Archive for April, 2012


lettuce – in pots in greenhouse

kale – in pot in greenhouse

red onion – in pot in greenhouse

welsh onions – in pot in greenhouse

pricking out:

tomatoes, red cherry


broad beans




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We are in a drought area, it is official and this drought is giving me problems.

There’s the wet clothes, having to wade out to check the animals, all the mud, the overwhelmed, overflowing water butts, the water-logged fields.

I worry for our sitting duck with her clutch of eggs due to hatch any day now, as every other hollow in the duck run is full of standing water.. so it might not be so good for her eggs.

The drains have failed, and the pour off from the shed roofs has nowhere to go but down our green lane, which has piles of debris in drift piles, then the large new pond at the bottom we have to negotiate.  The meal shed has been flooded, and the pigs are practically doing breast stroke in their run – and spend most of the day holed up in the indoors dry part grumping about it all.

The cats are grumpy and stare through the cat flap forlornly, looking for their door into summer, then venturing out  only to bring wet back in and leave muddy foot prints on the bed or in the washing basket..

I can’t hear myself think for the roar of the not very close river that is in full spate.

We have had more than half the average monthly rain fall in just the last 24 hours – and it was raining the rest of the month too!

Dang this drought!

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I am having a bit a a revamp of the website – ok ok – I know – this has been going on for some time….  it’s just that it is so time consuming….aaaanyway… I have decided to do away with the home education section on the website, as now we have finished home ed, and I am not keeping it up to date.  But I thought I would repeat my introduction here, as it seems to have helped a lot of people.

I wrote it some years ago, at the beginning of our home education adventure, just at the point of making the decision.  Since then my son came on in leaps and bounds, we really enjoyed the experience,  and the home education visitor sent by the local authority was delighted with our work. My son learnt to swim, be independent from me, take the bus, manage his money, pursue his interests, we learned a lot of general knowledge, went on many trips, he is a keen reader and best of all, one happy young man. All round,  one of my better decisions.

Here is the story of how it began.


A good friend of mine told me that she was pregnant today, and of course I am so pleased for her. She phoned from overseas to wish my son a happy birthday.So strange that although we are of a similar age, she is only beginning the journey of parenthood, and I am twelve years further on down the line. Oh, how much has happened to us in these last twelve years. I’m still having a crisis that my boy has bigger feet than me..

So, twelve years ago, he arrived into this world, not angry at being wrenched prematurely from his safe womb, but blue and silent. Instead of the tears of joy I so much anticipated, I found myself grimly looking at the new father as the baby was whisked in a panic to the other side of the room. “Do you need a paed!” one midwife asked repeatedly and eventually the answer was ‘yes’. The doors swung open and shut and a green-gowned woman, the paediatrician presumably, burst in, and some fumbling later my son took his first breath. “Oh he had us worried then!” the midwife joked, as I held my newborn son, failing to get him to feed. His blood sugar was low, and he would not breastfeed, and so off to SCBU he went, but it was, I was told, nothing to be worried about. To this day I have not established whether his problems that revealed themselves later were already in place, and hence the poor birth, or if the poor birth was the cause of the problems. Knowing would not change anything.

We went home, and I looked after my son. I constantly pointed out the failure to meet milestones, but could get no interest. He sat, sort of, at nine months old, and that seemed to satisfy. After we had passed our second new years eve, predicting yet again this would be the year he would walk, I became yet more aware of his difficulties. We moved closer to my parents, seeking support, and the change of area brought a change of health visitor, who was far from satisfied. And so we fell into the system. “Muscular dystrophy” the paediatrician decided. I stood in WH Smiths and read an encyclopaedia, to find out what this meant, and cried. Weeks later the tests came back normal. Further tests were ordered. Normal. Head X-ray to check for bone damage in the skull, normal. More blood tests, normal, MRI scan, to rule out tumour, normal. This was our life. Tests that came back normal. Son, if you are reading this some time in the future, I’m sorry. They always convinced me it was worth doing, and each time it was not. And with perfect hindsight I could live to regret my choice. I was just making the best decision I could at the time. Each time.

