Monday, May 12, 2014

Be Prepared - The Emergency Supplies Kit

On Sunday we were sitting on the spacious and capacious deck at The Peaceable Kingdom, soaking up some very unseasonable and welcome sunshine with Mr and Mrs Peaceable.  It was Mother’s Day so Mrs Peaceable and I had pride of place in the most comfortable loungers and we were engaged in one of our favourite activities – talking about what we had heard on National Radio (or The Programme, AKA The Font Of All Knowledge) recently.  This can be a bit of a tricky occasion because while good manners demand that you hear out the other speakers and let them have a turn, if you don’t immediately blurt out what is on your mind you are inclined to have forgotten it as the topics whirl past and the moment is lost.  So we were all trying our hardest to be civilized, but I have to confess I didn’t always succeed and was likely to interrupt more than was necessary. 

We could see out over the area where Mrs Peaceable’s chickens are housed in their new luxurious accommodations – all except for the serial escaper, who sprang up into the raised vegetable gardens and had a good fossick through the rhubarb.  She must have the most enormously muscular thighs, because she leaps up like a pole vaulter (but without the need for a pole) with not the smallest bit of difficulty.  Beyond them could be spied one of Rosie the rabbit’s descendants.  Rosie was “no better than she should be” and had a taste for “a bit of rough” in the form of Mr West, the piratical looking wild rabbit with the ripped ear, which resulted in an unusual strain of rabbits all over the farm, some white and some speckled and all in all a very interesting combination of shades and colours.  (Mr Peaceable assured me that there exists one rabbit which is snowy white but with black ears and a black mask, a la Zorro, but he could be just tricking me because he is a good spinner of yarns and I am somewhat gullible.)  In the distance the very healthy pig was rootling around and also enjoying the sun along with the rest of us and the whole occasion had the feeling of the end of the warm weather, with a slightly melancholy feel but in the nicest possible way. 

I began to turn over in my mind the sad fact that it was almost time for the weekend to end and for us to begin the trip back to the city.  Sometimes this time is a bit difficult because I need to get together some stitching supplies for in the car.  It is great to be able to tack some fabric hexies over their papers on the way home and if there is a bit of a delay in the traffic you can achieve a surprising amount.  (I once overheard a woman in an embroidery store telling the shopkeeper that she achieved a lot of stitching at traffic lights, but I don’t go to this extreme, only stitching while a passenger.  Imagine how many sets of lights you might miss and how many people you could upset if you adopted the habit of stitching at lights!)  If I am getting ready for a car journey it often transpires that my favourite needle has gone missing, or I don’t have enough hexies, or my cotton is the wrong shade, or the scissors have somehow vanished.  Mr Shoestring begins to compress his lips, rattle his keys in his pocket, coming up behind me and breathing down my neck and generally being just a little bit diffy.  He begins to resemble a sheep dog rounding up a recalcitrant flock, but luckily he so far hasn't resorted to nipping at my heels.  I have some pretty little bags including some given to me by friends which are ideal for taking in my handbag so I can stitch at lunch break or on the bus, which I would never part with. 

In a lightning flash of inspiration I realised the thing I needed was a dedicated car stitching kit so Mr Shoestring would have no cause to compress his lips and sigh.  And here it is, an emergency kit (be prepared) so that whenever there is a car journey in the offing I am ready to go at a moment’s notice, with no delays.  My favourite scissors, varied useful shades of cotton, a thimble, a selection of hexies of the correct dimensions and the fabric to cover them are all there at my finger tips, ready for action.  

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Magpie

As we came home from the markets this weekend I spied the truck which is often parked outside a local business where old joinery, fixtures and fittings are sold and once again thought how fitting it would be for me to have this number plate.

The weather has been heavenly, hinting at autumn but not delivering cold blasts or any frosts.  We spied fields full of blossoming dandelions which I suspect aren't good for pasture production but make a beautiful show for passersby as the sun catches the floss.  

As we drove home I have to admit I was smirking a bit to myself, admiring the beautiful collection of clouds over the mountain (I think it is correctly called a congregation of clouds)

and thinking of all the treasure I had garnered at the market.  For one thing there was the most beautiful tailored jacket
with magnificent detailing at the sides, beautiful shaping and the most gorgeous construction

not to mention the lining which had been hand stitched into place at the arm holes

with its original label (must be investigated further), obviously cared for carefully by somebody over decades of its lifetime. 

