Thursday, 16 August 2018

Coming up for a breather

Quilting is going well on the big Triple Irish Chain.

This is not the stereotypical relaxing quilting of a bygone age where one sat in front of the fire gently pushing a needle through fabric.

No, matey; this is standing up all day, often at a strange angle despite trying not to, concentrating on a large piece of potentially temperamental machinery which, when combined with fabric that will flex, stretch, have variances in weave, and thanks to the act of patchwork itself, has seams all over the place which might cause unevenness, oh, and throw in thread which will be affected by humidity or how it is woven on the spool or the very quality of that year’s cotton harvest, not forgetting the consistency of the batting, how the bobbin was wound, and combine that all with your backing fabric, and you have a delightful and varied cornucopia of things to concentrate on which could make it all go pear-shaped…

Remind me why I think this is an enjoyable hobby???

I am seriously considering getting back out into the garden for a rest, but every time I look outside we seem to be in the middle of another short shower . . .

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Turning into a nice "quilty" week

The damp and drizzle continues and I am delighted about that 😊.   The rain we're getting is gentle, not the sort which flattens plants, and it is making a lovely difference to the soil.  All this damp means I can stay inside and play with fabric every day without feeling guilty that I am shirking my horticultural duties.

Monday was an absolute "belter" of a day.  Having already got the Trip Around the World quilt pinned up and ready to go, a good sleep provided the solution to my quilting dilemma.  So often the answer for me is to get out a pattern from either Keryn Emmerson or her equally clever sister Meredith.  Every single pattern from the talented twins works as it should and "does what it says on the tin", not like a recent (not to be mentioned) pantograph that was Terminated With Extreme Prejudice as soon as I got the quilt off the machine!   The answer was Formal Garden from Mereth, and it sewed up without a single hitch.

Management looked after Daisy and kept out of my way - he knew I was concentrating hard and didn't want to say anything that might jinx proceedings.  No "in progress" pictures, but I was finished early afternoon.

After a bit of a rest I had a binding blitz, and by supper time both the denim Picnic Blankie and the lovely Trip Around the World were trimmed, bound, and ready for hand-finishing.

Daisy and I road-tested the picnic rug after supper when it got a little cool, but was too late to bother lighting the woodburner.  The bright blue fleece backing is lovely and soft, and Daisy always prefers the feel of it to regular fabric (Ollie was the same).  As this is only a blankie I did not use batting, and it has worked really well.

Today has been more restful, but still extremely productive.   The longarm got a very thorough clean-down and tidy-up after two quilts in two days.

This afternoon has been spent wrangling the huge quantity of yardage involved in the next project.

This beautiful (but very large) quilt top was a surprise gift from my dear friend J. in St Louis, it's too big to get a complete picture of it anywhere in the house!  For far too long I have been stroking the quilt top trying to pluck up the courage to do a full custom job on it (feathered wreaths, lots of cross hatching).  I am not ready to do that sort of quilting at present, and have finally managed to get over myself and accept that it is far better to quilt an all-over design and have a lovely quilt to use, than a folded top on the shelf.

Backing and top loaded     ✓
Batting sorted     ✓
Thread selected     ✓
Bobbins wound     ✓
Pattern chosen     ✓

Everything set up and ready to quilt tomorrow morning      ✓

With the weather forecast for the rest of the week set to to be damp and grey, Management and I continue to have a "holiday at home" week - he's in the garage most of every day making progress on bike building and I am finally making some inroads into the Shelf of Shame.  It's all rather lovely  😊

Sunday, 12 August 2018


Years ago I remember some ladies at a quilt group saying they only made quilts in winter and gardened in summer.  I am slightly ashamed to remember I thought they were bonkers - why on earth would you not quilt all year round?  Those were the days when I was much younger, and had considerably more energy.  Those were the days I had a new-build house which required virtually no maintenance, and a very small garden which required very little time.  These days I have far less spare energy and far less free time . . .

Which might be why I haven't touched the quilting machine since (embarrassed to admit this . . . ) mid-February.

And that "dream" I had of catching up with the quilt backlog and 'Shelf of Shame' has languished as not much more than a dream.  This morning, happily, I felt a "quilty day" coming on;  we had a respectable amount of rain last night so the water tanks are full and plants that need cutting back are far too wet to mess with.

First up, the denim Picnic Rug I pieced in March.

Working on the basis that Finished Is Better Than Perfect, I have quilted this completely freehand, something I've not done for years.  A few months ago I discovered Wanda Hanson's lovely blog.  A professional and prolific quilter, with a longarm machine, it was a revelation when I saw that Wanda usually finishes her quilts with very simple freehand quilting, often just lines like this:

COPYRIGHT Wanda S. Hanson:
and she has a fabulous purple quilt (click here) finished with what appears to be a big freehand meander.  The quilt is absolutely none-the-worse for simple stitching, and on the basis that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I have gone the same route:

It was not all plain sailing; I am woefully out of practise and there were more than a couple of rookie mistakes at the beginning.  However, a couple of hours later we had a picnic blanket, far from perfect and I am sure certain members of The Quilt Police would sniff at it, but it's not for them, it is for Daisy and us to sit on!

