Thursday, 21 December 2017

Echeveria Elegans

This plant has really performed for me over the years.  Since first acquiring it several years ago, and bringing it down with me to Somerset, I just keep on propagating it.  I used it as bedding on newly turned soil, both in the front garden and  in the back garden.


It is  Winter solstice and this picture of the summer planting on the front garden is rather pretty.

What I cannot have imagined is that the ones which had grown rather too large, and which I left in the garden, are still fine.  We had had several days of freezing weather on the trot, what seems like the wettest of winters, with days of mist and mizzle, and still them are going on well.

The fuchsias have been nipped by frosts but I am leaving these as the top cover will give them protection until they start to sprout in the spring, when they will be pruned back.

Crassula Buddha's Temple

This is the slightly etiolated Crassula Buddha's Temple...with half over spilling its container.  I can just get half in the picture.  This is one of my favourite succulents, and I have written about it several times: earlier this year, when it was in flower back in May 2014, and when I had had it for about three years in February 2014.

In Wells Market from time to time, and for several days this week, at the Christmas Market, there is a stall selling rather tasteful containers of succulents.  I often stop for a chat if there are not buyers which of course should have priority, and had mentioned this plant to him.  Today I took three offsets, one of which had already started to grow tiny roots into the grit, to give to this fellow succulent enthusiast.  He had not heard or even seen this form.  With so many possibilities for cuttings it is a pleasure to share this rather rare form around.  Once Christmas is over, I think I shall start some in pots in a well draining gritty compound.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Shawl for Christmas

I've had the ball of rich red silk laceweight yarn in my Stash for ages.  Each time I have come across the ball, carefully wound by hand from a hank of silk which I got over ten years ago from Posh Yarn, I think of my friend Judith.  She was a huge inspiration to me and got me back into knitting.  Judith and I joined the lace shawl club and received frequent special hand dyed yarns, and have knitted most of them up over the last few years.

I had been waiting for a pattern to do the red silk  justice, and finding that my new Christmas top needed something bright, started on the Elowen Shawl.  The pattern is by Anniken Allis and is in The Knitter No 113.

Although this photograph shows its true colour taken in the conservatory, with the dismal light, knitting indoors with our 'super energy efficient' bulbs, it was more of a strain.  I overcame some of the problems by making up charts with repeats highlighted and columns to tick off each of the rows, as they were knitted up.  Usually I work from charts which I either sketch up in my knitting journal, or blow up from the copies in the pattern.

Have I ever mentioned life lines?  Probably not on this blog...but  I always suggest that they be used.  Did I use them...not at first, till I had a problem with a dropped took me three days worth of knitting to unknit back about 20 rows, and another two days to get back to where I had spotted the dropped stitch.

I needed to use a super smooth thread as I did not want any fibres leaving their tell tale marks on the silk.  Out came the fine but very strong knitted thread given to me several years ago by another knitting friend Diane from Kenilworth.  As well as being an excellent hand knitter, Diane was also a virtuoso of the knitting machine.  I called her a couple of weeks ago, to find out if I could get some more of this thread which knitting machinist use.

From then on, every few lines, in went a life line....

As I was knitting on a circular needle, it was very easy to thread through the yarn, by slipping all the stitches onto the nylon cord between the two needle tips.

When you start with just a few stitches, and increase by six stitches every two rows, each row grows longer and longer, and soon, faced with 417 stitches on the needle, a row is probably all I have time to knit through in a sitting.  Some knitters can sit for much longer...

The other dilemma is will there be enough yarn to finish all the shawl.  If I had the yardage when I first received the yarn, it is lost!!!!  Of course this is not the yarn suggested for the shawl, so I spent at least a couple of my even more sleepless nights pondering and worrying.  Even when I restricted the final pattern repeats to only two, and had started on the very open edging, I still had visions of having enough yarn for only two thirds of the edging.  Had I been using the yarn suggested, and had only recently bought it, and was running out, I would of course have the comfort of being able to buy a second ball.

After another worrying episode, I decided just to undo the part of the edging I had knitted, and finished off the shawl with a couple of rows including an eyelet edge and the Russian cast off.

