If you get a chance, go and see this.

It’s beautiful.  And very moving.

I wasn’t going to write this.  I was going to write ‘this is my last post on this blog’. But then I change my mind.

I haven’t posted since June – I really didn’t have anything to say.  I couldn’t imagine that anyone would have been interested in my very quiet life   and, more importantly, I didn’t want to blog.  So until a few days ago I was composing my farewell but here I am again.  Whether this will be a regular return or another one off, who knows.

What’s been happening?  Do you really want to know?   While T painted the house I cleared it.  It was groaning under the weight of 12 years’  accumulated “stuff” .  Every drawer and cupboard was emptied and sorted and the charity shops around county Cork did very well.  I now only have the workroom to do but I’m not feeling brave or strong enough for that yet!

The garden has been its usual wonderful self and along with the new greenhouse has given us plenty to eat.  The light has recently become softer,  autumn is certainly in the air and the sun continues to shine.

The family visited and T and I had some lovely days with two happy grandchildren.  There’s a new structure in the garden which is now looking lonely.

And I’ve been sewing.  Not bags and cushions but patchwork.  I have made three wool quilts and they are now on the website.

Then  from  somewhere the idea for a ticking mat came into my head and this emerged from the workroom.

Shame I’d cleared out the few metres of polyester wadding that had been hanging around for ages – I had to go and buy more!  I machine stitched it “in the ditch” – I had to google that just in case I’d dreamt it but that really is what stitching in the seams is called in quilting land.

And now I’m doing something I never thought I’d do, maybe it’s getting old that makes one want to do these things, before the eye sight gets too bad.  Hand pieced hexagons!

I may live to regret ever starting as I realise I need loads more to make a quilt of a decent size  and then it has to be quilted.  And I shan’t be able to machine stitch in the ditch on that one.  But having said all that, it’s a remarkably relaxing  past-time, once all the paper and fabric hexagons have been cut.

So it’s been a very homey summer.  I definitely think I need to get out more.  We’re planning a trip soon  - not before time!

I may or may not post again.

When I began to make a garden here in a field on Bere Island I was told by every grower, plant person and gardener that growing roses would be well nigh impossible – too wet, too windy.  And yes, I’ve had plenty of failures.  I thought Wedding Day would grow anywhere – no!   Albertine refuses to scramble up anything, let alone flower and Paul’s Himalayan Musk has never really been happy.

But the success rate is surprisingly good and this June has been perfect for them with the promise of lots more.

Not bad for a lump of rock in the sea at the arse end of nowhere!*

*a description overheard many years from one who never lived here!

I’ve been fascinated with sourdough bread for ages but have never made any – well, I tried years ago with an oven that never got really hot so failed to make anything edible.  The thought of leaving a bowl of flour and water in a warm place to collect the natural yeast in the air which will turn into something that will make bread rise seems unlikely to say the least but all those bakers who say it’s the only way must know something.

So I did just that for a few days and low and behold the mixture began to gently bubble.   Then I started to feed this new living being in my kitchen and within two days I had a jar of bubbling, sweetly-smelling leaven, all ready to make a loaf.

Everything I read about the bread making said how wet and unmanageable the dough is, so I prepared myself for a dreadful mess.  I needn’t have worried.  Using my enormous stainless steel mixing bowl I was able to mix and kneed without having to throw the whole sticky, gooey mess onto the work surface.  I followed instructions to the letter, leaving the dough in a coolish place overnight, then kneeding again the next morning, letting it rest and finally shaping it and putting it into a specially purchased (at great expense) banneton for it to prove for the last time.  The oven was lit, the pizza stone heating through, a Stanley knife blade at the ready to slash the top before spraying water onto the dough, closing the oven door and trying to walk away!

I have to say the stress levels were rising.  My usual bread making, using dried yeast, producing 4 loaves and which happens about every ten days or so, suddenly seemed so quick and easy.  At one stage when I was yet again kneeding or shaping, T came in for coffee and asked how many loaves I was making.  ”Just the one”, I replied!

But what a one!  As I knelt in front of the oven door,watching this great, round, golden loaf  growing I realised what all the fuss was about.  It looked amazing.  And the best part?   It tastes better than any bread I have ever made – crusty on the outside with a chewy, sweet dough.  My starter, leaven, call it what you will, is having a rest at the moment in the pantry and will be coming out  next week, re-awakened, fed and put to use again.  Meanwhile, I have to find a smaller banneton or something – it’s a pretty big loaf for just the two of us !

