Primrose

Primrose

Oh my goodness, I’m writing this like a woman possessed! I have limited time until…wait for it…Arthur’s little sister wakes up from her nap! I’ve been quiet and distant because I’ve been busy growing another little miracle. Arthur’s little sister, Primrose, is fourteen weeks old. Writing to tell you the news has been high up on my list of priorities, but didn’t make it onto my list of ‘things achieved’…not that I actually keep a list of things achieved. It would be very boring. Baby fed- check. Got dressed – kind of. Brushed teeth – can’t remember but I hope so. This blog post is all about becoming parents again, creating Arthur’s Patch and growing marrows.

Arthur’s little sister…

I hope you’re well and had a great summer? Oh…She’s awake…the rest of this post may or may not make sense. I’m writing one-handed. Gosh this is slow going. Let’s hope for the best.

After such a devastating time, Mr SN and I were desperate to give Arthur a sibling. Having another child isn’t a replacement and it doesn’t make the pain go away, but it helps to ease it. As Mr SN put it “A piece of my heart is missing since we lost Arthur, but a bit has been added since we had Primrose. It’s not the same bit, there’s a hole and an extra bit.” When he said those words I knew exactly what he meant. We have misshapen hearts that have lost but continue to love.

“A piece of my heart is missing since we lost Arthur, but a bit has been added since we had Primrose. It’s not the same bit, there’s a hole and an extra bit.”

Mr Sidestepping-Normal

Primrose is exactly the same age as Arthur’s Patch. As the sale finally went through and we celebrated with our big family bonfire, little Primrose was beginning to grow. Since the beginning she has been there as I’ve LZ:;:Z:Z::;Z (whoops, sorry, it’s hard to reach that letter whilst feeding a baby) planted trees, wheelbarrowed compost and planted seeds. She was steadily growing alongside the sunflowers and sweet peas. At first I kept her hidden beneath baggy jumpers and scarves, but as the spring emerged, so did my bump. It became harder to keep her a secret. The illogical part of my brain wanted to hide her until she was born. I longed for a way to “spring” her out of nowhere to avoid the worry and anticipation of the pregnancy.

In hindsight, as I sit here watching Primrose in her door bouncer listening to the Spice Girls (her choice not mine) my worries seem unfounded. But at that time I could only react to previous experiences. My mind couldn’t allow me to believe that everything would be okay, it was protecting itself.

Becoming parents again…

And how are we doing now? Everything is fine…and then again it isn’t. When we’re lost in the moment, there’s a temporary relief from the ache, but it always returns. Every emotion has complicated feelings. We feel happy and guilty, grateful and sad and the love we have for Primrose is coupled with longing for Arthur. We yearn for that carefree feeling we used to have, but to have that would mean he never existed…and we go round and round in circles.

Arthur’s Patch…

Let me tell you about the progress up at Arthur’s Patch. Nowadays I’m lucky to pull up a few weeds in the veg garden before I have to tend to a crying baby, but before she was born I was….actually pretty useless because I couldn’t lift anything. Basically Mr SN has achieved a hell of a lot whilst I’ve been waddling about eating smoked salmon and white chocolate. Let me show you around.

Mini woodland:

One of our first jobs was to plant trees. I ordered a mix of two hundred and fifty native woodland trees including: sweet chestnut, hazel, field maple, alder, hornbeam, rowan, silver birch, guelder rose, dog rose and hawthorn. I know that two hundred and fifty sounds like a phenomenal amount, but to keep things cost effective I ordered them as bare root whips. This means that they have no soil around their roots and are very small. Without their leaves, they resemble sticks. To say that Mr SN was underwhelmed by our order is an understatement. He’d even removed the back seats of the car in anticipation. Once we’d loaded up (placed a bundle of dead looking twigs in the empty boot) we trundled back to Arthur’s Patch to plant them. We’d organised quite a few volunteers, and with their help, all the trees were planted in a few days. The idea is that in the future we can coppice the trees (ancient method of cutting trees to encourage them to generate new growth) to supplement our firewood, but that’s a long way off. In the spring it was magical to watch them form buds and grow leaves, and a relief to know that we hadn’t wasted our money on dead sticks.

The veg garden:

This is my pride and joy. Nothing excites me more than rows of carrots and cabbages, and I’m not ashamed to say it. Earlier in the year I went on a course on how to maximise yields, because that’s the point I’ve got to in my life. The key to success is to be ultra organised, which I accomplished this season. I worry it may never happen again. If I fail to get organised this winter then my veg beds won’t be looking like this next year. In the event that happens I’m going to show people last years photos and lie.

I mapped out my growing space and drew out all the veg beds. Then I worked out (thanks to the course) when to sow the seeds at the correct time and which beds would be occupied with plants and which would be empty. Because I knew when each crop would be waning, I already had the next seedlings ready to go in. This technique has worked wonders and we’ve been inundated with veg since June. We haven’t bought a single vegetable since the beginning of July and we’re still picking kale, swiss chard, runner beans and carrots. We have enough potatoes and onions stored to see us through the next few months. I’ve learnt so much…like don’t bother growing too many marrows ’cause nobody wants them.

