Talking Across the Pond: 6 am on the back steps

Preface, there is a bit of a lag in these letters as you will see because we write and then almost a full week later I post them here. I have been to TNNA this past week. I am very tired and have been extremely busy, thus no post until now. . . sorry! Perhaps I’ll do my Monday post on Thursday because my garden is AMAZING! When I got home very late last night from Columbus the scent of the lilies just hung in the garden. So strong it was like a Gardenia bush. . .



You are completely barking but I love it!

A trip to the UK sounds fab. You could try Stash who have a growing weekly knitting group and offer a range of workshops, they also have the added advantage of being right on my doorstep or as on my doorstep as anything is and best of all they have an endless supply of free coffee which is offered on walking through the door and which is the only reason my other half doesn’t object to going there. I have been known to loose track of time and be rather late returning to work having managed to spend five hours at the knitting group there munching homemade cake and trying not to take advantage of their generous 10% discount. Its as close to perfect as a knitting group is ever going to get.

If you’re brave enough to put up with us then you’re more than welcome to stay. I’ll leave the pie making to you though because my pastry could double up as building material. I do make a mean rhubarb crumble so you won’t starve. Unfortunately there’s a shortage of mud slides and tornadoes in this part of the UK, the children ate the last of the guinea fowl last summer and the sod house was shelved to make way for my husband’s shed which arrived this evening, a day earlier than planned. You’ll have to come up with some better excuses to stay in a proper hotel. I won’t mention tents in the garden to the children just yet otherwise they’ll be harassing me daily. They love any excuse to camp out, they’ve even been known to erect the tent in the house having been told it was too cold/wet/boring grown up excuse to camp in the garden.

Aim for July, August, or early September otherwise bring lots of warm waterproof clothing because it seems to rain continuously from October through to June. Schools close for the summer from the middle of July to the end of August. You’ll need a couple of weeks to do everything though as Doc Martin is filmed in Cornwall not far from Padstow which is famous for its fish restaurants. Since you’re that far south you couldn’t leave without going to The Eden Project.  In fact, I get the distinct impression you’ll like it so much you’ll want to spend a couple of days there. Next stop would be Get Knitted in Bristol via Somerset, home to The Wurzels (Youtube them) and scrumpy. Visit a scrumpy farm, any scrumpy farm, but don’t plan on driving any further that day. Detour through Wales via The National Wool Museum, stopping off at Harlech just because its beautiful. Head inland via the steam railways at Blaenau Ffeistiniog and Llangollen before reaching us. After that head to Pavi Yarns via The Lake District and then on to Scotland or do it all in reverse. There are so many amazing things to see that its hard to know what to suggest. The National Trust have hundreds of properties scattered throughout the UK and also rent out holiday cottages so you can stay in the grounds of a stately home or on a secluded beach somewhere.

As for beading stores … There’s nothing here. The nearest beading store is about 25 miles away. I know it doesn’t sound far but diesel is currently £1.50 per litre ($14 per gallon). The minimum UK wage is £6 per hour before taxes of a third are deducted, anything in the region of £8 per hour is considered good and over £12 excellent, and almost unheard of in rural areas. That’s cheap compared to the cost of public transport though, if you turn up at a railway station without pre-booking then a return ticket from here to London is £400. Not that there’s any public transport here. We have four buses a day, two in each direction.

The nearest house to us is attached but empty and has been for the last five years. The neighbours the other side are about 5 minutes walk away across a field. The only noises we hear are distant tractors, clucking hens, snorting pigs, sheep, the occasional cow and a whole menagerie of wildlife. Most of my neighbours are related in some way to someone else in the immediate area which confuses the kids no end as Grandma C isn’t their grandma, nor is Nanny W their granny but they are everyone else’s so the names have stuck.

My daily commute to work can be stretched out to a five minute drive, during which I pass half a dozen cars all of whom wave, not that I’ve ever met the drivers of any of them but we’ve been passing at the same time of day for years. Occasionally I’m late for work because the cows are crossing the road to the milking parlour or a neighbour drops by with some home grown produce on their morning walk. In the winter I walk because its quicker than defrosting the car. Most of the roads here are only big enough for one, I find multi-lane roads quite scary and driving on motorways at 70 miles an hour gives me the heebie jeebies, more so when other cars are whumping past doing closer to 100 mph.

Both girls go to school in hot pink hi-visibility jackets as we don’t have pavements (sidewalks) and on really dark misty mornings. One daughter has flashing armbands too, our overgrown puppy has a flashing collar and reflective coat, and we go out in bright yellow hi-vis winter gear just to be on the safe side.

Our local village shop sounds just like “Everything”. Officially its nameless but the locals know it as “Mrs Kay’s” on account of the owner several decades back being called Mrs Kay. The shop is now run by her grand-daughter but little has changed. Some goods still bear their pre-decimal prices in shillings and pence although at some point in the distant past they were updated to reflect the UKs current currency. Generally you ignore the price label as it would be rude to pay a shillings and six pence for a shoelace which would be roughly 18p in current money. You can’t even buy a packet of crisps for that any more. Its worth wandering round because she sells pretty much everything from zips to fresh cream cakes, although I’ve never seen a toilet she probably has one in the back room, its quite amazing just what is stashed out the back and equally its quite scary. The window display hasn’t changed since we moved here almost a decade ago, the labels have faded to the point you can’t figure out what they might once have been, the toys are bleached white from the sun, so it comes as quite a surprise to find that its always busy.


ps. I’m amazed you have scissors in your kitchen drawer. Mine always seem to end up in the shed or in one of the girls bedrooms or halfway down the garden, in fact anywhere but the kitchen drawer and buying a dozen pairs hasn’t solved this.



