Friday, 28 May 2010

The war of the peas...

There's a book by Kes Gray called 'Eat Your Peas' about Daisy, a little girl who does not like peas and won't eat them.

Her mother, desperate to persuade Daisy to eat the little green legume, promises her daughter ever more extravagant gifts from extra pudding to a pony and even a chocolate factory.

I am that mother. I have a Daisy.

"I don't like peas," says H8 at meal times.

"But peas like you," I tell her. "Eat up."

She pushes them around her plate and eats one - the smallest - grudgingly.

What is it with peas? Peas are delicious. The guinea pigs don't eat peas. They'll eat celery which astonishes my two children immensely. They may even try it themselves. (Actually they did: R6 liked it.) Guinea pigs are excellent role models. But they won't eat peas.

I have tried hiding them in food. Carrot can be grated and hidden as can other root vegetables (with the exception of beetroot which has a habit of revealing itself in even the minutest concentrations and anyway I don't like beetroot).

Peas won't be hidden. A pea is a pea no matter how you try to dress it up.

I thought all children loved peas. I know grown men who don't eat vegetables, but will eat peas. I've seen peas in cat food tins in France, which confirms the fact that French cats are possibly quite strange. Mice, oui. Petit pois? Oui!

H8 won't eat garden peas (frozen or fresh) or petit pois (ditto). Mangetout, perhaps. But only small ones. Pea shoots? Grudgingly.

There is one vegetable, however, hated almost universally by children (adults too) across the globe that she adores. Brussels sprouts.

We were in Tesco in Carmarthen. H8 spotted sprouts.

"Can I have some sprouts Mummy?"

Me, consulting list, brain elsewhere: "No. They're not on my list." (It's a rule, if it's not on the list, we don't get to buy it. This is especially useful in Dangerous Places such as Biscuits, Confectionery or Frozen Desserts, but sometimes I have to surreptitiously add things like toilet rolls to the list unobserved.)

"Oh pleeeese," whines H8 attracting the attention of a woman pushing her trolley towards other brassicas.

"No," I repeat. There's a budget to be adhered to as well.

H8: "I want sprouts."

Me on autopilot: "I want never gets." (I want to slap myself when I say that too.)

H8, like the sweetest, well-mannered little child on the planet: "Please Mummy may I have some sprouts." Woman with Trolley in Brassicas is watching with open interest now.

Me: "Oh go on then."

H8 snatches a bag and starts counting sprouts into it. Maths and good nutrition all in one. Woman with Trolley in Brassicas stifles a snigger in the cauliflowers.

She still won't eat peas. She already has a pony. I'm saving for the chocolate factory.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Here comes the sun!

The sun came out this week, so naturally we all headed out into the garden and stayed there. 

Except when we were at the beach body boarding.

Back into the garden again for the first barbecue of the year, with a bowl of home grown salad.

The diminutive dodecatheon is one of my favourite plants with its delicate reflexed petals.

Time for a shadow play behind the windbreak. R6's rabbits are fleeing from H8's evil fox.

It has been so dry the Preselis caught fire. This one was apparently so big it was visible from Haverfordwest. Far away from us though, but there will be other fires if we don't get some rain soon.

The rhubarb which has been making crumbles, fools and pie all month finally comes into full, glorious bloom. This is a very old fashioned variety which was in the garden when we moved here 25 years ago. A couple of years ago it stopped growing and I wanted to move it, so it was given a new home in a raised bed in the vegetable garden. I think it likes its new home.

This is where the rhubarb used to be, in the middle of the border where the bright green leaves of the cornus are now (please ignore the couch next to that - work in progress...). This week's job was to prepare the ground for the new lawn. I should have taken a 'before' then you would see what a task it was! It is settling in now, ready to be sown with a hard wearing lawn mix.

Brian has been taking steps to improve the garden too (ha ha!). The Belfast sink was, until recently, in the inside of the wall in the utility room. Now it is being sited under the outdoor tap for boot washing. 

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Other things too

It's not all tulips and gardening here y'know! Life in the Preseli Hills may be a rural family blog, but other things get done too.

Two things I have signed up for recently are both cyber-based. The first is Little Mummy's Blogging e-course which is a weekly e-mail course about blogging and how to do it. I have been blogging for ages, since April 22nd 2007 on Google Blogger and before that on the Country Living website, so I'm not exactly a newbie, but this course is a way of finding out that what I have been doing is mostly correct and teaching me the things I have missed along the way.

