Foraging in the garden

Whilst I’m not well-adapted to very hot weather, I do like this time of year for the opportunities it provides to pick my own food from the garden – fruit herbs and vegetables. I’m very fond of soft fruit, and it has been extremely satisfying in recent weeks to wander outside and pick berries for my breakfast. Eighteen months ago I planted new raspberry canes and this is the first time they have produced any quantity of fruit. This morning, in addition, I was able to harvest blueberries – such a delight. On the berry front, the red currants are also producing like mad and the harvest has begun. In fact, I still have frozen red currants from last year, but I have decided to bottle those and most of this year’s crop, only freezing a small proportion to use in baking. Fortunately the weather has cooled somewhat and so bottling fruit is no longer out of the question.

The other big foraging opportunity at the moment is the courgettes and summer squashes. This year, I planted these in the raised bed that was built at the same time as the limery. In the past six years, we have filled this bed with all manner of material: cardboard, paper, grass clippings, spent compost from pots, soil washed off the field behind the garden, chippings from the willow hedge, a variety of home-made compost, as well as the layer of old teaching notes and handouts that formed the base of it. The curcurbit family love compost to grow in and so this year they are going mad (it took a while with the cold spring). The result is huge abundant leaves. Somewhere under the jungle there are courgettes and squashes to be had (not many yet, but they are growing), but they are difficult to find. I have the distinct feeling that a bit later in the summer I’m going to come across some enormous fruits that I had simply missed under all the foliage, but for now we are just enjoying the hunt.

Inappropriate makes

We’ve been having a heatwave. Nothing compared to what you dwellers of the tropics have, but still hot for us temperate flowers here in Wales. It’s too hot to walk the dogs and too hot to do much gardening, so we must either sit still outdoors or occupy ourselves inside. Since my creativity seems to have returned, I have been doing the latter, but making a couple of things that really don’t suit the weather.

First, some sewing… I happened to have already cut out the pieces for a coatigan from a lovely boiled wool fabric. This garment is intended for chilly autumn days (or possibly chilly August days, considering the unpredictability of the weather). My favourite, long, 30+-year-old cardigan is now so disreputable that I can’t wear it in company, so this is intended as a replacement. It should do for outdoors and indoors. The pattern is the “Jessie Coatigan” from Sew Over It. I found the instructions rather difficult to follow in places, so I ignored them and did my own thing and it seems to have worked ok. Whilst the machine sewing has been fine in the heat, there’s still the hem and cuffs to hand-stitch, but it’s too warm to have it in my lap, so the finishing will have to wait until next week. If it turns out to be comfy I may make a second one with patch rather than in-seam pockets because I think these are better for hankies, crochet hooks, a Bluetooth speaker and all the other bits and bobs I find myself transporting around the house.

Then, I have to have some knitting or crochet on the go… and what better project to start on during a heatwave than a cosy blanket? I’ve had the yarn for this sitting around for years and finally decided to get started with it. It came as a kit and was supposed to be knitted, but I didn’t want to conform, so settled on a wavy crochet pattern. I’ve been at it for exactly a week and I’ve used more than half the yarn so it won’t be log before it’s finished… just in time for the weather to get cooler. As a point of interest, it’s Colinette yarn – they used to be based in Wales near Welshpool, but closed down a while back and have now re-opened in Wansford, near Peterborough.

Although not much work is happening in the garden in this gloroious weather, I have managed to harvest the shallots and they are ripening and drying in the sun, and we finally have courgettes after a very slow start to the season. There are couple of lemons that are nearly ready too, but sadly the lettuce hates this weather, so thank goodness for oriental leaves.

Love-lawn

When we moved into Chez Snail, the back garden simply consisted of a lawn, a patio and a paved path, There were literally no plants other than the grass in the lawn. A bit of investigation revealed that there was also almost no soil, and after the first heavy rain we discovered that the water from the field behind rapidly flowed, river-like, into our garden, formed a lake and then progressed into next door’s garden. Our solution was planting and soil-building – a willow hedge, raised beds, composting. We whittled away at the lawn until, eventually, there was none left, although we did keep part of the patio so that we could sit outdoors. Then, six years ago, we had the limery built and our outdoor seating space was greatly reduced. We managed and it didn’t seem like much of an issue until covid and the need for space outside in which to socialise.

