Thursday 28 April 2016

The Colour Collaborative: April: Seedling

This post had me a little bit stumped if I'm honest... I mean, aren't all seedlings just green? With a little bit of white at the bottom? Perhaps some are a different hue. Little beetroot seedlings maybe. I'm not sure.

If the title was 'Seed' I'd have fared better. I could have waxed lyrical about humbug-striped sunflower seeds or pale, ethereal dandelion clocks. Or 'Bud'. I've taken a lot of photos lately of rhubarb-pink and coral buds on the very brink of bursting.

I suppose that for me I think about seedlings as promising little things: They've managed to germinate and, with the right care and conditions, they'll grow and flourish. It's all about imagination and having faith at this stage.

The dill will grow into tall, feathery plants with beautiful sulphur-yellow flowers. The calendulas will be a rich, bright orange and I'm hoping to make a salve from the petals.

Other seedlings on the go in our rickety little plastic 'greenhouse': Chillies (Jay has a thing about growing them), Angelica gigas (which will - fingers crossed - become imposing, bee-friendly plants with deep purple blooms and foliage), sweet peas and sunflowers in velvety rust colours. I've yet to plant some Ammi majus (Bishop's flower). They should produce frothy white flowers, not dissimilar to cow parley, in the dappled shade amongst my foxgloves.

So, seedlings. Little and green and nondescript now but they're the starting point for a whole riot of colour to come.

Don't forget to visit the other Colour Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts, just click on the links below.

What is The Colour Collaborative?

All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways.

Thursday 21 April 2016

Little things - and a dilemma

Firstly, thank you for all your messages of good luck both here and on Instagram: Joe was offered a place at our little village school early on Saturday morning. I hadn't even checked my emails when a friend got in touch to ask whether he'd got in or not. 

I was very relieved.

We've had a fairly quiet few days. Walking in the woods and picking nettles and wild garlic. Joe was really excited about it. He held the bag open, I collected the nettles in my pink rubber gloves.

Then we came home and made a big pan of soup (with the addition of more herbs and vegetables) and he ate it very enthusiastically. Apparently we've to go back again for more foraging. I may try making nettle bread, as kindly suggested by Christina.

Meet the new neighbours. We have, at the last count, five of these little lambs. They came nosing through the garden gate this evening before galloping off again at high speed. There will be a lot more of them yet. Watching them leap up in the air and career about is so entertaining, and their high-pitched bleating... sigh.

We're progressing with the garden and found a very healthy dicentra had suddenly sprung up along the path by the side of the house. So we moved it out to the back. I'm all for using what we've already got, and I do like cottage garden plants and wildflowers too.

We've had more snow, all mixed up with mild sunny days and dark cloudy ones. And now it's warm and bright and almost June-like. It's all a bit Forrest Gump. You never know what you're gonna get. Makes for an interesting (and challenging) Easter break/half term/whatever this fortnight is.

I've had yet another heavy cold. It seems to be one thing after another; I get well for a short while then something else comes along. And now Joe has it too - although he doesn't seem to be suffering. Yet. He did, however, take himself off to bed on Monday afternoon for a nap. That hasn't happened in almost a year.

I put my feet up and read a book, marvelling at my good fortune. Does that make me a Bad Mother? Or just an honest one?

I've been keeping things ticking over on the work front but realistically until Joe goes back to preschool next week I can't get a whole lot done. Monday morning I'll be collecting plants ready for printmaking.

We had a trip to the garden centre on Sunday. There were lots of beautiful plants to covet, like these velvety anemones and spidery orchids. But we were sensible and made just a few purchases: English bluebells and - finally - a Ribes (flowering currant). 

And now I'm off downstairs for a bit of relaxation and to further ponder the question: To go grey or to continue colouring? It's been bothering me a lot lately. I've been dyeing my hair for years. Being a dark brunette means all those little silver hairs are so very noticeable.

