Sunday, 1 November 2009

A Good Friend

What makes someone a good friend, rather than an acquaintance?

I've been thinking about this a lot recently, ever since my best friend died in September. I keep examining our relationship, remembering how we first met and trying to form an image of her in happier times. We were colleagues who realised one day after a casual conversation, that we both had partners who were not interested in the sort of films we both liked. Our first cinema visit was to Starship Troopers in Stoneleigh and we were amazed to find that we were the only people in the cinema for the early showing. Most of the films we saw were rather less mainstream and we revelled in the foreign language seasons and rarities shown on the Director's Chair selection at our two local cinemas.

We'd chat before and after the films and occasionally managed to grab a lunch break at the same time, but rarely spent more than a couple of hours together as we lived a few miles apart and her life revolved around her family, voluntary work, home and garden, while I was busy with my partner, work, animals and pastimes.

Over the years it doesn't amount to a lot of shared time, so why is there this gaping hole in my life? For the first few weeks after she died, I had a constant pain in my forehead, as if all my grief was gathered there. Now the pain has faded, but I still feel such a tightness in my throat when I look at her photograph or remember a particular funny moment. A great comfort is my friendship with her husband and sons, so we are able to recall her in our memories.

When she died I was stunned, transfixed. Where had she gone? Was she still here, somewhere in the ether, or gone, totally vanished? How could she have left us all so suddenly? But thinking about it now, I think she chose her time to go. I only wish I could believe that we will meet again one day.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Critters, bugs and weeds

First: Insects.
Tonight I found yet more caterpillars in the poly tunnel. I thought I'd got the lot a couple of days ago, but found another 6 lurking around. Some were doing me a favour, eating a bramble shoot that came up through the earth floor, the others were having a hard time trying to nibble cucumber leaves and two really brave ones had been at the chillies. I think they were pleased to be relocated to some outdoor bramble!
Here's a side view of one of the little blighters. It's a Tussock moth caterpillar, but I'm not sure if it's the brown or yellow tailed variety. They are both pretty voracious - I wonder if I can get them to eat all the bramble for me?
Next: Amphibians!
When I was watering the outside grow bags with the tired-looking courgette plants, out popped this froglet from one of the watering holes!

I'd seen a larger frog next to the bag a couple of days before but hadn't a camera to hand, so was very pleased to capture a photo of this little chap.

It must be one of the bathtub froglets that hatched out earlier this year. I need to be rather careful when I do my clearing up and leave them some grow bags for them to use as shelters and as hibernation sites.

I love being on the allotment. Sometimes I'm there for hours being really busy weeding, digging and planting. Other times I'm there for a quick visit to pick up some spinach or salad greens and to water the plants in the poly tunnel. Now I've got a water butt inside the tunnel (Thank you Doug, for that suggestion!) life is somewhat easier! I still need to visit every 2-3 days, though, depending on the weather and temperature, to check on things.

My time at the allotment is precious. It's a time out of the usual routines; time for myself and to enjoy the plants, the wildlife and the company of the other gardeners. I love seeing the results of my work but know I have a lot more to learn and a lot more work to do before the plot is the way I want it to be.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Keep up! Keep Up!

Oh, it's impossible to find time for everything I need to do.

I must weed the plot properly soon and put down black plastic to stop weed seeds germinating. However, I estimate it will take about four full days of hard work and unfortunately, I can't manage more than a 4 hour stint at a time. This means it's going to be a battle royal between me and the massed ranks of bramble, fat hen and spiny lettuce for the next couple of weeks.

Some of my time has been spent making a wedding present - a bride and groom (cockerel and hen) set of egg cosies, complete with presentation hen house. It was like being back at art school again, designing a portable hutch!

I could almost hear my tutor's disparaging comments! Still, it did the job and didn't look too terrible, thankfully.

Cartridge paper is such useful stuff!

Friday, 7 August 2009

Rain + Sun = WEEDS

It's hot and humid again. I think I can hear the weeds growing wild in the allotment; a quiet, persistent rustling as they burst forth and overcome my seedlings.

Weeds grow so much faster than my beans, lettuce and stuff that I'm tempted to give in and start growing Fat Hen as a crop. Inside the polytunnel I'm able to keep things under control as my plants are in grow bags so relatively few brambles and convolvulus shoots manage to get through the beaten earth floor and grow to a decent size.

Today I battled the heat and damp to do some weeding, water the grow bags and take photos of the plot and some of my egg cosies as the light quality was really good.

I scanned the skies with binoculars but once again, there were no signs of swifts over Carshalton or Walligton. This means my last 4 youngsters have probably moved South since I last saw them on Tuesday 4th August. I suppose they might still be somewhere over Surrey; the skies have been rather horrible for the last part of the week, lacking thermals and banks of low cloud to keep the insects relatively low. There are still flying ants waiting to launch - maybe they will come back for a final feast before migrating South. It would be nice to see them again after spending so much time as a foster carer, but I am happy believing they are acting on instinct and doing whatever is best for them. I just wish them good luck on their long, hard journey to Africa.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Swifts, felting and cucumbers

Friday 31st July 2009
Three more swifts took to the skies above Wallington! It's lovely to see them fly up and up until they find the thermals and soar effortlessly for the first time. I kept looking out for them for the rest of the day and took binoculars up to the allotment with me. It was very hot and sunny but I did see a group of three high in the sky several times, so hope it was them!
Now just have one left - it is starting to flap the wings and climb, so will probably go on the next decent launch date. Sunday looks like the best weather for a first flight. Fingers crossed!

