The trials and tribulations of a life of leisure...


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wool, Wild Birds, Wegetables and Words

The new jumper was finished last Friday - 2 weeks from design to completion. I am very pleased with it - a great way of using up a lot of leftover balls and part balls of wool. I knitted the sleeves 'in sync' as it was a bit touch and go whether I actually had enough wool in a few of the colours and didn't want to have to undo too much if I ran out. As it was I was okay but only had a few inches to spare on a couple of the zigzags! I am sure that the same pattern could be used to give very different effect jumpers if done in pastels or different shades of a single colour. I may well try out this theory at some time with other colours - I have a lot of greens, yellows and browns for an autumn version...

I did an inventory of my wool mountain last weekend while Paul was away. The sitting room was filled with bags retrieved from two of the spare bedrooms and I emptied the camphor chest that is my main storage area. I now have a file with it all listed by type, colour and weight. The kitchen scales were kept busy weighing odd balls and groups of mohair greys etc. It has all been re-bagged into (I hope) more sensible groupings. Over 10 kg of assorted yarns. I also unpicked the back of a chenille 'jumper' from years back - I had not appreciated that chenille came in different plies and had tried to knit a cotton chenille pattern with something nearer to chunky weight!

New jumper has been started. I had four balls of a scarlet boucle type wool and three balls of a matching wool with gold threads in (along with some balls of blue and grey) which I bought many years ago from an oddments bin but could never decide what to do with it. I found the pattern booklet for that type of wool and there was a pattern I liked for a lacy jumper that only required four balls main and two contrast so off I went. It is a pain to knit with - more so because of the pattern having blocks of alternating rows with y.r.n. p2tog and y.fwd sl1 k1 psso which isn't so easy with bobbly yarn but I guess that is why I don't need so much as plain jumpers...


The bird feeding station is a roaring success after some early setbacks - namely a pheasant attacking it. We still get the occasional pheasant attempting to fly on to the seed tray, flapping wildly and falling off.

After complaining about the neglected nyjer seeds the goldfinches are now arriving in flocks. They are extremely feisty, chasing off other birds and giving me great entertainment. Lots of squabbles amongst themselves too - they like to control the seed tray against other invaders, running across it to fend off other incoming birds. Not much scares them away. The tits are very different, generally flying in, grabbing a seed and straight off again.

I am not good at recognising many species and now have my Scottish Birds book close at hand. So far I think I have seen chaffinches, goldfinches, greenfinches, siskins, blue tits, coal tits and/or marsh tits and/or willow tits (less likely), possibly long-tailed tits, robins, blackbirds and sparrows. We are extremely lucky here in having a great variety of habitats nearby - river, woodland, farmland and hedgerows.


I am starting to think about the garden again. New spreadsheet created for 2011 listing all my vegetable seed. I have bought some pak choi, spring onions and mangetout to add to my collection this year. Having seen a link in Town Mouse's blog for a seed catalogue I may be tempted to send off for a few more packets - maybe early tomatoes and giant radishes.

I seem to have recovered now from my fall on the ice and can now bend down without pain, so hopefully will manage to start tidying the garden in the next few weeks. If the mildish weather continues I will get the fruit-tree-bed-to-be ready and organise apple tree delivery.

I do appear to have lost a few shrubs this winter. The hebe that was badly damaged last year seems to have been killed of this time around. The photinia is also looking very sad. It does appear to be the evergreens that have suffered worst, although I am also worried about the saxifrages.

On a brighter note the snowdrops are pushing through with even the first signs of flower buds. There are also other signs of life from some of the perennials and other bulbs. Hellebores are flowering, daphnes are in bud and the primroses transplanted last year seem to be thriving with a couple in flower already and plenty in bud.


And finally scrabble. It is time to get back on the horse. Chester this weekend and as top seed I need to win 14 games out of 17 just to stay still. I have continued my studying 8s and have now reached 26750 at around the 90% correct mark before adding those missed to the cardbox. Scottish masters is two weeks later and that will see me meet the WSC qualification criteria.

We have been told the WSC details should be announced shortly - somewhere in Europe. I am guessing Romania but am probably totally wrong. I am more concerned about the dates with Causeway being at the end of November/start of December. However, Causeway is getting to be very expensive but the potential rewards are also going up. Life is full of tough choices...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Chirpy Chirpy

Feeding the birds doesn't come cheap cheap...

They definitely have their favourites in the bird food offerings, starting at the most expensive. Have you seen the cost of mealworms? I'll leave those for others...

I could barely keep up with them on the sunflower hearts front, having to refill the feeder every day and sprinkle some on the wall for the blackbirds. The 1.75 kg bag did not last long. Expensive taste at over three quid a kilo at the local farm shop...

Number two on the list was the peanuts. These lasted approximately a day and a half between refills, but that may have been aided by them jamming in the feeder and me having to periodically give it a shake. I also rescued the broken mesh peanut feeder and improvised a lid from an old jam jar and threaded some garden string through it to hang it up.

My home made fat/bird seed coconut refills also went down well - the blackbirds could get at them. I also ran out of bird seed...

But the nyjer seed has been given a good ignoring. Although I saw finches they were the wrong kind (chaffinches) and were happily going for the sunflower hearts. I have on occasions seen green and/or goldfinches but not at my feeders.

I had hung a lot of the feeders on the railings outside the sunroom, but as we were hunkering down in the sitting room I was not getting to see the birds very much. I decided I wanted a bird feeding station. So I went on-line before the new year to investigate.

I eventually decided on this site, Wild Bird Direct, where I could also bulk buy bird food at more reasonable prices. Feeding station, ground feeder, 25kg of sunflower hearts, 12.5kg of bird seed and three packs of suet balls later...

It all arrived just over a week ago. The garden was still covered in snow and the ground was rock solid. Paul suggested I tried to see if it fitted in the parasol base, but the pole was to thin. I then decided to see if I could get it into the fruit-tree-bed-to-be.

Big mistake.

The paving slab on to the lawn was covered in ice. My legs went straight out in front of me and I went down on to my coccyx. The only thing that slightly aided my fall was my right thumb.

Not only costing me an arm and a leg but also a thumb and a bum!

The pain was excruciating if somewhat brief - I think I went in to some kind of shock. Luckily I didn't seem to have done too much damage and was able to get up. My thumb subsequently swelled up and I had an impressive bruise all the way around it. I still have a small bruise under the nail. Luckily, it hasn't stopped me knitting...

I thought the other part of my anatomy had escaped as I could sit down with no pain. However, I have since found that sitting from a prone position in the bath almost caused my to scream with the switch of weight on to that area. I am now feeling slight pain when I bend down :(

Anyway, over the last couple of days the weather has changed allowing all the snow on the garden to disappear. The ground is now very soft and the bird feeding station has been erected outside the back sitting room window. It hasn't taken very long for the avian population to find it and I can watch them from the comfort of the sofa...

Saturday, January 08, 2011


Two pairs of leg warmers and four hats done and the quick fix of chunky wool and large needles has worn off. Time to get back to another jumper which I can start and then put down for another year or three before finishing it.

I had been doodling with various pattern ideas on some knitting graph paper when a light bulb moment occurred. Spreadsheets! Absolutely perfect for creating knitting patterns. The cells can be scaled to match the tension. And more colours than I could ever use.

The above is my first attempt and I have started knitting it.

But I am choosing my colours as I go along to use up odd balls in various shades of blues, pinks and purples. And I don't think the squiggly pattern section will work in double knitting - the detail won't show up well enough, more of a chunky pattern so that bit will be changed...

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