Sunday, 21 March 2021

Equinoxes: Balance and Harmony?

 The 20th of March this year was the time of the Vernal or Spring Equinox.

    What this means is that the length of the day and the night are equal. There are only two times in the year when this happens: at the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes. At all other times, on all other days the length of the day and night will be slightly  (or even wildly) different.

    We are told that the powers of light and dark are in perfect balance and harmony. Well, they might be in balance, but that does not mean they are in harmony.

    At the Spring Equinox we are in the middle of a dynamic switch between primeval energies. This is sometimes portrayed as a battle between the Winter King and the Summer King, or Jack Frost and the Green Man.

    The prize they both desire is the Spring Maiden. This is the Queen of Winter, the White Lady, who at this time returns to the Upper world, bringing hope and new life. She is reborn and re-gains her Maidenhead.

    In nature as in the Universe there is no such thing as a balance for all time.

    Everything is in a state of constant flux and change. None of us can remain the same, neither can nature. Things are born, grow, evolve, change and die.

    There is no such thing as 'natural balance'. Now, natural imbalance is far more accurate.

    In the UK we have 75% of the worlds moorland, and conservationists are working hard to maintain this special environment.

    Note the phrase 'they are working hard' to maintain it, because moorland is not a natural environment. It was created through the actions and activities of humans.

    Once upon a time, all of that land was woodland and forest, but by cutting down the trees and clearing the land, moorland was created. Given half a chance and left to its own devices, it would become woodland and forest again - that is its natural state.

    Everyone who lives by the sea will know that you have to keep an eye on the tides. The sea retreats down the beach, then advances back up to the base of the cliffs or sand dunes over a period of hours, and at certain times of the year the height of the tides or the difference between high and low tides can be greater.

    The biggest differences of all are found just after the Equinoxes.

    The sea is never still, it is always moving. Sometimes it thrashes and lashes with great violence, at other times it is calm and gentle, but its moods can change with great rapidity.

    The Equinoxes are times of change.

    These changes will occur whether we like it or not. So perhaps this is a good time to learn how to embrace change. To understand that sometimes we just have to go with the flow - and it could be a bumpy ride!




Sunday, 14 March 2021

Maths and Crochet?

 Yes auto-correct spelling thing I have put 'Maths' above and I mean it - not the American spelling 'Math' - get over it.

    Ahem.

    I may have mentioned my next big(ish) project which I have decided to try and create an underwater scene, which will involve, coral, sea shells, fish etc. So I put 'crochet coral' into the Google search thingy and WOW! up came an exhibition of enormous crocheted pieces by Margaret Wertheim and her sister Christine who are based in Los Angeles.

    I was fascinated by the intricately curly pieces they had created, and which look enormously complicated to crochet. 

    After a bit of searching on the Net, I found that this was a well known thing called Hyperbolic Scumble and is actually very, very easy to have a go at, and to create some fab pieces.

    So I have.




The main principle is very simple: each round you increase the number of stitches in a set sequence you have decided upon before hand.

    So, for example, your pattern might be, increase a stitch every other stitch, or every third stitch or every fourth stitch. You must also decide on your basic shape before you start. The standard shapes are either rows or rounds. In the above photos the top and bottom ones are based around circles, the one in the middle is a 'dumbell' shape, two circles connected by a straight piece. And basically you just go round and round working your pattern.

    Now most folks who do crochet will know that when you are making a flat circle, you have to make increases in each row in order to keep it flat. If you do the same number of stitches in each row, your circle grows upwards like a vase or cup, instead of laying flat.

    The standard increase to make a flat circle is first round, say, 8 stitches, the second row needs two stitches in each of your base row, so 16 stitches, the next row needs an increase every other stitch so 24 stitches, the row after you leave two stitches then make an increase, the next you leave three stitches then make an increase and so on, leaving one more stitch between increases every row.

    So if you make more increases than this in each row, your 'circle' becomes more and more wavy.

    So I thought I'd have a go. And the standard pattern which you come across says that you should do one stitch, then do two in the next stitch, ie making an increase every other stitch. Now if you know the pattern for circles, you will immediately see that if you follow this for your second round, you are actually doing less stitches than you should do to make a flat circle, the third row will be the same as for a flat circle, and to be honest the fourth doesn't look much different.

    I was getting a bit frustrated and thought I was doing something wrong when I'd done three or four rows and nothing much seemed to be happening. Until I came across a little throw away comment on one site which said: 'You won't notice much different until around the 6th row ....' Which meant that being the impatient person I am, I hadn't given the pattern long enough to develop!

