Sharing a love of Dolls House Miniatures - and making time for other creative crafts and the garden.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Here Comes the Summer!

We've had more than a week of lovely weather with just enough rain to keep my garden watered. More of the same please!

So my miniature workbench, which these days is a space to play just for me, as distinct from 'working,' is an idle muddle while the weather is calling me to the garden. The end to frosts meant that we could relocate really BIG plants from the conservatory to the garden for the summer, so again we have space to sit on the sofa and chairs for early breakfast or a glass of wine and a big re-jig moving the orchids to the back wall means that they are happier and there are YARDS of extra space.
The big picture you can see was once part of a much loved dress - back in the day when The Beatles were Top of the Pops.
(Yes that does make me feel old....)

Out in the garden our mammoth efforts to prune, clear and tidy in the autumn and spring have paid dividends and even the weeds are feeling the fight-back!

Super dark-leaved elder with flowers like pink lace
Glorious peony
Rosa 'Blue Moon' - lives a long way from more traditional roses so the clours don't clash.
The old shed is resplendent now with a series of hanging pots
Dainty little collared doves have taken their young from the nest in the middle of the rose arch so when it's flowered we can prune (before it collapses the actual arch) but we're looking forward to a spectacular display very soon.
In the pond the tadpoles are growing little legs and skitter about very happily, and the wild patch is about to errupt in moon daisies and corncockle.  Happy days!

Thank you for looking

Monday, May 15, 2017

DISASTER......and now to drain the pond!

Way back in 2012 I created a little 1/12th scale pond - full of 'water' with a perky frog, some cheerful birds and detailed landscaping around the edge - that I was really pleased with. I hadn't looked at it for ages...and ages....
Then I did.

So here is the pond back in the day.
Click on the pics to enlarge.

And last week I discovered that the 'water', i.e. 'Scenic Water' had shrunk away from the edges and looked like an unpleasant, lumpy, discoloured, gelatinous mess.

I don't mean to rubbish a very popular product, because maybe I missed sealing a tiny spot on the pond lining which was made from air-drying clay....has anyone got any ideas or had the same problem?  Anyway I was not happy. There seemed nothing for it but to dig out the yucky, rubbery mess which wasn't easy, to say the least, together with paper leaves etc. that partially disintegrated as I did so.

So here's the problem. I had a pond with no water, and although I have some more of the product I'm afraid to use it again. I decide I shall fall back on a tried and tested alternative that I introduced in the Nostalgia In Miniature Workshops Celia Thomas and I ran. It looks very effective and is such a simple method that works brilliantly in small water features - not quite so easy when it means trying to put it into an irregularly shaped, fully finished pond.

1. Cut a piece of clear acrylic - used in all sorts of common packaging - that fits just below the rim of your container. It helps to cut a paper template first. (Not that it helped me this time)  If you are adding rushes or plants at the edge, snip away a small portion so that these can be dropped through.

2. Run a thin line of tacky glue around the inside of the container and drop in the plastic. Run a thin line of glue around the edge on the plastic to secure. Leave to dry.

3. Glue in place any plants, stones or creatures, and using a Fine Tip Applicator swirl tacky glue in ripples. Leave to dry. In a day or two the ripples will be clear.

This is what works so well with a simple container!

So I did all that and it was a proper fiddle as I couldn't get the exact shape, and had to push and shove it around the existing plants and twigs and fill in gaps with extra reeds, stones and weeds. What a palaver!

Anyway - it's done - I don't like it as much as the original as the planting is a bit 'busy',  but it's 'O.K'.

Thank you for looking

Monday, May 1, 2017

Moving into Talskiddy...etc...

If you've popped in and out over the years you'll have seen my miniature round houses, inspired by real ones in the village of Veryan in Cornwall. They've inspired us to create a number in all three scales for around 18 years now - but I did need to keep one! I kept 1/48th 'Talskiddy'. But an empty house is no fun!!

An empty house needs furniture and people.  No problem with the furniture because I made sure that we retained a selection of the fabulous 1/48th handcrafted items made by my husband when we retired.  Sadly I forgot the people bit, so apart from  4 or 5 'skeletons' hiding in a box,  I only have a policeman and Granny.  Hmmm - not quite right for this little house, but they'll do for now, and hopefully when the garden is abandoned for the winter I can create another little house and have fun with that too and maybe dress the 'skeletons' appropriately.

So - let's move them all in........
Sorry about the wobbly roof - must check before photographing in future!

And now to something completely different.

Back in the day - dim and distant - with a Mother who was passionate about wild flowers and was very knowledgeable.  On Good Friday we headed to The Grove, a private wood where everyone was allowed to pick primroses once a year as a local tradition. Then we all headed for the Folly path to find the first violets and finally down The Smeeths (a sunken footpath) to find the only patches of Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum) in the locality.
I suspect these have now all disappeared under the plough.
Then we were off to Badbury Hill, which I've often mentioned in blogs in the past, for the Bluebells.

