Wednesday 28 January 2015

Feet first

A while ago DH bought some piece of kit or other and an xy table.   The combination of this enabled him to laser cut foamy stuff to make a padded inside for an air pistol case.

He then made me an insert for my sewing machine feet.    I had to search around to find a suitable case.  I struggled a bit as, in order to find a case that could accomodate all the feet, it looked like I was going to have to get something too big.  Im the end I used a Prym stackable case which I had optimisticaly bought before Christnas, but hadn't used.

DH did a printout of the holes, and I then cut them out and moved them around until I worked out how to fit them in the space.  DH then reordered his cutting diagram so it matched my proposed layout, and then lasered the slots.

Each foot has it's own specially shaped slot...
..and I've labelled the base of the (I've removed 2 feet so youcan see the labels).
Vary happy!

Cock a hoop


I've seen posts on a Machine Embroidery Facebook group about 'ITH' or 'In The Hoop' projects. Mostly they passed me by.    I was looking for 'In the Hoop' videos on Youtube to see what it was all about and, luckily, I came across this one from PicklePieDesigns

I was amazed at how easy it seemed to be. Coincidentally, I had a USB stick full of photos to give to my DSD (darling step daughter), so I decided to have a go.

I had to order some zips first, and ordered a mixed pack from Amazon, which arrived the next day.  I bought the design from PicklePie, and had a go,


I showed DH who kindly showed interest. Then I made another.

 I didn't take a photo of the first one, which was made with a spotty fabric.  I've given it to DSD now.
Here are some pics of the second one I made.  I used a cat fabric for this and I worked out how to match it up on either side of the zip

I was really pleased.  

I looked at Pickle Pie's other offerings, looking for a tissue-pack sized zippered case.  She didn't have one, although she did have an array of different sizes.

I searched, and the other sites I found had them, but they had stipple quilting over them which I didn't really want.  I emailed PicklePie to see if she could, perhaps, put one up.  She emailed back to say she would add it to the list of requests.

Another website had anunstippled coinpurse, with the zip 1/3rd of the way down.  I bought that and tried it.  It was OK, but it wasn't as good as PicklePie's.  The new one involved spray fabric adhesive, and finishing off with wundaweb.  It was OK, but it wasn't as neat.

So I'll wait and see if PicklePie comes up with the goods.

Sunday 25 January 2015


A hole appeared in one of DH'checked s soft shirts.

For a few days I considered patching it with a home made applique patch.  I've never made an applique patch, I wasn't really sure how or what to do.  I looked online, couldn't find anything that would help.

And then I wondered if I could darn it using my machine.  I looke din the instruction book, and there was a small section on a darning sticthc using the buttonhole foot.   I looked online for videos, but all I could find were videos about darning free-hand.  However, it did give me confidence that it could be done.

I got a small piece of material and forced a hole in it, and then followed the instructions.  To my amazement, it worked!

I found thread to match the shirt, took a deep breath, and had a go.

It worked beautifully.  A neat little darn, the thread matched well.  I was so pleased, I showed it to DH.  And then I realised that I had the shirt the wrong way round.  My beautiful darn was on the inside,  and on the outside was white bobbin thread.

I couldn't see how to unpick it.  So, I decided to embroider something on top.  I found a heart, I found thread to match the red in the shirt.  I tested it.  I did it.  It worked.  Not sure how DH would feel about having a heart embroidered on his shirt, but never mind.

I trimmedround the embroidery and.....I made another hole.


So I had to darn that. The right way round.

It could be worse. 

That's what I keep telling myself.

It could.  I could have just binned the shirt without trying.  In that respect, we're no worse off than we were before.

Thursday 22 January 2015

That was quick!

When we get close to the allotment we call for Henry.  Without fail, we unlock the gate to impatient boks and burbles. As soon as the gate is swung open,  the harem pours out onto the grass path and starts nibbling grasstops.

Today I counted 7 black girls plus Henry (plus Nora and Batty,).   One of the Littlees had obviously attached herself to the harem.

The remaining Littlees, 2 black girls plus Big Bird and Princess, were wandering around as their own little flock.   

In between checking the feeders, I kept an eye on the newest member of the harem.  She mingled amongst the established hens without problem.  She got pecks on the head when she got too close,  but they were more of a "Oi", rather than an annoyed "OY!!!!!!!".

Doesn't mean she'll be roosting with the Establishment,   but so far so good.

Wednesday 21 January 2015

Seeing red

I've been continuing to stitch out the embroidery designs that I've bought.   I tried a couple direct on to cardstock, but it wasn't entirely successful.

