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The Year of Knitting Lacily: October Update

Well, September’s challenge shawl turned into a real challenge after all! I have been knitting Mrs Tumnus by Eskimimi, and I have to say that the pattern was a joy to work, the chart and instructions clear and precise, and the finished effect of the shawl is lovely.

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The first thing I found challenging was the cast on; when I read “cast on 417 sts” my heart sank a little! I have failed times without number to count and recount lengthy cast-ons accurately, so this time I placed a marker after every 50 stitches and just rechecked each section as I completed it. It took me two evenings to cast on! The pattern does not advise which cast on method to use, although Eskimimi’s web notes recommends long tail cast on. I didn’t think I had enough yarn to risk wasting it overestimating the tail so I went instead for a reasonably loose cable cast on.

The chart covers the border only, and consists of 32 rows, with some pattern stitches on alternate rows; so basically there are no real “rest” rows in between the pattern rows, at least for the first 25 or so rows. I managed to knit just over one row per evening!

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The final challenge was whether the yarn would be enough. The pattern example used 370m of 4ply; my skein of Yorkshire Rose BFL has 385m. It would be tight, but possible. The pattern says to use 4.5 -5mm needles. I chose to use 4.5mm to ensure that the yarn would not run out. I failed. I could have perhaps taken steps towards the end to conserve the yarn, but I wanted to see exactly how far it would reach; I found out it reached to two-thirds of the way along the cast off edge! Luckily, I have another skein of the same yarn hand dyed in a slightly paler yellow, called Sunflowers, and so I used that to complete the cast off. I needed just 3g of Sunflowers!

This is a truely lovely shawl and an interesting pattern, with an unusual construction. Next time I make it – and I feel sure there will be a next time – I will ensure I have enough yarn.

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Technical notes
Pattern: Mrs Tumnus, by Eskimimi
Yarn: Wharfedale Woolworks Yorkshire Rose BFL, colour Cinteotl; small amount of colour Sunflowers to complete
Needles: Addi metal 4.5mm circular 100cm
Yarn remaining: minus 3g!
Finished dimensions: neck edge 115cm, neck to edge (widest) 42cm

October’s challenge
This month’s shawl is Lila by Gillie Parsons. Another crescent shawl, with a lovely lace edge and a stocking stitch body. It is another shawl knitted from the edge up to the neck, so involves a lengthy cast on. Oh, goody! I still have a sizeable stash of Wharfedale Woolworks sock yarn to choose from, and the colours I have are lovely – the dark steely blue of Panacea, the lush green of Gaia, the rich blue of Galene, or the variegated autumnal Crab Apples. I think I am going to go with the plummy purple Eirene. I like the fruitfulness of this semi-solid yarn, and it will be just right for wearing in November and December, reminding me of the deep velvet of a winter’s night. It would look lovely with some strategically placed silver beads perhaps.

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The Year of Knitting Lacily: September Update

We have reached the halfway point in my challenge, and I now have six lovely sock yarn shawls waiting for autumn to arrive so that I can wear them. August’s challenge shawl was Heartsick by Remily Knits (Rachel Henry), and it was challenging because the construction was markedly different from all the other shawls I have knitted recently. For Heartsick, we knit the lovely lace motif edging first, all 21 repeats of the heart shape, then pick up along the straight edge and knit short rows to create a slight curve. I admit that I found it difficult to keep track of counting the short rows and placing the wraps correctly. Actually, I used the knit double stitch / purl double stitch method of wrap and turn described in the Fish Lips Kiss Heel sock pattern, and it is so effective at hiding the wrap that I couldn’t see where the previous wrap had occurred! Nevertheless, I was able to fudge adapt the pattern to suit my erratic counting; if I had been conscientious and had had all the time in the world, I would have ripped it back and knitted the body again!

