Saturday, May 31, 2008

31 May: Swings and Roundabouts

The garden has produced an strange combination of successes and failures this spring.

The birch and the rowan that were planted out from pots 6 years ago are now sturdy trees, providing food and perches for the birds. Many of the plants have thrived, but there is one part of the border where nothing prospers. We are thinking of paving that bit.

This spring the wallflowers have been lovely; I particularly like this colour -

But the raspberry canes have suffered a disaster. Very few have grown this year, and several of those which have come up have died off. Only one end of the row is still looking healthy.

I'm now wishing I hadn't taken back the canes that were spreading into areas where they weren't wanted.

Elsewhere a strong pot marigold with several good flowers has keeled over - the local cat who lies in wait by our bird feeders is chief suspect.

On the other hand, the dwarf lilac is now looking less like a bunch of twigs and more like a bush. Here it is swamping some alliums and pressing an acanthus for space -

And this little plant, a sort of alpine thing whose name I forget, was doing poorly in a trough with a couple of other plants. Last year it was tucked into a border, and this spring the conditions must have suited it, as it has had more than its usual one flower -

P.S. Later addition - Forgot to mention the nicest surprise - there aren't many house-martins this year, but one pair has chosen to nest under our gable. Fingers crossed that we don't have a repeat of the tragedy 2 years ago, when I came home from work to find 2 tiny corpses on the drive, then the nest fell down and the last nestling perished. So far we've heard cheeping when parents swoop in, so there are chicks.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

27 May: Bank Holiday

We took advantage of the weekend sunshine, mostly in the garden and around the house, but we did get out for a walk round the Botanic Garden and through Blaid's Wood on Sunday.

There were still a few bluebells out.

After I struggled with repairing a saucepan lid, having trouble finding the right tools and a space to work, we decided to re-arrange the garage, so that there is a workbench and improved storage. We got a very posh tool chest from Halfords, and now all the tools have their own place, and we can find them straight away. It was much easier to do the next job, putting bar ends on my bike.

And we took the opportunity to clear out masses of rubbish and odds and ends that have been stuffed onto the shelves, in case they came in useful.

I caught up with some gardening, recognising that the wildflower seeds that were sown earlier have probably all been eaten by the birds - at least they haven't come up - and planting out some violas and lilies instead.

And of course there's some knitting going on. There's been a series of hats made, and this little sheep - in Blue Faced Leicester, of course.

Friday, May 23, 2008

23 May: Tagged - Fives

Tagged by Kaz.

5 things in my bag: I have many bags, some made of string, many containing knitting, but I guess this means the shoulder bag - come - mobile life support system.

Simple, but effective. Sadly, my Swiss Army penknife, with tweezers, scissors, and a tiny tiny screwdriver handy for repairing spectacles, has to be left at home, as it is now an Offensive Weapon.

5 favourite things in the house: (we have more than one room here)

my spinning wheel -

My large supply of fibre and yarn (fabric, thread, buttons, braid, etc, etc.)
The shawl on the back of my armchair (handy when it turns a bit chilly) -

The kitchen Buddha -

And the Mac, without which.....

5 things I always wanted to do:
garden - my own chunk of "nature"
be physically active
be open to different ideas, interests and activities
enjoy the company of others, and my own company
retire - do as I fancy, and they post me the money.

5 things I'm currently into:
spinning and knitting
exploring Hamsterley Forest
books by Oliver James - Affluenza and They F*** You Up
keeping it simple

5 persons to tag:
You may all (both?) feel free to pick this up and run with it, past someone or up a flagpole, blue-sky thinking outside the box, expanding the envelope.....

Monday, May 19, 2008

19 May - Adventures in the forest, and a bit of gardening.

Another dry Sunday morning, another walk in Hamsterley Forest. This time even though we took the map with us, we managed to get slightly lost. Failure to grasp the scale of the map meant an interesting detour up a pathless valley, crossing the stream twice, then having to climb up the steep valley side between the trees to get back to a track.

Still, at least we had our lunch with us. This is where we ate -

As we approached the bench, a deer on the slope below turned and looked at us before leaping away.

Today, after a trip to the garden centre, I was able to plant up a tub to stand by the freshly painted front door. I hope that dahlias and dwarf lavender will flourish where they get sun only later in the day.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

17 May: Is there anybody there?

You may find this amusing.

A friend who has been a widow for some years was saying that she'd had a telesales call from someone who sounded Indian (or was doing a Peter Sellers impression); this man asked to speak to her husband, whom he named. When asked what it was about, he said it was to do with some insurance. He was told - "My husband died 6 years ago", whereupon he said -

"Well, can you give him a message"........

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

14 May: Work in progress

When I was taking pictures yesterday of fibre and recently completed knitting projects, I forgot to take one of the current large project, so here it is today.

