Revamping

It’s a bit of a cliche, but it’s the time of year for renewal, new beginnings and all that, so I am revamping this website…a little. It will reflect some developments of the last year or so….

In July 2018 I became part of the Tuam Farmers Market, so I now have a regular outlet for my wares as well as a place to meet people and get feedback and ideas. Then I hurt my back and was unable to make baskets for a while, so I took to knitting and a bit of crochet. Regular customers may have noticed the appearance of more and more hats, gloves and Lavender Dollies on the stall.

Lavender dolly
hats, gloves, bags

Willow takes time to prepare, while colorful yarn is instantly available whenever I get the notion to create something. That makes it very tempting!

But you, my friends and customers keep me on the straight and narrow….or in basket-making terms: on the plank, where baskets are made.

Your interest and feedback at the market or by contacting me on-line has me producing willow-creations on a regular bases and improving my skills all the time. I would like to show more of my work here on the website, so you can pre-shop or contact me about a specific article or just browse and enjoy! Mind you, I am not creating an online shopping-portal and i am not sending items in the post, because I am afraid I could not keep up with the demand! There’s only one of me! Joking aside, I believe in supporting local crafters and markets, so I am looking forward to your inquiry or meeting you at the stall, to have a chat, exchange ideas and inspiration. I will also be organising more courses, dates for spring will soon be up on the Events/Courses page!

Keep an eye out for the new and revamped pages! Wishing you a very creative 2020.

May, time of new beginnings.

Well Folks, in my previous post  17 for 2017 I announced a ‘life-changing event’ and indicated I would write more about this around the end of February. So much for good intentions. On the other hand, life-changing stuff may take a little longer to materialize!
18425317_1519628678059926_5100811551633772626_nBut finally I have all my ducks in a row, so to speak, and am happy to announce my new status of ‘Lady of Leisure’. It took quite a while: an ‘early retirement’ option from my job was offered last November and only a few applicants would get it. My fingers (and toes) have been crossed for 4 months until I found out mid-February that I was one of the Lucky Few. But still no clue as to when my new life would start, that news only came end of March. I knew then I would be a ‘free woman’ by Mayday! Good things happen in May, as you can read in previous posts.

I feel that I need to explain a little why I chose to take this option. In the last few years my job had become more and more a burden to me, at times making me unhappy and stressed. Looking back now I also remember that I used to love my job. When I started working with people with ‘intellectual disabilities’ it was really all about supporting them to live life to the full extend of their abilities. In theory that is still the case, but in recent years regulations and the amount of paperwork required to prove the standard of quality we deliver are getting in the way of actually providing that level of support. Frontline staff are stretched to the limit as they try to keep up with the ever increasing responsibilities of their role and demanding nature of their work. As carers it is easier to advocate for the people in our care, than to stand up for ourselves. And when ‘management’ does not seem to listen or  does not understand that they need a happy, content and supported work-force in order to give the best support and happy lives to the people using the ‘services’, it becomes even harder. At this stage of my life I feel I have made my contribution, tried to improve my work-situation and possibly contributed to some improvements. But overall I had lost the energy and optimism with which I started out so many years ago. Time for others to take over…. time for me to recharge my batteries in other fields.

So what now?   Basket making, sheep herding, turf footing, vegetable growing, giving in to creative impulses and generally enjoying life, I guess!!! And plenty time now to work on that list of intentions of 17 for 2017 ! Although….in these first two weeks of my free-from-job status, I think I have been busier than I was ever before ! I have 2 Willow Workshops coming up, I am footing turf  and I am helping to organize a tea party for charity. Oh and trying to keep up with all the sowing and planting that needs to be done NOW. Meanwhile ….. trying to stay relaxed….that’s what it was all about, right?

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17 for 2017

Inspired by Wild Daffodil and others I decided that a list of intentions for this year would help accomplish them or at least order my thoughts.I am very optimistic about the coming year on a personal level – not letting the global perspective bring me down – as there are many options on the horizon. Most of the seeds were sown in previous years and just need some further nurturing to grow and some new ideas are looking to materialize. I tried to be realistic and not aim too low either. Interesting to see at the end of the year how much has been accomplished.

17. Sow and grow 17 different vegetables.   This one should be easy. I didn’t count what was grown last year, but it seems feasible.

16.Make 16 pots of jam or chutney. Most of these will be given away as presents.

15. Give away 15 home grown plants. Most likely these will be edible and will go to our local GIY group.

14. Have a stall at 14 markets. The Cottage Market in Headford will account for the bulk of this: Paddy’s Day and every First Saturday of the month there-after. The rest will be local craft-markets and seasonal market days.

13. Complete 13 basket orders. Before the summer starts I hope to have finished all the orders I have taken on so far.

12. Write at least one blog every month. Here’s the first one!

11. Bake 11 times. Cakes, breads, brownies, I like baking and sharing them.This accidentally landed at number 11, so here goes.

10. Enjoy 10 nights-out: concerts, plays, even dinner out counts. I have already enjoyed an information evening about Headford Lace and a celebration of ‘La Fheile Bhride’coming up. Need to get out more, but this one may be the easiest to fullfil.

