Finding your way

When we walk down into Hastings, this is our route – down a flight of steps and along this path, then through the glorious park, green and peaceful, a place of lakes and streams, flowers, birds and huge old trees.

But for car drivers, the road up from the sea north towards Battle offers a choice: the A21 or the A2100.

I love our English road signs – they convey the sense that everyone has lived here forever and nobody really needs the information about which way to go.

This is our road.

And when you arrive back to our house you find someone else with a very relaxed attitude to life:

365 366 Day 153 – Friday June 1st  
(if you don’t know what I’m talking about, see here)

Another practical and pretty sunbonnet.  I only wish they were part of the sartorial vocabulary in England, in which case I would have kept this bonnet, the straw bonnet, and all the Plain garb for sure.  Sadly, here, this kind of gear just makes people feel bewildered and uneasy.  But it was a good bonnet.    

Sufficient Grace

Spring is one of the busiest times of the year on a farm.
There's planting, spraying, chopping and baling,
in addition to the myriad of daily chores that need to be done. 
 It's not uncommon for my farmer husband to be out in the fields well past dark {and my bedtime}
during these months.
Every year, I gear myself up for the flurry of activity.
I give myself pep talks.
I make him food.
I nag remind him to drink water...LOTS of it!
And I freak out about all the sleep he's losing.
But, in spite of all my efforts, I'll be honest: it's far from easy, and sometimes it sucks!

A few weeks ago, smack-dab in the middle of it all,
I read a verse that I've loved for years.
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness."
The last part of this verse isn't one I know as well, but the words just jumped out at me!
"Most gladly I will rather glory in my sufferings that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
I want the power of Christ to rest upon me,
but I can't say I would choose for it to come through suffering!
Anyway, I sorta forgot about this revelation and life continued on.
More late nights and long days passed,
and I felt like I just couldn't do it anymore!
I mean, I'm the girl who said she would never marry a farmer...
I'm not cut out for this!!!

As I was talking to a friend about what I was feeling,
she mentioned the very verse I just mentioned!!!
Second time that week someone discussed it, never knowing they were God's messenger to me.
This time, I realized the truth: I can't do it in my own strength.
But His grace is sufficient.
I am weak.
But His strength is perfect in my weakness.
So I'm leaning on Him in this season!
Tonight my farmer husband is out working late, but I feel at peace.
I'm given His grace.
And it's sufficient!

Thursday, May 31, 2012


In a world so typically fast paced and non-stop busy my family is somewhat of an anomaly. Instead of visiting Disney World, we visit Civil War battlegrounds. Instead of owning cell phones my girls own chickens. Instead of spending the day at the mall, we spend the day... on the river.

A river seems a magic thing. A magic, moving, living part of the very earth itself. 
~ Laura Gilpin, The Rio Grande

I have never seen a river that I could not love. Moving water . . . has a fascinating vitality. It has power and grace and associations. It has a thousand colors and a thousand shapes, yet it follows laws so definite that the tiniest streamlet is an exact replica of a great river. ~Roderick Haig-Brown

My awesome Dad
My handsome hubby

What makes a river so restful to people is that it doesn't have any doubt—it is sure to get where it is going, and it doesn't want to go anywhere else.
 ~ Hal Boyle

Riley Mae
Taylor (Perfectly Sensible Nonsense)
Jordan's... feet. (My Rainbow Veins & My Rainbow Veins)

Streams represent constant rebirth. The water flows in, forever new, yet forever the same; they complete a journey from beginning to end, and then they embark on the journey again. 
~Tim Palmer, Lifelines

Water is fluid, soft and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a                    rule, whatever is fluid, soft and yieldings will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. 
This is another paradox: What is soft is strong. 
~ Lao-Tzu, Chinese Philosopher (6th century B.C.),Tao Te Ching

