Thursday, 30 July 2009


Please don't expect any email or blog updates for a few days.

Unless something miraculous happens (and at over 14 years old, miracles like that don't happen) then it is quite possible that we will have to put him to sleep next week. I f***ing hate that expression - it is nothing to do with sleep - but what else does one say.

It's not definite, don't say goodbye just yet, but we have to be realistic, don't expect much from Bag End for a few days.


Please don't expect any email or blog updates for a few days.

Unless something miraculous happens (and at over 14 years old, miracles like that don't happen) then it is quite possible that we will have to put him to sleep next week. I f***ing hate that expression - it is nothing to do with sleep - but what else does one say.

It's not definite, don't say goodbye just yet, but we have to be realistic, don't expect much from Bag End for a few days.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Sewing Sunday

After the epic brush-clearing work on Saturday, I was extremely glad to wake up Sunday morning to wind and rain. Himself settled down for a day of motorbike racing on TV, I settled down to a day in the sewing room.

Decided I had moved the Yellow Peril blocks around quite enough, numbered them and it didn't take long until they were a quilt top:

It's not really darker at the top - the photo is p*nts because I haven't taken the time to find out how to use Photoshop Elements to lighten just the top section . . .

Merlin got a thorough clean, polish and oiling, then I quilted up some fabric which had been pinned onto the frame for far too long. One side is soft brushed cotton which Ollie loves, so this warm-up piece is destined to become another Beardie Blanket!

Definitely on a roll, I pieced some fabric for a backing, wasted a significant amount of time trying to decide which batting to use (settled on Warm & White 100% cotton), got Yellow Peril mounted on the frame and started quilting!

I so LOVE my APQS Millennium. Not knocking the Gammill which did me proud for nearly a decade and was an extremely well-built machine, but using Merlin is like spending years behind the wheel of a truck and finally being given the keys to an Aston Martin DB8. It must be three months since I touched this machine but after cleaning and oiling it sewed like a dream from the first stitch - no tension issues, no skipped stitches, and the stitch regulator is out of this world - no more having to adjust my quilting in order for the SR to be able to keep up - whatever I do, this amazing machine just works perfectly, no long stitches coming out of points, none of this having to start slowly to give the encoders time to catch up with me . . . bliss!

Decided to stop after a couple of rows, it was way past my bedtime and mistakes happen if I quilt when tired (that's the voice of experience finally learning from her mistakes!)

Saturday, 25 July 2009

I am going to be so tired tomorrow

After much outdoor work on Thursday , and a frenzy of activity in the kitchen on Friday, the task for Saturday was to attack the huge pile of Leylandii brush at the bottom of the garden.

It was all Management's idea - when I cannot move tomorrow morning I shall blame him (not that it will make a blind bit of difference). Not sure how long we worked or how many litres of water got consumed but I do know it was a very, very, very unpleasant day to be wearing thick Husqvarna chainsaw trousers and it was a very, very long hot day.

But at least by the end of it we have a tidy and large pile of stuff waiting to be burnt and a respectable quantity of cut branches waiting to be trimmed with the brush-hook and moved to one of the many log piles. If the weather holds we'll try for a bonfire tomorrow night . . . that's a big "if".

Friday, 24 July 2009

Beardie Biscuits

The home-made biscuits came about not because I am an absolute fool who would do anything for our beloved Beardie {giggle} but because Ollie is beef intolerant. If you look closely at the ingredients list on nearly all dog treats you'll see the horrible item "Animal Derivatives" which basically means abattoir slurry - water reclaimed 'stuff'.

Many years ago I used to buy a canine pastry treat from a company called Pascoe's. Although they still make complete animal feeds, the treats are no longer available so I tried to work out how to bake our own. To cut a long story sideways, we've ended up with a version of Hot Water Crust Pastry (the stuff you make pork pies with) and on a bad day when Ollie will not eat anything, I can usually get him to have two or three of these.

2 oz cooking margarine
2 oz Trex vegetable fat (you could use lard)

4 tablespoons milk

4 tablespoons water

12 oz plain flour

optional (but greatly appreciated by Hairy One) - 1 tablespoon cod liver oil

Put all ingredients except flour in a saucepan and heat gently, stir to mix or swirl contents of pan around. As mixture comes to the boil, tip all the flour in, remove from heat and stir like crazy with a wooden spoon.

It won't be long before your spoon makes no further progress and you have to mix by hand. I put on a clean washing up glove - the mixture is HOT. Mix by hand and knead as if you were making dough. In about 2 minutes you have a smooth, glossy paste.

Break into portion sized lumps (you could roll it into a sausage and cut slices if you wanted to be neat) and place on baking parchment.