Star of Bethlehem
Now falling apart, Mum's much loved wild flower book.
Still relevant although it was published in 1908
Wherever I've gardened I've always had primroses and violets - Star of Bethlehem was harder to find and harder to get to survive. Now I've done it and have a healthy group of these lovely bulbs despite the best efforts of the vicious and dreadful weed Ground Elder to wipe it out. I have an ongoing war with it, Mares Tail and Bindweed. I dig them out and confess to chemical 'kill', but they still beat me!

Thank you for looking

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Definitely in Need of a Little Assistance

On the workbench is a little 1/48th house in need of the garden the weeds are growing faster than I can yank them out......and the conservatory is over-run with tomatoes....but at least the washing is drying in the sun!

I thought I should get back to miniatures in this blog...but you know how it goes.....

So, we love tomatoes and my husband loves to grow them from seed, which he does VERY successfully....every year.  Although he planted less than usual, they all came up, so I am in the annual process of convincing the extended family that when they visit they should take some home! Still there's danger of frost, so nothing tender can go outside....the conservatory is full to bursting with the orchids and other conservatory plants, plus the toms., carnation plug plants, leek and parsnip seedlings. I need help!!

Running out of room fast...
Finally...nowhere to sit...

Bert arrived, released from his box which he never liked anyway to help tie one or two to supports.

Thank heavens for Bert
Out in the garden - which is looking pretty good despite the weeds - tulips are blooming and my favourite shrub Exochorda - The Bride is looking wonderful and I have finally decided to stop trying to cull the bluebells which are everywhere.


It's a losing battle anyway really and they do look beautiful and I do love them; we have a mixture of the native and the spanish variety in different areas and I had a wild ambition to only keep the native.....oh well.  When they die down other things appear and the garden is ever-changing.

I hope you're all enjoying your garden too, whether it's real sized or miniature.

Thank you for looking

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Wishing You A Happy Easter

Easter is a special time for many of us across the globe and I hope that it can be a time spent with those you love.
Our gardens and open spaces, and even our indoor plants and window boxes also seem to know that it's time to renew and celebrate.

I enjoyed a lovely day in Oxford with a very special guide a week  ago visiting some of the  Colleges, and trod the medieval pavements, touched equisite and ancient wood and stone carvings and sculptures and gazed at unbelievably ancient and beautiful stained glass windows. It was absolutely a walk back in time and a huge privilege and I'm grateful for the enormous work and dedication undertaken to preserve this for us all.

It's decades since I last did this, so a big thank you P.

The parks and garden within college precincts are just a joy too, and for me, best of all was seeing for the first time the snakes head fritilliaries (yes I do have a 'thing' about them) flowering in their thousands across the water meadows at Magdalen College.

Oxford was bursting with visitors on a sunny day - youngsters drawn by a location for the Harry Potter Films, and 'oldsters' drawn by the 'Morse' stories (and spin offs) by Colin Dexter. I hope they all enjoyed themselves and will come back one day to look at the 'ancient dreaming spires'.

The garden is bursting into colour and so too, the conservatory - orchids vying with each other for centre stage.

Enjoy your weekend whatever you are doing.

Thank you for looking

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Spring Cleaning

I can see the cobwebs, but the sun is shining so I'm going outside for a spot of spring-cleaning....

My diddy little pond created from a huge old wash pan has been a great success since it went in a few years ago and attracts frogs, toads, dragonflies and the like, and the local blackbirds perch there for a drink.  However as it is so small it does need a bit of a clean out once a year and the reed clump reduced in size if the tiny waterlily has a chance of flowering - I did that on Friday.

I upset the two big frogs sitting in the mud at the bottom and disturbed a couple of amorous toads nearby, but pressed on.
Obviously I didn't upset the frogs too much because this morning the pond is full of frogspawn!! Exciting!

It's remarkable how much difference a tiny amount of water can make to the wildlife in our gardens - most of whom will (hopefully) eat the slugs that also thrive. I made a huge mistake a couple of years ago when we had frogspawn, topping up the pond during a particularly warm spring with tap water, instead of rainwater. Killed all the frogspawn - I won't make that mistake again.

Wild flowers also happily do their own thing as you can see - these lovely violets colonising  a crack in the paving beneath the back door.

In my wild patch the fritillaries, anenomies, primrose and cowslips are spreading well and I'm very happy.  I'd be even happier if squirrels hadn't dug up and eaten all the extra fritillary corms I planted in the autumn, but at least they left the snowdrops alone and we enjoyed them for the first time.

For the gardeners among you I wonder if you've discovered spent coffee grounds to deter the slugs and snails? Our local coffee shop gives away bags of the stuff and as far as I'm concerned it works like a miracle!! Worth a try if you haven't.