    Ok I know I am impatient, so I decided that rather than the slower growing 'leave one, double one, leave one, double one' pattern I'd try doing a double stitch in each stitch of the previous row, to see what happened. And you can see what happened in the pics above.

    All of these are done with standard double knitting wool and all of them have five rows of double crochets and a sixth row of single crochet edging. 

    I am very pleased with them and they should go into my finished piece nicely. But I am going to do some more experimenting, varying the number of single stitches, and yarns.


This last pic shows one of my first experiments. This uses a yarn which is thick and thin and varigated. And in this one I used the standard pattern of one single, one double on a crochet chain, but working up one side, around the end and back down the other side. I did three rows of double crochets, but in the third row I did two stitches in each stitch around the ends, then the 4th row in single crochet, two stitches in each stitch.

    I was after something that looked a bit like a sea slug and am quite please with the result.


Incidentally isn't it annoying when people start every sentence with 'so,' I shall be really glad when this fashion is dropped, the same as that inflection which sends the end of every sentence up, so it sounds like whoever you are talking to is continually asking questions instead of making a statement:

'So, I have a cup of tea?'





Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Bridie - Hypno-Dog!

 Every dog we have had, have all had totally different characters.

    Every dog owner will tell you the same.

    And the two we currently have are very, very different characters.

    Tallulah is coming up to three years old this summer and Bridie will be eleven this year. So it is no surprise that Tallulah is bouncy and cheerful, loves everyone and thinks that everyone will love her too. While Bridie is restrained, elegant and aloof.

    Bridie was a show girl - she has been to Crufts - and was a mature dog when we got her. I don't tink she had ever learnt to play (although Tallulah is quite persistent in trying to get her to join in chasing and bouncing games). 

    Tallulah is also quite uninhibited when it comes to getting your attention. There is no way you will be able to ignore her. She will nudge you quite firmly with her nose, so you get poked in the arm or in the side, or if you are writing a furry nose will lift your hand up. And if that fails, then her front legs are up on your knee and you nose, ear, or whatever part of your face she car reach is given a good snuffle and lick.

    This is not something Bridie has ever learnt. 

    Instead Bridie has developed the Hypno-dog stare.



    Between the 1st and 2nd World Wars there was a Music Hall act with a dog known as 'Hypno-Dog', and at some point, while they were touring the UK, the dog managed to go missing. Posters were put up and there were even announcements in the Newspapers, asking people to be on the look out for the missing dog. But at the same time they were warned that under no circumstances should they look Hypno-Dog in the eye, or it would put them to sleep.

    Well, we have our very own Bridie the hypno-dog.

    As I said, she has never learnt how to do the in-your-face demanding attention thing. But instead she has developed a very disconcerting stare.

    You may be reading a book, or working at the computer and suddenly you are aware that you are not alone.

    And when you look round there is Bridie, stood stock still, staring at you. Staring very, very intensely at you.

    STARING!

    And into your head will come the message:

    'You WILL give the dog a biscuit!' and you find yourself reaching for the dog biscuit box.

    And when you turn back, silently the ninja hypno-dog is now an inch from your leg, but still with the unblinking hypno-dog stare.

    Sometimes it isn't food but a cuddle she wants. Again she has never learnt how to just throw herself at you in a 'Cuddle me!' demanding sort of way, so instead she positions herself sideways in front of you and gives you the hypno-dog stare! But when you do cuddle her, or stroke or rub her head (which she loves) you feel her gently relax and collapse against you.

    Bridie has also decided that she likes the occasional cup of tea or coffee. Now, I know that dogs should not routinely be given tea or coffee as the caffeine is bad for them, but for a start I drink red bush tea (no caffeine) and the way I like tea and coffee is so weak that it is fortnight!

    Besides which, the first time she decided to give tea a try, there was not a lot we could do about it.

    That was last summer, out in the garden. My mug was standing on the grass cooling and the next thing we knew, a certain dog had got her head stuck in the mug and she was not coming out until all the tea had been drunk!

    So occasionally after tea, when we are watching TV and relaxing with a coffee, I become aware that Bridie has decided that tonight is the night for a sip or two of coffee.

    Tallulah has also learnt to recognise the 'hypno-dog' stare and watches happily as Graham is directed to share the cool remains of my drink into two dog bowls.