One is adding pages to your blog, which is why there's now a 'Home' and an 'About me' at the top. Future ones will cover promoting and marketing blogs, which isn't something I've done much about in the past.

Another one, which you can see from the handy little widget on the right, is Dotterel's Creative Writing e-course. Dotterel is well-known blogger of Bringing Up Charlie fame and author of the book Writing Therapy.

His course is another which pings into your in-box in weekly parts. We're on week three, but it's not too late to sign up.

Writing has been my job for nearly 20 years now, as a local journalist and I've had one short story published, but I believe that skills are always there to be learned and to be brushed up. Click the widget on the side of this page to find out more and look for @Dotterel on Twitter.

Both e-courses are free, well-written and good fun too.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Days of May

Is it still May? The days are just hurtling past at the moment. There's so much to do in the house and the garden. This is a sneaky shot which peeks into the main part of the garden and hides most of the things I haven't done yet (like sow the new lawn and get rid of all the couch). It's the other side of the view from my kitchen and I think it looks very pretty at this time of year.

Beech trees look beautiful at the moment and this is taken on the school run - it doesn't nearly do it justice though. This benign little stream is one of the reasons I have a 4x4 - it can get so deep in the winter that an ordinary car can struggle to get through.

The joys of country living. Calico, Mum's house cat, with yet another rabbit. She made certain that this one was dead before she brought it back. Last time she took it straight into the house and let it go. It bounced away and got rescued. This one wasn't so lucky. When the cat had become bored with it, Mum tossed it over the hedge into the field and our resident buzzard nabbed the remains. An interesting interaction of domestic pet and raptor.

Here I am persuading Itsy that it would be a good idea to go for a very short ride. Itsy was a bit too fatsy for her own saddle and girth, but my much missed old Shire x Welsh Cob's saddle fitted her a treat. We had a bit of a plod about the farm and the yard for a few minutes. I didn't want to risk girth galls, bad backs or days of me walking around like I was still on the horse! Little and often, that's the thing for Itsy, me and Pippin too.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Born to run?

There are many good reasons to run. You don't always have to say no to pudding for a start, although once you really get the running bug good nutrition and a healthy diet follow naturally. It's difficult to stay fat once you're doing half marathon training..

Then, of course, there is the Setting a Good Example to the Children thing. As a writer I've always been told to 'show, don't tell' and this seems to apply to children too. My daughters see me running, getting medals and, most important of all in their eyes, getting a goodie bag, so they think running is a good thing to do.

They see me enjoying myself too, getting out and about in sun, sleet and snow. If I'll go in the worst of weather, it's got to be good. They tell me they practice their running 'like mummy' at school in the playground and they do laps of the sports field. Last year H8 did her first cross country race and R6 won a certificate for running at the Urdd sports (unlike mummy she actually gets into the first three of her races!)

They wanted to come running with me but I worried they were too young to run on the road. I thought of their little bones, still soft and being formed. Would pounding on a road stunt their growth? Then I looked at my skyscraper children (I wish I had a pound for every 'gosh they're so tall' comment) and decided a bit of growth stunting would be no bad thing. Brian used to be a seriously fast runner too. Used to be? Who am I kidding! He's 48 but he makes a point of being at the front of the Dad's race on school sports day every year. He doesn't do any training, ever, but he can outrun me easily over 5k and 10k. In fact he's annoyingly good as a runner.

So we went for a run, me and my girls. Half a mile to the village, half a mile back. A slow, steady trot on our quiet rural virtually traffic-free lane. We walked up the hills and ran down them. It took 13 minutes, but with all the zig zagging about and tripping me up, not to mention the funny strides, hopping, bickering, skipping and jumping they threw in for added variety, they must have run a bit extra than the mile. Then we had Jelly Babies, because That's What Runners Do. (I ate them after the half marathon last year and it seems to have stuck.)

H8 was determined to do this year's 5k Race for Life with me. She's a Brownie and I was tripping over Brownies last year. She had watched that and taken note.

"Is it further than we ran Mummy?"

"About three times as much, plus a bit."

"Do I get a medal at the end?"

"Yes and a goodie bag."


