Crab-apple Jelly and Apple Mint Jelly – produce from a bumper year!

2020 is proving a bonanza year for many fruiting trees – and a trip to the New Forest this week reinforced this news. There are hundreds of crab-apple trees just loaded to dripping point with crab apples – more than the Commoners livestock and deer will probably pick up. So, Dad and I helped by foraging a few for ourselves.

I was surprised when a couple of ladies picking blackberries (also still in good supply) asked where we going to make Crab Apple Jelly, how did we eat it, and what does it taste like. Obviously not all fellow foragers are crab-apple aware! So, for posterity, because I’m forgetful, and in case it helps anyone else, here’s what we do.

I’ve doubled up with some notes on making hot apple juice into Mint Jelly as an alternative additional ‘savoury’ jelly which is great with lamb!

Crab-apple jelly has been a staple throughout my life, in sandwiches, on toast, in the gravy of pot-roasted game, even with the Christmas meats as an alternative to red-currant. It’s sweet, and apple-y (obviously) and varies in colour and quantity depending on the apples, and the year. Some years, the apples are more juicy than others, and different strains of wild crab, or varieties of garden grown crabs, come in different flesh colours. So in our haul this week, we have wild crab apples, a few of a ‘domestic’ columnar crab apple (Malus) called “Laura” which is a deep plummy colour. Dad planted Laura in his garden 2 years ago, alongside an early crab (and heavy cropper) called “John Downie” that’s already been jammed!

Dad and I are rather imprecise, perhaps lazy, cooks. So standard practice is not to cut up the crabs – the skins split quite happily on their own once the water is boiling. However, the “Laura” are a chunky fruit for a crab, with such amazing flesh colour which will deepen the colour of the jelly, that I have halved them to help their colour permeate the pulp produced. You’re meant to bring it to the boil gently… but I’ve not really got time for that sort of faff either!

Thinking about it, washing them and taking the stalks off is probably also approved of in polite circles, but since these were (largely) hand-picked, and that also adds time to a lengthy process, I, er, don’t normally. We also tend to take the spud-basher to them once they start to soften, ‘to help the pulping process along’ you understand.

When Dad makes crab-apple jelly, he using completes this stage in the evening, and leaves it overnight, so that the actual jelly making happens in the morning after the mush has had plenty of time to drain through. I got back from his place too late last night for that, so this is being left to drain until early evening, when there is a second pair of hands to help un-string and catch the muslins without dunking them in the juice! The drained pulp gets composted.

It’s worth noting that to this point, the process is exactly the same when making Mint Jelly, at least to the point of bringing the apple juice back to the boil. However when we did this earlier in the summer (10th August) we used various bought and scavenged cooking apples.

The main bit of measuring comes next, as the sum goes: 1pint of juice to 1lb of sugar (because I’m old fashioned in my measuring), slowly adding the sugar to the juice as you gently warm it up on the stove again. Tonight I had 5.5pints of juice. You can’t rush this bit – if you try you end up with burnt sugar on the bottom of the pan, and a nasty mess.

Sometimes, like this time, you end up with considerable scum on the top – more so than with blackcurrant or similar jam. Tonight, there was perhaps more scum than normal, as there was a slight handling error getting the pulp into the compost. But we don’t waste it! It will taste delicious even if it looks a bit grim.

Tonight, I got set after 10 minutes at the first try of the ‘cold plate in the freezer’ trick! In fact I suspect it was setting before it came to rolling boil but I wanted to make sure I got as much scum up and off as I could to get a good clear jelly. I suspect I could have got away with giving the apples a little more water with the apples right back at the beginning this morning, but it made things quicker tonight, so I’m not complaining. (Not enough) jars had been pre-warmed at 100c in the oven whilst it was boiling. Lids are screwed tight immediately, and a while later they should ‘pop’ loudly as they cool.

Back in the summer with the Mint Jelly, we simply stripped all the leaves from our mint plant, chopped them as finely as we could, and added them to the (much paler) jelly juice, once we knew we’d reached setting point.

If read all this, well done! We hope it is helpful. Enjoy making the most of whatever apple crop you’ve got, foraged, or otherwise!