20 minutes at 200 degrees.

I store in a glass cookie jar and they would keep a couple of weeks but they don't last that long. They take about as long to make as it has taken you to read this - and because the mixing is done in the saucepan there is virtually no washing up!

If you wanted to really spoil the four-paws in question, brushing the tops with beaten egg before baking also works well . . .

A very satisfying morning

About 16 servings of Bolognaise sauce, a similar quantity of Ratatouille. Both will get portioned into foil containers when cool and tucked in the freezer.

Most importantly, a fresh batch of biscuits for Ollie (yes, he gets home-made biccys)


Leaving most of the grass uncut is giving us some unexpected wildflowers (who knew there were orchids in three places?) but eventually even wildflowers and grasses go to seed and have to be cut back.

Yesterday spent over four hours cutting lawn that is usually left alone but it does look quite tidy this morning! (that's tidy by Bag End standards . . .)

The birds have kindly sown some cereal crops for us (and hopefully R. will tell me exactly what!)

Although it probably doesn't look like it, spent a lot of time tidying up the area in front of the log store in readiness for shed & greenhouse bases,

Not much progress on the raised beds area, the enviromesh has just been draped over laths, my minimal woodworking skills are not in the mood to make proper frames at present. This picture does at least show how the ground slopes away and why getting the wooden frames level is extremely frustrating!

This is the area at the front we cleared a couple of months ago. Eventually I would like to plant a willow screen to make a seating area but for now we're growing an excellent crop of ground elder.

The buddleia has done better than expected after a severe chop in the Spring, nearly over now.

Butterfly enjoying the last of the bramble flowers.

I was surprised to find, behind some weeds, this raspberry - didn't know we had it but it appears the birds have found it before me. Amused to find it in this location because it's one of the spots I am considering for fruit bushes in the future.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Yellow Peril - continued

Whoops, I may have overdone it just a tad with this quilt . . . SewAli is going to have palpitations when she sees it!

This is my first look at the blocks on the design wall (doesn't that sound grand - hah - it's a flannel sheet hung over a rail above the wardrobe). This quilt is being made as a gift for a mad friend with a crazy sense of humour and I intended it to be a "fun" quilt. Hmm, I didn't expect it to be quite so insanely in-your-face and over the top. I don't normally make anything quite this fast but it has been very cathartic over the last few days to get back into "fabric mode", it is months and months since I did this. Perhaps I can use that as an excuse for my outrageous fabric choices? Could I plead temporary insanity and being very out of practice?

Now comes the long process of turning blocks around and moving them about until I have an arrangement that pleases me. Once I've settled on a layout I can sew the blocks into rows, the rows to each other and TA DA - another quilt top waiting to go on the sadly unused APQS Millennium (that's assuming I can even remember how to longarm quilt).

(This is not an easy quilt to photograph - it is more yellow and less orange in real life)

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

The indefatigable Beardie

Don't write us off just yet {giggle}.

He spent all day Tuesday flat out sleeping heavily, not engaging with me or the world, no spark in his eyes. Until Daddy comes home from work at which point we stand up briskly, wag our tail, start barking and spend much of the evening being a noisy little sod! Obviously I am not interesting enough to bother to expend energy on during the day . . .

(Being very noisy a couple of years ago on [in?] Loch Arkaig)

Yes, he's still got very wobbly back legs, yes he is definitely more frail than before the last seizure, but if Ollie has anything to do with it, then it might be a little bit soon to be preparing his eulogy.

And just in case there is a smidgen of lingering doubt about our sanity (apparently there is medication but we choose not to take it) this is what we have done to the bedroom, just for Ollie:

Yes it is "his" sofa
Yes it is at the end of the bed
Yes it is the "wrong" way round

But since Sunday he has been very happy to sleep on the sofa (thankfully leaving the bed for two-legs). Perhaps by turning the sofa around this way we've led him to believe it is now part of the bed, perhaps he feels 'close enough' without actually having to lay on top of me, and there is the reassurance that he's not likely to turn around in the night when he's half asleep and dopey and fall onto the floor (yes, that did nearly happen once, but fortunately I sleep very lightly and grabbed him as he went over the edge!)

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Ollie - quick update

Since his seizure last Wednesday he has definitely 'aged', he seems more frail and gentle collapses of the back legs are more frequent. Not surprisingly, he is sleeping 22 or 23 hours out of 24.

We went to Appleby yesterday for acupuncture but one day on there is not much sign that the treatment has energised him as it has done in the past.

Max and I are wondering whether he will pull through this or whether we have to face the final act of 'kindness' rather sooner than we would have liked. There have been many tears at Bag End the last few days.

