The nights are drawing in…

The clocks go back on Saturday night and recently I’ve been noticing the solar panels haven’t been topping the batteries up fully any more, so I’ve been running the engine for a couple of hours each day. This may be because coincidentally, the dry, sunny weather we enjoyed for weeks this autumn disappeared at the start of October, to be replaced by some much murkier days. IMG_0448I did wonder if it was partly my own fault- I hadn’t cleaned them for ages- but I have done now and it’s not a massive improvement. They’re still brilliant, but we just aren’t getting the bright, long hours of daylight they really need for full effect.

We have had a lovely autumn so far. Gorgeous sunshine, beautiful colours; not much in the way of crisp mornings though. We’ve had the fire in during the evenings but not needed to keep it in during the day or overnight. Some lovely clear dawns; still days, good for boating- and of course a couple of named storms! Tom helped me attach some of my fenders directly to the corrugated steel bankside before Ophelia arrived, which stopped the worst of the bumping. After nearly losing my boat last time I was at Patch, back in the summer (thanks, cruisers… and strong winds) I didn’t risk pins but used my chains and metal hooks and so far they’ve worked well (touch wood!).

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Autumn dawn
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Breezy, cloudy, cool autumn day… rain on the air.

The rain which arrived on Monday has made the towpath muddy and all the gaps on the boat show up, as the wind blew moisture in under the witch’s hat on the chimney, in through the windows and vents… times like this I’m grateful for gaffer tape! I’ve also rejigged the interior a little bit- my sawing arm is getting good!

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Taking the chance to get outside on a rainy day…

It’s also been a fruitful season. The neglected allotment did me proud, with weeks of beans, several sweetcorn, little squashes, and loads of apples from the communal trees. Boat Girl and I have been baking and making chutney, jam, cake and biscuits. IMG_0424There’s something about autumn which inspires the domestic goddess in me, that sense of chill that you get on a damp day can only really be chased away by making the home warm, with appetising smells wafting around… mmm! This cake was a traybake from Good Food (I think)- it had four eggs in it, apple, pear and blackberry, but you could easily vary the fruit according to the season. I replaced some of the flour with ground almonds, and it was wonderfully rich and moist- I took it along the row of boats and it went VERY quickly (this makes me happy- I think I was made to mother a large family with food, but when it’s just Boat Girl and me that impulse doesn’t have much chance for fulfilment…

I also made a chutney using windfall pears from the towpath. They weren’t nice to eat so I hope they’ll be okay as chutney! I ended up staying up until midnight because it took so long for a ‘channel’ to develop (Delia’s signal that a chutney’s ready to go into jars…)!

What with Boat Grandmother’s productive garden and my allotment, we’ve done pretty well for veg. The last sweetcorn was eaten on Monday; the last of the beans the previous week; I have some beetroot relish from Mother in the fridge and she’s now digging carrots and celeriac, so hopefully some more soups in the offing! She also has chard, with its beautiful bright stems and crunchy green leaves. I had some in a pot on the boat earlier in the season but it bolted in the dry weather when we were in France. It makes a good substitute for spinach or kale, and is robust enough to stand up to stewing in soup or curry. IMG_0382IMG_0426

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the current DIY is finished, the next project will be clearing the allotment and covering it with manure and cardboard ready for the spring. I’m hoping to do a lot more with it next year- onions, more squash, leeks, beans, carrots, chard, kale or broccoli… it’s incredibly satisfying to gather food you’ve grown yourself.

 

 

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A downside for a blogger…

…is a lack of internet connection at home! I have been busy at work (A level season- I teach and mark A levels) and at home- moving regularly, filling the water tank, filling up with diesel, making new friends, having towpath parties, festivalling, and even doing a bit of boat maintenance here and there. We had a scorching July and as the school holidays started, the rains returned as per tradition…

Summer on the canal is a wonderful thing. Boat Girl has built dens, toasted marshmallows, jammed with musician friends, found a little sister who adores her (she SO wants to be a Big Sister!), ridden her bike, planted beans and nasturtiums, grown marigolds from seed, been wild swimming, walked for miles, and generally been outside more than inside. I love that she gets the chance to enjoy the world, rather than watching an interpretation on a screen. She makes things, draws, writes, and does engineering like using string or wool to brace structures or to make zip-wires and swings for her fairy people.
(Don’t get me wrong- I think there’s a time and a place for TV and films, and computers- but we are all apt to become screen addicts and in this setting, that’s not even a possibility because they just aren’t there. For me and for her. We get screen time at other places (her dad’s, my mum’s, work) and as I’m writing this on a BRAND-NEW! laptop (VERY exciting, I can tell you!) we’ll be able to watch films as well without being on hookup- because I can shift the telly and we can use this machine with its splendid battery life and HDMI input.)

I’ve been toying with going back into the marina for the winter. Pros: electric hookup, convenience for parking, toilets, showers, water on the pontoon, having a home mooring at licence renewal time. Cons: the cost, feeling ‘trapped’. Despite the pros outnumbering the cons, they seem trivial in comparison to the cons. Anyway, yesterday I walked along to Sharpness at the southern end of the canal (we’re back at Purton) and on the off-chance I went in to see about a mooring there. They had one, at less money than Saul Junction Marina (though, of course, it’s not as swish). So I’ve taken it, and paid with my marking money for a year’s fees. I imagine I’ll use it little, but it will be useful to have the hookup during the darkest months. We won’t stay there too much anyway as it’s non-residential. It just means I’ll have a home mooring, which undoubtedly makes life easier (“They’ll hound you till you get a home mooring” as I was told yesterday- “they” being CRT).

Anyway because of my laxness at posting recently, here are just a few photos for you to enjoy- a taster of the life we live.

 

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Dawn at Saul Junction
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Early morning mist

 

 

Back to work. Resolutions- or suggestions!

I do enjoy my job but these dark, cold mornings make a challenge of getting out of the house; the other major challenges for me at the moment are getting enough sleep (I always seem to find something to do- or look at online- around 9:30 when I ought to be snuggling down) and getting enough daylight. I really struggle with that one, because I usually work through my lunch break in order not to bring work home with me, and to be able to leave early to pick up Boat Girl from school.

Does anyone else find that they struggle to fit work into their life? I wonder during the holidays how I manage to go out to work when there’s so much else that needs doing- time with Boat Girl, domestic work, maintenance jobs, writing and hobbies. We are dog-sitting at present and having help with the walks, but honestly, I feel like I could easily fill my life and never be bored if I didn’t have to go out to work!

Ideally I think I’d work two days in this job, with the rest of the money made by writing, from home. That would be pretty much perfect for me. Maybe 2017 will be the year?

New exercise leggings arrived yesterday, vibrant and funky from Tikiboo. I wanted some rainbow ones, then I was tempted by the unicorns, but finally I settled on these. I needed them because I’m bigger than I’ve been before and my ordinary leggings made my leg go numb last time I wore them! I’m booked onto a home practice yoga course in a couple of weeks and I’ve also got a place on a beginners’ adult aerial class which is VERY exciting. Running (hmmm. Well, trotting) will start on Monday, my day off, so that I can do it in daylight!

Your resolutions/adjustments to achieve your goals?