Scrap Happy September 2022

It is the 15th of the month so time to join Kate, Gun and the others to showcase making things from scrap. Click on the links below to be inspired.

KateGun, EvaSue, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy,  Tracy, 
Jill, JanMoira, SandraChrisAlys,
ClaireJeanJon, DawnJuleGwen,
Sunny, Kjerstin, Sue LVera,
NanetteAnn, Dawn 2, Carol,
Preeti, DebbieroseNóilin and Viv

My offering this month is a pair of jeans bought from a charity shop (thrift store) which were comfy and a good make but very plain. So I patched them with small pieces of scrap fabric and some crochet thread I was given.

Scrap Happy August 2022

It is time to join Kate and the others to show what we have made from scrap and hopefully inspire you to have a go too.

First off I would like to ask you for feedback. Now that all 6 chairs for Mrs Snail’s shop (follow the link to Jan in the list at the end of this post to meet the Snail of Happiness) I wonder which is your favourite?

Jan very kindly put them all out in the shop and took photos from different angles. I have started on the curtains for the upstairs store room / teaching room but those will take a while before being ready to show you.

I didn’t just take stuff to her – I bought as well. Her table of fabric offcuts was just too tempting to ignore! Apart from small pieces my stash is now down to the tatty and the sludgy colours. I wanted to make a new bag to replace one which had disintegrated and there was nothing suitable in any of my boxes so I indulged. The royal blue cord is for the outside but I couldn’t choose between the others for the lining, pockets and trim so I bought them all! Some of the pieces are quite big so there was plenty for other things as well.

The last few days have been hot so I have stayed indoors in the cool and decided to use the time to play with my new purchases. I didn’t have the interfacing I need for the bag so I chose to start with a Japanese crossover apron using a pattern from the book ‘Sashiko’ by Jill Clary which I had borowed from the library. Once I started I discovered how rusty my dressmaking skills are – then realised it is about 40 years since I sewed any clothes! It is wearable and I will just have to practice but probably on things like more aprons which don’t have to be perfect!

For more ideas for scrap follow the links below. Not everyone posts every month but all the blogs are worth looking at for inspiration, education and amusement.

KateGun, EvaSue, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy,  Tracy, Jill,
JanMoira, SandraChrisAlys,
ClaireJeanJon, DawnJuleGwen,
Sunny, Kjerstin, Sue LVera,
NanetteAnn, Dawn 2, Bear, Carol,
Preeti, EdithDebbierose and Viv

Talley Abbey

Earlier this year I realised that I was getting into the habit of staying at home too much. I would think of going out somehwere and then it was ‘But I really ought to…’ ‘That’s a lot of petrol…’ Where would I go?’ and so on. The more I thought about it the problem was that I was going alone. Now sometimes that is fine and I prefer being alone but sometimes it is more fun if someone else goes with me plus having made the arrangement I will stick to it. When all this came up in conversation with my friend Lindy, who also lives alone, we decided we would get into the habit of going out on what she christened ‘Explores’ together and we made a list of places we would like to visit – some she knew and I didn’t, some I had been to and she hadn’t and some we had heard of but neither of us had visited. One of our early ones was to Lampeter to see Mrs Snail’s new shop which I knew she would like as much as I do.

A few days ago we went again to deliver the final chair from the set I have made new seat covers for. And whilst we were there another friend of Jan’s came in and mentioned that she had had a visitor staying and had taken them to Talley Abbey to have a picnic. Neither of us had heard of it and Katy explained it was a ruined Abbey with 2 large lakes – a very good spot for a walk and a picnic. So this week we headed off to find it. It didn’t disappoint.

Apparantly the original plans were very ambitious but before very much building had taken place a squabble with Whitland Abbey over who owned what land led to legal battles which bankrupted the Talley monks. After a good explore of the ruins we walked around the outside of the newer parish church next door but as I had Roo with me we didn’t go in.

