Lavender and Moths

‘Oh, no!’ I thought while I was whizzing around the living room with the vacuum cleaner sometime this spring. (Or I may have thought something a little less polite.) I had just lifted the basket with spinning fibres beside my wheel…

… and discovered  a kind of grit under it. I knew what that meant – moths!

I had stuffed the fibres into a plastic bag, put them in the freezer, removed the grit, and shaken out the basket before I thought, ‘this could be interesting for my blog.’ The only things left to photograph were 3 cocoons.

Moth problems are unavoidable in a house containing so much that is high on the moth’s Munchability Index. (Isn’t that a brilliant term? It was coined by Adrian Doyle, conservator at the Museum of London.  There is a link to the article in which I found it at the bottom of this post.) Fortunately, I haven’t had moth problems very often, but often enough to recognize the signs.

I’ve taken a few photos of moths lately. It isn’t that I’m a moth geek or anything. It is just that with my camera in hand I’m becoming more and more aware of my surroundings. And when I see creatures I don’t know, I try to find out what they are.

This is the large yellow underwing on our kitchen floor. It is called grote huismoeder (literally: large stay-at-home-mum) in Dutch. Whoever thought of that name?

And this is a box tree moth.

Isn’t it beautiful, with its almost transparent veined wings in a dark frame? We don’t have any box in our garden, and its family has already destroyed our neighbours’ box hedge, so I can admire it without getting nervous.

Several moth caterpillars crossed my path while I was out cycling this summer. This hairy little monster is the caterpillar of the majestic white ermine (NL: witte tijger).

And this big fat beauty will later transform into a small emperor moth (NL: nachtpauwoog).

It isn’t any of these that munch on spinning fibres, knitting yarn and sweaters, though. It’s the clothes moth that does that. I have, (un)fortunately, not been able to photograph it and am borrowing someone else’s picture. Here it is – every knitter’s and spinner’s nightmare:

Photo: © Olaf Leillinger, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Doesn’t it look glorious in this picture, all shimmering gold? In real life it is only about 7 mm (0.25”) long – an unsightly beige-ish little fluttery thing.

So, what to do about them?

Moth balls and moth paper are one option, but they smell horrible and are carcinogenic. Another is cedar wood. There was a block of that in my spinning basket. Maybe it loses its moth-repellent quality over time? Something else moths hate is lavender.

This bush along our driveway established itself there years ago. It is a pale shade of, well, lavender.

This isn’t a moth, by the way, but a butterfly called painted lady (NL: distelvlinder).

Last year we planted some more lavender in our front garden.

It is smaller and a darker shade of purple.

Moths may hate lavender, but I love it. Its scent, the purple of its flowers, and the silvery grey of its leaves. When all the lavender in our garden had finished flowering, friends coming to spend a sunny afternoon chatting in our garden brought us a big pot of a different variety.

It has beautiful tufted flowers. I have placed it just so that we can see it every time we look out the kitchen window.

I don’t know what it is that makes moths hate lavender so much, but it is a well-known fact that lavender is an excellent repellent.

Over the summer, I’ve been knitting some lavender sachets from small remnants of sock and other fingering-weight yarn. Not the old-fashioned frilly kind, but more modern? simple? plain? ones. I don’t know exactly how to describe them, but if all goes according to plan, you’ll see what I mean next week.

Meanwhile, here are a few links to some interesting reading about moths, the problems they pose for textile-lovers and what to do about them.

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!

No Plan but a List

Hello, I’m back (although I haven’t really been away). I hope you’ve had a good summer and feel ready to get back to normal life, in as far as it can be called normal at the moment.

Beforehand, I imagined myself during my Summer Break like the sculpture above, only slightly more curvy and with a pair of knitting needles in my hands. No plan, just lazing about.

Except… I’m not the lazing-about-type (I must have been an ant in a previous life or something). I soon realized that staying at home with a husband working through the summer, there was the danger of my two precious weeks becoming two very ordinary weeks. I still didn’t feel like making a plan, but I needed something to give me some sort of direction. So, I got out a notebook and made a list.

