Monday, August 26, 2013

Digging In The Garden, Digging Like A Mole ...

Digging in the garden,
Digging like a mole.
Murder on the manicure,
But heaven for the soul.

Last weekend we never made it to Shoestring Cottage.  On Friday night Mr Shoestring thought the traffic was too heavy and we should wait until Saturday morning.  On Saturday morning he thought the weather might be starting to worsen, which indeed it did, and he suggested that perhaps we should forego our usual weekend away.  Lo and behold, English Premier League Football season commenced that night and he was able to stay in the comfort of his apartment and watch it, which he wouldn't have been able to do at Shoestring Cottage where telecommunications are somewhat less advanced.  The clever thing, I have to admire him for his ingenuity.  And on Sunday as a special treat he turned me loose at the Takapuna Flea Markets (where you find an altogether superior selection of tat).  I found these plates to add to my mismatched china collection and I think soon I will have an entire "set" and will be able to invite some very important personages for dinner.

A bit of a fruity theme emerging possibly?

We definitely made up for it this weekend because we spent the whole of Saturday toiling in the garden.  I don't know about Mr Shoestring's manicure, but mine was well and truly destroyed, though it really was heaven for the soul.  (Mine anyway, not sure whether Mr Shoestring enjoyed it quite so much but he was very gracious and never uttered one complaint.)

While weeding and tidying things up ready for the long awaited spring growth surge I was pleased to see that a lot of nigella (or Love In A Mist, a much more romantic sounding name don't you think?) seedlings had come up after I planted one punnet of them last year.  They are so prolific that one was even growing through a small hole in the concrete edging around the garden, you have to admire seeds for their tenacity, the way they will opportunistically pop up anywhere the conditions are favourable is marvelous.  Of course, a lot of them were also growing through the lawn which is a bit of a dilemma because then there is the problem of whether to try to laboriously transplant them or whether to destroy them with the mower after they have made such an effort.  Tricky, very tricky.

After all the complaints I have made about oxalis I surprised myself by succumbing to the charms of this little beauty (yes, it really is an oxalis) with shimmering red/purple leaves and an eye wateringly bright fuchsia pink coloured flower.  I have grown it before and far from being an invasive pest like most oxalis, it is very well behaved and retiring.  In fact I usually lose it within a season or two so this time I shall try to remember where I have planted it and take good care not to smother it with other plants.  

And apart from that new ground cover there is an ever increasing variety of violets

Here are some of them, and a beautifully scented double white Parma violet also went in this weekend.  

Some of the hyacinths from last year haven't given up the ghost quite yet

Crocuses enjoying the early spring

On Sunday we deserved a break for our labours and enjoyed a leisurely coffee and lunch with Mr and Mrs Peaceable.  Between the four of us we were able to put the problems of the world to rights, including many issues which would have completely defeated lesser beings.  Good company and towering intellects, what a great combination that was.  Once again the weather had turned so we didn't even need to feel guilty for sitting inside with the fire roaring away, excellent timing to have done all that hard work in the garden on Saturday.  Mr Shoestring and I have gone back to swing dance lessons, so he had one day to recover before he had to put his dancing shoes on and limber up,for which he was very grateful.  

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Wet Weekend But Not Wasted

The weather forecast was straightforward; it was going to be a wet weekend.  I chose to ignore this and all week long happily planned a prolonged gardening session.  It turned out that the forecasters were right and I was wrong.  Not only was the weather dismal, I didn't obtain a single plant at the market and when we returned home I could look out the kitchen window and see the rain clouds rolling down the mountain.  It was going to be an indoor weekend after all. Luckily the excursion to the markets hadn't been a complete failure, I found an art deco looking handbag in the Red Cross shop for $3 and am already planning an evening outfit for next summer deco to show it off in all its metallic glory.

There was also a plate to add to the ever growing green glass collection.

There was nothing for it but to hunker down and make the most of the enforced indoor time.  After some time spent industriously quilting it occurred to me that the end was finally in sight as far as the floral tumbling blocks quilt was concerned, which is something of a miracle given the fact that I prefer to hand quilt and must be about the slowest quilter in the world.  

Instead of pressing on purposefully my mind wandered over all the possibilities for new projects.  The ladder was brought out and the uppermost reaches of the storage cupboards in the sewing room raided for treasure.  In theory I was searching for the green fabric needed for the diamonds and triangles in this quilt, so that I can finish it

but somehow I was distracted and thought how much more interesting it would be to start a quilt using these bird/egg themed fabrics which have been part of my stash for a long time and are crying out to be used

At least the green fabric was eventually located (right at the top of the cupboard, in a distant corner, why does that always happen?) but I brought all the others down just in case there would be some reason to use them sooner rather than later.  Once again the sewing room was disorderly and untidy. Sigh.

