring.

I had originally planned a general tidy up and quick spring clean. Then a rat was brought in by our cat Pudding (cats are supposed to keep rodents out, right?), and promptly disappeared under the kitchen cupboards. I FREAKED. I don’t mind rats per se – we would never purposely kill or poison one, but wild rats carry a lot of diseases and mi casa es so not su casa, Mr Ratty. We tried to flush it out by emptying the kitchen and taking off the kickboards, but it was wily and escaped up into the ceiling where we’re renovating in the utility room, and there’s a small hole where the pipes run into the ceiling. The ceiling. Whilst Ratty was temporarily re-located, my mum and I shut the utility room door and set about (in full-body suits and face masks) scrubbing every available surface in the kitchen with bleach. FOR FIVE HOURS. I bleached, bleached again and re-bleached.

We heard the rat scrabbling about in the ceiling, and with visions of chewed lighting cables and house-burning-down disasters, we invested in a humane rat trap and spent a couple of weeks tempting it out with peanut butter dinners, belgian-chocolate covered popcorn and bird food. Finally we found the rat actually inside the trap and released it, and our house was ours once again.

Well, once I’d bleached everything again. And once more.

So where I was planning on just tidying and decluttering, now I’m in full-blown spring clean mode. During my freak out session, I chucked out pretty much anything that the rat COULD have touched. It had taken refuge under the freestanding cupboard where we store all our cutlery, oven and baking trays, so they all went to the recycling centre and we invested in some new bits and pieces. We were in dire need of some upgrades anyway. So it’s sort of kickstarted a lot of chucking out (recycling/upcycling/charity shop donations where possible) and upgrading, and it’s now extending to my bedroom. My little haven.

Floral print chair B&Q

Floral granny-inspired chic is where it’s at… my planned chair of choice for my bedroom.

I may be 32 going on 17, but there’s always been a part of me that just loves florals and patchwork quilts and all the archetypal “granny” stuff. Especially in spring! Mum is currently crocheting me a patchwork bedspread, and I’m now on a mission. I’ve decided to finally chuck out the old decrepit, threadbare office chair with the stuffing falling out that I used when I was a student, and replace it with a pretty armchair to go with my new dressing table. For years and years Rich and I have used second and third-hand furniture, utensils etc – which is fine – but now that we’re getting to the stage where so much of the mismatched stuff needs replacing, I’m trying to bring some harmony to my home. I will be looking to buy yet more furniture WITH DRAWERS, shelves or cupboards to try and tackle the perpetual clutter problem in the house. And in the bedroom, with all my lotions and potions and hair waving wands and girl STUFF, I need it to all be put away and just find some clean, uncluttered space that will help me just generally feel more organised and less chaotic in my day to day life.

So this is the year that I want to finally turn the house into my home.