I know the Old Man's extended family care what is happening to our Hairy friend, I just wish the news was more positive. I know this contradicts what I said on Saturday.

A glorious afternoon at Grasmere in May 2007 - much swimming to retrieve this lump of wood

And he was determined that it would fit in the back of the car and come home with us!

Saturday, 18 July 2009

don't panic !

I've realised that the thought of "more than 70 different fabrics" in one quilt could cause two of my very special friends to come out in palpitations.

So, just for them, how about you think of it as a home-made Jelly Roll?

There, does that feel better?

and this looks dangerously like real quilting

Raining first thing (hurrah!!) so decided not to garden, and, after the shock with Ollie, a huge need to do something gentle and creative in the house.

I have way more FQs* than I am prepared to admit to, but have decided to try and use them all up before I make inroads into the yardage.
Starting to make some fabric choices
Rather unimaginatively, this is going to be another Log Cabin quilt. Even more unimaginatively, it is going to be constructed in exactly the same way as Distorted Foodie (note to self - MUST send Angela a picture of that quilt!!) and the Lilac Log Cabin.

There are over 70 different fabrics and I have roughly cut four 2" strips of each (and frighteningly, not made a significant dent in the yellow stash . . . )

Construction is simple. the centre of each block is a square of Princess Mirah batik (that was meant to feature in Log Cabin quilt for Festival of Quilts . . . hmm, another missed opportunity). I take one piece of each fabric, dump them in a big mess and pick at random. Put all the used strips in a little pile, and when I have used the first group of strips I start again.

Although it might look a bit slap-dash and messy, every seam is set and pressed and the block is then trimmed before the next strip is added.

The view from my sewing room might be terrific but it is a dreadful place to try and take photographs - almost a whole wall of glass means the lighting is, err, unbalanced to say the least!

* Angela - A FQ is a quilting unit of measurement. It means Fat Quarter and is a quarter yard/metre of fabric, but not cut along the width. It is half of a half metre and therefore approximately 20" x 22".

I could garden . . .

But I am not going to, and probably won't tomorrow either, so there!

I could:
work on the raised beds
process more leylandii brush
move bonfire-sized brush from the Coppice
clear the area in front of the log store
move logs from the back of the house
dig over the bed next to the pavement

and that little list is before I spend any time thinking about what I might like to do . . .

I am not in the mood, I am going to sit and sew.

Update on The Boy

After Wednesday's fright, Ollie seems to have recovered fairly well.

The good news is that his heart medication, Vetmedin, does not seem to have caused any obvious side-effects (ie: vomiting) and it's possible that he is a little brighter and with slightly more energy. He is also eating very well, but that might be down to our giving him exactly what he wants rather than what we think he ought to have! There's a suspicion that his mouth might be getting sensitive or sore as he's definitely gone off the crunchy complete food, however, if we prepare it 3 hours in advance (add a bit of cooked lamb mince and let it all go soft and soggy) he finds that quite palatable.

On the downside, he is definitely more frail and "wobbly" than he was prior to the latest seizure, and he is sleeping even more than before. When we do go for a gentle walk he will either stumble and "face plant", distressing for us to see but he seems fairly unperturbed, or more recently, the back end just gently collapses and he sits down unexpectedly.

Saying that, I've just taken him out and he wanted to walk all the way to the seat on the way into the village and then come back and do our usual "round the block" and when he got back home he still had the energy to run 20 feet up the lawn in order to chase a pigeon . . .

Right now he's laying on a quilt on the balcony, seems fairly happy and watching the world go by.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Some things you have to find out for yourself

And for once, it wasn't me learning something the hard way!

J. was due on Friday afternoon to do more digging. He arrived promptly at 2.00 and would not be dissuaded by the fact that it had rained most of the morning and was still spitting, no, he wanted to work. This is not avarice, this is a determination to fulfill a commitment.

So we let him start, and give the boy his due, he did move a surprising amount of soil, but after an hour even he admitted that there was as much caked on his boots as on the spade so he cleaned all the tools and went home!

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Steady now, this looks dangerously like real gardening

After the trauma of yesterday I needed to be outside for an hour and get my hands in the soil.

Have planted out the two excellent Parsley plants which came from the allotment open day, together with some of the Swiss Chard (Bright Lights) from Flummery, Spinach (Renegade) and Broccolli (Raab 60 day) both of which I've grown from seed

Having bought wood to make some protective frames and finally ordered Enviromesh to cover them, guess I ought to do some woodwork before the pigeons find these plants.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

A b****y awful afternoon

Ollie was due at the vet this afternoon to have his poor arthritic toes looked at.