Peace & Blessings ~ Melinda

Note to self

·         Begin and end each day with a prayer, and mark the Lord’s Day with worship.
·        Do not go out of your budget, save up for purchases.  Live as frugally as possible, leaving enough to be generous and to share, and see to it that there is a prudent margin then stop thinking about it.  Invest in property and do not leave sums on deposit in banks where it may be used for guns and bombs and sweatshops.  Keep your income low to avoid large sums going in taxation to the Inland Revenue where it will contribute towards war, vivisection and genetic mutation.  Keep your finances as uncomplicated and straightforward as possible: no credit card, no store cards, no complex investments, no tangle of insurances – just the basics.  Seek increasingly to reduce the role of money and the banking system in your life.
·        Be content with the provision of the household for food, adding only sparingly and a little of personal extras.
·        For cosmetics and toiletries be content with sodium bicarbonate, cider vinegar, aqueous cream, lavender and frankincense. Clean your teeth and hair with sodium bicarbonate and condition your hair with cider vinegar.
·        For medicines be provided with plasters, lavender oil, tea tree oil, propolis, hopi candles.
·        For keeping clean utensils and clothes, have good soap, borax, sodium bicarbonate, cider vinegar, lemons, lavender oil, tea tree, frankincense and myrrh.  Nothing else is necessary.
·        Let your food be simple and cheerful.  Enjoy wild food – blackberries, ramsons, mushrooms and elderberries, as well as home-grown vegetables and herbs.
·        For light and heat, be provided with seasoned wood and beeswax candles.  Every now and then go wooding for kindling sticks and fir-cones.
·        Limit computer use to writing your blog, professional commitments of editing and writing books and articles, preparing funerals, fulfilling the obligations of the church PCC secretary, archiving and recording, creating stationery, making financial spread-sheets etc, correspondence, researching (eg earth closets, gardening info, beekeeping etc) – and other creative work.  Spend no time on the internet socialising or idly cruising about looking at this and that and shopping.  If you need anything, look in the local stores or resource from plain and simple sites free of temptations (eg Dash or Landsend).  For the most part, strictly limit the time you spend using the computer to a couple of hours a day.
·        Shower once in three or four days, washing your clothes in the shower at the same time.  Eat a simple, low-fat, natural diet and avoid the stress of rush and tear and conflict, then your body will have no unpleasant odours.  Clean your teeth with bicarbonate of soda, wash your hair with bicarb and vinegar, adding borax and soap to the accumulated water to wash the clothes.  Rinse them in water saved from the roof or hot-water run-off.   Use family cloths or just water instead of toilet paper.
·        Save all water run off to get to the hot, store it in large jars and use for soaking pans, cooking vegetables, boiling for tea, watering plants, your bathroom needs and rinsing clothes.
·        Save as much rainwater as you have capacity for.  In rainy weather, harvest the water constantly to use instead of city water for watering indoor plants, soaking pans, rinsing clothes, steaming vegetables and house cleaning.  But do not drink the rainwater or incorporate it into cooking; use city water for that because of germs and parasites from birds.
·        Gather and dilute (from 1-in-3 to 1-in10) all urine and spread fresh on the garden at the end of the day once the dew falls.  It is full of nitrates and will make healthy plants.
·        Gather and compost in bokashi bran all nightsoil (free from urine).  Age the resulting compost in the big pile for the heat to neutralise pathogens before digging into the garden in the autumn.
·        Cook on the woodstove where practical in the winter, out of doors sometimes in the summer, and eat bread-based meals, fruit and salads often to avoid using electricity.  Use solar power for heating the water and running any electric appliances, remembering to work with the natural rhythms of light for any cooking with electricity, or ironing etc.  Save hot water in a thermos flask if you boil a kettle.  Stay with vegan or vegetarian food and fish for your own health, sustainable societies and compassion – let the animals go free.  Seek out honey from kind beekeepers who allow the bees to keep some of their honey for their own use.
