A Walk, Some Talk and Chocolate Eggs

Hello! And how are you all doing? Gliding along tranquilly, like this swan? Paddling frantically to stay afloat? Or something in between? For me, it’s something in between at the moment – rather busy, but there is still time to write a blog post. And we’ve also been for a relaxing walk on Sunday.

This time in the wetlands of Weerribben-Wieden National Park. On the whole, the area is more suitable for canoeing or cycling, but there are a few lovely walking routes.

Later in the year, there will be orchids, butterflies, waterlilies and dragonflies to admire. Now, it is mainly the landscape itself that draws the eye…

… although the lily leaves are starting to surface.

It’s also a great place for bird watching. My camera isn’t really suitable for bird pics, but I did get a nice one of a group of greylag geese with goslings. Can you see the fluffy little things?

While we’re strolling along, there is something I need to get off my chest. I hope last week’s post wasn’t painful for any of you. I realize that some of you may have longed for children or grandchildren, but didn’t get them and will never have them. Please know that I never take these things for granted. I’ll write about our grandson and the things I make for him from time to time, because he is part of my life now. But I promise not to bombard you with baby stuff, and to continue writing about walks and cycle tours, nature and gardens, all kinds of other things that may be of interest, and last but not least knitting.

Speaking of knitting, there isn’t a lot to show you right now. Just the start of my pink Morbihan. It colour-coordinates nicely with the book I’m reading.

Disappearing into a fantasy world for a while now and then helps me cope with the real one better. I love Juliet Marillier’s books because of the interesting characters and plots, the fascinating worlds the author creates, and the fact that these novels are nice and fat and often part of a series good for many hours of reading. (Veel van haar boeken zijn ook in het NL vertaald; zie hier.)

My week has been extra busy because I have been helping out at our daughter’s place after the maternity nurse left – a real privilege.

The new parents had an unwelcome visitor during this special time – Covid-19. They’ve been so careful to avoid infection, and then, on the morning of the delivery our SIL tested positive, and several days later our DD did, too. He probably caught it at work. Fortunately he was allowed to be present at the birth, fortunately they both had hardly any symptoms, and fortunately we have all had our jabs and boosters.

But in spite of all that, for some people the virus still isn’t cat’s piss, to use an elegant Dutch expression. So the professionals around them wore protective clothing from head to toe. And we need to keep a safe distance and wear face masks. To be on the safe side, I take a test before meeting other people. So far, I’ve tested negative – that’s positive.

Now, time for some chocolate eggs. What flavour would you like? I can recommend the dark chocolate ones with advocaat (my favourites with Dutch egg liqueur), but there is also toffee coffee, chai crisp, chocolate mousse, butterscotch, caramel…

Whether you’re celebrating Easter or not, I wish you a lovely weekend!

Squirrel Nutkin

Hello!

“This is a tale about a tail—a tail that belonged to a little red squirrel, and his name was Nutkin.” That is how Beatrix Potter began The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin. It was what I thought of when choosing yarn for a baby set in a colour called… Nutkin!

It really is the same warm reddish brown as a red squirrel’s coat. The other reason for choosing this colour was that the parents-to-be have indicated a preference for natural/undyed, green and brown for baby things.

During the weekend and every evening, I knit, knit, knit… and finished the complete set within a week. These are only wee things after all.

Some of the things I’m making will remain a surprise until after the baby is born, but I’m giving them this set beforehand. It looks deceptively easy all in stocking and garter stitch, but certainly isn’t for novice knitters.

I had some trouble keeping track of the different increases and the button holes at the same time. I also had some difficulty with the place where the sleeves meet the fronts and back. To be honest, I was unable to prevent fairly large holes from appearing no matter how hard I tried and had to cheat a little to close them. The ears on the hat were not easy to get right, and the bootees were a bit fiddly.

The patterns ask for double pointed needles in three different sizes. I didn’t have all of those, so used circular needles and the magic loop method for the hat and bootees.

They take some patience and concentration, but all in all, these are very nice little projects. (All of them can be found here on Ravelry.) What I like most of all are the small pointy ears on the hat – they really look a lot like Squirrel Nutkin’s ears.

Last autumn, a red squirrel visited our garden every day. We have lots of hazel bushes bordering our garden, and we watched it burying hazel nuts all through our garden and our neighbours’ for weeks on end. Now, when it is time to dig them up and eat them, we don’t so much as catch a glimpse of the squirrel. But we do see the empty nutshells it leaves behind.

