Friday, 17 February 2017


Fantastic day spent at Chester Farm where with other volunteers I learnt how to prune the apple and pear trees in the orchard.

However before I write about that I must mention some excitement I had on Monday whilst working at the Northamptonshire Records Office.   Once a month I have been going to 'Finds Marking' where everything that comes out of the ground at Chester Farm, whether it is bone or pottery has a reference minutely written onto it so if it falls out of its bag we will know where it belongs.  Also working at this time are the Records Office volunteers and one lady was working on these -
What beautiful handwriting

This is a Manorial Roll written in Latin covering an area in the County and dated 1610 during the reign of King James 1.  It is written on vellum and I asked if I could touch it, which I did.  So old and yet it could be read, if you understood Latin!!  So exciting.

Anyway, back to pruning

after a short talk we were let loose on the secateurs, loppers and little saws, plus an assortment of long saws and loppers.  If you follow this link you will see a chart of the trees and I decided to have a go at No 6, the Nouveau Poiteau. 

But before I started I had to remove the growth at the bottom
Apparently the original rootstock sprouting
So then I started clipping and chopping, aware that the leaflet we had been given said only to remove 25% of the tree if it has not been pruned for years, as I didn't want to send it into a terminal decline!! However once Adam (who was in charge) came along he really went to town on it and by the end this tree had been chopped back more than 25%!!!

Hardly any tree left!!
Meanwhile the other trees were also being similarly dealt with -
Tree 8
 Adam thought that the trees planted against the wall were originally espaliers, but had rather outgrown the wall!!
Trees 2, 3, and 4
Adam removing the top of No 4

.. and here it goes
The ladies watching him!!!

Tree 10 almost pruned

After lunch we wandered down the fields to see the Snowdrops in front of the house
A wonderful display

We saw progress being made on the Archaeological Resource Centre and some of the buildings in the background are being re-roofed.

I discovered that the bark stripping that I saw last week was probably done by rabbits

but it doesn't matter as this branch was sawn off.

My partner in this pruning exercise found a small skull
probably a rabbit

One illusion was shattered though;  if an old tree is covered in lichen it is not good for it and will probably kill it.  I thought that this was good!  So lesson learnt is always try to remove the lichen covered branches so the tree will survive.

A great day out with lovely Spring sunshine and lessons learnt.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Out and about

The weather seems to be improving slightly, though I would welcome a little more sun!  There are bulbs coming up in the garden and I have slight stirrings that I should be outside and tidying up ready for Spring, which is just round the corner.

Monday morning is Nordic walking and when the group met it was very frosty and cold, but I only had a short sleeve T-shirt under my light jacket because I know I will get very warm as we do set a fast pace.  The sun came out so I decided to take some photos that I found interesting.  As we got nearer to one of the Irthlingborough lakes I thought there was a different breed of bird, but we realised that they were Coots who were fluffed up and appeared to be either flirting or fighting and we weren't sure which!!
Four of them

We carried on as we had come especially to see the bridge that is being renovated to link Irthlingborough as part of the Rushden Lakes development
Not this one, but maybe?
This is looking better but we still couldn't cross

The brisk pace had slowed considerably as the paths were very, very muddy and sticky but the weather was bright

and having decided, that from a distance, this was NOT a plastic bag we stopped to have a look
Little egret

Yesterday after a drizzly start the weather in Bedford was wonderful so Will and I went walking down by the river (Ouse).  We climbed the Castle Mound,

and Will had a run round at the top.

Meanwhile I was reading historical plaques

...  and another 12  follow on telling the story
Back on the Embankment, Will loves the mosaic
An invading horde entering the town!!
 The Vikings invaded up the river

Bedford Castle
and Bedford Castle eventually declined.

It was lovely to be out in the fairly warm sunshine, but I am not sure it will last as it gets colder towards the weekend. Roll on summer.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Craftiness and a rant!!

This last weekend has been full of sewing from beginning to end and I loved it!

Firstly I completed my Mini Mania for December/January.  I have to admit that the topic was not something that I wanted to do so I was very tardy getting going and as with so many things thought "two months, that's a long time."  This is what we had to do -

House and Home
We have two months to complete a street of your choice of buildings. A minimum of any five buildings are to be made using any method you choose - pieced, foundation pieced, applique, paper pieced or a mix and match selection if you wish.

Well, I came across this lovely terrace of Georgian houses in Bedford and this gave me an idea.  I took photos and printed them onto fabric and after some free motion embroidery using net, organza and ribbon I produced this very quickly.  No binding - I just pinked and zig zagged the edges -
Priory Terrace, Bedford

I hope it passes with the group!

Friday was Smocking Class and I was in need of help!!  I have decided to make eldest granddaughter another smocked dress and I was lucky enough that one of my fellow class members had a lovely pattern for one using counter change smocking.  Ideally this should be worked on gingham but I didn't want this and I found what I was looking for in a local shop.  So after a little help from teacher J, I got going

Still a long way to go and I may need some assistance when J returns from holiday but I am happy with it so far.  I hadn't spotted the little dots round the flowers, but J did, and as they are at ½” (13mm) work as if it is gingham! 

