Lately, we have had a spell of hot, sunny days. Lovely as it it to wake each day to a cloudless sky, we need some rain as there was none at all in June and the crops are suffering. Talk amongst the farmers at a party yesterday was that it will deluge just before harvest thereby giving the double whammy of poor yields that deteriorate further in the wet conditions. Pessimism or statistical realism?


Giant dog made from recycled cardboard, fabric and wooden pallet

Lately, there has been a giant dog sitting outside The Barley Barn. It’s an artistic interpretation of recycling and makes an interesting seating place. The bonus of the dry spell is that the giant dog has been evicted from the office, where it took up far too much room as it waited to be dragged out to installed in its current position.


Discussing a print in the printmaking barn at Slamseys

Lately, I have persuaded Ruth to contribute to Slamseys Journal. During the past year, Ruth has asked me several times to write about printmaking but I’ve largely ignored her and instead wittered on about rosehips and rose petals. This is entirely understandable, as I can easily reel off six things you can do with rose petals but am rather vague about making two colour screen prints, but it’s rather frustrating for Ruth.


Mud spattered boots in front of door

Lately, I have resurrected the Life in Mud Spattered Boots blog so that I have somewhere to write about random things that don’t quite fit in here.


Slamseys pond in summer

Lately a dip in the pond looks more enticing with every sun filled day. However, whenever Morris the fox terrier has taken a swim (which he has done several times recently) his progress has been marked by swirls of black mud. I suspect that there’s only a couple of feet of water above a deep muddy sludge, which is far from tempting.

Stop and Smell the Roses

Stop and Smell the Roses


Sometimes, it seems that everybody is in a rush. They have too much to do and not enough time to do it. Busy, busy, busy. Ask someone how they are and the default answer is “Busy”.  Interestingly, the follow up question of “Busy doing what?” sometimes reveals that they’re just busy being busy.

But judging by Instagram (which is of course real life isn’t it?) there’s a sense that people are slowing down to find time for the things that are important in their lives. Taking time to stop and smell the roses. Being creative, making and doing. Lingering for five minutes over a cup of coffee. Arranging flowers. General faffing. Trying to make the world a better place.

We’ve been taking time out too.

Stopping to smell the roses

Generous Gardener Rose with colours picked out below

We have literally been stopping to smell the roses and admire their beauty (and pick them to make Rose Petal Posset). This rose is full of promise, poised to burst into flower and I love this colour combination.

Trying to be greener

rusting barrel under walnut tree in grassy area

We’re lucky that the printmaking space is in a beautiful old barn and lunch breaks can be spent by the pond or wandering down the fields, which adds to the enjoyment of the day and gives a chance for reflection and inspiration amongst nature.

We’re trying to make our printmaking space environmentally friendly but it’s a steady process and a balance between our commitment and student expectation.

Nearly all our inks are water soluble, which means we don’t need to clean with solvents but that can make a difference to the finished prints. Our students cut stencils for screen printing rather than use polymer emulsions, which is fine for beginners but experienced printmakers may feel restricted. Our Who Gives a Crap toilet paper and  recycled paper hand towels do the job they’re designed for, but they don’t look or feel luxurious.

Making & Doing

ox eye daisies in meadow with colours picked out below

The ox-eye daisies in the meadow this year have inspired me to have another go at reduction lino printing.

Lino reduction print "mayweed"

Last year, I tried reduction lino printing or suicide lino printing as Ruth likes to describe it and based my print on a sketch I’d done of some mayweed flowers growing next to the henhouse. Making these prints involves cutting and layering colours from a single lino block and it took me quite a lot of head scratching to make sure I cut the right bit at the right time. Read about the proper way to make reduction lino prints here.

Ignoring Ruth’s advice to keep it simple with a two or three colour design and to plan it properly, I waded in with a half-baked plan and five colours. On reflection, five colours was over-ambitious as was the decision to add in extra details half way through the process. It wasn’t a total success, but if it had been, that would be rather disappointing. After all, half the fun of creative projects is giving it a go and working out how to get better. The real sense of achievement comes when you can see how you’ve progressed. Even if you still have a long way to go.

Getting out into the countryside

Gate Farm Open Farm Sunday

To be fair, we do this every day but on 10th June everybody has the chance to go to the countryside and visit a UK farm. We’re not hosting this year, so for a change we can be visitors at someone else’s farm. Check out the Open Farm Sunday website for details of a farm near you.




Take a deep breath. And relax.

Instagram might does give us a very curated view of life but there’s no doubt that it doesn’t do any harm to slow down for a few minutes and relish the moment. To relax, be happy and inspired by our surroundings or other people. To actually smell the roses. Though possibly not if you suffer from hay fever.

A Posset of Roses

A Posset of Roses

Generous Gardener Rose

There’s a wonderful feeling of abundance in gardens in early June as the plants burst into flower and everywhere looks green and verdant. Unfortunately, our current garden has no flowers as it’s no more than a rough bit of grass littered with old farm machinery and an expanse of sterile gravel.

We have vague plans for the garden but decided that rather than rush into it, we’re spending a few months taking stock of the space, moving chairs around to find the best places to sit and working out path routes and sight lines. While it’s been rather enjoyable not to spend time weeding, cutting back and dealing with the latest outbreak of disease or insect infestation, it’s made me realise how much I enjoy pretty, sweet smelling flowers and a productive vegetable garden.

