Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Ladybirds, and excited pups

Ladybirds are not a common sight, these days. And yet, there seems to have been a population explosion, locally. I saw these on nettles, along the banks of the stream in our garden. I started counting them, but when I got to one hundred and thirty-three, I realised there were many more to count than I had already. After that, I saw them everywhere. Welcome visitors.

Well, Barley and Quince are now allowed to walk in public. When they first came to us, Quince hated being in the car. She cried, and when we went to the vet, was sick in the car. So, every day, we have been taking a short (half-mile) trip in the car, and having a lovely (little) walk.

They both race Poppy to the car now, and try to jump up. Still a bit small for that, though.

They both love Babur's old bag bed. (There are two pups in there!)

Life is so exciting. Sometimes they just have to stop, because exciting is exhausting!

Sunday, 1 August 2010


I had intended to have a few weeks, quietly catching up, and resting, before looking for a new dog. (I haven't taken any leave this year, and was feeling the strain.) But the right thing happens along, and we have to take it/them as given.
Best Beloved and I drove over to Williton, to look at a litter of puppies. Working Cocker Spaniels. Four female, two male. I was looking for a female, not black and white, which left these two. After a little to-ing and fro-ing, we decided to have them both.

This is Quince. Lemon and White. I think she is the best of the litter. Somewhat quieter than her siblings. Likes a cuddle.

And this is Barley. Golden. She and B.B. fell in love straight away. As soon as B.B. sat down, Barley climbed onto his lap, and stayed there for our whole visit. She repeated the excercise at our next visit. How could we not take her?
Poppy has been wonderful. She has been very patient with them, lets them jump all over her, shares everything with them. When the puppies crash out, after playing, we have a heap of dog in front of the Everhot, toasting tummies.
They all had second vaccines on Friday. So, a few days, and we will be out and about!

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Special Days

It has been an unexpectedly busy few weeks. July is always full, as Best Beloved has his birthday, and we celebrate to the full. Lovely Lisa also had a significant birthday, so we all had to help celebrate that. One of the many trips was to the Woodland Fair, held on the Blackdown hills. It was a very Eco-friendly event, and great fun. The adults (!) in our group enjoyed tea made over a wood fire, the two small girls were entranced by everything. I got to drive a logging horse. Yes, a real heavy-horse, pulling a large log on a chain. I couldn't stop grinning, it was so exhilarating.
B.B. and I also went to Horner Woods, for a walk. This was on his birthday day. We had beautiful weather, despite the forcast. On the walk, we kept seeing large numbers of a very attractive Butterfly. It was unknown to us, and we were delighted to find on our return home that it is a Silver Washed Fritilary.

This dish of cherries is our first cherry harvest. Such a glorious colour. The Blackbirds and Thrushes had a good share, too. We have been delighted to see Mistle and Song Thrushes around the woodland and orchard this spring and summer. We do encourage the wildlife, so can't moan when they share the best bits.

Life in general is in the process of changing quite significantly. Over time, my job has changed from something I enjoyed, into something I really did not want to do. Pressed to work in a way that I was uncomfortable about. So, I resigned. My notice period will be taken up with using accrued leave.
Time to watch the swallows. Smell the Roses. And plan the next step......

Thursday, 24 June 2010


This summer has been beautiful, thus far. More continuous sunshine than we have seen, for several summers. Today has been 23 degrees celcius. The roses are wonderful. The honeysuckle, too.The garden is a pool of perfume. So, take time out to savour it all, and give thanks for Midsummer.

The bees have been busy...we are up to twelve colonies. Not only are the colonies expanding, but it looks as though we may get a reasonable crop of honey, too. Although it doesn't do to 'count your chickens', as the saying goes. I live in hope!

It was Mother's birthday last week, so Nicky and I, and our menfolk, gave her afternoon tea. (Her choice). Freshly made sandwiches, cheese scones, fairy cakes, and strawberry-and-cream sponge sandwich. We managed to find some of the old-fashioned cake stands, to dress the table nicely. ( As a family, we have lots of that sort of thing, it's just a matter of rounding them up). A very summery thing to do, and such fun.
I have been looking at Puppy adverts in the local press, and Gun shop window. I miss not having several dogs around, and Poppy is getting lonely. She was always the 'little sister', after all. Springer spaniels, working cockers. Hmmm.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Red is the colour....

