Thursday, 18 October 2018

First thing, first frost

First thing this morning the valley floor was filled with mist, but as the sun rose it soon started to burn off. We are forecast clear blue skies and sunshine all day so it's outside shortly to get on with hedge cutting.

We'll need to wrap up to do so, there's not much wind but what there is has come from the east so it is a tad on the nippy side - the first frost of the coming winter on the grass and windscreens.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

We were going to have a quiet day

A few weeks ago I had a big clear up around the bird feed area.  It was a hot and sticky day and I expect on more than a couple of occasions I pulled my hair back.  A few hours later the back of my neck felt like it was on fire and on inspection the skin was covered in bumps, inflamed and it took a few days and a lot of Germolene until everything settled down.

We concluded that I picked up something nasty on my gloves from beneath the bird feeders which transferred to my skin - thank goodness I was wearing gloves, thank goodness I didn't wipe across the front of my face or near my eyes.

Fast forward to today.   We noticed Daisy had chewed and nibbled at the skin above her tail until is is sore and bleeding.  I know she's a 'scratchy dog' at the best of times but this was not normal - neither the location of the itchiness or the way she has bitten at herself,  poor little girl, we felt awful for her and I doubt she was very happy either (and don't even ask when she managed to do this much damage to herself without either of us noticing or hearing her).

Whilst it was relatively quick to clean up her skin and apply some ointment, it was important to work out what had caused the problem, rather than just dealing with the symptoms. Management is great at spotting non-obvious connections.  He immediately said "it's like the back of your neck".  Which makes perfect sense . . . the neighbours' s*dding murderous cats sit behind the bird feeders every day like they own the place, and Daisy spends much time diving into that area to evict them.  So there is a logic to thinking that she's come into contact with whatever substance caused my skin problem.

For sometime I have been thinking that maybe the bird feeder area needs to move/change.  It is difficult to keep perfectly clean and hygienic.  When it affected me I shrugged and decided not to crawl around on my hand and knees in the area.  When it affects Daisy:  Something.  Must.  Be.  Done.  Immediately.

I got busy dismantling the carefully constructed Bag End Bird Buffet, Management set to with the Karcher and a very stinky solution of Armillatox Soap Based Outdoor Cleaner.  It looks great now.

Before and after pictures, you don't realise how dirty something has become until you clean it :(

For the time being we've moved the feeders next to the dead Rowan tree;  the jury is out as to whether they move even further.

A possible side benefit might be that we have rotted-up the perfect stealth location for the cats . . .  if nothing else they probably won't like the smell of Armillatox.

We live in hope  🤬

We had planned on having a quiet day, but things seldom work out the way we intended.  Whilst M. had the Karcher out he also cleaned the little deck outside the kitchen, plus the black deck next to the Big Pond which was getting slippery.

Whilst he did that I made a start on trimming the hornbeam hedge next to the drive.  Until I sliced through the electric cable of the hedge trimmer (whoops, that's why you use an RCD outside!), and it started raining.

Monday, 15 October 2018

Clearing up after Callum

We got away fairly lightly from Storm Callum.  The large leaves of the Gunnera took a beating but it won't be long before they would die back or get frosted so no harm there.  More unexpected was looking out of the bedroom window on Sunday morning and thinking "err, that doesn't look right".

The wind had come from a different direction than usual during the storm, got underneath the big Clematis Montana and broken many of the cable ties holding the mesh down.

Now the honeysuckle is gone, perhaps I ought to finish painting the wall . . . 

Half the plant was flipped over on itself, but thankfully it was very quick to pull it back into place, and Management refixed the mesh.  Hopefully that's not a problem we will have to deal with very often.

The rest of the afternoon was spent with the leaf blower and I used the lawn mower to pick up the leaves.   That's a job we have to keep on top of at this time of year anyway.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Change of plans

This weekend was absolutely determined not to go to plan.  In fact, it stuck two fingers up at me in the rudest of ways and said something along the lines of "how dare you think you can make plans!"
Plan A was to dicker around and have a lovely time on my own whilst Management was away at Star Camp. Plan A got totally horlixed on Wednesday.

