Winning ways

Thank you to everyone who commented here on the blog or Facebook or Twitter in response to my 1001 posts post. I turned off commenting this morning, wrote everyone’s name on a piece of paper, cut them out put them all into a (hand felted) bag

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note the use of an old diary for the paper… nothing wasted here!

Then I drew out two.

 

So, the winners are …. drum roll please…

Linne

and

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Congratulations!

If you would each like to send me your postal address, I will send you a surprise… once I’ve chosen/made something that I think you will really like.

Thank you to everyone else who commented… I’d really like to send you all a gift, but there are only so many hours in the day!

 

1001

One thousand and one – That’s now many stories Scheherazade told and, with this post, that’s how many I have told you. Do you think they have been interesting enough for Shahryār to keep me alive?

I’m not sure whether Scheherazade kept telling her tales after the 1001, but I plan to, although I’m having a bit of a think about how I want to go forward with my blogging. There are going to be changes in the new year, but more on that next month.cheers

For now, it’s time to have a celebration… and I have a plan. I’d love to invite you all round for some fizz and home made cheese, but sadly we can’t all fit in the limery and I’m sure getting a date when everyone was free would be just impossible… although I still have 3.7kg of cheese to eat! So instead I’ve decided to do a give away. I spent ages racking my brain about what to offer you lovely readers, but I simply couldn’t think of something that everyone would want. So, here’s the deal… leave a comment on this post (or on my Facebook page or Twitter account) by midnight GMT on Friday 1 December 2017, telling me something that will make me smile, and I’ll enter you into my draw. I will pick two people at random and send each a gift I think they would like. Many of you I know reasonably well from your comments or blogs and so you have a chance of getting something tailored to you; if I don’t know much about you, you’ll get something I think will bring a smile to your face. This is open to you wherever you live in the world.

Thank you for keeping on reading and for all the comments over the last 1000 + 1 posts, here’s to 1000 more!

This one is for Tammie

It’s very easy when posting on the internet to show only our successes – the beautiful children, pristine kitchens, the perfect meal, the Shetland lace shawl, the abundant garden… ah, yes, the abundant garden.

Well, it’s true that my garden and the limery do contain lots of lovely crops. Currently there’s lettuce, piles of raspberries and the promise of peppers, chillies, courgettes, lemons, limes, red currants, blueberries, apples, mange tout, kale, broccoli, ginger and potatoes…

BUT… there are also dead bean plants, dead rosemary, rocket and mizuna that flowered before we had a chance to eat any, the world’s saddest sage plant, brassicas munched by caterpillars and huge swathes of weeds.

So, Tammie – fear not, we all have gardening disasters… we just don’t often ‘fess up to them!

And, just to make you all smile, it takes lots of effort to get all those perfect shots of a life…

We have a winner!

What with one thing and another, I’m a little behind with blog housekeeping. Maybe you have been waiting on tenterhooks to know whether you are going to be the lucky recipient of the ‘Ditch the plastic bag‘ bag and wondering if I have completely forgotten. But fear not, all the names were entered and Mr Snail acted as the independent adjudicator and made the draw.

Just to remind you, it was the chance to win this ‘bag with a message’, which I made for our craftivism exhibition in Manchester in May:

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the prize

So, drum roll please … the winner is…

Laurie Graves

Congratulations!

It’s lovely that Laurie won, because she contributed a captioned picture to the craftivism exhibition . Laurie’s flower photographs are just beautiful and I love reading her descriptions of life in Maine; you can check out her blog, Notes from the Hinterlandhere.

Laurie, if you let me have your address, the bag will be winging its way to you very soon… I hope that it gets plenty of use for biscuit/cookie transportation!

As for everyone else, sorry you weren’t lucky this time, but I have plans for another give-away quite soon.

Why are we all here?

The world of blogging is a funny old place. You write stuff and people, somehow or other, come across it. They read it, and then what? Some people hit the ‘Like’ button, some people leave a comment, some people wander off to another part of the internet never to return and some people sign up to follow you. Some people become regular commenters/likers.

