Monday, 23 April 2018

Animals Matter

We have oodles of space here. Plenty room for lots of animals, should we choose to have them. And before we got here our dream life was going to be shared with geese, ducks, turkeys and pigs as well as our pets. Two dogs figured in the dream as well.

Our experience with the geese pretty much put us off large domestic fowl. The turkeys have never materialised.

We have been breeding our own hens with the intention of using the males as meat and only keeping sufficient hens for our egg needs. Our last brood of chicks were all hens (how lucky was that) but then we had two hens die for no apparent reason. This happens sometimes. One minute they are fine the next they're dead. The flock is now a manageable 7 hens and the cockerel.

We never intended having 5 cats. It's way too many. Yes we have space but in winter when it rains they want to stay in the house and the house is small. This resulted in instances of bullying and floor wetting and defecation in the shower. This is not fun for us.

At last the better weather has arrived and the cats spend more time outside. Then the eldest cat was attacked by something (probably a strange cat) and the trip to the vets was very expensive. Not to mention time consuming and awkward on a daily basis trying to administer antibiotics in food to just one cat. There was barely a pause between that ones recovery and the next coming down with cystitis - a male cat??? WTF?? The evidence of this was urinating in tiny puddles almost everywhere he went. On  the table, on my lap, on floor, rug etc. It also coincided with guests staying.

More antibiotics and analgesic followed. Cue the next cat which started exhibiting symptoms of fever and what we thought was a bite at the base of his tail. Turns out this is a rare case of perianal fistula in cats. (Dont go there!) We are now administering more antibiotics and applying cream to the cats bum!

Our beloved Fergus is doing well. Now receiving daily medication for his Cushing's disease and responding well. He will be 12 this summer. That's quite old for his breed. Today the vet tells us he is showing early signs of cataracts, sort of the pre cataract stage. We knew he was losing his sight for some time but luckily for dogs their noses and ears are much more important to them.

Our kitchen is starting to resemble a pharmacy and we are on bread and water for the next month. The vet, I believe, is contemplating an exotic holiday.

Friday, 6 April 2018

The Spring Clean

Every year around about this time I do an old fashioned spring clean. Corners are cleaned, little used areas inspected for unwanted visitors (of the insect variety), curtains washed and even cupboards emptied and cleaned.

This year the spring clean has included reupholstering the outdoor dining chairs and changing the curtains in the outdoor kitchen.

As the weather starts to warm up the outdoor space becomes our main living area and the door to the house stays open all day.

With the door open the house is soon dusty again but I'm not too worried about this. If it has been thoroughly cleaned then a little dust isn't going to worry me too much.

Except that we are poised for visitors and we'd like them to get a good impression of the place. So it's been spring cleaning plus!!! The plus has included the garden.

New shrubs and flowering plants are poised to be transplanted - hoping they do well, it's never easy here. Basically my rule of thumb is to give everything as much shade as possible.

We are including the veggie plot in with the spring clean. The winter veg was a bit of a disappointment due to lack of rain. But we have bought an array of summer veg - tomatoes, peppers, aubergine, squash and lettuce. I also have alot of cotton to plant this year.

We love having visitors but we can hardly fit them in with all the work still to be done.  Since spring arrived we have also had another hen turn broody. Our last little batch of three chicks turned out to be all hens (hooray) and so we decided to move broody hen to the maternity wing and give her half a dozen eggs this time. She sat for a day then turfed all the eggs out of the nest and gave up.  Now she is bopping about making broody noises but showing no inclination to sit on any eggs.

And so the rythm of the seasons continues and we are never bored and seldom discontented.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Edinburgh Knit Fest 2018

There were a number of reasons for my return visit to Scotland, one of the most exciting was the Edinburgh Knitfest. Since knitting became the cool and trendy favourite pastime of the young - EYF has to be one (if not THE) trendiest of events in the UK knitting calendar and I was really looking forward to being on the crest of the coolness wave for a change. My usual place is treading water in the rock pool after the wave has receded and the tide is barely a line of blue in the distance.

