best layer of the month # september

After the events of last week, with “murder in a French orchard” we went out and bought 3 new laying hens to keep Ruby company.  Hens are back in the veggie garden coop, so they’re closer to the house and (we hope) safer.

Anyway, before I do the introductions . . . first, let me tot up the number of eggs this month.  Before their untimely deaths on 23rd Sept, Mauricette had laid 12 eggs  and Florence had laid 18.  Ruby, understandably, has been a bit off her laying since, what with seeing two hens killed before her eyes, and then having 3 new companions arrive.  She laid a total of 21 eggs this month.  Big surprise, only a few days after the new girls arrived – they started laying.  Only tiny eggs for now, but we’ve had a total of 13 small eggs in the last 7 days.    Which makes a total of 64 eggs for September.   I think in future, I’ll stop the “best layer” posts, and simply do a monthly round-up of hen life.  I haven’t been able to identify who is laying what, so from October, I’ll just do a monthly hen & egg-count update.

In the meantime, let me introduce you to the new hens!

Here they are, on day 3, when they finally felt brave enough to come down the ramp and start exploring.

This is Doris – a red hen.  She doesn’t appear to have the same dark brown tail feathers as Ruby, and she’s a darker red, so I shouldn’t have any trouble telling the two apart when Ruby’s feathers all grow back.

Agatha is a black & tan.  She seems the less adventurous of the three.   She’s also quite happy to be picked up for a stroke.

And finally,

Rita who is a French blue.  She’s a much lighter silver grey than Mauricette (who was also a French blue) but, like Mauricette, she is a very large bird.

We had some fun & games in the first days. Despite clipping flight feathers on left wing, on the 3 new gals, they were managing to helicopter out of the enclosure.  But after adding some extra netting higher up, we seem to have solved our Houdini problem.  There is also a certain amount of confusion at bed-time with Rita heading up the ramp, closely followed by Doris, then Agatha . . . only for Rita to turn around at the top and want to come back down. This causes a hen-jam on the ramp before Rita does another 180° turn and goes to bed properly.  It’s early days yet though.  On the whole, they seem to have settled in very well.

“I spy rainbow quilt” finished

I finally got around to adding binding, and finishing off the baby quilt I was working on.  I kept things simple.

Lots of details on the main print fabric for playing I spy, and learning colours, with this one.  It’s parcelled up and winging its way to baby Lucas, born on 28th July.

 

SAL “together we are magic” #8

It’s the 3-weekly meet-up with other SAL members, organised by Avis, to show photos of the projects we’re stitching.  We’re an international group, all working on different projects, with the SAL being our way of motivating each other.

Full list of members.

AvisClaireGunConstanzeChristinaKathyMargaretCindyHeidiJackieSunny,

MeganDeborahReneeCarmelaSharonDaisyAnneAJCathieLindaHelen

Last time I had managed to complete page 1 (of 4) of the chart of my project: “Together we are magic”, a kit by Letitstitch.

For this time, I began work on page 2.

Next update on 17th October.

murder in a French orchard

A very unwelcome bit of excitement in our part of the French countryside yesterday . . .

I’ll spare the gore but, heading to the orchard yesterday at noon, to collect eggs and have a chat with the hens, I was very surprised not to see all three out pecking & scratching in their enclosure in the shade of the apple trees.    Everything was eerily quiet . . . and the only hen visible was Ruby, looking scrawny & hen-pecked as usual, but also acting worried and wary.  At first, I thought the other two were in the nesting box, but no.  Coop & nesting box were empty.  It was only then that I noticed , in one corner of the enclosure . . .  a pile of feathers and a corpse:  Mauricette.  No visible signs of injury, just dead, on her side. On further inspections, in another corner of the enclosure, I found a different pile of feathers

but no corpse.  That would have been Florence (missing, presumed dead).

