* Why yes, I am currently reading Clash of Kings to stave off longing for the third Game of Thrones TV series ;)
Our home is lovely in summer – breakfast on the balcony in the morning sun, everywhere fresh and green, and then retreat from the heat and sunshine into the always cool office – but for us, it’s more special in winter.
I think it’s because we moved in at the end of September, when autumn was properly upon us before the super cold winter a few years ago. One of the first things we did was to have a stove fitted and that cold winter is marked in my memory by learning to split logs and chopping kindling, then curling up in front of the stove with the cats and John, it feeling like that warm room was the whole world.
I chopped my first batch of kindling for Winter 2012-3 a couple of weeks ago and it reminded me of that first winter again. Today I chopped some more, nearly filling the kindling dustbin, that’ll keep us going for a little while. I also pulled out the last of the tomato plants out of the greenhouse and rearranged a few things in there so it’s ready to house the less-hardy pots and plants from the garden (herbs, mostly) – another ‘the coming of winter’ chore. Meanwhile the chickens scratched through the leaves that have already fallen (surprisingly few at the moment) and John spent the afternoon fitting a hugely complicated curtain rail in our five-sided bay window in the living room. We haven’t had (or needed) curtains in there since we decorated in the spring but now it’s growing colder, they’re important again.
All in all, an afternoon of basic winter prep.
Have you been doing anything to get ready for winter this weekend?
In my effort to get back both into the habit of blogging and the habit of making fun stuff, I’ve spent the afternoon wet felting.
I felted various misc knitted things over the years but I had an urge to try my hand at felt artwork over the summer, after falling in love with Marmalade Rose‘s meadow pictures. Click on that link to Fiona’s site and gaze in wonder at the header picture, and all the other ones down the side – really gorgeous work. The mother/daughter combo rosiepink also make lovely stuff.
Anyway, armed with those fabulous pictures in my head and the leftovers from a “Moorland” inspired mixed colour pack of wool roving, I sketched them felted a small woodland scene in July. I’ve done about half a dozen other little pieces since then, but that first one was my favourite/the best. Even accounting for my limited artistic talents and felting-newbie clumsiness, they’ve all just looked … fuzzy and untextured compared to other people’s work. Then today, I realised that’s because the “embroidered” or “embellished” bit isn’t an optional add-on, it’s key! So did I spend the afternoon sewing and embellishing the old pictures? No, I felted some new ones ;)
I did flowery one (close up shot above) and then, wanting to work on something a little more specific, attempted a stylised picture of Staithes (a close-up/partial pic below – it’s supposed to be the Cowbar side, as viewed from the beach, if anyone knows the village). As with, ahem, all my other half finished things I’ve posted about this week, I’ll post proper full pictures when they’re finished – all embroidered and embellished. I think I’ll need to trial-and-error a lot of stuff on that side of things – quite glad I’ve got a few “meh” felts to practise on ;)
think know I have a helluva lot to learn about the felting process too actually. I think I’m still being too gentle and as with drawing/painting, there is a communication issue between what my head commands and what my hands produce. I’ve been making small pieces – about A4 size, so I can do all the wet stuff in an old turkey roasting tin – to not overface myself/waste excess materials but I think that’s half the problem – I find it hard to command the roving to do intricate stuff. Still though, I’ll press on!
Have you tried felting, either after knitting/crocheting the wool or using loose strands of roving like this? If so, any tips to share with a newbie? :)
I had to do something with all that great smelling stock, so today has been a batch soup making day.
We’ve got chicken, carrot and ginger at the front, all pureed up and ready to go, and still a bubbling away George’s Marvelous Medicine type tomato/pepper/beany soup at the back.
The former is one of my favourite winter warmer soups because of the heat of the ginger but also because the carrot keeps the soup at lava temperatures for ages (useful on particularly cold days!). I know it’s not quite winter yet and today was actually a really nice autumn day here, but the start of soup season is mentally if not physically upon us here, and what the hey, it’s just yummy ;)
The latter is a particularly special concoction because while I was picking some of the key beany ingredients I couldn’t find the can open so had to use whatever beans can in a ring-pull can… It’s packed with cumin and chilli too though, so I’m sure it’ll be fine!
Have you been soup-ing recently?
* Well, you know, one of them. I don’t remember them all exactly but this one smells gooooooooood.
Hi again. It’s been a while since I blogged – too long – I hope you’re all well.
I’m taking part in Blogtoberfest 2012 to try to get back into the habit of blogging regularly – the idea is to blog every day, at least once a day. I’m spreading my efforts across this site, How Can I Recycle This? and my somewhat geeky only-of-interest-to-my-mum personal blog to make it easier on myself (but I’m keeping a list of all my Blogtoberfest posts to make sure I do one a day!).
ANYWAY. The chicken stock. The last chicken stock I made in my new-ish big slow cooker was a bit lacklustre so I’ve been saving the carcasses from our Swillington Farm chickens in the freezer to make a mega-stock – and this is it.
After roasting the carcasses alongside our dinner last night, they went in the slow cooker and the smell of it cooking made me drool. This morning, I separated it out and it smelled even better. It’s a bit fatty at this stage but I’ll skim it before I use it. As well as making stock, I also made some fluffy friends – Lily-dog got the chunks of carrot from the stock and she & the cats also got bits of chicken too tough for our soup :)
The bestest bit is that Swillington Farm birds are so huge that not all my carcasses would fit the pot in one go so I’ve got a second load on now – more yummy aromas! (The last bird we got from Swillington was over 3kg/6lbs 6 – each breast alone weighed 400g/14oz! Massive!)
