Sunday, 23 October 2016

Rollercoaster week

Bit of a rollercoaster at Bag End since the last post, plenty of wonderful "ups" and a couple of crashing "downs".  The first down came last Thursday when Danny's daughter phoned to tell me he had passed away during the night.  Not unexpected because we knew when he moved that he had cancer (and at 91, you're not going to recover from that) but it was still very upsetting.   She asked me to let many of his friends know, so I seemed to spend much of the next two days talking to neighbours, which in and of itself is not a bad thing . . .

Until Management retires we are at the mercy of his business diary, and so it was that whilst I was finishing getting the caravan ready, he was in Suffolk.  This meant an early solo start on Saturday and an 80-mile tow to Scotch Corner where M. was already waiting, standing on the corner to guide me into the caravan parking area, bless him:)    Our couple of hours at Ropers saying goodbye to the Lunar and collecting Rosie the Rimini (?) were a blur of activity and sadly the only photo I remembered to take was this one:

Daisy was quite brilliant and took all the upheaval very, very well.

Not surprisingly, Sunday was a blob of exhaustion and inactivity, but the next couple of days were great fun as we started to fill up Rosie with all our bits and bobs.  Not quite so much fun was keeping an eye on the weight.  Non-caravany people might think you can bung pretty much anything in a new van until the cupboards are full, but if you're being careful nothing could be further from the truth.  Caravans do not have big payloads, ours is 'officially' 163kg although there is stuff you can do to gain a few kg (such as changing the gas bottle for a 'Lite' version).  That might sound a lot but essentials such as the motor mover and a leisure battery weight 32kg and 25kg respectively.  User payload immediately down to 106kg.  Other items like water carriers, awning, chairs add more weight, and so it goes on until you suddenly find you're run out of payload.

We've been fairly ruthless about what does and does not need to go back into the caravan, what travels in the car, and the spreadsheet has been refined and tuned and refined again and again - interesting exercise.  I thought we had loading under control with the Lunar and I had the chassis re-plated to give me extra wiggle room, but that's not possible with the new caravan.

Madam is not always a willing model:) !

Wednesday and Thursday were full of compost, horticultural grit and tulip bulbs . . . 300 bulbs to be precise.  Unfortunately there are still a lot more to be taken care of.  Sadly bulb planting is not particularly photogenic - nor is putting the biggest, fattest garlic cloves from this year's harvest in the ground :)

Friday was eclipsed by the funeral.  Hated it but had to go.  Management could not attend because of a meeting.  Saturday = collapse, veg out, walk Daisy, read Kindle, do very little else.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Caravan quilts, the full story

It is absolutely PERSISTING it down outside but if the BBC Weather app is to be believed, by 3.00pm I might be able to get outside and do some gardening.  As it is far too wet to run 'stuff' down to the caravan the floor of my study continues to be a huge mess.  Even though I swore it would not happen (and have to admit to having a spreadsheet recording the weight of everything we initially put into the Lunar), like most people we seem to have suffered from mission creep and only about half of what came out of the old caravan is going to go into the new one.

So, I might as well spend the time doing a much-overdue catch up post.

I've already written about the piecing here and here, and at the end of January there was an enormous amount of faffing about to make best use of the backing material.  Despite much messing around the red quilt (destined for the bathroom) ended up with a different fabric.

Early February saw a quilting marathon using one of the nicest pantographs patterns I've ever come across - Feathered Curls by Irene Steel.  

Although by the time I had sewn it on six panels I was getting a little bored!

There followed a mammoth binding session and "tra la", the quilts were (nearly) finished and there were no more blog updates.  And now there is no more caravan which needs a serious injection of colour . . . but nothing quilted is ever wasted and I don't feel irritated or bothered to have gone through all that work.  The red panel has already found a new home on the kitchen table where it complements the green walls

and the big green panel will go into our new van either to protect a bed or sofa, and a deep green 'Bali Pop' of pre-cut strips should be enough to make a complementary quilt of a similar size.  Which means that now I have a reason to get in the sewing room, there might just be some fabric action in the near future!

Friday, 14 October 2016

Caravan cleaning

Our Lovely Lunar is leaving on Saturday and we are determined that she will be the cleanest and tidiest part-exchange caravan that Ropers have ever received, so that's another two or three days taken care of.

I am reminded just HOW MUCH we did not like those shiny brown curtains . . . in fact, I had forgotten just how brown the whole caravan was.  I've not forgotten the glorious colourfulness (is that a word?) of the quilt set I made for this van, and some pieces of it will find a home in the new caravan.  Management wants to use the rest in the house which sounds like a splendid idea.