Then it was through a gate into a field with a flock of sheep who were not amused at having to leave the bits of shade they had found against the wall by the gate and go into the hot sun! And, yes, even though Roo is very good amongst sheep she was on a short lead just in case. We were able to walk round the edge of the first lake but the bridge over the stream which joins them to the second was closed because it was unsafe. So we found a shady spot and had our picnic.

On the way home we stopped in Llandeilo and bought ice creams from an amazing confectioners. How I got out of there withut buying loads of chocolate I do not know! It is called Heavenly and is not mis-named!

We had planned to explore the town but decided it was too hot – another explores day for that one. Any excuse for another ice cream!

How does my garden grow?

I have noticed that my garden has not been mentioned for quite a long time! Not because it hasn’t taken up much time but because it has looked rather unkempt and nothing dramatic has been happening. However just before the rain came I took some pictures to share with you all along with an update.

2 years ago I grew 3 dahlia plants to see if they grew OK here and if I could keep them overwinter. By bringing the pots into the south facing lean-to greenhouse that adjoins the living room and wrapping the pots in bubble wrap they survived so this year I bought more. Unsure which flower types I would prefer I bought a ‘collection’ of each. There were no labels to say which tuber was which colour so they went into the pots randomly and placed out ditto. They have thrived and although some of the colour combinations are not great they look pretty and colourful. I will try to find a way to label each tuber so I can do more artistic arrangements next year.

The roses have done well too. Most are either over or have got badly scorched in the heat but this one on the West facing end of the shed on the veg patch has bloomed consistently for months. I actually know the variety – danse du feu!

Without a heated propagation space my tomatoes and cucurbits have been slow but at last there are tomatoes formiing and I am just beginning to pick cucumber and courgette

I have picked over 7kg of blackcurrants and made jam, vinegar and bottled them. There is about 1 kg of raspberries in the freezer on top of those I ate. Rhubarb did well too and I could still pick more if I chose. The grape vines are heavy with fruit and even the apple trees, whoch have not produced for several years have some forming. Apricots formed but dropped off whilst still very small – a late frost combined with a broken door on the greenhouse? But the Peach will give us fruit.

I have been able to keep myself in salad leaves for months by using a mixture of foraged and grown. But now there are also sugar snap and maincrop peas and dwarf french beans.

I bought 3 types of carrot seed and Laura planted some of each in a big tub in the greenhouse so we could see which did best. The biggest are almost ready.

In addition to our efforts Nature has helped by self seeding. A large patch of parsley materialised and 3 beds have had a generous crop of volunteer poatoes! Way back I grew some purple skinned ones and discovered the hard way how difficult it is to see them against the soil. The tiny ones particularly escape me and grow again!

So there it is. Untidy, disorganised but generously productive.

Sadly the raised beds are beginning to rot so over the next few years I will need to gradually remove them. They were built for a 6 foot tall man and on the assumption that he and I would work on them for half the week. I am finding it hard to reach the middle of the bed and my energy is not as great as it was then. Even with Laura helping me 2 days a week it is hard to keep on top of things so I will redesign the plot so that it works better for me.

Scrap Happy July 2022

It is the 15th of the month and time to join Kate, Gun and the rest of the group for posts about things made from scrap.

My contribution is the last of the chairs for Mrs Snail’s shop. This one is the third made with fabric and is a small proddy rag rug. I worked it on a piece of hessian left over from making a rug to go beside the spare bed and the tufts are from some old duvet covers and sheets my neighbour gave me a few years ago. They had been on her children’s beds so were rather pilled and marked but used like this none of that matters.

Do go and see what the others have done – there will be plenty of inspiration for using our own scrap pile.

