A year of cats and knitting, frosty walks and Summer strolls,homebaked bread and foraged fruits…..part one…..

bernard-shawl-testing

Sometimes when I take stock of a year I find it too easy to remember the bad stuff, the sad times…horrifying world wide events can all too easily make us forget those little moments of smiles, and happiness and everyday pleasures, a spiral of despair and feeling hopeless can take hold in the blink of the eye and all those good things, however small and unimportant to others just seem gone……

One of the many things I’ve enjoyed so much about writing my blog and sharing pictures along the way is there’s a record, something tangible I can touch and look at and think “yes, that happened and it was a good thing” or “mmmm that tasted delicious”…remember how it felt to sit on the back door step with the sun on my toes or heading out for a walk when it was all frosty out and my nose turned numb before I’d even turned onto the lane…

I know it’s really not the same but all these tiny moments and occasions remind me of the bit in the sixth Harry Potter film, where everyone stands in the Hogwart’s courtyard with their wands out, shooting up wisps of light, sending out memories of love for Dumbledore and the dark mark of skull and snake in the sky slowly breaks up and fades under all that love…..as I say, I know it’s not the same but sometimes it’s necessary to remember the good bits and focus on that, to gather a bit of strength to be able to deal with everything else……

And so that’s what I’m trying to do today…..so go put the kettle on, make a hot drink, and get a plate of biscuits and sit down somewhere comfy as there’ll be waffling and rabbiting as I look back over my year……

Guess who has pinched my shawl

I’m starting with these pictures of Bernard cuddling in a shawl as they sum up my year better than anything else……after being told last Christmas Eve that the lump we’d had removed from Bernard’s paw was cancer we spent the first weeks of the year on tenter hooks….every morning his paws were checked for anything suspicious and days were spent with him curled up along side while I slowly re-knitted my shawl and fell very in love with the scent of sheepy yarn and the gentle click of my needles……. this is pretty much how the whole year has been but it wasn’t really until September that we got the thumbs up all clear from the vet regarding his health…it goes without saying that everyday this year has been so blessed, regardless of windy bottoms and swipey paws….

 

Most of Janurary was pretty much devoted to sock knitting (I’d been warned it’s somewhat addictive…..) my dear friend Anne gifted me not only another pair of hand knitted socks but also a ball of yarn, a set of needles and the lessons in which I learnt to knit a pair of socks for myself……yes there were grumbles when it went a bit wrong, but even better was the feeling of wriggling toes in socks I’d knitted myself…..

Most mornings started off cold, a bit damp and dreary outside, but we were treated to a spectacular frost near the end of the month, all silver and twinkles, glittering cobwebs and frozen marsh ponds…..I bundled up warm  in my first ever shawl and headed out over the pastures, it’s so cold my cheeks ached and felt incredibly rosy and pink….along the back of the golf course there’ss a small copse and it’s shaded, protected from the frost…the sun shines through the trees and the dry bracken just glows golden in the morning light…so beautiful and felt glad I’d got up and out to see it.

February was a bit of a frosty old month, we had one really foggy and frosty morning where the walk over the marshes was proper eerie, all mysterious shapes looming up out of the mist….fog totally transformed the meadows there and while normally I’m a bit loathe to step out where I can’t see more than a couple of feet in front of me, when the ground is so frozen underfoot I felt a lot safer.

I made some more sourdoughs, each one seemed to come out a bit different but I found I really prefer the smell of just a sesame loaf to those made with other seed mixes….the beloved says he doesn’t have a preference so I ended up baking to suit my nose rather than his tummy.

I finished my first ever pair of socks and was proud as punch to wear them out and about, (going so far as to wear them with red heels and leggings so they wouldn’t be covered up with boots) and hot on the “heels” of those were the ones I’d began knitting using some Shetland Spindrift I’d found lurking in my stash…so warm and the most gorgeous tweedy colour….all plummy and fruit crumbly.

On particular days it feels like Spring had very much sprung, the hedgerow that lines the lane behind where we live is bursting into bloom right now, wafts of heady blossom scent the air and it makes me just feel so happy.

And it’s not just nice scents that the air is filled with, there’s also that underarm farty sound which small boys like to make….it’s what I think Long Tailed tits sound like, we’ve got a least one little colony living near by and the garden is regualrly filled with them, they swoop around the the garden and are as impressive as anything by the Red Arrows…..I love their dainty colouring, all soft dove grey, milk white and rosy tinges on their fronts with a charcoal tail.