We took Gibbs out in the orchard, where he sniffed and followed a scent trail which stopped at the boundaries of the orchard and a neighbour’s garden.  We even had Moka, a neighbour’s labrador) out in the orchard, who sniffed and followed the exact same scent trail as Gibbs.  There were more Florence feathers the other side of the fence . . . so with our Sherlock Holmes cap on (plus the husband googling fox hunting habits) we deduce that deaths were caused by a fox even though it occured in broad daylight.

We’d been lucky up until now.  We’ve lived here for 7 years, and kept hens for 6 years.  This is the first time hens have fallen prey to a predator.  Anyway . . . Ruby, as I say, was completely shell-shocked yesterday, poor thing.  Yesterday evening, we moved her back to the hen coop in the veggie garden.  And I got on the phone to our usual hen breeder.

This morning we went and collected 3 new laying hens:  a black & tan, a red hen, and a French blue.  I’ll show you photos as soon as they’re settled in and brave enough to leave the coop.  In the meantime, Ruby is even more worried, because of the 3 strange birds in the coop.

Saying that, it didn’t stop her laying an egg in the nesting box earlier today!  I hope she gets on well with the new hens and that her plumage eventually grows back to its former glory.

Dazzle the dragon

I’m having a very bright crochet happy dance here – yay!  The other day I showed you this photo of a new crochet project in progress.

A pink head, and beginnings of body parts which could have been just about anything in the making.  Well, now I can tell you it’s a dragon.

who started to look more like a dragon as soon as I added snout, nostrils, eyelids and a belly plate.  This was a pattern of many pieces . . .

The wings were a lot of work, making 12 membrane panels, assembling them into groups of three, and then sewing 2 pieces back to back to make a lovely pair of very sturdy dragon wings.

 

I’ve named this little dragon Dazzle, because it’s a little girl dragon and she’s very bright.  She finished up 7″ high, because I didn’t use the same yarn as suggested in pattern. The pattern is by Janine Holmes, also known as Moji Moji Design.

Her dragon is a boy dragon called Drake, in green & yellow.  This pattern is one of the 14 patterns in the book “Unicorns, dragons and more fantasy amigurumi” published by Meteoor Books, but you can also buy the pattern in pdf format.  You’ll find links to Janine’s Ravelry & etsy shops on her blog Moji Moji.

This pattern is skill level **** (expert).  I would say this is because of the number of very small pieces that need to be made & sewn together.  The wings and spikes required a fair amount of patience.  And pieces like nostrils, eyelids & ears need to be sewn on taking care to follow pattern instructions with plenty of pinning to keep things symmetrical.

When I first began making this dragon, I was imagining an entire family in different colours, but I have to say, now Dazzle is finished, I don’t think I have the patience to go through it all again.

 

 

two very good reads in September

Two very good books I want to share with you today.

“the truth about melody browne” – Lisa Jewell.

(text from back cover)

When she was nine years old, Melody Browne’s house burned down, taking every toy, every photograph, every item of clothing and old Christmas card with it.  But not only did the fire destroy all her possessions, it took all her memories too – Melody can remember nothing before her ninth birthday.

Now in her early thirties, Melody lives in a small flat in the middle of London with her seventeen-year-old son.  She’s made a good life for them both and she likes it that way.

Until one night, something extraordinary happens.  Whilst attending a hypnotist show with her first date in years, she faints – and when she comes round she starts to remember.  At first her memories mean nothing to her but then slowly, day by day, she begins to piece together the real story of her childhood.  But with every mystery she solves, another one materialises, with every question she answers another appears.  And Melody begins to wonder if she’ll ever know the truth about her past . . . 

This is only the second novel by Lisa Jewell I’ve read (the first one being “the house we grew up in” which I thoroughly enjoyed).  And after devouring “The truth about Melody Browne” I think it’s safe to say, I’m a Lise Jewell fan!  So well-written!   The chapters flit between Melody’s current life and her early childhood, so the reader actually learns more about Melody’s past as the novel progress than she does.  However Ms Jewell knows how to keep up the suspense and while we do learn about Melody’s early years we still have to keep on reading until the adult Melody can finally piece everything together.