Encouraged and enthused I pinned on another quilt - the original Trip Around the World top.  I was ready to stitch another freehand pattern, and talked myself out of it and loaded a pantograph.  Then I talked myself out of that and toyed with various freehand ideas.  Then I talked myself out of that and loaded a different pantograph.

At which point I knew it was time to call it a day.  If I cannot see the finished quilt in my mind then there is absolutely no way I should start stitching - to do so is a guaranteed way to ruin a thoroughly nice top.  This is not a 'precious' quilt, it will not become a family heirloom or a show winner, but the amount of time I have put into the piecing, and how much I like it, means it deserves to be quilted nicely.  So it is all ready to go when I make my mind up.

Instead of more quilting, I trimmed the picnic blanket and made a binding, but which time the day had completely disappeared and it was time to start supper..

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Episyrphus balteatus

It's OK, I struggle to pronounce it properly as well.  But I can pronounce Marmalade Fly, which is what was having a lovely tea yesterday on an Echinops flower head.

Not a bee or wasp, but a hoverfly;  much maligned through ignorance because they mimic bees and wasps, but terribly important as pollinators and devourers of aphids - definitely a gardeners' friend.  Absolutely beautiful chap 🙂

Some excellent information at this Microscopy website, a fascinating place that is likely to consume HOURS of my time.

Friday, 3 August 2018

A Muddle of Hosepipes

I don't know if there is an official collective noun for numerous hosepipes strewn around the garden, but A Muddle seems about right.

On Wednesday evening it was raining steadily; not particularly heavy, but enough that all the tanks were full to overflowing and it seemed like we were wasting an opportunity.  20 minutes of messing around and getting a bit damp resulted in a lovely Muddle:

Both greenhouse tanks feeding into the first hose:

Being joined a few yards later by the vegetable patch tank, thank goodness for three-way connectors:

Two-way connectors joining every other piece of hose we own (and the temporary sun-canopy lowered because of the wind):

And Thursday morning the joy of a much improved water level in the Big Pond.

We created this beach area in June, but I haven't blogged about it yet.  It's the first time it has ever been under water.

This area is also new, it's where the paving slab path used to be and has never been "wet" before.

The three IBC tanks were mostly empty, and fingers are crossed for rain today to fill them up.  But if it does not happen, no matter.  United Utilities have lifted the hosepipe ban, although I would rather not increase the water bill any more than I already have done, but more importantly we have a full IBC tank in the Cottage Garden and the five 'domestic sized' green butts are full; the water from all of these can be pumped to other tanks if I need.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Another little job finished up

This one has been on the go since May - ooops - but then things rarely move very swiftly chez Bag End.

Finally finished painting the arbor, went for the same colours as before.   It's a lovely place to sit and read, enough shade but you still get some sun, the sloping back is very comfy, and the Cottage Garden is a nice private place to be.

Management helped me move the last pile of slate we had laying around, and our fake drystone wall is looking lovely, plenty of crevices for all sorts of bugs and beasties.

The area behind it is being allowed to do pretty much what it wants (although I do try and keep on top of the ground elder) and in a season with a reasonable amount of rain the gaps in this bed at the front should fill up with astrantia and geraniums.  Sighs.   Maybe next year.  We had to hold the Echinops back whilst working because it's far too friendly and kept smacking me in the face, must go and release it 😀

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Blogger comment notification

I don't complain when Blogger gets all messed up because that would be churlish in the extreme - for ten years I have had a free, relatively easy to use platform which supports my words, photos and general messing around.  But as all bloggers know, comments matter and I think it is nice to reply to each one;  I guess I am old enough that it is the digital equivalent of writing 'thank you letters' for all your presents at Christmas and birthday time!

The last couple of months have been irritating in that the much valued emails advising me someone was thoughtful enough to spend a few minutes of their time leaving a comment had completely vanished.  I had to keep revisiting published posts and having a look to see if there was anything new, not the end of the world but a waste of time when there weren't any!  This morning I decided to Google the problem (not for the first time) and managed to find a solution, which - so far - is working.   In it's simplest terms, Blogger have now changed the system so that you have to sign up to confirm you want to receive comment notification - yes, even when you're the blog author, owner and general Supreme Head of Everything.

I suspect this is another GDPR spin-off . . .

It is remarkably easy to fix;  this forum post has info, but is a bit more long-winded that a couple of friends might like (you know who you are, xx).  So here is my version:

You need to be at the Blogger Dashboard page.  Quickest way there is to click the orange Blogger logo top-left of your blog.

Click on Settings, Email.
See the second option on the right, Comment Notification email?

Even if your email address is already there (which mine was) still do this:
Click on "Choose from Contacts",  find your own email address - if it is not there, leave that page for a moment, go to your Contacts Manager whether that's Google or Apple, and add yourself to your Address Book.  Once you have saved your new entry, go back to "Choose from Contacts" (you might have to 'cancel' and then go back to it again to refresh the listing).

Add yourself, and then very important, click on the big orange "Save settings" box top right.  Switch over to your email, and as soon as you get an email from Blogger inviting you to receive Comment Notifications, click on the "Subscribe" link in it.