·        Buy bread, cheese, butter, milk, fish, yoghourt, vegetables, grains and prepared foods from small local independent producers and retailers so far as your budget allows.  Remember that you bless and prosper only those you buy from, and are responsible for the society you have helped to shape thereby.  Check the social and environmental responsibility of your suppliers of clothing (and fabrics). Avoid packaging as much as possible, choosing shops that use paper bags which can be re-used for starting the fire.  Re-use what packaging you have attracted – for mailing packages, bagging trash (there shouldn’t be much of that), burning in the grate for a short fire (eg while you sit down for breakfast or a quick cup of tea but will be leaving the fireside soon).
·        Keep TV time to a minimum, watching only clean, intelligent and informative programmes, and uplifting well-crafted drama.
·        Every day: take abundant time in nature, walking and gardening; read and think and write; make things (bake, spin, knit, make stationery, prepare gifts for special occasions).
·        Give time to people who are lonely or vulnerable – little children and the old.  Identify a contribution to make to the work of the church, and do it faithfully.
·        Wherever possible, write letters not emails, do business personally with people not electronically or automatically with machines, deal in cash not plastic.
·        Go to live performances of music instead of relying on recorded music.
·        Live simply, kindly, justly and with immediacy – do not let the seeping isolation of automata and the electronic revolution saturate your life.  Avoid display of any kind; live quietly and retiredly.  Dress plainly and simply in quiet clothes that do not attract attention.
·        Be gentle with God’s creatures; give a home to a rescue animal, avoid killing, ensure that your choices look kindly on the habitat of wild creatures of every kind – leave a margin of wilderness in even the smallest garden, never travel with someone who drives too fast to stop for a running animal or startled bird.
·        Travel by public transport or walk. 
·        Take advantage of daylight and the morning hours.  Observe the rhythms of the seasons, work in natural light.  Every day take delight in the beauty and romance of light of all kinds – sunlight, starlight, firelight – sunrise and sunset; and remember to set time aside to watch the light on water – by lakes and canals, by streams and the ocean.  Walk in the woods and marvel at the dappling light in the trees.  Remember hearing and eyesight fade with age, muscles weaken and joints stiffen.  Do not miss the chance you have now to hear the birds sing, walk in the hills, and watch the glory of sunrise over the sea.
·        Work every day – keep your home clean, neat and clear of clutter, fulfil your responsibilities to family and society.  Work at what delights you, fulfilling the vocation of your inborn talents and abilities.  Play every day – reading, enjoying the company of friends, discussing and dreaming and creating.  If you work with the natural light and do not override the rhythms of the seasons by electricity, you will have the rest your body needs.
·        Do what you can for yourself, with your own hands.  Avoid automata, machinery you cannot maintain, sophisticated systems that mystify you and leave you at the mercy of people you do not know or trust.  Clean your own house, dig your own garden. Home-made clothes are the best, but be content with what you already have in your wardrobe, and avoid things that need ironing or add complication to your life. 
·        Don’t quarrel, speak kindly, think before you speak, never regard others with contempt, be patient and courteous.  Spend ample time in solitude and silence.  Always try to see the other person’s point of view.
·        Avoid clocks, mirrors, gadgetry, complication of every sort.  Consider the hidden dirt and risks, the moulds and leaks and health hazards of plumbing and electrification, the cost to the earth of white goods –  Be content with wet sand or water for cooling; take advantage of north-facing shady locations and the cool of the night; open and shut the windows and doors for a cooling breeze or passive solar heat; dry clothes on the line or over racks, doors and banisters.
·        Simplify wherever and whenever possible.  Live the simplest life your circumstances permit: and if your circumstances tend to complicate, look at how they can be changed.


