I’m Busy

Yes, as usual, I’m busy. And I don’t think it is just a case of Parkinson’s First Law which states that work expands to fill the time available!

Since Steve Jones of Chapter 39 in Newtown, Powys challenged me to think about, and plan for, the year 2050 I have been doing so. And one of the results is a decision to have the chalet in the garden, originally built as consulting rooms for our Counselling business, refurbished as somewhere someone could live rent free in return for helping me in the garden and woods. Time was John and I would have done the work between us but he is dead and I am older so I have employed a builder to do the work that I feel unable to do. But he still needs me to make decisions, source things like the small woodburner that will heat the place and to pay the bills. And I am doing the jobs I can manage like decorating and building the carcasses for the kitchen units. It all takes time.

Because I am doing so much thinking and designing (the chalet is only the start although probably the most expensive  item on my list of changes) it seemed only sensible to get some credit for it and in the process have someone else to look at and comment on the plans. Therefore I have signed up for the Diploma in Permaculture Design which is a self directed course of study in which I have to submit 10 designs for land, house, lifestyle or whatever. I get the support of a tutor to guide me so that I meet the criteria for standard of work. Unfortunately there is no fixed time scale so I can prevaricate to my hearts content! And all those ideas, thoughts, musings have to be transferred from my head to paper in a form which makes sense to someone else. I must be mad! Why do I do these things to myself?!

Now in my dreams all that work would result in a house so easy to manage that I could drift round in dolled up to the nines, nearly tens, whilst the ghost of my mother beamed approvingly. I should explain that the greatest compliment she could pay another housewife (always a wife in those days – men did manly things not housework) was ‘You could eat your dinner off her floors’. Even as a child I wondered how she would react if that was put to the test! And my garden would look like those the National Trust runs – thriving plants, no weeds, tidy paths… Meanwhile my woodshed would be bursting with neatly stacked logs from the acre that was coppiced each year, my car would be valeted after every journey and my outgoings would be minimal because of my reduced energy and water bills, the volume of garden produce and my general thriftiness. Undobtedly only in my dreams!

In the real world 2 dogs and 3 cats help me trail in mud. They rub dirt on the soft furnishings as they pass and leave hairs everywhere. I am convinced that old spiders use this place as cobweb building boot camp for the youngsters and it is ideal for the purpose being old, wonky and full of nooks and crannies. In the garden it is jungle warfare and the jungle always wins. I clear, mulch, plant and before I can get back to the beginning the weeds have gone mad. I have couch grass, nettles, brambles, bindweed, rosebay willowherb and himalayan balsam in abundance and some of the banks between terraces are so steep that working on them is well nigh impossible.

I have given up writing ‘TO DO’ lists – they are too depressing. Partly that is because jobs like housework or gardening tend not to have defined finishing points – however much I have done I could do more or do it again. Instead I write lists of what I have done and often it is quite a lot.

One of my favourite definitions of stress is that it occurs in work when demand outstrips capability. Both those things are ultimately a choice for me. I have no boss telling me what I must accomplish by the end of the day, week or year. I decide what I want to get done and what, realistically, I might be able to manage. I can choose whether or not to give myself a hard time if I fail. And I can choose to say ‘I can’t do that. I don’t have the skill, knowledge, experience..’ or to say ‘I can’t do that YET but I could learn’. It is true that as I get older I tire more quickly and I have less brute strength than I used to. But I also know more, have more experience of doing things or watching others do them, and am more willing to ask for help or advice. One of the advantages of grey hair and wrinkles and going deaf is that people feel good about helping me.

So, yes, I am busy. At the moment I am particularly busy. And, you know what? I am loving it because I CAN be busy and it certainly beats being bored and reduced to watching daytime TV! Next time I grumble about how hectic life is you can remind me of that!

Scrap Happy January

I mentioned in my previous post that a number of patchwork cushion covers were disintegrating and I wanted to replace them. When I thought about it I realised that I had made them when we were living in North Devon so that must have been the early 80’s. Most of the fabric I used was part of a large bale I bought when my daughter was a baby (she will be 45 in a couple of months!) which was ends, offcuts, pieces that had torn or been roughly joined during processing and printed peieces which had got folded going through the printing rollers so had white streaks down them. It was all very cheap because only someone happy to cut out and use the good bits would be able to make use of it. In those days patchwork was unfashionable and I had never heard of a fat quarter so I think the firm was just happy to get rid of it all.