Not all of the nuts were eaten by the squirrel, though. I’ve collected some and tried to find out who made which holes. These halved ones were 100% certain cracked open by an adult squirrel:

At first I thought that the ones with the oval holes were all left behind by the great spotted woodpecker:

But looking more closely, I’m not so certain anymore. Some of them look pecked out with a sharp beak, but others (like the one on the right) clearly have tooth marks around them. Hmmm… A young squirrel perhaps? How long does it take for a squirrel to become an adult? Or could it have been a mouse?

And then there are those with small round holes drilled into them:

I haven’t been able to find out whose marks these are yet. Some kind of insect? There is so much I don’t know.

Red squirrels have become fairly rare in our surroundings over the years. We do not see them very often. But last week, my husband was lucky and saw no less than four of them on one walk, twice two together. This is one of the pictures he took:

In appearance it looks a lot like the squirrels in Beatrix Potter’s lovely pictures, but in behaviour not so much. I can’t see this one carrying hazelnuts in sacks, or rafting on a lake using its tail as a sail.

I only discovered Beatrix Potter’s delightful tales as a teenager. Did you grow up with her stories? Which one is your favourite?

The Wolf is Back!

Hello!

As soon as I saw these sheep, huddled together in a field, I realized that something was wrong. They looked distressed. Looking into the distance, I saw the reason why. Oh no! A dead sheep, and the owner and somebody else looking upset, searching for something. Tracks? Other evidence of the culprit?

Only DNA-testing can tell whether this sheep was killed by a wolf or a dog, but chances are that it was a wolf. We hear about sheep being killed by wolves around here on a weekly basis now.

For the people who lived here long before us, those who built the impressive megalithic burial monuments called hunebedden, wolves must have been a fact of life to be reckoned with.

But for us, in the 21st century it’s a phenomenon we’re not familiar with. There haven’t been any wolves here for at least 120 years. And now, all of a sudden the wolf is back! Arriving here from Eastern Europe via Germany, the wolf is supposed to eat roedeer, rabbits and other furry creatures. But it isn’t playing by the rules, because why waste energy chasing a meal that runs away fast when there is so much juicy mutton to be had with far less effort?

I’m talking of ‘it’ and ‘the wolf’, but it is uncertain how many there really are in this area. There is at least one, probably a couple, and maybe even a third. This newcomer is certainly causing a lively discussion. Some people are thrilled, while others are of the opinion that there is no place for wolves in this small, densely populated country.

I have mixed feelings. On the one hand I think, who are we to decide who or what is to live in this corner of the world? We are happy that the raven is back. We are happy that the otter is back. And we are happy that the badger is back. There are badger trails everywhere nowadays – zooming in, you should be able to see their paw prints.

Shouldn’t we be happy about the wolf being back as well?

On the other hand, when I hear of a wolf jogging past a playground full of playing children in broad daylight in the village where a friend of mine with school-going children lives, well, I don’t know…. How dangerous are they?

It is hard to imagine these otherwise peaceful surroundings being populated by packs of wolves in the future. Will guests of this Bed & Breakfast hear them howling at night in a few years’ time?

I’m fairly certain that the Highlands belonging to the B&B owners will be able to defend themselves with their fierce horns.

But how about me? I have no idea what to do if I were to come face-to-face with a wolf. Take photographs? Hide behind a tree? Call in my own personal superhero, ‘HELP! DO something, shoo it away!’?

Or strike up a conversation like Little Red Riding Hood?

Inside, I still feel like Little Red Riding Hood, but to all intents and purposes I’m becoming more like her grandmother by the day. In fact, I am becoming a grandmother this spring. And I may even need hearing aids before long.

Ménière’s disease is affecting my hearing. Although I’m still managing in everyday life, I can’t hear the little birds high up in the trees anymore. Fortunately I do not have the dizzy spells that go with it very often, but I’ve recently had one.

It wasn’t so bad this time that I’m in bed. And it’s never bad enough for me to be wearing a frilly cap.

It does mean that I need to take some rest and limit my screen time. So if you’ve posted a gorgeous FO on Ravelry or published a great blogpost and haven’t heard from me, please know that it isn’t because I’m not interested.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time quietly knitting, but had to rip out almost as much as I knit because my brain wasn’t functioning properly. Awooo! No, I wasn’t really howling like wolf. I thought, oh, well, we all have times like these and hope to show you some progress next week.

