Saturday 30 April 2022

Gardening Tips

I can hear you all saying to yourselves "Oh the hubris of the woman, she's only been at it a year!!" But for what it's worth here are a few tips I would like to share. You probably know these things already...

Tip #1 -About 35 years ago, a friend gave me a bulb planter and a bag of daffodil bulbs. I have just realised that this gadget is ideal for planting runner beans. I've grown them in loo roll tubes, as per Huw's guidance. This will make a perfect hole of the right depth

- I can pop the tube in, without disturbing roots etc, then fill up round the sides with compost.I now have 7 little bean plants and 2 larger ones round my teepee.

Tip #2 - walking to the Village Post Office before Christmas, I noticed a child's fireguard going begging. I had fancy ideas about a "fruit cage" and raspberries etc. I dismantled the panels so it would store tidily - but I have found another use for the narrow side panels. This makes a lovely little trellis for my new jasmine to climb. This sweet smelling plant was a birthday gift from my neighbour, who is encouraging my gardening endeavours, and wants to broaden my interest beyond vegetables!

Tip #3 - from my wonderful SIL Denise. I started my broad beans on the kitchen windowsill, then I moved them out to the greenhouse. But they seemed beset by little flies.

"Help!" I cried. She suggested that rather than spray the actual seedlings, I should put some flyspray onto a few cotton wool balls and leave them on the shelf between the plants. Brilliant - within 24 hours the flies had all goner, and they never came back! Thanks Denise.

Finally a NON tip, if there is such a thing...In March, Bob spotted a wasp in the carriage house [the side of the Lathe Palace where the Skoda is parked] A couple of days later, he noticed the tiny beginnings of a wasp nest.

We did some internet research, and discovered we needed to spray and remove the next before it got any bigger. A number of sites said "You can deter wasps by putting old fashioned mothballs in places where they are flying"

So he sprayed the nest, then removed it [it was tiny, smaller than an orange] and lined up mothballs all round the inner edge of the roofspace. Bob has been vigilant in checking, and last week he spotted another tiny nest - and what is worse, a couple of wasps flying around up there, and actually landing on the mothballs!

We have concluded that this tip about them being a deterrent is "a load of old cobblers" if you'll pardon the vulgar expression.

Friday 29 April 2022

The Art Of Tradition, Peace And Generosity

I had not heard of the Ukrainian Artist Maria Prymachenko until a few weeks ago. She lived from1909 - 1997.Born into very humble circumstances, and self taught, her paintings were inspired by the traditions of her native culture, and motivated by a desire to spread love, peace and joy. She never sought to make money from her art- but gave away her pictures . She was recognised by Unesco, and admired by Pablo Picasso. You can read lots about her here  Or just watch this brief video.

Here is a collage of some of her cheerful, colourful art- some rural scenes- and some crazy,  fantastical rainbow coloured beasts.
Kirsten read about her whilst she was looking for an idea for her next piece of stitching for the Postcard Project - and was especially sad to realise that 25 of her lovely paintings had been destroyed when the Russians set fire to one of Ukraine's Museums. One of Maria's paintings "A Wild Chaplun" was put on postage stamps in 1999 [I cannot find out what sort of animal a chaplun is, though, maybe Maria made up the name...]

Kirsten has embroidered this, in the most incredible detail, as the stamp on one of our postcards. I think it is utterly stunning
We are both enjoying stitching this collaborative project - the challenge to learn new techniques, and the freedom to find subjects which are relevant to our lives and to the world around us. I am so glad we are working on it together! 

Thursday 28 April 2022

Like Wild Flowers


Another picture from my calendar. I am not quite sure what it means though! 
I think wild flowers should be left where they are - although picking a few for personal pleasure is not against the law, surely taking armfuls from the meadows isn't such a good idea.
If we find flowers in unexpected places - like suddenly discovering bluebells in the woods, celandines on the banks of the streams, or daisies in the grass - this can be a wonderful source of joy. Like the creatures in the picture, these are joys to share [so I leave the flowers in situ for others to appreciate]
Hope and courage should be shared too.
Thank you to "Climate Action Swanton Morley" who took packets of wildflower seeds to distribute to those residents who turned up at the Public AGM of the Parish Council this week. I do not know where I shall plant mine yet!

