Socks and shawls and the humbug from next door……

ishbel-lace-work

I really need Bernard here so I could give him a squeeze to do a trumpety trump trump fanfare as I’ve finally finished one of the shawls I’ve been knitting over the past few months (though my nose might well regret it)….no fancy pictures yet as it’s not blocked (it’s currently taking up half the living room all pinned out on mats) but hopefully there’ll be some to show next week.  The shawl is another Ishbel by Ysolda Teague and while I’ve been knitting mine, ButtercupandBee in Canada has been knitting hers.  It’s been lovely to encourage each other with our knitting in what has seemed like the world’s smallest kal….Alida has used the most gorgeous gothicky yarn for hers and I can’t wait to see it all blocked out.ishbel-ripples

I got a bit carried away while knitting, the yarn is some that has been re-used, I was encouraged to do this by lovely Louise Hunt from The Caithness Craft Collective.  She ran a un-knit a long in the Spring and un-ravelling the scarf this originally was, was so not the easiest thing in the world, in part because it had been washed a couple of times so the stitches had started to felt.  However I’m so glad I stuck with it because the yarn is really fudgy and nice to work with, and it knits up a dream.  (the original scarf was crocheted and wasn’t doing the yarn any favours)….. I knew I wanted to knit a nice big shawl, one that I could wrap myself up in but which wasn’t so heavy I’d be all afeared I was having a hot flush, and thought this would be perfect.

The yarn is by Shilasdair and was bought about 5 years ago on a day trip to London with my friend Debbie and since then the yarn base has changed a little, however I was lucky enough to see that Tangled Yarn still had some left of the original blend so I bought a skein from there and then used that in alternate rows along some of the lace work…… initally I thought to make a shawl and wrist warmers but after making the shawl several times larger than the first Ishbel I made, I’m left with about 20g so think I may need to buy some more and finally try out some colourwork knitting.  It’s not woolly but I’ve found this much nicer to use than the Artesano alpaca/silk blend, which I really loved last year but I think a year of knitting with some really sheepy yarns has made me properly reconsider what I use on my needles…..

karise-in-shadow-and-sunlight

My poor karise number 4…… so neglected……I’m trying to finish this at the moment and after knitting the Ishbel shawl pattern a few times, I’m now feeling confident enough to leave off all the stitch markers, and read my knitting instead.  I know this was something that Alida was doing and I thought “but what if you lose your place” but actually as long as I don’t try and go crazy fast it’s fine, and this is such a nice pattern that you can see what the stitches below want to become on the row above….I love this shawl pattern and I’m trying to love the yarn again but I’m afraid it really doesn’t make my heart feel so happy and skippy as the woolier yarns do.

a-deep-berry-red-yarn

And while I’m talking about woolly yarns that make my heart fair skip …… I bought a skein of the Cornish Tin II from Blacker Yarns…I reviewed this yarn a couple of weeks back and proper lost my heart to it…..choosing which colour to buy was so dificult as I only had the money for the one skein but after lots of hmmming and ahhing I choose the Wheal Rose Red which is such a gorgeous magenta hued red…if you’ve ever made blackberry jam, it’s very much like when the berries all start a bubbling and they turn from blue/black into red…just glorious. … the pattern is once again Ishbel and it’s knitted up really quickly. It’s already all blocked and the stitch definiton is so good…we’re just waiting to take some photos….actually I ran out of yarn before I finished casting off, luckily Ravelry is full of kind and generous people so when I explained my predicament lovely MontyMouse posted me some yarn so I could finish the shawl without tears or strops.

someone-has-been-at-the-butterbeerI know I’ve already mentioned these socks a couple of weeks ago but I’m so pleased with them…the bright and sunshiny yellow is very welcome now the weather is so rainy and dark……the pattern is called Hermione’s Everyday socks and it’s a free to download pattern on Ravelry by the awesome Erica Leuder…..if you are a fan of sock knititng you might like to read this little interview with her on Olann and.  And you might recognize one of the sock pictures listed in the project gallery at the bottom of the page.