365 366 Day 152 – Thursday May 31st
(if you don’t know what I’m talking about, see here) 

 I liked this enamel mug because it said something along the lines of “Would you like a refill?” at the bottom on the inside – which made me smile.  Apart from that I thought it was pretty ugly really, but good for picnics etc.  However, I do have more than one other enamel mug and in reality I almost never go on picnics – the appeal of lugging heavy bags of food and utensils across rough terrain when you can eat in comfort at home or have a cup of tea in a cafĂ© is largely lost on me.  So this particular enamel mug went to a charity shop.   


Having devoted a substantial portion of this day to my beautiful mama, I have a fleeting half hour in which to water the garden before going out again.  The tiny tomato plants will perish in the combination of breeze and heat up on this hilltop if they are not watered every day.   

So I am just waving in passing as I flash by . . .

Hope you are well and happy, even if you have not always been good.


365 366 Day 151 – Wednesday May 30th  
 (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, see here)

A chair.  Pretty.  Surplus to requirements.  Somehow, we acquired a lot of chairs.  Friends and relatives who have loads of stuff and don’t know what to do with it often give it to us.  Our best one ever was a married couple who called us to say “We are taking our vacuum cleaner to the dump because it just chucks out all the dust again instead of sucking it up properly – but we wondered if you’d like it?”  Strange, I know, but we said no thank you.  Anyway this was a nice chair but our home got a bit chair-ridden after a while.  It found a happy new home.

365 366 Day 150 – Tuesday May 29th 
  (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, see here)

Orange plastic costume jewellery – honestly, why wait for dementia when you can make such silly choices now?   

Of Books & Babies

:: Books ::

I love to read! It's always been one of my favorite ways to unwind. Give me a beach chair, some palm trees and a book, and I'm a happy woman. {It doesn't hurt to have the beach thrown in, too!} When I heard of a book reviewing program hosted by Bethany House Publishers, I decided to give it a try! You can sign up for different types of reading, and then will receive periodic emails giving you the option of several books to choose from.

Here's the best part: the book is free! The only stipulation is that you post an honest review - good or bad - on Amazon and your blog, which you forward to them.  What's not to love about this?!

The first set of books I was given to choose from were Christian fiction, and I chose a book called "The Messenger" by Siri Mitchell. I'd never heard of her before, so it was a shot in the dark for me. Let me tell you, I am a fan! She wrote in the first-person, which I typically don't enjoy, so I wasn't sure if I'd like the story. But it wasn't long until I was riveted! The main character, Hannah becomes embroiled in a dangerous mission as a spy, in an attempt to help her imprisoned brother. She is forced to work with a cynical spy, Jeremiah, who infuriates her at every turn. To complicate matters, she is part of the Quaker religion, who directly opposed any connection to the war. Jeremiah's candid honesty forces her to look at her motives and her faith, and in the end, his strength is what compels her to the impossible.

If you want to find out more, you'll have to read the book! Finding out how a book ends before I've had a chance to read it is one of my pet peeves. And, if you want to become a book reviewer, you can sign up here. My next copy, The Traveler's Rest, is on its way to my mailbox and I'm anxious to see if I like it as well as I did this one!

:: Babies ::

Just this past week, our dear friends Blake & Amy welcomed a baby girl, Amiah, into their home! Is there anything quite as precious as a new baby?! Especially a sweet little girl with dark hair and dimples? I think not.

It was so fun to watch Hadassah's reaction! She was in love. [As we all were] It's amusing to watch babies interact with other babies! It's like they're seeing the coolest thing imaginable, and have no clue they're one themselves!

It will be fun to see what the future holds for these two girls. Should be interesting, given they are both Showalters!!! Ahem. I'm thinking about slumber parties, baking cookies, dress-up....oh, and tractors. Cuz my husband will definitely be teaching her that skill before long!

Has it only been 9 months since we held our baby for the first time?! I'm getting teary just thinking about how fast she is growing! Next to Amiah, she looks oh so big. sigh. Just another reminder to live in the moment, and enjoy every stage!

Take time to prop up your feet and read a good book; and don't forget to cuddle your littles!

Breadcrumbs Pebbles String

Hansel and Gretel found themselves deep in the forest, where they had been abandoned by their father at the urging of their wicked stepmother.  Stepmothers, incidentally, are always wicked.  Trust me, I know this.  I am a stepmother myself.

They (Hansel and Gretel, not the stepmothers) entertained suspicions of their unscrupulous parents plans – did they overhear a conversation?  I can’t remember; it’s years since I read this story – Grimm in every sense.  But they twigged.    Hansel rose to the occasion and dropped a series of small white pebbles as their father led them deeper and deeper into the forest.   The reflection of the moon on the surface of these stones enabled them to retrace their footsteps once their heartless relative had scarpered and left them to their fate.  So, much to their parents’ irritation, Handsel and Gretel were back on the doorstep before bedtime.

