a new chapter

IMG_1507 (1024x768)I’ve been feeling in need of a change of late.

Nothing drastic, just a new corner of the internet to call my own.

I think I’ve found it, and after several days of tinkering, I’m ready to throw the doors open to the world. Would you like to see?

Snippets of a Life

Click on that link and you’ll be magically transported to my new online home, where you can pull up a chair and I’ll put the kettle on.

I’m a little sad to say goodbye to this little blog, although my cheerful living adventure won’t stop, of course. Strangely enough, I’ve been here for roughly the same time I spent with my previous blog – three years seems to be my limit before I start getting itchy feet.

I do hope you’ll join me over at Snippets of a Life. You’ll find things very familiar, and yet maybe subtly different, who knows.

A note: I’ve spent days debating the merits of wordpress vs blogger vs weebly. Each has its merits, and each has tiny little things that annoy me. However, I’ve had both blogger and wordpress blogs before so this time I’m giving Weebly a try – I do like a bit of novelty. You’ll still be able to sign up to receive posts by email, if that’s what you like to do.  

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an outing to Blacka Moor

IMG_1474 (1024x768)I have a long term plan to visit all eleven of our local Wildlife Trust reserves. I think at one point I planned to do this within a year (possibly 2011), but it’s extended well beyond that year and we’ve only just got round to visiting reserve number six.

Blacka Moor is perched high above Sheffield, on the edge of the Peak District. I drive past it a lot on my way to other places, but never found the time to stop.

We chose a gloomy day, after what can only be described as a Difficult Week (yes, with capital letters). The snow lingered, the sky was hazy, and the ground was thick with churned up mud.

IMG_1456 (1024x768) IMG_1461 (1024x768)I’m sure on a sunny day Blacka Moor is beautiful. The Wildlife Trust pictures show purple heather and breathtaking views. But I confess it didn’t feel very beautiful when we were there.

IMG_1467 (1024x768) IMG_1471 (1024x768)Still, we had a good stomp about in our wellies, and it was nice to be out in the fresh air.

IMG_1464 (1024x768)We saw quite a few people on mountain bikes, and if you’re brave enough I imagine the steep, rutted descents are rather thrilling.

It wasn’t all bad. I got to indulge my enthusiasm for lichen (and I’m now waiting for some more knowledgeable person to tell me that this isn’t lichen at all).

IMG_1466 (1024x768)And we had a nice cup of tea in Bakewell afterwards too, so I can’t complain too much.

Back home, things have turned decidedly snowy again.

IMG_1479 (1024x768)I’m quite enjoying being forced to walk everywhere. The trees make the most beautiful patterns against the wintry sky.

IMG_1483 (1024x768) IMG_1485 (1024x768)And because I’m walking places I’d usually drive to, I’m seeing things I wouldn’t usually see.

IMG_1487 (1024x768) IMG_1488 (1024x768)All very pretty – but I’m quite ready for spring now please.

Posted in i love it round here | 3 Comments

the internet – in your hands

I’ve got something exciting to show you… IMG_1357 (1024x768)Yep, that’s right, the second installment of my blog book has arrived! (Actually, it arrived in November, but I gave it to my mum without taking photographs so I had to wait until I’d visited, and then I took the pictures and promptly forgot all about them).

You can see the first version here. This one is much nicer, and was also much easier to produce. IMG_1359 (1024x768)Want to take a peek inside?

IMG_1365 (1024x768)You can read here about how I made the first one – it took a long time and was a right old faff. However, since I did the last one I’ve replaced my ancient Mac laptop with a rather more straightforward pc, and I was able to successfully download the Blurb software.

Blurb was pretty easy to use, even for me. It magically slurps your entire blog into itself, and then you set about the simple task of deciding what should go on each page. As before, I wanted to start each blog post on a new page, which was fine. However, the software has a set number of page templates – you can change them but I didn’t find it that easy. I battled for a little while to get the pictures lined up with the text, but eventually admitted defeat and settled on having the pictures on the same page as the text for each blog post.

IMG_1362 (1024x768)It does mean that on some pages the pictures are very small (especially for blog posts with a lot of writing and pictures), and it’s not always obvious which picture I’m talking about when you read the text.

I also realised (too late) that some of the pictures had been slightly cropped to fit in the template. I don’t have many photographs of people on my blog, but I did end up with one or two sliced heads.

Altogether though I’m ever so pleased with it. The process was a LOT easier than previously – the whole blog year took me less than a week to produce (the previous book took months of messing about). I don’t have the same problem with the font as I had last time, and somehow it looks a lot more professional when compared with the last one.

