Tuesday, October 27, 2015


Project clearing (aka actually finishing something!)

The title refers equally to the clearing of my airways and to the annual tidy-up in parts of the garden! But first we have the completed baffies:

Trying it on for size. I got the size I wanted by using 2.75mm needles

I added 4 rows of grey/red stripes all round after I'd completed the heel section as I wanted some extra height and also I felt it was rather boring without. I wish now that I'd added some stripes to the toe section as well but I'm not going to undo them now!

The i-cord bind-off gives a neat finish but the first time I did it was way too tight using 2.75mm needles and I couldn't get my foot in! So I undid it and used 3.5mm needles and worked much more loosely which was perfect.

I also made the heel a bit rounder as I didn't like the square effect in the original. To achieve that all I did was knit the 2 centre stitches together on each of 4 rows before the 3-needle bind-off of the heel.

Snug feet

Clearing pests

There are some little critters who share our home without being a nuisance but these pesky ladybirds are not welcome! They aren't the sweet little native ladybirds but are the horrid brutes, aka Harlequin ladybirds, who've been eating them (which I wrote about here).

I read somewhere that they keep coming back to the same places to hibernate because they emit a pheromone or something that attracts fellow ladybirds. Well, it certainly seems to be true as here they are again in exactly the same place even though I washed the whole area to try and clear away any lingering smell from last year.

I wish the spider could have eaten them so I didn't have to deal with them but she didn't and so I had to remove them. Interestingly, they gave off a really strong smell when I disturbed them.

All is not well in the barn either as a rat is making its presence felt. I store all the horse feed and bird seed/nuts etc in dustbins with lids but Kizzy's chaff (a feed-mix of chopped straw which I add to bulk up her feed) is not something they eat so it just stays in the sack.

Sometimes I'll find a hole nibbled in the sack where something has explored the sack but has abandoned it as unpalatable. A few days ago that's exactly what happened with just a few bits of chaff around the sack. This morning though the rat had been back again and literally dug about 1/3rd of the contents out of the sack just to annoy me, as rats don't eat chaff!

Look at the mess!

How they got into the sack

This of course meant a trip to the hardware store for some rat treats (ahem!) which I've placed inbetween the dustbins in the same place as the sack.

Clearing compost, supervised by Tilly, and finding some friends

On Sunday I was feeling much better as my breathflow was only 50 points lower than normal and so Tilly and I headed out into the garden to do some maintenance.

Tilly inspects the pile of shredded bark/wood which will be used as a mulch on flowerbeds next Spring

Just off to inspect the fungi mum…..

.…something's had a good feast

Watching ducks

She headed off for an adventure in the wild corner whilst I busied my self elsewhere. This is where we stacked spare slates, concrete blocks/roof tiles and other bits and bobs from when we renovated the house and is teaming with wildlife. I often see lizards and snakes sunning themselves on there and it is a safe haven for newts and invertebrates.

There are also lots of beautiful mosses growing on the terracotta roof tiles.

Adventure time!

This is where I was heading; the compost area. I know many of you will skip past this bit but please don't as it's such an important part of gardening. Recycling waste and turning it into something wonderful.

I forgot to take a photo before I started so at this stage I'd already cleared away the butternut squash plant which had been growing on the compost in the bay on the far right. The remaining squashes on there were really small and wouldn't have grown any more so I pulled up the plant and threw it into the bay on the far left.

The plant remaining is a yellow courgette and it still has some viable courgettes forming so I left it to grow a bit longer. It will keep going until the first frosts and I reckon we'll get another batch of courgette fritters out of it. Yum! 

The other things I found were some potatoes which had sprouted from some discarded bits that were in the heap. I put them in the sun to dry and firm up their skins.

Now, just look at this beautiful crumbly compost. This was the heap from last year of which I used 1/2 for planting and then left the rest to rot down further to produce this nutrient-rich loam. When I've removed the plant I'll shall store this compost in empty horse-feed sacks (if I manage to save any without rat holes in!) and use it, mixed with some garden soil, for potting next Spring  I should add that it doesn't smell.

Then it was time to turn the middle heap onto the end heap. It's jolly hard work but really worth it as it gets more air and water into it which speeds up the rotting process. You can see that the bits that were on the bottom of the middle heap are already quite well rotted and now they're on the top of the heap they'll keep the lower layers nice and warm to speed up the process.