Then there were all the plants safely stashed in the boot, including the Takanini camelia with the most intensely but subtly shaded red/brown blossom.  I had seen this for sale last year at the markets but missed my chance and never could remember the name, and lo and behold, here it was again at last. The strangely ruffled and folded peony form of the flowers and the beautiful mysterious colour of the flowers was something extra special.  

There was a big pot of hoop petticoat daffodils and a replacement for the candy pink oxalis from last year which had turned up its toes and refused to thrive, plus a curly leafed ligularia (intriguingly named Martian visitor) and some box plants.  

Also I had found a treasure of a silk jacket, perfect for cutting up for crazy quilting - orange and green silk with mysterious toggles and strange embroidered script on the front.  All for the sum of $2.00!

Though it is officially autumn we have the brugmansias still in blossom along with 

the mysterious fungi growing in the tree at the front (we suspect they are edible fungi, but daren't sample them for fear of meeting a painful and hideous demise)

The season has been very strange one with the camellias and other autumn flowering plants vying with the roses and gladioli, which refuse to yield the stage. 

The most fun purchases this week though were these kitsch ballerina pictures, eternally performing for us the Swan Lake.  Bless them!  

Sunday, May 4, 2014

One Crewel Mama

My dear mama has always been a stitching and gardening inspiration to me, in fact an inspiration in all kinds of ways, and lately I have been much impressed with the crewel curtains she recently finished for her dining room.  To be truthful they weren't created specifically for her dining room, they just ended up there because they fitted the size of the windows.  They are magnificent and part of their charm (to me) lies in the fact that they are so out of scale and naive in their composition.  Each curtain has a central "tree of life" design, and attached to the tree are many and varied creatures, flowers and foliage to suit the imagination  of the stitcher, including butterflies, various insects, unicorns and many birds.

Something about the crewel embroideries struck a chord in my memory and after much fossicking about in the upper most shelves of my (extensive) stitching library this weekend I retrieved the first embroidery book I ever purchased and found this illustration 


I was given a "book token" for what must have ten my seventh or eighth birthday and bought this book, which must have set me on my wicked stitching path.  I remember sewing a cross stitch sampler on grey cloth (similar to aida), which had reindeer and odd Scandinavian looking ladies and men on it as well.  I wish I had kept that sampler, even if only to remind me that I have made some progress on my stitching journey.  

The other thing which has preoccupied me this weekend has been the struggle in the garden.  Having knocked back the Jerusalem artichokes last weekend and cleared some space, it was time to fill in the space with "good doers".  I was mightily impressed last season by the verdant parsley and convinced I would never need to buy another seedling, such was the bounteous growth.  Much the same with last winter's pansies.  Having waited patiently for the seedlings to appear it was eventually time to admit defeat and buy replacement seedlings.  No sooner did I take out my trowel and commence planting than I saw the parsley growing all through the lawn

and likewise with the pansies, though they at least had the decency to sprout in the actual garden beds rather than in the grass.

This acanthus was planted as a tiny struggling plant, and I was very much impressed with its glossy foliage and thought it might have been wiser to plant it at the back of the border, rather than giving it prime position.  I cut back its older leaves and was surprised to find that the new ones were making rampant growth in autumn.  

But then I was alarmed to find tiny acanthus leaves emerging through the brick paths and wondered whether they spread through an underground network of roots - but how had they travelled so far?  It was only then that I remembered how charmed we all were one day in late summer when we heard loud explosive cracking noises and realised that the seed heads of the acanthus were bursting open - obviously the seeds were propelled far and wide, probably germinating in the lawn as well but being beheaded by the mower and only surviving in safer areas.  It looks as though yet another thug has found its way into the garden at Shoestring Cottage and perhaps it might be best to make a circular Colisseum garden with all the gladiators left to fight it out.  We could have the Jerusalem artichokes, the acanthus, the plume poppies and those strange lilies with the network of white veins over their leaves all in one area until there was one victor.