Poorly pup

Sometimes, when you are feeling under the weather, the only thing to do is to snuggle up in a fluffy jumper (that’s a sweater to all you US readers) and snooze the day away. So, when Sam woke up this morning with what appears to be a pulled muscle in her neck (the result of sleeping precariously balanced on the small blanket box at the end of our bed, we think), the only thing to do was wrap her up and send her back to bed (a proper dog bed this time):

Sleepy

Sleepy

I am not, in fact, a great fan of dogs in clothes, but Sam does feel the cold and so a few years ago I did make her this mohair coat, which she wears to sleep in on cold nights. It appears to be just the job for a muscle strain too. Fingers crossed that this will mean a trip to the vets is not required.

Oh, and Max feels some company is required and is helping out by snoozing alongside:

That's what friends are for

That’s what friends are for

Beach-combing with a deaf dog

It doesn’t take much to keep me amused – a sunny afternoon and a trip to the beach with the pups and I’m happy. I’m even happier if I know that the outing serves several functions, as was the case today…

On Saturday I am attending a felting workshop entitled ‘Hiding Places: Felt Bags’. In this class, aimed at more experienced felt-makers, we are going to be learning about embedding objects in our felting and using resists to make hidden pouches. I thought that I wasn’t going to be able to attend because it was originally scheduled for last Saturday when I was teaching statistics, but fortunately it was moved by a week and so I can go. The pre-course information came the other day and included the following:

Could all participants bring with them a few bits and pieces they might want to embed in their felt. This could be (but not exclusively limited to):
•    Small beads
•    Shells (including snail shells for Jan)
•    Open weave fabrics: old chiffon scarves, bits of cotton muslin, that kind of thing
•    Small stones or sticks e.g. Driftwood and pebbles
•    Sequins, shisha mirrors
•    Even small metal washers
•    Glass beads/pebbles
Nothing should be much larger than around 2.5 cms (OK driftwood sticks might be larger), smaller is great. What we will be doing is using resist techniques to ‘hide’ things in the felt, then reveal them (or not). Ideally bring things that go together as a ‘collection’ of things.

shells1

My existing collection

See? I even get a special mention!! Thus inspired, I thought that Max and Sam would enjoy accompanying me on a trip to the beach to seek out some suitable shells to add to a little collection that I was given by some friends last year. The beach was almost deserted, but you’ll have to take my word for that because I forgot to take the camera… probably a good job as I was kept rather busy throwing Sam’s ball for her and rooting about for shells. Max does not generally move very fast, he usually just potters around sniffing things. But not today. Today he decided to demonstrate how useful he finds his deafness.

Collected today - despite the Max-shaped distraction

Collected today – despite the Max-shaped distraction

Max likes chasing sea birds. Actually, he likes running vaguely towards them and has never succeeded in getting closer than 20m away before they take off. Today there were oyster-catchers, which Max eyed for quite a while before deciding to make his move. I noticed him setting off in their direction and diverted him away three times before he suddenly discovered his accelerator  and departed like a bulled across the sand. There is no point in calling him back – he cannot hear and even when he could, he would not have paid any attention (it’s the Lhasa apso in him – they are very willful dogs). Fortunately he was slowed when he encountered a stony area and I managed to retrieve him with the inconvenience of only slightly wet trainers. From then on he had to stay on his flexi-lead and I had to collect my treasures one-handed. Despite this, I managed to make a nice little collection – choosing some shells that were worn away to expose the spirals inside. I’m not sure how these will work with the felting, but it will be interesting to experiment and I will report back next week.

All-in-all, a successful excursion, resulting in a happy me and tired dogs as well as my treasures.

Sam needs a lie-down to recover

Sam – recovering

Buy Less, Live More

Buy Less, Live More

One way that we can all be more sustainable in our lives is to be happy with what we have got. Constant pressure to experience or own new things just means that we are in a constant quest… often associated with consuming more and more  resources. It’s important to remember that when we see adverts encouraging us to buy the latest gadget, pair of shoes or shampoo that will magically give us beautiful hair, the manufacturers may not be focused solely on our happiness. It is just possible that they are also interested in their own profits. The more we get hooked on the idea that the latest ‘thing’ is all we need to fill our lives with meaning, the more we perpetuate the process. It’s like a drug – all you can focus on is getting your next fix. And when you do, the effect is limited (maybe not even lasting as long as the time it takes you to get home from the shops) and you move on to seeking the next thrill. If you haven’t already watched it, I highly recommend the animation ‘The Story of Stuff‘ which will give you plenty of food for thought about this subject.

