The Monday Project: Where Fairies Live

Sweet Little Wood: Building Fairy Houses

Off into the woods we go.

Sweet Little Wood: Building Fairy Houses

The right spot is key.

 Where we lived in England in the heart of  the Dorset’s Jurassic Coast  is a  stunning area called the Isle of Purbeck. Its not actually an island (oh those quirky Brits!) it is actually just divided from the main land by a river.  Some smart publicist probably thought it was a great name to get tourists in.  The Purbecks are full of rambling little villages all thatch and duck pond quaint.  If you know the right roads and you are there at the right time (the area gets closed regularly for military training) you can go to an abandoned village called Tyneham .  It was evacuated in the second world war and has remained abandoned all these years.  A woodland has sprouted up between the buildings as they tumbled into ruin leaving the ghosts of homes entangled with trees and shrubs.  A short walk down a dirt road you get to a beach which is essentially an old smuggler’s landing. The beach has a straggly bit of sand and copious amounts of beach glass worn soft by the tide and time and it is the best place I have ever been to find rare lavender, purple and red beach glass. It is a magical place: my children have only ever known Tyneham Village as “The Fairy Woods.”

Sweet Little Wood: Building Fairy Houses

Gathering little treasures en route.

Sweet Little Wood: Building Fairy Houses

Location, Location, Location.

The first time we went K. was only two and I was pregnant with E.  It was spring and Tyneham Village was bursting with Bluebells and Wild Garlic.  The sight of a British Bluebell wood is one of my most treasured memories.  It is breathtakingly beautiful and ethereal.   M. ran ahead of K. on our first visit and hid pennies in little  crevices in the dry stone walls, tumbled homes and cracks in bark. When K. started finding pennies and wondering where they came from somehow a story of fairies hiding gifts was spun out.  K. went on to concoct her own theories about the sea glass which became “fairy gems” and were her very favorite magical thing.  Even now K. loves nothing better than heading to the beach to hunt down stray pieces of sea glass.

Sweet Little Wood: Building Fairy Houses

Ground preparations and foundations.

From that moment K. was convinced of the existence of fairies and would bring little gifts for them when we visited The Fairy Woods- a couple of raisins, a few nuts and memorably a carrot stick which M. was made to chop into little pieces so they could carry them!  I’m sure there were some grateful squirrels when we visited.  We regularly went back. Usually in Spring as the bluebells were up. We would pack a rope swing, our camp cooker, a little dome tent and a picnic.  An entire day would pass as we basked in the sun or cowered in our tent from the rain and as dinner time would approach we would pack up our sandy shoes, grass stained knees and damp tent to head home again.

Sweet Little Wood: Building Fairy Houses

Acorn cap potted ferns.

It was a natural progression that we start building Fairy houses.  Our first was on Badbury Rings– an Iron age hill earth works again in Dorset.  Its 3 rings stand about 10 30 foot tall at best (thank you M.) but would have been much higher in it’s hey-day.  As you walk up the entrance and ascend the central mound, to your left a tiny lily pond hums with frogs and dragonflies and in front of you a woodland thickens. Our fairy house was rickety; made of twigs, grass leaves and bracken.  K. was more interested in running through the woods with Daddy collecting interesting bits and pieces to decorate with: acorn caps, mossy bundles, pretty leaves, stones, flowers and conkers.

Sweet Little Wood: Building Fairy Houses

Every Fairy Village needs at least one house with a swing.

Sweet Little Wood: Building Fairy Houses

Fairies enjoy good landscaping.

We have built a lot of fairy houses but E. was 5 when she decided they didn’t exist declaring for all to hear “I don’t believe in Santa because God never said let there be fairies that fly.” I never did figure out where Santa came into it- we weren’t really into the Santa thing so I can only guess it was a bit of information from school she was working on… and that was it. That little nugget of wonder was gone.