IMG_1364 (1024x768)This book cost almost twice as much as the last, but I think it was worth it since it was so easy to make.

My old blog, Daffy’s Garden, ends in September 2011, which means creating one more book for the last nine months. I’ll use the Blurb software again since it was so easy.

My dilemma is what to do after that? I switched from Blogger to WordPress – and WordPress doesn’t integrate with Blurb so it looks like I’m back to experimenting again for printing this cheerful living adventure.

Have you printed a book from your blog? How did you do it? Were you pleased with it?

Posted in cheerful living, look what i made! | 1 Comment


I confess I’m still not quite happy with the way things look around here, even after all my redecorating. However, I am bored of tinkering for the time being and have decided ‘good enough is good enough’ for now. I hope you can live with it!


Brr, it’s been a bit chilly lately. I confess I’ve felt rather like hibernating, and have taken any opportunity I can to snuggle under a blanket with a hot water bottle.

Last week we took hibernating rather too literally and sneaked off to a charming little in the Yorkshire Dales, just bought by some lovely friends of ours.

IMG_1376 (1024x768)We drove up after work and arrived late at night in the howling wind and rain. The cottage was cosy, but we weren’t sure what we’d find outside in the morning.

IMG_1369 (1024x768)We weren’t disappointed.

The first day we pottered into a local village to a cafe (of course) and then snuggled up at home in front of the fire. The next morning we woke to this:

IMG_1370 (1024x768)Hmm, not quite so charming. We stoked the fire and snuggled further under the blankets.

I spent quite a bit of time watching the weather change through the window.

IMG_1372 (1024x768) IMG_1374 (1024x768) IMG_1375 (1024x768)I’m not a fan of unnecessary driving in the snow, so we stayed near the house for the rest of the week, but with the sun shining I had to get out for a stomp in the snow.

IMG_1400 (1024x768)The valley was empty, and it felt strange to be alone in such an expansive space.

IMG_1401 (1024x768)IMG_1395 (1024x768)Of course, I wasn’t really alone.

IMG_1386 (1024x768)IMG_1408 (1024x768)Sometimes it’s nice to feel insignificant, and like nobody knows where you are, even if where you are isn’t all that far away.

IMG_1384 (1024x768)IMG_1378 (1024x768)We got back on Sunday, and woke on Monday to this:

IMG_1424 (1024x768)Apparently 2014 was the hottest year on record in the UK, and we didn’t have any snow at all last winter, so this feels all rather a novelty, and yet another good excuse to curl up with a blanket and a good book.

What’s the weather like where you are? Are you hibernating too?

Posted in adventures, home, in the garden | 4 Comments


I fancied a bit of a change in here, what with it being a new year and all. Please bear with me while I shuffle things around a little – back to some semblance of order after the weekend, I promise!

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the cost of growing food in a small garden

Radish (800x600)Last year I decided to see if my feeble attempts at growing food in our small city garden were actually saving us any money. You can read the original post here, and a May update here.

I kept track on a separate page on this blog, and noted down everything I bought for the garden, what we harvested, and how much it would have cost to buy the equivalent in the most likely place we would have bought it.

So – how did we get on?

We have just under 94 square metres of garden – including the (shared access) path, area under large shrubs, and the bit where we keep the bins. Not a large garden by any stretch, but plemty of space for a few veg and fruit plants.

I counted the first month as December 2013, because I’d bought seeds and garlic to start the year off (total cost £17.44). In January and February I harvested a total of £9.20 worth of rosemary (which I dried) and compost. Not a bad start to the year!

In March, things got a little spendy. I harvested a grand total of 59p worth of kale and cabbage, but spent £57.41 on a water butt, several bags of peat free compost and several trugs to use as planters. In April I bought yet more compost and another trug (£11.97), but the harvest started to pick up – £3.41 worth of compost and salad.

Home grown saladIn May I bought a few plants (tomatoes, and two lots of courgette plants after the first ones were eaten). Total spents of £2.90 were eclipsed by a harvest worth £5.10 – more compost, radishes, salad leaves and pea shoots.

June was a bumper month – I spent nothing and harvested £14.56 worth of garlic, herbs, salad, and my entire crop of gooseberries (worth £11.07). Another bumper harvest in July (£15.46, boosted by £10.50 worth of garlic) was slightly offset by buying yet more compost and seeds.

Salad Aug 2014I spent nothing at all in August, September and October, and continued to harvest bits of herbs, courgettes, and the odd tomato and potato – worth just under £2 a month. I confess I’ve hardly been outside at all in November and December, and have harvested nothing.