So we did it last Sunday and H8's friend G8 came too and her mum the lovely Lins who is also a runner. We ran for a bit, we got stuck behind slower runners, we ran for a bit, we stopped for a drink and we ran for a bit. H8 got into her stride half way and really enjoyed it. She wants to run it on her own next year (or in other words she wants to beat me!). R6 wants to do it too.

I think I may have started something...

A big thank you to all of our sponsors - there's still some promised money to collect, but it looks as if we've raised at least £115, this brings my RfL total over the years to in excess of £500.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

More tulips

Okay, I confess - it's an obsession. But there is something about a lovely bloom which gladdens the heart, especially after a long cold winter. The first daffodils are lovely, but it is tulips that I really adore.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Flower printing

I'm not sure what this printing technique is called, but Alys Fowler showed it on her Edible Garden programme on BBC2 last Wednesday and I was itching to have a go. You need soft, pliable leaves and flowers, natural material (I used cotton calico) and a hammer. Lay the plant material out in a pattern on the cloth, fold it over so the plants are sandwiched in the middle, then tap the leaves and petals with a hammer until the pattern appears. Then you leave it to dry and finally iron it to set the dye. I'm not sure how colourfast this would be, but it gives an almost watercolour-like result.

This is a pattern using tulip petals surrounded by rose leaves, sycamore leaves, variegated dogwood, a hellebore (top left) and a forget-me-not. You never know what the result is going to be, and the mirror image (ie the backs of the leaves and petals on the top half of the sandwich of fabric) is just as pretty. The colours don't always come out true either - the forget-me-not came out brown not blue. But I like the result. 

This is a little viola.

Variegated dogwood.

Sycamore leaf and aubretia.

Sage, which gave the strongest colour of all.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Badders 2010

It's a long way and the weather forecast wasn't good, but we trekked off to Badminton Horse Trials on Sunday. It meant an early start - 5am - but we arrived at at 8.40am and missed the queues.

Rosie, me and Hannah outside Badminton House. Note how I have matched my coat to the colour of my nose. It was raining, it was cold, it was muddy, it was great! I'm wearing every item of clothing I possess here - as are the girls - five layers in all and a big scarf.

Shopping started the day and brought with it the chance to meet Pippa Funnell who was busy proving that not only is she a great rider, she's also a good writer. She's written some terrific books for girls packed full of pony fun and horsey tips.

The first horse we saw was Mary King's Imperial Cavalier which scorched past us into the lead in the downpour as we approached the fences in the Huntsman's Close. This (above) is the next competitor, New Zealand's Joe Meyer, riding  Clifton Lush, making a tricky fence look easy.

Britain's Nicola Malcolm on the grey McFly tackling the Alterian Staircase...

... all the way to the top. The pair had a great round, but were withdrawn at the final horse inspection on Monday.

Another competitor powers up the Alterian Staircase.

Ireland's Mark Kyle threads Step In Time through the Owl Hole.

Rosie warming up with a hot chocolate.

Comparing our muddy boots while waiting for...

... Mark Todd, who has made a Take That style comeback at the age of 54. He was as brilliant as ever, although it makes me feel old as I was there 30 years ago when he won his first Badminton on Southern Comfort. The double Olympic gold medallist has won Badminton on three previous occasions, but it's 10 years since he last competed.

The Quarry proved no problem for the veteran, this year riding Grass Valley into 18th place.

Phoebe Butler and Little Tiger pop neatly into the Huntsman's Close. Little Tiger, who has already had two foals, is aptly named - at 15hh she is the smallest horse in the competition. The pair finished 46th.

A competitor about to splash into the Colt Pond.

Alex Hue Tian, of China, making light work of the Countryside Complex on Magenta (known as Maggie). The pair finished in 26th place on their first attempt at Badminton.

And this one? This is me, taken about 200 years ago before the two nasty falls that ended my brief and lowly eventing career. This is somewhere in Herefordshire and I'm riding Jocasta my 15hh grey mare (just like Little Tiger, above) into 5th place at this particular Pony Club one day event, which was my best result. Jocasta - known as JoJo, died a few years ago at the grand old age of 29.

Would I do it again? Like a shot - I just need a new horse... Okay and a new back too. But I'm still younger than Mary King (48) and Mark Todd (54)!