Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Labour of the month: June

This month's Labour of the Month is not so much hard work, but a reward for time well spent in March –

PPPs Labour for May is . . .

New Potatoes

If you think potatoes are just white starchy lumps
that are there to soak up the gravy – think again!
Freshly dug new potatoes are a gourmet treat worth waiting for;
forget supermarket bought 'new potatoes'
home-grown are in a different league altogether . . .

This is our potato bed in the vegetable garden – doing well but not quite ready to dig up yet; but along the side of the greenhouse I planted potatoes in large plastic pots . . .

The one on the far left has 'gone over' slightly and looks ready to harvest – Sharpe's Express, I decided to grow this because I remember my dad grew it in the 1960s – this has to be the new potato flavour etched on my memory.

I'd put some large stones in the base of the pot and covered them with a layer of home-made compost, on this I placed the seed potato and covered it with leaf mould from The Wild Wood (thank you Cottage Smallholder for this great tip). As the potato plant grew I topped up the leaf mould and layered it with grass clippings. You can see the mix has rotted down to a soft rich compost. By the way, do you like the label? It's cut from a slat of the old venetian blinds I removed from my studio – I now have an endless supply!

Looking good! Not a massive crop, but the quality and size is excellent and they just fall out of the compost so cleanly.

What better to go with new potatoes . . . freshly picked Crimson Flowered Broad Beans and Purple Podded Peas of course :-) And a snip of that Summer Savoury – the perfect herb to pair with beans of any variety.

All ready for cooking . . . you can cook the potatoes in their skins, but I just rub the papery skin off when I wash them; you can see the lovely fresh bright green of the beans – Crimson Flowered Broad Beans don't have that thick grey-green skin so they are tender and delicious with no need to skin them after cooking.


Tuesday, 28 June 2011

New Flat Cap!

The studio assistants have a new door – hopefully it will stop an intruder nicking their biscuits in the night!

The SureFlap scans their micro chips, so when there's an 'unknown cat in the bagging area' the door stays securely locked.

The tabby one 'got-it' right away; the ginger one was suspicious . . . but the biscuits were on the other side . . . no-brainer!

Monday, 27 June 2011

Beach life – sea, sun and samphire

Sometimes you just have to . . . the urge to go to a beach on a sunny day is too strong to resist.

So, yesterday we went here . . .

A brilliant blue cloudless sky; the calls of curlew, sandpipers and oystercatchers; a haze of blue sea-lavender over the mud-flats – if ever there was perfect a day for walking over a North Norfolk salt-marsh then this was it.

And . . . what's this? A pirate captain's beaded chain washed up among the shells and pebbles in a beach pool!

Not really . . . I just couldn't resist photographing my new necklace that Emma helped me make on Saturday morning (well, Emma did most of the work!) – I made the patterns in the silver clay "shard" and arranged my beads – the large multi-coloured glass bead and the circular stripy one were part of a bangle I bought at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma; the bangle was far to too big for me, so I'm very happy that I can now enjoy wearing some of the beautiful beads at long last. To describe to Emma what I wanted to make, I "painted a picture" of a dangerously attractive pirate wearing a chain of eclectic sea-washed gems and a shard from a silver treasure found on an ocean shore.

Right . . . back to North Norfolk on Sunday afternoon . . .

In late June/July the mud of the salt-marshes sprouts with the glistening green shoots of the marsh samphire (Salicornia europaea) making a miniature landscape of forests and winding rivers. Samphire is one of those gourmet foraging treats; you need to be in the right place at the right time and eat it as fresh as you can manage – quickly blanched and served with fresh fish or seafood, samphire is a sharp crunch and the flavour of the briny sea.

We had more than enough for our supper – but there were plans for the rest ;-) Pickled Samphire for a cold winter's day to remind us of sun and sky and piping birds.


Carefully clean the samphire in lots of fresh cold water, then blanch it in boiling water for a minute. Refresh with cold water and lay on a clean tea-cloth to drain and dry a little.

