Sunday, September 25, 2011

Forelocks and Flowers

I'm feeling rather grim today. I've had a headache all weekend, and am feeling all sluggish from the painkillers. You know you're in for trouble when you dream about the pain in your head. I'm trying to carry on merrily, with some minor changes to my usual routine, like wearing sunglasses when sewing.

Yesterday I had a date with my big boy, Sam. I got a bit spooked last time I rode as he was a naughty boy. I hate the way I feel less confident than I did a month ago. I was all stiff and when I was trying to do sitting trot I was bouncing like a jackhammer.
Sam did enjoy a brush as he still has plenty of winter woolies on.
He was hanging out with his mates, who were all having turns being schooled. After our ride I gave him a quick wash on his legs and tummy where the sweaty girth line was, then put his "dressing gown" on so that he could relax with a snack. As you can see, he looks pretty happy.
Then we had kisses!
In the afternoon we attended the South Island National Daffodil Show (combined with a spring show). Look who was there, giving out free seeds to Christchurch residents. Well, I know who it it- Jo McCarroll, the editor of the New Zealand Gardener magazine. She was lovely. We had a chat to her afterwards, when I was getting a few free plants off the free plant table outside. We are going to grow sunflowers for the New Zealand Gardener sunflower competition. Johnny is a very enthusiastic sunflower grower. I wonder if my wee darlings, Henry and Lucy, would like to grow sunflowers?
I had a good prowl around the hall checking everything out. Johnny was taking photos of the premier and champion blooms. I have to admit I took plenty of shockingly awful photos with my fancy lens. I got a few pretty ones. Look- fritillarias. Sorry can't spell with this head. I'd love to grow some!
Even Mum was impressed with these bulbicodiums on the Alpine Society table. Also known as hoop petticoats. So sweet.
There were some floral art displays. Not really my thing. I like a big, lavish, natural bunch of garden flowers myself.
There were hundreds, possibly thousands of daffodils of all kinds.
Hotly contested are the collections classes. This one is Mum and Dad's entry in a 12 bloom class. Aren't they lovely!
Here's the table for the top winning blooms. I wasn't so sure about the Champion, which I thought was all size and little class. Maybe I'm biased because it wasn't one of Mum and Dad's lovely flowers.

I guess the best bit about the show was seeing Mum and Dad and chatting to some of their friends. Their dear friend Kevin, who is very ill with a brain tumor, made the trip down from Nelson. He had some entries, including a collection of very lovely white blooms. The organiser of the bulb raffle, who always sends me a book of tickets, and then has to remind me every year to send the butts back, teased me and said I should have been blonde. I prefer to think of myself as creative! He finds it highly amusing that I buy tickets for all of my animals. One year Miss Dog won a collection of pink blooms. I think Sam will enter this year. Hopefully he brings me luck! If he wins I'll swap the bulbs for some carrots and he'll be happy.

Oh, the sun is shining, and I hope to root John out of his lair shortly. He watched rugby until late and is still fast asleep. I'm hoping to plant some of my free seeds and plants today!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Lovely project

A wee midweek update. It has been a shaky couple of days here. Our little village has been rattled by a barrage of earthquakes. Apparently we've got some kind of fault structure in the earth beneath us and it is having a wee outburst at the moment. Hopefully it won't throw in a big one as I am in heaven in my house and garden, and I'd hate to have that destroyed. Scary to feel like a sitting duck in your own home. I don't mind the smaller quakes at all. Anything up to a 5 on the Richter scale doesn't get my heart racing now. Once we get up there though, the house really shakes, and the sound of the structure rattling and groaning is unnerving. We've got the EQC people (the earthquake insurance people) coming to inspect our house tomorrow. We've got nail pops, where nail heads have lifted out of the plasterboard under the paint, all over the house. Johnny says he thinks EQC are going to be buggers about paying for nail pops. Well they weren't there last time they visited, and we didn't suck them out of the walls ourselves. Makes me stressed thinking about it.

