Saturday, 29 September 2018

Preparing for winter

I make no secret of being less than delighted that the year is moving swiftly towards another winter, but pretending it is not happening ain't going to make the slightest bit of difference!  Better instead, to spend two fairly bright and decent days working with Management and filling the log store.  We spent all of Thursday and Friday working outside much to Daisy's disgust, but the end result was worth it.

That's a lovely lot of timber, should be more than enough to see us through until next Spring.

The bags hold all the stupidly shaped and awkward bits.

The blue trays hold smallish bits, bigger than kindling but too small to be in the log store, invaluable as an intermediary size when starting the fire.

These large logs are ear-marked for some messing around at the Big Pond:

Happily Storm Ali or whatever it was called did not rip the tarp into shreds, so this morning we need to rearrange the big log pile and fix the tarpaulin for winter.

Very tired at the end of it, a definite sign that neither of us are as young as we used to be (another thing to be unimpressed about but, like the coming winter, unable to do much to stop the process).  Our version of "all day" really only amounts to about four hours work - by the time we've got up,  had breakfast,  and walked Daisy it is time for coffee . . . so we rarely get started on chores until at least 11.00am.  After a couple of hours it is time for lunch, then another two hours until Madam's 4.00pm walk, and by the time we've cleared up the garden and put everything away it's time for a shower and then start cooking.

Happily, I am surprisingly free of aches and pains this morning - so maybe I am not yet as physically decrepit as I felt mid-afternoon on Friday 😊

Coming in on Thursday I noticed the sun hitting the fruit cage and the blueberry bushes look gorgeous.  Despite thinking the very hot weather would finish off the crop earlier than usual, I have been eating huge quantities of berries nearly every day for weeks;  I'll have the last bowl of the season tonight.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Local outing

A quick trip this morning to Larch Cottage Nursery, I haven't been there for many years and fancied visiting somewhere different.  I got a bit confused and turned up on a day when the private parts of the garden were closed, but no matter, it is still a fascinating place to wander around with lots to see and the benefit of every single plant having a proper label.   It would be lovely if all gardens & nurseries could do the same.

The only plant which really caught my eye was this Aster, but at Larch Cottage's prices it stayed put, given how many would be needed to make a decent display at Bag End I will have to do some searching and see if seeds are available online. 

There is some absolutely gorgeous stock at the nursery, but it doesn't come cheap . . .

I wonder what Management will make of this little obelisk, 4 foot tall and £75 . . . I am sure he could weld something very similar if I asked him.

The little shop is a cornucopia of beautiful and interesting bits & bobs than no-one really needs, with an art gallery upstairs.

After the sticker-shock of 21st century gardening I wanted somewhere far simpler for lunch.  A short detour off the A66 provided exactly what I needed, and very strong wind meant that whilst the parking area was busy, most visitors stayed for less than 10 minutes so I almost had the stones to myself, which was rather lovely, and unexpected.

Volume might need to be turned down for this video, the wind noise is substantial!

Monday, 24 September 2018

Autumn is upon us

I don't care how many times Monty Don eulogises that now is the beginning of the gardening year, it is the end.  For me it is not a time to look forward eagerly, but a time to note what did not happen, what I never got round to doing, be sad about that which failed and did not grow well and to grudgingly admit that those Grand Plans I made earlier in the year are just not going to come to fruition in 2018.  Every night when I take Daisy out after supper it is just that little bit darker, soon I will need a torch.

Autumn Equinox marks the turning point and increasing darkness, now I look forward eagerly to the winter solstice after which it will get a little lighter each day.  I know I should not wish life away, but at this time of year I do.

The Silly Shopping Season seems to have started even earlier this year, this lot appeared on local shelves within hours of children going back to school.  I used to be such a sucker for Christmas decorations, but these days I rarely see anything that doesn't look like cheap tat 😠

Kate wrote the most beautiful post today.  I wish those were my words - they certainly should be because it is exactly how I feel.  Things which I normally just get on with feel like heavy chores;  it is a horrible feeling and I mentally slap myself upside the head to try and shake out of it.  I tell myself not to be ridiculous - yes, I have a huge amount of lawn to cut but that is because I have a beautiful, large garden - something that so many people would love to have.  It's the same with cooking, cleaning, laundry, but hey {shrugs shoulders} "we are where we are" as Management is so fond of saying.

I made a massive batch of bolognaise sauce this morning; normally it is a pleasure and I know what a blessing it is to be able to prepare and store so many lovely meals for us over the coming weeks.  Today it was just a slog and I hope that is not reflected in the flavour.

I had planned a short trip away in the campervan but I'm not going, my heart just isn't in it and I know that is entirely down to the time of year, the lessening of daylight, the chill in the air first thing. Instead I will treat myself to some 'proper' days out, it feels like that is more what I need right now.

It is not all doom and gloom, Management and I have worked on the wood pile this week and three afternoons later we're half way to a full log store.   I had forgotten the mess of "small stuff" stored at the back of the shed, so I had a session with the circular saw whilst M. serviced the chainsaw.  Then we opened up the big log pile, and he cut long stuff whilst I had fun with the splitter.

This is why standing in front of a log splitter is never, ever a good idea,  (the odd noise is a brief but intense shower - once again the covered area proves to be invaluable 😊)

By staying at home this week I can spend a little more time on my Autumn Trip Around the World.  I joked a few days ago that it would be nice to have the entire quilt finished by the end of the month,  hmmm, unlikely to happen but it would be good to at least have the top completed.

