Saturday, 30 November 2013

Christmas Charmer

Back in January (eek, was it really the beginning of the year, where has 2013 gone?) lots of quilters around the blogosphere decided to make a quilt called Country Charmer, designed by Lynn Wilder.  I joined in but didn't get very far.  I did, however, get this top made which I'm delighted with for two reasons.  One is that it's something I have wanted to create for ages and the other is that it got me sewing again after a couple of years when I didn't touch a needle or thread.

Fast forward to late summer during a chat with my friend Sue.  She is good friends with Lynn and let me into a secret.  Not only was she making a proper Country Charmer quilt but there was another quilt being created about which Lynn knew nothing - a smaller version, in Christmas fabrics.  I asked to see the design and was instantly smitten.


I knew I could scale this up from Sue's 8" blocks to 12" and it leant itself to Sue's signature style of just using four fabrics.  A huge departure for me because I come from the "why on earth restrict yourself to four fabrics when you could use forty" school of quiltmaking.

I started the top on 20th September

It was finished except for final borders by the 29th (told you I was smitten) and completed three days later.  I decided to add large outer borders to give myself space to get into serious trouble with the quilting which, naturally, has not started yet.  The pastel Irish Chain quilt has only been sitting on a hanger since February, so this one had no chance of being finished for Christmas 2013!  Despite the atrocious photo the top is a beautiful 65" square and is going to be stunning once it's covered with quilted feathers :}

As this was a surprise for Lynn I promised Sue not to show it until today.  Daisy got in on the act and is trying to hide the design as best she can ...

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Solitude on Sale Fell

After far too many consecutive days spent in the garden Daisy and I needed to get out for a proper walk.  Despite it being relatively clear and dry at the altitude where normal people spend their days, higher up it was cloudy and visibility wasn't too good.  That's probably why, when we arrived at Sale Fell, I had the unusual experience of being the only person there.  I think this is probably only the second time ever that we've had the place to ourselves. It was a lovely walk, both Madam and I seemed to have loads of energy and we hit the summit with barely a pause en route.  It makes a difference when there's little visibility and therefore reduced reasons to stop and get a camera out!

I was talking to a neighbour recently who has sheep and commented on how it's possible to walk Daisy very close to sheep without them becoming spooked by our presence.  She reckoned that the animals aren't always as stupid as they pretend and know who they have to be concerned about, it would appear Little Miss Perfect isn't on that list :}

She's learnt that sitting nicely on the summit always produces biscuits and then, just for the hell of it (and a new pair of very lightweight Haglofs) I ran nearly all the way back to the car.  Well stuff that for a game of tiddlywinks, I really don't think I'll be taking up fell-running any time soon.

Apart from the risk of slipping on damp grass when travelling at speed and the additional pounding and load which running places on ankles, knees and hips, there is the significant and unpredictable danger of an over-excited dog who thinks that Mummy travelling at a pace which matches hers is such terrific fun that she'll see just how many times she can run under my feet.  I have no idea how the pair of us didn't end up a mess of falling arms and legs but I think I will go back to descending at a more leisurely pace in future.  I'm definitely too old for all this sprinting around :}

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Veg Patch

LP has been otherwise occupied for the last few weeks and concerned that he's done nothing since October when we had a huge delivery of timber for the vegetable patch.  Which is why I spent a very cold Friday, Saturday, Monday and a bit of Tuesday outside . . .

Friday:  Our first job (there is manner in my madness) was to have him put the remainder of our bark chip supply in plastic bags which we moved up to the nursery area.  It's starting to rot down and I'll be putting it on beds as a mulch.

We then spent an hour in the lane by the side of the garden sweeping up fallen leaves.  There don't seem to be as many as last year but we still collected ten big wheelie bins full which LP has stomped down in the compost bin so it looks less than there is.

After lunch we finally got to the vegetable patch and spent the afternoon measuring, setting out, preparing posts and doing all the things which take ages and leave very little to show for the effort.