A list of things that make a summer holiday into a summer holiday for me. It included:

  • Travel
  • No alarm clock
  • Simple, orderly environment (tent or cottage)
  • Read a foreign magazine
  • No newspaper, no tv
  • Grocery shopping in an unfamiliar shop (I love those huge French Hypermarchés, and the aisles with dozens of different types of muesli and honey in German supermarkets)
  • Spend as much time outdoors as possible
  • Lots of exercise (cycling, walking)
  • Lots and lots and lots of time for crafting and reading
  • Simple food, try a few new things
  • Sightseeing, visit a town, city, museum
  • Some pocket money to spend on frivolous things
  • Send postcards
  • Eat or drink something somewhere
  • Several new books to read
  • Take photographs
  • Keep a diary

Most of the items seemed doable, although some would require a little imagination. I didn’t want it to be a to-do-list with items to check off, just something I could use as a kind of compass. I didn’t do everything on it. One of the things I did do, was take photographs. Loads of them.

Photographs of landscapes…

… lovely houses…

… flowering heather…

… and many, many more.

I didn’t go grocery shopping in one of those big French or German supermarkets, but I did visit a health food shop close by that I’d never been to. They had a display of deliciously fresh looking vegetable plants outside…

… and some lovely honey and other nice things inside.

I did send a few postcards, but I didn’t keep to the ‘no newspaper, no tv’ item on my list. I felt the need to stay informed, and especially the publication of the IPCC climate report felt too important to not read about.

So scary! But the hopeful thing about it is that it seems to have conveyed a sense of urgency. I often struggle with the bad news from around the world. How can I enjoy a Summer Break and blog about small pleasures when so much is going wrong?

This is one of the books I have been reading during my Summer Break:

It is set in an imaginary place in Ireland (travel!), far removed from the real world. In it I found a nugget of wisdom that applies to our everyday world as well: ‘… even in times of death, destruction and ignorance, there are still good people who can make a difference.’ (p. 90)

That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Trying to be a good person making a difference. And to be able to do that, we need a break from time to time. Knitting isn’t going to save the world, but at least it isn’t making things worse either. So, I’ve sat knitting and reading on our veranda, behind the flowering dill, quite a bit.

And although the weather was unreliable, I’ve also been walking for hours and cycling for miles and miles.

I didn’t keep a diary, but I’d like to write about a few of the things I’ve seen along the way and thought I’d do that here over the next couple of weeks. It’s far too much for one or two blog posts, so there’ll be a few more than my usual Friday ones. Hope you don’t mind.

What I would have liked to do as well, was visit a few yarn shops in the area, but most of them were having a Summer Break just like me. The only one I visited did have some nice yarns…

… but otherwise was such a mess…

… that I beat a quick retreat and won’t even tell you where it was. But not to worry – there will be a few other crafts-related things to share.

Bye for now, and see you again soon!

(This isn’t my bicycle, but a purely ornamental one in a neighbour’s garden.)

Places to Sit and Knit 2

Hello, and welcome to another Place to Sit and Knit. It’s there, under the giant white-and-yellow striped parasol behind the artichokes. I hadn’t planned on writing the second instalment in this series so soon, but couldn’t resist.

It was our niece who brought us here. She has been a student at Nijmegen university for a year now – a lonely year filled with zoom lectures. She rents a room in a house with several other students in a village outside the city. We arrive bearing a basket filled with goodies and a pair of old-fashioned crochet pot holders.

We’ve kept in touch by e-mail, Whatsapp, snailmail and phone, but it is wonderful to see her face IRL again and to finally see where she has been studying so diligently on her own all year. I really, really hope our young people will be able to have a slightly more normal life after the summer.

After several mugs of tea/coffee and a guided tour of the village we paid a visit to the local windmill.

It is no longer functioning, but now houses a shop selling everything a home baker will ever need, from dozens of different kinds of flour to seeds and nuts, dried fruit, yeast, baking tins, proofing baskets and much more.

To my husband this is what a yarn shop is to me. This time I was the one waiting patiently outside. (I didn’t mind – I brought my knitting.) This time it was my turn to ask, ‘Did you get everything you wanted? Are you sure you don’t need anything else?’

As we rarely get to this part of the country, we thought we’d better cram as much into our day as possible. So, on to our next stop: Nijmegen Botanical Garden. There are actually two gardens separated by a beech avenue: the botanical garden proper and a flower garden.

On the afternoon of our visit, the bog area of the botanical garden looked like something from a fairy tale.

At least from a distance. I hope they’ve been able to keep the wedding dress and the bridegroom’s shoes from getting too muddy and their tempers from getting too frayed. Whose idea was it to take wedding pictures in a bog anyway?

The Friesian horses drawing their fairy tale carriage were pacing back and forth outside the garden, only stopping for me to take a picture.

It’s beautiful to look at, but I’m so glad I’ve never had to go through the ordeal of a fairy tale wedding like that.

