Tuesday, 31 May 2011

It's never too late to learn the basics...

.....such as wild flower and insect names. Our rather ordinary field has turned itself delightfully into a wild flower meadow this Spring with masses of flowers, herbs and grasses. Joyce (our predecessor) used to say it was medicine for her horses and other animals, and it is indeed packed with species I am only just learning to recognise. Local legend has it that the ground has never been ploughed or polluted with fertilisers or pesticides, so it's all natural.

Here is bird's-foot trefoil - a slightly gorse or broom-like flower but on the softest and smallest of plants. It has tiny intricate little leaves and the buds start a reddish colour, gradually turning to vibrant yellow as they open out.
....and lesser knapweed, a common flower but really beautiful. Until I looked properly I thought it was a sort of thistle. A good flower to attract the butterflies.
....speedwell,....white campion, with its lovely bluish tinged stem and foliage compared to the more common pink campion...This one I have been unable to identify. It's really common and so dainty with its red tinged leaves and pale pink flower. Maybe a type of tiny mallow?

My small nephew Josh is still close enough to nature to notice all the details. Here he is with his tiger moth he found yesterday in our garden. What a stunning piece of creation.

Saturday, 28 May 2011


I've got that must-do-it feeling for mosaics at the moment. I think it was my visit to the Harlequin Gallery in Taunton (it used to be Makers - my favourite craft shop). Artist Jenny Dutton creates these amazing mosaiced female torsos using old china including pieces of charity shop ornaments - the odd horses head or figurine, with a few cup handles or china flowers thrown in. They are stunning.

My current 'must-do-it' is to mosaic a shoe - that is a real shoe - in china.

Here is part of an earlier mosaic project. She has been unwrapped from storage and currently sits in our house-shed next to the fridge.

Peloric Foxglove

This is a link to a Peloric Foxglove - similar to the one we have in our garden this year. It's basically a genetic mutation, but can be re-grown from the seed. It's quite nice in a funny sci-fi sort of way.


Friday, 27 May 2011

A joy-filled day.....

Today is one of these sort of days.....
Both Ian and I have got jobs this week - mine for 2 mornings a week and his a non-exec director position for a feed company. We are both really excited - I because it's the first time I've worked for someone formally for 5 years, and he because it's a step up into a new way of working. I've got that feeling I had when I got my first job - They're going to PAY me for this??!! Thanks to Jim at Reaction Electric...... and "Cheers!"

On the house front, the scaff has come down on the main building so we can see the front for the first time.....
The roof of the lounge is now weathproof....
...and the first windows are being fitted (this one was too big and had to be shaved off)
....and most importantly of all, my family are visiting, the sun is shining, Roger's fixing the back fence to keep the cows out, and it's a Bank Holiday weekend. Have fun everybody!

Monday, 23 May 2011

A burden lifted...

Finished at last (I hope). This is the second of two bridge illustrations for a Council leaflet. No idea quite how accurate I've been but they seem happy. It feels like a real burden has been lifted - I hate these sort of things hanging over me although when I get into them they are usually alright. (I think I need to work on my figures a bit more!) The foreground is a little weir with the stream down below. The weir bridge is falling apart so this is the proposed replacement - the picture is supposed to give some idea of what the bridge will look like in situ.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

The Big Day - oak frame roof arrives...

Today could either have turned out wonderful or ominously 'grand designs'. The big question - "Will the roof fit onto the walls?" was about to be answered. We fell in love with the look and feel of green oak construction last year and decided to invest in the most minimal roof structure available for the roof of our lounge.

After several revisions, quotes, structural engineers calcs and visits to the Timber Frame Company in Bruton, we arrived at a 'raised collar' truss with purlins and just a few 'wind braces' (the curvy bits). This was a very small job for them - but I can assure you a very big moment for us! The oak frame is constructed off site in a workshop, without a site survey or measurements by them - so it's all our responsibility to get the info correct.

It's been a saga - the architect managed to give the wrong measurement, one wall of the building had to be demolished and rebuilt in exactly the right spot, and the building turned out not to be square. Typical of course for old victorian barns, but an added complication. In the end we adjusted the wall position to make it squarer but they still had to extend one of the wallplates (the long bits of wood on top of the walls) on site to make it fit.

