Thursday 24 December 2020

Season's Greetings

Hello Friends

Warmest Wishes for a Happy Christmas, however you celebrate.

All the doors on my {accidentally} tiny Advent calendar are now open

and my Scandinavian glass nativity is waiting to be lit at midnight

I've sorted out some reading for the coming days, and it's colour coordinated to the season!

and made a sweet angel card for my Godmother, which she loved

The old and battered nativity which I've owned for years is now in pride of place, for Christmas isn't Christmas without this treasure, as many of you know.

However you celebrate this, or any other year, may you find peace this Christmastide.

1 Corinthians 13:13 “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love”

Nadolig Llawen

Until next time
Stay safe and stay well
Deborah xo

Wednesday 25 November 2020

No Man's Land

Hello Friends!

It's a no man's land between the seasons now; days are mostly void of colour and subtle shades of graphite wash over the fields and the valleys and the hills; the flowers of Summer and the leaves of Autumn have blown away, gone for another year, and only seed heads and skeletons remain, starkly standing against the sky, to remind us of the long gone days of Summer. Autumn days shift, and drift around us in swirling mists and Winter starts to nip at your nose and your toes.

Rain falls, often in great curtains of water, sheets of rain that fall from the cloud laden sky and often all is backlit by a pale shaft of sunlight that reminds us of that which is hidden from view

The gales of late Autumn batter us with increasing regularity and thoughts turn more and more to being indoors.  Hallowe'en decorations are down, but the seasonal pumpkins and leaves still decorate my home and will do until Thanksgiving brings this time of year to its conclusion.  Although I no longer bake a special meal, for it seems a bit odd to carry on a tradition observed from a different chapter of my life, and as a Welshwoman living in Wales I have now returned to celebrating Harvest Thanksgiving in early October, as is the way here.

Of course, a plus of all the cloudy weather means that occasionally we still see some lovely sunsets out to the west of the cottage and all the bare branched trees provide a perfect foil.

Occasionally, we have an unexpected break in the grey, late Autumn weather and we are blessed with that most precious of things, a blue skied, brightly sunny day.  Although cold, I wrapped up warm and did a few hours clearing in the garden.  These are the views to the west and north, respectively, from my future vegetable plot.

Sadly the fortnightly garden waste collection finishes this coming week, so I will have to make a corner in which to place the pernicious weeds if I am to continue clearing the garden without the bin collection.

It's Thanksgiving in America, and although we don't celebrate in Wales, I still think it's time to bring out the turkey patterned plates I found earlier this year.  Even though I am a vegetarian, they are so beautiful it is a shame not to trot them out again.  As the traditional meat for Christmas Dinner in Wales is turkey, I will keep them out through December.  

They are by Johnson Bros and are, I think, called stoneware, and look as if they are hand coloured on a transfer.

Barnyard King is the first, and the second is Wild Turkey

Soon, thoughts will turn to Christmas decorating, and I wonder how these holidays will be marked this year.  Will we be able to gather responsibly with limited numbers of close family, or will we have to stay put and celebrate responsibly and in a very different way, according to the guidelines dictated in our various regions.   However you celebrate, have as wonderful a day as you can manage while keeping everyone safe.

Some birds of a different sort now, a couple of garden birds happily foraging some forgotten apples.

Finally, despite the cooling, sunless days overall, I had quite a surprise to find these in the strawberry pots this morning.  The seasons sure are as out of kilter as the year has been.

Until next time
Stay safe and well
Deborah xoxo

Wednesday 11 November 2020

Little Donkeys

 Hello Friends!

How are you all doing?  We've just come out of a seventeen day Fire Break Lockdown in Wales, and England has just started a four week long Lockdown, which may be extended. I hope you are keeping well and busy, to help take your mind off things.

Once, a long, long time ago I had a dear cousin who regularly holidayed in Devon, and every year she brought back a tourist trap gift for my Grandmother.  Very often, this gift took the form of a donkey which always puzzled me, why a donkey?  Now I think about it, this was because she always went to the beautifully picturesque, historic, and unique village of Clovelly which is on a very, very steep hill.  Donkeys have, historically, played an enormous part in the day to day transport of provisions and services in this village on a hill, and you can read more about the village and the donkeys here and here.  I believe, today, the villagers use sleds to haul everything, thankfully the donkeys are retired and are now an attraction, no longer used as beasts of burden.

As I have been going through boxes in my attic, some of these have come to light.  

This one is a salt and pepper set, and if you look at the relief plate, following, that donkey also carries similar panniers so I think these are based on traditional methods of carrying goods up and down the streets of Clovelly.

Although not much is moving in the garden at present, I am thinking ahead to next Spring and an early crop of Broad Beans.  I love Broad Beans, so did my Mum and we always grew a later harvesting crop.  I enjoy them from the first pick of fresh, young beans, right through until they are old and floury when I cook up a panful and toss the well cooked beans in plenty of butter and serve seasoned with pepper and vinegar with slices of thick, buttered wholemeal bread to mop up the vinegary, buttery juices.  Mum and I both loved that Broad Bean Feed as we called it.

So, apparently, you can get an early crop of beans by starting your seeds off in Autumn.  I am all for having an extended crop of one of my favourites, so I sowed seventeen seeds, half the contents of my pack, around the middle of October, soaking them first, overnight, in a bowl of water.  This, apparently, helps speed up germination.

By Hallowe'en they had started to germinate, 

A few days later, coming along nicely

and this morning, the plants seem to be doing well, strong and healthy looking.