Single stripe ‘grandad’ blanket!

Sorry about another long silence folk. Ministry in a pandemic has been a little too screen orientated, and whilst the crafty fingers have kept busy in attempt to keep me calm, the energy to blog the creations has proved a little lacking.

During April and May I was largely making granny stripes. Having created scarves and flowers for my lovely mother-in-law, it was time to create something for my father-in-law, who sadly is now wheelchair-bound. In common with many who have mobility issues, he easily gets cold, so the plan was to make him a blanket – a ‘grandad’ blanket.

Finished ‘Grandad’ Blanket

The inspiration came during the winter from fellow crafting clergywoman, Alison, who like me is fairly new to the crochet business. I suspect she’d been inspired by a mutual friend the Fibre-fairy – but that is the way that crafting works! She’d created something similar in the second part of 2019, and I was inspired to do something similar.

It’s based on the Attic24 Granny Stripe Blanket but differs in that changes colour between a plain colour, and a multicoloured yarn, every row. In former years my dear father-in-law was an ocean going sailor, competing in such things as the Fastnet, so sea colours seemed appropriate. I joyfully bribed my husband to my favourite yarn shop Pack Lane Wool who have a sideline in excellent breakfast/lunch/cake.

The yarn needs to be approximately the same weight: we ended up with Silver Stylecraft Special dk and a King Cole Riot dk in shades of blue/green/purple called Dude, both labelled as being for 4mm hooks. In truth, the Riot was a bit lighter weight, but after mastering a long chainless foundation row in the Stylecraft, it worked pretty well. I literally alternated the two yarns every row, so they interlinked nicely.

Main yarn choices for the ‘grandad’ blanket – a darker grey was used for the edging

The main downside of a single stripe granny (or grandad) is you end up with lots of loose ends, but following the basic size and technique instructions in the Attic24 Granny Stripe, things went fairly well. It turned out quite big, but that’s fine as it can be doubled over grandad’s knees in the winter.

Obviously all those loose ends needed to be threaded back into their own rows when I thought I’d gone quite far enough. After some debate with my husband about the colours, I simply circled the whole blanket a couple of times with 2 rows of a darker grey Stylecraft Special dk granny stitch, followed by a couple of circuits of double crochet, the second of which was in the coloured King Cole Riot dk.

Yes, all those threads needed tidying into their rows before the edging went on, sorry. Oh, and the book is fantastic if you like the Scottish Isles: Marram by Leonie Charlton

This was the first edging I’d attempted, and it does curl up slightly but I wanted to give a very definite edge for it’s recipient to grab at – he has increasingly reduced mobility and grip in his limbs so this seemed important. Perhaps if I repeated it, I should look at the pretty Attic24 Granny Blanket Edging to creating something flatter.

For my first larger project I was very pleased with the result, and delighted that it’s recipient was pleased when he received it – on a hot summers day, when it felt a little inappropriate. However, I know it’s been used, is loved, and has fans. So if you’re one of those and reading this, please feel free to copy it.

The finished blanket, folded for wrapping as a birthday present.

Flower Power: sugar pots and Rudolf’s summer garland

I can’t quite believe I’ve only been crocheting since my first lesson on 24th January. As I suspect so many have found before me – it’s an addictive hobby.

One of the easy little projects that I can pick up and do a few of in an evening, is making flowers. So far I’ve made flowers to decorate tiny jam jars (recycled from eating Lidl’s pate). The catalyst for this was creating decorative little sugar pots for the tables of the Make and Mend Community Cafe that was meant to open at the end of April, but of course ‘lockdown’ has put paid to that, at least for the moment. However, there’s a set of sugar pots waiting with the coffee samples, and I can knock-up a few more in an evening if it looks like we’re going to open. I fear though, that it may be September before that happens.

Then as a silly one day, I made one for Rudolf. You might remember that we bought my mother-in-law a wicker Rudolf for her garden and I knitted him a red string scarf in time for he and his scarf to be her Christmas present.

