Alison Crowther-Smith

Archive for August, 2013

Dog Days

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Last Tuesday evening, after having taken the boys for a little trip to Jolly’s Pets Emporium that afternoon, Rupert seemed a bit down.  I thought maybe he was tired.  Taking them to Jolly’s is how I imagine OAPs feel after being set loose in a massive garden centre for the day, where the smell of the Yankee Candles vies with the fragrant waft of fried donuts.  Where cream teas are consumed and ‘things on slate’ are browsed.  Dozing on the coach home might follow.

Arthur models the new collar we bought at Jolly's

Arthur models the new collar we bought at Jolly’s

Jolly’s is a vast (to a dachshund) emporium of lovely smells, treats tantalisingly out of reach, toys being squeaked, just begging to be killed, and happy staff who love to talk to the pets who come by.  We spent a while there, bought new beds and cushions, new collars and had new tags engraved.  Roo hasn’t worn a collar other than for outings since his back problems started, though for 4 years he wore one all the time, quite happily.  I wanted him to resume wearing one because my greatest fear is him being taken (who am I kidding, more likely bolting) from the garden.

Rupert (right) and Arthur just after we popped their new collars on

Rupert (right) and Arthur just after we popped their new collars on

Treats were stashed away for the car journey home.  I also bought Medlar the sweetest new collar:  ice pink, very pale, with tiny diamond studs, a new tag (he loses 4 or 5 a year) and about 8 bells.  He pretended to be furious but secretly he adores the colour and the bling because he knows it looks amazing on his silky black fur.  He also sounds like Quasimodo.

Anyway, Rupert was down that evening.  He looked lovely in his new collar – red with white polka dots, as did Arthur.  But even his usual vanity couldn’t rouse his spirits.  I let him sleep. In his new bed, on his new plushy cushion-base.

Dachshunds can have sad days.  Maybe all dogs do.  Why not?  People do, don’t they?  I noticed when I used to foster Ralph that he had what his mum calls ‘sad dachshund days’.  We agreed that it might be back-related.  Now and then, this does happen to Rupert as you know.  Actually I have never known Arthur to have one, but he is the single most happy and enthusiastic life form on the planet.  By Wednesday, Mark had noticed that Rupert was not his usual arsey, belligerent self.

By Thursday, I was semi-cage resting him, my usual ploy if I think his back is bad.  I was also spending more time talking to him and seeing if I could generate any life in the old dog.  I couldn’t.

Early symptoms of sad-Dachshundness

Early symptoms of sad-Dachshundness

By Saturday – and I had to go out for some hours but Lily was in charge, so he was never alone – I was 100% cage resting him and had upped his Metacam to full dosage.  He wouldn’t get out of the cage bed for meals, unless picked up and placed by the food.  He was reluctant to walk.

By Sunday I was mentally back with him at the Vet School in Bristol, having him scanned and bracing for more surgery – or worse.  I was carrying him out of the cage to the lawn for reluctant wee-ing (not me, no) and offering him treats such as cups of tea in his bed.  I was consulting on-line Dachshund forums.  Yes, it  was that bad.  The thing I wasn’t clear about was that it was back pain.  I’m an expert in Rupert back pain and he was only exhibiting one symptom group – lethargy, and sadness.  There was no indication of pain  or masking; no crying; none of the other physical signs I know so well.

On Sunday evening, now as sad and low in spirit as he was, I once more carted him onto the lawn and stood while he moodily sat down.  He stared balefully at me, refused to stand up and just fidgeted.  He actually sighed.

Now I have no idea why I did this but I stooped down and *un-clipped his new collar.  Rupert shook his head, stood up and sniffed the damp air.  He then charged over to the tree where I keep is football, and looked at me as if to say:  come on then! get my football, minion.  I got the football and rolled it to him.  He rampaged around the lawn with the ball, panting, tail rotating (he can’t wag anymore), laughing his head off.

I put the collar back on him.  He sat down, looked at the football and said:  meh.

Rep from * to end of blog post.

I did this 4 times.  I called witnesses.

We left the collar off that night.  He rolled about and romped with Arthur, chased the cat, ate his supper, demanded treats, owned the sofa – all normal.