    So all I can say to you is:

    Beware of the Hypno-Dog - and under no circumstances look her in the eyes!



Friday, 12 February 2021

A Pain in the Foot

Ok so a fortnight ago, or so, I hurt my foot.
    I wasn't doing anything exciting, like rescuing a lost pet from a fire, no, I was getting in the car.
    Yes it was that thrilling, I was getting in the car to go shopping, as we always do, and somehow I twisted my foot. It was a small movement, nothing dramatic at all, a little swivel as I got into the car and agony shot through my foot so I fell into the car rather than sitting down.
    Now this isn't the first time I've done this, so I knew while I was sitting down, with no weight on my foot, I would be ok. Driving was a bit uncomfortable, but not that bad, and we were able to do all the things we had planned on - taking parcels to the post office, visiting the bank to put cheques in, and go do some grocery shopping.
    Graham does all the running about, in and out of shops etc, so all I had to do was sit in the car and crochet. 
    Of course eventually we had to go home, park the car and get from the car into the house.
    I got out of the car and onto the pavement and said to Graham, 'I can't move. I can't put any weight on my foot.'
    Luckily my wheels are always in the car, so Graham got them out and wheeled me up to the front door. 
    Great, now how an I going to get over the step into the house, if I can only stand on one foot?
    Graham left me contemplating while he got the shopping out of the car and ferried it into the house.
    In the meantime the dogs had come to look at me. They were inside and wondering why I was just sitting looking at them. Tallulah jumped up to greet me, and pushed me backwards down the path, then ran away and hid in the house.
    Back at the door I decided I would just have to go for it, or face living in the shed until my foot got better. 
    Somehow I got into the house with the aid of two walking sticks, and found that I could shuffle slowly to the bathroom and back to the living room - thank goodness our bathroom is on the ground floor.
    That night I knew there was no way I would be able to do the stairs, so I would have to sleep on the sofa.
    It was an interesting night and quite lively.
    At around 1pm Graham appeared downstairs. He couldn't sleep because I wasn't keeping him warm, so he had to get one of my crocheted blankets to put on the bed.
    A little later I woke up to find a dogs nose an inch or so from mine. Laying down on the sofa I was apparently just the right height for a dog to stare at me in comfort.
    Hello Bridie.
    I went back to sleep and was again woken by a dog's nose. But Tallulah is a little less inhibited than Bridie, so this time the cold nose was on mine and followed by a lick.
    I was awake before 5 am as I didn't know what the time was, so put the tv on to try and find out.
    
    Thank goodness the foot has healed relatively quickly.
    I was able to make it upstairs the next night, although it took some time. But it seems to have got better quite quickly.
    
    Oh incidentally, this week Graham brought me some gifts when he did the shopping, as it will soon be Valentines Day.
    'I am just a big softie!' he declared with a smile.
    He got me: an economy strawberry cheesecake, a pack of mixed flavour Walkers Crisps, and a staple gun.
    I can't wait to play with the staple gun!
    I still remember my father stapling himself to our front gate when he was decorating for the Queen's Silver Jubilee celebrations.



Saturday, 16 January 2021

Crochet Garden

 One of the first things I saw, when I started looking at crochet on the internet, were pictures of wildly colourful, beautiful, amazing pieces which I found out was known as Freeform Crochet.

    My heart sang when I saw them and I longed to be able to make something of that ilk.

    These last few months I have been working on a piece which I have absolutely loved doing. I have called it a Crochet Garden and I did put a few pics up some time ago, showing the work in progress. Over the christmas break, I have finally managed to get it to what I feel is its finished state. The last stage was sewing in many, Many, MANY ends which I had left long in case I wanted to join other pieces on - that took ages!

    Anyway, to me this piece is a representation of the beauty and exuberance of nature, which we try to encapsulate in our own gardens. Everyone's garden is unique and reflects the individual personality of each gardener. Some are formal, restrained and colour-co-ordinated, others are wild and windswept, so my 'garden' also reflects my love of colour, shapes, creativity, crochet and even my connection through spirit with the enlivening energy of Nature.

    In my garden is every shade of green I could find, all linked as spirals, the form of growth, the shape of snails and of ammonites and found carved on ancient monuments as a symbol of life, death and re-birth.



    The flowers are both simple and complex, flat and very three dimensional. Some are based on living botanical plants, others are mere whimsy or flowers of the imagination.

