Alongside the frenetic harvest and preservation activity that I’m driven to in the autumn, is also a focus on home improvement.
When we begin to think about closing up the doors and windows, my mind turns to creating a simple and calming space to spend the next two seasons. The first step is always clearing out the accumulated layers of dust and haphazardly strewn bags of drying herbs or seeds.
Then, I start to see the faded, scratched, and in need of repair. The house list is very long, but we’ve begun!
Some things I’ve done for our home recently are:
Scrubbed and varnished the front door.
Gathered all the mismatched and stained dishtowels and rags (and one linen napkin) and dyed them blue. They’re a royal blue but the photo on the right shows them lighter. I included a pair of nearly white faded jeans in the load as well.
Tidied our very small front step entry. I swept the steps for the first time in ages, composted the old doormat and ordered a new one. I also removed the random bricks and empty plant pots that had gathered.
Honey and I like to take our summer vacation in July, usually camping for the 4th of July and our anniversary. While we had a wonderful time camping in Scotland on our summer vacation in 2015, the heavy rain inspired us to plan our summer 2016 vacation elsewhere. We had a brilliant time in Cornwall in 2013 and thought about heading back. Looking for a campsite in the woods where we could have a campfire (this is harder to find in the UK than you’d expect!), Honey discovered that our best bet was just over the border in Northwest Devon’s ‘Ruby Country’.
We stayed at a small campsite (no hiking trails, but a great base for day trips) in Highampton called Hole Station, built on the land around a former train station that had closed in the 1960s. Things I loved about the place: camping in the trees (obviously), we felt very tucked back from the path in our campsite and the site already had a lean-to and bench set up by the fire circle, the staff were very nice and extremely helpful, an on-site food truck/outdoor dining area was open at meal times (with gluten free and vegetarian options) and perfect for a quick morning’s meal before heading out on an adventure, books and maps were available to read and plan day trips, and there was a charging station in an old phone box. They also had a lovely vegetable garden, chickens (providing the eggs for the food truck), and two goats. For me, it was a luxury campsite considering the quick walk to the car, composting toilets, or boiled water for dishes. The squirrels in the area are a mean gang, so each campsite has a filing cabinet for storing your food. This is great for tins, glass jars, etcetera, but mice can go anywhere they dig so store your perishables in the car or an airtight plastic storage bin (…with some cayenne rubbed around the edges once they start to gnaw away at it)!
The nearest town is the old market town of Hatherleigh. Hatherleigh is a small place with a supermarket, restaurants, and cafes, but it also has a weekly market. We went to the weekly market and then discovered that the Ruby Country Market (which only takes place about 3 times a year) was on that week so we headed back. The Ruby Country Market made the standard market a festive place, with live music and a huge number of indoor and outdoor food, craft, and goods stalls. I was impressed by the number of gluten free stalls there. One thing that Honey and I have seemed to make a tradition of is going to the local market while on holiday, loading up with local goods, and going for a picnic!
Honey was in Edinburgh on Saturday morning and phoned me on her way home in the afternoon. It was about 90 minutes before sunset and she asked if I wanted to take a quick sunset walk around Gartmorn Dam in Clackmannanshire.
I quickly calculated the cons (we’d not have very long; I’d have to change out of my pajamas) and the pros (we’d be in the woods!) and said yes.
We did some walking, deep breathing, geocaching, and talking.
(‘Barking’ up the wrong tree for a geocache.)
(A traditional ‘Swedish hanging’ geocache found up a tree.)
We got there around 3:30pm and because it was a clear day, we could still see in the twilight when we got back to the car at 4:45pm. I wouldn’t have thought to chance a walk so late on a winter’s day (even though I used to lead weekly night hikes in woods I knew well) and I’m so glad Honey did.
For a year, I haven’t written much about our trip to Tenerife. Quite simply, I adored the experience and I wanted my words to do it justice; they cannot. It is more important to share photos than the few words I have.
Tenerife made me feel free and full of adventure.
Free from the winter darkness.
Free from heavy layers of clothing.
Free to reconnect with my Spanish-speaking self.
The adventures of new experiences and knowledge filling my senses and sparking my soul.
One huge highlight, alongside snorkelling with green sea turtles, was hiking in Teide National Park; a volcanic landscape that made me feel as though I was on the moon, out in Western USA, and on mars, depending upon the area.
Over the winter break, Honey and I had colds at different points, which meant that we hadn’t made it outside to play for the full two weeks. Adding in my first week back to work tipped my cabin fever into full force.