Today’s Place to Sit and Knit is in the flower garden. There are lots of lovely places to sit and knit here. Ordinary benches surrounded by flowers.

And extraordinary seats covered in foliage.

We’re heading for the tables and chairs under the big parasol.

Time for some tea, fruit juice and carrot cake. Did you bring your knitting? What are you making?

I’m ‘working’ on my new shawl design, using a combination of silk/mohair lace yarn and a fingering-weight merino yarn. It doesn’t look like much yet, does it? It’s a work in progress and I’m not ready to show you more at this stage. Sorry! These things always take a long time, at least for me. I plan to have the pattern finished sometime in September. Saying that here out loud feels like giving myself a deadline, and I think that’s a good thing or I’ll stay dithering over the details forever.

At the first of our Places to Sit and Knit, my blogging friend Helga from Sweden told me about a linen top she is knitting, using a pattern called Siw (Ravelry link). It is an oversized top with a lovely lace panel on the shoulders. It might be just the thing for some linen yarn that has been marinating in my stash for a while.

My yarn is thinner than the yarn used in the pattern, but it may work. I’ll swatch and see.

With the 1,071,226 patterns currently available on Ravelry, it can be hard to decide what to knit. There are all kinds of filters available to help us choose, but for me nothing beats tips and inspiration from friends – real-life knitting friends, Ravelry friends and friends met in the blogosphere. Thanks, Helga! How is your Siw coming along?

It’s nice here, isn’t it, just sitting and knitting, sipping a drink, and enjoying the flowers (click on images to enlarge). And the best thing is: admission is free and you can come back anytime you like!

Places to Sit and Knit 1

Hello! Today, I’m taking you along for a short walk, to a lovely place to sit and knit.

The bench in the photo above is about a mile from our home, a 20-minute walk. It is around the bend of a sandy path.

At first glance the view from the bench is underwhelming.

But the better you get to know the spot, the more you start to appreciate it. We cannot enter it, not just because it is a protected nature reserve…

… but also because it is a bog and we’d have a hard time keeping our feet (and the rest of ourselves) dry.

But we can walk around it.

We can say hello to some of the inhabitants. Hello big green frog!

Dragonflies are whirring through the air or sunning themselves.

At first glance, the vegetation is unspectacular, too. But again, the better you look, the more you see.

Our native blueberries, billberries, are much smaller than the ones in the shop. They are easily overlooked, but kneeling down and looking between the leaves you can see that they are ripe.

Another thing that is easily overlooked is the sundew. It is a teeny tiny carnivorous plant, with round leaves of only a few millimetres across.

Looked at from very close up, it is beautiful, with its glistening, sticky and treacherous (to insects) drops.

Strolling around here, taking photographs and enjoying the quiet, I suddenly had the idea of doing a series about ‘Places to Sit and Knit’. I thought we could virtually sit here, and in some other lovely places, together, look around and chat about our knitting a bit.

Of course, a blog is always mainly one-way traffic, but I am really interested in what is on your needles or hooks. Do leave a comment telling me about it, if you feel like it. Mention the name of a pattern or yarn and I may know what it looks like, or I’ll look it up on Ravelry or elsewhere. If you don’t feel comfortable leaving comments on blogs, that’s fine, too.

Today, I don’t have a lot of knitting to show you, though. There are the beginnings of a small object from sock yarn remnants that doesn’t look like much yet:

Some swatches for a new shawl design I’m working on:

And a December gift for someone who’ll probably be reading this that I want to keep a surprise:

And I’m not entirely sure this will really become a series either. Maybe the idea will fall by the wayside, or maybe not. Anyway, I think it’s a nice idea and I’ll try to keep it in mind.

Well, let’s head back home, past the house with the prettiest front door for miles around…

… and through a ferny, sun-dappled (at least today) part of the wood.

As of tomorrow, I have planned two weeks off. My husband prefers to keep working through the summer, albeit at a more leasurely pace, but I really need some time to just sit and knit. Apart from not setting the alarm clock and not doing work of any kind, I haven’t planned anything. The plan is to have no plan. That also goes for my blog. I may pop in if there is something to write about and I feel like sharing it, but I’m not sure.

I hope that you’ll also have some unplanned time this summer. To just sit and knit. Or to read, go for walks, maybe even travel a bit, or do nothing. Whatever you are planning (or not planning) to do, I wish you a lovely time!

Behind the Pelargoniums

Hello!