The best part of ‘the system’ was the little red boots. We saw an orthotist, and he gave him some piedros, orthopaedic boots. Within three days my son took his first independent steps, at two years eight months. Everything else was ready for him to start walking, just his ankles were too weak. I refused the biopsy. For years I was harassed for saying no. They eventually agreed with me. It would change nothing; maybe only give us a name, but no treatment. The results would always be more worthwhile when he was older anyway. I refused all the tests that would give no gain.

When he was four, the focus of my fighting the system took a new direction. Education. He would need support, and to get support he would need a statement of special educational needs. The fight was ugly; I had to call under false names to get put through. In the end I am sure he got his statement simply to make me go away. My marriage failed at that point too, in all that anxiety and stress. I fought on at the system alone. At that time I found the internet, and stumbled across a website called ‘Benign Congenital Hypotonia’. There was a picture of a boy sitting in the w-position. The forbidden position that we were always correcting! I made friends there, of people making the same journey as me. Many I have known for these past eight years, been there through so many trials and tribulations, heard of their children growing up, and still not met them. Yet. The support is and always will be invaluable. It is always the parents in the same position who told me things I really needed to know.

So he started school, and had a helper. It was hugely successful. Educationally he was doing just fine, his speech and mobility holding him up. Over the years the learning difficulties became more the problem; the physical is less relevant. He enjoyed his time at primary school, and I shall always look back in fondness at many moments – him being a king in the school play, being cheered on at sports day. Each year I would lock horns with the local education authority to keep the support. We would make the rounds of the therapists, and paediatrician and neurologist, gathering damning judgemental reports to use as weapons. Each year we changed a little. For my son the success of the early years has drifted, just like the friends he made in those times, now he does not really relate to the other kids. And for me, I lose a bit more cope, a bit more fight each battle. Now, it’s time to look at the next school, secondary school.

With much angst, we approached the special schools, but the ones for his level of ability have all been closed. I fixed my mind on the secondary school. It would work. It would be made to work. I had my epiphany when driving back from the school run one morning. I had to stop for the lollypop man at the secondary school. Over the big red bridge a surge of children moved, all in backpacks moving to their next class. And I realised, that was what I wanted. I wanted him to be one of them. As the special ed kids crossed the road in front of me, not taking the bridge, I took a reality check. I wanted normal. I wanted to ‘normalise’ my son. And it was not going to happen. I began to wonder what I actually wanted for my boy, and what of those dreams were actually likely.  Happiness. Yes, he is happy – did I want to ruin it?  No. and life skills. The ability to get on in life, manage his money, cook his dinner, enjoy life. And this I can do by educating at home.

Over the years, many of my internet friends would write a life story, or update last year’s to celebrate their child’s birthday. I never have. But here we are at a turning point, and so perhaps its time. Since he was two, I have tried to protect my child from ‘the system’ from unnecessary tests and procedures, not allowed him to be abandoned within the school system, and I really feel I am done fighting. I am not giving up; I am taking back control, after ten years. I hope I am not so very late. Now we will concentrate on him being happy, and giving him the foundation and the skills he will need to cope in adult life.

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savoy cabbage – in pot in greenhouse

squash – hasta la pasta – in pots in propagator

lovage – in propagator

welsh onion – in pots in greenhouse

pricking out:

tomatoes,gardeners delight.



lettuce – in greenhouse border

broad beans




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Over the Easter weekend and the following week,we  ‘did’ the floor of my son’s bedroom.It was horribly wobbly and some bits of the floor gave way a little underfoot, and as my lad is adult and not small… we worried about just how safe it was.

And our son is keen to decorate his room.  Before we moved here, when he was still a kid, we had promised we would decorate his room straight away, because we bought a decrepit house and had to go back on that promise due to other more pressing things getting in the way first. He was ace about that, and waited and helped with other projects. He stripped the old lady style wall paper – not hard in places as it was hanging off and badly put up in the first place, to reveal many patches of different plaster and lack of plaster etc.  He was a bit previous with that, and had to live with this new decor all this time, and frankly it looked like something you see on DIY SOS, when the presenter says ‘how can a family live in this?’ – we like to watch that program and chortle.

