Wednesday, April 29, 2009

29 April: The bluebell wood

Though both DH and I have slight sore throats and muzzy headaches (it's either a bit of pollen fever or the fashionable swine flu), this morning we decided to follow coffee at the Botanic Garden cafe with a stroll round the woods.

It was reported that the woods were crowded with photographers at the weekend - they must have got the same e-mail as us, with the news that the bluebells were out earlier than usual. (Being retired, we are no longer limited to weekend trips to view the flowers.) Today there were only two other couples with cameras; one woman told us she had come all the way from Darlington to see the sight.

The sun was behind a cloud -

Then it came out -

Bluebells are notoriously difficult to capture with a camera, and none of these pictures really conveys the light, the air, and the glory.

Beside the path was this interesting dead tree - with holes possibly made by the woodpeckers that are often heard in the wood?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

28 April: Just blink

It must be old age, but I have no idea where last week went.

There was a lot of sitting in the garden, knitting, and a pleasant walk (the first house martins are back at the local farm), some gardening and some bead-ear-ring-making; and a shopping expedition.

In the garden, the apple trees are covered in fat pink buds, the snakeshead fritillaries are mostly over, the bluebells (only ours are pink) are nearly out; there are violets, auriculas, comfrey, cowslips and hybrid primulas, bergenias, daffodils, lungwort, hellebores, two tulips and two hyacinths, one rhododendron/azalea, honesty, and about a thousand forget-me-nots - a bit of colour.

There are 3 sorts of potato in bags on the paving, all looking good, and some seedling lettuces on the windowsill in the conservatory.

And we have some birds coming to the feeders; the regulars include a pair of robins (their nest is probably in our neighbour's garden), a pair of house sparrows, a pair of collared doves, several blackbirds, the dunnocks, and recently a small band of starlings - entertaining when they try to hover, but also very untidy feeders. The sparrowhawk has visited, but not fed.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

19 April: Venturing southwards

Yet another har this morning, so we decided to travel south, in the hopes of finding better weather.

To Yorkshire, in fact. Pausing only at Woolley Edge services for a M&S sandwich (how civilized), we zoomed down the motorway to Wentworth, near Rotherham, for our first visit to Wingham Wool Work.

It's amazing how much fibre you can get into a car - I might even have enough to keep me spinning till Woolfest. And there is very little chance I'll knit it all in the foreseeable future. No doubt some of it will be making individual appearances here in the weeks to come.

Then we drove to Nostell Priory, a NT property we've been wanting to visit for ages. And the sun came out.

In the grounds, the magnolias are looking wonderful, and the scent of the flowers was held in their sheltered corner.

There was a charming arch over the path.

This bridge had collapsed into the lake, and has been restored with much effort and expense. Of course, it can't actually be used; since it's narrow and has no guard rail, it doesn't comply with health and safety.

A cream tea in a loose box in the old stables, followed by a tour of the house (too much Chippendale for my liking, but an interesting building), and it was back northwards again. The sun through the car window was so warm that I dozed off. Fortunately, I wasn't driving.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

14 April: Marketing

Somewhere on the interweb (probably Ravelry) I read something about fleece/wool for birds' nests. Yarn is not good, as it gets tangled round legs, but wool fibres seem like they should be suitable, as bits drop off sheep anyway about this time of year. And the purveyors of bird-related products sell small containers of fleece, so it must be a good idea.

It may be a bit late, as blackbirds have been gathering nest material for a while now, and the robins have been a pair for some time, but a handful of fluffed up fibre was easily popped into an old peanut feeder and hung on a tree in the garden with a couple of tufts sticking out.

And we have a customer!

Still on the marketing theme, my jar of 250 vitamin tablets, which has lasted for 250 days, was nearly empty, so I went to buy another. Huh?

The new jar is just under half full.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

11 April: Work in progress, and stitchwort

Somehow I seem to have started 3 projects. Normally there's only one main one, and perhaps a small, simple one like a sock.

After several swatches, and knitting over two-thirds of the back of a waistcoat in one way, I decided I didn't like it, and frogged it. Started again, different design, different yarns, much better, about 3 inches of the body done.

Yesterday I spun 2 skeins of yarn, one of 50 grams and one of 80 grams, using 3 plys of BFL, coming out about 17 or 18 w.p.i. This is the latest attempt to spin yarn suitable for socks. Previous efforts have produced nice yarn and pleasant socks, which have felted and shrunk hideously in washing. It is possible that a 3-ply yarn may stand up to wearing and washing rather better. This yarn has not been dyed, as some plain white (natural wool white, not when-a-mother-cares-it-shows white) socks would be handy for the summer. Half a sock foot has been knitted already.

And the third project is a bit of a gamble, using some sock yarn that I don't want to make socks out of. If it works out, there may be more about this. It's only just started, about a dozen rounds worked.

And then, out for a walk this afternoon, there were a few stitchwort plants in flower!

The flowers may not be in very good focus, but the grass is OK.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

7 April: Upper Teesdale

A glorious walk today in Teesdale, from Cotherstone to Egglestone and back, mostly beside the River Tees.

There were ruins - this farm for example. The sheep here had no lambs with them, as many others did.

The chapel at Egglestone Hall is ruined and full of plants -

There were several bridges on our route; this 17th century one at Egglestone -

a footbridge over the Tees, with varied materials -

and another over the Balder; this one has a metal parish marker by the near end -

A few April showers, plenty of sunshine, good company, and a sensational lunch. Brilliant!

Friday, April 03, 2009

3 April: The Amazing Spotted CronePants

After knitting hats, scarves, mittens, socks and jerseys, what else is there to knit? Why, trousers, of course.

Everyone needs a warm and comfy pair of pants to lounge around the house. And they are really easy to knit, there's just rather a lot of leg, if you're as tall as me.

To make them warm, they are stranded, but only on alternate rounds (knitted in the round to avoid seams), in a stitch pattern graphically described as "Lice pattern" - presumably it represents the bite marks!

This pattern also lends itself to colour changes whenever the knitter runs out of, or gets bored with, one colour. Ideal for the knitter with a low boredom threshold, especially on long legs.

The waist is fastened with a drawstring, made on a lucet, and tied at the side, as these are Reversible Pants (and vice versa, as we always say).

After the warm sunshine of the past couple of days, we have a suitable chill in the air today - just right for the new pants.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

2 April: But I digress...

I was sitting in the garden, enjoying the warm sunshine, and idly knitting a sock, when I remembered that I have just missed a couple of anniversaries.

So, Happy (belated but Significant) Birthday, dear Bro!

And the other is yesterday's 17th anniversary of my bowel cancer operation. It's hard to feel you've actually had cancer when you didn't have any radiation treatment or chemotherapy and you still have and always had hair. Still, I am frequently reminded by my remaining bowel. Too much information?

So this all led on to musings about "where did all that time go?", and "what have we got to show for it?", and "does that really matter?" And that all very quickly becomes too deep.

Another happy half-hour wasted browsing through the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (I've been a fan of dictionaries ever since school, when a substitute for detention was having to copy out pages from the dictionary - I did a lot of that).

Never mind; "what is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare", as W.H.Davis wrote. Herman Hupfeld told us "the fundamental things apply, as time goes by", and Bob Dylan "the times they are a-changin"", and C. Northcote Parkinson that "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion", who of course is on the same page as Dorothy Parker, who gave us such gems as "you can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think", and "she ran the whole gamut of emotions from A to B", as well as "men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses".

And just over there is a most appropriate quote from Emmeline Pankhurst - "The argument of the broken window pane is the most valuable argument in modern politics".

As Cicero said - "O tempora, O mores!"