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Do the maths!

October 4, 2017

I was at the market in our County Town this morning when I saw a small crowd of people round a fruit & veg stall. They were inspecting a little tower of boxes dubiously. I sidled over, and saw a notice: whole box of strawberries – £2!


A slightly-depleted box of strawberries!

Well, irresistible! I checked with the stallholder; it really did mean a whole box, 20 good-sized punnets, for £2. “They’re going over,” he said. “You’ll need to pick your way through.” But the crowd were shaking their heads and wandering off. “Half of ’em are mouldy!” one woman huffed indignantly. Another lady & I looked at each other and laughed; the woman evidently hadn’t worked out that if half of them were no good – and it certainly wasn’t anywhere near half – you would still be getting 10 punnets for £2. Which is quite a bargain!

So I somehow managed to carry the box, mostly balanced on my head, back to my van, whilst dragging my shopping trolley behind me. My mother & I polished off most of one punnet for lunch, and I gave two more to one of my brothers, who happened to appear at an opportune moment. So 17 punnets came home with me.

What to do with 17 punnets of strawberries? I rounded up every jar I could find a lid for and made a massive pan of jam; 11 jars, 4 of them 2lb-ers. I didn’t have any preserving sugar, and strawberries are low in pectin, but I did have these:


Apples & quinces…

…which are full of the stuff. So I boiled up a pan of apples & quinces until really soft, then strained them through a muslin, then chopped the strawberries into the resulting juice and added an equal weight of sugar. Discarding the bad ones as I went, 9 punnets-worth half-filled the pan (it’s a BIG pan) which is enough as I didn’t want it to boil over.

6 punnets-worth have been sliced into my dehydrator; dried strawberries are good in muesli, or yogurt. There’s one punnet of decent berries left in the fridge, and one punnet made its way to a friend.

Altogether, from the 17 punnets I brought home, there were 2½ punnets of debris to throw out – mostly into the chicken run, as they love strawberry tops. So the best part of 14½ punnets, plus the 3 that went elsewhere, were good to use; way more then half! 11 pots of jam for £2, a bit of sugar and some energy… still seems like a good deal to me!



There are times…

September 29, 2016

…when I have neither the time nor the heart to make much. September’s been a full-on month, with several commitments that I felt I couldn’t try to wriggle out of, whatever else was going on, a couple of vague attempts to make some money towards the festive season, and another heart-lurching health challenge for my elderly mother.

And it’s harvest time; my absolute favourite thing to do, ever, is to go foraging in our hedgerows, with the sun on my back, birdsong in my ears. Yesterday I managed a short run out to the woods, and came back with a basket half-full of little yellow crab-apples, a handful of blackberries (which, sadly, have started to rot on the vines, thanks to the rain & grey skies) sloes & rosehips. There are apples & quinces coming down in the garden, too. Yesterday evening & all day today, I haven’t been outrageously busy, so I’ve managed to carve out the time to chop & boil up the two quinces that had split, the crab apples and the little blackberries. Then to let the mush drip all night, add sugar and boil up until “wrinkly” today. Luckily I had a lot of clean jamjars to scald, too, with new lids.

So now there are 8 jars of lovely deep-pink Quince & Crab-Apple Jelly (recipe here) cooling on my kitchen table, and I feel as though my feet have touched the ground again… but there’s a good chance that I’ll need to make a quilt soon, too, as a house-warming  present! Fingers crossed for them…


I have no idea why this pic has “tiled” itself… Good job it’s not a face!

A whole New Year!

January 1, 2016

Welcome to 2016! Wishing you all a very happy one…


There’ll be more making, more baking…

My main resolution for this year is – to write more. A lot more; my life seems to have frayed at the edges or possibly unravelled to the point where I hardly ever get the time, or have the space, to make anything worthwhile any more, but I don’t need a lot of space or time to spin some words together. It doesn’t matter if I’m 26 miles away from my sewing machine or spinning wheel, as I was yesterday; as long as I have a pen & some paper, or better still my iPad, I can write something. Even if it’s something that no-one else will ever read; that almost doesn’t matter. Even if it’s just a few words scribbled on the back of a receipt…

I’d like to try to write something here at least once a week. I’d very much like to get paid for writing again, but I had to let those threads drop a few years back, and am not in a position to commit to imminent deadlines at the moment. And I’m not able to do research or develop any new expertise at anything just now, and real life continues to confound my ability to keep up with the plot, so my long-held ambition to write a novel (oh, and get it published) doesn’t stand much of a chance either.