The crane was HUGE. We'd previously levelled the front parking area for it to sit.

One very relaxed (and I think bored) crane driver....

Each piece is carefully lowered into place and then fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.
Jim and Will knocking it into shape...

The pieces are all numbered so they know which ends go together. The joints are bolted and then pegged with wooden pegs to look good. These ones will be hammered in and then cut off.

The end result is stunning. The gorgeous honey colour of the oak and the smell of wood are intoxicating. They are still covered in pencil marks and water stains at the moment but will be sandblasted off next week before the felt and battens go on.

We had a visitor or two on site..... our usual blase attitude was exchanged for hard hats and reflective jackets....

....but how did Barney get up the ladder??

Monday, 16 May 2011

The foxglove that thinks it's a sunflower....

This freaked me out a bit - is it a genetic mutation....a cross pollination....or something else? The flower is one big petal all joined together - weird!
21st May As an edit, a friend has sent in this pic of a delphinium. Truly weird and wonderful. What's happening out there.....??

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Do I exist?

Help! I've only got 3 followers.... what does that say about me? Nothing of course but our self-proclaiming society seems to determine the validity of our existence by our number of facebook 'friends' or blog followers. I'm proud to say I have de-facebooked myself, which is partly why no one's really reading my blog. I'm out there bravely in the blogosphere all by myself, unpropped and unadvertised.

Return to Wales and a Grand Designs moment

I've had a trip to Wales - lovely green quiet sunny Wales. It was a delight. To meander through the Black Mountains, Brecons and up through Powys, to Ashfield. And to stay with a lovely friend, visit Barney's favourite piece of the River Wye, walk through our favourite beechwood and reconnect with our recent past.

The purpose of the visit? To collect the promised 'Springboxes' - the almost-forgotten Christmas gifts of a garden-in-a-box bought for 6 different family and friends. Pippa is amazing. To get hundreds of little plants to grow in mid Wales in winter ready for planting in the Spring down south - a miracle as far as I'm concerned. Certainly compared to the pitiful achievement of our veg plot back at home (albeit 'gardening in Beirut' as it feels like at the moment). We are humbled and awed at her genius - WELL DONE PIPPA!!

And not only that, she has reclaimed Ashfield almost single-handedly from the weeds and dereliction that had overtaken it a year ago. There were definitely more signs of life there this visit - but still not enough workers to keep it going past the end of her funding in the summer. What will happen to Ashfield? I soooo hope it continues and grows and maybe changes till it becomes something that can last into the future. For the uninitiated, Ashfield is a Village SOS lottery project - an 8 acre horticultural site in mid Wales dedicated to growing food by and for 'the community'.

So sunny was the weather, Barney and I bravely took off to north Wales for a couple of days of holiday. After the initial panic of finding one 'no vacancies' sign after another we ended up at the lovely Farchynys House on the Mawddach estuary near Barmouth. He was even allowed to share my room.... though I hasten to say not the bed.

It was gorgeous walking, cycling, drinking tea amongst the buckets and spades of Barmouth. And I have to say the first time I have enjoyed a 'holiday' ON MY OWN (Ian was holding the fort with the builders). Having Barney helped of course. He is the perfect companion - he's always ready for a walk and even ran 20 miles behind the bike from Dolgellau to Barmouth and back.

Well, back home and back to work. The house project this week has seen a crisis with the stairs. How a shortfall of 10cm headroom over the end of one step can be a crisis I will never know, but that is what it became, with our builder exclaiming such things as "you don't trust me" and "I may as well not continue with the job" before leaving darkly for the weekend whilst leaving me with a double dose of PMT. Still, Monday morning and all appeared as normal, minus one section of ceiling and the replacement of several joists in minutely different locations. No one told me this would be the builders project and not ours.

On the lounge front, the walls are almost ready to receive the long-awaited oak roof frame. Fabricated several weeks ago they will arrive plus crane next Wednesday. This is the BIG TEST. Did we measure the walls right? Will the purlins fit into the pre-made holes? It's one of those Grand Designs moments when everyone holds their breath, and there's either a collective sigh of relief when it all slots neatly into place, or the camera pans around to the Responsible Person (Us) to catch the first sign of tears.