Wovember warmth

We have nearly reached the end of this busy month. After this post I will only have two more to go to complete a full month of blogging every day. This morning, a couple of days early, Mr Snail reached his NaNoWriMo target of writing 50,000 words of a novel in November. And, I have just finished one of my Wovember projects: the Spatterdash Wrist Warmers. In fact the knitting was finished a few days ago, but then came the blocking:


Pinned out

Pinned out


and the two hours it took today to sew on 24 beautiful, antique, black glass buttons:

Lovely old buttons, still on their card

Lovely old buttons, still on their card

I’m delighted by the finished work. The yarn is lovely colours and, combined with the fancy pattern, it has created a series of rainbows. I’m also really pleased to have used some of these buttons, which I bought without a project in mind.

Now I just need to work up that Portland yarn I unravelled earlier in the month…

Nothing to see here

Today is, apparently Black Friday: a concept unknown in the UK until five years ago, but now hyped mainly by big corporations who want to sell you stuff. According The Guardian newspaper:

President Roosevelt gave it a special day, police in Philadelphia nicknamed the resultant chaos – and Amazon and Asda exported it to the UK…

Black Friday takes place in the US the day after Thanksgiving. It involves retailers cutting the price of their goods to encourage households to get back into shops after the US public holiday and it kickstarts the Christmas shopping period.

To counter this, there also seems to be a campaign entitled Buy Nothing Friday. The idea is that you actively aim to avoid any purchases today.

max eating psb

Nothing special about today… so here’s a picture of Max

But for me today is going to be go about your business as usual Friday. We’ve arranged to meet some friends for lunch at a local cafe, so we’ll be there supporting a small business… but not because of some hype, just because we want to eat and socialise and because they do nice food. Then, we need to get stuff for the chickens, so we’ll probably pop into a local store to see if they’ve got it and if they have we’ll buy and if they haven’t we won’t. While we’re out we’ll probably buy some milk and vegetables, because once you’ve made a journey in the car, it’s good to get as much out of the trip as possible and the nice organic food shop is close to the place we’re having lunch. And then on the way back, Mr Snail will drop me off to go and donate blood, because today is the day when the vampires are in town…

And that will be our day. We will spend money, but not any more or less than we would have done anyway. We’ll buy things from small local businesses, as always, and we’ll just behave normally.

I can’t help feeling that this is the answer… ignore the hype and just get on with your life… as I say, nothing to see here…

Three Things Thursday

…three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy…

This Thursday I’m not feeling very happy. I heard yesterday about the death of someone who was an important part of my adult life – Dr Peter Wathern.

I’m trying to focus on the fact that his presence in my life made it better, so here are three things that I am grateful for:

I’m grateful that Peter saw my potential at the age of 21 and supported me in gaining a personal scholarship so that I could study any subject that I wanted for my PhD. As my supervisor, he saw me through three years of research. He helped me plant trees (he considered it a good way to have a day out of the department!), set up and plan experiments and slog my way through the writing-up.

I’m grateful that later in life, when I was at a loose end job-wise, Peter arranged a temporary lectureship for me. We shared an office for a year and he provided yet more support. He was a great teacher.

And third, I’m grateful that throughout the time we knew knew each other, he welcomed me into his family – even as undergraduates, we used to be invited round to the Wathern’s for an evening of laughter and great food. And although we gradually saw less of each other over the years, Mr Snail and I had a fine evening there not all that long ago, as always characterised by lovely food and much laughter.

My life is diminished by the death of Peter, but was greatly enhanced by knowing him.



Auguste and the apples

Chilli goodies

Chilli goodies

Mr Snail went away last weekend to visit Sister of Snail, to help her de-clad a shed and start to turn the remaining frame into a fruit cage*. They made good progress, which he’s sure to blog about once he’s finished this NaNoWriMo business (he’s got less than 7,000 words to go now). It was a sociable event by all accounts (I had to stay home and tend to dogs and chickens) involving family and friends. I dispatched Mr Snail with some chilli goodies for my nephew, a pair of socks for my mum and some netting for the top of the fruit cage and he returned with some old pillow cases for Hannah (Spinning a Yarn) and… drum roll, please… some more apples!

