Of words and wool

And so, we have reached the last day of November: a month of words (National Novel Writing Month for Mr Snail and National Blog Posting Month for me) and wool (Wovember).

NaNoWriMo Success

NaNoWriMo Success

Mr Snail wrote more than 50,000 words of his new novel entitled Xylophone at the Gates of Dawn. And, with this post, I will have published every day of the month on my blog. In addition, the paper copies of Mr Snail’s latest completed novel, Kirkenes Blue, arrived through the post (remember to leave a comment before 6 December on yesterday’s post here and on Mr Snails blog for a chance or two to receive a free copy of it). Yesterday, for the first time ever, Mr Snail and I managed to co-ordinate our blog posts, each linking back to the other. This was a major achievement and took much more time than would have seemed reasonable until we actually attempted it. Anyway, I’m going to have a bit of a rest from writing for a day or two, but I think Mr Snail is still raring to go!

On the wool front there were successes:

and a failure… I went from this:

Ready to go...

Ready to go…

to this:

Just not right

Just not right

and back to this:

Back to balls

Back to balls

Finally adding this:

Two new skeins

Two new skeins

So that I am now about to start again with this.

Here we go again!

Here we go again!

In addition, a couple of days ago, I decided to make a start on a completely new project and so, I’ve been working on some socks knitted with the Norwegian wool I bought in Norway earlier this year:

Norwegian socks

Norwegian socks

But, in fact, the month held much more, including some great cooking and even a bit of growing.

Plus, we’ve celebrated World Toilet Day, we’ve not celebrated Black Friday, we’ve found ways to be kind to the planet and to humanity, and I’m pleased to report that Tiffany is now fully feathered, after a rather bald start to the month. So, despite the poor weather, bereavement, and dreadful things happening, we’ve been able to keep taking small positive steps and trying to make the world a better place.

December is going to be quieter on the blog, but just because I’m not writing, doesn’t mean I won’t be doing. So. I’ll see you in a few days time… now I’m off to have a lie down in a darkened room…


Max, for one, is exhausted!


Kirkenes Blue: started life during NaNoWriMo 2013

Kirkenes Blue: started life during NaNoWriMo 2013

It’s November, which means it’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Personally I have no desire to write a novel, but Mr Snail does… well, actually that should say another novel (there are two already published). And so, each November when he can, be embarks on the challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. To keep him company the last time he did it (2013) I signed up for National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) – where participants aim to write a blog post every day during the month of November. This year I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to attempt 30 consecutive days posting, so I didn’t officially sign up. However, we’re on day 11 and I’ve managed it so far, so I’m planning to try to maintain the momentum throughout the month.

The route to so many interesting people.

It’s real to me: the route to so many interesting people.

I’ve written before about my reasons for blogging, and they continue to be reinforced. Over the years, I have made connections with people from all over the world – not the sort of people we see on the news, not ‘celebrities’ (whatever they may be) – but people who I think are heroes: gardeners, crafters, students, activists. I have swapped seeds, arranged barters, given and received advice, marvelled over creativity, shared sad and happy times, found answers to questions I never thought to ask and generally shared the experiences of you all. I’ve even met a few of you in person! And for all these reasons and more, I think it’s worth dedicating some time to this activity on a regular basis… others may scoff at this ‘virtual’ world but to me it’s a valuable way to experience reality around the world.

So, do excuse me in the busy months when I don’t write or read much… I haven’t forgotten you… and I hope you enjoy my exuberant activity this month…

November round-up

Well, it’s been an interesting month… lots of new followers, three blogging awards,a guest post written for the Transition Network, more visits to my blog than ever before, discovering some really interesting blogs to read and making new friends. Thank you, especially to everybody who made comments – I have been informed, inspired and encouraged by you all. The eagle-eyed amongst you might have noticed that the blog address has changed slightly in the past week, it’s now simply http://thesnailofhappiness.com … I decided to pay for hosting so that I could prevent any adverts appearing without my knowledge (if you’ve seen any in the past, they have been nothing to do with me!) and at the same time I was able to register this name for the site.