Then pack the samphire into jars and top up with cold white wine vinegar; or use spiced vinegar that has been left to cool. I did some of each. For the spiced vinegar I used 'spices' grown in our garden: semi-ripe sweet cicely seeds, a few green unripe lovage seeds (not too many these are powerful!), dried coriander seeds, and a couple of bay leaves. I strained out the seeds before adding the cooled vinegar to the jars, but slipped one of the bay leaves into the side of the spiced vinegar jars to identify them from the plain ones.

If you live near a salt-marsh where marsh samphire thrives – happy foraging this July!


Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Confessions of a knitter

Are you a knitter? It seems that lots of artists knit – printmakers seem particularly drawn to knitting . . . is it the meticulous repetition, I wonder?

I knit purely for pleasure – I get lulled into a cosy stuper by the rhythm of knitting; not a mindless state, no, you need to use bits of your brain: counting, choosing colours – it's creative but therapeutic.

Last winter I was looking for interesting knitting patterns on the web (admit it, I bet that a few of you have done that) and I came across Cranford Mitts – the pattern had been generously donated by Jane Lithgow to p/hop . . . that's "pennies per hours of pleasure" – a clever fundraising idea for Médecins Sans Frontières which was the brain child of knitter and dyer Natalie Fergie. It's such a simple idea – you can download free patterns or swap free yarn and in return for the hours of pleasure gained, you give a donation to MSF via the p/hop Just Giving site. Simples!

So I had my pattern and I'd given a donation . . . I needed some yarn; I had a look at Natalie's web site The Yarn Yard, ooooo! it's full of scrummy coloured yarn!!! And they have such imaginative names (I like that) – I chose Velvet and Spicebox in a gorgeous soft Merino sock wool.

Cranford Mitts

There was loads of yarn left over . . . ahaaa! I had a cunning plan . . . matching socks!

Cranford Mitts
Don't ask for the pattern
– I didn't keep notes!

And, as there was still a little yarn left (and I was well and truly back into the knitting-zone) I went for a rummage in my stash of balls of wool – this stash goes back to my youth! But you just never know when a ball of wool, however small, will come in useful . . . I found enough balls of soft greys, fawns, terracotta and heather to knit a cardi :-)

I really enjoy making up repeated patterns and working with stripes so this was my idea of knitting heaven; and those beautiful ceramic buttons I bought from from Catherine Daniel finish it off just perfectly!

Now, I need a new knitting project, what luck that I bought that chunky felted yarn last week – that will be a nice little quick knit; and after that . . . well I've treated myself to some of Natalie's gorgeous Lace Yarn – I'll show you when I've finished, but it may take some time.


Monday, 20 June 2011

The morning after the day before

Saturday was our Village Fete, lots of hard work by lots of people was rewarded by three hours of fun for many – and it wasn't a wash out, in fact the sun shone for most of the time. Also there, enjoying the games, music and teas, were Mrs and Mr P and the two Miss Ps some you may have 'met' on Silverpebble; and Fiona and Seraphina from Cottage Smallholder – you can read more about their visit to the fete here.

After the fete I helped Cliff to count the takings before going to the Fete Workers Supper to announce the Grand Total and tuck into Lasagne, salads and puddings.

As you can imagine, on Sunday morning we were in dire need of a therapeutic walk, so Cliff put together a six mile circuit taking in some of our favourite woodland paths – it was delightful. Walking through the fields and meadows, I had time to play with the filters on my iPhone camera . . .


taken with Hipstamatic : Plastic

Yorkshire Fog

taken with Hipstamatic : Plastic

Now back to work in my studio – time to plan some new prints.


Monday, 13 June 2011

Nice to see you, to see you . . . nice!

Didn't he we do well? (Sorry, I couldn't resist the ref to Sir Brucie :-) and congrats also to Dame Jenni of BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour.)

Yes, it was the Pick'n'Mix Makers' Market in Holt on Saturday. The day dawned (cloudy, wet and cold for once!) and I was on the road driving to North Norfolk. By the time I reached Swaffham the rain had disappeared and I pootled along behind a car towing a trailer with a beaten up old banger and some agricultural bit and pieces, unable to overtake – this is Norfolk! I cheered when my escort vehicle turned left to King's Lynn, and I sailed along the Fakenham by-pass and on to Holt – arriving before 8.30am.