I'm happy, anyway

My Buy Less, Live More picture

However, if we look closer to home, we may be able to find happiness and stimulation within our existing sphere. The Story of Stuff project is currently asking supporters to submit pictures to their ‘Buy Less, Live More’ campaign. I have sent a picture of progress on the crochet sofa – if you want to send them a photo, you can do so here. It’s lovely to browse through all the pictures and see how people are enjoying their time not shopping. Other than crochet, the thing this week that has been making me smile most in my little world is Max.

Max – as recommended by our vet – goes and has his hair done every three months. This seems to rejuvenate him – I’m not sure whether it’s because he can see better or simply because he feels nice afterwards, but he is always much more perky after than before. He is a rather naughty boy with Tina, our very patient groomer, so I have to accompany him and he has to be muzzled for part of the process. Yesterday, however, he made us both smile by being a Good Boy and not having a temper tantrum or trying to bite anyone.

This is what he looked like before:

And this is him looking delightful afterwards:

Sam also makes me smile at no cost as she never needs grooming:

So, what have you been enjoying this week that doesn’t involve shopping?

Sprucing things up

Looking around our house the other day I realised that you would never know about my obsession with fibre… other than all the work bags and baskets. You may be surprised to know that the place is not awash with afghans, covered with crochet cushions nor festooned with felt. There are a few things around… felt tea cosy and camera case, lots of knitted socks and a variety of hats and gloves, but not much that’s showy or obvious. Around my office, you can see a knitted Nessie, crochet snail, mushrooms and bacteria, but they are quite discreet. Much of my work has been given away, swapped or sold. Soon, however, the masterpiece will adorn our bed and I will start on my Bavarian crochet afghan.

It's all too easy to lose a dog in our sofa

It’s all too easy to lose a dog in our sofa…

But right now I have embarked on a big new project. Our sofa is nearly 14 years old. It’s still comfy and we don’t want to get rid of it (despite the fact that it eats hair grips, crochet hooks, scissors and, occasionally, dogs), but it is looking rather tired and Sam has decided in recent years that all the zippers on the cushions are especially yummy and should be eaten. We have a spare set of covers, but we are fast running out of covers that have functioning zippers for the big square cushions (five of them) that go along the back. Fortunately, Sam has not noticed the large zipper up one side at the back of the sofa, so the two big covers are ok. In theory, I could replace the zippers, but I don’t want to for two reasons: (1) I hate putting in new zippers, and these are right along the top of each cushion, so are fiddly to replace, and (2) Sam would probably just eat them again (sigh). Anyway, it seems like a great excuse to yarnstorm my own home.

... but it's still comfy

… but it’s still comfy

And so, blue yarn has arrived and crochet fun has commenced. I’m making the first cushion cover with Attic24’s Neat Ripple pattern as this was so successful for the cushion I made for my sis. Originally my intention was to make them all the same, but I’m tempted to use the same palette for them all, but different designs (would this be too much?) I have chosen five colours from the New Lanark range of double knitting wool: sky haze, iris, limestone, navy and denim. It’s going to require rather a lot of yarn and many hours of work, but I think that it will look great when it’s done. So often people throw away perfectly good furniture because it’s got a bit worn, so it feels good to put some work into reinvigorating  this sofa.

The first cover is progressing

The first cover is progressing

Not quite the big reveal…

I know that lots of you have been itching to see progress on the Masterpiece and I have been remiss about keeping you updated. Frankly, over recent weeks, something had to give and this was it. As a result I have lots of squares to post up on the Masterpiece Page as well as work to do on the scrapbook, although some of the pictures have made it onto the Pinterest board. However, having got my portfolio of permaculture designs sent off at the beginning of the week, I have had time to focus on some crochet.

Yarn from Karen... just starting the square

Yarn from Karen… just starting the square

All the squares that I have received are now part of the blanket and there is a gap for just one more that I’m expecting very soon. The final square that I am making myself is from wool sent to me by the lovely Karen B of Sweet Baby Veg. In fact, I had a couple of other squares already done, but when this yarn arrived this week, I just had to add some to my blanket. I haven’t decided what to do with the rest, but I will, no doubt be inspired soon. Karen was very modest about her gift, saying that it was not particularly original, but I honestly cannot think of a better parcel to arrive through the post. The yarn is made by Tavistock Tastes and Textures and is from their flock of Jacob’s sheep, which graze on Dartmoor. The colours are ‘natural’, ‘rust’ and ‘ocean’. It’s turning out to be lovely yarn to work with and speedily worked up…

Completed square

Completed square

Anyway, this is where I am at so far, with the above square and the one from Lorraine still to be incorporated and then lots of edging. What do you think?

