Suddenly my head is starting to clear. For weeks now I've been focused and barely felt like I've had time to draw breath. This has been a particularly busy period at work, and unusually I've had to be in the office pretty much every working day since October, which has meant a lot of driving. For the last couple of months it's meant leaving in the dark, usually around 6am, and getting home in the dark.
I know millions of people do this every day, and I'm not claiming any special status, but goodness me it's nice to have stopped for a while.
I've been ill this last week, just a cold and a bit of a bug, which stopped me in my tracks for a couple of days and left me walking round like a wraith with a head full of cotton wool for several more. I went to work most days, but I shouldn't have - sometimes I just found myself staring at a simple email without a clue what to do about it.
Yesterday I was starting to feel a little better, and popped out to two local market towns to finish my Christmas shopping. Well, I say 'finish' - in truth, there are still some presents to buy... but I've got all the ones that are needed for Christmas day itself. The weather was mostly good yesterday, and finally I started to feel a little festive.
Earlier in the year I joined a local wind orchestra, and last night we had our Christmas concert, which was most jolly indeed and reinforced the festive mood nicely.
Today I've had a lovely leisurely morning, the chickens are bimbling around in the garden, and I have the house to myself for a couple of hours. My head feels clear enough to think about what needs to be done - and I can't tell you how thankful I am for a fully working brain. I completely take it for granted most of the time and I shouldn't.
So this afternoon I'll be tidying, making a small gift for the neighbours, doing a bit of wrapping, cleaning out the chicken house, and maybe, if the rain lets up for a bit, bringing in a bit of greenery to make some kind of a wreath.
Already I'm starting to plot what I'd like to do next year. I love this time of year for doing that. I'm just going to get these last few preparations out of the way and then find myself a nice new notebook and a set of pens and start doodling.
The weather round here lately has been rotten. Soggy and grey, with a nice bit of freezing rain thrown in for good measure.
I don't remember having experienced freezing rain before. It freezes pretty much as soon as it lands, meaning ever-growing icicles, sheet ice pavements, and cars that seem to have been entirely dipped in glass.
Not pleasant, but fortunately short-lived, and back to normal rain plus early morning fog, which I'm slowly getting used to driving to work in.
We did have a bit of sunshine at the weekend, although I've had a rotten cold all week and couldn't really appreciate it. I did get outside for an hour though and tried to do something with the tatty flower bed in the front garden.
This bit of the garden is strange, as there's actually not really much soil. The area under the grass is asphalt, all the way up to the house. The 'lawn' is just what would grow down the middle of your drive if you didn't walk on it for a while - the soil underneath is about an inch deep. The bottom terrace is just filled with stones, and the top one only has a few inches of soil.
I'm not sure what my plans are for this space next year - it already has ferns, roses, a few herbs and some flowers so it may just get left as it is for another year. But it's had a bit of a tidy up in the meantime (no 'after' pictures as I got too cold and went back inside and it's still not quite finished).
The chicken enjoyed marauding round while I was out there pottering.
It's quite difficult to get a decent photograph of them as they move around so much. They're slowly regrowing their feathers, and have created a nice little dust bathing area in a corner of the garden. Of course it's more mud than dust at this time of year, so they generally look a bit grubby.
In other garden news, some more of the barn fell down last week.
Fortunately we weren't anywhere near it (and have been steering clear for a while as it looked like it was about to fall). Such a shame, but without complete rebuilding at this stage I'm not sure what else we can do other than let it fall.
Walls have been coming down inside too - deliberately this time (thank goodness). Our kitchen is finally one room made from two, and while there is still a long way to go, it's pretty exciting to have a table in there (a ludicrously enormous table, but it's solid oak and beautiful and was free and who am I to say no?)
There's a lot of work still to do, but it won't be done before Christmas. Very little will be done before Christmas, in fact, as I'm full of cold and feeling rather sorry for myself. I've hardly bought any presents, and have made barely any plans (other than another attempt at an ultra marathon on Thursday 27th - how did that happen?)
Hey ho. The Christmas tree is up, although I have so far failed to take a decent photograph of it. I've booked a fortnight off work, which I am VERY ready for. Some of my fruit trees have arrived, which means I'll be out with a spade, probably on Christmas day at the rate I'm going. And I've already started thinking about plotting and scheming for next year - my favourite thing to do over this wintry fortnight. Especially now I can sit at my new kitchen table to do it.
Way back in August I picked up my long-neglected crochet hook and started this blanket. I had a choice of recipients - two friends had babies this summer and I fully intended to make two blankets.
Time went on, and the blanket (still singular) spent a lot of time sitting in this cheerful purple trug, ignored in favour of the garden while the weather was sunny.
As the nights drew in my thoughts turned to cosiness, and I admitted that this would probably be a Christmas present, rather than a 'new baby' present. I did a little more, and ran out of wool. I'd bought the three colours on sale as they were discontinued, and hadn't realised they wouldn't be enough for a full blanket.
I managed to get hold of some more yellow, and a dark burgundy colour. I'd been intending just to do stripes, but with my colours now not quite matching, something else was called for. I used the very last bits of pink and blue to make the middles of some granny squares to go round the edge.
This was last week. Can you spot the not-so-deliberate mistake? Yes, that's right. My blanket isn't quite square, and while I'd managed to get ten granny squares down one side, the other side would only hold nine. How vexing!
Still, I wasn't about to unravel the entire blanket, so a bit of imagination (and swearing) was required, and eventually I managed to get ten squares attached to each side, without unravelling any of the rest of the blanket. Hooray! I've attached the granny squares using flat braid join, which I've not used before, but which is flexible enough to hide a multitude of crochet sins. My type of stitch.
It felt like it needed a border though, to hold it all together and make it seem like the burgundy had been a deliberate choice rather than a last minute add on. I decided on the Attic 24 spot on edging pattern, and fortunately there was just enough wool left.
The blanket's spent a few days pinned to the carpet under the Christmas tree, and is now roughly rectangular, as long as you don't try to fold it too neatly. Of course, I now have the problem of who to give it to, as I never did get round to making a second one...
How is it nearly the middle of December already? The weeks are running away with me. I often say that, but this autumn has been a whirlwind, mostly of work. My schedule usually allows for a fair bit of time working at home, but the last two or three months I've had to head into the city every single day. Not ideal.
There has still been a bit of time at weekends to potter around in the garden with the chickens.
The weather has taken a decided turn for the worse in the last couple of weeks. Cold and rainy and windy, and the chickens are not impressed. We've fortified their coop as best we can and it looks ridiculous.
The chickens themselves look quite ridiculous too, as they're currently moulting and soggy rather a lot of the time which makes them look pretty bedraggled.
They seem happy enough (when it's not raining), and have plenty of shelter in their run, so I'm sure they'll be ok.
They do like to join in with whatever we're doing in the garden - this is Hermione 'helping' to rake some leaves.
They're still not much good at dry stone walling though.
The sun finally came out this morning, but I confess it was still quite cold and I've been watching the cheerful weather from the sofa.
I really must clean the windows...
I did take a little trip out briefly this morning, and the stream was up and running over the bridge again - there's been a lot of rain lately.
The rain is set to start again this afternoon. I want to clean the chicken house out before then, and by the look of the sky I've not got much time. I also need to do some washing, order some Christmas presents, and we might even put the tree up. Then I think crochet and a nice film is in order.
Sit down and make yourself comfortable. I'm Jenni, and I write here about our new forray into country living, which includes growing food, knitting, baking, wandering around the fields, and seeing which local cafe serves the best cake.