Health and Contentment

Unfortunately the photos from this old post have been lost

It’s the end of December and so the next calendar year is almost upon us. For me the new year really begins at Winter Solstice and I am already enjoying the lengthening of the winter days. We are having a wet and warm Christmas season in Ireland, quite a change from last year’s extreme winter weather and a welcome change for most people I think.

 

I have to admit I really enjoyed last years cold and bright Christmas and I miss the cheer of the snow, this year didn’t feel as festive to me and I have to also admit that I am becoming very tired of the mud that the almost constant rain has brought around my door.

Despite the unseasonal warmth (warmest Irish Christmas on record apparently) we still need to keep our fire lit. I have spent the last hour in the timeless chore of cutting kindling, emptying the ashes from our small stove and laying down the fire-start, I am sure every stove owner has their own way of setting the fire-start depending on what fuel they burn. We burn a mixture of peat briquettes and our own white-thorn wood, cut from the overgrown hedge earlier in the year. My partner and I even have our own ways of setting the briquettes, kindling and paper to start the fire and each is equally successful.

Some days my favourite part of starting the fire is cutting the kindling. At the moment we have a few wood-piles lying between the sitting room and the kitchen in our new house. We have a pile of saw-mill cut timber there which we have used for framing the walls, this pile is dwindling as we run out of wall framing timber (because happily it is in the walls) and the pile of cut-offs has grown. Some of the cut-offs will still be used in various jobs about the house however some pieces are destined to become kindling.

Every few days on of us goes out and picks a piece of wood that looks unsuitable for anything but kindling and we chop it up with our small axe. The chopping block is currently in the bathroom, incidentally that’s also where this year’s Christmas tree is. Doesn’t everyone keep their Christmas tree in the bathroom? Perhaps not. Our tree actually consists of a few Pine boughs that I cut the day before Christmas Eve and tied in a decorative fashion to a framing timber on the wall. I then decorated these with our small stash of Christmas decorations, I couldn’t find the stored box of decorations from last year so it was a bit improvised, none the less it is very pretty.

So the bathroom is very central to our activities this Christmas. The chopping block is a 2foot length of wood, 9x3inches, a cut-off of a roof beam. I enjoy chopping kindling. You really need to focus as your fingers are never far from the axe blade when you make that first incision that grips the piece of wood before you proceed to split it by hammering both the wood and the axe together down on the chopping block. It’s a very satisfying job, mark, split, gather the pieces into a basket.

Ever since axes have been used people have performed this task of making kindling for the fire. Perhaps it is the time of year that made me think of the generations of people, across the world, that tend to the cooking or winter fires, to warm and feed their families. Gathering and cutting firewood in some places or cutting turf, drying it and bringing it home as generations of Irish people have done over the centuries. Storing the winter fuel to keep it dry, ensuring it is not too far from the door especially in snowy or wet winters. For some people now the fire is no longer a necessity, whether or not it is essential the hearth has still a special place in many homes.

 

   Now at the turn of the year I wish you

  the warmth of a brightly burning fire

  as these lengthening winter days pass.

  I wish for you health and contentment in the coming year.

 

Away From Home

I have been away from home for three weeks now and have not been very active online so belated Happy New Year to all you lovely people out there.

I had hoped to be home by now however the Irish weather has had other ideas and the roads are still very dangerous in places.  We have been in touch with a neighbour who advised us not to attempt the journey unless we really need to.  It is starting to feel as though I really need to…

We have been staying with different family members, first a week near a beach which was lovely and since then with an elderly parent. I have to say that Christmas was lovely, very peaceful and calm and christmassy, the ground sparkling in the hard frost…

It’s just that after awhile, no matter how gracious your welcome, it is good to go home…

Dark Evening Knitting

I don’t quite know what it is about dark Autumn and winter evenings that inspires me to knit or crochet.

It happens each year without fail. Despite this my knitting skills have not really improved very much.

I tend to knit simple things like scarves that require no pattern and I don’t have to worry about tension – other than my tension if I drop a stitch!

This winter I am trying a baby blanket for the impending birth of my second grand-child. I am using cotton yarn so that itching the wee baby’s delicate skin won’t be a problem.

I found a great free website for baby blanket patterns. In fact there are lots of wonderful free knitting patterns out there on the internet, just google free knitting pattern followed by your chosen project – for example free knitting pattern baby blanket.

I decided to see if I could improve my knitting technique so I went to the vast storage library of all skills – YouTube.

I found an amazing video of what looked like a very simple and fast technique for knitting.

I have tried this continental knitting method for a whole evening and although I am able to do it I find that I am still very slow and that I feel stressed so I have gone back to my own method for the moment.

There is at least one knitting group in the Leitrim/Roscommon area that meets in Carrick On Shannon every few weeks. I will try to go along to the next meeting.

Meanwhile, I will keep on knitting, one stitch at time…

Changing Times

I have been preoccupied lately and not paid much attention to the web so tonight I have been doing some catching up and reading some favourite blogs.

It was like a winters evening, I lit the fire about 5pm, himself put a chicken in the oven.  I read as the wind blew around us and the rain pelted against the windows.

About an hour forty five minutes later I put my favourite cast iron pot on the stove-top and threw in some chopped leeks & raisins as the oil was heating. Then I added some cajun spice and a cup of basmati rice and stirred to mix well and warm through, adding two and a half cups of water to simmer while I read some more.

I wasn’t just catching up on blogs, I was also browsing real estate websites – not something I was expecting to be doing right now. Some family circumstances are changing and it is possible that we may move instead of building.

Nothing is certain yet however we are having a look to see what is available. To be honest I am finding the prices a bit ridiculous and I believe that already they are lower than they would have been some months ago and will probably keep dropping.

Thank goodness for the grounding effects of a lovely roast chicken dinner!