Friday, January 31, 2014

Days out: Wisley

Last year I joined the Royal Horticultural Society, which not only provides great gardening advice via their website and publications, but also offers lots of beautiful gardens to visit.

Last weekend the OH and I decided to have a day out to Wisley, the RHS garden in Surrey. There was a "Butterflies in the glasshouse" event on, which meant some parts were very crowded, but it was easy to get away from it all. This is the lake by the glasshouse.

And the view up one of the herbaceous borders towards fruit hill. 

It's quite a contrast with this photo I took in July, the same borders from the other direction:

 In the winter garden snowdrops were appearing - it's been so mild they're early this year.

In one of the alpine houses crocuses and cyclamen were in bloom.

We went to the vegetable plot area to have a look. This is set up as examples of different types of gardening. This side is the same size as a half allotment plot, to give an idea of what can be done on an allotment.

The winter crops were in, including some sprouts with an amusing name.

The earliest varieties of rhubarb were beginning to appear.

This is the red and purple vegetables bed, which I thought was a great idea if you have the room!

And finally some Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter fire' full of glorious colour.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Big Garden Birdwatch 2014

I've done the Big Garden Birdwatch for the last couple of years, with varying degress of success - why do all the birds vanish just as soon as you settle down to watch for them?!

This year's total:

Blackbird: 2
Great tit: 2
Robin: 2
Wood pigeon: 1
Magpie: 1
Long-tailed tit: 2

So, an improvement on 2012 in terms of bird numbers and varieties. But where are all the dunnocks which usually hang around in the garden?!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Garden January 2014

Remember Garden at the beginning of the month? I did that for over a year, ending a year ago, when I kept forgetting to take the pictures at the beginning of the month. You can see my past pictures on my photostream. I like using it as a way of seeing how the garden has developed, and how much work has already been done. In comparison, this is January 2012 and January 2011, when it really did look bare.

It's hard to take garden pictures at this time of year without the low sun making huge shadows. Everything's looking bare, but apart from all the flooding, it's incredibly mild. We've only had a couple of frosts, and they haven't been bad ones.

There's still some colour in the garden. These are a couple of primulas I bought at the church Christmas fayre in December. They're brightening up the container I can see from the kitchen window.

This is a winter flowering clematis ("Wisley Cream") which I bought in the summer, on a trip to the Royal Horticultural Society gardens at Wisley. You can see some of the other plants I bought then in a different post, but I never got round to blogging about the visit itself! I wanted to get more winter flowering plants in the garden to provide nectar all year round for insects.

Then the containers I potted up in the Autumn, with winter-flowering pansies and violas.

And bulbs already beginning to push through - you can tell how mild it's been.

Inside the house, this is the hippeastrum that Mum gave us for Christmas, now with four huge flowers at the same time!

Before Christmas I put two of the forced hyacinths on the mantelpiece. Our living room is quite dark, and there is a window at either end of the room, so the flowers have grown towards the light, but in opposite directions. Amusingly one appears to be trying to biff the knitted me on the head, and the other one the photographic me!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Bobble man

I got Bobble Man finished - with a bit of a wild hair-do. May be Bobble Woman now, but I think I'll leave him/her as non-gender-specific!

Bobble Person is going to the same charity as the previous toy I knitted, which teaches RE in nursery and primary schools. I'll need to make him/her a friend at some point, so that the kids have a pair to act out the story of the man who built his house on the rock.

Bobble Man the pattern is quite a fun knit. It's in the round, so the finishing isn't too horrendous, although you have to keep your mind on what you're doing as it's easy to do the bottom half of the body at 90° angle to the top half. That looked a bit strange. The hair I added, using the technique outlined in this blog post about creating Harry Potter characters. It takes a surprising amount of yarn to do the hair for one toy!

I'm making great progress on my first stash busting project, the chunky yarn pattern. This is the Lima cardigan in Mirasol Sulka. The yarn is ovely to knit with and the cardigan's coming together fast because it's on 6mm needles. So even the moss stitch isn't taking too long.

