Tag Archives: Garden



“A portrait of my child, once a week, every week, in 2016.”

Arthur has been fascinated by the remnants of charcoal in our outdoor fire, so I thought he might like to have a go at drawing with it… If you’re going to make a mess it might as well be a beautiful one, right?

Linking up with Jodi at Practising Simplicity for The 52 Project. 

Green fingers

The unschooling diaries: week twenty-four

I have never had much luck with growing things, but it seems that with my green-fingered assistant by my side my fortunes are starting to change. In fact our little veg patch, which we planted together about six weeks ago, is almost growing too fast for its own good!


Before we actually started planting, we had lots of fun getting the ground prepared – pulling out the weeds and making sure the earth was well and truly turned over. Most mornings Arthur would be straight out there in his wellies and pyjamas, and we even discovered the thrills of making volcanoes after our trip to see them in Lanzarote.


It was almost a shame when our plants arrived, but Arthur helped me then too – watering in the seedlings and positioning his scarecrow to watch over the growing crops.



He was particularly interested in the potatoes – not just because they’re used to make chips, but also because he couldn’t quite believe that actual potatoes would turn into plants. He watched the planter for a while, hoping to see some evidence that this was true, but reluctantly accepted in the end that it might take a little bit longer than he was willing to wait…



As time went on, he was brilliant at reminding me to water the plants as they grew – though with all the rain we’ve had that hasn’t been such an issue!


In fact the rain might be one of the reasons why the garden has just exploded in the last couple of weeks! I’m actually thinking I might have to transfer some of the plants to pots, having paid very little heed to the recommended planting distances…


Arthur has loved watching his garden grow – especially because we came up with an alternative place for muddy play in the shape of an old planter. He’s dying to taste his peas, but only the lettuces and the spinach are really ready for harvesting. We checked on the carrots the other day, but I think they have a way to go yet too… And would definitely benefit from not being completely overshadowed by pumpkin leaves.


What we did find, though, when we were looking through the leaves, was a little cluster of caterpillars – the perfect subjects for our next metamorphosis project! After demolishing the lettuce we sacrificed to feed them, they are now resting in their cocoons. Once again I suspect I might be even more excited about the change to come than Arthur is, though he’s enjoyed reading about their life cycle – and revisiting The Very Hungry Caterpillar of course.


All in all this year’s garden is turning in to a wonderful learning space. I think I may try to keep it going right through Autumn and Winter so we can explore what grows in the changing seasons – the thought of home-grown food all year round is pretty enticing too, even if we might not enjoy quite such lushness as we’ve got right now.


Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall



“A portrait of my child, once a week, every week, in 2016.”

This week, fuelled by sunshine and jet lag, we have mainly been getting the house ready for summer.

As part of this, on Sunday morning, we went to our local garden centre. Arthur was lured along enthusiastically by the promise of a visit to their play area, and was initially a little put out when we couldn’t go there STRAIGHT AWAY.

Actually, though, I think he surprised himself by how much he enjoyed looking at flowers. When we walked out to the back, basking in proper summer sun, he exclaimed “It’s so beautiful!”. And it really was. We meandered between the rows and through the poly-tunnels, picking up things that looked pretty and not too easy to kill.

Arthur was tremendously careful with the trays he was given to carry, and loved being part of our little garden project almost as much as he loved being let loose on the climbing frame when we were done.

And now, after a couple of hours of planting, we have a garden resplendent with colourful troughs. Arthur disappeared off around the corner this morning, and when I asked where he was going he said he just wanted to look at the flowers.

Now I just need to remember to keep them watered and fed…

Linking up with Jodi at Practising Simplicity for The 52 Project. 

Mud glorious mud

The unschooling diaries: week thirteen

This week, we have finally managed to start sorting the garden out for summer.

It’s not an especially big space, and because our house is essentially built into the cliff face it’s on three different levels – and has no grass. So over the wet, windy Devon winter it really does start to look quite sorry for itself, and I start yearning for a house with a proper garden with room to run and explore.

I’ve realised, though, that there is actually an awful lot we can do with the space we have. Rather than bemoan the lack of lawn, I’ve decided instead to focus on what an interesting space it is, and its huge potential as an outdoor classroom. So, with Arthur taking the lead of course, we’ve been exploring exactly what that might look like – and having lots of messy fun in the process.

We started with some digging and pulling up of weeds in our raised beds. Arthur was very keen to get involved, and was fascinated by the bugs we came across along the way. We found snails, slugs, earthworms, a centipede, woodlice and a caterpillar – and had a good chat about each of them before getting on with our work.


We also got the tuff spot out into the garden, creating a mud-filled paradise for Arthur’s beloved diggers, made even more fun when we added water to the equation.



We managed to work some arts and crafts in there too. When we were in Lanzarote we’d talked about how Cesar Manrique had used volcanic ash in his paintings – Arthur had been quite intrigued by the unusual textures it created. So, inspired by the puddle that formed after some overnight rainfall, we decided to try some mud art.

We started with some puddle painting, using oil and food colouring to create colourful swirls on the water. This didn’t work brilliantly as Arthur got a bit over excited with the amount of oil he added, but it was still lots of fun!


Especially fun was, of course, stamping in the oily puddle – and seeing how much Arthur was enjoying making footsteps on the deck I decided to give him a bit of a canvas.


