Finding Rainbows

We make a special space in our lives and our hearts for our pets, and when we lose them, we are left with a hole. Max was a huge part of our lives and his care was one of our major concerns during the last few months of his life so his departure left me very sad and empty. But, what kind friends I have… in very short order a parcel arrived all the way from Pauline (The Contented Crafter) in New Zealand, with a very special light-catcher made to commemorate Max’s life. There is even a little heart shaped frame in which I have placed a photo.

Isn’t it lovely? And, in combination with my other light catcher (made specially by Pauline for the limery) I have rainbows (which look lovelier in real life)

like the ones that Max left in my memory.

Daisy is doing a good job of making new rainbows in our life and she and Sam seem to be enjoying each other’s company.

What joy to give another unwanted dog a home… although I can’t for the life of me understand why she was taken back to the rescue. Perhaps it was the singing.

Seize the Daisy

Sometimes life doesn’t go to plan… and sometimes things just happen and it’s probably best to go with the flow. Currently my flow has taken me here:

a very waggy tail

This is Daisy… and as of today, she’s part of the Snail household.

I’ve half-heartedly been looking at dog adoption web sites since we lost Max, but the prospect of choosing a dog on the basis of a  few photos and a paragraph or two of text was deeply unappealing. After all the behavioural issues we have had with challenging rescue dogs in the past and the stress of Max’s long illness, I didn’t think I had the strength to do it all again. But Daisy was different…

We first met her a couple of months ago when visiting a friend. This particular friend fosters rescue dogs and Daisy was one of her charges. She was a lovely and friendly dog, but we weren’t in the market for a new canine at the time. A week or so later someone said they wanted to adopt her and that was that, but for one reason and another the prospective adopters kept putting things off, a situation that went on for several weeks and eventually it all fell through. Poor Daisy.

So, last Thursday, knowing that I liked her, her foster mum sent me an email just to let me know that Daisy was available once again. First, we had to get Sam’s approval, but once it was clear that all was well in that department, things moved rather quickly and now it’s Monday and we have two dogs once more.

I feel very happy.

Have hook will travel

You may remember that one of my goals in 2017 was to meet up with friends I have made here and through other social media channels. Having a target gave me focus and so I easily reached my goal of seven visits – I went just down the road for some, and as far as Manchester and Devon for others. However, one trip that was planned did not come to fruition until a couple of weeks ago.

When I originally mentioned my intention, Jenny from Simply Hooked commented that she’d love to meet up, but that she lives in such a remote part of the UK it seemed unlikely. Never being one to shy away from a challenge, I started looking at the possibility of organising a trip and it wasn’t too long before advice had been sought and bookings made. The advice was ‘come in May before the midges and children appear’. However, it was too late for 2017, so it had to be 2018.

So, earlier this month, we set off for the west coast of Scotland, stopping on the way to visit New Lanark for a few days and buy a little bit of wool – you get a discount if you are staying at the hotel, so it would have been churlish not to.

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Beautiful New Lanark and the River Clyde

After staying for three nights, we continued our journey, arriving at our final destination to beautiful weather. Jenny and George kindly provided lunch the following day, and the weather was obligingly good enough for us to enjoy the sun and company in their garden.

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Sunshine and smiles

Later in the week we visited the little art gallery in the village and I was able to snuggle some of the beautiful crochet that Jenny has for sale there:

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Isn’t it lovely?

Sadly we were only there for a week, but we plan to return. More on the beauty of Scotland in later posts.

Minding the shop

Sandwiches… check; knitting… check; mittens… check; shawl… check; woolly socks… check; thermal undies… check; keys… check.  It’s an odd combination of things to need for work, but I think that covers the most important stuff. And so, yesterday, I set off for my day in charge of Red Apple Yarn.

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a woolly tribute in the shop window

The loss of our friend Pauline has left a hole in our little knitting community. Whilst Red Apple Yarn is owned and run by Jude, it was Pauline who looked after the shop when help was required. Minding the shop this week was already in her diary and no one expected that she would no longer be with us to do it. The Knit Nighters, however, were determined to fill the hole and so we volunteered our services to keep the shop open this week so that Jude didn’t have to close up for her holiday… and yesterday was my day.