But of course, it’s too hot for him to wear it in summer, so it had to be taken off, and as a silly thing to do, I crocheted a pair of red string flowers of the same pattern as I’d used on the sugar pots. I thought these could be tied to his antlers… and initially they were. But between us, we got carried away, and I got some jute string of different colours from E-Bay and I made a whole series of them. When we gave them to Marion (my mother-in-law) for her birthday, she instantly garlanded them together round Rudolf’s neck, and he will remain so adorned for the rest of the summer!

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Rudolf with his summer garland!

By the way: I wouldn’t however recommend crocheting (or knitting for that matter) with string. It’s very hard on the fingers, and some natural jute string is easier to mould to shape than others!

Residents old and new: Garden wildlife in lockdown

In amongst the ‘madness’ that has been learning to minister in lockdown, we’ve discovered that the local wildlife is no respecter of social isolation rules!

2020-03-26 hedgehogFirstly we discovered that the Hedgehog we’ve been encouraging for two years had over-wintered! Great excitement, especially as my husband snuck a peek in our hog-houses late one afternoon to confirm that ‘the Hogfather’ as I’ve knick-named him or her, was truly resident – apparently with a preference for the left hand of our two hog-houses. There is a short video of it’s nocturnal wanderings HERE. We do have a hedghog-diner which it likes, but it’s also rather partial to the remains of the sunflower hearts left by the Goldfinches!

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Cock House Sparrow taking nesting material into the swift-box 10th April 2020

 

Then this Holy Week, as we’ve been pottering around the garden trying to make the most of our limited growing space and a collection of out-of-date seeds (anything to get away from the video and computer screen) we heard scrabbling above us. In 2018 we’d also had members of the Blackwater Valley Swift group install a 4 story swift box on our expansive north wall, as we knew that in summer we get a small group calling near the house, and lodging in the neighbouring street. Despite using the ‘swift-caller’ they lent us near the swift-box, we’ve had no joy at attracting returning juvenilles (which is what the idea was) nor any other resident Swifts. However, on looking up this week, we noted that whilst the ‘flats’ as I call them had warped a little, blocking one entrance completely, the scrabbling I heard Good Friday proved to be…. House Sparrows! There are edited highlights HERE of some (fairly shoddy) video and stills, including an extended view of sparrows doing ‘what comes naturally’ when it’s nesting season!

[It was also a chance to practice some very basic video editing skills for ministry, so please excuse the naff header/footer etc.]

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Blue-Tit bringing moss to our Birch nest-box 12th April 2020

 

2018 must have been a good year for our intentions toward wildlife, as we were also given and installed by the north-facing kitchen window, a Birch nest-box – that has likewise remained empty until now. We’d been aware from inside our kitchen over the last few days of an irregular tap-tap-tapping that we couldn’t attribute to anything inside. Yesterday, we discovered that we’ve also got Blue-tits nesting. This morning before our online service, they proved a little camera-shy, so no video to accompany the photos yet! Creation it seems believes in generating the new life of the Easter Season.

So all in all, we’re delighted to have other couples moving in to share our social isolation. In fact, couldn’t be happier… unless the Swifts move in, but they could find it crowded!

Reflections on ministry in lockdown – Good Friday 2020

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First attempts at set up for Sunday Worship for 29th March 2020

Over a month since I last posted!
Somehow life isn’t quite the same… and I’m not sure anyone saw it coming.
40 days on, and things have become very strange indeed.
But you’re living it too, so you know that.

So this is by way of a memorandum and reflection to myself, as to a few of the things I’ve learnt and needed to be creative about, to maintain ministry in the lockdown necessitated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Technical support and a ‘behind the scenes’ view of that first attempt at recording services in the garden. Glad I was that I’d liberated a couple of necessary props from church before locking up the last time, and that I have horded an interesting selection of useful heirlooms.

As a minister I think I’d become too reliant on contact with parishioners on a Sunday morning in the physical spaces that are our church buildings. Those are special times (especially in memory, when you can’t stand round and have coffee), but actually I’ve spent more time talking to people, and talked to more people more meaningfully, one-to-one, particularly the phone, than I ever have, at any stage of my ministry. I feel embarrassed that people have been surprised that I’ve rung, and depending on their circumstances, more than once. Without exception, everyone has been positive, understanding and supportive, as my colleague and I have grappled with the new needs of ministry in lockdown. If by any chance, you’re one of them, reading this… thank you, it has been hugely appreciated.

