Monday, 25 April 2011

Elephant is finished

My plans for a gardening long weekend were a bit scuppered by the leg that was giving me problems a couple of weeks ago - still tender and wary of being used too much, so today after we'd been for a walk to stretch it out a bit, I sat in the garden and finished elephant.

Boy, that was a strain - hot sun, green grass, a cool drink at my side and nothing to do but sink into the gentle rhythm of hand stitching and all elephant's colours and flowers were suddenly pulled together. He has a flowery field to walk in, and a tiny shooting star overhead to bring him luck.

I did also spend a little time on my collection of small trees. I won't call them bonsai, they follow a slightly different aesthetic. No twisting wires or pretend ancient stumps, I just take what the trees offer me and edit a little. I have had the two little oaks to the left here for near on twenty years I guess, grown from acorns collected in the woods when my daughter was little and chasing wood monsters. They have been sadly neglected over the past several years. I'm hoping now to be able to treat them better, feed them more and encourage new growth to replace what has been lost.

The japanese larch below was a bought tree, and so has a more classic bonsai shape

We also have in the garden,

arum secret and magical,
hiding its inner self behind an exotic cowl

hearts of forget me nots

and pink bluebells

Friday, 22 April 2011

Good Friday flowers

these are the first flower we've had on this wisteria, planted in 2008 when Rotherview created a pergola for us in the old garden

whereas these tulips, planted with the wisteria, are in their third year
they live here, in the front garden

Blessings all

Thursday, 21 April 2011


people can be extremely unpleasant.

As the sublime Joanna Lumley once said -

 "Stare Back and Smile"

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Garden rescues

Out in the garden the little bed below the sun and moon, where the old folk have settled is, bit by slow bit, getting cleared. As I unravel the tangle of weed roots from desirable plants I make discoveries, struggling in all that tangle and not really winning. 

This garden is full of little tender treasures like these, taken from beside the path where they have self seeded and will be trodden down, 

and moved into the soft cleared soil here. 
This bed is gradually transforming itself, with a little help from me, into the garden recovery area! Here is where the little tender treasures find their home. The trowel in the picture belonged to my mother in law and has probably tucked many a little plant into a safe space – “that’s got two chances” she’d say, and for her, most things grew.

Once I have won a small victory in the battle for light and space, I liberally mulch. This feeds, holds water, suppresses weeds and makes all look rich and clear, so the plants can be seen, rather than the muddle!

Meanwhile, down in the dell this lovely comfrey dwells, good for cut and come again compost food, or to distil in a smelly bucket for rich liquid plant food


I have been having fun - trying out some experimental dyeing, having been inspired by a number of good souls in the blogosphere.

India Flint creates some wonderful colourful fantasies here, and here. Jude whispers up her fibre tales here with stitch, cloth and colour, Susan is doing interesting stuff with jam jars and bits and bobs and Velma is another great source of inspiration.

I am thrilled by the way in which the Web allows all these people, whom I have never met - who don't know me, to inspire and share their creativity across miles and times zones and the world washing sea. It is an extraordinary thing to be able to see what talented souls are doing in their own private spaces and an inspiration to someone whose mother, much missed, always asked "well what are you doing to DO with it" or "you mustn't start than until you've finished this" or worst of all "is it going to make a mess in my kitchen?" - this to my request to try out batik for a school art project

Ermmmm yes Mum!

So, with a bit of inspiration, a few snippets of knowledge gathered from the web and books, I gaily embarked on my first experiment - sort of home chemistry really.

I understood from what I'd read, that when dyeing one needed to pre mordant the fabric to make the colour stick. Having nothing really to hand apart from this old aluminium saucepan (of Mum's!) and some malt vinegar, I thought that might achieve something, so simmered water and vinegar in it for about an hour, then used that to soak some of the great store of hankies I harvested from Mum's - "what are you doing with those Kath?"
"nothing Mum, just stuff".

Having created the "mordant" I steeped the hankies in this, while simmering a fat handful of onion skins in the same saucepan for about and hour'ish - you can see this is a very controlled experiment!

While that was happening I stitched some of the hankies, pulling the stitching up tight to create areas where the dye won't reach. This is my very poor tryout of a technique called shibori, which is shown in masterful style here in this, for me, fascinating insight into Japan's Shibori heartland. the skill and patience of these craftsmen and women is marvelous.

So, all this pretty amateurish "stuff" having happened to the hankies, including wrapping some bits of old iron in one of them, I simmered them for about an hour and a half - I think - ! Three were removed from the pot last night, the remaining one, with iron enwrapped, was left to steep overnight. The results this morning are three bits of golden yellow, variegated cloth on the line

 and one which I'm sure has some mythical creatures hiding in it somewhere!

Now where to go from here?

joyous bluebells

I just love these bluebells, a pocket of them sitting quietly, waiting to catch the sun each time it appears.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

petersfield fairy

somewhere in the web of time, if such a web exists, a fairy is floating across the green in Petersfield

Wednesday, 13 April 2011


What I’m really enjoying about this piece is the way in which the Kantha stitch, shown to perfection on Deepa's blog here, creates its own little flow of ripples across the fabric. 

I’m also enjoying the colour. The base material is hand dyed in shades of lime green through to soft blue green and almost orange. The threads are all space dyed and so as they move across the fabric, weaving in and out, the colours of each change and the contrasts and blends are delightful.

