Saturday, 30 May 2009

Saturday allotment day

Another trip to the allotment. Wow it was a hot one up there today. Alex planted out some more brassicas, netted them and planted out some more tomato plants too.

The Buckwheat was growing at a pace so had a haircut and the greenery was added to the compost, it will now re-grow and then be dug into the bed when the potatoes are ready for lifting from the tyre stacks.

Imogen had a great time getting dirty! She also helped Daddy plant the tomatoes.

Our neighbouring allotmenteer last week was curious about the re-use of beer bottles as bed edging, Alex said he thinks we're a bit mad. But he must have gone away and thought about it as this week he was praising the idea! He's a funny guy, but very complementary of the work we have done and finds some of our ideas interesting.

The other main jobs were a bit of weeding and then lots of harvesting. We had a large crate (from our veg box scheme) and filled it with Broad Beans, Swiss Chard, Spinach and Rocket.

Needless to say our tea last night was gorgeous Broad Beans sauteed in butter with sage (from the garden) and garlic accompanied by some rice and a salad using the leaves gathered today. It's great to have so many components of your meals come fresh from the garden or allotment.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Elderflower cordial

I used the elderflowers yesterday afternoon to make cordial which will be ready after 2-3 days, more flavour is infused if left longer.

Recipe used:
1.5 l of boiling water
1 kilo sugar
20 large elderflower heads
4 lemons
50g of citric acid (optional)

The elderflowers were put into the tub (I had about 30, but a few weren't large), and I added lemon zest and then sliced the lemons too and added them. To that was added a cooled syrup made from 1½ litres of boiling water and 1 kilo sugar. I also added 50g Citric acid as this helps to preserve it if keeping it for a while - not that I think it will last that long!
Can't wait for the weekend to bottle and try some.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

A tub full of Elderflowers

Imogen and I have picked a tub full of Elderflowers and this afternoon I shall be mostly making Elderflower cordial ...mmmmm.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

First taste at Spinning and Farm Visit

I've had a practice on my spinning wheel and have a few books out from the library to help me along. Mostly I have been treadling to get the hang of the rhythm. I'm excited to have found two people now that I am hoping to go and see about some tuition, one is for a full days tuition from sorting a fleece to spinning yarn, and the other is a lady from the local guild of spinners who runs weekly lessons. Just need to get sorted out with a day to start.

In the meantime, over the bank holiday weekend, we went to a local working farm for the day - Manor Farm Country Park. They had an event on this weekend - a Woolly weekend! They were supposed to be showing some shearing their shears unfortunately had broken and they couldn't get a spare part at such short notice. They did however demonstrate other cutting of the wool on the sheep to help prevent fly strike. Imogen enjoyed watching this.

And then there was the barn full of lovely ladies Spinning and Weaving. So whilst the visiting grandparents were taken on a tour of all the lovely animals on the farm who Imogen has previously met (see previous post), I spent some time chatting to the ladies who were members of the local Guild who I had been in touch with about joining.

They were all lovely, and approachable which was just what I needed being new to the world of spinning. I was given a leaflet and some information about the guild and encouraged by all to join and come along to their meetings. They were demonstrating drop spindle spinning, spinning wheel spinning and different types of weaving. I never realised there were so many different types of weaving. There was also a display of natural dyes.
I got chatting with one lovely lady who was keen to get me to join the guild, being a younger member which they are trying to encourage. She was great at explaining things that I had been trying to learn from the books and then asked me if I wanted to have a go ... wow yes, please!

It looks so easy when an experienced spinner is spinning wool, but isn't when it's yourself but I started to get the hang of it and by the end of my little taster session I had spun some wool into yarn so was really pleased. The lady was excellent and showing me what to do and encouraged me greatly. She also said after I'd sat there a while that she thought I'd be a natural and already had a good rhythm for spinning. I actually found it relaxing.
Me Spinning!
In the barn they also had a handmade yurt that had been created by the guild using the wool from the sheep from Manor Farm, which they all use. This yurt was fantastic - over the frame the fabric was all felted wool with braiding, weaving, tassel making, etc all done by the guild members fair hands. What a work of art.
The fabulous Yurt

Another great day out, hot and sunny and as per our previous visit Imogen got to hold the baby animals again - a baby rabbit, duckling and chick. She also had great fun watching cows being milked and stroking the pigs, lambs, calves, and horses. A few more photos of the day ...

Imogen and baby chick
Imogen and baby duckling
Imogen and baby rabbit

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

A blog to make you smile

My husband found this blog and just kept laughing. Anyone who has a young child has probably gone through a stage where they ask you to draw things for them, but then are quick to criticise if it's not what they wanted you to draw. Well this blog is just that, except the Dad can draw a lot better than most of us. This site will make you smile ...

Friday, 22 May 2009

Inspirational people

"You can never learn less, you can only learn more"
Buckminster Fuller

I'm going to start documenting people who inspire me, here on my blog. There are lots of people that have inspired my interests and study in the past and this would be a great place to bring them all together. They appear in no particular order.

I guess this has been in my mind over the last few days as I recently started thinking about an inspiring man that I had not thought about in a while, so am going to look into reading more about him again. Many years ago Alex and I watched a programme about R Buckminster Fuller, in fact I think I recorded it on VHS tape and still have that somewhere (note to self - try and find tape). The programme also featured John Todd and the Living Machine, which I will probably come back to too - a natural biological waste water treatment system that was created to copy the functions performed by wetlands. UK examples can be seen at Findhorn, BedZed, the Earth Centre in Doncaster (unfortunately now closed), Body Shop headquarters and the National Botanical Gardens of Wales.

