We rarely reach the point in life where we can say ‘I have achieved my perfect balance.’

Scabious atropurpurea ‘Burgundy Beau’

But there are moments.

I had one this morning, in the middle of a very unromantic task: taking the kitchen waste out to the compost heap.

Tomatoes, courgettes and beans in the early morning sun

The light was catching the veg patch just so. I could smell the tomatoes. The birds were twiddling around, in their own sweet way. I wondered back across the garden via the walnut tree. I like to stand under it and gaze on my cut flower patch.

Under the walnut tree, looking into the cut flower patch.

I have been taking a bit of a digital detox in recent weeks. We’ve been on holiday to Cornwall, glamping. We had no wifi, and a very sporadic signal. We read. We fed the ponies. We battled with a log-burner for one-pot cooking. We toasted marshmallows. We picked up Cornish accents. We slowed down.

We had a jungle adventure in the Lost Gardens of Heligan.

The Jungle, Lost Gardens of Heligan

The jungle was incredible. But it was in this strip of zinnias too that I had a moment of wonderment.

Zinnias and butterflies

It was completely aflutter with butterflies; more butterflies than I have ever seen: commas, tortoise-shells, red admirals, painted ladies, peacocks.

Zinnias and tortoise-shell butterflies

Another outing was the Riverford Field Kitchen, in Buckfastleigh, Devon. The kitchen serves a fixed menu of several shared plates based on the organic veg being harvested on the farm. The menu changes daily, based on what is good right now. It is a sociable experience, with canteen-style tables shared with other diners.

Riverford Field Kitchen

The food was sensational: generous plates heaped with delicious, satisfying veg-based dishes. Whilst my step-daughter and I had the vegetarian option, the rest of the family agreed that the meat was completely unnecessary. It was a feast.

There was an equally generous selection of puddings, and joy-of-joys, you could choose two! The children enjoyed lemon meringue pie, caramel tart, chocolate nemesis and Eton mess. Stevie and I plumped for plum and lemon pudding, and semolina (I know!) with collapsed cherries. This was a revelation. The milk was infused with with black pepper, fennel seeds, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. The semolina was (unnecessarily) enriched with Mascarpone and then served with collapsed cherries. It was divine. I have recreated it at home without the Mascarpone, served with collapsed damsons. It is one of the most delicious combinations I have ever tasted.

After lunch, we took a stroll around the farm.

Riverford Farm

It was inspiring to wander through fields where wild flowers grow along the edges, and no artificial fertilisers, herbicides or pesticides are used.

Spring Onions ready for harvest

Needless to say we bought the cook book, ordered the veg box, and I have been having fun in kitchen ever since. Stevie and I are upping our fruit, veg and herb production for next year. We are referring to the project as ‘Fantasy Farm’. In addition to the real winter salad and herbs, increased yields of roots and legumes and brassicas and fruit trees, we have a couple of imaginary goats, a waddle of ducks and a very sweet Jersey cow, named Irma.

After being away in Cornwall for a week, we came back to a rampant garden. I enjoyed a couple of hours dead-heading and cutting flowers for the house. I have kept the sweet peas going, but they are ready to be cut down to make way for the dahlias, scabious and amaranthus.

Dahlia ‘Brown Sugar’ with Scabious ‘Burgundy Beau’ and Sweet Pea ‘Midnight’

We are harvesting courgettes, tomatoes, beans, sweetcorn and potatoes by the bucketful, and redcurrants, damsons and raspberries by the basketful. If anyone comes for dinner, you have been warned. Apples, pears, grapes and pumpkins are on the way.

Dahlia ‘Labyrinth’ and ‘Café au Lait Royale’ with Amarathus ‘Dreadlocks’

Back to Balancing

Four months ago I began practising yoga daily. I have practised yoga for twenty years, but when I had my children, daily practice became a challenge, and it remained a bit sporadic for the next fourteen years. In April, Stevie and I went away for the weekend, and I had the head-space to realise I was missing my daily practice. Since then I have been getting up early every morning to practice. I am absolutely loving this daily space to enjoy movement, breathing, and being right here, right now.