I’ve managed to keep most of my preserves & ferments going over the last year, mainly by persuading my darling daughters to take up the reins whenever I’ve been snatched away by fate. They are developing their own techniques & preferences now and I’m loving the results; ginger beer, kombucha, kefir and kimchi. But I didn’t get nearly enough foraging in, or a chance to learn more about the unnoticed gifts that we’re surrounded with. I’m still rescuing and refurbishing stuff and making a few bob selling on what we ourselves can’t use, but many more people have leapt onto that bandwagon and it’s getting harder and harder to turn an honest penny. Not to mention that I now have nowhere to store stock, or work on it…

So I’ve given away a lot of excess stock, to something that’s a very good cause; three van-loads so far, and more to follow. I live in hope of finding the conservatory floor again one day, and the shelves in the porch; then I’d be able to store sensible amounts of wood when it’s available for free, as it very often is!

Things need to change! But maybe I can’t impose that change from on top, and it needs to happen from the bottom up, so I will start building the future with words, just a few at a time!

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…

May 3, 2010

It’s been quite a long time since I was able to sit comfortably, in fact. Not going on about my operation again; but the fact that our old computer chair has actually been caput for quite some time, But somehow you get used to thing as they are, and put up with it, long past the point where you know you should do something about it, even when it’s actually causing you quite some discomfort… there’s a metaphor for our consumer/industrial society in there somewhere! And probably all kinds of other dilemmas, too. But it takes a catalyst; either the collapse of the old, or something falling at your feet that’s so obviously much better, to force you to do something about it. I did consider buying a new kneeler just before my op., but never got round to it as there were so many other things clamouring for my attention.

And that’s exactly what has happened. A couple of days ago, I smuggled a bootload of stained, holey, tatty clothing off to the Tip. I felt a little uncomfortable disposing of it the easy way, but I’ve got enough rags just now, and more than enough fabric, so it’s gone off to be professionally recycled. As you do, or I do, at any rate, I had a quick look at other people’s now-surplus-to-requirements offerings, and there, towards the back, was a decent, sturdy kneeling chair. I know they don’t suit everyone, but they do suit me; my back has been deeply grateful for the whole idea ever since I first had one at work, back when I was expecting no. 1 son. So the princely sum of £2 duly changed hands, and the chair came back with me.

Now it’s under my knees as I type, and suddenly I’m no longer slumped uncomfortably in front of the screen, but alert and upright again. Although it’s a bog-standard black office kneeler, rather than the pretty little wooden one we had last, that was too small for any of us (and I’m not exactly tall) the whole room looks bigger, lighter & tidier without the grimy, tatty, broken offering we’d been putting up with, without ever really noticing how decrepit & uncomfortable it had become. It’s still here, and I can’t help noticing that no-one has sat on it for any length of time since I moved it out from under the desk, so it will go on its way tomorrow. Hopefully it will be recycled into something longer-lived & more pleasing to the eye next time!
Now there’s still a systems analyst lurking somewhere at the back of my mind, even after all these years. I don’t know how I’d managed to forget that something as basic & fundamental as the way that I sit has a huge knock-on effect on how I feel and how much I can get done. And that it’s the chair that dictates how I sit, no matter how good my intentions of sitting upright under any conditions, just as the fit of your shoes dictates how you walk – or not.