On a much happier note, this little project has been hugely enjoyable.
This is the small wall quilt make out of a Moda charm pack (Scarborough Fair). I adore the fabrics. I pieced the pre-cut squares then made a quilt sandwich with a fairly thin batting, and quilted it using loopy stippling with my embroidery foot. The effect is gorgeous. I was really happy with my ability to keep my quilting neat and controlled. I like the way the light on the lines of stitching shows the texture of the quilt.
I was contemplating adding some buttons at the intersections of the squares. I got some of my button collection out. I've got quite a few, but would love thousands more. I love rummaging through the piles of buttons and other assorted bits and pieces in the containers. When I get some more shelving I might store them in pretty jars.
I thought the mother-of-pearl or creamy toned buttons would work, but they just looked clumsy and distracting. Well, it was fun to play. Any excuse to get into the button collection!

We're having our usual busy week at school. We started a wee fundraiser for our class today. We are baking biscuits and other goodies for staff to purchase so that we can raise money for a trip to Orana Park, the big animal park in Christchurch. Any excess money we raise will be donated to animal charities. I was pretty happy because we made $6 within half an hour of putting the basket in the staffroom. I'm counting on everyone being greedy and buying heaps of our goods.

I'm expecting plenty of time with Mum and Dad this weekend as they should be coming down for the South Island Daffodil Show. I haven't really got time to think about entering any flowers myself, unfortunately. I've barely got time to check the garden briefly when I get home from school. I'm extremely fussy when it comes to the quality of flowers. Mum and I were saying I could probably judge daffodils myself, having been exposed to the world of daffodils for exhibition for most of my life. I know a good flower when I see one. At this time of year we kind of become orphans because Mum and Dad are so busy with daffodil activities. I remember as children Mum would be up in the daffodil patch for hours on end, head down, lifting thousands of flower's faces up to find the goodies. Then she would cover the potential show quality ones, and pick others at the perfect time. There would also be the careful cross pollination of fine flowers to breed new beauties. I still love the heady aroma of thousands of daffodils all grouped together. It is a very special fragrance that brings back a lot of memories.

Well, I'm thoroughly exhausted, so should be off to bed very soon. Check in at the weekend for flower show action, and hopefully some gardening, craft and horsey news. XXX
Ps. I hope there are some interesting stalls at the daffodil show. I must take some cash, just in case.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Another busy weekend

I am really, really tired after a fantastic, but very busy weekend. On Friday I had my riding lesson at 4.00pm. Sam was not impressed about starting work when everyone else was packing up for the day, and made sure I knew it. There was lots of fussing around, waggling his head, throwing himself around, jig jogging and general naughty behaviour. Of course I am not at my best after a day at school, and it wasn't fun. I did work on some important skills, in spite of the unco-operative steed. Celine and I decided that Sam just wanted to put his slippers on and relax with a large whiskey. I must admit, I felt like doing something similar, but forget the whiskey, chocolate for me.

The blossoms are out down our street. So pretty.
I am now using the prime lens that Johnny got me ages ago to replace the zoom lens that broke when I accidentally dropped my camera bag when I was carrying too much stuff. I couldn't get used to the prime lens because it doesn't zoom. The little silver camera has vanished, so I am determined to get the prime lens to work for me. It is a tiny thing, so doesn't make by big camera heavy and cumbersome to use. Johnny says war photographers use prime lenses. I said what about zooming, and Johnny told me the war photographers just get in close. Hmmm- no chance of an unexpected enemy assault in the front garden, I hope.