Thank you for looking

Monday, March 20, 2017

Jolly Boys Outing

Random days out, often involving long treks up and down hills or jaunts to strange places, have for decades been deemed 'jolly boys outings' in our family.  The name borrowed from the 1980s T.V. sitcom 'Only Fools and Horses' was adopted because I was outnumbered 5 to 1 by one husband and four sons...and occasional (usually male) hangers on.  These days the 'boys' are adults with families but outings are still 'jolly boys outings' even if there are only two or three of us!!

Today is the first day of spring and I had visions of taking snaps of the lovely spring flowers out in my garden....but it's chucking it down with rain........ instead I'll take you on our outing to Wittenham Clumps.

The Clumps are two hills topped with Beech trees in an ancient landscape rising above the village of Little Wittenham in Oxfordshire, not too far from us - The Round Hill and  Castle Hill, which is an iron age fort.  Both I believe have been excavated by archaeologists.  Anyway - the walk itself is just lovely and we plan to go back during the summer when the surroundings,  which along with the clumps are maintained by Earth Trust, should be a wild flower paradise.

The Round Hill
Castle Hill
Back in the 'old days' the clumps were variously named 'Berkshire Bumps' (boundary changes moved the area to Oxfordshire) and 'Mother Dunch's Buttocks' after the local Lady of the Manor - Hmmm! The clumps are also notable because apparently they were the first  beech trees to be recorded as having been deliberately planted to create a 'feature' in the landscape, around 300 years ago.  One huge ancient tree on the Round hill had a long poem carved into its trunk around 1845 - still visible we saw this a few years ago - sadly it has now succumbed to age and fallen down.

Blackthorn in full bloom
The Thames
Didcot Power Station
As you can see, there are wonderful views from the top, of the Thames valley, the Thames and Days Lock, Dorchester Abbey and the rather more modern Didcot Power Station - and the brisk breeze blows away all your cares of the day!!

Thank you for looking

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Old Barn - Finished and Ready to Frame

If you saw the last blog you'll know that I've been working on a 3D 1/24th scale (more or less) picture of an old barn in the town that has since been demolished and replaced by a group of new houses. Anyway my affectionate representation means that in my house, at least, it won't be forgotten.

Using simple brown card and mountboard the barn was built up - now it's time to get landscaping.  You wouldn't expect such a utilitarian building to warrant landscaping, but the land behind and to the sides was a haven for buddleia and elder as well as sycamore sapplings, and the debris at the side of the road as walls collapsed encouraged wild flower growth.

I wish I had the patience to cut hundreds and hundreds of 1/24th scale leaves for the trees - but I don't, so hope you think this ubiquitous 'moss' works as folliage.

Nothing very fancy has been used for the planting - a bit of paper, some dyed hemp and a little preserved natural plant material and of course a paint brush.....  Probably too small to see, but there are tiny butterflies up on the blossoms.

This may not be the final framing - and of course the glazing isn't in place, to enable better photos to be taken - but really that's it!  I'm hoping to learn a little more about the history of the barn, so near the centre of town.  I know it was an agricultural store and maybe a creamery once in its life. Perhaps it was originally part of a farm before the town grew up.

Thank you for looking

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Old Barn - more pizza packaging......

Not far from me - just off the centre of our small market town was a crumbling old barn which fascinated me.  So old that the aging and weathering rendered it almost monochrome, even the old bricks, stone walls and wood had faded one into another.  It was relieved in summer when the buddleia and elder burst into flower and draped over it and the debris at its foot allowed wild flowers/weeds to flourish.  Then it was knocked down!! Now we have a close of 'posh' redbrick houses in  its place.

I took masses of photos thinking that one day I just might be able to recreate it in miniature. Of course the whole thing was enormous so scale was a problem  - I only have so much room in my house! I finally decided to curb my wilder aspirations and use the pictures as inspiration for a 'more or less' 1/24th scale 3D picture.

In the absence of a deep picture frame/shadow box I deconstructed a redundant artists materials box and used half.  I'll need to properly frame and glaze but that's a long way down the road so I'm not thinking about that yet.  Inconveniently it's a bit bigger than A4. Loads of rough sketches, and the SO useful styrofoam packaging that comes with pizzas meant I could start to create the form of the old barn on mountboard.

At this point I need to acknowledge a HUGE thank-you to Drora -
I've experimented in the past with 'sculpting' styrofoam, but seeing just what she had achieved really encouraged me to have a go on a bigger project and I'm thrilled with the results on the old walls.

Out came my hoard of brown card envelopes for the planking, which is so easy to turn into old wood with some dry-brush paint effects and the good old sandpaper and scalpel for texture.

Next up is to spend more time with the paint brush, dig out some 'trees', get some clouds in that flat sky and find some weeds.  More next time.

Thank you for looking