Apples being stored in the limery (Mr Snail returned with a couple more boxes yesterday)

Old apples on the left, new apples on the right

Since I have filled all the half-litre preserving bottles that I own with passata, nectarines, mangoes and apples, this new delivery will have to be stored in a different way. In fact, simply keeping an eye on the apples in boxes and removing any that seem to be going bad is currently working well and means that I will have fresh apples to use well into December. This is aided by keeping them in open boxes in the limery, where there are no mice (unlike the shed) and the temperature is cool but fairly stable. Storing apples this way is lovely because it means that you can use them in any recipe… the bottled ones tend not to be any good for cakes, for example, because they are too mushy.

Even so, I think that I will freeze some of the latest crop. Fortunately, Mr Snail has loaned me his sous-chef, Auguste to help out. When living with Mr Snail in Reading, Auguste specialised in savoury dishes – being particularly good at pizza – but since his return home earlier this year, he has been turning his paw to sweet treats and now has experience of cake and waffles. I’m hoping that he gets good at peeling apples, but I’m looking at those paws with some doubt…


*Us Snails are very creative when it comes to (re)using resources!

November shoots

Some time back I wrote a post entitled Is it worth growing potatoes? My resounding conclusion was ‘yes’. Even though they are relatively cheap to buy, I like the fact that I know they will all get eaten, that it cuts down on our food miles and that that I can grow them chemical-free (check out my original post to get an idea of the pesticides that go into the spuds you are likely to get from the supermarket).


Tiny potato shoots – I hope they survive

Anyway… this year, construction of the limery meant that I was short of growing space and so not all of the potato tubers that I had available were eventually planted. Over the summer, the remainder sat in egg boxes on my windowsill and grew a few leaves, before starting to shrivel. Even so, they tenaciously held on and I couldn’t bear to throw them away. Finally, though, even I had to admit that I needed to do something with them. So, on Saturday when I removed the no-longer-productive courgette plants from their large pots in the limery, I decided that the remaining compost may just be able to have a second life as a medium for growing potatoes. And so, I rearranged the compost and popped the somewhat shrivelled tubers in. The pots remain in the limery and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that these sad little remnants of this year’s planting will spring to life and provide us with a small crop sometime in the new year. Who knows? I could just have put the used compost and tubers into the compost bin, but I have nothing to lose in this experiment. I will be certainly be gloating if I can eat fresh Welsh new potatoes in February.

I’m also pleased to report that the limery is still proving its worth (all these pictures were taken today):

It may be the depths of autumn, but we have green shoots and reminders of summer.

Finding pleasure

What makes you happy? New shoes? Going to the cinema? Champagne? A walk in the park? Diamonds?

It’s different for everyone, and it changes as we get older. These days I get much more pleasure out of ‘doing’ rather than ‘possessing’. Experiences with my friends and family give me much longer-lasting pleasure than I ever get from ‘stuff’. And being creative -making, growing or cooking – makes me incredibly happy. Of course, there are things that I own that I love and wouldn’t want to be without: my knitting needles and crochet hooks; my laptop (old by current standards); my work light; my new varifocal glasses; my mp3 player (ancient by current standards!) for playing audiobooks… But I don’t want to replace them. Newer versions would not make me happier.

Judging by what we see presented in the media I am the exception. You only need to think of the queues that form when a new i-phone is about to hit the shops to realise that this sort of thing really means something to lots of people. I do wonder, however, how long the joy lasts. Is there a constant desire to have the latest/newest/shiniest/most fashionable ‘thing’? So that as soon as they own the new thing, they are thinking about its future replacement. And there is plenty evidence (here for example) that materialism does not make you happy.

So, this weekend, when I had two days to do as I pleased,with no one else to think about (Mr Snail was away helping my sister dismantle a shed) I didn’t rush off to the shops, I painted the hallway, I planted potatoes (in pots in the limery) and me and the pups did lots of this:

The only thing missing from the pictures is the tea and biscuits!

I do need to do some shopping soon, but that’s for seeds… which you only own for a short time before they magically transform into something else!!