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I am very pleased with the result. The yarn is a lovely variegation – called Winter Sunset – hand dyed by Kirsty at Wharfedale Woolworks in her Yorkshire Rose BFL sock yarn (one day I may actually knit a pair of socks in this lovely yarn!) and it looks good both on the edge of the shawl and on the body. I imagine that it would be simple to extend the size of the shawl by knitting more edge pattern repeats and recalculating the short rows. It would also look good with a plain yarn for the border and a variegated one for the body, or vice versa. I nice adaptable pattern!

imageTechnical notes
Pattern: Heartsick, part of the Lovelorn Collection by Rachel Henry (Remily Knits)
Yarn: Wharfedale Woolworks Yorkshire Rose BFL sock yarn, colour Winter Sunset (issued as part of the 2014 Flora Sock Yarn Club) 110g, 385m
Needles: Milward bamboo circular needle, 4.5mm
Yarn remaining: 19g, approximately 66m
Finished dimensions: 135cm at the neck edge by 31cm at its widest point.

September’s Challenge
Wharfedale Woolworks Sock Yarn Club for this year is called Colour Therapy, and the semi-solid colours have been absolutely fabulous; a rich strawberry red, a glistening pale grey, a yellow the colour of ripe corn, a grassy green aptly named Gaia, a stunning blue, and a slatey blue-grey named Panacea. I have already used Zen Garden (March’s challenge) and Shinto Gate (July’s challenge) and this month I am going to knit with Cinteotl. The named of this yarn refers to the Mayan god of maize, and it is well named; think of acres of ripe corn gleaming in the sunshine. It is a colour to lift the spirits on a dull winter’s day.

The pattern I am working is Mrs Tumnus by Mimi Codd (Eskimimi on Ravelry), another unusual construction, and a very unusual shape. This shawl is another that is worked edge-first, but instead of being a very shallow crescent, Mrs Tumnus is horseshoe shaped. The pattern was inspired by the character of Mr Tumnus, the faun in The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe, and should really be red in colour, but I think it will look stunning in the glowing yellow semi-solid Cinteotl.

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On my needles in 2014

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Mother of Dragons shawl

2014 was a busy year on the knitting front. After the rush at the end of 2013 to complete Christmas presents for nieces and friends, it started fairly gently with a lace shawl or two, followed by a decision to take on a City and Guilds course in hand knit textiles. No local colleges seem to offer C and G courses any longer, but luckily there are a couple of teachers offering online tuition and I was most fortunate to be able to sign up with Loraine McClean. The course is rigorous and the work required for assessment is substantial; there are twelve modules in the Level 3 course, starting with basics such as the different methods of casting on and off, creating textures just with combinations of knit and purl stitches, and using inspiration such as textured rubbings to create your own texture designs. In addition, there is a study of the different fibres available to knitters spread over multiple modules but beginning with wool from sheep. This study gave me an opportunity to improve my spinning skills (begun with the help of Ruth Gough at Wingham Woolworks) and to explore the huge variety of fibre from sheep – from the softest Merino to the coarse Scottish Blackface. Module 2, which I am just completing, take this study to other animal fibres, such as Alpaca, Angora  and Cashmere, and I have had the opportunity to spin some beautiful fibre as part of my coursework. Module 2 is also about colour,  and involved exploring the topic in paint and yarn. This aspect has resulted in choosing interesting colour combinations for my various projects, in experimenting with striping, and in giving me an overall appreciation of colour from the design perspective.

In between the studying and pressing domestic issues (more about those in a separate post) I also found time for more fairisle (in the shape of Kate Davies’ Rams and Yowes blanket – a wonderful centre knitted with a steek,  sadly a very boring border which I have struggled to finish), more lace shawls and scarves (one for mum-in-law’s birthday and one for a friend’s Christmas present), and commissions for Christmas presents for other people (baby hats and socks, adult fingerless gloves), I also helped start a knitting group.

