Two Big Beasts

A couple of weeks ago I had a message from my son – could he have the use of a space 3m x 3m in my workshop? He had put a shipping container on the garden of a house he owns and rents out in the same road as his home with the intention of using it as a workshop. But the a neighbour complained to the Council who told him it was ‘not in keeping’ and must be removed. That left him with all his tools stored in a small shed in his own smaller garden (which already houses his office) but nowhere to use them. Of course I said ‘Yes’ and by rearranging my stuff created the space he needed.

So a flurry of parcels and packages arrived and he sent me a list of materials he wanted me to order from the local Builders’ Merchant. Then they were followed, last Monday, by the man himself plus his cat. Not your average moggy, not even a pedigree cat. This is an F3 Savannah Cat, at least twice the size of my more humble ones. But a lovely softie who acts more like a dog in many ways and obviously thought that my garden was Heaven! He did give my dogs and cats a bit of a shock though – not quite sure what sort of big beast had entered their domain!

Odin explores this new territory

My son is a software developer but, like his father, my father and my paternal grandfather, loves making things in wood. It transpired that the workshop space was needed to build a computer controlled wood cutting machine thus combining his two passions. He has a small one at home which can cut things about the size of an A4 sheet of paper but having seen its potential he wanted one which could do handle anything up to a full sheet of plywood – 2.4m x 1.2m! Hence the large area of floor space required.

With intermittent help from me to ‘hold the other end of’ and a couple of trips out to get things he hadn’t realised he would need, he built the worktop the sheet of wood will sit on. It is 2 layers of heavy ply with framing and 2 sheets of insulation between them to stop it flexing.

The cutting head has to move in 3 dimensions – up and down the bed, from side to side and deeper or shallower, so he also needed a gantry which travels along the sides of the bed (the x axis)) with another piece which moves side to side (y axis) and can also raise or lower the cutter (z axis). The gantry and other wooden parts run on small wheels on tracks and are pulled into position by motors which have thin rubber tracks around a cog wheel – think caterpillar tracks. The motors are controlled by the computer.

This bit travels from side to side on the gantry and the top part raises or lowers the head

By Friday evening the thing was built and he had wired up 2 of the 4 motors but ran out of time (he had to drive home early on Saturday morning) to connect the other 2 let alone test it all and make something. He will come back as soon as he is able to finish it and then we can start playing with it! As you can see it is pretty massive – definitely a big beast!

Now all I have to do is tidy up the rest of the workshop!

My reward is that I will be seeing my son more frequently and can ask him to programme the machine to cut wood out for me and drill the holes where they should go – a sort of ‘made to measure’ IKEA in my garden 😉

Scrap Happy July

Two really simple makes this month, both in wood.

I have been teaching Laura to make things out of the wood we cut from the garden and woodland last winter. With my help she has made and hung this gate.

I made another table for the garden from half an old door, some offcuts of shelving and some sawn down studding – all scrap from the new utility room.

ScrapHappy is open to anyone using up scraps of anything – no new materials. It can be a quilt block, pincushion, bag or hat, socks or a sculpture. Anything made of genuine scraps is eligible. If your scrap collection is out of control and you’d like to turn them into something beautiful or useful instead of leaving them to collect dust in the cupboard, why not join us on the 15th of each month? Email Kate at the address on her contact page http://talltalesfromchiconia.wordpress.com/contact-me . You can also contact Gun via her blog to join. We welcome new members. You don’t have to worry about making a long term commitment or even join in every month, just let either of us know a day or so in advance if you’re new and you’ll have something to show, so we can add your link. Regular contributors will receive an email reminder three days before the event.

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).

Kate Gun, EvaSue, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy,  Tracy, Jill,
Claire, JanMoira, SandraChrisAlys,
KerryClaireJeanJon, HayleyDawn,
Gwen, Bekki, Sue L (me!) Sunny, Kjerstin,
Vera, NanetteAnn, Dawn 2, Bear,
Carol, Preeti, Edith and Debbierose

The Magic Roundhouse

Another thing which ha been taking up quite a lot of time for me recently but has again been great fun, has been helping to work on the Roundhouse at Dyfed Permaculture Farm.

