On the verge

Evening all

What a beautiful day it has been. The weather here in Cumbria was crisp but dry and clear. The early morning sun gave the view from my office window a rosy hue.

As the day went on and the weather held I looked forward to my homeward walk. Even tho’ almost a mile of it is along ‘The Verge’!

I enjoyed the wonderful views to my right

and left.

The light was glorious. I could almost forget the cars whizzing along the road next to me. But you know Kendal there is always a hill to climb, and here is the slowest but longest I encounter on my way back.

Just think of the calories… pufff … the strength and stamina building … oxygen please!

Oh the joy of those downhill horizons with home in sight.

Journey complete it was great to see my veg box had arrived. Now it is kettle on and recipe books out for things to make with those fantastic veggies.

Have a good evening and if you have super weather like us at the moment I hope you have chance to enjoy it.

Mx

Toddling into town

Hello all,

I hope your New Year is getting off to a good start. For me it is back to the normal run of things. This no criticism it is the mundane that allows some occasions to be cherished as special and there is also comfort to be had in the routine. I am happy to be ‘bored’ it gives me chance to reflect, look ahead or just switch off.

Off course not all reflections are helpful. Yesterday as I toddled into town to get some chores done I pondered: how come I am Cumbrian yet I hate walking up hills? Who said that?! I will have you know I am r-e-l-a-t-i-v-e-l-y fit and only just on the cuddly side.

My walk starts with a short uphill section, puff wheeze:

I am half way up here

Followed by a quick stroll across a field with a long (dare I say it dull) walk UP the next road …. can….n’t….sp…ea…ck …gasp:

Mmmm, not looking that much of an uphill struggle

Obviously to my Cumbrian kith and kin I don’t know a steep road when I climb one:

Anyhoo after pondering the imponderable (you at the back again! I said ‘cuddly’), and feeling much warmer than when I set off, I arrived in town. Food shopping out of the way I wended my way to my favourite store, Reticule.

Cosy, snug and full of crafty promise

I am about to embark on a new quilt which I am sewing for granddaughter Peanut for … wait for it … next Christmas! Do I get a prize for being the first person you know to mention the C word this year?!

Peanut is the only one of my three granddaughters not to have a quilt. Here are Munchkin and Shrub’s:

I had not embraced my inner quilter when Peanut was born. I am making up for lost time. Peanut is a keen supporter of Animals Asia so I decided her quilt should be dedicated to bears. As there are 8 species of bear to which I can add a few sub-species I am going to create twelve panels each devoted to a different type of bear. Ursus Ianuarii is the polar bear.

I had made a small sketch:

How do you spell ‘grey’ Moke?

I had then checked my fabric stash but came up with only one useful piece … erm dark grey/gray. But with this visit to Reticule, a chat with the super helpful owner Jane, I am polar bear fabric ready.

The loveliness of a walk into the ‘Auld grey (flippin’ heck not that word again!) town’ of Kendal – hills not withstanding – did not end there. Friend ACk had given me the gift of a book token for Christmas and it was burning a hole in my imagination, what new book would be joining the shelves, tables or other flat surfaces at Casa Moke?

Missing our independent bookshops though I am, it is still enjoyable to visit Waterstones (the UK’s ubiquitous seller of tomes) and browse their two floors of stock. Having cried at the beauty of Madeline Miller’s love story ‘Song of Achilles’ last year and loving Natalie Haynes BBC radio classical comedy ‘Natalie Haynes Stands up for the Classics’ I went for a Natalie Haynes’ novel “The Children of Jocasta” which was recommended by Madeline Miller. Win win.

Adding a 2022 diary to my purchases rounded off my sortie onto the high street. Bearing two bags of veg and other essentials I walked home to enjoy a relaxing read and contemplative updating of the new diary… but with arms at least a few inches longer, blast those hills!

Keep safe and well in 2022,

Moke x

Walk in the woods – two go to Craggy Wood Staveley, Cumbria

Hello All

While the Mexican Tinga (spicy lentil sauce) simmers on the hob I will relate a lovely day out walking with friend JG.

