Monday 25 April 2011

Damsel flies and Pea shoots.

I was taking a breather from gardening by the pond when I noticed these damsel flies - they are almost in the centre of the picture and making a perfect upsidedown heart shape.

They flew away when I moved ......

............. but obligingly came back for another photo - again in the centre of the picture. I have been told that their presence means that the pond is healthy and balanced, so I'm very pleased to see them.

I love pulmonaria even though it seeds itself rather too willingly round the garden. It seems that each plant has a slightly different pattern of blotches on it's leaves. This one will have to go as it is growing out of the low wall at the back of the rockery; alright while it is still small but as it matures it will get leggy and untidy.

I have tried to grow auriculas for many years without much success. I had quite a few in different colours at one time and although I did everything I was supposed to and overwintered them in the greenhouse, used only terracotta pots and didn't overwater them, they never thrived and eventually died. This is one of three surviving ones, all the same colour, which I planted directly into the soil at the shady end of the garden about two years ago in a sort of kill- or-cure experiment. They looked very puny when I planted them out . Considering the harshness of the past two winters I wonder why I bothered with all that molly coddling because here it is with about six stems of flowers on it, and the other two have grown to about the same sized clump.

I was watching a gardening programme two or three weeks ago on which Alys Fowler said she had grown pea shoots from ordinary dried peas from the supermarket. Bags of fresh pea shoots are sold in the salad section for about £1 but these are so quick to germinate and were up in about 3 days! I think you can leave them to grow on a bit more, but I cut these this evening and left the bases to grow on again as a cut-and-come-again salad ingredient. I put one pea in each of the last eight modules when I sowed a tray of sweet peas and sowed them just over two weeks ago. It was on a Saturday a few days before a full moon and by Tuesday they were up. There must be some truth to planting according to the moon. It is supposed to be best to sow and plant on a waxing moon.

I sowed these outside about a week ago and they are already up though they didn't have the moon to help them but the warm weather has obviously had an effect. It's a very cheap way of getting fresh trendy salad leaves and much nicer than mushy peas! (Sorry if you like them).

Saturday 23 April 2011

Happy St. George's Day.

We have been quite lazy so far this weekend and have sat in the garden as much as possible, coming in to cool off now and then. I love this clematis and do my best to stop my husband pruning it each year. He does manage to cut some back but it is so lovely left to it's own devices. The birds like it as it almost covers the nest boxes on the wall and gives them extra shelter.

Aren't these unfurling fern fronds gorgeous? I discovered them when I retreated into the shade as it was too hot to sit in the sun. I hope it's a bit cooler tomorrow as there are so many jobs out there waiting to be done and seedlings in the greenhouse nearly climbing out of the seed tray.

I thought I'd get a quick picture of my best hosta before the slugs find it. I cheat and plant it in a large pot and top dress it with gravel. They still get to it by the end of the season but it looks good for quite a few weeks. May seems to have arrived in April and everything is shooting up and flowering all at once, and it actually felt more like August today.

I made the fairy shoes. I should have put a matchbox or some other small item beside them so you could picture how tiny they are - about 3" or 7cms long - smaller than the pixie boots. I don't think I chose the best material for them although it was good to work with, and would like to try another pair using organza and silk paper or some other lighter fabric. They look a bit too solid for fairy shoes - I must give it more thought before I start another pair.
Enjoy the rest of the weekend and make the most of this glorious weather while it lasts.

Thursday 21 April 2011

More Robins.

It does seem rather greedy, but we have two robins' nests in the garden. I don't ever remember having one until now. I wedged this old tin kettle into the support for the summer jasmine years ago and have been on the verge of taking it out several times because nothing used it. In the last few days we have noticed activity there, and have seen the robins going in and out with beakfuls of building material. The robin in the picture here sat still for so long I wondered if I was looking at a dead leaf!
The robins eggs in the nest on the other side of the garden have hatched and we can hear faint 'peep-peeps' from the babies.
Mrs Dove has two new fledgelings to rear, and there are bluetits and great-tits nesting in other parts of the garden. I suppose it isn't surprising as my husband spends half his beer money on bird food! Only half, mind you! We are on permanent cat patrol to see that they all get reared safely as the two houses which back on to ours have four cats between them.