Some years ago we were given an old yurt to provide another meeting space – somewhere smaller, more intimate, tidier and quieter than the Barn. For a couple of years it worked well although we knew that the timber was not in great condition and the canvas had been mended. Then one Autumn, just a few days before we were going to take it down for winter, a gale blew and when we looked the yurt had a very distinct lean to it! A couple who love the Farm and visit regularly but live in England offered us some money to build something that would be useful and enhance the facilities. We decided to build a Roundhouse to the same footprint as the yurt in the same spot. As far as possible we would use materials we had on the land (timber from managing the woodland, soil, straw and hay) parts of the old yurt, and reclaimed materials which we could collect.

Over the summer of 2019, with the help of a local man. Richard Sylvan, who has built many roundhouses, we got the circle of posts up and the roof on all using timber felled on site. Some of the work was done by our regular volunteers but we also advertised it as a course with people paying a modest fee to come and learn. The roof is a ‘reciprocating’ one – the radial rafter poles were laid in a spiral on top of an upright which was then knocked away – each rafter holds its neighbour up! it gives us the whole span without pillars. Very clever! The rafters were covered with the canvas from the old yurt roof, then a heavy duty pond liner (we had to buy that!), some gravel and then on the top turf which we scraped off the car park thereby doing two jobs in one. Over that winter 2019/20 even just having a space to shelter under was very useful. But building work stopped until Spring.

Then Covid struck. For a while only the 2 households who live on the farm could do any work there. Then in the summer, as restrictions eased a little our small group of regular volunteers began to have occasional workdays and we spent one of them doing some minor repairs to the yurt floor. We managed to hold a couple of management committee meetings in the shelter of the roof which kept the rain off but not the wind so we were essentially out of doors but not getting wet!

Repairing the floor pieces

This year, once things began to ease again we decided to make a push to get on with it. It wasn’t possible to run courses but having ascertained which of the regulars could make each date we were able to invite a couple of people who had been on the original courses, and lived locally, to come as volunteers for the wall building. The walls are lengths of cordwood from trees felled on the Farm land interspersed with bottle bricks (an empty wine bottle and a jam jar taped together) and all held together with cob which is a mixture of soil, clay and straw. We obtained permission to dig clay from an old pit a few miles away, Richard came back to show us how to do all this. The windows are all ‘found’ ones – donations of replaced windows or ‘wrong size’ panes. There is still a small section of wall to fill in once the fire has been installed and the flue put through the wall and there are a few other odd gaps to be filled in when we have another batch of cob made.

Then we spent a long day putting the floor down. It was originally the gymnasium floor in a girls school and still has the markings for netball! It was salvaged and cut up to become the floor of the yurt and is now laid in the Roundhouse. The hole in the middle is the original space for a stove and will be filled with a mosaic – that will be the finishing touch!

The original intention was to put doors on the three remaining sections but in the light of the pandemic we have decided that for now we will hang big curtains across there. That will encourage us and any other users to keep it very well ventilated. We had a meeting in there on Monday night and it was a magical space.

To read more about Dyfed Permaculture Farm and see more pictures go to http://www.dyfedpermaculturefarmtrust.org.uk or to their Facebook page

Over the border!

I have been quiet for a while, not because I have had nothing to write about but because I have been too busy to sit down and type about it all!

Now that restrictions are easing and I have had both my Covid vaccinations I went to visit my daughter for a few days. Some of you may remember that she works as Learning Support Assistant in a primary school and it is easiest for her if I visit during the holidays so I went for part of half term.

As you can imagine it was wonderful to see her especially as the last time was August! We packed a lot into a few days. The lease on her rented house was coming to an end and although she could have renewed it she was considering moving. She has made the house into a lovely home and has some fantastic neighbours but the landlady is very reluctant to spend money on maintenance and repairs. Last winter the badly fitting, single glazed windows and lack of loft insulation meant the heating was not up to the job and the house was very cold. Then 2 neighbours (both in rented homes) announced they were moving – who would come in their place? It seemed sensible to look at other houses to rent. So once again I found myself viewing properties with one of my children! Front runner was a very similar house to the one she was in, on a quiet estate within walking distance of the town center, but with a slightly different layout of rooms and much better maintained. As in many towns and cities, especially those built in the 60’s and 70’s the suburbs are arranged around roads which radiate out from the center of town and the buses run along those radial roads, So to visit friends a couple of miles away in the next ‘village’ means a bus into town and another out, or using the car. So paradoxically living near the center should help her kids’ social lives! After a lot of weighing up the pros and cons including the hassle of changing her address on everything, dealing with the benefits system and packing everything up, she decided to move and we set the wheels in motion.

