Summer Walks Part II – Coast

On a day that was too hot for walking through woods or across heathland, we thought a walk along the coast might be a good idea, with hopefully a refreshing breeze. So we set off for my native Friesland. Our starting-point was the old town of Stavoren (photo above), and our destination was Hindeloopen, another small harbour town. (It was a one-way walk – we took the train back.)

This isn’t the coast as in sea shore, but rather the coastline along the IJsselmeer, a former inland sea that was closed off around 1930 and is now a big freshwater lake. The dykes are still there, and our trail ran right across the top. Well, it wasn’t really a trail, just grass, but you get the idea.

In reality the dyke is much steeper than it looks here. The narrow road on the right is a bicycle track. Nice when you’re cycling, because it’s sheltered from the prevailing wind. But not much fun when you’re walking, because you’d miss the lovely views over the lake.

With a delicious breeze from behind it was an ideal day for this walk. Looking to the left, we saw a choppy lake with some sailing boats.

And looking to the right, we saw agricultural land, with some farms and modern windmills. Completely flat, with endless horizons.

All along the dyke, there were lots of fences with stiles to climb.

The fences are there to confine the Texel sheep to certain sections of the dyke. The sheep are kept company by water birds, like these black and white barnacle geese.

The sheep were not shy at all. They didn’t run away when we came close, like they usually do. We had to step around and over sheep and lambs lazing and grazing on our path. And some of the sheep were downright pushy. When we sat down on the grass to eat our sandwiches, they came begging for a share. They must have been fed by other walkers.

‘Come on, give us some of your bread,’ they seemed to say. And, ‘I really like the smell of that cheese.’ They refused to be shooed away and were so insistent, that in the end we got up and walked on, eating the rest of our lunch along the way.

In the distance we could already see our destination. It wasn’t just a perfect day for walking, but for wind and kite surfing, too.

Against the big blue sky, Hindeloopen looked very small, with its church and the houses with their red roofs huddled behind the dyke. And, in fact, it is small now, with under 900 inhabitants. In the 17th and 18th centuries, when the lake was still a sea, it used to be an important harbour and trade centre, with three times the number of people and a fleet of around a hundred ships.

It’s nice to imagine merchant ships leaving and entering the town via the lock (photo below) that is now used by pleasure boats. On their outward-bound journeys they would be filled with gin and wool. And coming back from Scandinavia and Russia they would be carrying wood.

We slowly strolled through the old town centre and saw some monumental merchant’s houses – a sign of great wealth in earlier times.

There was a museum, too, as well as several shops selling local traditional crafts. Hindeloopen is renowned for its decorative painting style, with garlands and stylized flowers on a red, green, blue or cream background. Here are several trays and a ‘butte’.

A butte is a traditional travelling case used by seamen for their personal belongings. I think it’s a thing of beauty and would like to own one someday. But as it’s all handmade, it has quite a hefty price tag. It’s not that it isn’t worth it, but it isn’t an amount I’d spend on a whim.

I came home with some more modest souvenirs – two pieces of fabric and two postcards.

The fabrics are inspired by some of those used in the colourful traditional costumes of Hindeloopen. I don’t know what I’m going to use them for yet, but I’ll think of something.

One of the cards shows some of the typical decorative painting on a wooden platter. And the other shows a woman in traditional dress. (Unfortunately the postcard doesn’t tell us who the artist is.) In the painting, the fabrics are simplified to solid colours. In reality they would be flowered and checked, in mainly red, blue and white. There’s an picture of a complete costume on the town’s museum website.

And what is the woman doing? Knitting – what else?

Summer Walks Part I – Heathland

For me, one of the best ways to relax is walking. Fortunately I have a husband who feels the same way, so we spent large parts of our Summer Holiday this year (and any other year) taking long walks. Woodland walks, coastal walks, riverside walks, city walks, but most of all heathland walks. The heather is in bloom this time of the year and it’s glorious!  

As I wrote in a previous post, heathland needs to be grazed. Otherwise it would be overgrown with trees in no time and disappear within a few years. Usually this is done by sheep, whose cropping and munching is a peaceful sight.

