It’s a tiring business…

Tablet“Goodness, I am tired!” I hear myself and my friends say this on a regular basis. While I tend to laugh and put it down to advancing years, today’s world is actually much busier than it used to be with technology sneakily eating into our leisure time making us more stressed and tired. Many of the things we think are pick me ups, or relaxers actually have the reverse effect! But don’t despair… there are all sort goods of small things we can do to help improve our energy levels.

TVs and tablets
I don’t think anyone will be surprised by this appearing at the top of the list as it’s had a lot of publicity of late. Both TVs and tablets give off blue wavelengths that suppress your brain’s production of melatonin (the chemical that makes you feel tired and helps you fall asleep), so you’re more likely to have shorter, disrupted sleep, causing you to be tired the next day. I, for one, am very naughty about putting my iPad down at bedtime – grr!

TiredMessySort it out
A messy unorganised environment means you expend mental energy on stress, which increases your exhaustion. I know when I have had a really good sort out in my craft room and got everything properly ordered and stored, I feel so much happier and my mind less muddled.

The coffee kick

Even though many people find the kick of coffee essential in the mornings, come the afternoon or evening it might be the reason you’re nodding off. While caffeine is a stimulant and increases your energy, the effect wears off over time and leaves you feeling worse later.

TiredCoffeeCheers – not!
While a nightcap might help you fall asleep faster, the quality of sleep you’ll get after a glass of red wine is not good. You can expect a restless night and to wake up more often, leaving you tired the next day.

Let in the light
A study of workers with offices with windows, verses those without, found that people who enjoyed natural light all day long on average slept 46 minutes more at night. The same goes for your home – the more natural light you have will help you sleep better at night and feel more rested the next day.

Feeling blue…
This is a bit of an odd one, but a study by Travelodge (the motel people) investigated bedroom colours in 2,000 homes and found that blue walls help slow down your heart rate, reduce your blood pressure, and make you feel sleepy. So while this is great news in your bedroom, it isn’t ideal anywhere else in your house!

Naughty snacks!
Foods loaded with simple carbs and sugars result in frequent blood sugar spikes, followed by sharp drops that will make you feel tired over time. This is something I can certainly identify with and I am feeling a great deal better following my healthy eating and veg growing regime! I’m not saying I never hanker after a handful of crisps, but…!

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Thatch – much more than just picturesque

Victoria farm

Victoria Farm

I am fortunate enough to live in an old farmhouse with a thatched roof. Another house in the village here was being re-thatched recently, and it was fascinating watching the thatcher at work whenever we drove past… and it set me thinking about thatch and how, even in 2016, there are still so many thatched roofs around.

When I started investigating, the first thing I discovered is that although thatch is popular in Germany, The Netherlands, Denmark, parts of France and Ireland, there are more thatched roofs in the United Kingdom than in any other European country. On top of that, I found that Devon has more thatched properties than any other English county, so no wonder they seem quite commonplace to my eye!

Thatching materials can include heather, gorse, broom, flax, reed, rye and wheat straw. These light, but incredibly durable, materials were particularly used in areas, such as Devon, where buildings were made of cob or clunch that are less able to carry the weight of stone, tile or slate.

North Bovey

North Bovey on Dartmoor, a pretty thatched village.

The materials used for thatching were local and cheap. As I so often discover in my research, this ancient tradition was also very efficient and, while today we rush around being ‘green’ and insulating everything, thatch was doing a great job and ticking all the ecologically sound boxes from the outset! It is naturally weather-resistant and is also a natural insulator, and air pockets within straw thatch insulate a building in both warm and cold weather, so a thatched roof ensures your house is cool in summer and warm in winter. Thatch also has very good resistance to wind damage, so no flying slates to worry about!

Good quality straw thatch can last for more than 30 years when created by a skilled thatcher. Traditionally, a new layer of straw was applied over the weathered surface, and this ‘spar coating’ tradition has created thatch over 7ft thick on some very old buildings! The straw is bundled into ‘yelms’ before it is taken up to the roof and attached using staples, known as ‘spars’, made from twisted hazel sticks.

Thatching

Thatching, a highly skilled trade.

Technological change in the farming industry had a huge impact on the popularity of thatching. The availability of good quality thatching straw declined in England after the introduction of the combine harvester in the late 1930s and the switch to growing short-stemmed wheat varieties. Increasing use of nitrogen fertiliser in the 1960s–70s also weakened straw and reduced its longevity so thatched roofs became expensive to build. Since the 1980s, however, there has been a big increase in straw quality as specialist growers have returned to growing older, tall-stemmed, ‘heritage’ varieties of wheat… as ever, the original way is so often the best!