Two viewings of the place on different days meant we were in town so I hit the charity shops to replenish my wardrobe after being unable to do so through the Covid restrictions. I had noticed that another aspect of my rut was that every morning I pulled on jeans and a t-shirt type top, the only decision required being short or long sleeves, then a fleece hoodie. Sometimes they were clean and tidy clothes suitable for being seen out in and other days they were gardening wear with stains and holes but that was the only difference. It was so long since I had worn earrings that the holes had almost healed over and I abandoned my watch when the battery ran out. By going into ALL the charity shops we found a skirt, a dress, a pair of smarter trousers and several tops in my size.

A selection of my finds – some are in the wash!

And as we were out and spending money (It hardly hurts at all to wave a plastic card over a machine which beeps its thanks!) we had a pub lunch one day and ate out at Wagamama another evening. If any of you know of a good cookbook or website that would introduce me to cooking Japanese cuisine (bearing in mind that my local supermarkets have limited ranges of ‘world foods’!) please tell me. What we had was delicious but very new for me. The pub lunch included a particularly nice relish which I managed to re-create at home – recipe below.

Red Onion and Red Pepper Relish

Sweat half a kilo of thinly sliced red onions slowly until beginning to soften, add one and a half red peppers cut into short thin strips and continue cooking until everything is soft and starting to melt. Add salt, pepper, a generous slug of balsamic vinegar, a desertspoon or so of dark muscovado sugar, a heaped teaspoon of grain mustard and a splash of blackcurrant vinegar (or pontack sauce or red wine vinegar). Continue to simmer for another ten minutes or so stirring frequently for the flavours to mingle. Check the taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Either pour into a jar and store in the fridge OR pour into a bottom lined cake tin, top with a circle of ready rolled puff pastry and bake at 200 deg for 20 mins then invert onto a plate as a tart for a delicious lunch. I made it when friends came and they asked for seconds so it must have been OK!

There are at least 2 more posts about my activities in my head and I will try to get them onto the screen soon!

Ker-ching! A Penny drops!

There were some lovely comments on my last post about the blanket I was making to use up those little balls of wool that every knitter accumulates. The ‘granny squares’ are not all the same size necessitating strips and stripes and extra rounds to make them fit together and the colours are multiple and varied – yet the effect is cheerful and lively and most of you loved it as do I. Why?

Looking around my home and at the assorted handmade blankets in my cupboard I realised that the pieces I like best are the scrappy ones – the patchworks (usually fairly random) and the multicoloured. Partly this is because they will fit in with any colour scheme, adding both pattern and a hit of colour to the space. So in that sense they are very practical – change the decor? No problem!

Musing during a dog walk (as you do!) two memories from childhood came into my head.

The first concerned my childhood heroine; the woman I wanted to be like when I grew up. My Mum’s eldest, and much older, sister Aunty Nan. Nan and her husband Francis were childless (not by choice – as she said ‘In our day if it didn’t happen it didn’t happen and there was nothing you could do about it’) which meant that she had not given up work to raise her family. By the time I was old enough to remember them they were both lecturers at Alsager Teacher Training College near Newcastle-under-Lyme and lived in half a very long Nissen hut on the campus left over from World War 2. Francis headed up Rural Studies and Nan taught Craft. I found Francis slightly intimidating and when we visited he and my Dad would talk bees which they both kept. Nan would always find something crafty for me to do so that she and Mum could cook and talk. Later they bought 3 adjoining building plots where a new estate was being developed and had a bungalow built. Nan was furious that the architect would only talk to Francis even though she was the more artistic and better at design! She was even sidelined during the discussion of the kitchen! It was a beautiful home, very up to date in its furnishings and, of course, with Francis being an expert gardener, set in a fabulous garden. But what I really loved was their very early VW Dormobile.