Once the bay on the far right is empty I shall start piling things into there and so the whole process begins again. Until then, Mike will put grass cuttings into the middle section so that I can sprinkle them into the main heap in layers.

I also wanted to check on my Hoverfly Lagoon Project. This was something I got involved with via Sussex University and it was about seeing how many varieties of larvae you could attract using a bucket of water with a dry filling around it for them to pupate. 

This is now over and so I wanted to empty out the bucket and tidy up the material around it. I was very careful as  I searched through the wood chips and dry leaves as I knew there would be little friends hiding within and I wasn't wrong:

A beautiful Leopard Slug

Look how well camouflaged this little newt is

I put them in the undergrowth by the hedge so they would be safe

When we'd finished exploring and compost turning, Tilly and I headed down past the orchard to sit and watch the ducks on the pond whilst having a swing (well, only I sat on the swing, Tilly mooched around in the long grass!).

I noticed the bright orange seeds of the Iris and remembered why I don't grow it in a more prominent position - the unattractive spots of  'rust' on its leaves, which are not easily controlled, make it a plant for wilder parts of the garden.

The colour of Hawthorn berries intensifies as they ripen

Now the leaves have fallen from the orchard trees I notice the beautiful lichens growing on the branches

I have busy weekend ahead of me. On Saturday there's the ARUK Supporters' Day in London which I can only attend for half the day as I need to get home in decent time (the trains are very unreliable at weekends during the upgrade to London Bridge Station) as I shall be up bright and early the next day for my next marathon.

Oh, I nearly forgot. Following a post a while ago in which there was a photo of some rosehips, Glenys contacted me to tell me that when she was a Midwife during the Second World War, rosehip syrup was given to babies as it's such a good source of vitamin C which was in short supply due to rationing! Here's my version of the recipe which you asked for  Glenys xxx

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Sometimes things just don't go to plan

Like this week for example.

We had several different treats planned ahead of Mike's birthday next week and this weekend I was supposed to be running the Beachy Head marathon - my favourite trail marathon. Please note "I was supposed to be running" 'cos now I can't.

Why not?

'Cos the lurgy has struck in redheadland. Last week Mike went into London and the next morning he complained of a sore throat which quickly developed into something more than a cold with flu-like symptoms. He was completely knocked out by it and it was obvious that it wasn't simply 'man-flu'! For a few days I thought I might escape it but by Tuesday I was feeling heady and rather grotty. Then the killer blow for me came yesterday when it progressed to my chest.

Now every asthmatic knows that you can deal with physical activity when you have a head cold but when it goes to your chest then it's a big no-no as it puts too much pressure on your heart and can lead to serious complications. I clung onto hope for the whole of Tuesday and Wednesday but when I checked my breath-flow this morning it had dropped by a whopping 200 points so it became clear that I would have a DNS (did not start) against my name at Beachy.

My normal flow is around the 400 mark!

I was doubly disappointed to miss it because one of my running chums will be completing his 600th marathon there (makes me seem like a lightweight doesn't he!!!)


After I'd come to terms with not doing Beachy I started to hunt around for a replacement marathon to fill the slot without bunching together with the raft of marathons I have towards the end of November. Fingers crossed I might have a place in a marathon the week after but I won't know for sure for a few days.................

There's been some knitting going on along with jam & chutney making (it's that sort of season isn't it). Mike's mittens are progressing slowly. I'm using the yarn double and had to frog my first attempt as the cuff felt too loose and I wanted a snug fit.

I love my sheep stitch marker

The cuff is designed to be folded over and half is knitted on slightly larger needles so that it folds over nicely - a clever touch I thought.

It has been a week of starting things again as I undid my Buachaille project too as I felt the fabric was not firm enough using the size of needles suggested and the baffie (a Scottish word for house slippers) was coming out too large and loose for my foot. I switched to 2.75mm needles and am much happier with them.

You can read about the baffies and see what they'll look like here on Kate's blog. I'm knitting the plainer version rather than the stranded one as I want to conserve my dark grey and didn't want to use the beautiful white ptarmigan wool for something I'll only wear on cold nights in bed.

