Autumn Light.

For the past few weeks now I have noticed a change in the light.

Afternoon autumn sun flooding the dining room

Afternoon autumn sun flooding the dining room

The shadows have become longer. The sunlight during the day has become more stark, almost piercing. The seasons are changing without us hardly knowing! Autumn is arriving, creeping silently into summer. The days are becoming shorter. Soon it will be night by 4pm! For now, I am valuing every minute of light. Savouring the last bloom of flowers and the remaining buzz of bees before nature slows down for winter.

Part of me wants to mourn the loss of the light, but autumn brings its own pleasures. Like the frenzied activity at the bird feeders and the Sedum finally flowering after budding for so long!

Bird feeder

Bird feeder

Sedum and Honey Bee

Sedum and Honey Bee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today I have been making ready the house for autumn and the coming winter. The windows got a good clean and the voiles have all been washed. I have also changed the bedroom curtains from the sky blue to the teal in preparation for the darker evenings to come.

Picture from 2013

Picture taken 2013

Come the evening, I was busy in the kitchen making a, Peruvian Quinoa Stew(serves 3 people).

Ingredients:

  • 15og of quinoa, rinsed well
  • 200 – 250 ml of water
  • 1 onion (white) diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic sliced
  • Olive oil for frying (I use lower fat olive oil)
  • 1 celery rib chopped
  • 1 carrot sliced
  • 1 bell pepper (any colour)
  • Handful of green beans, chopped. You can use any variety of vegetables
  • 200ml of vegetable stock (I used reduced salt)
  • 400g of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of chilli powder (I used medium)
  • 1 teaspoon of ground coriander
  • half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper (put more in if you like heat)
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • Fresh, chopped coriander for garnish, if preferred. (I left out)

Method:

  1. I rinsed the quinoa. Placed it in a small pan with the 200ml – 250ml of water and cooked, over a medium heat, for about 15 minutes or until soft. Then I set aside with a lid on the pot to absorb the remaining water.
  2. While the quinoa cooked, I had a second pan on the hob. I chopped and sautéed the onions, then added the garlic in a little olive oil for about 5 minutes over a low to medium heat. It may have taken a little longer for me as I was busy chopping the other vegetables while the onion cooked.
  3. Then I peeled and sliced the carrot. Washed and chopped the celery. I added both to the cooking onion and garlic and cooked for a further 5 minutes, stirring often so nothing stuck or burnt to the pan. It took longer as I had the hob on a lower heat.
  4. After chopping the bell pepper and green beans, I added them to the pan with the other vegetables and then added the tin of tomatoes, along with the spices (cumin, chilli powder, coriander, cayenne and oregano). I let them blend together for just a few minutes and then poured in the stock. I covered the pan and let simmer for about 15-20 minutes, maybe longer, until the vegetables were tender
  5. After everything had cooked I stirred in the cooked quinoa, warmed it up again, and adjusted the salt to taste.
  6. Add chopped coriander if needed. (I left out)

While the quinoa had cooked and the vegetables were simmering in their covered pan. I stood by the sink and washed the knives and measuring jugs used in the preparation. I gazed out of the window and cherished the bird antics going on before my eyes.

I counted up to 17 Goldfinches at the sunflower and nyger seed feeders. Amongst them were still some babies flapping their wings, begging! Pigeons pecked at the off-casts the Goldfinches threw out and the visiting Dunnock hopped among the vines of the climbing Passion Flower snatching at insects!

I am happy to report that the Sparrows are still visiting in numbers. There were at least five on the feeders and I watched on as three Sparrows had discovered my ground cage feeder and were happily guzzling the dried meal-worms I had left out for the Dunnock. A Sparrow and Starling fought for the right to feast on the fat block sitting in the Laurel bush. The Sparrow won!

The meal finally came together. I must say the spices were rather muted, maybe some more or an added chilli could have helped? It was however a filling and healthy meal, though my mum disliked the quinoa ‘tails’!

Peruvian Quinoa Stew

Peruvian Quinoa Stew

And also:

I have done some more research on quinoa and its ‘tails.’ The seed is from South America and was the staple diet of the Incas. The tails are not tails at all, actually they are the endosperm of the seed. The nutrition or power house for the growing seed, much like the albumin of an egg. According to BBC Good Food, quinoa, is a complete protein, meaning it has all nine amino acids. It is a fantastic wheat free choice and is highly digestible. It has twice the protein content of rice and barley and is also a good source of calcium, magnesium, vitamin E and dietary fibre.

The health benefits speak for itself. I think I’ll be cooking with this little seed a lot more in the future! 🙂

Have you eaten any good meals with quinoa? I would love to know your thoughts on this super seed!

Christine xx

Excited..much!

This Saturday has been all about Spring cleaning.

While David was off getting his hair cut, I was tackling the voiles and curtains and giving them their much needed freshener.

I had already done the bedroom window last weekend, changing the teal curtains to the sky blue and David had eradicated the growing mould and given it a fresh coat of paint.

As I write all windows have been cleaned inside. David now has to clean the outside with his new squeegee! Hope it works well for him!

Today the weather had been gloriously springlike. This afternoon, I went outside and checked the status of the garden.

1. There are buds on the Magnolia and Acer trees.

2. I discovered the Primula I bought last year, has grown again and has buds on it!

3. The tulips are beginning to grow their flower heads! It’s only a matter of time before they grow to maturity! (My Bluebells look the same, but have a month more to grow! Finger’s crossed they bloom!)

Tulip budding

Tulip budding

4. The Aquilegia has grown in bounds. I am so excited for the third coming of this plant!

Aquilegia growing! The third year running!

Aquilegia growing! The third year running!