Which kind of leads me to a dichotomy; sometimes utilising whatever turns up for any given job isn’t the best idea. Just as I wasted a lot of electricity trying to use wildly-inappropriate Freecycled cookers when our old one finally broke down beyond repair, I’ve wasted a lot of my own muscle-power, and probably a few headaches too, counteracting the effect of a chair that was a bad “fit” for me, and probably everyone else here too. So I need to use my powers of discrimination a little more, and accept that sometimes I will have to buy new, or wait until the absolutely-right thing for the job turns up. And the chair that I’m kneeling on right now is proof that sometimes, it does, but the fact that I don’t have any trainers and I seem to be putting on weight means that sometimes, it doesn’t…

How can I reconcile myself…

April 1, 2010

… to having become bionic? There’s nothing recycled about my new hip; it’s all-new titanium, ceramic & plastic grafted onto my somewhat-protesting femur & pevis. I think basically I am going to have to think of it that by replacing a worn-out part with something new to keep me on the road, I myself have become recycled.

So my opportunities for recycling-in-action have been somewhat limited for the last 7 weeks, though I’ve spent a lot of time sitting in my very-comfortable leather-effect ergonomic chair with matching footstool, gleaned from the Tip for a fiver when I realised we had nothing the right height for me to sit on after the op. So I’ve spent the time learning new skills & practising old ones, unashamedly using new materials – some bought-in pre-prepared handpainted wool tops, for example, to take part in the first round of the Ravelry UK Spinners Scraps Swap. But I did dye my own for Round 3… I also invested in some garden twine; I bought a book called “Quick Crochet, Huge Hooks” secondhand from a fellow-Raveller, and it sparked a little bit of inventiveness on my part. I looked at one project & thought, “That’d be even quicker & easier in double-ended Tunisian…”   Three hours later I had this:

String bag made from garden twine

But I forgot how they stretch, and made both the bag & the handle a bit too long (doesn’t matter, I can always wear it cross-ways anyway, better for my back) so I sat down for a further 2 hours & 10 minutes & refined the idea a bit further to to this:

A smaller, more manageable version of same...

 …which is a little more manageable. I’ll get round to posting the pattern shortly, whilst you go & research “double-ended Tunisian crochet” on YouTube & work out how you’re going to make or get hold of a 15 x 50 cm hook…! I bought mine from Mike Williams realising that it was going to be a worthwhile investment, but now I think I might have a go at “bodging” one up for rough projects like this. I’ve picked up a windfallen good straight cherry-plum stick to try with , so watch this space!

Another wombled goody…

November 4, 2009

I’ve had a busy few days, with no time to spare at all.  But today I simply had to take something to the Tip – a mattress pad which had spilt right open in the wash; even I couldn’t come up with another use for that, and it was damp & had started to become rather smelly – and I’m really pleased that I did. Lee called me over and showed me something that had come in shortly after my last visit, last week. “But it’s not complete,” he said sadly…

But what it is, is an Ashford Traditional spinning wheel, in pretty good nick. Not 100% useful without a flyer or bobbins, but the beauty of the Trads is that there are a variety of flyers & bobbins available to fit them, in either single or double drive. They’re still very much in production, so there will be no problem finding them, and as it happens I’m due to go down to Herrings in Dorchester tomorrow anyway, which is the nearest source. The treadle connector was broken, but that’s just a strip of tough leather & was easily replaced, as the drive band will be too. The wheel spins smoothly & looks to be running true, so all in all that’ll be another fine tool rescued from an early grave.

As is the little upright flax wheel that I found sitting in a dark corner of our local market. It’s a pretty little thing, but didn’t look to be in the best shape; the drive band was wrapped around the axle quite inextricably so the wheel couldn’t move smoothly, the treadle pedal was hanging off, and the arm that probably once held a distaff just had two snapped-off dowels poking up. Altogther it looked like adorning a weekender’s inglenook fireplace was the only thing it was fit for, but yet… the flyer is complete and sturdily made, there was an intact bobbin, the orifice looked clean & clear – worth a try, I thought. The price was towards the higher end of what’s acceptable for a non-working wheel, but bang on for a weekender’s ornament. So home it came with me. I had it up & running within an hour; the pedal re-attached perfectly easily and I was able to unscrew the pegs that hold the axle in to remove the mangled drive band. I had some suitable cord to make another, and once I’d reassembled the flyer the right way round and oiled it here & there, it was ready to spin, and very well it does it too! It’s fast & smooth, if a little noisy; well worth trying to find some more bobbins for. I’d spun a small skein within half an hour and took it to show the stallholder the next morning. So cross your fingers for me that Herrings have something in their odd bobbins box; if not I’ll get some made up but that will take some time & cost more.

