Friday 29 April 2016

Five on Friday

Joining in with Amy and Five on Friday.

1. I thought I'd mention my love of all things word-related today. Books, writing, handwriting, pens, crosswords, everything. This week was National Stationery Week. And yesterday was Notebook Day. Doesn't get much better than that. The biggest boy understands, he is a notebook person as well. I can rarely sneak one into the house past him. And when we see a notebook shop we draw in a deep breath and I try to stop us from going in. I don't know if I can articulate the attraction. It's the potential I think. I'm a bag person as well. A nice bag, a fresh notebook and a good book and I'm ready to go. I'm particularly fond of the Silvine notebooks, so good to find ones that are Made In England.

2. Continuing my flirtation with calligraphy. I found gold ink in the local stationery shop. Gold! I've just got a dip pen so I'm experimenting with it, thick strokes and thin strokes. It's so tricky at the beginning. I had a lovely hour with the littlest boy tonight though. He likes to do it with me, with his little calligraphy pen that he asked for. It was such a treat to have quiet time alone with him while everyone else was out. It can be quite loud and competitive when everyone is here, but it all calms down when it's just the two of us.

3. I made some of my own stationery this week from a couple of vintage maps I found in the local community bookshop. I cut them up (I know, I know, but there are so many homeless maps out there I think maybe some of them are destined to be other things) into A4 sheets and printed some faint lines on them. I like straight lines, but the paper is too thick to see a guide sheet placed underneath.  A word of warning, one or two of the sheets caught in the printer in horrifying fashion. They need to be as flat as possible otherwise it all ends in disaster. Then I made some envelope templates and did some matching envelopes. I've got a great old book that I'm going to use for envelopes as well. I think. It's actually such a lovely book that I might not be able to cut it up, but it was one I bought for £1 specifically to make envelopes from. We'll see. The biggest boy likes to police me quite closely and he was pretty horrified to see the maps being cut up. And also I opened out an envelope to get a template and he was aghast at that as well. I promised to stick it back together and use it. And when I come in the house sometimes he'll say things like, "Is that another new notebook?" So if I start cutting up books my number may be up.

4. I've noticed quite a few posts about letter writing lately. I have a few friends that I write to from time to time. The bee is on an envelope I decorated for one of them. Letter writing is a slow pleasure. Time to sit quietly and put down news and thoughts and share a little. I often think how wonderful it would have been to have been a lady of leisure back when the morning was spent attending to correspondence with perhaps a quick turn around the shrubbery before lunch. I should like someone to deliver a little pile of envelopes on a silver tray along with a light breakfast first thing in the morning.

5. I'm reading "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society", as recommended by several of you when I mentioned that I was enjoying another book set in Guernsey in the 1940s. It's written as a series of correspondence between islanders and a woman in London. I'm loving it. It's funnier than I imagined but also very moving in its descriptions of the German occupation.

So there you have it. I'm totally immersed in a world of words and ink and letters and writing. It's a dreamy place to be, especially while the weather is so wild. When it warms up I shall venture outside a little more and tackle plant related things, but in the meantime as the hail lashes the windows and the mornings bring frost I'm happy to sit at the table and write. Wishing all a good weekend. CJ xx

Thursday 28 April 2016

The Colour Collaborative: April: Seedling

Inside on my windowsills, safe from the arctic blasts and sudden vicious hail showers is all the promise of the summer garden. As I write I can see cucumbers, courgettes, achocha, tomatoes and larkspur. Other rooms have different assortments. Beans, peas, squashes, kale, salad leaves, sprouts, leeks, foxgloves and nicotiana. Before too long they'll be ready to venture out into the big wide world. Right now the life of a seedling is peachy. Shelter, warmth, water and no pests. They'll need to toughen up though, the real world can be a pretty harsh place when you're green and juicy.

I've always loved to grow things on the windowsill. When I was little I'd plant anything I could get my hands on. Lemon and grapefruit pips were a favourite. My friend and I had fantastic great big citrus plants. Acorns were good too. I had a windowsill full of plants then as well. I think I must have some inbuilt urge to grow things.