So, in under a month, I'm very happy with them.  Now the hard work begins, nursing them through the cold, wet Winter months.  Fifteen out of the seventeen seeds germinated, and I have another seventeen seeds to sow in the Spring.

I hope they come on and I have plenty to freeze, and to share with my neighbours too.

Until next time
Stay safe and well
Deborah xoxo

Sunday 25 October 2020

Wrapping up Warm

Hello Friends!

An Autumn morning slowly slips over the sleepy rooftops in the village.  Awakened by pale, mellow sunlight peeping through the windows, the cottages and houses, one by one, wake up and come to the life of a brand new day.  A soft light glows, an early morning mist swirls, and the subtle hues and tints of an Autumn morning, in all it's glory, with a feeling in the air that words cannot describe, but it touches your heart and you know it is there.  The wind and rain have gone, leaving everything sparkling and fresh; the sky is blue; the sun shines; and it's a perfectly beautiful day in the Shire, my friends.

but When the evening skies out to the west of my cosy cottage look wild and stormy, like this

and you can see the rain falling in curtains from the sky, like this

and when the early morning sky is cold and grey and looks like this

and when the last remaining apples desperately cling to the tree, like this

With the arrival of inclement weather imminent, few things bring more comfort than snuggling under a warm blanket, with a perfectly plumped up pillow tucked alongside me, as I curl up in my favourite armchair by the fireside, with a good book.

In a previous post I mentioned that I seem to have inadvertently fallen into collecting blankets, with no idea how this happened, it just did. It can be no bad thing, though, to have a pile of blankets and throws within easy reach as the weather turns colder, can it?

I have a few throws and travel rugs that belonged to my Grandmother, and when I worked in a local craft boutique that sold very popular, traditional Welsh tapestry in all manner of finished products, from lower price point coasters and place mats, to the high end bed spreads and evening capes, it would have been remiss of me indeed not to take advantage of a generous staff discount and weekly payment plan.

This was my first bed spread, in a gorgeous turkey red with tobacco brown accents and cream. It is from the {now closed} Dyffryn Mill in the beautiful Teifi Valley which spans the three counties of Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion, and Carmarthenshire.

Another one from the same mill, in beautiful tone on tone blues, again with cream. These patterns are unique to the mill, and each mill has it's own identifying patterns unique to them.. You will notice the above one and this one are the same.

Traditional Welsh tapestry is woven on a loom, and is a "double cloth", which means the patterns are fully reversible. It's like getting two for the price of one. If you Google "Welsh Tapestry" it will give you many links to mills, regions, and more, including that omnipresent section "images of . . . " A very good site for vintage and antique Welsh blankets and quilts of any kind is the Jen Jones Welsh Quilts and Blankets centre in Lampeter., Ceredigion. Genuine Welsh woollen mills are on the decline, and now there are only about a dozen fully operational working mills in the entire country.. Two in my area are

Solva Woollen Mill {formerly Middle Mill} and


I was lucky enough to pick up three reversible floor rugs, very hardwearing, from Melin Tregwynt.. This one is in my hallway, and although instantly recognisable as Welsh tapestry, is quite a different pattern from the Dyffryn Mill bedspreads.

again, fully reversible

and this one is in my guest room

I picked up some random weave throws when I lived in Iceland, which is famous worldwide for the exceptionally hardwearing quality of it's woollen products. This is due, mainly to the fact that sheep are not shorn every year which produces a long staple which, when spun into yarn, produces a very strong fibre.

Here's another vintage Welsh woollen throw from the aforementioned Dyffryn Woollen Mill, which I bought well over forty years ago.  It's completely craftsman made, spun and woven at the mill from 100% Welsh wool..  I used it mainly as a car, or travel, rug on those long winter journeys when the passenger is a little chilly but the driver doesn't want the heating on as it makes them drowsy, back in those days when the heating blew from the dashboard and not individually controlled for each seat..  Now, it has a new purpose, covering an old and battered arm chair that is badly worn and in need of reupholstering, but which cannot now be done due to the current global pandemic.

Amongst the other blankets and throws are these, random weave made in Wales from recycled wool.  These are from Tweedmill in Flint.  I bought mine when I worked for the National Trust, way back in 2005, and with my staff discount I paid just £6.40 each.  Today, they have become a very popular item and can be found in many upmarket department stores selling in excess of £25.00!  Glad I bought mine when I did. They have been regularly used as picnic rugs, and despite being dry clean only, have not suffered on a cold, wool wash programme in my washing machine {although understand the risk you take if you do this}

Although not a rug or blanket, I still have the beautiful, cosily warm, cape my Grandmother saved up for and bought for me from Middle Mill in Solva.  It is now well over 50 years old, and in the colours of the Welsh flag. How I wish I could fit into it today!  My, I thought I was the Bee's Knees.

Beautifully finished, everything properly finished and bound, and fully lined

and while a typical, reversible double cloth weave, the garment is fully lined so not reversible as with the bedspreads.

During a recent, pre lockdown visit to a local mill shop, these are the beautifully folded and displayed tapestry spreads in such a mouth watering array of colours

and outside, to brighten any bleak winter afternoon, the offcuts are imaginatively used to create bunting!

What lovely blankets and quilts do you have, my friends, that keep you snug as a bug during the chillier Autumn evenings?  Maybe you have a big, roaring fire to keep you warm?

Did I mention the clocks went back this morning? My least favourite day of all! Now I need everything cosy even more than ever before!

Before I sign off today, thank you all for your very kind thoughts and birthday wishes on my previous post.

Until next time
Stay safe and stay well
Deborah xo