Dahlia ‘Labyrinth’ with roses ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’ and ‘Young Lycidas’

I don’t think it was any coincidence that I refound my yoga practice the week before I started working full-time again in a challenging and exciting new job. At some level I recognised that I would need some time every day to come back to myself, and find balance.

Dahlia ‘Labyrinth’ and Rose ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’

Between yoga flows, balancing in tree pose, deadheading, harvesting, playing in the kitchen, planning tulips for next spring, spending time with my loved ones and that little thing called work, I have been finding it a challenge to write my blog. I wonder if I need to take a little Autumn-and-Winter sabbatical, and come back, refreshed, in the spring.

So if you don’t hear from me for a while, don’t worry. I am still around, but replenishing myself and the garden. No doubt experiencing the odd moment of wonderment, earthy delight or sensory pleasure.

To fill the gap, please feel free to explore the archives of previous posts. You can click on the categories at the top of the page, search for a particular plant using the ‘search’ window below, or explore archives of previous posts organised by months.

One thing that I have learnt from yoga, and from gardening, is that balance is never fixed. Balance is a moment. It is where we are at right here, right now. We have a moment of perfect balance, and then something shifts. Our centre of balance moves, and we will wobble. But we will find it again. It will be a little different, but we will find our way. Just like the seasons, life is always shifting. We can’t fix it in time; so go with the flow. Life is a series of moments to be enjoyed, right here, right now.

39 Comments Add yours

  1. Ann Mackay says:

    Your cut flowers look absolutely wonderful – makes me feel that I should try growing some dahlias next year. And what a lovely moment too – it’s great to be struck by one of those! A time to be enjoyed and remembered. 🙂

    1. Thank you Ann. I do love my dahlias. They are so easy to grow, so much variety in form and colour, so you can really have fun, and cut flowers into October.

      1. Ann Mackay says:

        Having flowers into October is a huge plus when you need something to photograph… 🙂

  2. margaret21 says:

    I’ve missed your posts, but thank you for sharing your holidays with us. One more thing though. Could you share that unlikely-sounding semolina recipe please? It could force me to change my mind about 1950s-style-school-dinner-semolina!

    1. Thank you Margaret for your lovely comment. Yes! Here’s the recipe:
      1 litre milk
      A cinnamon stick, a few black peppercorns, a few cardamom pods, a clove, 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
      100g semolina
      125g sugar
      (Optional: 200g mascarpone)
      About 700g damsons

      1. Heat the milk with the spices until beginning to steam. Take off the heat and strain through a sieve.
      2. Return the milk to the pan and heat again, whisking in the semolina and sugar. Stir until thickened (5-10 mins).
      3. Pour into a dish to set.
      4. Halve the damsons and add a little water and a little sugar. Heat in a pan until collapsed and gooey.

      1. margaret21 says:

        Oh, thank you. Off to buy some damsons this morning then, and it’ll be on the stove later today!

  3. Emma Cownie says:

    Life without wifi is a revelation. You start off twitchy and then realize you are missing very little. However, as soon as you get back to wifi-land its sucks you back in!

    1. It is a hungry beast, isn’t it? It is good taking time away. I love my favourite insta people and the images they produce, but it does need management.

    1. Thank you Angela. I really appreciate your lovely comments.

  4. bcparkison says:

    Yes…Take a break but do come back with the beauty of your spring garden.

    1. I will! I have a whole load of tulips to try!

  5. Heyjude says:

    Your vases of cut flowers are so lovely! Did you enjoy Heligan then? I was there a week ago and not as impressed as I have been before. Seems very commercial now and obviously aimed at parents and children. The Zinnias were amazing I have to agree, as was the Sundial garden, but I felt the jungle is becoming too overgrown and the beautiful viewing points that once were there seem to have disappeared. Oh, well, there are many more gardens to visit. Enjoy your down time. I shall miss your lovely posts, but I may well take the opportunity to dip into the archives.

    1. I did enjoy Heligan. It was more jungly than I remembered (I last visited 15 years ago) and the whole family enjoyed it. I agree it was very commercial. I always love a walled garden!

