Thursday, 31 January 2013

The 2013 Calendar game

It is probably a very good thing that the Green Dot Days 'game' had a rest at the end of 2011.  The endless rain last year meant that gardening was impossible on far too many occasions and I am glad there is no permanent record of how many days it was wet (just the rainfall records ...)
We have a new calendar game this year where I am going to record Daisy's walks*.  I'd also like to visit the location photographed each month but that has had a bumpy start and we've not been anywhere near Langdale.

It doesn't matter.  Daisy has only been with us two months and didn't go off the lead until Christmas Day; in her first month of 'proper' walking she has been to the beach twice, six different hills, and the top of Sale Fell four times - not bad for a beginner!

* on the blank days Daisy has not been confined to quarters - she'll have had two or three short walks around the block plus games in the garden.  On Friday (when this was written) she 'helped' me garden for about four hours and had the balls thrown for her on numerous occasions (such as every 10 or 15 minutes!), she was a very tired puppy in front of the woodburner last night :}

Photo note:  it is easier to scan the calendar than photograph it and of course, the page is bigger than the bed of the scanner ...

Return to Rannerdale

Walking friends might have been wondering when Daisy and I would head off to what has always been one of my favourite fells.  The answer was simply "when it felt right" which could have been a week or so ago but the roads were too icy and I didn't fancy it. But this afternoon it looked like we were getting a break in the weather and after lunch Daisy and I set off on a very familiar journey.  I knew this little walk had the potential to be a tad "challenging" - more than a couple of streamlets to cross and the newly rebuilt bridge over Squat Beck to negotiate.

Predictably Daisy threw a wobbly right at the start and would not walk through the little stream by Cinderdale parking area.  I picked her up again which is not sustainable if I want my back to remain in one piece.  It would have then been reasonable to assume that Madam was going to mess around at every subsequent bit of water we came to ... never make assumptions where Her Ladyship is concerned.  She jumped over puddles, found semi-dry routes around boggy bits and even stood in a big puddle by a gate whilst she waited for me to open it.

The biggest surprise was when we came to the new bridge.  I was expecting the walk having to be re-routed at this point but once again Daisy astonished me.  Whilst I stopped to consider our options, she walked straight over the bridge as if it weren't there ... bloody dog!!

Our walk up to the Hause was thoroughly pleasant and uneventful, we even had occasional moments of sunshine!  The wind had dropped and Daisy ignored the couple of sheep grazing near the path, we met no-one and it was completely quiet and peaceful.  Until we came over the rise and looked down into the valley below and the wind came and smacked us both with unwelcome enthusiasm.  The wind was accompanied by a typical Buttermere shower - short, sharp, cold and very unpleasant.  I had intended to walk along the ridge to the summit and back again but we rapidly went to Plan B and walked back down the track a lot faster than we had come up it.

Daisy got through all the streamlets and puddles without too much difficulty and I was daft enough to think we'd make it back to the car without mishap.  Wrong.  No way was she crossing that last bit of water.  She ran up and down the bank trying to find an alternative way across and got very stressed.  I waded back and forth through the shallow bit to try and encourage her and was reminded in the most horrible of ways that I'd meant to reproof the boots I was wearing.

I didn't want to drag her across because (a) she'd have probably managed to slip out of her harness and (b) making her even more stressed isn't going to cure the problem.  In the end I picked her up again, but half way across I stopped and put her in the water - all 3" of it.  She shot off, fortunately in the right direction and seconds later we were back at the car.

The spare (dry) pair of socks I keep at the bottom of my sack for emergencies felt so very good ...

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Wild, wet, windy and woodwork

We've finally found a carpenter/joiner who we like, trust and who talks to us and does what we want, rather than what he thinks we want.  The fact that he's a mate of Wayne, our builder, and lives in the village helps too.  Before Christmas he built the half wall behind the sink and came back on Monday to panel it and utilise the angled back of the corner cupboard to make a Daisy shelf.  Mad to many people but there was nowhere in the kitchen to safely put her water.  Go on, how many times have you accidentally kicked the dog's water all across the kitchen floor?  Management had the idea of using spare worktop for the shelf and it looks brilliant, we'll paint the timber eventually but for now it's an order of magnitude better than what was there before even if it does look like the inside of a sauna.

Whilst the Woodwork Wizard did his stuff, LP and I installed the windbreak netting across the back fence.  We thought we would be clever and use a double layer, partly to give us more privacy and partly to obscure the view that Mr Clutter dislikes.  We got finished just as a horrendous storm blew in; it wasn't cold but the rain was the sort that is wetter than usual and the winds were frightening.  Rather than come in like sensible people LP and I had to set to and take DOWN the netting we'd just installed.  The section near the shed is fine because that area gets some shelter from the house and garden buildings.  The section nearest the Coppice is the part of the garden which gets thrashed the most and it was obvious that we'd created a sail and the whole fence was going to come down.

