Sunday, 4 December 2011

it's creeping up....

christmas I mean! not that it feels like christmas outside -it's cold enough today, but windy and wet at times as well. and somehow - not christmassy, even though it's the 2nd advent sunday today! well, never mind how it feels, it's time for gift and card making etc. and I have been doing a few of the latter. the first one nearly made me go gaga - I should have known of course, but I wanted the motive for a mouse lover and grabbed it up against my better judgement. half stitches and aida don't go as nicely together as full crosses, but a few here and there are manageable. but aida, half crosses plus tiny backstitches - yuck, I can tell you, that will be the one and only time I do this project. the outcome is ok, but the backstitches took me nearly as long as the rest of the embroidery. and because I hate french knots with a vengeance, I took small beads for the black dots and the mistletoe berries...
after all the work on this one I had to make up some time with the next designs....

 .. which is why this star is much more simple in design. a few crosses, normal backstitch and a few beads...
just like this one, but I think they loose a lot of their charm in the photo, when you can't see the sparkle of fabric and beads.

last week we had our final meeting in the spinners and craft group and as usual we did a secret santa. I received a mysterious box - roses at christmas?:)

 not so, the contents are pure christmas colours after all! I thought they are for decoration, but no, they are actually meant to be napkin holders, made from felt. hm, not sure our household deserves something like napkin rings, but I can always hang them up as deco instead.

at the same meeting I stocked up on some merino fibres. I wanted to use more purples with the green tones I dyed last time, but was too lazy to start dyeing again. and then there is that scarf design I have in my head - with progressing colours from white via grey to black. that's the bags on the right....

I didn't make it to the knitting & stitching show in Dublin this year, but luckily one of the members of the group went - and was able to find a few goodies from Oliver Twists that I had asked for. some more multicolour embroidery threads; the one at the bottom is the mix of greens I used for the christmas SAL a few weeks back.  actually it's much safer to send somebody else to that stall with a shopping list! every time I go there myself I buy much more than I should... but the colours are so inviting that it's hard to be reasonable!
of course in the garden it looks bleak most of the time now - no wonder in the constant miserable weather we're having. but bang in the middle of my veggie bed sits the crabapple tree "Everest". and despite the mucky weather it is still full with the tiny fruits! I picked and picked buckets full for juice, but eventually I ran out of space (and steam:)... pity about the apples, I thought and when I heard that somebody is using them like sloes to make a liqueur, I thought: why not? ok, the 800 g I picked didn't make a dent in the stuff that's still on the tree, but the result looks nice - and smells gorgeous! not for me though - another christmas goodie to go away eventually....
I plan to put a few of the best looking apples into the small bottles for decoration, but I am not sure if the rest will be edible. the sloes are too acidic and bitter for this and I assume the crabapples will be as well.

of course I've been knitting as well  - nothing like a bit of that in front of the warm oven! this is a small giveaway project, a cowl. I used the same pattern I knitted for the slouch socks, which gives a wrinkly furrowed look to the cowl. I used smaller needles for the top and larger ones for the bottom, that's why it looks a bit odd in shape. but it feels quite nice around the neck and is long enough to cover v-necks or larger neck openings. they knit up quite qickly with needles size 4 mm and I was able to use exactly one ball (50 g) for each - couldn't stop myself, had to make two, because I had two balls of this yarn:)
spinning has been all purple these last few weeks - because I wanted to finish all those yarns dyed with logwood (they do stain the fingers a bit when spinning, but after washing the yarn this stops). all of those are from the same dye bath, several dips and everything is purple:) the lightest one on the left is alpaca; there is some wool/silk blend, some mohair, and the darkest one on the right is south american top. I wasn't sure what to use the yarns for, but after translating the article "handspun gallery" for the latest spinoff I decided that I will make a vest like the one featured - only much longer than shown. and I think to set of the purple a bit better, I'll spin some contrast colour, maybe a darker green? not sure yet, but nothing will happen on this front before christmas, so I still have plenty of time to get inspiration on that matter.
 enough photos now  - back to more knitting (mittens) and spinning (green silk/wool this time!)