He was having one of those "restless, cannot settle" days but around 2.00pm accepted that the sofa was as good a place as any and I decided to sit with him for the hour until it was time to go to Millcroft. In the time it took to go to the kitchen, collect a drink that was already poured and walk back to the sitting room he started another seizure.

If Max had not been at home Ollie would have died. I had rolled Ollie onto his back but he still couldn't breath. Max was absolutely amazing - he gave the dog mouth-to-mouth (well, mouth to nostril) until the seizure stopped and Ollie was breathing again on his own. Understandably he was then very stressed, wobbly, agitated but we decided to go straight to the vet.

We had a long consultation with Mark Geddes who was excellent. Once Ollie had calmed down sufficiently to be handled he took a blood sample and to his amazement and our pleasant surprise, nearly all the results were perfect - and that's perfect for any dog, not just a 14 year old one. The only thing to cause concern was a raised red blood cell count which indicates his body has manufactured more haemoglobin-carrying cells, maybe to compensate for lack of oxygen, maybe because his heart murmur is getting worse . . . so we have new medication which might help that.

Back home now, Ollie has been very restless, agitated, not knowing what he wants to do or where he wants to lay. At present he is on the bed under my desk and the snoring is a good sign - perhaps he has finally calmed down enough that he can sleep and get over the stress of this afternoon, I know I'd like to.

And the toes . . . didn't get a look in.

House Rules

With thanks to our friend John who was relieved today to find that he is not the only person who has difficulty in enforcing the canine "Rules of Engagement".

He was obviously unaware that Ollie wrote this about ten years ago:

1. The hound is not allowed in the house.
2. OK, the hound is allowed in the house, but only in certain rooms.
3. The hound is allowed in all rooms, but has to stay off the furniture.
4. The hound can get on the old furniture only.
5. Fine, the hound is allowed on all the furniture, but is not allowed to sleep with the humans on the bed.
6. OK, the hound is allowed on the bed, but only by invitation.
7. The hound can sleep on the bed whenever he wants, but not under the covers.
8. The hound can sleep under the covers by invitation only.
9. The hound can sleep under the covers every night.
10. Humans must ask permission to sleep under the covers with the hound.

Did I have this much energy at 16?

Actually, I probably did but it's a long time ago and I cannot really remember. Tuesday was a nearly perfect gardening day - we had a little more rain in the night that was very welcome, still need much more but it is better than nothing, and the weather was brilliant - sunny, but some cloud cover, warm but not hot, and a gentle breeze.

In the morning I did more work preparing the 4th raised bed; finished the frame and dug over the bottom to one spit deep removing another bag full of stones and left-over cherry tree root (which thankfully is definitely dead!)

J. was due at 2.00, I heard the latch on the gate at 1.57pm. This young man has an amazing work ethic and we struggle to make him stop for a rest and a drink. He barrowed more cow muck up that slope for me, and I've made much more progress sifting through the soil pile as I add it back into the bed. This is how it looked at finishing time with the next layer of manure added.

J.'s next job was to empty numerous bags of stones which have been picked out of the soil into the Dowsing Pit - might as well make use of it and by accident I am creating an area with extremely good drainage - who knows what I might end up growing on top of it!

He then set to on some small piles of logs which had been stacked at the back of the house for the last year. Under the eaves and out of the wind & rain they have seasoned very well and J. commented that they did not weigh anything - which might be why, by the time we sent him home, the Log Store was very nearly full!

As we now have a date for work on installing a Multi-Fuel stove to commence (11th August), the timing is perfect. When the shed is built it will protect the front of the store from wind and wet but in the short-term I may hang some of that rush-screening across the front.

Am delighted to see how well Sunflowers are growing up here, most of the neighbours have one or two bird-planted invaders growing in a sunny corner. They are one of my favourite flowers to grow - so in your face and outrageous I cannot see them without smiling.

The honeysuckle outside my study is flowering its little heart out and the evening scent is glorious.

My wonderful young labourer is coming back on Friday afternoon. Sadly, I don't think this will inspire him to take up a career in horticulture, this morning he was at the Sixth Form College for an induction day and I asked him what subjects he is interested in - mathematics, advanced maths and physics - OK, not gardening then!

Monday, 13 July 2009

Darn dog

No, I don't mean that at all, but I do - if you know what I mean ?!?!

It might be difficult to see but this picture shows toes - toes which have been licked and licked and licked and licked until they become sore and nearly all the hair is gone. We have cut away some of the hair to find out whether he had a cut, tick or an insect bite but he is responsible for most of the defoliation!

I cannot blame Ollie for doing this - the arthritis has spread to his toes, we can see bumps on the joints just like a human gets on fingers. It must be so sore for him, I cannot blame him for licking.