My first attempt. Note I used 3 double-pointed needles.

It's a toe-up construction using the Turkish Cast-On method and circular needles, which I'd never tried before but was very easy and I'll definitely use again.

On my second attempt I decided to try the 'magic loop' method using a circular needle and it works quite well once you get used to it. You can tell I'm not feeling 100% 'cos I'm wearing my snuggly cardigan which I knitted about 25 years old and can never be seen in public as it's so tatty now!

I haven't run at all this week, for obvious reasons, but have pottered around the land for a walk each day just to get some fresh air. I wandered into the horses' field the other day to pick a few more blackberries, to make blackberry and apple muffins, and was struck by the glorious colours of the leaves and berries:

Golden Field Maple

Bronze and gold Euonymus leaves with vivid pink berries. I take photos of them every year as they always stop me in my tracks!

As the leaves start to fall I notice birds nests. A tangle of sticks built to protect precious eggs.

The ivy in the hedges has finished flowering, provided some late nectar for bees, and the berries are forming. The wood pigeons and blackbirds feast on them during the winter months.

The buttery leaves of our climbing hydrangea look stunning. When they fall you can see the russet-coloured stems of the plant which add an extra dimension to a winter planting.

I've spent years trying to coax this Parthenosis henryana, a cutting from a previous garden, to cling to a wall and this year it finally decided to oblige!

The yellow leaves are of a Golden Hop

The bright yellow flowers of this low-growing hypericum shone out on a gloomy day
Next week is another busy one, well if we've both recovered that is!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Getting ready for the 7 Skeins

That title may not mean anything to you unless you're a fan of Kate Davies and her designs, which I am. I've been following Kate for years and love her work and her enthusiasm so when she announced she was creating her own brand of wool I pricked my ears up with interest!

Kate's new yarn is named Buachaille, a Scottish word meaning 'Herdsman', and she has chosen 7 shades of yarn with wonderful names such as Yaffle and Highland Coo in colours reflecting the countryside where she lives.  To launch her new venture she has created The Seven Skeins Club which I signed up to immediately and was very excited when my parcel of yarn arrived the other day.

Ptarmigan, Haar, Squall, Between Weathers, Islay, Yaffle, Highland Coo - what wonderful names!

Here on her blog, Kate wrote about how she chose the names for each skein. Such wonderfully rich tones.

Project bag

Over the course of the next 7 weeks, we lucky members of the 7 Skeins Club will get a pattern delivered every Friday so we can be the first to experiment with the new yarn. Although we won't know in advance what the patterns are we do know that they will be for accessories which can be completed over a few evenings. Roll on Friday, that's what I say!

In other news the cushion is finished and I'm pleased that I managed to save someone else's cherished work. How sad that such pretty needlepoint was just discarded. It will be well loved now anyway.

This weekend, David Babcock is again running the Kansas City marathon but this time he's doing what he calls a 'Doily Dash'. You can read about it here on the Lion Brand Blog. I know he was having some problems registering this as a Guinnesss World Record attempt when we spoke last week (it can take an age and there are strict rules) but I hope he goes ahead anyway as it's such a fun idea and all to raise funds for the Alzheimer's Association of America again (thank you David xxx). He's also going to be finger-crocheting flowers during the New York marathon a couple of weeks later and handing them out to spectators as he completes them. What fun.

David making a doily out on a training run

I did say that I hoped he's be using macho-pink yarn for his doily but he said he prefers a white one! I'm actually more impressed by the speed he'll be running as he's aiming at 10 minute miling which would be impressive even without the crochet. Go David - you rock!

Monday, October 12, 2015

All the 5's, 55!

Yep, marathon 55 of 60 completed yesterday at the Sussex marathon. It was held in and around Heathfield which is only about 16 miles away so I didn't need to set off at silly o'clock as usual which was a bonus. I parked in the town and then walked up to the start - Mike said the next few of photos are my most boring ever but this marathon mullarky isn't about glamour and this one started in the local Community Centre in a residential area!