Saturday didn't start nicely.  For some reason I hadn't slept well and was still in my dressing gown when LP showed up.  He can be irritatingly cheerful first thing in the morning :{  Progress was frustratingly slow, probably one of those 'least said the better' days, but we had three-quarters of an 8 metre box built by the time we stopped.

I wasn't up early enough on Monday to look for Comet ISON.

However, we did get to finish an eight metre long raised bed and make exponential progress on a terrace of beds next to the trellis.  I hadn't exactly planned these - but I hadn't completely not planned them either.  What I mean is that they existed on one of the many sketches I've done over the last few months but I wasn't sure.  However, once the big bed was completed and we looked at the space it was obvious what would work and look good.  There are b*gger all photos of the work in progress, which is a shame but doesn't really matter.  We put in a couple of hours Tuesday afternoon to finish up and I am still walking around pinching myself HARD.

This doesn't just look good, it looks absolutely fan-flippin-tastic.  Every time I walk past these beds I stop and go "WOW".  I still can't believe that something this gorgeous has been created in my garden in a matter of days.  There's finishing up to do - more DPC on the insides and we're going to put a couple of internal braces in but that's down in the noise.  Can I actually grow veggies which will do justice to these amazing beds?

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Final fire

LP is due on Friday to start constructing raised beds in the vegetable patch so I had a small window of opportunity in which to have the final bonfire and chose Wednesday night for the inferno.  Once we've filled up this area with carefully constructed beds there won't be anywhere at Bag End to have conflagrations, large or small.

A chance conversation meant I added a small pile of leylandii clippings from a neighbour to my own rubbish.  They were both incredibly grateful and completely confused as to why I would want to burn their rubbish.  I didn't bother to explain it was a last, personal farewell to Fangorn Forest; they already think I am completely barking and references to Tolkien would have possibly tipped them over the edge :}

Daisy stayed inside, she might like to lie as close as physically possible to the woodburner but she was very unimpressed with a garden bonfire.

The Final Fire was a good one - lit easily, got going well and burnt through everything, there was very little left in the morning.  It was still windy so I had to nip out of the way of a shower of sparks on a few occasions but, amazingly, for once the wind was coming from the north and I didn't send smoke in the direction of any neighbours.

Once everything was on the pyre I sat with a bottle of cold beer and fire-gazed, well, it would have been rude not to. There's something very satisfying about sitting cogitating in front of a fire, I think that's why I love the wood burner so much :}

It was a good end to our Bag End Bonfire antics, hopefully in future I will be able to compost or shred nearly all the rubbish the garden produces. 

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Daisy: the first 365 days

Hard to believe a year has gone by since we brought a scared and half-starved little dog back home to Bag End.  We celebrated her first anniversary with a short walk at Whinlatter.  Too windy today to go up on the tops so we had a lovely 3 miles through the forest and Madam, as always, behaved beautifully and seemed to enjoy herself thoroughly.  As if she knew it was a special day, I actually got her to sit and wait whilst I took today's portrait.  Normally she will do the sit - and as I step back to take a picture she comes to join me.

Looking back it is difficult to remember just how underweight she was.   As James said earlier "Little Miss Skin & Bone is now Little Miss Muscles". 

Not a Collie-cross and certainly not 8 years old.  When the kennel staff brought her out to us I remember saying to Management "oh heck, that's not what we've come for".  But we'd driven 80 miles and the dog was so excited to be out of her concrete prison, so of course we took her for a walk and then sat with her in the staff room for a while to try and get to know her.  That's all it took to realise what a special little girl she was.


Sunday, 17 November 2013

Busy at Bag End

It has been a busy week but not much has seemed particularly 'blog-worthy'.  On Tuesday we didn't walk to the summit of Darling Fell - which means we got within about 100 yards and the wind was so strong (and cold) that Daisy could hardly stand up, let alone make forward progress.  When we turned around to retrace our steps she was a much happier little dog :}

     Not the view from a summit, but lovely nonetheless!

Instead we walked all the way along the old road to Mosser and back again, not the walk I'd planned but still very pleasant. This is what happens to roads when Cumbria Highways stop maintaining them and leave rain, snow and ice to do their worst.