But sometimes cows are recruited to do the job, especially highland cattle. I think they are beautiful, with their big horns and their shaggy red coats.

I prefer to keep a respectful distance, but during one of our walks other walkers and their dog didn’t give the cattle a second glance and just barged on, right between a bull and his harem with their calves. This seemed to agitate the bull, and instead of continuing to graze, it suddenly charged across our path.

I held my breath, but nothing happened. As it turned out, the entire highland family was just as peaceful as sheep. All they wanted to do was go for a swim together.

We live in a small country, and our nature reserves are comparatively small, too. This means that long walks are hardly ever exclusively nature walks. They almost always cross some farmland as well. I don’t mind, really. I even like it. Some less intensively farmed land can be very beautiful to walk across.

Besides, I love looking at farmhouses and their outbuildings.

They often have lovely flower and vegetable gardens. The vegetable garden of one of the farms we passed was a riot of colour.

So, so lovely.

And on some farms, there are animals to admire as well. On one farm we saw some magnificent long-haired Dutch Landrace Goats.

And on another a big, big spotted sow with a litter of piglets.

It’s so good to see them rooting about outside, with lots of space and freedom. The piglets were incredibly lively, inquisitive and cute.

Taking photographs for my blog makes me look at the world with different eyes, and appreciate my surroundings even more. Sometimes my camera seems to see more than I do, and I don’t really realize what I’ve seen until I look through my photos at home.

Take the photo below, for instance. We were walking along a grassy path when I spied something in the distance, very far away. Judging by the colour and the shape of the ears, I thought it was a roe deer. Roe deer are not an uncommon sight, but still worth taking a picure of.

When we came a little closer, the animal got up and raced away. At the time I thought, strange how small a roe deer can look from a distance, and how short its legs look in the grass, but didn’t give it  much thought.

Looking through my photos at home, I realized that it wasn’t a roe deer at all, but a fox!

We know that there are foxes around here. It’s something we know all too well, from the massacres they’ve caused among our hens. Twice! (Our chicken coop is now completely fox-proof). But we very, very rarely get to see them. In spite of what they did to our hens, I love foxes. I don’t know why, really. Is it the shape of their face, their big bushy tail or their speed and agility?

One of the best things about walking is taking breaks at spots that you can’t reach in any other way. Quiet, out-of-the-way spots. This was one of the best spots for taking a break that we passed on this walk. A pool surrounded by trees and tall grasses, with the wind cooling our skin and sending ripples out across the water.

The water birds in the distance looked like ducks, but they made curious sounds, not like our ordinary, everyday mallards. I couldn’t see what species they were with my naked eye, so I zoomed in on them with my camera. Maybe I could enlarge them at home and find out which duck-like bird it was that made such soft un-duck-like noises. But no such luck.

I’m not a very good photographer, and I don’t have any fancy photo equipment. So, I ended up with some very blurry pictures, and one that was sharp, but had a beheaded duck on it. As far as duck pictures go, these photos were a total failure.

But then I looked at the rippling water and thought, wow, look at that!

The ripples on the water look just like the texture of my knitted fabric!

This is a close-up of the Sideways Tee that I’m knitting.

When we’re on holiday, we often spend the evenings exploring the immediate surroundings of our holiday cottage or campsite. During our ‘staycation’ there was no need for that. We already knew the surroundings of our ‘holiday home’ through and through, so that I could spend almost every evening, all evening, knitting, reading or working on my crochet project.

I’ve made a lot of progress, but haven’t actually finished anything yet. I need a little more time to finish things up, organize my notes and take pictures before I can show you more.

I hope you don’t mind if I take you along on another walk next time. I’d like to show you a very different part of our country, and some crafty things I came across there, before I get back to some in-depth writing about knitting.

Apricot and Thyme Clafoutis

Hello, I’m back! Well, I haven’t really been away. Just away from my computer and my blog for a while.

We’ve had a really, really nice and relaxing ‘staycation’, with lots of lovely walks, visits to some old towns, cities and museums, and plenty of time to read, knit and crochet in between.