Finally, I have finished the Kidsilk Haze scarf. A little more adventurous than usual, I began with a provisional cast-on. Once the main body was complete, each end had a row of simple eyelet lace, followed by five repeats of scalloped lace. Then a very loose cast-off. After blocking, it looked very nice.

It was Close Knit last week, so as usual, cakes were made. A large batch of these heart-shaped fairy cakes were quick to make, although the icing was supposed to be red! I just could not make it take any more colour. I read later that gel tints give a deeper, truer colour. Ah, well. You live and learn!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Farewell, Lovely Boy.

Babur came into our lives as a much desired gift, from me to Best Beloved. From the beginning, he was the apple of B.B.'s eye, and knew it. When ever B.B. stopped, to read, watch Television, make a phone call, or just sit and stare, Babur was on his knee. A huge character in the slim, lithe body of an Abyssinian cat, he was always ready for a walk. And he could always be enticed in for food.
Over the last month, he had not been himself. On the 28th May, after two days of rapidly deteriorating health, he released the gossamer thread holding his spirit to his body.He was fourteen years old. He leaves a huge hole in our family life. Poppy was aware of his departure, and has been very quiet.
We are childless, but not from choice. Everyone needs someone to love, look after, cherish. So we filled the void with four-legged dependants.

Now there is one less.

Thursday, 29 April 2010


Wonderwool Wales was everything I had hoped for. I managed to meet up with the other members of Close Knit within minutes of arriving, and that was by chance!
It was surprising how many familiar faces there were. Jo, of British Yarn, and Yarngathering (Jowatso on Ravelry) was there, and I had a lovely chat with her. ( See Jo below, with her son). Lots of the Schoolhouse Press books on her stand. John Arbon, and Juliet, from Coldharbour Mill. The Injubalo button people. Fyberspates, Laughing Hens, (I always buy something from these last two),Garthenor, and West Yeo Farm.
The reason I say it is surprising, is that I don't normally go anywhere. I am rather like a hefted Ewe - never away from my own hillside!
I loved this fabulous ewe, in her aran sweater. She was made for an Arts project. I foolishly forgot to make a note of the name of the stall!

And this lovely Angora bunny. It was on the Snowdon Angoras and Easter Bunnies stand. There was also a white one. They seemed very calm, and completely unconcerned by all the people cooing over them.
There were also sheep in pens. Each was an example of a particular breed - I loved the Shetlands.
At one of the Guild stands, Spinners, Weavers and Dyers, I saw some of the most fantastic felt. Not knitted, more of a very fine fabric. I think it was made of Alpaca fibre. The most gorgeous pale fawn. It was one of the last stands I visited, by which time I had run out of money. It would make the most wonderful tailored skirt, or maybe a short jacket. I shall have to go again next year, and start saving right away!

As we travelled up to Wales and back, we noticed that blackthorn bushes were flowering as never before. Blackthorn blossom usually heralds a hard frost, which often finishes it off. Not this year, though. This one in my garden (above) is flowering for only the second time in it's life.
When I got back, I had to turn around and do the Otter Group two day Event. (Cencus). The result for my patch was nil. A rather bleak end to a wonderful week end.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Spring clean....at last.

The beautiful weather has meant that we have finally been able to carry out the spring cleaning of the Bee hives. Most of one week end was taken up with preparing the kit, doing the job, then cleaning up afterwards. It is not great fun, but gives us a good foundation for the seasons' work.
We move the brood box (carefully) onto a spare floor, then thoroughly scrape and brush the original. Then, a clean brood box is put onto the clean floor. Each frame is then taken out, inspected and put into the clean brood box. Spotting the Queen is important. We can't afford to lose her! Any dirty or damaged frames are removed, and replaced with clean. Best beloved and I are ruthless at this point. We would rather put in clean frames, and feed, than leave dirty comb containing stores.The point is not only cleanliness, but it also leaves fewer hiding places for varroa.
The rest of the hive is reassembled, cleaning and brushing as we go. We did this for all six hives. At dusk, I put a feeder onto each hive, containing prepared feed.
The upside? We put a super onto every hive a week later. The oilseed rape is just coming into flower locally, so not a moment too soon. It's no joke having rape honey set in the brood frames. The bees then can't move it, so it reduces the brood nest. That in turn increases the chance of swarming. And that is another thing they don't need any encouragement to do!

