Sunday, 18 October 2015

Birds, bees, butterflies and other creatures.

Despite the wet summer there have been very many bumble bees in my garden this year of all sizes and colours. As I have large areas of brambles and rough grass there is always plenty of nesting areas for them. Unfortunately it has been a very poor year for the honey bees which is worrying and a disastrous summer for the butterflies. We have had 3 weeks of very fine autumn weather but even then there were only a few butterflies- small tortoiseshell, red admirals, peacocks, white and green veined whites and quite a few wall and meadow browns. The only butterflies to do well this year again are the speckled wood which have only recently appeared on the Isle of Man.
As I have such a huge variety of wild plants and herbs I always have great numbers of other flying creatures and spiders, too many to know what they all are and also there are quite a few small frogs hopping about the place.
I attended a wonderful event last nice held by Mother T's Community Cafe in Laxey. Great company, music, food , friends old and new and all very local. Wonderful! We need more events like this.
I had some of my small dragonfly hangings there for sale as well as a lot of other work of mine.
The photo on the left is an area of my garden that self seeds now with brassicas, broad beans, poppies, cornflowers, ribwort plantain and many other edibles and wild plants. It certainly is easier than sowing them. There are also goldenrod plants that I use as dyes and Euphorbia mellifera plants that are now enormous. The latter have very boring loooking flowering parts in early spring but they have a wonderful smell of honey which makes me want to run in and butter a piece of bread to go with some of our locally produced honey. By the way, the honey is now spun from our area only and since then my asthma has improved dramatically. the Euphorbia is a great attractant for insects in the spring, a welcome early feed.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Faroes sheep and wool conference

I have just returned from the wonderful North Atlantic Sheep and Wool Conference in the Faroe Islands.
It was great to renew friendships from last year and make new ones. We learned a great deal about the difficulties of wool producing in the Faroes, as always, the problem is obtaining a fair price for the fleeces. We visited sheep and wool producers and got a chance to purchase some of their products. The scenery was outstanding and we were given a very warm welcome from the Islanders.
We were very lucky in having warm, sunny weather so we didn't miss any of the spectacular views, the quality of both the air and the light were wonderful. Pictured on the right is Johanna who along with Karin originally set up the conferences and work hard to keep interest in sheep and their products, on which many Islanders depend, very much alive.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Colourful meal made with my vegetables.

I am starting to harvest large amounts of food from my forest garden. This is what I had for lunch today.
Stir fried combination of all the following- Black Russian tomato, yellow courgettes and basil from the greenhouse; mushroom which grew in the mushroom compost I use in the fishboxes where I grow my tomatoes; shallots which I planted last autumn, sorrel and Greek cress from the garden and shop bought peppers and ginger. It then had cold pressed Palestinian olive oil drizzled over it along with the spicy thyme dried mix which came free with the olive oil.
It was a feast.
For dessert I had home grown raspberries, redcurrants and blackcurrants with shop bought ginger ice cream.
I have had a huge crop of salmonberries this year ( Rubus spectabilis) and have frozen loads to have with my yoghurt for breakfasts. I am having a problem with the salmonberries as they are starting to take over large areas of the garden. they form large clumps and the birds spread the seeds all over. Some drastic action is needed with my favourite gardening tool, the mattock.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Dyeing with flowers

I am growing many flowers and shrubs this year especially for use as dye plants. I put mixed fibres and threads in a flask, add the appropriate modant, put the flowers in the flask and then add hot water. this is left to stand for a couple of days, shaking the flask several times.
The photo on the left shows my first experiment which was with wallflowers using alum and cream of tartar as a mordant.
The wallflowers came from several different plants, some with yellow flowers and others with bitter orange coloured flowers, all put in the same flask. The silk threads and cocoon strippings had a preferential uptake of the orange coloured flowers and this produced coral pink shades. The other fibre is ramie (Boehmeria nivea), a flowering plant in the nettle family to be found in Eastern Asia. It has a long history of usage and was even used for wrapping mummies in Egypt. The ramie fibre I used was very lustrous. Wool turns a soft banana yellow when dyed with wallflowers.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

romance of gardens

I have a joint exhibition coming up next month with the wonderful mixed media/textile artist Maureen Kennaugh. The title of the exhibition is The Romance of Gardens. We are exploring gardens in history, poetry and especially gardens that we have seen in our extensive travels. I have concentrated on my first love which is hand stitching using a great variety of  threads dyed by myself using natural and procion dyes. There is also some mixed media work on brown paper coloured with acrylic ink, bonded to painted nappy liner and then distressed. Hand stitched goldwork motifs have been added to this based on 1960's floral wallpaper patterns. I have also procion dyed lint bandages which took the colour very well and on this I have hand stitched small images reminiscent of Japanese gardens. I take a lot of photos during my travels and these have been the inspiration for a lot of the hand stitching, the trips included visits to Kew gardens and the Floriade in Venlo the Netherlands in 2012. I have also included new plant dyed felted works.
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