Having done quite a bit of knitting recently I decided to have a change and do some patchwork instead and since it was for the evenings in front of the fire I opted for hand stitched hexagons. Looking for my templates which proved to be hidden in plain sight (memo to self – tidy the studio and stop wasting time hunting for things) I found this collection of hexies already cut and basted. The yellow broiderie anglais one bottom right is an offcut from the dresses my bridesmaids wore when I got married in 1971! The plaid is from an old work shirt and the plains were pieces of sheeting I picked up as remnants aeons ago.

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In the same basket I found this piece which used to be on a cushion cover. Presumably the backing got stained or damaged and I salvaged the applique.

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I have started to stitch some of the pieces together. The central printed blue is from that original bale – only a few small bits remain but it has done me proud. I never thought when I bought it that it would last me this long!

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For some reason copying and pasting the links to the other happy scrappers isn’t working but you can find them all by going to Kate’s post They are all well worth a visit!

2020 Whether I am ready or not – I’m not!

A number of my friends in the blogosphere have been posting about their goals for 2020. It has set me thuinking about mine.

Well I said a while back that I want to redecorate the house. I did it shortly after my husband died as we had not got round to it as a joint project. But 9 years on it is looking shabby, not helped by two dogs and three cats trailing in mess and rubbing against the walls and furniture. I got one wall in the sitting room done and a small area of the kitchen turned into a blackboard before Christmas but that was all. So finishing the job could be my first goal. As usual I only remembered to take a photo of the change after I had started!

Orchid, the lurcher, believes the sofa is entirely for her benefit. She would like to take over the comfy chair as well but I have drawn the line at that. She finds it necessary to ‘nest’ before settling down and as the sofa is old she has shredded the covers on the seat cushions. I know I have the skill and equipment to make new covers so that can be goal 2.

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If I am repainting the kitchen I need to move everything off the shelves and out of the cupboards so I might as well take the opportunity to put it all back in different places and make it more efficient. And in the process I will have a clear out of stuff I no longer use and maybe buy a couple of gadgets I have had my eye on. So that would be my third goal.

I planned to finish my Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design over the Christmas and New Year break with a view to it being marked and finished by the Spring. But I sent the first 5 designs for interim assessment at the beginning of November and apart from an acknowledgement that they arrived have heard nothing since. What better excuse could I have to put off the tedious job of writing up the last 5? However I guess I should really have it as goal 4.

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Outside there are all the usual jobs; cut firwood, grow veggies, keep the place reasonably tidy…. But I would like to finish clearing along the top boundary where the willow we planted 20 odd years ago for coppicing as firewood grew and then died before we got round to cutting it. I will replace it with a shelter belt of trees which produce fruit or berries, not so much as food for me as food for wildlife. Where does that bring me? Oh yes goal 5.

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Ages ago I had a building put up on an existing concrete slab with the intention of moving the utility room into it. It needs to have the walls and ceiling insulated, electricity supply put in, plumbing done, shelves put up.. I am hoping a builder is coming soon but I will have to supervise, buy a new freezer and transfer all my jars of preserves and little used kitchen equipment across.At present I use the old garage for laundry and as a food store but it is too big and attracts clutter. Once it has been cleared out I could turn it into two extra bedrooms for when family stay. So that would be Goal 6.

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I also have the wood for a compost loo for the veg patch.It is in the car port and in the way. Errrr Goal 7.

My daughter and her husband are divorcing so she will be moving soon. As she works full time and is doing an Open University Degree in her spare time I have offered to do any decorating and to be there to let tradesmen and deliveries in. She lives about 4 hours drive away so that will take up some time. I am up to Goal 8

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There are friends I have not seen for ages. My spinning wheel and wood turning lathe gather dust. The patchwork cushion covers are falling apart and need replacing. When did I last make myself some clothes instead of buying them? I keep thinking of walking some sections of the Coast Path. I haven’t been to the theatre, cinema or a concert for too long.

Who am I kidding? It would be lovely to do any, let alone all, these things. If I am not careful the pressure to get everything done will destroy my pleasure in them.

So my goal for 2020 is to get to the end of the year well and happy having achieved some progress on some of those things and to have had a lot of fun. Oh and to celebrate my 70th birthday in style!

I hope you will keep me company on the way and share the fun with me.

Scrap Happy December

Two for the price of one this month!