5. The flame of the forest and dwarf rhododendron have buds on them!

Rhododendron budding

Rhododendron budding

6. My Sedum has grown for the third year running!

The Sedum!

The Sedum!

It was the Spring Equinox yesterday and this means I am excited for the longer days and brighter nights to come. I look forward with expectation to what flowers in my garden. Will my Tulips and Bluebells grow to fruition? Will the Lily and Orchid bulbs flourish in the Summer. Who knows? Here’s to a warmer future! 😀

Christine x

An Update on the Garden.

I’ve not written for a while as:

1) I don’t think anyone reads what I write, so why bother… and

2) I have started a new position in Knowsley, in a day centre for adults with learning difficulties, strokes and degenerative illnesses. It’s an admin job supporting a blind receptionist (she even has a guide dog!). So my days are now filled with travelling, (almost 3 hours in total daily), and working 3-5 hours a day, filing, taking phone calls, helping with general admin work. It doesn’t seem hard work, not as taxing as the work at the Royal was. The people all seem nice and it’s a job. It may only be 18 hours a week, but it’s better than the dole!

Every day I come home and wander around our small garden/yard. The Phlox that I have recently bought is starting to flower. The Sedum is ‘huge’ and is ready to ‘pop’ at any time and my Salvia is growing again! The Salvia was a prolific grower last year, it had flowers well into October!

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The biggest anticipation for me is the blooming of the Passion Flower. The plant has loads of buds on it and some have now turned purple. I keep looking daily to see if one has flowered but it is keeping me waiting! 😀

Passion Flower Bud

Passion Flower Bud

The Cat Mint is still choking up the garden and attracting Bees, but different Bees than the first influx of Bumblebees. I think the picture below shows a Honey Bee enjoying the flowers?

Honey Bee?

Honey Bee?

There have been new baby birds visiting the feeders too. There have been two baby Blue Tits, (that I could see). Baby Great Tits but I could not see how many, (they make quite a racket begging for food.) There have been up to three baby Sparrows who only come for the food and then once fledged they bugger off! And now the Goldfinch babies with their brown heads are visiting. There must have been about four the other day flying from the feeders with their parents!

Flower Power!

It’s going to be another one of those blogs as I have the ‘black dog’ biting at my heels and in much need of my spirits lifting. So I am posting some pictures of the flowers in my garden… all seems to be blooming yet again.

I was worried for my Michaelmas Daisy but that has started sprouting leaves. My Sedum is growing from strength to strength. I hope flowers come on it this year as last year bees and butterflies loved it!

My Rhododendron has started opening, and the flowers on the Flame of the Forest look so delightful, almost like tiny bells!

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Longer Days are Coming…

The nights are drawing out and the clocks have not gone back yet! However we have had a few ‘spring like’ days in the NW of England recently and whilst on my walk to work I have smelt the promise of warmer weather and longer days. Even the birds are getting ready for the new season, as whilst I was standing at the bus stop on Friday a Magpie flew overhead with nesting material! Spring is such an exciting time as the world slowly awakens from the cold grasp of winter.

This weekend I have been busy hunting for more ‘spring’ flowers for the garden with insects in mind.

David took me to my favourite garden centre Lady Green in Ince Blundell and I spent over £50 on plants! In my defence half of that was on a Magnolia, ‘water-lily’ tree, I just hope it grows. I have had two other Magnolias before and they have both died. 😦 Third time lucky I say!

Amongst the purchases I bought an Erysimim which I found out was a Wallflower and an Anemone which is a kind of Poppy! I went shopping with a list and came away with everything other than what was on the list! I just followed the RHS sign of ‘Perfect for Pollinators’

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The weather forecast for the UK this weekend was supposed to be warm with sunny spells. It did not feel like that on Saturday, it was cold, grey and miserable. So I have planned to plant my purchases tomorrow. Hopefully Sunday will be a brighter day?

Whilst pottering about the garden today I noticed my Sedum has sprung back to life! That was a plant which was covered with bees and butterflies last year so I hope it will be the same this year!! My Cat Mint and Oregano has ‘spawned’ again as has my Aquilegia, which is such a prolific plant! This will be the second spring it has reseeded itself!

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Amongst others, David’s Acer has started to re-bud and my Hellebore has grown, I have high hopes for that next winter. My Jasmine, though it looks a bit twee seems to have survived the wet winter and my Passion Flower has grown astronomical! I hope there are flowers this summer, it will look beautiful!!

Things are slowly awakening and hopefully once the warmer days are upon us, the garden will start to have the buzzing of insects and the chinking of wine glasses! I can’t wait to sit and enjoy my outside space. I have been stuck inside for way too long! Fingers crossed there will be at least as good if not better summer than last year ahead! We can but pray!

Christine xx

Wildlife Spotting while Shopping.

It has been a lovely bright, warm weekend in the NW of England! Summer has indeed stayed a little longer than usual 😀

On Saturday Mum, David and I headed for my favourite garden centre, Lady Green, in Ince Blundell. We still needed to buy wildlife friendly plants for the other side of the garden.

We spent over £40 but I got a lovely pink Michaelmas Daisy and a Sedum which was covered with huge Bees and butterflies!

red admiral

I counted at least five different species of butterfly while we strolled amongst the plants. Those spotted were:

  1. Red Admiral
  2. Speckled Wood
  3. Small White
  4. Small Tortoiseshell
  5. Comma

Comma

Back home, amongst the mass of Goldfinches, Starlings and Pigeons, a new guest has been spotted at the bird feeders, a Robin to accompany the recently visiting Blue Tit who has been very vocal! The Robin seems timid and probably the mass of Goldfinches may chase him away. I will keep you updated.