Jesus walked, and talked, and met people, and talked and taught some more. My husband and I took what should have been our statutory one-hour walk one day last week, on a route we know takes us about that, one hour. It took us 2.5 hours, as the socially-distanced conversations flowed! We’ve lived here over 20 years, so many familiar faces crossed our paths, parochially related and otherwise. I had a strong sense of healing in what at times was some fairly black humour, of words becoming the new sense of touch, of gift that God was providing in these days of glorious weather. As is so often the case, it is in looking back at your footsteps that you see where it was that Christ carries you.

Christ has a such weight to be bear now – and his burden gets heavier each day; and there should be no irony in the fact that I say that on Good Friday, as we acknowledge most particularly his sacrifice on the cross. A few months ago, I’d wondered whether I ought to change my pattern of ministry to take in some connection with our Foodbank. Not unusually I’d done nothing about it, distracting myself with other things, and probably appropriately getting excited about growing a fresh community project. But the cafe plans are of necessity on hold, though I must make sure they’re ‘oven-ready’ at a week’s notice, for when we’re free to fraternise again.

2020-03-22 22.29.51Instead, I find myself giving significant support to that previously noted Foodbank – not least because so many of the regular volunteers are now forced to protect themselves in isolation. Whilst it is horrible that we live in a society where one is needed, and tragic that the economic impact of the Coronavirus have brought so many more people to the crisis-point of needing one, there is a (slightly exhausting) joy in being able to deliver those shopping bags to socially distanced doorsteps – it’s not just food, it’s hope and a sign that people care. The same goes for the donations that have come flooding in, in particular through Eversley’s Centre Stores (who have carefully stocked the Foodbank to people’s cash donations) but also to our doorstep – one of the benefits of having lived here for a while. People’s generosity has been great, and the Foodbank is so grateful for it. No, making such things happen is not without anxiety and risk, and yes there is a cost in that, but after all, being a herald of hope is one of our diaconal responsibilities in ordination. Once again, perhaps I’m fulfilling more ordination vows more fully than before.

So, where’s the creative Rachel been? Lost, literally, frequently and for long periods, in an open source video editor (OpenShot), Facebook ‘live’ and otherwise, Zoom for Messy Church (less messy and calmer than it’s cousin, at least if you’re not ‘hosting’), and Zoom for PCC and other meetings; all via computer, phone, iPad and camera! I’ve ended up looking at myself in a way that I really would prefer not to. Perhaps, I’m seeing myself as Christ sees me, more than I do normally – flaws and all – but I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that.

My first recorded Morning Prayer, was a spur of the moment experiment outside St. Mary’s, but received an encouraging response. My colleague also took up the challenge and ‘went live’, and we were glad we’d started promptly, as within the week we were on lockdown, and leading worship purely from home. Bless him, he’d done a little video editing before – I am a complete newbie. I am grateful he’s putting together the really complicated Sunday Services like our first attempt. There has at times been some distinctly un-clerical language; “purely pastoral” as a past spiritual director would have it. There are also unhealthy strains associated with so much screen-time, on the eyes, the back and on the anxiety levels.

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Cuckoo-pint… or do you know it as Lords and Ladies? Photographed in a nearby lane, 8th April 2020 on our less than daily constitutional.

But once again, there is a strong sense of fulfilling my calling in not only a different way, but in a way that is reaching more people and encouraging them in their discipleship somehow in a way that may have a greater long-term significance of them, then perhaps our regular church-based worship does. I’m not sure that says much for our regular services, but I do find myself wondering what of all these skills and forms of worship need to be kept when we find a new way of post-lockdown living and liturgy?

There have been times to relax… there’s a crochet blanket for a loved-one slowly taking shape, an activity that can prove a prayerful Compline of sorts at the end of a long day, and there have been some gems of moments around the home and on our walks. More of the former in other posts, but if happen to have read this far (bless you) enjoy some Pipistrelle bats at late dusk – another use for my mobile phone which has resulted in interesting pastoral, and wildlife related conversations!