In Dutch, we have the expression achter de geraniums zitten (sitting behind the pelargoniums). It’s hard to explain exactly what it means, but on the whole it’s considered a Bad Thing. Not quite as bad as pushing up the daisies…

… but it comes very close. Sitting behind the pelargoniums, you’re a dull old stick-in-the-mud.

I never particularly liked pelargoniums. But since we came to live here, almost 20 years ago, we’ve bought them from our local brass band every year to sponsor their uniforms and instruments.

Ironically, last year – when we spent more time behind the pelargoniums than ever before, figuratively speaking – we had to go without them. Fortunately this year, the brass band players were able to go round the doors selling them again.

I don’t know if I’ll ever love pelargoniums, but I’ve come to like them over the years. They provide some nice splashes of colour around the house.

And how about sitting behind those pelargoniums?

According to our government, it is no longer necessary to do so. I don’t know what it’s like in your part of the world, but here almost all of the covid-measures have suddenly been dropped. As of last Saturday, we don’t have to wear face masks anymore, and almost everything is allowed (with 1.5 metres distance). It’s a BIG step, and I wonder where it is going to take us.

It is not going to take us (my husband and me) anywhere much in the foreseeable future. We don’t have big plans. I mean, it would be a shame if we weren’t here to enjoy our wonderfully fragrant miniature strawberries, wouldn’t it?

And who among our neighbours would be crazy enough to pamper my little woad seedlings the way I do? Yes, the seeds have germinated! Well, most of them anyway.

We will just continue living our lives, and doing the things we normally do this summer. But we are planning to take a day off now and then to venture away from behind our pelargoniums. I hope you’ll virtually join us on some of our outings.

One thing we have planned, is a visit to our niece. She left home last September to go to uni and I am really looking forward to finally see where she has been studying so diligently on her own this past year. Before that trip, I am crocheting her a pair of old-fashioned pot holders from blue and cream cotton.

On the knitting front, I don’t have any big plans either. I’ll focus on small projects from those yarn remnants I talked about last week. There is one big project I want to finish, though – the soft, light and relaxed cardi I started earlier this year. Only, I found out that I’ve made a mistake in one of the front bands. Oops.

I think I know how to fix it, but I need to pluck up the courage for that.

Some crochet is also on my list of things to do this summer. Not a big blanket or anything – I’ll keep it small, too.

For the rest, I’ll keep enjoying the small miracles surrounding us and sharing them with you.

The other day, when I was starting to lower our awning, I heard a dry, crackling sound. Like something dropping down from it. And this is what I found:

An emperor dragonfly. I couldn’t see it breathing, and after observing it for a while concluded that it was dead. A rare opportunity to study it more closely. Such a beautiful creature.

Another thing I found just outside our backdoor this past week is this:

I’ve zoomed in on it; in reality it is only about 3 cm long. At first I thought it was a bit of moss fallen from off the roof, but when I looked more closely, I saw ‘things’ in it and realized it was a pellet. Probably regurgitated by this sparrowhawk.

I may seem like a dull old stick-in-the-mud to others, spending so much time behind the pelargoniums. But life never feels dull to me. To close off, here is one of the young woodpeckers who visit our garden every day.

Wherever you are in the world, and whether you are staying behind the pelargoniums or not, I wish you a safe and enjoyable summer and hope you’ll pay me a visit here from time to time.

PS If you’d like to see a dragonfly breathing (they breathe through the lower part of their body), here is a lovely video I found on YouTube.

PYO Garden

Hello there!

Following on from last week’s knitting sampler, I was going to show you my Mum’s embroidery sampler today. But I’m keeping that for later.

Instead, I’m taking you along to a Pick-Your-Own flower garden. It’s just outside our village – 10 minutes cycling at most. You can borrow a spare bicycle, if you like. All we need to do is adjust the saddle to your height and we’re good to go.

Through the tunnel underneath the ring road, left and left again and we’re in a lane leading past several farms.

A short stop to say hello to a few grazing cows. Hello girls!

Hop on again, cycle two minutes more, and we’re there.

‘Have a nice day’, the sign says. ‘Open 24/7’. And ‘Relax’ and ‘Enjoy’, too. And that’s exactly what we’re here for – to just relax and enjoy this beautiful spot for a few moments.

The owner comes up, apologizing that there isn’t very much to pick anymore at the end of Summer. I reassure her that it’s fine. We don’t need a huge bunch of flowers. Just being here is a treat in itself. And I can see that there are enough flowers left for a posy.

