Monday, 31 August 2009

Roadtrip part I...

I suppose it's a bit over the top to call it a roadtrip but we've just got back from a week away visiting friends and family in a variety of locations. We trekked across to Lincolnshire, then down to Cambridgeshire and back home via the West Midlands. It was a few hundred miles but worth it to catch up with lovely people, visit some nice places (old and new), eat lots of tasty food and enjoy the tropical southern sunshine while it was cold, wet and windy back home in Cumbria.

On the way from Lincolnshire to Cambridgeshire we dropped in on one of my favourite places, Gibraltar Point National Nature Reserve...
Gib beach and sky
I love that big sky and huge sandy beach!

Gib is a really special place that I've loved since the first time I went there on a field trip during my A-Levels. Its a fantastic haven for wildlife, with all kinds of habitats from salt marshes and sand dunes to freshwater marsh and woodland. Gib is home to all kinds of wildlife (including rare Natterjack Toads) and is an important stopping off point for migrating birds.

There is also a lot of this stuff...
Sea Buckthorn

Hippophae rhamnoides
(or Sea Buckthorn to its friends!). This thorny shrub is native to the Lincolnshire coast and provides a crop of berries rich in vitamin C for birds and adventurous humans to scoff (don't pick the berries on a nature reserve though!).

I did my university dissertation on Sea Buckthorn and found out all kinds of interesting stuff about it. All the 'scientific' facts about the plant's ecological importance went into the essay but I enjoyed all the random facts and legends so much that I made a little leaflet to accompany my dissertation called 'not just a prickly bush'.

I know, I'm a bit sad but when you read that Hippophae rhamnoides means 'shiny horse' and that it was apparently the snack of choice for Pegasus, you can't ignore it can you?! Even my Dad felt inspired to get involved with my Sea Buckthorn project and collected all sorts of weird and wonderful Sea Buckthorn products from his travels in Germany. I've had alcoholic beverages, biscuits, face creams, soap and sweets made with Sea Buckthorn berries and I still get a regular supply of the Ricola Sea Buckthorn sweets today. Thanks Dad! :)

Sea Buckthorn profusion

I spent a bit of time volunteering at Gib while I was at uni and then went to live there as a residential volunteer after I graduated. After only a few weeks I was lucky enough to land a paid job at Gib, working in the environmental education team. And I met Ade, who was the Shorebird Warden at the time, keeping an eye on the colony of Little Terns that nest at Gib, (he was living in a shed on the beach and getting sunburnt eyelids from falling asleep in the dunes!). I had a great time while I was there. I miss Gib!

So it was good to go back, even just for a few hours. It looked like it was going to rain but it didn't, it was windy though!
Hat troubles 1

We were soon on our way again, heading to my Dad's via the Batemans Brewery (it seemed rude not to call in since we were passing!). More tales of roadtrip adventures tomorrow... :)

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Sheep eyelids, holding owls and 'name that cow' at Cartmel Show

I was at Cartmel Show yesterday, working on a stand for the day job. I managed to escape from the stand a few times to take some photos and eat a chocolate and banana crepe.

There was a good turn out of sheep and it was funny overhearing people who never usually get a good look at sheep discussing the different breeds...

'Ooh, that one's got a strange looking lumpy face'
A Bluefaced Leicester, hopefully oblivious to the insults.

'Look, these sheep are wearing masks!'
Kerry Hills
Kerry Hills, which are always going to remind me of comic-book bad guys from now on.

There were plenty of Herdwicks on show and I realised for the first time today what incredibly thick eyelids they seem to have. I can't fault them for it, since they live on the Cumbrian fells and it gets pretty bleak up there (I'd want all the natural adaptations I could get if I lived where they do!).

It does explain why they always look a bit sleepy and have a dreamy kind of expression, like this little lamb...
Herdwick lamb

Gratuitous eyelid closeup...
Epic Herdie eyelid

That must be the thickest, furriest eyelid you've seen! Its a wonder they can even open their eyes at all!

Anyway, enough about eyelids. I held an owl!
Small owl on my hand

I can't remember what kind it was. The owl looked a bit bored but I like to think that it was pleased to be out on a sunny day, standing on people's hands.

We had a good view from our stand of a lovely banner advertising the local newspaper's 'name that cow' competition...
Name that cow

The man on the stand wasn't sure if the animal on the poster was actually a cow and I couldn't see any udders on it but as long its friends don't see the poster and ridicule it for posing as a girl, it probably doesn't matter :)

Monday, 3 August 2009

Ceramic buttons!

Two blog posts in one day?! I've been a very lazy blogger recently and although lots of things have been going on, I haven't got round to updating. Aim for August: more blogging! :)

I was very excited to finally get my hands on the ceramic buttons I made at a class a few weeks ago. I went to pick them up from the Brewery Arts Centre where the class was held and then they distracted me all the way home in the car! It was probably quite dangerous but I did manage to get back in one piece (me and the buttons!).

My favourites are the ones with a fibre-related theme (no surprises there!). I knitted some little pieces of fabric and also used some locks of fleece to create textures on the buttons. The full set of my button photos is on Flickr.

Here's a selection of the paler buttons...
handmade ceramic buttonsThese dark teal coloured buttons are the result of a happy oxide-related accident (I didn't really know what I was doing!)...
handmade ceramic buttonsI'm not sure if I'd ever be able to re-create the dark teal buttons if I tried, which is a shame because they're my favourites. I'll be able to give it a go though because the course tutor (James Hake, who makes fantastic ceramic art) let me have the leftover porcelain after the class! I must get it out and have a play :)

Shetland fleeces in the sun...

I finally got round to checking out my Shetland fleeces the other day. I've got three lovely naturally coloured ones from the same man that I got two Wensleydale fleeces from.

Here are the Shetlands, fresh out of the sack...
Rolled up Shetland fleeces
...and then rolled out in the sunshine, as though the owners have gone off for a swim...
Rolled out Shetland fleeces

I found these unexpected tiny little locks in the grey fleece...
Close up grey Shetland curls
They're small but perfectly formed and I'm hoping I can keep a few separate from the rest of the fleece to do something special with.

I thought there would be lots of nasty daggy bits to pull off the fleeces but they're not too bad, just greasy. When I'm feeling energetic I'll be having a monster fleece-washing session! :)