Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Four seasons of masks

Again a long break, I find the more busy I am the less I blog which is a good thing really in most ways at least.

I have been doing lots of things, more spinning, I managed pretty much every day for the Tour Du Fleece. I got a half share in a  rigid heddle loom which we keep up the workshop so both myself and the other owner can use it and I have been doing some leather work as well.

Growing wise the year has been a total flop, a very dry spring followed by the wettest, darkest summer I've ever tried to grow in, the only things that liked it were perennials like the Jerusalem artichokes most other things drowned, refused to grow or got eaten by slugs !

We now have 9 chickens not 5, everyone who tells you it's a slippery slope is right, if we could fit them in we would probably have even more by now. Actually we did have 10 but one died recently due to a hurt leg which then seemed to develop into something worse unfortunately and she just refused to eat or drink even with antibiotics.

Anyway on a better subject the four masks above are made from leather and are meant to represent the four seasons.
Spring  is fresh green leaves
Summer is wild rose
Autumn is oak leaves and acorns
Winter is hawthorn.

I've also been experimenting with combining embroidery panels into leather armour such as this vanbrace.



I even made myself some kit for Outcast to try out some ideas for very basic leather armour for the more well filled out, short woman, which isn't exactly uncommon in Larp.




Sunday, July 01, 2012

A trip with family, a sheep bag and Tour De Fleece 2012

I have finally got my spinning wheel out of storage and up and running again after many years spurred on by the idea of doing the Tour de  Fleece on Ravelry as a challenge to get me back into the swing of things. However as it turns out I couldn't start on day one as we were in Devon celebrating my aunt and uncle's joint birthday by travelling to the beach and back on a steam train ! Given this aunt was one of the main people to teach me about fleece, sheep, spinning, weaving and all the associated crafts and knowledge as a kid I think it was a good reason to miss it.
 Treestump taking photos


I loved this view of Minehead, all those flowers above the tide line and the old buildings, in the other direction it was much more touristy.  There were getting close to 60 of us in total on the trip and all those with kids and a good few others spent the two hours on the beach before the train took us back again. It was about the only two hour slot in the day it didn't rain and in fact was quite sunny!

 Padding on the beach.

Shortly after this Treestump got so enthusiastic about chasing the waves in and out he went out to far, lost his footing and went right under the water, he was fine and went back in later once we had removed his top to try and dry it a bit, being wise in the ways of small boys I had spare clothes with me too. I didn't get a photo of him soaking wet but my aunt did so I might get a copy later because he did look a sight !

We had a buffet meal on the train on the way there and a cream tea on the way back all made by the more local family members, it looked fantastic but I took my own food so as not to make life difficult and so I didn't have to get twitchy as with 60 people there is bound to be cross contamination.

 One of the things I did do was make my aunt and uncle a present, it is a satchel style bag with an appliqué, embroidered and needle felted scene on it. They used to keep rare breed sheep including Jacobs so it seems fitting to include sheep into the scene and the darker fleece I used is actually jacob fleece. The sheep in the foreground is meant to be a Jacob which all have horns. I hope they like it, she certainly appreciated the fabric it was made from and I'm glad I picked a good one from my stash as it has gone to someone with the knowledge and love of fibre to know the difference. It's all wool or wool mixes apart from the embroidery thread.


A close up of the sheep

a close up of the tree

The 2012 Urban Farm Handbook Challenge June: Botanicals

Firstly on a semi related subject we have got our first chickens ! Well technically first chickens for everyone but me as I sued to have them as a kids.  Five of them, three bantams and two hybrids.

The bantams are a Plymouth rock, a while bearded silkie and a black pekin. The hybrids are a ranger and a black star. The pekin and the black star have very similar colouring but are very different in size! They are settling into their new home well. The pekin being the smallest has made it very clear she is in charge and the silkie is doing her best to live up to the steriotype for her breed and has been nicknamed daft bint by Tom. Provisional names of these two are little miss bossy and little miss daft bint but the boys haven't decided what they think they should all be called yet and seem to think little miss style names is silly ! Noodles chose the pekin and Treestump the silkie but only after been vetoed on having a "cockadodoldo", a guinea pig or a guinea fowl !

So moving on to the challenge this month which all about making herbal oils, teas and tinctures which is easy as I was already making some before I even read the month's challenge.