You may remember that I was invited to a lunch to celebrate the 2nd birthday of my neighbours’ adopted child at rather short notice. I wanted to take a present but did not have time to go out and look for something. Rummaging through my patterns I found this one for a knitted rabbit which recommended using up odd scraps of yarn. I have no idea where the pattern came from – it seems to have come as an email but I have no idea who sent it.

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As I had plenty of small balls of yarn and the remains of a bag of toy stuffing I set to work. It took far longer than I had intended or anticipated but I was rather pleased with the result.

The second project was another birthday present. This one was for my grandson, Sam, who was 18 on Wednesday. Some years ago I made each of the grandchildren a rectangular cushion and embroidered it as a postcard. It had a scrap of velvet as a stamp, the address was ‘To name, Anywhere in the World’ and the message was ‘Love from Mam-gu’. Mam-gu is Welsh for Grandma and is what they all call me. As my son and daughter-in-law were looking after three foster children at the time and I wanted to include them with my four birth grandchildren, that was seven cushions! They seem to have been a hit because although the foster children were moved on and I am no longer in contact, I spot them from time to time in my grandchildren’s bedrooms or brought with them if they are camping here. When I visited my daughter at half term Sam waved his at me and asked for another one so that is what he got. But I decided to do a different design as he is now (at least technically!) a grown up. A quick hunt through my stash brought to light an expensive black velvet skirt that was given to me to recycle because it no longer fit it’s owner, (a much larger lady than me or I would have snaffled it) and some red ‘fur’ fabric used for making teddy bears years ago. Both are soft with a lovely ‘feel’ to them. A skein of thick red embroidery thread from my box and I was ready to go.

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As Sam’s sister has her birthday in early January I just have to think of something to make for her! Could be you will see that as my next Scrap Happy post! But first there are Christmas presents to finish and as my son and daughter-in-law now have another three foster children who will be with them, all being well, until they reach adulthood, Georgia’s gift will have to wait until after Christmas.

I’ve been inspired to write this (and future) ScrapHappy posts by Kate, Tall Tales from Chiconia, one of my favouruite blogs. On the fifteenth of every month lots of other folks often publish a ScrapHappy post – some fabric or yarn, some other stuff but all inspiring. For some reason ‘cut and paste’ is not working properly so I cannot put all the links here. Please look at Kate’s site and follow the links from there – it is well worth the effort! http://talltalesfromchiconia.wordpress.com

Let Christmas begin!

I have just come back from one of my favourite events in the year and the one which, for me, marks the start of Christmas, Yule, Midwinter – call it what you will – The Christmas Market at C&M Organics.

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If you have been following my blog for a while you may remember that Chris and Matt run a market garden with an honesty shop which never shuts and where I buy the veg I need to supplement what I grow here. Much of it is grown by them but they import what cannot grow or to extend the season. All of it is organic and they supply a lot of local cafes, restaurants and shops. Increasingly they also stock a range of dry and canned goods and have a fridge with cheese, butter and yoghurt plus locally made sour-dough bread and some ice cream in a little freezer. They also make a point of supporting small local producers and providing them with an outlet liberally laced with encouragement. As part of that they have held markets where the producers can meet their customers face to face and promote their wares.

I arrived just half an hour after the start and was very glad I had chosen to walk there. The car park was full and the passing places on the single track road were filling up fast. Even with a marquee attached to the large storeroom the place was packed and there was a happy hum of voices. I had taken my phone to take photos but with low light levels and so many bodies gave up! Instead I took photos of the things I bought once I got home.

First stop was Chris’s own stall where she was selling home-made mince pies and mulled wine, tea and coffee to raise money for charity. Her eldest daughter works with refugees in Paris and Chris and Matt support her tirelessly. Another advantage of walking was being able to indulge in the mulled wine!

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Next was Mountain Hall Farm which was one of the first places I visited with the Pembrokeshire Permaculture group. You can read my post on that here and Alex’s own blog here. He was selling their grass fed beef but as I still have some from my friends Phil and Michelle I just had a cuddle with his four month old daughter, Ffion, and bought some innoculant for planting trees which Alex was selling on behalf of one of his friends.

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Next to him was Abby selling her dried flowers. She and her partner Josh keep ducks for eggs and rear lamb as well as developing a flower business. This year she grew things to dry as a way of extending the season and next year hopes to start selling flowers by post. I am in awe of these young people who give up secure, well paid jobs in cities to move out here and follow their passions.

