Thursday, 28 February 2019

Farewell to February

This month we've been visited regularly by the pigeons, dunnocks, blue and great tits as well as the wonderfully photogenic blackbird but they've not been our only visitors as the kitchen blackboard helps to remind me. Unfortunately, unlike the blackbird, most of them enjoy disappearing just as I go to grab the camera! 
Most of the species listed appeared during the cold snap at the beginning of the month and all of them have hung around a bit except the coal tit and the long-tailed tits - I presume they'll be back when it turns cold again.

A bookshop to dream of
February has also been a month of dabbling indoors not just in the kitchen but also with jigsaws, glass paints and even with some sewing - just don't look too closely at the stitches!

Smells pretty
The lavender heart was made at the hospice and despite their best efforts the most I can say is it smells nice! I've also turned a couple of terry tea-towels into dishcloths this month as I was short of one but have an abundance of the other and even mended some trousers - and boy does canvas hurt your fingers! 

2nd batch
I couldn't resist trying a second batch of tea-light holders and even added a little posy bottle to the project - this could get to be addictive!

So it's farewell to a good month and on to the next...

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Cuttings, seedlings and sowings - health check time

Today was health check day both for me and for all the seedlings and cuttings dotted on the window ledges.

The echiums, violas and pansies are all doing well and are ready to be pricked out. The welsh onions are okay but could probably doing with leaving a little while longer before we pot them on and cauliflowers are only just starting to show. Unfortunately there is no sign yet of the Brussels Sprouts or parsnips but they can be a bit slow so we'll give them a little more time before re-sowing.

The Boblets - our rubber plant cuttings - seem to be surviving well, that is to say none have keeled over yet so I'm hopeful that we'll have mini-Bobs to share. All the various succulent leaf cuttings that have been living on the windowsills for the last few months seem to be surviving well and now have roots so it's time they were pricked out into individual pots - a job for tomorrow methinks. Bob also seems to have survived his haircut and is already putting on new shoots and leaves.

At the weekend we discovered that two of the stems of twisted hazel we received in a bunch of flowers had sprouted roots in their vase so these have been popped into the ground on the off-chance we get two new shrubs from them. The wall-flower cuttings that we set to root in compost have had about a 50% success rate so they have been tidied up and set outside in their propagator to harden off and most of the lavender rooted cuttings are doing nicely too so they will need to be potted up into individual pots shortly and trimmed to encourage bushier growth - we'll probably leave these in pots until next spring so that they can really get established before planting into the ground.

Oh and as for my health check - the consultant is happy with my blood results and the treatment will continue as it is for a few more months  - so good news for me and for the plants!

Sunday, 24 February 2019

Playtime part 3

Looks like i should have read a bit wider before starting the glass works. Apparently there are several different types of paint - it seems I bought the bakeable liner but the no-need-to-bake-but-don't-put-in-the-dishwasher paints. Based on the materials I have it should have gone - use liner, wait 24 hours, bake then fill with colours and leave to dry but don't try to wash them in the dishwasher! If I want the work to be more weather or washer proof then I should have bought different paints. Ah well, live and learn! I will, of course, try again with a new batch but some of these are keepers even if they may weather somewhat quicker outside than I hoped. We have some shepherd's crook hangers in the garden so J is going to wrap some wire around the necks of the jars and then we're going to try hanging some of the jars in the garden.

Hare now has a fire in it's belly!

Burning heart - simplest seems to be the most effective when lit

Amber trees glow quite well but lack definition.
That's all for now off to find some simpler designs methinks, or play with swirling colours, or make stain glass shapes or...... bug-bitten me?

Friday, 22 February 2019

Playtime part 2

My first attempt at painting on glass is complete with several lessons learned - not least that glass paint is very smelly and if at all possible should be used in a room with a window open and it helps to put the lid straight back on the bottle once you have loaded the brush! Also that the liners exist for a reason - painting on curved glass without using a liner is messy and leaves runs; and it's better to use several thin layers of paint rather than one thick one but you need to leave each layer to dry for an hour or so or you risk messing things up.  All fairly obvious now but not when I sat down to play. Fortunately the paint can be wiped, scraped or washed off if the mistakes are ones you can't live with and they are spotted before baking. There will be several clean-off-and-try-agains from this round I think but overall I'm quite happy with what I achieved given my minimal skills. 

