Lessons Learned



Some of the Mothers from school had arranged to meet for an end of term lunch. They sent me a text to remind me but my text reply said,” Still got a pig to catch!”

The pig operation did not run as smoothly as hoped and hindsight is always a wonderful thing. I should have parked the trailer in their pen and used it as a feeding hut for several days but my husband did not want me to take down the fence to gain access. The plan was to entice the pigs across the garden with a bucket of pellets. If that plan failed we would get Welly to help again. “We” means Tania and me… I lowered the electric wire to the ground but they would not cross it. I had to CUT the wire and then they ventured over. Now it was a very, very hot day. These pigs thought a trot around the garden might be fun. The last time they followed a bucket was after a whole, tiring afternoon of being out but this time they wanted to explore. They were especially impressed by the area of garden where the septic tank overflow needs to be repaired and so they were quickly wallowing in smelly sludge. They also decided to start rooting up the turf with their plough-like noses. Ginger decided that it might be fun to attempt to tip over the henhouse or hide under the trampoline. The dog got grunted at and ran away to cower. I tried calling almost every farmer and friend but no-one was answering their phone. After a while Splodge decided to co-operate and climb on board the trailer. Once inside she was not too impressed and crashed about a bit. We ran around for a little while longer trying to corner Ginger too but soon realised that we would face an impossible task of lowering the tailgate long enough to get the second pig on board. I had to make the hard decision of just taking one pig to the abattoir now that we were running a bit late. Tania and I were now pretty red in the face and smelly. There was a 45 minute drive to the abattoir in Inverurie and via the town centre. The next nightmare was pulling into the wrong entrance and havening to back the trailer up 100 yards without jack-knifing. Since I was not a member of the Young Farmers, I had not learned this skill. We drove around the block, missed the unmarked gates and had to back up again. When we got into the compound I had to reverse again. The heat was unbelievable. There were forklifts driving around with unmentionable loads. I was glad that we were the only people delivering any animals. The worst part now was that poor Splodge had become rather overcome by heat and had to be man-handled out of the trailer and into the big shed. I felt that it was a traumatic end to a wonderful life. It is a criminal shame that Government regulations have closed down small abattoirs closer to home. I could have made 2 short trips. I had assumed that this one would be all super modern and clean but it was just like a scruffy farmyard from the outside – we did not go in.

At home we had some strong coffee, crisps and cake before going to tidy up. Ginger came snorting over all indignant because her friend had gone. I managed to fix the fence and get her back in. Farmer Raymond called by and said there was no way he would take any of his beasts to the abattoir in person – he gets a haulier in to do the job for him. I felt that if I was going to rear animals for meat than I should not just play at it but follow the whole process through to the bitter end – but what a traumatic end… I have decided to keep Ginger until after the school holidays, by which time she will be the size of a hippo!

I was making good progress on the large, ugly quilt so decided to keep going in the evening. The light was not so good so it took me a while to notice that the tension had gone haywire. After making many adjustments, I decided that the holey bobbins were to blame. I had to unpick and redo quite a large area which took far longer than if I had noticed that there was a problem in the first place.

I went to a circle-piecing class one evening. Dressmaking was mentioned again. Large curves were cut from a stack of squares, shuffled and pieced together even tough the edges overlapped. I kept asking questions – would this work with Drunkard’s Path? No-one could explain why not. I eventually realised that you need an additional seam allowance for the edges of curves to meet up again. There was a lot of pinning involved which is not what I usually bother to do. Most people had avoided fabric that slithers and frays. I ended up with 6 wonky, retro circles. I have to make 9 more before the next class. This will be a yurt panel, not a bed quilt!

Having wrestled with the dread of dealing with a large area of curved piecing on my giant flying geese seed pod, I settled on a variation of invisible machine appliqué. I spray glued the paper pattern onto the backing fabric, drew on a generous seam allowance and registration marks then stitched right along the edge of the paper. I clipped the seam allowance and ironed it right under the stitch line (this is where you need a series of photos…). This got pinned onto the seed pod and sewn with a small zigzag stitch using invisible thread – a pretty good result.

Since we were having a heat wave I decided to make iced tea because I thought that might be refreshing. I couldn’t find a recipe so decided to make one up. It worked well:

Make a strong pot of tea with 2 builder’s teabags and 2 mint teabags – brew for 5 mins

Simmer sprigs of mint, the juice of a lemon and half of its zest, half a cup of sugar and a couple of pints or so of water for 5 mins

Let tea and concoction cool a bit before pouring everything into a very large jug with more mint sprigs and lemon zest – when it eventually chilled, it was delicious.

I had a surge of production before school broke up on Friday and finished piecing the orange and pink quilt. There was some fiddling and cheating to get the piano keys to look good at the top corner then I had a brainwave of running a stay-stitch all around the outside edge to stop it from stretching or falling apart – I don’t know why I never thought of it before! I decided that the central Lonestar section looked a bit full and I am far too lazy to attempt trapunto so I have rashly set up 2 layers of the new Quilter’s Dream Puff on the quilt frame – it looks very puffy.

After my frenzy of quilt finishing and tension troubles I treated the machine to a really good clean. The penny dropped that the rubbing alcohol the Americans talk about for cleaning the rails must be surgical spirit. The workshop got a good clear-out too so now I’m ready to have some fun on the pink and orange “duvet”.

I spent the day helping Fergus to work on his Birmingham quilt. Working with my children is very frustrating – they do not work as fast or efficiently as I do, especially when I have a million things to do. They also get bored. I know I am a compete slave driver but I can’t afford for the project to be put on one side and forgotten about.

We had to print and trace the famous wave painting then colour it in. The first paddy involved felt pens that had dried up so we switched to watercolour pencils. We thought that the picture would have to be a mirror image but if I had read the T-shirt transfer instructions properly, I would have seen that this does not work like that and may have avoided wasting 2 sheets. The drawing had to be scanned in and printed onto transfer paper the right way round. Leftover log cabin strips were added and soon the mini quilt was made – A2 is definitely big enough for a child to tackle. We decided to draw some curves on the back with a bendy ruler and fill them in with the DSM using the foot as a guide. This took some time and steering – Fergus likes using the sewing machine but also likes to fiddle with the settings and the height adjustable chair. It is looking really good but now he has some hand-sewing to do with tiny pearls. I wonder how long it will be before he gets bored – a bribe may have to be used at some point!


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