This is such a nice sock pattern, I used a pair of mini circular needles for these as I find them nice for knitting patterned socks (thank you so much Claire for the suggestion, I really love them and no achy hands here)…the pretty pattern is nice and simple to remember so I was able to knit these on the bus…(and was asked by a lady at the bus stop when I was due as she thought I was knitting baby socks as my cuffs looked so tiny and wee….yeah, my face looked just like you’re imagining…)

Now I’m not sure what happened with my socks but as you can see one is more than a smidge larger than the other….hmmm oh, well, they fit fine and I tend to like my socks sort of scrunched down a bit so you can’t see they are different….I wasn’t at the butterbeer or anything, I guess I was just holding my needles tighter for the second sock.

toe-up-lunar-tides

I’m currently knitting another pair of socks, this time as part of the Brit Yarn sock kal on Ravelry… one of the things I like about this kal is seeing all the amazing  socks other people are knitting, it’s a great way to find new patterns..one of my favourites at the moment is called Longing for Gotland, and my friend Claire in Edinburgh has knitted a beautiful pair in Tamar  from Blacker Yarns and I properly “ooohed” when I saw these beautiful sheepy socks, the pattern is called Droving and I’m thinking I’d like to knit these in some natural undyed shades and that way I’d feel like I had my very own flock of baa-lambs…..as this sock kal has been organized by Isla from Brit Yarn the focus is all about using British Yarn so it’s really interesting to see some of the different yarns that people are using…

After knitting a few pairs now  in WYS sock yarn I’m knitting these ones in some John Arbon sock yarn that I bought in the Spring from Meadow Yarn…..the colour is a dusty rose pink and reminds me more than a little of the pink face powder that Nanny C used to wear…in fact I regularly keep sniffing the yarn as I expect it to smell of Yardley scent…..this sock yarn is lovely to knit with, it’s soft with a nice wispy halo….the pattern is called Lunar Tides and is by Louise Tilbrook….amazingly it’s not only free but is written both cuff down or  toe up.  I’m trying out the toe up version as I want to get better at toe up socks, also I plan on using as much of the skein as I can as I rather like nice long socks and that will be easier to do working the socks from the toe up.

 

So I’m trying to finish up some of my Summer knitting projects then my needles will be all clean and clear, ready to knit up a Winter cardigan and some small gifts for Christmas…..nothing big as I know that will only make me feel all stressed out and under pressure, but fun things that will use up little scraps of tapestry yarn that forever seem to appear from under cushions or in the bottom of work boxes…..  I really liked Amelia’s little circus nuggets she made for her daughter (the story behind them is so sweet and me me laugh)…she used the bunny nuggets pattern by Rebecca Danger and I believe we know several little people who might like to find a couple of these in their Christmas stockings.

ivy

Someone who shouldn’t hold out for toys or treats is the humbug from next door…… she’s generally waiting out on the back door step when Bernard goes out first thing, the pair of them are so sneaky that Bernard will pat at the cat flap until we open the back door, and then little miss tries to slip in besides Bernard and run on through into the other rooms … she’s not to be trusted around any knitting and is a kntting needle thief…goodbye nice new posh Knitpro dpn’s….. annoyingly when she’s been all naughty she lays on her back and wriggles and mews until she gets a tummy tickle which she seems to love second only to dancing around the garden with Bernard.

 

 

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There’s a cat in the jam pan and some wild apple vodka……

 

autumn-raspberries

We’ve had some surprisingly sunny weather the past few days and while the raspberries in the garden are starting to show signs of slowing down there are still a fair few to come….mostly we’ve been eating them as they are but a request was put in for more Raspberry Cognac Jam so I made a batch of that last week while trying to keep the cat from next door out of the kitchen….I often have the back door open as it gets a bit hot and steamy in the kitchen as the fruit melts with the sugar and slowly becomes jam, and inevitably the little miss just keeps trotting in for fussing and attentions….she rubs round my feet and I seem to have one eye on the bubbling jam and the other on where she is and what’s she getting up to now…generally it involves trying to play with knitting I may have left on the side or trying to sneak a taste of what Bernard was having for his lunch…

The jam itself is very easy to make (especially if you don’t have the cat from next door trying to jump up to play and getting all underfoot…..)…you don’t even need that many berries to make a little batch and when I make a small amount I find it’s easier to cook the fruit in a heavy bottomed pan (like Le Crueset) rather than a big pan designed for jam making

jam-pan-kitty

And talking about jam pans…..hmmmm….it would seem that they make rather nice places to catch a crafty forty winks when we aren’t looking…… obviously it’s all my fault for not putting the pan away properly after I’d used it, but to be fair I hadn’t expected to find someone making themselves quite so cosy……

out-of-the-pan-and-into

That’s one very expensive cat bed…… at least the pan had been all washed so he won’t be all jam sticky…..

wildlingsSo while the jam pan is being used for other things (I can’t believe he’s really made himself a little bed in there…) at least I can make use of some of the crab apples and wildlings that I’ve picked from the hedgerows that seem to be really heaving this Autumn…..I made some apple vodka last year and wasn’t really sure how it was going to turn out taste wise, however it was a more than pleasant surprise…..I left the apples slowly drowning in a big Kilner jar of vodka for about 6 months…then had a taste and another taste…hic….. it was more than a little reminiscent of a warm apple brandy or a Calvados….and when I offered tastes to friends no-one guessed it was vodka.

bachelor jam style infused gin

I also made a bachelor jam style drink….different hedgerow fruit is layered with sugar and then the tipple of your choice is poured over…..just leave in a dark place for a few months……

It looked like it was going to rain an hour or so ago so I quickly nipped out to fill a basket with apples, beautiful yellow and orange apples the size of ping pong balls, all flushed and rosy with a real transulent glow about them…and then a selection of sharp green apples. Both work well in the flavoured vodka, and it’s really just a matter of giving them a clean, chopping them up and covering them in sugar and vodka and leaving them……. very welcome on a cold February evening when the wind is wild and it’s cold and dark outside…..

