Photo test

This is test post to see if photos from DW hosting can be made to work. I've taken a photo, set the thumbnail size to 1200 and inserted that into the html text (I normally use 'rich text' for input)

If it works, go back to my poor garden post, which should now have proper photos!

How does that look? It's a pic of the sword dance team doing the most complicated move in our repertorire - the cross double-under. This entry was originally posted on Dreamwidth where it has comment count unavailable comments.

The joys of marionettes!

I think you'll have to click on the link to see this. 

When I was a teenager, my sister and I amassed quite a large collection of puppets.  We used to perform fairy tales for children's parties and raise money for charity.

Now Oswin is seven and she's getting the knack of controlling the puppets, so we've just put together a short version of Red Riding Hood for you.  (I'm afraid the joke at the end will only make sense to those of my generation, but Oswin loves an old TV show that her grandad used to share with her mother, and her mother now shares with her.  The puppet in question actually belongs to Oswin!)




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Wildlife friendly gardening

This is the first time I've tried DW's photo hosting (it's available to free users). It's a right pig's ear, but I've finally got it to work.

The trick seems to be to set the thumbnail size to around 1200 (or a bit smaller if you wish, but definitely not the default of 100), cut the thumbnail code and past it into the html version of your post.
Messy, but does actually work.

The garden is currently buzzing with bees (at least three different species, hoverflies, beeflies and other insects I can't identify.  In the pond, there are tadpoles and newts, pond skaters, water boatmen, pond snails, water fleas and doubtless other things I've missed.  I'm expecting dragonflies before long. We usually get them visiting and laying eggs.

Pond plants include marsh Marigold, bog bean, yellow flag iris, water mint, water soldier, and one that self-seeded in a year or two ago and I've forgotten the name of... Marginal plants include figwort, (self seeded), and purple loosestrife (which looks wonderful when in flower)


There's fewer plants in the pond than normal as we had to replace the liner last winter because of a leek along a seam. But it will soon fill up again.

We grow quite a few edible plants in the garden.

One of my favourites is wild garlic.  The have three great advantages in a garden.  First off, they grow in dark, shady corners which are shunned by most plants, second you can eat the leaves, thirdly they make a gorgeous froth of little white starburst flowers in May.

You can see them here growing under our mulberry tree.

Mulberries have squishy, hard to pick fruits that stain the moment you touch them, but the flavour is wonderful and worth the effort!

In front of the garlic, you can see the purple flowers of honesty - another native plant.  When the flowers have finished, leave the plant well alone, as the seed pods are wonderfully decorative and will stay there for many months and can be used indoors in flower arrangements, etc.  Honesty is a biennial, so leave some seedlings to flower in a later year.

In the foreground, you can see a variegated leaf - that's lamium, (spotted deadnettle) which comes in many varieties, most of which are perfectly happy in the shade and many have pretty leaves and flowers.

Bees love all the plants I've mentioned so far.

Down the end of the garden, we have:


Rhubarb lurking behind the tall leaves of a lovely blue iris which will flower later on, and another variety of lamium.  Rhubarb has big contrasting leaves, which can look good in a garden setting.

Next, two varieties of geraniums (blue and pink flowers), a  second gooseberry bush (we like gooseberries a lot, and they make perfectly good shrubs), and tall Rosasrie de la Hey at the back by the compost bin.

I fell in love with Rosarie de la Hey when I hit the scent on walking into our local nursery a few years ago - they have an entire hedge of it.  It has the best scent of any rose I've ever encountered and requires no pruning.  The flowers are a single pink blossom, followed by wonderfully big red hips.  I'm told the if you use it for a hedge, it's a good burglar deterrent - the thorns are very enthusiastic, but as I have it growing in a corner, it's not trouble at all.  And I can smell the flowers whenever I walk along the back path.

The plant with last year's seed heads still visible (keep seed heads and old stalks as long as possible - insects need them over winter - and they add texture to a winter garden)  is a sedum "Autumn Joy" which has pollinators flocking to it late in the season.

