26 December 2014

Garlic Not Asleep Any More

The young plant.
 In my last garlic post I wrote about planting and how the cloves will "sleep until spring". Well, that isn't true any more!

Probably thanks to very high temperatures (as high as 14 °C), the garlic cloves have woken up and started sprouting. Almost all of them are above the soil now.

While I am extremely excited about the fact that in the middle of the winter something is growing in the garden, I am also slightly worried what might happen to the little planties if frost comes suddenly. Therefore I decided to rake the leaves that are all around now and cover the patch. I'm hoping this will give the young planties at least some protection and that we will still have a plentiful garlic harvest next summer.

Now as we all sit sleepily in the living room and it is dark and rainy outside (a very English Boxing Day afternoon), I think about my cozy garlic planties, covered by a blanket of oak leaves, hoping they are well and thinking of all the good times I am going to have in the garden in 2015. Life is good :)
The covered garlic patch

15 December 2014

December Gardening with Queen of the Night

Gardening with a cup of tea - my type of gardening!

I have almost forgotten about these lovely dark tulip bulbs that I had in my gardening box. I have always wanted black tulips (even though I do know they are just dark purple) and they have just started sprouting, so I put them in the ground yesterday afternoon.

Sprouting Queen of the Night tulip bulbs

Queen of the Night are not the only bulbs that are sprouting in the garden. It seems strange, since it is not spring yet, but I guesss this is what the British weather does to plants.

Do you remember my graduation bouquet? I have a feeling it is waking up as well. I put the bulbs into the ground last February and they did not do much, but they are definitely growing now :)

"Mystery" bulb plants sprouting. We will see what they are in spring.

14 December 2014

The Garlic Patch

I finally had a nice light afternoon to take a picture of my new garlic area. It looks bare and sleepy right now, but hopefully will be full of life in spring. I can't wait.

11 December 2014

My First Attempts at Growing Garlic

Getting back home in the dark hours every single day has really bitten of a huge chunk of my gardening time. Almost all of it, really. However, when I rushed home from my weekend job this Sunday, I managed to get just enough gardening time to plant some garlic. Finally! I've been waiting for this for over a month.

Left: "Casablanca"   ;    Right: "Early Purple Wight"

I planted two bulbs of "Casablanca" into three lovely rows of cloves near the shed where the potatoes used to be (I managed to find one more potato) and one huge bulb of "Early Purple Wight" which also amounted to three rows of big fat deliciously smelling cloves. Now all of them are resing in the ground quietly until their time comes in the spring.

Even in the biting cold, this little bit of gardening brought me a lot of joy. The touch of the soin, the delicious smell of garlic bulbs being broken in my hands and the look of the garden, slowly falling asleep as the winter is creeping over it made me realize how lucky I am to  witness it all.

This is the first year I attempted planting garlic. I am hoping that with some advice from friends and lots of research on the internet, I can be successful.I am already looking forward to spring and summer and autumn, when I get to use the products of my gardening efforts and lookking forward to putting the fresh cloves into all sorts of delicious dishes. Yum yum.

05 November 2014

Silly Little Pink Monster

Lately I've been thinking a bit about "What's the point of it all". I mean, the point of crafting. Sometimes it seems to me that people are crafty just for being crafty, creating a lot of things that nobody really needs, that will be enjoyed for a short time and then put away, creating masses of clutter or - even worse - thrown away. Masses and masses of unrecyclable craftines cluttering the world. Depressing, eh? :)

As for me, I always wanted to make something, but something meaningful. Useful things. And I think I might have found one of them. In April, my niece Amy was born and from the first time I saw her photograph, I knew I jsut love this little person. I started making things for her even before she was born. A Tunisian crochet blanket, crocheted soft colourful balls... And there's nothing nicer than seeing her grab those things, explore them, taste them, spit them out, pull them and put them in her mouth again to see if by any chance they changed since thirty seconds ago :) 

So I started making toys. Not only for Amy, but also for other children around me (and there are quite a few!). It is great how they get to know the world around them and how the toys help them. Making toys is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.

