Monday, 30 September 2013

A little less (wildlife) conversation...

To a wildlife site on Friday morning where I was supposed to be helping out with some conservation work. 

I was given the (gentle, beginner's) task of planting half a dozen little pots of Bird's foot trefoil, which is all I managed to do in the couple of hours I was there... The rest of the time was spent chatting in the sunshine, or following George around, oohing and aahing as he pointed out slow worms, lizards, dragonflies and butterflies as well as all the different kinds of plant life. I started out galumphing around the place and pretty quickly wished I could hover six inches above the ground to avoid accidentally treading on anything precious.

Lots of dragonflies, and several hanging from the trees like delicate Christmas decorations.
Tiny lizards, sunbathing on the log piles.
A gorgeous comma butterfly which didn't budge as I got closer to take photographs.
It's an interesting place. A huge chunk of it was given over to a supermarket, and a few hardy and committed volunteers are doing their utmost to preserve and enhance what is left of the original site - home to all sorts of interesting plants and creatures, including foxes and possibly badgers. A 180º turn reveals two completely different views, and the smell of freshly baked bread wafting over is pleasant, if slightly incongruous!

It was a glorious morning, which made the whole thing very enjoyable indeed. Not so sure how I'll feel when it comes to digging out the old pond and installing a new one - especially if the weather is cold, wet and grey...

Of course, our own garden keeps revealing new and interesting things, like these pretty purple/pink colchicums which I'd forgotten were there, popping up at the base of the pear tree.
 I also spotted this little party of Fairy Inkcaps gossiping at the bottom of one wall.
And, at the end of the day, we were rewarded with the most beautiful sunset..

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Thursday? So am I, let's have a drink...

Camera has been acting up ever since its glory days at London Fashion week, but it has made for some interesting (grainy) shots whilst I try to figure out how to work the thing (we've only had it for a long time, so how can I be expected to know how it works?).

In the garden I noticed that a bush that I hadn't been too impressed with has turned into a bit of a star. It's a caryopteris, and I'd been thinking of taking it out. But C said to give it another year, and so I chopped it right back in the hope of spurring it into some sort of action. These last few weeks it has thrown out lots of very pretty blue flowers which the insects are just loving, since the lavender is finishing. Reprieve, I think.

A sure sign that summer isn't quite over was a friend's choice of outfit on Thursday. I love this!

Later that day, we had friends for an early dinner - which is always lovely. The aftermath always isn't... and yes, this is next morning, as I couldn't face it in the evening! We made 'posh pizza' and apple crumble using our own apples. Yum!

They brought along the last precious bottle of their delicious, award-winning, 2011 vintage, rhubarb and banana wine (first prize in the horticultural show) and left with some of my hot chilli plum chutney and apples from the tree. I think we got the better deal!

Cup winners...

Tuesday started with one of those misty mornings that remind you that autumn is on its way.

Off out to do a couple of hours of tidying the raised beds we planted up earlier in the year. They looked amazing - particularly the bio-diversity bed, which was looking pretty sad even after we planted it up back in June. Now it is lush and full, and brimming over with life - the formerly rock hard soil has worms in it, which is really fab, and insects are buzzing happily around the flowers. A couple of things were starting to take over, so some (not all) of those were weeded out and a few other bits and bobs added in to the mix.

The edible bed.
It will be interesting to watch how things change over winter, and a bit of a challenge to make sure that there is something to look at throughout the colder months. Remarkably little litter - but a lot of cigarette stubs strewn around. Still, several people stopped to say how much they admired and appreciated the difference we have made to the space, which is great to hear.

The bio-diversity bed, for bees and butterflies.
The good news is that on Tuesday evening the group was awarded 'runner up in the Best Community Garden and also Overall Winner for exceptional and outstanding contribution for Sudbury in Bloom', which no doubt helped the town reach its goal of taking Gold in the 2013 Anglia in Bloom competition. There's a trophy and a certificate, and gardening vouchers which we can use for more plants! Wooohooo!

A scary pear...

Back from the wilds of London to the wilds of the back garden, and time to get some of the pears off the tree. We sent the willing workforce up a ladder (could've been worse - the chimney needs to be swept but she wouldn't fit) and down came a whole load of pears.