Pretty much everything we grow is bee friendly, with a preference for native plants.

It's not a particularly large garden, but we squeeze in two gooseberry bushes, a blackcurrant, a redcurrant, a tayberry growing through the hedge along one side (hedges are essential for small birds), a row of raspberries by the back door, plus wild garlic and rhubarb.

Plants that cope well with the shade are: wild garlic, lamium, epimedium (not a native, but I like the way the leaves appear to float and it's very good for shady, dry conditions), stinking iris - distinctive seed head with red berries, bluebells (try to get English not Spanish, and try to check if they have been grown legally), pulmonaria (an old cottage garden favourite - not in photo, as it's finished flowering.  Mediterranean garlic will also grow there, but be warned, once you have it, you'll never get rid of it.  It's very pretty, but it spreads very quickly.  Red-veined sorrel can also tolerate shade and is edible.  Ferns can cope fairly well with shade and there are several native species.  We have harts tongue fern and others.

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Getting back to dancing

 I belong a sword dance group and a morris team, as some of you will already know.

I think it will be a while yet before Anonymous Morris resume practice - they're a large team, and not all of them are keen on practicing outdoors.

Southern Star Longsword are in a better place than most.  Three of our members are in the same household, and we have a three man dance, so when the rule of six allowed, we practiced in a cul de sac our socially distanced  musicians were able to play for them.

Then we added Bouffons to our repertoire -a 16th century matachine dance (a form of sword dance) for four  in which the dancers are conveniently 2m apart.

We've booked random local halls when allowed to practice indoors, even resorting to maypole dancing at one point as a way of keeping apart from each other (maypole for four requires creative choreography!)

So, we've been able to practice legally  for a fair part of lockdown.

Now, from Monday, we can practice round the back of our local pub (which we often do in the summer months), and we're thinking about recruiting new members...  We've only got five regular dancers (number 6 is highly vulnerable and wants to continue shielding for now) and two of us have doubled up as musicians during lockdown as our normal musician is also shielding.

We're planning a three fold campaign. We've started on Facebook, and with luck, several new people might come along on Monday to see what we're like.  (I shall hope for two, as more people always express interest than actually follow through)  The local community group has proved a good place to post.  

This is the key photo we're using.



Experience tells me that women will join a team with men, but men are less more likely to join a team that's mostly women.

Rowan's our only bloke, as well as probably being the youngest,, so he gets to be on the publicity.  (The whole team are okay with this - we know the psychology - and besides, he's Squire and his mum and sister are also in the team.)

Also, he looks like he's enjoying himself, and he's holding a sword lock, and it's a good, clear photo.

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Maypole for May Day

 And as a second May Day passes without being able to dance safely because of Covid, I share this dance with you.


This school has an incredibly long running maypole tradition, and also one of the most complex dances out there!

And danced without a single mistake - but I can why they have chalk marks to help them out!



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Tablet weaving

 I'm just about to make my first attempt at weaving a 3/1 twill.   This is supposed to be horribly difficult, but some of the designs are so beautiful!

If, like me, you had no idea what a twill is, then I shall explain:

Most weaving goes under and over alternating warp threads.  Twills go over 3 and under 1.  Hence 3/1 twill. (You can also have 2/1 twill and other variations)

Denim is  a twill. The twill weave is what makes it very flexible fabric.


I've got an excellent book on tablet woven twill by a German woman called Claudia Wollny.

I learnt about her through one of those 'small world' moments.

Back in those dim and distant pre-lockdown days, we were having a meal at the cafe at an RSPB reserve near us.  All the outside tables were full and we could see people looking for somewhere to eat - so we invited two of them to use the free seats at our table.

We got chatting and I discovered that one of the couple shared my passion for table-weaving.  Within minutes we were deep  a conversation that was probably completely incomprehensible to everyone else and looking up photos on the internet to show each other what we'd made.

It was her that introduced me to twill and Claudia Wollny.

