Tuesday, 29 June 2010

eating from the garden

the first proper strawberry harvest

and there's still some left!

lettuce, mint, and rocket

Things have been getting rather exciting in the garden round here lately. All the lettuce planted in the ground was eaten by slugs, of course, but the ones I sensibly planted in pots are pretty much ready to harvest, and in fact I did just that at the weekend. The mint, as predicted, is overtaking everywhere, and I'm trying to overcome my general dislike of anything minty to invent a variety of things to do with it (not that I invented the idea of having mint with new potatoes, mind you!).

And the strawberries! Last year I only got a couple of measly, half munched ones, but this year, they've blossomed and taken over half of the front garden. I picked a good handful on Sunday, and there's plenty still ripening. I don't think we'll have enough for jam, but we'll certainly have enough for a bowlful to share at the weekend. And I'm starting to think I wouldn't mind if they *did* take over the entire garden - they've been so easy to grow, even for me, and just *so* tasty, that maybe I'd be happy if that was all I ever grew....

There are a few courgettes ripening, the rocket's starting to take off, and the broad beans are showing some signs of enthusiasm (although admittedly not many). I don't think we'll be harvesting rhubarb this year, tempting though it is, I think it needs to settle (although maybe just one or two sticks...). The peas have succumbed to the slugs, more's the pity. But the rainbow chard is doing well, I've got far too many cabbages for the space available, the sage is nearly as big as me, and there are aphids taking over my orange blossom that will just *have* to be dealt with before they start infesting the things I actually want to eat.

All in all, the garden's a little bit of a handful at the minute!

But I'm pretty adept at ignoring its protestations, of course.

(and as an aside, in case you were wondering, the knitting is continuing, it came away with me at the weekend, and travels backwards and forwards on the train each day I go to work. A few more inches to go on the body, then we start grappling with double pointed needles to make the sleeves...)

Sunday, 27 June 2010

a nice rest

Well, this is what we spent most of Friday doing - feet in the water, idly staring up and down the river, and occasionally watching a duck or two. This week seems to have flown past without much to report, although a couple of things have made it as far as the computer but not quite as far as the blog yet... Will endeavour to catch up with myself this week though!

It's all van talk around here at the minute, our poor little post van is on her way out, and we won't be driving her any more after the middle of July. I've been taking more interest in vans than I ever thought possible, let alone healthy. I've still not quite reconciled myself to how a van fits in with a pretty simple and frugal lifestyle. We do live in a major city after all. Quite a large proportion of my income is spent keeping her running, and you could probably argue that we could get away without a vehicle at all. However, we will be replacing her, albeit with a smaller, cheaper, more efficient van, with much lower fuel consumption, that takes up less space, is more reliable, has much less character, and is probably far less fun.

It's pretty fair to surmise that I'm rather sad about losing our van... but I didn't mean to waffle on about that today! I'll do a proper post later in the week when we might know more about the replacement.

Friday, 18 June 2010

skirts and scones

the newest skirt, made from an old sheet

a, erm, slightly half-eaten scone

a little bit of painting

Well, I've not been up to much this week other than working and commuting (and knitting) and phd-ing. But I did manage to squeeze in a cup of tea in a friend's garden yesterday, and a scone (or two) this afternoon. Oh, and a new skirt! Gosh, I'm enjoying making skirts at the minute, although at some point I'll have to branch out into a different style - the last three have been pretty much exactly the same but in different colours...

This one is a bit longer, and a little bit more swirly though, so maybe that counts as different?

Or maybe not.

I've also tried my hand at a bit of painting this week. This is part of the ongoing challenge to make all my presents. I've often made greetings cards in the past, but only recently started painting them.

Now, I have no talent for painting whatsoever, but I do like it. I also don't have any kind of special paint, but I rather enjoy the simplicity of a children's paint box with all the colours laid out for me. So I've been painting away, blobbing colours here and there in a very happy, sloshy kind of way - and then put my cards in the post without taking pictures of them! So this photo of the paper I was trying the colours out on will have to do, and you'll have to take my word for it that the finished cards were a little bit more artistic...

Right, off to put on my new swirly skirt for an evening of songs and dancing, followed by a weekend of festivals and birthdays. What are you up to this weekend?