And for me - that was it, comment notification emails started up again immediately.  Phew.

A final note of caution though.   If you are in the habit of replying to blog comments by email, with the new system you will likely fail - and get no notification that you've failed.   From info on various forums and what I've received in the last day,  it looks as if every notification message will come from the dreaded "no-reply" email, and the person you think you are writing to will never receive it unless you change the address.  So if you don't know their personal email address, the only (and frankly simplest) way to respond is on your blog in the comments section.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Happier now:)

Much happier now, over the past four days we have had some rain.  Not a huge amount and not constantly, but enough to make a considerable difference to the garden, if not to reservoirs and an impending hosepipe ban.

We had enough on Saturday that I ran half an IBC tank into the small pond at the front (with supervision, of course).  It looks much better and the shelves are now completely covered making it much easier for all the birds who use this for their daily bath.

The Top Pond had 500 litres from the tank by the vegetable beds, and another 500 from one of the greenhouse tanks, and we've had sufficient rain that all three tanks are now full again.  

The water lily is getting too big for this pond and we're planning to move it to the Big Pond in the autumn, oh goody, that will be such a fun job and I am quite sure no-one will get wet or muddy.

If I was confident that we were going to get enough rain to refill the tanks I would go to the palaver of emptying every tank into the Big Pond, which is still woefully low.  5,000 litres wouldn't fix the problems but it might help a little.  I will keep a close eye on the weather forecasts . . .

It's been a blessing not to have to water the net house as well as the greenhouse, although Daisy is not so sure.  On Sunday I put a coat on her when it was time to go out for an essential toilet break.  She took one look out of the door and sprinted back down the hall to take refuge at the back of her crate, scowling at me with a look of disgust which clearly said "you expect me to go out in THAT?  I am water soluble, you know".

And being the cruel, mean and heartless soul I am, I took her out anyway.

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Food chain

A couple of years ago some Borage self-seeded into a bed just outside the net-house.  It is a bit of a thug but the bees love it so I let it stay.

This year the plants started germinating in Spring and I meant to move them around the garden but it never happened.  So, shoulders were shrugged and I let the plants do what they wanted.  Walking next to the metre high plants has been like getting very close to a calm and gentle beehive and the area is always alive with insects.

Unfortunately, yesterdy I noticed some extra insects who were not quite as welcome. Aphis fabae, more commonly known as blackfly, and far far too close to my runner beans to be tolerated.  Sorry, but I'm not sharing that part of the food chain if I can help it.

It was a shame to cut down the borage whilst there were still a few flowers open, but it is 90% over.  I laid the rubbish on our new big bed behind the house, the logic being (a) near the bird feeders so perhaps the blackfly will get eaten (b)  continues to give the bees access to the flowers  (c) I am not going to plant anything here until next Spring so the borage can compost in situ.

I thought some close-up pictures of the little beasties would be fun, but it was a brilliant surprise upon looking at the photos to find that the food chain is already in action, I think there are ladybird larvae already hard at work munching their way through the blackfly.

It's not just bees who feed from the borage flowers, hover fly and wasps do too.

Perhaps some of them come from a little further down the garden . . . this is the trellis which separates the Cottage Garden from the big log pile and the greenhouse area.

If you know where to look, we have 'company', the largest nest we have ever found above ground.

Opening the door to this shed VERY CAREFULLY,   Management decided that there is nothing in it which he needs in a hurry, so we've left this beautiful wasp nest alone.  It is unlikely the nest will survive (apparently the poor things die of starvation over winter, not cold, isn't that sad?) and he will then be able to access the rarely used bike parts which are stored here.

Friday, 27 July 2018

Kate's photo challenge - July 2018

I did not think I could/would manage to join in this month, but complaining loudly yesterday about the drought and getting it out of my system has helped tremendously, and I told myself not to be such a grumpy guts and get on with it.

So, here we go, joining in with the lovely and talented Kate at I live, I love, I craft, I am me

1.     Door:    This caused a hell of a problem when I insisted we wanted a stable door as part of the house refurbishment.  There are not as many opportunities to use it as I might like, but in the recent heatwave having the top open helps bring what little breeze there is into the house, and both Daisy and delivery men seem to enjoy the interaction over the closed panel.

2.     11.00am:    This had me stumped, until I realised I was sitting at my desk mid-morning thinking about this, and whilst it was not eleven o'clock, it was a time that is even more magical; it was 11.11am which I always think of as a very special time.  So I grabbed the phone and took a picture of a corner of the desk, not very exciting but made me smile.

3.     Texture:     That's easy (thank you Kate).  The texture which appears as I quilt still always surprises and delights me.

4.     Shadows:    I remembered a walk with Daisy

5.     View:     Another 'thank you' to Kate for a category which could have been made for me.  After all, this is The View From . . .   Hard to select just one, many other possibilities if you click the 'view' label at the very bottom of the screen :)

6.     Own Choice:    You know what is coming here.  We did not so much choose Daisy at the rescue, Fate and Daisy chose US,  and everyone's lives have been improved as a result.  To be reminded what  a starved, emaciated little darling she was, have a look around December/November 2011.