There was a deeply unpleasant 20 minutes whilst I stood upwind of the fence leaning against it with every ounce of strength, heels 6" into the muddy ground to brace myself whilst LP worked as fast as possible with cold wet hands to unscrew it all.  At least we could laugh about the fact that he's never been paid to put up netting and then paid to take it all down again in the same morning.

The weather for the rest of the week isn't forecast to be any better so LP and I will not be making any more progress to clear ground for the vegetable patch or next willow fedge. 

On Tuesday the Woodwork Wizard moved the boot room sink and cupboard, including freeing the sink from old worktop and fitting it into new.

I'm struggling not to go down with this dreadful cough/cold that has taken a firm hold of Management's chest and lungs and have bimbled around trying not to mind about boots, coats, sinks and timber everywhere except where it should be.  A few minutes here and there with the sewing machine helped to calm the nerves.  By Wednesday evening all the blocks for this Single Irish Chain were pieced, just got to sew the top together now.

I could have done without the rain getting into the new outside light switch on Tuesday night ...  Long story short, the switch was really hot (and seeing as it's outside and heavily insulated it shouldn't be!), couldn't work out which breaker in the fuse box needed switching off so called our electrician.  Bless him, he came straight round and found that the insulation had failed and the inside of the switch was full of water ..... he made it all safe and came back on Wednesday to fix it.

The plumber put the taps and waste into the sink and as we'd finally located the radiator brackets was able to put the towel rail on the end wall.

Her Ladyship has had a couple of walks down by the river but I think both of us are ready for a longer walk somewhere more interesting. She is more confident near water than she was but still very dubious about going too close to the edge.

Sunday, 27 January 2013


A very relaxing weekend.  Bimbled around on Saturday morning and then spent the rest of the day working on my latest quilt.  For the first time in a very long while the sewing room set-up seemed to 'work' and a great deal was accomplished.  I discovered it is possible to have Sky TV running on the laptop so was able to half concentrate on a rerun of NCIS that I've probably already seen four times whilst Daisy got herself settled under the table.  She was out of the way enough not to be stood on, but could look out of the window when she wanted to.

Didn't make as much progress on Sunday because I was tired, sewed one block, unpicked half of it, sewed it correctly then decided to stop before I did something really stupid ;}

I was tired because Daisy and I had a lovely walk at Whinlatter this morning. There was a hell of a storm last night dumping another 12mm of rain on us with extremely high winds.  It wouldn't even have been possible to get up Sale Fell today without being blown over so we walked up from Spout Force on the Aitken Beck path.  Normally I'm no fan of walking in woods, especially conifers but it seemed OK today and we had shelter for much of the time.

Daisy is taking a great interest in her new surroundings.

Those ears aren't getting any smaller :}

As we headed back to the car there was a rare but welcome glimpse of blue sky!

First daffodils of the year seen in Lorton on the way home.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Hunkering down

Very grey and cold and we were forecast a big dump of snow by mid-day.  I was planning on going for a fell walk with Daisy but at teatime yesterday we met a neighbour who has a 1-year old Labradoodle.  Daisy and Fraser ran around on the green behind the houses until they were both completely out of breath and getting tired.  I have rarely seen two dogs charge around together in such a lunatic fashion and have so much fun, wish I'd had a camera with me.  Needless to say Daisy was very quiet last night, so an hour down by the river this morning was  quite enough for her, especially as we met up with Mad Labradoddle again so the two dogs went nuts and wore each other out.

     Too much speed for in focus photos and I knew the camera battery needed charging and wouldn't have managed video. Daisy was definitely Top Dog in this game but Fraser seemed to love it.

The threatened snow never materialised but it was cold, so cold that I lit the woodburner at 1.00pm - think that is the earliest it has ever gone on and Daisy happily snoozed in front of it all afternoon and evening.  Definitely a day for hunkering down indoors. Thanks to QuiltSue, my huge ironing backlog was dealt with in the afternoon.  Sadly, she did not jump in the car to do it for me, just kept me company on the phone whilst I did laundry!

There has been patchwork progress, unfortunately not quite what I intended.   Starting with 2½" strips that were already cut would produce Country Charmer blocks SO BIG that the design stopped working, and I want to use the Simplicity Layer Cake because I've already had one abortive go with it and want to use the damn thing!  I could do one of two things - make something else with the Layer Cake fabrics, or abandon them (again) and re-start Country Charmer the "right size".  I'm afraid the first option won out - this week I want to be using stuff up and sewing 'something' more than I desperately want to make C.C.

That's not to say I won't have a go at C.C. later on, but right now I am messing around with a sort-of Single Irish Chain.  Whilst it's going to make a very pastel and pretty quilt, it doesn't actually use up a whole lot of the Layer Cake ...