Dear Amanda,
I certainly hope my barking turns to biting!  Especially since you have figured out the whole trip and it sounds wonderful! Can’t wait to make a rhubarb pie in your kitchen. Just make sure you have some vodka in the freezer (not to drink . .). Must start working on this trip one little piece at a time. Perhaps your Stash (looks AMAZING!) would bring in Noni and my new hardware kits?  I’d love to teach there. With the book coming out over there next month in July, might be good timing.

Thank you for your note and the pictures. I looked at them for a long time and tried to imagine them all strung together in a panoramic. I will aim to take one set in same fashion from my side or back yard so you can see what I see when I step out the door in the morning to feed the cats. I’ll take those pictures early, at about 6:10 am tomorrow when I am first up.

Sorry so silent for about a week, as lots going on here.

Last Week, All Week: I have been preparing for the knitting industry trade show. I won’t go on about it to much, except to say I’ve been working on new patterns—some new little-ish bags, some accessories. Lots of ideas that I’m not ready to bring out yet  . . . Maybe into Fall. My goal with the show is to focus on the book, on combining patterns for a unique end product, and on introducing my new hardware kits. I’ve been working on re-thinking my packaging and I’ve hit on a great look . . . I hope everyone likes it as much as I do!

Last Friday: My little guy graduated from Kindergarten on Friday. Now, when I first learned there was going to be a ceremony with pomp and circumstance and the little ones wearing little gowns and caps and what all, I about guffawed or rolled my eyes and said “WE never graduated from Kindergarten!.” I thought, What’s the fuss?! But my Soma has been in pre-school since he was about 3, with this Kindergarten year being the third year in “school.” Next year he will attend first grade at a new school.  While for me Kindergarten was the beginning of primary school, it is, for him, the end of Pre-school. It is the first of many school rites of passage, a big transition. My heart about burst when he said all his lines correctly without prompting. And so handsome he was!

Last Saturday: Soma and I are working on a research project. He is going to present to his summer camp class (2 –weeks long) about the International Space Station. I grumbled a bit at first, but then we went to the library and got a big stack of books. It’s FASCINATING. Of course I’m convinced just about anything is fascinating if you look long enough to start figuring something out about it. We’ve already learned a lot. For example, aside from learning about space food and the danger of crumbs to the equipment and how everything must be without crumbs (cheese sticks a good food, for example), they do loads of cool experiments. They took orb spiders into space—there are the spiders, I’m sure you know, that make such lovely circular webs. Now, aside from the very cool fact that such small creatures withstood G-forces, the spiders tried for the first few days to make webs in zero gravity and all they made were sad messes. BUT after a few days, they were able to learn how to negotiate zero gravity and their webs were glorious. It made me want to see a video of just how they did this. . . AND they took some rats up to the space station. You’ve probably seen those little upside down bottles that they drink out of. Metal ball bearing at the end of a tube to keep the water from running out but they can drink by pushing the ball bearing with their snouts or tongues.  Well, in space the rats learned how to grab the drops of water with their paws and pull them to their mouths. So, on we continue to read every day about what goes on up there, studies of weather down here, studies of diseases, drugs, plants, animals, etc.  Big report next week.

After a couple of hours of our research, I gardened all day. Got everything in the ground but one Camellia. Tomatoes and eggplants planted, Geum plants planted, moved some chocolate coral bells to my shade garden, teased some hostas out from between the bricks in the walk and planted them in pots to grown them big, planted lettuce seeds in a pot. . . More to come, including pictures, about the garden.

Last Sunday: We all went to my friend Gwen’s farm.

It was wonderful and lazy but Gwen put us to work cleaning out the animal troughs. The lambs had just been separated from their mothers so they were calling to each other all afternoon, a serenade of longing to the quiet of our work. The swish of the brushes on the trough sides, the toads under the trough hopping into the grass to get away from Soma’s delighted hands, I was the only one brave enough to pick up slugs to feed to the chickens (to their delight!), Soma showed me the old stone quarry (he’s quite at home there), and then we drove through the countryside and I picked out farms I wish to buy. Home late. Very tired.

Monday: Working like crazy to prepare for the big trade show. . .
Tuesday: Today! More of the same. . . Working late. I have a few new bags I’m going to launch at the show. . . Have not even had the photo shoot yet! Here’s a teaser:

I think you are going to LOVE the new bags and hardware!
Wednesday: Ah, the tedium and excitement of preparations sure to come. I rent a big cargo van in the morning and pack it late at night.
Thursday: Head out in the van for a day of driving and talking. Beth is driving. . . I’ll be knitting and working as we talk.

I’ll send pictures from my back steps soon.

Hope you and yours are well!

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