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Joan and I used to go to a knit and natter group in a church hall a few villages away, but many weeks the nattering, instead of an enjoyable exchange of ideas, was mainly unkind gossip and nasty remarks about people – more stitch and bitch in fact. We grew tired of this and wanted something more stimulating  and closer to home, so we abandoned that group to their griping and started our own. It is early days yet, there are only 4 or 5 of us most weeks and we are meeting in Joan’s conservatory until the group expands and we can hire a room in the village pub. But we have already established links with a local charity for whom we knit baby clothes and blankets, and we spend 2 hours on a Tuesday afternoon having a pleasant conversation and a pot of tea and biscuits while we churn out hats, socks and blankets for babies and cowls and hats for their mums. A much nicer way to spend our time.

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My first baby blanket, garter stitch mitred squares

On days when we are not knitting and nattering, Joan and I have been exploring local wool shops. Our favourite is Unravel in Denby Dale, fortuitously close to the wonderful Denby Dale Tearooms; we also have visited on more than one occasion World of Wool in Huddersfield for fibre, felting and dyeing supplies; and Top Wools in Barnsley for baby yarn and a nice selection of unusual and expensive yarns, such as Eden Cottage. These outings have been a great way to investigate the wealth of choice in yarns available locally and to discuss our projects with like-minded people. My other go-to favourite wool shop is Up Country in Holmfirth, which stocks the full range of Rowan yarns as well as Louisa Harding, Sublime, Debbie Bliss, and Noro.

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Centre of blanket is short row shaping experiment

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Yarndale 2015

Another wonderful outing was our visit to Yarndale in Skipton in September. This is a relatively new exhibition, 2014 being it’s second year, but the range of stalls was fabulous. I was like a kid in a candy shop, I didn’t know what to look at next! I bought a wooden wool winder from The Threshing Barn a necessity since most of the really good yarn is sold in hanks these days. I wanted a wooden one largely because they are robust, well-engineered, and made from a sustainable material. The plastic ones I have tried have been flimsy and uncomfortable to handle, even the more expensive brands. I chose the Strauch Jumbo Wool Winder because it is readily available in the UK (most wooden brands seem to be manufactured in the USA) and was easy to set up and use. I also bought a lot of specialist yarn, such as hand dyed laceweight,  and a fair bit of fibre, from Hilltop Cloud (from whom I have previously bought some great fibre on Etsy) and from Wingham Woolworks (because they have the very best range of colours and are lovely people as well!) I should love to come back to Yarndale next year and perhaps stay for the two days so that I can sample some of the courses and talks as well as buying from the stalls. Failing that,  Wonderwool in Wales or xx in Cockermouth get very good reviews and would be worth a visit. But first I must knit up all the yarn I purchased this year!

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Swallows in our garage

We have always had swallows nesting in the barns and outbuilding near us. For the last 14 summers we have delighted in their wheeling grace over our field. I watch for the first sign of them each spring, and am sad to see them congregate on our phone line before departing each September. But this year has been even better; a pair decided that our garage would be just the place to set up home! Our garage does not have any doors or windows other than the main door; I had been leaving it open most days during the spring, and they needed no further encouragement to build a perfect mud bowl attached to one of the cross beams. Each night, when I went out to close up the hens, Mr Swallow would be perched on the side of the cardboard box on the topmost shelf, opposite the nest snug on its beam. He didn’t seem to mind our presence in the garage at all, viewing us from his lofty perch as we built a new nestbox for the hens.

Once Mrs Swallow started to sit on the eggs, I left the garage door open until dark, to make sure they were both roosting. Each morning I got up early to open the door so that they could come and go as they wished. When I went out shopping, I left the door open again; and once the eggs had hatched it was even more important to ensure they had access, and the garage door stood open from dawn till dusk.

On 9 July, they finally fledged and we saw that we had four beautiful chicks! They used the cardboard box as their first perch after leaving the nest, then one by one flew out of the garage with their parents. They have been using the garage as a feeding station on rainy days, but when it has been fine they zoom out of the garage and perch on the wire of the chickens compound waiting to be fed.

It has been a joy and privilege to have them share our home, and we hope that next year they will return to us and make their nest in our garage again.

