Tag Archives: Garden

Zen and the art of nest building


Another Thursday, another month and while everything seems “normal” on the surface, underneath is shifting and slipping and bubbling like a house built over a sink hole…or a Baked Alaska pudding…no Chicken Kiev! My attachment to “home” and the difficulty in uprooting me, even for a day out, has been a bit of a joke over the years; so it’s hard to express the almost physical effect the threat of eviction has had on me this past month. However, the garden won last week and I couldn’t leave it alone, for so long the meditation of working in the garden… totally absorbed to the point of almost forgetting real life has been the way I’ve coped with bad times. Ok, mostly I retreat under the blankets with Jack Daniels but once outside I soon become lost and “carried away” as Sara and Jake used to say. The temporary nature of everything I do now does not fit comfortably with my bear like urge to build my winter den and feel as safe as this world will allow…and so the coal shed is empty, the logs have not been delivered yet and is there any point in turning the compost?


Such negativity! If you are still reading I promise the next bits are more uplifting…


Over the past week the Morning Glory in the Freecycle greenhouse has been glorying like mad , heavenly blue and as short lived as a May Fly… if only I was more Zen in my outlook I’m sure there’d be a lesson there! Good things have been happening though. The Saltbox Gallery where I work a couple of days a week took an order for some of my Natural Partners cards and so it was nice to put them on display and overhear the occasional comment about the lovely polar bear! The gallery also took some of my good friend Susie’s needle felted creatures which makes me happy as I love to feel that I’ve helped promote another struggling artist. If I was suddenly rich ….


There have been a couple of much needed trips to the Lake District, partly on a potential house hunting expedition and partly because being made to walk up hills like a reluctant pack pony (admittedly I don’t carry the pack!) seems to be as spirit lifting as gardening. Re-visiting Castle Crag I nearly pushed Rupert over when I spotted a little red squirrel person busily collecting things under the Scots Pines. There were deer too, and autumn colours and that wonderful smell of Autumn woodland and earth still warm from summer. Somehow the North York Moors feels hostile and barren in comparison ( or is it that just a reaction to my situation?) with the only wildlife apart from sheep being there only so it can be shot.


Now I am setting myself the task of drawing something everyday and e-mailing it to Sara who is now in her final year of Illustration at UWE in Bristol. She is meant to do the same so we’ll see if we can keep it up, unlike our various attempts at giving up crisps or taking regular exercise…. I’d like to be able to draw landscape, and clouds but it doesn’t work so I think I’ll leave the clouds to Daddy.


Last night I started a new book having finished Rogue Herries in an all night session. I enjoyed it…maybe the story more than the style and I can see a bit of myself in all the characters. Now it is time for a mug of tea and some more drawing… a rabbit and a pony were the requests on my Facebook page last night….



Reading:-Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami    Listening To:- 6music



The Natural Habitat…


Here is October again and the garden is full of bumble bees feasting on Michaelmas Daisies before they go where ever bumble bees go for Winter. The honey bees left the moor long ago and the swallows not far behind.The house still feels warm to the touch where the sandstone has soaked up the Indian Summer sunshine but this morning there was ice on the windscreen and tomorrow its all due to change. I do feel very cross that I have not felt able to enjoy what could be the last summer days I will ever spend here. Where will I be when the curlews return?


So there is not much to report since I last wrote. The land agent visited and confirmed that the Trustees want me out to make way for my unfriendly neighbour’s son. All my other neighbours are being wonderful; I have been drowning in the milk of human kindness as people offer support and express their concern. Good things have come out of this… mainly the realisation that there are so many people who care and that there is kindness and generosity out there in the world. The Trustees and the mean neighbours are outnumbered in the end, for what it’s worth.

Never the less, living with uncertainty and change and knowing things will never be the same is not good for anyone. Even people who want to move find it unsettling. I see the people who are going to take my home from me everyday and its like being the victim of a violent crime and having to pass the criminal in the street daily. I most resent the fact that all my energies are now consumed with looking for a home when I should be preparing for BCTF and not boring you stupid with petitions and stuff.

I wanted to tell you all about my lovely visit to the Masham Gallery last week and the beautiful work I saw there, about the jewel- like tomatoes I grew in the Freecycle greenhouse, about new work and books and music…but that will have to wait until next time. Just right now I’m looking back before I take a step forward in to the unknown.


Thank you so very very much for the wonderful response to the petition. I wish I could invite you all round for coffee and cake just so I could thank you in person. x



September is here ,to taunt the kids returning to school, with all the summer we didn’t have. The garden is a riot of mismatched colour…yellow fennel flowers with bright purple bergamot sounds revolting but somehow it works.I wish I could say I’d planned it carefully but its been mostly accidental. And there is a freshness in the air, that feeling of seasons about to change,swallows gathering to fly south and pheasants keeping their heads down.The sky is opaline.

