Time in our hands

‘I never follow the clock: hours were made for man, not man for hours.’ François Rabelais, Gargantua.

In my very simple and silent morning tea ‘meditation’, I acknowledge the gift of another new day and the promise and opportunities it brings. After years of being tied to the rigid timetable of paid employment (not to mention all those unseen hours in the evenings, at weekends and during holidays), the freedom to organise our days however we want is a priceless treasure. We get up when we wake, eat when we’re hungry and go to bed when we’re tired. We don’t have an official Shopping Day; we just go when we need to, which isn’t often. We don’t have a designated ‘Rubbish and Recycling Day’, either; we simply take our bits and pieces to the communal collection bins when we’re ready. We are not slaves to a routine or a TV schedule. In fact, we haven’t watched television for nearly five years and we don’t miss it one bit. Far lovelier to watch a beautiful sunset like this one a few days ago; it delayed dinner a while – but then, no-one was watching the clock!

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Of course, this new-found freedom doesn’t mean we spend our days lazing about doing nothing. Far from it! What is does mean is we can organise the time to suit ourselves, sometimes going all out on a single big project, sometimes pottering at lots of different things. This week has definitely been one of those ‘patchwork’ weeks – lots of little jobs here and there that together add up to quite a lot achieved.

Roger has been busy tiling the kitchen, in itself a bit like piecing a quilt: it’s not as easy as it looks to create a random pattern. Just the last section to go now once the worktop has had chance to bed down properly, but it’s starting to look like a real kitchen at last.

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The recent run of frosty nights and mornings (as an aside, it’s been fascinating to watch the frost literally roll up the valley after sunrise) has seen us stoking the stove regularly and has brought the realisation that it’s simply not up to the job. It’s a shame because it looks lovely and is good to cook on but doesn’t kick a lot of heat out into the room given the amount of wood it consumes.

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It’s a strange thing, too, that it only has a top, front and firebox: no back or sides, they’re built from brick (bit of a surprise discovery, that one!). In practical terms I suppose that design is much easier to carry up into a house like this one than a solid stove, but after much discussion, we have decided to replace it with a bigger, more efficient model in spring. We’ll worry about how to carry it up the steps then . . . In the meantime, hauling, cutting and stacking logs is an ongoing job and there have been several good sessions this week.

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A gift of oranges straight from the tree can only mean one thing: time to dig out the jam kettle and make marmalade.

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Another gift, too. This might not look much but I was thrilled with it.

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It’s a large root of comfrey, one of my favourite plants; no surprise there as it’s related to borage. I’ve grown it for many years but didn’t have room to bring any in the move so this is just perfect. It is such a great plant for bees, as well as a compost activator and plant ‘feed’ – although I prefer to dig leaves into soil rather than faff about making comfrey tea. It loves a sunny spot and can stay in one place for twenty years or more, so a patch next to the asparagus seemed the best idea – they are good companion plants anyway. Just a case of clearing the buttercups and popping it in.

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In the same area of garden we have started clearing space for potatoes. It’s pretty steep (well, show me a bit of our land that isn’t!) but has been cultivated in the past so not as horrendous to dig over as it first seemed.

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There was a large patch of self-set greens which we didn’t need – we have plenty in the other veg patch – so I tackled them while Roger started turning the ground over. He used the clumps of weed to start building a retaining bank (our own Celtic earthworks?) which hopefully will develop into a more permanent holding wall in future.

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The plan is to slowly dig across and down from the salad patch / asparagus bed to give us a decent area of planting space; it’s really steep at the top but I see no reason why the squashes can’t go in there and trail down the bank. Looking down the garden it was hard to believe it was the 9th January, the air was warm and soft with that more-than-a-hint-of-spring scent. Although it’s hard to see in the photo, there were several other people busy digging their gardens in the village below; I think potato planting is in the pipeline.

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In the veg patch, we finished clearing the fence line and replacing the dodgier bits with new posts and stock fencing. It was the usual mix of materials all mish-mashed together, not easy to pull out, especially as we were teetering on the edge of a very crumbly wall and big drop. I certainly feel a lot happier now knowing that I’m not going to topple off backwards into the lane when hoeing in reverse!