So, earlier this year, and setting aside my reticence about lawns**, we made some changes to our garden. Mr Snail removed two of the long thin raised beds from just outside the back door, and created a single deeper bed on the far side of the garden. We levelled the former site of the beds (well, sort of) and I ordered some turf becuase that seemed like the quickest way to establish our new grassy patch. We didn’t return the area back to it’s original level, but retained about six inches of our homemade soil on top of the original ground level, surrounded by the bottom layer of old railway sleepers that had formed the raised beds. Ten days of excluding the dogs, and we had achieved our aim.

In fact, we don’t intend to have a pristine grassy patch – we’ll let the wild flowers grow and Mr Snail will be scything it when necessary. Around the edges I am planning to seed some native wild flowers. The soil will act as a reservoir for some of the excess water when there is heavy rain and the grass is cool for feet and paws (unlike flag stones) when the weather is hot. It’s been in place for a couple of months now and has been well-used… it’s even hot enough at the moment to have dinner out there in the evenings.

-oOo-

** “A lawn is nature under a totalitarian regime”

ScrapHappy July 2021

Plans to write during the past month did not materialise as a result of trips to my mum and to attend a family funeral. All this meant that most of my making for the past weeks has had to be portable, with little opportunity for rummaging through scraps looking for inspiration. However, in my absence, Mr Snail did come across an unspeakable object that was just crying out to be turned into something else. He found this in next-door’s rubbish* after they’d had a family with children visiting:

I hardly know where to begin with my assessment of what’s wrong with this thing… the waste of resources, it’s disposable nature, the “It’s girl surf stuff” slogan, the image of the “girl”, the pink for girls design… I won’t go on. Suffice to say that Mr Snail thought that, whatever its faults, it shouldn’t be going straight to landfill after a few uses. To begin with, he thought it was still functional, but upon inspection, it turned out that the polystyrene inside was broken, so it couldn’t be used for it’s original purpose. He put it to one side for me to look at upon my return home.

I have to say that initially I was not inspired… revolted might have been a better description of my reaction. However, I decided that it might make a good scrap project and so I took it apart. I kept all the fabric and plastic bits, but I did send the polystyrene for recycling.

I specifically wanted a project that would allow me to disguise that slogan. At first I thought that I might be able to use all the bits , but then I decided to focus on the fabric for this ScrapHappy. And so, in combination with a very old, ripped pair of jeans, I created this rather jolly shopping bag. I managed to combine fabric so that even some of the worn parts of the jeans could be used and I “lost” the slogan in the handles:

The webbing, plastic washers, extra bits of fabric and velcro have gone into the scrap stash and we now have a rather jolly bag that’s bright and cheery, but certainly not reinforcing the pink for girls stereotype. I am very pleased with this particular scrappy transformation.

-oOo-

* I should point out that he doesn’t normally rifle through other people’s rubbish, it’s just that he promised to put it out for them as there was no one home on collection day.

I’ve been inspired to write this (and future) ScrapHappy posts by Kate,  Tall Tales from Chiconia. On the fifteenth of every month lots of folk s often publish a ScrapHappy post, do check them out:

KateGun, EvaSue, Lynn, Lynda, Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan (me), Moira, Sandra, Chris, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Bekki, Sue L, Sunny, Kjerstin, Vera, Nanette, Ann, Dawn 2 , Bear, Carol, Noreen, Preeti and Edith

If you fancy joining, contact Kate and she’ll add you to the list. It would be lovely to see more non-sewing posts, but any use of scraps is welcome.

ScrapHappy June 2021

Apologies for my absence, but for the first time in about 18 months I’ve been away from home. I wish I could tell you it was because I’ve been on a lovely holiday, but in fact I was in Shropshire, caring for my mum after a hip replacement. It was odd to be elsewhere and to begin with there were lots of caring responsibilities, but these declined gradually and I have been able to come home and hand over to Alex, one of my nieces, for a while. Hopefully, all will be well when Alex leaves and mum will be able to cope, but if not I will go back. My change of location and all it entailed seemed to completely drain my creativity, so for the past few weeks I’ve only managed some knitting and a tiny bit of crochet. My return home and the incentive of ScrapHappy has, however, encouraged me to think about making again.