I made this silly monster for a little girl called Skye. She was (I think) eight months old when I gave it to her and she grabbed it and put the leg of the monster straight into her mouth. And she still plays with it, which is great.

So now I am going to focus on making toys for the rest of this year. Because I love them and children love them and I love children. I will make sure I blog every time I finish one and I look forward to getting some comments and feedback from you, my followers and readers.
Have a lovely day.

02 November 2014

Our First Craft Fair

Yesterday was a big day. Me and my fiancé's sister, who is also a very crafty lady (check out her Handquafted Facebook page), took part in our first ever craft fair as sellers! The event was held at Oakridge Hall for All in Basingstoke, Hampshire, UK. It was a little Christmas craft fair, with only about fifteen tables. We did our best to set our table up nicely, with the help of a lovely vintage-like cabinet borrowed from Prettily Vintage. We sold candles, decoupaged photo frames, felt ornaments and my beaded star decorations. It was a nice day, out with a friend, looking at nice things and having lots of interesting conversation while crafting and selling our crafts. We are thinking about visiting another craft fair soon. I will let you know ;-)

27 October 2014

Playing with Autumn

Autumn is probably the most beautiful of seasons. Of course, every season is beautiful in its own way, but the colours of autumn, especially a sunny and warm one like ours, are simply enchanting.

During one of our rare walks, I collected a bunch of natural objects fallen from the trees - leaves, seeds, twigs, galls, acorns, conkers - and topped it up by som snail shells and other nice things from the garden.

Do you remember when you were little and used to make little animals and people out of conkers and matches? We did it almost every year - I remember lots of hedgehogs, some people and even a giraffe with a long stick for a neck. After many many years, I tried it again and it was even more fun, as I could use all the sharp instruments myself!

A hedgehog
A dog with a gall for a head
An ant
A man with a snail-shell hat

05 October 2014

Collecting Ideas

I'm not up to much these days. I started a new little job in the afternoons (thank goodness at least for that), but I still spend most of my days in the garden, watering what's left of my vegetables or just observing the critters that live in there and enjoying th lovely sunny autumn that we are having. I am still hoping to get emplozed as a teacher or teaching assistant, but in the meantime, I keep dazdreaming about having my own little biology club for little children one day. And since there are so many ideas in my head, I started writing them down, which turned out to be really good fun.

I have also become a member of Surrey libraries in Woking and I got some pretty good books from there, too. Their "Science" and "Natural World" sections are very rich in good books, including some of which we heard about at the university, which really surprised me. However, I only want to mention one today : Kids in the Wild Garden by Elizabeth McCoquodale. It is written for children, so it is fairly simple, but there are some nice ideas and really great pictures. I can just see myself showing some little people the beauty of growing runnerbeans and observing earthworms :)
Do you know about some good source of information for hands-on or inquiry-based educational activities in the garden? If you'd like to share them, please post in the "Comments" area.

26 September 2014

Crassula deltoidea

This lovely succulent Crassula deltoidea is one of my newest succulent plants. I purchased it during a succulent plant exhibition in Prague about two months ago and I am glad it survived the big move without any problems.

Now it has a sunny spot on the terrace together with few other plants and they all seem to be doing well, having enough sunshine and still being shielded from the rain.

However, it seems like nothing good can last forever in the garden over here. And even though the terrace is elevated and gets significantly smaller number of mollusk visitors, there still are some.

Whether it was a snail or a slug, I do not know, but the bite-marks are of a very distinctive shape of a gastropod jaw. Well, it got nibbled, but not killed and for that I can be thankful :)

19 September 2014

Giant Wormie

Say hello to giant wormie. He truly is giant, much bigger than any toy I have ever made. He measures 64 cm in length, is soft and crocheted of 100% acrylic yarn. I made most of him during our travels from Woking to Prague and back (Yes, crocheting in the car is doable!) and he became a bit of a friend of mine. Now he is looking for new home and you can pick him from my Etsy shop and buy him for someone you love :)

This wormie is a very active creature. He likes stretching in the morning, because it prepares him for the busy day ahead.