9. Make 9 craftworks with non-willow materials: weaving with paper, crochet, knitting, anything goes.

8. Introduce the dog to 8 new experiences. The present dog is a rescue and afraid of anything new. I am guessing she had no socialisation when young. The car is scary, cows are scary, people are until you get to know them, etc. Short car-trips and visits nearby have already helped a bit. I intend to take her on walks a little further from home and maybe play in the water somewhere. Small steps.

7. Teach 7 workshops in Dunmore. These will be in Seomra Eile, on Saturdays and the schedule can be found elsewhere on this site. Very organised in this case!

6. Complete 6 items in a new ‘fashion range’: a combination of knitting and basketry, handbags with matching purses. To be ready for the christmas markets.

5. Complete 5 planned back-yard improvement projects. Put up a railing, add raised beds, replace the willow fence, improve chickencoop fence and move chickencoop door. There are ofcourse many more improvement ideas for front and back garden, but if these get done this year, there is some hope that the others will get done eventually too.

4. Find 4 new outlets: 2 new venues for  teaching workshops, and 2 more sales-outlets for baskets. Maybe this is a modest number?

3. Learn 3 new skills. Starting with a woodturning course….tomorrow! and maybe willow sculpture??? And what will the third one be??? Exciting!

2. Take two basketry courses. These are already booked: going to the ‘master’ Joe Hogan in March and my friend Amanda Rayner in Wales will teach how to make a coffin in November. Both are 4-day courses and feel like a treat to myself. I am tempted to extend the Wales trip by a few days…. we will see.

1. Make one big life change. Have I got your attention? This could be anything! But I am keeping this one under my hat for now. I can reveal more by the end of February, so that could be my next post!

Cheer up, create ….. something.

I wrote the following a few weeks ago, about mid-November, but didn’t have the photos to go with it. Perhaps it was predominantly Winter-blues that made me feel low in the first place, but even though the days are still getting shorter and the weather is ‘cat’, the Christmas-cheer is firmly taking hold now. More on that in the next blog.

When you are involved in the care of others, privately or professionally, you are considered to be doing a ‘great job’ and we do our best. But when you make a mistake, however small, un-intended, or with the best of intentions, that mistake counts far greater than all the good you have done. Because it can negatively affect a person who is dependent on your care. Not reacting fast enough, accurate enough, detailed enough, attentive enough can cause discomfort. A small mistake or short-coming can undo much of the good work you are doing, even in your own opinion. Or more precisely: especially in my own opinion!

So, pondering over my shortcomings towards my fellow humans and without much I could do about it, I was feeling pretty low for a few days. Needed to cheer up and get on with things! Help was on its way, I thought, in the form of a parcel. A few weeks ago I treated myself to an on-line order of food-stuff from Holland, my native country. The minimum postage is for 20 kg, so there’s a great incentive to use up the weight you are paying for! My order came to about 16 kg, and a massive 50 items. After a loooong wait, the big box finally arrived one day. Under the watchful eye of The Sidekick the items were unpacked. Coffee, biscuits, cheese, chocolate, pickles, peanut-butter, drop, selected herbs and sauces, anything a Dutch person-living-abroad craves from time to time. It was all well wrapped and travelled well, except for the Droste cacoa. About ¼ of the chocolate powder was spread around the box, but no matter. The only minor disappointment were the chocolate letters, a December tradition (bottom right). They arrived in Milk-chocolate, though I had ordered Dark. Hard enough to get quality dark chocolate in these parts! But The Sidekick likes it, so it’s an early Christmas for him.20151117_151248

The arrival of all these goodies only worked a small way towards cheering me up while I had a taste of this and that. After the unveiling the Sidekick decided to go to his own abode for a while and then I realised, in spite of all the goodies, I had nothing out for the dinner, no meat defrosted! Shock, horror. We decided he would return later and we’d drive to town for a take-away. Comfort Food, just what I needed!

An hour later I was ready to go, but storm Barney had gathered momentum by now and it seemed stupid to face this monster, just for a take-away. Phoned The Sidekick, who was relieved he didn’t have to drive in the storm and quickly agreed. I would Cook-From-Scratch, as they say: I had 2 eggs, potatoes and a can of tuna. Joined by a late harvest of tomatoes and my own onions and garlic I turned this into a Spanish Tortilla (omelette) accompanied by Tuna in tomato-sauce. And some of my Dutch cheese melted on top of the Tortilla at the finish.(in fact, the tuna and cheese were the only items that were not home- grown) As I was getting underway with my food-creation I caught myself humming! Not comfort food, but creative food was cheering me up.

After dinner I found a post on facebook on how to crochet a Christmas decoration. Link here, I hope

I haven’t crocheted in about……20 or 30 years. Have lots of wool, cotton and other leftover yarns lying around and inherited a well equipped sowing-box from my mother. It didn’t take long to gather tools and materials to get started. As it had been so long, it took all my attention and distracted me completely from my worries. Even with my lack of experience, it still came out looking ok.

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So give it a try, if you need cheering up: get creative.

For good measure I then made a few baskets and decorations with willow, dogwood and date-palm.