The very next day, on some flimsy pretext, out they were led once more with their indefatigable father determined to see them off.   Hansel tackled the problem yet again, this time trickling a trail of breadcrumbs to show the way home.  No explanation is given as to why they wanted to go home.  I guess the brothers Grimm assumed we all agree anything is better than nothing when faced with our human vulnerability.   Unfortunately, resourceful as he was, Hansel had nonetheless overlooked the likelihood of the breadcrumbs being eaten by birds: which they were.

So they were stuffed.  Left high and dry in the middle of a large forest where every path looked the same, they had no clear discernment of how they got there and not the first idea how to get back.

They found a most attractive destination composed entirely of sweets and cake, and made the serious mistake of trying to take refuge in confectionery; they were discouraged to discover this was a trap.

By this point in the story, I feel a considerable sense of identity with Hansel and Gretel.

I had too had a happy childhood.  I too fall for the error of taking refuge in confectionery.  And I too have got more than a little lost in the forest.

Perhaps I should unpack this a little.

My upbringing, in English country towns and villages, was peaceful, simple and plain.  We had little disposable income but comfortable homes (we moved incessantly).  Our mother was immensely resourceful and set herself the task of inching up the property ladder by the tightwad route.  Outings and treats were rare indeed, but we enjoyed home-grown vegetables and, in due course after several house moves, home-grown eggs and lamb and fruit too.

School, I loathed with a passion beyond my powers to describe; and so for the purpose of this post I delete that entire aspect of my childhood.  Let me remember the grass blowing back from green to silver in the summer breezes on the hill; the sheep chewing contently, resting in the noonday under great shady trees; the walk to church through green lanes and wooded slopes; quietness and solitude, mist in the ditches and fieldflowers banking up the sides of the winding lanes; hedgehogs in the night garden and the crooning of contented hens in the afternoon sunshine.

This was decades ago. 

I have asked myself recently, what has gone wrong?  What has stolen my life?  Why am I always tired and pressured, dogged by failure – why is everyone such a darned nuisance?

Where are the breadcrumbs, the pebbles?  Is there a ball of string lying unwound, so I might feel for the fraying ends and find my way back to so much that is lost?

By what means has the grip of Mammon made these inroads?

I am perceiving – you may think this sounds a little unbalanced – it is achieved electronically.

The out-of-control banking that has re-defined money as interest-bearing debt and created at a stroke a treadmill of scarcity and associated growth that must destroy every human community and suck the life out of the earth until it is a dead planet.    The living-by-numbers tyranny of PINs and security passwords, automated gates at stations and public toilets, automated self-service checkouts in grocery stores, bar codes and product data that defy the human right to use initiative and common sense.

In the world of publishing, onto which I have a grandstand view by virtue of being a writer married to a publisher, I have seen the tigers whirling faster and faster round the tree chasing each other’s tails until you couldn’t tell who was chasing and who being chased until they all melted down into tiger butter.  To understand this reference you do need to have read a certain now politically incorrect children’s story about a child whose brand new outfit was appropriated by tigers – but even if you are losing me I hope you still have a grip on the principle I am attempting to put across.  Faster and faster the publishers work, achieving more with fewer staff in a shorter space of time while struggling manfully to hang onto the tail of the runaway world of e-books.  Ha!  Did I say “books”?  I think it is more “products” now.  Somewhere in there, a desire for excellence and worthwhile content lingers on – but presentation, image and platform are greater gods and sit in the higher niches.

And the writers?  All on Facebook, dreaming up ever more ingenious ways to pretend to be asking an innocent question or pass on an artless nugget of homespun daily life, while contriving to drop into the conversation (smiling, always smiling) the giveaway, the launch, the blog tour, the new novel, the shortlist, the review, the Amazon statistic, the trophy, the accolade, the promotion, the Amazon video, the new contract, the signing session . . . “I’m so excited. . .”  Really?  Yawn . . .

Never in any century have so many people been so excited so much of the time about so little.


I got lost in this forest and found myself starving and lost in a heartless landscape under a glittering faraway moon, with nothing but the enticements of iced gingerbread to cheer me up.

This was my wake-up call:  I had started to see everyone I knew as nothing more than yet another tiresome call on my time.

So I’ve started to retrace my footsteps.  I’m going to find the way back. 

My chief suspects are everything to do with electricity and everything to do with money. 