Do you know what?  It was the collar wearing!  That is why this bolshie little demon was so fed up – he was sulking. I checked back on-line with the Dachshund interwebs – yep, other sausages do this too.  One of the people whose Dachshund is the same described them as ‘eccentric’.  That is certainly one word for it.

New Designs

Monday, August 5th, 2013

There are four new designs on the site.

First, one of my very earliest designs for Rowan, the Gathering Scarf.

Gathering KSH in Trance close-up 1

Detail of the open, translucent fabric and very subtle bead detail from Gathering

I designed this for my first book, Little Luxury Knits, now out of print and thus the copyright is mine again, so I have published this as a single download, as it was probably the most popular design in that book.  Just bear in mind that if you’ve got that book, you also have this exact design.  You can buy Gathering here.

This design only takes 1 ball of Kidsilk Haze and a hand-full of beads.  It’s absolutely perfect as a Christmas gift knit.

Next, a new design, never published anywhere else.  It’s the Eastwater Beaded Boa.

Eastwater_full_small2

The Eastwater Boa has contrast colour details, with the shades used for the side-frills simply being reversed

I do love boas, partly because they offer a chance to show off a bit, looking fabulous as they do, worn with simple dresses or coats.  I also love them because they offer great design options.

Eastwater boa side bead detail

A detail of the ‘insert’, edged with beads, from Eastwater

This one is a beaded version of a frill, based on knitted ‘inserts’.  It looks quite complex but it’s really easy.  The design takes 4 balls of Kidsilk Haze and about 600 beads, but knitted on 5mm needles, it is actually very fast.

You can buy this design here.

Now two designs based on one stitch.  First, Cave Pearls Mittens, offered in two options (both in the same pattern):  with or without beads.

Cave Pearls Mitts in Mauve with beads full hand

Cave Pearls Mitts with beads

The stitch looks like cable but it’s not, it’s mock-cable.  This forms a rather lovely rounded, nest-like stitch structure, shown off to great effect by the crisp stitch definition that you get with Rowan Pure Wool 4 Ply, surely one of the best value quality yarns on the market.

The stitch is easy, the mitts are knitted in the round, and I like the fully fitted thumb that ‘grows’ neatly out of one of the mock-cable lines.

Cave Pearls Mitts in Purple no beads thumb and stitch detail

The un-beaded version of Cave Pearls Mitts showing the crisp stitch definition and tailored thumb detail

They give your hand a lovely, snug fit and are easily sized up if needed.  You can view and buy the pattern here.

Lastly, the Cave Pearls Scarves.  Two options in one design.  You can view and buy the design here.

This uses the same stitch as the mitts but re-designed to be knitted flat.  The beads – and the options are for lots of beads or for fewer – are placed from the wrong side (but of course, they show on the right side).  Here is the highly beaded version:

Cave Pearls in Mist close up of bead-scape

The beads settle in the little ‘nest’ that is created by the clever but very easily-mastered stitch; this is the heavily beaded option

And here, the version with fewer beads:

Cave Pearls in Trance

This image shows a detail of the frill on this version of the scarf, as well as the more lightly beaded fabric

Note:  if you like the Cave Pearls designs, I am going to hold a workshop here next year, based on them, with the addition of another garment option – a shrug, knitted in the round.  So you could wait, book for that and get the design of your choice included in the booking fee for that workshop.

Both the mitts and the scarves are really lovely  projects and great gift options too:

cave pearls trance & bronze beads close up tight

 

 

Seeds

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

One of the best aspects of this time of year, as we approach the curve of the year and glimpse autumn, is that the flowers we enjoyed in June and July continue to reward our gardening labours by yielding seeds and berries.

This last few weeks, aside from having undertaken a huge batch of free-lance writing projects, which lasted from 1 May to 13 July, I have been gardening.  My garden and I are at peace.  Though I toil for hours and often see little reward or evidence other than the sacks of waste to schlep to the tip, I do feel I have arrived at a much happier place with it.  This has partly been achieved by growing far fewer vegetables that I usually attempt.  It is partly a result of more regular, less exhausting efforts.  And it is partly the result of anticipating work that needs to be done, and doing it early.

But one thing I won’t do early is cut off the seed heads of the prettiest bearers.  My garden, large and semi-wild, is all gardened pesticide-free.  I want to encourage the birds to eat the snails, the frogs to eat the slugs, the hedgehogs to eat the – um, whatever they might find that they like to snack on, and for none of these creatures to die because I used pellets or sprays.  And along with this goes the leaving of seed heads.