You don't believe knitting is cool!? Well try this little snippet featuring the lady I saw on the bus going to the event.

I was sat at the back of the bus anxiously watching for signposts or clues about where to get off when I began to notice a large number of hand knitted hats and scarves dotted about the bus and stood at the front, a lady with turquoise hair who filmed us all and then asked all the hand knitters on the bus to raise a hand. It seemed like the entire bottom deck of the bus was going to the Knitfest, so I followed everyone else - there was no possibility of getting lost.

My only anxiety after this was the weather and the fact that I was queuing. By the time I knew for certain that I could make the festival all the advance tickets were sold out and I had to leave it to chance and the queue. The weather was a windy -1C with snow. I am no longer accustomed to such stuff. Now I'm going to gloss over the horror I felt when someone told me their sister had queued for over an hour the day before. I only waited about 10 minutes.

It was warm inside, and full, I mean FULL of yarn and fibre goodies from all over the world. Colour senses overload!

I was not as well prepared as I thought. I had a rough list of things that I wanted to purchase or look at. I knew one of the suppliers that was there and intended to purchase some wool from her for a jumper pattern I bought when she was at the Loch Ness Yarn Fest. I walked around the hall aimlessly for the first hour before I realised I needed a plan of the hall with a list of vendors. When I found her it turned out I'd passed her stand twice and not noticed - too many sparkly pretty things either side! Or perhaps this is evidence of my taste in yarn - subdued, subtle even.

Shopping in this kind of atmosphere is fraught with danger. You are surrounded by people in a shopping frenzy and with every breath you take on board not just oxygen but the desire to exchange the notes in your purse for some squishy soft woolly delights.  Its a pandemic! But it's hard to decide which, or what will cure and what will just make your symptoms worse! Some purchases lead to others like patterns lead to wool which leads to needles and stitch holders and markers and yarn guages and needle guages and one of each is NEVER enough.

Too much choice leaves me unable to decide and in danger of buying nothing. Oh no! This cannot be! The most popular choices are skeins of varied coloured or multi coloured or gradient coloured wools in every shade of the rainbow and then some. The cost of some of these skeins can be as much as £15. But there is simply too many different hues to be able to choose just one. And just one would make a hat, or a scarf or perhaps gloves but not all three. There's only so many hats and scarves a girl can use (especially if you live in Spain). So I admired much of these but purchased little. Likewise I passed by the stand called Socks Yeah.

My favourites are the single breed wool in natural shades straight from the sheep. Or the gentle dyes of the fairisle patterns. Timeless, classy and ageless - or perhaps they're not. Perhaps they are old fashioned, a bit like me.  This is what I'd like to achieve with my local wool but I will seriously have to up my game.

Or perhaps if I want to attract interest from younger knitters I should try to emulate the wilder colours that are perhaps what has been fuelling the rise in popularity of knitting in general. 

I did get to try out a spinning wheel that I've heard alot about but of course would normally not get the opportunity to try before buying. It's the Schacht Ladybug. A beautiful, small, portable wheel that spins like a dream but doesn't seem to offer anything different than my Lendrum and is surprisingly complicated to set up (or perhaps I'm not very wheel savvy) by comparison. Remembering how nervous I was about purchasing my newest Lendrum without being able to try it first I am now patting myself on the back. The Ladybug was cute and kinda cool but my Lendrum is better 😁.

The cute little Ladybug.

Only one thing could have improved on the day. If I had taken a friend and some knitting. But I had neither with me.  Although knitters are always happy to chat with other knitters and it wouldn't have been hard to make new friends I didn't really make the effort.  Although I did find someone willing to take my photo with the Heilan' Coo!

Needless to say I had a wonderful time, spent a pile of money, came home exhausted and with a cold but soooo happy I went. Can't you tell?

