Sunday, 31 August 2008

Not much going on....

Well, it's Sunday and not a lot is happening here. We were planning to make a batch of cider using our dear little cider press, but so far only the Spartan apples are ready and this bowl will not a barrel of cider make. Have to wait a bit longer for the fun of apple picking, pressing and trying out the wonderful juice - it really is so unlike anything I have ever bought, though perhaps too sweet to drink much at a time.

So, while the rest of the household is involved in various bits of this and that - Dave is sprawled on our bed working on the story he is writing for Elias and very good it is too; Lucy is playing behind me with dragons, as you do; Isabella is asleep for a bit, thank heavens and Sam is working off nervousness on the playstation (oh, how I hate it!) as he has an ear operation tomorrow - I am finally getting around to acknowledging some awards I have recently received from these lovely people:

Diana at Pebbledash & Zoe at Garden Hopping for the Arte y Pico award

Ginny at the Flour Loft for the 'I Love Your Blog' award

Carol at Katherine's Dream for The Brilliante Weblog awards

I am embarassed to admit that I think there were one or two other tag/awards, but I can't remember as I have taken so long to get round to this, ungrateful beast that I am. I won't pass them on as I think they have done the rounds for so long that people will wonder what on earth I am doing. Thank you to everyone who has ever even thought of me when handing out such things as it truly does mean a lot that people enjoy my ramblings and the pictures that accompany them, and especially when these people return time and again to leave comments - thank you x And PLEASE go visit the above mentioned blogs as they are all on my regular reading list for a variety of reasons, but most importantly are written by such lovely, lovely people.

I also want to thank dear Jane who blogs as Snailbeachshepherdess on a site called Purplecoo, my home from home where I am lucky enough to have made so many friends from all walks of life. Jane kindly sent me this wonderful batch of tapestry and embroidey threads - well, actually the beautiful heap of colours and textures arrived looking just gorgeous until I delved in and started using them. Now they are relegated to my usual heap, but I can honestly say Jane that I am using them, thank you so very much x

I thought this picture worth a repeat as it reminds me of how hard I sometimes struggle with the designing of new items. Some days the ideas just pop out of my head onto the paper and from thence to the fabric, other days I could rip my fast-greying hair out by its very roots. This was one such day - rosehips were in my head, but refused to evolve in the way I wanted. The story so far is one I am not remotely happy with and will have to return to soon, but for now it is enough to see the darned thing here in all its frustrating lack of loveliness as a reminder that it is not all quite like it seems in Country Living with the sun shining merrily as one sits in the garden, fingers fair flying over the linen as visions of loveliness emerge in ones hands...well, not always...

Happy Sunday xx

Monday, 25 August 2008

A beautiful bounty

Have you noticed all the wonderful signs of autumn appearing everywhere you look? Isabella and I took a walk in the lanes and fields above Falmouth Bay on a rather dull grey afternoon to see what could be foraged. Unfoprtunately this picture is all I have left to admire as my little one ate every single berry we picked - well, with just a little help from her mama of course.

I so love the rich colours of autumn fruit: the mix of glossy berries as the light glances off each perfect, tiny globe makes me almost sigh with the need to translate it somehow onto paper or fabric or any medium at all, hence the fact that my camera is rarely away from my side. The following weeks will see me scribbling ideas into my notebook like a squirrel foraging its bounty away for a time of less colour and overburdened hedgerows, and when the light becomes that leaden tone of deepest winter I shall at least have these to cheer me until the spring arrives once more.

All this fruitfulness also heralds the start of wine making in the Poltiskofarm household with bowls full of blackberries, rosehips and sloes lined up on the worktops waiting to be turned into sloe gin or wine or cordials. The children are all past masters at knowing which fruits are worth the picking and how to judge the best time for gathering sloes (we don't wait for frost in Cornwall as it is too mild and the birds will have had the lot by the end of September). They also know how important it is not to strip plants bare, understanding that wildlife benefit from these important crops too.

We are lucky in that all the children from 25 year old Tom who really can hardly be called a child to 2 year old Isabella have a real love of this time of gathering, and quite willingly join in on the walks and the subsequent frenzy of making that inevitably follows. I love seeing them all sitting around the kitchen table pricking the hard, dusky sloes before bottling them with gin and sugar for one of the best drinks of all.

All our apple trees have done well this year and will provide the basis for crumbles and tarte tatin with its gloriously sticky, buttery juices...mmm. Yes, all we need is a little (!) sun to help things along with that beautiful, mellow autumn light and I will be a happy Pip sewing away a little autumn goodness of my own with a glass of the good stuff keeping me company.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

The Towans

I have finally been working through my list of to do jobs which is HUGE! One of the main things I wanted to complete was the bag design inspired by our recent visit to Gunpowder Towans on the Hayle estuary. The combination of vast dunes of the softest sands interspersed with tall clumps of spiky grasses, golden ragwort and tangled brambles, the whole set against that amazing backdrop of wide, wide seas and distant blue cliffs... you can tell it just filled my mind with images which demanded to be set onto fabric.

