Monday, 26 July 2021

A view through glass - with a proper camera

Thank you for such lovely, lovely comments about the goldfinches enjoying our 'mini-meadow'. They encouraged me to make the effort and get the Canon camera out this morning - but I still need to clean the window (which is my excuse for the lack of sharpness in a couple of the pictures).

Hope this makes it easier for you to see these beautiful little birds (the pictures should enlarge if you click).

Sunday, 25 July 2021

A view through glass

This was the view a little while ago through the (needs to be cleaned) bedroom window. Yes I know I am very fortunate, yes I know I have a big garden, but none of this came for free and there is blood, sweat, tears and pain in every flowerbed.

But the point is not to show you the view, which is wonderful, or the mini-meadow as the yellow-rattle sets seed, which is wonderful, but to try to capture three baby Goldfinches who were busy having a breakfast of fresh seed.

Cropping and enlarging a phone-photo does nothing for the quality but at least you can now make out what delayed my shower for a good ten minutes. (Click on the pictures to see them much larger.)

Saturday, 24 July 2021

Becca Meyers

There are no words to convey how disgusted I was to see this:

Whoever is responsible for this ludicrous decision needs to be sacked and never allowed to work in sport again.

Friday, 23 July 2021

A few more finishes

Oops (again). This was half-written at the end of June, then disappeared into the "out of sight out of mind" folder. Another blog post which progressed about as fast as my dressmaking abilities πŸ˜„

I would be the first to agree with you that 1½ days spent working out how to change the waistband on these trousers might not have been the normal thing to do. Normal people would have consigned these old pants to a landfill - there are a couple of 'dubious' small stains on the front and a big patch on the bum where I've worn the fabric out. I am not 'normal people' - I think we established that many years ago.

Apart from having breathed new life into a much loved old pair of trousers I take perverse pleasure in repairing something which others would have seen as trash, and making them even more comfortable than before is icing on the top of a very tasty cake. πŸ˜‰

(and I have just noticed how many pin scratches there are on the bed of my machine . . . poor thing, it's had a hard life!)

Once I had ironed out the construction details, doing the same to two further pairs was a very good use of a cold, damp afternoon where it was not nice enough to garden. Yes, in the third week of June it was cold - which given our current heatwave seems like a distant memory but there you are. Weather patterns on our tiny little planet are changing, and changing fast. They have been for many years but politicians haven't wanted to face up to what is happening and 'joined up thinking' with all inhabitants of our little rock is unlikely, no matter what they are claim at various climate summits.

Of course, now finished the lovely soft jersey waistbands are far too hot for the this week! Around 4.00pm today the heating thermostat (which had been put in a shady room) registered 30 ΒΊ (so much more comfortable than the greenhouse πŸ€ͺ 😱) although it did cool down a tad when I moved it to take a picture.

The final bit of sewing for this post is a duvet cover. I discovered a tiny ( ¼" ) nick in the fabric and could have darned it fairly invisibly. But this hexagon looks much more interesting. πŸ˜‰

Wednesday, 21 July 2021


Just in from watering the greenhouse - for the second time today:

Notwithstanding all the dirt (definitely not an Instagram-ready-photo!) the thermometer had been placed in what I thought was a shady/sheltered part of the greenhouse and this was the temperature at 3.15pm. It is still 86 degrees at nearly 8.00pm although I am not complaining - in pre-Brexit days I would occasionally entertain the fantasy about running away to somewhere with a much warmer climate than West Cumbria. I like warmth, I hate being cold, and I am going to enjoy this whilst it lasts. I do have massive sympathy for anyone working full time, and those who do not have the luxury of a garden. Bag End is big enough that there is always a shady spot to be found, and I have spent all afternoon with my Kindle in one of them.

However you are keeping cool, take care of yourselves.

Monday, 19 July 2021


Oh for goodness sake, how did I manage to miss an entire month of blogging?

Not honestly sure? Maybe a big case of "can't-be'bothered-itis" accompanied by not feeling I had much to say, and certainly nothing new to share. Bag End life is quiet and mostly predictable, and whilst today might be 'Freedom Day " (or FreeDUMB Day depending upon your opinion of the Government's decisions) nothing much will change here. I will still wear a mask when I am shopping, make sure my hands are clean, and we don't do foreign travel or crowded pubs in normal times so we are not going to start now.

It is not possible to catch up with four weeks in one post, so I won't (but at least I have a backlog of garden activity if I ever need to draw on my photo archive, ha ha). There has been a little bit more sewing (clothing alterations, not photogenic!), much sitting in the sun with my Kindle and a lot of garden tidying up and enjoying watching the wildlife who call this place home/24 hour restaurant.