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New arrivals cause commotion

The arrival of my new materials recently – 12 half bundles of beautiful graded willow rods (4 and 5 foot Green Dicks, 4,5,7 and 8 foot Black Maul) – has caused quite a stir in the shed. For lack of a good spot, they ended up leaning against one of the doors, with the door locked to avoid someone  knocking the whole lot by entering. SDC16449The shed is divided in 3 parts. Behind the first door is the turf-supply, just brought in for the winter. The space behind theSDC16435 two other doors is divided in two by a low wall. I use it for basket making, my friends have used it as a smoke-room. It is supposed to be a workshop and storage for gardening + DIY-tools, but ended up cluttered by you-name-it and what-ever-u-fancy.To find a tool you had to dig your way through paint-cans, cushions, old chairs, bicycles and a lawnmower. High time for a change: I decided to end the confusion once and for all: on one side of the low wall will be all the tools, paint and other DIY stuff, available for ‘the public‘ to use. On the other side of the wall will be my willow studio, needless to say with ‘restricted access‘!!! I worked like a mad-woman and after 3 days the tools are in the right place and so is the willow. Still more clearing to do, mainly hanging more shelves on the walls. The hardest part was to figure out where everything could go, making the most of the space. Today I finally figured where the steamer for the willow can go, without losing the space needed for storing this years’ supply of home-grown willow! The willow will be raised off the floor, on a wide shelf, with a railing to keep it in place. Well, it makes sense to me! Will show ye the photos when its ready.SDC16452 SDC16448

Meanwhile I started working with the new supply of willow and its a treat! Had to use what I had soaked, before going off to Spain for a few days…….The Witch is going South and not just to escape the despicable Irish weather. Weaving by the Sea is where I will be. A basket-making course beside the beach, what could be better? Learning new techniques, getting a tan and enjoying the scenery. Magic or what?  I am on my broomstick tomorrow, expect sunny photos in my next blog! Mo.

Growing, killing and making.

Growing willow seemed easy. It started with a few rods that came with the apple-trees, to support them during transport. These have now grown into proper trees, inside the hen-compound. When I learned about coppicing, to grow rods for baskets and living structures, I cut them down to shoulder height. I use the top half and the hens eat the leaves off the low branches. It seems only fair to share. The rest of my Saili-patch is outside the hen-house and gets cut down to the ground every year.SDC15987 SDC15950

Last year I saw the first signs of infestation, only in one tree, slightly isolated from the others. It was a white sticky cover, around the top of the trunk, at the start of the branches. And then I noticed that it moved!!!  Hundreds,  maybe thousands little white critters. I think they are white-fly or white aphids? I sprayed them off with water and hoped for the best.

However, they are back with a vengeance. The other trees inside the hen-compound are totally infested. Yesterday I carefully examined the Saili-patch and….. unfortunately the white monsters have spread to some of the plants there too. It seems that some types of willow are un-affected! But this time I am better prepared. I have a weapon of mass-destruction: it is called Garlic Tonic. No harm to plants, hens and environment, but many pests hate it!

Recipe: Crush about 3 cloves of garlic into 2-3 spoons of olive oil. Shake and leave to infuse overnight. After 24 hrs strain this into 1 liter water and add a teaspoon of washing-up liquid (Ecover is best for environment). Strain into a spray and spray liberally on the offending creatures! Additions of cinnamon or chilli-pepper have been advised, to make it even more potent, these need to be dissolved in hot water first. I make two liters every day and repeat spraying. The roses also thrive with this and it can be used on any plants or vegetables.

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Willow rods are soaking in the new troughs. To our delight, and admittedly a small bit of surprise, the troughs work perfectly, without any leakage to speak of! They fill up easily and it’s also easy to unscrew the cap on the drain-pipe to empty them. One of them is set up to be filled with rainwater, when the weather allows……. I took up the idea of a relative, to put a cover on top, so they can be used as seats also!

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This idea was appreciated by the house-mates!

And it proves to be a handy work-bench also, with enough room to have tools and materials right beside you, where you need them. In the right weather it is the ideal place to make baskets!!!

I am in busyness.

My business cards arrived, hurray.SDC16264

 

So now I guess I am really in business! Have been very busy this week: extended the Willow Plantation in both places. In my Saili garden I planted in clumps, but this time I labelled everything properly. In the ‘plantation’ I first spread more plastic ( I know, should have done that months ago and then the weeds would now be killed, but hey, I am not that organised!) and then planted nice tidy rows of each different willow species ……and labelled them on both sides of the line! When these start growing, they will make a very colourful display. Almost a pity to have to cut them down again!

Today I was getting ready for the demonstration/display at the country  market in Dunmore tomorrow. I have a few baskets made for sale, and prepared some for working on tomorrow. I just hope I didn’t over-soak the willow. What I am using now are left-overs from the last course I took, so they were soaked and steamed already before! More soaking does not improve the quality.  Skins are peeling on some. Hope for the best.

Now you may be fooled into thinking I have a very professional set-up: alas, not yet! When I say soaking, I mean the willow resides in the bathtub for a few days! A proper trough, long enough to accommodate the longer willow rods shall be built in due course…….sometime this spring. Watch this space……