High point of the month was popping into my local library and finding the floor space there given over to the local guilds of Dyers,Spinners and Weavers…I had a go on a drop spindle and spun a wee skein of wool, so exciting, and I even had a go on a spinning wheel….so relaxing and I just loved it.  I went back the following week and bought some amazing handspun dk yarn, one skein of Castlemilk Moorit and one of Shetland….absolutely increbible to touch and the smell….sheepy heaven.

March was a really sad month for me, my oldest and dearest friend passed away….I was lucky enough to have known Joyce since I was about 11 or so, originally she was the mum of my oldest sister’s boyfriend, and soon she become such a warm and freindly addition to our circle of family friends….she’d always appear on her bike with a beaming smile and a jolly wave, bicycle basket laden with a harvest from her garden, a bunch of something bright and cheery for my mum……we really looked on her as a surrogate grandma, we certainly loved her as such. The past couple of years she’d been lost in a hazy confusion of dementia so in a way I’d already said goodbye to the lady I loved, she was one of the nicest people I think I’ve ever had the good fortune to know.  She’s left a real ache in my heart.

The rest of the month was rather knitty based  (as I said at the start this was my year of knitting)… I joined up for a new kal (more of an unkal) over at the Caithness Craft Collective, and nominated a couple of unfinished woolly bits for that, firstly the grannies paperweight crochet blanket with it’s never-ending amount of tails to sew in, and a forgotten about tea cosy that I super-sized knitted by mistake…I began a “unicorn” in soft blue alpaca and silk….and this gave me the kick up the bum to start (and finish) my Nature’s Shades kal, a beautiful Moonraker shawl in soft and sulky greys, with accents of coffee bean and golden cream pips.  I also finished a pair of socks I’d began knitting for the beloved’s birthday, watching him put them on and wriggle round his feet as he admired them….well my heart near burst.  Even now a year later, I still can’t believe I’m knitting socks…thank you awesome Anne for the lessons…

Other highlights included making possibly the best hot-cross buns ever, making a real nose runningly spicy thai style soup (it was nice, just a bit hot), doing a Spring Fair over in Holt organised by my friend Ruth and bird-watching in the garden with Bernard on days when it was all sunshine and birdsong.

After what seemed like a long, damp and dreary start to the year, we started to see signs of life in the garden in early April…a little smudge of blue forget-me-not blossoms by the side of one of our raised beds and spotted lady birds scurrying about as we began a bit of weeding and tidying out of doors.

I finished my Nature’s Shades shawl for the Knit British/Brit Yarn kal on Ravelry…I was so pleased with how the shawl turned out…it’s very drapey and light, and much warmer than I thought it was going to be….the weather held up well and treated us to a couple of really smashing Spring sunshine days so we headed out with the shawl to take pictures and then walked round to Keswick Mill and saw fish for the first time in one of the streams (which we found very exciting) …  I also took some pictures of the beautiful dappled marking on the Keswick Mill brige, soft speckles of pink lichen amongst the grey stone work, walking home we saw an incredible puffy fungi on one of the posts near the golf course, soft rhthymic scallops in gentle shades.. ..everything you need for a shawl design is there in that fungi…colour, and shape…

Pudding of the month has been Creme Brulee/Trinity cream……so easy to make, and so easy to eat. I didn’t bake as much bread as usual as our oven is starting to play up, but each time I open the oven door it’s such a surprise to see what the loaf will look like, no two have ever looked quite the same, subtle changes in colour and shape…but all smelling so good.

I had such a thrill this month, I won a skein of the beautiful and lustrous Tamar…the colourway was Tiddy Brook and it’s a real powdery pollen yellow green…the colour changes in the sunlight, the twists in the yarn capture and hold light and shadow like you wouldn’t believe….the competion was held by lovely Isla at Brityarn. I really was over the moon when I realized I’d won this yarn, along with a gorgeous Ethel the sheep bag which I soon filled with all my Natural un-dyed British yarn….little did I know this would be the start of my Karise shawl addiction and love for Blacker Yarns….

I bought a couple of old books from charity shops, my favourite being this knitting book from the seventies, all the pieces in the book are knitted by children. I couldn’t resist the cover with that dear little knitted horse.