Even though he has no legs, he is perfectly capable of running up and down the stairs.

Because he is so soft and flexible, he enjoys squeezing through the tiniest holes. Everything can be a climbing frame! 

But don't be confused! Wormies like resting, too. This one loved sunbathing in the garden and exploring the lawn.

And when the time comes to go to bed, he will curl up comfortably and have a good night's sleep.

15 September 2014

Crocheting in the Garden

The summer is ending and the winter is definitely in the air. Days are getting shorter and evenings are cold and mornings chilly. But there is still enough warm autumn sun during the day to bask in for a few moments. This afternoon seems to have been made for sitting out on a blanket. With squirrels running around (and steling some wheat that accidentally grew up in some flowerpots on the terrace) and birds singing all around, I worked on a couple of crochet projects that I have in progress at the moment.

Firstly, I am trying to make a scarf for myself. I bought a lovely big ball of Murano Lace yarn in Prague last week and using a big hook and Tunisian/Afghan crochet technique, the scarf is slowly gaining length.

My second project is a very colourful children's blanket. I bought several balls of rainbow-like variegated yarn in a local shops that sells absolutely everything from erasers to plug adaptors. At first, I was not very happy with how the pattern turned out, but everyone was telling me that it looks very nice. The breaking moment for me, however, was when I showed it to my five-months-old niece. She absolutely loved it! It must be the colours, she wouldn't let go of it!

A Little Bunny for Little Amy

Crocheted bunny with embroidered nose and eyes.

A few months ago, I was shown a picture of a toy that looked quite similar to a bunny, but had a much much longer body. It was quite some time before my niece Amy was born. Now she is five months old and I have made my own version of the toy for her. She loves her bunny, especially its ears, which she pulls, puts in her mouth and dribbles all over them. Yuck! :) But she is cute.

Bunny for Amy

07 September 2014

Mating Slugs

During the last few weeks, I have been too busy to write. We had some fun times and I was looking for a job and - to be honest - I also slept a lot and ate a lot and watched TV and was lazy a LOT. There were a few very rainy days and the rain-loving creatures had their good times. When I walked out to check on something in the garden, I found two slugs mating in a forgotten concrete block in the garden. It almost looked like they got themselves a room :D

What does it look like when slugs mate, you ask? Well, like this.

The species name is Protuguese slug or Arion lusitanicus. There are many of these in the garden and they are true pests, yet I did not feel like interrupting them, because it was so fascinating to watch. A few days later, I found another couple under a bush.

I have never seen slugs mating in real life, so it was pretty amazing to watch, even though they do not move much and it is more of a static experience. But still, observing it was wonderful (and not at all creepy). Gardening in the UK brings surprises almost every day :)

31 August 2014

An Afternoon of Eyes and Bubbles

We visited some close family last weekend. It was a really nice and sunny day, so we could sit outside and enjoy the English sun, which we had so much of during this summer. I divided my time between looking after and talking to my baby niece and crocheting some eyes. Why eyes? Well, because even though they are super easy and quick to make, having to make eyes in order to finish the toy is just the most frustrating thing ever. Knowing that the toy is going to be ready within a few minutes, but... oh no, wait... I must make the EYES! So I made some in advance.

I was also given a no longer wanted but lovely tin, for which I immediately found use.

 It's an eye tin!!!
There was also cake and a lot of tea and a lot of laughter and baby talk and bubbles... Of course, there are risks when combining outdoor cup of tea with bubbles....