I’d like to tell and show you more, but I don’t know how just yet. I need to chew on everything we’ve seen and done for a bit first. In that sense I am like a cow. I don’t have four stomachs, but I also need to ruminate on things to digest them.

We met this beauty during our summer holiday, by the way. She lives on an organic farm that we passed on one of our walks:

The farmer doesn’t only take good care of his cattle, but also of the occasional passer-by. Between the barn with the red pelargoniums and the hay barn, where you can see a green parasol peeking around the corner, there’s a wonderful cupboard built into the barn wall. It’s filled with coffee, tea, biscuits and all kinds of other snacks. Just help yourself and leave some money in the box. There’s even a bowl of water for dogs!

Oh, there I go again, getting off course. It happens so often – one thing leads to another, and before I know it I’ve strayed completely from where I was going. Well, at least now you’ve had a tiny glimpse of our holiday at home.

What I had planned to do today, was give you a recipe. I may have told you before that we have a flock of hens – 8 hens and a cock to be precise. They are Frisians, and their colourway bears the poetic name ‘silver-pencilled’, which looks like this:

Our hens love tomatoes, corn, worms and taking dust baths. Apart from worms, we try to give them everything they wish for. In return, they provide us with more eggs than we can eat. We give lots of eggs away to relatives, friends and neighbours. And we’re always trying to think up new ways of using eggs ourselves.

The eggs are pure white and fairly small. I use 3 of these for 2 medium shop-bought ones. Some are oval and pointy, while others have a more rounded shape:

(I photographed the eggs on one of the dishcloths I’ve been knitting. More about those in another blog post soon. Or perhaps not so soon. There are so many ideas for posts whirling about in my mind that I don’t know where to start.)

Besides eggs, we’re also trying to use as many herbs in our cooking as we can too. This time I’m using thyme. We have three different varieties in our herb patch. Use any thyme you like – dried thyme from a jar is fine, too. Don’t use too much, though. It can be overpowering in combination with fruit.

The recipe below is for a Clafoutis – a French dessert that is usually made with cherries, but can also be made with plums or other fruit. I chose apricots because I thought they would work well with thyme. (I used canned apricots, because we can hardly ever get any fresh ones, and when we can they are often dry and not very tasty.) Here’s my recipe:

Apricot and Thyme Clafoutis

For a Ø 22 cm pie dish, serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3 small Frisian eggs (or 2 medium shop-bought eggs)
  • 150 ml milk
  • 50 g flour
  • 270 g tinned apricot halves (drained weight)
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme (or ¼ tsp dried thyme)
  • 1 tbsp butter + extra for greasing
  • 50 g sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • icing sugar for dusting

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 200 °C (fan oven 180 °C).
  • Grease the pie dish
  • Sieve the flour together with the salt and sugar.
  • In a separate bowl, loosely whisk the eggs with half of the milk. Stir the egg-and-milk mixture into the flour little by little to a smooth batter. Melt the butter. Whisk the rest of the milk and the butter into the batter.
  • Distribute the apricot halves over the pie dish (hollow sides down). Pour over the batter and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
  • Eat warm or cold, dusted with icing sugar.

Enjoy!

The table cloth underneath the oven dish was embroidered by my late Mum. She was a great knitter, too, but she loved embroidering these colourful pre-printed table cloths most of all. For me, there are many good memories attached to it.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed my ramblings and my recipe. And I hope to get back to some serious knitting in my next post, because I’ve received some urgent questions from readers that I need to look into…

Herb Teas and Honey Bees

Hello again! I hope you have some time in your busy day for a leisurely scroll through our garden, a visit to a beekeeper, and a cup of tea and some knitting afterwards. Or perhaps you’re on holiday and have all the time in the world. Wherever you are or whatever your day looks like – welcome!

Today, I’d like to show you a new part of our garden. A part you haven’t seen yet – our herb patch. It isn’t very big (about two by two-and-a-half meters) but I’m very happy with it. Here it is just after we planted it mid-May:

And this is what it looks like now, two months later:

Isn’t it amazing how quickly things grow? There’s parsley, chives, thyme and sage for all kinds of savoury dishes. There’s rhubarb for stewing, nasturtium flowers for decorating salads, and ‘wild’ strawberries for enjoying straight from the plant. I don’t know what to do with the marigolds yet. I could use them to dye some yarn, but what would I do with yellow yarn? For the time being I’m just enjoying them for their cheerful colour.