As you know we are attempting all the Cumbria Wildlife Trust nature reserves by public transport. Last time we visited Foulshaw Moss and today we went to visit Craggy Woods in Staveley by the 555 Stagecoach bus from Kendal.

Staveley is a friendly large village and behind it lies some beautiful native woodlands. I have recently sponsored three trees there – for my granddaughters – through Cumbria Wildlife Trust as part of a project extending Craggy Woods through some newly acquired land to join with Dorothy Farrer’s Spring Wood and create a larger Staveley Woodland. It is a rare opportunity and well thought through. If you want to join in the fun here is the link.

We started well by catching the 555 Stagecoach bus at our respective stops and after I got over the news that Craggy Woods is hilly (the clue I suppose is in the name) we arrived at the Wood.

Initially we walked up the road that skirted Craggy (it looked steep and muddy in there) and reached the top of the hill to look across the woodland. However we thought we were missing out on the full Craggy Wood experience so retraced our steps and went back to the gate. I think the map that JG created captured our rather strange back-and-forth route.

Through the gate we went and .. it was mud-gate meets fallen tree-gate! Storms Arwen and Barra had certainly wreaked havoc. Broken branches littered the paths and yesterday’s heavy rainfall added the hazard of slippy slidey mud. But as the book – ‘We Are Going On A Bear Hunt’ – says ‘We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it. We have to go through it’. And so through it we went. To me it looked like the battle of the Somme thankfully without the tragic loss of life, although there were times when I thought I might be a gone-r.

Friend JG is like a mountain goat so I knew we were in trouble when she was clutching tree stumps and grasping on to rocks as we made our way up, across and down. Thanks to all the fallen branches I managed to use one as a make-shift staff and steadied my wobbly self through the descent.

It did afford many a laugh (the hysterical sort) as we descended from the top of the wood and I am really glad we did it. Craggy Wood is beautiful even if damaged at present. Sadly none of my pictures captured the muddiness of our walk, but they do show some of the storm damage and the magnificent – if misty views – from the hilltop.

It also revealed some glorious moss and bracket fungi (possibly Birch Polypore … but I am no expert) who just seemed to scream ‘photo opportunity’.

We had a fabulous if slippery walk and it was good to see where the new saplings will be planted in 2022. I think we can say that we covered Craggy Wood. Satellites don’t lie.

Having walked down the last few steep fields while wishing we had sheep hooves we reached the River Kent and Barley Bridge. The river was in full spate and quite stunning.

We briefly sojourned in the pretty church of St James’s with it’s William Morris east window

before reaching the Elderado of any walk around Staveley, Wilf’s!

Wilf’s is famous among locals, it is a friend to cyclists and walkers and serves hearty fare. We felt we had earned our veggie burgers, mine with vegan ‘cheese’, and we tucked in with relish. Yummy. Perfect end to a perfect New Year’s eve. Thanks JG for being in charge of maps and statistics: we walked 3.62 miles with 520’ of elevation.

Happy New Year to all. I hope 2022 is a good one for you.

Moke x

Something to keep me warm

Brrr. There is a nip in the air. Thicker jumpers, scarves and gloves have been taken out of mothballs and I need a woolly project to keep me warm with the click click of busy needles in the evening. It must be the start of Winter.

A couple of weeks ago after running out (yes running out!) of knitting and craft projects I cracked, visited one of my favourite bloggers, Phil at ‘The Twisted Yarn’ and downloaded one of her free patterns. Soon I was happily working my way through a colourful stranded cowl called ‘All that Jazz’. Pattern link here.

With my wool and pattern in my hot sweaty mitts I couldn’t resist getting started. I had meant to snap the yarns before I cast on. But who could combat the lure of the mouth watering range of Stylecraft Batik yarns? They called to me like Sirens. Listen carefully, can you hear them?

Come knit with us, you know you want to.

