organic process

I have been trapped in a super low energy, super painful fibromyalgia flare, hanging on to my moods by my fingertips some days, and with white knuckles on others…Luckily, as the trigger episode fades, my energy is gradually trickling back, and I am beginning to be able to make again, and the piece I was calling Muse/d is now nearly finished. I’ve changed the name to Organic Process, because really, process is my muse…

Layering and clawing back for a raking light; layering and moulding shape and shadow by weighting with embellishments… I make painting and fibre art the same way, with attention to tiny details almost lost in a sea of colours and textures, with similar issues for resolution, finding the moment when the whole is in balance as the sum of its parts… I’m not there yet with this piece, but nearly, nearly…One problem is that the piece is nearly 2 metres tall so simply taking it all in at one glance is almost impossible – which is part of my message to the world! Everything deserves a second glance, a few moments of attention, an exploration before judgments are made…


These photos were taken by Keith Turner, and edited by me






























These are all mine, and need to be taken again using a tripod really, but they give some idea ;)


































rewarding gardening

DSC_0073 Solstice garlic is one of my favourite traditions – sow the cloves on the winter solstice, harvest the heads on the summer solstice. Biodynamic gardening suggests this to have a harvest of extra-potent garlic to boost your immune system. A sceptic friend was brought to tears when he cheerfully popped a clove in raw. Being used to chewing shop-bought garlic every day, he thought there would be no difference…mwhahaha! His eyes streamed for at least 1o minutes! I gave him half a dozen bulbs and advised him to use them in cooking (!) and after a month he said he could really feel a difference, as well as taste it. Organic crops may look bumpy and irregular, but their potency is not to be doubted!




Scrummy tea today – homemade super seedy bread, egg mayonnaise, homegrown lettuce and fresh from the pod peas! I’d treated myself to nearly a kilo of cherries at Lidl yesterday – to share, of course…not my fault people haven’t all come for their visits so they need to be eaten before they turn ;) I recently realised how much I enjoy food I can eat almost as picked, and peas and cherries in one meal was just right.



The garden is thriving, and most days David, Ben or I pop out for some celery ( I cut and come again for a month, then wrap a loo roll inner around to blanch the heads), a lettuce, peas or herbs…and the potatoes are flowering and the first courgette is as big as my little finger! Good crops from the potatoes I hope, they self set from some organic ones that got lost in the shuffle and started to sprout – I was cross at the time, but am all smiles now ;) There are some randoms from the compost too, pinky/lilac  flowers, so they just might be pink fir apples…one row of cabbages is doing well, the others were planted as sacrificials to keep the slugs(grrr) off my peas and are very sad lacey skeletons…I’ve discovered it’s worth leaving them though, as they will come back later, when the others are long gone into cabbage with herby yoghurt dressing…





May to July – so much growth!




and lots of lovely flowers, and lots of juicy pods -

and the other bed is even lusher!











a breath of sea air 2

I had such a lovely holiday in May, being by the sea blew the cobwebs away and gave me so much food for thought/ art/ making… It’s a long time since I’ve been on a proper holiday, finding the spoons is hard, and much as I felt nourished and inspired, I can’t help noticing it’s over 6 weeks since I posted!


I had a lot of catching up to do in the garden (separate post!) and there have been a few dramas for me to remind myself that my new favourite mantra is ‘Not my circus, Not my monkeys!’ and then a couple where they were my monkeys – a scan (all clear) and activism chores….but now I feel the new idea inspired by the yarn I bought in Bath















and the expanded space I feel when I am by the sea:





are blossoming into a new piece…to be called Mused, as it is about inspiration, and keeping to the process, while pacing

I have been working away on various elements of it, and gathering materials from my *ahem* extensive stash ;) but the momentum has been growing the last few days and now I am at the happy embellishing stage:
































- helped by visits from friends who don’t mind me crafting as we talk…








as long as there is homemade cake ;)


a breath of sea air 1

I’ve had the loveliest holiday at Sand Bay, just outside Weston-super-Mare, well worth the radical rest and spoon saving. Being by the sea in brilliant sunshine just lifts my spirits and gives my batteries a deep charge!

One of the highlights was being in Bath and going to the Kaffe Fassett exhibition at the American Museum. There was an enormous installation outside the space, a huge tree with lanterns made from plant pots covered in KF fabric, and people had brought their own yarntags and decorated smaller trees and the trunk of the main tree :











It was a delightful addition to the collection celebrating KF’s 50+ years of


colourful art/crafting, which had samples to touch and whole rooms of rugs, furniture tapestries and quilts, cushions, pictures…





















Being allowed to take photos (without flash) was a real treat as there were no postcards available, only a few greetings cards and a lot of books that don’t include things like his hats:



The quotes from KF were inspiring too!




