Saturday, 30 June 2012

Work in progress

It's raining. But you knew that. We've had the wettest April to June period on record according to the experts and I'm not one to argue. Our fields are sodden. Early evening dog walks are accompanied by swarms of midges and armies of marching slugs. I'm wearing winter jumpers and boots and the utility room is full of dripping waterproofs.

Then the sun comes out and everything gets rather steamy and foggy. It's a funny old year.

Things are struggling (drowning!) in the garden, while it's high summer in the polytunnel where I'm still picked the wild rocket I planted last September. The tomatoes are blooming and there are tiny baby cucumbers. I think I need another polytunnel and then I'll just let the rest of the garden go wild!

In the meantime it's Wimbledon and that means I need to find something to do while I watch. This year it's embroidery and so far I've made a lavender filled hanging heart (free pattern from

Then I moved on to the Stupendous Stitching course  on the same website. I found Craftsy via Pinterest and treated myself to Carol Ann Waugh's online course when it was on special offer. The course mixes machine and hand embroidery and quilting and is terrific fun. I hadn't hand embroidered since primary school so there was a bit of a relearning curve on this first piece (above). By the time I got to the French knotted sheep I was having a ball (and started basing them on our own flock - the third from the right is Chops.)

This second piece isn't finished yet - I need to add the machine quilting and a rattail border - but it's thoroughly addictive and a perfect, quiet thing to do while watching the tennis. I loved embroidering the bunting - H10, looking at the flowers, the whirligig fireworks and the bunting, says it looks like a spring party - so that's what I'll call it. I'm also quite proud of that fluffy white line - that's a bit of wool from one of our sheep that I washed, carded and spun by hand (using fingers and an HB pencil - I really need a drop spindle!) before couching it on to the material.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Strange weather and summer swallows

What do ochre skies mean? Trouble!

Sometimes it just doesn't feel like summer. I think this is going to be one of those years again where I'm waiting for summer to happen but it never quite does. We've had days when it's been too hot and the sheep have been lying around in the sun like swooning maidens in too tight corsets and days when they've been smugly impervious in their huge woolly jumpers as the rain lashes down. Shearing can wait until until the isobars are less excitable.

Parent arrives to stuff an insect into a hopeful beak.

The swallows continue their summer routine whatever the weather. The farmyard is full of them swooping in and out of various open windows and doors. Stand in front of one of the (glassless) windows into our range of dilapidated outbuildings and they'll knife the air in front of you regardless, intent on feeding their greedy brood. This week the chicks have fledged and fly wonkily to the telephone wires where they sit in demanding rows awaiting the attention of their exhausted parents.

The parent rests briefly on the wires - it's easy to tell the difference at this age; the babies haven't yet grown the long tail streamers.

The parent heads off to find more food. I don't think these are all the chicks; there were three others on the wire at one stage.

The swallows' ever present chatter is one of the main sounds of summer, played against a background hum of tractors and mowers intent on bringing in the silage.

Gardening-wise it's been high summer in the polytunnel for ages with new potatoes, salad plants and strawberries all going strong. The tomatoes and cucumbers are in the borders now and are coming on well too. Outside things are rather more disastrous and demoralising. It seems I'm planting things purely for the slugs to eat and the couch grass is completely out of control. Every time I think I have cleared it, it invades again. I think murderous thoughts in its direction. And for some reason I can't get a single runner bean to germinate. Borlottis and broads, yes, runners (and peas too) no. Some years you just have to shrug and admit defeat!

At least this paeony has survived to flower this year. Last year the wind cruelly snapped it off when it was tightly in bud. This year, unperturbed, it has offered three buds and all have resisted the attentions of the wind (and I've staked it too, which might have helped.) You have to be a tough plant to survive at 600 feet up on the lower slopes of the Preselis. Last week I watched the wind punch my dogwoods flat. The plucky plants stood back up, only for the wind to knock them flat again.