Well, a much nicer January than last year which I had described as ‘grim’. Apart from a few rainy days it’s been sunny with temperatures in the late teens. In fact we had our New Year’s Day meal outside in the courtyard, and most lunches are eaten al fresco. The resident meteorologist says we had 2 days of rain overall.
This means that our morning walks, while exceedingly cold to start with, are under blue skies. The hedgerows are already showing signs of life with the giant orchids leading the way as usual. Not sure what the other flower is yet, a new one for us.
Despite being an invasive weed the Bermuda buttercup is certainly cheering up all the fields and verges. Their bright golden flowers are everywhere it seems this year and then I was rather pleased to hear they are a dye plant. So out came the dye pots and within a few minutes of snipping in the neighbour’s field I had collected a huge bagful of flower heads.
I was not disappointed. The resulting yarn looked like spun gold. I was also motivated to use up some of the old, dried wild madder roots that had been kept in the barn and was pleased with the lovely, if not slightly mottled, coral colour. The ivy berries were less successful. The dye bath was a gorgeous ruby colour, the yarn is meant to turn green. It’s a sort of grey-green, a dull sage, but goes well with the other two.
I knitted Richard a sweater using a lot of the hand dyed yarn that clutters up the house. While it took a lot of skeins there still seems to be plenty left over, especially as I have now added more… He is now co-ordinated with the winter foliage.
Richard too has been using his caldron. Another fine brew again, this time a Vienna lager: “a malty lager with a clean finish” apparently. The sunny weather has meant picking the oranges in the courtyard too. Richard turns most of them into juice, we have litres of the stuff in our freezer. For me of course it’s marmalade season and another batch for the pantry to last the year ahead.
The other January jobs include pruning the plane tree. I always feel a little sad when it has been chopped but it comes back in no time. The leaf buds appearing and unfurling is one of the highlights of spring. Last year we had a greenfinch nesting in it.
He also cut down the willow tree. Their branches are just lovely, many of the farmers grow them to tie up their vines. Before they are pruned they look like small bonfires in the fields. So another attempt at basket making, we found some red branches which were suitable too. The photo makes the basket look a little nicer than it actually is. While I waited a while before using the cut branches I didn’t soak them and those which were then bent for the border were too stiff and a couple split. I should have put the whole thing in a bucket of water for a few days before doing that last bit.
Finally, the knitting needles have been busy with two new sweaters for the little ones designed. One is using an unusual technique called brioche, the other has cables and is in fact an updated version of one of my very first designs. I have eventually joined Instagram if you’re interested: kiddiwinksknits.
February is looking very similar weather wise. While we appreciate being outside we are aware that many are rather anxious. The dams, which not so long ago we were told were all full, seemed to have been emptied and without any rain bodes ill for the summer. We know that a drought has less to do with hot weather and more linked to how wet the winter was. So while we do, sort of, wish for some rain, we are appreciating the outdoor life and the winter sun.