Generous Gardener Rose in front of herbaceous border in English country garden

Most of all, I enjoy roses at this time of year, especially my favourite The Generous Gardener that, despite being planted in little more than hoggin (gravel, sand and clay) in my previous garden, climbed vigorously over a rose arch and continues to flower profusely.

I enjoy this rose not just for the look of the pale pink and blowsy flowers but for their delicious fragrance whether smelt as you pass by outside or filling a room inside. Perhaps best of all, I love using rose petals for food and drinks. I can’t stand lavender in food as it reminds me too much of soap, but roses are another matter. Hand me a box of Rose and Violet Cream chocolates and I’m happy. Slamseys Rose Gin? One of my favourite of Beth’s flavours. A jar of rose petal jam? The perfect topping to a fresh scone.

Rose Possett creamy dessert flavoured with fresh rose petals

This weekend, I nipped next door to snip off a rose from the arch, along with some petals from a rugosa rose to make this subtly flavoured Rose Petal Posset. The lemon juice gives a little sharpness to the dessert and brings out the pinkness and flavour of the rose petals. If you’re worried about this tasting too floral (though it doesn’t) add the zest of the lemon to make a Rose & Lemon Posset.

Use any unsprayed scented rose petals and shake the insects from the blooms before you start.

Try it. How can you go wrong with sugar, cream and rose petals?




Creamy rose desserts made with cream and rose petals

2 rose heads
300ml double cream
50g caster sugar
Juice of 1 lemon

Snip the petals from the rose heads into a saucepan. Add the cream and sugar and heat gently to boiling point.

Simmer fairly robustly (more than for stock but less than the rolling boil for jam) for 3 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lemon juice.

Leave to stand for ten minutes, which will help the flavour of the rose petals infuse the cream. Letting the cream cool a little should also lessen the chance of cracking your glass.

Strain the cream into four small glasses (you can stretch this to five) and chill for at least four hours.

A Good Walk

A Good Walk

We haven’t been walking for ages and to my shame, when I pulled out my walking shoes, they were still covered in mud from my last Nordic Walking session the week before Christmas. The wet, cold spring wasn’t a great incentive for long walks and with the demands of work, house moving, family and “dealing with builders” the only walking for the past few months has been around the farm, rather than following long distance trails.

Arable fields on Paston Way, Norfolk

But in May, the lure of exploring new places with bluebell woods and blossom laden hedgerows is hard to resist and if fine weather is forecast, the maps are soon pulled out and routes planned for a good walk.

Last year, we started The Monarchs Way and though we loved the first few days walking through villages and beautiful countryside with good access to public transport, we later skipped a big urban section and took an alternative cross-country route to avoid miles of road walking.  We rejoined the official route but when we reached Stratford-upon-Avon, we tried to work out if transport and accommodation would be easier along the Cotswold Way rather than the Monarch’s Way. I’m not worried about walking every mile of a long distance trail; we often divert to visit something interesting and take different routes or miss small sections to fit in with travelling and accommodation. However, when we started to consider blue blazing a 100 mile alternative, we wondered if we were walking the wrong trail.

After much poring over maps, train timetables and accommodation listings, we have abandoned the Monarch’s Way, at least for the time being. It seems a bit defeatist and there are plenty of people who would grit their teeth and continue, but we walk for pleasure and if there isn’t any pleasure there seems little point in carrying on. Far better to find a walk that we enjoy. One of the reasons we started the Monarch’s Way was because we’d crossed it so many times on previous walks, so as an alternative we decided to try to link up all the walks that we’ve done. We particularly enjoyed the series of linked trails that took us from Lyme Regis in Dorset across the country to Cromer on the Norfolk coast, so plumped for extending that walk.

Beach looking northwards to Cromer on Norfolk Coast Path

After a search for our rucksacks (I haven’t necessarily put everything in a logical place in our new home) and with freshly scrubbed walking shoes, we set off for Cromer.

Wild flowers and grassy banks on footpath Paston Way, Norfolk

We wended our way along the very circuitous Paston Way between Cromer and North Walsham that took us along the beach, down paths overgrown with cow parsley and tiny country roads with grass growing down the middle.

Horsey Broad, Norfolk

When we reached the Norfolk Broads, it seemed silly to walk when we could jump on a boat to go nature watching across wide broads and drift through reed fringed channels.

At Great Yarmouth, the Weavers Way starts conveniently close to the railway station, so we jumped off the train, made a quick detour into neighbouring Asda to buy some lunch and set off along the banks of Breydon Water, watching a steady stream of boats navigate the narrow channel.


Berney Arms windmill, Norfolk

We reached Berney Arms Windmill, the tallest marsh mill at 21 metres high and turned north, leaving the river behind us …

Halvergate marshes

… to walk across Halvergate Marsh, where windmills and church towers are just specks in the distance and the sky seems enormous.

Eventually, we reached the edge of the marsh, back to the more familiar landscape of productive farmland and villages and sat on a bench in the sunshine to eat our lunch.

As we ended our walk, leaving the Weavers Way to reach the railway station at Acle, we paused to listen to a cuckoo calling. The first cuckoo I’ve heard this year and a fitting end to a good walk.

After a few glorious days walking, we’re already planning the next stage, so maybe the main reason we didn’t walk earlier in the year was that I just wasn’t enthusiastic enough about the Monarch’s Way.


By the way, is there an easy way to plot lots of routes onto a digital map?