Wanting a quick project to get me started, I had a rummage through my fabric scraps to see if there was any inspiration to be had. I pulled out a few woven cotton scraps, but they did not speak to me, and then I came across a bit of jersey with some funky squirrels, just asking to be used for something. Each squirrel is just the right size for a greeting card, so I thought that I would experiment. To make sure the fabric didn’t stretch too much, I attached it to a scrap from an old sheet, stitching along some of the lines in the design. Next I made a frame from an old square of handmade paper and machine stitched the squirrel panel onto this before trimming off the excess. I then stitched the whole thing onto card and glued a tiny leaf motif from the squirrel fabric over the knot inside to finish it off.

I could have done a better job with the stitching and next time I’ll use some thin wadding or felt to achieve a quilted effect, but overall I’m rather pleased with how it’s turned out… plus it is good to make something original and feel that my creative juices are flowing again.

-oOo-

I’ve been inspired to write this (and future) ScrapHappy posts by Kate,  Tall Tales from Chiconia. On the fifteenth of every month lots of folk s often publish a ScrapHappy post, do check them out:

KateGun, EvaSue, Lynn, Lynda, Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan (me), Moira, Sandra, Chris, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Bekki, Sue L, Sunny, Kjerstin, Vera, Nanette, Ann, Dawn 2 , Bear, Carol, Noreen, Preeti and Edith

If you fancy joining, contact Kate and she’ll add you to the list. It would be lovely to see more non-sewing posts, but any use of scraps is welcome.

Lawn Again — writinghouse

Mr Snail has been writing about what we’ve been up to in the garden, so, over to him…

All hail the soon-to-arrive lawn! As my Reader knows, Chez Snail now has a new raised bed and some bare earth (didn’t know? Read about that endeavour here). The bare earth is, of course, where the grass is going to go. The Snail decided that we should invest in some pre-turfed, er, turf, the kind […]

Lawn Again — writinghouse

ScrapHappy May 2021

For a while now I’ve been pondering what to do with my expanding heap of fabric scraps. I don’t feel particularly excited about quilting, you can only use so many small bits of fabric on greetings cards and there’s only a limited number of things that I want to stuff, so the pieces have been building up. However, I have been toying with the idea of a rag rug and so a few weeks ago I did a bit of research into my options and decided to take the plunge. My initial thought was a hooked rug made using a latch-hook, but then I came across an old-fashioned spring tool and immediately decided that this was something I’d like to try. I also came across a simple gauge for cutting the strips and this seemed like something that would make the job much easier, so I placed an order with Ragged Life.

There are lots of ideas on the internet for designs, but I wanted something truly scraphappy, which meant it would have to be random. This being the case, I cut out lots of strips and got started. It’s not going to be a quick make, so it will certainly be appearing in scraphappy posts for some time to come. I’m not quite sure how much fabric it will use up, but it’s already quite heavy and I’ve only done half a dozen rows. The hessian base started off about 1m x 75cm, but it will end up smaller than this as the rags draw the threads up and together. The best thing is that I can use any fabric in this project – I’m just cutting thinner strips of heavier fabric.

-oOo-

I’ve been inspired to write this (and future) ScrapHappy posts by Kate,  Tall Tales from Chiconia. On the fifteenth of every month lots of folks often publish a ScrapHappy post, do check them out:

KateGun, EvaSue, Lynn, Lynda, Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan (me), Moira, Sandra, Chris, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Bekki, Sue L, Sunny, Kjerstin, Vera, Nanette, Ann, Dawn 2 , Bear, Carol, Noreen, Preeti and Edith

If you fancy joining, contact Kate and she’ll add you to the list. It would be lovely to see more non-sewing posts, but any use of scraps is welcome.

Going potty

That first time at The Bistro Chez Snail

The past year has seen many changes in our approach to life. In particular, our relationship with ‘home’ has evolved as we have been forced to spend so much time here. I don’t think this has been a bad thing, and there are certainly new habits that are really positive. For example, early on in the first lockdown in 2020 we were feeling glum about not being able to eat out, so I created “The Bistro Chez Snail” in the limery, and immediately we realised how lovely it was to play at going out and to make use of our growing space as our eating space. There have followed, for more than a year now, many excursions to our fantasy eateries, and even when we are not pretending to go out, we continue to eat in the limery almost every night. It was never really the plan to do anything much but grow plants in the limery, but I’m very happy that we have found that it’s good for nurturing us as well.

