Saturday, September 30, 2006

Here Comes the Bride

My baby sister, Lindsey, is getting married today. And the nicest thing about it is she's marrying one of my best friends. We're a close family and there is considerable overlap between our groups of friends, so I'm looking forward to a day of catching up with people dear to me, eating, drinking, dancing, laughing and helping two of my favourite people celebrate the most important day of their lives.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Eglus in the News

I don't normally like to blog about news stories too often but I couldn't let this pass without telling you about it. It's a story from the BBC News website about eglus. I once described eglus as

...funky urban henhouses for the iPod generation. They look like someone has disembowelled an iMac and attached a run on the front.

I thought I was being original and witty, but if you google for eglu+imac you'll see that almost everybody who has written about eglus has made the comparison.

We decided to save the £400 and make a henhouse out of an underused wendy house, and very swanky it is too. But if you don't happen to have an old wendy house knocking around, then an eglu isn't a bad way to go. I applaud them for making poultry-keeping accessible to the masses.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


The BBC website has a slide show with audio about foraging. It features a chap called Marcus Harrison who runs Wild Food School courses in Cornwall, teaching people about the edible wild plants in the area. I enjoy foraging for free food in the hedgerows near our house, but I'd like to learn more about wild mushrooms. I love mushrooms but I'm worried about inadvertently poisoning the family.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


I've just bartered 4kg of runner beans (note to self - plant fewer next year) and 2 kg of yellow courgettes from the allotment for some apples, bananas and oranges at the local farm shop. I got talking to the shopkeeper and he's going to help me get some more chickens for myself and a neighbour who wants some too. That will save me having to go all the way to Warrington.

Edited at 14:04 - This is a shoutout to my dad, Bill, who has finally been dragged kicking and screaming into the 20th century, and is getting to grips with this new-fangled interweb thingy. Bet you can't figure out how to leave a comment, baldie.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Seed Catalogues

I'm told there'll be a shortage of seed potatoes next year, and I should get my order in early to the allotment office. So I sit in an armchair with a cup of tea and the potato order form.

Arran Pilot
Home Guard
Pentland Javelin
Sharpes Express

It's soporific and comforting, a bit like the Shipping Forecast on Radio 4.

North Utsire
South Utsire
Ulster Prince
Ulster Sceptre
Maris Piper

The exotic-sounding names are evocative, like the Litany of the Saints that is read out at the Easter Vigil.

Saint Francis Xavier
Saint John Vianney
Saint Catherine
Red Duke of York
King Edward

It's a nice way to spend a wet autumn evening, discovering accidental poetry in seed catalogues.

First Earlies, Second Earlies, Maincrop:
Wilja, Maris Peer,
Pentland Squire, Desiree,

Peas: Early Onward, Feltham First,
Kelvedon Wonder, Alderman,

Golden Gourmet.

Runner beans: Lady Di, Margolis,
Scarlet Emperor,

Monday, September 25, 2006

Advertising On This Blog

I've been approached by someone who wants to put an ad on this blog. Once I realised it wasn't just automated spam, but a real person who had read the blog, I was mildly flattered. But I was also concerned and I agonised about it quite a bit.

So I looked at the other blogs I read regularly. Some of them had advertising, some didn't. Often I was surprised because I hadn't noticed the advertising before I looked for it. It makes me wonder how effective they can be if we can mentally filter them out so effectively. But that's not my problem.

In the end I decided that, since this site is all about my family's search for self-sufficiency, if we can turn this (already existing) blog into an extra income stream, that speeds the day when we can buy some land, Ed can give up his day job and we can try to live the life we dream about. It will also make me more committed to keeping the blog running and keeping the quality high.

So I said yes. I expect the ad (just one so far) will be appearing in the next day or so. But I'd be curious to know what you think. Do you feel strongly about ads on websites? Let me know by leaving a comment - you don't have to have a account to do that. This isn't a democratic vote by the way. It's my blog and I'll do what I want with it. But I'm interested in your opinion.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Soft Cheese

I mentioned that you can make soft cheese out of yogurt. It's ridiculously easy. You can use skimmed milk to make a low-fat version, or gold-top to make an extra-creamy version, and of course it can be organic if you like. If you use goat's milk it will be goat's cheese.

You can also have fun adding herbs, garlic, or any other flavourings you like. Lots of freshly ground black pepper is nice (I really mean lots and lots so you get a distinct hot peppery taste), or shredded smoked salmon. Chives or finely sliced spring onions are also good. I've never tried it with little shrimps, but you can buy cottage cheese with shrimps so I'm sure it would work.

