Sunday, April 27, 2008

Summer has arrived.

Is it really that long since I blogged? Many apologies! And thanks for the recent emails from various people asking how I am. I'm fine, it's just that summer has sneaked up on me a bit and I'm now crazy-busy.

Summer here means two things only....allotment and camping. (And a ton of school trips and activities but I try not to think about these.) April is peak season when it comes to allotmenting...everything needs planted at once and you suddenly realise that whatever you thought, no, you weren't quite ready for this. The weeds have started growing, everything else has burst into life and there's just not enough time, especially as the weather is still variable here ie when I've got time to go to the allotment, it's usually raining. Bah. but I'm getting there. And my new wildlife pond is almost built!

Secondly it's camping season. First trip of the year will be next weekend, to a campsite in Peebles only 23 miles away. We tend to camp local so that Hubby can still get to work during the week (It's a Monday& Tuesday school holiday here next weekend)and the kids can make their rugby matches and other social activities easily. Peebles is a gorgeous little place with a goood campsite though so no hardship.

All this takes organisation. The camping kit is still in a bit of a shambles from last year's final outing, I'm embarrassed to say, though as that particular trip involved six boys, Princess, three adults, two tents and an on-site birthday party I'm amazed I'm ever going camping again! This coming weekend we're tenting though, so I have to get the lightweight camping gear seperated out.

This is my definition of a "lightweight" tent, btw....a Vango Oregon 800. (2005 version.) Yeah, it's not a titchy mountain tent I admit. (Though we do own three of these too.) But it goes up in half an hour, sleeps eight comfortably or six with luxury and has plenty of room inside for rainy days.

"Lightweight" only makes sense though if you compare it to the mighty Conway Camargue, my main long term camping unit....!

This is what we take if we're going anywhere longer than a week. One year we spent seven weeks camping in France in this tent, and were very comfortable I must say. It's a fabulous piece of kit, still going strong despite being nineteen years old. Cotton canvas frame-type tents last forever.

This year? We're going to France for six weeks in the above, which is why I'm spending my less than abundant time starting to get organised for the trip. It's amazing how many planning and packing chores there are for a six week camping holiday! This one is especially complicated as Hubby will be coming home for part of the time leaving me and the kids in France alone. We're not planning an ambitious itininary because Lad isn't quite tall and strong enough to help me pack the Camargue down so we'll have to stay on the same campsite when Hubby is away...oh, the hardship! But this is a trial run for future years...we've always planned to spend the summers this way as the kids get older, with Hubby dotting back and forwards to nursemaid his students while the kids and I spend the summer abroad. Nexy year I confidently expect Lad to be taller than me, lol, so he'll be more use with the pitching. He's pretty good at pitching the lightweight tents already.

One thing I don't have to arrange for the summer is a cattery, alas. Our second cat Theo got run over and killed on the road a couple of weeks ago, only a few months after the same happened to his sister. I don't know exactly how this accident happened as basically he just went missing, we did a big search for him with leaflets and a reward offered and then he was found dead near the road. I don't think he was lying anywhere hurt and suffering for a long while though, given how little time he'd been missing and how very dead he was when we found him.

He was a nice cat...quite quiet compared to his sister, very fond of his meals and sleeping but affectionate and not above doing his share of rodent-killing...though he ate his, unlike Missy who brought them back as presents for us. (Live presents..)

Poor cats, both of them. They loved their outside life and were very happy ranging free, but we've decided that it's obviously just not safe around here for cats to get out. I don't think house cats get anywhere near as good a life, but there's no denying they live longer! Theo and Missy never even made their second birthday. We all really miss having a cat around so we will be getting more but not till after the long holiday of course. Not a good idea to get new kittens or cats, get them settled in then have to put them into a cattery for two or three weeks. After the summer. And they'll be house cats from now.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


It's the school Easter holidays, so I've been busy. How is it that two weeks holiday seems like endless amounts of free time at the start, laden with limitless opportunities for cinema trips, parks, outdoor stuff etc...then next thing you know it's almost over. Where did the time go?

Well, much of Easter weekend I spend on the allotment. Recent weather had meant I was behind with the spring preparation work, but three days of hard labour has almost brought me up to speed again. I was helped by the completely unexpected offer of assistance with some heavy lifting from my Hubby. When I tell you I've had the allotment for eleven years now and Hubby has visited it perhaps five times you'll understand why this offer was so unexpected!

It snowed here on Easter Monday. I wasn't going to let him off on a technicality like this though. And the kids thought it was great.

Hubby lugged a years supply of bags of mushroom compost to various beds, dig out an entire cubic metre compost bin and barrowed it to other beds and finished digging out the wildlife pond the kids and I are making. It took him about an hour in all. It would have taken me about two weeks, given the current state of my increasingly fragile back. I hope he comes back again next year!

The kids were also there to help, but got distracted.

Not often they're allowed to do this sort of thing!

But it was a good family outing and pretty cheap cost me three Cream eggs, two Cokes and a bottle of beer.

On a knitting front, I also finished the Forest Canopy over Easter weekend.

This took 260g of HipKnits Aran Silk, so about 450yards. Lovely stuff to knit with...I did this on 5.5mm needles and for me, it was a very fast knit at 11 days in total. It measures about 30" long at the back and 60" across the wingspan but this is unblocked....I'm not expecting it to expand significantly when blocked, given that it's silk. I do love the colourway but have no idea as to the name...this silk was a gift from the lovely WyeSue at SkipNorth. Thanks again, Sue!

I'll definately make the Forest Canopy again. It was a fun knit...each repeat is only eight rows and four of these are mostly purl so it rattles along and you really feel you're getting somewhere after each repeat. I might make a bigger one from a nice sock yarn or 4ply as my holiday knitting project. Just as a note, however, I calculated that the border repeat + two row cast off takes 1.5 times the amount of yarn as your last main repeat...I had to rip back six rows of my last optimistic repeat and knitted the rest with the remaining yarn sitting on my digital scales. There was a little bit left over, but nothing useful so I was pleased to have made this shawl to the maximum size for my yarn.

I've also been knitting a Noro scarf from the Harlot's One Row Handspun Scarf pattern. This is my second scarf from this pattern and I have to say it's the ultimate in max effect for least effort scarf knitting I've ever come across, and just perfect for showing off colour transitions in Noro or indead handspun. I'm knitting this one really long and am halfway through the third ball of three, so pictures soon.

Apart from that I've only got a sock on the needles (Violet Green Sock Generator, Lorna's Laces in Rainbow) and have stalled on my Noro waistcoat, alas. I want to finish the scarf asap and start on a lacy cotton cardigan for summer soon though. I want to knit Sirdar 5103 (will have to take a picture of the pattern as can't find it on the web) in Sirdar Indigo, which is one of these denim type yarns that shrinks and fades after washing. I have a lot of this stuff in stash, bought when it got discounted to about 50p per ball a couple of years back and it's about time I used some up.

Finally, in response to some of the comments on my doomed Noro Bettna jacket in my last post. Diane, it's not that it's too big (though it is, a bit), it's just that it's the wrong shape for my shape, period. And Anne, nothing short of radical surgery is going to change that, let alone the removal of the button. Easier to do the radical surgery on Bettna than me, I feel. Helen sums it up with this immortal quote "That awful moment when the garment you thought you were knitting turns into the garment you were really knitting." Yup, that's it in a nutshell, Helen!