 

Making and Mending – self-care and creating community

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The mending pile, before this afternoon.

Anyone else got a mending pile?

This afternoon I’ve done the simple things: a button on my husband’s shirt, and a new neck strap on a favourite cooking apron using some webbing inherited from my Mum; she’s been dead 24 years (who says I never through anything away?)!

There’s two pairs of trousers to be turned up after purchases in the sales, and a favourite skirt that needs a new elastic, but those are for another day.

In recent weeks I’ve also been learning new skills. I had a favourite ‘honorary’ aunt who could crochet, and I still have the shawl she made me, but I never learnt – until about 6 weeks ago. So, I’ve been working on my doubles, and triples, made a granny square, and guess what… a scarf!

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The first granny square, with a remnant bit of vari-coloured yarn from a knitting project

Crochet seems quicker than knitting to pick up, and easier put down instantly in my busy, interruptable life – and I’m enjoying it. I’m very grateful to the lovely lady at Pack Lane Wool in Basingstoke for teaching me the basics (after some failed solo attempts), to Bella Coco’s YouTube video’s, to the encouragement of my husband and knowledgeable friends who’ve introduced me to Ravelry and Attic24. I’ve even gone back and now have the yarn for a larger project.

Mending and making. Making… and … mending. There’s something really important about both skills for community life, and for Christians for their faith life. As a Christian I believe we are made to be creative – our creator God gave us creative skills to be used to enhance the beauty of his world, to give to and grace the lives of others, and to build community.

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Starting to sort out the ‘stash’, inherited tools, and the products of sale bins as I begin to set up some small activities that could be picked up off a cafe table and tried. (Photo credits to my husband – he wanted to show his Mum what I was up to!)

As I’ve alluded to previously, getting my creative streak back has become important to my post-training self, mending my state of mind, drawing me into a more positive place. There’s God in this too, the idea of reconciling us to be the very best of who God created us to be, being healed to a place of peace. If we’re in a better place in our selves, we’re more likely to have the mental resources to be there for others too – so it’s important to my calling too!

2020-02-12 Make & Mend, initial advertWithin all this, there is something else being created too, something that might create a space in one of the communities I serve (Eversley), in which people can not only make and mend in a practical sense, but also come together across generations to create a stronger community. I hope the opportunity to work with and in Eversley Village Hall will produce something of value to a community that boasts nothing similar by way of meeting places.

It will be interesting to see the results of both a larger crochet project, and this community project turn out as we move through the spring.

A warm winter – scarf-tastic!

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Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer – scarf knitted (and nose badly crocheted) in red string with added bells.

So I may have gone a bit overboard with the scarf knitting in the last few months.

The most notable were probably the red string (jute twine) scarf with bells on, that I knitted for the reindeer we gave my in-laws for Christmas (which also got a botched crochet red nose), and the Pride scarf I knitted for my God-daughter!

 

But there were others, by request and otherwise. So if you’re not into knitting, yarn, scarfs and crafts etc. I’d probably skip this, as it’s largely going to be a photo-log of scarves I’ve knitted in recent months.

As I mentioned previously, this all started with the need to rest my leg. There ended up being three scarves combining old Colinette mohair yarn with variously, Rios merino wool yarn by Malabrigo that I bought in Wyoming, and some other Colinette chunky pure wool, that I’ve long since lost the label for.

 

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Colinette mohair and one of their old chunkies of variable thickness – scarf the second.

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Colinette mohair and Malabrigo Rios scarf 1

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Scarf 3 – again Colinette mohair and variable chunky

 

October half-term in a fairly damp Exmoor saw me work on two, one for a child in Sirdar Wild (with tiny bells in the tassles), and one being my first foray into something other than plain and purl combinations – feather and fan stitch using Sirdar’s Hayfield Chunky Bonanza.

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Left: Sirdar Wild (which no longer appears in their collection) and the Hayfield Bonanza ‘Raspberry Ripple’ in feather and fan stitch. 