The pattern was beautifully explained. I am newish to stranded knitting and this was the perfect project to get my teeth into. At only 88 rows a few days of after work knitting meant I had a snug, cosy, colourful and finished cowl. Soooo warm and comforting …

One job that I find a chore is sewing in – and this gorgeous cowl creates many end threads with the frequent changes of colour – so I made notes on the pattern as to when would be a good row to sew in the cut threads and joining tails. By my last casting off row all I had was one strand to sew in, bliss.

I admit my cowl is not perfect. I couldn’t get hold of a few of the colours I needed and don’t think I placed the substitutes to best show the Fair Isle patterns. Never mind Winter has shown a really ugly face up here in Cumbria: trees are down, paths are slippery and it is cold. Time to have more fun and start playing with colours. All That Jazz Mark 2 here I come.

Keep warm and safe – if you are in the Southern Hemisphere keep safe and sun screened.

Moke x

PS Phil at ‘The Twisted Yarn’ will be bringing a pattern book out soon-ish. I am sure it will be full of do-able and wonderful knits. I cannot wait! Mx

Call of the wild – two go to Foulshaw Moss

It is time for a new quest. Some of you may remember back in 2018 friend JG and I attempted to visit all the Herstory exhibitions held in the museums around Cumbria by public transport. Can’t remember? have a look here if you want a reminder. It was a great reason to travel around the county, we went to museums I had never visited before and learnt a lot about the women of this corner of north west England.

Now its edging into winter what do we decide to do? Go outdoors, ‘cos we are sensible sorts…, and start a new quest to visit all 37 of the Cumbria Wildlife Trust nature reserves by public transport! Crickey, where are my thermals?!

When I sat at this bus stop in June 2018 en route to baby-sit in Yorkshire

there was a field opposite but now – one pandemic and many missed bus trips later – it has become an ‘executive’ housing estate.

Skimming over that – stop sobbing M! – as you can see the weather is glorious and I have a bus to look out for, the 11:08 am Stagecoach X6 Kendal to Barrow which should already have JG on board. She was there and ticket bought I settled down for the short hop to our stop next to the entrance to Foulshaw Moss nature reserve.

The Cumbria Wildlife Trust guidebook tells us why lowland raised mires like Foulshaw Moss are so important, they are one of Europe’s most threatened habitats. In the UK 94% of this habitat has been destroyed. To go to Foulshaw is to visit a rare landscape and feel thankful to see it being restored.

We were the only humans visiting the reserve but we were not alone. Although from my photography from the first ‘hide’ you would think we were!

Honestly this was teeming with birds until I tried to take a photo!

Wait, who’s this little fellow?

“Darn it she snapped me. Worms are on me guys!”

Not sure what s\he is, answers on a postcard please. Sparrow? Reed bunting? But truly there were SO SO many birds. We saw all sorts including a couple of pheasants … or maybe corncrakes (you can tell our bird watching skills are honed, cough)… and a magnificent Great Spotted Woodpecker that settled briefly on a feeder. I am afraid my rendering of this bird in pencil and Biro does not do it justice.

Oh dear …

We could have happily stayed in this ‘hide’ all day watching the comings and goings. It was hard to tear ourselves away but the moss called. And what a call it is when you start out along the boardwalks.

The moss is wet and small pools of water show that it is soaking up the water and keeping wet just as it should be. In addition to the surviving mire Cumbria Wildlife Trust are restoring the moss lands into the area that had been planted over with trees for the war effort back in the mid-twentieth century.

Thankfully nowadays there is a lot of talk about protecting and planting trees for their carbon capturing qualities but much less is said about the carbon munching qualities of mires like Foulshaw Moss. I have read that Cumbrian peatland stores five times as much carbon as all of Cumbria’s trees put together. This habitat not only sustains a myriad of amazing plant and wildlife it helps keep us alive too! Gotta love it.

One word of warning, The decay of the plant life – like the famous sphaghnum moss – is what creates peat. It is a slow process and it can take 1,000 years to create 1m of peat so please please use peat-free composts like Dalefoot wool composts (other brands are available) for your gardens.