Sometimes we still gather piles of twigs, ferns and pebbles; sit, squat or kneel in a likely corner and begin to build. We try not to add anything to our house that isn’t natural, after all we don’t want to trick the fairies’s little squirrel companion into eating something poisonous!  So shells are okay plastic not so much.  Raffia is good, wire or glue- naw.

 K. likes to build for tiny fairies:

Sweet Little Wood: Building Fairy Houses

K.’s Tiny Fairy house with Abalone shell pool.

 E. likes to hunt unusual objects:

Sweet Little Wood: Building Fairy Houses

E’s bigger house with a zig-zag path, Buck-Eye and Autumn leaves decor.

J. is all about the detail:

Sweet Little Wood: Building Fairy Houses

J’s beautiful garden path approach.

Me… I like to sit in the dirt with my children breath in the air and enjoy a little bit of  fairy wishing.

xx

Jo

Brown, Yellow and Cheep

Welsummer and Delaware chicks from Whitmore Farm: Sweet Little Wood

This week we were thrilled to get to welcome our new little flock of chicks! In every single way this has been our best experience getting new chickens.

Unless you are lucky enough to live near a good breeder chicks usually have to arrive by mail which is always nerve wracking: knowing that these tiny little creatures have endured a rather traumatic first experience always gives me regret.  We have received a few mail-order chick/duckling deliveries and always when the box arrives a few chicks have died en-route, usually the hatchery provides a few extra to make up for the loss.  Our worst experience (when half of them died) the chicks were clearly more than a few days old; the delivery was expected to be 30 chicks what arrived was only 18 and then a further three died and we just managed to save a little Easter-egger we named Pig-widgen who never quite recovered her full wits but was very sweet regardless.  After that we had decided not to order chicks by post because opening the box and not knowing what we would find felt too traumatic.  However we realized that the chicks we could buy at the farm stores in town were delivered by mail and basically you were being buffered from the chicks trauma but not in fact preventing it.

As M. feels quite passionate about the welfare of his animals and believes that for a chicken to be in its best condition it needs as little change in habitat as possible so buying a chick which has been shipped to a third party just for us to collect it from them at a later date did not seem to suit the animal’s (or M.’s) needs.  He researched the best possible breed for our needs- dual purpose birds (good for eggs and meat), who give a good number of eggs a year and pure-bred so that we could breed our own flock  further down the line with good results maintaining the breed characteristics.

The Tiny Red Chicken Barn: Sweet Little Wood

M.’s design Red Barn Chicken Hutch is big enough to house 30 chickens who free-range during the day. The barn is equipped with a solar-powered door which opens on a set timer- best small farm product EVER!

He found Whitmore Farm.  They are a heritage breeds farm with a strong emphasis on animal welfare without antibiotics or hormones.  Our experience with Whitmore has been beyond brilliant.  They have such a genuine concern for the chicks they ship M. and I have been thrilled with the service, communication but especially the birds.  The chicks all arrived alive and energetic with plenty of vim.  They were clearly shipped within the first day of life as the box they traveled in had tiny spots of the green poop that chicken’s pass soon after hatching- just like human babies pass meconium.   Early shipping is important because they have a little bit of the egg-yolk sack left inside their body after hatching to help them adapt and if shipped later than a day that yolk sack can be too depleted to help them.  They all responded to the food a water enthusiastically and immediately began exploring their enclosure in the barn.  Usually chicks are quite skittish of humans but these little balls of fluff are insatiably curious without any fear and have been chasing my hand around their box to get a closer look. We haven’t lost a single chick even three days later when it would be usual for the weakest to have shown the stress of shipping.

Welsummer and Delaware chicks from Whitmore Farm: Sweet Little Wood

We ordered a mix box of breeds. We did pay more money per bird (for the purebred breeding and ethos of the farm) from Whitmore Farm than we have previously from other “big box” breeders.  We specifically requested half Delaware which are dual purpose and the other half were to be whatever was hatching at the right time: which happened to be Welsummer.  So the little cream-yellow chicks are Delaware and probably about half of them will end up in our freezer.  We intend to keep one male but the rest of the males will be reared for meat.  The adorable little Chipmunk striped chicks are the Welsummer.   Welsummer have sex-linked features so we can tell already which are male and which are female.  For those of you who are curious the female Welsummer have a thicker eyeliner and more distinctive stripe on their head than the less strongly marked males.