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Linda was there too with beautiful fresh wreaths and decorated pots of narcissi. I visited her place this summer when they were waiting for planning permission to build a home on their plot. It has now been granted and she was bubbling over with delight and plans for the build. You can read about Linda’s floristry business here

There were 2 stalls selling hot food both of which looked and smelled lovely but to carry them home in my rucksack seemed likely to end in disaster so I opted for a savoury croissant filled with leeks and blue cheese instead. I could have had an almond or plain one or one of a range of fruity pastries. Choices! I wanted them all!

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There were stalls selling chocolates, candles, turned wooden christmas trees, hand made cards, beauty potions and all manner of other lovely things. The problem with being a crafter is that there is little point in buying what I can make myself. Plus I have just done a major de-clutter and am trying very hard (very very hard!) to be disciplined about filling the space up again! I succumbed to the temptation of sampling some pickled garlic which was delicious so I bought a pot telling myself that it would be eaten so didn’t count!

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I knew lots of the customers too. We all had time to chat and even though the place was full no-one was getting impatient or rushing – so different from bumping into someone I know in the supermarket. I love the feeling of community, of camaraderie and mutual support at these events which I am sure comes from Chris and Matt’s own value system. I hope they have one next year.

A quick apology

If I follow your blog I need to apologise to you.

I have been using my phone to check emails, click on links, read your posts and comment. I now find that those comments have disappeared into a black hole in cyberspace and never reach you. If I just say I like the colours of your quilt or the photo of your garden that is not so bad. But some of you have recently posted about losing dear friends or other things which are upsetting you. I am so cross that my responses to you have been lost. My apologies for not realising sooner that the support I offered you did not reach you.

It seems the only way to ensure that comments get through is to log into WordPress on my laptop, but I cannot do that whilst having breakfast or stirring a pan in the kitchen. So from here on I will be slower to respond to you (though given the black hole you might experience it as quicker!) The same delay will apply to responding to comments you make on my posts. I really do value them.

Sue

Plan Z

I had last week all planned out. I was going to do some housework and then start on the re-decorating which I have been promising myself I will do for several months. Part of the delay was in choosing colours. I have studied shade cards and bought tester pots but still not been sure. Each room downstairs is routinely visible from at least one other so it feels important that the colours I choose go well together. My daughter spotted a lovely scarf in a charity shop which had the colours I was thinking of in it and bought it in the hope it would help me. But I could not match the shades to ‘off the shelf’ paint and having it mixed increases the price. Then when I was visiting her to help with her bedroom (read about that here) I found some individual cards with paint shades on and picked a load up. Playing with them I found I could hold one shade against another in a way that is impossible with one of those fold out sheets in a booklet. There were 3 colours amongst them which go well together and would be good for the three downstairs rooms. The bedroom can be tackled later!


the very pale shade should be a pale yellowy green called celery leaf!

But of course what had looked like a quiet week turned out to be anything but.

It all started unravelling on the Monday when I realised that my library books were due back on the Tuesday. No problem thought I – just renew online. But one could not be renewed so that afternoon I went into Cardigan to return it. And since I was there I did a few bits of shopping. As I passed the eco-shop which raises funds for the Community Forest Garden I saw my friend Martin’s van outside so went in and found him doing one of his stints as a volunteer. His partner Jill was there too so we had a lovely long chat catching up with news. By the time I got home and had put my shopping away it was time to feed and walk the dogs. Never mind – plenty of week left!

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Cardigan town from across the river

Tuesday I was due to go to ‘Over the Rainbow’ the guest house run by my friends Marie and Rose. Every Autumn they have a weekend where friends go and help with big jobs in their garden and for the last several times I have pruned the blackcurrants. This year I was away so unable to go but Rose asked me to teach her how to prune them and we had fixed on Tuesday as one we could both do. I went to set off and found I had a virtually flat tyre. The local tyre people could come out and deal with it but not at once. So I asked Rob who lives in the cabin and helps me to take me over to Aberporth knowing that Rose would be coming back this way to teach her weekly yoga class in Hermon later. We had a lovely time together, the bushes got pruned and, as usual, we put the bits we cut off into tubs as cuttings.

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the garden at Over the Rainbow

The tyre chap came out as promised and sorted out my tyre then it was off to my friend Jeni’s for supper – home produced duck with home grown veg – delicious!