So we moved him out, and squeezed him and his furniture and all his possessions into the rest of the house – no mean feat, and pulled up the carpet to reveal the full glory of the ‘floor’ that was in place.  A combination of a distinct lack of joists, thanks to the beetles, and non floor grade board thanks to cowboy builders was the problem.  Along one side of the floor, there was no joist to meet the edge of the floorboards, so a series of L brackets were used to attach the floor to the skirting board.  In other words, that side of the floor was held up by the skirting board, which in turn was attached to a lath and plaster wall.

Yes. Really.

Anyhow..it’s all good now, with adequate joists and flooring, it is the most solid and straight floor we have  in the upstairs of our home now.

Unfortunate that himself slipped off a joist with one foot whilst putting the very last board down – and he crashed the one leg through the hall ceiling – and it would seem has possibly cracked or badly bruised a rib.  The oddity is I was sure it would be me who did that… poor him, but he will live, and  no one was standing below when he did it, and he missed the electrics so…. could be worse!

The interesting thing about house renovation is seeing some of the history of the house.  We have what is left of the original roof  in our attic, inside a much newer roof (although these things are relative… the current roof is old and needs replacing really..), The old old roof shows when the house started life about 400 years ago, as a two up two down, and a line in the old plaster all around the room, lining up with the walk in cupboard shows the original height of the upstairs rooms, before the back of the house was build perhaps 200 years later  The bedrooms would have been pretty low  – and this perhaps explains why the downstairs rooms have low ceilings and the upstairs are really tall (because the house was extended upwards as well as out)… And the reason our house is not listed (yay!) because it has been changed and altered all along – and we are just part of the ongoing story.

Our contribution has been to put in namby pamby strong safe features.

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peas: early onward 2nd succession – in trays in greenhouse

cucumber – in pot in propagator

red spring onions – in pot in greenhouse

sunflower – in pot in greenhouse

radish – in greenhouse

spinach – in large tray in greenhouse

basil – in pot in greenhouse

PSB, rudolph – in pot in greenhouse


pricking out:





peas – first sowing – into veg patch

broad beans



lettuce (from pot)

baby spinach



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peas and beans

Last year, I made a note that tuckers was much better value than suttons when it came to broad beans . I even counted them. And one packet of Tuckers gave us an extra double row of beans.  So, this year, having cleverly read my own notes, bought 2 packets of broad beans from Tuckers, knowing this would give us four double rows,  and spent some time planting them in modules.

I know others get by very well with direct sowing, but we don’t.  We have bad problems with birds and mice nicking the seeds, and then slugs and snails eating the remaining shoots; – I grow what I can in pots first.

It’s a little production line of  pots, those that need it starting in the propagator, the more cold loving just in the greenhouse, then out onto the patio to harden off, before planting (which we still have to net until they are established, to stop the jackdaws who seem to like to pull the plants up just to see what is underneath).

We divide our work up, himself does most of the digging  and I plan and  plot and plant and pot! And when I have nurtured the plants to the point of being ready, we plant them together.  The digging is a lot of work, and I come out of the greenhouse and do  some too, as does our son (particularly if told the reason we cannot progress the DIY plans for his bedroom is because plants must go in first..).

As always we are behind with the digging.  Nice idea to be all ready in advance, but we always have so much going on that no job seems to get to the top of the list until it becomes urgent, and certain house renovation projects have started to feel more urgent.

I pointed out to himself that we really needed to plant some broad beans, and he went off to estimate the space required. He counted how many went into the rows we had already planted, and how many were lurking on the patio waiting their turn. Then counted again. and announced that I have sowed not only enough for the four double rows planned, but enough for another five double rows after that!  oops.

If we have a good broad bean year, and I hope we do… we could be in for a lot of beans.  Still they freeze well. If we had the freezer space….

So…note to self… pay attention to how many I am planting and do not rely on what happened last year…

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