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Acrylic Yarn Puzzle

I gave the sewing room a quick tidy and yet again was reminded that I have a large bag of acrylic yarn, some of it quite pleasant stuff, that needs a purpose. It has to be used rather than thrown or given away because

1.  I purchased it, although cheap it's a terrible waste of money to not use it.
2.  It can't simply be passed on because that would be a case of giving my problem to someone else, (someone who might use it for a frequently washed article).
3.  It can only be used for an item that doesn't need much washing because it is essentially plastic and will shed microfilaments during washing.

So. I initially thought perhaps a blanket. Or blanket squares. But I've already got a half finished acrylic blanket made up of squares - now put to use in the cats basket. I don't really want to do any more as it was very boring.

Then I thought toys? Knitted animals or dolls. Mmmmmmmm yes, I might do that.  Or household items.. cushion covers? Mmmmmmmm too prone to get dirty and in truth I don't want acrylic household items.  I guess I don't actually want to use it at all but here I am, stuck with it. It doesn't biodegrade so I don't really want it in the garden. I've put some of my exhibition art work in the garden. Slowly over time it will return to nature. I like that, the acrylic stuff is so out of place now.

Then I had a thought. Why not just burn it? I hate it, I don't want it, I don't think anyone should have it so why not? Is there a good reason not to burn it? Any thoughts? Oh yeah it cost me money, would I burn money? Well I'd have a hard job burning the new British tenners - they're plastic! They feel like plastic 😐. So here I am back full circle with a large bag of acrylic yarn. Help.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Springing into Action

There seems to be so much going on at the moment. I am always busy. There is always more to do. That's not to say I don't enjoy a snooze on the verandah after lunch or catch up on a favourite TV series on Netflix in the evening. But the days are full of things to do and I can't seem to get to the end of the list - in fact I am almost never able to even cross off a job.

The To-Do list is full of items like: weed veggie patch or process the remaining sheep fleece. Weeding is no sooner finished than it must be started again and it's unlikely I will get to the end of the sheep fleece before I get more.

The giant pile of unwanted plastic has gone to the recycling. Hurrah!

The garden shed has been cleared and tidied and with help from our volunteers children, items have been washed, dried and put away.

 As a reward for helping me I gave them a stick weaving experience - they made dreamcatchers to take back to their home when their travels are over. I hope they will remember their stay with us.

Our volunteers moved on and we had a few days respite before we hosted a cyclist for a couple of nights. We put our details on a website called 'warmshowers' which lets touring cyclists know of places to stay where they can rest, get a hot meal, a warm shower, pitch their tent, catch their breath etc. Normally cyclists don't stay more than one night but our intrepid traveller was in need of a rest and asked if she could stay an extra day. There is no money changing hands, we get paid in travellers tales and adventures of, sometimes, epic proportions. It's a rewarding thing to do from our perspective and we don't often get takers. Our cycling guest started her journey in Sweden last November and taking a winter break in southern Ireland has been cycling southwards ever since, the final destination being Lisbon where she will spend a few days before flying to New York for a job interview at a bike shop. We feel sure she is a really good candidate.

My plastic reducing regime was sorely tested when out shopping. Checking the label of a dress, skirt and blouse that I really liked, I found that it was 100% synthetic fibres and so I very reluctantly walked away. I consoled myself with a pair of jeans 95% cotton and 5% elastane/lycra. I added to that 3 100% cotton tops and I felt quite pleased with myself.

The food shop was a monumental fail when it came to reducing plastic. Remember I told you that laziness would likely be the downfall? Well so it was. It was impossible to purchase fruit and veg without putting it into a plastic bag. It wasn't market day so if I wanted fruit and vegetables there was no alternative.  We thought about going to the butchers but looking at our watches just put a pack of prepackaged meat in the shopping cart. I consoled myself with the thought that I would be recycling the plastic container.

The weather continues sunny and getting warmer, although today we have a very cold wind. It's hard not to feel at least a little bit energised by the advance of spring.. so many fun things looming, spinning, knitting, sewing, travel, family, friends, gardening, planting, fruit, preserving.. getting paid for our olives and awaiting delivery of two new sofas!