The top half is sewn together, the bottom section just pinned.  I had just enough fabric to make one additional row all around, and have started auditioning borders.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Unexpected, and not unexpected

Like all of our neighbours, yesterday we moved everything in the garden which could be expected to blow away/blow over and settled down for a noisy night.

The wind was not as strong as I anticipated but even so it was enough to disturb Daisy who got stressed enough to insist on getting up at 1.20am and going outside to eat grass for 20 minutes . . .  This is not the first time this has happened, it surely won't be the last, and it guarantees I don't get back to sleep properly for the remainder of the night and am thoroughly shattered the following day.

Which did not start brilliantly for either of us because a six-monthly health check meant that Daisy and I were in the car at 8.30 this morning heading for Egremont.  Yes, there's a branch of the vet group 2 miles down the road in Cockermouth, but when we have a choice we make her appointments with John Sedgwick who mainly works out of a different surgery.   Madam dribbled, drooled and trembled all the way there, and back again, but got a cleanish bill of health (for a 12 or 13 year old dog).  Sadly she has never enjoyed car travel and I don't think we are going to change that at this stage.    John called later with her blood test results which are so good that she could pass for 5 or 10, clever girl :)

Management tried to take her for a proper walk when I returned but the wind had picked up and Her Ladyship was clearly not having a good time, so they came home and she settled down for some serious sleeping, after all - she'd had a disturbed night and there were some missing Zzzzz's to be reclaimed.

Not unexpected:  Storm Ali is doing very little to us compared to how other parts of the country are faring, the runner beans have taken a pounding and by the time a couple more weather fronts have moved through (Sunday according to the latest forecast) I suspect we will have lost the new tarpaulin over the big log pile.

Unexpected:  With the wind gusting strongly all day, and a tired brain that no amount of coffee was going to remedy, the sensible thing for me to do was some gentle sewing that doesn't require too much effort and intellect.  Yesterday I laid out all the strips for my Halloween quilt and today I have made a slow start on putting them together.  Given how much mauling some of the strips have experienced, the pieces are nestling together really well and it's lovely and flat.

I would be lying if I did not admit just how pleased I am with how this is turning out  πŸ˜Š

How (not) to make a TATW quilt

Months ago, in a fit of tidying up, I "borrowed" lots of storage boxes from Management and sorted out various piles of fabric.  Some of the boxes contain unfinished projects, some have a collection of material that is intended for something which has never been started, and some are together because they just go together (if you're a quilter you will understand that completely - if you're not, don't worry, we're a strange breed!)    Trouble is, that's about as far as it got - and there is not a lot of point organising all this fabric into kit-like form so it can be used, if I don't then use it.

But a couple of weeks ago, 9th September according to the date-stamp on a photo,  I decided it was time that a small collection of Halloween themed fabric became something other than a pile of material.  It was obvious (to me at least) that a Trip Around the World quilt would be a quick, easy and satisfying way to create something*, even if it was small and might end up a table cloth or dog blankie. Everything started so well:  pull fabrics and spend all afternoon laying them out, auditioning them to decide whether they blended nicely with others, and what the order should be.

( * quick, easy and satisfying way to create something - hold that thought, it might be useful later😊😊 )

With the TATWs for the campervan I wanted in-your-face loud & colourful, but for this piece I wanted a gentle blend between colours and patterns, more like the batik quilt which started this current obsession.

Eventually I settled on 11 fabrics, cut 2½" strips and sewed them together, a 'dark' stripset and a 'autumny' stripset.  On first glance it looked like they would be OK together, first mistake:

But I sliced up the strips and had a play with different layouts.  Apart from the obvious one which does not work (and ignoring all the versions I didn't photograph), it seemed that the quilt was far too dark and I needed more 'autumn'.

Some stash hunting produced four more FQ's which fitted the bill.

So now, "all" I had to do was unpick every single loop, insert a new section, and sew all the loops back together again. Sheesh.  It was about this time I discovered that one of the new fabrics had been badly cut and I could only get seven strips from it, instead of the eight I had for every other . . . ignore that problem until another day.

Sometime later, I now had a stripset of 15 fabrics which I was happy with, and various layouts were played with ending in this one.  At one point I had all of the top half of the quilt laid out, but for some reason there's no picture.

It was about this time I realised I hated the black fabric with little stars - too dominant, too prominent.  Once upon a time I'd have kept going but not any more.  What started as a little "wet weekend project" had - as usual - morphed into "I have to make this as good as I possibly can, even if it takes twenty times longer than planned", and experience tells me if one fabric is bugging me at this stage, carrying on and finishing the quilt is not going to make me like that particular pattern/colour any more.  What it will do, is spoil the whole quilt - forever.

Such fun to unpick a 2½" seam, 120 times (60 strips), and then sewing all the strips back into loops . . . the little black squares are now in the compost bin.  As 100% cotton they can do some good in the garden, because they sure ain't going to do any good in a quilt.

For the next stage I decided to try and take advantage of technology:   I have fifteen fabrics and laid the strips on the design board in 14 different ways.

Then I took four variations and wasted spent the best part of an afternoon trying to get to grips with my newly upgraded Electric Quilt 8 which has a photo import feature.  There were sweary words and much muttering of "bloody software developers", but I got there in the end.   I suppose I could have done all 14 but then I'd have lost the will to live.

You would think I might be happy now - getting rid of the black fabric was definitely the right thing to do and I thought I had a decent layout which emphasises the autumn colours.  Only, now I look at it again I'm seeing a dark "bullseye" in the centre, which I don't like:

There are enough gnarly weather fronts due in the next two or three days that I'm going to have a bit of indoor time to play with this some more  . . .  and this was meant to be a quick and satisfying little quilt, clearly that is another plan which hasn't worked out too well.