Today I decided to try a Redwork design.  Redwork is something that is very common in the US,  it is very simple outline embroidery, usually done with red thread (hence the name.).

I bought  pleasant hen design from and then stitched it directly onto card, using a purple thread.

I think it worked well.  I can see me buying a few more of these  for card use.  I'm kicking myself because they sent me a fantastic discount voucher which I hadn't used, and it expired on Monday.

Sneaky peek

It wasn't my day to do the Allotment chooks today.  

This evening, however, I was driving through the village. It was dark, and raining.  I wondered if the Littlees were OK.   Although we have plenty of coop space,  I had visions of them being denied access to the coops by Angry Old Hens.

The next thing I knew, I had parked by the allotment gates and was slipping around on the mud trying to find my way down to our allotment.  Luckily I had a small torch in my coat pocket.  I bought 5 fantastic, small, LED torches from Amazon a while back, and I now have one in each coat, one in my handbag and one in my car. 

Shed: Henry and 4 wives;  Mrs' old ropey coop: SIouxsie in the nest box,  NoraOrBatty and 2 wives on the roosting bars'  home made coop: Norman and NotNorman in the nestboxes,  NoraOrBatty on the roosting bars.  And in the Littlees' coop?  All five of them, together.

All is well.

Looking forward to seeing them in the daylight tomorrow to check for signs of henpecking.

Tuesday 20 January 2015


It was -5 this morning, and the Garden Girls' drinkers were both frozen over.  Even the inside one, which is better potected and therefore usually less solid, required hot water and a bit of bashing.  Reminded me a bit of the old ReadyBrek advert, the one with the girl and her pony. Sorry, I'm digressing down memory lane..

It was our turn to do the Allotment Chooks today, so we went before breakfast. 

We started by poiring fresh water on top of the drinkers, and fresh water into a bowl.  This meant that the Girls could drink while we worked.     DH fired up the camping stove, and we defrosted each of the metal drinkers in turn.  Once the ice started to melt, I broke it with a stick. 

We then set up the tea lights (prtected in a small glass ramekin, with the ramekin inside an illy coffee tin, holes drilled at strategic points to let the condensation out), and put one under each of 2 drinkers. 

I also let the Littlees out to join the main flock.    I was surprised at the lack of hen pecking,  the littlees were even allowed to drink while others were drinking.   Maybe it was just too cold for any of the big girls to notice, or maybe it was because Henry was standing nearby. Or we were.  

The two flocks separated again, with main flock going outside to the grassy path and the Littlees staying in the allotment area and exploring. 

The Oldies came back fairly quickly,  and I spread corn out everywhere.  There was a little bit of head-pecking, but nothing major that I could see.

We put the door-into-the-Litlees-Paddock on its side (as in Raymond Briggs' "When the Wind Blows" ), leaning up against the fence.  This would provide additional refuge if any of the Littlees needed it. 

All done, did a quick headcount. It's much harder now. It used to be 
6 black - check
Nora & Batty - check
Norman and Co - check
Princess - check
Big Bird - check
3 Black - check.

Today it was "Nora & Batty, yep; Norman & Co, yep; Henry, yep; Big Bird,yep.  1,2,3,4,5,was that Princess or a black chicken? - Princess - 4, 5, 6, haven't I just counted you?. Hold on.  1,2,3,4,5 here,  6,7, by the fence, Princess, stop moving, 1,2,3,4,Princess, 5,6,7,8, where's number 9? Is there a black chicken in the shed? Yes? 9. Right.

Hopefully they'll be OK tonight.   

If we didn't have a cockerel,  I wouldn't attempt the integration this fast.   Hope Henry does his job, keeping the Girls in order I mean.

Sunday 18 January 2015

Lucky girls

I raised the subject of the 5 dinner girls.   Time was getting on, and it won't be long before we need to have their paddock empty so it can rest and be re-seeded before the 2015 hatch go in there.  

We talked about options.  The mother of 2 of the 5 girls is unrelated to Henry - and a different breed -  so potentially we could keep them for breeding.  The mothers of the other 3 are related to Henry, so we don't want to breed from them.  

We could dispatch all 5, which is - after all - what they were bred for.
We could dispatch the 3 and keep the 2. 
We could rehome them

Keeping 2 was an attractive option.  We had planned to breed and keep some girls from her this year. The mother is getting on a bit, so we need to carry the line on while we can.    We don't even know if she'll lay this year.

However, introducing 2 hens to a flock of 10 isn't a particularly kind thing to do.

