Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Rag rug, part two

It's the wettest, most miserable, coldest summer I can remember.  Thank heavens we don't rely on my producing food crops because if we did there would be hunger in autumn and winter.

Little garden progress by my usual standards but with a small bit of attitude adjustment and a deep sigh, I'm OK with that.  As railing against the wind and rain won't make it go away I might as well grin and bear it and as a result, the house is comfortingly tidy, the paperwork on my desk is at manageable levels and I finally made a start on a rag rug.  The latter has been an interesting learning exercise as I realised I had to abandon/undo everything completed to date and start again but surprisingly, I'm not irritated by that.  My first couple of quilts were atrocious constructions measured against what I know now so it's not unexpected that my first untutored foray into a new craft hit a couple of bumps.

I realised that the frame I was using was totally unsuitable and I'd not secured the hessian edges properly.  It didn't take long to dismantle what I'd done but it took longer to decide on new hessian and whether or not to buy a rag rugger tool.

I had started with a traditional hardwood proddy which worked fine but meant I needed to be able to reach the back of the hessian.  The huge new frame I constructed was too big to do that comfortably and a different tool would allow me to work from one side.  I made the investment and am very glad I did, I can work much faster and with less strain on fingers. 

This is a deeply addictive and glorious activity. The feel underfoot of the small section I have created so far is wonderful and it's lovely to finally have a use for all those small pieces of left-over fabric.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Sewing weekend

Another wet Bank Holiday, I feel so sorry for anyone who thought a late August break in the Lake District was a good idea.  106mm of rain so far this month, and 30mm of that in the last seven days.  Not a weekend to be working outside even though I could find a week's worth of work to do if I felt like it.  I don't feel like it.

What I do feel like, however, is getting back to the lovely tactile sensation of working with fabric and the pleasure of creating something.  Trouble is, I can't work in a clutter.  Nor can I happily begin new projects when I have a multitude of unfinished pieces sitting lonely in a corner.  Time to get some UFO's off the pile and into use, there are no "before" photos - it was all too much of a mess and too horrible to be recorded for posterity. 

The first item to be worked on was the largest and hardest.  Over three years ago my sister-in-law celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary and my present to her was a full-size bed quilt.  She knew exactly what she wanted and fabrics were purchased, quilting designs agreed.  Three years ago Management and I lost one third of our little family, the world changed forever and I've done very little sewing since.  J. had requested a wholecloth and I finally completed the quilting back in February but there's been no progress since.  By finishing the binding this weekend the quilt can be delivered in a few days time when we go visiting.

With the biggest task under control hand stitching the binding on a couple of place mats was fairly easy (photo colours are really off),

followed by machine finishing on a small quilt made in a suduko pattern.  The top was pieced about six years ago, I think I quilted it in about 2010 and of course, it was only after the quilting was completed that I realised I'd turned one of the blocks around and messed up the suduko placement.  D'uh.  The intended recipient won't care - this is going to a gorgeous baby who loves colour and fabric and is far too polite to tell Aunty Bilbo that she put a block the wrong way round! 

Another small table topper which, like the suduko quilt lays completely flat on the worktable but refuses to look smooth when hung up for a picture.  Think this will be a Christmas gift. 

Bundled up some small pieces which I don't want to finish, they'll go via a friend to a charity Christmas bazaar and all of a sudden I have no quilted pieces laying around waiting to be finished!

Now if I could only work as efficiently and quickly through the huge pile of pieced tops waiting to be quilted . . .

It's not a day for being outside

Thank you, Met Office, who have issued a 'weather warning' for the north west.  I think we'd already worked that out for ourselves. 

Saturday, 25 August 2012


August Bank Holiday - and I am fed up with being cold.

It's been raining all day, goodness knows how much is in the measuring cones but I'm not going out to check. 

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Mini Meadow

After much delay: Mini meadow = ✔

I have transplanted Self-Heal (Prunella vulgaris) from the weedy front corner and LP shifted the Common Spotted orchids (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) from various places around the garden.  This was followed with much messing around under the willow to ensure a bark-covered weed free strip; although the fedge is growing very happily willow hates being surrounded by uninvited invaders.  The edges are held in temporarily until LP is here and has nothing better to do - he's good at fixing larch slab in place very firmly and enjoys doing so. 

