A Very Nice House in the Country

Oh my, look at this garden. How lucky am I to sit out and stare at this every day?

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June 2016

To paraphrase Blur, we live in a very nice house in the country – how lucky are we? Technically it’s a bungalow, but we’re not going to quibble over the lack of an upstairs are we? One of the advantages of living in our “very nice house” is the beautiful garden we’ve created.  When we moved in there was just a lawn and a Silver Birch tree. No flower beds, no borders, just a lonely tree and a mouldering wooden bench. We’ve spent 20 years creating this garden and I can tell you where almost every plant came from. You know how I feel about full disclosure, so let’s give Mr T credit for his contribution to this garden transformation, which amounts to lawn mowing, dead pet burying and shed building! In the early days we had strict rules, whatever we bought had to earn it’s keep. That meant edible or evergreen, preferably both. We begged and stole plants from friends and neighbours, I sowed seeds and took cuttings. 20 years on I can see that all that early work was worth it. My garden gives me joy every day.

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Ruby Chard 2017

Our garden also feeds us – literally and spiritually – nothing helps restore balance better than sitting by the fire, drinking beer and eating food you’ve grown yourself. I’d like to say it’s deliberate, but it’s definitely the result of a lack of energy and inclination that we also have a bounty of free food in the form of weeds and wild flowers that flourish in our borders and in the hedges.

I’m busy transplanting seedling in the greenhouse, watching carefully for signs of activity in the perennial beds and getting excited about our first nettle soup of the year (we’ve already had risotto and gnocchi, soup is for the later, tougher stems).

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Nettle soup topped with creme fraiche and chives

It feels good to grow food; it feels even better that now we are able to find room for flowers and decorative shrubs that do little more than look pretty for a few weeks each year (but that’s OK too, they give me joy and that makes them pretty useful in my book). They’re also finding their way into dye pots, releasing magical colour and helping me find new ways of recording the memory of the garden (because one day we’ll move from here and I want to have something to take away).

In the last few years I’ve also noticed that gardens are pretty forgiving. Veg patches don’t mind if you occasionally forget to weed or to thin young plants. When the grass gets too long it gives the dandelions time to flourish (young leaves for salads, flowers for the dye pot and roots for our favourite dandelion and burdock recipes). Because we back onto farmland we’ve learned to accept that nettles and cleavers will always “win” if you try to control them, so instead we eat young nettle shoots and as a bonus the butterflies lay their eggs. Neater gardeners might frown at our lack of order, but for me it’s a bonus. Our garden is filled with all manner of wildlife and self seeded gems.

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Nasturtiums – essential salad garnish!

If there’s a lesson to be learned in letting my garden grow a little wilder these days it’s that the unexpected can bring good as well as bad. Not being in control is OK.

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  • I’m Tracey Todhunter. I’m a freelance writer. specialising in green / ethical living – with a “sideline” in craft!

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  • Gonna get dirt under my fingernails, sctratched by rose thorns & probably break a nail or two - but I don't care! First photo shoot for new book is done & now I have six weeks before my hands need to look pretty again! The glamorous life of a crochet designer eh?!?
#instacrochet #instagarden #knittersofinstagram #girlgardener #growsomethinggreen #littlestoriesofmylife #permaculture #orestgarden #cuttinggarden #ediblegarden The end of a long week, featuring 2 days in London, 3 hours on an unheated train, beaten to the last taxi by a hen party, but finally I'm home in my jammies and hand knit socks - this is what happy looks like!!
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In a world where you can be anything, be kind, when all you have to offer is time, give it freely and without expecting anything in return.  Remember that compassion is the answer, always and forever. 
Three weeks ago I lost one of my best friends, but I have found solace in these 2 beautiful girls, now women, making their way in the world and knowing that they learned these lessons from the example set by their mothers.
I'm so sorry to everyone who is expecting a reply to an email, a letter or a facebook message. I am doing as much as I can, when I can, but I know I've fallen short of my usual efficiency!!!
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