(I also got to see my little friend Bertie…he’s an adorable King Charles Spaniel with tufty russety orange eyebrows…he’s a real sweety and I was more than happy to sit on the grass and have a few minutes fussing with him while I chatted away with his owner about the joys of foraging and what I was going to be making)…..

apple-tree

Wild Apple Vodka….

ingredients

200g  wild apples

300 ml vodka (doesn’t have to be a flash pricey one)

50g granulated sugar

2 cloves, piece of cinamon, star anise*…….

decent sized Kilner jar

method

Sterilize the Kilner jar……..

Wash and pat dry the apples…..chop into quarters, discard any stalk but you can leave in the core.

Throw a handful of chopped apples into the jar and cover with some sugar, repeat and add a clove, repeat with more apples and sugar and another clove, repeat with more apples and sugar…… (I tuck the spices in the middle)……

Pour over the vodka and seal the jar.  Give everything a gentle shake.

Put in a dark cupboard and gently shake the jar every few days (this helps dissolve the sugar)….Leave for a few months before tasting….if you’d like a more developed flavour just leave well alone for another couple of months……  finally remove the apples and spices.

You can simmer the vodka drowned fruit and use them as a base for fruit fools (beware…they’ll be quite tipsy tasting) or apple tarts.

 

*as the apples and vodka are left for several months, the spice flavour slowly developes…you don’t need to add more than a couple of cloves to make a warm soothing flavoured vodka, however half a cinnamon quill or a star anise flower could be added if you’d like a stronger flavoured drink…. too many cloves though will make it taste more like a Winter cough sweet though than a nice WInter evening tipple……

 

 

A furry and windy assistant…and a giveaway winner…..

one-furry-assistant

Last week I ran a little giveaway on my blog to celebrate my first year of totally losing my heart to knitting …the prize was the pattern of your choice by Andrea Mowry because it was her beautiful Open Sky Shawl pattern that so captured my heart last year that I just had to cast on and hope I’d learn what to do as the stitches grew…..anyway the competion has now finished and I have a handsome furry (and a little bit windy) assistant to help me pick the winner……

(I just wrote everyone’s name on a piece of paper and popped them all into a  Hello Kitty cup and waited for Bernard to scoop out a name…..)

yep-he-really-likes-this-one

Well he soon scooped out a folded over piece of paper….

hes-chosing-a-name

And after patting it about for a few minutes decided to give it a little sniff…..

he-really-likes-the-taste-of-this-one

And then proceeded to give it a right good nibble…I think we can safely say this was definitely his favourite choice for winner…….so a little drum roll please for ……

congratulations-eva

Congratulations Eva.  If you check your email you’ll find a link to download your pattern…Eva had chosen Range which is a big fat, really snuggly looking shawl which combines a “range” of stitches with a lovely texture….it looks gorgeous and I think will be lovely for Eva to knit to keep her warm through those chilly Italian Winters.

Thank you so much to everyone who was kind enough to leave a comment,  your support and encouragement this year has been appreciated much more than I could ever say.

If you hadn’t been familiar with Andrea’s lovely knits then I hope this will help showcase some of her cosy toasty shawls and perhaps encourage some of you to cast on one of them for yourself.

Cat and rabbits and pink silky cheeks all embroidered by hand…..

grey-bunny

I’ve mentioned my friend Sasha on my blog a few times now, I love her colourful creations and happily pile up empty chairs or sofas around the house with her handmade cats and rabbits…. walking into a room full of these never fails to brighten up my morning and it’s only because our house is quite small that I don’t have more of them…(I’ve even got them in the bedroom and my work room too)……

Each creature is completely unique so is a real treasure as Sasha makes them by hand using vintage fabrics from all over the place, more often than not there’ll be just enough fabric for one lone toy….which was the case with this lovely rabbit, the soft grey corduroy is so fine and she said it was a handful of scraps, but just enough to make a face, paws and feet…..

bunny-close-up

What I’m so excited about is that finally you can contact Sasha online…..she doesn’t have an online shop (yet) but does at least have a facebook page where there are photos of a small selection of some of her amazing makes, and you can contact her directly there….previously it was just a case of finding her at a few random craft fairs throughout the year so I think this will be much easier if you’re interesting in buying one of her beautiful creatures.