The fruit blossoms are beginning their procession.This is a bee on Cherry.
One of my passions is the genus Magnolia. I planted several in the first few years that we lived here. I only have two left. A Magnolia grandiflora, which has yet to flower, and this one, Magnolia soulangiana. Two years ago it had three flowers -which were finished by the frost before reaching flowering size. Last year, it was covered in buds. But again, they were blasted by the frost. This year I didn't bother to look, after the winter we had. Then I caught a flash of white a few days ago.The (small) tree was covered in these lovely blossoms. Some were slightly touched with frost damage, but what a sight, especially in the bright sunny mornings, with a pelucid blue sky as background. Joy and pleasure.
Best beloved and I are off to Wales, tomorrow. We will stay with his Godmother, who has recently moved house. Aunt M only lives forty minutes from Builth Wells, now. How lucky is that? I shall be meeting up with some of the Close Knit girls, and I have no doubt that we will all be spending. Wonderwool Wales, here we come.

Saturday, 3 April 2010


There was a message on the answering machine when I got home. 'I am sitting on top of a hill, west of Tiverton' said the voice of Best Beloved. ' I can see Dartmoor, covered in snow. And two Swallows are flying about in front of me. It must be Spring! '
The intention had been to do the first opening of the Bees, this week-end, and spring clean. The cold wind and torrential rain has put a stop to that plan. They (the Bees) are flying, intermittently, but we are not taking any chances.

This amused me. The Primroses are flowering safely in a mossy bowl - six feet from the ground.

I mentioned recently that we were off to a sixties/seventies party. I have been denied permission to show the incriminating evidence, but did manage to take photos of the jeans. These are cheap bootleg jeans. I unpicked the lower leg seams, and put in velvet triangular inserts, to make the wide flares. Then a little applique in the usual places, (on the seat, too).Worn with a plain white cotton 'Grandad' shirt, and an 'Afro' wig, B.B. looked a fair approximation of the hippie I started going out with in 1977. I wore an Indian-print wraparound skirt, with a cotton lawn embroidered blouse.

This is the scarf I was knitting for my Mother. Patons sublime, on 4.5mm needles. Finished well in advance of her birthday, I know she will be pleased with it.
I have a couple of other scarves on my needles, too. Another go at the Myrtle leaf scarf that Poppy unravelled, and one in 'blackcurrant' Kidsilk Haze, but I don't know the name of the pattern.
Enjoy the Spring break....and keep warm!

Monday, 22 March 2010

Shopping Surprise

Shopping with Best Beloved is a rare and unusual event. There is a party on the horizon -a retirement party for one of his colleagues, with a '60s/70's theme. Well, of course, neither of us has anything (that fits) left from those dim and distant days. So shopping we went. I will continue that theme when I can upload some photos. Anyway, just after parking, we passed a charity shop...with this in the window....->

I couldn't believe my eyes. We rushed in, and it really was for sale. There was a small problem- the little thing that joins the treadle bar to the wheel drive was broken. B.B shook his head, and said ' No problem'. So, I quickly paid, and we bore it away. We continued our shopping, and were very successful, both of us getting more or less what we had in mind.
Once home, B.B. did a little magic, and got the wheel working. It is an Ashford traditional spinning wheel, with a leather joint, which is what had broken. All of this was a week ago. Saturday, I went to a meeting of the Somerset Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers, at Hatch Beachamp. This amazing, friendly and knowledgeable group of people, were very quick to offer help and advice. I was shown the details which help to date this wheel to about 1970. Apparently, it is in excellent condition for it's age. I now have to do a service on it, to get it up and running. One of the ladies ( I really can't remember everyone's names -there were about forty people there) showed Jacquie and me how to do a little spinning. Another kindly lent me a 'how to' video.
Back in the late 1970s, I had intended to learn to spin, but I never got around to it. Well, here I am, with a wheel, and lots of help and advice. I may get there in the end.

Lovely Jacquie has fitted me up with an Apple i-pod shuffle. Not only that, she has shown me how to download pod-casts, and how to fill, and change the content of the shuffle. What could be better than knitting? Well, how about Knitting, AND listening to someone talking about knitting! Thanks, Jac!