Besides, there are loads of ornamental gourds as well.

Displayed so attractively. And so many different shades, shapes and sizes.

Basking in the sun, on the very last day of Summer, the garden is filled with butterflies…

…bees and buzzing.

I can feel my heart-rate slowing down already – just what I need.

For me, it works like this: For a while I’m chugging along nicely. Then work/life gets busier, I speed up, am immensely productive for a while and think I’m doing great. But I start forgetting to take breaks, to exercise, and to relax intentionally in the evenings. And suddenly I’m not feeling so great anymore.

It’s an old familiar pattern. Nowadays, it usually isn’t too long before I recognize it, fortunately. And I’m better at thinking of ways to slow down again than I used to be.

So, that’s why we’re here in this PYO garden today. Let’s enjoy it a little more.

Everything shows that a lot of loving care and attention has gone into the garden. It’s not just the flowers and plants. Hidden between them are a few lovely surprises, too. Like this adorable chicken.

Well, it’s time to head for the wooden shed, where the secateurs, the guest book and the money tin are. It’s painted black as many traditional outbuildings around here are.

Inside, the same loving care as in the garden is apparent. It’s in the small, whimsical details.

Now, let’s hurry home, before the flowers wilt. I’ll quickly put them in a vase and put the kettle on. I hope you have time for a cuppa? I’d like to show you something else I did to slow down and relax – I cast on a simple pair of socks.

For me, sock knitting is one of the most relaxing things to do, especially using self-striping yarn.

I’m making these for a friend’s Birthday in early October. I haven’t knit with this yarn before and am not entirely convinced it’s suitable for socks, although it is sold as sock yarn. It’s Rellana Flotte Socke ‘Ariana’ – a single ply yarn with ticker and thinner (some really, really thin) bits here and there. Very soft and slightly fuzzy.

I’m giving it a try because of the beautiful colours. Time will tell if it’s a wise decision. My friend won’t mind being a guinea pig, I’m sure. If the socks shrink and felt, I’ll knit her another pair (or two).

Well, that’s all for today. Thank you for visiting. And with everything that’s happening in the world right now and alongside everything else you’re doing, please remember to rest, relax, knit (if you’re a knitter), and look for things to enjoy.

August Blues

Hello!

I thought of skipping my blog this week. Sometimes I just don’t know what to say, and nattering about knitting feels totally irrelevant. Rising numbers of covid cases almost anywhere in the world. People losing their homes and children going hungry as a result. People shouting that it’s all a hoax. And then the devastating explosion in Beirut…

How to live in the face of disasters like these? Sometimes, I just don’t know.

It doesn’t help that we’re going through another record-breaking heatwave. I can’t see it as anything other than a sign of rapid climate change – another disaster in the making. I’ve always struggled with hot weather anyway. As temperatures rise, my mood plummets.

One of the best things for me to do when I feel a knot in my stomach, is to go cycling. On hot days first thing in the morning.

I often take my camera with me. It helps me get out of my head and focus on my surroundings instead. And I often follow the same route. Without camera it takes me 30 minutes, with a little longer.

First I cycle through ‘our’ woodland. There are already some early signs of autumn – mushrooms, acorns and blackberries.

As soon as I leave the wood, I come to a school for animal husbandry, hay for their horses stacked high.

On the other side of the road is a small farm with some sheep and cattle. There is a young calf suckling with its mother and another one having a snooze.

There are cornflowers in the field next to it.

Taking photographs as I cycle along also helps me to slow down, which is a good thing in this sweltering heat, too.

Many of the flowers along my route at this time of year are blue. Or is it just that my eye is drawn to them? Along a ditch I squat down to photograph what I think is tufted vetch.

One of the most beautiful flowers of this season, if you ask me, is the harebell. It grows in clusters along my route. There is quite a bit of wind, making the delicate flowers dance, and it takes a lot of patience and concentration to get a good, sharp picture.

The harebells have slender stems and small flowers, but not as small as the sheep’s-bit below. From close up it may seem like quite a big flower…

… but it is just 1 to 2 centimetres in diameter. There’s a clump of them at the top of this post that gives a better impression of their size, I think.

Getting home, an hour or so later, I feel better. I haven’t solved any world problems, but I don’t feel hopeless and powerless anymore. There is always something I can do to make things better. And I realize again that there is still a lot in the world that is beautiful and good, and that small and seemingly irrelevant things can make a big difference to a day.