This is the second of my Cornish Collection, the first being Trevaunance

The Towans is the result of all my scribbles into my notebook (thank you so much Diana) once I returned home from our walk which, for an endlist list of reasons, has taken me until now to complete. The photographing of the finished article was another story all together and all I will say is 'rain'.

I decided to use a mix of hand and freehand machine embroidery for this bag as I wanted the sharpness of the grasses to contrast with the softer elements of sand, etc. Hand embroidery always reflects a softness of texture for me and so I turned to this for the line of text which reads 'soft the sand as grasses bend', using a bright yet gentle green to imitate the less harsh grasses bordering the dunes. The freehand nature of the machine embroidery however gave the spikiness I needed to the parts which left my legs scratched due to my stupidity in wearing sandals on such a landscape. By clicking on the images this blend of textures becomes clearer (I hope!).

And so there you have it - one more job off the list, one more to the collection and one more step forward in developing my design work which I am just loving. I really want to push this side of things and find my own style, something I think is coming as I allow my creative side to stretch and grow, constantly using the very things around me which have inspired me for as long as I can remember and exploring how to interpret them onto fabric. Of course, this will always involve a use of other things which inspire me - embroidery and the way in which stitches work both with and against textiles is a constant source of fun, as is the play of text against this backdrop and the meanings of words themselves; so many layers to every line of text...don't you just love language? Sorry, got carried away there.

I'll sign off for now, but I can't tell you what a creative journey that felt like - just wonderful.

Bye for now
Pipany x

Monday, 18 August 2008

A problem harvest.

I have finally morphed into a true Brit endlessly looking out of the window, sighing at the rain, clicking my tongue as I shake my head with a melancholy air. Oh I am a true delight to be around I can assure you. I switch from sighing to whining...loudly. I'm not sure about the rest of you, but we have had so much rain here.....right, enough; I will stop and get a grip before I drive any poor souls who may have ventured this far away. On to other things.

Ok, this does involve a rain-filled discussion, but bear with me. Cornwall is renowned for being slightly ahead of the rest of the country in the plant stakes - it is the mild climate you see, the same one that brings much rain, and usually I start harvesting herbs for drying from July onwards. This year has been tricky, more than tricky, as I have patiently waited for the lavender to flower, the oregano and sweet marjorams to bloom, the myriad other herbs strewn around our increasingly wild and windswept garden to blossom so that I can begin one of my favourite tasks of cutting them. The eventual aim is for them to be used in various mixes in such things as these Sweet Dreams hearts....

or these embroidered sachets...

or even this Babbit filled with soothing lavender and chamomile...

Needless to say, the harvest has been poor - slow to reach that perfect point of flower with the wet weather and high humidity rotting much of the potential harvest in the meantime. I always pick my flowers in the late morning where possible, the reason being quite simple in that too late in the day runs the risk of the powerful essential oils having evaporated and too early could mean they are damp from the dew, thus running the possibility of botrytis (grey mould) developing in the drying process. On the one of about three days which were not rain drenched this holiday I finally decided to cut them and be hanged, hoping that the meagre harvest would be dry enough and not overblown, but not prepared to wait any longer.

(lavender & chamomile sachets)

My hope is that by cutting them back I will at least ensure a subsequent late flowering as in other years. If nothing else, the plants no longer look at miserable with that awful shattered appearance that torrential rain causes. I do feel rather as though I have started putting the garden to bed for the year though. Hey ho, perhaps the sun will come out tomorrow...sing along now!

Bye for now,
Pipany xx

Friday, 15 August 2008


I have been finding myself unusually unfocused where the business is concerned this holiday; I suppose having the children at home has changed the tenor of things and the days drift by in a hap-hazard manner which I am happy to sail along with, never really liking the necessary routines that term time brings anyway. The trouble is much as I like drifting I become increasingly lethargic until it is almost too much effort to pop the kettle on for a cuppa, heaven forbid! The awful weather has not helped as Pipany and wet weather seem not to go together as the best of friends - a little ironic really as I live in a particularly rain-ridden county.

The drier spells have seen us heading off to places such as the fishing village of Coverack where a thriving artists' community congregates for regular exhibitions. Yet again my camera died and I had forgotten to bring spare batteries, so no pictures of the deep blue sea full of bobbing fishing trawlers, just this ...

and this picture of the highly gothic building on the highly gothic and lifeless shores of Porthallow, a quarried beach close to the rocks offshore known as the Manacles where ships are wrecked and bodies sleep the longest sleep of all.