Wednesday 27 April 2022

Hanging Out With The Sandman

I am trying not to be SO involved with the crops in the Raised Bed and the Mini Greenhouse that I forget the rest of the garden. Due to unforeseen delays in the Finishing Of The Patio and the New Gravel Path, there have been some neglected areas. Like the space by the fence near the pear tree, where there was a bag of soil, half a bag of sand and some broken fence panels. 

The soil has gone to level up the ground over the Lathe Palace Soakaway, the fencing has been sorted into usable or scrap wood, and dealt with. And the sand - half has been put into a better container, and the rest shovelled into bags. The front of the old garage lets in water when there is really heavy rain. A row of sandbags along the bottom helps keep the inside dry. 

The ones we put there about 10 years ago are starting to disintegrate - so now there is a fresh stack. Bob has an interesting Wartime leaflet. This was produced by the manufacturers of Cuprinol. You may have come across this company because their products 'colour and protect the wood in your garden' 
The company began over a century ago using a solution of copper compounds in oil [Latin Cuprum in Ol] to preserve fishing nets. They soon discovered that if you treated hessian* bags with this, then your sandbags would last much longer.
Without such treatment, rain would cause the bags to rot, and degrade, be affected by mildew, and split, spilling the sand everywhere.
As war was declared, people promptly started taking precautions to protect their property. Sand was a relatively cheap commodity, and in those pre plastic days, jute* sacks were easy to come by too.
Across the nation, they built revetments using thousands of sandbags, to prevent damage from bomb blasts and flying shrapnel, as well as flooding from burst pipes.
Three months later, as autumn was turning to winter, the government realised that many of the original bags were rotting and collapsing, and generally becoming a Public Menace. Hence the campaign to encourage people to treat the bags before they filled them.
Bob has no idea where he got his empty bags from, he thinks someone gave them to him and he kept them because they'd come in useful some day [as indeed they have] I suspect they are leftover from the War. (Probably WW1, as they show no sign of any Cuprinol treatment!) 
*hessian fabric is woven from jute fibres
The Sandman is a mythical creature from Scandinavian folklore, who is said to send people to sleep and sprinkle magic dust into their eyes to give them lovely dreams. He has managed to get into a lot of songs ; Roy Orbison In Dreams, The Seekers Morningtown Ride, and The Chordettes Mr Sandman. That last one has a cute tune but dodgy lyrics. Here's Ed Sheeran's offering.

Tuesday 26 April 2022

Making And Mending In The Sunshine


After church on Sunday morning, we drove home via the little village of Hoe. Wed seen a poster. Adam, who had run the Spoon Carving Workshop last year, had told me about these events.
Held in the Parish Hall and adjoining space [where I had made my spoon] there were lots of stalls, and plenty of good refreshments. The event was very well attended. We began with tea and bacon rolls, eaten outsid ein the sun, then we looked around.
Tools were sharpened, new handles turned on the pole lathe. Cycles were being checked over out in the sunshine, and inside a lady was PAT testing small electrical goods.

We found out all we needed to know about making better compost

Adam couldn't be there- but his enthusiastic young son Logan [assisted by Mum Sabrina] taught me how to make leaf print bunting. Basically you find a fresh green leaf, put a piece of calico on top, and bash it with a hammer or a stone. In time the print will fade to a soft sienna colour. I'm pleased with my little fern flag.
Sabrina says they will survive a gentle wash in the machine!
There were two ladies doing sewing repairs - one on a torn down coat, the other a snagged nylon cycling jacket [been there, mended those myself] who encouraged me to come along to their Monday Craft Group. The display of their handiwork was lovely
Did I sew? they asked. Bob waited patiently whilst I enthused about The Postcard Project, and showed them some pictures. They were interested in the Norwich Stitch- and one said she knew it as "Waffle Stitch"
Afternoon tea and cake from the splendid Cake Stall, and then home. This was Proper English Village Life, IMHO - local people coming together to share skills and help others in aid of a good cause. Lots of people contributing, and a lovely atmosphere. Thank you to all involved. Mending was free [donations to Village Hall] and profits from the refreshments were going to the VH too.

