This is turning out to be one of the nicest holidays I can remember. Or do I always think that? Either way, this summer plan of not having much of a plan at all, of writing in a few trips here and there and spending the rest of the time pottering around at home has come up trumps. Or rather, the weather has. This is the hottest, driest summer we’ve had in ages – at least, the past few days have been blissfully sunny and warm. We didn’t settle on any particular destinations this year, apart from the Devon family camp, and decided instead to chase the good weather wherever it may go: north or south, east or west. But as it’s been everywhere this week, so have we, with John and the children off on a little jaunt of their own while I stayed behind at home.
I love being on my own, knowing that soon the house will be full again. A day or two or three is just fine by me. My thoughts find their rhythm, and so do I, eating whatever and whenever I choose, going to bed whenever I like, getting up when I want to in the morning. So it must be a sign of approaching middle age that I have eaten balanced meals at reasonably sensible intervals, gone to bed at a decent hour and been up to make the most of every day.
Originally, the plan was to make a large pot of tea, switch the wireless on and make some serious progress on Fliss’ quilt. I haven’t even finished cutting out all the pieces, never mind sat sewing them together under the apple tree. I had wanted this quilt to be a hand-stitched one – one where I could look at each block and remember where and when I made it. I was hoping to stitch little bits of our summer and autumn adventures into it – days out here, camping trips there, a happy afternoon on the lawn. But the sun will insist on shining, and I’ve lived in Yorkshire long enough to know that when the sun shines, you go outside. So outside I have been, giving the garden a much needed bout of attention after all our days away, and bringing in bits of harvest in return. The vegetable beds are weeded, the fruit patch seen to, and the gravelly bits free of stray green. I’ve sorted out the neglected hanging baskets and rehung them at the door, and cut down at some astonishingly long brambles. Marigolds, from the bottom of the garden, have been rehomed in pots and beds much closer to the house, and there are sweet peas to cut each day to fill a little glass vase. The celery is benefiting from some much-needed watering, and the French beans are getting started in earnest. Fresh tomatoes turn red overnight, and when I sat on the bench by the hibiscus yesterday the bees buzzed in and out of the blooms around my ears. Honestly, it was very nearly heaven.
I say nearly because it seems I’m not the only creature to find our garden appealing. Those pretty white butterflies that float around the veg patch have been wreaking havoc with my brassicas. I’ve had caterpillars before, but never an invasion quite like this. To use a term I wish I’d coined but didn’t, it was very nearly a brassica massacre. Instead, it was the caterpillars that bought it. Thankfully we discovered the extent of the damage before the children went away, and so I had a team to help me squash them and carry the most infested leaves directly to the chicken run. It was a little bit heartbreaking in all sorts of different ways, and our suppertime vegetable plans were swiftly changed from cabbage to French beans. If only caterpillars weren’t such sweet, fuzzy little things – and didn’t like cabbage quite so much.
I think – I hope – we got there just in time. I had spring cabbage for supper last night, and each leaf was tender and pale green and whole. Tonight, though, I am feeding six once more – some of whom are in need of home-cooked food with all its vegetably goodness. There’s a bubbling pot of ratatouille in the oven which was growing in the garden only an hour before. John will be pleased – of that I’m sure. I suspect the children could have coped quite happily with a few more days of pemmican and grog and other camping rations. Still, they’re glad to be home for a breather before the next adventure. A big bowl of vegetables might not be sausages cooked over a camp fire, but to be home and bathed with a hot meal in front of you must surely be almost heaven.