The trouble with water

Here in Wales we’re having a bit of a drought… it’s hardly rained for weeks and the water butts Chez Snail are sadly depleted. This is a bit of an issue because we try to avoid flushing the toilet with mains water – instead using rainwater that we have collected from the roof of the house and shed. As the water butts have gradually emptied, we have started using ‘grey’ water: saving the water when we shower for use in the toilet, for example. We’ve also been tipping water from washing up and washing onto the plants in the garden (in both pots and the ground) and trying to make use of any other collected water, like when the  hot water tank started overflowing because the arm of the ballcock had warped (now mended).

So, when I get home from swimming, I put my swimming costume and my goggles into a bucket of cold water to rinse away the chlorine, and then I use the water in the garden (assuming that it’s so dilute by then that it will do no harm). And this is where the ‘trouble’ originated.

This morning I simply could not find my swimming goggles. I usually leave them on the table in the kitchen to dry and then put them back in my swimming bag ready for my next session. But this morning they were nowhere to be seen. Where had I put them? Had I left them at the pool? Now, I know that you can see exactly where this is going, but at 6:30 this morning I was completely bewildered. I hunted around the house to no avail, and I asked at the pool, where they have a box of abandoned goggles… none of which turned out to be mine. The lovely staff offered to lend me some, but I had my old ones and so although my swim was a bit blurry (unlike the new ones, my old ones do not have prescription lenses), I was fine. As I swam up and down I mulled over what I could possibly have done with my goggles… and the light started to dawn.

On returning home, I checked the garden, and there they were in a pot with a courgette plant. Apart from a little compost and needing a rinse, they were unharmed. Needless to say this is going to cause great amusement with my fellow swimmers when I tell them on Monday. Ah well, it’s just one of the hazards of a green lifestyle.

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The offending goggles with my eco-friendly swimming costume (made from recycled fibres)

 

 

Jammin’

Having bottled fruit until I was sick of the sight of it, I decided to progress on to some different preserves. We don’t eat huge amounts of jam Chez Snail, but I like to have some around to use to fill Victoria sponge cakes, or occasionally on a piece of toast or in a jam roly-poly. So I set to and made two types: peach and apricot, neither of which I have made before. There were also some left-over peaches, so I made a couple of jars of barbeque sauce to use them up.

I’ve followed (sort of) recipes by Marisa McClellan, which seem to include much less sugar (still lots, though) than traditional British jam, but which require hot water bath treatment (as per the picture above). A few years ago, one of you lovely readers (I can’t remember who) recommended these books and I have been really enjoying some of the recipes. ‘Food in Jars’ has some interesting things in it that aren’t preserves in the conventional sense, like granola and beer bread mix, which I plan to explore a bit more. Mr Snail was dubious about the idea of peach barbeque sauce, but I thought we’d give it a go anyway… I will report back.

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really liking these books

So, that’s it for the current round of preserving – there will be more later in the season. I’m hoping for pineapples in the next month or two!

Sofa stoppage

Long-term readers know how long the project to make a complete set of covers for my sofa has been going on. However, it recently received a boost when I bought more (thicker) wool supplies whilst we were away on holiday and I started making progress once more.

The work-in-progress at the moment is the cover for the seat cushions. I have decided not to make separate covers, but to make a single piece, which will be easier to hold in place and will also prevent the migration of crochet hooks, scissors, knitting needles and biscuits down the cracks (there’s never any spare change heading that way!). So far I’ve managed about half of the top, made from join-as-you-go squares. Here it is… and a ‘mock-up’ of what it will look like when it’s done combined with the existing parts.

It’s quite hard to show the colours… the limestone grey always comes out looking rather washed-out and the subtleties of the other colours don’t really show, but you get the idea. I’m planning to stitch it onto some cotton fabric to ensure that it holds it’s shape through the rigours of being sat upon.

Unfortunately, however, work has ground to a halt. The UK is currently basking in glorious sunshine and it’s far too warm to be underneath a thick woolly creation. I’m focusing on smaller and thinner things instead… including this month’s scrap happy make (just completed). Nevertheless, I’m pleased that this section is at least started. No doubt it will be cold soon enough and a wooly cover whilst I’m working will be not welcome.

Gotta lotta bottle

It’s that time of year again, when I miss an early morning swim in order to do an early morning shop. Some people rush out for the Boxing Day sales or for Black Friday, but not me. All I’m interested in is fruit season, when I can fill the car with boxes of produce and spend the following few days preserving it for the long winter months.

So, last Friday saw me off to Newcastle Emlyn at 7am to see what was available. It’s always hard knowing what to buy. You can’t plan ahead, because if you do I can guarantee that they won’t have the thing you want, but I was on the lookout for tomatoes, peaches, pineapples and peppers. What I came home with was tomatoes, peaches (two types) and apricots, as well as some potatoes and other vegetables for ‘normal’ cooking. And as a result, my kitchen looked like this on Friday:

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just waiting

So far, I have processed all of the tomatoes into oven-roasted passata (half-litre and quarter-litre jars)

and I’m making good progress with the apricots and peaches, plus we’ve eaten lots of them fresh and I’ve rotated my stock in Tim’s cupboard, so there’s a shelf ready to fill

I won’t share a picture of the slightly frazzled chef!

