Noël

Christmas was finally all about the boy in our house this year.  He LOVED the build up.  We had many chats about the bearded fellow I discussed in my last post, and whilst we did not entirely give in, there came a moment when he asked ‘Mama, can we just pretend that Santa will come to our house?’ Such a rational compromise from a little boy who was enthralled by the enchantments and enticements fed to him at preschool and wanted to find a way to engage that would suit his reluctant parents.  So, we acquiesed, and filled in a Portable North Pole dossier with him so that ‘Santa’ would send him a (very convincing indeed) video message that gave us all a giggle.  We also watched Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas just about every day over the festive period.  So whilst we did not really ‘do Santa’ – the wee one knew we bought the presents and was pretty much part of the charade – we had a bit of fun with it all the same.

Other delights that gave the wee one something to talk about included a preschool visit to the Snow White Panto at the Byre Theatre – here we are en route, I took the day off to be a mother helper, and it was just as well – a slick production, but altogether a little too loud and scarey for many of the wee ones and K was happy to escape home with Mama afterwards.

Off to the panto with the tiny ones

We also went to the Craigtoun Park Christmas Fair and after getting a bit of a disappointing gift from Santa (mainly because it was not the same as the gift his little pal got before him – gone are the days of one present for boys and one for girls!), the wee guy elected to be painted up as the jolly fellow himself, there was no escape for us!

Mr Claus

The house is decorated and it is just us for the festive season, peace and goodwill to you all!

Welcome again

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Early Summer in the Garden

According to good gardening wisdom, one should wait a full year in a new garden before doing anything to it.  I am not sure that this advice extends to avoiding weeding, but so far my erratic health and the dreary weather have created a sense of inertia that has meant the poor garden has had to thrive in spite of my neglect thus far.  I am glad to report though, that it has mostly managed to do so, and is putting on a rather lovely summer showing just now.

This is a favourite vista from near the chicken yard, by the pond rockery.

The bees are ALL over this lovely little pink shrub.  I have no idea what it is (such a gardening novice…guess I will learn eventually) but it is right outside the end window in the lounge – which enhances the view no end.

I don’t think I had ever seen Honesty at this stage of it’s growth, having only ever encountered it in hideous 80’s dried flower arrangements.  I rather love the greeny-purple nature of this incarnation.

This is apparently (forgive me if I am wrong) Orange Hawkweed – which is noxious in some places, as it is an amazing alpine self-seeder.  It has rather taken over the rockery, but I think I kinda like it – though I do think that perhaps a little more thought to colour scheme could have gone into this garden, it has been a rather haphazard lurching from one shade of the spectrum to another – which does not appeal to the minialmist in me.

There is a certain wildness to the garden – which is not entirely due to my leaving it to it’s own devices.  Little yellow poppies have appeared everwhere, not always to the Doctor’s liking, but I have been cheered by their sturdy delicacy.  I suppose I should probably nip them in the bud at this stage to limit their spread for next year.

Another alpine that is doing remarkably well is the Alpine Strawberry which I discovered quite by accident this past weekend.  Kaz was very keen to munch them all up, they made a tiny little treat for his afternoon tea.

Whilst we made a bit of a slow start in planting our vege garden this year (and thus may have missed out with some things), there is some evidence of growth – especially with the Elephant Garlic we planted at the outset of our gardening endeavours.

We discovered last year that many things we might have grown well in other places we have lived, will not survive the cool damp climate of Fife.  But the ever-reliable poatato does extremely well here.  We tried no-dig potatoes this year and they did not eventuate, but we love the lusciousness of our potato grow bags by the shed and are looking forward to harvesting them next month.

Christmas Countdown

Only eight more sleeps to go…This year I really wanted to initiate Kazuo into the counting down to Christmas that was such a cherished part of my childhood.  He is still acquiring the capacity to deal with delayed gratification, so this has been an interesting lesson.  I did feel that having a tiny treat each day might just help to pass the time and fend off any attempt to try opening the presents under the tree, or raid ‘the secret place’ upstairs where the unwrapped gifts were being stored away.