And finally, there’s chamomile, peppermint and lemon balm. We’ll be making herb tea with those later. But first, let’s get some honey to sweeten it. If we hop on to our bicycles we’ll be at the beekeeper’s farm in under an hour. It’s a nice route along a canal, past some allotments, through a wood, and along a country lane.

Here we are. There are jars of honey and an honesty box at the roadside. We could just grab a jar and head back…

… but it’s much nicer to have a chat with the bee keeper and take a look at the bees. We need to put on a special beekeeper’s jacket with hood first. The bees are very quiet today, but it’s better to be on the safe side.

Do you see the line of trees the beekeeper is pointing at? Behind them there’s a nature reserve, with heather and all kinds of other flowering plants, shrubs and trees where the bees get the nectar for their honey.

The beekeeper deprecatingly says, ‘Ah, it’s just a hobby. My dad used to do it before me, and I’ve followed in his footsteps.’ But to her own astonishment and delight both her bright and her dark honey won gold medals at the London Honey Awards 2019!

Most of the bees are housed in modern beehives:

These are far bigger than traditional hives, or skeps, and it is much easier to collect the honey from them. But she also has some traditional skeps, a sort of upside-down baskets. And even a wooden beehive in the shape of a house. It looks a lot like their own beautiful wooden house:

Zooming in on one of the skeps, the bees can be seen coming in and out of the opening:

It’s that dark clump at the top left. Can you see them?

This beekeeper isn’t complaining, but behind her words I can hear her worries about the threats her bees (and bees everywhere) face. They’re threatened by the varroa mite, pesticides and the drought caused by climate change. Things like this often give me a feeling of powerlessness. Yes, it’s worrying, but what can we do about such worldwide threats as insignificant individuals? Fortunately, in this case, there are a few easy things we can do to help the bees.

Apart from organic honey in jars, this small family business also produces other bee products, like beeswax candles, lip balm, soap, shampoo and so on. There’s more information on their website.

Well, high time to cycle back and pick some herbs.

One of my favourite herb tea blends is chamomile and lemon balm. A small handful of chamomile flowers and lemon balm leaves is enough for a cup or two of tea (dried herbs work just as well as fresh ones). I have a small teapot with a built-in strainer, but any pot or mug will do.

Add honey to taste and enjoy!

Next to this cup of tea is my first dishcloth in progress. I was skeptical about knitting these (I mean, how twee can you get?), but the enthusiasm of two of my knitting group members made me give them a try. And I must say, I’ve been bitten by the dishcloth-knitting-bug too!

Another favourite is mint tea. There are many varieties of mint. Wat we usually get when we order mint tea at a cafe is Moroccan mint, with a fairly mild and sweet taste. The mint in our garden, peppermint, has a stronger taste. It really is more peppery. Two or three small sprigs straight into a mug make a refreshing drink. I like it even during the very hot weather we’re currently having – I just leave it to cool first.

The blindingly white knitting on the needles here is the start of my Sideways Tee. There isn’t much to see yet, but as soon as I’m a little further along, I’ll show you more.

Well, that’s all for today. Thank you for sharing a cup of tea with me!

Sheep Shearing

There’s been a lot of sheep shearing going on around here during the past couple of months. Often it’s just a solitary farmer shearing his own sheep in his own farm yard. The farmer above is shearing one of his Texel sheep. He keeps them for meat, like all of our local farmers. The wool is just a by-product, shorn off quickly with electric clippers, stuffed into bags and shipped off to China.

But we also have sheep shearing festivals, where wool plays a much more prominent role. I’ve been to two of these, and here’s a compilation of what I’ve seen.

Below you see the Holtinger Schaapskudde, 630 sheep kept together by one of the sheep dogs.

These Drenthe Heath sheep are kept for landscape management, grazing on saplings and keeping the heathland open. I’ve written about this herd and their ‘job’ before in this post.