It’s too hot for knitting – another thing that is making me edgy. But cycling along, I thought of a dear friend of mine. We exchange e-mails every Sunday. Recently, she wrote that all she feels like doing in her spare time when it’s so hot is spinning and reading.

That reminded me of some spinning fibres she gave me a while ago. Merino wool in a gradient of blues with some white Tencel mixed in. I know that spinning those lovely fibres will also help to lift my mood.

Well, those were my thoughts for this week. Thank you for reading. I hope that you are all safe and as well as can be. And for those of you in the grip of the same heatwave, I hope this weekend will bring some rain and relief.

Summer Break

Hello!

These two simple swatches are all there is to show you of my knitting at the moment. I have plenty of knitting plans and ideas, but it’ll take a while for them to transform into something bloggable. So I thought, Why not take a break? A nice, long summer break! I can certainly do with one. How about you?

Now, before you think that my blog will come to a standstill, that’s not what I mean. What I mean is that I’d like to take a break from talking about my knitting. I’d like to take us on a few outings and write about some other summery things. Mainly knitting-or-other-crafts-related, of course.

I don’t know exactly what it’s all going to look like, and I can’t guarantee that my knitting won’t sneak in here and there, but I hope that it’s going to be fun and something to look forward to every week.

To start with, I’d like to take you on an early morning walk and share a recipe.

Imagine that it’s 7 a.m. We’ve just had a quick breakfast and are still slightly groggy and grumpy, feeling like, ‘Do we really need to get up this early on our day off?’ Then, seeing the sun slanting through the trees, and breathing in the fresh air and the mixed smell of pine trees, sand and heather, all the grumpiness is gone. Aaaaah, it’s so good to be here!

In some places, the ground is carpeted with crowberries dotted with many, many small dewy spider’s webs.

Can you see them? Here is one from close up.

There will be small black berries on the plants later in the season, very bitter when eaten raw. The plants also give off a slightly bitter, but really nice and tangy smell.

And here, on a dead tree trunk, is something giving off a not-so-nice smell:

It’s fox’s spraint. (Forgive me for being so weird to photograph fox poo, but I think it’s really interesting that they deposit it in such a prominent spot.)

Oh, and look, aren’t we lucky today? There, in the distance is a roe deer mum with her kid…

… strolling and grazing along the path. I don’t think they’ve spotted us yet, but we won’t be able to get much closer without being noticed.

And here are their hoof prints, one big and one small:

Aww, that was so sweet. Now, before we head back, let’s just enjoy the peace and quiet for a while on this lovely bench with a dead branch for a footstool.

The wind is soughing softly through the pine branches above us.

The sun is rising in the sky, but our bench is in the shade of the big old pines, so we won’t get too hot. I could sit here all day, enjoying the peaceful view…

… but I shan’t, because I promised to share a recipe with you, too. It’s my recipe for Very Healthy Oat Squares. I make these every other week. They keep very well and are ideal snacks to take on walks and other days out. Why not bake a batch of these (or of something else if you have a sweeter tooth) in preparation for next week’s outing?

Here are the ingredients all set out.

Very Healthy Oat Squares

For a 27 by 27 cm baking tray, makes 16.

Ingredients

  • 200 g thick-rolled oats (not the finer porridge oats)
  • 200 g wholewheat pastry flour*
  • 100 g sultana raisins
  • 50 g currants
  • 50 g dried cranberries
  • 8 g speculaaskruiden**
  • 3 g salt
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil + a little extra for greasing
  • 250 ml cold water or a little less

* Wholewheat pastry flour is more finely ground than ordinary wholewheat flour and is available from most healthfood stores.
** This is a typically Dutch spice blend available online here and there. Gingerbread spice mix is not entirely the same but a good substitute.

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 180 ˚C (fan oven 160 ˚C)
  • Put all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl
  • Stir in 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil and grease the baking tray with the rest of the oil
  • Gradually stir in the water. Try using a little less than the 250 ml at first. The mixture should just stick together and should not be soggy at all. If it is too wet, the oat squares won’t keep as well
  • Knead through (by hand or using a mixer) for a minute or two
  • Drop the mixture onto the baking tray and, using wet hands, distribute it evenly and flatten it
  • Tidy the edges (ragged edges will become brittle and burn)
  • Cut into 16 squares and bake for 35 minutes
  • Remove the baking tray from the oven, transfer the squares to a wire rack and leave to cool before storing

In an airtight container, kept in a cool and dry place, the oat squares will keep up to two weeks.

Enjoy!