How Do We Say Goodbye?

I have been to three funerals recently. I suppose that is one of the things whch happens when we get older. We may be invited to Weddings and Christenings of the younger generations of our families and close friends but our comtemporaries are usually past that and it is their funerals we go to. These three events could not have been more different.

The first was for the 96 year old father of a local friend. As his wife’s health deteriorated they had struggled to cope and decided to accept an invitation to build a wooden chalet on my friend’s smallholding where she could support them. The wife died a few years ago and was buried in the graveyard of the local chapel. Every day the old man walked up the road to visit her grave and became a familiar sight in the community. Whilst visiting his son and daughter-in-law near London he became ill and died in hospital there. But his wish was to be buried with his wife. It was a very simple and informal ceremony. The Hearse arrived and members of his family, including his teenage grandson, pushed his coffin to the graveside and we followed. My friend, a retired vicar, invited us to share our memories of him, one of which, shared by the daughter-in-law he had been visiting, was of him being thrown out of a cocktail bar for being badly behaved – he was 95 at the time! One of the sons-in-law videoed the proceedings and fed it live to the man’s eldest son in Australia. When everyone who wanted to speak had done so the coffin, with his trademark red knitted hat on top, was lowered into the grave and most of us threw a handful of earth onto it. The wake was in his cabin. He had given strict instructions that we had to have Cornish Pasties from a shop he thought made the best ones (they had lived in Cornwall for a while before moving to Wales) and a boxful had been duly ordered and couriered here. The rest of the catering was done by the family and a next-door neighbour who used to be a professional baker. A lot of people crammed into rather a small space ate, drank wine, reminisced and raised a glass to him. It really felt as if WE buried him, all of us participating and contributing.

The second was that of the man who lived next door to my daughter when she lived with her husband. After they separated the neighbour still kept in touch and supported her. Each time I visited I would chat to him and I wanted to be able to pay my respects to him and say goodbye. He was an active member of the local Catholic Church, belonged to the Knights of St Columba (a lay order for men in the Catholic Church), an active member of the Royal British Legion and a Scout leader. There was a funeral Mass with some of his fellow Knights acting as bearers, another short service at the Crematorium with the Legion Standards aloft and then dipped and a wake in a Social Club near his home. There was a lot of ritual and it was very dignified but I felt like an observer not really involved. Maybe that was partly because I am not and never have been a member of a Catholic Church and was not clear what the procedure was or what the correct responses were. At the wake the various contingents – Family, Knights, Scouts, Legion (The other neighbours had left to go back to work) formed little groups in the big space, ate standard funeral fare, bought drinks from the bar and hardly mixed. It was no surprise that I didn’t know anyone there but other than the family neither did my daughter.

The third was for a 91 year old woman who lived about a mile from me in a bungalow on the farm she and her late husband had run and was now owned by her son and daughter-in-law. We gathered in the small non-conformist Chapel a couple of hundred yards from her home. The service was in a mixture of Welsh and English with one hymn in each language. The Minister did all the readings and gave the Eulogy but I felt he knew the woman he was talking about and respected her. Afterwards we all mingled in the graveyard and the family spoke to everyone. The burial was to be later in a family plot where the couple originally came from and their second son, who died of Meningitis at the age of 6 was buried as was her husband. She had asked to be reunited with them. I was unable to go to the wake in the village hall but know that the food would have been provided by family and friends and that there would be tea and coffee but no alcohol. I had walked to the service because my car was in the garage for repair and several people offered me a lift to the wake, then, when I explained I could not join them, to my home.

It made me appreciate again that whilst an urban life allows for lots of different social opportunities, the close knit rural one is where I feel I belong.


Scrap Happy March 2023

I am joining Kate, Gun and the other Happy Scrappers with another project made entirely from Scrap. The links below will take you to an inspiring group of people who work in a range of materials to make something out of waste.

KateGun, EvaSue, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy,  Tracy, 
JanMoira, SandraChrisAlys,
ClaireJeanJon, DawnJuleGwen,
Sunny, Kjerstin, Sue LVera, Edith
NanetteAnn, Dawn 2, Carol, Preeti,
Amo and Alissa

My offering this month is another garden project.