Sunday, 13 June 2010


Yesterday I spent a fair bit of the day at a small festival, promoting our local LETS (Local Exchange and Trading System) scheme. I do love the idea of LETS, although I must confess to not taking advantage of it as much as I should do.

If you're new to the idea, it basically works like this. Each local group has a name for its local currency. Ours is called 'stones', and I think the general idea is that a stone is roughly the equivalent of £1. Other groups have far more festive names for their currency. So, I come and do some work in your garden for an hour, you write a 'cheque' from your account to mine for, say, 6 stones. I can then spend those 6 stones on goods or services from you, or someone else. So I might pay someone to walk my dog, or give me a massage, for example.

The point is that, like money, the bartering doesn't have to be directly between two people - I don't have to exchange my eggs for your knitted jumper, for example. However, unlike with money, the stones stay in the local economy, and people offer all kinds of things they might not ordinarily be able to charge real money for. There's a fair bit of debate within the system overall around how much people should charge for their services - there's some schemes where everyone charges a fixed rate for their time, say 5 stones an hour. Our scheme doesn't do that, and people price their time according to what they believe their skills are worth, like with real money. This means people who have spent more time building up specific skills, teaching music, for example, generally charge a higher stones rate than those offering general help in the garden. Obviously, it also means that, like in life in general, those without specific skills earn less for their time. The debate goes on.

At the minute, members in our scheme offer everything from plant care to ironing, art tuition to flower essence consultations, event management to hair cutting. The diversity of people in the scheme is impressive.

Some people make far better use of the scheme than I do. I tend to be pretty self reliant, and so struggle with the idea of getting someone in to help me decorate, for example, or do the garden. However, I'm on a bit of a mission to do more trading in the coming months, and, leafing through the directory of offers, I'm edging towards a regular spot of massage, which is something I would never pay for in real life.

Actually, I just noticed that a woman I met recently from the guild of spinners and weavers is offering tuition in spindle spinning... Might be time to give her a call?

Saturday, 5 June 2010


Saturday morning at the Women's Institute cafe

knitting in the garden

I'm going through a bit of a knitting phase at the moment. It started when a friend gave me £30 of vouchers for this lovely wool shop for my 30th birthday. I decided I'd like a new cardigan, then spent ages in there trying to choose wool, then even more ages trying to find a pattern to knit, and then lots of trips to the shop being told I needed to know things like tension, and needle size, and length of wool needed, not just the number of balls.

Hmm - seems I've got a bit to learn then.

Anyway, I finally settled on a pattern for my cardigan - tea leaves - after seeing it here. Pretty straightforward, I thought - and then realised it's knit on circular needles. Aha, another thing to learn.

Being impatient, and not given to following instructions, I started it on straight needles. I even managed to knit a few rows of 360 stitches (!) on straight needles (although I was too scared to put it down in case all the stitches fell off, so had to sit for 2 hours to knit those rows - hmm).

Finally, an old friend who will be taking me to my new knitting club took pity on me, and very kindly gave me two sets of circular needles. So now I'm all set, and things are progressing nicely.

The wool is Stylecraft pure luxury merino in 'kingfisher' (which this photo doesn't do justice to), and it's ever so lovely to knit with. I've never bought new yarn before, so it really is a luxury!

Anyway, this cardigan and the consequent flurry of knitting, combined with the discovery that you can order and reserve things online at my local library, has sparked a general knitting enthusiasm, and each Saturday I treat myself to a new knitting book from the library. Last week it was Love to Knit by Bronwyn Lowenthal, which has some, erm, slightly quirky items of clothing in, and a rather fetching laced up corset cushion. This week is Greetings from Knit Cafe by Suzan Mischer, which I am already very taken with - particularly the stripey knitted bikini you can see in the top photo (and which I will not be wearing!). Next week's selection will depend on whether what I've ordered turns up - I'll keep you posted.

So, while I actually didn't manage to get to knitting club on my first day at my new job this week, I am managing to turn the 2 hours on the train each day into exclusive knitting time. And next week I'll be spending 10 hours on trains! I reckon this cardi will be ready by July at the rate I'm going...

What are you knitting at the minute? I'd love to see!