This lovely grey bunny is one of her very latest makes and I would happily have given her a home.  I love those delicate doiley cheeks and the hand stitched floral ears…..

Bernard and his friends

Like I say, I already do have a fair few of Sasha’s beautiful creations….and as you can see I’m not the only fan of her work in our house…….this is one of our sofas.  When we have guests I quickly lug all of these upstairs so there is room to sit as it’s a bit rude to expect people to sit on the carpet….the orange cat is huge, he’s about 4ft something tall.  He was one of Sasha’s very early makes but I think he’s great…there are also toys on here that I’ve had since I was right little, and a much loved elderly auntie knitted the bear in the orange dress (she even has lacy edged knickers on)….from time to time Bernard decides to cuddle down amongst them, he’ll throw a few on the floor to make room for himself and then just sprawl out quite happy….and often a good bit of time goes by before I realize where he is.

sashas bunny 004

Another favourite from my personal collection is this gorgeous rabbit, she’s so glamourous.  When Sasha first showed me her I just fell in love…..Her little fur jacket is a vintage dolls coat…I always think she looks like she’s off to a fabulous party where it will be just full of amazing people….she’s quite large, a good two foot as she’s got quite long legs….she also makes me think of music hall girls with those pink silky cheeks.

All the face details are carefully embroidered with antique silk floss and vintage threads, in the past Sasha used to use lovely old buttons for eyes but I think she even embroiders those nowadays too……

sasha toys 002

And these are some other toys she made from a few years back, they all live upstairs and keep me company when I’m sewing….it’s been really amazing seeing Sasha’s style evolve slowly over time, I know she always laughs when she sees some of her earlier toys on display here but I thik they’re brilliant.

All of her creatures are made by hand and more often than not are dressed in vintage doll’s clothes or are wrapped in delicate scraps of antique doileys or cloth.  Sasha doesn’t really do bespoke or custom pieces to order as the fabric she carefully chooses to use to sew the toys is already very unique as it’s been brought from flea markets and brocantes, antiquey type shops and carboots and it’s pretty much impossible to then make doubles of anything made…..sometimes her toys come with beautiful vintage accessories like painted beds or prams but sadly she says these are becoming much harder for her to source.

IMG_1039

My most favourite toy she’s ever made though is my darling Miss Enid……in part because she was a present from my boyfriend but I also know Bernard adores her….if we ever had a fire Bernard would be tucked under one arm and Miss Enid the other….I love it when he  snuggles up with his head in her lap, all purrs and contentment.

I hope you’ll pop over and say hi to Sasha, and have a gander at her beautiful makes.  As well as cats and rabbits she also makes ribbon cloud mobiles and very pretty bunting which would be ideal if you are decorating a nursery or bedroom and want that vintage aesthetic…she also makes the most incredible swan cushions but I’m not sure if she has any of those left for sale.

 

 

 

 

 

Mister Podgy Paws grand day out…..

Guess who has pinched my shawl

I know there are a few ladies wondering how Bernard’s been of late (hello Beks, and also Daffodil Angel down there in Tasmania)… well we had a trip into town earlier in the week for coffee and to see the vet for a check up.  (and in case you’re wondering….yep, that’s my Shetland wool shawl I spent all that time a knitting he’s curled up on…..)

Bernard is really good about travelling into town, but he doesn’t like being in a carrier where he can’t see what’s going on…there’s lots of mewing and he gets all fretful so a few years ago I thought if I had him on a harness and lead I could take him out and have him sit on my lap and he much prefers that.  I still take him out of the house and on the bus in the carrier but once I’m sitting down, he comes out of that and sits on my lap where he’s happy as Larry.  He likes to have a look out of the window, he stares around at anyone else on the bus, glares at anyone getting on until they stop and coo over him, then he’ll blink and start being all silly (even laying on his back and wiggling those podgy paws for tummy rubs off total strangers)…..

podgy paws

It’s the same in town when we go for a coffee, we tend to visit the coffee stall on the market and then it’s out of the carrier and up on to my lap where he sprawls out and gently kneeds my lap with those velvety toes.  Sometimes he has a nap but mostly he just likes it when people stop and fuss him, coaxing and coasing while he revs up the purr motor to 11…and generally there is quite a lot of that.