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A Hen’s Beak

When chickens are bred in bulk for commercial egg-laying, their beaks are humanely “trimmed” to prevent them from pecking others. This is such a euphamism; it should be called beak disfiguration instead! Sometimes it involved the chick being clamped into a machine and a hot knife slicing off the end of the beak. Humane, eh? Nowadays, lasers are more commonly used; great, that’s a real improvement! This is done without anaesthetic. The result of this is that a laying hen has to live the rest of her short and painful life without being able to pick up food easily, preen what is left of their feathers (but then they don’t have the space in battery cages to do much preening, anyway), or scratch in the dirt for worms (oh, forgot again, they don’t know what dirt is, nor worms).

Most rescued hens will have a problem with their beak, but after a few months of normal chicken life the beak is naturally worn into a more normal shape. Chooks do this quite naturally by scraping their beaks on a hard surface – garden paving, steps, anything that will help clean their beaks. Sometimes it seems to be a ritual; many of my chooks wipe their beaks on the steps going up to their coop at night, a couple of times on each step. Sometimes they do it because they have something a bit sticky on their beak and it is irritating! They have even done it on my arm when I have been giving them a cuddle!

One of our rescue hens, Doris, has a prominant lower beak mandible. The upper mandible was trimmed at some point, and the lower was not. Most of the time this does not bother her at all; she can eat from my hand, or scoop food from the pellet hopper quite easily, and she obviously finds it useful for her favourite pastime, foraging in the mud of our bog garden! But it is a problem when she tries to peck something on a hard surface, such as the drive, because her protruding lower beak prevents her from getting a grip on it. When I had to take her to the vets for an unrelated problem recently, I asked whether it would be possible to do something about the beak, to make it easier for her to eat, but the vet said it was too late to do anything about it. I’m hoping that it will naturally grind down in time.

Disturbing undercover footage of what really happens in a commercial hatchery http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJ–faib7to

 

 

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Rescuing Hens

When I first thought I would like to keep some hens (so many years ago now) I had considered taking in rescue hens. Knowing I was a bit soft around animals, my friend Richard said I would probably find it very distressing to see how poorly feathered and generally unsure of their surroundings they would be, and advised that I started with hens bought from a breeder. I could then take in rescue hens when I was a bit more used to hen keeping. I thought this was a sensible idea, and so we started with three black rocks in 2007. By the time we had been keeping hens for a few years, and had our ups and downs health-wise with one or two of them, I felt better able to cope with problematic chickens, and so I registered my interest with the British Hen Welfare Trust. The Yorkshire collection centre had only just stared rescuing, and so I had to wait a while, but eventually, in late September I got the call that hens would be available the following weekend. I was a bit worried that the date was only a week before our holiday and also so close to the start of the bad weather in our part of Yorkshire, but it was either take them then or wait until next Spring, and I am not reknowned for my patience once I have decided I want something!

On 2nd October 2010, a beautiful sunny and warm Saturday, we drove up to a small village near York, and there we found a shed full of ex-barn hens, rescued from an egg producer in Scotland only a couple of days before, waiting for people to collect them and give them a home.

Our six hens were selected and popped into the cardboard boxes we had brought along, filled with straw for a more comfortable ride. I didn’t really get to see them before the boxes were closed, and they did not get to see us or where we were taking them. They were very subdued, not chattering much, on the hour’s drive home, and when we arrived we carefully carried them into the old pen and opened the boxes. I can truthfully say it was one of the most moving experiences of my life. These poor scrawny little bundles of feathers looked up from their cardboard boxes with wonder and bemusement at the sky and the sun. I carefully lifted each one out of their boxes and put them on the grass, and they looked at the grass wondering what on earth it was for! They all had semi-naked necks, very naked bottoms, huge distended pale combs, and stumpy ragged tails. Almost immediately, one of the hens took an experimentary bite of a blade of grass, and soon the others followed suit. I hoped they were going to like it here!