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Jeni’s Cottage

Wednesday I had an appointment to have my hair cut in Carmarthen but first had to order some bits of chimney for the new burner in the cabin – lots of looking on the website then going to measure, then having another think…. and eventually sending an email to the company for advice and more information. I got into Carmarthen and then discovered that my appointment was 2:15 not 12:15 – the cats had left muddy paw prints on my diary page and one of the smudges had confused the time! There was no point going home so I treated myself to lunch! When I got home I had to actually order the parts for the chimney then get organised for making a new recipe for the next day’s lunch.

A new friend, a fellow volunteer at Dyfed Permaculture Farm Trust, came to see me on Thursday and we talked for so long that there was no time for her to look through the workshop stuff I am getting rid of to see if anything would be of use to her – she will have to come again!

And to round off the week Chris from C&M Organics down the road came on Friday morning to see how I prune my grape vines. She is, of course, an expert grower but has only recently planted some vines in her huge polytunnels.

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One of my grape vines

And then my daughter sent through the draft of her first essay for her Open University course asking for it to be proof read – she had reached that stage where she read what she meant to write which might or might not have been what she actually typed.

I was just about to take a deep breath and look for my paint brushes when the phone rang. It was my neighbour inviting me to lunch yesterday. They were having family and friends over to celebrate their adopted daughter’s second Birthday. I felt so honoured to be included but I wanted to take her a Birthday present. I always try to make rather than buy presents so I looked in my pattern files and found one for a soft toy which I could make using yarn I had in stock. (No picture of it until I do the scrap happy post for December).

Maybe next week I will decorate?

It was a fabulous week. I am so lucky to have so many friends and to be able to spend time with them. I love sharing my skills and learning from others. The walls will still be there next week or the week after and I can live with them as they are. But maybe this is why I have not written many blog posts recently!

Scrap Happy November

I spent a lovely few days with my Daughter earlier this month. She works in a school as a Learning Support Assistant supporting children with complex needs one-to-one so that they can access mainstream school. This year she is working in the reception class with a little boy who is 4 years old but has the developmental age of less than 1 year – still in nappies, unable to use language and with a very short attention span. I am so proud of her and the progress she is helping him make! At the same time she has started on an Open University course to complete the degree she started on locally part time, but never finished because the last modules were aimed at wannabe teachers and that is not where she wants her career to go. She needed somewhere to study and to make her bedroom a more pleasant space. It was furnished with the things no-one else wanted, had an old single bed which was not very comfortable and was full of stuff from her days as a childminder which she had kept ‘just in case’.

So at the start of half-term I went over to help her turn her room into a place where she could study, read, write and where she would want to be rather than feeling banished! We had a good clear-out first and shared the spoils around several charity shops! Some of the furniture went to a friend of hers who has an up-cycling business and within 48 hours an old coffee table had been repaired, painted and was in her on-line shop (no that is not my scrap-happy, just my delight that a scruffy piece that was of no use to my daughter found a bit of TLC and will go to a new home).

We decided not to repaint the walls but she used tester pots of paint to create a mural in one corner – you can just see the end of it in the picture below. My son suggested that an ottoman bed would be somewhere to store all the toys she felt she wanted to keep (she uses a lot in her job since often the school budget will not stretch to buying special items). With new curtains and bedding, a second hand bureau from the charity shop the room was taking shape nicely.

What it needed were some cushions to make the bed more inviting. We had seen lots of ‘OK-ish’ ones when we were hunting bedding but decided it was time to get creative. Two old jumpers, one grey and one mustardy yellow made 2 square covers for which we did have to buy new pads (all the old cushions were polyester filled and had gone very flat). But what was needed was more texture and a cover for a rectangular pad that was fine. Then a rummage in the deep cupboard over the stairs to make room to store the old single duvet brought a muffled cry of ‘Eureka!’ And out came an old bathmat. A splash of bleach had given it a few white strands which were hardly noticeable. But of course my daughter knew they were there and so every time she used it that is what she saw – and started kicking herself again for being careless. Folded in half it was just the right size and the white threads could be at the back out of sight. So whilst she made supper I hand stitched the cover together (it was too thick and tightly woven for the machine) and voila! One very textural cushion in just the right shade!

Here are the links for everyone who joins ScrapHappy from time to time (they may not post every time, but their blogs are still worth looking at). If you’ve copied this list from previous posts, please use the one below as it’s the most up to date 🙂

Kate (me!), Gun, Titti, Heléne, Eva, Sue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, Sandra, Linda, Chris, Nancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean,
Joanne, Jon, Hayley, Dawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki, Pauline and Sue L.