Stay safe! xxx

Places to Sit and Knit 3

Hello, and welcome to the 3rd episode in the irregular series Places to Sit and Knit. For this Christmas special, I’m inviting you into our home. You’ll recognize it by the paper stars on the window.

What better place to sit and knit at Christmas than at home? Especially this Christmas. I don’t know what it’s like in your part of the world, but here in the Netherlands we’re in a strict lockdown again. Everything is closed, except essential shops (unfortunately the powers that be don’t count yarn shops among them) and other essential facilities. Let’s hope it’s enough to prevent black scenarios early in the New Year.

We’re only allowed 2 visitors a day (4 at Christmas) in real life. Fortunately the number of virtual visitors is unlimited, so come on in! Would you like a cup of coffee or tea?

I was given a box of Austrian Advent Calendar Tea at the end of November, filled with green, black, white and herbal teas. It started with Gute Laune (Good Mood) tea on December the 1st.

Today, the last offering is Heavenly Christmas Delight, a spicy blend with cinnamon, orange peel, apple and clove. It sounds delicious, don’t you think? Please take a seat while I make our drinks.

This is the sofa where I sit and knit at this time of the year.

My knitting chair by the window was moved away to make room for the Christmas tree.

Apart from finishing several pairs of socks, I have finished the body of a roomy cardigan knit from two lace yarns held together. I have even blocked it before starting on the sleeves, which are knit from the shoulder down. It looks a dark grey in the photo below, but actually is a lovely teal.

I have also made a start on the socks for my friend, the ones from the yarn with nettle in it instead of nylon. This yarn (Onion Nettle sock yarn) knits up differently compared to the yarns I’m used to. Here it is next to a sock from a traditional sock yarn that I’ve just finished.

Using the same number of stitches I usually cast on, the cuff turns out much wider. The yarn is also less elastic. Knitting on like this, I wouldn’t be happy with the end result.

So what am I going to do: cast on fewer stitches, start anew with smaller needles and/or use a different stitch pattern? Twisted stitches in the ribbing, perhaps? Hmmm, need to give that some thought.

For the time being, I’m putting all my WIPs on hold to focus on two special Christmas Break projects. (There is that word again: focus, my word of the year 2021. Did I make any progress on that? Well, yes and no. I’ll try to write about that in January.)

The yarn for these projects is already in the baskets beside the sofa. The first is a simple, oversized, comfy sweater in a lofty yarn – Lang Cloud – in many shades of red, burgundy, pink, purple etc. I’ve photographed it outside to do the colours justice.

And my other Christmas Break project is knitting swatches. I’ve collected quite a few interesting yarns in undyed or neutral shades over the past couple of years. Somehow I never got round to them, and it feels like a real treat to finally get to try them out. My plan is to knit stocking stitch swatches on different needle sizes and try the yarns out in different stitch patterns as well, hoping that this will give me new ideas for things to design and make.

But that’s me nattering on. How are you doing? What is life like for you at the moment? Have you planned any special celebrations? Or are you working over the holidays, in health care or another essential job? Are you struggling to stay positive, like me? How do you keep your worries at bay? Do you have something nice on your needles? Any special knitting plans? I’d love to hear about them. Please leave a comment if you feel like sharing. It’s also perfectly fine if you don’t feel like it. I understand – I often feel too shy to leave comments, too.

Now, how about some fresh air? Let’s go for a walk. (We can only go for walks in ‘groups’ of 2 at the moment IRL, but again, the numbers for virtual walks are unlimited.)  It’s often dark and dreary here at the end of December, but this year it’s been a true Winter Wonderland on some days. So far, it’s only been hoar frost, but we may even get some snow over the coming days.

I’ve planted the pots around the house up with some mini conifers, ivy and checkerberry.

Almost every day, all year long, I take a stroll around our village. At this time of the year I love looking at other people’s Christmas trees.

But on clear, frosty days it’s nicer to head out of the village. This is the view a two-minute-walk from our home.

We are very fortunate to live here, and I never take it for granted. It’s not all idyllic, of course. But on some days even the local factory gets a magical quality, mirrored in a stream.

A little further on a blue heron is mirrored in the same stream.

Father Frost has covered the plants with icy needles.

Truly magical.