KateGun, EvaSue(me), Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy,  Tracy, Jill,
JanMoira, SandraChrisAlys,
ClaireJeanJon, DawnJuleGwen,
Bekki, Sunny, Kjerstin, Sue LVera,
NanetteAnn, Dawn 2, Bear, Carol,
Preeti, EdithDebbierose and Viv

Kelly to the Rescue

We had three power cuts last week on three different days. None of them lasted more than about half an hour but all 3 coincided with me stopping for a cup of tea or coffee. As everything in this house is electric apart from the woodstove that meant no way of boiling a kettle unless I lit the fire and it was far too hot to do that. Luckily I have a Kelly kettle. These cunning devices were reputably invented by an Irish fisherman as a way of brewing hot drinks on a wooden boat in the middle of the sea. They are sometimes called Storm Kettles because they can be used in any weather.

The top part consist of a tube which is the chimney inside another tube enclosing water. This stands on a base which holds the fire. You fill the jacket with water through the spout. The bung keeps the water clean until you are ready to use the ketle but must then be removed or the steam fires it like a missile!

Put paper in the base with a bit sticking out through the air hole and cover it with small pieces of dry wood, stand the top on it and set a match to the paper. Then you feed more bits of wood down the chimney until the water boils. I always have plenty of shavings lying on my workshop floor which are perfect for this but and small dry twigs or kindling will do. Once you have a proper boil lift the top off the fire (an oven glove makes it easier) and use the bung on its chain to tilt the spout so water pours into your teapot or mug. Simple but very effective! I could have boiled just one mugful but I chose to fill the top up to the spout as it is then easier to see that it is boiling and put what I didn’t need into a flask in case the power was a long time coming back on.

Llama, Moo and an Awful Lot of Windows

Last weekend there was a workday for the Carmarthenshire Permaculture groiup at Llama and Moo’s plot in the South of the County. And, No, neither of them had really weird parents who gave them those names – they are nicknames which have stuck. Llama’s came from something on the radio which he and a group of mates were listening to and Moo’s is a shortening of her surname. They are a really lovely couple and if you also read my blog ‘Going Batty in the Woods’ you will have met them here (https://goingbattyinthewoods.wordpress.com/2022/04/07/a-last-hurrah) making gates and a shavehorse for their plot.

A few years ago they bought a gently sloping field graced with 2 dilapidated static caravans and a lot of grass on the outskirts of a large village and began the process of applying for One Plant Development Planning permission, a planning consent unique to Wales which allows for a house to be built in an area not designated for housing if the owners can demonstrate that they will build and live sustainably including obtaining a lot of their needs from their plot. You can read more about it here (https://goingbattyinwales.wordpress.com/2018/08/11/the-power-of-a-good-planning-policy). Permission was finally granted just over a year ago. Whilst they were waiting for it they did a lot of work designing what would go where, planting trees and a garden, and accumulating scrap materials with which to build a home and outbuildings. They also clad the better of the 2 caravans with wood to make it less of an eyesore and they use it as their ‘site office’ – somewhere to shelter from showers, have a cuppa or their picnic lunch, and to store materials which cannot tolerate rain. For now they are living in a house in the village until they can build their dream home.

The advantage of being near the village is that there are a number of industrial units in it and these have proved a fruitful source of waste materials. One double glazing firm must have had a contract to replace all the windows in a big building or housing estate because Llama and Moo relieved them of over a thousand UPVC framed, single glazed windows and some double glazed ones which would otherwise have gone to landfill! The best ones will go in their new home. There were several huge ones with blinds between the panes which will make a wall of windows on the South elevation. Some have been carefully split apart to glaze a huge greenhouse on the back of the wood clad static – the greenhouse frame is made of scrap wood too. And some have been joined to make raised beds – now that’s a new one on me! They have also discovered a lot of materials in skips outside houses which are being refurbished. I was quite envious – around here I rarely see a skip and if I do all that is in it is rubble!

I missed the tour because I had to walk Roo before setting off so that when we arrived she was less energetic. But I was in time for the first task which was to form a human chain and move timber from the poorer static which Llama uses as a workshop to another shed and then sort stones, which will form the base of the greeenhouse walls, from lumps of concrete block which will be saved for another job. Then it was time to stop for lunch. We always have a ‘Bring and Share’ lunch and we take our own plates, cutlery and mugs so that our hosts don’t have to provide them or wash up. It always proves to be a feast with masses to eat and time to sit and chat so a lovely social occasion.