Sunday 17 April 2011

A lazy day and I hope you like robins!

I made these little pixie boots from Annette Emms instructions in issue 70 of Stitch magazine April/May 2011 and completed them yesterday. I hope my next pair will be better, Annette's look perfect! I also have the back issue which features fairy shoes and want to try making those. Can this fetish for tiny shoes be because I have large feet?! . I have been very lazy today and spent much of it sitting in the garden and noticing all the jobs that still need my attention. While out there I enjoyed watching our resident robins tucking in to the meal worms my husband puts out for them. I clicked away happily and got so many nice shots I couldn't choose between them. Time and again they came to feed, in between flying off for tiny insects for the fledgelings which seems to be an all-day task. I think they must be glad of the mealworms to keep their energy levels up. Every so often one of the parent birds would perch on the tree and sing us a lovely song.
Oooh! These look good.

I wonder if it is safe for me to start eating.

She seems harmless enough and isn't coming closer.

I'm worn out feeding those babies - it's my turn.

Perhaps I should take some to the wife.

He/she looks as if they are saying thankyou in this pic. The photos are of two different birds - the male and the female - though I can't tell which is which and their babies are just a few feet away in this open fronted box on the garden wall.

It's hard to believe that a couple of years ago nothing would grow in this corner. It was dark, dank and horrible. Then our neighbours had about 10ft cut off the top of their ghastly conifer hedge and let sunlight in once more - what a difference. I have just planted a few more cowslips in the empty space round that square stone in front of the bench - they were selling them off at the garden centre.

This is the same corner from the opposite direction. There is a pathway through there somewhere and I think my next job will be to find it.

Friday 15 April 2011

Mission Accomplished.

This is the scissors case for the sewing box, shown here back and front. It took hours to sew those tiny beads all round the edge and the beading needle will never be the same again! I stitched them on in threes when they usually form a neat little triangle, giving a picot edging. Because the edge was slightly irregular owing to the canvas being cut on a slant for the shape of the case, they didn't form little triangles but still give a nice finish.
Toward the end I was desperately trying to work out if I'd have enough thread to finish the case. As it happened, I had about 6" left - a close call.
I may give the box a light rub over with gilding wax to highlight the textures of the lace. It looks rather drab here but in fact is a rather nice copper colour. The clasp is made from two tube shaped beads, one stitched to the lid and the other to the body of the box. A grungeboard shape painted to match the box forms the closure. I stitched one half of the shape to the lid and the lower part loops over the bottom bead. Grungeboard is available from good craft suppliers and is rather like cardboard but much stronger. It comes in sheets or various shapes and can be painted and stitched.

Sunday 10 April 2011

A Day Off.

I am pottering about today doing nothing in particular after a very busy day in the garden yesterday. Everything aches gently this morning and wants a rest! I have been sitting enjoying a cuppa and watching the sun shine through the petals of these tulips. Over the years I have tried to build up a collection of more fancy tulips but they don't come back for me - I think perhaps mice eat them and I always forget where I have planted them when the leaves have died back and it's time to lift and store them. However, this clump and more in the front garden are old faithfuls and regularly turn up to do their stuff each year.
I love the flowers on this red sycamore - I think that's what it is. I was given three skinny saplings years ago and foolishly planted them all in our garden which is much too small for such large trees. One had to go when we installed a shed in the back garden and we were able to dig up the second one before it got too big and gave it to 'the tree man' from the local Council so it could be replanted somewhere in the neighbourhood. This third one is at the edge of the front garden where it is not in anyone's way and we can enjoy it. The leaves are large and a beautiful deep red when they appear but I love it best as it is now.
I am keeping the squirrels out of the garden in this glorious weather by sitting and working out there so much but the other day I spotted this one tucking in. I imagined him thinking 'If I eat

enough bird food ...................
........................ do you think I could learn to fly?!


