29 Jan 2016

Five on Friday

As it's Friday I'm joining in with Amy's Five on Friday post and this time I'm talking about gardening. Following on from my last post about the box containing packets of seeds chosen by our son and DiL who have an allotment themselves and know what we like to grow, it's time to sit down and take a look at some of them.

 Tomatoes,  Herbs

I was pleased to see that there were herbs and several varieties of tomato as we grow as much as we can to use in a lot of basic recipes. For example, a pan of tomato sauce was used as a topping on a pizza base when our grandson came for lunch after a football match at the weekend and for an evening pasta meal for ourselves.
My husband is quite conservative in the varieties of tomato that he likes to grow, mostly plum, because with plenty of pulp they're good to use in cooking.  He saves some seed from these, but since we have been given new seeds we'll try them out. One variety might be good for our limited space in the covered yard -  F1 Sweet 'n' Neat - which is a dwarf plant. It's yellow so that will be interesting to grow for salads.  Two others are Gardener's Delight and Heartbreaker Vita F1.

Lettuce and Mixed Salad Leaves
The varieties of lettuce also look interesting.  There's a red leaved 'little'gem' called Dazzle, and two packets of mixed leaf.  The Salanova Mix with baby-sized leaves has a dark tinge to the outer leaves and a green-red heart in the picture on the packet!  That will be different! 

Root Vegetables and Beans
We're not very adventurous when it comes to root vegetables. We like carrots and parsnips and although they're a challenge to grow we're very grateful when we harvest a few. 
How about yellow beetroot, Yellow Cylindrical?  That would be interesting to try and grow.
Beans of all kinds are always welcome.  A packet of dwarf bean seeds - Bobis d'Albenga - will definitely get sown. 

The biggest growing challenge would be the melons and even the strawberries. Now that would be something to be pleased about if we got some fruit from either. The variety of melon is Musk Melon F1 Emir.  I imagine it has a lovely aroma when cut into. The strawberry is F1 Sarian

Packets of seed are expensive so it was a welcome gift to receive and hopefully we'll enjoy some produce later in the year.  Have you grown any of these varieties of fruit and veg I've mentioned and if so, how did you get on with growing and harvesting them?

There were no packets of flower seeds in the box and that's fine. We already have some lupin and sweetpea seedlings coming on and plenty of other plants being overwintered that will fill the flower beds later on after the Spring bulbs have flowered and gone over. 
On the way back from shopping our daughter came by and gave me a pot of three pink hyacinths. They replace some white hyacinths I prepared at the end of last year that flowered over the Christmas season.  Pink makes a change and like the tulips I bought recently they do look pretty. The three bulbs are quite crowded in the pot and one is a little stunted, but they should bloom at different times and last a little longer.  I've put them on the corner cabinet in the entrance hall and the fragrance is quite delicate.

I'm going to be busy for a while with a family member coming to stay, but I'll be in touch.  
Have a good weekend and week ahead.

26 Jan 2016

Reminiscing: it all started with a box.

Our children always put a lot of thought into the gifts that they give us. This Christmas one of our daughters created an album of photos taken during the celebration of our 50th wedding anniversary last year decorated with golden butterflies on each page.  (I love butterflies). The 14 year old grandson presented us with a CD that he had put together of this special occasion. We always say to them not to worry about giving us anything, but I think we all enjoy giving as much as receiving and exchanging gifts is a joyful experience.
Another one of the presents was a box which contained packets of seeds - a useful gift which also had special significance for us as it was a Sutton's Seed Company tin.   Although the company is now based in Paignton, Devon the business was founded in my home town of Reading in Berkshire, UK.  Reading was then a centre of agriculture and John Sutton was a corn and seed merchant there in the early 1800s. His son, Martin Hope-Sutton converted the business into an important, scientifically-based mail order business. Formerly situated on part of the Reading Abbey Gardens, the Royal Seed Establishment eventually covered a vast site with a public entrance in the old market place.