As you can see, most of them have already lost their warm, white, brown, grey or black winter coats.

A small group of sheep has been herded into a pen. Now it’s their turn to be shorn. Visitors to the festival can point out which fleeces they want.

The wool is especially suitable for felting, and some visitors will be coming back to take part in one of the felting workshops given on the premises.

The sheep they’ve chosen is then dragged out from among the others. It is placed in a rather unflattering upright position first, and the shearer starts clipping around its neck.

After that the sheep is laid down on its side, and the shearer frees it from one half of its fleece, turns it over and then removes the other half.

This particular sheep kept very still, and didn’t seem stressed at all. I think it’s because the shearer is very experienced. And he uses hand shears, unlike the farmer at the top of this post. Perhaps that’s less stressful for the sheep, too?

I took the picture below, of an onlooker’s feet, especially for my readers in other parts of the world:

Yes, some of us actually do wear wooden shoes! They’re light, warm, comfortable to wear and even count as official safety footwear. I’ve worn them a lot, and our daughter did too as a small child. (She prefers Jimmy Choos now, though.)

Apart from the actual sheep, there’s a lot of other woolly goodness on offer at these festivals. Fleeces for spinning and felting from various sheep breeds:

And also lots of lovely hand-made things. I particularly liked these felted slippers, decorated with beads:

Some people brought along their spinning wheels. This spinner told me that she spun all the yarn for the rainbow of cabled ponchos on the rack next to her, but that somebody else did the dyeing and knitting.

In the photo above you can hardly see the cables, so here’s another one. This one’s taken from the front and shows the stitches and the construction better:

Colourful and cosy, aren’t they?

I thought all sheep shearing would be done by now, but I just found out that there’s another sheep shearing festival and wool market next weekend. If you’re in the area, it’s on Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st of July 2019 at the Shepherds of Balloo. More information can be found here. Judging by the list of participants, it’s going to be a big event.

To close off, here’s a close-up of one of the Drenthe Heath sheep. I think they are just so photogenic, don’t you agree?

Sweet Peas and Summer Knitting

Before launching into a discourse on summer knitting yarns and projects, I just have to show you our sweet peas first. They are doing so well. In just a few weeks they grew from tiny little seedlings to tall flowering plants.

I expected lots of different pastel shades, but almost all of our sweet pea flowers are the same – a velvety dark purple combined with a deep burgundy. In reality the colours are even darker than in the pictures. Very different from what I expected, but lovely nevertheless.

Among the dark flowers, there are a few pale pink ones:

We have to keep picking them if we want the plants to keep producing flowers throughout the summer months. So, from now on there will be posies of sweet peas on our table, perfuming the room with their heavenly scent. Simply luxurious!

That’s one thing I like about summer – sweet peas. They’ll go on my list.

List? What list? Well, summer is my least favourite season. I know this may sound weird, as most people seem to love it, but the truth is that I don’t feel at my best during the summer months. For years I’ve tried to ignore it and told myself to stop moaning. But this year I’m trying to find out exactly what makes me feel this way, so that I can do something about it. Plus I’m making a list of things that I do like about summer, and sweet peas definitely deserve a place on it.

One of the things I’ve found out so far, is that I miss my knitting. When temperatures rise, I tend to put my knitting aside, because the yarn is too warm in my hands and on my lap. I find other things to do instead, like reading and crochet. But that’s not quite enough for me. I still miss my knitting!

So what would make knitting possible on hot days? After giving it some thought I came up with two simple criteria:

  1. Yarn for summer knitting should be either cool and crisp or fine (and have zero mohair content), so that it doesn’t stick to clammy palms
    AND/OR
  2. Projects for summer knitting should be small, so that they don’t feel like a warm blanket on one’s lap

Pretty obvious, really. With these two criteria in mind, I first looked at what I had in my stash and came up with some leftover yarns that I could use for small projects. This is some yarn left over from a shawl I once knit:

It’s Tosh Merino Light in five matching shades. I’m using these little balls for another Tellina cowl. This yarn doesn’t fall into the category ‘cool and crisp’, but it’s smooth and fairly fine, so OK for small projects even on warm days.

