Friday 31 July 2015

The Ten-Stitch Blanket

Flushed with the success of the red and white striped jumper shown in a recent post, and needing a break from a more intense, complicated, ribbed Aran knit number she is knitting for the Sparks, Liz has nipped off down a completely new side-road on the knitting adventures this week. Browsing the internet recently on a tip off from an internet chum, she came across the 'Ten Stitch Blanket'. You'd think to knit a blanket you'd need an enormously long pair of needles and you'd be there for weeks just casting on, but this cunning design has you only casting on ten stitches and then working your way out in a rectangular spiral ten stitches wide. For the interested, this is all described by one Frankie Brown (though inspred by an "Elizabeth Zimmerman design") in a website called (as follows).

Frankie says "All my ravelry patterns are free to download but, if you enjoy them, you might like to consider making a donation to the Children’s Liver Disease Foundation, a charity which funds research and supports the families of children with a liver disease. You can do this easily by going to my fundraising page 
Happy Knitting!"

As long as you know how to turn the corners and then stitch in to the knitting to your left as you go, you can presumably go as big as you like, but Liz is using a very chunky wool bought for a different purpose and using up only a few small balls so, though she covers the territory quickly enough, will only get to just over tea-tray size. Maybe this will be a cat or dog blanket.

The pigs get a treat of strawberry 'offcuts'
Meanwhile, back on the 'farm' we suddenly have a strawberry glut, with all the fruit on our 8 by 4 patch coming big, bright, red and fully ripe all at once. We have been eating them as fast as we can, but we are unable to keep up, so we have frozen some. In my head I have the idea that you should not freeze strawberries because as they freeze the water in them forms into long, needle shaped ice crystals (I have the word "pipcrakes" in my head for some reason) which lacerate the  cells of the flesh so that when you thaw them back out they are reduced to mush but they should be good for cooking or maybe dropping, frozen, into a chilled glass of elderberry 'prosecco' like a fruity ice cube.

The gift that keeps on giving. 2 more barrows of turf from our
earth-bank drying in the yard. 
A surprise beneficiary of all this was the pigs, Mary and Isabelle, who found themselves thrown a half bucket of offcuts - the calyx end of fruits, pieces with slug damage and ones which had already gone a bit over for human consumption or beauty. They have no such scruples and hoovered up the fruit with delight. I have invented a new game with them. When I am cutting grass they love to be given a couple of mower-bags full of cuttings to rootle through and, if I get there before they have finished spreading the grass about, I lob in some apples cut into 8ths which disappear in among the grass pile and have to be rootled out by the pigs. It is fascinating to watch how they quarter the ground (or grass pile) with their directional noses. You can see them questing around and then suddenly dive off to their left or right to track down every last, buried piece of apple. They know when it has all gone even though there must still be apple-y smells hanging around, and come back to me to "ask" for more. It's a good game.

Turkeys #3 and #4 coming up to 4 weeks.
We have had to get hold of vet, Aoife, today as the young male cat Soldier has now reached that stage where he is smelling more of tom-cat and has unfortunately started 'spraying' indoors including (foolish boy!) in Liz's favourite chair. Rather than have our house smelling like the proverbial mad cat-lady house, he is now booked in for his op. The downside of this as far as 3 year old Westie bitch Poppea is concerned, is that she gets to be part of the package, and she too, will be spayed.

The Gang of Four. 
We had been happy to keep her entire, though we had no intention of breeding from her and could cope with the 7-monthly 'events' (at least we knew what stage she was at as she did the behavioural changes, the blood spots and the change to straw-coloured discharge in text-book fashion). The locals, though, do not in the main, believe in confining their dogs, which are to a man, allowed free run of the garden and nearby streets. When we walk on-heat Poppea down the lane for that week we are inadvertently laying a scent trail from the village right back here and we attract a regular supply of the local 'bowsies' coming to see what this hot woman is like. Unfortunately our sheep do not like strange dogs coming around (though they are now well used to ours) and get very nervous. They start running around and trying to get some distance between them and the dog, even though the dog is (so far) completely un-interested in the sheep. There is a risk that they will try (or even succeed in) jumping fences and hurt themselves on barbed wire or (in Feb/March) miscarry or abort their lambs, so it is much simpler if we do not have visits from stray dogs. Sorry Pops, but that is just how life is.

In the sheep dept, I think I have mentioned that we have bought (but not yet seen) a third ewe with lamb at foot, from our chum Mayo-Liz. This might not seem sensible but Mayo-Liz is well inside our "trusted supplier" category as she also supplied us with Polly and Lily. I have now had the tow bar moved across from the old car to the new, so we can now pull the trailer again. I have been able, then, to contact Liz who wanted a few days notice to seperate the new sheep from the flock down in the bottom field and we await her call to say that they are ready and we can nip across and collect. We just need a name. Polly (Garter) and Lily (Smalls) are named after 2 female characters in Dylan Thomas's 'Under Milk Wood' as it was an anniversary of DT when we bought those two. I should probably go back and check UMW to see are there any more ladies names in that story.

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