I can see in my mind’s eye a gallery of confused faces and hear a chorus of ‘What the….?’

Last year we almost ran out of rainwater on the veg patch. I only water the greenhouses and newly planted stuff outside. I had 2 IBC tanks (one out of sight in this picture) each holding 1000 litres and 3 waterbutts but it was only just enough despite careful rationing. The tanks fill from the greenhouse roofs and the shed roof and they plus one butt are linked by syphons (hence the tangle of hosepipe snakes on top of the tank on the right) so that I can dip the watering cans easily but the butt refills automatically. This year has been very dry so far and the stream is at its summer level. Of course the tanks are full and we may have a very wet summer but there is already talk of hosepipe bans ahead so storing water is important. At house level I had another tank collecting from the workshop roof which was hardly ever used. So Laura and I decided it would be better to move it up to the veg level and join it to the system. That is the one on the left ogf the picture.

Each tank is surrounded by a metal cage to hold it in shape and tank plus cage together are very heavy. Two metal bars at the top hold the cage together and the bolts which hold them in place on the one to be moved were seriously rusted. So the first job was to use the angle grinder to cut off the nuts from the bolts. Then we syphoned all the water out, tipped the whole thing on its side and slid the plastic tank out of the cage. Each, in turn, was loaded onto a trolley and roped on then towed up the hill. We got to the top and discovered the gateway was just too narrow so out came the gatepost!

The only place the tank could go without being a nuisance and narrowing the path too much was on the end of the compost bins. Which meant it was on the opposite side of the path to the greenhouses. A hosepipe across the path would be a problem so it would have to be raised up. Another of the tanks is on the wrong side of a path – it collects off the shed roof – but I was able to attach the hose to the gable end of the greenhouse. This latest tank had no such useful structure. Time to get creative!

Luckily I already had a very long syphon tube which was not in use. All my syphons need to be longer than that so have had to be extended. They start with what Amazon sell as a ‘gas syphon’ (gas as in petrol) for emptying fuel tanks. But they are only 1m long. I tried attaching hosepipe with the standard garden hose connectors but they allow air to seep in breaking the syphon action. So I use a short piece of copper pipe taken out of the house at some point (hence the plastic joint in the middle of this one), heat the end of the syphon tube in a jug of hot water and stretch it over the copper, securing it with a jubilee hose clip. Ditto the hosepipe. And now I have a really long tube. The gas syphon has a ball bearing and spring in the end which you jiggle fast in the water of the sending tank leaving the other end on the ground until water runs out of the open end. Then you put a thumb over that open end and put it into the receiving tank. As long as the open end is below the sending end it will run. And once both ends are under water you can do what you like with the middle and it will keep working – as long as you don’t pull on of the ends above the water in which case it stops! It is fiddly but I have learned the hard way to tie each end of the pipe to the tank cage before moving the middle! Three lengths of left over slate batten ( yes, the same stuff as I used for the doors in last months post) fixed together and to the cages made an arch. Then more cable ties to attach the tube to the arch, adjusting the pip[es so that both ends were at the bottom of the tank in case they run very low, and the job was done. I have to confess that the cable ties were not exactly scrap – I buy large packets and keep them in stock. But everything else was.

Ashes to Ashes

For a couple of years I have been watching 2 large Ash trees in my garden develope signs of Ash Dieback disease. They were mature when we moved in 30 years ago and about 25 years back we had the crowns thinned to reduce the weight. They gave welcome shade to the workshop in summer. But this winter I decided they had to go before they got any more dangerous.

Both were too big for Laura and me to handle and they were on steep slopes which made the job even harder. Luckily one of Laura’s friends is married to a tree surgeon so I asked hm to take on the job. The tree on the left could be dropped across the stream but the one on the right would have to be climbed. So James would have to get the help of his friend, also called James, for safety and James 2 would have to bring his winch so they could pull stuff across and out of the stream.

By lunchtime the first tree was down and winched into the field. I asked them to cut it into manageable pieces but then leave it for us to clear up. They did but were a bit bemused at what I thought we could manage! If I have been over-confident Jmes 1 will come back with his chainsaws and do some more cutting up.