I used the ‘No Dig’ method which involves….you guessed it, no digging. This was especially helpful as I wasn’t able to do heavy work anyway. The method involves laying down cardboard to kill any existing grass or weeds, and then covering the cardboard with 15cm of compost. The cardboard breaks down and then you simply add a top-up of rotted manure or compost every year. My plants flourished this season and the soil is only going to improve year on year.

In the pathways we put cardboard with wood-chippings on top. Every year we just have to add more wood-chip as it breaks down. I can’t recommend this system enough, I’ll never go back to digging the soil. ‘No Dig’ mimics nature…nature doesn’t dig over the soil every year, instead the vegetation and leaves rot on the soil’s surface and make their way into the soil.

A vegetable baby photo shoot:

A bounty harvest this year!

Let’s take photos of the baby. Let’s take photos of the vegetables. Let’s combine the two. And that is how the vegetable baby shoot was born. Add a puppy and it would have been even better. This picture appears serene and calm. There is no hint of the chaos behind the scenes. We took one, single perfect photo and this is how it turned out…you believe me right? There definitely isn’t me looking bedraggled, mum holding up a bedsheet to create shade, Mr SN sweating whilst frantically taking photos, my dad trundling armfuls of vegetables about and Primrose threatening to scream. We have new-found respect for baby photographers. We had no idea how many marrows we had.

The orchard:

Surrounding the vegetable garden is the orchard where we have sixteen fruit trees including apples, cooking apples, pears, plums, damsons and cherries. Many people wanted to buy us a tree in memory of Arthur, so I decided to make an orchard out of it. I ordered the trees and then people chose the variety that took their fancy and came along to plant them, so it’s a kind of memorial orchard.

The children’s play area:

This area is really important to us because Arthur’s Patch has to have lots of happy children running around. We drove all the way to Preston to buy the big plastic tubes from a likeable character who may or may not have stolen them from the roadworks nearby. What can I say – they were half the price and we fancied a ten hour road trip. We have plans for a trampoline sunk into the ground, a mud kitchen and a living willow den. There’s lots to get done but already children are leaving covered in mud, so our mission is complete. If the M6 is missing 6 metres of drainage pipe then it’s all for a good cause.

Boys toys…
The play area is beginning to take shape…

The cabin:

The cabin revolutionised Arthur’s Patch, because it turned it from a field that wasn’t useable during bad weather, into somewhere we can use all year round. The cabin was donated by a friend of a friend and we’re so grateful for their generosity. My dad has been busy insulating it ready for this winter. We foresee the cabin being a place to make tea and store marrows.

Primrose pond:

The pond has been our latest project, having been completed just a few weeks ago. Again we’re so grateful to the people that volunteered their weekend to dig the pond, it couldn’t have been achieved without you. Thankfully we managed to get it dug before the wet weather set in, and it’s already full up. We’re on heavy clay, so there’s no problem with it holding water. The pond was funded by Primrose herself. She was given some money by her great grand parents…so we spent it on a digger hire. We felt that the money should create something long lasting, and a pond that will give her hours of fun throughout her childhood. We want to get a little rowing boat and a bridge to the island. When she’s watching tadpoles and rowing her boat, I’m sure she’ll agree it was money well spent.

The toilet:

Our eco toilet has made Arthur’s Patch a functional place. Before having a toilet, friends and family would either find a discreet place to go for a wild wee, or stay for a limited time before having to go home. The design we opted for is called a tree bog. It’s elevated and works by throwing saw dust over the…errr…offering. The elevation allows for maximum ventilation and above-ground composting. There’s absolutely no smell and people have remarked that it was the most exciting wee they’ve ever had. This toilet is a BIG hit with children who love to throw sawdust in. We will be planting willow around the toilet to soften it into it’s surroundings and live off the waste. It will take a long time (years) before we’ll have to deal with the compost underneath.

Bees

I contacted the local beekeeping association to see if anyone wanted to locate their hives on our land. We’d love to be beekeepers, but we don’t have the time right now. Fortuitously a couple up the road got in touch and now we have a win, win partnership. We get the advantage of bees on our land and a supply of honey as payment.

Summary…

So that’s what we’ve been up to in the intervening months. To outsiders we’re a happy family of three but in reality we’re a complicated family of four. Primrose will always know she has a big brother, but we’re conscious of not making her feel overshadowed by his loss. She’s free to become whoever she wants, as long as she’s honest and always tries her best. This blog post has taken a few weeks to cobble together and has been interrupted by 16 nappy changes, 14 feeds, very little sleep, and the consumption of two marrows, but I got there in the end. Over the last few months we’ve learnt that a) It’s good to have a few marrows stored for a rainy day, b) We have enough marrows stored for several weeks of rainy days, and c) we need to start getting inventive with marrow recipes.