Do you have Repair Cafés near you?

Monday 25 April 2022

Boaty McBoatneck


At the beginning of March, I had an urge to knit something. I rummaged through my knitting patterns, and found one which someone gave me a while back - and in The great Stash, there was enough yarn to knit it up. The pattern had two variations - a hood, or a boatneck. I didn't think I had quite enough wool for the hoodie, and I like to give Mums jumpers which go easily over a baby's head.

I knitted up the 6-12 month size. But when I'd finished, I felt the boat neck was quite generously sized. I think that baby in the grey jumper has been carefully posed! I added a couple of buttons and loops at the side of the neck, and I think it will fit better. It is going into the 'Present Drawer' until I find a little one to give it to.

This young man is getting really big now, he's had his first haircut and his first trip to the library. He will be two next month!

He looks even taller when he is standing on tiptoe! Definitely a cheeky chappie.

Sunday 24 April 2022

Love Is Enough


I think this is gorgeous! It is a 9cm terracotta plaque, which Liz gave me for my birthday. Thank you family.
The tile is based on a design by William Morris for his "Dove and Rose" silk and wool textile of 1879, and the phrase was the title of his second book of poems.
The tile is frost resistant and will be hung outside at Cornerstones [I have chosen a spot already]
It was made by a family-run company in Bath called Black Dog. I saw some of their tiles on sale in Southwark Cathedral the other week. There are some lovely tiles available in their extensive range- I particularly like St Julian of Norwich, the Bretons Fisherman's Prayer, the Tudor House Blessing, and St Patrick's Prayer ...
There remains faith, hope and love - but the greatest is love

Saturday 23 April 2022

Teepee, Tipi or Tippi?

So I got out  Huw's book to check my April tasks, and realised it was time to construct a support for my runner beans. My broad beans are now out of the greenhouse and flourishing happily in the Raised Bed, but the newly planted runners have yet to germinate. Apart from the two which came from Kezzie's seed packet and some of you kindly identified for me. Yes, definitely runner beans, red flowers and all. 
I bought a pack of 10 canes and a circular support thing from the garden centre. H says "use 8 canes, for your 8 plants, to build a wigwam with an 18" base". I am not sure how many will germinate, and the support has 10 slots. So we will go decimal on this one.
I drew a circle round a tray, and marked out 10 points, then wrestled all the canes into place. I practised in the Futility Room [not wanting my efforts to be laughed at by passing dog walkers]
Then I went and planted it firmly in rows 8&9 as instructed, and thought about wigwams.
Here's the thing - wigwam is a term used by Native Americans in the North East. They are dome shaped in structure and intended to be relatively permanent, used by settled tribes. But teepees [sometimes spelt tipis] are the conical ones, and used by Native Americans of the Great Plains and much more portable, so used by nomadic tribes. 

I never knew about the different shapes, did you? In my childhood, the picture books all showed the conical ones and called them 'wigwams' [and incorrectly referred to their residents as "Indians" even though they had never been to that subcontinent] Furthermore, some tribes [eg the Arawak and Wampanoag] were genuinely welcoming towards the European invaders settlers, and not as warlike as some make out.

Conclusion - Kezzie's beans are growing up a tipi., and hopefully there will be a few other plants joining them soon.
There is of course the word Tippi - which is the name of a filmstar - Tippi Hedren, who starred in Hitchcock's 1963 horror movie "The Birds". The film is set in California. although Daphne Du Maurier's original 1952 book is firmly placed in Cornwall.
Tippi is 92 now - here she is with her daughter Melanie Griffith, and grand-daughter Dakota Johnson, both well known actresses themselves. My favourite MG film is Working Girl when she co-stars with Sigourney Weaver and Harrison Ford. I'm not so sure about DJ [I suppose if Grandma made her name in black&white movies, it made sense for her to star in the '50 Shades of Grey' trilogy. None of which I have any desire to watch] I won't include a clip here from The Birds [it is scary, and also I want to keep the birds away from my beans]
However, Carly Simon won an Oscar for her brilliant theme song for Working girl, and this clip has a few gratuitous shots of Harrison Ford [here playing a sharp suited businessman not an Amish farmhand] Just look at those crazy 1980s fashions and tap your feet to the song. Enjoy...