Then in the afternoon they got onto the second tree which James 1 climbed. It was amazing watching him!

This photo is taken from the terrace above the previous ones – there is another 3 – 4 metres of trunk below what you can see. We agreed that they would cut it down to the main fork but leave the trunk. It may regrow as a pollard in which case it will be a long time before the branches are any danger to the workshop. Or it may die but that is another habitat for wildlife.

As James cut away at the branches some of the pieces fell in the stream. They were big and heavy. At that point the water is about a foot deep and the bank about 5 feet above that so the winch was used again to drag them up to ground level.

By the end of the day we were left with this on my side of the river as well as all the wood in the field

We have made a good start on clearing it all – stuff that is too small or rotten to bother with goes into piles to be chipped, long lengths of thinnish stuff are snedded with the billhook and stacked up ready to cut to length in the woodshed and bigger lumps cut with the 2 person saw into roundels for splitting. I had to re-learn how to split with the maul! Because I knew that I would miss sometimes I chose to do the splitting in the lower garden where the soil is fairly deep. Missing the log and hitting a stone does a lot of damage to an axe.

All this wood will be seasoned for 2 years before it is burned so 2024/5 we should have plenty of fuel and the Ashes will return to the garden as ashes.


For the last 2 years the Apricot trees is the greenhouses have not produced fruit. We have diligently hand pollinated them, fruit has set but it has all dropped off before swelling. The Peach which grows between them has yielded luscious ripe fruit. After much head scratching Laura and I concluded that it might well be that the greenhouse doors were disintegrating and late frosts had dropped the temperature in there too low. As the peach flowers slightly later it might have been affected less.

The orignal doors were in the gable ends of the houses but John decided it would work better to have more doors and added some in one long side. Double doors so that getting a wheelbarrow in was easy. But the greenhouses are raised up on a low wall so the height of the wall is not standard. He made some wooden doors which had started to fall apart and eventually a winter gale got through the gap and they literally fell off.

A couple of weeks ago Laura and I were walking round looking at what was happening in the garden and realised that the buds on the Apricots were begining to show pink. The doors got put to the top of the urgent list!

In the workshop was some slate battening bought to build frameworks for climbing soft fruit such as loganberries. I had to buy a bundle and there were some lengths left and some offcuts. My son had left behind some bits of plywood from fitting out his camper van and some screws he had used but then replaced. Also in the workshop was some twin wall polycarbonate sheeting bought donkeys years ago to replace glass panes in the greenhouses as they broke. It turned out that the houses are imperial, the sheeting metric and the sheets were just a fraction too narrow. I used some of it as makeshift secondary glazing in the cabin in the garden until I could afford to have double glazing in there. The only materials I had to buy were a fex extra screws and the hinges – the old ones were too twisted and rusty to reuse.

I have also bought some hooks which I will put on the door frame each side and in the middle of the doors with a bar of slate batten to keep the doors shut. That is today’s job. I just hope we get some Apricots this year!

Find the rest of the Scrap Happy crew by using the links below

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

Keeping Warm

Some of you will recall that back in the Spring I had a new woodstove fitted. My Air Source Heat Pump is very efficient but it runs on electricity and as those of you in the UK will understand that has gone up in price dramatically. I am sure that it is cheaper to run than gas or oil heating but that is not actually a great deal of comfort! I have solar panels on the roof which generate well in summer but little in winter when I need the heating. I could pay the bills but they meant having less to spend on other things I rate as important.

My lovely fire blazng away

On the other hand I have wood here which takes energy to cut down, cut up, shift and stack but involves no money changing hands. Could I use that instead? The answer has proved to be ‘Yes and No’. Laura also burns wood in the cabin and what we have used this winter was cut 2 years ago so that it has had time to season. When it was cut we needed less each winter so we have had to supplement it with Hotblocks – lumps of compressed sawdust which I bought by the pallet. Last year we cut more in anticipation of me upgrading my fire. This year we are trying to cut even more because Laura will have a new fire and be at home more. It is hard physical work but luckily we both find it satisfying!