The board walks make this a wonderful habitat for everyone to visit and enjoy. There is also a fantastically (deliberately) wobbly bridge that I know my granddaughters will love.

As we walked around the reserve it was so beautifully sunny and dare I say warm that we even saw a couple of common darter dragonflies. Yes you know it, they were here and gone before I had wrestled my iPad from my backpack (time to start thinking about a smart phone with a good camera function).

While the moss is reclaiming its home the dying trees give it an eerie yet photogenic feel. Nature however abhors waste and the tree stumps play host to amazing fungi.

We had such a super time exploring the moss I was sad to leave but the days are shorter and we needed to try and find the elusive A590 underpass so that we wouldn’t have to cross the scary, busy and fast road. I was empathising with hedgehogs at the mere prospect of this. But hey! Those little spiny mammals much loved by readers of Beatrix Potter’s “Mrs Tiggywinkle” do have an underpass! Good stuff.

We however were not so lucky. After following what I thought might be a path on the map but wasn’t – it turned out to be the dash-dot line for electricity pylons (shocking) – we had to re-trace our steps. This left only one course of action – other than dive headlong across the road – we had to navigate the verge (you know how much I l-urve a verge).

We shouted over the traffic and I wrestled with several hawthorns – why did I think putting a crash barrier between myself and the cars would be safer? – much to the amusement of JG who had been bolder and walked traffic side of the barrier. But finally, trying not to trip over the detritus thrown from passing vehicles, we made it to the underpass. Yeah!

It was worth being entangled by those hawthorns. Safely on the other side of the road we enjoyed a throughly lovely walk in the golden autumnal light following the cycle-way to our bus stop for home at Gilpin Bridge.

Aaaaaah, breathe in the calm.

What a splendid day. We walked 5.5 miles, JG measured it. A very short walk for JG but perfect for me, I am done at about 6! Here’s where we walked … I think!

Have happy outdoors days all.

Mx

Green Santa

Having bemoaned the amount of rain guess what? The sun came out. Enough for me to don my welly bobs (told you that they would not be neglected) and start tidying the garden.

“Good to be back!

Every year at this time one of the biggest jobs outside is sweeping up the leaves. I always feel guilty that I am not gathering these leaves to make leaf mould mulch or compost. Because I am not much of one for hammering in posts and circling them with chicken wire to stop the leaves blowing away I merely add the leaf harvest to my green waste bin. Oh but not this year. This year I have a secret weapon.

Say hello to my little friend. The compostable leaf mould bag!

All these handy bags require is that you fill them with fallen leaves – no shortage around here – then pop them out of the way and one year later you will have super wonderful leaf mould for mulching your garden. Leave them two years and wow! compost.

I thoroughly enjoyed sweeping up the first fall of leaves and filling my bag. I felt rather like a green reverse-Santa, filling the sack with soil enriching goodness rather than emptying it with less sustainable goodies (the sort much loved by the Tribe of Doris granddaughters … don’t worry girls Omi is talking to the real Santa and he assures me you will not be forgotten).

Bag one done. I have a feeling this will be the first of many, the sycamore has plenty more leaves to share.

I have not even started ….”

Our North American cousins have it right when they call it Fall!

Mx

And it rained

When you are Cumbrian rain is a part of life. You never go anywhere without a kagoul and the web feet we are surely born with come in very handy! Over the last few weeks it has certainly rained. And as I have a partially rustic walk home my dress code has changed somewhat.

Dressed in over trousers, trusty walking boots, kagoul, hi-vis armbands – those motorists take no prisoners – carrying my backpack and wielding a walking stick I look more like I am about to conquer Annapurna than walk home from work. I have walked along what I now consider ‘my verge’ several times and have even ‘hiked’* home across fields through flocks of sheep and small herds of cattle. Welcome to my country life!