Only we can save the world

It’s ages since I’ve put together a post with ideas about how we can do our bit for the planet, support our communities and generally save the world, so here goes…

We can fix things:

We can see value in what’s around us, in what others might consider waste, and we can turn it into something useful or beautiful, or both:

We can support local business, small producers and community activities:

We can make thoughtful choices when we spend our money:

We can grow and cook our own… that way we know what’s in what we eat:

And we can share our stories:

I have no idea what I was talking about at this point!

I have no idea what I was talking about at this point!

A ticklish problem

Do you remember my sofa? You know, the one that I decided to make new covers for… by crocheting them:

crochet cushion covers

crochet cushion covers

Well, I’ve noticed a problem recently… crochet cushion covers aren’t feather-proof. Yes, yes, I know it sounds obvious, but it wasn’t something that I had thought would be an issue, because I assumed that the cushion inners would not leak feathers. How wrong I was. We have feathery dogs, feathery clothes, a feathery carpet… It was bad enough that the chickens were moulting, without the sofa joining in too!

Sam - devourer of zips

Sam – devourer of zips

So, this weekend I decided to do something about it. The only things wrong with the original (feather-proof) plain covers were some fading and the fact that Sam had eaten the zips. Yes, that’s right, we have a dog that eats zip fasteners… you get used to always hanging your waterproof coat up, but it’s reasonably difficult to ensure that cushions are always out of reach of a determined pup. Anyway, on reflection, I decided that the old covers could be used as an extra layer under the new crochet ones. The fading wouldn’t matter and they wouldn’t need zips because they wouldn’t need to be removable.

My new weapon

My new weapon

The only thing I needed to make the job easier was a stitch-ripper so that I could take the zips out fairly quickly. An investment of £2 yielded one of these and I spent a couple of hours yesterday extracting the chewed zips. I only managed to stab myself once, and I didn’t draw much blood. The covers were washed overnight and are drying now… so I should soon have cushions that don’t moult!

Whilst I was in a mood for taking things apart yesterday, I also frogged the Portland wool neck-warmer. Now I need to decide on a nice simple, loose crochet stitch to use with this yarn. Any suggestions most welcome.

And now, as the rain and hail alternate outside, I’m going to settle down with a big mug of tea, some biscuits and my knitting and watch a dvd… what a glorious way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Beauty and the beasties

After a sad beginning, the end of this week has been brightened up by several things.

First, all the lovely words you have written here; I was particularly cheered by the comments on my very gloomy post on Tuesday. So many people took the time to write and to send positive thoughts. Thank you one and all.

Then, I set about creating something beautiful…

Lovely colours, lovely pattern

Lovely colours, lovely pattern

Despite finding the pattern a little challenging, my Spatterdash wrist warmers are progressing well… or at least the first one is. I have the edging and the thumb to complete before finishing them off with some antique black glass buttons from my button stash. I have decided that the world simply cannot contain too many beautiful objects.

And yesterday, in the post, I received something that made me smile and even laugh out loud: a 2016 Beastie calendar.

Hello Explorer Beastie!

Hello Explorer Beastie!

Have you met Crawcrafts Beasties? If not, do pop over to their blog to see what they have been up to recently and I’ll guarantee that you will smile too. I’ve been following their exploits and the birth of new beasties for a while now, and was delighted to discover that a calendar featuring some of their adventures was available for next year. I just had to order one.

Happiness is...

Happiness is…

So, what has been make you smile this week?

P.S. Please excuse the poor pictures – I may not be gloomy, but the light certainly is!

Three Things Thursday… down the pan

three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy

Today – 19 November 2015 – is World Toilet Day!


So, I’m grateful that…

  • I’m not one of the 2.4 billion people who lack access to improved sanitation (source: World Toilet Day)
  • I’m not one of the women and girls living without a toilet who, in total, spend 266 million hours each day finding a place to go (source: water.org)
  • I don’t live in one of the many countries in which it is not acceptable for a woman to relieve herself during the day. Where women wait hours for nightfall, just to have privacy, thus impacting on health and putting them alone and in danger just to relieve themselves (source: water.org)

There are lots of solutions and there are great charities out there doing sterling work to ensure that everybody, worldwide has access to toilets – providing privacy, improving health, treating human waste as a resource and freeing up time. My personal favourite is Practical Action, who do great work all year helping communities to build toilets using appropriate technology… and are also supporting World Toilet Day.



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