I am off outside again now. Hope you are all having a lovely restful Sunday and making the most of this gorgeous weather, even though it is too warm for the time of year.

Tuesday 5 April 2011

Change of Plan.

I had intended to work in the garden this morning, getting rid of swathes of celandine which have made themselves very much at home. I do like them and they are quite welcome in small doses, but you can have too much of a good thing. The weather had other ideas and is drizzly, cold and windy so I have been putting the finishing touches to the pin cushion for the sewing box.
It is about 3" across and maybe just over 1" deep with a tiny orange button, top and bottom, stitched through the centre and pulled tightly to accentuate the shape. The colours are much richer and more vibrant than these pics show. The box is lined with a deep olive green silk and needs something colourful to brighten the inside.
I stitched three little glass beads to each corner, and made a needlecase in matching colours.
I must now pluck up the courage to put the box together. I've had two goes and not been satisfied but think I have worked out how to get a good result. After that is done, I have only to make a scissors case, but will need to buy the scissors first to make sure of a good fit.


An update on the collared doves: Baby dove ('Ariel') has flown the nest so we removed it and had a little clean up. Two or three days later, Dolly and Desmond Dove were back with more twigs having looked for the nest several times and given us dirty looks for taking it away. It was disgusting and literally a few twigs held together with bird droppings. A new nest has been made and Dolly is in residence once more, sitting on a new egg. We have given in, but are opening the bedroom window when we want to!

Friday 1 April 2011

This and That.

I am still in the doldrums when it comes to creating something original but thank goodness for people like Janet Edmonds and her book 'Embroidered Boxes'. I made something similar for our eldest daughter when she was 50 a couple of years ago. This one is for our daughter-in-law who is like another daughter to us, and her 50th birthday is later this year. I have only to sew up the sides and make a fastening of some kind and the box is done. It doesn't look much like a box yet - the plain section is the base; the far section is the front; the two 'arms' are the sides, and the bit nearest the front will become the back and lid. The texture comes from small pieces of lace oddments embedded into vilene with gesso, then sprayed with inks. I did 'scribble' all over the lace pieces with the sewing machine to make sure they were all safely fixed. I couldn't get the colour I was aiming for so overpainted with Stewart Gill metallic copper paint.
This is a close up of the lid section. I may rub a little gilding wax over the surface to finish it. I can't give someone an empty box so am fitting it out as a sewing box. Below is the top section of the pin cushion - thank goodness for Sue Hawkins too. This is being made from her instructions in issue No.60 of Stitch magazine - Aug.Sept.2009. It is a biscornu pincushion which has a fascinating irregular shape achieved by joining the corners of the top square to the centres of the bottom one. I'll post a pic. when I've done it.

Ignore the blue canvas - I found this piece left over from another project and it was just the right size. None of the blue will be visible when the pincushion is completed. I should have put the canvas into a frame to work it but as it is such a small design it should be fine with a gentle pressing on the wrong side and pulling into shape. I will also be making a needlecase and scissors case.

As Easter is fast approaching I thought I would at last do something with the bag of polystyrene eggs I have had for years. I covered each one with scrunched up tissue paper then painted them with Stewart Gill metallic paints. (I've had those for ages too and some were in danger of drying out so I thought I'd use them before it was too late). I decorated them with flower shapes cut with a paper punch, then added sequins to the centres. Finally I added dots of Stickles which are little squeezy pots of twinkly colour - I had a selection for my birthday and wanted to try them out. Do they need a narrow organza ribbon hanging loop?

I could have made a better arrangement of my eggs but was too impatient to wait for the Stickles to dry - they take ages, probably overnight - and I didn't dare try to move them. I don't think Faberge will be taking me to court, but making them was good fun.