Picked my first cucumbers this afternoon! Gave 2 to Nick in return for some of his very tiny courgettes. I'm going to make more potato and courgette soup from mine, as they are like bludgeons! His are just right for eating raw, as matchstick thin strips or thin slices, like linguine. How nice to have something other than salsola to trade with!

Dug up the onions so now I will have a bed for autumn/winter salads, once the beastly and ever present bramble roots have been dug out of it. Again. Amazing how it keeps coming up. If I'd wanted to nurture it and grow blackberries you can be sure it would all have died by now.

When not feeding birds, weeding or being at work I've been making more egg cosies. The latest two are for quail-sized eggs and were made just for fun. I've been using a rather fabulous fleece bought from The Threshing Barn, in Derbyshire - or is it Staffs? (must check that). It's from a cross between a coloured Ryeland and a Black Welsh and is rather lovely, so I'm using it for several new projects.

This is a pic of Betty and Bessie, the normal-sized egg cosies. I'll have to take one of them with the quail cosies, as soon as I can get my little camera working properly again. it's being a bit moody at the moment. Ever since I dropped it, in fact!

Monday, 22 June 2009

Finishing projects

Some projects never quite get finished. They hang around waiting for the final bits to be done and eventually end up in my "Things to do" bag. This is now rather a large and formidable sight, so I've made myself go through everything and get some more things listed on etsy and folksy.

There's a new site that looks very interesting, The Handmade Artists Forum. Here's the link: - Supporting Handmade Artists
It started off as mostly chainmaille artists, but has generously expanded to include other craftspeople.
I will post some of my finished projects there, maybe later today!
Meanwhile, here's Robert Bear (nearly finished!)

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Working towards Woolfest

Cat Jingle Balls in natural wools

Next week it's Woolfest, the annual celebration of all crafts involving wool. It's held in Cockermouth, Cumbria on 26th and 27th June and is a mecca for knitters, spinners and feltmakers so I'm really looking forward to getting there and maybe learning a few more skills.

It would be interesting to learn how to spin, but needle felting keeps me pretty busy, so I wouldn't have much time for it!

Egg Cosies in natural and dyed wools

Too tired to Blog!

Wild poppy

The salad bed
More seedlings - amaranth, melon, cucumber, herbs

Onion, sorrel and salsola bed

I really ought to blog little and often. it's June 21st and so much has happened but I can't really bring myself to do more than add a few notes. At last the pain in my arm is manageable and I am getting a decent amount of sleep again, thanks to some medication. Now I just need to change my lifestyle a bit so it doesn't come back.

RSI in the upper arm is caused by using my computer mouse for hours to edit and label photographs and from prolonged use of the felting needle. Now as I can't possibly give up these activities, I'm changing to a Logitec trackball wireless mouse on a gel pad and pausing at regular intervals while felting. So far, the results are good. I have even managed to do some digging and planting at the allotment!

Monday, 27 April 2009

Digging as meditation

There's something therapeutic about digging a plot. Not much mind power is needed in the process; only enough to keep me working in a methodical way, identify the things that emerge on the prongs of my fork and sort them into heaps or, in the case of worms, put them in a safer patch of soil.

Meanwhile, all kinds of amazing ideas whizz around my brain. I create wonderful letters to friends, compose moving appeals, dazzling film reviews and music critiques and dream up ideas for new felting projects. Unfortunately, by the time I get my notebook out, some of the wonderful ideas are just faded fragments. Maybe I should use a dictaphone instead?

Monday, 20 April 2009

Gardening and felting

The Allotment

This is it! February 2009.

102a roughly cleared, rotivated and some enclosed beds installed so I can at least plant something while digging up the rest of the bramble roots.

There is an astonishing amount of broken glass, melted glass from bonfires and rusty metal to clear up. Impossible to use a spade - most forkloads reveal a coiled spring (?!) or two, horrible knotted tendrils of old netting, as well as the inevitable bramble roots. Makes you wonder what's been going on here. Do people really have old armchairs in their sheds?

I've decided not to get a shed. This is a small plot and I can't spare enough land for such a luxury item.

Root cuisine?
Are bramble roots edible, I wonder? After all, they are my very first crop from the site. Not the woody ones, but the white, crisp underground roots. They might be very good stir-fried and mixed with spinach and noodles. Perhaps I'll test them out on my partner, before posting the recipe.

I'm so unfit that it seems to take forever to make any impression on the plot.
Had to stop during the really cold weather - the wind seems to be coming from Siberia and I need to invest in some more thermals!

Nice, warm work!
When it's too cold for outdoor work I get on with my wool crafts instead. I have a few projects on the go at once; at the moment it's felt jewellery, a knitted scarflette and felt animals. I've sold a few egg cosies lately so am working on a new design and testing out reactions on my flickr site -

Back to the Wilderness, 16th March 2009

This old bath is actually in the plot below mine. There are 4 big blobs of spawn in here so I'll take photos at regular intervals and see how they progress.

There isn't much green algae in here - in fact the water looks a bit red, so have added torn grass and some lettuce leaves to try and start off some green growth for them to nibble at when they hatch.

Just before hatching - you can see they are developing nicely and at least the jelly is turning green, so there must be algae in there too.

April 15th already -
and progress on the digging front is still slow but I can see results. Mostly as a growing heap of woody roots! But also the onions and shallots are sprouting well and there are tiny rows of leaves where I planted carrot, leek, chard and leaf beet. No sign of the salsify and parsley though. Yet.

April 20th
Today I've been waiting for a bit of cloud so I can go and re-plant the raspberries. It got so hot yesterday and I had such a horrendous cramp in my thigh that I had to chuck them into a couple of holes and hobble off home! Great gardening practice, eh? Hope nobody sees them or I'll get a black spot next to my name.