Here at The Snail of Happiness I do my best to respond to all of the comments. I don’t always manage it and occasionally I return to a previous post and notice some comments without responses, in which case I generally respond there and then, however old the post. I think that because I engage with you, my readers, you feel welcome and maybe that encourages you to return. I know this is the case for blogs that I follow – getting a response to my comments makes me feel valued and part of the community associated with that particular blog. In fact this sort of interaction does lead to genuine friendships away from the blog, via Skype, letters, emails or even meetings in person. However, those sorts of things only happen with the minority of readers and I’m intrigued about everyone else.

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don’t be shy…

I’ve been blogging quite a lot recently and simultaneously getting quite a lot more followers. I’m really not sure whether the two are linked – and whether, if they are, the increase in traffic is to do with the number of posts or the subject matter.

 

So, I’m wondering whether you’d be willing to tell me why you are here? Why do you visit this blog? And how did you arrive in the first place? Please don’t be shy… I’d love to know, no matter whether you are a regular contributor, have just arrived or have been lurking in the background in silence for ages. You don’t have to have a WordPress blog to be able to comment… just write something and click on the button…

Go on… you’ve been reading my words, I’d love to read some of yours! And then maybe I’ll tell you why I’m here…

Gramophone records and fizz

Regular readers will know that one of my aims in 2017 is to go on seven visits to meet up with friends that I normally only interact with via social media. This has been going well so far, with trips to Manchester and Birmingham as well as a couple of more local visits achieved by the end of March. Our holiday to Cornwall, however, provided an opportunity to go and see a dear friend in Devon on our way back home.

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time to talk

I met Karen a few years ago through her blog and we quickly became friends, although we didn’t meet in person until last year when we managed to call in for afternoon tea with her as we were on our way down to Cornwall. This year, however, we wanted to spend a bit more time together, so I arranged for us to stay a night at a bed and breakfast in her village on our return journey and she offered to cook for us. What with one thing and another, Karen hasn’t been blogging for over a year now and although we have emailed and spoken on the phone, there was lots of catching up to do.

 

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May blobs and marshland

We arrived I time for lunch then had coffee in front of a roaring fire (there was a rather chilly wind blowing outside), before a lovely walk, which involved going to see the ‘May Blobs’ (marsh marigolds). We walked and we talked and we sat awhile on a bench looking at a glorious view, and we got to know a bit more about each other in a way that just doesn’t happen until you have some uninterrupted hours face-to-face. In cyberspace we all tend only to share limited information and so it’s lovely to have time to ask questions and share more personal stories and insights. Mr Snail and I went straight from our walk to check into the b&b, get cleaned up and give Karen some time to get organised, returning about an hour and a half later.

 

We had taken fizz to celebrate our get together, and Karen insisted that we gathered around what looked, initially, like a rather uninspiring cabinet for it to be served:

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it didn’t look promising

Upon opening it up, however, we were presented with a magical interior…

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woohoo!

But this wasn’t the end of the wonders. Next came the gramophone and records:

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time to get winding

and some pre-dinner entertainment (excuse my slight wobbles – I blame the fizz):

I didn’t record it, but my favourite record was of Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra playing The Mahogany Hall Stomp, which got us all dancing.

And then we ate and talked some more.

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delicious dinner

 

During the day we laughed and shed a few tears and we became closer friends.

The general consensus in traditional media seems to be that social media is driving isolation and presenting unrealistic images of our lives. This can be the case, but it can also provide a route to new friends and real shared experiences. In the past few years I have made some wonderful friends via this blog and Twitter and Facebook and I have met up with lots of them. My life is richer for all these interactions and my determination to meet up with people has really paid off. Indeed, having managed five meet-ups so far this year and having already arranged three more, I’m happy to say that I’m set to annihilate my target of seven!

Do you have any  experiences of meeting up with friends made through blogging?

Five today

WordPress informs me that today is my five-year blogiversary. Yay! Shall we celebrate? There’s home-made lemon drizzle cake (eggs from the garden, lemons from the limery) and a pot of tea made with real leaves (no plastic teabags here).

Frankly, I’m quite astonished that I’ve managed to write so regularly for five years: previously I’ve been rubbish about keeping any sort of diary. I think that it’s probably you, the readers that have kept me going… I’ve made so many friends and so enjoy reading your comments.

