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Saturday, 23 July 2011

Worms Disaster!

Well, not a total disaster, but I think I've either killed them with kindness, or they were just diseased.  Eric says no-one could have been more attentive to their needs, so it's not neglect.  Ignorance maybe.

At the moment, I have 12 cocoons (although I know for certain that 2 of the caterpillars have died inside), another 3 or 4 spinning (but very sluggishly), and I've just put the other 13 in toilet roll inners, with some leaves, and told them to get on with it!  The best I'm hoping for now is that some of them will hatch into moths, mate, and lay eggs for next year.  In the meantime, I'll do a lot more investigating on the internet and see if I can find anything glaring that I've done wrong.

Next year will be better!!!

Friday, 22 July 2011

Courgette Glut?

If, like us, you have courgettes piling up against the front door, try this recipe. It's really easy, and very tasty.  I actually got it from  As usual (for me), I "doctored" it a bit, and it was very tasty.  The amounts here will serve 4 people.

Courgette Fritters with Tomato and Feta Salsa

1 red chilli, finely chopped
125g self-raising flour
Half a red onion
2 large eggs
3 medium courgettes, grated
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin seeds (didn't have any, so used fenugreek seeds)
Salsa ingredients :-
125g cherry tomatoes, quartered and mixed with
100g crumbled Feta and a
Handful of mint leaves, chopped and
Juice of half a lemon

Mix chilli, courgette, onion, cumin seeds, flour and eggs together (I also added some green coriander seeds for a bit of "zing") and season with salt and black pepper.
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a non-stick frying pan, drop in heaped tablespoons of batter.  Cook, in batches, for 2-3 minutes each side, or until golden.
Meanwhile, mix all the salsa ingredients and serve with the fritters.

We had it with garlic mashed potato and a nice, cold glass of white wine.  I'll definitely be making it again.

Monday, 18 July 2011


Decided to make a scarf with the wool I finished spinning the other day, and had an ideal situation for knitting yesterday when we had to go up to Bergerac airport to collect wicked stepson no. 1.  We were in the car for four and a half hours all told, and I was using big needles, so had plenty of time to finish it.

. . . a little bit of detail :-

I love the colours and am looking forward to wearing it in the winter.

Sunday, 17 July 2011


Yesterday we were invited to go and see some llamas.  Eric had advertised some music equipment on a local website and it turned out that the couple who came to see what he had for sale have 14 llamas (well, some of them are her mother's, but it amounts to the same thing).  They were absolutely gorgeous (especially the two adolescents!) but the sad thing is that they want to sell up and emigrate to Canada, so the llamas will eventually have to be sold.

I thought you might like to see some of the photos I took (not exactly professional, but some of them are amusing).

Ooooer - scary person in the field, we're not going over there!

Who pinched my llama's head?
Smile for the nice lady!

What nice lady?  Oh, her??
The last two llamas are 14 months old so haven't finished growing yet.

I'd taken my spinning wheel with me, so we took some wool from the brown youngster and I quickly spun a little sample.  It was a bit strawy, but lovely and soft.  They're probably going to be sheared before too long, so may be available to buy.

In the meantime, anyone want to buy a house in France with 14 llamas?

Friday, 15 July 2011


Just a few pictures for Friday.  The first cocoon is now complete :-

 Two more worms started spinning last night in the toilet tube inners, but the rest are taking their time.

The wool I've just spun is skeined and washed :-

And look what we had in the garden today :-

I haven't seen any hoopoes in the garden for a few years, but this one was happily pecking away into all the holes between the stones in the wall, presumably eating insects.  I couldn't get any closer than this, but it obligingly turned around when I took the photo.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Wool 'n' Worms

Couldn't wait to spin the two batts I bought at the wool festival, and finished them last night.  There's about 100g here.  I've spun it as a single, thick and thin.  Not sure what it's going to be yet.

The first cocoon is substantially thicker, and another day should see it finished.  It then has to sit for a week before it can be processed further.

Another worm started to spin last night in one of the toilet roll inners I put around the edge of their plastic box.  I split the cardboard tubes lengthwise and pulled them apart a little bit so the silkworms could crawl in by themselves.  I don't know if you can see, but it's just starting to shape the cocoon around itself.

The biggest surprise though, was the worm in the "sick bay" which I thought was on it's way out.  Last night it, too, started to spin.  It's drawn a leaf around itself and is spinning inside.

Today I made a sort of open-weave framework of mulberry twigs and put it in their box for them to spin amongst, mainly because I knew I didn't have enough toilet roll inners for 70 (ish) worms.  Within a few minutes, three silkworms had climbed up onto it, so maybe that's the best option.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

First Cocoon

This is a photo I took this morning, and, as you can see, it's turned into a cocoon overnight.  It's not complete yet, because it needs to spin more layers inside.  There are no more spinning yet, this one seems to be quite early.

I had a bit of a shock this morning.  Because the worm had started spinning in the basket, amongst all the other worms, I decided to leave it there and remove the rest.  Then this morning I thought I'd remove some of the leaf litter from around the cocoon . . . and found a dead worm.  I think it was probably already dead when this worm started spinning, but I was a bit worried that it might be the one which should be inside the cocoon.  And I couldn't see the worm inside because it had mostly turned opaque.  Fingers crossed!

Monday, 11 July 2011

Aaarrrggghhhh!! It's Happening!!!!!!

I've got a worm spinning a cocoon :-

This was taken at 6:30 this evening.  I'll take another one tomorrow to see how it's getting on.  The whole process takes them about 3 days apparently.