Francis’s passion for bees meant he was not content with keeping a few hives of honey bees. He was really a thwarted academic and one of his good friends was Alan Gemmell (If you are old enough and live in the UK you may remember Professor Alan Gemmell of Keele University from Gardener’s Question Time. Prof’s passion was potatoes). So every summer he and Nan would spend the long vacation travelling Europe so he could collect wild bees and identify them. He had a cabinet of shallow drawers in his study with serried ranks of bees filed according to their latin name.

To make these expeditions easier, especially when he had exhausted Western Europe and started exploring behind the Iron Curtain, they got the Dormobile. To me it was a playhouse on wheels! And in it were blankets made by Nan on those journeys. She would take a pair of double pointed knitting needles – the short ones used for socks – and odd balls of wool so that she had some knitting to do in the evenings or while she was sitting in a field somewhere half watching Francis stalk his prey. Squares were easy to carry around or store in the van. Some were plain but lots were stripey or half and half. Sometimes the wool was thinner than she would have liked so she would use 2 colours together making a tweedy effect. Those blankets were part of the magic of the van for me. So very different from the contents of her house or of any of the other houses I knew.

The second memory was of a couple whose names I cannot remember but they were members of the Manchester and District Beekeepers Association, of which my Dad was Treasurer. The Association met once a month for most of the year. In the winter they rented a room somewhere for an evening and had ‘talks’ about bees and related subjects. But in the summer there were ‘Apiary visits’. One member would host the rest for an afternoon wherever they kept their bees. One of the more experienced members, often my father, would go through the hives explaining what they were doing, what they were looking for and why. If the bees needed extra space or a super full of honey needed to be taken away then that would be done. So winter was for theory and summer for practical. And on Apiary visits families were invited along too. There were a couple of single women who kept bees, a couple who did it jointly but most of the keepers were men. So the families consisted of wives and a few children who would sit around on deckchairs as far away from the hives as possible and chat. Everyone would take a picnic tea and once the hives were safely put back together again the beekeepers would join us and the host (or more usually the host’s wife!) would make cups of tea. It was a nice way to spend a summer afternoon and most of the gardens were delightful.

My Dad when he was young with his bees

The couple I am thinking of hosted a visit every year but not in their garden – I never knew where they lived in winter. Every summer they would decamp to a field where he kept his bees and where they had 2 old railway wagons. One was where he stored all his bee equipment and extracted his honey – a dim space which I always tried to get into at some point to enjoy its scent of wood, wax and honey. The other was where they lived with two single beds arranged in an L shape at the end furthest from the door, each covered with a multicoloured, home made blanket, a small table and 2 hard chairs and a rudimentary kitchen with a camping stove. Outside was a compost toilet and another table with a washing up bowl on it and a tap on a post behind it. The field was on a hill and there was an amazing view over the valley. I knew of no-one else who lived like that – it was like being in a story!

One huge granny square!

I suppose that from those 2 experiences I came to associate blankets like the one I am working on with a simple life, being unconventional, having adventures but also with being cosy and self-sufficient. No wonder I like them so much – by making them I am constructing my very own magic carpet of the imagination, opening up possibilities of adventures and new ways of living!

Scrap Happy May

At the start of lockdown I looked at what materials I had and discovered a box of very small balls of knitting yarn. In some cases I had more than one ball of the same and some were bigger than others but none were big enough for even a small project on their own. So I started making granny squares using multiple colours in each. I tried various small patterns just to see how they came out. Then I started to join them together adding extra rounds or just rows to get them to fit. Thankfully I have been dealing with the ends as I go. As you can see I still have some squares to attach and the box is not empty yet so I will go on adding more. I have no idea what size it will end up but at least those scraps are now being used up and turned into something useful!

ScrapHappy is open to anyone using up scraps of anything – no new materials. It can be a quilt block, pincushion, bag or hat, socks or a sculpture. Anything made of genuine scraps is eligible. If your scrap collection is out of control and you’d like to turn them into something beautiful or useful instead of leaving them to collect dust in the cupboard, why not join us on the 15th of each month? Contact Kate or Gun via their blogs using the links below. .

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).