Just shows what a difference a mile makes. Not three weeks ago I was cycling town streets to work now I look more like Bear Grylls. Infact I have rather come to see motorists as softies – skimming over the fact that I have super friends who drive me to work on their way to their own jobs in the morning – afraid to face the elements outside their tin-cans on wheels. Sour grapes on my part I am sure but growling helps me get to the end of the nobbly grass verge when the rain is horizontal and definitely aimed at me. Now who’s the softie?!

After years of resisting the temptation of the posh wellington boot – I always thought it akin to buying a 4×4 vehicle when you only drive in the middle of a city – I am considering my first pair of Hunters! Whatever next?! For the uninitiated Hunters are the aristocrats of the wellington boot world. With almost every bone in my body I yearn for the comfort and dryness of a walking welly. Upon advice I am lusting after a pair of Ladies Balmoral Hunters to make my walks home an absolute pleasure, rain (most likely) or shine.

I don’t mean to be disloyal to my present pair of welly-bobs. They do their best bless ‘em but they are not really up to a trek back and forth along a mix of lumpy, bumpy, muddy paths and tarmaced pavements. They are more comfortable in the garden or jumping in puddles with Peanut. Rest assured they will always have a role in my life.

Love you welly-bobs!

Mx

* ‘hiked’ may be a slight exaggeration ….

Waggy tailed visitors always welcome

It is lovely to get together with old friends. These visits have been in short-supply lately so I was over the moon when KS braved the atrocious weather and possibility of floods to come to mine for a crafty morning and catch up. She also brought a bonus guest, one of her three cocker spaniels the elder of the pack, the gorgeous Bagel.

Spaniel eyes anyone?

As you can see in the background KS brought the travel blanket she made for Bagel so that he would be comfy and cosy. He is an older gent and deserves every creature comfort.

Made of re-cycled tea towels and quilted for extra snugness, Bagel was of course keen to show off his transportable bed.

My human is so kind and clever.

It was difficult for me to stop admiring the wonderful Bagel (you can see why, those eyes!) But at least one of us managed some crafting.

KS – being far more industrious than yours truly – is knitting a beautiful cable scarf for a friend and had brought it along to get a few more rows done. I love the colour and the cabled texture. Someone is going to be very happy when they receive this superb handmade present.

As you can see we had cakes and nibbles to keep us going. The lemon and berry cakes were scoffed before I got to taking pictures. They and the remaining boxed cakes were from Ginger Bakers at Plumgarths and were super delicious.

We must have chatted a lot as Bagel got back home and straightaway curled up with his favourite toy for a well earned snooze. He was no doubt dreaming ‘knit two, purl one”.

Cast on … knit two … purl one ….

Shhh let’s leave him in peace ….

Mx

Giant Christmas Doughnut!

I have said it. The ‘C’ word. I am sure for the crafty community the ‘C’ word has been a big part of their endeavours for some time now.

I have made a couple of things for my granddaughters and one project (which is enormous) has been benched until next year. My Christmas 2021 crafting seemed finished. Happily I had something waiting in the wings.

Last year I spent much of the run up to Christmas making the Clothkits quilted jackets for Peanut and Munchkin. I had no time to use the bundle of pre-printed fabrics that had been given to me by friend JG.

This year because of the aforementioned ‘benching’ I found myself with a window to complete a Yuletide project that got left behind last year.

Amongst the festive pre-printed fabrics donated by JG was one that looked like it had the makings of a large door garland. It was already cut out and ready to go.

All that was left to do was:

Sew.

If you are ever confronted by such a design remember do not sew up any part of the middle circle – I mean what idiot would do that … – as you won’t be able to turn it out to the right side.

Press.

Those tailors’ hams certainly proved invaluable for this one.

Turn out.

I added a ribbon tab as I was planning to hang it on my front door.

Stuff it and stitch up the middle hole.

At that point I discovered – having already used copious amounts of stuffing – when hung up the would-be garland pulled on the panel at the top! It looked rather saggy (know how it feels). Not wanting to use even more stuffing it was time for a re-think.