One of the surprises of the holiday was being seated at the front of the coach – they have fixed places – presumably because of the rollator being booked with me. It meant we had a great view, over the beautiful spring countryside, absolutely lush and verdant, exploding with new growth and greenness…and then the sun sparkling on the Severn estuary and Weston beaches…breath taking! I love travelling for the chance to look and absorb the organic lines of land and seascapes. I seem to store them to come out in abstract work later and today I am stitching on prepared paper, all turquoises and browns and sea greens and letting out my love of driftwood and water…happiness!

turning corners

DSC_0021Sophrosyne (n) a healthy state of mind, characterized by self control, moderation, and a deep awareness of one’s true self, and resulting in true happiness

I read this on facebook, such a lovely thing to come across…

DSC_0023Centering down to do more of what I want/ what is mine to contribute right now means giving up some of the many other exciting and sparkling possibilities available…there is a happy balance between total simplicity and sufficient resources to sustain an artist in many media. Finding a new main medium/ expression for my art has lead to acquiring a lot of materials that all appeal, but are not necessarily viable [certainly not in my bijou flat!]


Like most artists, I have a tendency to stockpile materials, and as an upcycling artist, the number of POSSIBLE uses I can think of for an individual bit of…tat… are distressingly many. At the height of an argument with an ex he told me I was like a disco mirror ball, to which I replied, ‘Yes, how wonderful, all those facets!’  He  shouted: IT WAS AN INSULT!

Nerts to that!

DSC_0024By nature I have been much more of a juggler and a marathon tasker/ up with the rocket, down with the stick/ all or nothing person and it is a revelation to become seasonal and patient, an ‘enough is as good as a feast’ person. It has grown on me gradually, first of all through agoraphobia, then Daoism, gardening, living with someone with bi-polar, but now mainly having to make a balance that will keep me able to make art at least sometimes in a day/week. Pacing is so central to my management of the pain and fatigue and  weakness of fibromyalgia, and it involves moderation, never one of my strong points till now.

DSC_0025Lately I have had help tackling the studio, and great progress has been made, yay!

I give to a lot of projects, so friends give to me, knowing I can channel things, but it can be very tempting, all that eyecandy! Sorting through boxes always brings a feast of ideas to mind: the trick is enjoying the ideas and letting them go, materials and all!

I am becoming increasingly comfortable with knowing a number of projects ahead and rotating between them – after a lot of work on Wasting Waste, I’ve had a spell of gardening and pink Wool against Weapons knitting, and now I want to work on something else, still for Peace Week, but a different installation, probably the ivy rootballs. I’m going on holiday on Monday [the sea, the sea!] and when I come back it would be great to have WW sorted and stored, easily accessible but not on every surface!

So I’m very pleased some more sorting happened today:



Zero-waste projects are 1) making strong fabric carriers for the Foodbanks to give food away in, I had a few left over from the ones I made for the Fixers stall and clearing out my work-in-progress/UFO crate has added more.

2) putting all my threads and snippets into the same place so I can make embellishers for the guerilla gardening pouches. I have some see through plastic storage jars that seem just the thing.

I bought some more see through plastic (shoe) boxes and David, who was helping, gave me some ziplock freezer bags he was clearing out, so I am sifting and sorting, and I suspect there will be a lot of boxes of those, but then, they are very handy, so this shouldn’t be a problem, hmm?

DSC_0073Having sorted out the pieces of the duvet cover I am almost ready to finish quilting, I was able to put unwanted cloth into the smaller shoe boxes and colour code it. This liberated a 20litre crate for Wasting Waste yarn stash, which liberated an 80litre crate  for Diversity is our Strength, which liberated the travelling bag so I can pack to go on holiday on Monday! Oh my!

I hardly ever buy fabric anymore, maybe a particular keynote colour, as I am working through the stash acquired by a few years of visiting remainder sales and friends’ clearouts…it does take having access to a large collection of fabric to acquire the huge variety of snippets I love to work with though. This is where SOPHROSYNE comes back in…I seem to have hit the point where I can balance letting go of some plans [making embellished/complex cloth floor cushions, making clothes, printing cloth] and taking on others [guerilla articulture.]