These are destined to be tea-light holders for the garden here as I think it will be some time (if ever) before my skills are sufficient to create any decent gifts.

Beginner's kit of glass paints plus a few liners - I spent just under £30 in total on these

tracing round shrunken drawings that are blu-tacked to the inside of the glass, with out-liner tube

Works in progress - old nut butter jars will hopefully make decent tealight holders

Freehand autumn trees (honest) - hopefully will look better with a candle inside.
Dragonfly - quite pleased with this one even if it is a bit splodgy

Hare - I think this looked better before I added the scenery - ah well better luck next time!

What happens when you don't use a liner before applying the paint - a bleeding heart!
Slight improvement but room for so much more!

Baking the keepers tomorrow and then we'll see how they look with a candle in them.

Wednesday, 20 February 2019


Wednesday was a nice gentle day at the hospice giving me the chance to peruse some of the many art source-books they have. I was looking for simple ideas that I can play with to decorate some old jars I have and I hit a lucky streak in a mosaic source-book - bad librarian that I am I failed to note down the book's details so will have to remedy that when I'm next there. Anyway here are just a few of the ideas that I'm toying with to create some tealight holders and mini-vases to use in the garden when it warms up. The hare in particular is calling to me as hares always seem to - no guarantee how they'll turn out but I need to try.



Next, I want to track down some simple suns, moons and stars too but these critters will definitely give me a starting point. Watch this space!

Monday, 18 February 2019

February Reads

I've just updated the books read page so you can see what I've been reading this month - mostly quick and easy romantic e-books with a brief foray into a couple of murder mysteries so no pretty covers to share. Unfortunately I just couldn't settle into the Kim Edwards' novel so I've set it aside again - there are too many on the want to read pile to keep plugging away at something that doesn't grab me. So, now I'm ready to return to the wonderful Katherine Arden series that I started in December with the beautifully written The bear and the nightingale. I thoroughly enjoyed that one so have high hopes for the next.

So here it is The girl in the tower - number 2 in the series of 3 - I may be gone some time!

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Knowing your onions

No dig beds - covered to stop the birds unseating the early sown sets.

A couple of happy hours at the allotment on Saturday mean that we now have all our onion and garlic planted up ready for harvesting in the late summer and early autumn. I say we - I broke up the garlic cloves and wrote out the bed labels whilst J did the rest, of course! This week our Red Baron and Sturon onions went in the ground alongside the Shenshyu Yellow sets sown back in October/November. We've also got some of both varieties left over and will sow those in modules here ready to fill in any gaps that emerge over the next few months. The Garlic bulbs are Vigour which is a new one to us and acquired through the Transition Loughborough Potato Day order last month. They are supposed to be happy planted later in the growing year than other varieties but we still hope to get sufficient cold to cause the bulbs to split into decent sized cloves when we harvest in July. Our autumn sown ones have a head start on this in theory but there aren't that many showing in the beds at the moment. We're just hoping that whatever ate them last year can't find the new bed! We still have to find a bit of space for the leeks to go out in late Summer but other than that we now have all our allium beds full - let's just hope the gods, voles, pests and weather are kind to us in the months to come!

The garden compost bins finally reached capacity at the weekend and due to the cold weather aren't processing the waste as quickly as they will later in the year so J emptied out several bags of half-done compost and used them to fill up a bean trench at the allotment - the waste will decompose over the next couple of months and then provide some much-needed warmth to give the climbing beans a good start in May. It also means I now have some room for kitchen waste and the early year tidy up of the strawberry pots that is now due.

privet prunings make a base
then the part done compost
then a layer of soil & a bean bed is ready

I may not have been doing much in the way of work but I did have a chance to check on the transplanted cornflower and spinach beet and admire the catkins and wildflowers that are gracing the plot right now. The early flowers are incredibly important to the bumble bees and other insects that start flying now and we leave them alone as much as we can - only clearing those that are in active beds to give the critters as much of a chance of survival as possible.