Having just finished two inkle hairbands for my granddaughter (she's starting a new school, so in school colours), I decided I wanted to go for the twill (the hairbands barely took a day each, from first thought to wearing them)


I've had the book for far too long, just drooling over it.  I've warped the loom, so cross your fingers for me!

You can't block turn the cards for twill, every pair has to be done independently....

inkle woven hairband



If anyone is interested in basic tablet weaving (which can be done very cheaply indeed as long as you have a pack of playing cards, a hole punch, a ruler, and some spare yarn), then the video below is a very clear explanation of how to warp the cards for a simple pattern.


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School Problems

 Oswin's back at school now, and it's really stressing her out.

Different classroom, new pupils in, some old friends gone.

Easier work - almost inevitable as she had decent home schooling and many kids didn't have that opportuity.

But, the one that's really distressing her is the behaviour of some of the children.  They've lost the habit of learning.  Both the habit of obeying the teachers, and the ability to sit still and listen.

She says she can't focus on her work because they're making a noise and running around.


The teachers are stressed as well.  There's a mood board on the wall where everyone can put a face to show how they're feeling, and the teachers have sad/angry most days.

The Head (from all I gather, a popular and friendly man) has been in and shouted at the class.


It's no surprise after how long they've been away from school, and probably been stuck indoors in front of a TV that doesn't care if they run around the room, but it's  a big problem.


The school have added an extra playtime to help the kids burn off some energy/frustration, and they're starting the day with a quiet session of sitting down and listening to nature, just to help them practice being still and listening.


But I think the problem will probably persist for some time.


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Beetroot, Orange and Walnut Salad

My husband has always been a good cook - his mother taught him, and she had a real knack for tasty meals that didn't take forever to make or need exotic ingredients.  (She was a domestic science teacher for part of her life - I suspect her pupils were very lucky students)

This last year, he's been focusing on vegan recipes, and some of them are absolutely delicious.

Here's one of my favourites.  It should be eaten as a main meal.  The quantities aren't included, because they don't need to be exact, and you can tweak as you like.


It also has the added bonus of looking very pretty on the plate, with the dark purple beetroot and the orange segments, with the walnuts scattered around.


Beetroot, Orange and Walnut Salad

Beetroot (in slices)
Oranges (1 per person)
Balsamic Vinegar
Olive oil
Par boil the beetroot, while peeling and chopping oranges
On plate lay out beetroot slices, the orange pieces, walnuts
Drizzle with the dressing (the balsamic vinegar mixed with the olive oil)
serve with potatoes (or bread, or quinoa, or carbohydrate of your choice)
If available some green salad would be an appropriate addition.
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 ON Wednesday, I got a text message saying I could book a vaccination. So I grabbed a slot on Thursday morning. (I'm over 60 and asthmatid)

It was a nine mile round trip bike ride on a freezing sub-zero day, but since I've got the electric bike, I've got far more in the habit of doing local journeys by bike rather than by car.

Trousers, thermal leggings, and a pair of over-trousers, combined with warm jumpers and a jacket meant that I arrived with nothing worse than cold ears.

The whole thing was very well set up, with lots of helpers guiding people round and checking details.  Only a few minutes queueing, then, in, jabbed and a ten min sit down just to ensure no one had allergic reactions or other adverse effects.

I had the Pfizer jab, and they'll contact me when I'm due for the second one - whenever that may be....


Side effects of vaccine. Sore arm, about 24 hours of being a bit shaky and clumsy, and a bad night's sleep.

I suspect my reaction may be greater because I've already had Covid - so my body probably kicks in much faster. Perhaps someone with better knowledge of biology can tell me if I'm right/wrong on that one?



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 There are days when one desperately needs a lift.


I'm getting out my DVD of Singing in the Rain.


Moana, Singing in the Rain (Gene Kelly), Easter Parade (Fred Astaire and Judy Garland), The Return of Captain Invincible and a few others are my ultimate made me feel happier movies.

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