Plan B was an unexpected opportunity to get away in the campervan which cropped up on Friday morning, only as far as Eskdale (about an hour away) but such a lovely location I jumped at the chance.

So I rushed around Friday afternoon to change the absolutely useless central glovebox in the van (which Peugeot chose to fit) for the much nicer drink bottle & phone holder which comes as standard from Fiat.  For those who don't know, the Fiat Ducato, Peugeot Boxer and Citroen Relay are almost identical vehicles with a few 'personalisations' by the different companies once the base vehicle has left the main Sevel factory.   I have been meaning to make this change for ages, and the replacement kit arrived this week but I hadn't been in a hurry to install it.

I am guessing when these are factory fitted there are no front seats to make access not only difficult but almost impossible for anyone much above a size 10.  Access issues and physical contortions aside, it's not a difficult retrofit (getting the old glovebox out was the hardest bit) and I managed nearly all of it without having to ask Management for much help.  However, as a result of being squashed and twisted between the front seats I woke Saturday absolutely crippled with back spasm.  I've had it before, I know how to fix it, but there will be 72 hours of significant discomfort and a lot of moaning and groaning before I am fully mobile again.

Sadly I cancelled my trip - sitting down to drive, and then sitting in my cousin's motorhome for much of the day having a good catchup would have been impossible.  I was well looked after by M. who walked Daisy, fixed lunch and helped me get up every time I got stuck, and when the painkillers kicked in Icame up with a Plan C and cut up some fabric which at least distracted me and was something I could do standing up.  First task was to make a backing by piecing together Halloween themed yardage which I did not use in the Trip Around the World quilt.

For far too many years I have hoarded a lovely collection of 'dog and cat' fabric - I know that I bought some of these FQs at an American quilt show in 2003 and they haven't even been unfolded,  ooops.

It took relatively little time to iron the material and cut everything into 3" strips.  At this point there was much cogitating* about how I would sew them together and at one point M. helped me make a lovely mock-up but like an idiot I tidied it up before taking a picture.

* that is a euphemism for standing with another mug of coffee moving fabrics around going "what if this ....." or "maybe what if that . . ." about a dozen times!

Storm Callum descended upon us (who the heck thinks up these names?), and I did a silly amount of mindless sewing.  When the top is complete it can have a post of its own with more pictures.

The weather went from disgusting:

to blue sky and fluffy clouds (24 hours after picture below):

the level in the Derwent rose and rose, but did not break its banks (photo data says this was taken at 2.20pm - dark, gloomy and the lights were on):

our road turned into a small river:

lunchtime visitors were thoroughly blown about and disgruntled:

by suppertime on Saturday I had probably the longest strip of fabric I have ever sewn - we measured it at 1,312" (109.3 feet, 33.6 metres!)

and Daisy ignored as much of it as she possibly could:

until she decided that I had ignored her for far too long and played 'helicopter' on the piecing!

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Three finishes

The Halloween/Autumn Trip Around the World is (sort of) finished . . .  the top is pieced so it is not yet a finished quilt, but it's still a major finish :)

For the first time ever I had to break one of my unwritten rules at the end;  I wanted the quilt to be bigger than the piecing which meant a border or two.  My 'rule' is that you don't use a fabric for the border that did not already appear in the body of the quilt, but I'd already struggled hugely to get the piecing done, and there was no suitable fabric left over for a big border.  It was just possible to eek out a small border from the brown check and then I stared at the top for a few days trying to decide whether to just accept this was going to be a smallish quilt, but in the end I added a brown/autumny leaf print that was hiding at the back of the stash.  It's not perfect but it does not need to be.

Struggling to get a picture indoors which shows the colours accurately, the pictures make the border fabric look far more yellow than it really is.

This was the light yesterday afternoon hitting some of our trees and those next door, yep, this is definitely an autumn quilt 😊

I'd love to get this quilted before the end of the month . . .

Finish number two is my own darn fault - I've finished the first part of the All Souls Trilogy - Discovery of Witches - all 700 delicious pages of it.  I tried really, really hard to ration myself to just 100 pages at a time but I failed miserably.  There were a couple of major sections in the second half of the book that just could not be interrupted.   I'll have a break before I begin Shadow of Night, and if I leave it a week or two then I might just re-read Discovery first.  I normally read at breakneck speed and had to force myself to slow down with this book in order to savour and appreciate the writing, the descriptions, the ideas.  Even so, I know I will have missed a lot so a second visitation isn't the daftest idea I have ever had.