Over the year, it seems I’ve spent a grand total of £116.26 on the garden, and harvested £54.31. Which means, er, it actually cost us £61.95…


(and it is a BIG however)… by changing a few assumptions I reckon we can increase the ‘worth’ of our harvest quite a lot.

I made the decision early in the year to count the value of each crop as what I would have paid if I’d bought it from the shop I was most likely to have bought it from. A mouthful, but essentially it meant that if I harvested some radishes, rather than using the cost of locally grown, organic, unusal variety radishes (which is what I had), I used the cost of a mass produced bag of radishes from the local supermarket (which is what I would have bought).

radish (800x600)This gives perhaps a realistic picture of what we saved by growing our own, but doesn’t necessarily show the luxury value of what we actually ended up with.

Also, I didn’t count the value we added to things we grew. For example, I probably wouldn’t have bought the 1.6kg of gooseberries I grew – but I might well have bought the 8 jars of jam I turned them into. And given that home made gooseberry and elderflower jam is likely to sell for around £2.50 a jar at our local country market, I could have valued our gooseberries at considerably higher than £11.07.

Of course, there were other savings made by growing our own. Some nights I popped to the garden and harvested perhaps a courgette, a bit of cabbage and a few herbs. If I’d walked to the shop for that courgette, it’s likely I would have also bought an unneeded loaf of bread, bottle of pop and a chocolate bar. Thinking of it like that, growing food has saved us a fortune.

IMG_4872 (800x600)A lot of my time has gone into growing – but possibly not as much as I could have put in. I didn’t water as often as I could through the summer months, I lost many seedlings, and bigger courgette and cucumber plants to the slugs, and I’m fairly sure there’s still potatoes out there that I haven’t harvested (but where?). With a little more organisation I could have grown more efficiently.

Some of the money we spent was on things that we won’t need to buy again – a water butt (we have two now, which are more than sufficient), and planters (we now have plenty). Compost I’d need to buy each year, but the cost of that was less than the food harvested.

What about the costs that can’t be measured financially?

I’ve learned a lot about growing this year, and spent a fair bit of time talking to other growers and more knowledgeable pals. I’ve met some of our neighbours while working in the garden – one of the few advantages of a garden with no privacy. I’ve spent plenty of time outside, swapped harvest with friends, and gained the greatest pleasure of cooking with food we’ve grown.

IMG_0832 (1024x768)All far more valuable than just saving the cost of a few courgettes.

Things I learned

There were some days when I got home in the dark, and I just couldn’t be bothered going outside to pick tomatoes or salad. I’m ashamed to say we actually lost some of our crops because of this idleness.

Sometimes there was a lack of communication between the growing side of the household (me) and the food buying side (Peter), meaning we had a fridge full of reduced courgettes when we also had courgettes growing in the garden. Not clever.

Slugs are fiends. I never did learn to outwit them, the pesky blighters!

In the future?

As I said recently, I will be growing food again in 2015, but much of it will be in a friend’s garden, not ours, although we’ll keep salads and herbs outside our own back door. I’m tempted to keep track of costs again, to see just how much more we can grow with a bit more space. When you’ve only got space for two cucumber plants, it’s very easy for a couple of slugs to eat your entire crop in one night.

I’d make a resolution to pay more attention, plant more seedlings, do more watering – but I’ve promised myself no more unreasonable striving this year.

Instead I’ll just say I’ll plant some things, and if they grow, I’ll eat them. How’s about that for a resolution?

Posted in in the garden | 2 Comments

2014 – a year of running and gardening

IMG_1307 (1024x768)I don’t know whether I ever said it here, but early in 2014 I decided I couldn’t do everything this year, and I’d concentrate on just two things – running, and gardening. After my year of buttling in 2013, I was feeling the need to be a bit more focused.

In January, I made mozzarella, sourdough bread, and marmalade, got overwhelmed by it all, and declared that sometimes I wondered about keeping this little blog, and worried that I just didn’t have anything to say. Marmalade 2

sourdough bread 3Remembering my garden plans for the year, I decided to keep track of everything I grew, to see if it did actually save any money (more on that in the next few days).

In February I was surprised to see flowers in the garden (not much chance of that in 2015!).

Radish 1We bought a new car (and fixed it when it broke) and I painted the attic, and waffled on (and on) about how much I loved running.

Redmires 3In March, I wandered through some new woodlands, and started tidying the garden in the spring sunshine. Hyacinths in the atticSunshine in the living roomAs usual, I raved on about how much I love cafes.

In April, we went to Wales, and spent an entire fortnight staring at the sea.

