Thursday, May 31, 2018

Tempus Fugit (Part iii)

...and there's more!

Firle Place Spring Gardening Show

We had an enjoyable day out the Spring Gardening Show at Firle Place recently.  The weather was perfect and we'd pre-booked our tickets so didn't have to queue for long.

It's a magnificent House in a glorious setting.  We wandered around all the stalls seeing lots of lovely things but not being tempted.  None of the plants were unusual enough to tempt me either and the sculptures and artefacts were either too expensive or not interesting enough.

I came away with some ideas about using some of my old brass pots as planters outside and I was rather tempted by some stained glass work mounted on old wood but the price was prohibitive.  It was just nice to wander around on such a lovely day.

As we started heading towards the exit we did, however, find something special for the garden to be sited at the edge of the orchard; a windmill!  It came flat-packed and Mike assembled it on the patio before we chose a place for it to live.

This photos doesn't quite show why it's so perfect there but the long grass is full of Sorrel - see below

Beautiful, rusty Sorrel; a perfect complement to rusty iron!

It came with hooked spikes to secure it in the ground but as it's in a a particularly exposed situation which catches the South-Westerly winds we weren't sure how it would stand up in windy conditions.   This was tested within a few days of erection and the answer was "no it did not"!  No worries,  Mike just put 4 heavy concrete blocks over the lowest  level of rungs which you can only just see in the photo below as the grass hides them nicely.  It's been tested many time since then and has been fine.

The other thing we modified was the turning mechanism.  As well as the centre windmill paddles turning, the whole thing is designed to rotate in the wind (see the arrow thing at the back) but we found that the screw became loose very quickly and so Mike has made it static.  It's wonderful to sit and watch it turning in the slightest of breezes.

I love these chains!

I'm very fond of the use of rusty iron within a garden as it really sits well within an expanse of green.  We did a garden visit a few weeks ago where they had used rusty iron to edge many of their beds and it was very effective, although rather expensive I guess:

Another Show

This was the Weald of Kent Craft Show held not too far away in the grounds of beautiful Penshurst Place.

There were 2 massive tents of crafts and another of foods with lots of stalls around the outside.  We bought some wonderful olive oil, balsamic vinegar and very tasty olives from a local importer plus Mike found some tasty-looking sausage rolls for himself too.  Often when you actually taste these so-called "artisan" things they can disappoint but they let us have samples of everything beforehand and wow they did taste good.

In the craft tents there were lots of rather twee crafty bits and many clothing stalls, some with beautiful and unusual items but many with rather boring offerings.  Outside there were people doing displays of basketry, ironwork, mosaic and other interesting crafty things.

I took a few photos inside the tent of things I admired:

This man's woodwork and decorative skills were beautiful.

I'm always a sucker for a heart!

I was wearing my favourite garden themed cardigan which I've had for many years!

This was my favourite but I resisted the temptation to buy it (but now I wish I had!)

The other thing I snapped was a stall selling lots of Heidi Bears animals!  Afterwards I went to check that she gave permission to sell her designs and she did but I didn't see any mention of a credit to her on the stall which I thought was bad form.

Outside there were lots of displays to look at and these birds of prey had us mesmerised:

We'd never seen such a large owl before!

This beautiful Barn Owl was getting restive as it was time for him to go back into his dark box.

It must feel strange for a noturnal bird to be out in broad daylight.

By this stage we'd covered almost all the stalls, had over-priced coffee and cake and only purchased a few food items so we headed towards the exit and stood listening to The Haywood Sisters, a wonderful close-harmony group.

As we listened they started to sing "In the Mood" and an elderly lady standing nearby told us that she had danced to the very same song, with a live band, when she was in the WAAF during World War 2.  She was 92 years young and it made our day to have chatted with her.

Bird Heaven

Last year there was an incident involving the ride-on mower, a husband with a temporary lapse of concentration and a birdbath.  This resulted in a large crashing sound followed by several loud expletives which caused me to dash outside to see if everything was OK.

Oh dear:  Husband and mower OK, birdbath not quite so OK!

This birdbath had been with us for nearly 30 years.  We bought it for our first flat and I was anxious to repair it if possible so all the bits went into the garage waiting to be glued together again

A Starling family was still with us and had been enjoying a bath the day before so I was anxious to get some sort of temporary bath in place.

There was one large chunk and several bits so I placed the biggest bit back on and stuck a horse feed bucket inside it, weighted down with a brick.  How very stylish!


That served as a good temporary bathing and drinking facility until the winter came when I had to resort to a large plastic saucer, first on top and then on the ground, whilst we searched for a suitable replacement.

Oh my goodness, the price of something similar!  Nearly £200.  I searched and searched but the things I found were either far too expensive, too ornate/twee or rough and rather cheap looking.

Finally we found the perfect one:

The ducks still liked the plastic saucer and so that's now a feature1

It still needed the approval of the Starlings though..... that's a "yes" then!

But what about the smaller birds?  I was doing the washing-up when I saw a Robin perched on the edge of it.  He looked into the water, hopped around, looked into the kitchen and then hopped down to the ducks' saucer to have a drink and a bath.

That's when I realised why he didn't go into the main birdbath - it was too deep in the centre and there wasn't a central raised island like the previous one.  Hmmm, how to make it better for the small birds?  I pondered as I carried on with the washing-up.  

