Category Archives: nature

Not a chuffin puffin in sight

I went off on a little morning jaunt to a local seabird breeding ground with the aim of trying to spot me a puffin. I’ve been every year for the past 3 years; not seen one yet but I like to persevere. There are thousands of other breeding birds to entertain even if the puffins don’t make an appearance, plus the prospect of spotting dolphins at sea (none this year but a pod last).

The only downside is it is a bit pungent, but you do get used to the tang of ammonia after a while. The scale of the cliffs gives me the willies every time, I’ve never been a lover of heights and these are huge. Probably not such a good idea to get used to them, it would be all too easy to walk off the edge.

Although there must have been thousands of pairs, there were decidedly fewer birds than previous years. I wonder if the weather is to blame.   We’ve not had a hard winter in our bit of Scotland but the rest of the UK has had it worse than usual and it’s certainly gone on and on and on.

I’m starting to give up hope of ever getting a glimpse of a puffin. There was a sign up in the hide at the end of the cliff path.  ’20 puffins seen 9th May – elusive since then’. Oh well, maybe next time.


Dashing from the garden

Far too glorious outside to be sitting indoors at a computer. Big littl’un declares that we’ve missed spring and gone straight to summer, and has been seen wearing a floaty frock. I’m not going that far – the voices in my head sound a lot like my Nanna, who would warn us ‘cast ne’er a clout ’til May be out’ – the inference being that if you were foolish enough to remove a layer and consequently caught a cold, don’t go crying to her about it. I did refrain from passing on those words of wisdom, but I didn’t take my jumper off.

I can’t get enough of my anemones. I thought I’d prefer the white ones (classy and understated, you know?), but secretly the rather garish purple blooms are the ones making me smile most.

The thing that made me smile most of all though was finding this little posy on the bathroom sink. It’s little littl’uns doing. She will be known, for the rest of the day, as Mrs Treasure.

posy of weeds

I have been pondering the size of things, hands in particular, more of which tomorrow if not the next day.


Necessity being the mother of invention

It has been the most gloriously spring-like day. I have the aching body and ruddy face which only comes from spending the entire day outside and I am relishing it.

Spring has finally sprung; the snow in the Grampians is melting and flooding down by the river; I saw the first butterfly of the year (a red admiral); my anemones have opened all in a rush.

Mauve anemone

I weeded and cleared last year’s dead growth from my herbaceous borders, tidying up, splitting a few sprawling plants, remembering what I’ve planted in previous years and planning ahead. It always surprises me that I can happily clean and tidy for hours in the garden without getting restless, when half an hour doing housework inside can drive me to distraction.

The only slight irritation was the wet ground from recent rain. My knees were getting decidedly soggy, to the point where I almost regretted not buying a garden kneeler. In what can only be described as a moment of genius, I retrieved big littl’un’s leaky wellies from the bin and with nothing more than a pair of scissors, transformed them into my very own fully waterproof knee protectors. (The hardest part was hanging upside down in the wheelie bin trying to grab the wellies off the bottom.)

I doubt very much I’m the first person to upcycle wellies into kneelers so I shan’t claim to have invented them. Perhaps, to borrow the term from (my knitting hero) Elizabeth Zimmerman, I unvented them. They did the job anyway.

Not running but (speed) knitting

Let’s be honest, this March isn’t living up to much. I got all hopeful that spring was coming a couple of weeks ago – had washing out on the line, even went outside without a coat a couple of times. I checked back through photos from the past two years, and I’m definitely not imagining it: March can sometimes be lovely.

This March? This March sucks. This was the weather that the T-boy ran a half marathon in over the weekend. It was bad enough for the spectators; I can’t imagine how nasty the blowing snow was for the runners. The course was altered to miss the worst of the snow drifts (and the worst hill, which apparently was a good thing).

Spectating in snow

Cheering on Dad in the Run Garioch half marathon

The littl’uns both ran too (over rather shorter courses). I am perfecting the art of race support (carrying spare clothes and food) as the perfect excuse for not joining them in the whole running thing, but it hasn’t stopped them asking why I don’t run. ‘Because I’m not very fast’ is my usual answer. ‘You’re quite fast at knitting though, Mum’ they said.

Well, I don’t know. How fast is fast, when it comes to knitting?

Hazel Tindall, a Shetlander, is renowned across Scotland for being amazingly fast, clocked at 262 stitches in 3 minutes – that’s 87 stitches a minute. Wow. She is also a fantastic exponent of fair isle work.

If we’re just talking speed though, Miriam Tegels is in the Guinness Book of Records as doing a mind-boggling 118 stitches in a minute. One hundred and eighteen. Crikey.