I need to thank my lovely friend Louis, from Orkney, who commissioned the Fox Bag, for providing a massive incentive to start making things again. I’ve been going to bed with that “can’t wait to start again tomorrow” feeling and just enjoying the whole process ; print, stitch,dying fabric and of course using the old/new Bernina ( who is turning out to be a pleasure after a rather shaky beginning). Its slow work though and this is the main problem with trying to make stuff for a living.

I treated myself to some lovely new embroidery wools from Renaissance Dying who use natural plant extracts to hand dye the lambswool. The colour range is fabulous; certainly beats the selection in the local “Boyes”, and works beautifully with the subtle effect of disperse dye printing on natural fabrics. So, its been quite a productive week, baby slippers and bags appearing all over the place while the dishes pile up and the garden reverts to wilderness.

Something in the garden bit me, just as I was cutting the lavender to ease a nasty migraine. I don’t know what it was, it was too small to see but I’ve been coming out in crazy allergic rashes ever since…last night I woke at 3am with both my palms itching like mad; I think this is a sign that I’m going to get rich, it says so in a book of old wives tales I have.

Well, it must be time for some coffee I think, before starting on a new piece of work.The sun is shining and its tempting to sit outside to stock up on light and vitamin D before winter which may arrive next week, you never know. Oh before I go I have to tell you about the beautiful canvas that arrived from Temporary Measure last week.It was my prize from their photography competition and I chose a misty mountain view which Rupert immediately identified as the top of Catbells. I’ve said it a million times but you must go and look at the website because its as unique and quirky and handmade as the shop itself and you have to admire unique, handmade, quirkiness in the age of generic high streets and mass produced tat.

My next job is to list the new bags on From the Wilde and finally to share with you this picture which the lovely people at Renaissance Dying just e-mailed me; a surprise from the woods…

Reading:- “Oh Comely” magazine  Listening to:- Sycamore Sykes “Come Along Mary”

Are We There Yet?

Well goodness, I don’t know where to start with this week’s ramblings; its all been a bit of an epic struggle with moments of gallows humour thrown in! I had planned to pick Sara up from Leicester to take her down to Bristol for her art college interview at the university; a long drive but a good excuse to visit my brother and have a few days exploring the West Country with my lovely daughter. All went to plan on the first leg of the journey as I happily drove along, giggling to  a CD of “Just William” stories ; arriving in time for a quick browse around the museum (mostly this seemed to be about the sock industry)  before meeting small daughter and embarking on stage two…Leicester to Chippenham.

Oh, the joy of Satnav! After an hour or so we arrived back at our starting point and had to start again. Cheering with relief when we eventually got on the right road we promptly broke down in the middle of the biggest roundabout I’ve ever had the misfortune to go around. In fact this was junction 21 of the M1 and it was rush hour. I won’t bore you with the details but rescue involved being towed, terrifyingly, miles in the wrong direction (due to a “helpful” motorist pushing the car off the roundabout and on to the motorway slip road), abandoning the car at a garage in Leicester and rushing to the station where I spent the price of a small package holiday to Greece,on train tickets. Three trains and several million hours later we arrived in Bath where my lovely brother was waiting for us in a car that moves.

In the end we had a good time, Sara’s interview went well ; possibly due to some anti discrimination rule because the receptionist mistook me and Lisa ( my brother’s girlfriend) for Sara’s lesbian parents! And I have returned to Witchmountain feeling very proud and happy to have spent some quality time in the company of my family.This, and the unbelievably beautiful weather, is temporarily cushioning me from the horrendous financial implications of the trip.I have already warned Rupert that I can no longer afford razor blades,hair dye or moisturizer so he must prepare himself for the troll I shall soon become!

Poor in monetary terms but a millionaire in others. Look at the sun on those furry Pasque flowers and the light on those old glass bottles…( see, furry old things can be beautiful!!)   I also returned home to find this beautiful piece of original artwork had arrived by surprise, all the way from Australia. Jo had asked me for some hints on the techniques I use and this was her thank you card. Thank you Jo.

So, in all the chaos and excitement I almost forgot to mention that I am now a fully paid up member of From the Wilde and you can now buy these digitally printed purses as well as the cushions  there. I’m hoping to have a day at CCAD’s print club soon to print some new designs for baby shoes exclusively for From the Wilde.                                                                                                                        Well, its time I went and had a big bath after a day of seed planting and pumpkin potting. I hope the sun shone on you this weekend and that the week ahead is full of good things.Should you be traveling I wish you all the very best of luck x

Listening To:- Jesca Hoop ( sitting in for Guy Garvey on 6music) Reading :- I was reading Lisa’s copy of this at the weekend “Moving Toward Balance: 8 Weeks of Yoga with Rodney Yee” its on my wishlist

Whatever Happened To The Masterplan?

Hard to believe that last Sunday it was snowing. Today I have been looking at the little signs of spring in the garden, planting some shallots and spinach and my gift to myself , three white Dicentra spectabilis plants …the Bleeding Heart plant.I do love this time of year; the first signs of old favorite perennials emerging through the soil, the hamster soft catkins on the willows, the sweet musky scent of the balsams which I breath in from their sticky buds so that the smells stays on my nose. I do not like the fact that there was a wasp in my room this morning, filling me with an irrational fear that goes beyond being stung.

