Monday, 29 November 2010

Oil painting at Ashfield...

So what's happening over at Ashfield? In the cold weather the boiler has broken so everything seems to have closed down. No one can work in the offices or in the polytunnels. Greenland has hit.

I've been making a small contribution in the background over the last week though.
Rob Ijbema will be teaching oil painting in the new year and here's the poster... I've just got to get it printed and laminated and put it up on all the notice boards and in shops and the library. I've got no idea how
many people will book - it's possible we'll get loads but we just have to wait and see. Then we'll have to get the room ready and send out all the info to participants....

The other thing i've been doing is some artwork and a leaflet for Ian's Springbox idea. This is a christmas gift idea where you buy a garden box for a friend - and all the plug plants and seeds are delivered in the spring ready to plant. All you need for a complete vegetable or wild flower garden. So first we have to sell the boxes... then we have to grow the plants... I keep seeing this vision of Alan Sugar shaking his head and asking "so why exactly did you offer to post the boxes for £5 when it's actually going to cost £7.50?" Good point. I SO couldn't go on the Apprentice. I don't think we'll post the boxes at all - delivery only.

Colder than Greenland??

We arrived back in Newbridge last night to minus 13 and dropping. I have never known such cold in our country - and i am proud to say this week we live in the coldest place in britain...except it took HOURS for our coats to come off and the house to feel warm again. Our wonderful landlord had saved us from frozen water pipes while we were away, and our lovely neighbours had cleared the snow off our drive - what a welcome. I am SO glad our boiler was fixed last thursday before this hit. I think i would have had to stay in bed with a hot water bottle if we didn't have heating.

Here are some pics from my walk to Llysdinam with Barney this morning....

The river Wye was partly frozen over...
the snow formed crystals on everything....

this is Llysdinam house - often visited by the victorian curate Francis Kilvert for those who have read Kilverts Diaries

and the beautiful snowy welsh hills.
Please note I didn't take a picture of Ians reputedly-frozen nasal hairs.

I was sorely tempted to go with Ian up to Bangor today where he was hosting a business visit to the algae plant. But even from here it's still a 3 hour drive each way and even the prospect of seeing snowdonia in the snow couldn't outweigh the tiredness i feel at the moment from all the driving between somerset and wales. This weekend we made some good decisions on the house - and even bought some flooring for the lounge. Dad should be on commission. I love it - it's engineered oak boarding - with a very dark stain and distressed effect. Can't wait to see it down but sadly it'll probably be at least 6 months away as the walls have to be built first and the roof redone.

Some progress has been made however - Roger has been working faithfully on Ians shed. This is how it looks now..... unfortunately i've got to put in more plans for the minor changes from the planning permission. Shouldn't be a problem though. What do you think of our red cedar boarding? purchased here in wales.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

A Polytunnel called Tom

Just so we can't be accused of all play and no work I've put a few photos of Ashfield to show what's been happening here this week. We've had 9 people on site today so there's been a bit of a buzz with everyone putting their hand to the plough. It feels great - I love working with other people outdoors. And the best bit is - you start a job and someone else finishes it! I'm all in favour of community gardening.

We also met with Rob Ijbema, a 'proper' artist who paints in oils - and I am very excited that he has agreed to come and teach a course for us in the new year. My job - advertising. Easy Craft Workshops Take 2. Can't wait. Have a look at his work here:-

Ian at his desk (and Barney at his)

This is 'Tom', one of the 4 polytunnels on site. We cleared the old aubergines, beans, chillis etc out of Tom, re-composted, repaired the paths and planted onions and winter salad leaves. All very satisfying and 'dig for victory'. It's amazing to plant things when the temperature is already dropping to freezing here.

Pippa, Roz, Jan and myself cleared brambles from a ditch and made a huge bonfire...

Ray and Terry have been stripping out the inside of the house. It will be divided into two flats and let out to raise some revenue for the project. There is a certain deja-vue walking round the house at the moment. Even the bright yellow walls..... (must have been trendy in the 80's). It's strange that both ends of our life have semi-derelict houses and lots of mud to contend with, but hopefully both will improve in the next year.

Ian, Tom and Brian are repairing the potting shed roof...

And lastly, the beautiful sky on my cycle ride home today...

Monday, 8 November 2010

Normality regained (albeit temporarily)

We have just returned from our latest foray into the social life of Llandrindod - a visit to the Horticultural Society talk on 'Alpine Art'. You might wonder why, and it was a spur of the moment reckless decision and a need to 'get out' that led us to this middle-class, middle-aged (well quite old really) group to hear what we thought was an artist talking about his paintings of the Alps.... the clue was of course in the word 'Horticultural' if we'd bothered to notice.

Two and a half hours later, the imagined paintings were a thing of the past. Well-versed in the art of growing alpine plants in dry patches in the garden or lumps of tufa rock, and bemused by fritillaria gibosa or galanthus plicatus, we stumbled into the bar of the Metropole Hotel for a coffee to bring us back to life and normality. Normality is what we found - young people in ordinary clothes drinking ordinary drinks like anywhere in Taunton (well some places in Taunton anyway). Not a woolly jumper, beard, pair of socks'n'crocs, knit-your-own, make-do-and-mend, organic permaculture biodynamic sustainable felt hat in sight. Aaaah - the sound of Ian breathing again.

Our life in Wales is such an eclectic mix of people, groups and things that we don't normally do. Every morning when I wake up I have to think 'which house am I sleeping in', or 'which part of my life am I in today?'. It's a great experience but a little surreal. I'm pleased to say I am now a fully-fledged Ashfield Volunteer. Today was clearing a polytunnel ready for planting with onions and other winter veg. For some reason the tunnel is called 'Tom'. I'm not sure why. Just more of the alternative reality we now live in.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Busy October

Looking back over this month, I realise we have had 12 different people to stay in our 'holiday cottage' here in Wales. I have also been down to Somerset twice and to Cheltenham for one weekend - it'
s amazing how much you can squeeze into one month! Visits from family and friends are definitely a highlight - it might sound a bit sad but we look forward to it all week and then feel bereft when they have gone! So thankyou to all who have made the trek up here.

The Tremain Twins and their other halfs were the first to come and check we're still alive.

This is Faith - Barney's Number 1 Fan...And Lester getting ready for his first mountain hike....
Dave and Helen - we actually saw the Elan Valley in sun for the first time on that weekend.This was the moment I decided my next car has to have a soft top...

And finally Sarah and Hayden - this is our day hike in Abergwesyn - very lovely, very damp and very tiring! Tired but happy...

I've decided this valley is my favourite place in mid-Wales so far - we first discovered it with Ian's parents and aunt and uncle, and walked back through it with Sarah and Hayden. So beware any future visitors, we might just have to take you there...