I love that moment when the first seed pops its head up. The bigger seeds sometimes have the husk of the seed stuck to them. I'm always tempted to pull them off. The seeds that are as small as a speck of dust are incredible. The tiniest vibrant speck of green can turn into the most glorious plant.

There's always a hint of the final plant in the seedling. The golden colour of the yellow courgette that has just germinated. The verdant green of an achocha with its tiny tendrils reaching out searching for support. The deep maroon of a frilly mustard plant. Delicate red veins on the leaves of a radish. I love this time of year when they're all small and perfect, unblemished and full of potential. Occasionally I catch sight of a snail with his nose pressed against the window or a slug pushing against the door. They're waiting.

To visit the other Colour Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts, just click on the links below:

What is The Colour Collaborative?

All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways.

Friday 22 April 2016

Five on Friday

Joining in with Amy and Five on Friday.

1. Excuse the horrible light in the last photo, the sun is barely up. I wake like clockwork every morning, far too early. By early afternoon I'm tired. The other day I put my head down on the desk (well, it's the dining table actually) next to my laptop and went to sleep. I can't recommend it, I could hardly straighten my neck afterwards. Maybe I need more exercise to wear me out a bit. I'm pressing on with the calligraphy which is SO much harder than the professionals make it look. I do it last thing at night instead of knitting. I'm writing the date on the pages in the hope that I'll see an improvement in a few weeks (or years...). I've ordered a new bottle of ink. Being a particularly clumsy person with pale carpets, bottles of inks scare me. We all know where it's going to end.

2. There was yacht racing at the coast at the weekend. The littlest boy found the most adorable French bulldog puppy to play with. French bulldogs are at the top of our list of Potential Dogs now. Although I fear we should go for something a bit more robust, see clumsiness above. In reality, dog ownership is over two years away and it will be a secondhand one. In the meantime we like to picture ourselves with every different breed we take a fancy too.

3. Technical hitches are continuing and I still get an email every single time I leave a comment on someone's blog telling me it is not possible to notify them. I spent the whole of Saturday morning trying to set up a new email address, but I just couldn't get it to send and receive in Windows Live Mail. (I use Windows Live Mail because as I recall I couldn't get Outlook Express to work last time I had to tinker with something). I wasted a whole glorious sunny morning on it and was no further forward by lunchtime which made me SO cross.

4. On Monday I tried to plug in a new DVD player, which you would think would be simplicity itself. Except that there are about forty wires stuffed through the back of a really small hole in the tv unit and so that bit was tricky. When I finally managed to manoeuvre out all of the old wires and get all the new wires in place (the new wires were different from the old wires, and I'd already had to delay everything while I bought a new wire because the old ones didn't work...) the new DVD worked perfectly. You thought I was going to say it didn't work didn't you. No, it was the television that no longer worked. I spent a while ranting and grinding my teeth and finally the only way I could find to fix it was to put the old DVD player back in underneath the new DVD player. A lot of my life is cobbled together in this way.

5. Here at ATR Towers a mad Rubik's cube obsession has gripped the children. I wake up to the sound of cubes being turned and it's the last thing they do at night. I'm guessing they dream in little plastic squares. The biggest boy has a dodecahedron shaped one now as well. When someone scrambles someone else's cube uninvited a riot breaks out. I am staying at the table clutching my bottles of ink and hoping it all blows over.

Tuesday 19 April 2016

On provocation

If you come here often then you know how I like to dream about a world where everything is quieter and calmer. It seems to me that so much is designed to provoke a reaction from us. The most important thing is to get our attention. Never mind how it makes us feel. Just irritate those brain cells so that we look and notice and remember and hopefully are driven to rant a bit.

If I want to shout at the radio, then I think they must feel they've done their job. If I read a book that leaves me hanging at the end of absolutely every chapter then the formula is working. Even if it's really annoying.