Over the years I have, apparently, written 870 posts (excluding this one), but I thought it would be fun to choose one post from each year to mark this special day.

On 1 September 2012 I wrote a post entitled 21st Century Womble. It may be one of my all-time favourite posts. In those days I didn’t always include a picture and so this particular post is just words, but I still like it. In it, I mention finding an old spatula whilst out for a walk and bringing it home to use as a scoop to clean out the chicken house. And, you know what? I’m still using that object… it’s still going strong and I’m still a Womble at heart.

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Yes – it is worth growing potatoes

In August 2013 I turned my attention to the humble potato, asking the question Is it worth growing potatoes? At that time I had been experimenting with various more exotic crops and not necessarily enjoying them – I don’t mind oca, for example, but I wouldn’t want to eat it every day. Potatoes, on the other hand guarantee me a crop I like, but since they are easy and relatively cheap to buy, I wondered whether it was really worth bothering. The resounding answer was ‘yes’ – apart from avoiding all the associated pesticides and transportation, there is the simple joy of eating delicious, freshly harvested potatoes and knowing exactly where they have been.

 

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Charlotte’s books

No celebration of this blog would be complete without mentioning the all-time most-visited post. It still gets dozens of views every month and it originally appeared in May 2014. Why is it so popular? Well, I didn’t write it! It is the post that contains the full text of a poem entitled Just in Case by the late Charlotte Mitchell. My blog is, as far as I know, the only place on the net that you can find this poem and the book that it was originally published in is out of print. Don’t think, though, that I ignored copyright. In fact I contacted the author’s daughter, Candy Guard, to get permission to quote it. Hopefully one day Charlotte’s work will be republished, but until then The Snail of Happiness and second-hand bookshops are the only places to find what is probably her most famous poem (do follow the link and read it – I’m sure you will enjoy it).

 

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Abundance in the limery – year 1

New readers may be a little confused about my frequent references to The Limery (it’s what we call our plant-filled conservatory). You can, however, read about its origins and the search for a suitable name here. Regular readers from the time will recall my distress at having an influx of builders, but, as you all told me, it was really worth it in the long run. Today the limery is bursting with plants and it’s hard to remember life without it!

 

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WWKIP 2016

And finally, I have to choose a post about yarn. Perhaps that one that sums up all that is good about knitting and crochet is about what we did last year for Worldwide Knit in Public day. On the Street Where You Knit describes how I spent the day sitting outside The Make It Shop teaching folks to knit and making twiddlemuffs. I met lovely people, shared skills and made something for charity… what more could I ask for?

 

So, there we are, a selection of old posts that gives a flavour of what The Snail of Happiness is all about… and I managed not to mention knickers! Here’s to another five years of writing, crafting, gardening and trying to be that bit more sustainable.

The Sisterhood…

Some of you will have heard of The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook and some of you will not… a few of you are part of the sisterhood.

Last year, Anne Lawson decided to start a project to draw creative people together around the world. She made a book and invited fellow bloggers to contribute… all the folks who volunteered were women, and so the sisterhood was born.

This week the book arrived with me – the eleventh contributor on the list. From Australia, it went to the US and recently it has been travelling in Europe:

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the journey of the sketchbook

It contains drawings, paintings, quilting, stitching… words and visuals… love and creativity. It has its own blog and I encourage you to take a look here at the posts from the contributors, where there are beautiful pictures and lovely thoughts. Here is a little taster of some of the contributions to date:

Sadly one of our sisterhood, Viv, passed away before the book reached her, but some of her words have been included in the book.

I’m currently working on my contribution… news will follow.

Off on holiday… the people

Travelling around the UK on our holiday presented us with the opportunity  to visit people as well as places. West Wales is relatively inaccessible so it takes a bit of an effort to go anywhere and folks are rarely ‘in the neighbourhood’ so we don’t often get passing visitors. Because of this it’s very easy to remain safely at home and never get to meet friends face-to-face, We decided, however, that we would make specific arrangements to visit a couple of people on our latest jaunt – one a very old friend and one a blog friend who I’d never met in person before.