Rehomoming them was definitely possible.... except we know that the 3 of them (a) are likely to be very broody (their mothers are), and (b) shouldn't really be bred from.    (a) is a nuisance for hobby keepers with small flocks,  and both (a) and (b) are a problem for more serious keepers.   

DH talked it over with OC (other chap),  and in the end they decided to keep all 5.  We have a few hens who are getting on a bit and are likely to stop laying soon,  and we have the space to accomodate them all.    We'd ring the 3, so we can easily identify them,  and we can then make sure that we don't breed from them moving forward.

So, today we put rings on them.  We'll give them today and tomorrow to get used to their rings, and then on Tuesday, we'll open up their paddock so that all the hens can mingle freely. .  They will still have access to their coop (although, of course,  the older girls will have access to it as well).

There is plenty of space, there are places for cover.  Having Henry should, in theory, mean that the older girls are kept in line.

There is 1 older girl who has a marked card already, so we will keep an eye on her. If she is unnecessarily aggresive, we'll remove her.

Let's see how it goes.

Sunday 11 January 2015

Five go loopy

The 5 dinner girls are desperate to get into the main flock's area.     They have no understanding of hen pecking - because they have grown up together, the pecking order of their group has been achieved without them realising.

Today, they tried to push past me when I went into their run to do the waterer and feed.  I decided to let them - I wasn't too worried, as I'd let Henry and the Harem out onto the grass and the main area was mostly empty.

Except for Batty,  who was dustbathing under one of the old coops. 

She was lying there, fairly still.  I had to do a double take; for a moment there, I thought she had died mid bathe.  But no, she was just lying at an angle,   building up for the next flourish.

The dinner girl known as Big Bird (who happens to be Batty's daughter) walked up to her, and started intently, fascinated,  head down, watching.

Time stopped.

And then Batty realised that her personal space was being invaded,  fflipped over, and gave chase.

Henry and the Harem came back in to see what the fuss was about .  There were a few squabbles, but the Littlees were OK as long as they didn't get directly in the Big Girls path or beak-line.

Shortly afterwards I attempted to shoo the five dinner girls back into their own area.  Four of them went in easily.  The fifth, a small girl,  didn't.

We had a bit of a Benny Hill chase as I attempted to walk her in to her own area.  Each time I got close, she opened her wings and then ran, squawking madly.  She ran through groups of Harem girls, causing them to scatter and panic as well.   It made me chuckle (it was a pleasant day, so I wasn't in a rush).

If I didn't know better, I'd swear that Lotti - my loopy exchequer leghorn - was her mother.

Actually, as I typed that, I had to go and check my spreadsheet to make sure that there wasn't any way that Spike (Lotti's brother, culled because he was a nasty bugger) could have been her father.

Nope. Spike was culled in October 2013.

Eventually I managed to get her to go back in her own area, and all was well. 

I will miss them when they go.



Yesterday, I managed to turn up three pairs of trousers,  using a double zigzag overcast stitch (and the overcasting foot) and a beautiful straightstitch for the hem, using my hemming foot.

Anyone who does this sort of thing without thinking about it,  will doubtless be thinking "And....?", and will be waiting for the punchline.

But the achievement is the punchline.  This is so out of my comfort zone, I feel huge sense of achievement. Especially as we normally pay £10 a time to get trousers shortened.

I also made 8 litres of cream into butter,  which is business as usual.

Today,  DH made marscapone out of a litre of cream. This is the second time we've done this, and this time it worked like a dream.  He used the Codlo,  so that's another tick for that appliance.

And I used Thermy to make a lemon drizzle cake. 

Such domestication!

Thursday 8 January 2015

Out with the old

I'm on a mini decluttering roll.

I've bitten the bullet and put some lovely unread books in a pile to go.  Sadly, they aren't worth selling, despite costing a lot of money when new.  I checked on Amazon, and there are loads of all of them for sale for 1p plus £2.81 postage, so no one is going ot pay more than 2.80 for them incuding postage... and as they are all hard backed, postage costs too much to make it worthwhile listing them..

I seem to remember getting to this point once before and then deciding I might as well keep them,  but I still haven't read them, and I expect it will be the same next year.  

I did try posting them on a couple of Facebook local-selling sites, but even though I was asking little for them, they just aren't selling. 

I should have done this before Christmas, as they would have made great Christmas presents.   However, I'm not keeping them for another year.

They'll be off to the charity shop tomorrow. 

Monday 5 January 2015

Reality check

Went to see to the allotment chooks today and noticed that all the hens had disappeared from a neighbouring plot.  