But I didn’t want to just pick up some over-commercialised, once-only cardboard calendar (though I realise that would have done the trick admirably).  In the spirit of establishing a tradition, I made a Christmas Countdown…  Out with some stamps, some garden pegs, some leftover fabric from my bridesmaids’ skirts and Kazuo’s birdy blanket, a little ribbon and twenty-four tiny little treasures and hey presto:

When we presented it to Kaz on 1 December and mounted it on the wall, we explained that each day there was something to eat, something to do or something to wear.  [This year this translates as Chocolate Penguins, stickers, tree decorations, bubble blowers and some cutsey little badges]. He has been quite excited about opening the Countdown-Thingy each day and we have made a little ritual out of it.

Last weekend we collected our Caring Christmas Tree and decorated the house for the festive season.  This year Kaz was not so phased by the spiky needles, and was keen to help put up decorations, though he did have a charming propensity to put them ALL on the same branch at his height…but with a little help from mama and dada they are now evenly re-distributed.  He was VERY pleased with himself afterwards.

This past week has  been full of wintery tummy bugs.  First Kazuo (all week – he is on the mend today, but it was a long week for him I think) and now Mama.  We are now hoping that we are not having to quarantine ourselves for the festive season, and hope to have the door open to you if you care to drop by and celebrate with us.  Happy holidays.  Hope you enjoy the rest of the countdown!

Finally At Home

It has been a rather lengthy hiatus of painting, re-insulating, packing, unpacking, getting a hundred colds and flus and trying to juggle the minutiae of daily life with the desire to prettify and make homely…but I can finally report that we have made ourselves well and truly At Home.  I mentioned some months back (in another long winded apology for my absence) that we were looking for a house.  After a protracted round-the-houses search, we finally settled on the very first place we looked at, in the charming village that had initally caught our eye.  So now we are slowly settling into village life.

Our Scottish village is a little unusual in that it has all the essentials of an English village.  It boasts a village green, a charming kirk, a couple of pubs, an art gallery, a pottery, an antique shop,  a village shop, a butcher, a post office, a school and – to the little one’s delight – a playground.

One thing that I am particularly glad about is the abundance of footpaths and walking routes.  A year of being somewhat stranded at the house without any way to go walkabout has taken its toll on me and I am itching to get out and about exploring.  But for now, we moved in just as the winter weather crept in and we are gathering gloom on our way to the shortest day, so exploring will have to wait a little longer…

The house was a cottage that has had a little extension done to it.  We were grateful to find a home that had room for everyone, and a garden for the chooks who have settled in happily and seem to be thriving.  The doctor even found a pond in the garden, so we should have some hoppity friends in the summer.  There are still little homely tasks to complete, but we have managed to make ourselves comfy enough to welcome one lot of visitors and now we are cosying up for Christmas.

The little one settled in pretty well, he seems to love racing down the hallway, and pottering about in his new room – ‘working’ at his ‘office’ or building towers or constructing train tracks in the lounge.  I even managed to unpack the sewing machine and cobble together a hasty Bob outfit for his first day at nursery after the move (a little more warning for next year’s Halloween costume would be handy!)

So we are at home for the holidays and hoping that new space and more organisation might just mean I pop in and out of here a little more often.  Finger’s crossed!

Henny Hen Hen…

After the Fearsome Mr Fox encounter a few weeks ago, we really had to find the enduring little Naynaynay Number Four some company.  By all accounts, chickens do not fare so well alone, being social creatures.  Nay was looking a little nervy (well, a little more than her usual nervy self) and was tucking herself away in the coop alone each night in a forlorn manner.  So we contacted a local breeder, since the next hen rescue seemed to be some months away. 

Two weeks ago we finally welcomed two rather spectacular blacky-green Australorps to our little patch.   Kaz was as pleased to see them as he was to welcome the last lot, especially since he has discovered just how much he loves the chickens…

They are only a few months old, so they are not yet ready to lay.  We were assured that they would be mild mannered and easy going, though possibly a  little intimidated by our bossy older hen.  We kinda smirked at the suggestion that timid, permanently pecked little Nay could ever be bossy. But it is a classic textbook case of the-bullied-turns-bully… She spent most of the first few days fixing the poor youngsters with her one remaining evil eye and rushing at them for a little peck every chance she got.  And though they do keep each other warm at night, she seemed to waver between needing to take charge of the territory and asserting her space in the coop – so bedtime was a little fraught to begin with.