Friday 22 April 2022

Earth Day 2022

You can find out more on the Earth Day website here

EARTHDAY.ORG’s mission is to diversify, educate and activate the environmental movement worldwide. Growing out of the first Earth Day in 1970, EARTHDAY.ORG is the world’s largest recruiter to the environmental movement, working with more than 150,000 partners in over 192 countries to drive positive action for our planet. 

The only official Earth Day Event I could find in Norfolk would involve a 60 mile round trip to Kings Lynn, so I think I shall save the fuel and stay home. Here's a collage of a few things happening round here this week which contribute to the good of the environment...

  • My 'whirligig' in the back garden, using sunshine to dry the washing.
  • Broad bean plants flourishing in the raised bed - no pesticides being used, and also beans are good for fixing nitrogen in the soil.
  • three damaged garments mended which might otherwise have been discarded
  • my water butt - using the collected rainwater for my plants rather than fresh tapwater
  • that's my feet in the roofspace of the Lathe Palace, while I was fixing up insulation. Bob will be able to use the workshop in winter without extra heating.
  • the cigarette-ends box at the village pub. Now out of use for patrons, as there are birds nesting in there!
These are all very small actions - but they all add up. 
I am particularly pleased with myself for my part in the insulation work. Four things I hate - working at height, working in confined spaces, working next to a big hole, and working in extreme heat. 
But we want to do the job properly, and Bob is a big chap, and a bit too large for the task. In order to fix the insulation under the sloping roof, I had to squeeze myself into a tiny space, wriggling on my tummy, then lying on my back, wielding a heavy duty staple gun. I was squashed, and nervous, and it was baking hot up there yesterday afternoon. 
"Just think of Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel" he said, encouragingly
"I feel like I am trying to tunnel out of Colditz !" I replied.

Are you marking Earth Day in any way? What is your favourite eco-activity?

Thursday 21 April 2022

A Belgian Beau

 A year ago, we put up our Family Photo Gallery in the Hall

I said at the time I wanted to add in pictures of the guys and the grandchildren, in the space to the right. Since then, Bob collected free Ribba frames being discarded by someone else, and also a large multi-frame in a yardsale for £5
When Gill died, and I had a trawl through the old family photos, I found others I wanted to display. Bob has been scanning them into his computer - but it is a time consuming process. The one of Mum in 1951 had faded to a nasty green, and he reprinted that in fresh black and white. He also took some colour pictures and made them b&w too. We have re-arranged the frames slightly, and put them all on the wall, even the empty frames [a bit like the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square, awaiting appropriate artwork]
The big frame has 15 pictures - us two as children, Bob's parents, cousins, siblings and niblings. [I love that term for nephews and nieces!]
Top centre are the ten cousins in Oz, and below them my maternal grandmother [she died before I was born] Bottom right are my two nieces with Bob's Dad - they are grown up now, and the youngest will finally be getting married at the end of May [after a pandemic postponement]

One picture which has not yet gone into it's frame is this urbane looking chap. We think it was taken just after WW2. It is Bob's Uncle Henri from Brussels. He's looking suave and sophisticated with his pipe and trilby.
When Bob removed it from the original frame to scan it and resize it, we had quite a surprise. Like many photos taken back then, it was printed as a postcard so that it could be sent to someone special. 

There was no greeting, or address on the back. But the recipient was obviously very fond of Henri Van der Zanden, Man About Town! [we are not quite sure who she was though]
I am going to make careful notes to put on the back of the frames, so that future generations can work out just who is who. When Jess is older, I want her to know which one is her great-great-great Aunt Jess, and I want George to spot his gran on the front of that motorbike.