Elephant's influence is gradually flowing out across the space, but he is firmly rooted in the ground, while the stars above smile at him

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Butser Thorn

I am reminded by Gina's post here of this drawing - which I offer not because I think it is good, but because it always makes me smile. This is a hawthorn on top of Butser Hill near Petersfield, where I spent the first eight years of my life. I went on a solitary expedition there in my early thirties, re-visiting my childhood and this hill, which always seemed to be a sensed presence in my memories of that time. My first exploration was to the wonderful Iron Age Village nearby. Once that had been experienced, and it is worth experiencing, I duly visited the hill, with hopeful sketchbook, pencils and low fold out camping stool. Found myself a romantically twisted hawthorn, folded out the stool and sat down with serious intent to draw -

Butser Thorn

upon which, I fell backwards off my serious stool, into the long grass, legs ungracefully tossed in the air!

laugh? You BET!

Sunday, 10 April 2011


This week I have had the delight of my beloved daughter's company, as she gave us a week of her time. We went for a walk down to Gilham Woods as I wanted to show it to her - when she was little I and her father spent many hours in woodland with her, hunting giants and wood monsters.

While we were there we discovered, to my delight, newts! Yes, I know they are deeply familiar to any little boy who spent time in woodlands as a child, but i have managed to get the grand age of fifty without, to my knowledge, having this pleasure! So today, Jen having gone back to the frozen north - well York anyway, I took my dear one there as well, this time with camera to record the pleasure and share it with you!

First there was blossom and shadows,

Then wood anemones and celandine - such a lovely name for a sunny little flower

Finally we found the tiny little pond - created by  Luftwaffe bombing according to the information board.

There amongst all the gloopy, bubbly, frothy water there were tadpoles, easy to see as they shimmer along the margins of everything.

The water is fragmented into lots of greens and browns, reflections and little movements at the corner of ones eye. Then suddenly you get your focus right, just below the level of the water and become aware that these little brown wrigglers are all over, soaking up the sunlight on the submerged wood, rising lazily to the surface to peck at invisible tasty morsels, and generally schmoozing about, rather like a pride of lions in the Savannah, but wetter and smaller, OK altogether different really, but you know what I mean!

the pruner's eye

Sometimes you just have to go and have a look at things with the pruners in your hand. 
This forsythia gave us a very tentative puff of flower right at the top this month, and I noticed this week that the leaves were just starting to show. Time to bring all that energy down into the lower part of the shrub. However, once my pruners and I took a closer look I realised that 85% of the plant was dead wood. This can happen with overgrown shrubs, the branches twist and twine, they get damaged, the top part dies off but, having remained there, gives no space for the rest to grow. 

I cut and looked, cut and looked, got the occasional swipe around the face for my pains - no, no health and safety police, just plain common sense - if you're pulling a large, whippy branched undisciplined mass out of the middle, turn your face away as you pull - thank heavens for deflecting spectacles!! 

Once I'd taken out all the dead wood - brittle and green with algae, I was left with a small group of sturdy stems which I have reduced in height, since they had been struggling to reach the light. Now it is just a matter of waiting to see what happens. Forsythia usually puts out good growth once it has finished flowering, so I'm anticipating at least some new shoots from the base and those stems that remain, to furnish us with flowers next year. If this fails then I'm afraid it's out with it!
I'm sure the "lawn" will appreciate the extra sunlight in the evenings - you can see the line of the fence between remaining , too tall shrubs

while below, all this lovely spring'ness, this is happening.
Meanwhile, when not outside enjoying the wonderful spring weather we are having, I have been stitching this little chap. He is a kit by Stef Francis, which I bought at the last knitting and stitching show at Alexandra Palace. I have been storing him up and was reminded of him by Joe's joyful elephant over on his blog here. I have been having such fun with this and now have got to the stage where lots of little stitches will ground everything and pull the different elements together. Perhaps he is en elemental elephant -  now there's a phrase one could play with!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

I was sharing thoughts of what has disappeared from the landscape of our childhoods with a friend recently. We were mourning what, of nature, has been covered over since our youth by buildings and tarmac - he commented on the loss of "porcelain white butterfly orchids by the stream" in a woodland where he used to go, now threatened by urban development. I was reminded for some reason of this -  a wonderful work of lost childhood by Dylan Thomas, and thought it worth sharing. His rolling endlessly inventive way with words is always a delight, to be savoured on the tongue as well as in the mind.

Fern Hill

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
Trail with daisies and barley
Down the rivers of the windfall light.

And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
In the sun that is young once only,
Time let me play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
And the sabbath rang slowly
In the pebbles of the holy streams.

All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
And playing, lovely and watery
And fire green as grass.
And nightly under the simple stars
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
Flying with the ricks, and the horses
Flashing into the dark.

And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
The sky gathered again
And the sun grew round that very day.
So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
Out of the whinnying green stable
On to the fields of praise.

And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
In the sun born over and over,
I ran my heedless ways,
My wishes raced through the house high hay
And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
Before the children green and golden
Follow him out of grace.

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
In the moon that is always rising,
Nor that riding to sleep
I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea. 

Dylan Thomas 

Saturday, 2 April 2011

A perambulation

For the good of my leg, I went for a walk, or rather a Perambulation. I enjoy the idea of knowing my local boundaries, of understanding the lie of the land and the way the light falls. Also knowing how far I can go, and pushing that each time, varying the route, seeing more. It is something I have done for years, sometimes, when a teenager, to walk off a "mood"; later in life, having lived in the same town for years, I simply enjoyed aspects of this townscape I had moved through.

Today my perambulation was down to Gilham Woods - a little patch of woodland in the very heart of the suburbs. One the way I saw
This lovely patchwork of shrubby hedge

prunus blossom


This wonderful hedge, which sits so well in its urban environment. It works in its space from whatever angle you approach it and is a masterpiece to my mind
Then I found the wood

A place of unders and overs


weavings and intertwinings

strange ancient forms



leafmould depths

sky sweepiing heights
a magic space in which to lose half an hour immersed in birdsong and undergrowth rustlings.

On the way home I saw
cherry blossom

shining against shadow

fumitory I suspect

and a little lost brick!