Yogurt Soft Cheese

Line a colander with a clean non-fluffy cloth and pour in a pint of home-made plain yogurt mixed with two teaspoons of ground sea salt. Fold the cloth over the top and put something heavy on top - I use a cast-iron pan full of water. You want to squeeze all the whey out of the yogurt. Leave it overnight on the draining board, then wring the yogurt in the cloth. Clear liquid will come out. When thick white creamy bits start coming through the holes in the cloth you know you have wrung enough. Scrape the thick yogurt cheese off the cloth into a container. Now you can add any flavourings you want, and keep it in the fridge.

Use it just as you would use any soft cheese such as Philadelphia. I like it spread on crackers with a slice of tomato or cucumber.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Summer Has Gone

The swallows and housemartins have gone. They'll be back next summer. But this morning I could hear all the geese who gather on the field at the end of the road, and the chickens are feasting on the elderberries that are dropping into their run.

Reasons for Self-Sufficiency Continued

Yesterday I linked to Ray Lovegrove's article about The Philosophy of Self-Sufficiency. One of his reasons for self-sufficiency was The Joy of Work. To many people, that's a contradiction in terms. Their idea of joy is winning the lottery and living a life of indolence. But Ray has more to say:
On doing without
There is nothing better than having all that you want - but doesn't that make life a little empty? Doesn't having all you want make you want more - even if "more" is not really important in itself. Doesn't wanting more leave you with closets full of things that you either don't want or you want but have no time to use. Have you got a collection of music that you have no time to listen to, or a collection of books that you have no time to read? Have less. Enjoy what you have. Work hard for what you need. Sometimes you will have to wait - sometimes you wait for a very long time, but you have the joy of expectation. You have the joy of need and the joy of expectation.

This also struck a deep chord with me. Over on uk.rec.sheds, my spiritual home, we were recently discussing the pleasure of watching old black-and-white movies on a weekday afternoon, because there was nothing else on. This was sparked by the comment:

Now, however, kids can find an endless supply of whatever they want to watch; if they want to watch three episodes an hour of ScoobiDoo then they can. Add to that the absence of the old films anyway, the serendipity of afternoon TV has gone, probably for ever.

In our age of choice it's unusual to choose to do without, but I believe there is much to be gained from it.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Reasons for Self-Sufficiency

I recently read the following exchange on the forums:

Topic: Rhubarb

Q. We still have a lot left on the plant. Some people say take it off and use it, others say leave it on the plant to die off over winter - what should we do?

A. Dig it all out, tarmac the area, paint it green, and buy fresh from Tesco. Bound to be cheaper, and more convenient.

Well, it made me laugh. And then it made me think - that's true. It is cheaper and more convenient to get your food from the shops, to buy your clothes and bedding, your furniture and soap and gifts. So why do I make many of those things myself? And why do I yearn to make even more of them, to become as self-sufficient as I can?

The answer surprised me.

And what surprised me even more is that somebody else has already come up with the same answer and written eloquently about it. This is an extract from an article by Ray Lovegrove:

On the joy of work
Compare if you will, the joys of chopping a pile of firewood with filing your monthly sales figures. Compare a trip to the supermarket with collecting eggs from your chickens. Compare sitting in a long, long meeting on a spring afternoon with sowing vegetable seeds. Imagine falling into bed so tired with your efforts that you fall asleep at once, never giving a thought to how to hit your monthly target. Imagine the pure satisfaction in building your own chicken coop or knitting your own sweater - simple joys but real joys. Sure, you are giving up your paycheque, but oh, what a joy to work for yourself to produce what you need.

The joy of work. That means a lot to me. Life is too short to spend 38 hours a week doing something you hate. But I've never been attracted to winning the lottery and living a life of indolence. Ray has something to say about that, too. I'll write some more about it tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Doing a Runner

My runner bean plants are now producing a couple of kilos (more than 4lbs) of beans a week, which is far more than we want to eat. I've already made a year's supply of chutney, to preserve some of them. So I cut a huge batch of them, blanched them and then froze them in bags of 500g each. That should keep us going through the next few months.

There's a Met Office Weather Warning, with severe gales expected in the next few days. That could be the end of my runner beans for this season. I'll be picking them daily until it hits us.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Which is more important - elephants or people?