The main difference between these two awesome knitters’ styles (go search on You Tube for video of them knitting) is that Hazel’s speed knitting uses English style (yarn in right hand) – the style of knitting I use – whereas Miriam uses Continental style (yarn in left hand).

I couldn’t resist seeing how fast I could go. It wasn’t very impressive; 100 stitches in 3 minutes. That’s a third of the speed of those ladies. I have a feeling the cheapy yarn and nasty plastic needles I used didn’t help, but I don’t think they made that much difference. I am mighty tempted to teach myself Continental and have another go. Everyone needs a challenge, right? I shall go away and practice and report back later.

(Big littl’un would like it noted that she did 30 stitches in 3 minutes, which I think is brilliant.)

Randomly on a Monday

I thought I’d overslept on Sunday, it was so bright outside when I woke up, but no, it had snowed unexpectedly. Not ideal for my promised Mothers Day lie in, but perfect for a bit of back garden skiing practice. (I did get breakfast in bed before the skiing began.)

Child skiingThe old dog gambols about like a pup when it snows, I guess the smells all change when the ground’s covered. We get deer coming in to the garden too when it’s cold and that’s about the most exciting thing that can happen in a dog’s world. (Second only to a trespassing cat.) One of these days I’ll knit him a pair of booties for the winter; he won’t appreciate them, but it’ll stop me shivering when I look at his bare feet in the snow.

Dalmatian in snow

There was a shocking knitting crime committed last night. Not by me (unless you count the stupid mistakes that caused me to rip back the frost flowers hat), but by the BBC in Call the Midwife.

Knitting a crochet square

Yes, she’s pretending to knit a crocheted square. No wonder she’s holding on to it so tightly!

I was very tempted to email the Beeb a ‘come on, you can do better than that’ missive, but I’m sure someone else will have done it by now. They may have redeemed themselves instantly by using several of Kate Davies’ designs in the very next programme broadcast last night.

My mindless knitting scarf is just a foot or so short of its finished length so there is a chance of a finished object tomorrow. No promises mind.

Frost flowers

The most stunning frost grew on our windows overnight.

Frost patterns

Frost patterns in rising sun

Having been reading Barbara Walker’s ‘A Treasury of Knitting Patterns’ in bed for a while, I’m getting to know the names of lots of lace patterns – so frost on the windows naturally led to knitting a Frost Flowers lace swatch.

Frost Flowers lace knitting pattern

I really like this pattern, though I don’t agree with Barbara Walker when she says it is quickly learned! I had to concentrate pretty hard. The lace is worked from both sides, so there’s no relaxing on wrong side rows.  I think it would be lovely as an all-over pattern on a top.   Its name fits pretty well too.

I also learned more about correcting mistakes in lace knitting:

Frost flkeowers knitted lace mista

Sometimes, being able to sort out problems makes me feel like a more accomplished knitter than when I just get everything right first time. Not long ago I would have unravelled the whole piece; now I’m confident enough to drop down just a section of stitches and knit back up the offending area. Of course in an ideal world there’d be no mistakes to fix, but in the real world I live in it’s good to be able to get out of trouble when it happens.

Snaw day (snow day)

If you watched the news you’d think there was some crazy weather going on – but, given that it’s January in the northern hemisphere, below zero temperatures and snow seem perfectly reasonable. Normal even.

Big littl’un and little littl’un got a bonus day off school. There’s been plenty of sledging, walking the dog and general oooh-ing and aaah-ing at the quiet beauty of it all.

Snaw day

Clockwise from top L: Snow on rosehips; snow in Maryculter woods; snaw-day cowl; Casper in snow.

Pushing past snow-laden birch trees in our local wood popped Robert Frost’s poem ‘Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening‘ into my head. It was a favourite of my Mum when we were growing up; she’d read it to us in bed on snowy nights. It’s the only poem I know off by heart.

The big and little littl’uns have to memorise poems in the local dialect Scots – known as Doric – ready for Robert Burns’ night on January 25th. Big littl’un has ‘Fin I sit doon tae hae ma maet’ by Margaret Boyd – roughly translated as ‘When I sit down to have my food’. I love listening to people using Doric, but still have to smile and nod along sometimes when I’m having a chat with some of our neighbours. They probably say the same about not understanding my English accent too. Give me another ten years here and I might get it!

Watching the snow falling in the streetlight got me itching to cast on something snow inspired, or, if we’re talking Doric, SNAW inspired. I grabbed the nearest snow-coloured yarn (Patons Fairytale Dreamtime 4ply), leftovers from my pre-Christmas knitting of Arne and Carlos’s Balls. A wee cowl is emerging. I’m thinking of carrying on with a really simple snowflake-like eyelet pattern on top of the border (adapted from the Mimosa border in Barbara Walker’s Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns). I wonder if a matching hat might be in order?