View along the road at the start

Marshalls assembling
I headed inside to collect my number and timing chip which is attached to your ankle using a velcro strip which I find much easier than the ones you have to thread through your laces. People were starting to mill around:

Paul, sporting his lovely 100 marathon club hoody, alongside Maria, also a 100 clubber, who I met on the way in to collect my number

There were quite a few blue and yellow shirts yesterday including the 2 lovely ladies , Kate and Ellan, who received theirs a few weeks ago.

Then I spotted Paul and I was so glad I'd seen him as this was his flake, ie 99th, marathon. I'd bought a 3-pack of Flakes a few days earlier for the occasion but unfortunately I didn't hide them well enough and someone (ie Mike!) had found them and eaten them!

Paul's mum, dad and sister have been ever-present at his marathons and it was lovely to see them all again.  I wish I could be there to celebrate his 100th with him but I couldn't fit it in.

The thing about this marathon is it was advertised as "the hilliest road marathon in the UK". Now I love hills (although I prefer trails off-road) so I wasn't concerned about that. What did concern me however was that there was a strict cut-off time of 6 hours and you had to reach the halfway mark by 2:50 in order to be allowed to continue.

It was a 2-loop course with what was referred to as a killer hill which you had to complete at the end of each loop. As I didn't know exactly how tough it was going to be I decided that I would push hard in the first loop and run up all the hills, no matter how steep, with a target time of 2:30 for the first half. This, of course meant that I couldn't stop to take any photos en-route and really made me focus on my pace.

We set off at 9:30am and immediately started going downhill. As we went ever downwards all I could think was that what goes down always comes back up again and we had to do it twice - gulp!

The route was all on roads, some were quiet lanes but others were faster roads with no pavements and a lot of cars didn't slow down or move out a bit as they went past. I always thank drivers who move over or slow down with a wave as it's nice to acknowledge it.

There were some people doing a half marathon, ie just one loop, but as it was a small field I wasn't expecting to see many people en-route. It was indeed rather hilly but no worse than where I run around at home so I settled into my pace and just ran a bit slower whilst still pushing a bit up the hills. I made a mental note of a couple of things I must take a photo of on my last lap if time permitted but to be honest there wasn't much this time.

I reached 6 miles in 60 minutes which ordinarily I wouldn't do in a marathon but as I felt OK I just carried on reasoning that I'd probably slow down quite naturally soon. At about 7 miles I found I was overtaking people, some marathoners but mostly half-marathoners. I still felt fine and so I pushed on.

At 11 miles I saw the lead runner and some of the other speedier runners heading off on their second lap. As I approached the turnaround point I saw Paul, Kate and Ellan heading off and I joined them occasionally but couldn't keep up with them towards the end so they finished about 6 minutes ahead of me. I reached the halfway point in 2:20 and was absolutely delighted on such a hilly route!

On my next lap I knew that I had a good time buffer of 3:50 so could afford to walk up the steeper hills to conserve energy. Which is exactly what I did. I found some of the downhills tougher than the uphills as my quads were a bit sore.

There were only 2 things I really wanted to photograph (although I was sorely tempted by some amazing Pampas grasses but resisted):


Beautiful wrought iron gates guarded by dragons

As I reached the bottom of the last hill I started to jog up it slowly and just thought "what's the point?" as I was well within the time limit so I just walked it and then ran the last few hundred metres to see Paul and Kate leaving (they picked me up and gave me a lift back to the car park for which many thanks!).

My finish time was 5:14:37 and I was 4th person away from the 6 hour cut-off. The marshalls told me there were about 20 people behind me so a lot of them wouldn't have got an official time published. Lots of races are like that and it doesn't matter unless you need to get an official finish time to have your marathon count towards the 100 marathon club. 

Edited to add that Pam, one of my running chums, pointed out that I was first in my age category - see the '1' after my age group 55-64 (I didn't get a prize though, humph!):

53 36 Susie Hewer F 14 55-64 1 RoadRunners Club 5:14:37.45 

The medal is rather nice although I don't really like getting the same medal as for a half marathon plus I'm getting too used to Traviss's medals so thought it was teeny-weeny…...

….for size comparison!

Next up is the Beachy Head marathon in less than 2 weeks. My favourite trail marathon.

Finally, here's a photo from parkrun the day before for anyone who read my post before I received it. Please, please, please can anyone doing a parkrun during October donate as much as you can afford to help ARUK reach their target of £100,000. Thank you.