A shawl is not complete till it is washed and blocked!!!!

My new Knit Pro blockers were really useful...and out came my two Pilates mats specially donated by teacher for blocking...Jane is a knitter too!  It is on the floor as I write this, with the dehumidifier going.

I had been following Anniken's tutorials working through different shawl shaping techniques, and had worked through all the little mini shawls...but just had not blocked, so did not feel that I could enter for her prize, but my prize is my finished shawl.  It is a truncated version of Elowen, and I have a very little ball left.....but I am pleased..I spotted the row of hearts...roughly outlined with paintshop!

Lessons learnt:  Be can work out adaptions.  Always use life lines for lace.  So many nice memories of friends.  Make more memories with new friends.....knit for friends in 2018.  Learn new techniques, use up Stash.

Monday, 11 December 2017

In a Vase on Monday - Codswallop

I can just hear my mother say: that's a load of codswallop.  I would laugh and say well it is in a Coddswallop bottle.  Cathy who hosts IAVOM, by complete coincidence as staged her offering this week in an old bottle, and she has had snow, and snowdrops, so do go there and see she and other contributers have come up with.

The colour of the stem is almost the same as the acqua blue of this vintage bottle which still has its marble.  I love old bottles and recently on our visit to Bath, spent the best part of the day at The Museum of Bath at Work, where they have a complete bottling plant, with all the old bottles.  This is one of my top five museums.

A couple of my other vintage bottles are standing in with Festive bits and pieces...

My mother's idea of in a Vase on Monday would be brimming with flowers, but at present most have been beaten down by the heavy rain.  Unlike friends in the Midlands, we have had no snow settle, only a few flurries of sleet to cool the ambient temperature in the conservatory to the very low 5 to 10 C.

My echeveria 'Curly Locks' which was bought at the Wells Plants festival earlier this year, decided to throw up a flower spike.  It grew rather tall, most probably because of the poor light levels.  Since the plant had to be brought inside, and the flower size was starting to be rather top heavy, it made the ideal material for this weeks In a Vase on Monday.

Mistletoe grows in abundance in the area around Glastonbury, and at the great wreath making shindig at Wells WI last week, someone had brought in some vast bunches.

Together with some variegated ivy, aka: love stones, some Rosemary for remembrance, some bay, from the garden and old man's beard which another member had brought , I give you my loose Christmas Wreath, hung against the stone wall by the front door.

All the wreath bases had been made up by a Member's husband from willow and other shrubs from their garden...I can just imagine there was a great pruning spree as there were about 70 wreaths.  I think they have a 'willow' orchard....well we are very close to the Somerset Levels which are renowned for their Willow products.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Cranberry and Nut sourdough Loaf

This is one the December 2017 baking challenges from Jane Mason's Book: Perfecting Sourdough.

I doubled up on the bulk fermentation ingredients, then make half with dried cranberries and pecan nuts, and the second one with hazelnuts and raisins.  For the flours I used a mix of half and half white strong wheat, and creamy spelt.

As always the nuts were first baked a little in the oven till smelling and light golden, then with the fruit they were soaked in some of the liquid overnight, whilst the sourdough from the fridge had its overnight refresh.

These loaves took a very long time to rise, most probably because it was so cool.  They are meant to rise in proving baskets, but I felt more confident using tins for this dough.

They were shaped up and put into tins around 15:30 on Saturday, and by 18:00 still were not ready, so they went into the very cool conservatory for an overnight 'refrigerated' rise...but at 6:00 am they still were not high enough in the tin.  Having been brought them back into the kitchen then, and having been given a boost by sitting on top of the cooling toaster from breakfast, they finally went into the oven at about 11:00 am.

The Cranberry and Pecan Nut loaf is now in the freezer, and will come out for Christmas morning breakfast...but I could not resist cutting into the hazelnut and raisin loaf:

The flavour is topnotch, with hazelnuts warm and mellow, and the raisins soft and tangy in contrast..spread with a little butter and thick honey, then have made a tasty snack with Sunday afternoon tea.