Business-wise I am working on my Christmas designs - yes, that's what I said, Christmas. I would apologise for mentioning it, but if I have to do it then you can join in can't you? It hasn't been as hard as I though what with the low light levels and rain - did I mention we have had a LOT of rain? - but even so I have been slow to come up with ideas, the lethargy freezing any creativity until dear Dave took me in hand by telling me to get off my butt! It is just what I needed (lucky for him!), so yesterday saw us racing to the beach before the sun disappeared again. Just llok at the beautiful sight that greeted us:

It is Falmouth Week and the town is full of stalls and events, a large marquee playing host to various nights of partying which all ages enjoy. The harbour is packed with sailing vessels of all descriptions from tiny rowing boats to the romantic square-riggers; just imagine how wonderful it must have looked when ships such as these sailed around the headland every day...

And so there I sat surrounded by shells and pebbles and soft, soft sand with the sunlight sparkling on the water like so many dancing fairies, the ships' sails filling and billowing as they raced against each other with such magical grace while I drew in my notebook the ideas to be transformed into Christmas decorations.... not quite so easy after all.

Bye for now xx

Friday, 8 August 2008

Durgan and sun!

There has been precious little chance for long walks here as the weather has got progressively wetter over the holiday; even going out to feed the ducks has taken true determination and gritting of teeth, the short task meaning a change of clothes and fortifying hot drink will be necessary. Whenever the rain has let up we have raced out for a break to try to keep the cabin fever at bay. We returned to Coombe (the river walk I blogged about previously) and this time the tide was out allowing us to go slightly further along the river bank. The shore opposite has a collection of ramshackle houseboats nestled quietly under the overhanging trees miles from anywhere. I think they are beautifully romantic, but I guess it depends on your disposition - always prefer to see the romance in things. Click on the pic to enlarge and see what you think.

The path became more and more tunnel-like, the children scaring each other with tales of Dark Riders and impressions of that eerie shrieking they do in the films. Isabella just shrieked for the pleasure of doing so without being told to stop by her mum who loathes high-pitched screaming of any sort!

I just love this little shed in the middle of nowhere with its bench suggesting an owner who enjoys its presence as much as I do.

We managed to collect these Kea plums for jam making - there were more but I wasn't quick enough to stop the girls from scrumping when I wasn't looking.

On the way home we also managed to find a stash of yummy mushrooms just begging to be piled onto pasta for pasta al funghi...mmmm.

The following days were impossibly wet and windy; finally yesterday the clouds broke in the afternoon and we headed off for Durgan, a little beach tucked away at the bottom of a hill near the village of Mawnan Smith. As you walk down the hill from the car park via a woodland path, these wonderful views of the river slowly unfold through the trees:

Boats are dotted everywhere and tiny slipways plunge down the rocks to hidden beaches just perfect for evening barbecues and icy river swims. We carried on down the hill with the river opening out on one side toward the sea and the other wending its way into the various coves and inlets that so inspired writers such as du Maurier.

As we reached the bottom we entered the hamlet of Durgan with its pretty cottages and schoolhouse (no longer used sadly, but let instead). The sun broke through and washed us with that wonderful warmth that has been missing for us this summer and the children raced to swim in the sea in case it disappeared once more. Isabella and I trawled the rocks looking for shells and examining the pools for signs of life while Dave sat quietly soaking up the peaceful late afternoon air.

And it was at this point the camera batteries went flat! Probably not a bad thing as there is more than enough here and I can almost here the groans of those who have managed to get this far! Isabella has just informed me that a slug is drowning outside and wants me to kill it once and for all - she has a real fear of 'shlugs and nails' hence the murderous thoughts in one so young.

Have a great Friday and hope the weekend is DRY! xx

Monday, 4 August 2008

Gunpowder Towans

After our lovely walk at Cowlands and Coombe, we decided to visit a different face of Cornwall. We had enjoyed the restful atmosphere of the river in the late afternoon, all calm, peace and tranquility, and were now ready for somewhere that offered wide skies, vast seas and hige, open vistas, somewhere where the wind would freshen the rain-filled air and fill us full of energy. We piled into the car and headed for just such a place: Gunpowder Towans close to the Hayle Estuary.

This area of never-ending sand dunes offered the chance for the children to race down the sandy hills charging and yelling like mad things, arms flailing in all directions as they tried not to lose their balance. Dave and I took a somewhat slower pace, needless to say.