The first night they found their way into the house but they did not perch, instead they crammed themselves into the two nestboxes; they were so thin, and could easily fit four into the larger nestbox. For several days they were reluctant to come out into the pen, and spent a lot of time just sitting in a nest box or on the floor of the henhouse. I kept a close eye on them and tried to encourage them out onto the grass whenever I could, but one was particularly reluctant and I was worried that she was not eating. The others seemed to be eating well although they were not used to the Ex-Batts Crumb I had bought for them. We were due to fly off on holiday in the early ours of Friday morning, so I had less than a week to get to know them. I tried to handle them and reassure them, but they were understandably rather wary of me, and I don’t feel I really got to know their characters in that week, certainly not enough to be able to assign names to them! Paul’s Mum and Dad were coming to house and chicken sit for us while we were away, so I wrote copious instructions about feeding and watering the hens as they had never done it before; we have wonderful neighbours who have looked after the hens in the past and provided great backup this time too.

We arrived home around 4am the following Saturday and fell straight into bed, so we did not know that one of the rescue hens had died that morning until we got up around midday. Our kind neighbour had come to let the chickens out that morning, not knowing we were in fact home but fast asleep, and had found her dead in the nestbox. By the time we were up and realised what had happened, our neighbour had already disposed of her body, so I never got to say goodbye to the poor little hen nor know exactly what killed her, but I suspect the sudden change of circumstances, unfamiliar food and surroundings, and stress had caused her to stop eating and fade away. I like to think that she had at least one day in the sunshine before she died.

The remaining five hens were eating well and very alert and active. When we let them out of the pen to roam they were understandably reluctant to go too far from the pen gate, and frequently shot back inside, especially if one of the established hens came near. Ginger, however, had a little fire in her, and one day marched straight up to Lily and picked a fight! She also had a go at Betty, the chief chicken, which was pretty brave since Betty was more than twice her size! Their characters gradually revealed themselves as they became more confident.  Ginger is a feisty little one, still scrawny and with a persistently untidy tail and red raw bottom; she was a slightly different shade of brown from the others, burnt umber more than burnt sienna, and always the first to rush over to me if she thought I might be carrying a treat! She had and still has a large distended comb, although it is not now as big as the day we brought her home, and is much pinker; she is bright and active, always jumping up onto something; she is so far the only rescue hen to get the hang of going up (and down) the 9 steep steps to our upper garden, she jumps up onto our garden table if there is the hint that there may be food to be had, and has even jumped up onto our kitchen table and the much higher work surface. She is indomitable, and will try anything, it seems!

Mabel was always going to be the boss of this flock; she was a pale goldy brown and as her feathers developed her back took on pale pencilling on some of the feathers. She has a rather patrician-looking beak, with the flopped-over comb coming right down onto the beak. She would peck at the newly emerging feathers of the other hens, and not surprisingly she feathered up the fastest. In fact by Christmas she was almost completely covered, unlike the others who still looked very scruffy; and since she was still pulling out their feathers and generally harassing them, we decided that we had to separate her from them, to give them a chance to improve too. So Mabel was transferred to the big girl’s house. She was not happy to begin with, as Lily became her Nemesis, chasing her away from the food, and preventing her from going to bed at night. She adapted to the steps up to the pophole remarkably quickly, taking them two at a time. She was last to go to bed each evening, waiting until the others had settled and she could make a dash to the nest box. She often had to share a nest box with one of the other hens, as occasionally the Bluebelles preferred nesting to perching, and one night in the depths of the cold snap, I found her snuggled in one box with both Bluebelles! She continued to thrive, did not let Lily and Dolly get her down, and was always first at my feet in the morning for a handful of sunflower seed treats. She has perfected the standing jump, probably learned from Dolly who was also very good at leaping two feet in the air up to my hand to encourage me to part with more seeds. Mabel, though, would actually grab a portion of my finger or thumb and hang onto it as she descended back to earth! When the two flocks meet free-ranging in the afternoons, she still chases Ginger or Doris and makes a grab for a feather, but she is gradually learning not to do this. She does hang out with her “old” flock members more than with the big girls, even though she has now spent longer living in the big house than with the other rescue hens.

