Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Day 15 - Tracey is an absolute star.....

Tuesday 15th January

Another glorious day on the Isle of Arran. Yesterday I drove to the next village sadly without my camera. The mountains were all covered in snow and I thought of you guys, realising that you would be cross at the missed photo opportunity. Will do better next time.

Overall, it has been a busy start to 2013 and this is before I sow my first seed. That was put right this morning when I sowed my sweet pea seeds. Working in the tunnel was a little artic but needs must. I have sown Spencer Large mixed seeds to start with because they give the very best cut flower. Their stems are more robust than the average sweet pea stem and their fragrance is to die for. They are in the house just to get them started and to protect them from mice invasion. If you want to grow sweet peas I would recommend ordering seeds from Sarah Raven. Her varieties are always a joy to grow.

I couldn't sleep in the night so I spent some time on my slug busting strategies. I designed a simple hessian pouch that I am going to sew with natural string and line with bits of old compost bag. The point of this is? Quite simple really. I am going to grow my salad greens, tumbling tomatoes and strawberries in them and hang them from the tunnel frame. I smile at the thought of the slugs looking up and trying to jump to reach them! Tomatoe seeds are my next to sow but we really will need some sunshine this season. Last year was dreadful on the tomato front and I rather felt I let the side down because a freshly harvest tomato is a million miles away in taste from those things you get in the supermarket. If they fail to red up at the end of the season I make green tomato chutney to store for boxing day instead. Come the autumn this blog will be full of recipes for storing produce because it is one of my favourite times of the year.

So Hazelbank is underway and the boys have begun making space for the new willow crop. Old raspberry canes are coming out and willow will be going in. You can just see the green shoots of spring growth in the beds as the bulbs start their annual surge. The picture is of indoor bulbs which we grow and sell in a local shop. These ones have come a bit early and were given a severe talking to before I chilled and just enjoyed them myself. You can't win everything when you are a grower. If I am honest my entire lavender crop needs replemishing this year as it was all a bit woody by the end of last season. We grow about six different varieties and dry the harvested crop for use in our crafts. I have never successfully grown lavender from seed so I buy them in as tiny plugs and bring them on. Of course, we buy wholesale which probably doesn't help the average reader. Your local garden centre will have small plants from about March onwards. Never buy expensive large herbs as the smaller ones grow so quickly.

I just wanted to mention the importance of networking. One of my challenges for this year was to network more as I have been very poor at that. Living on an island means that a lot of our customers, friends and family live elsewhere. I have finally set up a facebook page to help promote our crafts. We are in design phase at the moment but will link my etsy shop to that as well once we are ready to go. I know that I will have this all to do again as Whimsical Wreaths comes on stream but maybe I will find it more straightforward by then. In the process of writing this blog and networking with other relevant blog writers I have been asked to guest blog on a couple of sites which I am thrilled about. I will post links here when my blogs are published. I appear to have a growing number of American readers and one of my guest spots is for an American site. I spent several very happy years in the US working as a choreographer and I do love the Americans. I have also asked a number of people to guest blog for this site and they all have stories to tell. During the course of the year I want to strike a good balance between featuring the work of the small craftworkers with the multi-million companies that are based on the island. Arran punches way above its weight with successful business stories and I want to tell their story as well. I always maintain that this is where your dreams can start to become a reality. I think living on a small island puts you slightly outside of convention and that is an exciting place to be. It can cultivate ideas that can become reality on a small scale to begin with; rather like dipping your toe in the water while deciding whether to jump.

We have had a good school day today. The two youngest were deep into enlargement in maths with Pete (!) and Harry and I were into the principles of exercise in effective training programmes. In the middle of it all in comes a call from our beautiful Molly. She has just secured a 72% for a lab book which she was thrilled about. She also got a 59% for her Statistics exam which she was even more thrilled with. Many of the year have failed this exam and need to resit so her mark was very welcome. Well done to my lovely Molly.

The rest of the day is over to design work for my silk project so best get on with it. I do worry about how my mind works sometimes. We may have started with trees as an inspiration but my designs have already taken me way beyond that. Time to test a few out on paper first before I commit to silk. I always feel like I am back in school when the crayons come out but the wax works as a great resist to the watercolour paints. Speaking of school I did just want to say Hi to some of my school friends who I know read my blog on a regular basis. A very special hello to Tracey who is a complete and utter star in my book. My dad is my guiding star so you are in very good company Tracey. Into the studio....xx
Picture is of a path in the grounds of the Castle owned by the National Trust. It is one of my favourite spots on the island and I go there to contemplate.