The first week of lockdown seems a long time ago now. I can remember the fear of the unknown and slight panic that food shopping would be even more difficult to obtain. E and M have made it their weekly mission to get a delivery or food collection slot, once booked they fine tune the eighty items we are allowed to have so that maximum meals can be made. If there are a few items spare they open them up to the household by way of treat items. So far J requested Cheese and Onion crisps, E chose Mini Eggs, M went for an extra box of Cornflakes and my guilty pleasure was Smarties. The fact that we may or may not get them due to substitutions just seemed to add to the suspense.
Despite differences we are all getting on. Goodness only knows how. I know I shouldn’t feel this way but there are so many elements of lockdown that have achieved the way of life I have been crying out for. M used to love nothing more than shelving home maintenance and going out to eat or just have coffee. We easily lost half a day to such activity, especially by the time we’ve crawled in weekend traffic into town and found somewhere to park. I protested a lot but clearly didn’t want to deal with the sulks and the fall out of standing my ground. I guess I’m a peace keeper at heart. E suggests ‘doormat’. Something like this gives you strength to change. Given that we’ve all achieved so much more by staying at home and making our own food and coffee I’d like this to be our new norm for years to come. I realise now that M enjoys the whole see and be seen part of going into a busy town. For me, this lockdown means wearing dungarees and wellies all week, barely running a brush through my hair and enjoying the exact opposite.
M has always baked but now it is more highly valued and useful and not surplus to sweet treats we already had plenty of. He made pear and cinnamon muffins when the pears were about to become too mushy to eat. We ate them in three sittings, firstly warm from the oven, cold the next day as a snack and finally heated with custard. Ridiculously cheap and tasty and easy to make. E discovered that Pret a Manger had published their previously secret recipe for chocolate chip cookies. No sooner mentioned than made and they were a huge success. They are on the menu again or for as long as our baking supplies last.
Whilst income has dwindled to just one online job a week (which definitely won’t pay the bills) we are saving a small fortune in not going out for coffee alone. We haven’t had takeaway food which is also saving plenty. We haven’t been using our cars unless it is to pick up food from Tesco. We used to visit a DIY store at least once a week even if it was just a vital packet of screws M needed. Such a colossal waste of time and fuel. Mostly it was sheer laziness and a disorganised workshop. Miraculously M is now happy to spend half an hour looking for the right screws and feeling totally triumphant when he does.
It’s a well known fact that M likes to collect pallets wherever he sees one put out for free collection. At one stage I threatened to burn them when they seemed to be taking over but he’s now found time and motivation to take them apart. He has made a waist high herb trough for Mum (after her previous one was stolen) and an Adirondack chair, soon to be a pair. The best pallet wood creation however, is my natural dye work station! Last year I pulled up all the rickety garden tables we owned and did my best to create my dye baths outside. This year I feel like I have an area at the height of luxury. I described my dream dye station to M and backed it up with a few close photo examples. After that it was a question of dragging out appropriate wood for him and then answering a million questions in order to get it right. I’m full of good ideas, I just lack a bit of strength in my arms theses days so I’m very glad of his woodworking skills. I didn’t want a built in canopy (it would have looked like a mini market) because I love solar dyeing and that would have created shade. Instead we have ordered an extra tough tarpaulin and strong hooks to anchor it down if rain is due. The only thing I will take in each night is my two ring burner. I’ve done a quick couple of Instagram posts aimed at amusing children with solar dyeing using nettles, onion skins and alder cones and now I’m firmly back in the land of eat, sleep and breathe natural dyeing.
The combination of dry weather and lack of going out has meant that I’m much more likely to make the most of my daily dog walks. It’s all too easy with older dogs to let them have a short walk each day. Harvey in particular has managed better distances since we gradually built it up but he still needs to skip one every three days or so. If I walk him too far I’m in danger of having to carry him home! Riley is still ridiculously nimble for eleven years old and his knee injury seems to be healed. The other bonus is of course that it’s very good for the soul, particularly on days when you just need that little bit of space.
I feel for people who don’t have a garden at a time like this. We really aren’t keen gardeners. Like my wool related hobbies I prefer my end result to be useful rather than just nice to look at. The dogs would make light work of any flower beds not protected by picket fencing so there seems little point in having a beautiful garden. I’ve got two areas fenced off. One started life as a herb bed but has morphed into a raspberry, gooseberry and random seeded plant bed. The fruit crop is worth the space it takes up but I made the mistake of not pruning the gooseberries harshly the year before last so last summer’s crop was almost non existent. The other fenced off area now contains a healthy supply of woad, some of which I will let go to seed. There’s also madder but it’s struggling after the winter so I’m doing my best to keep an eye on it.
We do container gardening slightly better and this year we’ve started off rocket, green beans, tomatoes, coreopsis, dwarf sunflowers, marigolds, chillies and potatoes. An old dustbin with Tansy is doing well too. It’s enough to keep me busy for now. I’m not about to get too serious about growing vegetables. Apart from one packet of seeds by mail we had seeds lying around so it’s very much ‘use what you have’ stuff here. For natural dyeing I experimented a lot with apple bark and plum bark last year and the colours were very pleasant and with good lightfast results too. We always tidy up a few straggly branches and in the case of the plum tree quite a few branches blow down. I didn’t try solar dyeing with either last year so that’s something I’ve set up today. It’s fairly warm and sunny but not overly hot and I can see colour bleeding into the yarn already so that’s a good sign.
For variety I’ve hauled out my old bike. It’s seen better days but it’s still just about in working order. J has pumped up my tyres and the big basket on the front makes it handy for trips to the post office if nothing more. Unfortunately lockdown happened in between cramming all of E’s university stuff into my campervan and a job that would have taken M to Leeds where he planned to pick up the last thing remaining, her bike. I just hope it’s still there when we get chance to go back. If we’d known we could have sourced rope and tied it to the roof rack!
It’s Easter weekend and M is putting the final pieces on to the second Adirondack chair. E alternates between chilling out, making fruit smoothies and university essays. J has surfaced from his office/bedroom into daylight several times, he’s done the bare minimum of bedroom cleaning (emptied his bin and dusted). I’ve been setting up solar dye jars and crocheting a baby blanket. I desperately want to mow the lawns but my back says otherwise. I guess I’ll have to accept that it’s a bank holiday and a restful couple of days is allowed. Harvey has spent most of the day catching wood off cuts and hoping someone will throw one for him to fetch. Riley has spent several periods of time hiding under E’s desk in fear of the odd bumble bee. Just the latest in a long list of things he’s afraid of. It feels kind of nice to all be together and the kids have been amazing and not moaned about any of this. I guess there’s not much point, we just have to stay safe and get through this.