They look great all in a row, but brilliantly intimidating close up! I shall call the one in front Al Pacino. Darn, Al Pearcino would have been funnier.

We're still waiting for these beautiful apples to ripen - they're still clinging to the tree and not coming away easily. Surely, any day now! The tree was given to us by friends, who didn't have enough space for it in their garden. Only four apples on it this year, which isn't bad in its first year after being transplanted. C picked one a couple of weeks ago, but it wasn't quite ready, which is why we're watching and waiting.

Every surface is covered now with apples and pears waiting to be juiced or eaten, and lavender drying out.

A lovely day, ending with a gorgeous sunset - I only noticed the figure in the distance once I'd uploaded the photo.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

40 is so young...

'Significant' birthdays all over the place at the moment - some have happened already, others we're looking forward to celebrating very soon. The most recent one was this Saturday, and we hotfooted it into London for the day. Both C and I, together and independently, had complete brain melt using the tube - all those years of knowing the tube back to front, which end of the platform to get on the train so that you'd be stepping off opposite the exit, cheeky shortcuts, and the quickest interchange stations involving the least amount of walking through endless tunnels, all lost. Not really - I'm sure if we'd been in less of a hurry, and I hadn't questioned C's carefully planned route, right at the last minute, we'd have had no problems. Sigh.

Squirrel hunting.
The party was, thankfully, a gentle low-key affair, with lots of children running around in a great setting - an award-winning garden, with a big, envy-inducing greenhouse, a pond, and an apple tree dotted with delicious red apples. A little oasis in the middle of south London.

The birthday boy man's Piñata was destroyed mercilessly, and fallen on by a pack of children. They all walked off with pockets bulging, or improvised kangaroo pouches straining with the weight, dazed with the mere idea of free sweets, and the promise of the coming sugar rush.

The adults, meanwhile, stood or sat, drinks in hand, having proper adult conversations.  'I'd love a utility room...' - 'We've got one! Yesss' (fist pump). Very grown-up behaviour. More of a futility room ours, as it lurches day to day between being almost, vaguely, semi-respectable and, as now, a dumping ground for muddy wellies, mounds of Crocs, bottles, paint pots, step-ladders, lavender cuttings, and washing dangling from the pulley, just at the right, really annoying height... Still. We've got a utility room. Just need to get a greenhouse next.

As with all of these sorts of things, not enough time to talk to old friends properly, but we'll catch up next time... See you for your 50th!

Birdbox. With petted lip.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Goldilocks knitting...

Like my mum, I'm not a knitter. I did knit myself this hat last year, which came out rather larger than I'd anticipated but, luckily, perfect for me. I then made one for a friend, this time using four needles, and it came out much smaller than the first but, fortuitously, perfect for her. I made a third, for the Gorgeous Girl, and the size came out somewhere in the middle... you see where I'm going with this? Stick to scarves and blankets - that's my motto. Then they don't have to 'fit'!

I saw an interesting programme, about Knitting's Golden Age, the other night - still on BBC iplayer and worth a watch. It all gets in a bit of a fankle half way through, with horrid knitted poodle covers for wine bottles, and whilst it then touches on the late, great Bill Gibb and His Royal Knittiness, Kaffe Fassett, it sort of loses its way a little. But the first half, with film of women on Fair Isle, knitting as they walked, and chasing sheep (gosh, they were strong women - in every sense!) is rather lovely.

Voulez-vous crochet avec moi, ce soir?

Oh, now - it's not that rude really, is it?

Having finally, finally finished a blanket that I felt okay about (third time lucky...) I have found myself with even tinier balls of cotton yarn left over. I'm thinking tiny little granny squares, perhaps?

I finally settled on this one (above) for the GG's new baby sister after doing one of Lucy's (Attic24) patterns in cotton (below right), messing up the finish, then doing a second (better!) version in acrylic (below left). After all that, with the baby already born, I decided it just wasn't soft enough for a new born, and started again.  Bonkers, I know.

Luckily, this third attempt was quicker (straight lines) and used up the remains of the good stuff (cotton, cotton bamboo, etc) and just felt more appropriate for the new baby's mum, who is not into all the baby pink stuff. I like the apparent randomness of the odd lines of colour (like the hot pink stripe through the red at the bottom of the picture). I've also decided that, like lovely Lucy's creations, it really should have a name. So I'm calling it the Baby Barcode Blanket. There. You read it here first! In an ideal world it would have the wee yin's date of birth/weight, etc, in numbers along the end, like a proper barcode. And be in charcoal grey and white. Hmmmm. I feel another blanket coming on...