 

The weather was really splendid for most of the month, the air just seemed filled with sweetness and floral scents each time we stepped out the door…just up the road form us is a big patch of grass where all the dog walkers meet up and if I time my trips just right I get to have doggy cuddles with some of my four legged friends….at one side of the green there is a clump of Stag Horn Sumac growing and at this time of year those first leafy fronds look all the world like phoenix feathers or dragons feet…fancible imaginings but I think you can see where I’m coming from..I can’t walk past these without stroking them, it’s always the simplest pleasures make me happy…..

I also finished my second Moonraker shawl, this was using an alpaca/silk blend with the woolly pips of colour knitted with vintage tapestry wool…at first I was quite pleased with it but after wearing it a few times the different weight of the yarn I used didn’t really feel right…..definitely a case of (k)notting rather than knitting…. oh well, not the end of the world but I did feel a bit disappointed.

I also wrote a rather lengthy piece on what I like to use for my quilting….it really gets my goat that a lot of people seem to think you need to spend lots of money to be able to make a quilt…yes you will need to spend a few pounds but if you spend it in the right places and not on a lot of what I find un-necessary or not needed straight away equiptment then a quilt needed cost an arm and a leg to make….

As the weather is nice lemon possets become a favourite pudding to finish off a meal, and I baked some Moomin Mama buns….

June was rather damp….barely a day seemed to go by without it raining, though the garden seemed to thrive on all the water and almost overnight our raised beds were full of wild flower blossoms and smudges of forget me nots and dandelions lined the steps and path to the compost bin…..

Back in May I started knitting my first ever cardigan and in June I was able to cast it off the needles…. the pattern is Ramona and I love that the techinques for making increases in the Open Sky Shawl are now used to make increases in this…..the yarn is some I’d bought years ago from a charity shop, it’s all wool but reminded me of the pebbly beache sof the Suffolk coastline where I grew up…(however looking down at it now while I typ I’m all too aware of how it’s bobled and pilled so not great yarn but it is nice and cosy to wear….)

I also knit my first ever pair of toe up socks…the pattern is by Rachel Atkinson and was a gift from my friend Julia in Scotland…it’s all nubbled in texture…I used a now discontinued homemade strawberry ice-cream pink from Blacker Yarns and can’t not think of holidays in Italy where gelatto is served in glass dishes……

I also made some elderflower cordial, not so much as last year as it was too wet, but once again I had a little furry asisstant to help me check for insects in the blossoms..and I also made a fruity semi-freddo….

After listening to podcasts by both Caithness Louise and Shiny Bees Jo I ripped out the alpaca/silk shawl…..no tears, no sighs of bother….this is one of the joys of coming to knitting from a background in sewing…the ease with which a yarn can be re-used…..so with the help of an upturned chair, a sink of warm water and a rolled up card tube from the kitchen roll to use as a make shift nostepinne the yarn is re-balled and looks good as new…..

 

Part two tomorrow……

 

Autumn sunshine and red hued hedgerows…….

view-through-the-oak-trees

Once again there’s been a shift in the weather and while the last couple of days have been chilly, it’s also been gloriously sunshiny.  Slowly the hedgerows are turning colour but it’s still very green and lush in our neck of the woods…..I’ve mentioned before that just down the road from our house there is a little lane that runs along the marshes where we go for a lot of our walks….and when it’s a bit wet in the meadows walking along here means we stay reasonably dry but still get to see the nice views across the pastures.  When it’s dry I love walking through those reeds you can see in the above picture, they grow either side of a pathway and when there is a breeze they rustle and sound so wild.

walking-out-along-the-lane

I’m always amazed at how the sunlight dances under the leaves, looking up in the branches and it still feels like Summer and then on the ground it’s Autumn with all those brown leaves…. quite often when we walk along the lane we’ll see a jay flying overhead, there’s at least a couple of pairs living around here and they are fairly frequent visitors to the garden. We also see a lot of magpies, generally we hear them first as they are rather noisy with all their sqwarking and carry on.  It’s not uncommon to see groups of 4 or 5 or even 6 of them at the moment, I guess there isn’t a lot that eats them so they are pretty high up in the food chain scheme of things.  Growing up in the countryside we’d often see the rather grizzly sight of magpies strung up on fence posts and field boundaries along with weasels and crows by the farmers……

acorns

Probably the first tree I learnt the name of was the oak tree, those familiar leaves, all curves and wobbles with acorns peeping up from underneath….a couple of years ago I noticed some really odd looking acorns, they were all mis-shapen and lumpy, and looked all the world like little green men or some such characters drawn by Brian Froud…these ones seem to be fairing better.  Acorns have such a lovely shape and when I was very small I used to think little pixies or faires used the acorn cups as hats.

