Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Another obsession in the making

The last few weeks, pingling child not withstanding, my promise not to buy any more yarn or craft materials until I had wound down my stash has been going quite well.

A few days into our holiday however an idea wafted in on the sea breeze and implanted itself in my brain...I could make my own yarn! I could learn to spin, on a drop spindle first, then progress up the ranks. I could then plant a few dye plants, experiment perhaps with growing my own plant fibres, one day keep sheep and alpacas and angora bunnies...have a dye studio, paint some yarn...yup. A few days into our holiday, in a very rural very arable county with few fibre animals and even fewer craft shops, I became obsessed with the idea of finding a spindle and a book about spinning. Obsessed to the point of insomnia at one point.

Unfortunately, bankrupted by said holiday until payday, I had to wait. The idea didn't fade into the background. Everytime I picked up my knitting, I wanted to be learning to spin at that moment. It has been a long time since an idea has gripped me with such longing for action (I am quite sloth like at heart). In the end, I bit the bullet and dipped into my savings (to be replaced next month) and bought a drop spindle kit.

I am rubbish. So rubbish. I want to be good right now, I want to be practising at every moment of the day and night, I want those pretty dyed rovings (I can't even remember if thats what they are called, I am THAT rubbish) to be pretty handspun yarn and eventually a pretty hand knitted something. Sigh.

A productive week

When I began to refine my life goals a few months ago, the biggest thing for me was that I wanted to stop damaging and start repairing the world and the people around me. Beyond mindful consumption, that means actually working to repair damage already wrought.

The book Trees and How to Grow Them is a brilliant (though not a field) guide to our native and common trees. I bought it as a gift from Gus to his dad when Gus was just a month old. Finally this autumn, it has come down from the shelf and been put to use. It gives plenty of instruction on collecting and preparing different seeds for planting; as well as planting trees out where they will be only beneficial and not a nuisance.

So far we have collected wild plum and cherry stones, hazelnuts, horse chestnut, bird cherry and rowan. There will be more as we find them locally over the next few weeks. I would like some more edibles, such as sweet chestnuts and apples. After a few sessions looking for seeds and edible treats, we here can highly recommend an afternoon spent in the friendly company of your local trees. They filter out the noise of the city, they welcome inquisitive children (and adults), they sometimes offer up a little food or a place to shelter and watch the world go by; and they lift your spirits after a few hours of walking amongst them. Which is why in a city of 200,000 people, there should be more than 30,000 trees.

In a year or two, with a little TLC, we will hopefully have some strong saplings, ready to be planted out around the city. In a world where I consume so much, including many, many trees, many habitats and many foraged fruits, I know that I have actually put something (small) back with my own two hands. Which is a start.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Knitting nemesis

 I have a head swimming with ideas for things I want to design and knit (or crochet) with my yarn stash. Winter is a coming, and autumn and winter are knitting seasons. They are also the seasons of wind chilled ears and numb fingers and toes; hence I needed to start stitching, ooh say, in March 2010.

Unfortunately I have a knitting nemesis apparently determined to thwart every swatch I cast on. Especially the ones with the complicated lace patterns, variable stitch counts and fiddly yarns. High surfaces, closed-tight cupboards and  knitting bags are apparently light (but absorbing) work for a toddler, as is pulling my starter rows off of the needles and trailing a knotty mess around the house. It takes him about the thirty seconds it takes me to put milk in my tea and walk into the living room.

I read a lot of those gorgeous crafting blogs,  the ones where lavishly heaped skeins in decorative ceramic bowls happily coexist with small children that, whilst the bowl is at eye (and therefore pingling) level, ignore it, instead seeking joy creatively but tidily elsewhere, leaving mummy to knit in peace.

Which makes me wonder...where do I get one of those magical decorative ceramic bowls that adorable  toddlers find so repugnant?

(Secretly I am of course delighted that one of the men in the house admires a hand dyed silk-merino 6 ply when he sees it. That child is going to be one screwed up yarn crafting genius when I am through with him).

Friday, 24 September 2010

We're back

We have been back for almost a week, but I wanted to hold on to the deep peace of big open Norfolk skies, the joy of friendly company and the sense of possibility that you carry when you have spent a week away from the humdrum of your life, for just a few days longer.

As it was, I went into work yesterday (to help them out of a fix) and all that disappeared in an instant. Apparently a recession is an excuse for complete lack of civility and trust in the world of work. "Hell, you won't be able to find a job anywhere else, so we now have free reign to run this place like a battery farm".

This morning I arose early, reinvigorated towards my goals. When the debts are paid off, they will have no hold on me. I will be free to walk. I will be free to make my living by producing something beautiful and useful in the world, as it should always have been. I have put this one on the back burner for a few months, but now is the time to knuckle down again.

I came home exhausted at the end of my shift last night; but I came home itching to cook. One huge casserole later; and I won't be buying unappetising, unhealthy overpriced crap from the shop at work for the next 3 days.  Me £10, b*****ds £0. Result.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Deliciousness is...

We are off on our travels soon, so it was time to take down the tomato plants and make something of the abundance of green tomatoes left on the vines. I think that the green ones are more beautiful than any other tomatoes I have seen. I have never actually eaten green tomatoes, but as time is short, we might just do that. I had grand plans to batch cook tomato sauce, which unless they ripen up in the next 2 days isn't going to happen. Perhaps I shall take some with us to whip up a few self catered frugal meals, or to give to the friends we will visit on our travels. 

I am amazed that these fruits are so integral to so many food traditions, not least my own. I assume that it is in part because they are easy to grow and marry well with so many other flavours. As a student, most of the people I knew didn't let a meal go by without resort to a can of plum tomatoes. They are delicious, they are useful, but I can't help but feel that I rely on them a little too much for easy weekday meals. Having managed to produce delicious homegrown tomatoes for the first time in years, I want to do it all over again next summer and be able to savour them as a seasonal treat.

I have no idea what we are going to eat in their place this winter...

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Minimalism vs. the farm (vs. my brain)

The last few weeks I have been on a decluttering drive and it has made a huge difference to our home. I have vastly scaled back in the kitchen, the book collection, my yarn stash (all that acrylic has gone to a better place where it will be made into something beautiful) and now I am moving on to our wardrobes, again.

As I am clearing however, I feel a certain unease. Many of the things that I own serve a useful purpose - the kitchen equipment, the craft materials, gardening bits and bobs. When I peruse other blogs, where people are settled into their smallholdings and self reliant lifestyles, they do seem to be surrounded by an awful lot of stuff. Tools, books, craft materials, bake ware, canning equipment, extra linens and clothing...all seem necessary if you are going to have a degree of self reliance and sufficiency. Which is making me wonder - do I really want that lifestyle? I love the idea of producing our own food, tending animals, hand crafting many of the things we need in our day to day lives. But does that mean I will have to maintain lots of stuff? Is it that the more skills I learn, the more equipment I will need; and the bigger the space I will need to accommodate it all?

I love my new found lack of stuff - I have enough that I can live a simple lifestyle in a small terraced house in the city. But the part of me that has an eye on possible power cuts and economic disruption in the not too distant future is less sanguine about throwing out that second hand-cranked torch and extra layers of clothing, 'just in case'. Then there is the incredibly optimistic part of me, scouting the horizon for our 'farm' with a veg patch and pantry and workshop, that wants to keep the maslin pan and perhaps invest in some more cookware and knitting needles, for when the time comes.

Decluttering is temporarily halted. My brain is about to explode.


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