    There are many variations of roses, these are, to me, the archetypal garden flower. Forming one edge of the piece is my version of a very large foxglove in a variety of shapes of purple and lilac. These are native wild flowers, lovers of woodlands and wild places, but also found in our gardens. They are the flowers of fairies, nature spirits, the 'folk's gloves' and also of apothecaries and healers, the plant is beautiful but can be deadly too.



    You may notice at the side of the large foxglove is a smaller, dark version. This is the hidden shadow, found in the deepest woodlands.

    Also in my garden is a circular spiral pool, for tranquility and reflection, and nearby hidden amongst the greenery, leaves and acorns is the Green Man himself, the spirit of Nature who is both the giver of life to the plants and part plant himself.



    You may also be able to spot butterflies and bees, here and there amongst the flowers and leaves.



     This is a garden to delight the eyes and heart, a place where you can look and look again and still find something new. It is a place of colour to lift the spirits. Some of the flowers you see from above, others from the side, this was never meant to be a photographic representation of a garden, or a plan, it is a surface with curves, raised hillocks, bells and trumpets. Move your head slightly and there will be a different view, a new perspective.

    What is my garden? Is it a blanket? Is it a shawl? Is it a work of art?



    It can be any and all of these things.



    I don't care, I just love it.




   

Monday, 21 December 2020

Happy Winter Solstice

 Happy Winter Solstice!

    Today is the last posting date for first class UK mail, and traditionally when we have taken our mail to the Post Office today, then our Mid-Winter holiday starts!

    Graham decided to mark the occasion by buying us some magazines while he was in the Post Office come general stores, and has just presented me with a pile of magazines. He is presumably working on the premise that if he bought a few, there was bound to be something in there I like.

    So the choice I have is: Woman's Weekly - not seen that for years, that used to be one of my mum's favourites.

    Prima - because it has a Free Puzzle Magazine included - this is not one I've every looked at before, so should be interesting.

    Yorkshire Life: now this one looks the type of magazine you need to read at a table, cos it is sooooo heavy. But it also has a Free Calendar included (you might be able to see the way Graham's brain works - free = GOOD!)

    And finally Country Smallholding ........   nope, me either.

    I suppose I should think myself lucky that he didn't get 'Practical Woodworker', or a muscle building magazine. So if you want compact trailer with a custom UTV cage, or an electronic chicken door, or a packet of Layer's Pellets, this is the place to look - actually after a quick flick through, this might be a decent read!

    If I don't post again before, we hope you have a restful and stress-free celebration, and a much happier and healthier 2021!



Saturday, 5 December 2020

Leprechaun

 I get the strangest requests from our customers and one of the most recent was 'Can you make me a leprechaun?' there was a pause while I thought about it.

    December is one of our busiest times of the year, when we have to concentrate on getting out as many orders as possible as quickly as possible, and so right now was not the best time to be making a 'one off'. Especially one I would have to research and had never made anything like it before.

    As I hesitated, the chap continued 'I don't mind what it is made out of. I know you like these little challenges.'

    Meanwhile Graham had realised what was going on and was hissing at me 'Say no! We are too busy!'

    So I compromised (ish) and said that I would make one, but I couldn't guarantee he would get it before christmas.

    Anyway, I had a look on the internet at leprechauns which could be crocheted, and decided that the patterns were either too complicated, or too pared back, or too big. I wanted something simplish and not too big. So the only thing I could do was have a go at it.

    I decided the head would be the awkward bit, as I needed it to be small but round, and it would really determine how big the body would have to be.

    I must admit I had several goes at this, and they ended up huge, the size of a tennis ball, or weird shaped - I had one that looked like a rugby ball and would have made a good 'alien' head. Eventually. after much pulling back and starting again, I managed to get a head the shape and size I wanted (I even managed to give it a bit of a neck, which I was quite proud of).

    Once I'd got the head made, I started on the body. The chest and arms were two 'T' shapes which I joined together. The legs were a bit more complicated again, as I wanted to make them in one piece, but with a bit of thought, and some more pulling back, I ended up with a pair of legs I was happy with.

    I stuffed all the pieces and joined them together, then had a think about finishing it off.

    According to some accounts leprechauns have red hair and beards, so mine had to have that, but I decided he would be a bit unkempt and wild looking. I also gave him some eyes. Then decided to have a go at making him a sort of top hat, with a buckled band, and finally a belt with a buckle too.

    The very last bit I did was giving him some hands, peeping out of the ends of his sleeves.



    I am quite pleased with the result.

    I think he is about 8" tall in total (20cm).