There is something so very British about canal boating as a pastime. The canal network in Britain is large (though not as large as it used to be), and is still full of boats who now use the canal network for leisure, and a significant number who live on their boats full time. For the international reader, a canal is an artifical waterway. The canal itself is a flat piece of water, and you gain or loose height as you travel, using a series of locks, that allow you to move the boat to a new level stretch of water. The canals themselves were used for all sorts of goods movement, in my old home of the Potteries, the canals were particularly important for moving the product of the pottery industry as the canals were flat and smooth, in distinct contrast to the roads of the day. Networks of canals link various industrial areas. The boats that use the canals are long and thin, due to the deisgn of the lock gates, living on them requires a certain frame of mind, a willingness to adapt to small bathrooms, and a bed that turns in to your dining room table.
Twenty odd years ago a challenge was set up to promote the exploration of the more obscure parts of the Birmingham Canal Network. The idea was that by proving the canal was still used, parts couldn't be closed down, and it was a chance for the community to socialise and have some fun.
My good friend Jill built her own boat, for a while she lived on her, but Cobbett is now just a leisure boat. Last year Jill did the challenge with a group of blokes, and this year decided to enter an all female crew. Which is where I came in...
One crash course in how to work a lock later, and 4 hours after the official start time we finally reached the outskirts of Birmingham.
I should at this point mention that the weather this weekend was dire, dreadful, and the epitomy of a British Bank (Public) Holiday.The rain was bouncing off the roof of the boat, and I have never been so wet, for such a sustained period of time.
Those of you that know the M6 well will recognise this view, though it's from a different angle. As you leave the centre of Birmingham you drive past the same electric sub station. The photos from this weekend are rather dreadful, I did have my proper camera with me, but it stayed safely inside as it wouldn't repond well to being stuck under a shower like jet of water.
This is my favourite photo of the whole weekend. Until then I had no idea that the whole of Spaghetti Junction ran over the top of an already intertangled network of canals, as it's where 3 different canal networks meet. It should be noted at this point that living in the country has meant that I actually quite enjoy seeing cities, and industrial estates. I have such beautiful green views at home, that I quite like the novelty value.
By this point we were so wet that we abandoned Plan A, and the option to score lots of points, so instead Jill humoured this country mouse and we went right through the centre of Birmingham.
Look closely and you can see Cobbett part way up a lock, with the BT tower in the background.
Just to prove that not all of Birmingham is industrial, it is in fact a very lovely green city.
Our final approach to the finish was via a couple of tunnels. The first one was very wide, and very long, it took nearly an hour travel through. The final one was much shorter, and much narrower, with hardly any extra room. It is boat size, and not much more.
I had a lovely few days escape, so much so that a more leisurely performance is planned for August. Maybe there will be a repeat of this...
Yes I even got to steer, I only hit something once, though the butter dish didn't survive the impact!
The two new ladies, now named Penny and Farthing are settling in nicely. They're free ranging with the rest of the flock, and despite dire predictions on the internet of what happens when you introduce new hens to a flock, they are all getting along really well. Boyo and Froome are particularly pleased to have some new ladies.
The chicks are growing well, and are already starting to leave the cute fluffy stage, and become gawky teenagers with bad hair do's
This monster is now known as Big Bird, he (I think it's a he) is huge, almost twice the size of the other chicks, and as you can see, has hardly any down left. He's also a flyer, just like his Mum, the Pekin's are too dumpy to fly well, but the Polish blood is coming through strongly!
Getting pictures of any of the chicks is rather challenging, you open the run door and they all want to come charging out, and if you're not careful you're chasing baby chicks around the garden trying to catch them. They have been out on supervised garden excursions a few times, but Hoppy does struggle to keep up, and gets tired quickly, if we left them to ther own devices Hoppy would probably get left behind, and lost.
The other day we were moving the chick's run to a fresh spot to give them some fresh earth to dig over and we found this. We had to level off the ground slightly so there was no gap at the bottom, and found this lump of fungi.
Inside the skein was a layer of jelly with a hard lump inside, you can see where `i scraped it with my fingernail, but it was surprisingly tough.
Chop it open, and you can see all the developing spores.
My google-fu is failing me to work out what it is, but I'm thinking a puffball of some kind? Any mushroom experts out there?
A quick catch up, lots happening over the last week. In fact I have spent 2 non-consecutive nights in my own bed in the last week...
I am in dire need of a few days at home to get back in to a routine. I had hoped to be updating the online shop a bit more regularly over the next couple of weeks, but sometimes you just have to go with the flow and do as much as you can.