oak-leaves-and-acorns

It’s nice to see the tree so healthy looking.  With such a rich harvest of acorns I’d have thought to have seen a few squirrels about but to be honest I’ve barely seen any this year, maybe it’s not been such a good year for them, as usually we can hear them scampering about even if we don’t always see them.  We get the occasional squirrel on our garden fence but there are so many cats about (a lady just across the way from us has 10, maybe 11) so I suppose the squirrels decided it’s safer to keep to the woody sections rather than venture too often in people’s gardens.

meadow-hedgerow

I love seeing the hedgerows this time of year, everywhere is so bright, red and berry laden….it’s like everywhere is all bedecked with red and green for Christmas already (and they say the shops start early)……the haws are so abundant this year, and it’s been really good here for rosehips too.  Some of the tangles of wild rose have their branches right bowed over so laden are they with huge scarlet hued hips…..

rowan-berries

And it’s been a good harvest too for the rowan berries…..another month and these will have all been stripped bare by the blackbirds…I never seem to see many other birds on the rowan tree, it always seems to be blackbirds.

My favourite recipe for rowan berries is to use it in a Winter syrup along with haws, rosehips and apples, I’m not such a fan of the thick dark rowan jelly but prefer one that is lighter tasting…..it still works well used in gravies or sauces and isn’t so over powering.

red-admiral

Although I’ve grumbled a bit about it being chilly in the mornings and evenings (so glad for this years hoarded pile of handknitted socks and shawls) we’re still having the odd incredibly warm day where we see some rather unseasonal visitors in the garden….normally dragonflies and damselflies have died by now…. and butterflies would start to be hibernating up out of the way or migrating..but this beautiful chap was quite content to bask in the sunshine and the darting flutters overhead show not all the dragonflies have gone quite yet…….

 

 

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…..

Sunday strolls and dappled shade lanes…..

meadow july 2016

Yesterday mornning while it was all sunshine and warm, we went out for a slow Sunday stroll across the meadows and marshes just down the lane behind our house….it was one of those perfect not too hot, not too bright Summer Sundays, ideal for lazy walking and meandering along, not being in a rush, just walking at a leisurely pace and enjoying being out of doors……

grassy and green

As we cross the main meadow there’s an almost constant chiruping and trilling of crickets and grasshoppers in the grass, and mixed in with the bird calls, it’s like nature’s very own orchestra playing…..at one point though I was pretty sure I heard a snake so decided to keep to the more well worn path rather than veer off to the sides to inspect how the blackberries were doing….the meadows are still incredibly lush, with swaithes of shoulder high meadowsweet and tufted vetch growing in huge patches…..water mint and apple mint grow in abundance and I like to pick  little sprigs to rub between my fingers for wafts of refreshing minty scent, then saving the rest for when we get home where I crush it with strawberries and pomona and have with lemonade in the Sumerriest of cocktails……..

tufted vetch and meadowsweet july 2016

As we walk along by the riverside or marshy pools we’re forever turning our heads, looking up and over as we try to follow the flittering, ever changing flights of damsel-flies and dragon-flies, jewel like, irresdescent colours flicker and dart around us……some are the most intense shade of peacock tail feather blue, others are green and then there are ones that are almost conker brown.

on way to mill

As well as ambling around over the marshes we also walked up to Keswick Mill and peered over the smaller humpbacked bridge just before the weir to see the fishies in the water, we didn’t see such impressively sized monsters as earlier in the year, but instead we watched several dozen smaller fish of assorted sizes swimming about, almost dancing , seeming to enjoy the sunlight on the water before they’d move back to the shaded sides amongst the river reeds…..the water is really shallow here and to be honest is much more of a gentle flowing stream than the deeper, wilder weir just up the way, the water is incredibly clear and on a hot and bothersome day, watching the fishies and the dappled shadows over the water always cool me down.