It was a real page-turner.  I wanted to give little Melody a big cuddle, many a time and tell her that everything would be all right.  This is definitely a novel I’ll be keeping on my bookshelves and reading again.  Even though I now know the truth, I’ll want to re-read simply because it was a lovely tale.  A 5 star book for me.

The second very good read I enjoyed this month was something completely different.

“The Undead Mr Tenpenny” by Tammie Painter.  It’s number one in the Cassie Black trilogy.

(text from back cover)

Cassie Black works at a funeral home.  She’s used to all manner of dead bodies.  What she’s not used to is them waking up.  Which they seem to be doing on a disturbingly regular basis lately.

Just when Cassie believes she has the problem under control, the recently-deceased Busby Tenpenny insists he’s been murdered and claims Cassie might be responsible thanks to a wicked brand of magic she’s been exposed to.  The only way for Cassie to get her life back to normal is to tame her magic and uncover Mr Tenpenny’s true killer.

Simple right?  Of course not.  Because while Cassie works on getting her newly-acquired magic sorted, she’s blowing up kitchens, angering an entire magical community, and discovering her past is more closely tied to Busby Tenpenny than she could have ever imagined.

 

What can I say say?  I loved this book!  I’ve read it twice already  and laughed just as much the second time as I did the first.  I’m giving it 5 stars and I’ll be buying the next two in the trilogy.   I prefer “real” paper version books so I bought my copy on @m@zon (in stock even on French @m@zon). It’s also available on kindle and in the googlestore.   Be warned, if you read this one, chances are, you’ll want to read the rest of the trilogy.

You’ll need to have some knowledge of the world of Harry Potter in order to get some of the jokes, but since I know my HP inside out, nothing slipped past me.  Cassie, despite being an introvert and socially inept, is such a likeable character, with a quick wit and quick reflexes.  Ms Painter had me page turning late into the night, and left me with a big grin on my face, especially with the very last paragraph! (no sneak peeking if you decide to buy it!)  I can’t wait to read the next two:  “The Uncanny Raven Winston” and “The Untangled Cassie Black”.

Tammie Painter runs a blog, where you can find out more about her writings, and even enjoy some of her short stories for free.

 

 

 

 

a bit of this, that & the other (sept)

My time is often spent flitting from one crafting project to another, simply because I can.  So today, a little mish mash of photos of what’s taking shape.

A dolphin cross stitch design, kit by Royal Paris.  I don’t pick this up very often therefore progress is slow, but there’s no hurry.

A new crochet project.  I was going to jump in and start hooking a third doll, but after a rummage in my yarn stash, I came across a couple of sunglass-worthy coloured yarn that I’d bought in a local discount store a couple of years ago.  A quick flick through my big pile of crochet books and I found a pattern that tickled my fancy.  I’m not going to tell you what I’m making just yet . . . it will become more obvious the more body parts I make.  Let’s just say that shocking pink isn’t the colour one would expect, but I reckon the finished design will be very cute!

I’ve begun a new diamond painting project.  Working in various shades of blues & teals . . . overall picture will look like this.

Again, there’s no rush to have this finished.  It’s just a new hobby I discovered recently, and I enjoy putting in a few hours from time to time.

For those of you wondering how the husband is getting on with the mirror . . .

He has begun cleaning up the back (while still debating about how to repair the stucco on the mirror side).  Took out these short planks and discovered

This, stamped on the back of the mirror.  So, his original guess of approx 1870 was out.  Stamp reads 1897, 31st March, Paris.  Renovation work continues.

ScrapHappy # September (no show)

Hello folks, today is the monthly link up with ScrapHappy people all over the world.

Kate Gun, EvaSue, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy,  Tracy, Jill,
Claire, JanMoira, SandraChrisAlys,
KerryClaireJeanJon, DawnJule,
Gwen, Bekki, Sue L, Sunny, Kjerstin,
Vera, NanetteAnn, Dawn 2, Bear,
Carol, Preeti, EdithDebbierose

and newest member Jule.

