Little Arcadias

I have a new shop section for the miniature landscapes I have been making recently. I've really enjoyed making these - even if they are a bit fiddly at times. 

In the piece below, I've tried a new-to-me technique of blending in different wools to suggest falling light. It is even more accentuated when it actually does get caught in the light, and shadows fall.

They are designed so that they can be displayed from any angle. Which sometimes changes the mood of the piece.

This one is my favourite. 

I think of them as tiny escape hatches or contemplation pieces for when things get a bit much and the place you'd really like to be is on a quiet, faraway hill, with a tree or two and maybe a little house to seek refuge in.


The Troubles of Tatters

If one has a very large book collection amassed over many years, it is quite easy to overlook a particular treasure. I have owned this lovely volume, 'The Troubles of Tatters' for a long time and today I took it from the shelf and re-discovered the wonderful illustrations inside.

Very much in the style of it's time - the late 19th century - the artworks are typically Art Nouveau and remind me a little of Toulouse-Lautrec mingled with Arthur Rackham and a smidgen of Aubrey Beardsley. The illustrator was Alice B. Woodward, a prolific and well known illustrator in her time.

If I were being overly critical, I would say that the illustrator's strengths were in the motifs and half page designs. There are many full page plates, such as the one below but in my opinion, while being accomplished, they lack the punch and graphic impact of the smaller decorations, while her animals and insects have more character than the humans depicted.

I also have to confess, I have never actually read the book, being more interested in the wonderful designs.

It is lavishly illustrated and there are too many delightful images to show here, but these are some of my favorites.

Nothing says 'Art Nouveau' more than dragonflies. 


And so we come to the end - for myself, the sign of a beautifully designed book is on the back cover. It's the little details that count.


Slow hedge cutting

The time came ten days ago when I finally felt up to tackling the front yard. As you can see, it is a little overgrown. It has been for a few years. If anything expresses my life as it has been, it is this messy jungle.  So I fetched my secateurs and got to work.


It was a mish mash of mostly  honeysuckle, wild geraniums and some kind of jasmine, with assorted weeds for good measure. As with the rest of the garden, it has just had random things put in it, here and there. And some rocks.

Cutting back a large hedge with small secateurs may seem like a thankless task, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I could have got the shears out, or even borrowed a small hedge cutter, but this way I got to see exactly what was what and to know where everything I wanted to keep was rooted.

After a few sessions, you could actually see the fence and Joe helped me get the weeds out of the cracks. We disturbed an ants nest and one managed to get in my vest. It got its revenge by biting me a couple of times; the bites were tiny but extraordinarily painful for such a small creature.

The (possible) jasmine in the far corner is a bit of a beast, but it does provide cover all year round.

Yesterday, I had an afternoon session and finally cleared it. I just need to get rid of the rotten wooden trough now.

It does look bare, however a lovely person sent me some seeds in the post and hopefully I will be able to plant it up next year. Some are from the Brown Envelope Seed company, and some from the lovely Bealtaine Cottage.

Blessed are the seed givers. I look forward to the time when I too can send someone lovely little packets of garden treasure.


One potato, two potato

This week we picked the first courgette in the new vegetable patch.

It is quiche weather here, so the usual eggs were beaten up with a sprinkling of my first harvest of thyme and some chopped chives.

I had some left over pastry in the freezer, which is always a blessing; I greased the quiche tray with olive oil, giving it a nice summery flavour; that is why it appears a little translucent. In went the sliced courgette, with the herby, cheesy egg mixture.

We held our breath as we dug up the first early potato plant. Had anything grown? It had!

There were just enough potatoes on that first plant for both of us. The first ones I've grown since 2011, before moving here.

 And the quiche turned out well too. Another small step in the right direction.


A lot of motorbikes

 Last Sunday we drove out with Brian-next-door to our regular auction.

There was the usual mix of good things, bad and frankly bizarre things. 


I could only find a few things that I wanted, so after marking my sheet, we went outside where more interesting things were going on.

The UK attempt to beat the world record for an all female bike rally. Of course, there were plenty of blokes there, but only actual women bikers were registered for the count. It was a very happy occasion and I could have stayed outside taking pictures for much longer, had the auction not been about to start.

We were outside long enough to hear the tally of 1,132 recorded riders, beating a previous Australian meet up (of 1,002 riders). Bikes had come from all over the UK, of every shape, type and size. 

By the time we emerged, everyone was setting off home. I did manage to snag a couple of the things I wanted in the auction - but I enjoyed the bikes more. 


Taming the garden

This is a kind of patio area that used to have a large dog run built on top of it. Thankfully that was gone when Andy and I moved in. It's been a bit of a mess since then as since Andy died, my own future here has been tenuous. I've spent the last few years trying to hold my head together and  there has seemed little point in putting a huge effort into something I may have to leave behind.


Last year, before Joe moved in, Brian-next-door helped me to cut down the worst of the nasty knot weed stuff, which was a beast. Since then, Joe has taken an axe to it several times and dug up the main roots. It seems to have been vanquished at last.

So even with the future being uncertain, we made a start on tidying it up properly earlier this year. Joe lifted the slabs. 

 At last a nice sized plot was revealed. I began digging it over.


And even though there hasn't really been any money for plants or seeds, I have managed to grow a few things and it looks a lot better.

The potatoes at the back should break the earth up (not for nothing are they known as 'pioneer plants'). The courgettes and beans seem happy enough.

As you can seem a lot of rubble has been removed. It will take some work and a lot of manure this winter to turn the earth around. And there is still a patch at the back which I am getting to grips with. It is thick, dry clay mingled with stones and rubbish, so I am doing it bit by bit, inch by inch. 


There are tomato plants growing at the side. It all looks a little bare, but at last it looks as if we'll be able to stay here for a while and maybe next year I will be able to plant out the large herb patch that I have secretly dreamed of. 

With everything that has happened, and being in a rather fragile state of mind most of the time, I still find it hard to contemplate a more reassured future. This little corner of the garden is the one part that is slowly taking form, with some herbs and creeping succulents. I look out on it often and try to take hope.