Abby & Ducky – 2 years

Oops, I missed birthday celebrations for our two youngest cats: the sister & brother act, Abby and Ducky.  They turned two a few days ago. 

Ducky was in the wars on the day.

ducky swollen

Can you see?  Swollen face on the right side.  That was the only visible symptom.  We figured he’s either been stung by an insect, or had an abces.  Quick vet’s visit the next day, even though the swelling had gone down – it was an insect sting.  Probably bee or wasp.  Anyway, he’s right as rain now.

And here’s Abby

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In one of her favourite spots on a little wall. 

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And a couple more photos of pretty colours . . .

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These little flowers growing in abundance, mixing in with the ivy . . . and in our neighbour’s garden

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Which I suddenly realised were, what is known as “Wild Poppy”, therefore the colour inspiration for one of my current stitching projects!  Stitching with the colour “Wild Poppies” by Threadworx – what a coincidence!

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oh what a beautiful week!

I don’t know about you, but weather in our corner of France has been amazing this week!  For early April, you could easily be mistaken into thinking it was summer.  Skies have been blue, the sun has been out every day and I have been sitting out in the garden in my summer clothes!  Yes!  Sleeveless tunics, dashing bright orange knee-length leggings.  Sunglasses definitely called for.

Husband has been very industrious in the veggie patch, but I haven’t taken any photos of his plantations yet.  He’s planted 18 tomato plants, 6 brocoli, 3 fennel, and hopes to get more plants in this coming week.  Seeds planted (radish & roquette) are already sprouting, but my beetroot haven’t come up yet.  Strawberry plants are in flower, raspberries bushes are budding . . . and cherry, apricot, and pear trees have all blossomed and mini fruits are in preparation. 

Everything seems incredibly early this year!  Even the Lily of the Valley is showing signs of buds.

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And just look at these lovely  lilac blooms

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Anyway, as I said, I’ve been sitting out in the garden, but keeping hands busy.  My most recent crochet project is

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A little owl necklace purse – yay!  This is a design by the very talented Janine Holmes of Moji-Moji Designs.  You can find the pattern for this project in her free tutorials. 

This little fellow only took a few hours to make, and I’m a beginner crocheter.  As usual, I immediately set to work making more . . .

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Colours aren’t very good in the photo.  After the purple one, I’ve begun work on a dark teal and a lilac.  The main work is done.  Just need to make eyes, beaks and assemble. 

Another reason it’s been a beautiful week . . . I celebrated my un-birthday!

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Received this surprise haul from Jess.  One of her cards (she designs and sells cards and cross stitch designs on Etsy) and some lovely bookmarks.  Somes with views of Guernesey (where Jess now lives) and one, is a metallic Korean bookmark.

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Ever so pretty!  So a big thank you Jess !!

best layer of the month # February

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We’ve moved the gals’ enclosure to a fresh plot . . . so lots of moss to dig up and sorry winter grass to rummage in.  They seem happy.  Total egg count this month was 62 which isn’t bad going when you consider February only has 28 days and our hens are two and a half years old.

It was neck and neck between Miss Marple and Miss Moneypenny this month

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But Miss Marple (black & tan) won, with 23 eggs.  Miss Moneypenny 22, and Miranda only 17. 

some this, that, & the other

Back pain means that I’m not spending much time with my sewing machine (or on my computer) and am following physiotherapist’s instructions:  spending a lot of my time on the sofa with my feet up.  Special cushion to support my back, cushion under my knees, and generally feeling rather frustrated that my body won’t let me crack on with patchwork.

I won’t whinge too much though, as I can cross stitch with ease, once settled on my cushions  which means that my “Statement Flowers” are growing. Only last week I showed you the following photo.

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The design has quickly grown to look like this

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And then this

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As you can see, I have finished all the black outline now and am bombing along with the “colouring in”.  I noticed I have 5 stitches to frog (in the wrong pink) on that very pink flower before I move on to adding the other colours.  But on the whole this project is plain sailing, and keeping me amused.

Something that I didn’t find amusing the other day . . . we have had a leaky radiator in my sewing room and the parquet now looks like this

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The really annoying thing is, I had bought a piece of lino (1m x 2m) which I laid in this spot to protect the gorgeous 1970s parquet from any projections from the parrot cage.  So, once the thermostatic tap of radiator started leaking, I didn’t notice immediately because water was seeping UNDER the lino and being trapped beneath, it then started soaking into the parquet. 

We’ve already contacted the insurance people and have the green light to go ahead and get some quotes to repair damage.  For the moment, though, we are waiting for the floor to dry out thoroughly and wondering if it will be possible to find a craftman to come and renovate rather than replace.  And, of course, before we go ahead with any of that, we’re waiting for a quote from the plumber to fix this radiator and probably replace similar taps on our other radiators. 

Another photo to show an “experiment”. 