The first lot was spiced with coriander seeds, black peppercorns, a garlic clove and some chunks of galangal. This one is second one is black peppercorns, szechuan peppercorns and galangal. I’m not exactly sure what either batch will be used for but, since it’s us, it’s likely to be something spicy/gingery/peppery so these should work either way.
What spices/flavours do you use in your chicken (or other) stock?
It’s been a bit of an odd week – Monday started with a smear test (never a terribly pleasant thing), yesterday started with three dead chickens and today has started with me lugging half a tonne of woodchips down three full flights of stairs, ready to into the nearly renovated chicken run.
But it’s had its good points too – some 11 year olds declared they liked me yesterday, my sore throat is finally waning after a month and my lost purse has been found (I thankfully dropped it at the theatre, rather than on the street or anywhere else). And I also got a fab new cabinet for all my craft supplies! (Well, some of them!)
There is a strange space on our upstairs landing: not Bermuda Triangle strange but a strange space all the same. It was originally the house’s tiny bathroom, until the loft was converted and someone decided to replace the bath with a set of stairs (the bathroom is now in what was once a bedroom). What we’ve been left with is a space about 6ft square, a bulge in a corridor really.
The last people to own the house had a desk in it and used it as a small office. They grandly called it a study and we sometimes still jokingly call it “the study” (with inverted commas), and imagined putting a nice chair in there, for quiet reading in the afternoon/evening sunshine, away from the bustle of the rest of the house. It has though been used as a dumping ground – all the bathroom stuff ended up in there last year, things en route to the attic room (our spare room where I keep a lot of my craft stuff) often have a rest break there for a month or two, and things heading to charity shops usually pause a while in there too. It was a bit depressing really – make the house feel untidier than it is, and it’s already pretty untidy.
Anyway, I’ve been keeping an eye out on eBay for a bargainacious new-to-us sideboard for the dining room and last week it occurred to me that a little sideboard-esque cabinet might be the answer for the “study” too. This newly renovated retro one popped up last week and luckily for me, no one else was interested in it so I got it for a good price – bought & delivered for considerably less than my meagre budget for it.
The two wooden doors have been painted — a lot better job than I could manage — and the glass fronted shelves have new light fittings in them – I obviously won’t use them while I’ve got crafty stuff in there but maybe we’ll use it for something light-able in the future. The little top cupboard is divided for filing so I’ve used it for filing cross-stitch/tapestry canvases by type/thread count. Between those dividers and the glass doors, it’s nice and easy to see what I’ve got “in stock”.
Everything in there now had previously been piled up/in bags on the floor in there so while it may seem cluttery to some people, it’s a very big step forward for me! It’s made that room so much more usable and pleasant – it’s no longer a blight on that floor.
My next job – when I’ve finished all the other jobs elsewhere in the house… – is to replace the three narrow shelves above the cabinet with stronger/wider ones that run the whole length of the wall instead of strangely stopping a foot short, then the boxes on the floor can go on the shelves, and I can get/make a nice low window seat — a perfect little crafting space. I think my first craft project in there might be to make a rug to cover up the carpet ;)
Have you had an eBay (or other) bargains recently? Do you have a dedicated space for your craft supplies?
Just three days shy of our red chickens second “gotcha” anniversary, we’ve lost three hens – Lime, Blue & Blacksy – in a mink (we think) attack this morning.
We woke up to hear chicken kerfuffling – that’s not uncommon, them bwarking about laying an egg – but it was different to normal and when John looked out of the bedroom with the binoculars, he saw feathers all over the run. We ran down to see what was happening – I thought perhaps someone had prolapsed and the others were attacking – but no. There were three dead chickens on the ground and even though we were stood there, a little nose peeked out of a hole in the ground twice before running away.
Ginger (the Black Rock) and one of the reds were high up on perches in the run when we got in there, and the other red was in the coop’s nest box so I didn’t immediately know which of the reds had died but once we knew that the mink or whatever it was had gone away, it was time to figure out who was gone. I identified our girls with a heavy-heart. Blacksy was easy to identify as she was our only fully black one (another Black Rock) but the reds needed closer inspection. I know it’s awful but I was really hoping that they were the other two red (Ms Mauve & Green), not my favourites Lime & Blue – they all look very similar but I soon found Blue’s blue ring (the only one of them still wearing a leg ring) and Lime’s black flecks in her neck feathers. Sigh.
We buried them in the woods and John’s dad is now around, helping to re-secure the run. It was designed to be fox-proof as we thought they’d be our main threat but despite seeing foxes in and around the garden on a number of occasions (and hearing them barking at night quite regularly), we’ve not had any trouble from them. From the cold winter in 2010-2011, we’ve had ratty residents digging tunnels but as they didn’t seem to bother the chickens, we weren’t too obsessive about filling them in ASAP – we didn’t think anything that could fit through them would be enough of a threat. Sighhhhhh.
The other three chickens are currently locked in their (safe, well off the ground) coop but I’m going to let them have some closely supervised garden time soon. It will be sad garden time though, without my cheeky compadres Lime & Blue constantly getting in the way.
Personalities (chicken-alities?) aside, all three were good layers and their yolky offerings will be missed.
(Pictures: Lime Chicken eating my Swiss Chard last year, Blues investigating the greenhouse a couple of months ago, and Blacksy posing in the run last year)