Soon the room was a hive of activity, all the stall-holders beavering away setting out their stuff; just time for a couple of snaps before the the doors opened . . .

Here's my stall, right next to the kaleidoscopic
felt fantasy land that is Planet Penny

And directly opposite Daisy Boo's Kitchen.
serving the most scrummy savoury scones
and cakes in 'tea-room corner'.

Pick'n'Mix Makers' Market organiser Lisa (Mrs Bobo Bun her very self) has put together some lovely photos of the full the line up of stalls – pop over to take a look. And you can see Penny's excellent photos here.

Everyone who came through the door was surprised and delighted by the variety and quality of things to buy – some had been enticed along by ladies wearing Trishe Darling's glamorous hats, who patrolled the Market Place and High Street, turning gentlemen's heads!!!

Some people came back twice (after popping home to get their cheque book), one lovely customer returned a third time – thank you :-) It was such a lovely friendly event, some cool music in the background and the chink of crockery from the kitchen – and lots and lots of amazing handmade and vintage things to buy.

I have to admit to buying some things my self . . .

Clockwise from top:
felted lambswool yarn and giant knitting needles
from Fiona of High Fibre;
ceramic buttons from Catherine Daniel;
a necklace of very special beads from Emma of Silverpebble;
and a pretty felt flower brooch from Planet Penny

So, if you're thinking "I wish I'd been to that" – you're in luck, it's happening all over again in November :-) I'll let you know the date just as soon as I know. Make a note on the calendar to have a Christmas shopping day in Holt and take in the Christmas Pick'n'Mix Makers' Market – buy something special and hand-made direct from the maker.


Friday, 10 June 2011

Just enjoy the garden

If you've been following PPPHatch, you'll know that it now looks very unlikely that the eggs under my neighbour's Black Cochin hen will result in a successful hatch. I am disappointed, but it is wrong to expect a guaranteed result so whatever will be will be.

So to cheer things up on PPPs, I thought I show you the photos I took as I walked around the garden this morning. I just popped out to the vegetable garden and was struck by how beautiful the it looked – it was one of those "Oh wow!" moments.

I actually went to there to pull up the self-sown Borage and Opium Poppies to make room to plant out the leeks – but they look so amazing and the bees are loving them! – just look at these Honey Bees on this multi-petalled poppy flower.

I should really cut back the sage plants so we get some new leafy growth, but the flowers are stunning and another fantastic source of nectar for those bees. We get lots of different Bumble Bees, but today I noticed one that was very different – large and black, a fast and strong flyer, I think it may be a Violet Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa violacea) – can anyone confirm that for me?
I've been told it's definitely not a Violet Carpenter Bee – so any ideas?

Thanks to the BBC Springwatch Wildlife Forum and to Lesley's suggestion of looking on the Bee Conservation Trust web site, I think the big black bee is a queen bombus
ruderatus (var. harrissellus). I also found this interesting blog post about 'The Black Queen' by Valerie Littlewood on her blog Pencil and Leaf.

I have a sort of plan for the garden, themes and plant/colour/texture mixes I want to try, but I really don't labour at it and I definitely don't spent hours weeding, mulching and tending – neither have I watered any of these parts of the garden even during this spring's drought. But I do like to create a different feel to each area of the garden so that walking through the garden is an adventure for the eyes and nose – today it felt like some of my intentions had worked . . .

This is a cool shady corner in the morning, it really benefits from white and pale yellow to give it sparkle; however it does get the evening sun and is a lovely place to sit at the end of the day.

A little further along the north facing border is a perfect place for ferns and self-sown foxgloves, every one is a slightly different shade of pink.

I love the layers of different greens in this corner – the Cornelian Cherry leaves are a lovely lime green and the tall grey-green Thalictrum really stand out against the darker trees behind.

Walking behind the Cornelian Cherry, the mood is cool and shady, dotted with white, pink and pale blue.

But looking up, the sunlight streams through onto the Honeysuckle which scrambles through to the top of a large bronze ornamental cherry tree.

Back out in the sunshine again – this is the view from a circular bed of roses, a little overgrown this year but flowering well despite the neglect.

On the patio I've allowed some plants to grow in the paving – like these Verbascums which are loving the dry weather!