I suppose one of the benefits of this job taking so long is that lots of weed seeds germinated.  Yes, that's a 'benefit' because I sat for three hours and painstakingly picked out everything I didn't want to keep and left a few plants which looked promising.  Allowing bare ground to germinate like this is called stale seedbed technique and if done properly can go a long way towards cleaning up soil that's not been previously cultivated.

With all the disturbance completed I sowed a seed mixture which was partly bought-in, partly home-made. Starting with a packet of Sarah Raven 'meadow mix for clay soil' (which, frankly, I have very low expectations of given the rubbish performance of all the other SR seeds I've tried) we have mixed up Cornflower  (Centaurea cynas Polka Dot), annual Poppy (Papaver rhoeas), Pansy (Viola Odorato The Czar) and Orange Hawkit  (Hiercium Brunneocroceum) which was saved from neighbour's lawn last summer.

My logic is that this is the time of year when these plants would naturally be dropping their seed.

Cover all with a not-too-thick layer of bark chip, stand back, open beer, admire!

Footnote: The Sarah Raven mix claims we will get:

Spring into Summer Flowering

Cowslip March – May
Birdsfoot Trefoil May – July
Lady’s Bedstraw Late May – August
Rough Hawksbit May – July
Red Clover May – October
Oxeye Daisy May – July
Yellow Rattle May – July
Meadow Buttercup May – July

Summer into Autumn Flowering

Selfheal June – September
Sorrel June – September
Tufted Vetch June – September
Knapweed June – September
Toadflax July – October
Musk Mallow July – October
Ragged Robin July – September

Yellow Rattle should be sown in autumn, the packet says sow in spring. Cowslip seeds rarely germinate unless sown green. We'll see ........

Monday, 20 August 2012

More welding!

Not content with constructing a wonderful trellis around the Big Pond deck, Management moved up to the Top Pond.

He fixed a horizontal rod to the three posts which LP had put in for us, and this has pulled the uprights together very nicely and given them a surprising amount of stability.  As I am going to be putting wooden trellis here* he has welded brackets to the posts to save me having to drill loads of holes in steel.  Bless him :}   More painting to do; I have given up wondering when I will get jobs like this done because every time I think about going outside it rains - again.  I'm amazed it stayed dry long enough for us to weld safely.

* there is a logical reason, honest, it will all become clear eventually

Friday, 17 August 2012

Not quilting

Not quite quilting but it does involve fabric and could use up a considerable quantity of the scraps which I've been accumulating for far too long.

After countless years of prevaricating I have finally made a start on the rag rug I've been wanting to make. Took a while to sort out the hessian, put an edge on it to stop fraying, get organised, but once all the messing around was done it's surprising how easy it is to get into a rhythm and inserting the fabric strips is relatively quick.  No promises as to how long it will take to finish, this side of Christmas would be nice ☺

Thursday, 16 August 2012

A short bimble to Binsey

Not a lot to say about a 20 minute drive and a very short walk other than " ahhhhhhhhhh".  Even trudging extremely slowly it only took half an hour to reach the lovely summit of Binsey by which time the clouds had obligingly shifted out of the way for a bit to allow a couple of half-decent photo opportunities.

    (click on this one to see it properly)

Even on such a diminutive little fell whilst it was short-sleeves getting out of the car the summit was enjoying 40mph gusts.  I saw a farmer moving sheep when I started out and a chap about to take a gorgeous scruffy Jack Russell for a walk when I returned to the car.  Apart from that - nothing, no-one, just peace and quiet.  Bliss.

Despite the wind I spent quite a bit of time just sitting next to the trig point enjoying the expansive view of the Back o'Skiddaw fells and laying a ghost to rest.  Ollie loved Binsey - gentle grassy track all the way from the car and no need to be on a lead.  I could trust him not to pay the sheep any attention so he could run free for the entire walk.  He always seemed to enjoy the view as well :}  My first trip up Binsey in three years and at first the top did seem lonely when I got there, but I think that's OK now.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

I can't do it

Last month I said I would put a 'weed and feed' on the Cottage Garden lawn.  I didn't want to because I loath using chemicals but I agreed that we would do it just once, and after Management's hard work with the scarifier it was my turn to have a go at improving the grass.

I can't do it.  The product was bought a month ago and has sat in the shed.  This morning I prepared to do the deed and read the back of the packet.