Thatchers themselves, highly skilled tradesmen and much in demand, all have individual ‘signatures’ that are often seen in the way they treat dormers, eaves and gables. If you have thatched properties in your area, you might be able to spot these fascinating little details! You will also often see little thatched figures, such as a pheasant, created on the ridge of a new thatch. I think these are charming and really add to the appearance of a property.

ThatchedEco

A modern eco-house… with thatched roof!

Today, with the enthusiasm for energy conservation and minimising one’s carbon footprint, eco houses are being built with thatched roofs and hay bale walls… rather like ‘going organic’ and growing your own veg, nothing is new in this world!

 

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Lace and roses

FrenchFlowersI always feel smiley when I can include some lace on a card and of course I love using flowers. This die is the Signature Dies Wild Rose and it’s fun to use.

The basic card is an 8 x 8” white card blank, then I have matted some pretty grey lace backing paper from my Volume 1 backing paper pad (good value I reckon) onto dark pink cardstock. I used the same dark pink for roses plus a lighter shade too. The matted lace paper is then attached to the card blank.

The image was cut out from the Stefania Ferri 8 x 8”pad (she is SO talente!) and attached in the centre of the card. My choice is to use double sided tape, but some people have other favourites like photo glue or glue sticks.

Now, diecut roses in a couple of shades of pink and find a nice subtle green for the leaves. The thing I love about using dies is that you can use scraps and just keep on cutting to get as many flowers as you like as opposed to having a packet that runs out on you!

The centre of the wild roses just shows on the card as a glimpse of yellow – I have achieved this by cutting a square of scrap bright yellow card and attaching to the back of the flower – hey presto yellow centre! Before you glue the flowers onto the card, mould them a little to make the petals come up and away from the edges – this gives a lovely texture.

Have fun!

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Garden in a drawer

I was given this little garden over Easter – so I can’t say I made it myself, but I love it so much I thought I would try and reuse the drawer once the bulbs have finished.

It’s not always easy to find a spare drawer although I might just have a look in our recycling depot at the council tip. Thinking about it, anyone tried searching on ebay for an old drawer – I wonder if anyone sells them?

Anyway, assuming that none of us are lucky enough to have a load of old drawers hidden in the shed(!), all you’d have to do surely would be to make or buy a wooden box that’s roughly drawer shaped and then buy a drawer knob or handle and screw it onto the front?

As part of my useless collection of lovely things I do have a couple of really nice ceramic floral doorknobs – hmm they might look lovely.

Anyway, I just wanted to share the inspiration with you. Enjoy!

 

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Did you know…?

Care of my writing and foraging pal, Julia horton-Powdrill, here’s a quick list of fascinating flora and fauna facts for you! Julia’s website ‘Wild About Pemrokeshire’ is full of interesting things…

Did you know…

  • The world’s oldest known recipe is for beer.
  • Examples of countryside foods that were being eaten in 1917 include blackbirds, sparrows, starlings, hedgehogs, brown rats, grasshoppers, caterpillars and bees!
  • Samuel Pepys liked nettle porridge for breakfast.
  • Daffodil bulbs contain a substance called galanthine that scientists are developing for use in the treatment of Alzheimer’s.
  • Primrose and daisy flowers can be put into salads.
  • The Acer (maple) was used by the Romans to make arrows. Acer means ‘sharp’ in Latin.
  • Human urine is a great source of nitrogen for plants and can be used on compost heaps to accelerate the decomposition process. No, really…!
  • A single dandelion flower has about 180 seeds, but a mature three year old plant can produce up to 5,000 seeds!
  • Water travels up tree trunks at roughly 150 feet per hour.
  • There are more than 375 micro-species of blackberry in Britain, providing a wide range in shape, size, fruiting time, sweetness and flavour.

And on that note… here’s a really quick and easy blackberry recipe:

Place 300g blackberries in a blender with 75g icing sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice. Whizz to a purée, then pass it through a sieve into a large bowl. Stir in 300ml double cream and use an electric whisk to whip into a fluffy mousse.

Spoon into four dishes, or you could put it into a large serving bowl (glass is good as the colour is so lovely!) and decorate with a few extra blackberries. Eat straight away, or cover and chill – you can make it a day in advance if you need to.

 

 

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