All this time at home, however, has raised the issue that our garden was very full of growing things and there was hardly any space for people. This hasn’t been a problem whilst it was just me and Mr Snail – we had a lovely corner to occupy where our two deckchairs and a small table would fit. However, as it’s been increasingly clear that welcoming visitors to our home is safest outdoors, we came to the conclusion that we need to make more space for this. I outlined my ideas for some changes to Mr Snail and he launched himself enthusiastically into the project(which he’ll be blogging about very soon). However, making space for people means less space for crops, so I’ve decided to move over to growing more things in pots. On a recent visit to Sue (Going Batty in Wales) I was impressed by potatoes that she has growing in large plastic pots. Mr Snail measured them and worked out that they have a volume of 50 litres, so once we were back home I sought some out online. I could have got very cheap ones, but I was determined to buy some made of recycled plastic (if I am using plastic, which is essential for such large pots if the are to be moved about, I’m certainly going to make sure it’s made from existing stuff). So, the pots were found, an order placed and a few days later, I had more mobile growing space. Combined with some 30 litre pots that I bought a few years ago and lots of other containers collected over the decades, we’ve now got various options. Currently, many of the new large pots are planted with potatoes and these are out on the tarmac at the front/end of the house in a space that is otherwise pretty useless and where I’ve done some container growing before. We had to dig up the horseradish during our garden remodelling, so that’s in a 30 litre pot, as is the oregano, which also had to be moved.

The combination of the garden remodelling and the very cold weather this spring mean that lots of crops are still indoors, but hopefully the weather will be kinder from now on (an incredible hail storm two days ago notwithstanding) and I can plant some things out and sow some seeds outdoors without fear of them being killed. I’m toying with the idea of buying a large wooden trough on legs for growing herbs in, and I’m sure I’ll have other ideas about suitable containers, so watch this space.

Stepping up to the plate

I’m pleased to report that after allowing my elbow to rest for a while, I was able to resume the knitting that had caused so much pain. When I put it to one side, it looked like this:

Temporarily abandoned

After a couple of weeks, I decided that, being pain-free, I would pick up my needles again. To begin with I just worked a round or two each day, but as I didn’t have any recurrence of the pain, I built up the amount I did every day and soon I’d finished my hat. It’s a very long time since I’ve done any Fair Isle knitting, so I’m quite pleased with the result. Possibly the most fun thing about this project is that you have to block it using a dinner plate, to get it nice and round!

Possibly the least fun thing was that there were about a million ends to weave in!

ScrapHappy April 2021

It’s a year since I made my first face masks (featured in the April 2020 ScrapHappy post), and over the months we’ve learned lots about wearing them and how they could be improved. So, we have progressed from shaped ones, to pleated ones with nose wires and finally to a combined version – pleated with a curved top and wire to assist with wearing them with glasses. They are a great ScrapHappy make since they don’t require a lot of fabric. Our latest ones co-ordinate with various garments I’ve made over recent months and the inner is some lovely soft cotton from a pillowcase that had started to disintegrate, but which still had lots of salvageable material. As always, I use iron-on interfacing to provide a third layer giving extra filtering capacity. This latest lot were supervised by Daisy and Mr Snail agree to model his co-ordinated ensemble as long as he could shamelessly show off one of the books he’s written and which just happens to match the outfit!.

-oOo-

I’ve been inspired to write this (and future) ScrapHappy posts by Kate,  Tall Tales from Chiconia. On the fifteenth of every month lots of folks often publish a ScrapHappy post, do check them out:

KateGun, EvaSue, Lynn, Lynda, Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan (me), Moira, Sandra, Chris, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Bekki, Sue L, Sunny, Kjerstin, Vera, Nanette, Ann, Dawn 2 , Nancy, Bear, Carol, Noreen, Preeti and Edith

If you fancy joining, contact Kate and she’ll add you to the list. It would be lovely to see more non-sewing posts, but any use of scraps is welcome.

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