Sadly he didn’t see his friend Celine (or Frenchy as I cheekily call her) but he met a new young lady who he took a proper shine to….. then my boyfriend met us and then he was happy to see “pappy” but was a bit miffed as he didn’t get fed any treats…..he’s quite safe when I take him out, he’s not going anywhere as he’s on the harness and we’re aware all the time of anyone with a dog as hes not over fond of them… I know my cat and he’s so chilled out, he’s a very relaxed chap and just likes to see what’s happening and to meet new people.

sun wriggling

Then to the vets where he sprawled out on my lap in the waiting room and half fell asleep while I did some knitting just like when we’re at home.  As soon as he’s in the case he mews and gets frightfully fretty but on my lap he’s so quiet, apart from some loud purring and the occasional snore when he’s particulary chilled out.

Our vet is called Chantelle and we love her, she’s nice and  friendly and you can tell she really loves animals.  Along with the check up we needed some booster jabs which Bernard did not care for at all and there may have been a few swears and air swipes with those paws when he had the first of the injections.  But before he’d gotten all grouchy Chantelle had checked his paws and gave me a real beam of a smile……she doesn’t expect the cancer to return so the Bernard has (fingers crossed, the all clear)….I’d sort of been holding my breath as we do paw check everyday, heart in mouth in case a little lump appears over night.  But he’s all looking good.  He’s lost a bit of weight but that might be the weather so we’re keeping an eye on that (weekly weigh ins at home to track what’s happening and we half suspect the cat next door may be sneaking in and sharing Bernard’s breakfast)…..

asleep in Autumn sunshine

By the time we got home we were both really tired and worn out (carrying the travelling case does really wear me out as it’s pretty heavy with him inside) and a handfull of snacks and a stretch out on the kitchen floor were required (that was for Bernard , I needed a nap on the sofa)…and of course as soon as the back door was opened, Ivy the cat from next door came trotting in, mewed at Bernard and then proceeded to give him lots of little kisses (she’s rather like Pepe le Pew in her attentions towards him) which made him look up at me and then with a loud sigh of resignation flop his head back down and just put up with her attentions.

Anyway, I wanted to share our good news and say how much everyone’s kind thoughts and Bernard love has meant to us.

 

 

 

 

 

Fluffy plumes, other people’s cats and a fat velvety spider……

next doors cat

Don’t trust that cute little face….. as I mentioned the other day we’ve been getting a new little visitor in the garden of late…..this is Ivy and she lives next door.  She’s about 9 months or so I think and is one mischievious little minx.  We occasionally see her brother Neil but I don’t think him and Bernard get on so well however this young madam seems to becoming Bernards new partner in crime*.

Most mornings when I get breakfast things ready and pop toast under the grill I hear a high pitched mew and when I open the back door this is what I see sitting on the back door step….it’s like she’s asking “is Bernard coming out to play” …. inevitably he’ll appear, slowly stroll out into the garden and then there’ll be nose and face rubs, a bit of bottom sniffing and from time to time Bernard will give her a quick wash, the way she wriggles makes me think she feels it’s a bit like a mum licking a hanky and wiping it over a child’s face.  And then when Bernard is happy and thinks she’s all spick and span, they go running up the path together and then out into the playground that’s the other side of the fence (there’s actually a little hole in it which Bernard treats as his own personal door….)

not our cat but it's in our garden

Whereas Bob used to follow Bernard right through the house as they’d come bolting in from the garden, often all the way up the stairs and then back down again, Ivy tends to just come up to the kitchen door if she sees us about……however, if she thinks we’re not around it’s quite another matter and then she seems more than happy to come in and have a good explore and has made me jump as she suddenly appears from behind a chair or the side of the sofa…..when it’s been hot and we’ve had the door open she’s snuck in and pulled about in my work room (reels of sewing thread seems to delight every cat I’ve ever met) and I’m trying to forget what she did to my knitting…..

I quite like sitting out in the garden on the door step with a cup of tea or with my breakfast, enjoying the peace and tranquility while the day starts to wake or just to have a few minutes breather while waiting for the kettle to boil….however I’ve found that leaving things mid eat on the back step to answer the front door is fatal….I’ve come back to find her face in my yoghurt and have even caught her wolfing down carrot soup…..

And she’s so quite quiet…Bernard wears a collar which has a bell and a name tag and a magnet for the cat flap…he gets grumpy about a lot of things but is as good as gold with having the collar on and it doesn’t seem to bother him….we get lot of birds in the garden and I feel that a bell gives them at least a few seconds warning if he’s lurking around in the undergrowth…but Ivy doesn’t so will silently creep up and spring out, often grabbing poor old Bernard’s tail in the process.

in the nanny chair

I’m particularly fond of Bernard’s tail, it’s fat and fluffy and when he saunters off with it held up high it looks all the world like a peacock plume on a fancy hat and incredily stately and grand….(when I commissioned a picture by my friend Beth, she drew Bernard using it to do the housework with…) and it would appear to be an object of fascination with other cats….Bob and Izzy and the rest of the kittens who lived next door last year were all “worm tails” as are Ivy and Neil.  Bob used to spend ages staring at Bernard’s tail and feathery ruff, gently reaching out to pat them and gazing up with envy…Ivy is a bit more grabby grabby and a couple of times has almost fell off the potting table as she stretches out her paws to take a swipe at that enticing tail.

a monster amongst the raspberries

Otherwise in the garden it’s all been a bit quiet although the raspberries seem to now be coming into their stride….a handful of canes has slowly spread across the garden and we’ve now got quite a decent sized patch.  The variety we like is called Autumn Bliss and we’re often still picking them late October early November…in fact one year I was picking them after a snowfall.