As a quiet sensitive dreamer I'm finding it all a bit much. I like a little understatement in my life. I like to discover things are amazing all by myself without four foot high red and black banner headlines screaming it at me. I like the small things that make me go, "Oh, that's nice," and then let me slip back into a happy daydream. I fear I may be living in the wrong century.

In the interests of not overwhelming you I bring you unassuming pictures of gooseberry flowers and a light dusting of plum blossom. Feel free to be underwhelmed. If you like you can murmur a soft, "Oh." And maybe if you like them you can add a quiet, "Nice." Yours calmly, CJ xx

Saturday 16 April 2016

And that was the end of the frog

nesting swan

coot babies
coot nest
Spring is well under way now despite the chilly temperatures. We saw tiny coot babies this afternoon, three of them together, as well as nesting swans, moorhens and coots. We even got to watch some nest building by the partner of the coot in the last picture. He was bringing in dry grasses and helping Mrs Coot arrange it nicely ready for the chicks.

By the water the gunnera is starting to sprout and in the hedgerows things are turning ever greener. It was good to get outside and feel a little sunshine and listen to a little birdsong. Here in electronic land things are driving me bananas. There's some sort of email hiccup going on so that whenever I leave a comment on someone's blog I receive an email saying my email won't be delivered. So although I can comment on blogs, the email telling the blog owner I've commented isn't being sent. I've no idea how to fix it, and I've a horrible feeling I'll need to get a new email address and it will all be hideously complicated and make me Very Cross.

It's tempting to do nothing, but the pleasure of the blog world is in connecting with people, so if my emails are not going through that's a problem. If anyone has any suggestions they will be gratefully received, although I fear there are no quick fixes. I think the problem is that google thinks I'm sending spam. As I understand it, google particularly doesn't like yahoo addresses. I only have a yahoo address because I messed up getting a gmail address and couldn't fix it. Honestly, it's a wonder I have a blog at all.

There was great wildlife drama over breakfast the other day. A magpie ate a frog. He snatched him up, got him over to a raised bed and proceeded to stab him to death with his beak, thereby also getting to the juicy bits inside. The littlest boy was half out of the window trying to perform a late frog rescue, while the biggest boy (the birdwatcher) was shouting, "He needs the meat, he needs the meat". It was all a bit much over breakfast I can tell you. So we are one frog down now, which is good news for the slugs.

I'm off to glare at google and yahoo now and grind my teeth for a bit. It feels especially annoying being classed as spam when so much actual spam gets through. Hardly seems fair. Wishing you all a lovely relaxing Sunday in the sun. CJ xx

Sunday 10 April 2016

Beneath the surface

enclosing wall, built in 1770

I had a productive morning in the garden yesterday, emptying the wormery and spreading the lovely worm compost over one or two of the raised beds. The worms are no more, so I cleaned out the wormery completely and I've ordered a new batch. They are quite amazing little creatures, turning vegetable matter into crumbly fertile soil teeming with microbes. The compost worms are different from earthworms, although earthworms are equally hardworking, taking organic matter from the surface and distributing it through the soil. What goes on underground is complicated, vast and essential to healthy plant life. Good soil is built over years of caring for it, adding manure and compost and avoiding chemicals, which can disrupt the healthy balance of organisms.

In the afternoon we went for a wander at the local deer park. It was first enclosed for hunting at the end of the 13th century, and is the last remaining medieval deer park in the area. A wall was built around the outside in 1770. The land is fantastic, as you would imagine with a place that has had minimal human interference. There are many ancient trees and I was impressed with the amount of dead wood that had been left lying around - great for insects and those who feed on them. We saw two or three green woodpeckers and a greater spotted woodpecker as well.

The mounds are anthills, literally thousands of them. They form on undisturbed land over many years and are made by yellow meadow ants. They're great for biodiversity as the mounds and the ants support other creatures and plant life. In fact the ants are a major food source for green woodpeckers.

All of the dead wood is great for fungi as well. I like to go in the autumn and see what's growing. All of that unseen life, teeming below the surface of things. There's so much more than meets the eye in these amazing ecosystems.