Midweek we had a long saunter around the park in Cockermouth whilst Hattie's winter tyres were being put on and there were a couple of days where we walked along the river.  A round trip of 2½ miles, it's a nice walk and convenient when I don't want to drive anywhere.

    Daisy is gaining confidence near the river - here she's trying to work out why the long grass is underwater.  Thankfully she shows no desire to get any closer and that's fine with me.

None of this is enough to wear out Her Ladyship.  On Friday we did "Latrigg the long way' and walked through Brundleholme Woods as far east as you can go and then up the hillside which turned the route into a little over 5 miles.  A lovely walk although probably not one I'll do again. The path is on the south side of the fell with a constant drone of noise from the A66,  if I want those sound effects on a walk I can get them down by the river without having taken the car out.  Walking isn't just about exercise or the meditative rhythm of taking one step after another, it's a search for silence, and in that department this route fails that spectacularly.

It also failed in my quest to see what I needed to do to wear out Daisy.  She was happily tired in the evening but Saturday morning Little Miss Perfect was once again full of beans and raring to go.  We've created a muscle-clad monster :}

At home it was a busy week; the Kona Bay quilt is completely finished and Daisy approves of the fleece back, no surprises there!  I quilted the 'Random' top after much procrastination about which pattern to use.  In the end I went with the first of a possible five that came to hand but I'm not thrilled with it; Featheration by Meredith England is a lovely design but it does not interlock as much as I like.

In between showers there's been work in the garden but autumn gardening is not particularly photogenic.  Sweeping up leaves and planting daffodil bulbs doesn't result in much to show for all the work.

    Someone had WAY too much fun packing this up for despatch

     Daisy is convinced I only go into the garden in order to play with her ...

Friday, 15 November 2013


Clematis "Guernsey Cream".

It is growing in about the most exposed location you could find at Bag End - over the arbour in the Cottage Garden.

It is confused.

It is in flower:

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Winter is here

(click on this one to enlarge)

It's not yet cold enough for this to last, as soon as it rains we'll be back to brown/green/sludge.  Sure is pretty though :}

Saturday, 9 November 2013

You can't always plan tomorrow

Our lives and activities are significantly affected and influenced by the weather, far more than anywhere else I've lived.  Certainly everyone, wherever they are, has to take a coat if it's cold or wet but up here the course of an entire day is moulded by what is (or is not) falling out of the sky onto our heads.

Yesterday was a prime example; the weather forecast predicted a murky morning brightening in the afternoon.  Wrong.  I did all the shopping and errands before lunch and took Daisy up to Whinlatter mid-afternoon.  We arrived at Hobcarton car park, sat for five minutes, and drove back to Cockermouth; the heavens had opened with fury and intent.  Plan B was a pleasant hour bimbling around the park in Cockermouth where there hadn't been a drop of rain.

At 7.00am today the rain fell as hail and the garden was, briefly, completely white.  By 9.00am the clouds had lifted enough to give us the first view of some very white fells.  A little later, from the side of Sale Fell, it looked like this:

Skiddaw is somewhere under that cloud. I'm glad I wasn't there today, it was slippery underfoot as the hail turned to slush.

For a dog who hates getting cold and wet, Little Miss Perfect charged about having a wonderful time.  When I picked up some compressed hail and threw it for her like a snowball she leapt five feet in the air, caught the 'snow' and barked in delight.  Then demanded I did it again.  And again.  And again!  She was better at catching than I am at photographing :}

Lovely walk, although a little breezy at times - first 'hat' outing of the year :}  Between Sale summit and Lothwaite we were hit by a ten minute hail storm and Daisy was not impressed.  Her default position in dreadful weather is to try and run away from it and the last thing I wanted was her careening off the fell in the opposite direction to the car.  Thankfully, putting the lead on calms her down - I think being 'attached' to me gives her some confidence.  No harm done, back to the car safely and no surprises where she spent late afternoon and all evening:

(No, of course she doesn't need a coat on when the fire is lit.  It was [forcibly] removed a short while later)