Well, I think it’s time to head back home and light a few candles. Thank you so much for stopping by – I really, really appreciate your spending some time with me here. Apart from all of you, we’re expecting very few real-life visitors over the coming days and weeks. Only two, in fact. And we won’t be going anywhere either. We love seeing friends and family and spreading good cheer, but we’d hate to spread the virus, so we’re keeping ourselves to ourselves this year.

I’m taking a break from my blog for a while, to just sit and knit (and read, go for walks, eat some delicious things prepared by my other half, and watch The Lord of the Rings for the umpteenth time).

All the best for a safe and peaceful festive season and I hope to see you here again in the New Year!

The other episodes in this series:

A Week in November

Hello again!

Publishing a knitting pattern is a small/totally insignificant step for mankind, but a big step for me. It makes me feel vulnerable to be so visible, and I’m very grateful for all of your kind words here and elsewhere. Thanks!

This week, no matter how hard I try, I feel unable to put together a coherent story. So here are a few unrelated items from this past November week.

Market

On Saturday I visited a small market in a neighbouring village. It was all about sustainable and hand made products, and there were some six or seven stalls in all.

It was organized by a local shop selling organic clothes for adults, children and babies.

It was a joy to look at the lovely colours, fabrics and yarns used. The prices were staggering, but I think that they reflect what we should really be paying if clothes are to be produced with respect for the environment and the people making them.

There was also a rack of second-hand clothes, or pre-loved as some would call them.

I don’t think it was the purpose of the market, but I felt really inspired to make even more myself than I already do. I’ll always be knitting, of course, but I’m also thinking of taking up sewing again.

Even more than the wares on display, I enjoyed the lovely arrangements with hydrangea flowers everywhere around. Like this cheerful combination with red enamelware…

… and this beautiful wreath in faded shades.

I also stood gazing out towards the neighbours’ beautifully restored farm buildings.

Ah, lovely! Still, in spite of all that gazing around, I didn’t go home empty-handed. As well as some paper for folding stars, these two wooden roe deer came home with me.

On my needles

I’m knitting another Story Lines shawl. This time in a combination of two Rowan yarns: their all-time favourite Kidsilk Haze and their new Felted Tweed Colour. I’m not entirely sure about it – the yarns work well together, I think, but did I choose the right colours?

Sunday morning walk

As we usually do, we went for a walk on Sunday morning.

The sky was overcast, but now and then the sun came out, bathing everything in very bright light.

We saw a group of roe deer in a field. The horses in the meadow next to it were watching them too.

Towards the end of our walk there was a faint rainbow in the sky.

Struggling to stay positive from time to time, I drink in any symbol, sign or ray of hope, no matter how faint.

Visitors

The sparrowhawk visiting our garden last year is back (or at least I think it is the same one). We haven’t seen him for a long time, but there he suddenly was – now in his full adult colours. Just look at those fierce eyes!

And we’ve had another visitor, too, new to our garden – a red squirrel. Here it is, snacking on a hazel nut:

Over the past couple of weeks it’s become a frequent visitor, busily running to and fro burying nuts everywhere.

Up early

I often wake up very early and have given up trying to go back to sleep. Instead I tiptoe down the stairs and spend a quiet hour (or two, or sometimes three) before breakfast drinking many cups of tea, knitting and reading by lamplight.

My big linen stitch wrap is almost finished. All I need to do is knit on I-cord along both long edges and finish the fringe. I want to finish a few other items before the end of the year, but my hands are also itching to start all kinds of new things, big and small.

Well, that’s all for today. Enjoy your weekend and see you again next week! xxx

Minibieb

Hello!

It was on my way to the Knitting and Crochet Days in Amsterdam in May 2019 that I saw the first minibieb (pronounced as: mini beep). It was a beautifully crafted boat, complete with mooring posts.

Over the past 18 months or so, when our ‘real’ libraries were closed for a long time, these little libraries have mushroomed around here.

During my walks and bicycle rides I’ve taken pictures whenever I passed one. Most of them are like small cabinets, some with sloping and others with pointed roofs (click on images to enlarge).

Similar, but still all different. Many of them have mottos, like ‘give and take’; ‘one out, one in’, or:

‘A good book can be shared together, borrowed, swapped, donated.’