      1. Heyjude says:

        Yes, a walled garden is something many of us crave for!

  6. Val says:

    Ali, whenever I visit your blog, I can smell the flowers…. kind of a synaesthetic experience, that. Beautiful. I love your flowers – big, bright blooms, colour all the way!

    1. That is such a lovely thing to say, Val! I am very lucky to have such readers as you.

  7. plantbirdwoman says:

    Balance is so important to the well-lived life and not always easy to find. Obviously, you have worked to achieve it in your life. By the way, that bouquet of dahlias and roses is absolute perfection!

    1. Ah, thank you! I have really been enjoying roses and dahlias together.

  8. Wow ! Must plant some zinnia’s next year. Fabulous !

    1. I had success last year, but they were pathetic this year. I pulled them out because they were such a sorry sight!

  9. Love the fantasy goats – must get some of those!

    1. They are so rewarding and so easy to care for! 😀

  10. Cathy says:

    I enjoyed this post Ali and am glad to hear all is well and you are finding your balance. 🙂 Hope to see you back ‘refreshed’ soon. Lovely photos as always!

    1. Thank you Cathy! I have such a lovely group of readers; I am blessed.

  11. Jo Shafer says:

    Although I’ve enjoyed a more restful summer this time around, I’m become a little out of balance. Lazy is the word! Your blog and this first day of a brand new September encourages to resume light Yoga as well as ballet stretch exercises. Cooler days will inspire me to putter in the garden, cutting back roses and perennials and harvesting herbs. I’ll watch for your return in spring, Ali. Blessings!

    1. That is so nice to hear. I love that you can adapt yoga to suit your mood and tone. I love the sound of light ballet stretches!

  12. I for one will miss you dearly Ali! I look forward to your posts every Saturday and am disappointed when they are not there. I know the need to sometimes step away. I was gone for 8 weeks after my surgery and wondered if I would ever blog again, but I am finally enjoying it again. There is only so much time in every day, so do what matters to you most. I will be thinking of you and waiting for your return!

    1. Thank you Cindy for your kind words. The people who read and comment do inspire me so much. I think I shall enjoy being a consumer of blogs like yours for a couple of months and will enjoy the indulgence.

  13. Eliza Waters says:

    Beautiful, as always, Ali. Good luck with the new job, your posts will be missed!

    1. Thank you Eliza; I appreciate your support.

  14. Hi Ali! I’ve been thinking of you and then this post popped up. It sounds like you had a wonderful holiday. I can appreciate you needing time away as you transition to work. What will you be doing – can you share? I recently also went back to work after a 22-year hiatus to raise my boys. In that time, I completed a second Master’s degree and just before graduation last December, a job was posted that I thought would be perfect for me. Nine months later I am still adjusting… and living on the potential of the position. Life is meant to be lived; I’ll look forward to hearing how things are going for you from time to time! Take care! – Carol

    1. Hi Carol, I am managing a regional assessment centre assessing children for high-tech communication aids. I utterly love my work and am honoured to work with an incredible team. There are seasons in life, aren’t there? I really appreciate that I have my career as my children become independent. (I also see now how this has modelled hard work to them). The combination of family, work, gardening and yoga is keeping me entertained, inspired and challenged in equal measure!
      Thank you for all your support and kindness; I truly appreciate it. Love to you too.

  15. Lovely blog Ali. It sounds like you have a lot to fit in to your life but it will give me a chance to read up on blogs I have missed. I have found it hard to keep up with reading since moving in with my partner and taking in all the new sights in the countryside. Hope you benefit from your break.

    1. I love that you are enjoying your new home and lifestyle! You are in such a lovely part of the world. Thank you too for your encouragement and support.

  16. I will miss your posts but am glad you are taking some time for yourself!

    1. Thank you, lovely friend. I couldn’t resist writing a post today about a gorgeous garden I visited yesterday. I will write as inspiration strikes! I continue to love your posts: they bring something quite unique to my life and I would not be without your wisdom and whimsy.

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