So that this is not an entirely brown blog post, this gorgeous pile of fresh green-ness came out of the greenhouse tonight and contributed to a lovely salad supper.  It includes spinach, parsley, winter purslane, lambs lettuce, beet leaves, and numerous unnamed lettuce from the 'mixed leaves' packets.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

I'll have a little sit down now . . .

(Oh dear, this time I really have been too busy for my own good. I wrote this post on 11th October which is the date that will appear at the top . . . even though it didn't get published until the 17th; been a tad occupied doing other things!) 

It has been pointed out (more than once) that I do seem to cram rather a lot into each day.  Well, yes . . . but my excuse is that I have a lot to get done! So I thought I'd have a little go at writing some of the ordinary stuff down.

Yesterday afternoon I cut all the grass (except the Cottage Garden which was done at the weekend).  Not surprisingly, despite a soak in the bath, there was shoulder discomfort most of the night so I started today a little groggy.  However, by lunchtime I realised I had done nearly all the laundry, filed the log baskets, had a cooked breakfast, given Daisy a gentle 2½ mile opportunity to stop and sniff at nearly every leaf and blade of grass en route, baked a loaf of bread and made a huge pot of braised red cabbage for the freezer.  Both the apples and garlic came from the garden, self-congratulatory pat on back!

After a well deserved midday sit-down, I spent a happy few hours tootling up and down with the tractor moving home-made compost to the box hedge near the Big Pond and the asparagus bed.

Some of our asparagus did not do well last year with hardly any of the Pacific Purple crowns appearing, although we had a surprisingly good harvest of the green (Gijnilm).  The purple will (probably) all come out next Spring but for the time being I've mulched the whole lot with home-made compost, a seaweed feed, and covered it all with shredded bark/leaves.  Coupled with a little protection from the net cage, fingers crossed that these finickity plants will be happy.  Yes, I know asparagus is meant to be drop-dead easy-peasy to grow but that hasn't been the case at Bag End :(

The intention (I'm not going to say plan anymore!) was I would stop around 5.00, and that Management would come and help me wash the outside of the caravan.  Only it took me until nearer 6.00 o'clock to finish mulching the asparagus by which time my lovely hubby had washed 80% of the van so he told me to go inside, run a bath, and he'd finish . . . bless him. xxx

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Painting, part-ex and a busy weekend

Another weekend of exceptional weather, not as warm as during the week but we are still blessed with almost wall-to-wall sunshine and very little breeze.  When Autumn finally sets in it will come as a horrible shock to us all :(  More than a little busy the whole weekend, much of which could not - as usual - have been achieved without endless work from Management, bless him.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that we bought LP's old trailer.  It needed two new wheels and tyres and a damn good clean but ended up costing us about a third of the price of a new one.  I think I have found a new source of stable manure; if I can tow a caravan I can definitely manage a little trailer full of muck!

I gave the new balcony steps a close encounter of the Cuprinol kind, and three coats later they look a lot better.

I made a fairly feeble start on painting the net-house.  I managed about a third of one side before Management came to take over as we both realised that painting and my shoulders cannot co-exist for more than an hour or so before problems set in :(   Completing the rest of that side took him all of Saturday afternoon and a chunk of Sunday too.  Neither of us are looking forward to doing the other side . . . but he's done a brilliant job and the frame looks even better now than it did before.

Someone supervised:

I focussed on domesticity and gave the caravan a thorough blitzing.  We are trading it in as part-exchange towards our new one and whilst I am quite sure some people would deliver the old caravan in whatever state it happened to be in, that's not our way.  I rehung the horrible shiny brown curtains and remembered exactly why I detested them and took them down in the first place!

(M. has a new very wide-angle lens for astrophotography but it is manual focus . . . and I definitely have not yet got the hang of it)

The very last of the blueberries were picked and made an extremely indulgent brunch.  We've been picking this fruit since mid-June, nearly four months of daily berries and a huge quantity in the freezer as well.  Definitely one of the best crops we've ever grown.


Thursday, 6 October 2016


It took Alan barely half a day to finish the net-house frame.  To me, even though it is made entirely of recycled and scavenged timber, it is a thing of beauty.

Inside the space there is already a sense of enclosure, of being gently surrounded and protected, it has a lovely feeling.  I do hope the plants which find themselves in these beds will be as happy as I am!

For now, as we relish an unusually dry, sunny and warm beginning to October, it is a gorgeous shadow-land.  Suppose I'd better make a start on painting it . . .

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Lovely day

As Tuesdays go, this one has been rather lovely :)   Any morning which starts with a sunrise like this is going to be a good one.

