Chickens and Sewing Boxes

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A few months ago I heard, by chance, about a job in a workshop that’s not two and a half hours (by train) from The Boy, so I decided to get in touch. A number of emails, a couple of visits and a week’s trial later and they offered me the job, which was rather exciting. And then the stress of finishing my long-term projects in my current job, finding a flat and dealing the Kafka-esque bureaucracy (seriously, Switzerland, Das Schloss is a sort of satire; not something to model your system on) hit me. So I was pretty glad to get back to Blighty for 10 days’ break in the real world.

Unfortunately a couple of weeks before I got back we lost all but two of our chickens to the fox. The two that survived were fairly traumatised but seemed to have bonded over the experience. 10 ex-battery hens were parachuted in to comfort them (and to continue the egg supply.) They were unbeLIEVEably scrawny, poor things (my sister described them as oven-ready, which just about nailed it) and looked rather forlorn compared to our remaining, glossy birds.

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The new feathers are coming through, but for now they look a bit like hedgehog spines.

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A feather-duster chicken.

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Ex-battery bottoms, and well-feathered ones.

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This one reminds me of Roadrunner.

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A brave hen investigating an equally brave cat.

I’m normally collared to do a bit of mending whenever I go home, because a) I’m often at a loose end without my own sewing projects and b) I’m still at the stage where I actually rather enjoy it. This time however my dad needed something stretchy mended, and since my mum’s ancient, hand-cranked sewing machine doesn’t do zig-zagging, so I retrieved my Granny’s machine from the loft, got out my other Grandma’s sewing box and used them both. (Actually after a promising start, when I actually came to use the zig-zag stitch I couldn’t get it to work properly. I think there’s a problem with a cam – the needle moves both up and down and side to side, but the two directions aren’t properly in sync with each other.)

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Cat approved.

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Between photographing chickens, trees and sheep, I also managed to get in a bouldering session with my sister, bake two not-entirely-successful batches of hot cross buns and see a number of friends including the little girl who has now thoroughly out-grown this, which I made for her last September:

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And indeed, this (which I hope she hasn’t yet outgrown:)

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Two nights before I left we caught the end of Storm Katie (or rather, the end Storm Katie caught us) and we came down in the morning to find a branch from one of the pine trees in the drive, a dent in the bonnet and the car’s badge on the floor. It’s been around since Lady Di hasn’t, so on its last hubcaps anyway.

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Where I went: West Dean

My Easter break was an extended one – the Friday after Easter was the start of a bi-annual 9-day violin restoration course, which I’d been hoping to attend for some time, and not only because of the fantastic learning environment that everyone who comes back from it talks about. What they also talk about is the almost magical bubble that you disappear into, and the waking-from-dreamland state you find yourself having to deal with at the end of it.

P1190303 Continue reading “Where I went: West Dean”

Villa Garzoni once more

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Autumn has set in again. As if we ever had a proper summer. Ha!
My kitchen smells of hot food cooking, my fingers smell of the cumin that I have been pounding in the mortar with the pestle (or was it in the pestle with the mortar?) There’s a bag of apples on the floor to be dealt with, jars of stewed plums in the cupboard, a bowl of stolen foraged hazelnuts on the table, and I’ve already dealt with the first excess of squash. My to-knit list is underway and growing, and all thoughts of light sleeveless tops to sew have been replaced with more sensible three-quarter to full length sleeved thoughts.

It seems to be a good time to remember that, although the summer never quite reached Switzerland, we did seek further south, and found her, living it up in Italy. Continue reading “Villa Garzoni once more”

Moscht

Saturday was a good day to remember gravity.

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3 apple trees, 6 large crates of apples, 175 litres of the freshest, tangiest apple juice that’s ever washed over your tongue.

After experimenting with a long pole with an ingenious grabbing device at one end and a handle at the other, we worked out that the best way to persuade the old Malus domestica to relinquish its crop was to climb up and give it a good shake. I stood a safe distance away (no Isaac Newton moments for me!) and watched as the fruit of a year’s worth of sunlight, rain and pollination thudded into the wet grass. Normally I’d be up the tree, but the only sufficiently waterproof shoes available were wellies, which do not make for easy tree climbing. I know. I’ve tried. Continue reading “Moscht”

Hambledon (home is…)

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Contrary to what the title seems to suggest, home is not Hambledon. It is a good 40 miles further north, in the next county up. But Hambledon, as defined by the immortal geniuses (or genii) of Douglas Adams and John Lloyd, defines one of those Home feelings:

Hambledon (n.)
The sound of a single-engined aircraft flying by, heard while lying in a summer field in England, which somehow concentrates the silence and sense of space and timelessness and leaves one with the feeling of something or other.

“The Deeper Meaning of Liff” by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd Continue reading “Hambledon (home is…)”