IMG_3160IMG_3870When we came back, we ate salad from the garden, and had bicycling adventures with our friends. For the umpteenth time I declared I was going to pay more attention to household tasks (hmm…).Ringinglow 9In May I raved about running (again), and did my first triathlon in seven years. Radish (800x600)More things started growing (and being eaten) in the garden, and I pontificated about what counted as meaningful work.

More running in June, as I did the Race for Life with my family. At the endI signed up for an Applied Diploma in Permaculture Design, and continued last year’s series of writing about the permaculture principles. We went to a bicycle-and-musical festival and I made elderflower cordial for the first time. IMG_4500 (800x600) - CopyIn July I harvested our garlic, and we’re still eating it now. We wandered through the Peak District, and spent a weekend in Whitley Bay and visiting the Body Worlds exhibition. IMG_4814 (800x600)In August I got a bit behind, so I posted a whole lot of unrelated photographs, and then promptly lost my camera (I never did find it). I made plant pots out of carrier bags, spent some time in the garden, and did plenty of running. IMG_4872 (800x600)IMG_0138 (800x600)We spent a week in Church Stretton in Shropshire, watching the clouds and visiting various attractions.

IMG_0147 (800x600)In September things turned a bit autumnal. I spent a weekend at the national permaculture convergence in London and there more running (and yet more running) as I started to panic in the run up to the marathon.

IMG_0558 (800x600)IMG_0517 (1024x768)In October I watched a lot of episodes of Kojak while hand sewing a cheerful tartan patchwork dog and a new bag. Kojak 1 (1024x768)There was the marathon, of course (who could forget that?!). finish line (1024x768)Once I stopped marathon training, we set about walking around the city (here, and here) and I had a small excursion to an odd wildlife park.

I didn’t say much in November. We went to Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and I mused about what the garden said about me, and about how sometimes it would be nice to be somebody else.

IMG_1021 (1024x768)IMG_0913 (1024x768)In December, I tried to think up excuses for my lack of posting, and got rather excited about Christmas and our festive snow.

I haven’t posted as much as previous years.I’ve travelled a lot for work this year, although I haven’t written much about it here. Truth be told, it’s rather worn me out, and I’ve found myself saying ‘I’m too tired’ or ‘I’m too busy’ much more than I’d like.

I’ve barely sewed or knitted anything, and after my initial flurry of cheese making there hasn’t been much going on in the kitchen either. My enthusiasm for gardening waned as the year went on. Marathon training took up much of my energy and time in the summer, but since then I’ve barely run at all. There are things I’ve done that I’ve not written about – like playing my flute for a show at the Crucible Theatre, and rejoining the flute choir.

I do so love this time of year for making plans and hatching schemes, but this year I confess my thoughts are turning to peace, quiet, and home. Yes, there are things I’d like to do this coming year (more musical things for a start, and more work on my permaculture diploma), but I can’t bring myself to make goals in the way that I would usually do.

So this year I think will be different. There will be no decluttering declarations – I’ve never been minimalist and I’m clearly not going to start now. No outlandish fitness challenges. No weight loss goals, or new job schemes, or wild plans to move house. Any or all of these things might happen, of course, but for once I’m not putting numbers and dates on them.

For now, I’m done striving. I want to just be for a while and see where it takes me.

What’s your year been like? Have you got plans for 2015?

Posted in adventures, cheerful living, some things about me | 2 Comments


IMG_1316 (1024x768)With the garden under several inches of snow, my mind has turned to what to do when it’s all melted. I do so love this time of year for hatching plans and forming schemes.

So here I am on the settee, under a blanket, flicking through my ever-increasing pile of books about self sufficiency and growing food. Which feels a little odd really, since I’ve recently decided that I won’t be growing food in our garden this year.

I’ve made this decision before, and changed my mind, but this time is different. This time it’s not the result of grumpy frustration at slug-eaten seedlings and no courgettes. This time it’s the result of a long, well-thought-out process and a lot of planning.

I’ve mentioned my permaculture diploma before, but I don’t think I’ve said too much about it in this space. It’s a course of study, with a tutor, but you get to decide what you learn, and you’re assessed on a portfolio of designs that you submit after several years. One of my first designs is our little garden, and I’ve had much fun drawing base maps and greaseproof paper overlays of the existing features.

Existing features (768x1024)I’ve looked at wind direction, sunlight and shade, access points, existing use, and views. I’ve thought a lot about what we want to do in the garden, and what we want to produce, in the context of the permaculture principles.

And I’ve come to the conclusion that our little space is not, for me, the place to grow our main veg crop.

That does rather seem to fly in the face of advice to keep things close to home – ‘the best pest control is a gardener’s shadow’. But while I do love to grow food, the main thing I want from my garden is somewhere to sit, in peace and quiet, without a constant nagging feeling that I ‘should’ be doing something.