Thursday, 15 February 2018

I'm on a Path to a Better Life

Many of you may think I have already achieved a better life. Compared to my previous incarnation in the world of work I certainly have, but there are no destinations, only journeys and it's how we travel that counts.

For years I worried about the overuse of detergents and what they would do to the environment. I started washing my clothes less frequently, wearing things longer and spot cleaning and airing rather than throwing lightly soiled items into the washing machine.  I never put more washing detergent into the machine than was necessary because in this instance the more you use does not mean that your wash is any cleaner.  I stopped using a softener altogether since it damages the clothes and inhibits towels from absorbing water.

I cut down on the number of washes I gave my hair - with very beneficial results for the health of my scalp I might add. I even showered less, having 'top and tail' washes on alternate days. Basically I returned almost to the hygiene practices of my youth. I started to feel like I was in control of my use of detergents and I was never swayed by Dove advertisements that featured women in the shower with mountains of foamy creamy shower gel all over their bodies. I suppose I felt a little smug - na na na-na na, you can't fool me 😋.

Or so I thought! Now it seems the real enemy is not the detergent I wash my clothes with but the actual clothes themselves! All those acrylic fleeces and easy care polyester shirts and dresses deposit thousands of micro filaments of plastic into the waste water systems that ultimately end up in the oceans where they have been found not only in the simplest marine life but all the way up to the fish we eat.

Plastic filaments of minute dimensions are all around us, in the air we breathe from our carpets, the tumble dryer, even coming off the painted lines in the road every time we drive over them. The health implications are unclear as scientists can't even begin to make studies because they can't find any uncontaminated people to use as a test group. This is serious stuff. The plastic problem is knocking Global warming into a cocked hat!

So. What can we do? Most of us care about the future of the planet and our legacy to future generations of humans but it's hard to see how we can, as individuals, do anything about it. I'm the sort of person that when a problem is identified I have to fix it - or make some kind of attempt at improving the situation. To me it's just a case of saying 'c'mon guys, get a grip'! if I ruled the world - and I mean dictatorship here 😂 global warming would be a thing of the past and we'd be well on the way to cleaning up the plastic crap too, but I digress!

In the past i have found that some of my good intentions can be stymied by laziness, so solutions have to be easy and not require too much effort if success is to be achieved. Bearing that in mind I have made the following declarations:

New clothes, either bought or made, must be of natural fibres or contain more than 50% natural fibres.

Existing synthetic materials will be relegated as much as possible to 'work wear' and almost never be washed (even though our waste water does not leave the finca).

A grand recycling of plastic plant pots from the finca is going to take place this weekend and all future plant pots purchased will be terracotta or stone.

Food shopping will be a challenge but if I can buy an equivalent item in a glass bottle or a tin I will choose that item over a plastic container. Meat will have to be purchased from the butcher where he wraps things in waxed paper rather than the supermarket preference for styrofoam trays and plastic wrap. Ditto cheese, the cheese man on the market wraps the cheese in waxed paper.  Although arguably if I recycle the plastic (and I always do) I shouldn't worry.. or should I? I know that not all plastic can be recycled and alot of what we put into the recycling bins ends up in landfill anyway.  But, I don't want to defeat myself before I've even begun. We will do what we can with what we have.

In reality the food issue is going to be the hardest.  Food shopping will take longer and require visits to different locations (butcher, weekly market, supermarket), changes in eating habits will take a bit of getting used to (less bottled drinks, less foreign cheeses, probably less of a lot of things, certainly less variety).  Although we cook most things from scratch already I do envisage meals requiring more forward planning and more time.

These aims tie in with my existing goal of one day having a hand made wardrobe and the limitations put on a food shop which contains less plastic will result in, as far as I can tell, a healthier diet. All this is good.   It's certainly worth a try.  And if I can achieve even half of this I would consider it a success.. well maybe on the road to success.