Looking up into trees and searching the verges and hedgerows has made me think this Autumn may be a quieter year for foraging…certainly the wild mirabelle plums that I’ve gathered for the past 5 or 6 years will be missing from my wild pantry…the blossoms didn’t really come to much which is hardly surprising as the weather was so bad, so no plum crumbles or jams, no plums in brandy to keep Winter chills at bay…and along with the poor show of plums the wild cherries don’t seem to have fared much better…there’s been the occasional nibble when I’ve passed by underneath, but not enough to turn anything into something good to put down for the colder months, or simmer and spoon over ice-cream.

honey bees and bramble blossom

However the apples seem to have done better, I’ve been seeing a lot more trees laden with fruit , even more so than last year, and fingers crossed it will be a good year too for the blackberries, we’ve eaten a couple of fat early berries which have been really juicy, though very tart.  I’m hoping to be able to make a couple of junkets as that is one of my favourite blackberry recipes and which can be eaten with just out of the oven scones under heaped teaspoonfuls of clotted cream or stirred through yoghurt.

bracken

And I’ve noticed the hawthorns, rowan and rose all seem to be coming along nicely as well so I’m planning to make more hedgerow syrups as I honestly don’t know how I’d have got by this year without them…..while not having quite such painful laryngitis as in recent years, this year I’ve still been prone to numerous coughs and colds and sore throat, and a spoonful of amber coloured syrup in a cup of hot water has been really soothing to sip at……the syrup is also nice over yoghurt and ice-cream but my favourite way to have it has been to make it into a tea.

I loved this dappled spot alongside the train track where the sunbeams came streamng down and made all the bracken and mare’s tail gleam all golden light, earlier in the year I walked here when there’d been a frost so the bracken looked quite different then.

And while we just walk slowly, taking our time to smell things, stand and listen to birds overhead, I’m always quite happy to return home, key out to open the door and the kettle goes on to make tea before almost anything else.

 

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!)

 

Trying to knit in the garden with Bernard…….

lavender scented bumble bee

Well I’m none too sure quite what’s up with the weather this year, so far we’ve had a pretty rubbish old Summer, odd moments of sunshine seem bookended by overcast skies and heavy thundery showers…..but when it’s nice I try to get out in the garden for a few minutes at least, mostly to potter, do a little weeding, or forage around, snacking on the wild strawberries that are slowly taking over everywhere out there (and the raspberries and blueberries are now eatable too)…..but mosly I like to sit on the backstep and enjoy the peace and quiet that just is…..

By the back door we’ve got a small bay tree in a pot which smells lovely when you crack the leaves and it’s neighbour is a small lavender.  It got very scorched last Summer and I thought it was going to die but it’s pulled through and has all bushed out splendidly this year, it’s really beautifully scented and the air above it is a constant haze of perfume, it smells so fresh when it’s just rained….there’s always at least a couple of bees tumbling around the blossoms and even Bernard seems to like it as he often brushes himelf against the oily leaves and delicate flowers.

napping on the potting table

After his health problems at the end of last year where we thought we were going to lose him, Bernard is actually doing fine.  He likes to follow me around if I’m outside and supervises if I’m weeding or tidying….but mostly he likes to nap out there and doesn’t seem to favour sunny or shadowy spots, everywhere is suitable for an impromptu sleepy spot.  He’s made a bit of a den under some garden fleece in the middle of one of the raised beds and he’s got another favourite place under some plastic where we were trying to grow salad….even when it’s really pouring he’ll be out there watching the rain, keeping dry while he looks up and watches the rain come down

side shaping on sock

He’s also rather fond of “helping” if I’m knitting which isn’t so good for me if I’m trying to knit something which I’m needing to concentrate on…balls of yarn get sneakily patted and he’ll roll them off if he’s given half the chance so I’m finding socks a bit easier to manage when he’s in a helpful mood (everythng sits happily in my lap and isn’t spread out so isn’t so tempting to a naughty wool craving kitty.)

These are the latest socks I’m knitting.  The yarn is some of the West Yorkshire Spinners sock yarn in the Owl colourway and it’s my first try at a ribbed sock…..the needles are KnitPro Zings and are a bit longer than ones I’d normally use so I’m having to be careful that I don’t keep poking the cat with them when he wants a lap cuddle, but the longer length does mean I can keep trying these on without the stitches flying off in every direction.  The needles are nice, slippy but not too much and the yarn slides along them no problems, they aren’t as sharp and pointy as I like but apart from that I’m getting on fine with them…I’ve also found my tension seems to be loosening up so there’s a bit more give in the fabric.

subtle greys and a fluffy tummy

Often I set up a space on the back step, cup of tea, something soft to sit on, knitting or sewing in my lap…it’s not long before someone makes an appearance from under the raspberries or he’ll come mooching out from under the plastic sheeting….this is when he gets all silly and behaves kitteny and I quite forget he’s actually getting on and is classed as an old cat…..