I should explain that Red Apple Yarn lives in the old Post Office in Lampeter and it still has many of the original features – wooden doors and window frames, the old counter (now L-shaped rather than running across the room), the wooden panelling and, most importantly when you’re sitting in there all day, a very high ceiling. It’s very difficult to keep warm, and the big, heavy outer door needs to be propped open otherwise no one would dare venture in, but it makes for a chilly work place… hence all the warm clothing.

Despite the temperature, I loved my day there. I settled down to knit and talk about wool. I found chatting to the gents whilst the ladies browsed  a good ploy. Of course a wool shop on a rainy Thursday is not the busiest place in the world*, so I had time to make use of the huge swift that Jude has in the shop and wind a couple of skeins that were too big for my antique one (skeins must have expanded in the last 100 years!). I cast on for my new top-down jumper and drank a lot of tea. I failed to locate the gift vouchers and a specific colour of yarn, but on the whole I think I had happy customers. In addition, I didn’t break the till – which I was slightly intimidated by. So, I’m hoping that I’ll get the chance to help out again in the future… it is a very happy place for me!

-oOo-

* Apparently, however, Sainsbury’s was heaving as people stocked up for the Easter weekend, when no food is available in the UK**

** No, really… we may all starve

Privilege

Some months ago, a comment from Jill (Nice Piece of Work) on my post about decluttering got me thinking a great deal about privilege. About the fact that I am only in a position to make choices because of my circumstances… the fact that I am educated, that my parents both had jobs and money, that I live in a democracy, that I am a member of the major ethnic group in my country, that I have a job, that I have home and partner, that I have a supportive family, that my country is stable politically, that I am healthy. So many people have so many immediate things to worry about… where their next meal is coming from, where they will sleep tonight, whether their children are safe, how they will pay for medical treatment…. When I thought about all the problems I could be facing, it seemed somewhat crass to be fretting about clutter.

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This simply isn’t available to everybody

Then last week we were having lunch with Sue (Going Batty in Wales) and discussing her recent experience during the time she had her arm in a cast, having broken her wrist. She mentioned the necessity of using prepared, frozen vegetables when she was unable to chop up her ingredients for cooking, and how disappointing many of them were in terms of both flavour and texture. This sort of inability to do things is the long-term reality for many people and so they, unlike me, are deprived of a full range of choices when it comes to, amongst many things, their food. So, there’s my privilege again.

It’s funny how these sorts of conversations come around several times… the following day I was having a video chat with Kt (Kt Shepherd Permaculture) in Spain and she mentioned the value of ready-meals for people with limited abilities to cook. She pointed out how marvellous they are for those who rely on other people preparing their food: to at least be able to choose a dish that you fancy and heat it up yourself. Ready-made food may not be everyone’s idea of freedom, but for some that is exactly what it represents. And so, again, my level of privilege is reinforced. I can choose what I eat, what I buy, where I buy it from, how I cook it. The fact that many ready meals are, in the words of Joanna Blythman, “food-like substances” rather than real food is unacceptable – we should not condemn those with limited choices only to poor choices.

So where have all these thoughts led me? I don’t think feeling guilty is the answer – that just directs energy to a useless end, but certainly being aware of such privilege is important. This issue certainly relates to the permaculture ethic of ‘fair shares’ but perhaps I haven’t really thought about it in this way before. I feel that I would like to take action, but other than doing the usual things I can to support my friends and local community, I’m not sure how. I’m only just beginning to think this through and deciding on possible actions, but I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on this and what, if anything, you or anyone you know is doing from/about their position of privilege.

 

 

My Kind of People

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The Masterpiece in all its glory (picture: Alan Charlton)

When I first started blogging, I wasn’t really sure where it would lead or what to expect. I was originally inspired by Hedvig Murray, a permaculture practitioner I met on a course about seven years ago. I thought that I would share information relating to my Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design and maybe keep in touch with other like-minded people. Well, I did that… and we made a blanket known as “The Masterpiece” to represent my permaculture diploma (thanks to all those of you who contributed all those years ago – I’m still sitting on it every day as I work and blog). I think I’ll put together the story of the blanket in a post soon because so many of you weren’t around for it… and I also want to include the story as a chapter in one of my planned books.