Kate Gun, EvaSue, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy,  Tracy, Jill,
Claire, JanMoira, SandraChrisAlys,
KerryClaireJeanJon, HayleyDawn,
Gwen, Bekki, Sue L (me!), Sunny, Kjerstin,
Vera, NanetteAnn, Dawn 2, Noreen,
Bear, Carol, Preeti and Edith

Things are looking up

A fairly disastrous start to my garden had me feeling rather dejected but at last the sunny days/ frosty nights weather has given way to the usual ‘chilly with varying amounts of rain’ variety. Not nearly as nice for working in but better for growing.

I brought the trays of tender seeds indoors and put them on the living room windowsill. The window faces due South and there is a radiator underneath. At last some have germinated.

these are cucurbits of various kinds and peppers – sweet and hot.

I planted a net of first early potatoes – some outdoors and some in large pots in the lean-to greenhouse on the South wall of the house. The outside ones have kept trying to send up shoots and been nipped by frost despite a heavy mulch of paper so none have shoots more than 2 inches tall. In the greenhouse they are almost ready to flower!

Last year I ordered some plants and when they arrived a free gift of a few dahlia tubers had been included. I was hesitant because in the past slugs have munched every dahlia that put a shoot above the soil. But they were free so I put them out in pots and they came up well. In the Autumn I brought the pots into the lean-to greenhouse, stood them on bubble wrap and tied more round the pots then added a layer of shredded paper to the top. They have come back well.

Everything will be late but there should be some things to eat from the garden!

Indoors I have been decorating my bedroom. In this slightly weird old cottage that meant doing the stairs as well – we knocked 3 small bedrooms and the landing into one generous room so the door is at the bottom of the stairs. I didn’t realise that DIY stores were fully open (in my world they are useful but not essential) so I ordered paint online for collection. I knew that the colour I saw on my screen was not accurate – would I like it when I saw it on the walls? Should I order tester pots first? Since Carmarthen is 20 miles away I decided to risk it. It is paint. If I didn’t like it I could buy another can in a different colour and go over it again. I did however invest in some good quality paint that promised to cover any previous colour in one coat. So

From this

To

One friend’s reaction was ‘Oooh! You’ll have to be properly grown up now!’

I thought the pale colour would be a lilac grey and it is bluer than I expected but actually I am happy with it.

On the rut jumping front I have continued trying to expand the range of foods I eat. Yesterday I picked a large handful of ‘greens’ which included old favourites chard and wild garlic, shoots of asparagus kale which I grew for the first time last year and have been picking leaves from all winter, but also dandelion leaves and vine leaves. I had thought that dandelions had to be blanched under a flowerpot but Carolee (https://herbalblessingsblog.wordpress.com ) assured me they didn’t. I chopped all the leaves and sauteed the whole lot in a little olive oil, sprinkled with salt and they were delicious. Today I have made Soda Bread (from Darina Allen’s Forgotten Skills of Cooking), Blinis (from Michael Mosley’s The Clever Guts Diet) and Oatcakes (from The River Cottage Handbook No 3 – Bread by Daniel Stevens).

On the crafting front – wait for Scrap Happy!

At long last we are able to start meeting up with friends, have workdays and non-essential shops are open. Yesterday I met friends in Cardigan to have coffee. As it was fine there were more people out and about than usual. We cannot yet go inside but the Council has reduced the High Street to one lane allowing cafes to put chairs and tables out on the pavements and spill onto the side of the road. It wasn’t ideal with delivery lorries trundling past but a big step towards normality!

The other thing that has lifted my spirits is that my son plans to move nearer to me. He no longer needs to be able to commute to London every day but instead will be working from home most of the time. His job in IT is stressful and his health is suffering. Moving out of an urban environment should help him relax. His wife, who has very little experience of living in the country, prefers to stay put so for now he will buy somewhere small, but big enough for her and their adult children to visit, and split his time between here and there. That way she can try living down here (very different from staying with your M-I-L!) and see if she likes it after all. I have been helping him house hunt and he has made an offer on a place he saw the other side of Carmarthen from me. Of course there are many things that can go wrong between offer and moving in but knowing that he will buy that or another place soon and I will be able to see more of him is lovely.

Ups and Downs in the Garden

I have realised that it is quite some time since I posted anything – not because I haven’t done anything worth mentioning but because I have been too busy doing things to have time to write about them! This easing of restrictions is lovely but now I have to fit more things into my days!