Today I also went to an interview for a waitressing job…..this wasn’t part of the masterplan.

I pondered the protocol; do I write about this at the risk of sounding like a bleeding heart, or do I maintain the myth in order to remain “professional”? Well, I started this blog at college and it while it has evolved over the years I do feel the need to record my experiences honestly, just in case anyone else on a similar path might find it useful. One thing I realised ,just now in fact (!), was that in reality I had no plan post graduation. I’d written essays about becoming a designer/maker or working freelance but never really considered what I would make,how I would sell it and how much of it I’d have to sell to avoid getting the electric cut off and living on lentils. In fact, I think , in hindsight, the weakest part of the whole college experience was the professional practice side which should perhaps have forced us to be a bit harder on ourselves and more realistic.If there are any students still reading this…make a plan, and then a back-up plan!

Hey, its not all doom and gloom. I had a wonderfully enjoyable day at Baron Bizarre’s Vintage Fair where the sun shone and the beautiful people ( quite literally; I don’t think I’ve ever been at an event with quite so many pretty boys and leggy girls!) all came out to marvel at the burlesque dancers while a peacock strutted about on the lawns and I caught up with some old friends ( and hopefully made some new ones). It was especially lovely to have a table next to my very special friend Susie of Drawn by Badgers who had made all the bunting for the event and creates the most gorgeous needle felted animals and precious framed works of art. Susie is an amazing person and I think you should all go and say hello …

So, today I listed a lot of things in my Etsy shop and dashed to the post office with orders to post. These new brooches made with my bird design printed on to cotton have made me keen to do some more digital printing and definitely some new drawing.Tomorrow I have my mentoring meeting with Vicky which I’m really looking forward to and as usual I’m bursting with ideas and dreams…its just figuring out a way to make them real.

Listening to:- Boy & Bear “Lordy May” ( because the battery went on the radio last night at just the wrong moment ) Reading :- The new issue of Selvedge and What Katy Did Next who kindly included my lavender heart in her latest mood board. Thanks Katy x

“Keeping Flowers in Full Bloom…”

Here is the lavender brooch I finished yesterday, waiting for someone who still believes in these things to buy it for their true love! Saying that has got me wondering what proportion of Etsy sales are to men? I’m sure there must be some sort of statistics available somewhere.

My hand snuck into that picture and if you were thinking “that thumb looks a bit grubby” that might be because of the ongoing Witchmountain Water Crisis. The ancient system of rams and tanks that supply spring water to the house has begun to fall apart, meaning I’ve had no water some days.

Look at this flower head, heavy with 5am dew.I’m appreciating more and more the luxury that we all take for granted…clean drinking water, flushing toilets, hot baths, modern plumbing.How did people live here before all that.Despite some big downpours the ground is still dry and a lot of my vegetable garden has gone to seed early.

Sweet Peas by the front door reach out with spirally tendrils and the lavender is in full bloom. Meanwhile I’m munching on homemade bread and pesto, dropping crumbs on the keyboard and wondering how on earth I can get a few pictures sold so I can escape the drudgery of waitressing! Here is a little poem I saw yesterday on the wall of the pub in Hawnby, a bit twee but….

Dust if you must, but wouldn’t it be better,
to paint a picture or write a letter,
bake a cake or plant a seed,
ponder the difference between want and need?

Dust if you must, but there’s not much time,
with rivers to swim and mountains to climb,
music to hear and books to read, friends to
cherish and life to lead.

Dust if you must, but the world’s out there
With the sun in your eyes, the wind in your hair,
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain.
This day will not come around again.

Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
old age will come and it’s not kind.
And when you go – and go you must –
You, yourself, will make more dust!

Counting Crows

Its been a strange and unsettling time, if I was deeply superstitious I’d be getting worried. Driving to work on Tuesday the clouds were so low I could almost touch them. Perhaps disturbed by the approaching storm, I drove through the biggest flock of crows I’ve ever seen…a “murder of crows”? Ominous at the best of times but in such numbers against a gunmetal sky; as usual I didn’t have my camera.

Another odd thing… my “Nameless Chicken” has almost definitely turned into a cockerel. Apparently this does sometimes happen, but why? She/he is now called Lola because “she looks like a woman but walks like a man” ha ha!

So, today the power has been off which hasn’t been much fun ( I’ve got a cold and its been chilly and dark in my little house)Having a cold meant that I was actually awake, baking bread and wandering around the garden taking these pictures at 5am the other morning.Some would say this is an improvement on my normal lifestyle!

The brooch above is almost ready to be listed on Etsy and for those of you on Facebook I have made a Witchmountain page which will have lots of links to favorite blogs,events and so on. Talking of which, the We Are Open shop in Middlesbrough is currently a Pop Up Garden and while I was there I picked up the Autumn/Winter programme which is looking good…everything from designer cupcakes to record launches and costume design.