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A little jolly chunky bag for Karen

The first stop on our tour of people was in Devon – for afternoon tea with Karen of Sweet Baby Veg. My friendship with Karen started a few years ago when she posted a little piece on her blog about an incident that had really upset her. In my quest to spread happiness, I decided to cheer her up by making her a gift. I set to with my crochet hook and, using some lovely yarn I had left over from another project, I made her a bag. In the post it went and was duly delivered… and thus a friendship was born. I have been itching to meet Karen and see her garden ever since then and the fact that we would be passing within a few miles of her front door was an opportunity not to be missed.

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Take-away

Arrangements were made and we turned up on her doorstep on a glorious afternoon. Her garden did not disappoint – she apologised for the state of it, but to me it was just delightful (and so much tidier than mine!). We sat outside and chatted. Then we sat outside some more, but this time with tea and cake, and chatted some more, and laughed and talked and laughed. If you’d been watching us, you would never have guessed that we’d never met before. In fact, I’m sorry to say, that we got so carried away with chatting, that I completely forgot to take any photos! So, if you want to see Karen’s garden, you’ll just have to visit her blog. I also want to give special mention to the Ombre Cake that she made and served. In fact, it was so good that she gave us the remainder to take away with us… we ate it with Cornish clotted cream and strawberries. Please excuse the poor photo, but we were in a hurry to have another slice!

A Zwartbles Ewe – Credit: By Earthernware (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

An afternoon really wasn’t enough time, but eventually we had to progress on and so we left Karen and made our way down to our base in Cornwall for the week. As the days went by and we visited Heligan and Eden, I posted some pictures on Facebook and as a result, got another invitation. When you meet people via social networking it’s easy to forget their ‘real’ geographical location, so when I got a couple of comments from people to the effect ‘you are in our neck of the woods’ the opportunity to see one of them for tea and (more) cake was too good to pass up. I met Val as a result of doing my diploma in applied permaculture design and most of our interaction has been via Facebook, although we have met a couple of times at permaculture events. Val is my go-to-person for advice on livestock in general and yarn production (from the sheep to the shop) in particular. After a few years without sheep, she’s now keeping Zwartbles and so we had the fun of meeting her two bottle-fed boys. The were excessively friendly, allowing us to have a good look at their beautiful fleeces in situ, so to speak. I’ve never worked with it, but on the basis of this meeting I’m already a fan of the wool. Val has promised me some yarn when she’s got that far and I’m really looking forward to working with it. Again I was rubbish and didn’t take any photos… again too busy talking!

Stream below Garrow Tor. in a SSSI on Bodmin Moor- Credit: Sheila Russell [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

And finally, on our way home we visited friends we hadn’t seen for about 18 years and who live on the edge of Bodmin Moor. They have a small holding; again they keep livestock and again we were too busy talking for me to remember to take any photos, although to be fair it was wet and misty by this time. This was a more poignant meeting than the other two, with lots of catching up on our respective families, sharing memories of folks who had died and hearing what mutual friends have been up to. It was lovely to have a real chat and see how their place has changed since our last visit. We certainly agreed that we will not leave it so long next time.

Then we headed home, with friendships renewed and revitalised. Social media is a wonderful way to keep in touch and to meet new people, but personal contact adds new depth to friendships. So, now we’ve managed the logistics of a trip like this once (and it did take some organising), we must do it again… perhaps heading north next time…

 

Four years of successes and failures

Today, WordPress informs me, is my anniversary – four years since I started this blog. I’m not sure what I expected at the beginning, but it has certainly provided me with a good record of certain aspects of my life over the past few years. So I thought this would be a great opportunity to look back over old posts to see what I got up to and to reflect on what worked and what didn’t…

One of my very early posts (in the days before I knew how important pictures are) was about the magic of compost. I described making it from “vegetable peelings, teabags (unbleached), cotton rags, willow and paper shreddings, leaves, chicken poo and more”. Well, I’m still making compost, but the teabags have been ditched in favour of loose tea leaves, so that can surely be chalked up as a continuing success.