In particular I haven’t posted about the garden for ages. Mainly because it started disastrously! Laura and I sowed tender things on the heated bench in mid March and waited… and waited… until eventually I realised that the bench wasn’t working. The power light is on so it must be either the thermostat or the soil warming cable. When Mr and Mrs Snail visited Mr Snail offered to come with his meter and work out which. But it is too late for those early seeds so we we tried again – this time putting them on the house windowsills. Some are coming up but not as many or as quickly as I had hoped.

In the greenhouse we diligently fertilised the apricot and peach trees with a little brush every day. Loads of fruit set. Then we had a sharp frost which I hadn’t expected and all the little apricots shrivelled and fell off – every one! The peach seemed to fare better but still has dropped quite a few. I am hoping the remaining ones will swell.

rather out of focus – my phone doesn’t like close-ups!

That frost was the first of several the most recent being Sunday night. So seeds we sowed outside are still hunkered down – at least I hope they are and that they will germinate when the weather improves. The days, of course, have been glorious which has meant a lot of watering!

I was beginning to feel pretty despondent but Jono gave me some parsley seedlings, I spotted some sweet pepper and chilli seedlings in the supermarket, Rachel gave me a couple of cucumber plants and I found tomato plants in the zero waste shop in Cardigan. Michelle was offered some surplus onions sets and there were more than they needed so I had a kilo. Now some of the perennials and some of the greenhouse plants are braving the temperature extremes and coming up so maybe it will come right in the end.

Jono’s parsley not exactly thriving but not dying either!

I have had one rhubarb crumble already. The buckler leaf sorrel is popping up in several places. Jerusalem artichokes are pretty indestructible!

The garlic went in last autumn and isn’t growing at present but is hanging on. Early potatoes in the greenhouse are doing OK. The crab apple trees between the house and the workshop were overgrown with weeds and brambles but we did a lot of work on that area over winter and they are flowering – Hurray!

Somewhat erratic germination of carrots in the greenhouse – I’m sure I sprinkled the seed more evenly than that! I managed to root some watercress from a supermarket pack and now it is growing outside in a sheltered spot. The beetroot were sown in the lower greenhouse last year and did nothing but have now come up!

I helped prune a circle of willows at Dyfed Permaculture Farm and brought some of the rods home to take cuttings. They have done very well! The plant on the right is Asparagus Kale which I tried for the first time last year. I have been picking leaves all winter and now they are producing lots of flower shoots which are just like purple sprouting broccoli. The plants being shorter than PSB fit better in my garden so the buds which flower before I can eat them I will allow to set seed for future sowings.

So a slow start but not all is lost.

And because there is no such thing as too much cuteness pictures of me with a bottle fed lamb at Dyfed Permaculture Farm and 3 baby goats born whilst I was visiting my friends Rachel and Ian.

The red light on the baby goats is from a heat lamp. They were born in the field, their Mum having refused to go into the maternity pen, but as dusk fell the family was moved there willy nilly in a wheelbarrow! By the way I have had my hair cut since the lamb photo you will be pleased to hear!

Scrap Happy April

A while ago I posted that I had decided to use the Take a Stitch Tuesday posts by Sharon at Pintangle to learn a wider range of embroidery stitches. Cathy commented that she was following Anne Brookes 52 tags series for a similar reason. So I investigated that and it seemed more about creatively using stitches rather than learning them so it seemed that doing both would be helpful

I duly went online and bought a pack of tags and once they arrived tried the first challenge even though I was now a few weeks behind! It was to be all white. I watched her video tutorial and set to work. By the end of the evening I had a tag but was simply frustrated!

As it is ages since I did much dressmaking I have very limited supplies of trimmings and my buttons are quite large. Everything felt out of proportion to the size of the tag. Meanwhile the small piece of fabric was very fiddly to handle. It probably didn’t help that I chose a scrap of an old loosely woven damask tablecloth as the base fabric. I liked the white on white design of the weave but it stretched and wobbled far too much. I was tempted to give up on the whole thing but remembered seeing on other blogs cards and postcards made with embroidery so decided to have a go with a larger ‘tag’.