Then, after a slight diversion to make a magic potion, we got properly stuck in and covered a large sheet of paper with pva glue before pouring on the muddy concoction and mixing it up with anything else that took our fancy…


There was more focused preparation too, with Arthur climbing inside the raised beds to get the earth ready for planting (and make some mud castles).


It was all so much fun! And tidying up was even more so: Arthur was super keen to use the hosepipe, and I in my infinite wisdom let him. It was going great until he accidentally splashed me whilst I was holding the tuff spot, and I yelped, and he laughed, and… well, let’s just say we both got very wet!



All in all it’s made me very excited about our little garden, and the fun and learning that is going to happen there in the weeks and months to come. There is something about being outdoors that just can’t be beat.


Green fingers

For a few weeks now, Arthur has been desperate to get out into the garden whenever he can. He’s had a very particular mission: spotting his little watering can has triggered memories from last summer, and now every day without fail he asks “Arthur water plants please mummy?” image

Naturally I can’t refuse – not only because of the extreme cuteness of his polite enthusiasm but also because I am RUBBISH at remembering to keep plants watered, so this would be an extremely handy tendency to foster. It has all seemed a bit pointless though with the state the garden’s been in, and I found myself cringing as I’ve watched him water the weeds that had usurped the vegetable garden and the dry husks left from last year’s herbs. But this week we finally did something about it. image

The weather has continued to be glorious, and we seized the opportunity to go to the garden centre. Arthur was utterly enthralled by the huge variety of plants, and it was all I could do to keep up with him as he darted between them. image

We decided to focus on edibles – Arthur really enjoyed picking dinner from the garden last year, and I’m hoping it might help with his increasingly ambivalent attitude to vegetables. So we got a courgette plant, and a variety of lettuces. And more herbs. And, most excitingly of all, some strawberries, with a special pot and everything. image

There’s definitely space for more, but I figured it was best not to get too ambitious straight away…

And in between another hectic week of campaigning we managed to get it all planted. Clearing out the raised beds was the hardest bit, though Arthur was thrilled by the worms and woodlice we discovered. We kept the kale as it seems to have a bit of life in it yet, and now just have to wait for our new specimens to catch up…


image image image

Arthur loved getting his hands dirty, and whilst his efforts were perhaps more hindrance than help in the planting stage he was back on form with his watering efforts and had made sure I haven’t forgotten our responsibilities as the week unfolded. I’m keen to get some more plants in before my enthusiasm passes – maybe some sweetcorn? Or peas? I had my eye on a miniature apple tree too which I think Arthur would really enjoy… image

What would you recommend for a green fingered toddler and his decidedly novice mummy to get started with? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

My word of the week this week is planting.

The Reading Residence

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Home grown goodness


For my birthday this year my parents finally helped us get our acts together and plant up our garden. As well as some gorgeous flowering plants they bought a whole host of herbs, but the thing Arthur was most excited about was the lettuce.

Salad is pretty much my favourite thing to eat during the summer, but try as I might I haven’t been able to get Arthur interested in eating leaves. That all changed once he saw me picking the lettuce from the garden – and suddenly he wanted to try too.

He’d been fascinated by the new green things we were growing long before they were ready to pick. Several times a day he’d pipe up with ‘water plants?’ – handy for me as I don’t have a very good track record with keeping them alive…

We found him his own Arthur-sized watering can and he took his new job very seriously: first following Daddy’s lead and then having a go all by himself.



It’s lovely to see him enjoying our own little patch of nature so much, but the best thing about growing salad of course is that we get to eat it. Arthur’s still not entirely sure how to go about that, but he’s certainly enthusiastic. He asks for “lettuce” or “salad” with just about every meal – and I’m sure it won’t be long before he’s loving it as much as I do!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Word of the Week: Garden

Today the word that sums up the week that was is:


We only have a little one, with no lawn and lots of awkward angles. When we bought our house it was a mess of concrete, its potential limited by the hill that it’s built into, but we were willing to sacrifice anything more substantial for the fact that we’re so close to the sea. When I look outside now, although I’m actually quite proud with what we managed to do with it, I do wonder whether in our pre-child mindset we were underestimating the importance of space to run. Certainly if anything would make us consider moving again it would be that.

Fortunately Arthur’s not quite as picky as me. He loves our garden, and would spend every waking hour out there if he had his way. Over the winter it’s got progressively hazardous – rainwater filled pots, detritus from the work we had done on the roof, sludgy piles of rotting leaves, unruly brambles. But when the sun came out last weekend Leigh could hold himself back no longer and blitzed the worst of it. Arthur was delighted, determined to help as much as he could!


Once things were looking a little bit clearer we got the cushions out, and even managed the first barbecue of the season. The intimacy of the space is definitely going to present a challenge with that particular hazard, but Arthur seems to be learning the word (and concept) ‘hot’ – before long he was keeping his distance and blowing whilst waving his hand cautiously, an awareness which seems to have spread to the oven inside too.

image    image

We found time to enjoy the garden during the week too, chilling and exploring after lunch. As my eyes become accustomed to the space again I’m becoming increasingly aware of all the jobs that still need doing – cutting back and planting, particularly our little raised veg patch which was fantastic for salads last year. I’m really not all that green fingered. In fact looking after a garden would probably rank somewhere near the bottom of the skills I’ve acquired over the years. But I’m sure that even I can manage to get our little garden looking its best – especially with such an eager little helper by my side.


The Reading Residence