So that’s what I’ve been up to…

flax wheel

Upright flax wheel by (or from) Leonard Williams of Whitchurch

I’m shattered…

September 25, 2009

… and I’ve got a horrible cold. But I’ll live, I expect. In the last few days I’ve made two gallons of homegrown plum wine & poured it off its pulp and into demijohns, which are actually rocking, so wildly enthusiastic is the fermentation. I’ve made crab apple jelly with apples from the riverbank, and turned the fruit pulp from both projects into a spicy chutney. I’ve finished two shawls, sent another load of sewing machines off, and had a massive chuckout.

We did a car boot sale at the weekend, and did rather well; I donated the leftovers to another ‘booter through Freecycle as we have quite enough stuff cluttering up our lives, but it was too good to ditch. But one of the other emails I received touched my heart, so I sorted out some more halfway decent stuff to give to him too. Then, because I was going down with this cold and therefore stuck at home, I started to sort the porch out so that I can store my e-shop stuff out there. This produced another load of halfway decent stuff as well as a car load of absolute rubbish, so the second ‘booter came back for another helping. Today I got stuck into the airing cupboard, which is a) very small and b) located in the smallest bedroom, which means that whichever of the offspring is in there also has to have everyone else traipsing in & out for sheets, pillowcases etc. So I invested in a massive linen press from IKEA , having waited several years for something suitable to turn up secondhand. Nothing else was big enough, in the end, so I capitulated and bought new. I’ve transferred all the day-to-day bedlinen into that, which is out on the landing, and put the longterm bedding – mattress protectors, spare pillows, spare duvets & guest bedding – into the airing cupboard instead. Most of that had just been cluttering up our bedroom previously.

The back of the airing cupboard produced another carload of stuff that was quite simply well past it. A few items worth Freecycling, but most just ragging, to be honest, so that’s gone off now too. And when I did the crab apple jelly, I realised that I had way too many Kilner jars too. So I Freecycled a dozen; again, I had hordes of emails. The first came from someone I know, so I said they could have them. But then came a reply from a friend, too… I thought I still had more than enough, so I said she could have some too, but when I counted them, that would have left me with just two. However, when I took some of the rubbish produced from my clear-out down to the Tip, sitting there on top of an old filing cabinet was another box of Kilner jars… so there are enough for all of us after all. But not for everyone that asked – which just goes to show that one person’s landfill is another person’s treasure.

Now I just need to keep up the momentum. Perhaps I should be ill more often!

Just a quickie…

May 20, 2009

If you’re around the Bournemouth area this Saturday, pop in & see me “bagging” at the last day of the Bournemouth & Poole Big Green Fortnight, in the Pavilion, Westover Road. This is in conjunction with the Transition BH group; when I joined it, the first message I received was about Morsbags, which is just – well , serendipitious! So I duly volunteered, and am working my socks off to make bags & prepare enough for us all to make on the day.

See you there!


April 17, 2009

A quick tale of absolute serendipity…

I picked up an industrial treadle on Ebay this week for the magnificent sum of £5.50, which I will use to run the 96KSV7. It came with a resident but non-original head, an elderly Singer 16, and a box. The box has an opening lid, but it was locked and there was no key. My standard Singer keys didn’t fit, nor did the magic flatbladed screwdriver; a key that opens some of the tiny Saxonias, and also my china cabinet, nearly fitted & worked but didn’t quite. And there we stuck…

This morning I popped down to the Tip with a friend who does love a good Wombling session. We could see some old “keys” quite some way down in the Metals skip. She was searching for some weights to dangle from the end of a strip doorcurtain; old keys would be perfect. So, with permission, we rigged up a “hook” of some old copper piping and went “fishing” for the keys. With much giggling, we eventually hooked most of them out. But they’re not keys; they’re more like picklocks, possibly the tools of an old locksmith’s trade. And when we got home, the first one I tried opened the Singer 16’s case effortlessly.

That’s “Karma Shopping” as one friend calls it, at its finest!