 

 

 

We also went to the wonderful Pannier Market in South Molton and picked up some Stylecraft Cosy Delight Chunky ‘Blue Mist’ which went on to produce another feather-and-fan-stitch scarf (which I appear to have forgotten to photograph before giving it to my lovely Mother-in-Law!)

Other scarves over the winter have included:

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Irish Moss Stitch ‘Pride’ scarf using Hayfield Bonus Chunky

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Dark Grey scarf in basket-weave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Finishing the Hayfield Bonanza ‘Raspberry Ripple’ with a candle-flame pattern

There was also another Sirdar Wild scarf in a deep purple, for the friend who bought me the wool for the Pride scarf as a Christmas present… what goes round comes round!

I still regard myself as a beginner (you note, no clothing yet) and as I’ve started to use Pinterest more to expand my repertoire of stitch patterns, I’ve come across the concept of ‘blocking’ – not something I’ve ever met before. I don’t remember either my knitting grandmothers or my Mum ever pinning out damp knitting! But many crafty social media friends have advised that this is a thing to do, to give it a smoother more even finish, so I guess I need to locate the appropriate pins, and get soggy with the candle-flame scarf, and one of the early mohair/wool mix scarves, neither of which have yet to find homes!

Next up? Some mending, and a first proper foray into crochet.

Update: Hopefully below is the ‘Blue Mist’ feather and fan stitch scarf I knitted for my Mother-in-law – though obviously the photo below is not of her!

Big Garden Birdwatch 2020

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Greenfinch catching the sunlight – yes, there was some!

This morning I took the annual hour out to count the garden birds for the Big Garden Birdwatch.

Now obviously I watch the garden birds more often than once year, possibly a little too much, especially when I have other things I ought to be doing! But doing it for citizen science can bring surprises, as it did with last year’s Redpolls.

Sadly however, there wasn’t so much to excitement me this year – though it was good to get our local Dunnocks on the list. As yet there are no Redpolls, nor the Siskin, but the latter don’t usually materialise until late February, for reasons I don’t know.

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A split second of peace between squabbling Greenfinch and Goldfinch – probably because they’ve both got their mouths full! 

Anyway, this years list is as follows with some notes – as always the numbers are the maximum number of birds viewed at any one time within the hour:
Goldfinches 13 (quarrelsome bunch)
Greenfinches 3 (don’t always win their battles with the Goldfinches despite their relative bulk!)
Dunnock 2 (I think there’s a romance going on, they follow each other faithfully)
Blue Tit 2 (I really wish they’d use the lovely birch bird-box on their regular flight-path at the corner of the house.)
Wood Pigeon 2 (who spent most the hour at either end of the fence, like bookends.)
Feral Pigeon 4 (about a third of the actual number, which continually rises.)
Robin 1 (as territorial as always, and particularly fond of seeing off the Dunnocks.)

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A very poor photo of the resident love-birds – sorry Dunnocks. They are also one of the best songsters in the garden which might be why our Robin doesn’t like the competition!

Blackbird 1 (briefly, high in his vantage point in the apple tree)
Chaffinch 1 (briefly identifiable among the Goldfinches but didn’t fight for space to feed, which is sad when they used to be far the most numerous finch in the garden.)
Starling 2 (numbers are down locally, they used to be almost a nuisance on the fat balls.)

The best bit of bird-watching in the day came immediately after I stopped watching the feeders – as I washed up yesterday’s dishes I watched the corvids mobbing a Sparrowhawk over the houses opposite! Typical.

Falling back into craftiness!

What is it that brings you alive, or helps you to a point of healing?

For me, over the last 6 months, it has been… knitting.

In the last two years since I concluded my curacy, it has been wonderful not to be writing essays, reflections or other proofs of my theological understanding and knowledge! In the years since I started Reader Training in 2006, I’ve spent 11 of them doing some sort of training that required essays – and I hate essays. It left me somehow injured, unable to settle to a healthier approach to life. To put no fine a point on it, the academic toll of training sucked the life out of me.

