Over the recent festive period I was lucky enough to stay with some friends who live right in the middle of nowhere. They absolutely love it and it seems that any neighbours in the vicinity are just as thrilled at the prospect of not having anyone too nearby. Just as it was two or three hundred years ago, the nearest store is some miles away. The garden of mine host’s house is so picture perfect it’s hard to believe it is a real home and not just a live setting of a Christmas card. I was sitting on one of the cushion covered oak benches just enjoying the hundreds of dear little garden birds when it occured to me that my hosts had arranged their garden seating in such a way that the visitor is aware of their surroundings at every point. The birds arrive in noisy and fractious batches, there’s a feeding frenzy for a few moments and then they whoosh off to the nearby woodland. But whereever you sit in the garden, you are assured a comfortable seat with a view to somewhere very pretty. The seating is oak and it is protected every couple of years with painted on preservative and wonderfully plump cushions are provided to make the whole experience of sitting out just sublime. Especially when accompanied by something hot and steaming from the nearby kitchen!
When we consider how much it costs to run a famiy sized house these days, it’s not surprising that thought is now being given in earnest to running our homes more efficiently and economomically. This will invariably involve the whole family taking a good long look at how they live and agreeing to make changes in just about every area. For exmaple, we need to change habits with our use of utilities – better use of gas & lectricity will reduce our carbon footprint. Turning down the thermostat on boith the hot water boiler and storage system and the central heating by just 2 degrees from say 20 to 18 deg C would help immensely. If it’s a slightly chillier evening, then get a nice wooly jmper on; wear thicker socks or tights; wear comfortable house slippers instead of open or toe post sandals. I wear a coloured scarf aroud my neck which feels really nice and comforting. I also don’t run an electric blanket – for energy saving and also because it’s much cheaper to usse a kettle and fill hot water bottles. So just a couple of very quick tips for starting energy efficiency in earnest.
Whenever I’ve watched so many imported home and leisure programmes over the years – not all from the european continent, but latterly from the north american one. They of course adopted a style of housing that used the local resources available to them when the earliest settlers made their uncertain way to the New England of their dreams. Trees were the major resource and so they built their homes in various sizes and shapes but generally with the same wooden boarded style we associate with old colonial. The patios are shown with lovely heritage rocking chairs and trestles. In our country we have brick built, mellow stone, granite, concrete and everything in between – but most of the frameworks are made of wood. This wonderous material is sustainable in that we plant millions of baby trees every year to replace those taken out. A nice teak patio set really adds a touch of class to the modern garden these days.
This time of year brings peace and serenity to my heart – in a weird windswept and rainy fashion. Perhaps because I am definitely an autumn birthday person, this has some bizarre hold over my mind, telling me that trees and woodlad look fantastic when just turning to ‘fall’ colours. Having spent some time on holiday in an area famous for just such a happening, very colurful change in the trees – to the point where thousands of people troop around the areas. . . . . it’s breathtaking and makes you appreciate Mother nature at her best. Being able to use the trees as a valuable resource does sometimes seem cruel but we have to deforest at times to keep the flow of good trees going. If we didn’t cut them down to airate the woodland, mould and stunted growth would inhibit all the good things about forestation. Trees are wonderful – they’ve supplied us with shelter, warmth from fires, and in recent centuries, our wonderful furniture, front doors and house frames. Wow!
This is definitely the time of year to be enjoying the fruits of our gardening labours. We have to watch out for bugs and diseases that can really kill off some of our favourites. Blackspot on roses for example – has to be controlled with a special spray because just taking off the affected leaves eventually strips it and the bush fails to thrive as the photosynthesis can’t get working – bushes need leaves and greenery to self help. I was sitting indoors behind a flapping curtain when I really wished I’d gone out and bought a decent little patio set. I’m not sure why I haven’t got round to this – in fact I’ve had a patio for some years but never really progressed beyond the small metal framed fold up chair that comes out of hiding only on the hottest, sunniest day of the year! Knowing how we need sunlight to help our skin and bones and all the vitamin help we can get in aging, I’m really daft not organising this small matter. I really fancy a small metal set that I saw in the tea rooms of a local garden centre – it was most effectively put to use for lunch customers and the neat design really caught my eye. Pretty little chairs with bright cushions on – not only for decoration but possibly to make you even more comfortable whilst you while away an hour or two deciding on new plants for next year’s extravaganza!