Sunday, 14 March 2010

The sound of Bees working

The first essential task of the day, even before breakfast, is to take Poppy for a walk. So, off we went, bright and early. Our first walk takes us along the back of the bee hives, and under the overhanging Hazel trees. At first, I couldn't make out the sound. Then it dawned on me - a constant gentle hum. Quite loud. The sound of many bees, collecting pollen in the warm sunshine.

(I'm afraid the picture is a bit bleached - it was VERY bright. If you click on the photo to enlarge, you will see three bees, each with pollen on their back legs.)
After that, I noticed bees foraging everywhere. On the Crocus, On the Snowdrops, the winter honeysuckle. The best bit, was that all of the hives were showing busy activity.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Beekeeping groundwork.

Hurrah, the weather is improving. The appearance of the sun, and lack of rain, has enticed the Bees out. All six hives have had lots of activity going on, these last two days.

That has prompted Best Beloved, and me, into checking all the bee-keeping equiptment, and having a major spring clean of same. When it gets warmer, we will do a spring clean of the hives. That will require at least five freshly waxed-up frames, and one brood box, per hive. Keeping the hives as clean as possible, helps to reduce the chance of disease. So all the hard work will pay off quite quickly.
It is a joyful thing, to see Bees working the flowers for pollen, again.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Knitting and Nature

My Mother has taken a fancy to a Kidsilk Haze scarf, which I made for myself last year. So, to keep the peace, a mist grey scarf is taking shape. The yarn is Patons Misty. The pattern is feather and fan, on 4.5mm needles. It is knitting up remarkably swiftly.

This lovely button is handmade ceramic, and was bought at Fiddlesticks, Honiton, to go on
this waistcoat, the yarn for which also comes from Fiddlesticks. The pattern came free! It was my big entry in the Ravelympics -Sweaterboard cross. I managed to complete yesterday, so have crossed the finish line.
I have been awaiting the first frogspawn in our pond, or one of the ditches , with increasing concern. I expected delay, obviously, with all the hard weather, but we have had a couple of weeks without frost. Today, a dramatic improvement. At least two dozen deposits of spawn, in several locations. Fresh Otter spraint ( first for a few weeks), the Bees have been out foraging in squadrons, and fresh Deer slots through the garden. Now I just need to spot some Newts.
Babur hates cold/wet/windy weather. He knows that he can depend on his humans to make sure the fire is banked up, and leave him comfortable.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Good! (I think)

I am taking part in the Winter Ravelympics, and I have a medal.....for frogging!

I have worked very hard on this sweater, but despite re-doing the sleeves three times, I cannot make it work. Mainly because I do not have enough yarn. By about 20g. I did not realise that the balls were 20g, not 25g, until I was doing the sleeves.Anyway, on the fourth attempt, I unravelled the lot.

Like that! Quite cathartic.
And I may frog my burnt red, kidsilk, Myrtle leaf Scarf, too! Well, I'll think about it.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

With Love.....

To friends, family and readers. x

Tuesday, 2 February 2010


Imbolc. The first day of Spring. The day the Goddess returns to the Earth from her sojourn in the Otherworld.
Last year, the snowdrops were already out. Sheets of them, making pools of light beneath trees, in gardens and orchards. This year, I have found only a few. Mainly tiny green spears, with white just beginning to show on their tips. The seasons' growth has been held back considerably by the hard weather. Still, I am grateful for a few blossoms -thus I can greet the spring.

Saturday, 30 January 2010


It snowed again last night. Not much. Just the barest covering. It meant, though, that I was able to see where the deer had browsed, in the cover at the edge of the wood. An otter had been through the garden, too. His/her footprints showed up , backing up the evidence of the spraint on the marking stone.
All of these things, I noticed as I walked Poppy. Then we went indoors, and made up the fires, my hands raw from the cold.
It's nearly Spring.

(Above, Helleborous orientalis, near my back door.30/1/2010)

Friday, 22 January 2010

Jolly Birthday Mitts

A birthday present for a dear friend. I couldn't show them until they had been unwrapped by the recipient. N. seemed delighted with them- A bit of jollity in these dank, dark days.
The pattern is from 'Kristin Knits', but with extended thumbs. Yarn is odds, and part balls, of Jaeger D.K.
I am winding 100gram skeins into balls, at the moment. Undyed (natural) fawn, pure alpaca, aran weight. I bought nine skeins last summer at Coldharbour Mill, and intend to make a Jean Moss cardigan. The style is quite short, fitted, with a shawl collar. I can't remember the last time a made a sweater or cardi for myself.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

More winter baking.