Little back wriggles and chirps and mews are made until whatever I’m doing is put down and I go over to give him tummy rubs…..

upside down stretches

Sometimes he stretches out and will gently pat my toes….I try not not wriggle them too much as he’ll grab hold with those paws and hold on tight with the sharpest little claws.

I love watching him stretch out though, like he’s doing kitty yoga…revealing a coat full of smudgey soft greys and charcoal….he always looks a bit on the grubby side but that’s just the colour of his fur.

Tamar for Kathy

Some of the yarn I’ve been knitting with this Summer has been the lovely Tamar yarn by Blacker Yarn, it’s a really lustrous and glossy yarn and more than a little reminds me of the flickeirng shadows and pools of light that reveal themselves when Bernard stretches out in the sunshine……..

lace detail on shawl

At the moment I’m using the Tamar to knit Karise which is a shawl pattern by Karie Westermann, it’s a really nice pattern to knit, and has been very enjoyable to sit and knit outside…..the colour changes somewhat when I’m outside and the slight grey hue in the yellow yarn really recedes in sunshine, it’s not a flat dull colour but really shimmers full of light…..so along with the sound of the bees on the lavender all buzzing softly there’s also the tinkle of my stitch markers as I slowly knit the stitches, moving them along the needles stitch by stitch…….these are some I made myself at Christmas and I’m really pleased with how they came out, there’s no sharp bits on them to snag on the yarn and I like the sound of them as they click against the needles and then tingle as they drop down against each other……

a makeshift nostepinne

Another activity that Bernard seems to appreciate me doing outside is winding up skeins of yarn on my makedo for now nostepinne……..he shuffles up close and watches the yarn un-winding around my feet up on to the kitchen roll tube…….he looks like he’s watching a tennis match as his eyes and head move from side to side…..if he’s feeling mischievous then he’ll try and assist, patting the yarn or just dive-bombing the skein around my feet…..I’ve learn to keep a lookout for when he gets that look in his eye, when he he lifts his bottom up a bit, and wiggles from side to side, most times I’m able to catch him before he springs up and attacks……

podgy paws

A lot of his time now is spent tarting about and showing off…posing in the cutest positons to grab the attentions of the new neighbours that moved in at the start of the year……they’ve got a little girl and I can often hear her and her friends calling over to him, they all peer over the fence, call his name and coo with delight as they  watch him wriggle and stretch out on the path or be all silly and kitteny in one of the raised beds….he seems to enjoy the attention but eventually saunters off to a quieter spot.

This has been the first year that he’s not been dashing up the trees, climbing up onto the roof or strolling along the top of the fence, even a jump from the bedroom window sill to the bed has to be thought about (it almost broke my heart the other day when he chose to jump down onto the floor and then clumsily clamber up on the bed….no more springing across gracefully like he used to…..)

wash time

But he knows when he’s being talked about and then he gets all shy and bashful.

 

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.

blossoms, bees, butterflies and bernard……

apple blossom

We’ve three small apple trees in our garden and this year we (well I say we but it was the boyfriend as he’s the one with the green fingers and thumbs,) decided to move two of them so they’d get a bit more sunshine and light…two are in huge pots, and I’m not wholly sure what the plans are for tree three…one of the trees is still to blossom but it’s a later variety however the other two have been a real treat to see….delicate rose tipped petals…with glorious buttercup coloured centers…..

the palest pink blossoms

The fragrance surrounding the trees has been so wonderful, the scent is quite reminiscent of gardenia or tuberose…especially one of the trees we’ve moved, it’s really basked in the sunshine and it’s blossoms are incredibly heady.

