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18 Getaway

So, the last two weeks went something like this ...

Opportunity to head for the hills arises. Hills are headed for ... wild off-the-grid hills where finding a phone signal involves finding a hill top. Hills are reluctantly returned from and blogger eventually plugs back in - feeling slightly nonplussed by her own prolonged absence - only to lose most of her photographs in the ether during a wi-fi photo transfer*.

I'd determined to only use the camera apps on my iPhone while out and about, rather than lug my Canon or Nikon around with me, which with hindsight was maybe not such a good idea. But ... sans my DSLR I spent far less time looking at the world through a lens and far more time just looking at it. And, because I wasn't thinking about exposure and framing and such all the while, I was looking more attentively than I generally do. In fact, when I stopped privileging one of my five senses they all came into greater play.

There were flurries of swallows swooping low over the water as I took this shot. Their chirruping calls were the counterpoint to a lullaby the lake water, softly lapping against the shore, was singing ... I think I could have snoozed in that spot all afternoon if I'd not been perched on a very uncomfortable rock.

It was easy to imagine though, so close to the tree line and hemmed in by craggy mountain slopes, how inhospitable a place this high valley might be when the sun isn't shining and the air not so unseasonably warm. Yet we found ourselves pondering the tumble down cottage we'd passed that was for sale, seriously discussing the possibility of buying it, letting our hearts rule our heads all that long afternoon.

We were only an hour or so from where we live now ... common sense says relocating is a crazy idea ... but I still have the estate agent's website open in my browser ...

* The unedited colour version of this iPhone shot can be seen here but sadly I no longer have the original file.

Thank you to all those who emailed their concern at my having gone awol ... I promise not to disappear again any time soon. I'm looking forward to catching up with all the blogs I normally read, in fact I'm going to start on that right now!


60 Cusp

An old garden bench scattered with a few autumn leaves.

Autumn came by yesterday. She wouldn't stop, she'd business to attend to further north, but we're to look for her again quite soon. She left a fallen leaf on the garden bench and starling heralds on the chimney tops, to remind us it won't be long before she returns.

In other news ...

We have a rather poorly hound in residence. He has a non-bacterial, non-viral form of meningitis, an auto-immune condition that thankfully responds well to steroids. We're taking it in turns to sleep on the sofa with him - it's where he seems comfiest - until he's properly on the mend. Our sofa is not a comfy place for a non-hound to sleep ... just saying.

The mister emptied the garden shed prior to moving it. Surveying the entirety of its contents heaped about the courtyard we could only conclude that it's bigger on the inside. (Should you be wondering, no, he doesn't look at all like Peter Capaldi, although they do share a birthday.)

I wrote a blog post about plant dyes and the difference between fixing the colour - using mordants to strengthen the bond between dye molecules and fibre - and colour fastness - the dye's resistance to fading and/or shifts in hue. Then I ditched it because it read like a chemistry lesson. I've popped a précis in the footnotes though, in case a chemistry lesson should actually appeal to anyone.

I went panning for gold in the shamefully overgrown dye garden and filled an old enamel bowl with self-seeded marigolds, dandelions, and Herb Robert. So that will be gold, lemon-gold, and old-gold ... the yarn to be dyed is mordanting as I type.

Cusp, I have discovered, means not only 'a beginning' (astrology, obviously) but also 'a stationary point' (geometry ... I was always hopeless at geometry). It's the perfect word for where I'm at right now ... wanting to start something but not quite ready to get going with it. I'll give you a clue ... I've bought a new tapestry weaving frame. Watch this space!

So, what's been happening with you lately?

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* In a nutshell ... substantive dyes will bond without benefit of chemical mordants - salts that alter the pH and so assist the dye's 'bite' - but adjective dyes will not and so a mordant is required. Fugitive dyes - those that are neither truly lightfast nor washfast - may be adjective or substantive. A few examples: indigo is substantive yet fades significantly over time; the (currently popular) blues obtainable from red cabbage are adjective and - regardless of the mordant used - will fade to almost nothing practically overnight (that may be a slight exaggeration); blackberry dye is substantive but fugitive, treat it as if adjective and the colour lasts longer; hawthorn flower dye is adjective but gives a decent colourfast yellow. Bottom line ... most natural dyes, substantive and adjective alike, are fugitive to some degree, don't believe anyone who tells you otherwise.

weedy gleanings from the dye garden, in a large enamel bowl


49 Faces at an exhibition ...

The 'face of a vintage tractor at a ploughing exhibitionThe 'face of a vintage tractor at a ploughing exhibitionThe 'face of a vintage tractor at a ploughing exhibition
The 'face of a vintage tractor at a ploughing exhibitionThe 'face of a vintage tractor at a ploughing exhibitionThe 'face of a vintage tractor at a ploughing exhibition
The 'face of a vintage tractor at a ploughing exhibitionThe 'face of a vintage tractor at a ploughing exhibitionThe 'face of a vintage tractor at a ploughing exhibition
The 'face of a vintage tractor at a ploughing exhibitionThe 'face of a vintage tractor at a ploughing exhibitionThe 'face of a vintage tractor at a ploughing exhibition

... a ploughing exhibition. (Just click on the tractors' 'faces' to see a larger image.)

The mister has been saving up his holiday days and starting today - he's grabbing his chance while in a lull between projects - has three whole weeks off work. Yippee! Sadly though the situation with the aged Ps is such that anything other than a staycation won't be possible. So we kicked things off on Friday night with a fish and chip supper, eaten in the car, parked up on the moors, watching it rain ... torrentially! And a list making session: things we absolutely must do (gardening ... it's a jungle out there!), things we probably ought to do, and things we really want to do. Needless to say it's unlikely everything will be ticked off before the 21st.

First up on the want-to-do list was attend the annual exhibition ploughing match. I'm never particularly comfortable pointing my camera at random people, which is a pity as there were some real characters there, but I have no such qualms when it comes to vintage tractors, as you can see. Some were red, some blue, some cream, some grey, and in consequence it looked like a bit of a dog's dinner when I put all the pics together, hence the black and whites. I've got a soft spot for '75', which seemed to be held together by little more than hope and string, and for the worried looking Ferguson (second down on the left) with its O of a mouth* (I know, I know, it's the hole for the crank handle ... humour me, will ya). Actually, if I'm honest, I think they're all quite cute. Please tell me I'm not the only one!

R.S. Thomas's poem Cynddylan on a Tractor, although playful in tone, hints at regret for an older and humbler way of life now lost. Reading it more than sixty years after it was written I can't help but feel a similar nostalgia for tractors like Cynddylan's.

Cynddylan on a Tractor

Ah, you should see Cynddylan on a tractor.
Gone the old look that yoked him to the soil,
He's a new man now, part of the machine,
His nerves of metal and his blood oil.
The clutch curses, but the gears obey
His least bidding, and lo, he's away
Out of the farmyard, scattering hens.
Riding to work now as a great man should,
He is the knight at arms breaking the fields'
Mirror of silence, emptying the wood
Of foxes and squirrels and bright jays.
The sun comes over the tall trees
Kindling all the hedges, but not for him
Who runs his engine on a different fuel.
And all the birds are singing, bills wide in vain,
As Cynddylan passes proudly up the lane.

R.S. Thomas

* Or maybe he's whistling?

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