The BBC reported yesterday that officials from the Los Angeles Animal Services Department were outraged by the artist Banksy's use of an elephant in an art exhibition. The elephant was painted with a non-toxic dye as part of an installation intended to highlight how world poverty is ignored. Banksy's point is that poverty is "the elephant in the room" - the issue that everybody avoids talking about even though it is far too huge to sensibly ignore.

Let me just make sure I understand this. People are absolutely furious because somebody painted an elephant. Not because 16000 children die every day of hunger. Not because 2.2million children die each year from preventable diseases. Not because over one billion men, women, and children do not have safe water to drink.But because somebody painted an elephant.

I think Banksy got it bang on.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Standby For Action

I've been doing more research about the standby issue. According to the Times, devices on standby use 8 per cent of all domestic electricity, and the government is planning to outlaw standby switches on televisions and video and DVD players. An American source explained that:

This is mainly because appliance manufacturers have no reason to design their products with efficiency in mind -- after all, they don't pay your electricity bill!
The IEA states that devices on standby account for 1% of global carbon emissions. This isn't very much, but it is growing. It is also unnecessary and avoidable. They go to state that:

New technologies have emerged making it possible to reduce standby power by as much as 90%while maintaining all features that customers want. The most important innovations are higher efficiency power supplies and improved circuitry designs.
I haven't been able to get a definitive answer about whether it is currently better for consumers to switch off devices in standby thus saving electricity, or whether it is better to leave them in standby thus extending the life of the appliance (personally I am switching off as many devices as possible). However I have become convinced that consumers should put pressure on manufacturers to use more efficient standby designs, or not use them at all. In 2005 WWF Switzerland launched a petition to stop the energy waste caused by standby functions of electric appliances. The petition aims at putting pressure on producers and retailers to make products more energy efficient. There is not an equivalent petition for the UK, but the WWF do have a campaign to stop climate change. Why not take 90 seconds and sign the petition now?

(Today's picture is of the family at the Ladybower reservoir yesterday)

Sunday, September 17, 2006


I dug up my spuds today.

They're very small but that's because I only got them in very late.

They were free anyway so I'm glad I grew them.

Next year we'll plant them much earlier and get a better crop.

Friday, September 15, 2006

High culture

The organic veg box gets delivered each Thursday, so on Thursday nights I use up all the week-old veggies that are still in the fridge. Stir fries, soups and casseroles are all good ways of using up assorted veg, but last night we had a veggie curry, with naan bread and popadums, couscous and salad.

I wanted to make a courgette raita as well, but discovered we'd almost run out of yogurt, so today I made some more. Like bean-sprouts, I've been making my own yogurt for years. It's easy and it's cheaper than buying the stuff. It's also satisfying and fun to make things.

You boil a pint or so of milk (skimmed will work just as well as full-fat or anything in between), then cool it to blood temperature, which is a bit hotter than you think. Then you stir in a tablespoon of live yogurt. I use the last bit of the old batch unless it fails or goes mouldy, in which case I buy a small pot at the health food shop. Then you need to keep it warm for a few hours. I have a yogurt maker that is a sort of wide-necked thermos flask, and another type that is more like an electric incubator. I have to say the incubator type is more reliable.

After a few hours (or overnight) you'll have thickened plain yogurt. You'll want to chill it because warm yogurt is kind of yukky. You can add syrup and fruit to make it more like shop-bought fruit yogurt. I like it with sliced banana and maple syrup. Or you can use it for cooking, for salad dressings, smoothies or frozen yogurt and even make a kind of soft cheese. I'll talk about that in a future post.

One of these days I will make yogurt with milk from my own cow or goat. I'm looking forward to that.

Courgette Raita

Grate a couple of courgettes, mix with a teaspoon of ground sea salt then put them in a colander and leave them to drain for an hour or so. Squeeze any remaining liquid out of the courgettes with clean hands, then mix them with about a half pint of home-made plain yogurt. Heat 1 tsp black onion seeds in a dry frying pan and keep them moving until they start to pop, then quickly tip them onto the yogurt/courgette mixture. Add freshly ground black pepper, and a crushed clove of garlic, and more salt if necessary. Stir well and refrigerate until needed. Serve with crudites and mini popadoms as a dip, or as a side dish with an Indian meal. It is excellent for cooling your mouth when eating very spicy dishes.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Here Endeth The Lesson

Things to try next year:

"Three Sisters" system of planting sweetcorn, runner beans and squash all together. The runner beans grow up the tall sweetcorn stalks instead of needing canes, and the squash gorw on the ground, crowding out weeds. Supposedly you get more yield in a small space than if you grew them all separately.