"Richard Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller (July 12, 1895 – July 1, 1983) was an American architect, author, designer, futurist, inventor and visionary." - Wikipedia.

Buckminster Fuller is probably most famously known as the inventor of the geodesic dome and the Dymaxion house. There are now thousands of examples around the World, not least The Eden Project in Cornwall, a place I love. Alex and I have always dreamed of building a Geodesic Dome and will do one day, probably as a shed or greenhouse rather than a home although that would be fantastic. We can dream.

He also wrote over 30 books. He is also the originator of the term "Spaceship Earth" - "expressing concern over the use of limited resources available on Earth and the behavior of everyone on it to act as a harmonious crew working toward the greater good." He wrote a fantastic book titled "Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth".

He was also famous for his world maps, especially one that is based on the icosahedron. In creating this, his intention was to create a map without distorting the size and shape of continents as happens with most globe maps. This became known as the Dymaxion Map. There is an interactive version of this here. Another explanation of it can be found here.

Bucky's other works include the World Game which he envisioned being a tool to help solve problems on Earth. Part of this proposal included what he thought was a need for an source of information on the state of the world, etc. All this was before the explosion of World News and the Internet. What a visionary. His vision was that this would be somewhere people could cooperate or compete to -

“Make the world work, for 100% of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation, without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone.”

Bucky's other major works included Synergetics, which I think is better explained here than by me!

Buckminster Fuller was awarded 28 Us patents, received 47 honorary doctorates, dozens of awards and also had a carbon molecule named after him for it's resemblance to the geodesic dome - "Buckminsterfullerene" or "Fullerene" and commonly known as the "Buckyball".

Bucky once said "Everyone is born a genius, but the process of living de-geniuses them." He certainly was a genius.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

My new hobby!

Okay, so if you've seen my earlier post on the May Fair, you will have noticed I bought a Spinning Wheel. Oooops! Well, I had been interested in getting one sometime in the future, although was going to have a go at a drop spindle first but ... it was there and just calling me. It was actually Alex that kinda made the final decision to say we'll buy it, so here it is at my house.

(just noticed, I take a few photos by this bookcase, but that's where it is at present!)

So now I just need to learn to use it. It's funny because the week before I found that the library had a couple of books on spinning and placed a reservation for them to come to my local library for pick up. This was just for me to start having a look at the subject of spinning and start having a go on a drop spindle that I was going to make myself - probably still will as that's more portable. So call it fate, or whatever you may believe, but I am now the proud owner of an Ashford Traditional Spinning Wheel.

My first attempts are improving, getting the rhythm, the fleece prepared, etc. I think I would benefit from a bit of tuition so am looking into what is available locally and through the local Spinners Guild. This weekend we are at a working farm who have a Woolly Weekend event with sheep shearing, and traditional wool crafts so there may be some tips I can pick up there and even contacts. We've already discussed getting fleece from them, which is closer to get (only 3 miles) than the ones we previously got from Dorset.

Watch this space to see my progress with my early birthday present.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Day Trip to Marwell Zoo (catch up on the blog)

We decided this week (11th) while Alex was off work to visit Marwell Zoo, and what a great day out it was. We were all shattered that evening as it's a big site with plenty of walking to do and over 250 different species to see.

Marwell Zoo is set in 140 acres beautifully landscaped grounds in Hampshire. It is quite an expensive day out but well worth it. I have been to other zoos in the past and often felt let down by the way the enclosures are laid out that you don't get to see the animals very well. Marwell, however, does this very well. We saw all the animals - even the elusive Red Panda (well some of it sleeping up in the tree!). The whole park is just a delight, you are able to see the animals really well and up close, there is lots of information about them and their natural habitats and conservation information too. The park also has lots of areas to picnic and cafes, an education centre and adventure playgrounds for the children, including this big slide that Imogen describes as being like a big elephants trunk, we all had a go at this one (climbing up inside the pyramid bit wasn't easy for the adults though!). But hey it was great fun!

The big slide

Mommy and Imogen down the slideImogen and Daddy down the big slide

Here are some pictures of our day at the Zoo ...


Imogen shows her excitement at seeing all the animals at the Zoo

Imogen spots the giraffe house beyond the antelope

Am I as tall as a Giraffe?

First meeting with the Giraffe, as Imogen said "the giraffe is looking at me"

With Bongo the Giraffe

Diana Monkey behind Imogen

Imogen in the Wallaby enclosure

Daddy and Imogen meet the Kookaburra





Lemur House

Red Ruffed Lemur

Imogen compares the size of her hand against other primates




Pygmy Hippopotamus

Imogen by Rhinocerus and Kudo


A well earned rest on the bench under the Wisteria that smelt just beautiful.
Smelling the Wisteria


Dragon Lizard



Imogen's pictures on return to home - a Penguin and a Giraffe.
She loves drawing animals and we were well impressed with this penguin. The picture had to be taken quickly though as it was soon coloured in!

A great day out that is still being talked about a week later, and we want to return later in the year to take Nanny and Grandad, and share all the knowledge we have learnt from this visit. Yesterday we picked up a great little book from the charity shop for 50p which is great as we recognise lots of the animals we saw at the Zoo, the book is "The Usborne Living World Encyclopedia" and has really good information on the animals natural surroundings and the environment.