I do find that this wintery weather brings out the baker in me. These Chelsea Buns were made to a standard recipe. (Elizabeth David.) The filling is cinnamon butter, and then sprinkled with the zest of a lemon. Bake as usual, then when cool, drizzle with icing made with the juice of aforementioned lemon. The recipe made thirty-five buns. Lucky that I have people around, ready to eat them for me.

These lovely little magnets were in my Yule stocking. The detail on them is quite remarkable. And they pander to my love of anything Dragon-y.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Using up the bits

Half a jar of mincemeat is not something one wants hanging around endlessly. These little slices of a bakewell-like cake used it up deliciously.
Rub 5 ounces of butter into 6 ounces of plain flour. Stir in a tablespoon of sugar. Tip the mixture into a prepared 12''x8'' tin. (approx 30 cm x20 cm).Smooth with the back of a spoon. Spread the mincemeat ( or jam, if you'd rather) evenly over the base. Cover with sponge mixture (I used 4 ounces each of margerine, flour and caster sugar, bound with 2 eggs). Cook in a medium oven (190 c) until firm and golden. (Aprox 40 minutes). The base is somewhat like shortbread.
I finally finished the Eyelet cap last Wednesday. Too late for Yuletide gifting! It will be saved for the birthday of the intended recipient. I do think it is a lovely pattern. I used a much thicker yarn than the recommended one, so had to go down several needle sizes to get the guage. 2.75 mm needles(!), and Coldharbour Mill Alpaca D.K. The pattern is in the current Designer Knitting (formerly Vogue Knitting).

The pattern for these fun little mitts is from 'Kristin Knits' by Kristin Nicholas. I am changing the colours, to use up some odds and ends in my stash. The book has really fired my imagination. The colour combinations she uses, are just so vibrant. Fantastic for brightening these short, cold days.
We put out food for the wild birds throughout the year. One of the great joys is the huge variety of birds that we see. They come right up to the window, and give us hours of pleasure.( Better than television!) Best Beloved found this Bullfinch in a hedge, obviously exhausted. So he brought it home, and put it on the grain feeder.(These finches are grain feeders- look at his beak)....so what did the little tyke do? flew up and ate all the buds from my winter flowering honeysuckle!!! I don't mind really. What a treat to see a Bullfinch.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Winter scene

This very pretty scene shows why only four wheel-drive vehicles are getting out. Halfway down (or up, depending on your position) is a sheet of ice. Everyone here is prepared, though, so we have not been complaining about the state of the road.
The Bees were well provisioned, at the start of the winter. They aren't moving much, at the moment.
These Deer were startled by people coming out to Toboggan. It is usually very quiet here, and they are able to browse undisturbed. They made themselves scarce vey quickly.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

A little cheer.

There, that's what we need on a cold day-a cup of tea, and some.....Cake.
Dundee cake.

I have three recipes that I alternate, according to whim and/or size required. The first is my family recipe (from my maternal Grandmother). The second is from ''Mrs Beetons' Household Management''. The third is from a television programe featuring Gary Rhodes. He later published it in a book, ''At the Table''. This last one is Mrs Beetons, with additions. It is also the recipe I have used this time.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Full Moon

The first full moon of 2010, rising over the hill behind my house. It's the first time I have tried taking photographs at night, and so I am quite pleased with how this has turned out.
It was an extremely cold night, minus 4 celsius. The stars were bright. It was still, and quiet, and the Owls were hooting and shrieking in the wood. A Vixen screamed occasionally, down by the stream. All very atmospheric.
I know that elsewhere in the country was much colder. In fact, we have been reasonably lucky with the weather, but each of us goes by our own experience.

The next morning, I found these toadstools growing on the remains of a woodpile, on the edge of the wood. We have made lots of random piles of wood, especially for wildlife use. All sorts of insects and amphibians use them to hibernate, or otherwise overwinter, in.
Or perhaps the Faerie Folk have set up home here?