31 thoughts on “Primrose

  1. To both of you,
    Congratulations ! Really glad to read your post.
    So much has happened in your lives. You are both very strong people and now the little girl opens up a whole new chapter.
    All the best and thank you or taking the time to give us your latest news !
    Céline

  2. Congratulations on the new addition to your family, I am so pleased that life is slowly improving for you.
    And wow how impressive is the work you have done with the land and the crops you have grown.
    May things continue to improve for you all, and may your lives be forever filled with the joy that I know Primrose will give you (and sleepless nights..Lol).
    Love to you all, your friend Chris

  3. Wonderful read Steph, so pleased things are progressing so well, can’t wait to see it and to meet Primrose our great great niece, we hope to come up for a few days in December we know there are so many problems with the family at the moment and we are so worried and wish we didn’t live so far away. sending love to you all and please may we have a photo of Primrose to stand beside her big brothers photo on our dressing table xxxxx

  4. I can’t tell you how happy I am to read this glorious post. Congratulations on beautiful Primrose and your inspirational Arthur’s Patch. Stuffed marrows? Marrow soup? Wishing you all the best

  5. Congratulations to you all, what a wonderful addition to your family, and I love how Arthur’s Patch has developed.

  6. So pleased for you both, and primrose, I know you will love and care for primrose as much as you did Arthur.
    I’m sure Greece misses you all

  7. Congratulations on the arrival of Primrose , You have both done so much since leaving Greece, Do you still own the little Greek house that you were renovating ? .. Well done both of you and please keep writing your blog ..

  8. What wonderful news! I smiled all the way through reading this and am so happy for you. You have achieved so much. Sending our love and best wishes.

  9. So pleased to see things are on the up for you both,and your hard work is paying off. Primrose is beautiful and has her lovely parents to raise her as a very special person. Sending love,always.

  10. What amazing progress you have made with your land. Really enjoyed reading about all your projects. Such success with your vegetables and lots of help from friends. The photo of Primrose surrounded by vegetables is beautiful. I love the cabin and the loo. The post was a great read, thank you. Not forgetting Arthur who is watching over all your progress. I am so pleased for you all.

    1. Thank you, everything thrives at Arthur’s Patch because it has a special angel overseeing the proceedings:)

  11. Reading this early in the morning is exhausting- you have been SO busy!!

    Your daughter is beautiful, many congratulations. I lost two babies in a difficult pregancy and when pregnant with my son (now nearly 22) did pregancy tests up to about 38 weeks to try & convince myself it was actually happening and for reassurance. How crazy does that sound now (written with a smile following the passage of time)?

    The change in Arthur’s Patch is fantastic, I hope I get to see it at some point (I think I’m localish).

    1. Hello! Thank you, she is a pretty little thing, even if we are biased!

      I’m so sorry to hear about your losses. I can completely understand why you couldn’t allow yourself to believe you were pregnant and that everything would be okay. I’m so glad it was.

      Best wishes.

  12. WOW what an amazing achievement. We are in awe of you both. You have come such a long way and experienced so much in your lives.
    Life is all about love, kindness, happiness and sadness. You have been through so much you can only emerge stronger.
    Arthur was a beautiful baby and now you have another lovely little girl, congratulations to you both.
    Primrose will bring much joy and laughter to you as she grows and develops, has her own little language and funny names for people and places that you will always remember. We still use the same language that our children invented! You never forget. It’s hard, of course, with a little one who only needs feeding, changing and comfort but the rewards are second to none.
    I hope you continue your blog so that I can follow your journey again. You are a terrific storyteller.
    I would love to visit Arthur’s Patch sometime; it sounds amazing with so much love and dedication creating a natural environment for all to enjoy. (I love the description of the loo)
    Thank you for sharing.
    Much love to you and your family,
    Mae and Reg (we lost Dylan in June this year and miss him terribly).
    xx

    1. Hiya!
      We agree with you completely, your comment really rings true. We are much stronger people than we were.

      I’m so sorry about Dylan. I feel like I did know that, but so much has gone on that I’ve forgotten alot. There must be such a gap without him. He was such a lovely boy.

      I’ll reply to your email when I have a minute:)

  13. So glad to hear your news. I’ve thought about you often. May your lives continue to flourish. Primrose is a very lucky little girl to have such lovely parents.

  14. Thank you so much for the update, I had been wondering and hoping that the quiet time meant you were busy and you certainly have been! It has been worth the wait for such a lovely lot of news. Primrose is a very lucky little girl to have you as parents, strong, hard working, true, good people. Here’s to all of you, and Arthur will be so proud to be part of it all too. Take care for now, have a glorious Christmas, we’ll all understand if you’re a tad too busy to write for a while!

  15. So lovely to read your happy news about Primrose, and your poignant yet hopeful post. I hope that Arthur’s Patch continues to evolve beautifully.

  16. Reading your news was a real joy. Primrose is adorable and I am amazed at what you have done in Arthur’s Patch. Well done to you both, you are an inspiration.

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