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I’ve been experimenting with sewing while standing, since it’s more comfortable to stand than to sit.   Dusted off my old basic Silvercrest and have placed it on a plastic crate, on top of my 1950s sideboard, so that it’s at about the right height for me to sew while standing.  I won’t be attempting any “serious” sewing like this, so the patchwork for my sister will be on hold until I can sit down comfortably in front of my Juki . . . but I messed around chain-piecing some charm squares and seams don’t look too shabby. 

That’s all for today folks . . . I hope to be able to show you a happy dance soon with “Statement Flowers” or to show you what I’m making with the charm squares.  Stay tuned and stay warm (if it’s winter in your part of the world too).  Here, the stream has frozen, with temperatures as low as -12°C.

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when it’s cold outside

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When it’s cold outside, the best place is indoors – I think you’ll all agree.  We’ve been having regular snow flurries in our part of France.  So far, a couple of days of snow flurries which then melt away . . . only for it to start snowing again.

On Thursday we took Gibbs out for some exercise and fresh air – snow had melted everywhere as you can see from the green grass, but it started snowing during our walk.

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So we woke up yesterday morning to the first photo.  Cats must have had a vote during the night, and have agreed unanimously, that the best place to be today is indoors.  I wandered around with my camera to see what they were all up to. 

Abby was keeping the chinchilla company

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Ducky was happy because he had an entire double bed to himself

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Merlin was trying to get some sunlight

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and Le Bleu was flaked out on a chair in the guest room.

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I find it interesting that each cat finds a completely different place to sleep, and in this instance, each cat in a totally different part of the house.  Often I find at least one, or even two, in my sewing room because it’s a well-established fact that cats like to sleep on WIPs. But the only living creature in my sewing room yesterday was Rio – since that’s where he lives.

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Postman came with lots of bills, but also a lovely card from Virginie.

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I think that’s probably the last of the seasonal mail. 

vitamins for winter

As you know, my husband and I are very lucky to be country-dwellers and have a fertile veggie patch and orchard.  Over the summer we enjoyed fresh produce from the garden, and were able to preserve some of our produce.  The bumper crops this year were tomatoes and beans (both green & butter) that I “bottled” and sterilised.

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I finished up with a dozen of these jars of beans and as many jars of tomato sauce.  We’ve begun opening a few jars and everything is absolutely yummy!  Our hard work paid off.

With the cold weather, December was time to harvest the kiwis.  We picked more than 50kg in 2015 but my husband then gave the kiwi vine a serious prune so this year the harvest was smaller. 

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Those are 12 litre buckets you can see there.  But the fruit were bigger.

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Anway, there was still way too much fruit for us to keep for ourselves, so I bagged up kiwis and gave away 2/3 of the harvest to neighbours and family, keeping only one full bucket for ourselves.  We’ve been enjoying fresh kiwi for the past 4 weeks, really filling up on vitamin C.  Today, however, I decided it was time to think about keeping some for later on in the year.  So a stint of peeling & slicing

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And five 1 litre containers go to join the strawberries and raspberries we already have stored in the freezer.  I read, on the internet, that kiwi freezes very well, and it should retain both taste & colour.  We’ll find out whether that’s true later on in the year.

best layer of the month #December and best layer of 2016

Some people (namely a few family members) think I’ve got a screw loose where my hens are concerned.  Who’d have thought, a few years ago, that I would be getting so much joy out of hen-keeping? 

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We bought our 3 gals in May 2015, as 20 week old “on the point of lay” hens, which makes them just over 2 years old today.  They’re just your ordinary laying hens.  Miranda is a Red hen; Miss Marple a Black & Tan; Miss Moneypenny a hybrid Marans-Cuckoo.  I had read that a hen can be a prolific layer for the first year, with up to 300 eggs, and that production then dwindles.  This is part of the reason I keep tabs on who lays what.  I’m interested to know who is laying, and it’s become a daily routine to collect eggs, clean the coop, chat to the gals, and comment on their beautiful eggs.

Anyway . . . today being 31st, it was time to tot up eggs for December.  The best layer this month is Miranda with 25 eggs, while Miss Marple & Miss Moneypenny are in joint second with 23 each.  That’s  71 eggs which have come in very useful this month for pavlova, chocolate mousse, chocolate GF cake (twice) and soft-boiled eggs for breakfast, amongst other things.

While totting up figures, I was curious to see how my hens did over the full year.  Which is where my previous articles come in handy (quick scroll back in archives and some maths) . . . then drum roll . . .

In 2016, therefore 366 days, since it was a Leap Year . . . Miss Moneypenny (on right in first photo) laid 202 eggs.  Miranda (our red hen) laid 310 eggs . . . and (drum still rolling) . . . Miss Marple laid 320 eggs.

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(photos taken during better weather)

That, my friends, is a lot of eggs, and sounds even more impressive when I realise that between the 3 of them, they laid 832 eggs during the year.