Thanks to Kate's recommendation, we have found a lovely carpenter in Alan, who turned up first thing and managed to be completely unfazed during the day by the rather "fluid" way in which things are designed and created at Bag End.

Built completely 'on the fly' and made up entirely from recycled and scavenged timber, Alan is well on the way to making a solid frame that we are going to cover with net.  He's easy to work with and the conversations durng the day were interesting and varied, the most unusual being different ways to compost human poo!

These last pictures were taken late and aren't the best:

It cannot have been too stressful - I have just received a text to confirm he will be back at 8.30 tomorrow to finish up!

I toyed with the possibility of putting a polytunnel over these beds but it was one of those ideas which never sat well, and I knew deep down that it would not work.  Apart from winding up Mr Clutter it would look a bit too 'allotment' and we didn't think it would sit well with what we've created in this part of the garden.  Whilst I want to provide shelter and protection for food crops, polytunnels can get ludicrously hot in summer, will probably be just as cold as the outside in winter, and I'll need to water the beds all year.  With net we'll get some protection from wind, (hopefully) a little filtering of rain, and covered in green mesh fingers are crossed it will look OK!

Saturday, 1 October 2016

I'm sorry - it's not you, it's me. It is not your fault that we must part . . .

Somewhere in the deep recesses of the mind an idea had been slowly cooking, pushed away onto a backburner with no intention to turn up the heat until well into next year, or maybe even 2018.

But in typical Bag End style, nothing stays still for long and so it was that Management, Daisy and I had a lovely drive along the A66 this morning, spent a couple of hours in North Yorkshire, and came home with a piece of paper which says in a couple of weeks we will be the proud Mummy and Daddy of:

These are 'library pictures' from the manufacturer.  By the time we'd done the deal it was raining too hard to go traipsing back to 'our' caravan to take photos.

Betsy the Bailey?
Rosie the Rimini?

Nomenclature can come later, for now we're sitting with coffee and a bun slightly in shock at our profligacy.  And why, when I adore the Lovely Lunar, will a very nice 2013 caravan soon be on the 'used' forecourt?

Well, for our first caravan the Lunar has been exceptional, but it is not perfect.  It was my insistence that we have the double bed layout, but in practical terms that hasn't worked so well, both for sleeping and for the sheer weight of the mattress and supports when gaining access to the space underneath.

And with silly (but typical of the industry) design features such as putting two heavy gas bottles right at the front, and the fully-loaded fridge and 25kg battery also ahead of the axle, safely packing the van to maintain the proper noseweight is a bloomin' hassle.  And the Lunar bathroom - mahooosive, almost big enough for us both to wash and dress at the same time, which amounts to a huge waste of space that would be better employed (for us) for living.

And so it came to pass we made a decision that, at some distant point in the future, we'd change the van for a different layout.  Which is a fine intention until M. said "why don't you ring a few companies and see what sort of offers are around just ahead of the big show at the NEC".   So I did, and the result was - ooops!!!   A caravan which addresses every single 'design' problem and gives us more space and better laid-out storage, a much bigger fridge, and hopefully an enhanced "caravan experience".  (It bloomin' better, we mutter darkly . . . .)

And a Small Person, who really does not like long car journeys, behaved beautifully but was very, very happy to get home :)

I struggled for a while as to whether to document this at Bag End.   A blog I thoroughly enjoy (but the writer is taking time off at present) is Sadie at A Life in the English Rain.  In her recent 'Gratitude' post she covered something which I have also had problems with - if you write about a new acquisition does it come over as boasting?  We live in such a dreadfully unequal world, in an unfair society, that sometimes I feel I should keep quiet about buying new things.  But then I rationalised that the blog is meant to be my personal journal so I have to write about this sort of stuff, otherwise as a record for me to refer back to in my future dotage, it becomes useless.

So here it is, acquisition laid bare.  We do not drink, or smoke, or take drugs, and we never book expensive foreign holidays,  I have no sparkly expensive shoes or designer jeans.  Neither does Management.  For all of our lives we have adhered to the doctrine of saving money for our retirement and we do have a habit of saving every spare penny we can each month.  Which is all well and good, except that my recent health issues have, whilst never being worthy of hospitalisation or major treatment, shown us that good health can be fleeting and even supposedly 'small' things can impact hugely on your quality of life and ability to do what you want.

So whilst not going bonkers, we feel that although it is all very well having money in a savings account "for later", we might as well spend a bit of it now, because "later" might not be as healthy or active or nice as we would like it to be.

Like I said earlier, oops!!!