During the hottest period of the year so far we are both working on a massive overhaul of the area next to the Big Pond, but for now here are a few pretty pictures and a "hello, I am back, and I do hope you are all well".

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Proof of concept

THIS, is why I adore watching Sewing Bee and hate making clothes. How I wish I had an easy pattern for this sort of trouser. If anyone has one that is incredibly simple and utterly idiot proof please share.

A friend asked about yesterday's photo:

The striped ones in the middle were from a charity shop, at least 10 years ago but possibly more.
The blue on the left [which are my mostest favouritest in the WURLD] were bought in Fort William in July 2005 . . .
The pair on the right are so old I have no recollection when/where I bought them . . .

All three started with elasticated waists which have “died” with old age. I am trying to replace the old waistbands with a stretch jersey to make Yoga Pant waistbands. This afternoon’s “proof of concept” has gone well, for a given value of “well” and I now know I have to take 2½ inches out of the tubular stretch jersey I bought to do the job. Life would often be a lot easier if I was fatter 😬 😱. I know I said I was putting off this job, but I realised the longer I left it the 'bigger' I would make the problem in my head, and that I just needed to start.

I got a waistband in, and then promptly cut it off. I could have coped with it being a “bit loose” but trying that tube on before I sewed it did not highlight just how much too big it is. Never mind, that is for tomorrow. I needed to have a sit down and promptly fell half-asleep in front of the telly and supper was late, which proves I had done quite enough thinking (and making it up as I went) for one day and my brain was fried. If I had tried to do any more it would not have ended well.

The blue ‘Ocun’ trousers in the bottom photo are the climbing pants which fit beautifully, so you can see how much excess I have to get rid of. If only I had thought to lay them out like this BEFORE I sewed the band on the first time: I had taken measurements, but clearly neither correctly or in sufficient quantity . . . like I said, this is why I adore watching Sewing Bee and struggle making clothes.

I had a suspicion that I would be removing the first waistband attempt so I'd gone to the trouble of completely unpicking & unfolding the old one which meant I had enough spare fabric to ensure what's been cut off will not cause a 'too small/too short' issue, and Version 2.0 is going to be basted in by hand to check the fit before I go anywhere near the overlocker again.

A sewing Solstice

Whilst it may be traditional to leap around outside and enjoy the countryside at the Summer Solstice, yesterday I was not in the mood for that. Sunday had been brilliant in the garden where (incredibly, unusually) I achieved everything I went out to do, and some more besides.

Later than many, but right for here, the runner beans are now in the ground and have a temporary protective shield between them and the direction of our worst weather - experience says that as soon as I put beans in it will turn cold and wet.

All the lawns were cut and we definitely have Midsummer Meadows, lots of orchids and other wildflowers which ought to have a post of their own.

The greenhouse got a good straighten and tidy up ready for a dahlia experiment. I sowed half each of two cheap packets from Wilko and have almost more strong plants growing on than I know what to do with, so as the greenhouse is not producing any food this summer I thought I would experiment by planting some of the dahlias under cover to see what happens . . .

After such a full day I wanted a quiet restful Monday and decided to concentrate on just one thing - the mending/alteration pile. For someone who never makes clothes I always seem to have a lot of garments requiring 'something' and the pile is seldom cleared. Firstly, three pairs of climbing trousers have had their ankle drawstrings removed and a proper hem put in its place.

Next was managing to create zip guards on two outdoor/walking tops which were so uncomfortable on the neck that they could not be worn. I have attempted this before and always ended up unpicking a complete mess, but thankfully the planets aligned today (well, they would, Solstice and all that!)

After that was the turn of an old but much loved white shirt (which was never worn because it got dirty instantly) that had joined some old jeans in a vat of Dylon to become a lovely denim blue colour. It received replacement interfacing on the button stand, new buttons, and the front has been stitched closed to stabilise it. Delighted to have given new life to something which must be 25 - 30 years old.

That leaves just a couple of projects on the table - firstly the creation of a 'front' for the latest addition to Bill's kit & caboodle. I wanted a small, easy to assemble shelter that was not as bulky as a proper camping awning but gave more protection than the giant fishing brolly I had been using.

This Quest shelter is utterly perfect and takes exactly ONE MINUTE to put up (then another five to peg down). If you have ever put up a tent, or sneakily watched the incredibly voyeuristic and well-known campsite entertainment of "Divorce in a Bag" (a.k.a. a couple who don't work well together trying to put up an awning) then you will appreciate that six minutes from start to sitting down with a cuppa is world-beating. But I decided I want to add a front cover so that I can leave stuff in the shelter when I drive off a campsite and not feel everything is totally exposed. I know what I want to do, I sort of know how to do it, I have all the material and fixings . . . so I really have no excuse to get started!