Blackcurrants. They're delicious and versatile.

Pink fir apple potatoes. Someone gave us some they had grown and we really enjoyed them.

Rainbow chard, ditto.

Potimarrons - you can get free seeds for these chestnut-flavoured pumpkins, as long as you promise to keep some and give some away to a homeless shelter.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Lessons Learned Part 2

More lessons learned from my first season of growing food:

Scarecrows on an allotment are a vandal magnet.
Lettuces and radishes are quick, easy, and fun.

Rhubarb - you can have too much of a good thing.

I didn't have any luck with planting broccoli and cabbages direct into the ground. I don't know why not. Next year I'll try them in pots first.

Pumpkins also didn't work when sown directly into the ground. Try these in pots first.

Beetroot on the other hand worked really well, but I don't actually like them all that much. Don't plant so many next year.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Lessons learned

It's a race against time on the allotment now. There are still red flowers on the runner beans, and baby courgettes on the courgette plants, but the average date of the first frost in this area is just a few weeks away and that will kill them both. The beetroots will stay in the ground - it rarely gets cold enough here to freeze the ground solid - and the spuds might be OK if I'm lucky but the carrots need to come up before then.

So what have I learned in this first short season of having an allotment?

Runner beans are fun and easy to grow. But I should stick the canes more firmly in the ground or they blow over in high winds. And don't plant so many! They're heavy croppers and although I can hide them in stir fries and stews, and finely sliced in salads, none of the family much like a pile of steamed runner beans on their plate as a side vegetable.

Yellow courgettes are also easy and fun, and nicer than the green ones because they're less bitter. They're also heavy croppers. We had three plants this year and I think that was a good number.

Butternut squash on the other hand are far too big for a small plot. Just one plant has taken over the whole damned place, although it only has a few fruits on it. It's done for my pea patch, by growing over all the peas and shading out their light. I've heard you can train squash to grow up canes, perhaps that would work better than just letting them sprawl over the ground. Still it was heartening to see something growing so vigorously on the plot.

Plant sorrel indoors first before planting it out. I put a whole packet of seeds in the ground under varying conditions and at different times, but none of them came up.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Blackpool Rocks

It's the time when every bright sunny weekend could be the last one of the year. This leaves me with a dilemma - should I spend the precious warm dry days working on the plot, or enjoying the sunshine with the family?

I tried to compromise - I got down to the allotment early and picked 4 carrier bags full of veg (including 2 1/2 kg of runner beans), then in the afternoon we all went to Blackpool.

Blackpool is the biggest, brashest, most famous sea-side resort in Britain. It's the spiritual home of saucy postcards, fish and chips, candy rock, kiss-me-quick hats, trams, deckchairs, men with hankies on their head, donkey rides, Blackpool Tower, and of course the world-famous Blackpool Illuminations. You're not really British if you've never come home from Blackpool with a killer sugar rush and sand in your knickers.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Standby button - friend or foe?