Anyway, I finished my diploma, but by that time the blog had become a record of all sorts of stuff that I do and a place where I had met and made friends with amazing, talented, enthusiastic people from around the world. And this is really what I hadn’t expected – that my blog would become one aspect of a community; that I would follow other blogs; that I would write to, Skype and even meet fellow bloggers face-to-face. That we would send each other gifts, that we would swap our creations, that we would share ideas and give support, and that we would feel part of a safe and caring ‘space’ were all totally unexpected outcomes.

The time and effort invested in blogging is always worthwhile. At one point I thought that I might have to give up replying to comments, but what’s the fun in that? The comments and responses make a blog the dynamic and responsive space that it is – if I just wanted to tell you stuff I’d write a book or set up an ordinary web site. Both have their place, but they serve different purposes. And so, the blog carries on and people continue to be immensely kind.

Not long ago I gained a new reader, Patricia. She came to the blog via a personal recommendation… actually someone who I know through permaculture and who was there when I did my diploma presentation with the blanket. I hope that she’s going to write a guest blog post soon and stimulate some discussion but in the mean time we’ve communicated by email and via the blog. Anyway, the other day I mentioned that I thought I’d get myself a new notebook and make a start on writing one of those books I have in mind. Immediately Patricia said she had just the thing and today I received this:

With this explanation:IMGP4864Oh, I’m so touched. What a wonderful gift – what wonderful history. Thank you, Patricia, I hope that one day we can meet up and talk fabric and yarn ans sustainability over tea and cake.

So, that sums up my experience of blogging – you really are my kind* of people – thank you all for being here.

-oOo-

* According to the OED, ‘kind’ has several meanings, including:

A natural quality, property, or characteristic; a distinctive feature of a person or thing

and

A class, sort, or type of people or things

and

the people with whom a specific individual has a great deal in common

and, my favourite

Having or showing a benevolent, friendly, or warm-hearted nature or disposition; ready to assist, or show consideration for, others; sympathetic, obliging, considerate.

 

 

Santa Snail

Now it’s over, I can reveal what I sent in my role as Santa. One of the down sides of not doing Christmas presents in general is that I do miss the joy of giving. It’s not that I don’t give presents, but usually I just wait for inspiration and buy/make and give things somewhat at random. For Stitching Santa I had the pleasure of stalking reading lots of posts from a blogger I had not encountered before.

My recipient was Julia over at Julia’s Creative Year. I may have given myself away by following her blog immediately I got the email saying she was “my person”, so I didn’t post much about what I was including in her parcel. I spent ages looking at her blog to get a feel for what she likes and I made a list to use as inspiration (including her fondness for flamingoes). As you know I have lots of yarn, so I selected some interesting British wool from my stash (some produced by friends of mine), made a work basket and added some trimmings, vintage mother of pearl buttons, a badge, a crochet hook with a handle and specially bought stitch markers and voila:

I hope she didn’t mind that the wrapping paper was reused, but hopefully she knows what I’m like by now!

Since Julia is also a card-maker and I have piles of card-making supplies that I’m never going to get through, I included a few of those too:

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cards, envelopes and handmade paper

I just hope that the parcel reached her, because, being ‘secret’ Santa, your recipient doesn’t know who to send an email to, to say they received it.

I really want to thank Sheila over at Sewchet for organising all this. It gave me great pleasure to put these gifts together and I am loving reading about all the other parcels that have been winging their way around the world. Since there is a strict limit on the spend, most of the gifts are about creative use of what we have in our stashes, and what creativity there has been. I really hope to manage to read all the Stitching Santa posts, but it might take a while to track them down!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Festively sociable

Because we don’t ‘do’ Christmas as regards presents and rushing round to visit every single relative, this time of year is wonderfully relaxing and we get a bit of time just to be sociable.