The yarn I used for the original version was a fine fingering-weight. Now I want to try the pattern out in some heavier fingering-weight yarns, like the Tosh Merino Light you see here.

After finishing the purpley one, I am also going to make one from some average, ordinary fingering-weight sock yarn:

By knitting several versions, I’m testing out how many stitches and how many rows are needed to get approximately the same size cowl with various yarns. I think it’ll be a great little project for all kinds of leftovers.

As I didn’t have any yarn worth speaking of in the category ‘cool and crisp’, I browsed around on the internet and in a brick-and-mortar yarn shop. Usually I don’t give the ‘cotton corner’ a glance, but this time I specifically headed for it. And although I think I will always prefer wool, I must say that I found some beautiful non-wool yarns, too. There are so many summery yarns available now! Not just all kinds of cotton, but also linen, hemp, viscose, yarn spun from recycled jeans and much more.

In the end I chose a mixture of cotton and linen in plain white:

It’s going to be a plain white Tee. Do you remember that band, The Plain White T’s? With their sweet song ‘Hey There Delilah’? That’s the song that I’ll be humming when I’m knitting this oversized summery T-shirt.

Another idea for summer knitting that ticks all the boxes comes from a comment on a recent blog post left by Marieke. She recommends a booklet by Helle Benedikte Neigaard:

It’s a charming, inexpensive booklet that’s widely available, and I bought it straightaway. Thank you for the tip Marieke! In English it’s entitled Easy Knit Dishcloths. (When adding the link, I discovered that it’s not all that inexpensive in English – Sorry.)

Handknit dishcloths seem to be a Scandinavian thing – I’ve come across them in Norwegian and Danish books and magazines before. This booklet is also by a Danish author. And I recently heard about a Danish designer who built up an entire yarn emporium around these humble cloths. What’s the attraction? I’m going to find out!

Finally, I’ve bought a big yarn cake in a colour gradient:

It’s cotton, and I’m going to use it for a new design I’m working on. I’ve already knit it twice, but want to try it out in at least one other yarn before I publish it.

Uhm, exactly how many weeks does a summer have again? Together with the cooler weather knits still on my needles and the shawl with a crochet border I wrote about last week, I now have so many plans for summer projects that it’s beginning to look slightly unrealistic that I’ll actually finish them all. Well, we’ll see. At least I feel good about using up some leftover yarn, and I’m very happy to have so much to look forward to.

All around us, people are busy packing for their holidays. We aren’t, because we’ve decided to stay home this year. We will be taking some time off, though, for a ‘staycation’. That may mean that I’ll be blogging less frequently or on different days of the week, or write shorter blog posts. Or maybe I’ll continue as usual. I just don’t know yet. So if things are different, or you’re not hearing from me for a while, don’t worry. I’m just sitting in the garden, knitting, reading, enjoying the flowers and the birds, and gathering fresh inspiration.

Whether you’re going away or staying at home, I wish you a happy and relaxing summer!

Summer Crochet, an Incident and an Accident

Hello again! This time it’s a bit cooler in our little corner of the world than last week. But summer has just started, and we’re sure to get some more hot days, so I’ve been thinking about suitable warm weather projects.

Summer crochet

As I wrote last week, I often switch over to crochet in summer. I don’t know why exactly. Is it because the materials I use for crochet are more summery? Is it because the crochet projects I choose are usually small and portable? Is it because I have more time for focused attention and more light for fiddly techniques? Probably a bit of everything.

I love the act of crochet. The movement, the rhythm, following intricate schematics, making something very fine. But it’s hard to find projects that I really like. Do I want a crocheted sweater or crocheted socks? Not really. I do like some crochet blankets, but apart from modular blankets, with small pieces joined together later, I wouldn’t call them summer projects. Just imagine having a blanket in progress on your lap when it’s around 30°C!