As I looked out of the window again I saw the solution - I'd left a small stone planter on the table as I'd had cacti in it and it was drying in the sun before it was stored.  It looked the perfect size and colour and would be perfect for the smaller birds to avoid the deepest bit in the centre.

A perfect colour match!

But did it pass the Starling test?  Yes it did!  Blackbirds and Woodpigeons too.

When I get time I'm going to glue the old bath together and use it as a planter in one of the flowerbeds.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Tempus Fugit (Part ii)

I have done very little knitting or crochet in the last few weeks as my hands are too sore and can't cope with both gardening and crafting.  Then I realised that it would soon be a friend's 100th marathon celebrations and I wasn't able to go so I wanted to make her something as a memento.  She's had an amazing journey to this point in her running life, pushing herself to the limit and churning out 10 marathons in 10 days last year (wow!) and although it's been really tough at times she battled through like the star that she is.

Lorraine in her 100 marathon club vest having just completed her 100th marathon seen here with her proud parents. 

The next day she gave her new vest its first marathon outing just to prove how awesome she is!

What to make her was an easy choice - a crochet star to celebrate her being a star herself!

But what colours should I choose?  I know she wears a lot of black and grey but didn't know what her favourite colours are so I emailed her boyfriend who hasn't yet been well-trained in these matters!  Bless him though, he went away, looked around her home and came back with "pink for bedlinen, orange, yellow, white for flowers" but said she doesn't have an "in general" favourite colour.  I chuckled.

So, happy, jolly colours it was then and I chose another of Heidi Bear's joyful creations.

You make 10 diamond shaped versions of the African Flower motif, 5 for each side, then sew them together.  

I joined the first side without blocking 'cos I was in rush but they were quite concave and I gave the motifs for the next side a light blocking with steam before joining.

The first side settled down nicely after a light steaming.

I changed the colours around for the second side.

This time I blocked them before joining.  To be honest it didn't really make any difference in the end.

I was doing this indoors on Saturday and it was baking hot.  Tilly decided to flop outside on the sunbed but I had to bring her in as she was getting overheated, silly girl!

The 2 sides were joined using double crochet (UK terms), leaving just one side of a diamond open.

Then I added the stuffing (not too full) and fiinished off.

I was going to fix a sparkly star to either side of the centre but thought they were too small.

So out came the button box for a rummage.  This old biscuit tin was my mums and I remember it being in her sewing cabinet when I was a child so goodness knows how old it is!

I couldn't find 2 buttons of the same colour that worked so I selected 2 slightly different ones.  I used a long needle to sew them in place, tightening the thread to produce a satisfying dimple in each side.

I then crocheted a short chain and threaded it through one of the star points, fastening it with a bow so she could remove it easily if she didn't want to hang it.  I think it's rather sweet and I hope she loves it.  I gave it to her boyfriend yesterday at the marathon so hope he remembers to give it to her.

After lunch I solved the problem of Tilly overheating…..

That's better, thanks mum!

.....which reminded me I haven't written about Mrs Duck!  I thought I'd written about it on here but realised I'd only written about it for a local Newsletter (with apologies for those of you who may not have read the Herdman Newsletter yet).  I've had to do a severe cull on the photos because there are absolutely loads of them.

Mrs Duck had been doing a recce on a place to lay her eggs for some time.  I'd seen her behind the garage, under the hedge, by the barn but her place of choice turned out to be one of the large pots at the front of the house right by the front door.

She started to redesign my planting by chucking out anything she didn't want (goodbye bedding plants!) and creating a nice cosy indent in which to lay her eggs.  She duly laid one egg each day and covered them with bits of the conifer she thought I had kindly planted for her use (bye bye poor brown conifer!).  

When she had laid 9 eggs she started to sit on them full-time.

She could only leave them for a short time each day or the eggs would get too cold so she carefully covered them with down plucked from her breast and some conifer (!) to keep them warm whilst she was away.

Each evening when she left them she popped around to the back door to let us know she needed some food so we gave her some mixed corn.  The drake always arrived to keep her company which was really sweet.

Then she'd have a drink and head down to the pond, accompanied by the drake, where she'd take a refreshing dip before flying back up to her brood.

Around that time the weather went crazy and it was unseasonably hot.  Really hot.  I noticed that she was looking rather distressed, opening and closing her beak as if to cool herself down.  Then she started shifting around and flapping her wings a bit and so I had a brainwave; the sun umbrella.


Happy duck!  At that stage she'd been siting on them for 7 days.

After she'd been sitting happily for 2.5 weeks I thought everything was OK (apparently they can sit for 2-3 weeks before the eggs hatch) and she'd changed the time she left the nest to morning instead of evening.  But then one morning, when she was away from the nest, I found 2 broken eggs on the driveway.  I hoped they weren't hers but I did worry that the Magpies had discovered her nest.  She seemed to be OK though so I didn't worry unduly.  Later that same day we came back home to find her flapping around in a distressed state.

When she saw us she quietened down and flew back onto her nest whereupon she started poking around in the nest then let out some loud rather distressing quacks and kept calling and calling as if to summon her mate.  After about 10 minutes of calling she gave up and flew off.

I went to look in the nest and confirmed the worst.  All the eggs were gone and I found their remnants scattered all over the garden.

It was is sad after all her care and hard work.  Poor Mrs Duck.

The next morning she came around for breakfast with the drake and for several weeks nothing much happened until a few days ago when I noticed she was searching around for another place to nest.  Maybe she'll be more successful this time........

Next will be our adventure at Firle Place which I mentioned in my previous post.