So far, it’s got Max’s approval:

And Sam’s quite keen too:

Happy dogs

Happy dogs

These foolish things

Today is 1 April – traditionally associated with practical jokes and fools. I’m not a fan of the practical joke – it seems like a mean way to be entertained, and always at the expense of someone else. As for ‘corporate jokes’, they rarely raise much of a smile; the ones listed in this article in The Telegraph today seem particularly dull. I do, however like a bit of silliness. The world is a better place for us laughing together rather than at each other. So, rather than play a trick on you, I thought I’d share just a few frivolous things that make me smile…

Amigurumi

Worm, toadstools, slug, strawberry, Cooey the pigeon and a bacterium

Worm, toadstools, slug, strawberry, Cooey the pigeon, a cup cake and a bacterium

An unexpected gift

A lucet from Linda

A lucet from Linda

Chickens… they don’t come much more foolish than this

Lorna

Lorna

Self-patterning yarn

Doesn't look very promising in the ball, but makes fantastic socks and random hexipuffs

Doesn’t look very promising in the ball, but makes fantastic socks and random hexipuffs

The newly invented ‘slippie’

Our slippers!

Mr Snail-of-happiness and me… with toastie toes

And, finally, not foolish, but something that always raises a smile… a lovely sunrise:

Winter sunrise

Winter sunrise

So, what’s making you smile or laugh today?

Oh, and a little addition… these foolish things make me laugh too:

Max and Sam

Max and Sam

 

Companionship

This post marks the half-way stage of NaBloPoMo. So far I have written 6603 words (excluding these), posted 46 photographs and received one award – not bad for half a month! In contrast, Mr Snail-of-happiness, who is taking part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) has written more than 20, 000 words, but, hey, it’s not a competition! What has been good about living with someone who is also participating in a writing challenge is the support this brings – have you completed your target for the day? If not there’s sympathy and encouragement and if you have, there’s celebration. In addition, the fact that the challenges are different means that there really is no competition, which is good for me because I’m not competitive by nature.

There are two dog beds but Max and Sam choose to sleep together in my office

There are two dog beds but Max and Sam choose to sleep together in my office

Having another person around is important to me, and represents the smallest unit of ‘community’. Mr S-o-h is not my only  companion when writing, however… often in my office I am joined by a dog or two; and they enjoy the company of each other as well. Interestingly, Sam (that’s her in the foreground) was something of a problem dog when we first got her and we were recommended to get her a friend to help calm her down. Max is a very relaxed dog, with a laid-back attitude and his arrival certainly changed Sam’s life – he has taught her to be house-trained, to eat properly and not to be scared of fireworks. As with many relationships, however, it’s not simply one-way: she encourages him to play and cleans his ears, and when we have to leave them in the house, they don’t get upset because they have each other for company. Dogs (like humans) are pack animals and social interaction with other members of their species is really good for them.

All snuggled up in the laying box!

All snuggled up in the laying box!

And they are not the only sociable creatures we have around the place. Despite having a ‘pecking order’, chickens also seem to enjoy each other’s company. I have mentioned Esme snuggling up with the others during her moult, but even now her feathers are growing back, the snuggling continues.

I think in life we all appreciate some companionship – whether a cup of coffee with a friend, a nice comment on a blog or a phone call from a loved one. By opening ourselves up to others, whilst accepting some risk, we give ourselves the opportunity for amazing relationships and experiences and we start to build communities. So, go one, do something sociable today and strengthen the community you live within!

New snail on the block

The escargatoire (yes, believe it or not, that is the collective noun for snails*) has grown. I think our new recruit will, henceforth, be known as the Snail of Persistence, to acknowledge the decades that it has taken me to learn to crochet.

Introducing out latest addition: the Snail of Persistence

Introducing out latest addition: the Snail of Persistence

There is no stopping me after last week’s course: as well as my usual knitting (a cardigan at the moment), I have made the snail and a pair of fingerless mittens. Finally, I can have a bash at all those crocheted amigurumi that are out there.

