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Blog Action Day

Today is Blog Action Day. The aim of this is for all bloggers to draw attention to the plight of the environment.

For a few weeks now, I have been reading the blog of No Impact Man, whose family have been living in as environmentally friendly way as possible in New York. This is what he says in the introduction:

For one year, my wife, my 2-year-old daughter, my dog and I, while living in the middle of New York City, are attempting to live without making any net impact on the environment. In other words, no trash, no carbon emissions, no toxins in the water, no elevators, no subway, no products in packaging, no plastics, no air conditioning, no TV, no toilets…

It makes interesting reading.

Avon Valley Country Park

A few weeks ago I went with the kids on a church outing to Avon Valley Country Park. They had great fun down these scary slides:

red scary slide

while I sat in the cafe and chatted and drank tea.

There are a lot of animals there, including Jacob and Soay sheep and angora goats. After a hairy boat ride where DS1 and DS2 rowed me around (an adult was required otherwise I would have foregone the pleasure), I went and regained my calm by having a walk around to look at the animals. The kids meanwhile hared off to the go-karts…

Jacob sheep:

black/brown and white Jacob sheep

Soay sheep (had to crop this photo because they wouldn’t come any closer!):

soay sheep

Angora goats – this little one was very obliging…

angora goat standing under tree trunk

There was a tiny little kid there as well:

angora kid

Caerleon Sculpture Festival

I’m afraid blogging is going to be sporadic for the next couple of months… the summer holidays are nearly upon us.  I have been busy going to end of year school concerts and meetings and assemblies… DS3 is going to high school in September so he has all sorts of farewell-to-old and welcome-to-new school events.  DS1 is sunning himself in Sorrento on a geography field trip – Vesuvius, Pompeii, Amalfi… in text messages, ‘awesome’ and ‘wicked’ crop up a lot!  Here in the UK it must be the wettest July for at least a couple of years and I am ready for a bit of sun and relaxation.  Some hope with the kids at home!  Anyway, DS3 went to a party yesterday and DH to an airshow so DS2 and I went to Caerleon for lunch and to visit the annual Sculpture Festival.

Caerleon high street

Caerleon is a village just outside Newport which used to house a substantial Roman legionary force. 

mural of Roman street

This is a mural painted in a little arts centre called The Fwrrwm.  There are lots of little arty shops and a nice cafe there where we had lunch.  There are also lots of quirky and diverse sculptures in the grounds.

sculpture of knights fighing

wooden sculpture of creature's head

I love this one carved from a tree trunk:

sculpture in tree trunk

And there is a gorgeous tree hanging over it all:

old, knarled tree and sculptures

The field of the sculpture festival was very muddy – not surprising since it had poured down nonstop the day before…. 

sculpture festival field

 and they had somehow got a crane in to lift one of the sculptures…

crane holding sculpture up

I didn’t note down the names of the sculptors but they were from all over the world – Bulgaria, Turkey, the Czech Republic, the USA – and all the way from England too!

I loved these chairs…

high backed, sculptural chairs

And this strange hand caught my eye…

hand sticking up out of lump of wood

At the end of the day we got the bus home and reorganised DS2’s bedroom so he could actually get into it!  A day well spent…  and I finished reading The Memory Keeper’s Daughter.

Wonderwool Wales

I had a nice day out on Saturday.  DS1 and 3 were camping so I went to the Royal Welsh Showground at Builth Wells for Wonderwool Wales.

I went by train on the Heart of Wales line, which is probably the most picturesque rail journey in Wales, winding its way through from Shropshire to Swansea.  At the railway station I got on, you had to hail the driver for him to stop the train, like getting on a bus! 

The show was fun – it was part of the Smallholders’ show but I mostly stayed in the Wonderwool area.  There were lots of yummy fibres and yarns, and lots of local producers and processors of the fibres.  And craftspeople from all over the UK. 

There were also animals there!  Here are a couple of alpacas which I fell in love with!

two alpacas

And lots of different sorts of British sheep, which I found fascinating because up to now I thought sheep were sheep and didn’t realise they were so different and individual.

ryeland sheep

These are Ryeland sheep.  They have such sweet faces.   A lady there told me that apparently their wool doesn’t felt, which makes it useful if you don’t want it to!

wensleydale longwool

This is the Wensleydale longwool – its wool was very soft!

jacobs sheep

This is the Jacobs sheep.  There were lots of other coloured sheep there with different variations of colours between black, grey, browns as well as whites.  I wished at this point that I wasn’t travelling on the train because it precluded me buying lots of fibre but I did buy a drop spinning kit from Hedgehog Equipment who are based near Abergavenny which isn’t that far from Newport.  I picked up lots of leaflets with links to websites so I can find them again readily if I take to it!

There were also angora goats in another of the sheds.  At least, I hope they are angora goats – I get very confused with the non-wool fibres…

angora goat

WordPress Upgrade coming!