Knowing and accepting what I can do within the limits of fibromyalgia is not a straightforward thing: but then, life is never straightforward, right? Some things suit my face though – the audacity of street art, the gifting and salvage side of what I make and how I choose to share it, these are much more mainstream than they were, more impactful as I can now share them through Facebook groups. I like to be playful in my making, but I am very serious about how stepping out of expectations of what contribution (among others) people with disabling conditions can make to the idea of worth in the community. People living outside the ratrace are necessary to the w/holistics of communities, we model being and doing, not having and buying. Artists/creatives of all kinds can encourage others to think out of the box and work with what we have to make what is needed:



Finally though, it comes back to living with what works for me, knowing what works for me and enjoying that. Definitely a corner turned.


blue flowers on a grey day

Another happy day with help in the garden :)

Bob (of tree monkey fame ) came and did some heavy work for me: clearing a space and planting a plum tree, laying some slabs for a path by the shed and planting a ‘weed’ tree he came across.

The plum tree came to me by circuitous means, someone who has moved to France to raise bees (envy!) had to leave this tree behind at the last minute. As I ended up giving all my fruit trees away when I left Hucknall, this is a very nice turn of events :)

DSC_0089There is an elder tree already at this, the drive end of the rockery, and I did consider asking him to dig it out – but then I thought of fruit preserves – I love elder blossom too and I imagine I can keep the guys from chopping it down if I remind them about wine ;)




I had a last few gladioli bulbs to set and some cyclamen to plant in a ring now the space is cleared (Bob earned his fee!) and will add more now there is a path from the bbq area along the shed side of the rockery. The slabs were lifted from the front edge of the bbq area and chosen because they were smaller or broken. I’m hoping I can wheedle David and Ben to lay the big slabs I freebied from Bulwell Hall Gardens as a replacement and continuing as a path along the side of the new raised bed – which has a pile of organic peat free compost at one end now:



I’ll be planting some tomatoes and summer squash there soon, I made a celery, courgette and garden leek soup last week that reminded me why I love picking veg and going upstairs to cook. And courgette leaves are good for making lots of bulk for next years compost :)

I planted out my pea seedlings today, easy tip for spoonies:


buy a roll of garden mesh or netting, this was from a £shop, thread some bamboo canes through the mesh to anchor the ends in. Now place extra canes at 12″/30cm intervals and plant your 4″/10cm high pea seedlings by scratching a drill with your trowel and heaping compost round the plant. Press it down with a Dutch hoe (bad back) or your hands. As the seedlings grow, I will tie the plants to the mesh and the mesh to the extra stakes – but right now, I have saved my hands some work and can keep planting.

There are statice seedlings in there too, but they don’t show from this angle. Like the lamium they bring the bees who will pollinate my peas, lovely little friends that they are :)

Traditionally in companion planting, alliums and legumes don’t share well, but the green garlic is well on its way and the second set of peas are away to the side, to fill in as I harvest pea SHOOTS as well as peas. I bought an organic home sprouting variety and plan to put them in salads at regular intervals, while encouraging the main shoots to make peas. That’ll be June-ish and I take my garlic out on the solstice, so it’s only 4-7 weeks…

I’m planning to put the hyssop in the middle of a bed as the bees love it, and I only harvest it for scented sachets once a year, so it can be out of reach ;)

I want to get at the blackcurrant sage much more often, so it has gone in next to some bulbs and pansies which are dying back on the near end of the rockery:

DSC_0080-001I’m hoping some of those millions of tiny green seedlings are feverfew and camomile returning…

Some of the best plants in the garden are total surprises, I love how much green alkanet (thanks Suella and Jen for helping me identify this!) there is roundabout…again, more green manure for the compost when it stops flowering.




and the bluebells and violets are one of the reasons I chose the flat, of course.

I don’t remember ever seeing mauve bluebells before, these are lilac/pinky. My photography was a bit off today, but I noticed how the spring flowers stand out in the grey light we had today – the blues and pinks all sang out against the soil and the shade… the kind of thing that is very hard to paint but nature manages effortlessly :)









no dig gardening tips for spoonies

Spoonies are people with energy level issues, eg ME/ CFS/ MS/ fibromyalgia/ adrenal gland issues, parathyroid and thyroid issues, but the tips here might help anyone enjoy a garden – less effort, more enjoyment is the goal!


I love my garden andSTA42981 positively droop when weather or illness keep me out, so it has been lovely to spend a few hours over the last week pottering around. I had a false alarm for flu, just a fibro thing I think, though I have tried to be extra vigilant on pacing since, and luckily it is now warm enough to sit in my rollator for longer breaks and gloat over how different the garden is… I found photos from when I moved in, when Ben had cleared a jungle to make a badminton lawn…incredible to look back on :)



Ben and now David enjoSTA45160y bbqs and the occasional big project in the garden, and Ben is keen on container gardening. The badminton lawn is his major commitment and he mows and waters it and the other 3 flats all play whenever the weather and mood agree. I am the only one who really likes flowers and making a feast for eyes and nose and ears (if you count the many more birds and bees we have ;) )


With my horrible fall soon after I moved in, gardening tasks are even more difficult than when I gave up the allotment, so I have had to get very serious about no-dig and low maintenance gardening within the permaculture/ landspirit productive woodland glade I am aiming for.