They get really high and some of them out there are easily 7ft.  They first start to fruit around mid-Summer but this first crop is never much to write home about, a few scrabby berries to scatter on breakfast yoghurt or pop on top of an Eaton mess, however the second harvest begins around now and is worth the wait…fat, velvety, rich tasting and full of flavour, the berries also swell up and can become the size of small plums in the blink of an eye…..we generally get a good few kilos of fruit and have enough to make and put down several batches of a French style jam for the pantry and Christmas gifts, as well as stuffing ourselves silly on raspberries and cream for pudding.  Last year we made a raspberry liquor which was very nice and also a cognac jam inspired by Anna Karenina and Kitty’s jam.

If you’re a long time reader then you know there is one creature that can make me shoot across a room and up on to the sofa pretty damn quickly…spiders…. lifting up these berries to find this fat monster did give me a bit of a start, however maybe knitting with natural shades of yarn has rubbed off a bit as I found myself gazing at those soft nut browns and the patterns on it’s body and actually rather appreciating the beauty of this hairy beast.

* I used to think of Bernard and Bob as kitty versions of  Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid…..

Quiet moments while the morning wakes……

crocheting shadows

Quiet moments outside while the morning is just starting to wake is one of my favourite times of the day.  Generally I’m up and out of bed by six, even at a weekend*, I head downstairs and put the kettle on to make tea then I sit for a while on the back door step or get out a small table and chair that we keep in the garage, and make myself comfy and hoof up a rather weighty never ending project onto my lap…..I’m slowly getting round to sewing in the many hundreds of woolly tails on the back of my grannies crochet blanket, it’s pretty heavy and by mid morning is too warm to have on my knees…..I especially love how it looks in the morning sunlight, the colours in the tapestry wool seem alive and really glow.

the blanket inspector

And even though it’s early I still have a little assistant who’ll  wander over to help me….

No-one else is up, though often I can hear my neighbours starting to stir, one chap potters around his garden and the sound of him filling water-cans from a water butt is a regular early morning sound, sometimes I hear a coax of lip squeeks and a rattle of cat food as kitties are called in for breakfast….mostly it’s windows opening, and a waking up cough……it’s too early for any traffic, so I can often hear a distant rumble from one of the trains leaving the railway station, one of my friends has to leave Norwich early to work in Cambridge and I often think of her being on one of the trains I can hear….the railway line runs across the common and marshes just down the road, it’s not a noise to disturb, just a low soft rolling sound.

Then there are the birds, blackbirds seem to have the most to say though the magpies make more noise, raspy chuck chuck chuck’s sound down from the sycamore tree behind our garden and then one, two or more magpies swoop out of the branches and fly off over the roof tops….sometimes there’s as many as 8 or 9 and how anyone can sleep through the racket they make is quite beyond me.

Often there’s a loud series of shuffles from our laurel tree, sounding exactly like someone struggling with a particularly stubborn umbrella, this is followed by a long lulling almost cuckoo coo coo coo and I know the wood pigeons are awake too.

tumbling and bumbling on meadowsweet

There’s always the soft droning buzz of bees to be heard at any time of the day, we’re really lucky and have so many bees visit our garden, white bottomed, orange bottomed, small, skinny and some so fat I fair  wonder how they can even fly, all tumble around and roll deep in the flowers, until they emerge all dusty and pollen drenched.

Bernard amongst the strawberries

The garden is full of soft shadows, raspberries scent the air and there is almost a haze around the rosemary bush, it catches the first sun of the morning and perfumes the air on our patio for the rest of the day.  we’ve let the garden get a bit wild this year and a bindweed has appeared in the middle of the raspberries and rosemary, and yes, I know I need to remove it but it has the prettiest trumpetty milky white blossoms which the hover flies seem to love, each bloom resonates with their low buzz.  (Bernard has made yet another den under the raspberries, it’s a bit cooler here and he’s very well hidden from my grabby “who wants a cuddle” hands).