Peach blossom on my wee peach tree. Fruit this year? Maybe.
The daffodils are lovely. I love the beautiful lemon and cream of these ones. They are like a lemon meringue pie.
New this year.
This is Party Girl. She is divine, although not tall in stature. I wonder if the doubles decided that the snow was scary and are just peeping out of the soil, just in case.
A pansy paradise. I adore them.
More little treasures, new this year.
On Saturday I visited a craft fair. Sorry, no photos, but I did enjoy myself. It wasn't as good as the one last year, which was such a shame. Apparently the Australian organisers of last year's show couldn't get insurance due to, you guessed it, the risk of earthquakes. One of the local craft shop owners got this year's one organised, and did a great job, given the circumstances. Sadly the fabric available was quite limited, but I did manage to find some beautiful Kaffe Fassett fabrics, plus a charm pack. The Crafty Neighbour, who was my partner in craft, was so disappointed not to find anything she wanted. She is dreaming of a lemon and white quilt, but clearly lemon is not currently in vogue.

We went out for dinner with friends to Morgan's Winery which I can recommend for a lovely dinner. I couldn't fit in pudding, so the servings were generous. I did get to try Mrs CT's creme brule, which was utterly delicious.

Today was an amazing day. I'll never be a great horse rider, but today I realized that I can learn to be a great groom. I was helping look after the Butcher team at the Eventing Canterbury One Day Event and the National Equestrian Centre. It was so much fun caring for the horses, and making sure everything was done for Emily and Viv, so they had a trouble-free day. Today I got to tack up, clean up, wash, brush, cuddle, feed, water and give pep-talks to the five horses in the Butcher team.
I think this is my favourite part of a horse.
This is Lewis. He is ENORMOUS. Over 17 hands high. He is an absolute pleasure to handle on the ground, although is a challenging ride.
Hello Storm. He is very early in his career. Emily has got him going beautifully already. He's a real sweetie too. I had a bit of trouble washing him because he didn't want me to hose his bottom. Cold water. I couldn't blame him.
Storm looked lovely and glossy preparing for his dressage test.
Look how far down Emily's legs come on Lewis, compared to Storm. She does have her stirrups a bit shorter as she is about to jump, but Lewis is huge compared to Storm. I find it cute how Lewis has a pony face - very sweet and innocent.
This is Johnny (horse - not husband). He was a bit of a naughty boy today. When I asked Em what she needed me to do with him, she said she had a few good ideas, but didn't think I would oblige. She loves him really.
Oh, and my riding instructor, Celine, was there too, so I felt right at home with more horsey friends than ever at the event. In this photo Celine is riding Dresden, Sam's best mate, on the cross country. He had a great round, but wiped out a flag taking the wrong line, so Celine thought he would be eliminated.
He looks great here in the showjumping, but John said he knocked down almost every jump. Lazy boy just couldn't be bothered lifting his back legs high enough. He's a big boy too. About 16.3 hands. Celine is tiny.

I guess you can see why I'm tired now.

I've been up to some creative stuff in the workroom too. I'll save that for another day. Have a great week! XXX

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Exciting things are happening in the Vegetable Empire. Tiny seedlings are emerging.
Bok Choi (can't remember how to spell it), caged.
Spinach, also caged. No, not too keep birds away. To keep Jasper from using the garden as his personal bathroom, which then encourages Miss Dog to climb onto the raised beds, hunting for disgusting things to snack on. Foul dog. No wonder her breath would make these wee plants shrivel.
Look- teeny, tiny radish seedlings. Sometimes my radishes go straight to seed. That's what happens when you don't water regularly.
On Sunday I could just see the first signs of these rainbow chard appearing, and look at them today. Three days growth. I'm planning to plant a forest of these under the red maple. I'm imaging a sea of glossy, crinkled leaves with colourful stems. Hopefully the weeds won't be able to compete.
I've been wanting to grow these for a long, long time. They are blue morning glories. I'm impressed with their enthusiasm!
Now, can you tell me what this is?

I think it looks remarkably like some anatomical specimen. This is a rhubarb plant, just starting to come back to life after winter. I'm trying to decide where to plant it as it had to be dug out to make room for the greenhouse. It looks happy enough, waiting for a new home.