In the next day or two (time and kids permitting) I hope to upgrade my version of WordPress so I can use a particular plugin (and to make it more up to date). So if there are any glitches, please bear with me! Normal service will be resumed asap etc etc…. I’ve just done all the backups so I can rescue things if it all goes awry but it’s getting too late now to do the actual download.

DS3 has his school swimming gala tomorrow morning so it won’t be then! He and DS1 are going camping with the Scouts (it is the centenary year of the founding of the Scouting Movement and 800 Newport scouts are converging on a field a few miles away… locals beware!). So I’ve been busy preparing his luggage for storms, gales and all sorts over the last few days. Not much time for anything else, alas. Baking some chocolate brownies for the scouts and a birthday cake for DH’s 50th birthday has taken up any surplus time and energy (not much of the latter these days, alas…). And reading emails of course. I’ll leave the promised photos of my value-organised stash till after the upgrade, having done a nice backup.

DS2 has ordered a new graphics card for the main computer so if that arrives he will be nagging me to install it… I’ve never done any taking-covers-off of that particular computer … I do like poking round the innards of computers. I missed my vocation. He wants to play superduper games with extra intricate graphics and the present card is too slow. Or something like that.

Soon there will be photos!

Golly, I can’t believe it has been a week since I have posted. That is what happens when you have a photo-heavy blog and no camera! I was just about to borrow my old one from DS2 and I got a letter from Jessops saying my camera is waiting at the shop!! Hurray, hurray! I’m going down town tomorrow to the farmers’ market so I’ll call in at Jessops as well. So hopefully there will soon be a pictorial record of my natural dyeing.

One thing I noticed about the yarn I dyed with the natural dyes is that they smell of them! I just typed that and thought “hmm, maybe it’s the woolwash liquid I used” so I put down my laptop and nipped into the kitchen to have a smell…. But no, it isn’t. The blackberry leaf-dyed yarn definitely smells vaguely of blackberries and I don’t know what madder smells like but that yarn has its own distinctive smell as well. Meanwhile the KoolAid dyed yarns definitely have a KoolAid pong about them!!!

Maybe it is the lack of a camera or maybe it is that spring is in the air, but I’ve definitely got more done this week. I put together a list of meals and went through the freezer (with gloves on) writing down everything in there. (Had black fingers at the end of it where the dye from the gloves stained them… hmmm… ). And I just did a ginormous Sainsburys order so we’re kitted out for a siege now. I have also sorted out DS1’s work experience for July (he is going to Stagecoach, the bus company), gone to a meeting about his geography field trip to Sorrento also in July (looking at the itinerary I want to go too!!! though maybe not with a group of teenagers…) and spoken to his head of year about a problem he is having at school. And let DS3 start walking home from school on his own – a big adventure and since he starts secondary school in September, useful practice in independence! And it also means I don’t have to stop what I’m doing at 3.15 pm to go and get him…

Still haven’t done any quilting. Maybe all this activity is prevarication. I have started to make a wall-tidy with pockets as a sample for HHI. Ron is going to Zambia in a couple of weeks so that needs to be finished before then.

Easter activities

No photos yet, I’m afraid – my camera is still away being repaired…

We were away in Minehead at a church weekend over Easter and the weather was glorious!  On Monday I went walking along a bit of the South West Coastal Path and wished my camera was with me.  About a mile out of Minehead you get to the edge of the Exmoor National Park and walk through a forested area where I saw a pheasant and a wren… well, I heard the wren first, having listened to one in my garden a week or two ago and connected the voice with the bird!  So I knew what to look for when I heard its chirruping sound.  Here’s one on this BBC page if you want to listen!

Then I got out on to the moors along the coast – click the link to see a typical photo of the area.

There is a wonderful sculpture which marks the start of the path, which actually goes all round the south west coast, through Devon and Cornwall right around the ‘foot’  of Britain.  It is a massive pair of hands holding a map, made of steel.  There is a picture of it here .

We got back on Tuesday and yesterday I finally took away all the plastic and newspaper (not to mention bowls and buckets) protecting my studio from a potential attack of the elements (that’ll make it rain all through April and May no doubt!).    So now I have my design table back again.

The rust dyeing turned out well and I have another lot using up the rest of the rusty baking tray (just hope it doesn’t rust a hole through it or I’ll have to creep out and buy another one when DH isn’t looking!!).  I’ll have a queue of things to photograph by the time my camera returns.   We went to Blackwood today up in the valleys and I saw this amazing sculpture of hands and it was all rusty and I was itching to wrap some fabric round it.   (The photo in the link doesn’t show the little metal hands all joined together but I could just imagine what a wonderful piece of fabric I’d get from it!). 

It is also DS1’s fifteenth birthday so we went out to lunch to celebrate.  He had a powerful CD/radio/MP3 player and despite his bedroom being on the top floor, we can hear it down on the ground floor now!  Hmmm… teenagers.  DS2 will be a teenager at the beginning of May, although he has been practising for it for a while now.  The grunts and attitude….  

One fun thing I came back to was a Google alert for my name which showed me that BBC Wales had published my photo of the new bridge in Newport (click on number 4)!  Exciting…

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