A crochet scarf

But here are some really summery crochet projects that I’ve made or am planning to make. First of all there’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’:

I made this fabulous scarf a couple of years ago, during a holiday in Germany. Crocheted into it are memories of early morning birdsong, mountain walks, sunny vineyards and cosy rainy evenings. Bohemian Rhapsody is made from 75 (!) colours of naturally dyed yarn. The yarn was dyed by Renaissance Dyeing, a small company based in the Southwest of France, and is available as a kit complete with pattern.

The yarn arrived in the form of mini-skeins. I had a lot of fun playing around with them before winding the yarn onto embroidery floss bobbins:

It is a woolen yarn, but so light that it is no problem to work with during warmer periods. This is a project that never gets boring. There are blocks in three different sizes – Large, Medium and Small. These three blocks have different motifs, and are attached by the ‘join-as-you-go’ method in various combinations. The pattern is available in English as well as in Dutch and has very clear instructions.

More crocheted scarves

Talking about crocheted scarves, I saw some beautiful ones by Sophie Digard last week, during a stay with a friend in Maastricht, in the ‘far’ south of our country. We were strolling through the lovely cobbled streets of her city when I spotted one of Sophie’s amazing scarves in a shop window. The friendly shop owner allowed me to open some special drawers with glass covers displaying them. I didn’t feel comfortable taking photographs without buying anything, but if you’d like to get an impression, you can see an array of inspirational pictures here.

These shawls are very expensive. That doesn’t mean that they’re not worth the money, though. They’re all handmade, and they’re all unique. Just think of all the hours that have gone into those tiny stitches. Way above my budget, but that doesn’t matter. Just looking at them is so inspiring!

An incident

I’m sorry to say that I can’t show you any photographs of Maastricht’s beauty spots at all, because my camera was nicked at the railway station on the way back. It was ‘just’ a small point-and-shoot camera, but it was MY small point-and-shoot camera! Fortunately I already have a new one exactly the same. And fortunately the memories of this lovely time with my friend were not just on my camera, but are also safely imprinted on my mind. An unpleasant incident at the end of an otherwise wonderful visit. Well, things like that happen. Let’s get back to more crochet ideas.

Hankies

Over the years I’ve crocheted many, many borders around hankies. I know they’re rather old-fashioned, but they’re so nice to make. I love this kind of very fine crochet. I’ve given many of them away, but here are a few of them that are in my pockets every day. I don’t blow my nose on them – I use them for cleaning my glasses.

Every year I choose a crochet project to work on during our summer holiday. Sometimes it’s something very special, like the Bohemian Rhapsody scarf. But it can also be something very simple.

Potholders

Last year I made some ordinary striped potholders. Nothing fancy, but I like making them. And we regularly need new ones because they tend to get burnt.

I have no idea where the pattern comes from – probably from my mum. There are several similar patterns on Ravelry, although I seem to be using thicker yarn.

Shawl with crochet border

For this year’s summer holiday project I’ve chosen a shawl with a crochet border. The shawl itself is from a very thin woven wool fabric – it’s just the border that’s crocheted.

The shawl is called ‘Oda’ and the materials were dyed by local dyer Lindelicht. The fabric and the yarn were dyed in the same pot, so that they match beautifully. Marianne, the person behind this micro-business only dyes very small quantities, which she sells at crafts markets.

Well, I hope that has given you some inspiration for crochet projects. Now on to the accident I mentioned in the title.

An accident

While I was away in Maastricht, one of the young house martins I wrote about before fell out of one of the nests high up under the eaves of our roof. My husband found it next to our chicken coop. The little creature couldn’t fly yet and had apparently crawled there for some company. Just look at the fluffy little thing:

Awww.

In a natural environment it would die. That’s the way it goes. But what was my husband to do? He couldn’t very well just leave it to die, could he? It was impossible to return the chick to its nest, because that was too high up to reach safely. And besides, which family did it belong to, and how do you stuff a house martin back into its nest?

In the end he picked the little chick up and called the Animal Ambulance, a wonderful institution run by volunteers. They arrived promptly, said they had recently taken a chick just like it to a bird rescue centre, and also that they expected this one to survive. Well, let’s hope so.

Summer knitting

Meanwhile I’ve also been looking around for summer knitting projects. I already have some ideas and expect to write about them next time.