Doris‘s comb has strunk enormously since her first days with us. She has a sweet nature, but seems to be quite happy in her own company, trotting off on her own to investigate the boggy parts of the field for insects and grubs. She has an endearing skew-wiff beek, with the lower part extending a long way past the upper part. She does have some difficulty picking up individual seeds because of this, but she seems to thrive so I don’t think it can be much of a problem to her. She is always the last to go to bed, wanting to extend her time outside as long as possible, and who can blame her!

Gracie‘s comb has also shrunk back to a normal size and she has turned into a lovely hen, slow and gentle. She also has thrived and has become quite a large hen, larger than the others by a long way, but never barging the others out of the way to get to food. She seems to have a caring nature, and when Ethel was very poorly, Gracie would stay with Ethel as she wandered slowly around the garden, and did not let her be on her own or get separated. She also takes the pecks of others in her stride, keeps out of the way of the older girls, and generally shows a passive face to the world. She is also the only one of the four remaining in the old house to try out the perch as a place to sleep, and when the weather was warm has taken to perching at night on her own; perhaps due to her size and the nestbox feeling a bit claustrophobic and warm, she finds the airy perch more comfortable. Gracie has not laid any eggs to my knowledge, although I suspect that she has laid the “lash” we found in the nestbox one day. It looked and felt like a rubber egg, and when cut open seemed to contain lots of smaller eggs.

Ethel was for a long time a real worry to us. She was always a bit slow of movement, hanging back when the more boisterous Ginger and Doris were gobbling seed from my hand. In early February 2011 she became very ill, but I will write at length about this another time. She is another of the hens that did not shrink their comb once they had been released, and it is now a bright red colour slightly flopped over to one side. She is still slow moving and generally placid, and spends a lot of time walking alongside Gracie as they free-range around the garden. She has plumped up a lot since she was ill. She has not laid any eggs, and probably never will now, but that is OK she deserves a happy retirement from the daily grind!

So those are our five rescue hens: Ginger, Mabel, Doris, Gracie and Ethel. The last picture here is of Gracie having a dust bath in the herb border; it looks like she is enjoying it!Gracie dustbathing in the herb border

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2010: A mixed year

The year started badly, with Dad in hospital and two foot of snow on the ground, making driving very difficult. I was crocheting a small throw at the time, and finished it and started another whilst sitting at this bedside over the next few months.

Once Dad came out of hospital, I spent a lot of time each day round at his bungalow and had to have something to do with my hands, so I knitted a shrug from Noro sock yarn in a complicated pattern. It took three months of sitting with Dad knitting, and weekly Knit and Natter meetings, to finish the shrug. There followed various hats, scarves, mittens, crocheted squares for a yet-unfinished cushion cover, and teapot cosies. As soon as one item was finished the next was started, I could not sit for one evening without yarn in my hands. Much of my creative output was given away as presents, some I wore myself, the rest is sitting in a drawer awaiting its time.

In July, our neighbour gave us four fleeces from his small flock of Hebridean Black sheep, as I had expressed an interest in learning to spin. I washed the fleeces and left them to dry whilst I learned how to use a drop spindle on some bought fibre; I think I am going to enjoy this new hobby!

As well as yarn crafts, I also love cooking. In January, Paul and I did a home baking course at The Handmade Bakery in Slaithwaite, and learned to bake great bread. Our previous attempts had frequently been disappointing, resulting in solid texture and hard crust. This course led to bread baking every couple of weeks at home and increasing confidence. The long slow method of resting interspersed with quick bouts of kneading seems to suit us and gives excellent results.

Summer 2010 saw a huge crop of raspberries from our three rows of canes. We were picking 3 or 4 kilos at a time; at one point we were having to pick every evening to keep up with the ripening rate. Most of the fruit we froze but about ten kilos were made into jam. And what jam it was! Richly coloured, fragrant, exceptional flavour. We made over forty jars, some of it mixed with our first decent redcurrant crop to give an interesting kick.