Spinach beet and self-sown but transplanted cornflowers
Glorious golden catkins
sparkling speedwell

red dead-nettle

Friday, 15 February 2019

Pottering - February garden update

In a few short weeks many of the plants in the garden have started to put on fresh growth or come into bloom and everything is glowing in the almost-Spring sunshine.

The chard we transplanted at the beginning of the month and popped outside already has some new leaves, and assuming the slugs can't climb up to the window-ledge and we don't have too harsh a March, we'll have some homegrown salads before too much longer.

The new crocuses are putting on a wonderful show of pure sunshine by the front door- these are Orange Monarch from Hydes and so far they are everything I hoped for.

And the naturalised ones in the back garden are also bringing joy to the back garden and it looks like they'll soon be joined by the daffodils. They've actually got a lot more purple to them than is apparent in the picture.

The broad beans are also beginning to show in the garden propagator - a few more weeks of sunshine and they will be ready to plant out at the allotment and we can look forward to the first bean risotto of the year.
And soon there will be wall-flowers too so we'll be able to have home-grown honey-scented flowers in the front room's flower jugs.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Jigsaw time...

I decided jigsaws create their own timezone - just a quick sit down turns into oops I seem to have lost a few hours so very easily, or that's just my excuse anyway! It's also been a great time to listen to a whole host of music whilst playing with the puzzle so feeling thoroughly chilled out after three days of folk and country on the Fire stick. J's back tonight so he'll be glad I've got the country stuff out of my system.

Let the games begin...
Progress by Tuesday evening
Finished by tea-time today
  And the music well there's been Seth Lakeman, Wildwood Kin, Karine Polwart, Mary Black, Dixie Chicks, Randy Travis, ....and many, many others. Just two for a taster...

Monday, 11 February 2019

Winter Photographic Scavenger Hunt #4

Today's post is the fourth one taking part in Eileen at A Bracelet of Days' Scavenger Hunt challenge. In case you haven't yet stumbled across them I first mentioned the challenge back on 1st December 2018 and have so far made three other posts containing photographs:
1  on 7th December 2018
2 on 23rd December 2018 
3 on 30th January 2019

You can find links to other bloggers taking part on Eileen's post from 2nd February

Enjoy x

15. Flight. This was a lucky shot whilst dropping J off at the allotment on 5th February. There were several small birds all fluttering around the hedgerows and I just managed to catch this Great Tit coming into land in the hazel hedge. The photo has been cropped from the original to get a closer look but is otherwise unaltered.

8. Chocolate. We're still finishing off some of the Christmas chocolate that J was given but this tub was almost at an end when the photo was taken... It may be suggested that it only lasted as long as it did because I don't like the Snickers but that would be thoroughly unfair... maybe....

3. Fastener. This oriental box decorated with lacquer and mother of pearl was an eighteenth birthday present from my parents and has a really unusual fish shaped clasp. Looking at it this closely shows up it's need for a polish!

4.Nail. Another box I have was made from old floor boards and bought at a craft fair the first year I moved to Stratford. It's clasp is made from an old iron door nail.

18. A natural feature. One of the joys of having an old tree in the garden is watching the lichens appear year on year. 

So that makes 14 of the 20 photos complete. More next month.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Meaningful Books

This week I was tagged into a twitter meme to post the covers of seven books that mean something to me. No explanations and no reviews. One a day for 7 days and pick someone else to carry out the challenge too. My problem was limiting it to just 7 but given the thought it required I thought I'd share them here too.

Frederick by Leo Lionni

Wild flowers of Britain by Roger Phillips
Folk-tales of the British Isles Edited by Kevin Crossley-Holland

Food from your Garden 

The lost words by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris

The enchanted Isle by C W R Winter
Spiritwalk by Charles de Lint

It was fun hunting up just seven books and has given me more than a few for my "time to re-read" pile and a lot more for my "I forgot I had that" pile. Could you limit your list to just seven?