We have a month to help them settle in together.  The little 6x4ft run seemed a bit tiny when the rather grand sized young birds were there on their own…and so the weekend we got the new girls, the doctors honed their man-skills to construct a larger pen by cobbling together materials found in the copse.  But the next day we got home to find that the athletic Australorps had escaped Naynaynay’s brutish behaviour and the pen in one nifty hop over the coop…so we are back to taking the risk with Mr Fox and hoping that a broader area to roam about in may enable them to establish their pecking order with a minimum of feathers flying.  They all seem to be sticking relatively close to home…so fingers crossed! 

The first real test was three nights alone this last weekend – we went on holiday!  The girls all survived, and we found them here under the hedge on our return:

It is wonderful to have such beautiful young birds in our garden.  For the time being we are trying to make friends with the very wary newcomers and shall reserve their naming ceremony until we have had a better chance to get to know them.  Let’s hope they fare much better than the last little flock!

We’re Have I Been All This Time…

Longest break I’ve taken in a while…somehow, at the end of a week at the keyboard, it is kinda hard to make time to pop in here.  Silly me.

Weekends have taken on a new measure of quality family life now that our time all together is really limited to breakfast and dinner/bath/stories/bed.  We ALL look forward to those weekends.  Since I last checked in we have had a few adventures.

April was our Scottish Summer this year I think.  So one weekend we took advantage of the delightful weather and strolled along the Fife Coastal Path

with our new friends Tomandsuzie (not to be confused with Tomandclaire) and our wee tots to the Cocoa Tree in Pittenweem.

Then we made some essential modifications to the chicken coop so that the girls could get up and go to bed without our help (esp helpful now that it is light around 4.30am and dark at 10.45pm)…and so that a helpful undergrad could come in and feed them whilst we made our first UK road trip to visit Tomandclaire in Manchester.  During this balmy weekend we managed an outing to the local RSPB reserve…

…and HeatonPark which had the added bonus of a tiny farm and a playground.

The following weekend was the Royal Wedding – and though none of us are particularly royalist in persuasion…there is something kinda lovely about a wedding…so I managed to make a cuppa and turn on the TV for some of the proceedings – though I did have a lot of interference from the easily distractable male members of the family.  We followed up the festivity with our first BBQ of the season – though the weather was not so great then, and has not really picked up since.  Sigh…

Later on we even managed a spot of garden planting.  As per usual, the little herbies are doing great.  But after an unseasonably warm April, May has been so cold that not much else has survived the transfer to the cold little garden patch .  Apart from the fabulous radishes we harvested this week.

The big news of the month was QPR (the Doctor’s football love) were promoted to the Premier League.  Whilst sport is still really something I do not understand…this was an event worth celebrating – with chocolate cake and bubbles!

And the other big news was the big-boy bed.  We took the sides off the cot…and Kaz has pretty much settled into a rhythm of sleeping in his own little space.  We have to lie down by him now to get to sleep…but that usually happens pretty quickly.  He has fallen out several times, and one night I stepped on him in the dark (oops) and another night he fell over all his toys trying to get out the door in the dark…but slowly we have made adaptations and sleep IS happening.  Now onto potty training…

Our final news is the galvanising into action on the house-hunting front.  We have been out most weekends looking for a permanent home.  A frightening and enlightening process.  We think we have narrowed down the area we would like to live in…and this charming village has caught our eye…

…Kaz has so far loved going to see houses, esp when we come across a playground en route

…but it will probably take us most of the summer to find something we are sure about…so no move imminent yet!

So…a big update.  Sorry it was so long…and I was absent for so long…hope to mitigate that in future.  It all got a bit hectic there for a while.  Happiness to you and thanks to those of you who kept popping in to see how we are doing.  I will try to be back here more often in future!

Making Ourselves at Home

The weekend has finally arrived.  It is time for a new look here at ‘Not Working’… As I mentioned earlier in the week, on Monday I enter the potentially crazy world of workinginsideandoutsidethehome.  I am shying away from saying I am going back to work, since it is abundantly clear to me…and most people who think about it for a few minutes…that there are all kinds of work done in our world – and not all are remunerated.  But from Monday, I shall be remunerated for some tasks I do, and I will be remunerating someone else to do the many happy tasks I have been doing with Kazuo for the past two years.

Akira and I will be renegotiating the roles we play in keeping the home running, though we have managed to develop a fairly smooth routine, so I am hopeful that there will not be too many teething problems there.  Kazuo will make perhaps the biggest adjustment – as he settles into a life of full time nursery school.

