There is an emanation from the heart

which cannot be described,

but is immediately felt and puts

the stranger at his ease.

~Washington Irving

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough...

.........and more.

It turns denial into acceptance,
chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast,

a house into a home,

a stranger into a friend.

~Melody Beattie

Don't be satisfied with stories,

how things have gone with others.

Unfold your own myth.

May my life be like a great

hospitable tree, and may

weary wanderers find in

me a rest.

~John Henry Jowett

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Our Summer So Far..........

"Summer is the time when one sheds one’s tensions with one’s clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit. A few of those days and you can become drunk with the belief that all’s right with the world."                    ~Ada Louise Huxtable

Since moving to Oxford seven years ago, I've found that living in Britain we start waiting for summer around January 2nd, once the Christmas and New Year holiday haze has worn off. We wait through months of darkness by 4pm, grey days, rain mixed with sleet mixed with snow mixed with rain, and biting wind swooping down from the North Sea. So we wait, in great expectation, for the 'Great British Summer' as marketers like to call it.

And then June finally arrives (after what felt like a year-long spring), and you can't help but think, "this is it! Summer's here!" But it's not really. Summer comes to Britain doled out in dribs and drabs. I'm used to summer starting on Memorial Day and ending on Labor Day back in the U.S., and you can count on warm weather and sunshine for months on end. Since moving to Britain though, I've learned to take my summer where I can get it--and sometimes that's an hour at a time. By August though, we've cobbled together a lovely English summer and enough warm, sunny moments to get us through the long, dark winter.

"God almighty first planted a garden;
and indeed it is the purest of human pleasures.
It is the greatest Refreshment of the
spirit of man."
~Francis Bacon (1625)

For me summer begins and ends in a garden and in nature. Beyond that, our garden is my sanctuary during the busy summer months, when Oxford is filled to the brim with summer school students, conference-goers, and travellers from all over the world. Oxford in the summer is a busy, energetic place, and adding to that, Stuart is at his busiest in the summer; so my peace and calm is nestled in the ivy covered walls of our garden.

We have several benches for sitting and reading, or drinking 
our Pimm's. My summerhouse, tucked between an apple tree, 
a quince, and a butterfly bush, is a place to sit and dream. 
Once inside our garden, you wouldn't 
know you were surrounded by a busy and bustling city.

This past Sunday afternoon in our garden and the
girls enjoying a little afternoon stroll.

No one (other than our chickens--more about them later)
enjoys our garden more than Max and Jack.

Summer in our garden begins with roses, moves into lavender, and ends with lavatera.  (Pictured--Brother Cadfael English rose.)                                                                                     
"How fair is a garden amid the trials and passions of existence."
         ~Benjamin Disraeli                   

Summer lavender--Hidcote variety.

Deep pink lavatera will bloom well into autumn.
Jack as the summer began.
                                                                                                                                                               This year's summer months also brought a growing puppy. Jack came to us in May and has grown from a tiny, tiny pup in early June into a stroppy teenager, in what seemed like overnight.

A teething, teen-aged puppy.

He loves his walks through Holywell Cemetery, sleeping, 
getting extremely dirty, Max, and sitting in the sun.

Jack even had his first Cotswold adventure last week.

Jack investigating the Cotswold village of Upper Slaughter.

Adding to our summer was the highly anticipated addition of Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Miss Havisham, our two Burford Brown hens who moved into their Oxford home in early July. They were just two teen-aged girls, wide-eyed and curious about their new home, when we moved them into their coop on July 6th.

Lady Catherine de Bourgh always leading the way for Miss Havisham.
The best of friends and inseparable.
It takes a lot of work to keep chickens and much of my summer, when I wasn't training a puppy, has been spent looking after chickens--sitting with them so they get to know and trust me, making sure their coop is clean and dry and their fencing is secure, feeding them the right types of food, making sure they get enough exercise. The last time I kept chickens I had a five acre farm and a huge chicken coop--they fit right into the farmyard ecosystem. Two backyard chickens actually take much more work than my 20 farm chickens, but I haven't minded one minute of it; keeping chickens in Oxford feels like part of this South Dakota girl has come home.

My patience has paid off and
Lacy C. and Miss H will eat out of my hand.

And now, after weeks of waiting and a lot of hard work, 
eggs have finally started to appear, and fresh, organic
eggs can be added to our B&B menu.

In the midst of a bustling Oxford, keeping chickens, and raising puppies, we've had beautiful sunny mornings and wonderful 'blue moon' evenings.

Blue moon shining over the old city walls inside New College.
July brought film crews from the television 
series 'Endeavour' to Holywell Street. 
(*Spoiler alert below!!! #DIFredThursday!!!)

                                                                                                                                                                                        We also managed to fit in a Shakespeare play in Wadham College gardens, a birthday present from our kids. This year Wadham is hosting a production of 'Twelfth Night' and it was top-notch and great fun.
Oxford Shakespeare Company's 'Twelfth Night', Wadham College Gardens.
We've had many, many walks through Holywell Cemetery.

June Queen Anne's Lace in Holywell Cemetery.
Jack playing 'tiger in the grass' as we walk.
In the middle of a hectic schedule Stuart and I always try
to stop for a breath and a glass of Pimm's.  Our favourite
is the blackberry and elderflower Pimm's.

Our fridge is summer-stocked with plenty of Pimm's.
Sometimes we take the time to mix a big pitcher of Pimm's,
but other times we pop open a can--whatever works!

Stuart, the master puntsman.
So that's our summer so far in a nutshell. Over the years we've learned to grab our calm and relaxation where we can, even if it's just five minutes between answering the doorbell, returning emails, or folding laundry. We take our summer moments as they come. And even though I'm beginning to flag and feel worn around the edges from our summer schedule, I'm glad we have a few weeks of August left. We still have punting on the river, afternoon tea on the lawn of 'The Lords of the Manor' hotel, evening walks and picking blackberries, and a visit to a stately home or two. The dark days of winter will come soon enough, but until then we'll soak up all the summer we can.

"Every summer has a story." 
We hope all of you are having a wonderful summer too!

The glory of Oxford in the summer.


  1. I've missed you! I see you've been busy transforming your web site along with raising chickens and puppies!! And lovely to see Jack growing and your gorgeous hens! Those brown eggs look wonderful! I don't want to throw negative water on your ode to summer. I'd feel the same way if I lived there or in my beloved New England. But I must say the most challenging thing I've ever had to endure is mid-south summer in Arkansas! It has been wretchedly hot in the 90's consistently days on end with seldom and nice summer shower! My garden is bedraggled, but I've done my best to help it out. A far cry from the charming beginning in April!! I cannot wait until Summer is over!! And that's a shame, because I DO love summer vicariously and in memory, when it was reasonable and behaved itself! Some summer is when I need to visit Oxford! But that will have to wait a while longer. Thank you so much for sharing. This was just the break I needed; feeling cooler just walking through your garden and village activities with you! Jane xo

    1. I know how you feel with the hot summers--and I am grateful for these cool days that never need air conditioners--wish I could send some your way! I hope you get some relief soon--stop by again when you need a vicarious cool breeze. xxx