'The Red Brick Town' as Reading is called because many of the Victorian houses were built of locally manufactured bricks, greatly expanded in the 19th century due to the opening of the Kennet and Avon Canal in 1810 with links between Bristol in the west and London. Later in the century the Great Western Railway company built a line between the two cities and small business enterprises now became important industries in the town.  Reading was known as the town of the three Bs - biscuits (Huntley and Palmers Biscuits), the brewing of beer (Simond's Brewery) and bulbs (Sutton's Seeds), as well as bricks. They provided work and new accommodation for many families who moved from agricultural work or other trades to the new industries in town.
Some of my relatives moved into town from rural Hampshire and Berkshire, although most of them continued to live in the countryside.  I've traced my family on my father's side back through the generations to villages in Hampshire, west Berkshire and Wiltshire. Amongst the agricultural workers, traders and store owners there's a wool merchant who made good and was a benefactor of an educational trust for deserving scholars at Christ's Hospital School. That family line is well documented. A second cousin who is also interested in family history corresponds and sends updates about the Hampshire families. My father's grandfather, Thomas, was a stable lad/groom on the Duke of Wellington's country estate at Stratfield Saye in Hampshire, which I find fascinating as my late father loved horses and so do I. Later in life he married and moved into Reading and was a sawyer in the saw mill attached to Huntley and Palmers biscuit factory, which I have mentioned before when writing about my home town. Their life in town must have been very different from living in the countryside, but they continued to stay connected to family who lived in rural areas through Methodism which was an important part of their life.  My father, in fact, was a lay preacher and my mother and I would often accompany him when he went to take part in missions in out-of-town chapels.  He also had a good tenor voice.

my paternal great grands, Thomas and his wife, Mary
I digress. One of these days I would like to create a blog dedicated to family history. At the moment the writing and photos are inspired by random objects or triggered off by something I've read.

Below is a print of an early advertisement from one of my reference books dedicated to Reading and its surroundings which was published in the early 20th century by The Homeland Association for the Encouragement of Touring Great Britain.  One of the advertisements has an illustration of the original Sutton's Seeds establishment in the centre of the town before the trial grounds were moved to a new site east of Reading, which was then outside of the borough boundary.

an early catalogue cover

The grassed area is where the original trial ground was located and the old complex of buildings are out of shot and to the right in the above photo.

Around the corner in the Butter Market area (to the right of the above photo) was the entrance and shop, which I remember well.

As for my maternal side of the family, my grandparents, William and Lauretta, lived in Northumberland. By the time I was born in 1945 my grandfather had retired from the bakery business that the couple had built up after moving from the colliery town of Ashington, although his paternal family came from further north, Berwick-on-Tweed. Ashington had self-help and study groups such as the Workers' Educational Association (WEA). The Ashington group of painters is well known. My grandmother was a pit prop girl until she married. My grandfather worked and continued his training in the Co-operative Bakery after surviving as a messenger in the Bicycle Corp in WWI and, therefore, didn't follow his ancestors into mining.  Instead he eventually became a master baker. My grandparents knew the footballers, Jackie and Bobby Charlton, and the Charlton family who lived at the other side of town, but that's another digression.

William and Lauretta followed my family down to Reading after my mother came to study history, philosophy and logic, then commercial French and Spanish at Reading University. She was a very good mathematician and that was her profession in later life.
The Depression years gave folk the incentive to move to areas of the country where they could make a living just as my maternal grandfather x 2, Gilbert and his wife Mary Anne, had done when they moved from Cornwall to Cumbria before moving to Northumberland, the connection being mining. The fact that they had relatives in the southern counties and my mother's move might have influenced my grandparents to travel south with the younger children and make a new life in Reading.
As it happened, it proved to be a sad and traumatic time for my grandparents when one of their young sons was killed in a freak accident and by then my grandfather was not well.
Due to my grandfather's ill health my mother managed the Reading business after university. My father was managing a grocery shop next door and they met through mutual social circles.

my mother at the family bakery business

By the time I was born the second world war had just been declared at an end in Europe. My father was still over in Holland, France and then working his way up through Europe as a muleteer with his battalion of the 1st Mountain Regiment, RA.