comma butterfly As the morning becomes day and the sun comes out it’s the buddleja that will scent the garden, there’s nearly always butterflies on it especially after lunch when they seem to bask in the sunshine, wings slowly opening wide to show off dusty velvet delights.  I never fail to be amazed at their long spiraled tongues, drinking, sipping up nectar before flitting off to the next flowering burst of purple.  Mostly we get comma butterflies, red admirals, tortoiseshells and peacocks, from time to time I see orange tips and smudges of blue flitting amongst the undergrowth and shadow…..

paperweight crochet colour planning 008

My work room is East facing so those soft morning shadows that dance over the garden also flood my work space, they flit and flicker across different craft projects, and if I start the day in there then I’m more like to sit in a semi daze, not really working just taking stock of chores to be done, scribbling or daubing with paint ideas and sketches for futute makes.

morning shadows

I pinned up a piece of patchwork I was working on to soften the light in my work room a bit, crochet garlands which are strewn across the window cast their shadows, they appear in different shapes and sizes like something from a lantern show and gently rock back and fro in any most welcome breeze…….my poor old neglected patchwork…too much knitting and not enough sewing means another year is going to go past without this being quilted, but on a morning when the sun seems a bit too scorchy, and I need some shade then I’m more than a little thankful that I’m a slow quilter and have half forgotten about this work in progress………

*I’m also annoyingly chipper and sing little good mornings to Bernard much to his general disgust that I’m dawdling at getting him fed!)

 

Tangled and wild in the garden……

broccoli flowers and poppies

While I’ ve not really been spending as much time as I’d like out in the garden, in part due to the rubbishy weather, I did manage to take some pictures of little spots where it’s all gone a bit wild…..

In our far end bed we’ve had sudden burst of poppies all sprouting up amongst the gone over broccoli….delicate scarlet petals which in certain light become as translucent as tissue paper..

wildflower gardening

They always remind me of a great aunt (the one I inherited “Dorothy” from)…her surname was Poppy and a lot of her friends used to call her that……I love how they look growing amongst the Phacelia, orangey reds all side by side with tufts of lavendery fronds.

comfry

It’s not just the Phacelia which is a lovely lavender hue, the comfrey that is growing all around the edge of our compost bin is the same soft shade….while not as large as the bells on a fox-glove, somehow the bees still seem to half squeeze themselves in there to gather up pollen, emerging all powdery.

flowering rocket

Elsewhere some forgotten about rocket has shot up and revealed a small posy of butter yellow blossoms….there isn’t a lot of smell to them (so they aren’t as whiffy as the broccoli flowers) but they look so pretty, especially when a butterfly or damson fly lands on one for a rest.

I like the shape of the stem, those almost spikey angled seed pods reminding me of embroidery stitches…..

oranged bottomed bee

The garden has once again been host to a variety of bees, they love the Phacelia and spend ages at each flower, tumbling and rolling around each bent and curled frond of tufty blossom…..these orange and gold bottomed ones are a bit smaller, but are so pretty…..seeing the combination here of colours that if you tried to imagine them together they just wouldn’t work……lavender, mauve, orange, gold and that bright salad leaf green, takes my breath away and has me itching to learn stranded knitting……

white bottomed buzzy bee

The white bottomed bees are the big boys, though unlike a lot of the birds, there’s no argy bargy shoving or squabbling…….sometimes there are two or three bees all on the same head….they’re so busy, non stop with their pollen gathering….yet the sound of their buzzing never fails to make me feel all drowsy and is the perfect backdrop to any lazy sit down or half nap out in the garden.

poppies

Those beautiful scarlet petals don’t last long, especially when it’s raining, the stems seem to curl and twist, forming wild patterns for knitting cables before coming to a fat full stop with those swollen seed heads.  I’m hoing to gather some this year to dry out to sprinkle on top of beetcake cake or a sharp and sticky lemon cake…..I love seeing those tiny black seeds scattered over white icing, and even though I don’t get to taste the finished results, I can still take pleasure in the baking.

purple and red in the garden

Every so often I find a poppy bud that’s just about to open…a bright red slit like a paper cut across that hairy green.

I love it when we leave wild patches in the garden, we’ve both felt rather under the weather this year and the weather itself  has been a bit hit and miss at weekends when we would normally be out there pottering……but the bees are benefitting, and every so often I see one of the robins or a blackbird poking about under the plants, looking for insects or grubbing about for worms……..