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Garden progress

Cold but dry, so LP was able to put in a whole day.  The first priority was extra windbreak netting as a Daisy Deterrent.  The driveway is a 'supervised zone' but Her Ladyship has found she can wander onto what will one day be shrub beds and access the top of our wall.  She's rather keen to meet anyone and everyone who walks past, I am rather keen to ensure she doesn't!

More muck was moved to fill up the side bed and later topped with chippings from the shrub clearing.  Just need to leave it all for the weather and worms to do their stuff so I can plant in the summer.

After lunch LP installed post extensions along the back fence and next week we will fix windbreak netting to this, similar to what we did along the big side bed.  Ostensibly I am doing this "to ensure Daisy doesn't jump the wooden fence".  The truth is that we're about to plant another willow fedge along the back boundary and I want to give it plenty of protection.  We have a neighbour behind us who was desperate for the leylandii to be cut down and now we've done so he's still not happy because he can see our 'clutter' (log store, shed, greenhouse).  We feel he won't be thrilled at the sight of a willow fedge so the less of it he can see the better - actually, he's not going to be happy about the netting either . . . shrugs shoulders, Hobbit not giving a damn ...

For the rest of the day LP carried on clearing the overgrown shrubbery which is going to become our vegetable patch.  Suspect the 'interesting neighbour' is going to have a conniption fit when he sees us erecting the old wooden greenhouse in this section!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

A bridge too far?

It wasn't as cold and icy this morning but I still didn't feel like getting the car out.  Walking down by the river seemed like a good idea but rather than head west as we've done the last couple of mornings we set off east towards Cockermouth.  This was not one of our best walks, in fact, it would be fair to say this is the worst walk Daisy and I have had. 

First problem, a new fence just inside the first field with a rubbish stile.  Daisy hasn't worked out 'jumping over pig wire fences' yet and frankly I'm in no hurry to teach her.  She had to be lifted over which neither of us particular enjoy.  Half a mile later we came to the next obstacle - a footbridge over a beck.  We needed to cross this in order to remain on the footpath next to the river.  As soon as I got through the kissing gate I could see we were in trouble - Daisy wasn't having anything to do with this alien construction!

- I tried walking across and calling her to follow: no chance.
- Put her on the lead and see if she'll come when attached to me: not flippin' likely.
- Get a firm hold of her walking harness and try to 'half walk/half carry' her across: FORGET IT.  This was the point where poor Daisy screamed, wailed, stuck her legs out totally rigid to brace herself, and then screamed and cried some more.  Needless to say I abandoned that attempt very quickly.  As I explained to Management later, she was not just 'squeaking and whining' in normal 'not-getting-my-own-way' dog fashion, no, this was full-throttle screaming of the sort that you never want to hear from any animal, let alone your own. 

I sat on the steps of the bridge for a few minutes and tried to calm her but Daisy was more intent on forcing herself through the kissing gate fence to get away.  Instant decision - go home or pick her up?  I took the latter option and although she was shaking and not terribly happy, we crossed without further incident and carried on with our walk.  A mile later we came to two small footbridges which cross tiny streams - Madam walked across both with care but no fuss.

This is an 'out and back' walk and I hoped that our return across the bridge would be less stressful.  Well, it was but only because I cut straight to the "pick up and carry option" when it was obvious that Daisy wasn't going over on her own.

The walk didn't end well when we got back to the first field; lifted her over the stupid stile again and had one more obstacle before we were back on the road home.  Large stone slabs stick out to make steps leading up the side of the bridge.  We'd come down them OK an hour earlier but Daisy wasn't happy about going up.  I've never liked these steps, they're barely big enough for one person and there definitely isn't room to deal with a dog who is unhappy.

It may be sometime before Daisy and I attempt this route again, we were both more than happy to get home this morning :{

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Snow day or slow day?

Management went down with a dreadful cough/cold at the weekend, on Monday he was one of four consultants on his current project who didn't make it to the office.  I've also got it but thankfully not as badly so today has very much been "slow day".  Not so much a riverside walk this morning as riverside trudge, although it was much brighter than yesterday and the sky was even trying out a few blue tones.

More cogitating and playing in the afternoon as I try and decide upon fabrics for a new quilt.  It's funny how things creep up on you when least expected.  At the weekend I saw my friend QuiltSue was co-hosting an informal 'quiltalong' dedicated to making a gorgeous quilt pattern called Country Charmer.  Before I knew it, wham, I was "in" and had committed to making this lovely design.  I haven't really felt like working with fabric for the best part of three years but all of a sudden the enthusiasm is back and it has taken very little time for the sewing room table to be strewn with possible fabric choices.

I unearthed a pile of strips cut from a Moda Layer Cake, Simplicity, which were going to be something .... that never happened, plus a Jelly Roll which I have no recollection of acquiring that matches. Months ago I started to strip piece to make 4-patch units and didn't get very far but I still have a fancy to make a pale, pastel quilt.  Unlike anything I've made before and totally daft when Daisy isn't averse to jumping on the bed if she thinks she can get away with it. 