I lived with my parents and grandparents in their newly-built house (below), which was almost opposite the new Sutton's trial ground and in an area that was still semi-rural and in the Wokingham Borough of Berkshire.

Later when I was married and after we came back from a time in Italy with our young family I went and worked at Sutton's making up orders.  it was an evening job and my husband looked after our children when he came home from work.  Although I had trained as secretary I embarked on a few years of study and then studied for a degree in education.

25 Jan 2016

A walk in Bradfield Dale

Today I'm sharing some of the photos I took recently during my walk by the local reservoir and the beck that runs through the lower part of Bradfield village.  This stream joins Agden reservoir with Damflask reservoir.  There were so many birds milling around in the specially-enclosed area for these domesticated birds it was hard to isolate a group or a single bird.  The ducks were quite amusing as they stood on the boulders at the edge of the beck. They would look at the flowing stream and then fly a little and then skim the water or dive straight in. The three geese were handsome birds.  I didn't get too close as they pecked at the seeds a villager had thrown on the ground. The one with the markings is possibly a goose/greylag cross breed.  Visitors are asked not to feed the birds, but as it's a popular spot for picnics in warmer weather there's no shortage of food and many birds are used to congregating there.
Agden Beck and Old School Bridge

It was a cold day and most people were either walking briskly about in the village, jogging or cycling.  Across the way are the old school rooms that have been converted into a cafe and also sells local produce.  We didn't go in for a hot drink on that day as we live so near home, but might take a look another time.

a muscovy drake

 some domestic geese and a male mallard duck

Agden Beck and Chapel Bridge

The former 1817 Weslyan Methodist Chapel is now the village parish offices.

Damflask Reservoir

Canada geese, mallards, gulls, a crow

a female mallard 

22 Jan 2016

Five on Friday

Once again I'm joining with Amy and sharing photos that give a little glimpse into my world this week.  (Five photos plus one extra because I can never decide which ones to choose for this post)!

Waking up early one morning I viewed a spectacular sky.
(the colours not enhanced at all)  

An open tulip head in a cranberry red glass globe vase 
delighted me. (On arranging a bunch one long stem had broken).

The snow fell and this anthurium 
(also called flamingo flower or lace leaf) 
on the kitchen window sill
looked rather splendid and healthy.  

'The Snow Fairy'

On Thursday I passed through the walled garden
on my way to the library.  The beds looked neat
and tidy, the roses had been pruned.
The Winter Garden was bathed in sunlight.

18 Jan 2016

My weekend

I've been wanting to use my new camera outside ever since I got it at Christmas and I had the opportunity to take a walk on both Saturday and Sunday.  My aim is to take better photos of birds so starting with something easy such as water birds I went to the river and local reservoir. In the end I got a few shots, which I'll share another time, but I'm going to have to get used to the zoom.   Everything else is on automatic mode. I got some advice on this particular camera and it's reassuring to see that a little icon changes according to use and light conditions, even macro. However, I still prefer my old camera as it feels more robust and I think it produces truer colours. I shall use this one when we travel. Here is a photo record of my weekend as I went out and about.


snow on the moors

ice on the roads


St. Nicholas' Church, High Bradfield - one of the high points in the area and usually mentioned on the regional weather forecast when there are high winds.

Low Bradfield

I usually pop into the village stores and post office to get one or two hand made greetings cards with scenes of the local area.  The village store also has a small eating area.

A  local dairy farm's van delivering milk and other 'My Cow Molly' dairy products is a familiar sight.

I've shared photos before of the daffodils along a local lane, but not so early in the year.

Members of the rowing club based at the reservoir were out on the water.


Sunrise.  Snow had fallen on Saturday evening and settled.

The view from the back bedroom window.

Later, after some of the snow had melted on the pavements I went for a walk in our neighbourhood.

The rhododendron in the churchyard always seems to be in bloom. It's in a spot near the side of the church and sheltered by the wall and the mature trees.

The first snowdrops in our front garden.