Watch this space!

P.S.  Is this some kind of record - 4 posts in one day?

Worms' Holiday

Sunday afternoon we packed a bag, packed the worms, packed a box of mulberry leaves, and set off for a short overnight break.  It was the worms' first holiday and they ate lots, slept a bit and enjoyed their new surroundings while the humans went off gallivanting.

We went to the wool festival Le Lot et La Laine which, I thought, was about an hour and a half north of here.  Wrong!!  It was really more like two and a half hours north, but then we couldn't find it and had a bit of a detour to ask the locals.  Eventually got there at 4:45 but luckily it didn't finish until 6:30/7p.m so we managed to get a good look around.

There were all sorts of different stalls selling wool, felt, books, dye stuffs, dye plants, fleece, spinning wheels, weaving looms etc., and there were demonstrations of spinning, dyeing, weaving, sheep shearing - not that we saw much of that, we were too late.

Anyway, want to see what I bought?

Well, the first purchase was these two woad plants.  My seed didn't germinate this year, so I didn't have any.

Must get those into the garden tomorrow (too hot today - 37 deg C).

And then I saw this gorgeous merino fleece and just had to have it.  It is so, so soft.

A little bit closer, to show just how white it is :-

And then I couldn't possibly walk past this, could I?  Especially when they're just my colours :-

This is a mixture of Romney, Merino, Mohair, Blue Faced Leicester, Tussah Silk and Banana Fibres (they're the shiny white bits).

The left-hand side of the second photo shows the reverse side.  They're lovely colours, really well put together.  Can't wait to start on this little lot.

I was chatting to the lady who had the Ashford stand, and she had some skeins of wool dyed with natural dyes.  One of them was done with horsetail, and was a lovely green.  So I told her about my disaster and the horrible colours I got.  Seems like I just took the plants too late in the season, they have to be picked in the early spring, but otherwise I think I did it right!  I'll have another go next year.

After the show we went to stay with some friends, Ian and May, who live near Cahors and had a really nice evening with them.  Then this morning, the worms packed their leaves and we all trundled back home where the cat was very pleased to see us.

Dolly Blues Gig

This is the chateau where we played on Saturday night :-

The entertainment started at about 10p.m. and carried on until 1 a.m. and everyone seemed to enjoy it.  The bride looked fantastic, but unfortunately I didn't get a photo.

Dolly Blues (from a distance!) -

Rogues' Gallery :-

The lovely Colette, who has a fabulous bluesy voice

Our French bass player, Lionnel
Our resident drummer was away on holiday, but Pierrot filled the gap perfectly
Eric Clapped-out tuning up!

Thankfully, no-one got a photo of the backing singer!!

It was a fabulous night in a superb location, and we look forward to playing there again (if they'll have us!)

FlyBoy Does it Again!

Just had some very good news today - Eric's eldest son, Ben, has just got a job with Emirates flying Boeing 777's.  As the old saying goes, we're both like dogs with two tails - we don't know which one to wag first!!  He'd been flying for a few years with Ryanair and, give them their due, they got him on the road to better things.  The good days have just arrived.  WELL DONE BEN!!!

Saturday, 9 July 2011

False Alarm

Well, obviously it was a false alarm with the silkworms as I still don't have any that have started to spin.  I did think at the time it was a bit too soon, as of today they are only 25 days old.  They're getting pretty humongous, quite a few of them are two and a half inches long.  I have had a few deaths recently though, but I still have 73 (plus a sick one in the isolation ward).  This is the amount of leaves they're consuming each day (140 to 150 leaves) :-

Here are some of the worms eagerly awaiting breakfast :-

This photo shows the droppings quite clearly.  It's amazing how much they've changed - now they look as though they've been moulded into rectangles with a pattern on them.

Something very strange is happening on here.  This is my third attempt to publish a post.  The first two disappeared into the ether, and now this one insists on centring everything and won't let me change it.  We're off out in half an hour and I've still got to have a shower, so I think I'll leave it here and hope this time it works.  We'll sort it out when we get home.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Worm Alert!

I thought one of my silkworms was ready to pupate this morning (panic panic).  Apparently when they are ready to make a cocoon they exude a gel-like droplet from their tail end, and one of mine had some orangey-yellow stuff at the back end.  Half an hour later though it had disappeared - false alarm probably.  They still have another skin-change to go through before then.

This is how big they are now :-

They are changing as they get bigger and their heads are becoming more bulbous now.  I had to split them up again this morning, they are now in five containers.

Here are a few photos taken of the countryside around our house the other evening :-

Sorry about the boring flowers - I just like taking photos of flowers, especially wild ones.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Success and Failure

Oh well, not everything turns out as we would like.  These are the results of my dyeing experiment with horsetail and I don't think I'll be hurrying back to pick more.  The fleece was mordanted with alum and then dyed - the one on the right was then put into an afterbath of copper to see if I could get it to turn green.

Not the best colour representation, but the one on the left turned out a sort of pale creamy yellow, very nondescript, and the other one is a sort of sludgy colour with bits of brown.

BUT, the good new is, the cotton seeds I planted last week from one of the bolls I pulled apart, have germinated :-

Three are through, and the fourth is on it's way.  Just need the greenhouse to be finished for the autumn so I can keep them warm.

Birthday Wishes . . .

. . . as in, we wish we'd remembered to send you a card!  HAPPY BIRTHDAY JANE!!!  Here are some flowers for your special day, put them in a vase quickly or they'll die :-

Have a lovely day, hope the sun's shining in Switzerland.