Almost August!

At the end of December 2014 I wrote that I hoped to blog more often in 2015.  Not sure it was a resolution as such but it certainly didn’t come to anything.

2015 has been an interesting one so far.

Who’d have thought our tea would be part of a gift from the Firt Minister of Scotland to the President of the USA?!

Or that we’d acquire a static caravan? And an electric car.

A wind turbine has been on the agenda for awhile and is now up and almost running. Just awaiting an extra safe electrical adaptation in the house this week.

I’m off east to take the wedding of a young couple this weekend. I met the groom when he was four and he went through school with our eldest for nine years.  Looking forward to it although it does seem slightly surreal.

Will see if I can do better with the blogging from August to December this year.

Bracken Challenge

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Where once was all bracken there are now nearly four long vegetable beds.  It was a hard slog but great to be able to see some results from my labours.  I may plant fruit bushes there next year if I can get another four rows or more reclaimed.  Fairly mad, and I ‘ve had to slow down because my knees were objecting, but it is working and no pesticides have been used.  Most days I break some of the young bracken as it comes through and stamp down and break some of the bigger stuff to slowly enlarge the area.  Some old carpet and corrugated iron is helping weaken it a bit.

The potatoes are coming along well – I planted eight varieties and seven look as if they’re thriving. The eighth just has a couple which have taken but hopefully that will be enough to check the taste.  Not long after I planted them there was an awful lot of rain and I was trying to sort the drainage to stop them all being washed away.  If these were the only casualties it worked pretty well.

Peas – some of the packet seeds germinated and are slowly growing.  My saved seed from last year is all growing.  My first time using saved seed (can’t remember the variety) so I’m most chuffed.

Broad beans – not long planted out but, apart from one, still alive.

Runner beans – the first few were planted in the garden but eaten by slugs despite the sheep wool (I think the slugs were already in the pot so within the barrier).  The next few have gone up on the croft and are still alive.

Radishes – the thinnings were tasty and the others are growing. Hopefully the parsnips will come up behind them.

Carrots – didn’t germinate – probably too cold and wet when sown.

Beetroot – ditto, although a couple of tiny shoots just might be them, I’ll wait and see.

Cauliflower – only four seedlings and one’s looking sad.  Need to try more seriously next time.  I was concentrating on the tomatoes which are doing well so far and taking over the conservatory.

There is a slightly raised bit just before the first row.  It curves round and was obviously some kind of dividing line in the past.  I hope to plant hedging or trees there in time, as well as along either side of the various paths that are developing.

I’ve just joined the Scottish Crofting Federation and am in the process of signing up to be a Wwoof Host.  That’s world wide ooportunities on organic farms, rather than the noise occasionally made by my assistant pictured below who is more often to be found dozing as I work.  Although both dogs do enjoy a good exploration round about.  Anyone wanting to come and either explore or give some more practical help would be very welcome.

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Book Bargains

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Spot the odd one out!

I’ve never been good at getting rid of books. I love to look at the shelves and see the different stages of my life reflected in the variety.

As a student I made some money by selling books to a good second hand department of a then well known bookshop.  Sometimes I would trawl the charity shops and then sell them on. Occasionally folk made negative comments about that but I reckoned it was win win – the charity got the amount asked for, I took some risk, and I ended up a bit better off (although I never made enough to meet the minimum wage for my time spent).

Once in full time employment I didn’t need the little extra to be gained by selling.  Sometimes I’d have a bit of a clearout.  When we left Oban we sold books at the charities day in aid of Iona Community’s Growing Hope Appeal.  Other charity sales have had occasional donations.  This year I decided to start getting real with some of my theology books and some of the books acquired in the course of several book groups.  These were all books I could happily have kept but could I really justify it?  Christian Aid helps people who have next to nothing. I will still have more books than I need on my shelves.  At a time when I don’t have cash to give surely I should divest myself of some more books.  Following this logic I could have emptied my shelves but I didn’t.  Next year more will go.

If you’re anywhere near Edinburgh in the next few days do try to get along to the Christian Aid Booksale.  It’s on every day till Friday at 3.30 and on Thursday it’s open till 7pm.  My contribution is a drop in the ocean but it’s an ocean that has raised a lot of money over the years.  It’s not just books, there’s lots more too.  You can always donate it back next year!

Must Blog More

I was tempted to write it thirty times, but even with copy and paste that would be a waste of time.  Today my copy of Coracle arrived. It’s the magazine of the Iona Community of which I’m a member.  It includes news so I’d sent a wee bit about our new venture here at Mo Dhachaidh.  I included the link to this blog so if you’re reading this from seeing it there, then a special welcome.