Here is a peek inside one:

Several English books among the ones in Dutch, a few crime and other novels, and a book with the intriguing title Chuapi Punchapi Tutayaca (or is it the author’s name?). As well as one that is also on my own book shelves: Zomerboek (The Summer Book) by Tove Jansson – who would give that gem away, I wonder?  

Some little libraries are tiny…

… and found along city streets lined with wheelie bins.

Others are slightly bigger and found in out-of-the way places. Along a grassy path…

…I found this one, also selling plum jam and walnuts.

En route, I passed this sign, where we are meant to tralalalalaaaa our way to the next little library.

One little library in our neighbourhood is located inside a café.

And several provide benches, so that you can start reading straightaway, like this one.

And this one.

Nice, isn’t it, with little olive trees on either side of the bench. This minibieb is called Bieb aan ‘t Diep.

That means Library on the Canal. And this is what it looks out on.

I had a nice chat with the owner of this one…

… that has a bench with a brass plate on it saying ‘Little Book Bench’.

I asked her why she decided to start a minibieb. She told me of her lifelong love of books. She also mentioned things like social cohesion, enlivening the street and serving people (especially young and elderly) who can’t easily get to the public library.

I’m writing about the minibieb because I think it’s a wonderful new phenomenon. And also because there is a link between books and my new knitting design. We’ve already been out for a photo shoot. I’m working hard on the lay-out now and hope to publish the pattern next week. Here is a sneak peek.

Googling, I discovered that the minibieb movement started in Wisconsin in the US and that there now are little free libraries (as they are officially called) in 91 countries. Do you have them near you, too? Do you use them?

Some people seem to be worried that they will steal readers from the public libraries. Hm, maybe. Or maybe they’ll create new readers eager to move onto larger libraries after a while.

More information and a world map can be found on the Little Free Library website. The Dutch minibieb website can be found here. I don’t know if this goes for the rest of the world, but in the Netherlands there are many, many more minibiebs than those registered on the website. Once you’ve found one, you can always ask the owner if they know more near where you live.

Well, that’s all for today. I hope to be back next week with a knitting story. Bye for now and take care!

Mindfulness Moment

Hello!

No knitting talk this week, I’m afraid. I didn’t get round to writing the post I had planned. Inspired by BBC’s Spring, Autumn and Winter Watch, I’m giving you a Mindfulness Moment instead.

The BBC started with these Mindfulness Moments during the 2020 lockdown – 90-second nature videos with in their words ‘No music, no commentary – just the beautiful sights and sounds of nature.’

In my case it isn’t a video but photos, and you’ll have imagine the sounds yourself (hints: not a breath of wind, chestnuts plopping down, a woodpecker hammering on a tree, a buzzard crying overhead, small birds twittering in the tree tops). But the general idea is the same – no talk, just an autumn walk.

I hope you enjoyed that. I’ll do my utmost to be back with a cosy, colourful, chatty knitting-filled post next week. Take care! xxx

End of Summer 2021

Hello!

With only a few days to go to the autumn equinox, the end of summer is in sight. It is still around 20˚C (68˚F) during the daytime here, but in the mornings the smell of autumn is in the air and some days have a misty start.

It’s that transition time, with the heather still in bloom…

… but also loads of mushrooms and toadstools already, some with elegant skirts…

… some in bright yellows, oranges and reds.

The garden is past its best, but there are still some late roses and a few flowers on the buddleia. On our garden table the friendly faces of the pansies brought along by a friend remind me of the lovely afternoon spent knitting in the garden with a small delegation of my knitting group.

I know that for many people the end of summer is a melancholy time, with rainy days and dark nights approaching. For me, it is the other way around. I feel much more in my element in the other three seasons, with their cooler weather and more muted light. I actually enjoy rainy days, with the water drip-dripping from the berries in the hedgerows.

And I am looking forward to the long dark evenings, with lots of time for knitting. My great big striped linen stitch wrap has come out of its summer storage. The back of the fabric is almost as nice as the front and looks a bit like seed stitch.

My linen yarn, on the other hand, is now going into storage. I knit a few swatches to see if it would be suitable for a Siw top (Ravelry link) and decided that it isn’t. Knit at the gauge required for that pattern, the fabric became far too open to my liking.

Never mind. I now know how the yarn knits up and what my preferred gauge for it is. I’ll look for a more suitable pattern for it next year, and I’ll look out for a more suitable yarn for Siw as well.