With brief and sporadic exceptions in holidays, I had little opportunity to do the various crafts that I’d previously enjoyed trying at various points in the previous 30+ years of my life; knitting, tapestry, cross-stitch, silk painting, stone and leather painting. Yes, I’ve gardened when I could and I’ve made the most of encounters with wildlife, but inside the house my hands had been focused on the keypad of the computer.

In August 2019 – a couple of days after my last wildlife blog post – at the beginning of a holiday in Wyoming USA, we visited Jackson and needing to find something to reduce the anxiety I’d encountered flying long-haul from the UK in time for the return flight, and a delightful little yarn shop called Knit on Pearl. Having checked with the airline first, I bought 1 set of wooden, circular knitting needles and some yarn. Not any old yard – it wasn’t that sort of shop – but some lovely autumnal coloured Rios merino wool yarn by Malabrigo. I could knit my way back to the UK. I spotted a few lovely shawl kits too, made with several different yarns, but out of my price range – their importance came later.

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When the yarn matches the bruises!

Buying yarn and needles was a prophetic move, which found me knitting far sooner than expected. That afternoon on Mount Rendezvous, one of the Teton Mountains, I slipped whilst photographing a grasshopper (yes really), something went ‘pop’ in my left shin, and to cut a very long story short, I spent the rest of the holiday (including around Yellowstone) in a wheelchair, on crutches…. or with my foot up, knitting! Thank you Lord.

 

I still saw some amazing wildlife though – but that’s for another post.

Whilst the yarn I bought matched the bruises nicely (as you can see), and though I wasn’t happy with what I created from my rusty knitting technique, it did re-engage the craftiness in my fingers. On my return home, I unpicked the initial attempt at a scarf. Then I found some Colinette mohair yarn I’d bought in their old factory shop by the WLR Station in Llanfair Caereignion about 15 years before. It went with the Rios yarn brilliantly, and I remembered the amazing multi-yarn shawl I’d seen in Knit on Pearl. So I came up with a random 225 stitch scarf creation of my own!

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Matching my new malabrigo yarn, to some old Colinette mohair bought many years ago!

 

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Deciding to convert from my grandmother’s stiff old circular needles to the new KnitPro one’s in interchangable lengths!

Knitting has moved on since my grandfather taught me squares before I was 10, and my grandmother knitted me numerous jumpers through my youth. I love the KnitPro laminated birchwood needles I’d discovered in the US, and that they’re available here too, and then discovered circular needles can now have interchangable lengths too!

 

I have to say that as the ruptured ligament has all too slowly healed in the months since, so my enthusiasm for craft, specifically knitting has increased. With busy hands, my ‘down time’ has been more creative, healing my soul of all those years of essays. I’ve made numerous scarfs, creating several Christmas presents in doing so, am learning knew stitches, and yesterday I attended my first crochet class!

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Merino/Mohair scarf – the first step to healing my craftiness!

With this has come to life an idea for a community project (revealed 1st March) that might yet form part of my parochial ministry – truly creative healing!!

 

But the detail of all that is for the future, because it might just be it’s brought my blogging back to life too!!!

And writing this blog post has meant I’ve tracked back to that first yarn, found the name of it in my photos, and found it’s available in the UK! Tonight, I’m a happy crafter.

August Hedgehog update

Since early July we’ve been monitoring the hedgehogs using the garden more regularly, and discovered that at best we now have 3 hedgehogs in the garden – which could be a mother and a couple of babies. Typically the only night we had a photo of three, we’d knocked the settings on the trail-cam and there were no videos triggered! (Grrrr…)

A conversation with a new neighbour (next-door but one changed hands around Easter) produced the news that she has a family of three under the wooden playhouse in the garden. Apparently they steal the food left for her two cats… which might be why the cats were stealing the hedgehog food in our garden when we weren’t using the feeding box as a way of monitoring how many hedgehogs we actually had!

It also explains why our hedgehog houses never got used over the winter – they were hidden under the playhouse two-doors up!

For those who don’t see what we post on the ‘book of face’ and want to see more, I’ve included a couple of photos, and there’s a video here for you to enjoy.

If you look really carefully, there’s a small hog top right of ‘Mum’ and another further away top left of here, near the herbaceous border!
‘Mum’ and one hoglet