Sam, helping me to model my fingerless mittens

Sam, helping me to model my fingerless mittens

As I’ve said, I love to learn a new skill.

-oOo-

* Actually, there are three collective nouns for snails – an ‘escatgotoire’, a ‘rout’ and, bizarrely considering their anatomy, a ‘walk’. I’m not sure which one I like best.

Walking the walk

Almost every day after our lunch we take the dogs out for a walk. Sometimes we go to the river, or down to the beach, but usually we do a couple of miles from the house so that we don’t have to use the car (somehow it doesn’t seem right to drive in order to walk!).

Going for a walk is good for us – we do at least some exercise every day – and for the dogs – it makes sure Max gets some exercise (have I mentioned that he is half dog-half cushion?) and gives Sam mental stimulation as she has to concentrate in order to walk properly on her lead*.

Our kelly kettle, powered by twigs collected on a dog-walk

Our kelly kettle, powered by twigs collected on a dog-walk

But as well as health benefits, our walks often have an additional yield. Usually this is just wood for burning in the kelly kettle, but we have come home with other random items: a piece of heavy-duty plastic that I now use as a waterproof mat to felt on; a piece of timber that has been tuned into a support for a shelf; aluminium cans to be recycled; a plastic spatula (as described in my 21st Century Womble post); some soapwort cuttings; some forked twigs to make into hooks for towels and yesterday, a pallet.

This last item was not our usual find by the side of the road, but been propped up outside a house. We had seen it a few days before, but yesterday there was someone in the driveway constructing a new fence. Mr Snail-of-happiness decided that it was worth a try and asked if we could have the pallet. It was willingly given, so I walked the dogs home and Mr S-o-h carried a pallet. This is a particularly good result as we are currently collecting the things for some garden constructions. We have already used two (from the local builders’ merchants) to raise the IBC up to give a better head of water, and we would like to use a few to make a gate and some barriers to keep the chickens in the vegetable-free end of the garden.

Pallets are a high-value commodity for those of us who like to make use of ‘waste’. If you don’t believe me, check out Unconsumption to see some of the amazing creations that people have come up with. I don’t think that we’re quite this creative, but we are really looking forward to making use of this great free resource.

So, tomorrow we will walk the dogs again… perhaps we will just get some exercise,  perhaps we’ll meet friends and have a chat, but perhaps we’ll come back with a treasure!

-oOo-

*If you have terriers you will understand how difficult many of them find it to walk ‘nicely’ and not throttle themselves on the lead

DIY dog biscuits

Some months ago I discussed making the dog’s diet more sustainable. In the intervening time we have started feeding them more raw meat: minced offal has proved particularly popular with them and we are able to buy it from the same place that we buy much of the meat that we eat ourselves. It is organic, and the sort of thing that the dogs like is often rejected by us pernickety humans. I have to confess that I’m not a great offal fan, so being able to feed it to the dogs makes me feel a little better.

Dogs, being omnivores, cannot live by meat alone. We are fortunate that our two are fond of vegetables. Max will happily disappear off with a cauliflower stalk or a carrot for a quiet chew under the kitchen table.

Unfortunately, we have not solved the problem of dry food yet. Max suffers from Colitis and the latest research, according to our very knowledgeable vet, suggests that highly processed protein in the form of complete biscuits is the best diet. So, whilst we do give him a variety of fresh foods, Max still eats quite a lot of commercial complete dry food. There is another aspect to their diet, however, that I can contribute to. To help calm Max’s delicate digestive system, we give him (and Sam) charcoal biscuits as treats. I have always, until now, bought these from our local pet shop, but I realised yesterday, as stocks were getting low and I didn’t fancy going out because it was raining , that I could probably make these myself and thus avoid any artificial additives and simultaneously reduce our ‘dog food miles’!

Homemade charcoal biscuits - yum?!

Homemade charcoal biscuits – yum?!

A quick survey of the interweb and I was ready: organic wholemeal flour (milled at our local watermill), organic olive oil (from Spain… few olive groves in west Wales), some ground up charcoal tablets (designed for human consumption, but slightly out of date) and water. I mixed it up to a dough, rolled it out and baked it whilst I was cooking other food in the oven last night.

And the verdict from Max and Sam? Well, see for yourself:

Biscuit time! Yum!

Biscuit time! Yum!

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