-oOo-

I love cooking with homemade passata; roasting the tomatoes adds a depth of flavour that you simply don’t get with tinned tomatoes, or even fresh ones. However, I also spend time doing this every year in order to avoid waste. As you can see from the pictures, the tomatoes come in cardboard boxes (which we burn or compost, depending on our current needs) and the jars are reused year after year, with the central disc of the lids being replaced when they stop sealing efficiently (they last several uses, although the manufacturers tell you to use them only once). This means that we minimise packaging and also avoid any potential problems with BPA leaching from the plastic coating inside tin cans (yes, metal cans also contain plastic)*.

Anyway, so far, so successful… I wonder what my next early morning shopping trip will yield.

-oOo-

*If you want to know a bit more about the issues associated with cans contaminating tomatoes, this seems to be a balanced article on the subject.

 

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.

Stripes without seams

This year, as well as focusing on some UFOs (like the now completed Bavarian crochet blanket) I am trying out some new techniques with the intention of making several items from start to finish. As someone who does not really enjoy sewing, the idea of knitting in the round and thus avoiding seams is very appealing. That combined with the (new to me) techniques of knitting a garment from the top down has resulted in a most enjoyable project: Poison Oak, knitted with Cambrian Mountains (slate) and Little Grey Sheep (moonlighting) wools. After the knitting was completed, there were just a few ends to work in and then it was done, but in need of blocking, especially around the bottom edge:

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a bit rough around the edges!

So, it has been soaked in Eucalan, gently spun and is now pinned out and drying gently to ensure that it finishes up the right shape, with a nice neat point at the front.

 

This has been a remarkably enjoyable project for me and will certainly not be the last top-down garment that I knit… in fact Breathing Space is already lined up to start, right after I’ve made a bit more progress on the sofa cover (yes, that’s one of the UFOs I’m currently working on).

 

ScrapHappy June 2018

I haven’t done a ScrapHappy post for a while, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been using my scraps. Here is my latest “Permaculture Hat” (follow the link for an explanation):

I used up the whole of my scrap ball, but I’ve already started another one (you can see it in front of Hattie in the first picture). This and others of its ilk are made entirely from those tiny scraps of yarn that would otherwise be too small to be considered for a knitting or crochet project. Usually I sell these hats, but I have decided that this, and a variety of other hats I have made recently will be donated to Knit for Peace, who are always able to find such items good homes.

We have been very ScrapHappy Chez Snail this month, so Mr Snail is also writing a ScrapHappy post (check out his blog here after mid-morning on the 15th UK time)… be prepared for something completely different to the usual tales of fabric and yarn!

I’ve been inspired to write this (and future) ScrapHappy posts by Kate, who provides links to other (mostly sewing) ScrapHappy bloggers at Tall Tales from Chiconia on the fifteenth of every month… do check them out.

Three years ago…

… there was disruption, with builders all over the garden and construction of the limery in full swing. Mr Snail was well out of it working in Reading and I was trying to retain my sanity and soldier on with my work (not easy when you have to keep making cups of tea and pacify two terriers in the face of “strange men”).

Now all is relatively peaceful. No builders, only one terrier and a calm spaniel and Mr Snail is the one making cups of tea for me. There is, admittedly, the prospect of him going off to Reading again, but nothing is certain at the moment. But all that effort  really was worth it, as the limery fills up with plants and the first signs of a harvest. The winner in terms of early productivity this year is a variety of pepper called “Yellow Monster”, which is already bearing fruits a couple of inches long. A second variety, Kaibi, is not far behind. Both of these are from the Real Seed people. I did succumb to some F1 pepper seeds this year, but germination was poor and no plants have survived, so I won’t be seduced next year. We’ve also got some black chillies flowering, with a lovely purple tinge to the petals.

Of course there are other things in there too: tomatillos, epazote (both for forthcoming Mexican cooking), squashes, lemongrass, a curry tree, tea (a very tiny plant), not to mention the carnivores and the passionflower, and of course several things that I started off in the limery are now outside: peas, potatoes, salad onions, sorrel. Here’s hoping for lots of crops… but, perhaps, fewer greenfly (they are a real pain this year for some reason).

There is also a new addition to the limery, but I’ll share that with you in a later post.

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.

Byebye Bavaria

My plant to complete some of my UFOs* is going well. Finally, after four years, I have finished my Bavarian crochet lap blanket.

It doesn’t look like I originally envisaged, but I think having a border around the Bavarian centre frames it rather beautifully. I’m also rather pleased with the scalloped edging, which just finishes it off nicely.

To celebrate the completion of such a long-term project, I embarked on a tiny project that was completed in a single day. I was asked if I would make a baby bonnet by one of my Knit Night friends:

It needs a ribbon threading through, but I think it turned out quite well and it was lovely to make something so quickly.

Now… time to return to the jumper I was knitting before I got swept up in a frenzy of crochet!

-oOo-

* UnFinished Objects

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