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a possible source of future milk

From the solstice to my birthday I do try to do some special cooking as I have a bit more time than usual and, as I mentioned in an earlier post, this year the plan was to have beef on the solstice. Events transpired against us, and we ended up going to the farm to collect the beef yesterday. However, it on the plus side this gave us plenty of opportunity to meet one of the dairy cows on the farm and have a long chat with Sam the farmer about their plans. There’s a possibility of some raw milk from them next year for cheese-making, but they don’t have spare capacity at the moment, but it was a good connection made and we’ve supported a local business.

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a fruity thank-you

In the evening one of our neighbours called round, bearing a beautiful box of fruit. They order a lot of things online and we act as their drop-off point since they both work full time. By way of thanks, therefore, they gave us this lovely gift… I keep telling them it’s not necessary, but it’s good to receive graciously, which we did. I forecast Poire Belle Helene in the future, amongst other fruity things.

Today we went off to do some last minute shopping… two Danish pastries, a pot of cream, a newspaper, some T-pins for blocking Sophie and a pair of fair-trade rubber gloves (isn’t this the list everyone has just before Christmas?). Actually we mainly went out to wish various friends who have shops the joys of the season and to catch up on news of a very poorly friend (sadly no better). There was a great deal of chatting and little shopping… now that’s the spirit of the season for me.

 

Be a starling in 2017

Exactly a year  ago I wrote a post using the quote from John Taylor below (you can see his original post on Facebook here). As I wrote then, it summarises exactly and succinctly my outlook and the outlook I try to encourage in others…

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Be a starling

I work as a Climate Change Advisor in Suffolk, UK. It fascinates me how people react to documentaries and films on climate change, and what motivates people to act. I’ve seen a lot of messages saying that it is all too much and it makes them depressed. Something that helped me was an analogy I first heard from Systems and Feedback Thinker, David Wasdell. The point he made and that I want to emphasise is this. How we define a problem determines how we react to it. Climate change, we are told is a BIG problem. A favourite analogy among politicians and commenters is that it is like an oil tanker. It is a vast problem with it’s own inertia and a long turning circle. The trouble is, this image creates a psychological disconnect when it comes to individual action. How is me changing a light bulb going to turn this ship around?
But this is not how I see climate change. For me, it is like a murmuration of starlings. It looks big, but look closer and you will see it is really made up of thousands and thousands of smaller individual actions and choices. It is how I heat my house, the type of car you drive, the air conditioning in that office on my street, on everyone’s street. There is no single control room driving this ship, Climate Change is an emergent property of all our individual actions.
And compared to an oil tanker, change in a flock is agile and swift. Yes, please care about the bigger picture, but if you act in the areas that you directly influence, you have the power to be the bird that turns. So do something in your life today, and be proud and tell people about it. The birds around you will see and follow suit, and soon that change will ripple through out the whole flock. If you think of climate change like this, a global response can begin with you.

 

John Taylor @coppicejt

So, re-reading it today, I thought I’d share some of those “individual actions” that all make a difference. I wandered around the house this morning a took these six photographs of some of the little things that I do…

All the above have helped to reduce the amount of packaging, especially plastic packaging, that I am responsible for, as well as reducing the volume of goods transported around the country. All of these things are now part of my everyday life, and not something that I think much about, but each one makes a difference and helps in environmental terms. Every choice you make in life is important – you are important – so do your bit and shout about it from the rooftops (oh and follow John on Twitter).

Thanks again to John for allowing me to share his words.

Happy Birthday Demark Farm

This year marks the 30th birthday of my favourite local conservation charity: Denmark Farm Conservation Centre. So, yesterday we went there to celebrate…

As well as the birthday party, there was the official opening of the new Wildlife Discovery Room, which has views over the reserve, links to nest box cameras, and footage from the trail cameras that have been recording wildlife in secret around the reserve in recent weeks (all under the supervision of Mr Snail). Our local MP, Ben Lake, came along to officially open the new facility. He’s actually younger than Denmark Farm and visited with his primary school to make nest boxes and plant trees when he was about eight. Over the years, many children have visited the site and it’s good to hear that they remember it fondly once they are adults – some even visiting with their own children now.

All the people who attended the celebration – staff members and volunteers old and new – seemed to have a good time, and we were also joined by some of the wildlife:

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