The powdery apple pollen has been somewhat of a feast for the bees, most mornings when I’m either taking out vegetable peelings for the compost or filling up the bird feeders I spot fat bottomed bees tumbling around in those silky scented petals…and it’s not just bees that have been enjoying the apple blossom, the garden is already full of tiny blue butterflies and pretty orange tipped ones.  As we live pretty close to a river and some of our neighbours have ponds, we often see damson flies and spectacular jewel bright dragonflies darting about the garden, sometimes they rest near the blossoms before flying off in the air above.

blue and yellow forget me nots

The forget-me-nots have begun to take over the garden and while I know some gardeners see them as weeds, we’re happy to let them grow, enjoying the soft smudges of colour as they spread out along path edges and down the sides of steps…the petals are a much darker bue this year, I suppose as it’s been a combination of mild weather which has meant they’ve grown, but without the full Summer sun to then fade them….they’re almost as dark as a bluebell.

delicate blue forget me nots

I love watching the colours of the flowers change, they start off as the tiniest buds of lilac and lavender, mauve and pinky…..slowly opening up to reveal those blue petals.  Last year we also had lots of catseye/birdseye speedwell but that’s been a bit slow making an appearance.

tiny blue sprigs

Tiny clusters of petals seem to form the smallest little posies….along with the forget-me-nots we’ve also let our wild strawberries spread out, everywhere we look there are tiny strawberry blossoms.  We’ve grown both the alpine (long pointy fruit and very hardy…I’ve eaten freshly picked Strawberries in November) and wild (rounder in shape and as sweet as a kiss) strawberries and over the years they’ve cross pollinated so the fruits now are seem to be a bit of a mix, some can be a bit tart but others taste like an opal fruit sweetie.  I like adding a few of them to the bigger berries when I make ice-cream and we’ve also used them before with some water mint or apple mint I’ve picked from a walk over the marshes to make a Summer cocktail with very happy results.

under the chery tree

And it’s not just blossoms, bees and butterlies in the garden…if there’s sunshine then Bernard soon heads out and takes up residence under the cherry tree….the shade there is all dappled and when he sprawls out he almost disappears….for the most part he ignores the birds, there’s been a few disagreements in past years wiht the blackbirds and he’s now a bit frightened of them, many the times he’s been chased indoors only to sit up and glare out the window at them.

Equally the birds don’t seem too bothered by Bernard, he’s not really agile enough to climb the cherry tree so they seem quite content to use the feeders above him (dropping bits of seed shell down on him as if to tease)….they’re also still pulling off wisps of fleece for nesting…mostly its the tiny tits that seem to love the fleece though I’ve also seem the goldfinches inspect it…but generall it’s the tits, they pull out the finest strands of fleecy fluff, and keep pulling and pulling, until they seem almost covered with sheepy candy floss fronts before flying off.

Phoenix feathers and dragon toes…..

sumac

Just up the road there’s a small green, mostly it’s used as a meet up place for people with dogs and I often get the chance to make a fuss of one of my four legged friend…I don’t know half the names of the owners but I seem to know all the names of the dogs…on the green are various trees including a stag horn sumac tree (it was planted by one of the dog walkers called Ken who has a lovely little Westie called Harry, or maybe it was his brother in law who planted it…anyway, I always think of it as Ken’s tree)….

A few years ago we noticed that some of the sumac had self seeded/spread by runners…not sure how it re-produces, but there’s now a small patch of shoulder high stems growing alongside one of the paths…..they look a bit odd at the moment but come Summer and they’re all covered in leaves…..I can never just walk past them, I always have to stop and stroke those velvety stems, they really do feel just like an antler, hard and fluffy at the same time…..

buds of sumac leaves

At the moment though they look most peculiar, slightly sinister…..the leaf fronds have begun to appear and they’re slowly stretching and unfurling out….the brightest reds and flame orange, tinges of a sickly yellow green….easily as bright as something you’d expect to see in an Amazon jungle….there’s something about the shape which reminds me of parrots, those amazing colours and those fronds look as hooked as any parrot’s beak..

But touching them is as pleasurable to my fingers as stroking those downy stems…they feel quite boney, yet downy soft…the closest comparrison I can think of is a rabbit’s hind foot…fur covered and soft, yet you can feel the bone and sinew underneath.

budding sumac

Last year I bought some fat alpaca yarn by Artesano from my local wool shop in the sunset colourway and it matches these sumac buds so well……a deep flame burst of Autumn leaved orange…….I’ve kept changing my mind about what to make with it, but after spending time touching these dragon toes and phoenix feather-like leaves I’m thinking something with a lace pattern, even though it’s a heavy aran weight yarn……it’s certainly as soft and velvety feeling as the budding stems.