In case you’re interested in the details: the yarn is ‘Antigone’ from French company De Rerum Natura, and is a 100% organic linen. This colorway is called Voie Lactee (Milky Way) and is a deep blueish grey. It feels rather like twine on the ball, but becomes more supple after washing.

I am storing it away with the gauge swatch with a label attached to it to remind me of the needles I used. That’s something for next spring. Now is the time to knit with more woolly yarns.

I’ve started a cardigan for our daughter in a deep Burgundy blend of merino wool, alpaca and cotton.

The Quintessential Cardigan is a very simple cardi in stocking stitch, but with great details, like a few short rows just above the ribbing at the hem so that it hangs better, a choice of sleeve lengths and a neat button band with slipped stitches. And that is where I slipped up.

My brain isn’t always functioning at its best in the evenings, you see. The pattern said that I should slip the stitches WYIB (with yarn in back) on wrong-side rows. And that is what I did. At least I slipped them with the yarn held toward what will be the back of the fabric when it is worn. But… that is the front of the fabric on the rows where you’re slipping the stitches. It’s very simple really. It is only confusing when written out here and to my foggy brain in the evenings.

The button band in my technique looked really nice.

But it rolled inwards and was not the stable band it should have been. There was a niggling voice at the back of my mind telling me this all along, but I ignored it. It was only when I had finished the entire front that it really dawned on me that something wasn’t right. I should have known! I have knit button bands like this before!

Oh well, there was nothing for it but to frog the front. So I made myself a cup of tea, put on some music and took a deep breath.

Unravelling four evenings of knitting took less than six songs on the CD my husband gave me for my birthday.

It is the latest album by Bertolf, a singer-songwriter from the nearby city of Zwolle. If you’re feeling melancholy at the end of summer, the cheerful song Don’t look up, Don’t look down might be just the pick-me-up you need. Listen to it once, and you’ll be humming it all day. You can see Bertolf playing it live on YouTube (notice the absence of an audience and everybody keeping a covid-safe distance.)

Apart from the cardigan with the frogged front and the linen stitch wrap, there is a pair of socks on my needles, I have a crochet project on the go, two shawls designed by myself need blocking and I’m fiddling with some remnants of fingering-weight yarn.

Then there is another cardigan I want to finish, a bag with a gradient of pink mini-skeins clamouring for attention, my big spinning project etc. etc. etc. In my love life, I am 100% monogamous. In my knitting… not so much.

To some, I may look obsessed, but I know that many of you will understand and share my tendency to surround myself with wool. There are even birds who do the same thing. Just look at what we found in one of our nest-boxes – the cosiest little nest lined with wool.

Thank you for visiting my wool-lined nest. Hope you’re all safe and cosy in your own. xxx

Cycling to Giethoorn

Hello! Before I get back to more ‘serious’ posts about knitting, spinning etc. I’d like to take you along on two more outings this week.

In a roundabout way, this bicycle track leads to the charming village of Giethoorn. The track is bordered by a beautiful flowering verge. To my delight I see a group of common yellow swallowtails fluttering around the red clover. There are at least ten of them!

With a wingspan of about 7.5 cm/3”, this is one of our largest native butterflies. Contrary to what the name suggests, it is not common. At least not in this part of the country. I saw the first one ever in our garden only last year. It seems they are gradually moving north with the rising temperatures. And now a whole group of them! I know that a group of geese is called a gaggle, but what is the word for a group of butterflies? A flock? A flight? A flutter?

Among the plants in the verge are wild herbs like watermint, soothing for stomach and mind.

There is valerian, too, also flowering at this time of the year, another calming plant.

Picking them for a herbal brew is not allowed here, in this nature reserve, but just drinking in their scent and their colour is soothing enough in itself.

A little further on, a white stork is gorging on frogs. There are plenty of those in this wetland environment.

A cow is dozing in the sun with two starlings on its back. It is all so peaceful – an oasis of peace in a crazy world.

And then the smell of pancakes tells me that I’m in Giethoorn. It is not as quiet as last year, but still not as busy with tourists as it normally is.

Giethoorn is lovely all year round, but especially now, when the hydrangeas are in flower.

There are hydrangeas in almost every garden, and they come in many varieties and colours. The deep pink mophead ones are the most common.

But there are also hydrangeas with flat or pointy flowerheads, in many shades of blue, pink and purple, as well as white ones.

In some places it is almost too much.