I don't normally bother to blog about this part of the quilt process but I'm doing it to stave off the stagnation that so often happens at this point and a great idea doesn't even get as far as the cutting board, let alone progress enough to become a UFO.  The quilt needs one strong fabric and red seemed the obvious choice, just need to decide which one.  If asked I would say I don't like red but it does seem to appear in an awful lot of my quilts ...

Photos always help me see how different fabrics will look when pieced.  Sleeping Beauty is under the table.  I thought it would take Daisy a while to realise that this newly created bed was a good place to curl up, she's close to me but safe from being stepped on. I regularly underestimate how smart this little girl is, took her about 30 seconds to find the bed, try it for size, and settle down.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Snow Day

Finally Bag End gets a share of the white stuff, that's fairly unusual and I don't expect it to last long.  Perhaps 1½", maybe 2" tops.  The garden looked very grey and dull first thing with a leaden sky and chilly wind.

Daisy was slightly confused; we did think she'd do her "I can't possibly go out in that and get cold" routine but she trotted around the garden seeming quite interested in the changes.

I'd planned to drive to Sale Fell this morning but didn't fancy getting the car out so we had a walk down to the river instead.  Her Ladyship enjoyed herself and had a few 'four feet off the ground zoomies' which tired her out for the afternoon. 

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Watch Hill and Keeping Warm

Watch Hill
The rest of the country is in the grip of Snowmaggedon but in Hobbiton barely a snow flake has fallen.  White stuff is, however, visible on most of the felltops and it is very, very cold.  Daisy and I needed/wanted a decent walk this morning so we toddled off to Watch Hill.

A diminutive little hill on the edge of Cockermouth, mentioned in Wainright's "Outlying Fells".  When we first moved here and rented a house in town I could see Watch Hill from the bedroom window and we often went there with Ollie.  It fell out of favour because the ground around all the gates can get very, very churned up and muddy and there were days when it took longer to clean Ollie's coat after the walk than we'd spent out in the first place. 

It's a nice walk that can be made as long or short as time allows if you carry on into Setmurthy Common or Plantation, which I didn't do today, our little outing was only a couple of miles.  This morning we stayed on the ridge line, such as it is, doubling back just before we got to the common.  Looking at the map, I think I was trespassing.

I'm not sure what the legality is of using this bit of map. have an option to show Ordnance Survey maps which is surprising given how sniffy the OS can be about reproduction of "their" maps without tight licensing and ridiculous fees. 

It wasn't the day for taking decent photos.  Although visibility was rubbish this morning, the potential views from this little hill are outstanding.  It feels slightly surreal being able to see Skiddaw, Whinlatter, the North Western Fells and all the way around to Scotland and then on to Caldbeck, but still be in sight of Cockermouth, the place I'd left Hattie, and most times, back to Bag End.  On a clear day you can probably see the Isle of Man; my back-of-an-envelope calculation is that you can see 25 miles from Skiddaw to the coast and if you add Isle of Man into the equation that would be 60 miles ... some view!

Here's a couple of views of this wonderful vista from two different places.  The white speckles are snowflakes.

Daisy studiously ignored the few sheep wandering around in the top field and is getting very cheeky with regard to the "come back to me when I blow the whistle" training.  I have biscuits in a little pouch hanging off my rucksack and get one out, then blow the whistle so that I can reward her as soon as she returns.  If little Madam notices me open the biscuit pouch she starts sprinting back to me BEFORE the whistle goes .....

Parking is easy at the bottom of the road leading to Higham and the journey has the benefit of requiring me to go through Main Street - perfect opportunity for 10 minutes shopping if necessary without having to go out of my way.  I can see us doing this walk on many, many occasions in future.
     The light changed to allow a view down towards Lorton Vale and Buttermere.

Keeping Warm
Last week at the beach Daisy and I got a bit wet.  Although her posh Hurtta coat is waterproof the outer layer was wet enough that I took it off when we returned to the car.  It would have been useful to have a soft, dry coat in the car to keep her warm until we got home.  I could go and buy a proper greyhound rug but for a laugh knocked up a little 'house coat' out of half a yard of fleece. 

Daisy loves it and will pull the fleece off the chair/radiator/table to tell me she wants to wear it.  We find this very odd having never subscribed to the 'dogs in clothes' thing, and being used to Ollie who had such a thick coat of his own that our problem was keeping him cool, not warm!  Today's little excursion has worn Her Ladyship out - and suitably attired she settled down in front of the wood burner whilst I spent the afternoon watching snooker.

(anyone else noticed I've got some dirt on the lens of the little Panasonic that I cannot seem to clean off?  Grrrr)