I’m going to simplify, simplify, simplify, cutting back on every electronic gizmo, every electronic communication, every electronic method of interaction with the world.  I’ve deleted my eBay and Etsy accounts.   I’ve deleted my Facebook account and scrapped my Facebook author page.   I have taken down the requirements of my life so that I need almost no electrical gadgets – only the ones that the household think they need remain in my life.

The Kindle is given to Buzz, the electric toothbrush to the Wretched Wretch and the Bose to Hebe.  The bedside lamp is Freecycled and the electric fire given to a chilly mortal in a caravan.  The car is sold.

Firelight, candlelight, starlight, sunlight.  The woods, the lanes, the hills, the garden, the ocean. 

No more promoting, no more trying to “create a platform”, no more cutting off my heel to try to force my foot into a high-heeled glass slipper in the vain hope of snaring a prince.  No more panting along saying “Yes, I can, of course I can,” after the dangling carrot of money.

I’m going to find my way back.

Last week as I went out on the bus to see Pearl, this week when I walked through the park to see Carole – for the first time in – oh, years, not months! – I was looking forward to seeing them.

In every life there is suffering and sorrow.  All of us have to earn a living, of course we do.   But I think I was born to be happy.

Blogging.  Isn’t blogging electronic – part of the glowing web that has its tentacles everywhere?  Yep.  That’s right.  So it is.  I will see out this 365 year, see how we go with just this one bridge across to the world gone mad.    And maybe that will have to go too.  Meanwhile I'm going to reduce time online right down.

And the other thing that has to go is spending money – because that is the snare, the delusion.   I see and respect the realistic place that should be accorded to money – for food, for repairs, for sensible necessary equipment and provision.  But not this endless consumer carousel that has made “shopping” into “retail therapy” – an addiction and a pastime.  No more of that.  I am going to take as my frame of reference  my yardstick, my uh-oh meter  the memory of my teenage years.  In the early 1970s – what did I have? What was enough to content me?  What were my pastimes, my wardrobe, my expectations?

What a long, winding path that led out here to this lonely and complicated forest.  What a frightening world it is here, sitting surrounding by fierce eyes and hungry mouths, rapacious demands for more.  Never a day passes without communications from charities and church begging for more money, from advertisers of products of every kind imaginable that I might need to make myself glamorous, enviable, safe, comfortable, blissful, adventurous or fulfilled.  Opportunities held out enticingly, bags for the charity shops dropped through the door.

Well, I’m sick of it now.  I’m going home.  String or no string, pebbles or no pebbles, even if the consumers have had every morsel of bread along the way – by some means or other, I’m getting out of here.  I’m going home.


365 366 Day 149 – Monday May 28th  

I acquired this sweet bonnet in an attempt to be something I am not.  What a stupid waste of money.   

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Scott and I were married back in 1994 and bought our first home in 1995. Ever since then I've pretty much always had a summer vegetable garden. Small and manageable, but yielding tons of fresh, organic produce. That is, up until last year.

Summer 2011 was about other things for me, growing in different directions and seeing how those changes fit. It is with great relief that I have returned to myself. And once more embraced my partnership with the Earth, in the form of teeny, tiny seeds that hold the very secrets of life. 

Having turned my attention to other areas last year meant that the garden sat quietly as the fields sought to reclaim their sister. The weeds grew, the fence tore and sagged, discarded tarps and sleds migrated inside. In general it was a dismal sight indeed. 

And yet, even back in February as I snapped this photo I knew that this year I'd be back. I would transform this piece of Earth once again and together we would create beautiful fruits, flowers and veggies. In wild abundance.

It has been a process, full of stages. First down came the fences, out came the garbage. Instead of tilling it ourselves this year we hired a local gentleman to come in and do it for us. It cost less than renting the machine ourselves without all of the hard work. We've talked about buying our own, but as of yet it hasn't been a priority.

Scotty put up a new metal fence and built a lovely gate. Riley Mae, Jordan and I marked out the rows... with a little bit of help from our friends. :)

Spunky and his gals doing some digging... and some pooping. ;)

Before putting this gate up we made do with a piece of plastic fencing, just kind of tacked in place. It was a royal pain in the neck and I'm deeply in love with my new gate... and my awesome husband.