I often pop outside to eat lunch when I’m working at home, and I don’t find it restful to be greeted by dead plants, slug trails, and a never-ending feeling of being the scruffiest house in the street.

I know, I know, that what other people think should not concern me. But it does. And I also know that other people probably don’t bat an eyelid, and this is all about me. But I also know that I don’t have much space, and when I spent months nurturing a single courgette plant, and it’s eaten overnight leaving an enormous blank space, that makes me rather sad.

So no more courgettes in the garden. No more attempts at cabbages, or potatoes, or even strawberries (which I’ve only ever eaten a handful of in all the years I’ve been here).

I’ve spent a long time considering an allotment. I used to have one, and gave it back as I couldn’t keep up with the sheer size on my own, and as it was very overgrown when I got it, I never really got it under control. Sometimes I long for the space to grow more, but I know that the responsibility would just nag at me – another ‘should’ in a head that already feels full of them.

But there is now a solution! A kind friend has offered space in his garden for me to grow whatever I like! Someone else grew vegetables there, but has now moved out, and the garden is unused and a little overgrown. I can grow in any part of it, without being responsible for the rest. I can pop in whenever I like, and I don’t have to pay rent like I would with an allotment. There’s a water supply, and a polytunnel, and space for things like leaf mould and a manure heap, which I don’t have space for here. And it’s only 15 minutes walk away!

And so my food growing will mostly be transferred to our friend’s garden this year. No, I won’t be able to see it every day – but my eagle eyes didn’t result in good crops this year anyway. Yes, I’ll have to traipse up and down the hill whenever I want to visit – but there’s space to store tools there and I can always have a nice cup of tea when I arrive. The ground is good, and (most importantly for me) it’s not overlooked.

I just need to wait for the snow to clear so I can get my garlic planted now!

Posted in in the garden, permaculture | Leave a comment


IMG_1166 (1024x768) (1024x768)Merry Christmas!

As predicted, it was a lovely quiet day here. We opened gifts, spoke to family, and pottered around slowly making dinner, then pulled on our boots for a late afternoon stomp around the woods (with a quick visit to our local chicken friends on the way).

IMG_1190 (1024x768) (1024x768)IMG_1188 (1024x768) (1024x768)IMG_1160 (1024x768) (1024x768)Last night a friend arrived – staying over on his way back to Inverness to do the local parkrun with me. He got here just as the snow started to fall, and within a couple of hours things were looking very festive indeed.

IMG_1278 (1024x768)I just love the way our new white streetlights shine on the snow.

As cosy as it was, we just had to go out for a walk through the woods.

IMG_1227 (1024x768) IMG_1218 (1024x768)(Excuse the wobbly pictures, it was quite dark by this point and I’m surprised they came out at all!)

This morning I was expecting (hoping??) the parkrun would be cancelled but no! The sun shone, the snow was melting fast, and a band of 85 hardy souls braved the freezing sogginess to run round the park.

IMG_1293 (1024x768)IMG_1297 (1024x768) IMG_1307 (1024x768) IMG_1303 (1024x768)Utterly enchanting (and the first and last time I’ll ever be in the top 100 finishers!).

I’m back home now and curled up on the sofa with a hot water bottle and a blanket, listening to children sledging down the street and building a giant snowman in the garden opposite our house. My friend has left to drive to Inverness – I don’t envy him that journey at all, not today. I’m planning to stay right here on the sofa until bedtime.

IMG_1310 (1024x768) (1024x768) IMG_1311 (1024x768) (1024x768)Hope you’re cosy where you are this year…

Posted in cheerful living, home, i love it round here, in the garden, running | Leave a comment

nearly there…

IMG_1153 (1024x768)Things have started getting a little festive around here.

I love it.

My presents are nearly bought, our tree is up, and I’ve been out every weekend with the flute choir playing carols at local Christmas fairs. I’ve eaten quite a lot of mince pies and I’m just about to put some mulled wine in the slow cooker. There’s only four days of work left.

I love Christmas. I always take two weeks off work and we often go on holiday, although this year we’re staying at home. We eat Tunnocks teacakes and drink tea and advocaat, and walk in the frost looking at the twinkly lights. I spend a lot of time reading, and even more time planning all the things I’ll do next year.

Somehow time feels like it stops at Christmas. I imagine things are rather more hectic with a house full of children, and we’ll be visiting our share of those, but in our house it’s peaceful and cosy, and the new year feels full of possibility.

Not long now…

Posted in cheerful living, home | 4 Comments