I thought that this final day might be a good time to report back on some of the subjects I’ve written about, including some of those that generated lots of comments.

The month started off with a poem… only the second one I have included on the blog ( the first was a gripe about WordPress not working properly!) which seemed to get things off to a good start as this is the post that’s received most hits so far (although you have to remember it’s had the longest time to do so).

Some lovely new feather on the top... not very speckledy though

Some lovely new feather on the top… not very speckledy though

Esme the chicken has featured a couple of times as I reported on the progress of her moult. I’m pleased to say that she now has a tail again (she looked very odd without one) and a lovely strip of new, dark feathers along her back. Unfortunately, she’s now shedding like mad from underneath. I’m guessing that, at this rate she will have a complete set of new plumage around March 2014. There is certainly no sign of her starting to lay again and Perdy seems to have come out in sympathy. All I can say is thank goodness for Aliss – still laying most days despite the low light levels.

No need to think about shampoo for a while now

No need to think about shampoo for a while now

One week into the month, I wrote about the ingredients in shampoo… this generated lots of interest here, with my Facebook friends and when I put a copy of it up on the Blogher website (that had received 115 hits last time I checked). I spent a while mulling over all the comments and, in the end, decided to avoid products that contain SLS (mainly because they seem to adversely affect my sensitive skin) and did some bulk buying as you can see from the picture!

I featured the Lampeter Peoples’ Market in one post and there’s now a link on the venue’s website (Victoria Hall) to my blog… with an occasional visitor arriving that way.

I reported on the progress of my apple scrap vinegar and I’m pleased to say that it really does smell like vinegar now and still isn’t going mouldy. I should be able to bottle it up in about six weeks. After that, I hope to report on the taste and what it’s like to use in cooking.

Hand knitted socks and the wool they were exchanged for

Hand knitted socks and the wool they were exchanged for

The bag that I made so that I could photograph the process is now full of the wool that I exchanged for a pair of hand knitted socks. I mentioned that this felting wool is destined to be made into a large bag; a comment on Facebook may yield a leather strap for this bag in exchange for another pair of hand-knitted socks… how great would that be? Especially since I have managed a net gain in sock wool since the beginning of the month, despite having knitted a pair and a half! I am considering, now that I have the photographs, actually writing up the instructions for making the bag as a proper pattern, but I haven’t found the time yet.

I managed a few philosophical posts during the month, with Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness proving a particularly popular subject that generated lots of discussion; so much so that I couldn’t resist quoting more of his thoughts in yesterday’s post about left-overs. Terry Pratchett is likely to provide me with much inspiration in months to come…and I’m just about to start on his new book Raising Steam so who knows what gems that might yield.

As well as shampoo, I’ve bought a few things during the month. First,  my beautiful shawl pin from Artis Ignis; if you are looking for beautifully carved items, do take a look at their etsy shop – they undertake commissions (that’s what my shawl pin was) and are lovely people. And second, my butter bell… a mass produced item but, hopefully one that will improve my diet. I didn’t mention in any posts about buying yarn, but the knitters amongst you will know that it’s very hard to resist, so I did acquire some lovely British wool from Texere (it was on sale – honest) that is likely to be making an appearance in WIPs and FOs in months to come. Oh, and there were my patterns and fabric.. since I won’t be spending quite so much time writing from now on, perhaps I’ll get round to making my nighties.

Fingerless mittens in action

Fingerless mittens in action

My Lazy Sunday turned out to be quite productive… and I surprised myself by completing the second of Mr Snail-of-happiness’ fingerless mittens in record time. I really ought to write this pattern up as it is really easy. I used 6-ply sock wool, which should make for a very hardy pair of mittens… they are likely to outlast mine in pure wool, plus they are very nice colours because of the self-patterning yarn. I think these could be good trade goods too.