In this way, I get to enjoy their grace and quirks, thus extending the life-season of the flowers that preceded the seed heads; the birds get to eat the seeds and berries; and I get literally hundreds of free plants. I can easily propagate from these seeds and have grown agapanthus, acanthus, aquilegia, allium, foxgloves, lavender, hollyhocks and angels’ fishing rods from saved seeds.  Sometimes I collect and sow in pots – but this is faffy.  Usually I just scatter ripe seed on fresh soil and see what I get.  I then transplant the winners and hoe up the rest.  This cuts out a whole stage of gardening labour, see notes above.  Win-win.

Yesterday was the 1st of  August 2013.  It was hot and still and perfect.  I gardened literally all day, thus breaking one of my own rules, see notes above.  But it was good gardening. Like with running when now and again, you hit a ‘golden’ run and feel you could run forever.  This is usually transitory and lasts from mile 3 to mile 6 and then it’s gone.  I thought, yesterday, I could garden forever.  I was almost right.

Once I had literally ground to an exhausted halt, I took these pictures of seeds and berries, which I think are just as lovely as flowers.  I hope you like them.  I look at them and I can sense the next season, can’t you?  I can’t feel autumn yet, or smell it, but rather like being in a bedroom by the sea, with the curtains closed, you sense the light from the ocean…that feeling.

Hint:  irritatingly and I have no idea why or how to make it revert, the new version of the software for this blog has reduced the scale of images. You can click on them to see far more detail but then you will need to hit the ‘back’ arrow button on your computer to remain on the blog.  Sigh.

This is an English lavender, half in flower, just going to seed and I will cut it as soon as it has stopped attracting bees as this is good for the plant. But for now, the bees - like this one - are still feeding

This is an English lavender, half in flower, just going to seed and I will cut it as soon as it has stopped attracting bees as this is good for the plant. But for now, the bees – like this one – are still feeding

 

This French lavender - the sort with 'ears' - is just going to seed now

This French lavender – the sort with ‘ears’ – is just going to seed now

 

French lavender seed heads, so fat and corn-like. They are hugely promiscuous, as are the English

French lavender seed heads, so fat and corn-like. They are hugely promiscuous, as are the English

 

The acanthus berry is a really fat, shiny seed. I also love the 'wings' of the flower, still holding on and the way the seed is held by the cone of the flower

The acanthus berry is a really fat, shiny seed. I also love the ‘wings’ of the flower, still holding on and the way the seed is held by the cone of the flower

 

The English garden classic, rose hips, one ripe, one not

The English garden classic, rose hips, one ripe, one not

 

The dark berries of this black elder flower are beloved by birds and half have been eaten already

The dark berries of this black elder flower are beloved by birds and half have been eaten already

 

Arthur is in this picture of a giant allium seed head for scale purposes. He's a medium sized mini-Dachshund. The allium was GIANT. He was a bit freaked out by it, and I can't say I blame him

Arthur is in this picture of a giant allium seed head for scale purposes. He’s a medium sized mini-Dachshund. The allium was GIANT. He was a bit freaked out by it, and I can’t say I blame him

Angels' fihsing rods, grown by me from seed, fishing against a perfect late summer sky

Angels’ fishing rods, grown by me from seed, fishing against a perfect late summer sky

 

Bronze fennel seed umbrellas; these will tempt long-tailed tits into the garden

Bronze fennel seed umbrellas; these will tempt long-tailed tits into the garden

 

My favourite seed-pod, the poppy. Unlike the oriental poppy, usually sterile, these will yield thousands of plants next year - if I let them!

My favourite seed-pod, the poppy. Unlike the oriental poppy, usually sterile, these will yield thousands of plants next year – if I let them!

 

The seeds of crocosmia 'Lucifer' look like a zip.  This year I am going to sew some in pots to see what I get. Note the ladybird, this year there have been many

The seeds of crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ look like a zip. This year I am going to sow some in pots to see what I get. Note the ladybird, this year there have been many

Alliums, the most structural of seed heads; this is a close up of the sharp seeds, I love the purple hue behind

Alliums, the most structural of seed heads; this is a close up of the sharp seeds, I love the purple hue behind