There were no signs of fox attack, nor of forced entry.  The hens were there on Saturday, I always say "Hello" to them as I walk past.  DH and I discussed whether the plot holders might be unaware of what happened.  It didn't seem likely,  they would probably have been down that morning already.

But what if they didn't know?

I phoned OC (other chap) to see if he knew what had happened or if he knew the phone number of the chaps who have the plot.  OC didn't pick up his phone,  so I carried on with my own business.  

I walked past the Allotment "office" on the way back to the car, and found the number for the membership secretary.  I called, explained why I was phoning, and asked her to phone the plotholders to let them know, just in case they didn't already.

A few minutes later she phoned me back.  They had removed the hens themselves, to be culled because they weren't laying.

It happens all the time, all over the place. For many people, hens have to earn their kee - and not everyone has the luxury of funding "freeloaders".  I realise that they don't have the space to keep so many non-laying hens.  

I was sad for the hens concerned, but I know they had a good life - better than many.

Most of our allotment girls are only" freeloading" over the winter.  For the second-year girls, I don't really think of this as freeloading. they are just having their winter break. For the older girls (3 are 5 years old and 2 are 4 years old), this might just be a winter break or it might be the henopause.    They are lucky girls because we have space to accomodate them even if they aren't going to lay any more. 

They have no idea how lucky they are.


DSD visited on Saturday, and so I bit the bullet yesterday and took down all the decorations.

It took ages.  The boxes are currently standing on the landing, waiting to go into the loft.  No point putting them away immediately. as I inevitably keep finding bits of Christmas debris for a couple of days.  

I was marvelling atjust how many boxes of stuff there is.   We don't actually do that much decorating.  The tree decorations fit in one box;  the front-door-wreath have another box.  We have a 2...I can't think of the word...mantles is what comes to mind, but itsn't quite right They take up another box.  The bannister....mantle and lights take up another box.   Then there are the various battery-operated fairy light strings and the hangers for the kitchen...   

When I was a kid we had one small box of christmas tree ornaments,  a fake tree,  and some then-trendy shiny hanging things which folded flat (which replaced the old-fashioned paper ornaments which folded flat)   The fashion was to have these things hanging from the ceiling.  Everyone seemed to have them.   I left home at 18, and I don't think I've ever used those sort of ornaments in my own home... I wonder when they stopped being de rigeur?  

Once everything was packed away,  I carried our lovely tree and wreath round to the tree recycing point.  I'm very lucky that our local council provides a collection service, and even luckier that it's within walking distance.   I thanked the tree and wreath, and left them with all the others.

Today I'm putting newly-washed tablecloth, table runner, mats and stuff away,  and then I'll bring my sewing machine downstairs and think about what to sew. Or embroider.

I've already been clearing out stuff that we no longer need, or don't use. 


Thursday 1 January 2015

New Year

No New Year resolutions here.  Personally I find it best to make decisions on changes as I go, rather than waiting til January.

Had dinner with friends yesterday.  S had made a lot of her own Christmas tree decorations, mostly hand sewn.  I might try making a couple, ideally  now while I am thinking about Christmas...if I don't do it now then I won't have time later in the year. 

I'm waiting to take the decorations down before I set up my sewing machine.  Normally I'm more than ready to put everything away by now..but the tree is lovely and has hardly shed at all,  the front foor wreath still makes me smile,  and I like having the candles everywhere.  Maybe tomorrow. Or Sunday.   

The allotmenr chooks are all happy.   The little Dinner Girls escaped into the main run today.   One of them got very excited at being in Henry's presence.  She's obviously coming into lay as she crouched excitedly, waving herself at him.   He pecked her on the comb and walked off.  She ran around with the excitement of it all.

I shooed them back into their own area, reminding myself that we aren't looking to increase the harem with any girls from the 2014 hatch.   Back in the winter of 2012, DH merged the then-dinner girls with the then-harem for the winter... and couldn't bring himself to cull any of them after that.   I can see a similar slippery slope with this hatch,  and it it really isn't a good idea.     My plan was to do some selective breeding this year (2015) and keep some of those girlies.  If we keep the 2014 girls, we won't have room for any from this year.

At home, Custard is on a final warning.  She's always been a bully of a chicken. Not in Milly's league (Milly was the cream legbar we had to cull in the end), but she does have a nasty streak.   She's been particularly horrible recently,  and the final warning was issued when I caught her dragging Poppy round the run by the comb.      After Milly, I promised myself I wouldn't shilly-shally if it happened again, but I obviously am.  A bit.  Custard isn't in Milly's league of nastiness though.

We'll see.