This weekend is going to be rather exciting. I'm riding after school on Friday, then on Saturday the Crafty Neighbour and I are off to a craft show thing, which will have lots of quilting retailer's stalls. On Sunday I am grooming for Emily Cammock (nee. Butcher) at the big one day event at the National Equestrian Centre. I'm not sure which of my horsey friends she will be riding, but I'll enjoy looking after any of them. I'm pleased because Johnny is coming along to do some filming and photography for Emily. I really miss him when we have too much time apart. He went to camp on Monday night, and that was enough time missing him for one week.

School is going really well this week. I've won a few battles, had lots of laughs, and enjoyed the little family we have in our classroom. For some reason this week seems to be dragging on a bit, but I guess that is because I am looking forward to the weekend so much.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Glorious colour

Oh dear, I'm having some frustrating photo uploading problems. I pressed on, adding one photo at a time, with several refusals along the way. It did the same thing yesterday.

The weather was windy, cloudy and chilly today. I felt the benefits of the greenhouse because I really enjoyed being outside, but under cover. I despise the wind, but today I could watch the wind merrily flapping my fleet of colourful jerseys around on the washing line, happily tucked away in the warmth. I planted four tomatoes, a beefsteak, moneymaker, sweet 100 and taupo. Two are grafted and are planted in their very own large mineral block tubs from the horse farm. The others, along with a telegraph cucumber, are planted directly into well fertilized soil. I prepared a tray of lavender seeds, and one of corn, buoyed on by the morning glory and rainbow chard seeds that are already popping up after only a week in the seed raising mix. Then I planted six assorted courgette seeds (well, I hope they are assorted), in their own individual pots. I had a wee tidy up outside, and made sure all of the new things growing were well watered. I love spending a bit of time in the garden at the weekend. I become very engrossed in what I'm doing, and I think it is a very healthy way to spend some time.

I had a bit of a fiddle with the camera today. Johnny helped me put it on a different setting to improve my flower photos. I don't think we are there yet. Yellow seems to be tricky to capture as it lacks definition. This is a lovely flower. Some of the miniatures are sweet and perfect, but so far the big ones are a bit rough.
Mr. Lawn is preening his territory. He put some lawn mix down to smooth out a hollow. I said it is poo (probably pig - super stinky) to scare away the visitors to the open home next door. We like our current neighbour as she is fabulously quiet and unobtrusive. I can't bear the idea of a horrid noisy family moving in.
Told you my big daffys are a bit rough. The colour is lovely and bright though.
A few doubles are appearing. They always get the most comments from visitors to the garden as most people aren't very familiar with them. I love them.
I love these wee fellows too. Happy pansy faces.
A sea of anemones.
The snow damaged the petals on these, but they battled on through. I must remember to split up the clumps of polyanthus later in the year as they are getting quite large and crowded.
I've got a sea of grape hyacinths too.
Pretty poppets.

Look what we've got here. The first globe artichoke. Last year I didn't eat a single one because it seemed like murder cutting them. This year I will be ruthless and have a go. I've only ever eaten the preserved ones. If I don't like them I will have lovely blue tufty flowers, and if I do - look out artichokes! They grow into a lovely big leafy plants and surprisingly, coped very well with heavy snow and frosts.
Since it wasn't exactly a day for spending every minute outside, I got on with the Scarborough Fair charm pack quilt. It is going to be a wall hanging for our bedroom. I put the saucer on it so that you could see the scale.

The Crafty Neighbour and Miss B. came over and they worked on some quilling while I sewed. Miss B. wanted to know if I did quilling and I told her I had so many crafty interests that I dare not try anything new. Thank goodness I haven't been drawn into scrapbooking (I find fabric more interesting than paper), because that is an expensive hobby. I've had to limit myself to cursory glances at scrapbooking bits and pieces, because there are some very pretty things to work with.

Guess what? There's a rugby game on shortly, so I'll be retiring to my craft room to start quilting the wee quilt mentioned above. I pinned it and am ready to go.

