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This summer we’ve got the builders in. Rather than spend lots of money on renting, were going to live for six weeks in our back garden. No TV, no showers, no cooker – and three kids to keep happy. It could be the best summer we’ve ever had – or it could be a disaster. Follow it all here!

From frosty leeks to hearty winter leek and potato soup

Post-Christmas we often turn to soup as a way of getting over the inevitable feeling of over-indulgence. For a home-grown homemade ingredient, this time of year is all about leeks for us in the Willow Cottage Garden. So rather inevitably soup du month is leek and potato.

This morning was one of those beautiful winter frosty mornings. Fantastic for walking the dog, but not so great for harvesting a couple of rows of leeks. I always find prepping leeks a bit of a faff to be honest, so prefer to do more han I need when I’ve got the time to do it. The frosty leaks were frozen through. They haven’t been looking so great this year either, but we had plenty for what I needed today.

Frost leeks

Frosty leeks


I use the spade to do some of the rough trimming of the roots and leaves which saves bringing any of the mud (and lumps of clay) into the house.

Leek trimmings

Leek trimmings, for the compost when I warm up


My hands were so frozen I’ve decided to leave these for when I’ve warmed up a bit and can pop them onto the compost heap.

Next up is cleaning the leeks up for cooking. I usually do this in the sink, and drop the trimmings straight into a bucket. 

Prepping leeks

Prepping the leeks


One thing I’ll never understand is how bits of mud work their way right into the leaves of the leek. It’s impo rant to get the mud out or you’ll end up with gritty soup!

Cleaning leeks

How does the mud get in here?


Onto cooking…
Ingredients (for serving 4-6)

Butter for softening onions and leeks

1 onion, diced

225g/8oz potatoes, cubed

2 medium leeks,sliced

1.2 litres/2 pints vegetable stock

150ml/5fl oz double cream, crème fraîche or a pinch of greated cheddar

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Homegrown leeks and onions

Homegrown leeks and onions


Method

1. Soften the leeks and onions in a pan. Add the potatoes and cook for three to four minutes.

Softening leeks

Softening leeks. I do this in a frying pan then add to the soup pot.

2. Add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Add seasoning and simmer until the potatoes are soft.

3. Blend the indregients together. Reheat and add the cream, crème fraîche or cheese to serve.

Leek and potato soup

Leek and potato soup, with cheddar cheese


Yum, and now I’ve warmed up, back to the garden!

Him

Boys 8th birthday campfire party

When the boy turned eight whilst we were living in the garden, it was only natural to hold a campfire birthday party for him. It seems so long ago now but the evening was fantastic and the boys all loved it.

We had a birthday tent for sleeping…

We had a campfire tea and breakfast. This was cooked mainly by the boys: some had only ever seen a BBQ before so looked quite startled when we told them to make a fire if they were hungry.

They toasted marshmallows on the campfire too.

We went on a night hike with torches. The boys ran off loads of steam and were tired out when we got back and certainly ready for bed.

We had a donut cake tower for supper and everyone was asleep by 9.30pm.

It was a great concept for a party and one we will all remember for a long time. Partly because of the building work, partly because it was so different, and partly because the boys loved it so much.

Her x

We’re back in action!

Phew! Well, it’s been a busy nine months or so, but we’re pleased to be back in action on what seems to have been the first sunny and warm(ish) day of the year.

Where have we been? Well, we mentioned a while back that we were going to have some building work done. We had great plans in place to blog our summer living in the garden. We had a bit of a go, then the building work took over…

The rain finally stopped and after a few weeks house-sitting for friends on holiday and sleeping on the living room floor at the in-laws me managed an impressive six weeks under canvas in the back garden.

The builders thought we were crazy, but were very good at leaving things like a pipe for water (operated by spanner), a toilet (open to the elements) and an electric socket so we could boil the kettle or operate the slow cooker (but not at the same time).

We had some particular highlights: the boy’s 8th campfire birthday party (no toilet access for the night but a bucket covered ably); drinking wine from jam jars because we packed all the glasses; and just generally going to sleep when the sun went down with the sound of Nature around you.

Lowlights, on the other hand, were: toilet facilities (for girls in particular), washing (people and clothes) and there are only so many variations on slow cooker food that one family can possibly enjoy (crunchy rice a particular favourite).

Building work

We’re pleased with the results…but just looking forward to getting back to the garden.

Him and Her x

PS. We’ll add some posts from garden adventures soon

The cupboards are bare and the boxes are packed but we need the rain to stop before we start the building work!