There was a utilitarian cardi languishing at Shoestring Cottage, comfortable but rather dreary with its brown plastic buttons.  I ripped them all off (cutting the cardigan in the process of course) and replaced them with old mother of pearl buttons, each one different, and made a silk rosette with a button trim so Brownie would feel more special.  I think she appreciates the attention paid to her and will repay me with lots of faithful service.

What a happy time I had scratching through the notions, beads and buttons.  The time flew past and as per usual the weekend was over in the twinkling of an eye.

As well as the quilting and scratching around with buttons and notions I did manage to do a bit on the "Second Hand Rose" crazy quilt, which I am enjoying very much.  So much so that I can't seem to find a moment to work on the (paler and less colourful) doyleys and damask crazy quilt.

It was time to pack up and head back to town, but at least I had managed to dash out in between showers and do some weeding.  It was hard to resist the urge to dig around the patches where I suspect the lily bulbs to be.  Just to check that they are still there you know, and haven't rotted during winter.  The jonquils planted in a pot last Autumn are flowering and it is shaping up to be a very early spring.  

It is almost time to start listening out for the return of the Shining Cuckoo with its distinctive call, which is always associated with the return of warm days and sunshine.  

I was horrified when I learned that the shining cuckoo enters the nest of the grey warbler, lays its egg there and then departs, often taking out in its beak an egg of the grey warbler at the same time.  The grey warbler nest is apparently a beautifully woven, pear shaped work of art with an opening near the top and a porch over the doorway.  If it is in a windy or exposed spot there might be little ropes attached to anchor the nest to nearby branches as well, what a work of art and how cruel that the grey warblers are duped into raising the comparatively enormous shining cuckoo chicks!  But even so it will be a happy day when we hear the first shining cuckoo of the season.  I have seen a shining cuckoo but never a grey warbler, only heard their beautiful calls which really do have a kind of warbling or trilling sound to them.  This season I will be looking out more closely for them.  

"Yes you, get out of my nest and leave my eggs alone you worthless wretch!  Go and make a nest of your own and put your eggs there."

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Spring is in the air

We didn't go to Shoestring Cottage last weekend because the Duke and Duchess of Ringloes came to visit us in Auckland.  It was strange to be in the city during the weekend, we visited the art gallery (excellent exhibition about California Design 1930 - 1965) and saw a film festival movie chosen by the Duke of Ringloes (Blancanieves, a silent Spanish black and white flamenco/bull fighting interpretation of Snow White, most excellent and see if you possibly can).  We walked around a hidden reserve in Parnell full of palms (we never knew of its existence), scoffed pastries at La Cigale market, went over to Waiheke Island on the ferry and imposed ourselves on some new friends we met at winter deco, and generally felt like tourists in our own town.  It was most refreshing and made us think that we should make more of an effort to get to know our own city.

All the same though, it was also good to be back at Shoestring Cottage this weekend.  The garden was looking rather forlorn and unloved after several weeks without attention and I resolved to get out there and rattle the weeds around for a few weekends soon (weather permitting), and press on with plans for the suppression of evil oxalis and that ghastly plant which masquerades as some kind of lily but is on a campaign for world domination, starting at my patch.  The spring seems to have arrived very early and the air is already quite warm and balmy, hinting of sunny days to come and happy times outside.

I sadly unpacked all the art deco clothes and put away the bounty from op shop hunting on the way to Napier winter deco and began planning new costumes for next year.  The possibilities are endless, I have a new cornflower blue cloche and some matching tweeds.  All I need now is a "new" fox fur (without a snapped off tail) and we will be on the way to an even better winter deco in 2014.

This doiley from a Putaruru thrift store was the icing on the cake after our visit to the wonderful hotel. I feel sure this bluebird will look superb in the doyleys and damask crazy quilt and it came with the added bonus of some bells which will liven up some corners in the patches

And there was also this piece with fabulous soft apple blossom coloured blossoms in variegated threads

This gorgeous intensely coloured "imari" china was given to me by my mum and one of my sisters and I spent a happy time unpacking it and wondering where it might go.  My mum was visiting and seemed to think the walls of the gypsy room might collapse if I tried to hang it there, but I feel that is the right place for it to go so there might be some editing necessary to make space.  (Mothers can be very cruel, she implied that we needed to build an extension onto Shoestring Cottage to accommodate all the things we have been taking there, but I know with a bit of a reshuffle we will be able to fit everything in.  I hope so, because it is very hard to decide what to part with when space is at a premium.)

Have a happy week, onwards and upwards!