And so, I progressed through the final week, managing a post every day. Those of you who were with me from the beginning of the month may remember that I started blogging every day to keep Mr S-o-h company whilst he was participating in NaNoWriMo. His target was 50,000 words in 30 days whilst was mine was a blog post every day for 30 days. I’m really pleased to report that he wrote every single day until he reached his target on Thursday 28 November. The result is Kirkenes Blue…. I think it’s a crime novel, but I haven’t been allowed to read it yet. He will now spend some time working on it, then I will edit it and proofread it and in a few months you should be able to buy it as an e-book. Watch this space and I will let you know.

So that’s it for November… I won’t be blogging every day from now on, but do keep reading and commenting…

The strange world of blogging… and why I’m here

The portal to the blogoshpere

My portal to the blogosphere

I started writing this blog about a year and a half ago as a way to harvest my thoughts and research about sustainability and living a more sustainable life. I wanted to share my ideas and tell other people what I had found out. I wanted to show that we can make relatively small changes in our lives that can have a big impact, especially if we all work together. I also thought that it might be a good way to publicise the courses I teach and the crafts I make. I chose to blog with WordPress quite at random – I had seen someone else’s site, liked it and didn’t have much desire to spend too much time researching the options.

So, I chose a theme (quite an unusual one it turns out… don’t see many other bloggers using it… it’s called ‘Comet’ in case you are interested) and set to with the writing. I soon decided that I wanted to steer away from the very personal style of blogging… I didn’t want to share my inner feelings, whinge about the bus driver or get therapy from my blog readers. I wanted to share ideas and information about practical aspects of my life and making it more sustainable… and that’s the sort of blog I like to read too. That’s not to say that blogging doesn’t feel like therapy sometimes and it certainly helps me to get ideas straight in my head simply by writing them down and receiving feedback.

There have been some unexpected yields… I never expected to form friendships via my blog and to feel such strong connections to people all over the world, most of whom I will never meet. I never expected that my readers would engage so enthusiastically about some of my posts. Who’d have thought that a post on bartering would generate so much interest or one on how to deal with human remains? I also didn’t expect so many people who I know personally to read my blog and to feel that it was a good way to know what I’m up to. Perhaps the strangest thing is to go to events and have people exclaim “so you’re The Snail of Happiness” (my real name is Jan, by-the-way, for those of you who don’t know).

The Leibster award

The Leibster award

This is my 20th month of blogging and I’m celebrating it by participating in NaBloPoMo – a month of blogging every day. Here we are then, on day 11 and since this is a blog post about blogging it doesn’t feel too out of place to mention that I have received a blogging award from my fellow blogger The Belmont Rooster. They are funny old things, blogging awards… really a bit like a chain letter – you get an award and you get to pass it on to some other bloggers. So I have been nominated by Mr Rooster and I get to nominate some other folks. I don’t usually participate in this sort of thing, but I decided to make an exception this time; first because Mr Rooster asked me so nicely (thank you so much), second because it gives me an excuse to direct you, my readers, to a few blogs that am really enjoying at the moment and that you might enjoy too (they are my nominees below) and third because NaBloPoMo is making me completely blog-obsessed at the moment!

So, here are my nominations and recommendations for some good reading:

free food for rats is written by the lovely Anja, She describes delicious seasonal cooking as well as activities with her young family.

Permapeach: One person’s urban permaculture story documents Rachel’s permaculture adventures in an urban setting, with descriptions of community gardening, her allotment and her business, all based around permaculture ethics and principles.

westywrites may be my favourite blog right now as she describes her attempts to eliminate single-use plastics from her life.

gettin’ fresh is (and I quote) ‘not only about gardening but also about getting all that delicious produce to the table in a form that will tempt even the pickiest of eaters’.

and finally

Ecology is not a dirty word has some thought-provoking pieces and is written by another ecologist… always worth a read.

Hopefully these five bloggers will make their own recommendations and lead us all on to new discoveries. Meanwhile, for me that’s another blog post written in November and I’ve manage to accept my blogging award in a slightly unconventional way*.


* There was a set of questions to answer, most of which I have in the text of this article… you can find them here if you are interested.

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