But colouring it (at home) is such a bind. I hate doing it. More importantly, I try to eat well and avoid harsh chemicals in cleaning products. I use natural beauty products, too - so why am I tipping a box of dye on my scalp every four weeks or so? To look 'young'? Am I scared of looking as though I've 'let myself go'?

The past week I've been reading about women who've let their hair grow out. Some of them look fantastic: not washed-out (or washed-up). I'm aware of the current trend for 'granny hair', where cool girls actually colour their locks in shades of grey or Mrs Slocombe-inspired pastels. I'm not making a fashion statement. Apparently it takes around a year to grow coloured hair out completely. It can be difficult and it can make you feel incredibly self-conscious. But I'm seriously considering it.

Google 'Sarah Harris' and you'll understand why I'm asking myself whether I should bin the dye and buy some good shampoo instead.

Maybe, just maybe, I'll do it.

Thursday 14 April 2016

Of green and growing things...

What a week it's been. The vintage and handmade market is over and done with (Hallelujah!) and I'm slowly recovering from the sheer effort of producing prints, making lists, packing boxes and lugging them up and down from the car.

Good Things about the experience:

Meeting a few people who follow my blog (including Sarah from 5 Ladybird Lane)
Spending time with my fellow makers and sellers
Being approached by a gallery in the Lakes who'd like to stock my prints (!!!)
Eating some delicious brownies and macarons.

Bad Things about the experience:

Falling over on Friday afternoon - yes, I was sober - and making a complete mess of my knee
Selling lots on the Saturday and taking very little on the Sunday, which meant overall making the most modest of profits
People taking sneaky photos of my work on their mobiles when they thought I wasn't looking (what's that all about?)
The lugging of boxes from the car and back. Many trips up and down a hill, across a footbridge and along an icy path.

So I've decided not to do that particular venue again. However, I will be here next month. It was recommended to me by a lovely couple selling handmade birds and little houses, so I'll see how it goes.

I've done two fairs now and both times have been situated alongside Chris. She's a florist and has a great eye for vintage vessels which she uses as planters. Old biscuit tins, flour bins, vases and pots - all planted up with bulbs and herbs and succulents and flowers. This time around she had fritillaries and ferns too. She always draws a crowd and it's not hard to see why.

I've had my eye on these wall hangings since the previous market. There are two of them. They're the sort of car boot sale find I dream about.

The picture above also shows some artwork I did recently for Jen, who writes the Little Birdie website and blog. We met when I stayed in the Yorkshire Dales with a group of bloggers and we really hit it off. She's starting a collaborative project called Gather. Harvest. Feast which celebrates local and seasonal produce, so I was happy to create the illustration for her logo.

In other news: Jay and I have volunteered to help clear up the school vegetable plot. No, it's not a cynical move to try and secure Joe a place there (I submitted my application for that months ago). 

He goes to playgroup there on a Monday afternoon and the mum who runs it told me the plot's been very neglected. So we stepped forward and are sharing the overhaul with another parent. It's only a hop, skip and jump from the house so we basically go along at the weekend or in the evening and do a bit then leave a note in the journal which resides in the polytunnel.

I made my first visit there yesterday. Joe was with his grandparents and I thought I'd have a look and assess things. Of course, I ended up weeding one of the beds (above). Plenty of caterpillars, grubs and tiny snails were removed along with a LOT of weeds. My hands were filthy by the end of it.

It's a shame the place has been let go, really. There are signs it was once loved and used.

The rocket's happy enough though, as is the parsley. But it does need a lot of attention. It'll be a good place to take Joe during the holidays as he'll be fenced in safely. Although when Jay took him there on Saturday he kept messing around with the water butt and turning the tap on.

It seems that flooding the bathroom a few months ago hasn't put him off.

The weather's still pretty changeable but we're getting some lovely sparkly mornings. Washing's being hung out and the first lamb has arrived. I'll take a photograph as soon as I get the chance.

The forecast's not looking great for tomorrow but I'm still taking Joe on an expedition. We're going collecting wild garlic from the woods and some nettle tops for soup. I need to up my iron intake. Looking through the pictures of the school veg plot I noticed a clump of them growing in a raised bed. So I'll harvest those (providing I remember to take gloves this time).