Like so:

Welsummer chick- sex-linked, female on left. male on right: Sweet Little Wood

Female on the left, Male on the right.

Welsummer and Delaware chicks from Whitmore Farm: Sweet Little Wood

Welsummer and Delaware chicks from Whitmore Farm: Sweet Little Wood

Welsummer and Delaware chicks from Whitmore Farm: Sweet Little Wood

 They are such beautiful little creatures and for once I feel that we made the perfectly right decision with our breed suppler.

Welsummer chick- sex-linked, female: Sweet Little Wood

So what’s Brown,Yellow and Cheep?

xx

Jo

M.’s Beau Yarn Along

I’m linking up with Ginny over at Small Things Yarn Along to share M.’s second Beau.

The weather has been so wonderful in the Sweet Little Wood.  The heat of summer has gentled into a comfortable soothing warmth and the sunlight slants just right so that the light gets filtered through the leaves in a glorious manner.  We have been able to be outside nearly constantly since it rained last week.

M. second Beau. Yarn Along: Sweet Little Wood

I have as usual managed to get too many projects going all at once so I decided to knuckle down and pick up the one closest to being done which happens to be a sweater I started for M. over a year ago.  I had some lovely wool in a tweedy brown and I made the mistake of asking M. what sweater he would like made with it:  M. is a man of habit and a little obstinate when faced with too many choices.  He has one favorite jumper- a green version of Beau by Kim Hargreaves which can be found in Rowan Vintage Knits.  It’s a fabulous design, very easily knitted and fits M. like a dream so naturally faced with a few choices which all looked different to Beau, all he wanted was another Beau.  Anyhow- I started it, got half way through the second sleeve and stopped when I hurt my back .  Finally. FINALLY I have picked it up again, finished the final sleeve, blocked the pieces and now I am knitting the collar. So it is almost here and just in time for Autumn.

M. second Beau. Yarn Along: Sweet Little Wood

M.’s photography

I have been reading The Birth Order Book by Kevin Leman.  I enjoy anthropological studies and social studies books but this one is just not scratching my itch for information.  Mr. Leman is so flippant and relies heavily on anecdotal evidence I just cant find it in me to give him credit as a professional.  Ironically this attitude of mine is so identifiable as my birth order characteristics and the writing style of his birth order characteristics that I think the information MUST be true but I would like a more scientific approach please!  E. is also reading this book at the moment so it is very easy reading pretty much from 13 and upwards.

M. second Beau. Yarn Along: Sweet Little WoodM. second Beau. Yarn Along: Sweet Little WoodM. second Beau. Yarn Along: Sweet Little Wood

 

Have a wonderful day my friends and fellow yarn addicts.

xx Joanna

 

The Monday Project: Crochet Nursing Necklace

I became an auntie at the age of eight.  I loved- still love- being an aunt. Loving my sister’s children taught me to be a mother: I learned to change diapers, give baths, burp and soothe.  I lived in a different state to my brother so I never knew his children as well.  His son was born a week or so before I moved to the UK so I never got time with him growing up outside the rare visit.

Sweet Little Wood

My sister’s three younger children and me. About 1996. This photo is missing my eldest niece.

The birth of my sister’s youngest daughter (the cute little one up the front) taught me much much more than simple life lessons.  I was 15 when she was due to be born and my sister wanted me to be her birth partner- I suspect- only because my brother-in-law didn’t fancy the gooeyness of the birthing room again.  It changed my life and influenced my adult career: I would never have gotten onto the hugely competitive UK Midwifery program without my experiences with my big sister and tiny niece.