This is going to be a lightweight jersey; it's in undyed oatmeal Blue Faced Leicester and what is called black Wensleydale, which is actually a lovely slightly greyed chocolate colour. It's knitted from side to side, so the rows are ve-e-ery long, but there won't be so many of them.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

13 May: A bike ride, a walk, and some dyeing

We enjoyed the fine weather at the weekend. On Saturday DH took his newer bicycle in for some adjustments, and we decided to give the old bikes an airing.

Some time ago, we got some maps of cycle paths in County Durham - beautifully produced, nice clear mapping, lots of routes shown. So we thought we'd try out one or two of the local routes.

One track had been spotted because of a tempting sign pointing down it, advertising it as a cycle way. Well, all fine and good if you want to cycle to a gate in the middle of some fields. To go further involved squeezing through a gap too narrow for the bikes (they had to be lifted over), then riding along a ridge across the middle of the field to the main road. Definitely better for the all-terrain bike than for our road bikes.

Then the return from the main road was shown as a "Linking Route", with part of it "off-road section". This bit had clearly been labelled as such by someone at County Hall with a map and a twisted sense of humour. Apart from the extensive and extremely muddy pools of water under the railway viaduct (just by the sewage works - euuwch!), the first part was fine.

Then came a new bridge, with what looked like a dead end. Closer inspection revealed that the path went left from the bridge at sharper then a right angle, and up at about 1 in 4! The narrowness of the following steep and sharp zig-zags and the steps didn't help either.

Anyway, above that was a lovely bit of woodland, which opened out further on into fields of sheep (you didn't think wool was going to be absent, did you?). There were several field gates to be opened and closed, but at least they did. Anyone familiar with country paths knows about the gates with broken hinges and binder twine fastenings.

This brought us to woods we know, so we knew about the steps down to the narrow concrete beam (no handrail) across the stream, and the very steep path up the other side, but we found that the fallen tree across the path, noticed on a previous visit, had been removed.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Encouraged by this activity, we went to Hamsterley Forest early on Sunday morning, for a walk. We intended to do one of our regular routes, but found there was some horse orienteering going on, so turned off up a track we didn't know. One inviting path led to another, and instead of being home for coffee, we returned to the car park about 8 miles later, after 1 o'clock, to find it heaving with barbecues, games of football and tennis, and many acres of unsuitably exposed flesh.

A few miles further into the Forest, we'd seen a deer, a jay and 2 buzzards; there were hundreds of violets out, and a whole field of cowslips!

- - - - - - - - - - - -

And yesterday I turned my attention back to the fibre. The local SDW Guild has been asked to do a demonstration at a Durham Wildlife Trust event next month, and I have volunteered to spin. I thought it might be more interesting to spin some coloured fibre, rather than just plain white, so I dyed some Blue Faced Leicester.

The green and the apricot (behind) were dyed with acid dyes, and the red and orange (at the front) were dyed with food colouring. The original fibre was not white, but "oatmeal", and the rest of the ball is at the back for comparison.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

6 May: A bit Mole

The spring thing had been affecting me over the weekend - painting, cleaning, tidying, re-arranging.

Then on my return from a quick sortie to the shops for some varnish to finish off the smartly cleaned, painted, and polished number on the front door, there was a telephone message. Was I coming out to play? You bet.

Bluebell woods. Clear blue sky. Perfect fresh leaves, newly opened this morning. Birdsong. Cherry blossom. Warm sunshine. Huge pots of tulips in pink and purple, orange, red, and double ones looking like little peonies.

May in England is sensational.

(No photos - they can't do it justice. And you've seen bluebell woods before.)

Thursday, May 01, 2008

1 May: May Day

I was not up before dawn to welcome in the May.

But it's been a busy morning.

First there was voting - many people put a great deal of effort into making sure we could vote, so the least we can do is stroll up to the polling station and draw a couple of X's. It's no good complaining about MPs and councillors if you haven't bothered to vote for the ones you prefer.

After that I dyed some sock yarn, and while that was steaming gently on the stove I cabled together some rather dull thin handspun bamboo yarn with some cotton yarn from Texere (can't remember what it was bought for, but it was the same thickness as the bamboo.) Here's a rather dim picture of the skein -

Then out into the garden between showers, to sow some seeds. 2 packets of seed - cornfield mixture and butterfly mixture - have been scattered on the bed under the apple trees. The neighbour's cat will probably be delighted, thinking that I've raked the bed over specially for him.

And none of the gardening experts mention that when the lawn squelches underfoot is the ideal time to pull out dandelion roots - they are particularly easy to spot at present, as they are just opening flowers.

And talking of flowers, here are a couple of pictures of the lilies on the kitchen window-sill -

They smell good, too, though perhaps they are the reason we were both sneezing this morning .

And just in case you thought I've been slacking -