Despite the fact that the Giant Christmas Doughnut reminds me of the type of cushion you might want to sit on after a painful piles operation it appears to be destined to be an addition to my sofa during the festive period. That seems a bit of a waste. Have you dear readers any better ideas?

Looking at it now I am wondering if I took out one panel it could become one of those horseshoe cushions you wear around your neck on long journeys. Now there’s a thought. What a way to travel to Yorkshire this Christmas! Whether my son and daughter share the same view when they ferry me too and fro – there being very little public transport – is another thing …

For their sakes I hope you come up with something better!

Mx

Leaving is never easy to do

While it is exciting to start a new job it is equally hard to leave an old one. On Wednesday I did my last shift at Sainsbury’s (a large supermarket chain here in the UK) and I confess I left with a heavy heart.

When I returned from a sabbatical of several months for family and travel back in 2018 I needed to find a job. Having commuted to my previous employment top of my new job wish list was ‘MUST BE LOCAL’! I wanted to be able to get to work under my own steam either by bike or foot.

This was not as easy as it might appear. I live in a fairly rural area and it has not always provided much choice of work – Covid has changed this a wee bit – but after a slight panic about actually getting a job along came Sainsbury’s.

Sainsbury’s has an egalitarian recruitment process – they have staff aged from 16 years to septuagenarians – which definitely helped me (no Spring chicken) as did the fact that a whole new store was being built in Kendal and every post needed filling.

It was a revelation to me. I had never worked in a supermarket before and it was fun to discover all the work that goes on in one. For my first job I was part of the price control team. Ever wonder who prints off and goes round the store changing the price tickets on the shelves? It was interesting and I always knew where the bargains were but often I worked on my own.

As I watched the team of early morning online shoppers whizzing about I hankered to join them. The joy of a supermarket is that, if staffing allows, your requests for sideways moves are usually granted. I became an online shopper.

To answer a couple of frequently asked questions. We do not do one person’s shop at a time we do parts of up to 8 customers shopping on each run we do, then the lovely folk in the back bring them together as they load up the vans. We are given suggested substitutions on our handsets and do not do them on a whim. Sometimes what a customer wants is just not there and we always try and provide something.

We have had an action packed 18 months in supermarkets and I think the online departments saw the greatest part of that. Online deliveries were a relatively small part of the overall sales in our store in 2019. Then along came a global pandemic and a Prime Minister telling us all to stay indoors and get our shopping online! EEEK.

Obviously we couldn’t stay indoors so armed with my ‘Essential Worker’ letter I cycled in for my shifts. We started work earlier (3am!!!) and every half hour brought a change as Online was ramped up to deal with the HUGE increase in demand. New staff were recruited, new vans brought in and new practices were instituted. I have read that online food deliveries went up by 100%, I can well believe it. My legs and shoulders definitely can.

It was a tough time and some customers were not kind (although many more were) but I think we really bonded and pushed together. We had some marvellous new staff, students who couldn’t go to Uni and sadly for them some that had lost jobs or businesses. Managers were busy spinning plates and I think did well to keep calm and share a smile and the occasional tub of sweeties.

Now however it is time for me to say goodbye to this:

And hello to this (and similar!):

Mmm strange how I have gone for the same colour palette.

My lovely online colleagues sent me off with all best wishes, super cards and thoughtful gifts (including a voucher for my favourite Kendal eatery, Waterside).

I love that they got me bulbs instead of a bunch of flowers as they knew everything needed to be packed in my panniers. They also suggested that when the blooms come out in Spring it will remind me of them. Hey folks don’t you worry you will never be far from my thoughts as I will be back in many a Saturday for my ‘two panniers’ shopping!

I think I found the perfect card to thank them with:

Bye all at Sainsbury’s Kendal. You are a wonderful bunch of hard grafting people. I have loved working with you and look forward to catching up with you all soon.

Mx

PS There were more of these vegan chocolate bars. I have scoffed all but one of them ‘cos they are delicious!

PPS My card was produced by these folks:

They have some great humorous Bayeux Tapestry style cards. Mx