In the afternoon we laid cardboard around newly planted Kale which is being grown primarily for seed although any poor specimens will be eaten! A group of smallholders have organised themselves to grow different types of seeds and sell them through a co-operative organisation. You can find them here (http://www.seedhub.wales) The cardboard was then covered with a layer of chipped wood – the way they use any scrap wood not worth saving and deadwood from their field. This mulch will reduce the amount of weeding required and eventually rot down and enrich the soil.

We all left at about 4pm, tired, but having had a lovely day with friends and with plenty to show for our efforts.

Scrap Happy June 2022

It’s the 15th of the month so time to join Kate, Gun and the crew for Scrap Happy, a collection of posts where we show things we have made from scrap, any kind of scrap but, at the moment, mainly textiles.

My makes this month are chair covers for 3, 4, and 5 for Mrs Snail’s shop (see the link to Jan below).

Number 3 used the squares I wove on the pin loom and showed you last month. I wish I had had brighter colours but these were the scrap I had.

Number 4 is crazy patch – the quickest of all of them to do.

Looking at the photo I can see I misjudged the size (or placed it wrongly on the chair) and there are a couple of raw edges showing. Maybe I will retrieve it next time I visit and correct that. They are made oversize and stapled to the underside so taking them off is not a huge job.

And finally for this post Number 5 is Paper Pieced Hexies.

I’m not sure how well this one will wear as the hexies are light weight cotton. If it falls apart or become holey I will replace it. Now that I only have Roo I took her with me and she enjoyed meeting up with Daisy again and exploring the shop. She was, however, determined to supervise me as I fixed the covers on in the stockroom upstairs!

One more cover to go! Actually I have come up with so many more ideas I may have to persuade Jan she will need more chairs!

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).

KateGun, EvaSue, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy,  Tracy, Jill,
JanMoira, SandraChrisAlys,
ClaireJeanJon, DawnJuleGwen,
Bekki, Sunny, Kjerstin, Sue LVera,
NanetteAnn, Dawn 2, Bear, Carol,
Preeti, EdithDebbierose and Viv

A Sad Quicky

I am sorry to have to tell you all that I decided to have my lovely lurcher Orchid put to sleep last week. I had got her from the rescue center as a deeply traumatisd dog who had clearly been neglected and abused in the past. With time and patience and the help of my kelpie, Roo, who I got as a puppy to show Orchid what normal dog behaviour was, she became much more confident and trusting. However every trip to the vets or leaving her with other people set her back. It was as if she said to herself ‘I knew it couldn’t last’. So I promised her that if the time came when she needed lots of painful procedures or life was no fun I would let her go. Last week both came together – severe arthritis, bad teeth, both managed with painkillers, the beginnings of dementia (which luckily she was unaware of!) and then a sudden massive wheight loss which the vet thought probably indicated a cancerous tumour somewhere. Plus for a week she had been reluctant to go for walks, standing a lot because lying down on her bed or sofa was difficult and getting up was worse and generally being miserable.

Roo and I miss her and I will get another dog in the Autumn. With no secure garden a new dog would mean keeping all the doors shut and in summer that is difficult.

Meanwhile the cats are outraged! Because of Orchid’s bad teeth I gave her mostly tinned food with a little kibble whilst Roo had kibble with a garnish of tinned. When the weight loss became apparant I gave Orchid extra tinned food and every day there was at least one empty can which the cats licked out very thoroughly. Now a tin lasts longer and they are not pleased!

On ‘her’ sofa

Toasty!

Way back in February I told you all that I had bitten the bullet and ordered a new wood burning stove for my sitting room. (If you missed it you can find the post here https://goingbattyinwales.wordpress.com/2022/02/20/building-resilience/) One big enough to heat the whole of the downstairs and allow me to use my Air Source Heat Pump less thus saving on my electricity bills which are becoming ridiculous.