We have 4 large piles of wood cut – these are just 2

I have found that putting on layers means I am quite happy leaving lighting the fire until late afternoon. Until then I am outside or moving around most of the time and the residual heat is enough for me. I prefer the bedroom to be cool so that is fine. The kitchen has been a bit chilly at times and I have had some problems with condensation damp in there but that is partly because I have to keep the door closed to stop Evie rifling through the cupboards and rubbish bins in search of food (she is part labrador with starvation as her default setting!) I need to swap the door for a gate which allows the heat and cats through but stops her. So some tweaking needed and next winter if it is very cold I may put the heat pump on. This year I didn’t have it serviced and by the time the temperatures plummeted it was too late to get it done before the weather warmed up again.

I have put a lot of effort in over the years to making this house and the cabin more energy efficient but I am certainly not complacent. So when a local organisation, Cwm Arian Renewable Energy (CARE) (A wonderful group – read more about their varied projects here ) got some grant money to give advice on improving heat retention in houses I signed up for a visit. It has taken 2 years for me to reach the front of the queue but a couple of weeks ago Gerry came to do the survey. My instructions were to get the house warm before he came so that there was a good temperature difference between inside and out but to then let the fire go out and clean the ash out because his fan could make a heck of a mess if the ash got sucked out! As he was coming mid morning I had to set the alarm for very early! It was worth it.

The fan ready to go

What he was looking for was draughts. Draughts round old windows and doors, where walls and ceilings or floors do not meet properly, where pipes and cables enter or leave with gaps round them. He put a polythene sheet over one dorway with a fan behind it to suck air out of the house. That pulled cold air from outside in through any holes. The he used a thermal imaging camera to take photos of the temperature of the walls, windows and doors with a normal photo for reference so I knew what we were looking at. Sadly when I tried to load the photos he sent in his report into WordPress I failed – the downloads are indigestible to WP! I am sure there is a way to do it but not with my tech skills.

The important thing is that, apart from one place by my bed where all the cables and pipes come in from the tank room over the old garage, my house is fairly airtight. A couple of places need sealing with mastic – where the mantlepiece meets the ouside wall, round the top and bottom of the coving in the spare room – and I need to wash the rubber seals on the windows and doors because dust and grit are stopping them sealing quite properly. But my old double glazed windows are still in good

So my plan has worked. I can make things even better next year – fix the draughts, get the heating serviced in case we have another very cold snap, have hotblocks in reserve and keep cutting logs. That will do for me.

An invitation

I was planning to wite a post this morning about heating my home but paused to read the new posts from bloggers I follow (as you do!). One was from KDD designs, part of a series of posts by guests about working with colour. They have all been interesting but I found this one particularly inspiring with its suggestions for exercises to do, and thought I would share it with all you other crafty folk.

Being sensible can wait until tomorrow – I am off to play!

An Experiment in Knitting

A while ago I joined Carmarthen Library. I have been using the Cardigan one for several years and have found that I have read a lot of the non-fiction books that interest me. Carmarthen has a much bigger non-fiction section and, of course, almost all of them are new to me. I also discovered that there is a mobile library van which comes to my nearest village. It is the type of service which is under threat when economies are to be made and I wanted to support it. As it is quite easy for me to combine a walk to the library van with exercising the dogs it works well. The downside is that often I choose books online and request them without having been able to look inside. One of those was a knitting book which seemed to offer a different way of creating texture.

It is an interesting technique. You mark certain stitches by working them in the reverse of normal – so a knit where one would normally do purl and vice versa. A few rows on you pick up the ‘legs’ of the marked stitch and knit them together with a stitch on the current row making a fold. If the marked stitch is not directly below the one it gets attached to the fold is a dagonal and, as in cabling this may be to right or left. It is hard to describe but easy to do apart from having to knit one stitch through 3 loops (the 2 ‘legs’ and the stitch).

Using small amounts of leftover yarn I did some swatches to try out different arrangements of folds. The result is less ‘crisp’ than cabling and the first one I did had very wavy edges which would make it difficult to stitch pieces of a garment together. The next 2 I did with a garter stitch border which helped a bit.