Since my niece became a mother herself I have been amazed by her interest in my own interests.  My own dear Auntie is a midwife and delivered almost all her own grandchildren, I am a midwife and my niece is progressing toward her own goals helping women with their childbirth and breastfeeding experiences.  It is funny how families can repeat events over and over.

When we visited her this summer in Tennessee she was looking for a nursing necklace.  There are some claims that a nursing necklace can help to encourage breastfed babies to be more settled at the breast, feed longer and continue till they are older.  Being a very well trained Midwife I don’t buy into all the claims because I actually haven’t been able to find any research to validate these claims.  Regardless nursing necklaces do have one genuine use and that is to distract antsy feeders with stimulating shapes and textures to touch and look at rather than grabbing at, pinching, pulling or thumping at momma while feeding.

DIY Nursing Necklace Tutorial : Sweet Little Wood

DIY Nursing Necklace

The key with making anything baby may come in contact with is non-toxic materials and safety- anything baby pulls at for long enough can break.  There are a lot of laws about baby toys and anything an infant might chew on (for obvious reasons) and a lot of nursing necklaces are not recommended for babies to chew on or use as a toy.  I would recommend the same: never leave a baby unattended with any product that may pose a choking risk.  I personally had to save K. twice using the “upside-down back blows” method from choking on food when she was almost a year old and a little over.  Its terrifying to see your tiny love going blue.  Its not something you forget.

DIY Nursing Necklace Tutorial : Sweet Little Wood

What you will need for this project- make sure its non-toxic:

Leather cord

Unvarnished or painted wood beads in multiple sizes

Crochet thread

Stone or wood ring

2.5 or 3 mm Crochet hook

 

1: Covering the Large Beads (6)

Create an adjustable ring (the link is a nice little tutorial for the ring method- I just kinda like the opening music…)

Single Crochet (SC) 6 into ring and tighten don’t join (6 stitches)

2 SC into each SC around (12)

repeat 3 times around then place wooden bead into crochet cover

SC 2 together around (6)

SC 2 together around (3)

Slip 3 stitches together bind off and hide  thread end securely- trim excess thread

2: Thread Beads

loop the leather cord through the central ring and adjust it so that it hangs very evenly

thread beads onto leather. If you want the necklace to double as a teeth-er you can make it baby safe by threading each bead then looping the cord around the outside of the bead and knotting the cord at the bottom before threading back up through the bead eye and knotting the cord at the top of each bead like so:

surgeon's knot: Sweet Little Wood

secure the final bead on each side as shown above

3: Fasten off

knot each end of the cord around the opposing length so that the knots can slide and shorten or lengthen the necklace as needed. Like so:

 fishermans knot: Sweet Little Wood

DIY Nursing Necklace Tutorial : Sweet Little Wood

Enjoy and have a wonderful Monday.

xx Joanna

Eyeballs for Toothless

So my friends have you seen the Dragons in the Sweet Little Wood? There… by the lake sunning themselves and admiring the shining of their scales in the water. They are mostly friendly. Though I would be careful of the green one named Esme- she is having a bad day and hasn’t taken a liking to the little black usurper that has entered her territory!  All the bunting is still dangling from the trees and I continue to find little remnants of the celebration in the long grass but we are simply remembering with pleasure all the bounty of family and friendship because of birthdays in the wood this last few weeks!

Sweet Little Wood. Toothless and Esme, Crochet gift handmade

 I want to show you a little detail on the cute squishy dragon sat on the GOLDEN THRONE: the birthday girls always get to sit in the GOLDEN THRONE on their special day! Every other day of the year its just a big yellow chair but on special days it transforms overnight into a cornucopia of gifts and pride of place!

Sweet Little Wood Crochet Toothless gift

I’m not sure what possessed me but a week before J.’s birthday (I think it was Tuesday the 2nd) I got this idea I could make a Toothless dragon for J.’s birthday on the 10th.  She loves the books and the second movie has been something of an obsession for some time.   Having been possessed of the idea I could not let it go and I found a cute design on Ravelry and added it to my library but I cannot get the file to open… still.  So in my fevered count down to the day I decided to buy a pattern instead and found This One over on Etsy.  Yeek! I am not a slow crocheter but it was already a busy sort of week and the pressure to get it done was gnawing at me!!