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I’ve planted some herbs at the top of the garden next to my second emergency salad patch. This is a semi-shady area under the peach tree but mint, chives and parsley should all be fairly happy here. The spearmint and peppermint plants have sat in pots all year and were certainly ready for a change. I know I will probably regret releasing those pot-bound roots but I can’t be bothered with all that planting in sunken containers business: I’ve done it before and the bottom line is, the thug still escapes. So, let it run riot, I say – I can always dig bits up again if it gets too carried away.

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Roger ran in his first two races of 2017 this week and came first in his class in both of them. What a great start to his new running year! It has meant yet more to add to his trophy collection which is all very lovely but with a commitment to minimalist living in a small space, there is just nowhere sensible to keep them. I’m beginning to think a designated trophy shelf in the Man Shed might be in order . . .

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On the woolly front, I have finally finished the yarn for my Norwegian Summer aka Big Foot socks having spun what felt like an entire sheep. The dye pot awaits. On my wheel this week, something very different: a mix of Shetland and English 56s wool spun to chunky weight.

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This is for a special project and I don’t want to reveal too much about it at this stage. The biggest challenge has been spinning a thick yarn after months of super fine sock yarn, not helped by the fact that my spinning wheel decided it had had enough and I couldn’t get any useful tension on my bobbin brake. Nooooo! I live in dread of my wheel giving up the ghost for three reasons:

  1. It was one of the loveliest and most generous gifts I have ever been given, by a lady I have only met once. That makes it very special to me.

  2. I am not trying to produce beautiful quality commercial yarns, just have a bit of fun, so the fact that the wheel is knocking on a bit and slightly warped simply means we have a lot in common. I love it and the quirky things I make on it.

  3. Have you seen the price of a new wheel?

Luckily, I am married to an engineer who is of the practical opinion that a spinning wheel is a machine, and machines can usually be fixed. In no time at all, he had found the perfect length of waxed fabric stringy stuff in his Big Shed of Things and created a new brake band.

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Inspired by his optimism, I decided to replace the drive band (sounds hi-tech but I just use cotton parcel string), oil the metal bits, wax the wood and dubbin the leather. Et voilà – as good as new, and spinning Merino wool top into a lovely even yarn without so much as a hiccup in no time. Phew! There’s life in the old thing yet.

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I don’t tend to make New Year’s resolutions but one thing I am determined to do this year in my world of wool – actually, in my life in general – is to try new things and have another go at old things that haven’t worked before. So for starters, I’ve persevered with Annie’s tunic and I’m pretty pleased with how it’s turned out. I’m not going to pretend I like lace knitting now but I have at least proved that I can do it – and I haven’t needed to unpick it too much along the way, either.

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Coming back to where I started, I suspect that being able to focus and concentrate in my own time without any pressures of routine or ‘things that have to be done’ has made a big difference. As a busy mum and working granny, I wouldn’t have had the time or patience to attempt a pattern like this. How wonderful to have that opportunity now. What luxury! 🙂 

PS Just to prove the sun doesn’t shine here all the time . . !

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4 thoughts on “Time in our hands

  1. Love the tiles! And the lace knitting (haven’t dared to tackle that). I don’t know how people find the time to watch TV. Haven’t had a TV since I moved out from home and don’t miss it one bit. Looks like you’re making great progress all over. We’ve got a stormy week here so outdoor work has ground to a halt until the weekend. Just went to the supermarket for the first time since 21 December. Once a month is enough, I think. We’ve got a comfrey patch of nine plants and they’re doing a great job of sucking up the spare water in a waterlogged bit. What oven are you going to get – a Rayburn?

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  2. Yes, I’m really pleased with the tiles although I think they sent Roger a bit cross-eyed. I wanted something with a hint of the Moorish culture here (apparently they are responsible for arroz con leche being the traditional dessert – I did wonder, given the distinct lack of paddy fields in the region!). We are going for a La Nordica stove, they are Italian. We’ve put them in our last two houses and really rate them, they are more continental in style than Rayburns so should suit here well. Weather your end looks a bit nasty, hope you escape the worst of it.

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    • My cousin has a Nordica stove. They do seem solid. Just had our first few snowflakes! We also let the mint go wild – but we have so much mint tea that we seem to keep up with it.

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