As I reflect back on what I have felt about ‘working’ over the past few years – and look forward to more time here in the blog (yayy for lunchbreaks!) I came to the conclusion that I was working hard to make us all feel at home, wherever we happened to be.  So even while I return to the paid workforce, this need to feel at home…and help my family and our critters feel at home…is perhaps the guiding narrative of our life together. (See more on this on the Where I Find Myself Page.)

This weekend I have bustled about trying to get our house in order to weather the changes ahead.  I finally managed to find some secondhand cubbies for the entrance hall, and managed to wrestle some control over the chaos that had developed in that little vestibule.  Now the coats hang in the corner, the boots have a space, and the wee guy can sit down for wellies/shoes/slippers and not stand up caked in mud (or latterly, chicken poop – ewwww!):

We’ve planted a tiny row of garlic in our little plot – and now to wait for the spring for the other plantings:

And we installed a compost bin and made a trip to the recycling centre – showing the little one the delights of separating out our waste:

Here we are then…making ourselves at home.  I hope you will too.

Eggs!

Our girls survived the night and a really frosty, sleety morning.  We are making constant modifications to their world and ours to accomodate them and we hope that poor little Naynaynay Number Four will last the distance, she is looking very much the bottom of the newly established pecking order.

But the big news this morning was: Eggs!  Here is Kazuo proudly displaying the first one that we found after breakfast:

He’d never held an egg before, so sadly, it came to a bit of a sorry end at the close of this photo shoot.

But by the time I returned from the shopping at lunchtime, there was another warm little brown egg in the nest box.  Well done girls!

Our Girls

Today we brought our rescued ex-battery hens home from the farm on which they spent the first few intensive-laying months of their lives.  We found them through the wonderful work of the British Hen Welfare Trust.

These are their first few moments being settled into their new house Akira assembled for them a couple of weeks ago:

They are scrawny girls who have never walked anywhere in their little lives, so they will mostly stay in and around the coop for a couple of weeks while they get strong on the special feed we are giving them.  Hopefully they will also re-feather fairly soon too. Although we will be away on a daily basis, we are aiming to let them learn to roam about the yard as often as possible. One poor chook is very much on the plucked-chicken side of things, and seems blind in one eye – so we hope she will manage to thrive under our novice husbandry.

Kazuo has been SOOO excited about the ‘ex-battery-clucks’ for some weeks now – so it was fantastic to give him some soon-to-be-cuddly new friends.   Since dogs and cats and hamsters and gerbils are off the agenda due to allergies, these are our pets.  They will be known as Mrs Cluck, Feathery Frou Frou, Henny Hen Hen and Naynaynay Number Four.  Hopefully they will also reward us with a few eggy treats in the weeks to come.

Kazuo had trouble containing his enthusiasm once the chicks were in their run.  It may take some time for him to realise that they are a little wary of his happy interrogations.  But two brave  girls ventured out of the run not long after their arrival (they were more sturdy than I expected, which was quite amazing given their previous lifestyle) and although one was soon scared back inside by Kaz, the other had a curious little exploration of the yard before bedtime.

Welcome girls, we are glad you have come!

It’s beginning to look a lot like…

Our driveway – like many others in these parts –  has turned into an ice rink, and so the treacherous journey to the road is perhaps the worst part of any outing at the moment.  This did slow our efforts to bring Christmas to the house this year…we set out and abandoned the tree-purchasing venture a couple of times in the past weekend.  But Sunday morning, we managed to find a flat-access farm shop with some real trees still for sale.  Amazingly, it bundled neatly into the back of the Honda, and Kazuo poked at the needles all the way home.

It was good that we avoided the tree issue last year when he was just getting walking (Christmas with the O’Connors in London mitigated the need for a tree at home) and this year he was totally excited about the project.  He helped Mama choose places for decorations and was quite interested in the little lights and the sparkly tinsel.

He is not a big fan of anything with a human face right now (dolls are COMPLETELY out).  So having a few little angel decorations in strategic places, combined with his discovery in the car that pine needles “make you go ouch”, has meant he is pretty much in love with the tree, but not that keen to get too close!

After a happy afternoon of decorating, the doctor and I finally got to sit down in the lounge with some proto-mince pies and a cuppa.  It is looking and sounding and smelling a lot like Christmas around here now.  The snow is set to roll in again this coming weekend though…so we hope that we will not be eating turkey alone when the actual day comes…