But other areas of the produce crop were less successful. A combination of bad summer weather, full-time working and daily visits to see Dad in hospital (again) mean that gardening took a back seat, and peas, beans, sweetcorn and salad leaves were neglected and left until it was too late to harvest. Much of the year’s crop was lost when October came, the only vegetables we were able to save were potatoes and half the onions. Even the tomatoes in the greenhouse suffered from neglect and gave us enough for only a few salads. It was very disheartening to lose so much.

Dad spent months in hospital, on and off. First he was in Barnsley General, where he was turned from an independent feisty old man into a skeleton unable to walk or do anything for himself; they nearly killed him, and then complained that he could not go home because he was too frail to cope! He went home anyway, and with the help of social services and daily carer visits, he gradually regained some of his strength and his feistiness, but he never regained the strength in his legs, lost by laying in a hospital bed for two months with no physiotherapy. By the time I was able to organise physio visits, it was too late to have any effect and he remained chair-ridden. His inability to walk more than a few steps meant that he fell frequently. I was not strong enough to lift him on my own, and had to call on my OH or on neighbours to help. The carers, who came four times a day to wash, dress, feed and put him to bed, were very good, but they were not able to lift him off the floor either because they would have hurt themselves, so the ambulance service was called frequently to assist. I spent many evenings waiting with him for an ambulance, or, having received a call at work to say they had taken him into hospital, waiting in A&E while they assessed his medical condition. In early August, he fell between the bed and the commode early one morning, hitting his ribs on the arm of the commode; the ambulance was called again, and because he also had the beginnings of a chest infection, they took him into Huddersfield hospital. He never saw his home again, and died a month later of pneumonia. It was a sad end to a full and largely healthy life.

In early October, we finally got some rescue hens, ex-barn, from the British Hen Welfare Trust. They were scraggy featherless things, bewildered by sunshine and grass, but we made them welcome in a coop and run of their own, and they soon developed individual personalities. Sadly one died within 2 weeks, probably because she failed to eat and drink, despite our best efforts. She was the only one who did not like coming out of the coop, so I fear she just couldn’t adjust to freedom. It happened while we were away on holiday and our poor neighbour had to deal with Enid’s untimely death.

The year trundled on, I continued to work travelling stupid distances each day, the vegetable garden went into a winter coma, and then the snow arrived weeks earlier than last year. It was very very cold for weeks, and I feared that the rescue hens would succumb to the cold. I covered their house and nestboxes with a thick layer of old towels and blankets, put warm water in their coop and outside, and cleared the run so that they could get to the grass. They all seemed fine, surprised at the cold wet stuff, but otherwise totally nonplused at the whole experience!

So in summary, a mixed year. Two deaths, snow and cold, warmth and good friendship, few vegetables but huge quantities of fruit, a new hobby started and an old hobby revived and enhanced. I wonder what 2011 will bring.

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Hello world!

This blog is going to be a bit of a jumble sale. My other half says I have too many hobbies, they are taking over the house, and I no sooner get to be good at something than I am looking for the next new interest – and he is right! But some interests do stand the test of time, and these I find are the ones I learnt early on in life.

Cooking; my grandma was a cook at one of the big houses in the next village, long before I was born. I remember the summer holidays from school, helping grandad in the vegetable garden harvesting beans and then helping grandma to preserve them in a vast earthenware crock layered with salt; or picking plums from the Victoria tree and helping her bottle them in Kilner jars.

Knitting; both of my grandmas and my mum were knitters and it was a skill I learned at an early age. I do not remember wearing a shop-bought jumper until I was in my twenties. I subsequently went on to learn crochet, clothes-making (even tailoring suits and shirts), embroidery and needlepoint, blackwork, fabric dying, patchwork, quilting – indeed anything to do with fabric and the decoration of home and person.

Chickens; the chickens my grandparents kept during and after the war were long gone by the time I arrived on the scene, but I remember tales of the fantastic eggs they gave. When I got a little patch of land I wanted some hens too.

 

 

 

 

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