A friend gave us some herb plants for the allotment so and when I planted them out they all got a good "haircut" so they didn't have to much leaf cover until the roots had a chance to establish. This left me with bunches of extra chives, mint, lemon balm, sage and tarragon, so what do you do with those? I already had a lot of sage drying so I decide to make vinegars and oils. Some of the chives went straight into a sort of pesto for a salad but the rest went into oil as did the lemon balm. The sage and tarragon I am infusing in cider vinegar. The mint has been drying and I am going to harvest a whole bunch more of the Moroccan mint for tea or infusions throughout the winter just as soon as there is a patch of time when it hasn't rain for long enough for the mint to be dry!!. I now have about 4 or 5 different mints which is lovely as they all have different flavours. I also have three different oregano, two of them new from my mum but the other I need to harvest to dry for pasta sauces and so on. One of the new ones is really spicy so I'm looking forward to it later once it is established.

There is a whole article on how infuse herbs and similar here and it is worth reading if you haven't done such things before because while it is really easy there are a few things to keep in mind such as making sure your herbs are dry if infusing in oil.

About the same time as I was making infusions I came across the concept of shurbs, which are a sugar and vinegar based concentrate similar to a cordial which you dilute with water to make a flavoured drink. I've been meaning to use up the last of the berries in the freezer as the blackberry bushes are covered in flowers so the berries will not be far behind. There are several different ways to make these but I like this one which uses a syrup made by cold maceration of the fruit rather than cooking the syrup so I duly put the defrosted blackberries in the fridge covered in sugar and waited a day or so then strained it out to get a syrup like this.


To the syrup I added some sage vinegar and put back in the fridge to meld. I haven't tried it yet as I've been away but will shortly. The remaining fruit is good as a pudding or cereal topping.

I also made some plantain oil to add to my first aid kit, I might make up some cream from it to and I will make some comfrey oil as well for similar uses, I like that for when my hands flare up which is normally my own fault or doing to much gardening or washing without gloves.

One of the other challenges for the month was making hydrosols which I do want to try some day but currently with our dreadful weather I am somewhat lacking in things like rose petals though I do have a new young rose which has a fantastic fragrance so hopefully later on I will be able to harvest enough petals to try with if you want to have a go then have a look at the method here.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Random Update

The weather here has been very un-usual, well some would say lots of rain and no sun is a usual British summer but really it isn't not on this scale.

The allotment feels on the verge of being flooded the whole time and indeed in places the ground has been saturated for months now, in my potato bed we gave up planning before we finished as putting potatoes into holes full of water seemed a little pointless and indeed the hedge side of the bed which is lower has pretty much drowned.

In brighter news I have a great crop of onions and the garlic is looking good as are the Jerusalem artichokes which are obviously appreciating a lot more water than they got last year.

I don't think I've mentioned here yet one of the reasons I've been to busy too blog which is that I've been helping to set up Five Acre Community Farm. The weather has slowed growth there as well but we had our first of what will hopefully be weekly harvests from now on last Tuesday, this is what my box looked like.

First weeks share from the farm

The idea behind the farm is everyone who is a member is involved in running it to some extent and is able to be more involved in how their food is grown and indeed have some say in what is grown. We have however employed a professional grower to oversee things as running several acres of veg production and sticking the soil association rules to keep the lands organic status intact would be a little too much for a group of enthusiastic but mostly unskilled, in growing at least, volunteers.

All being well between the allotment and the farm we will have more veg than we know what to do with this year !

On the making front I have been busy with commission stuff for Mandala which I can't say to much about currently as well as making things personally. I also made a wedding cloak for a friend and finished some socks for mum.

socks for Mum, pattern is called Dicey

I have also got my spinning wheel out for the first time in years and plan to do the Tour De Fleece in July, which is basically the idea of spinning everyday of the Tour De France. Plus Jon made me a peg loom which so far I have made a rug on which is made of strips of jeans and an old stripy blue man's shirt. Hopefully I will shortly own a half share in a Rigid Heddle loom soon as well !

Rug being woven on peg loom

So all in all quite busy really !

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

It's been a funny year so far

This is the first post I have done since I decided to move cooking and gardening posts over here so I just use one blog. I'm just not blogging enough to have more than one at the moment and I figure one blog with posts reasonably often is better than two or three with occasional posts.