Finish number three is far less relaxed, in fact it is extreme but I'm putting it out here to make it real.  I have finished with the caravan . . .

After my last towing experience which was particularly stressful I threatened that the van and I might be parting company.  This week Management was due to go to an astronomy Star Camp but the getting ready fought us every step of the way.  In the end he abandoned his plans for a break and stayed home.

We had previously talked about whether I thought I'd use the van again, now that I have the luxury of a campervan as well and I said the jury was still having a long cogitation.    Long story short, compared to the campervan, for me the caravan has come to represent too much hassle, and there are way too many things which could go wrong that I worry about.  If I am going away it is because I want to relax, not worry about anything, to chill out and just "be", and the caravan is not providing any of those things whereas the campervan ticks every box.

So I'm done with it.  There - I've said it.   If I go away now it will be in a converted delivery van!  The facilities and space are vastly inferior to that which the caravan provides, but it does not matter.  Bill has enough, and enough is all I need.  In the extremely unlikely event I succumb to a burning desire for luxury and opulence I'll check into a 5-star hotel.  What I do want is peace of mind and simplicity and the campervan supplies that on every outing, large or small.

No decision taken, nor one needed, as to whether we keep the caravan.  M. enjoys being in it far more than he likes being in the campervan, and if he wants to keep it just to go to Star Camps then that is fine with me.  He's currently feeling "oh, should I keep such a big thing just for me" but I've pointed out that he already keeps multiple big motorbikes which I have absolutely nothing to do with so if he wants to keep the big white box on two wheels then that's fine.

Monday, 8 October 2018

Don't you just (not) hate it when this happens ?

Whilst waiting for something else to start on TV, I caught a trailer for Sky's latest series, A Discovery of Witches.  It looked absolutely gorgeous filmed beautifully in Oxford and Venice;  I was captivated by the look of it and paid very little attention to the story it was going to tell, vampires not really being my thing at all.

I watched the first episode just for the scenery and was Down.The.Rabbit.Hole. with no hope of escape.  I'm enjoying the little details, such as the closing credits of the third episode which included the most haunting rendition of Go Your Own Way I have ever heard, it makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck in a way Fleetwood Mac never could. Lissie's cover is far better than the original:

Usually I find out about excellent television three or four years after it started and have to do a lot of catching up, so it is a very strange experience to have to wait for the next part to be broadcast.  Not being very good at waiting I searched out Deborah Harkness and now have the entire All Souls Trilogy sitting on my Kindle.

Amazon tells me there are 1,760 pages - more than The Hobbit and LotR combined - whoops 😉

Not my normal read, but hooked from the first page:   I may be a while . . .

Sunday, 7 October 2018


Sorry, very picture heavy . . . and if I had visited a couple of weeks later when the autumn colour is further developed there may even have been more.   A beautiful place, an 'outpost' of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh but more in the style of Castle Kennedy - the garden and grounds show a long-gone grand estate.

Even though I had two visits and wandered around, and around, and around (according to one of the gardeners I chatted to, lots of people do that!) I know I did not see everything which is a lovely excuse reason for a return visit.  Having visited Logan five times so far this year I don't see that as a strange objective😎

Euonymus sanguinea:

Some magnificent trees, what tales they could tell?

Oregon Douglas Fir - Pseudotsuga menziesii

I should have chucked a glove into this picture to give a sense of scale.  The bracket fungus covered about a metre of trunk (the tree was dead).

Every well equipped garden has it's own private church, doesn't it?

Large collection of beautiful rowan, be relieved there are not pictures of the other 17 varieties I drooled over.  This is Sorbus wilsoniana:

Such clean, clear air - the lichens are thriving:

Up in a corner by the shelter belt I had one of those bliss moments - complete silence except for the wind, no people, just stillness and quiet.

Is this a garden (very little 'traditional' shrub & perennial planting so did not feel like it), it's not parkland, or woodland . . . but a great space and I look forward to going back.