The idea being to motivate each other to use up scraps, of anything & everything.  Unfortunately, while I have been making more scraps, through patchwork, knitting and crochet, I didn’t actually get around to making anything with them this month.

However . . . I found a lovely crochet pattern on Zhaya Designs – ever so simple – and for next time, I hope to be able to show you

something along these lines.  Zhaya calls these “smooching balls”.  They can be made any shape, any colours, and are a perfect way to use up those remnants from other knitting projects where there’s still a fair bit left, but not enough to attempt even a doll-sized garment, for fear of running out.  I’m thinking these would be fun stuffed with a small sachet of rice/cherry stones or something similarly weighty, to become fun beanbags for kids.

another hooking happy dance (crocheted doll – Nancy)

In August, I bought two patterns on etsy by Chikchikhandmade.  I set to work straight away to make the first doll, Mila, which I have already shown on my blog.  She was a very girlie doll, with light blond hair and a pretty frilly dress.  The second pattern I bought was to make Nancy.

Nancy has a different hair style, and there were several other differences in that she had socks and knickers crocheted as part of her legs & body.

I decided to make my Nancy more of a redhead, using Stylecraft DK in “gold”.  The pattern called for mohair yarn for the hair.  I didn’t have any mohair, so got around that by separating each strand of DK yarn into 3 strands (which made them slightly curly) and then hooking those 3 thinner strands into each loop as I went round the wigcap.

I still need to even up ends a little, and make her hair neater, but for the moment I’ve kept it long.

I crocheted Nancy in Stylecraft Special DK colour “toy” for the skin tone.  And used “sage for the dungarees, “teal” for the shoes, “white” for socks & knickers, and a different brand in pale teal for her Tshirt.

Whereas the Mila pattern came with a ladybird bag to crochet as an accessory, the Nancy pattern came with instructions to make a pet goose.  This was fun to make, although legs were a bit fiddly (having to crochet only 8 stitches in the round) and I made legs more rigid by cutting two earbuds in half and sticking those inside legs so this little goose can stand on its own.  I also attached wings so little goose can do this

a double goosey “high five” lol.

And in case you missed Mila . . .

Here are Mila and Nancy side by side.  I kept facial detail to a minimum again: just eyes, eyebrows and some cheek colouring.

mirror, mirror . . .

Today’s post to share what the husband has been up to.

I keep on telling him he needs to start his own blog, instead of expecting me to share his goings-on here, but he’d rather be messing about in his work shop than blogging.  Anyhoot . . . he recently became the new owner of a very old (and very ugly) mirror.  I took one look at the thing and said “I don’t want that in the house!”.   I don’t know about you, but I’m not keen on mirrors on the walls in the house (except for one in the bathroom) because the only thing they reflect is an old woman with grey hair & wrinkles.  Not a pretty sight!

However, what the husband likes about his new (old) mirror is . . . it’s in need of lots of renovation work.

Someone, at some point in time, had painted over the frame in a yucky brown paint which the husband is painstakingly removing and discovering lots of detail hidden under the thick coat of brown.

He’s been googling, trying to date the mirror from the motif, as well as from the general style, shape, and the way it’s made.  He reckons it dates back to (approx) 1870 but more research is required.   The main problem he’s going to face is: how to repair the parts that need proper restoration.  The mirror appears to have been stored, standing on the floor in a very damp place for years (probably decades) and the band of stucco along the bottom of the mirror frame has disintegrated.

At the moment the husband is consdering the possibilty of making a silicone mold from one of the intact areas, to try and repeat the motif across the bottom in plaster.  Supplies will need to be bought in and trials run, to see if it’s at all possible.

He also needs to date the mirror more accurately in order to know what colour the original stucco should be painted.  A work in progress that’s keeping him amused.