Two weeks ago I sent off a parcel of 5 gowns/pyjamas for the charity that I support, Pyjama Fairies, that I had made from fabric I won over the Christmas period.  We have a closed Facebook page where all parcels are acknowledged on arrival and I waited to see if mine had arrived.  Well I waited, and waited ........  nothing received!!  Luckily I had posted them tracked and signed for and now 10 days later I am able to make a claim, but it doesn't do anything for my frustration with Royal Mail!!  It is such a waste of my time and their fabric.  Rant over.

Anyway another parcel is going off today with another 5 items; 4 use the lovely pink fabric that I won and the other is from my own stock.  I made these over the weekend and are ages from 2- 16years, one set of pyjamas and the rest are hospital gowns.
Please keep your fingers crossed that it arrives as I am using a different company to deliver it.

I always make garments for 'stock', but I was delighted to hear that some of my previous sent items had gone off in a hospital order so I imagine a child in hospital wearing something that I have made.  It is a lovely feeling!

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Rivers and reminiscing

I was talking to my friend Sew Happy about future projects and this got me thinking about past projects and how long I have been doing patchwork!!  I first got started some 25+ years ago when I lived in Chepstow, in South Wales and in those days I went to evening classes to learn.  We learnt right from basics making blocks from templates that we had drawn on graph paper and then pasted onto card and every week we did a different block.  I now realise I had absolutely no colour co-ordination and when I went to sew the blocks together nothing matched at all!!  Simply appalling waste of fabric

However I did buy a panel that reminded me of water at the bottom and a stormy sky at the top; but what to make with it.   Then one day looking out of my bedroom window I had an inspiration.  After taking a photo, I then drew the design up and this was the result.
A wallhanging of the Severn Bridge

This bridge and the river played a very important part in my life as I crossed it every day to get to work, as did my husband.  Many times I was on the cliffs on the other side unable to cross, with my house a mile away, but the weather was so appalling that the bridge was closed.  A 1.5 hour detour round by Gloucester.  I have cycled and walked over this bridge and walked under it many times, but in its time it was the latest piece of engineering and in 2016 celebrated 50 years since it was opened.   I cannot remember how I made the wallhanging or what the technique was but have always thought it gave the effect of looking out of a window.

Tuesday being my 'Bedford' day we went for walk along by the river, which was running very high after all the rain we have had.  Bedford School boys were out on the river rowing.  Little Will was very keen to see the weir where the water was gushing and very noisy and makes me feel a little dizzy.  Is it all the water and the fear of he bridge collapsing and falling in that makes me like that?  Anyway both of the Archimedes Screws were going full blast and putting electricity into the National Grid.

I also noticed that a number of swans had converged on a quieter part of the river
Boats being rowed in the background

and there was a massive clean-up going on

That's better, all finished and very clean!!
I can now reveal my latest smocking project started early last summer.  I made it for my youngest granddaughter who was 6 last week and she loves it!!

If you are a regular reader of my blog you will know that I made a similar one for her cousin and I was asked to make exactly the same one for L.  Well I couldn't do that so this one has fabric a shade lighter and I made up my own smocking pattern.  The little girls love them because when they twirl the skirt comes out like a bell!

Two happy little girls, but I plan to make a slightly different one for the eldest.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Christmas and New Year is a distant memory!

We are well and truly into January and my diary is already getting full.

My first big outing was last Saturday at the 50+ Adventure Club annual barn dance.  It is always a very popular event and this year was no exception.  We have tried a number of bands over the years but this year we had The Banana Band who were excellent and played non-stop all night.  Any band we have enjoy coming because we get up and dance from the very beginning and never stop!

We have already booked them for next year.

I was also back at Chester Farm for 'land conservation' this week but the morning was slightly different.  The unused fields attached to the farm are going to be used for livestock and so we had to walk the fields, noting hazards, broken fences and anything else that maybe required before letting them loose.  I have never been in this part of the farm before so it was very interesting and immediately I found a dead Barn Owl.  I think this was a recent death as there was no decomposition and as I had no camera with me at the time I took it back to the centre to record.  Not for the squeamish so look away now!!

What a beautiful bird
After lunch the rain which had been slight in the morning increased, but with my full waterproofs on we (there were only 2 of us) carried on clearing the ground.  I wasn't cold as I had so many layers on but my glasses needed windscreen wipers.  We saw interesting fungi
Purple pore bracket fungus

and this turns into this

This fungus turns orangey brown and then becomes stained with green from the algae. Not my own work, but information courtesy of our volunteer organiser.  However it is MY hand in the top photo wearing my very soggy gloves and her camera because at that precise moment my camera fogged up -
You can just make out my hand!

as I had been keeping it dry inside my waterproofs.  However if anyone knows what this is on the log I would love to know - is it fungus or lichen?

On the way back to base to return the equipment I noticed this man whose work must be never ending
Washing down the wheels before going onto the highway

and no wonder after this
Mud, mud, mud

A slightly different landscape now compared to the summer

Apparently the Klargester Septic tank has now been installed!!  There are also archaeologists on site, keeping one step ahead of builders, still finding more Roman pottery!

I have started a new canvas work embroidery over the Christmas holiday.  When finished it will be a little 'weight' but still a lot to do.
 I bought the large magnet at Alexandra Palace last summer
The base is a sampler to try new stitches and get the colours right

I have plenty of other items to keep me busy, sewing, knitting, smocking and crocheting so perhaps next time there will be something to show!