Saturday, 17 April 2021

From Scratch

Starting a garden from scratch is not easy, it should be. Putting everything just where you want it and building a structure that you can use functionally should be easy but from scratch, there are just too many decisions to make all at the same time.

This was the site 2 years ago - me and the little pup in April 2019

In the end, we decided that after two years of building a complete house, surviving lockdown and home-schooling with our children we could not muster enough motivation to do all of the hard landscaping ourselves - it was just too epic. 

  Andy made the raised border in the centre last autumn which we began under planting with bulbs. It was quite a feat to get the horse drawn potato lifter which belonged to my great-grandfather into the centre but we managed it by swinging it from the digger bucket.

Our neighbour does large scale groundwork and landscaping so in the end we asked him to do our drive. He was mega meticulous in his preparation.

The daffodils are going over now but the tulips are ready to come next then a succession of other summer flowering bulbs. I think I will make a little update of this border in my ing posts so I can see how it changes over the seasons. This border has a colour palette of red/orange/yellow. I have always wanted to do that, split the garden by colour and now I can.

Ta dah!

There is grass on the lawn, albeit patchy at the moment but it fulfills the function of making a seamless view to the South Shropshire hills without a boundary. There is a 1.5m 'haha' dropping down to the field which stops the sheep getting into the garden but eliminates the need for a fence which would spoil the view.

The edge of the lawn has a sweeping border to draw your eye to the hills. This area is pink/blue/purple with four cordon fruit trees at the back to create a screen in Summer. Two apple and two pear which fruit at different times in the autumn. Again I am recording how it develops over time with photos.

My bloke bought me a greenhouse for my birthday in January where he roped in his brother to help put it up. This lead to marking out the veg patch which has a water tap next to it. I can't tell you the joy of that - a tap right where you need it!

The fruit bed was dug out first where we added thirty raspberry canes, thirty strawberries, four rhubarb from a neighbour, one redcurrant, one jostaberry from my mum and one blackcurrant bush. In essence the veg patch is half fruit and complete apart from general annual weeding. On a small holding, it doesn't matter where you try to take a picture from, there is always some kind of rubbish in the background but we are getting there.

My big girl is doing her bronze Duke of Edinburgh award. For the skills section, she has challenged herself to grow salad, in succession, for 6 months. She is using these old water tanks. I am looking forward to seeing this unfold.

These are google maps street views of the site in 2009 - an overgrown stackyard with a stone croft where our house now is. All of the bale sheds have been taken down, the wall has been rebuilt and we have hard standing. It feels quite an achievement when I look at this photo.

You know what they say about spinning plates, this was the inside of our house today. You can't keep them all spinning, all of the time!

It's been a busy early spring outside. I hope to keep the gardeners among you up to date with some flower, fruit and veg action as the seasons unfold.

Feet up, oesteopath booked, thank you for dropping by. Jo xxx

Saturday, 10 April 2021

and Sew on...

Lordy, lordy, will someone, anyone, please cut my lockdown hair! It resembles a horse's tail - all dry, split and unmanageable. Anyway...

I have made a rather funky Linden sweatshirt(number 5 between myself and Heidi)in a bold retro print from graziela fabrics. The fabric is fleecy on the back and super stable.

It was a little treat with some birthday money back in January, in fact it actually felt like a present when it arrived in the post all wrapped in tissue with ribbon and a postcard. I nearly fell into the trap of 'saving' it because it felt so special. However, not sewing fabric I own is not one of my special skills so it was turned into a fab sweatshirt by April.

I'm not gonna lie, I just about squeezed the pattern out of the 1.5m fabric to the point that I had to make an alteration to get the front and back on the fold. I made the front and back pieces shorter and cut hip bands from the remaining fabric. I also used navy ribbing for the cuffs and neck binding.

At least the pattern matching makes up for the alteration and it wears really well at just the right length. There was not a scrap of fabric left over. :)


My sole job next week will be to book a hair appointment. Seriously, the dog has one before me!

Stay safe. I hope you all have hair appointments booked... Jo xxxx

Sunday, 4 April 2021

Celebrating - Easter and Spring with lovely weather, a church service outdoors, gardening and a Sunday dinner.