But I am not sure we will ever know just who wore the cherry red lipstick, and left loving kisses on the reverse of Uncle Henri's picture!

Wednesday 20 April 2022

A Simpler Life?

I watched all 6 of these programmes and I’ve waited a while to decide what I really thought about this series. If you didn’t see it, here’s the background;
"24 people [couples, families, singles] opt to spend the summer on a farm in Devon. All of them are seeking for a ‘better’ life than they currently have. They will aim to live following the Amish principles of a simple life, without modern technology, with emphasis on putting the community first rather than self. A real Amish family, the Millers from Ohio [parents in their 50s, plus three children in their 20s] will be there to help and advise. The makers say it is "a scientific experiment to determine if such a lifestyle can bring happiness" It is a reality show. It purports to show how it really is, warts and all, and will include participants talking to camera about their feelings."  I had reservations from the start
  • Amish Principles – the first principle for the Amish is following God’s law [helpful BBC link here] The Amish way is dependent on the faith-lifestyle. You cannot cherry-pick the activities you want and expect it to work properly if you leave Him out.
  • Scientific Experiment - no, science was not involved. It was entertainment, and proved nothing. They were not truly following the Amish way [see above]
  • Reality show – stilted conversations, and clumsy editing displayed the fact that things were said and done for the camera. It wasn't 'real'. And all their crops were planted and growing well, before they arrived. [I did covet their kale, mine is pathetic]
Were these people who signed up so really so naïve? Frankie and Keely, who left with their children by the start of programme 2, because they didn’t realise that ‘no electricity’ meant they'd have to wash their clothes by hand. Darren and Hazel, who struggled with the Amish ‘no alcohol’ rule, and fought to spend some of the community budget on booze. Victoria [oh don’t get me started…] who “had her hands full doing laundry for herself and her husband, didn't do early mornings, and wouldn’t share in the communal laundry, and or work in the fields.” And Penny, who kept telling everyone her children came first. [except when she decided to leave, but they wanted to stay on]
But dear little Kevin [who’d been very ill – and really thrived when given outdoor farming tasks and good homegrown, home-cooked food] won everybody’s hearts. Fran the project manager worked so hard to keep relationships sweet, and deserved a good outcome inho. Everyone over 35 [except Harry] left the show, taking partners and children with them. I thought Harry [40] was the most sensible, and honest. By the end only 9 of the original 24 were left [the Millers left for the final 3 weeks, letting the ‘community’ fend for itself]
The American academic who set it up concluded that “giving up technology and material possessions” was really peripheral to achieving happiness – what you need is “a sense of belonging to a community that cares about you, and having a sense of purpose.” I could have told him that years ago. 
For a better understanding of the Amish community, go and watch Harrison Ford in Witness!

Tuesday 19 April 2022

Pacing Myself

Last week marked both my birthday and a year since we retired. I set myself a goal of walking 10k paces a day, and at least 1000 miles in that year. Using my Fitbit I've been able to keep a record of my progress. I'm pleased to say that I passed the 1000miles on December 31st. My overall results, birthday to birthday are [ drum roll please 🥁🥁🥁] 
1400 miles in a year, and 11000 paces per day
As you can imagine, I'm very happy about that. 
But I'm looking again at my goals. For my 68th year, I'm aiming for 
12000 paces per day*
The 10k idea was an arbitrary figure dreamed up by a pedometer manufacturer just before the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Recent research seems to suggest that perhaps 12k is a better figure if someone is aiming to improve fitness and lose weight. I'm not sure I shall manage it. But I'm certainly going to try. 
I should say that I work on weekly averages - if I spend half the day travelling by car or train, I know my step count will be down, so I try to walk more on another day that week. 
I left Dorset weighing 163lb, now I am 147lb. That's just over a stone - I lost that between October and Christmas and have kept it off for 3 months. I'm now a UK size 12 in clothes. I'd like to lose a little more, and get back to being a UK 10.
My BMI [according to NHS website calculator] is 29.6 and I'm “over we weight “[at least I'm no longer "obese"] The NHS reckons I should aim for a "healthy" weight of between 92 and 124lbs.
92lbs is 6stone8. When I was 18 I weighed exactly 100lbs, and they would not let me be a blood donor because I was underweight and therefore "unhealthy". Make up your minds, medics... I'll try to eat less, walk more, and see what happens 
*it's over a week since my birthday and I've managed to keep my average step count over the 12K target thus far