Ps. Does anyone know what has happened to my little silver camera? It has vanished. The big cameras are great, but not exactly portable or discreet when attending events or upon a grey horse.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


First up- Scarlett Oak Equestrian. My lovely riding school is finally officially open today. I was very excited to go there today for my lesson. My darling big boy Sam was very pleased to see me. He had a lovely warm, happy expression. I am allowed to groom him and get his gear out and tack him up by myself. After our lesson I untack him and wash him down, then get him ready to go back to his paddock. My instructor, Celine, knows how much I love him, and she lets me pretend he's mine and spoil him. I gave him a lovely massaging rub to get some more of his winter coat out, as he is shedding like mad. He was almost groaning with pleasure. Today most of the horses were down in the yards, so I enjoyed chatting to them all. Tonto was a wee monster and didn't want to be caught and brought down to the yards. He is a little skewbald (brown and white patchy) Shetland pony. Celine and her two staff had been trying to catch him for 1/2 an hour when I got there. I gave them a hand, and a good idea, and he was soon in custody, with a belligerent expression on his face.

Today I worked on a dressage move called "shoulder in" which is a tricky business. Not as tricky as getting cantering right. I'm learning some challenging moves as Sam is quite a talented dressage boy, even though he isn't what is called a "push button horse." That means you have to actually ride him properly and intelligently to get the best out of him, which makes him great to learn on. I get all excited when we do clever things. I think Celine is a real inspiration because she has achieved so much so far. I really hope Scarlett Oak Equestrian is a huge success, and that I get to be a part of that with my darling Sam.

For my second introduction of the day, please meet Mrs. S.D. Sherriff. I've decided to experiment with a bit of old fashioned cookery and thought that Mrs. Sherriff would be a trusty guide. After all, her qualifications and experience (the women's division of the Federated Farmers, no less) speak for themselves.
This is her cookbook. I think it was among either Grandma or Aunt Beth's belongings. Who wouldn't be impressed by that collection of colourful food items on the cover? This wee gem comes with a first aid guide, complete with a paragraph on rescue breathing, and advice on how to deal with a black eye (cold compress or ice) and lightning strike (dash cold water over victim). On the recipe front, there are many classics, perfect for experimenting with. There are a few I wouldn't touch with a lunging whip- liver loaf, brain fritters, mutton broth and kidney soup.
Today I decided some cheesy, herby scones might be yummy pre and post horse riding. Mrs. Sherriff has a simple cheese scone recipe, and I have a herb garden and some parmesan and vintage cheddar cheese.
I picked some Italian flat leafed parsley, red spring onion leaves, thyme, and a tiny amount of sage, marjoram and rosemary. Plus a clove of garlic.
I cup of flour and 2 teaspoons of baking powder sifted with 1/4 teaspoon salt.
I rubbed in a big tablespoon (serving spoon sized) of butter.
Butter rubbed in.
In went the herbs, some cheese and pepper. Mrs. Sherriff said 1/4 cup of grated cheese. I took a few liberties with her instructions at this point.
I poured in enough milk to make a soft dough.
Then I lightly kneaded and patted the dough out, and cut it. The scones went on a floured tray and into a "hot" oven.
Yum. Out they came after about 13 minutes. I think 10 would have been enough.
Hot scones with butter. The perfect brunch. Thank you Mrs. Sherriff. I wonder what we shall do together next time?

My darling Johnny had an awful headache today. He was seeing lights and felt sick. A migraine, I think. Poor sweetie had to spend most of the day in bed. I think he has been exposed to too much Rugby World Cup and needs to lay off watching it. Since last night was the opening ceremony and we've got about 7 weeks to go, it is going to be hard for him to take my advice. I find it terribly traumatic watching the games because I find them very dull, but want our team to win so badly that I get stressed when they don't. I've got the perfect solution- crafting!

Tomorrow I hope to get outside for some close inspection of my daffodils, and to plant the first tomatoes and cucumbers in my greenhouse. I love weekends so much!