I gave both cotton/bamboo blankets to the GG's mum in the end, which means I have the acrylic blanket left over. Any ideas of what to do with it?

Monday, 23 September 2013

As I was saying...

Lots of stuff going on over the last wee while... Bugs and things around the house and in the garden, and bees ending their days amongst the lavender. This one barely moved as I turned it around to get a better look. Poor thing appeared completely exhausted.

It's the time of year to start tidying up, and the rose round the front door has been cut back, showering me with little green caterpillars in the process, and revealing the handsome caterpillar of the Grey Dagger moth.

Tucked in one corner was the abandoned blackbird's nest which, sadly, I don't think ever had eggs - and a Robin's Pincushion Gall which is much less pretty once you know that it's a wasp nursery!

We had some unexpected late summer colour thanks to my chucking a whole load of Californian poppy seeds everywhere, and the happy discovery that I had accidentally dug up and planted some Crocosmia in the front garden. Gorgeous fiery orange popping up all over the place!

In contrast to all this 'country garden' stuff, C went into London where the Gorgeous Girl was part of F.A.D. She designed and made this very chic jumpsuit, which was shown as part of London Fashion week, using proper models in front of proud families and friends, as well as the press, photographers, and a whole load of good-looking industry types. Fancy!

A seriously huge deal for her, and we're all immensely proud of her - even those of us whose fashion sense is an unfortunate product of the 1970s...

C's pictures - the camera still hasn't recovered from all the excitement

Thursday, 19 September 2013

I am not Sheldon...

I love Sheldon*. I like to have 'my spot', and I think gift-giving opens up a whole can of worms. Quite often, I just don't get the joke. But, note to self, it's only funny when Sheldon corrects his friends because it is not real life, and his friends only forgive him because it's in the script, and otherwise all the actors would be out of a job. I am not Sheldon, which is probably why I've felt a bit like this all week.

* The GG introduced me to The Big Bang Theory, and it's brilliant - but not to be used as a guide to how to behave in company, of course.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Vintage St Peter...

Juniper Flowers is a lovely little shop in Sudbury, selling flowers, vintage wares, and gorgeous retro frocks, and today they took over St Peter's in town for a 'Brief Vintage Encounter', filling the place with vintage stalls, a tea room and even retro makeovers. A couple of vintage cars parked outside set the scene and there was a definite happy buzz around Market Hill.

We were greeted at the door by the Juniper team and inside the sun was blazing through the stained glass - with some trad jazz playing, and even a bit of live singing, the atmosphere was really quite special.

I loved the cushions at 'My Betty Blue' (below) made from vintage fabrics, and salvaged kimonos. I'd planned on getting a scrap bag of vintage textile pieces, but left it too long - by the time I went back, the one I wanted had been sold! Ah well, instead I bought a cushion, made in 1930s fabrics - the pretty blue one propped up in front of Ms 'Blue' herself. Look out for them at Brick Lane in London!

I also bought a soft, well-worn, blue and white linen tea towel from Susan, the retro lady, who was dressed far more bravely than I would ever dare. What a sweetheart - Susan featured on telly, in Kirstie's Vintage Homes, so we had a celebrity in our midst!

There were quite a few women, both customers and vendors (and vintage shop mannequins!), in full makeup and 1940s hairstyles, or in 1950s full skirts, all looking utterly gorgeous. Sudbury has never seemed so glamorous!

The ladies from The Vintage Garden Tea Party Company, who provided the catering, transformed the kitchen with bunting, pretty teacups and saucers, and fabulous cakes. If we hadn't been out last night with friends for the most enormous curry we might have succumbed - although C did buy a few cakes to take home for later!

St Peter is a great venue for this sort of thing, and it clearly went down well with the locals. One of our neighbours told me that she was tickled pink to find some old dolly pegs amongst the treasures!

So, something for everyone - even if only a cup of tea, a bit of cake and some slightly rueful reminiscing about about all of the Pyrex, mid-century modern ceramics, and Victorian lace we've chucked out over the years...