 Mostly tomatoes, cucumbers

This is very much a catch up post about growing things this year. I recently found the 2012 Urban Farm Handbook Challenge over at Sustainable Eats which sounds like a lot of fun and very much in tune with what I am trying to do this year. I missed Feb and March though I might go back and look at those but was just in time to touch on April's challenges which were all about gardening so I thought I'd do a run down of where we are at on such things. In case anyone reading this doesn't know we have a very small back garden but are fortunate enough to have an allotment which for none Brits is a rented garden for growing veg, fruit and flowers as well as sometimes keeping some small livestock. Allotments are a part of our history here and even have a requirement in law for councils to provide them if people want them !

So why the title well mostly funny in a weather sense. Early spring was very warm mild and sunny, before Easter it was like mid summer and we had barely turned the heating on all winter. Easter brought us threats of hard frosts and snow though the second never arrived. Since then we have had rain. Literally a month of rain but because we have been in a rain deficit for nearly two years the ground water and reservoirs are still very low. The ground on the allotment was starting to crack before Easter and now it is like a bog, I dug into the flower bed a few inches and found a lake under the ground, that's clay for you !

Still things are growing using up that water I'm just hoping it slows down a little soon so they don't drown in the ground. Rain is good and needed but too much just floods rather than seeping into the ground to leave a reserve for later.

So far this year the autumn planted onions and elephant garlic is looking good as are the garlic, shallots and multiplier onions from the Heritage seed library though I'm not sure what the difference is between those last two. All of these are covered in mesh or fleece currently as allium leaf miner has made it's way to our allotments and this is one of the two times of year it is flying about. I hope the mesh will stop the adults getting to the alliums and I can remove it soon once they are in the larva stage, hopefully not in my plants !  It will need to go back again on any alliums like leeks in the autumn when the second wave of adults emerge.

There are also broad beans some of which are starting to flower and I have got some but not all the potatoes in with some peas in between the varieties as my new companion planting book suggests they go well together.  I held off over Easter due to the dire weather reports and then the rain hit it has been a matter of dodging the rain and trying to plant them without damaging the ground too much or drowning the tubers. So far I have planted Red Duke of York (our favourite so far to grow), Emerald Vale and Ezekiel Blue.  We also have a row of scarlet oca this year which will be interesting. I put them at one end of the bed as you don't dig them till November ! Very much a first for us.

I also have a bed of Jerusalem artichokes coming up nicely, you can see which bit I dug up and replanted and which bit I missed as one end is much more random. There are random radishes and turnips in between various things and my kale is still just about hanging in there. We have found out we love kale flowers, Tom said they are much better than sprouting broccoli and if you leave them till the flowers actually open they are amazingly sweet. The flower buds are sweeter than the sprouting broccoli too.

The strawberries are growing well and starting to flower, the gooseberries are already starting to swell and the currents are on their way too so lots of netting to be done soon. The raspberries need clearing out rather as does the end of the blackberry run I didn't do early.  I have some more pot grown gooseberries and currents to plant out as well as a Tayberry but I've been hardening them off as they were sprouting in the warmth of the shop. The Apple trees are interesting, the crab apple which has flowered really well the last couple of years barely has a flower, perhaps it wanted a colder winter where as the young eating apple trees are all covered in flowers so fingers crossed they produce some apples this year ! The established tree is a late variety so is still at the budding stage, I'm told by those who have been on the allotments for years it fruits every other year and last year was a no apple year, with lots the previous year which was before we had the plot so I'm hoping it runs true to form and we get lots this year too. The damson has flowered well but needs pruning as some branches have died back but that may have been due to moving it last year, being a member of the plum family it should always be pruned in leaf rather than in the winter like an apple would.

 Squashes herbs and one bought in pepper

I have done much better at getting seeds started this year that last, not moving everything from one plot to another helps. Most of my over wintered Dalias are sprouting nicely and the few I left in the ground proved I was right to dig most of them up as they have rotted away. There is a lovely pot of carrots growing well in the greenhouse and lots and lots of tomatoes. The ones in the photo at the top of the post are only a few of those I have grown! I also have a variety of squashes, both winter and summer, cucumbers, various herbs, some sweetpeas and french beans and various flowers in the greenhouse or house. Our house is not the best for starting seeds as there is very little space with good light, after reading lots of other blogs this year I'm tempted to try and set up some grow light next year.