Luckily, the forecast for Saturday was for dry weather (around here, anything less than torrential rain is a win!) so we headed out. As we pulled out of the neighbourhood, we noticed that the Trossachs where we were headed were entirely fogged over while the Ochils were basking in sunshine.
We headed to the Ochils and quickly decided on Dollar Glen. The glen is a nice up and down walk by two different streams, with plenty of waterfalls and rich leaf litter to perfume the air. If you’re looking for a woodland (and then hilltop if you ascend past the castle) walk in Clackmannanshire, I’d definitely recommend Dollar Glen.
Living is an adventure. Here’s what I learned along the way in 2016.
- Insurance is essential. This year we were grateful that we had pet health insurance, extended car road insurance, and home contents insurance. Insure from the beginning.
- Everyone needs to spend more time in the dirt. I love ‘farming’. I have always loved playing in the dirt barefoot, growing things, and food. Having the addition of our ‘quasiallotment‘ gave me space to experiment and dream in addition to the maximisation I try with our garden plot. More dirt to tend and more plants to encourage really drove home the fact that gardening with the aim (not yet need) of feeding my family is exciting and fulfilling.
- A winter sun holiday is a luxury but it is also a coping mechanism for those living at (or near) high latitudes. Being in the sun for just over a week in January and February exponentially increased the ability of my light box to get me through the winter. My S.A.D. symptoms were the mildest I’ve ever experienced.
- Home decorating sometimes goes wrong but the time spent considering the required changes, and taking steps in that direction, still results in an improvement.
- Being away from family gets harder and harder. Even with technology making them easily accessible.
- Setting intentions for something you want may not work, but setting intentions for things that you need will. I knew the latter years ago but got the two confused along the way. This year, I wrote down and spoke to my wife about an opportunity I needed to keep my soul happy and it came to me a few days later.
- If you wear bras, make sure you love the way your bra feels. You’ll simply be happier and more confident. Bra fitting services are a great place to start but don’t defer to them completely if your real bust size isn’t carried in stores. They’ll apply formulas to give you a modification (a ‘sister size’) and it probably won’t feel or look right after a few days out of the store. This year, after being brainwashed into thinking I could and should, I realised I was never going to find a decent fit in a department store because they don’t carry bras for people with small busts who are happy having small busts: they sell unnecessary underwires and embarrassingly padded bras. Find a specialist company to speak to and see what others say online.
- Photos are important.
– Sharing the beautiful living or memory in an ugly photo is more important than holding back from sharing the photography that didn’t capture the vision.- Save or share photos before they’re lost (stolen, data failure, old undeveloped film).- A photo taken by a friend can show you more of your own beauty than you thought was visible.
- There is nothing that beats hearing and seeing my wife throw her head back in laughter after being caught off guard by something funny I’ve said or done. Except the way that I’m humbled and grateful when I see the look in her eyes when she feels how loved she is.
- Pour as much love as you can into those around you and the wider world. The world needs it. Bring back the Care Bear stare.
In the middle of October, Honey and I headed to the DIY store to pick up some paint, a curtain rod and blinds. The curtain rod is for our bedroom but the rest was for the spare room. Honey had off for a few days soon after that and painted the room over a long weekend. We let the paint dry for two days and when we went to peel off the tape, we pretty much trashed the edges of the painting. This is the third room in our house we’ve painted and we only experienced this around the mirror and sink in the bathroom. We mistakenly thought that it was the way the tape was applied around the mirror or perhaps the type was too sticky. The internet says that you should remove painting tape after an hour or so of letting the paint dry. Clearly, we’re still trying to figure out this adulting thing.
Anyway, the sea foam green colour reminded me of an old stucco wall and now we have the worn edge look to go with it. If you’re wondering, the battered guitar on the table was a dumpster save to refurbish. My pinterest vision board for the room is here.
We’ve moved the room back into place (and my Mother in Law stayed the weekend a week later), but still to be done:
- sorting the bookshelf
- returning the wind chimes and adding art
- finding the right plants for the space (the small and light pots on the window sill get knocked off far too easily by the cat)
- putting up the blinds and adding the right curtains
This motorway stop in Lancashire is where our family tells a story.
When our Granny and Grandad were young and courting, the Preston bypass segment of the motorway was complete and construction continued on other parts (the Preston bypass was the first motorway in the country). They would meet up for some food (burgers?) and then go driving to have time together.
In mid-September we returned to Mine Wood with our niece. She was a year and a quarter and finding her feet. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful time.