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The radio four years ago… it’s much scruffier now

In May 2012 I wrote about our solar/wind-up radio and all the repairs it had undergone. The only person who “liked” the post was Mr Snail and he was the one who had done all the hard work. Over the years I’ve I’ve mentioned it in several other posts, and Mr Snail wrote about one of its repairs in detail. It’s still going strong, although looking very dilapidated now and faded because of its time on the kitchen windowsill. I consider any repairs that extend the life of an object to be a big success and this is something that it would have been all too easy simply to throw out and replace with a new version.

Back in June 2012 I wrote my first post about decluttering. Well, clearly I have failed on that count because I’m still at it! When I think about it, over the years I have managed to get rid of lots of unwanted STUFF, but it still feels like I have only scratched the surface. At least my new approach of making sure there are no net gains will prevent it getting worse, but I am determined to continue with the idea of shedding at least one thing every day…I’ll come to today’s shed a bit later. I’m currently writing in my diary every day what I have got rid of which is at least giving me a sense that I am achieving something.

At a time of very limited readership, probably my most popular post was written in September 2012 and was entitled “21st Century Womble“. When I think about it, this post probably sums up much of what I have subsequently written about – repair, reuse, converting other people’s junk into something I value and generally treading more lightly on the plant. If I hadn’t come up with the name “The Snail of Happiness” (you can read the story of that here) I may well have entitled this blog 21st Century Womble.

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They look good but they really don’t taste of anything – and they are a real pain to prepare

Throughout my time blogging I have written about my garden. In the summer of 2013 I addressed the question of whether it’s worth growing potatoes. My resounding answer (much to my own surprise) was “yes” – to reduce food miles, produce a really useful crop and so you know exactly what chemicals you’re being exposed to. In fact, it was at this time that I was thinking very carefully about what to grow… and concluding that what I should plant is things we like and that I know we will eat. Experimental crops are all very well, but are of little value if they just end up on the compost heap! So, no more salsify and oca, I’m sticking to potatoes, lettuce, peppers, courgettes, squashes, chillies, beans, herbs, parsnip and leaks… the ‘different’ things are just for fun. And on that note… whilst sharks’ fin melons are easy to grow and produce a huge crop, they don’t taste of anything, so I’m never going to bother with them again.

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Arthur went to New Zealand in exchange for some some fabulous art

In the autumn of 2013 I wrote my first post about bartering. Over the years I’ve managed some very satisfactory swaps. I’m particularly pleased to own two of Pauline’s wonderful creations, which were exchanged for Arthur the dragon and another bundle of crochet goodies, including two hedgehogs. Every day I look at the picture “Grow where you are planted” and my light catcher and I smile. I love the sort of connections I have made this way but, sadly, bartering has turned out to be difficult. I’ve never successfully exchanged professional services (teaching, editing or ecological consultancy) for goods or services – everyone understands money and so it’s the preferred method. I will keep trying, but apart from some wonderful exceptions I can’t classify my bartering as a success.

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No longer refusing to darn

I have written a number of times about sewing (here, for example)… I keep returning to it, but I really have to confess that I don’t like making my own clothes. Other things I’m not so bad with… shopping bags and sock toys to name a couple… but not clothes. Time to accept it and stick to knitting and crochet I think! On the plus side, though, I’m coming to terms with mending and darning, in particular, is much less of a chore than it used to be. And, as I mentioned the other day, I’ve even managed to patch Mr Snail’s gardening jeans… a job I especially used to detest.

One project that has been a failure, despite initial high hopes, has been raising mealworms to feed to the hens. I have, over nearly two years, managed to maintain a colony of mealworms, but I have never managed to bulk up the population sufficiently to have enough to use as chicken feed. The whole thing has come to feel as if I am actually keeping the creatures for their own sake. And so, today’s ‘shed’ was, finally, to admit defeat. The hens made a good meal of the colony and I feel a great relief that I no longer have to try to make this experiment work. It’s good to try things out, but it’s also good to know when to let go.

So, that’s just a few of my adventures over the past four years. Writing this blog has yielded friendships, provided inspiration, served as a record what I’ve been up to and opened me up a whole community of like-minded people. There has been amazing kindness – the Masterpiece blanket being a particular example – and solace when I have been feeling blue. So thank you everyone! I hope you will keep visiting for another year.

cheers

Cheers!

 

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