I like planting containers to go by the front door and then spreading the love ;) yes, this does mean two sets of planting, but I get twice the enjoyment, so personally it’s worth it ;)



The easiest way to guarantee success with bulbs I’ve found, is to transfer them ‘in the green’. This means I know the bulbs I may have bought up in end-of-season sales etc are actually viable, and I automatically space better. If possible, get someone to do the heavy work and collect your tubs and some spent compost eg containers that held things that have gone over now, to top up what you have. Fresh compost is very rich and nearly all bulbs like a poorer soil to flourish. Best of all is if you can collect some leaves each autumn and leave a bin bag full to mulch down :)


I have a workbench that helps a lot as I can only just kneel again, so David lifted the well watered tub (previously by the door with violets, daffs and hyacinths, mmm) up onto the bench, next to a bucket of compost. If you’re doing this alone, water AFTERWARDS, to keep the weight manageable, yes? I carefully cut the withered flowerheads off (if the flower sets seed, the bulb will die off) and ease the trowel under the roots loosened by watering. Trying to make sure no roots get snapped, gently lay the plants one by one into a seedtray or pot. Now take a break! Coming back, carry your tray to where you want to plant out. Tete-a-tete daffodils manage the superdry shade on the ivy bank well, so using the point of the trowel I scraped a very shallow drill between two ivy trailers, just enough to make a flat edge on the sloping bank. Arrange the bulbs with their roots on the drill and leaves all laying flat on the uphill slope. Break time?


Fetch a bucket of runny mulch/compost and water, and scoop/pour over the roots.


Press the mulch in gently, enough to be sure it won’t all roll down hill, but not hard enough to squash the bulbs. In two weeks time, water really well and then leave them to settle.



This technique works for grape hyacinths, narcissi, crocus, snowdrops. Tulips are a bit more fussy, but the next technique works with them ;)

Meanwhile, make your tubs, do double duty – spring is springing faster than we can keep up, so if you are planting into cleared grounded, lay some cardboard down and stand the tubs on top to keep it from blowing away – giving the tubs a water AFTER you move them ;)

DSC_0120DSC_0124Personally, I don’t find cardboard mulch ugly, because it is so useful to me, keeping the weeds at bay until I can get to that task, and with some soils, it even improves the texture (sticky clays) but I do understand beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

I will go back and snip the heads off the muscari/ grape hyacinth later. Only cut the flower heads off, most propagation strips the foliage right back, but as the leaves on bulb plants die back, all the necessary nutrients go back into the bulb. If you want it to grow again but hate the sight of the dying back, a good tip is to put it next to a plant that will fill out fast now that we are heading towards warmer nights, maybe a sedum or foxglove.


Early colour is very cheering and one of my new favourites are bellis perennis, perennial ornamental daisies, I love that deep cranberry pink edging when so much is pastel in the spring.

DSC_0013DSC_0016This technique is more like planting out a squash/pumpkin plant. Make a mound, flat and shallow, or more heaped for something like tulips, with a dent where you are putting your seedling/ bulb/ in the green/ cutting. The dent for tulips has to be a lot deeper, they like to be a hand span down. Again the mulch should be moist on a wet day through to really wet on a dry day – and it helps if you do it on a drier day, as the idea is to make the worms till/turn your soil for you. On a dry day when the worms have gone further underground, pouring soggy mulch on drier soil will bring them up and the action of turning the soil helps integrate the two. All without use of a spade/ shovel/ fork/ implement of agony for your back/ wrists/elbows or drain on your energy – yay!

Lots more planting will be happening in this area, now the laurels and brambles have been cleared, I want to put in more bee friendly plants, hyssops, sedums, agastache, foxgloves…last year a huge forest of feverfew came up from the dormant seeds, so I’m hoping they will have survived the necessary trampling.


Something I can’t get a great photo of is the violet lawn, it is utterly beautiful and something I’d never seen before moving here, my favourite granny was Violet, named by her brother because they had just come out the day she was born – 110 years ago, amazing…I love the connection ;)

And final gift from the garden,  a very violet/lilac rather than purple/ blue Peacock butterfly was sunning itself on Thursday…






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