I've discovered, just within the past couple of years, my very best gardening friend. It keeps weeding to a bare (almost nonexistent) minimum, serves as a awesome mulch and feeds the soil as well as compost. The very best time to harvest it is in the spring when it grows with joyful and wild abandon... Grass clippings! :) 

Next step, planting. Memorial Day is early this year so I had to make a decision. I decided to take my chances with a freak late frost since it's been so very mild at night and get these seeds into the ground. The sooner they had water, soil and sunshine, the sooner I'd have squash, beans and watermelon. :)

I went hunting back in January and found a fabuous company, a new favorite of mine. SeedsOfChange.Com. All organic seeds at great prices with super speedy shipping and cool recyclable and resealable plastic bags. No more spilled and wasted seeds. Awesome. 

Yesterday morning I headed out with my gloves, watering cans, seeds and tools and got to work. The morning was blissfully overcast and as the birds sang around me I plunged into the rich, dark soil.

Jordan snapped this while I toiled in the dirt, I thought it was pretty cool.

I headed back out after lunch but wasn't sure how much more I could manage. I figured I'd work until I either got too hot or too tired. The humidity was enough to make me want to cry. Then, thankfully I was provided with a little bit of help... in the form of my 12 year old munchkin, Riley Mae. Okay, perhaps munchkin wouldn't be the best choice of words since she is now taller than I am. ;)

Riley Mae and I managed to stay cool... every time we'd come back to the house to refill watering cans we would hose each other down. Well water is COLD... and so refreshing! 

Now all that's left to do is our garden row adoptions. Everyone in the house will be 'assigned' several rows that are theirs to water, weed and bug pick each day. In this way no one (me) gets overwhelmed and we're all part of the process. The excitement as plants start to pop up is contagious, I fore see many summer evenings spent wandering through the green jungle. 

Some before and after shots... because they're fun!

And so I leave you on this lovely Sunday feeling so very relieved to be at this stage of the gardening game. I won't lie and pretend that there weren't days when it seemed so overwhelming that I wanted to walk away! Instead, I approached it mindfully, keeping my focus on the task at hand. Instead of letting my mind wander to all that had to be done (and fret there), I instead reminded myself of all that had been accomplished. I rewarded myself today with a  lazy afternoon spent reading in the camper. It felt well deserved. ;)

A testament to a day's hard work, dirty fingernails. I won't even show you what my grubby feet look like! ;)

Peace & Blessings ~ Melinda

Mr Bishop's garden

My children grew up in Oban Road.  At one end the street turned a 90ocorner past the entrance to their school into Perth Road.  At the other end, a T-junction with Paynton Road.  Both Paynton Road and Perth Road led down onto the Battle Road.  Because Paynton Road offered a direct link between the A21 and the A2100, and turning into either Perth Road or Oban Road only detoured a longer route to the same destination, the through traffic all favoured Paynton Road, leaving Oban Road in peace and serenity except at 8.45 and 3.15 when it was absolute bedlam (school entrance).

Mr Bishop lived in Paynton Road, but in the corner house, so the whole side of his property ran along Oban Road though his house fronted onto Paynton Road. 

The houses in these three roads were small Victorian terraced villas with long narrow gardens at the back and tiny plots for a few flowers at the front.   Our garden (this was before we got the puppies!!) was a wonderful labour of love.  An access road running along the back had been closed off years ago by someone annexing a section of it for their own garden, and a wild apple tree grew in the remaining patch of no-mans-land it left at the end of our garden by the time we moved in.  The apple tree blew down in the hurricane of ’87 but kept on growing, wonderful for little children to scramble there and play.  We made our bonfires there too.  The actual garden, about 20ft wide and 120ft long, we subdivided into four square sections.  The idea was to allow our children to feel independent and adventurous while keeping them safe.  The first square, nearest the house, had their toys and Wendy House and sandpit, the next a bowl shape paved with stone and bordered with flowers – I wanted it to look like a ruined palace or a pavement in Katmandu.  The third section just had grass and hedges – a cool green space.  Past the shed and the compost heap, under the arching ceanothus we had trained over the path, the intrepid explorer came to the strawberry patch and the pond, edged with snowberry and flowering currant and home to a multitude of frogs.  The children had their Art Shed up there – a conservatory shed with a big window variously used for playing, painting and making, or just for storage at times. Then finally on to the bonfire patch and the apple tree.