Then I realised it was ages since I’d last blogged, and that one wasn’t very representative of what we’re doing.  The trouble is we’re so busy doing it!  But unless we get word out there we won’t accomplish much of what we want to be doing. ie sharing this amazing place with other folk, encouraging arts & crafts, growing food and fuel, reflecting on life, the universe and everything.

We hope to welcome people for a night or two at a time on a donations basis. We keep being told to give some guidance on donations which is difficult because the point is it’s a donation and guidance is liable to come across as a charge.  But understanding it’s good to have an idea we’re suggesting £20-30 for one in a room and £30-40 for two in the same room.  If people want to help in kind, (clearing bracken and digging out the roots is top of the list just now) then that would be their donation.  And if folk can give more financially we’ll be more able to cover folk who need to give less.

For now I have to finish preparing for Sunday morning in Salen and Torosay (Craignure) churches but I’ll remember my resolution and try to blog more often.

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Bealach admiring me hard at work.  Three “lazy” beds dug and planted but space for a few more! Photos of work done will appear on a future blog.

Bags of Style

“Country Craft Competition! Monday 31st March is the final day for entry”.  Deep down I knew I’d be doing it at the last minute!  Browsing blogs I’d come across the competition from Hillary’s Blinds Country Crafts and liked all four choices of material. They’re linked with Easyfundraising too if you decide to buy anything online.

I brought the sewing machine to Colonsay thinking I would definitely find time to create something stunning with my free metre of beautiful cloth.  With a view like this to both inspire and distract I could surely come up with something special.

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But of course I’m not here on holiday and although I have had time it has sped past as usual.  My first plan was for a garden organiser and I’d brought some material to play about with my design ideas.  But I found I didn’t want to cut the material up too much because it would mean losing the big bold pattern.  Maybe another time. I briefly toyed with the idea of a waistcoat – red curtain material at the back, flowers at the front, and for the back strap. But it would take me far too long.  I had to be a bit sensible.

The curtain lining I’d brought to use as the backing of an organiser was just the right shade to get a more visible role – still as lining but for a quality carrier bag.  I’ve made cloth bags before but only out of old material, and never with a lining.  They’ve been about function more than style – this one has both.  Not an inch would be wasted.  Making sure the pattern was the right way up was the first challenge.  Not difficult but easy to forget in the quest for speed.  Flowers growing down the way would be a bit too obvious a mistake.  I wanted a feature which would make it different from just any old bag so included a couple of bottle straps inside, well secured into the seam.  Glad I decided to buy that organic wine, red too, just meant for the occasion.

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French seams all the way.  That’s when you double sew each seam – wrong sides together first, then fold it over and sew the right sides together, leaving a nice neat seam when you turn it back again.  So long as you don’t have threads sticking through.  It was a bit too chunky at the corners but with the time constraints I decided strength was more important than worrying too much.  I’m pretty pleased with the outcome.  The handles have a little lining – slightly narrower than the main fabric worked well.  Tricky to push through the right way round because I couldn’t find a safety pin to pull them with but I got there.

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I always liked the Douglas Adams quote about liking the sound deadlines make as they whoosh by.  In my case it’s more the roar they make as they approach, and I’m not so keen on that.  Some can be allowed to pass but many a Saturday night has been spent at the computer because one can’t ask for an extension on a sermon the way I always used to for my essays.  Sewing deadlines are something I thought I’d left behind thirty years ago. For a few years I hemmed silk scarves.  Looming craft fairs or an order for an upmarket boutique meant being on time with the delivery.  Being paid as piecework was an incentive to speed up but going too fast was counterproductive as mistakes at best meant time unpicking and at worst left a nasty mark in an expensive product.  The whole process did give me confidence with the machine and although I’m by no means an expert I’ll give most things a go.  This sparks various memories which will need to wait for another blog.

For now I hope you like the bag and are inspired to think you too can brush up old skills, or try out new ones.

 

Material Challenge

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I’ll never be a contender on the Great British Sewing Bee but quite fancied a wee challenge in the form of  Hillarys Blinds Country Craft Competition.  There was a choice of four fabrics, all of which I could happily use.  I chose the poppies partly because I have a gardening creation in mind, and partly because the colour ties in perfectly with the curtain material I plan to use with it.  Watch this space for the finished item, and (depending how it goes) for updates along the way.  I have to finish it and blog about it before the end of March.  Lots of time but it’s a busy month ahead for various reasons.

You’ve got till the 17th March to apply for your own bit of free fabric and have a go too.  If you win the £1000 you could consider using some of it to come and visit us on Mull!  But the main thing is to enjoy getting or being creative.

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