I’ve taken a zillion pictures and am having a hard time limiting the number here. Before I stop, I just have to include this one, with the house with the blue shutters mirrored in the water.

It is getting late, so I cycle home without stopping. Only back in our own, slightly less charming, village do I squeeze my brakes to take a few more pictures, because the sheep are back!

A flock of sheep visits us several times a year. Instead of the heavy machinery that used to do it, they now mow the grass in green spaces around the area. And here they are ‘at work’ in the local business park.

And this lovely day doesn’t end here. Back home a surprise awaits me – a parcel from Devon, UK.

Finally, the yarn I’d ordered for something I was going to knit during my summer break. I’d left it a bit late and then it got held up at customs.

It is a heathered organic wool in a gradient of pinks, from palest watermint pink to deep hydrangea pink. No, wait, I don’t think hydrangeas come in this particular shade of pink. It is more like foxglove.

Instead of a summer project, it is now something to look forward to for autumn. You’ll probably see it cropping up in blog posts later this year. Well, that’s all for today. Hope to see you again for another outing in a few days’ time!

PS: Last summer I wrote a blog post about crochet curtains in Giethoorn. For anyone who missed it, it can be found here.

Sheltering from a Thunderstorm

Hello! Here is another extra blog post. This time I’m taking you along on one of my summer walks. It starts at this church door. Legend has it that at the time the church was built a certain young lady of noble birth…

… fell in love with the master builder and vice versa. Her family thought this highly unsuitable and sent her away, hoping she would forget about him. During her last night at home, she had a dream about what the church steeple should look like, and before she left she had the opportunity to whisper it into the builder’s ear… (More about that later.)

This walk leads us through an environment that holds many happy memories for me. It isn’t a nature walk this time, but a walk through an agricultural landscape with many lovely old farmhouses.

Some of them still have the little old baking house next to them.

And they often have well-tended vegetable plots.

It is all truly idyllic and picturesque. But just as in any paradise, there are snakes around here. Well, this isn’t really a snake, but a slow worm – a legless lizard. I found it lying upside down with a damaged tail, apparently run over, and thought it was dead. I didn’t like the idea of more vehicles running over it even though it was dead so tried to move it, and then it suddenly wriggled – Eeeeek!

But also – how wonderful! These are rare and elusive creatures, and this is only the third slow worm I’ve ever seen in my life. I moved it to the verge hoping it’ll survive.

We also have one type of poisonous snake in this country: the adder. But the poison that is bothering people around here doesn’t come from snakes. It comes from fields like this:

It is a field of gladioli. The cultivation of these as well as lilies and flower bulbs meant for export to Asia is a source of great concern to those living here. When these fields are sprayed, people living next to them can see a mist of pesticides descend onto their lawns, trampolines and vegetable plots. People are worried about their own health and that of their environment. The discussion about this issue has also become venomous. I really hope a more sustainable solution will be found for the future.

Agriculture has changed enormously here over the past decades. Many farmhouses have been turned into Bed & Breakfasts, and the old agricultural tools have become decorative objects.

Looking at it from a positive side, I’m glad that the old farm buildings have not been pulled down, but been lovingly restored and given a new destination. Small bits of land are still used for growing corn – here flattened by heavy rainfall.

While southern Europe has suffered from unprecedented heatwaves this year, our summer has been cool and unsettled, with frequent thunderstorms. Before going for a walk or a bicycle ride, I always checked the storm radar and I also kept an eye on the sky. Although it felt slightly oppressive this afternoon, the radar didn’t predict any storms and the sky looked clear enough. But halfway along I heard a rumbling in the distance and a terribly dark sky came closer VERY quickly.

Fortunately I found the perfect place to shelter from the thunderstorm: under the eaves of a farmhouse, with my back against a small door.

A door too small for a cow or a person to walk through. Maybe it was for pigs in olden days. Sitting there, with my umbrella to cover my legs, I waited until the storm was over. Snug like a rabbit in its warren.

With the storm disappearing into the distance…

… I walked back to my starting point – the church from the story that still needs an ending.

Well, the master builder did what his beloved had whispered into his ear and gave the church a very special onion-shaped steeple of which the village is proud until the present day.

The young lady’s father realized that the builder was a person worth his daughter and when she came back from her travels they married with his blessing and lived happily ever after.

So, where is the knitting in this story? Uhm, hidden inside my walking boots. I always wear a pair of hand knit socks in them. More about some of those next time!