And, yes, I have ordered more yarn, in the 10% off New Year sale from GetKnitted. But this is for a definite project, another hooded jumper for my nephew's birthday - in his favourite colour. Despite being acrylic the Supersoft Aran feels soft and not squeaky to knit with, plus it wears really well (I used it for two jumpers for my nephews three years ago, and they're still going strong, although getting a bit small now).

Thank you for the comments about flooding in my previous post. Fortunately the water has gone down now (bizarrely fast, as though someone had pulled the plug out!), although everywhere is still very wet.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Flooding 2014

So, the year got off to a great start with more and more water heading down the Thames. There was some flooding in the area last year, but nowhere near as bad as this, and it felt like we'd had much worse weather last year too. These are some photos I took out and about in the last couple of days:

Staines Bridge is still open (unlike Chertsey Bridge) , but as you can see from the line of streetlights in the river, the Thames path is completely under water.

This is normally a lower platform thing with steps and ramps you can go down to have a closer look at the river. Last year the river went into the bottom of it, and part way up the steps, but this is nearly at the top!

This road's gone completely under water too. I drove through there three days before this photo was taken (in a car that had also broken down earlier that day!). Who ever parked their car down there wasn't very sensible... To the right of the picture is actually usually a park, rather than a lake.

This is the park. The mud in the foreground is actually a car park. The rest of it is usually grass, and that is the top of a children's playground you can just see sticking out from the water.

The river's still rising, so the flood levels will be up a bit more. We *should* be OK where we are...
 I've put more pictures of the flooding in my photostream.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

New shed!

A week before Christmas we got a new shed. The old one, which is brick-built, has a leaky roof, and anything stored in it had a tendency to go mouldy. But, as it's attached to the garage, and there's asbestos in the roof, there wasn't much we could do about it without having a hugely expensive rebuilding operation. So, the interim solution was to get a new shed, and site it somewhere that hasn't really been used much up until now.

This is the space between our house and the house next door, which I'd used a bit for growing vegetables, but it didn't really get enough sun, and was wasted space, so it seemed like a good idea for a shed to be there instead.

I spent quite a lot of time in  October and November clearing weeds away from this area:

Reconstructing the vegetable raised beds into one taller bed, digging up the old compost heap in the corner (created by a former owner of the house!) and re-siting all of our existing compost bins:

Moving piles of bricks and lumps of concrete. Then the builder came and began construction of a proper base for it:

Filled with concrete (the OH banned me from writing "Daisy woz ere" in it.)

Laid weed-suppressing membrane around the edges of it, with gravel on top:

And then the shed was delivered, and looks fantastic!

We ordered some shelves to go with it too - so much more storage room than our old shed!

I can't believe it's finally here!

Thursday, January 02, 2014

2014 plans

This is a mosaic of my finished knitting projects of 2013, made using Mosaic Maker:

Plans for 2014 include doing MORE knitting. I only finished 12 projects last year, which doesn't seem that many (OK, so the lace shawl did take up a lot of time, but several of those projects were smallish toys, or baby garments or a hat that only took 10 days to knit). And it's kind of amusing as I thought I'd have loads of extra knitting time once I switched to part-time working...

As I said in my last post, I'd like to get more of my stash knitted up, so I went and had a look at the stash wardrobe.

The hanging bit on the right is where I keep my long dresses (i.e. one dress plus my wedding dress and a couple of ball dresses), so all the boxes are the stash. I'd really like to knit one adult garment in each yarn weight, which would create enough space for the things that are lurking in plastic bags at the top and edges to disappear into the boxes, and it would all be a lot neater and easier to excavate.

I've already cast on for my chunky project. This is the gauge swatch for Lima, a cardigan pattern by Jane Ellison using Mirasol Sulka, a lovely lovely lovely soft yarn (merino, silk and alpaca mix), which I bought in 2009 to cheer myself up whilst recovering from swine flu.

I'm planning a 4ply sock yarn jumper, probably the Linnae Pullover, but just using the pattern outline rather than doing the fair isle too. And I'm enjoying looking at various DK and aran patterns, as it'll be a while before I'm ready to start on those. I'm also planning a few pairs of socks and other smaller things.

Oh, and I've started a Bobble Man, for the same charity I mentioned in my last post, using up oddmends of DK.

What are your knitting plans for 2014?!