I cannot work out how to stop it either - we've tried socks, he either pulls them off or chews through them. I will not condemn him to constantly wearing an Elizabethan Collar (plastic lamp-shade type thing), when he was fit & healthy and occasionally needed one after surgery he was forever banging into door frames and walls - cannot subject him to that now.

Another conversation with Clare at Millcroft I think . . .

Poor baby, I'm sure he hates getting old as much as I hate seeing him age.

How to drive yourself absolutely NUTS

It's easy - make a raised bed frame using four machine-cut planks of equal width and depth, then try to get the blasted thing level on ground which slopes from front to back AND from right to left.

Spent the afternoon driving myself NUTS trying to get the frame level. If I propped up one side it made another edge uneven. Digging out more turf to sink a high edge did not actually help at the low side .... GRRRRRRRRRR ... eventually I settled on Plan B.

Plan B is simple - sod it and leave the blasted frame uneven. When all 8 are done (the first three are not straight either!) I will spend a day levelling them all. I have this idea that if I start at the two highest (nearest the house), straighten them as best as I can and adjust the lower ones in relation to the highest . . . well, it sound good in theory. I suppose there is always a chance we'll move to Plan C but I don't want to contemplate that right now.

J. not here this afternoon because it rained on & off all morning and is raining now, he's coming tomorrow afternoon instead. Hopefully I can get the frame settled in the morning before he arrives because he's going to help put BACK all the soil he took out on Saturday whilst taking out the stones and adding lots of cow manure!

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Oh, to be young again

Saturday morning my neighbour came to visit with her two teenagers. We showed J. and C. around the garden and explained what we wanted doing (basically shifting piles of soil from A to B). We explained it was going to be very hard work, and then we explained again that it would be very hard work but they were not deterred, went home to change and came back again surprisingly quickly!

In four hours, the two young men shifted all this soil excavated during the Dowsing episode

to the long bed which goes along the front of the house next to the pavement.

I still have to pick it over and remove the largest stones but that will be nothing compared to the strain of moving it all! Once it has been mixed in with the cow manure placed there earlier in the year I will be able to put in some daffodil bulbs and herbaceous perennials - finally! The Escallonia which was "knee-capped" last year is growing back extremely well and the only other plant growing at the front is this sunflower.

Obviously planted by a passing bird, it is nearly in flower

Then, looking for something else to do they swiftly emptied all the soil from another raised bed.

The front of the Log Store is looking much tidier now!

Management was working extremely hard up a ladder during this time, washing down guttering, house walls and doing some remedial painting. I had an unusually relaxed day - kept an eye on Hairy One, did the laundry, supplied all the workers with constant cold drinks, moved the salad crops from the veg area to the patio next to the back door and - TA DA - planted out the asparagus.

The boys say they are coming back on Monday afternoon . . . we shall see! C. found the work a lot harder than he expected, he has an Aspergers-type condition and I will not be surprised or in the slightest bit upset if he chooses not to return. J., on the other hand, has an amazing capacity for work and loves being outdoors, I am sure we will see him again.

Friday, 10 July 2009


Monday and Tuesday should have been good, productive gardening days; the crushing heatwave had passed on, errands mostly done, house picked up enough that I could leave/ignore what isn't done - even the ironing basket was uncharacteristically empty! However, I didn't factor in being ridiculously tired and I don't know why. On Sunday night I had visions of Raised Bed #4 being created but once I dragged myself into the garden I knew it wasn't going to happen - couldn't concentrate, physically tired, no point in fighting it . . .

Did achieve a few small things - front lawns mown, two more barrows of muck onto what will be Bed #8 - Asparagus Jersey Knight.

The rest of the week followed the same pattern, with any job I tried to do failing and leaving me with seriously painful shoulders - on top of everything else I have finally managed to aggravate an old injury which means that digging and heavy lifting are not on the agenda at present, by Thursday night I had admitted defeat.

Friday morning I went and had coffee with a neighbour who cares for two teenage foster sons - both of whom are looking for something to occupy them during the long summer holidays. Hello boys - this is a spade!

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

What attacks wasps?

I've been feeling a little smug following my apparent success as a Wasp Whisperer and checking on the nest every couple of days. Great to see the wasps had abandoned the soil pile and were gently working on the beautiful papery nest.

Smug feeling gone this morning - what on earth attacks a wasp nest?

There is a dead wasp next to the nest (top right of picture) and it looks like the structure has been pecked at - there is nest material on the ground.

Saw one little wasp crawling around inside but do not know if the damage can be overcome. Anyone know what could have done this?