Keep pets off the lawn for at least three days (try telling that to the red squirrel and pheasant and her babies which I have already seen this morning, let alone the countless birds)

Keep grazing pets (rabbits) off lawn for four weeks 

Do not use clippings as a mulch for four weeks

Do not use compost containing clippings for SIX MONTHS?

and no mention of the damage I know it will do to the pond if run off gets into the water 

Holy crap, how long are the residual effects of these chemicals really going to last?  The box is in the rubbish bin, I know it's a waste of money but I can't put this stuff on our soil.

Time to make up some comfrey or nettle feed and when it is mature and stinky I will water it across the grass.  I'll dig the thistles out by hand.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Welder's Mate, part two

We now have a strong and robust trellis above the new decking base which will, eventually take the weight of wisteria.  Fully grown wisteria is a big beast which weighs a great deal so I'm thinking ahead here - in 15 years time I don't want a full-grown plant to collapse because a timber trellis has rotted.

I now have the 'lovely' task of painting all of the steel which I'm happy to do if only if would bluddy well stop raining long enough for Hammerite to dry.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Welder's Mate, part one

A few months ago I bought Management an arc welder which he had wanted for ages but there hadn't been a chance up to now to have a good play with it. Our friend Keith, who has made several large steel structures for us, used to teach welding and has generously spent lots of time with Management giving him tips and advice until he was confident to tackle something for real.  Which is how I spent all weekend as Welder's Mate.

Here are Saturday's exploits in pictures (of which there are few because I was doing more helping than photographing!)

Friday, 10 August 2012

Experiments in propagation

I already have more than enough to do and if I was a sensible Hobbit I wouldn't give myself any more work than absolutely necessary.  So moving swiftly on, two very lovely plants in the Cottage Garden have finished flowering and set seed and they are both plants I want more of.

An unnamed lupin which came as a gift from Country Bumpkin has pretty dusky-pink flowers with a yellow base.  Somehow I've not managed to take a photograph but it is definitely a keeper and stands up well to the wind.

The other is Thalictrum aquilegiifolium 'Thundercloud'. This is a plant which doesn't like to be moved so I'm assuming that digging it up to divide the clump wouldn't be a smart thing to do.  It is so pretty that I want lots more around the garden.

According to my RHS propagation book, these plants like their seed to be sown fresh.  With both plants some of the seed is fully mature and has developed a hard coat (brown) and some is still moist and green.  As an experiment I've sown two trays of each plant, one with each type of seed.  I wonder if there will be any difference in germination and plant development?  (And if they all germinate, using 35-cell trays, what the hell will I do with 140 plants?)

A propagation experiment which has turned out to be very successful was the striking of honeysuckle cuttings mid-May.  Four cuttings of Lonicera pericylemen, Graham Thomas were placed in a 50:50 mix of vermiculite & seed compost with a tiny amount of hormone rooting powder.  Covered with a plastic bag and left in the cold frame all four have rooted and I've potted them up.  Tops pinched out to make them bushy, these are lovely plants, very pleased with myself because I haven't done this before.

I've got some similar clematis cuttings waiting to be potted on which also seem to have taken well - this could get addictive!

Earlier in the year I saved fresh seed from the Caltha palustris, Marsh Marigold.  I station-sowed them and kept the trays very moist (cat litter trays are useful greenhouse accessories).  A few have germinated, fingers crossed for more.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Pictures added

Lots of missing photos now added to Tidying Up

Busy working through an immense backlog of draft posts and photos ☺☺

Saturday, 4 August 2012


It would be easy to have a major sense of humour failure about the weather, however I've never seen the day where complaining about the current conditions made any difference so I guess shrugging shoulders is the only thing to do.

Recording rainfall in a mass-produced plastic cone is never going to be 100% accurate but it's close enough.  Over 6 inches in June.  About 4½ inches in July.  Today excelled itself - nearly an inch in the 12 hours between 7.00am and 7.00pm, most of which fell in 10 minutes at lunchtime.

A picture tells a thousand words, a moving picture delivers an entire novella. You'll just have to believe me because the video I shot which looks and sounds like a tropical monsoon isn't here.  Management and I have wasted the best part of a whole day trying to sort some HD file problems and I'm not spending any more bloody time on it :{