Best viewed from the window of the bedroom above my studio – this mingled mass of shrubs smells as good as it looks. The scented flowers of Eleagnus 'Quicksilver' have now faded, replaced with Honeysuckle and Mock Orange. The pretty grey foliaged Rosa Glauca threads through the centre and the giant Miscanthus grass rustles in the breeze.

In the front yard I've experimented with creating a gravel garden border; the basis was bird-sown shrubs that I've encouraged to mask the fence panels, in front I planted the Golden Oat, Stipa gigantea, and encouraged plants to seed in the gravel – editing them to mainly white, yellow, blue and magenta. It's amazing what has appeared in this border – a Golden Hop and a Field Maple were very welcome indeed! And the insects love it too – the other day I spotted a Humming Bird Hawk Moth enjoying the white Valerian flowers.

Well, I'm off to plant those leeks somewhere! Then I'll be packing up the car so it's ready for the early morning drive to North Norfolk tomorrow for the Pick'n'Mix Makers' Market.


Tuesday, 7 June 2011

PPPHatch – Day 21

Three weeks ago Terry helped me to put 9 eggs under my neighbour's Black Cochin broody hen . . . 8 eggs remain (one broke and was unfertile) . . . what will happen in the next 48 hours?

Time will tell . . . success isn't guaranteed.

I've got my fingers crossed . . . and my toes . . .


LATEST . . .

16.50 Tues 7 June: The hen is clucking encouragements to the chicks inside the eggs – we can hear tiny scraping sounds of chick beaks on shell (she allowed us to very gently check 2 eggs).

20.20 Tues 7 June: No chicks yet... the hen has settled down for the night. We'll just have to wait until morning.

7.00 Wed 8 June: Still no chicks yet... checking again at 11.00... we don't want to disturb her too often. Not giving up hope yet – later today or tomorrow was my original guess for hatching.

11.15 Wed 8 June: No change... we're still waiting... 8 warm eggs under those cosy black fluffy feathers.

15.30 Wed 8 June: No change... we're still waiting... but we haven't given up.

08.30 Thurs 9 June: ditto... but all is not lost yet. I checked with the dates from a friend who had eggs from my flock to hatch, they were due on a Tuesday and actually hatched on the following Friday.

Sunday 12 June
: Sadly none of the eggs hatched - which was very disappointing, but these things happen.

BUT – there are rumours that PPPHatch II is scheduled, so keep an eye on the blog over the next few weeks – you'll be the first to know ;-)

Friday, 3 June 2011

You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear

But you can make some journals in which to write your Dreams and Hare Brained Schemes out of years of studio detritus:

• a pile of old acrylic life-class sketches
• sample packs from paper manufacturers
• a huge calendar from a printer
• linocuts that nearly but didn't quite work

All of these will be for sale when Magic Cochin's Emporium goes on the road to the Pick'nMix Makers' Market in Holt, North Norfolk on Saturday 11th June.

If there are any journals left over they'll be available
from Magic Cochin's Emporium later this month.


Wednesday, 1 June 2011

PPPHatch – the 3rd and final week

I've been very careful not to disturb the Black Cochin broody, she's in a shady quiet corner of my friend's garden. Over the past week she has got used to daily visits to attend to her needs, and we know she trusts us not to harm her or the precious eggs; this morning it was my turn to get her up for her breakfast – and today she allowed me to take some photos.

Last night she had 'melted' down so flat it was as if she had deflated, here she is this morning just waking up . . .

I gently lifted her off the eggs; I noticed that two eggs were cool – mmmm? maybe she knows these are infertile and had pushed them aside, we'll see what happens this evening.

She quickly tucked into her breakfast! She had a drink of cool water and shook herself like a Black Labrador does when it's wet :-) She stretched her legs and paced about a bit and scratched the grass – then she turned towards her nest.

She checked the eggs very carefully . . .

And rolled them towards her, tucking them under her soft breast feathers . . .

Here's a little video of her settling down for another day, 14 days completed, another 7 or 8 to go.

I mustn't count my chicks before they hatch, but I'm getting a tiny bit excited!


PS: Remember, you can click on the side-bar link and follow updates on Twitter #PPPHatch.