Feathered friends

I have set up the most marvelous sewing / writing studio in the tower of our house. It is perfect! But no sewing at all has been done yet. Life took over. Then chickens. So allow me, just this once, to talk about something other than fabric. Ok, maybe not just once…

Fluffy, Brownie and Silkie

Fluffy, Brownie and Silkie

First it was just the three little ones. Manageably small. But useless at laying eggs. But we love them all the same. They are such fun to watch.

A "Silkie" chicken, utterly daft but tough as nails, and sweet to cuddle.

A “Silkie” chicken, utterly daft but tough as nails, and sweet to cuddle.

So we added a big rough Tuscan one to produce something. Meet “Tosca”, the local laying hybrid. She looks huge next to the other girls.

Tosca, tough but soft at heart

Tosca, tough but soft at heart

Has she yet laid anything? No. “Ma fa freddo!”, said the man in the local agricultural shop. Well, perhaps to an Italian, 24C in the afternoon is indeed a little chilly. I am however wearing a teeny T-shirt. So, another freeloader, who will no doubt lay next Spring. Or not. So then we added another laying hen to keep her warm in the winter on the roost, as the little ones seem to sleep in a pile on the flood of the coop. Meet “Azzurra”, a grey chicken called ‘blue’ around here.

Azzurra, who thinks she's blue, according to her hybrid name (but looks pretty grey to me...)

Azzurra, who thinks she’s blue, according to her hybrid name (but looks pretty grey to me…)

We just spent all evening looking for her in the bushes after she decided to escape our state-of-the-art electrified fox-proof pen. Poor lass. We thankfully found her before something big and hungry did. Enough chickens? Well, that was before our lovely neighbour Ms V decided to hatch a batch of chicks and give us some. In our enthusiasm, we ended up with five “because they are so sweet and tiny and oh let’s have that one too because it’s a different colour, and that one too…” and so on. A little more than a week later, these are starting to look seriously huge. And boy do they EAT!

They might start out small...

They might start out small…

I am seriously hoping several of these turn out to be boys because if so we have agreed with Ms V that they can go and live with her mother who has a large farm. Ten chickens will not fit into my little coop. They we will wish them well and not think too hard about their life expectancy… Any time for quilting? Probably not quite yet…

Happy farming! JJ

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Oh so much to say, but very little sewing!

Life is full to the brim, but there seems to be no time to write it down. So here is one picture of the new peeps living in the sitting room…

So, instead of sewing, we just

IMG_0366.JPG enjoy the variety of life on an Italian hillside. The children start school on Monday. That should ultimately provide some spare time, even if the first few weeks might be a bit rocky.

Happy cheeping!

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On a hillside

The day begins with tea and a view, in gentle rolling colours. A thin veil of mist. Sun peaking out, glorious in the Tuscan light. Boxes are almost unpacked, house feeling like home. Only a broken computer and a fused wiring system stop me from sewing and blogging. But that will come. Meanwhile, we soak it all in.

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Little boxes, on the hillside

We are packing, packing, packing, off on our sabbatical year in Italy in a few weeks. Of course, because I packed my sewing stuff first, I am now totally incapable of doing anything creative. Bother! The Spring was a whirl of too much work, not enough sewing, and unexpected work responsibilities. Interesting, but exhausting.

Chicken-keeping class booked, kids signed up in local schools for September, and research institution awaiting me for the autumn. But, before then, we have a flat, a chalet and an office to pack up. Boxes, boxes, boxes. Oh joy.

It’s all about the process, we tell ourselves… JJ

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Rainbow world

There is really nothing better than a Birthday party for Small People! T-shirts and socks in a fabulous production line. The children — and the two grown-ups — had a fabulous time.

Socks1It took quite a long time to rinse out the T-shirts! Now they are all drying on the balcony.

TshirtsHappy rainbowing! JJ

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Mystery revealed

If you can’t join ‘em…

I could not go to Patchwork in the Peaks (5!) this time, alas. The timing (this weekend!) just didn’t work out. Nevertheless, I was honoured to be a pattern-tester for Ms E for the Mystery Quilt that was to be made at the retreat. Except that I was a useless tester since I never finished it on time to actually prove it was doable — but by them Ms E had made one, quilted it and bound it, so I didn’t feel so bad…

But, instead of doing it a month ago, fresh back from Tuscany yesterday, I spend a happy day hiding from the children and sewing. I think it needs a border or two to make it a sensible size. I just love those silly spacemen. Bright, it certainly is!

Mystery quiltAs Peaks is taking place now, I can’t wait to see what all the happy campers are making. It is always so fun to see how different fabric choices totally change a pattern. I think slightly less contrasting tones would be rather better, in retrospect. But it’s cheerful.

Unlike what my previous post suggested, I never did get round to doing any sewing when I was in Italy. Too much going on, too much to plan, too much to take in and too much to think about for our year away. The closest I got to actually sewing was simply laying a quilt on what will be my bed for a year, to make it feel like home.

Tuscan bedThe only other thing I did was lay out my hexies, take a photo of my progress, and then pack them away again. Doesn’t really count as sewing, does it? Still, sometimes just patting fabric is therapeutic.

Hexies april 2014Everything takes time in Italy, often in a happy way (Slow food!), but in frustrating episodes too. We learnt, for example, that telling a bank manager who is proving officious and annoyingly sanctimonious that “it works better in Switzerland” mightn’t be the best strategy to get what you want (even if it makes you feel really, really better!) — but waving as many official looking bits of paper covered in various assorted stamps is. Sense of humour essential at all times! Easier when you are rested, and full of Easter chocolate. Or pasta. Or both.

Happy stitching! JJ

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A taste of things to come

An Easter in Tuscany, with egg hunts, chocolate eggs, one poorly child who picks up soon (but misses the long-awaited egg hunt, poor lass), and lots of hearty home-cooked food, some of it in the sun. Log fires in the evening, a touch of heating in the morning.

Barga april 20142Who would have known you could dye quail eggs to get the sweetest mini-Easter-eggs? A happy experiment. These four survived into the evening, after having been happily hunted all morning in a friend’s garden.

Barga april 2014b1We gently settle into the rythme of things, after a couple of days of being tired and rather anxious: this place will, after all, be home for a year from next summer. Will we grow to think of it as our home? Will the children learn Italian in school quickly enough to enjoy it, or will the somewhat traditional-style-bums-on-seats-rote-learning schooling prove rather challenging to two children who began their happy schooling in Montessori heaven? Will the endless summery hot place we know from holidays turn into a damp muddy wintery mountain? We will have time to discover if this is the greatest adventure, or one long strange challenge… But, after a few days of rest, we all feel better about our plans. I think. I hope. Certainly, it will be a change. Meanwhile, we eat chocolate: in my case, the sweetest little sewing-themed set Mr T found for me in Aosta, where we stopped on the way down.

chocciesThe children certainly take easily to being able to tumble out into the garden (“the hillside” probably better describes it…) to go and chase bugs, play games, or just poke about.

Barga april 20145The “Monte Forato” can be seen from the house, an amazing natural stone arch. This is also known as the “Uomo morto” – the dead man. Can you see him lying back, his knees bent up on the right, his face with the ‘hole’ to the left?

Barga april 20143Now, to settle down and do some sewing…

Happy Easter! JJ

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