A hedge surrounded the whole garden – but not an ordinary hedge.  We had very little money, so we hardly ever paid for plants – only a couple of new polyanthuses to add to the collection each spring.  Our hedge, all 240ft of it, was made up entirely of cuttings and plants we had been given by friends and family.  It had beech, forsythia, honeysuckle, conifer, hawthorn, blackberry, lavateria, box, hibiscus, privet, wild rose – everything you could possibly imagine.  Dotted about in the garden we had a tree grown from a hedging beech (so it crowned out early and didn’t get too big for its setting) in a small elevated bed encased by a curving stone wall in the Katmandu bit, two silver birches growing side by side flanked by low-growing box shrubs in the division between Katmandu and the Cool Green Space, and a plum tree.

As we worked on it over the fourteen years we lived there, it grew into the most magical, leafy paradise, dappled with shade, fragrant and soft.  I loved that garden.

In the last couple of years we lived there, as the children grew out of their Wendy House and sand pit, we built a deck and what I thought of as a Tea House, under the spreading bough of the beech tree, with a door towards the main house and a door towards the Katmandu section.  The doors were glazed and the roof had skylights, so the tea house caught and held the light as well as letting the breezes through and the scents of the grasses, the flowers and leaves.

It was all so beautiful.

Then, going towards Silverhill meant walking the length of Mr Bishop’s garden, and delighting in peeping over the wall.  His garden was like a microcosm of Old England.  He tended it lovingly but somehow managed to let it look left to be, a patch of peace.  Honeysuckle ran the length of his wall, spilling over the top to perfume the whole street.  Twisty, gnarled old apple trees bent their loving branches into a cool shade over the grass and bluebells, the Queen Anne’s Lace and primroses, the violets and roses that grew along the low wall (about 3ft high) that bordered the whole garden.  It was a breath of heaven.  In the twilight as the day came down to dusk, badgers and foxes wandered there – as they also did in our garden.

Well, Mr Bishop was very old, and when he died the house was sold to a young couple who had a family and a car.  They pulled up the plants and the apple trees to build a garage on the end third of the garden and cement in play structures and a barbeque on the two thirds close to the house, leaving a patch of cut grass and some small herbaceous plants in flower borders along the edge.

I was sad to see it go.  Then we moved away for me to become a school chaplain up in Kent.  The family who moved into our house grubbed out the entire hedge and kept their freezer in the tea house.  They tore up the Iceberg rose and the lavender from the front garden and all the little flowers, preferring shale and spiky palms.

But you start again, don’t you?  You can’t help being yourself, and you always just start again.

This morning I sat outside in the garden we have planted here – the roses and the honeysuckle, the apple trees and pear trees, the cherry tree.  I looked at the sage and the lavender, the ceanothus, the silver birches and the vegetable patch.  I wandered down to Hebe’s wilderness area sown with wildflowers, edged with hawthorn and Bridesblossom.   I looked at the scatterings of daisies and speedwell, the Creeping Jenny among the bean plants, the Self Heal and larger Plaintain, the Honesty that has established around the crab-apple tree, the borage and primroses that grow among the lush grass under the trees at the bottom of the garden near the leaf-mould heap and the bonfire.

And, taking in the cool green fragrance and the loveliness of herbs and trees, the wonder of the greening of England in the maytime, I remembered Mr Bishop and his garden that I had loved so very much, and I thought, you know it never really dies.  You think you’ve lost it and you grieve, your heart breaks.  But like a half-forgotten tune, a few lost notes here and there in the dawning, it starts up again. 

“While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.”

 “And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day.”


365 366 Day 148 – Sunday May 27th  

After long thought it has occurred to us that so long as we are still human-shaped, going in and out in all the right places, and the clothes that always did fit us do fit us still – well, we probably don’t need the bathroom scales.