I also found the video unhelpful – once I had seen what Anne had done I found it hard to get that out of my head and invent my own design. So I watched just the first few seconds of the next few and wrote down the theme as my starting point. That probably means I have gone totally off piste but the whole idea was that this is for me so I am modifying it to suit myself.

Week 2 was a heart. I cut an A4 sheet of card (I have nearly a ream of the stuff so can afford to muck about) into 4 ‘postcards’ and had a lovely evening playing. I found a ball of narrow ribbon which someone gave me and tried using that for embroidery. I used stitches I had learned on the Pintangle challenge so combining the 2 ‘courses’. It came out with a slightly ‘vintage’ feel which wasn’t intentional!

Week 3 was sewing ruffles – not inspiring for me! So I didn’t do it! On to week 4 which was to play with fly stitch.

Luckily at that point a friend who has been clearing out her Mother’s house (Mum has chosen to go into a home after a fall) brought me a bag of embroidery and tapestry threads she had found in a drawer so I had more choice.

The last few weeks have been particularly busy and these challenges are supposed to be fun so I am trying very hard to shut out the ‘ought’ voice and do them only when I have time and energy rather than allowing myself to be driven to do one of each every week. This probably means it will take me well over a year to complete them and I will almost certainly continue to ignore any that do not appeal. However I think the tags one will certainly help free me up to be more creative.

All I need to do now is find a use for the other 99 luggage tags!

Scrap Happy is curated by Kate and Gun on the 15th of each month. The links below are to the amazingly creative contributors who make interesting things out of scraps that most people would throw away.

Kate (me!)Gun, EvaSue, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy,  Tracy, Jill,
Claire, JanMoira, SandraChrisAlys,
KerryClaireJeanJon, HayleyDawn,
Gwen, Bekki, Sue L, Sunny, Kjerstin,
Vera, NanetteAnn, NancyDawn 2, Noreen,
Bear, Carol, Preeti and Edith

Another step out of my rut

Regular readers will know that over Christmas I realised that I had shrunk. Sadly not physically but in terms of my sense of self, my confidence and my comfort zone. To reverse this I have been pushing myself to clamber out of my rut. As part of that I decided to expand my repertoire of meals and baking. I had, as most of us do, a collection of recipes which I made over and over again. Sometimes I varied them a bit but basically I was sticking to tried and tested, fail-safe, do them without reference to a book, ones. I mentioned in a previous post that finding books by Jack Munroe in the library started the process and encouraged me to be more experimental with meals but I was still making the same bread, cakes and biscuits.

I got out my favourite bread book (The River Cottage Handbook No 3 – Bread) and looked for something to try. I love crumpets so thought I would begin with those. Disaster! Even though I oiled the rings well the dough stuck to them. I tried adjusting the wetness both to drier and to wetter but they still stuck. Thinking about it later I have used those same rings many times for poaching eggs and I think I have scoured them too often so that they are scratched. When I chucked the last batch of glued up rings into a bowl of washing-up water to soak the dough off I looked again at the recipe and it said that pikelets could be made from the same dough without rings – just spoonfuls of batter on the pan. I was reluctant to waste the last bit of batter so I gave it a go and – success!

Then I tried Focaccia from the same book. That worked first time.

Last week the lockdown restrictions on us here in Wales were eased a little so we can visit each other. Only 4 adults from no more than 2 households can meet out of doors. The Snails and I decided that if it rained their limery with the doors and windows open was as good as outdoors so I went to visit them. Jan had made some bread and some small cookies which were more like little cakes. Both recipes were from a book she posted about a while ago – Artisan Sourdough Made Simple by Emilie Raffa. One of the reasons I have not explored sourdough much is that living alone I only need to bake bread every few days and throwing away half the starter to feed it grieves me. On the other hand chilling it would mean re-activating it before using it and in turn that means being more organised than I can usually manage! Jan assures me that the starter only needs feeding every few days and this book has recipes to use up any discarded starter. So I bought a copy and now have a starter culture brewing.

All this experimenting and learning new techniques is quite exciting! And the higher I climb out of the rut the more possibilities I can see. Thank goodness the easing of our lockdown looks like continuing – I am going to need visitors to help me eat all things I want to bake!