Have a lovely week!

Note: This post isn’t sponsored in any way. I just like writing about beautiful things and the people who make them possible.

An Afternoon in the Garden

After several rather busy days, I spent an entire Sunday afternoon in the garden. Just sitting, knitting, drinking tea and looking around with my camera at hand. Everything is growing so fast, I can hardly keep up.

Above, you can see my utterly comfortable chair. It was a present for my 50th Birthday, which seems like yesterday, but is in fact so long ago that the fabric has become quite faded in places.

Behind my chair, you can see a part of our small wildflower meadow. It took a while to get going, but now it’s absolutely glorious, with many different plant species and always something new to discover. And one of the best things about it, is that it attracts lots of butterflies, bees and other insects. Here, on an oxeye daisy, is a large tortoiseshell:

We were thrilled to see it, for it is a rare butterfly that was almost extinct in our country until a couple of years ago. Now it seems to be making a come-back. I’m really glad to be the bringer of this good news amidst all the bad news we hear and read about the terrible decline in biodiversity.

Just like the oxeye daisies, the foxgloves are flowering prodigiously this year.

We didn’t plant or sow these foxgloves. They just arrived out of the blue. The first couple of years there were just a few plants, but look at them now!

Bumble bees are buzzing in and out of their bell-like flowers. I really love their shades from purple to pale pink to white. And they have beautiful burgundy spots inside:

There are more plants in our garden that sprang up of their own accord, and we heartily welcome them (at least some of them). But we also have some that we’ve deliberately planted, like these sweet peas.

They’re growing incredibly fast. Since I took this picture they’ve grown quite a bit, and I can already see some tiny flower buds. I’m so looking forward to the fluttery flowers with their lovely scent.

Apart from plants, butterflies and insects, there is also a lot of bird activity in the garden.

There are many, many young sparrows around, flapping their wings begging for food. Two of our nest boxes are filled with cheeping great tits. And the house martins are flying to and fro to feed their young. After the eggs hatched, the birds threw the empty shells out of the nests. I found them on the ground underneath the nests over several mornings:

The speckled shells are papery thin. So fragile that I could hardly pick them up without crushing them. And so small that it’s hard to imagine a complete chick can come out of them. I’ve photographed the egg shells next to one of our own small, white hen’s eggs to give you some idea of their size:

I found the egg shells a little over two weeks ago. I read that it takes house martins five weeks to fledge, so the adults still have an exhausting few weeks ahead of them.

A good friend of mine, the blackbird, is always around too:

For weeks on end, it was hurrying around, collecting worms and other edibles for its young. I think it has had two consecutive nests. Sadly, it seems that this year just one chick survived. But that chick looks strong and healthy, and can now almost fend for itself:

Two large, noisy families of magpies, by contrast, have done very well. Maybe they’ve raised their young on blackbird eggs or chicks, who knows?. They’re notorious nest raiders. They’ve even been known to steal some of our hen’s eggs, which we briefly left unattended between collecting them from the laying nest and putting them away indoors.

I can almost hear the magpie thinking: ‘Well, how was I to know that you didn’t put them out there especially for us? You leave peanuts, seeds and mealworms out for other birds, too, don’t you?’

In between watching the birds and looking at the flowers around me, I also did some knitting. I started two new projects – both in soft shades of pink. One is a striped cardigan in a combination of yarns in different weights:

And the other is a simple shawl in two different lace-weight yarns held together:

They’re both lovely, relaxing knits. I’ll show you more when I’m a little further along.

The day I sat knitting and taking pictures in the garden, was before the onset of some Very Hot weather. For the past few days, it’s been absolutely sweltering. I’ve had to put these knitting projects on hold. The soft, hairy yarn is sticking to my hands, and both the cardi and the shawl in progress are way too hot to have on my lap.

I’m now spending my spare time reading instead, but I need to find something else to do with my hands soon. Something suitable for tropical temperatures.

I’m not much of a summer knitter, really. I often switch over to crochet when temperatures rise. But I’d like to have something summery on my knitting needles, too. Hmmm, I’ll see what I can find. If you have any ideas, please let me know.