School’s Out!

School’s out for summer and the kids turn feral as they camp by the river while a host of guests are welcomed to the house.

Garden produce is so plentiful I can feed an army on a shoestring. It’ s a great joy to share the fruits of our labour with family and friends as we throw open the doors to all who will make the journey to visit.

An elderly couple, dear friends but used to the finer things in life come and my husband and I move into the caravan, a handy ‘spare room’ at the bottom of the garden while they can enjoy the comfort of the house.

Then my family arrives –  and the boys have friends to stay. A festival atmosphere takes hold as the house fills with people who spill onto the patio, into the garden and down to the river enjoying the beautiful sunny weather which makes our spot a perfect location in summer.

The kids tented garrison in the garden is a no-go area for adults. They live and thrive outside making only occasional sorties to the house for food and other supplies. Clothes are strewn in a tell-tale trail from tent to river and I leave them be, having given up nagging with the end of term.

Watching their boundless capacity for play is something quite special. As long as the weather holds there is always something to entertain them. Bikes thundered round the field are suddenly discarded for balls kicked with fierce intention or guns, pointed with menacing accuracy but firing only water and shrieks of laughter. They are not too old for tag or to disappear into the woods for games with rules too complicated for adults to understand.

ferralIt’s deeply satisfying seeing the kids have fun and the adults relaxing and enjoying our space. I am busy constantly in the kitchen preparing food straight from the garden. Potatoes lifted from the warm earth, eggs from the hens and great swathes of spinach made into a fat frittata large enough to serve a crowd. Pizza bases piled with peppers from the greenhouse and baby courgettes which are multiplying quickly in the vegetable patch. Dried beans from the larder are soaked overnight and cooked in the bottom of the Aga with chillies and tomatoes from the greenhouse and more veg from the garden to make a spicy Mexican, costing next to nothing.

The buzz of feeding a crowd is addictive. A unsuspecting dad dropping his son off to join the renegade gang in the garden is roped in for a barbecue. It’s all handson deck as he makes a marinade for vegetable kebabs while I cook off the last of the homemade sausages.

It’s not just a fantastic fun way to make use of the heatwave but for me confirmation that what we are doing here makes sense and is right. I love the abundance, the outdoors, the simplicity of feeding friends and free-range kids. After a long winter of eking out coal and rationing logs we are rich and heady with indulgence.

It does take considerable effort to turn this bounty into delicious dishes and the cleaning up is a bore but my energy and enthusiasm for the task is great. I make so many fruit crumbles and summer puddings we eat them for breakfast and why not! The ingredients are fresh and healthy and better than processed cereals from the shops. I work late into the night turning our glut of blackcurrants into sorbets and soft creamy ice-cream and still wake early the next morning to make pancakes for breakfast with eggs collected from the hens and served with homemade fruit jams.


After just under a week the last of our guests leave. There’s sheets to wash and garden jobs to catch up with, not least about another 40 lbs of black currants still to pick and process. The kids have the rest of the summer holidays to look forward to and we will find plenty of fun things to do, especially if the good weather continues – but this first week will be hard to beat.

Much of the time this house is inconvenient and troublesome. In the last few weeks we have had constant problems with our water supply. When the pressure first dropped we worried the spring might be dry after so many weeks without rain but a reconnaissance trip into the woods to the source of the supply confirmed there was plenty of water available – but silt and mud was building up in the pipes. Blowing out the blockage using an inflatable dinghy pump has been successful but only after many hours of work and frustration.

The Aga inexplicable went out which meant finding the time for the dirty horrible job of cleaning and relighting it just two months after we had last done it. And as these things always come in threes the generator has also been playing up – a sticky solenoid switch causing it to fail to start.


With these technical problems rumbling on in the background it was lucky we had a clear run when our guests were here. A time to enjoy our surroundings rather than battling against them. Fingers crossed we get more opportunities like that this summer.

Whatever you choose to do I hope you have a fantastic summer holiday.

All the best

Mum in the Woods

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6 thoughts on “School’s Out!

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  1. What a totally fantastic childhood. Like Swallows and Amazons. Very impressed with your haul of fruit and veg. Brilliant planning to get this range.

    1. We don’t plan as much as I’d like, just grow lots of all the main fruit and veg – everything really except onions. I’d like to try more unusual varieties and reduce the hunger gap – when we don’t have anything to crop.

  2. It all sounds just marvellous. You are fantastic hosts: no wonder your visitors had a wonderful time. I expect some of your summer will be taken up with various ways of preserving the bounty from your garden. I know how much time all of this must take- my own attempts at growing food are pathetic by comparison!

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