Monday 18 April 2022


At our holiday club, we made Easter Gardens- that wasn't unusual, the idea has been around for years. Some people call the "Resurrection Gardens" or "Grace Gardens. Each child had a foil dish, 
playdough 'earth', plastic flowers and greenery, and fabric/foil to make paths, ponds and lawns.
I had some packs leftover, so I asked Rosie if she'd like to make one. She did that, and a scratch-art cross, writing "Jesus 💓 everyone" - then she asked for another garden pack.
This time she used the materials in a completely new way -
she called it an "Easter Ball". As far as I know, Rosie has never been to a Christingle Service, but Id call it an "Eastingle"
  • first she made a ball from playdough [representing the stone rolled away from the tomb
  • then she put two strips of foil round the ball, in a cross shape, to represent Jesus cross.
  • then she put the flowers to represent the garden where the tomb was, and new life. 
  • She balanced it in a plastic food tray, and tucked one of the 'Jesus is alive' tags behind. 

I think this is a pretty cool idea!

Before I forget- a huge thankyou to all of you who joined in this year's Lent Reflections - writers, readers, and those who added their comments. So many challenging thoughts. I do hope you appreciated these posts as much as I did.

Saturday 16 April 2022

Caveat Emptor...

...Buyer Beware! 
My dad taught me this Latin tag when I was quite young and I have always considered myself to be a Savvy Shopper. But I have to admit that on our trip to London this past week, I have shown myself to be something of an April Fool. I made two purchases in a hurry, and with hindsight, I could have done so much better.

My first mistake was the day we arrived. We parked the car, had ate our sandwiches at Liz's flat, then hopped on a bus to the Science Museum. We had a lovely afternoon- and were please dthat travel was free because we had our OAP bus passes. Coming back I suggested we go into the Co-op by the bus stop to buy some milk. As we waited to pay I saw a sign saying "Deliciously Special Hot Cross Buns reduced to clear". I dropped them in the basket ."We can have these toasted sometime" I said. I never really looked at the llabel [mostly obscured by multiple Price Reduction Stickers
When we did get round to eating them, Bob said "These are a bit peppery, what flavour are they?" 

That was when we inspected the wrapping carefully.
Who in their right mind, ever thought that it was a good idea to make that British Classic Hot Cross Bun and flavour it with Masala and Chilli? I'm not surprised that they didn't sell. They were weird!
Mistake #2 came on the day we left - we had a wander down the Walworth Road, to look in the CS, meander round Oli's Supermarket, and browse the East Street Market.
There was a fabric stall, and I stopped to have a look. Now I have a project in the back of my mind requiring a square metre of blue cotton fabric. The guy had rolls of cotton fabric in various plain colours. "How much is the cotton? Could I have a look at the blue roll, please?" He pulled it out, it was clearly 120cm wide. "It's £2, but you are the first customer of the day, so I'll only charge you £1.50" he said. "Can I just have one metre of that please?" I started to root around in my bag to find some cash. "Just the one? I can do you a deal on three for a fiver" he said.
Now I'm not sure - was he trying to con me? or just poor at maths? "No just one metre today please" I said. He found his scissors, cut the selvedge and ripped off my fabric [all the time I was still hunting in the deep dark depths of my backpack. He folded the fabric and gave it to me. I handed over the cash. And left. 
Only when I got back to Norfolk did I inspect it thoroughly. He obviously doesn't know about the metric system. It measures a scant 36" and isn't straight on one edge. I can use it for the intended project, but will need to rethink my dimensions.
Memo to self; do not ever buy fabric from this guy again. Come to think of it, he did look a bit like Del Boy...