A conversation with my friend Lindy, who heats her bungalow entirely with a wood stove from the same company I chose, made me realise that the new fire would work much better if the downstairs was more open plan. I should explain that my house has a really weird layout. It is very long and thin with the rooms opening off each other. You come in through a new porch to the kitchen, then my workroom, the sitting room and finally a spare bedroom. It is all because it was originally 2 small cottages which went derelict after WWII, were bought in the 70’s, and renovated with an extension either end to give a garage at the kitchen end and a bathroom at the other. When we moved in my workroom and the sitting room, the downstairs of the larger cottage, were open plan. As both the owner and the builder doing the renovations smoked a lot of cannabis the ‘renovations’ were a bit odd, shall we say! We replaced the kitchen, knocked the 3 very cramped bedrooms upstairs into one generous bedroom with en suite, turned the huge downstairs bathroom into a single bedroom also ensuite and put up a stud wall to divide the open plan livting room into two as we needed more wall space and wanted a cosy sitting room. The picture on the left has the new stud wall to the left and the stairs wall to the right in my workroom. The right hand picture is the sitting room with the small wood burner lit.

I didn’t want to go back to the original single living space – I have tried having my desk and / or my sewing machine in the sitting room and I find it hard to relax with ‘jobs’ in my eyeline. So after much head scratching and with Lindy’s thoughts to help me, I decided to take down the top half of the wall. It was clearly going to be a job that needed 2 pairs of hands – one to cut and one to hold – so she very kindly offered to help. There were some very useful electrical sockets on the workroom side above the cupboards so we decided to make the cut a little higher and just hope that the cables could be re-routed. But as I had an electrician coming at some point for another job all was not lost if they has to stay as they were for a while. It took 2 days and made a lot of mess but Ta Da

Apologies for the poor lighting but it was late when we finished and most of the small lamps had been moved to safety! There is still some filling and touching up of paint to do but I knew that the fire installation would make more so chose to do it all at the same time.

Then last week the fire arrived. Alek and Jason from Beacon Stoves were brilliant! I had cleared the room of small stuff and moved the furniture out of the way but they put down dustsheets over everything and cardboard to protect the floor then got the old fire and the flue liner out. They were quite impressed by how little soot or tar there was up the chimney – that told them that I only burn well seasoned wood. Then we had a discussion about how I wanted the new stove installed. I could have the flue coming out of the top which would push the stove to the back of the space meaning I would only need the hearth extended slightly. Or I could have it coming out of the back which would mean the stove sat close to the front of the existing hearth and a bigger extra piece would be needed. I would also need a bigger insert into the wooden mantleshelf to prevent it getting singed. But forward would mean the heat was less likely to get trapped in the enclosed space and would be easier to put pans on (a bigger surface area and easier to reach) so I decided on that option. They cannected it all up and put the first lot of cement round the flue pipe where they had had to cut away to get the old one out.

The next day they returned and Alek had found a piece of slate cut in a curve which he thought I might like for the hearth although he had some other pieces he could cut to another shape if I preferred. He put it down in front of the fire and we all stood back to look – it was perfect! Then I had to consider the piece to go in the shelf. Could he cut one to match the curve on the Hearth? He was a bit surprised – he hadn’t been asked for a shaped piece for that job before – but, yes. So he set up his bench and cutter in the carport and used the hearth piece as a template. The mantleshelf is not solid – it is boards cladding a shelf constructed of cement and old roofing slates. So the fascia board was cut away and the piece of slate inserted. A final tidy up of the making good around the flue and the job was done. But the fire could not be lit until everything had dried. So the following afternoon Alek came back to carry out a check that the flue worked properly with a smoke bomb and lit the fire demonstrating how to operate the air intake and so on. We both knew that I was perfectly capable of lighting fires and knew about using well seasoned wood but we both had to sign that he had done his job so we went through the procedure!

The photo I took of it lit was out of focus! So this one was taken today.

It was a mild day so I didn’t stoke the fire again after he left but the stove was still giving off heat almost 4 hours later. Toasty!