The second is one I really don't want to muck up, so am going to put off starting for as long as possible. Some extremely old and knackered summer trousers, all of which I love and cannot replace, need their extremely old and completely knackered waistbands replacing.

Thursday, 17 June 2021

Balnauran of Clava

Each year thousands of people flock to the site of the 1746 Culloden massacre but the attraction of a killing field completely eludes me. Just over a mile away, down a very narrow, twisty little road with occasional passing places, is somewhere far more special.

Normally known as Clava Cairns, what's visible to most visitors are three massive cairns, one ring type and two are passage cairns, and the timeline of the structures is contemporary with Skara Brae and [later] Stonehenge. If you venture into the picnic area the remains of a further circle can be made out, and a ten minute walk down the road leads to what's known as the Milton of Clava and generally called the 4th cairn. Archaeologists believe there would have been a line of seven or eight cairns so it is reasonable to assume that one lies buried under the generous carpark, and the others are hidden under the farmhouse and associated buildings that you walk past between the main site and Milton. In the same way as early archaeologists did incalculable damage when excavating sites, we've done just as much by building homes and farms. But sighing and wishing things were different does not bring back that which has been lost.

I don't know if my pictures can do this site justice, but you can read about it online, Google returns many results. Balnauran is referred to as a "site type" which means that the 50 or so similar structures in north-east Scotland are all called Clava cairns, which confuses most people because this location is generally referred to as Clava (perhaps because Balnauran takes up more room on road signs 😜). I have not yet tracked down the location of all of the others, but I'm working on it. I can feel a 'project' coming on !

For me, some places cannot be accurately described, dissected or written about in significant detail. Balnurnan is one of those sites - it is ancient and magical, the sense of time in the rocks is palpable. It is a cemetery, the final resting place for the loved and revered and it still feels sacred. The day I spent in this amazing place was the highlight of my entire trip.

For those who don't waste as much time firtling around archaeology sites as I do, you might find this link interesting. If you would like more depth than Google provides ("oh look, it's a location from Outlander") then is always a good place to start.

When you are done with marvelling at the building abilities of our ancient ancestors you can walk half a mile down the lane in the opposite direction and see the Nairn (or Culloden) Viaduct, opened 123 years ago and still carrying trains. A sense of scale is impossible from this little photo but the central arch which straddles the River Nairn is 100 foot wide (that's 30 metres for our younger viewers!)

Monday, 14 June 2021

I'll take that as a win

I am a victim of my own success.

I have spent years making the soil conditions at Bag End the best I can. Between me, Management and LP we must have moved tons and tons of manure, compost, bark chip and goodness knows what else around this garden to create humus rich soil, supress weeds, retain moisture. And I have to conclude that I have achieved what I set out to do because I now spend nearly all my time trying to get the upper hand on rampant growth. A horticultural paradox . . . and I try not to cringe at the irony of complaining when my plants grow too well, too big, too fast.

But it does mean that I have to work fairly hard not to have the whole place go feral, and sometimes it can be soul-destroying to just not have the time, energy or sufficient co-operative weather to get jobs done. Happily, today was not one of those days.

Today I focussed on the area immediately outside my study and although it took the whole day, actual working time was probably only 4 - 4½ hours. Before:

After: Self-seeded acquilega and foxgloves have all been moved somewhere more suitable, the heathers have had a good top-up with mulch, the pretend-box hedge of Lonicera nitida around the small bulb bed has had a good trim (nothing nests in here) and I cut the small lawn. The thalictrum which dominates the small bed in early summer is nearly over but has looked fabulous this year.

I know most normal folk do not leave a swathe of Vetch, buttercups and comfrey in their lawn but Bag End folk are not normal folk πŸ˜ƒ.

I moved some self-sown Prunella vulgaris (Selfheal) into a corner that is difficult to mow.

I am currently watching a blackbird scrabble like crazy through the new bark mulch on the heathers which they will doubtless end up scattering all over the darn place, messy little buggers! But all these birds eat slugs and grubs which would otherwise eat my plants, which of course would not grow so well without the mulch that harbours all sorts of tiny beasties which are culinary delicacies if you're a songbird, and then the whole cycle starts all over again. πŸ€ͺ ☺️

I would like to think I could achieve as much tomorrow in another area, but right now all I can think of is a long, hot shower and my bed.