There can’t be anything nicer than being able to go out into our gardens in the height of summer and sit by a nice wall with a flower border along it. The smell of roses in the morning haze or perhaps during the evening twilight cannot be over estimated. To achieve this idyll we need several things. A garden is helpful, of course. To make it useable we have to clear the space, getting rid of weeds and debris left from anyone else’s efforts. The laying of a patio is not as easy as folk think. The land must be cleared well and made as even as possible. The paving slabs or ornamental stone needs to be placed carefully and sell cemented into position. Using the old fashioned 5 blobs isn’t cutting it these days as it allows all sorts of weeds grimness to grow underneath. Then we need to have a space to put our tables and chairs – some shadebe big enough for the max number likely to be sitting at one time but not so huge that it takes up too much space. A folding set is useful of course but on any patio area that is even minisculey uneven, this might cause difficulties – spilt pims on ice, not so good!
There are many problems throughout this vast world of ours – industrial strife and factories shutting down through lack of orders . . . . Youngsters starting to worry about what kind of planet they are inheriting. It’s very true that our generation has managed to wreck much of the planet in only a hundred years or so, after it had housed so many for a couple of thousand. How we manage the world’s resources is coming much more sharply into focus for everyone now. In the developing world, there is much destruction of rain forests and other former areas that had trees at the root of their cultivation. We all want furniture but we have to decide if the way we achieve that is fair on the rest of the world. Sustainable sources are words banded about frequently – oak furniture will be sustainable in that for every tree used, there can be hundreds of baby trees replacing it. But it does take hundreds of years to get to maturiry. Balancing and compromise are two more important words for us to contemplate.
At the start of spring, when the more awful of the winter weather has finally swanned off elsewhere, it can be very tempting to whizz out and buy up any old patio set for the garden. There are so many mismatched suites gumming up the space that should be as neat and elegant as the front of house styling. There are many suppliers of the cheaper plastic sets – these are fine for everyday when the children are haring about knocking things over but if you want to entertain in a more upmarket manner, cocktails at the yardarm and all that, then the better sets of seating are called for. One is judged by guests if the wrong set up is visible. There are a couple of truly awesome online sites that supply all manner of patio corner suites and table sets – they come in cane, teak, polypropelene – being unbreakable, they can withstand some fairly hefty treatment too.
We have had some truly extraordinary weather this last couple of seasons. Normally when winter has gone and we get the spring rush of brisk winds and sharp showers, we can then rely on the summer to be mostly dry and sunny. If last summer is an indication of what’s to become the norm, then we could well do with taking better care of our outdoor furniture and effects. Bright sun is fab – in moderation. It does have a destructive side to it though and we need to check the seating on plastic or upvc chairs and benches. The sun can literally destroy them but you may not realise until sitting down – with a crashing bump sometimes as it gives way. Folding or stacking chairs after use, out of wind, rain and sun will help preserve them. Wiping off residue of sun oil and drying them if rained on will also stop problem areas forming.
I was helping out at a local heritage property recently – stewarding teh main ballroom area. The bigger of two ballrooms. . . . It struck me for the firt time that the ceiling had downlights and as the house had been completed in the 1700s, there wouldn’t have been any lighting beyond oil lamps and candles. I was looking up to see how these had been installed as the ceiling still looked as complete as the room next door. It turns out that the previous ceiling had been damaged by a devastating mishap with a bathroom above it and the water ingress had brought down a great deal of the original. The lights themselves don’t jump out or down so they are very effective – particularly for the weddings that are carried out in the room – giving just the right amount of soft warm lighting to complement the natural light from the floor to ceiling windows that look out over the expansive grounds. In all, the need for new lighting was well designed and does the job well!