I have lots of seeds ready to go and am just waiting till the forecasts are full of warnings of flooding as that much rain will just wash them all away. I am planning on various wild flowers ad similar to encourage pollinators this year as well as veg and we always grow some heritage seeds from the seed library as we are members. This year I am also planning to grow a couple of types of amaranth which I've never grown before and some achocha, this year outside. Last year I did grown some but it was in the greenhouse and none of the fruits developed but everything in the greenhouse struggled last year, even tomatoes did better outside than in which is highly unusual but I think the light levels were very low and just that extra barrier of glass must have been a step to much.

One of the final challenges for the month was about chickens which we don't have currently however we are in the process of putting up a coop so watch this space. Noddles has decided we are having bantams and he wants Pekins which our local chicken farm do in a good few colours, they also sell silkies so I'm tempted to get a couple of those plus 2 or 3 smaller hybrids to give us a base level on egg production. The chickens are going to be in the back garden so I'm loosing what little flower bed I had but it was to shady to grown much and this way the boys can be fully involved in looking after them, we could keep them at the allotment but they would be more at risk and have less contact with us up there so for now at least in back garden it is.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

I have been making various small items and realised I haven't posted them here. Nothing major just bits and pieces really.

A crochet ball, just because.

One sock for Treestump, I must finish the second but he insists I need to make him a wool scarf  as a priority !
A mouse possibly for a nephew at some point.
A hat and a cowl for me partly because the weather finally turned wintery, the pattern for the hat was chosen by the person I partnered in a challenge on Ravelry and is great fun and quick to make as it uses chunky yarn.

 Because I have never done patterns using purl and knit stitches like this and it's that time of year. 
Just a washcloth !

Monday, January 30, 2012

Bathroom update

Well the aim was for a picture perfect bathroom by the end of the month and I think we did pretty well.

Doors are on the cupboard.
 I have got a couple of nice little pots for soap and cotton wool too.

We got a shelving unit and it fits very well. I was worried it was too big as it goes where the slope of the roof is lowest but it is fine. If you look carefully at the wall to the right of the shelves you can see a line which is the chrome edging stripe above the tiles. A few inches above that the roof joins the wall before rising up as it goes over the toilet. I did a little montage to get the toilet in the photo too. I don't have any wide angle ability on my camera and the bathroom is only 2m square which makes taking photos a challenge.  To the left of the toilet is the window and then at right angles to that is the sink. the shower is in the  next corner round and then the door is in the final corner on the other side of the towel rail.

We do have several  more matching towels but they had already been used by the time I got to take these shots. One of the jobs on the to do list is go through towels and bedding and assign them to different rooms so we have less random mixes of colours !!

Other basics acquired include a loo brush in a holder (hiding behind the loo and just visible if you look hard) and the toilet roll holder. We also got a mat for outside the shower and I found some nice stick-on shapes in blue which hold up shower gel bottles very well so no need to try drilling holes for a shelf.


So it's totally finished right! Well no we don't have a mirror. That's partly because Tom's sister has offered us one she has and we are waiting to see if it is suitable. Problem is we need to co-ordinate us and it being in the same place at the same time as they live on the south coast ! We may also put a long one behind the door which is opposite the toilet and next to the shower. (update - since writing this as a draft we have got a mirror which will work even if we replace it later but it isn't up yet)

One other change we may make is to swap the tap handles for lever ones as there are optional ones in the box which I had forgotten about till I went to throw the boxes away ! I think a basket or two for on the shelves might be good too but that depends what we decide to keep up there.

Someone insisted I wanted a picture of them as well !

Once the heating is fully operational or more likely when spring comes I will find a plant or two for the windowsill but it's a bit cold currently when the room isn't in use. The heating in the room is finished but the rest of the zone and indeed the manifold it needs to attach to is not and so only the towel rail works currently not the underfloor heating.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A few little bits

I've actually managed to finished a few things recently though there are lots of half finished ones still knocking about !

Firstly a little family of owls.. no good reason for them I just liked the idea.

Secondly Treestump decided to have a spate of loosing gloves so I decided to make him some mittens. He was very enthusiastic about the idea and is less fussing than his brother about wool and it being itchy so I used a nice bright green I picked up from our local wool shop which is pure wool in a sock weight. I totally winged the pattern making it up as I went along, measuring his hand in the dark while he was asleep ! Had a couple of panics they were coming out too big but no his hands really are huge.


Silly face time !
After the photo I added the traditional string (just a chain of crochet) so they can stay in his coat. I attached them to the back of the neck so they stay level and are less likely to catch round his neck or anything. He loves them and keeps telling me they make his hands warm. He obviously told the teacher I made them for him in pre-school to!

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