... but it didn't taste any different! :)

27 August 2014

Planty Surprises (both nice and bad)

After spending a month in the UK, we returned to Prague by car (our lovely old "Pootle" VW camper van) to pick up all my things. My life, seven years in Prague, neatly packed into boxes. The snails spent the month in dry and food-free tank, sleeping in their shells, closed by white epiphragms. As there are currently no restrictions to bringing invertebrate pets to the UK, we could have taken them. However, according to the government website, the number of plants that one can bring is limited to five per person - that made ten for the two of us together. So all of my lovely orchids have gone to my parents, who have also come to Prague by car.

Most of my plants were happy and have survived, but definitely not all of them.My tomatoes have dried on the windowsill, together with the carrots and chives... There was one little green fruit, clinging to life. A sad sight, really, but I wouldn't have been able to take them all with me anyway.

The succulents, on the other hand, have done splendidly on the windowsills, in the full sunshine. Most of them had turned slightly reddish in colour, but one of the little Haworthias has shot up a flower stalk. And now I understand what all the succulent growers talk about when they say how hard it is to photograph these plants in flower. Which really makes me want to set up a little photo corner with black background and take really nice photos.

Stapelia hirsuta has also done wonderfully, clearly these planties are alive by sun more than by water. Even though it is tiny, it grew an enormous flower bud. It survived the transport and first two days in Britain, but we have just had a few rainy days and half of the bud got eaten away by slugs, which is too bad, but at least we know what this plantie is capable of and can look forward to more pretty smelly flowers in the future (and when I say smelly, I really mean it. Stapelia flowers usually smell of rotten meat.)

25 August 2014

A Bowl of Toys

The past month has been very busy not only from the perspective of personal life changes (engagement, moving to the UK), but a lot of things also happened from professional point of view. Firstly, I gained a QTS (Qualified Teacher Status), which means I can teach in the UK and then I took a TEFL (Teacher of English as a Foreign Language) course by Trinity College London, which I have successfully completed, even though I am still waiting for the certificate to arrive. The month of the course was one of the most exhausting times of my life, perharps only working on my master's thesis could compare with it, but I still managed to squeeze in some crafty time. We even set up a little tradition of going for a coffee and to Hobbycraft on Friday afternoons after I got back from my lessons and teaching practice.

I started crocheting some toddler ball toys and continued by making some random other toys, such as the green flat round monster and the sleeping snowflake. Some marine creatures were made and given away, too. I love my little toy collection, I think I might want to play with the for a while before I give them away again :)

20 August 2014

Cuttlefish Bones from Combe Martin

About a week after we returned from Combe Martin, I started sorting through the little beachcombing treasures that I collected. I am very proud of my collection of cuttlefish bone pieces. I washed them and laid them out on the terrace to dry. Some of them were really big and I couldn't help imagining how wonderful the animals must have been when they were alive.
The biggest cuttlefish bone I found
I am going to use my cuttlefish bones as food supplements for my pet giant African land snails. Compared to the shop-bought cuttlefish bones, I know where these bones come from and that they probably died of natural causes. They are also free and I had fun picking them. Funnily, I picked most of them just before we got engaged. It must have been really nice of me to run around the beach picking little white bits of dead animals, while Adrian was all nervous trying to get me up the hill to watch the sunset so that he could propose :D
As you can see in the picture above, the amount of cuttlefish bones is quite large. And also, I have finally given up my hatred for Crocs :)

19 August 2014

Rockpooling, Engagement and Sandcastles in Combe Martin, Devon

This holiday, as I finally moved to the UK, I was taken to Combe Martin for a secret one-week trip. Secret, because I was not told where exactly we were going. We had great fun building sandcastles and huge dams and rockpooling for crabs and shrimp. I fell in once, too :) We went freediving, got caught up in the current, climbed out onto the kelp-covered rocks and swam back to the beach. We saw incredibly large sea urchins, angry spider crabs and looooooong Laminaria kelp. It was amazing.

The main beach. There were huge differences between the high and low tide.

Sandcastles with kelp balconies, algae trees and crab carapace arches :)

And the best news is that at the end of our trip, we got engaged! :) And the engagement ring came in the most amazing box in shape of a snail! He couldn't have chosen better, could he? :)

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