And if anyone wants some leaven, which has a surprisingly sweet, apple smell,  I have plenty.

I had promised myself a trip to Holland this year to see the tulip fields at Keukenhof but by the time I’d remembered to book, the trip I wanted to take was sold out. (By train all the way from London; I love train journeys and it’s been a long time since I travelled on one).

But I have my own nano-Keukenhof!

The bulbs I planted around the spinach last November are a joy.  And I’d even made a note of what I’d planted where so I know what to order again.

Cairo and Hermitage are the winners with Black Parrot and White Marvel coming a close second and third.

But it’s not a competition.  All tulips are wondeful and an added bonus, specially here on Bere island, they withstand wind!  I love them all.

Spring is certainly the time to visit Cyprus – there’s colour!

The hillsides are green.  Lavender blue statice flowers mingle with yellow marguerites and scarlet poppies against the  background of blue sea and sky.

Ipomea transforms ugly wire fences before being scorched by the heat and turning to dust.

And this beauty, which I have failed to identify, is everywhere.

Then there was the colour of the mosaics.

Having not done too much research, we were after all visiting grandchildren, I knew nothing about them.  After coffee and ice cream in the tourist hell, or heaven, depending on your viewpoint, of Paphos,  we crossed the road and entered the quiet and almost deserted World Heritage Sight.

They were stunning and some looked almost new.

I kept thinking of quilts, my current obsession, wondering how I could capture the designs in fabric.

A true combination of ancient and modern.

The images are locked away in my head waiting for the right moment!

But there’s only so many mosaics and underground tombs that a 2 year old and a 5 year old will put up with so the visit ended with a day on the beach and yet more colour!

Jon skiing in Oregon*

Ben cycling in Cyprus

Joe’s first Sports Day

Who would have thought it?!

*great photo by Alex K Morley

You may remember this.

Unfortunately the combination of time, wind and rain had taken its toll and something had to be done.   Once again T has worked his magic

Half the roof blew off last winter, littering the surrounding fields with corrugated plastic.  A large sheet of heavy duty plastic was lashed on temporarily but working in there in high winds was noisy and unsettling.  The front had also developed an alarming bulge.

Something had to happen if I wanted to continue growing.  Once again we discussed alternatives to a custom built.  We almost went for a poly-tunnel but the original footprint wasn’t going to fit anything off the shelf and the price for anything half decent that would stand up to Bere island conditions was just too much money.

I must admit to a moment of doubt when the old one was down.  The open space it left was tempting – did I really want a building there again?  Then I remembered freshly picked tomatoes!

So T collected up window frames, a lot bought years ago and never used, some already used in various buildings here before all the extensions were built and others so old the origins are lost in time!

Even the exterior cladding is tongue and groove, rescued from some long since up-dated Bere island cottage.

In other words, another patchwork greenhouse with each part telling a story.  And of course it’s every bit as wonderful as the old one!

The only differences?  It’s slightly smaller.  It seemed the only way to curb my obsession for growing FAR TOO MANY  tomatoes!  And it’s tidy.  I haven’t yet had time to fill it with un-necessary stuff.  And the doorway is at the other end so I walk all the way to where the door once was before remembering that the new door is closer to the house!

And already it has a varied collection of seedlings.  Sweet peas, tomatoes (just a few)! chillies, cucumbers, courgettes, lettuces  are all up and beginning to grow.  It’s been a bit of a juggling act with propagators in the house, cling-film-covered pots constantly on the move to find shelter and seed trays disappearing under demolished timber.  But, as always, things are catching up and I’m looking forward to it being warm enough to work in the Mark 2 patchwork greenhouse.  I even promise to make more effort in keeping it tidy!  We’ll see!!

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh

No, I can’t pronounce it either.

But it means Happy St Patrick’s Day!

It must be something in the air – there are quilts everywhere.  Jane Brocket has a new book out about them, Charlotte has made a gorgeous blue one and Alicia has made yet another one to add to her pile.  And me?  Well, I’ve finally finished this, started in 2011.

It’s very pink for some reason, not my normal colours, but pretty all the same.  And I know where every piece of fabric came from, as I used what I had in my scraps pile.  Some are early 1900’s from France, a lot are from American feedsacks of the 1930’s and 40’s and some are old favourites left over from chair covers and curtains.  So it feels like an old friend already.

I used a light weight cotton batting and hand-stitched it diagonally in pale pink crochet cotton.

I now have a pile of quilts, well, two anyway.

And I’ve got the bug.

I’m already working on another idea, when really I should be making cushions and bags!

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