I worked as often as possible on him all week and had to announce my intention to continue working on the “Ninja Suit” as a distraction from the dragon forming in my hands.  In the end he really stole the show. J. adores him and has not spent a day not playing with him since he arrived. BTW: isn’t it lovely when a kid who seems like they might be little to old for toys continues to play.  Its a beautiful thing.

Sweet Little Wood. Crochet Toothless toy gift

It really is cute: the pattern itself is pretty good and the finished product is very professional looking.  The pattern is in English and Czech however the English is clearly translated by Google or someone who has no clue about the functioning of the English language.  In general it was totally OK however where the instructions veer away from pure pattern speak (2sc, 1ss, 3hdc etc etc) the language barrier breaks down and the pattern dissolves into an unclear photography tutorial and confused instructions.  I got there eventually but had to change a few things en-route just because I didn’t have a bloomin’ clue what the pattern was saying…  and the photos (crochet in black yarn is hard enough to see stitch detail in person!) were not very big, well lit, or detailed. So all in all- yes I’d would buy the pattern again (the final thing is gorgeous) but I would like to be more prepared for the moments when head-scratching confusion ensues!!

I used a black cotton worsted yarn of some in-determinant origins but it was inexpensive and on sale ages ago and I had to use a 3.5 mm hook rather than 4 mm like the pattern calls for.  Having finished the crochet I had a sudden sinking feeling because Toothless has very distinctive green eyes.  I thought it was hopeless! None of our craft stores are great and they had nothing suitable: there was no way I was going to be able to order the right eyes in time for the gift giving on Wednesday. I won’t bore you with my stupid mistakes and failed attempts using felt and crochet- which were all appalling BTW and resulted in much grumpiness with myself.  BUT as I was going through my buttons I suddenly had a wonderful idea- why couldn’t I try to make his eyes myself by painting on buttons?

LOOK! It totally worked!

Sweet Little Wood. Crochet Toothless toy gift making toy eyes

I used simple green buttons with posts- not holes.  Using black acrylic paint I painted on the almond shape of Toothless’ pupils and made them wide like they are when he is happy!  Then I used two layers of Aleene’s Jewelry Gel which is an awesome clear liquid that dries into a thick glossy varnish which I have used for so many things it was never intended for it might be my favorite craft ingredient!  I thought afterward I could probably have draw on the buttons with black sharpie rather than paint and make them even easier.

Sweet Little Wood. Crochet Toothless toy gift

Have a lovey day my friends… I am just going to move Toothless off the GOLDEN THRONE before Esme’s envy gets the better of her.

Oh! Its Okay: she found some gold ribbon, that will help.

Sweet Little Wood. Green Dragon Esme

IMG_1168

IMG_1173

Uh oh!

xx

Joanna the dragon tamer

The Monday Craptastrophe

I had exciting visions of sharing this awesome project with you today:

Sweet Little Wood Craft Project planning sketch, antler necklace

I had designed the project and planned it ages ago with anticipation: a Monday Project I would get to keep and wear myself! Yay! AND (for husbands who worry over the bursting craft supply room) it was being made entirely with supplies I already had! Double Yay!!

It was almost done but that- dear readers- is the moment to beware of… CRAFT CATASTROPHE STRUCK!

Sweet Little Wood, antler necklace craptastrophe

 Sadly it has been one of those weeks.  things just keep getting away from me.

First- I lost J.’s birthday bracelet.  It still hasn’t showed up.

{So Ashamed}

Second- It may be a cause for my first problem and then exacerbated in the hunt for J.’s bracelet but my craft room looks like this…

{So Embarrassed}

Now… The Monday Crap-tastrophe.  Excuse me while I go cry.

xx  Jo