It’s not the fanciest garden and taken as a whole it probably does appear a bit of a muddle but it’s a space that never fails to soothe my spirits or inspire me with colour combnations or embroidery ideas…….

what time o'clock

I’ve been trying to keep the dandelions in the garden down a bit this Summer, last year we had a few too many, however this one got missed……those globes of white and thistledown are my favourites, downy soft and fluffy…..some years ago I was in a chant group and we headed out one late July/August evening to a Norfolk meadow…it was full of dandelion clocks, under the twilight moon they looked like a mass of stars, all fallen down from the heavens and illuminating the grass underfoot.

tarting in the garden

And here’s himself……generally I’m not in the garden long before my time out there is supervised….he’s got a few places dotted around the garden where he’ll happily snooze, even when it’s raining cats and dogs he’s more often to be found out there rather than on a comfy chair ….one favourite spot is under some clear plastic where we were trying to grow salad leaves but which he’s taken over as his space……he’s able to keep quite dry and even if I go out and get half soaked bringing him in, as soon as we’re indoors he’ll wriggle out of my arms and dart back out again………at the moment he’s coming in with a tummy covered in tiny green burrs from the cleevers, we used to call this goose grass but a Scottish friend calls it sticky willies…….he also brings in tiny slugs which stick to his fur and are the devil to remove…. one evening last week I found a teeny tiny snail stuck to his pantaloons, poor little thing was trying to wriggle free of the cat fluff, and I’m sure if it could have talked would have been ptutting and tutting, cough cough cough…..

He’s looking a bit rumpled in this picture, he’s just woken up from one of his many naps so wants some fussing…some under chin tickling and behind his ear scritching is called for before he saunteres off with that fat plume of a tail held up high.

Elderflower and lemon cordial with a photo bomb by Bernard….

and the assistant helps out

The past week seems to have been a bit of a wash out, so much rain and grey clouds overhead it’s barely felt like Summer at all…..everything in the garden and hedgerows seems a bit behind itself so I’ve only made one batch of cordial so far ….I was hoping the weather would brighten up so I could  head out mid week to gather more elderflower blossoms but everywhere was so wet and boggy underfoot that I ended up nesting on the sofa with a few episodes of All Creatures Great and Small to keep me company while I sat and did some knitting……

I used pretty much the same recipe as last year for the cordial but by adding extra heads to the water and sugar I made a the cordial a bit stronger…I could have added more water but I quite like a stronger flavoured drink.

(This is a picture from last year when Bernard decided he was going to assist me….a cloudy puff of blossoms got scooped up out of the bowl with a fat furry paw before he chased it half way up the garden, scattering tiny flowers like confetti outside a church)….

I tend to pick the blossoms in a “a few from here, a few from there” manner…that way there are still plenty of flowers left to ripen up and become elderberries in the Autumn…if the blossoms are at all caramel coloured or smell a bit sharp, if they make you wrinkle your nose up and remind you of cat wee…don’t pick them…the cordial will come out tasting very unpleasant and will be quite undrinkable….instead leave them be and they’ll reward you with fat clusters of deep purple and black berries and will be waiting for you in September to turn into jellies and syrups.

I try to head out in the morning when I’m gathering the blossoms, generally between 10 and 11, that’s late enough for any dew to have dried off in the morning Sunshine, early enough for the blossoms to still be powdery and sweetly fragrant…….(a hooked walking stick is also handy to take so you can hook and gently lower down those higher branches)

making cordial

I try to cut off as much green stem as possible from the elderflower heads, they don’t add anything to the taste and I prefer the cordial mixture to be as full of polleny blossoms as possible…..in the past I’ve made the cordial with a small handful of fresh lemon verbena leaves added to the elderflowers..they add a soft, sherberty note which is very nice, and I also add them to homemade lemonade for the same reason……

I always strain the mixture at least twice before pouring it into sterilised bottles, generally through some cheesecloth or muslin, but an old, clean pillowcase that’s been soaked in water and well wrung out works just as well, but the cordial will take a bit longer to slowly drip through.  If you squeeze the muslin or pillowcase bag then your coridal will be on the cloudy side, I like to make mine clear so allow it plenty of time to slowly drip through the fabric.  (Cloudy doesn’t make a difference in taste, but I don’t think it looks so pretty).

As well as being delicious to drink with water or soda, the cordial is lovely drizzled over just cooked gooseberries to make into purees/fruit fools or possets (we had a gooseberry/elderflower posset last night for tea which was a perfect pudding for a chilly Summer evening)…..it also freezes well so you could pour it into ice-cube trays if you have plenty of freezer space.

When it’s warm and the evenings are light,  I can drink this til it’s coming out of my ears, however once the weather turns and the nights slowly begin to draw in then my cravings stop…along with asparagus, broad beans and strawberries it’s a real Summer taste and one I don’t find myself wanting until next year again rolls around.

ETA…It’s really important to store the cordial in a cold place as if it gets warm it will ferment, which means that the glass bottles can explode, and you’ll be cleaning up sticky syrup til the cows come home…so if you don’t have room to keep this in the fridge, perhaps pour the cordial into ice cube trays or small plastic bottles and store it in the freezer.