Everything seems to be about plants, flowers and gardening at the moment. Which is how it should be, I suppose, at this time of year. The outdoors keeps calling.

Jay gets up at 6am for work each day and often goes out into the garden with the camera before leaving, so this last photo is one of his. Shame I can't add the cockerel crowing but trust me, sometimes I could tape its beak up. It wakes Joe who in turn wakes me. A lie-in would be a wonderful thing.

 Have a great weekend... Hope you spend some (or most) of it outdoors.

Wednesday 6 April 2016


Crazy weather. Rain, sleet, sunshine, gusty winds.

It's a season of changeability and contrasts; one minute you're out digging in the garden and the next you're curled up indoors again with the lamps on.

I've been feeling a bit changeable of late too. Nothing deep or profound; just little things I'm noticing. Quite trivial really. Like suddenly liking (craving, even) foods I always steered clear of in the past. Goat's cheese. Parsley. The former has really surprised me. I'm not a fussy eater but I really disliked the flavour of it for years. The latter - ditto. And now I'm treating it as a salad leaf in its own right.

Like I said, trivial.

I'm also getting very much into the printmaking side of my artwork. I still love making detailed drawings and watercolours but right now it's all about ink and rollers and pressed leaves.

My standard uniform of jeans has evolved a little too. I've always liked the odd dress or skirt but I bought some trousers - not smart, formal ones but a khaki pair and I like them a lot. Despite them being a bit big. Or maybe because they are. Next stop: elasticated waistbands? No, not really - although there are few things better than woolly tights or leggings if you're lounging around of an evening.

Anyway... the garden is slowly starting to take shape. Jay's worked especially hard on clearing and wall-building (there are a lot of stones and it made sense to re-use them). Joe follows closely behind at all times. He basically wants to be his dad. It's heartbreakingly cute to watch.

I took a woodland walk last week, alone and on the lookout for things to bring home and press. There isn't too much about just yet for that. Slim pickings.

But along the waysides and in the woods, there's a lot going on. The wild garlic has arrived. The bluebells will be next. Birds are singing and nesting and flitting about.

Joe and I regularly go out for a walk - sometimes just out of the garden gate and through the fields. Sometimes into the village and around the churchyard. He likes to sit on a bench like a little old man and comment on the clouds and the headstones.

We find out in a few weeks whether he's got a place at the village school. He should; we live probably a hundred yards from it. He wouldn't even need to cross the road. And I didn't put a second or third choice on the form - not out of complacency, but because he only turns four on the 29th August and will be so little when he starts. The next closest school is pretty big and he wouldn't know anyone who goes.

So if it's a 'no' then we'll end up having to appeal. Let's hope it doesn't come to that. 25 places, 12 applications from siblings of current pupils (yes, I've pestered the head teacher in my panic). She was reassuringly, well, reassuring.

We're still well-stocked with Easter eggs and various chocolate animal parts. There are more to come this weekend. Not that I'll be around for most of it. 

I enjoy the meeting other sellers bit of craft markets but the run-up and 6am starts and driving and loading/unloading is pretty tough. I do it alone as Jay has to stay home with Joe. So please don't think me a miserable sod for looking forward to next week when it's all over.

I've been printmaking today while Joe's at preschool. I'm going to frame some of the ones I'm happy with, then do an inventory of all the stock. And that'll be it for actually making stuff. Between now and Saturday it's all about making lists, packing boxes, checking emails, sorting out a float and painting the pegboard I bought for my display. 

Our incredibly late Easter holidays start on Monday. Two weeks of Joe and me, no craft fairs to worry about for a while... I'm really hoping for some dry weather.

And that'll be a great excuse to escape into Pinterest and look up outdoor play ideas. I already have a miniature treasure hunt planned using matchboxes. He'll love that. And so will I.

See you on the other side!

P.S. I'll be here if you're anywhere nearby...

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