So it was interesting to try but I don’t think I will be using it again. If you read my previous post you will realise that my crafting has been educational but not very rewarding lately!

No Scrap Happy january 2023

The scrappy project I have been working on for this month has not worked well so I am not showing it to you. I will be taking it apart and trying again. Plus yesterday I saw another scrappy idea which i want to try.

However other members of the group are posting their successes so please take a look.

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

Moving imto 2023

For some time now I have felt to be at a point of stasis, of transition. Not that I have been still; life has been full and busy. But of fidgeting on the spot, restless but unsure which direction to take next. I know the feeling well. And I know that there is no point rushing, trying to forge ahead down a new path which will probably prove to be the wrong one and result in an undignified U-turn. So I have waited, not patiently, for the direction to reveal itself.

This Christmas has been unusual. There was the long cold spell when for over a week I was confined by the ice to the house and garden. But the weather was glorious – cold, but sunny and clear, invigorating. Just as it was ending my son, daughter and her new partner came to stay for the weekend. The ice was melting by day, the rain was pouring down, and the nights were chilly enough to make the thaw slow. We stayed indoors and stoked the fire. They left and I dashed around re-stocking with food, and delivering a few local gifts and cards. Today is Day 3 of the Official Holiday as we have an extra day to compensate for Christmas Day being a Sunday. 3 Days of solitude (by choice – I had plenty of invitations to join others for Christmas lunch), walking the dogs and sitting by the fire. 3 Days of eating (especially chocolate), drinking (including more gin than I really should), reading, knitting, listening to podcasts and watching TV on catch-up and, most especially, reflection. And I think the way ahead is beginning to become clearer; plans and ideas beginning to coalesce. More of which in a future post.

Two books have been really helpful in this process.

In order of reading the first is ‘Hagitude’ by Sharon Blackie. It’s sub-title is ‘Re-imagining the second half of life’. Her thesis is that, culturally, we post-menopausal women are supposed to grow old gracefully, fading gradually into decrepitude and death, when what we should be doing is growing into elderhood and power and she shares myths and legends suggesting how that might manifest itself. Sharon uses different imagery but it brought to mind memories from way back.

Many, many years ago, when my children were toddling, I was warden of some sheltered flats for the elderly. I found an image came into my head of my residents as trees which had shed their leaves, revealing their underlying structure and shape. Some were graceful and elegant, some had been bent by the wind so that they were hunched and stunted, some had a tall and disciplined shape, others had much looser arrangements of branches. I reckon I have lost most of my leaves now. The leaves being the social constructs of acceptable behaviour to which we conform. They soften our edges, obscure our less nice bits, make us nicer to know, if less knowable. I am much less likely now to say ‘Yes’ when I really want to say ‘No’ though I hope I still (mostly) do it nicely and politely. I have always been a disappointment to the purveyors of beauty products. My wrinkles are free to sag at will, my hair is tabby – white bits, grey bits, brown bits – and I see no reason to dye it, my one concession to ‘looking nice’ being, since I had my long hair cut short for practicality, a good hair cut regularly. Now, it seems, life is encouraging me to prune away a few branches and allow some new one to grow. Another transition, metamorphosis. What will be revealed?

The second book is ‘The Salt Path’ by Raynor Winn. I picked up her sequel ‘The Wild Silence’ in the library as one of my random choices and immediately I had read it requested this one. In one week her husband was told he had an incurable neuro-degeneratiuve disease and their home, which was also their business, was reposessed. As two adults with no dependents they were low priority for a Council house, they didn’t want to sofa surf knowing they would soon be intrusive to, and resented by, their hosts however old the firendship, so they set off to walk the South West Coast Path wild camping all the way, giving themselves time and space to find a way forward. I still have a couple of chapters to read and then I need to digest what it means. I am not sure why it was so important I read this book right now but know that it was. Maybe something about letting the last few leaves go? Being willing to embrace the radical?

It looks as though 2023 will be an interesting one for me. Some endings, some beginnings. (And before anyone panics neither a literal long distance walk nor wild camping are in prospect!) I hope you will all keep me company on the journey.