Saturday, 3 December 2011

special request - or "water management"

Leigh from "5 acres and a dream" asked me if I could post photos of our water supplies. so here it goes:

if you come from a civilized country in the western world, chances are that you just open the tap in the house and out comes clear water. of course - this comes with a price tag, too! I don't know how it is in other countries, but I know that in Germany you pay more for waste water now than for the water itself. which makes perfect sense, because cleaning waste water is a huge effort and has to be paid for. in our temperate climate a lot of people seem to think that water is ubiquitous; there's enough rainfall, so why the high prices? but clean water is not a matter of course; it's not just "there" to be used up! and when we came over we realised quickly that we've been spoiled in Germany. over here in the countryside water supplies are private schemes. and let's just say that their running isn't always as efficient as it should be. the result is that some of the time the water in our area is not fit for human consumption. that is why we didn't get connected to that scheme! luckily rain is usually in plentiful supply in the west of ireland. so we installed tanks. small tanks, large tanks - all to be used to collect water for the house. we have two wells within walking distance, where we can fetch drinking water in canisters, but the rest of our water consumption is covered by rainwater.
the picture above shows the most important part of it (apart from the rain that is:). to use water inside the house you need at least some pressure. this is provided by height - as you can see, we have one large tank installed  higher up than the main house (and there is a very large concrete tank underneath!). this gives the water enough pressure to flow inside the pipes easily - though you can see inside, when the level is lower, the pressure sinks! of course this tank doesn't hold nearly enough water for our needs. there are more:

 those drums are at the back of the house. they are connected, so that the overflow is caught by the next drum - until they are overflowing. which has been happening a lot lately, because of the extremely wet summer and autumn. that isn't a problem however, because there is a small "cherry laurel forest" behind the house, which can take up all the overflow without getting too muddy.
there are more tanks alongside the shed. same here, tanks are connected to make the best use. just in the corner to the bottom left you can see a black pipe. this pipe is used to pump water from the tanks into the main tank higher up. the same set-up is on the other side to empty those thanks. the pump is installed inside the shed and runs on electricty. unfortunately, but no other set-up has been viable so far. and it needs to be inside, because the pump can freeze during winter, which we had to discover last year in the very cold spell:( the shed isn't heated and after 6 weeks of near permanent frost the water inside the pump turned to ice and the pump exploded - and had to be replaced.

 this is another tank - which holds about 1000 l and is fed by the porch roof to the side of the house. the white wall to the right belongs to the tank in the next photo.
 we also have two large concrete tanks. one is below the black "egg" in the first picture. and the second one is in this photo. from the outside it looks like part of the house - but the lower part in front is actually all tank. with a tap at the bottom - and a roof on top, which also feeds the black "egg", which is behind the white part.
 of course there are drums close to every roof, never mind how small. this one is at the front porch (with gravel underneath to catch any overflow), but there are others for the greenhouse etc. all in all we have well over 15.000 l of water, if all tanks are full. since we started this system, we have never been out of water, even in drier years. of course, even this water isn't really "free". we don't pay money (apart from having well and rain water tested for pollution each year, the electricity for the pump and water filters, which need replacement every now and then) - but I can tell you that it takes quite a lot of work to manage it all. you have to keep the gutters clean, and of course the tanks need regular cleaning as well. you have to monitor the water level in the upper tank or you might run out of water just when you're all soapy in the shower:) but all in all we are lucky to have such good water - no need for softener or calgon etc. in our household! and of course, being a natural dyer - I value my very soft water as well:))
unfortunately there are still no proper water charges here, related to consumption of the user, at least in our area. you can still see leaking water troughs in the fields and nobody looking after them. farmers still spread slurry willynilly close to wells etc. it takes a long time to seep into some people's minds that having good water is their right - without doing anything for it!