It has been a hectic few weeks. We have been living our usual everyday lives as well as fitting in all the extra tasks of packing, setting up a base in the garden and liaising with builders.

We now have a house full of boxes.

…most of them packed with the contents of our cupboards.

Bare cupboards.

Empty shelves.

But the camping stuff remains in the bag. The weather is just rubbish. We have had so much rain that the builders have delayed the start of our build!

So here we are, living in chaos, ready to move into the garden at a moment’s notice, waiting for the weather to improve. Come on summer, make an appearance soon! The children are raring to start living outside, the outdoor adventure we talked about was supposed to have started by now. Instead, we are in a semi-camping state, living in our house with everything packed away.

I picked a bunch of garden flowers today, then realised I had packed all the vases. I had to make do with a jam jar, they still looked pretty and cheered up my empty kitchen.

Her x

The packing has commenced – look out garden, here we come!

We have started the horrible process of packing up our house ahead of our garden adventure. I love my garden very much. I just hope I feel the same way after living in it for 6-8 weeks while we have some building work on our house.

Hubby and I have been planning this for a long time. We dream of more indoor space, better storage and an upstairs bathroom. Unfortunately the only way to get that without moving is building work.

We have made the brave (or stupid) decision to live in a tent in our garden for the duration of the building works.  We need to set up some sort of living space. I think we are considering two tents, a summer house and outdoor camp kitchen at the moment.

I am thinking that the long summer nights will be perfect for pottering round the garden, tending to the veg garden and enjoying the outdoors. Is this a rather romantic view of it?

So, we started the packing. We have lived here for nine years and in that time have filled the loft, every cupboard and every nook and cranny. Packing is not a job I look forward to or enjoy. Hubby is more keen, I think he sees it as an opportunity to throw out things he thinks is useless and I see as interesting.

There is actually two of my children hidden in these boxes. They developed a great technique for assembling boxes – one would wear the box on their head while the other taped it up!

Little lady was a bit sad to pack all the cuddly toys away.

Our house has been slowly filling with boxes ready to go into storage.

So far, we are one-third through the loft, kids’ rooms are packed up except for beds, books packed and under the stairs area sorted!

Still a long way to go….three weeks left until we move out.

Her x

Half term camping trip – just what we need when we are planning on spending the summer camping in the garden!

Half term approached and for some mad reason we decided to head for the seaside for a few days despite the weather. We found this lovely campsite in Slapton, South Deveon. If you live in the UK you will be aware that last week’s weather was appalling. Our trip was cut short due to gale-force winds and ended with a mad packing panic as we tried to take down the tent in wet and very windy weather. We discovered that we can strike camp in 34 minutes when needed!

It wasn’t all bad and we spent some great family time together and met up with some good friends.

I thought you may want to see a few pictures…

A blustery day at Hope Cove – Devon

A rough sea.

A catch of crabs.

A collapsed tent – luckily not ours.

A wind damaged tent. This tent was just pooled with huge water puddles.

I fely very sorry for these poor people who returned to their pitch to find everything in ruins. The wind was wild and the poor tents just didn’t stand a chance. There were tents in trees, mangled tents and broken tents everywhere.

We certainly picked poor weather for camping. I thought it might put the children off camping all summer in the garden – but no! They enjoyed the adventure and can’t wait for more camping.

Her x

We’re going to live outside for the Summer!

This Summer we’ve got the builders in to do some work on the house. Rather than waste thousands of pounds renting somewhere, we’re going to spend 6-8 weeks living in the garden. Most of our friends and family think we’re nuts, some won’t even discuss the subject, but we think it’s going to be a really exciting adventure.

Our plan is to turn the garden into a mini campsite. We’ve already aquired a handful of tents: some small, some large, most old. They’ve been given to us by friends and family who know we’re “into that kind of thing”, camping we assume. They include what will be, we suspect, a massive 1970s style frame tent that will hopefully be our main storage tent. The others will form our bedrooms. We have a summer house that will become our main living area – and should provide us with a bit of shelter if it starts piddling down.

The kids are pretty excited about the idea, even though it means no TV for about eight weeks. We think this is a good thing, with lots of time for family stuff and late-night gardening. But, with limited cooking facilities and the threat of a traditional British summer, it could be a disaster all the same.

 

There’ll be lots to prepare over the next 40 days or so, and we’ll keep you posted on our Outdoor adventure 2012.  We’d love to know how you think it will work out!

Him and Her
x