Getting - around to recovering the seat on the grubby chair in the office. The woodland fabric works well with the green maps.

Collecting - all of my house plants in the greenhouse for a re pot. Most have outgrown their homes and some needed cuttings taking. It was a very satisfying job.

Sewing - some delicate linen batiste into beautiful summer jammies. They took me far longer than they should have for something that will be worn in bed but only because I enjoyed every moment of the details: pintucking, rouleau loops, binding, gathered shoulders etc.

Knitting - a new cardigan from my Kate Davies book.

Watching - my girl find something to do. She set herself up with some whittling by going out and finding fresh hazel to cut and all the tools she needed. She made her and her sister magic wands with gold painted handles.

Loving - the daffs of course. These are the ones that blew over in the wind last week so I popped them in a jug. The variety inthe second photo are stunning, they have outlasted all of the others - I saw the bulbs in Lidl for £1.99!

Growing - windowsill herbs. We are still building the garden and I have really missed having herbs to cook with so Meg planted up some seeds for indoors.

Baking  - a blueberry and almond cake. 

Eating - crispy duck and noodles. We are a long way from a takeaway now so Friday night is always a takeaway style meal that I cook myself.

Finding - out that my big girl is now Size 1 on Tilly and Buttons patterns. This is a momentous day! I can continue to make her some clothes which she likes. She has grown so much in the last lockdown year and not being able to get her proper clothes that fit has been a real trial.

Continuing - to grow hair, look at the view and count our blessings.

Stay safe and well with a little bit of spring hope in the air.
Jo xxx

Sunday, 28 March 2021


This was a little knitting adventure that was love at first sight when I saw it in a book, Ten years in the Making by Kate Davies. I rarely knit with 4 ply for I am more of a speed merchant - you may have noticed - but the preamble at the front of my Kate Davies book was all about time; the joy of crafting a beautiful item that takes all your mindful time. 

I digested the sentiment of the prologue and started to look for a yarn to knit the short sleeved pullover Paperdolls. My favourite yarn is Drops. I had a ball of Drops flora in my basket left over from this Loki project so while mulling over the time/cost/want conundrum I knit up a gauge square in it. I am a loose knitter so the Flora 3ply yarn was spot on for the 4ply measurements. I then had to decide how badly I wanted the top to allow myself to knit an adult garment in 3 ply yarn...very badly it turns out.

I ordered a beige, coral and turquoise to start the pullover. The patterned rib is sluggish to knit but indulgent to look at when it is finished. The colour of the coral yarn was brighter than I expected so I used the turquoise for the dolls as the main focus and later added in some cream to lift and also limit the coral colour.

Because I am a loose knitter, I have quite loose floats at the back of my kitting which are ideal for the yoke which needs to be stretchy. It is sometimes hard to maintain consistent gauge knitting over your plain and stranded work but I get better every time.

I found the crucial round of joining the sleeves to the body extremely difficult. This is where I drafted in my bloke to read through the pattern with me. He can't read a pattern so he asks lots of annoying questions like, "Why do you do that?; What does this mean?; Surely you have the wrong amount on there and What are you actually aiming for?" In the end they are not annoying at all because they help me to see where I have gone wrong by exposing and scrutinising my every interpretation. He's good like that.

I wish I trusted my sizing more. I added rows to the body because Kate Davies knits are always short in the pictures but I am short in the body so why do I always add rows? I wish I had left it a bit more cropped, it is a little oversized for my perfect fit. You live and learn.

I wanted to wash it to let the stitches fall into place but with 65% wool and 35% alpaca yarn content, I felt dubious. Washing the gauge square on a 30 degree machine wash (with some tea towels)was a good experiment. The gentle machine handwash finished the feel of jumper really well and made the natural fibres bloom a little and fill the colourwork spaces. Washing also granted me time to block the hems for the best finish. Maybe I should try washing the gauge square on 40 degrees and see if I can get some gentle shrinkage to help with the overall sizing. Mmmmm....

I love my new pullover and the beginnings of some spring weather in which to wear it.

Thanks for dropping by. Jo xxxx