Of course, descending from such heady heights means there is some ascending required, not quite so popular with me or Isabella (who unfairly was given a lift by Dave where I had to make my own pitifully unfit way!).

only to repeat the same thing over

and over again. Eventually we tried to make our way through the undergrowth of brambles, following a footpath that decided to disappear just at the point I remembered that such places of sand, sun (huh) and grass provide homes for adders who love to slide out to bask in the heat - and guess which noodle who should have known so much better had ventured out in flip flops? Hmmm...

The word Hayle - or heyl - means estuary and this place where the sea floods the river beds has become a protoected wildlife sanctuary. The huge, rolling seas ensure a constant supply of surfers even on days where the waters are flat calm, though this is a rarity; they sit on their boards with an unfailing patience, ever-ready for the first sign of raging surf to break - my eldest son is one such chap and I can see the other two going the same way. As we watched for a while I soaked up the beauty of the place, the scene stretching far to the left over St Ives bay where the town snuggled in against the hills, and over to the right where Godrevy Lighthouse sat almost cosily in the slate blue seas.

I came away feeling refreshed and tired in all the best ways, full of sea air, limbs aching from much-needed exertion and absolutely ravenously hungry. Off home for homemade pizzas courtesy of Mr Dave (dough-maker) and Mrs Pip (sauce-maker)with lollies in the garden as a starter (well, it is the holidays isn't it?).

The evening was spent full of excitement as an endless stream of ideas flowed through my mind. I love the way the amazing landscapes in Cornwall, all so varied and changing depending on the light, inspire me so. I am now working on the second bag of my Cornish collection to add to Trevaunance, the first. How could you not be inspired by scenes such as these? Even the leaden, rain-filled skies just add to the drama of it all - wonderful...

just wonderful.

Have a lovely Monday xx

Saturday, 2 August 2008

A river tale.

Yesterday afternoon finally brought a weak and watery sunlight to rainy Cornwall, and we clutched at it like drowning people offered a branch. Yes, it wasn't long till dinner and Isabella hadn't eaten any lunch before her mid-day nap, thus would be grumpy and not want to walk but blow it, it feels as though we have been house-bound for ever due to rain, heavy rain. The reality is of course that we have popped out between the downpours for brief trips out, but I had the need for air, sweet fresh air gently blowing off the river and so, we headed off to one of my favourite places (well, one of dozens): Coombe.

Before you reach Coombe, it is first necessary to go through Cowlands, the romantically named hamlet nestled on the river banks close to a village called Penelewey. Cowlands is famous for the tiny orchards, now mostly neglected and therefore all the more beautiful, which surround the river basin. In the autumn it is like looking at a child's drawing with bright red apples lighting up the distance like so many lollipops. However, the area is even more famous for the wild plum trees that reach down to the river known as Kea plums, which can be bought from one of the few houses by the basketload or picked as you walk along. Their season is brief, but the fun of reaching up into the gnarled, heavily-laden boughs as they dip into the gentle waters of the river is so worth endless trips to ensure you don't miss them. Here are some of them propped up with poles for support.

From here we moved on to Coombe where the most gorgeous houses dot the river paths. The land belongs to Lord Falmouth's vast estate and whatever one may believe about such things, I can honestly say that the beauty of the area has been kept because of his ownership. This one house has become empty having been inhabited by an elderly couple for as long as I can remember, their goats chewing the grass in the little pasture field sitting to the side and a rotting stall usually offering windfalls or straggly plants just in front. They have finally passed away, drifting out of river life but not out of the memory of those of us who visit here. The house will be mended, but not over-done and let. The integrity of the place will remain.

We chose a path that led uphill past tiny orchards...

on round the bend where we discovered a stall tucked away with dahlias, runner beans and cucumbers for sale. All around were more little fields full of fruit trees and the pathway was dotted with fallen plums which Isabella and Lucy greedily scoffed, their faces stained with dark juice as they raced against each other in their bid to find the next one. On another day when the tide has not brought the river right up over the banks, we will bring the children back to collect enough plums for jam making - Kea Plum jam is just the best: rich, dark and delicious on thick slices of hot, buttered toast or topping scones with golden dollops of Cornish clotted cream. Mmm.

The path eventually brought us down a little hill toward the river gleaming in the silvery light below. Normally it is possible to walk along the banks in either direction, but the tide was too high for this and so we traced our steps back, collecting beans and cucmber on the way - don't you just have to buy from stalls?

We made our way back to the car stopping just long enough for Isabella to try to dunk herself in the river (happens on every trip where water is involved, mermaid that she is) and drove home with our two hungry girls to be greeted by the rich smell of the bolognaise Dave had left simmering earlier.

Several bowls-full later and we were all happy.

Have a lovely weekend xx