So this was the start of the week
In swanky London filming a TV advery for Etsy. It's apparently due on the TV sometime in early summer, I have no idea what channels, but I'm hoping they'll also upload it online for me to share with you all. Much like this picture, you'll have to look hard to spot me, but I will be in there somewhere!
I do have more photos, but I can't share any of them until the advert airs. So in a way, this is a story To Be Continued...
After I got home I left again almost immediately for the Royal Welsh Showground, and this year's Spring Festival. Just helping on Mum's stall, but the sun shone, and I did lots of spinning.
I also bought these lovely ladies.
I didn't really plan on buying more chickens... I was just looking at the cages of chickens, and one of them looked up at me, and my already weak will caved in. Chicken count is now up to 14, and had better stay that way for a while!
The chicks are all still alive, still sneezing, but eating, drinking, and in the case of the large black chick, discovering wings and flying.
This finished project matches quite nicely how my week is going! In less than an hour I'm off to Welshpool to catch the train to London, where I'll be taking part in filming Etsy's first ever UK TV advert. Very exciting, however, in the manner of all things media dahling, it's all been a bit last minute. I only found out that it was all going ahead on Saturday evening. Cue some frantic dyeing to keep the Luxe club on schedule, and much general last minute organisation...
The offset v on my finsihed Sugar Maple matches my feelings rather accurately. It was made using the handspun from this year's Ravellenic Games. A Sludgy Rainbow prototype, on 3 different colours of BFL. I spun each colour seperately, then navajo plyed the singles to keep the colours clear. I also spun a few trasition skeins with short bursts of each base colour, but I could have done with making the white to oatmeal one a bit longer, as the colour transition is a bit too abrupt for my taste.
Of course, with triumph, also comes disaster. Though only on a very minor scale.
This bit of weaving looked lovely when it came off the loom. I wanted it for cushions, and it was very open so I'd always planned to full it slightly to firm up the fabric. Multiple trips through the washing machine had simply made it get very clean, and then on the final slightly more aggressive programme it transformed in to this... More horse blanket than piece of cloth. I think it's still salvagable though. Lesson learned, stop being lazy about finishing my weaving in the washing machine and do it by hand instead.
Finally, a quick chick update, and it's not good news. Unfortunately the white one was snatched by a rat a couple of days ago, and the chocolate one died this morning with some sort of chest infection. A few of the others are sneezing and panting slightly as well, so things are not looking great... Mum has promised to keep a close eye on them while I'm away.
The Hilltop Cloud first ever Spin Along has drawn to a close.
Back in mid-March I did a bit of stash tidying up and came across some braids of fibre that were rather elderly and should have been spun a while ago. They were mosty merino, which is notorious for storing badly, when left to it's own devices, it compacts, and starts to stick to itself. It's nothing to do with the dyeing, it's just how that type of fibre behaves.
I decided that I couldn't be the only one with fibre past it's Best Before Date, so set up a challenge thread in the Hilltop Cloud Ravelry group, and also suggested that people could use it as an incentve to try new techniques, or just to regain their spinning mojo.
Altogether 56 of us chimed in on the discussion thread, and by my very rough count well over 7kg of fibre was spun.
Another very impressive first attmpt at navajo plying by chubbles.
Amytuk's 3rd attempt at spindling
Wishonastar's spindling, also from her Learn to Spin kit
Handa's Blue Tit, and some naturally dyed merino from when I first started Hilltop Cloud
CraftFidget's Baby Camel and Silk (I did love that Thought colourway... maybe I shall have to dye some more!)
OrganisedKnots spun a whole mountain of yarn
As did RubyWool
Crossroadsdemon challenged herself to spin true laceweight.
And gaievans spun her first skein of sock yarn
lindarose tried long draw for the first time.
FlossieFlorence challenged herself to spin thicker
LadyJennifer used the challenge as incentive to finish off a batt she'd been spinning for the past 18 months.
legovial spun over 1500 yards to knit a sweater
scarletprincess not only spun the yarn for her daughter's cardigan, she also managed to get it knitted up.
zinniz spun an incredible 2500 yards
haxansurtant spun her first ever cable yarn
lisab was another spinner who tried a cabled yarn.
coxaby tackled the Blue Birds Sampler, and lots of other samples as well.
pantoffels made some gorgeous teal yarn.
There are lots of spinners, and lots of skeins that I haven't included here. It was turning in to the never ending post, but if you want to go and look at what we've been doing the full thread is here, and just the images are here.
I am properly back to work from tomorrow onwards, the first fibres to hit the dyebath will be Teeswater/Silk and some Superwash BFL/Nylon. Meanwhile, over in the Ravelry group we are already planning for the Tour de Fleece.