(click on the comic strip to enlarge it)
When I put up the standby challenge poll, Steph left an interesting comment:
My hubby who works in the electronics industry says that flourescent tubes take over 500 times the energy to start when they're boosting compared to when they're running. But as it only takes 10 secponds to 'strike' a flourescent tube, do the math ie turn it off if you'll be out the room more than an hour and a half.But he says that the switch mode power supplies on modern tellys will pop a lot faster due to inrush current if they're switched on & off at the mains, as opposed to standby. BUT our telly is 25mAH standby(so that's 25 milliamps, ie 25 thousandth's of an amp, per hour) so if our telly is on standby for 24 hours, it will use 0.138 of a killowatt a day, so that's about 1.86 pence based on 13.55 pence per unit electricity, so that's £7.12 a year for our modern telly on standby, with a class A stanbdby rating.BUT, older tellys with a higher standby current will work out more expensive. For our telly, I choose to keep it on standby, cos I don't want to shorten the life of the appliance due to the inrush spike to the power supply by turning it on at the wall multiple times a
This comment gave me much food for thought and I decided to do a little more research. I Googled around a bit but didn't find anything that really supported Steph's hubby's opinion (which proves nothing, I could have been using to wrong search terms). And then I asked my friends in some environmental forums. Some people expressed the point of view that it's nonsense (or words to that effect). For example Malc said:
Personally and I am an electronics engineer I switch them off. If they're not designed to be switched on then they won't be any good in the long run anyhoo. My TV is quite old (for some values of old) and still works perfectly and most nights I switch it off, my amplifier is getting on for 20 and has taken that treatment for all its life (ok it doesn't have a standby function). Repeated switching on and off may blow some devices but not a couple or so times a day. Also somethings like monitors and TVs need to be switched on occasionally to degauss them.
[translated from Sheddese]
But Martin, who works in the alternative energy industry, had this to say:
Its all far deeper than just "b****X!" For a start, electrical engineeers have a damned good idea how long components will last, often their "life" is quoted - they can pretty accurately work out how long they'll last (built-in obsolescence). So we then consider our test telly (a modern one, designed to be on "standby") - if a few components were of a higher spec., they may well be able to last indefinitely, but they don't fit them. The way economics are balanced these days, and there is so little residual value in electronic equipment, it is often cheaper to replace the whole thing with a new one, rather than having one or two minor components replaced - a great cost to the environment! I think Chickpea hit the nail on the head - it ISN'T a simple question. I think the one thing we should agree on is that all consumer goods should be designed for longevity, repairability, and recyclability!
Thanks Martin. I can agree on that, but should I leave my TV on standby or not?

Saturday, September 09, 2006


This image (via the forums) struck me greatly because I saw one of Monet's paintings of the bridge at Giverny at the Musee D'Orsay and it made me cry. I've never before seen a painting that had that effect on me.

This version is by Banksy, a guerrilla artist whose work I have admired for some time.

Banksy's version of Monet's painting also makes me want to cry.

Friday, September 08, 2006


Here's an idea for anyone who has spent longer getting the flaming jam labels to print out properly than they spent making the jam in the first place. Aren't these labels brilliant! Just create a full page of "blackberry jelly" (or whatever) repeated over and over in a pretty font and colour. Then run your sheet of labels through the printer with complete disregard for the label boundaries or careful positioning of the text.

Sadly I can't take credit for this excellent idea. It's from Mrs Nesbitt's blog. I'll certainly be making use of her great ideas on presentation.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Fowl job

You know how it is with cleaning. You can get by for a while with quick tidy-ups and the occasional sprucing, but eventually there comes a time when you know you've left it too long, you can't put it off any longer, you have to give the place a proper mucking-out.

Yesterday I mucked out the chicken run. I ran a bath first so I could leap straight in when I was done, but even with that to look forward to it was an unpleasant job.

But I've learned something that will stand me in good stead when I become a "proper" smallholder:

It's only shit. It washes off. It won't kill you.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Back to School

Nothing to do with self-sufficiency, but I just packed my youngest off on his first day at school. Feeling a bit emotional this morning.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Self sufficiency in style

Fritz Schumacher, ex Soil Association President and green guru didn't mind being called a crank because, he said, a crank is a small, simple and efficient tool that makes revolutions.

One of my favourite cranks is Pat Gardiner, who maintains a website called Self Sufficiency In Style.

The writer, a rather conventional businessman, was forced to retire early. He miserably roamed the highways and byways of Europe in a beat-up pick-up truck half-heartedly searching for a new life. Eventually, he owned up to an lifetime's ambition to grow his own food. With his wife, he resurrected a dream, bought a smallholding and made a new happier life. They now live in a lovely cottage, in a beautiful setting, eating well and enjoying life to the full. This is how they did it.

The website is frequently updated. It's full of Pat's articles on practical things like keeping livestock, buying a smallholding, or making cream. It also has philosophical musings on the difference between self sufficiency and survivalism, the four seasons, or leaving a legacy. Just for balance there are very funny essays such as a boobs and blunders, a wry look at fashions, and a comparison of American and British attitudes to transport. Although the site is large and doesn't follow standard advice on website design I find it easy to get around and easy to read due to Pat's style of writing in short manageable sections, interspersed with pictures and cartoons.

I've also found Pat to be very approachable and ready to answer questions and help out a struggling beginner via long and detailed emails, so why not spend a little time visiting his site?

This is the last quilt picture in this week-long online personal quilt show. I have other quilts and maybe I'll post more pictures in a while. Today's quilt is a Hug Quilt, which is a quilt made by a group of friends for another friend who is going through a tough time. Some of my friends on rec.crafts.textiles.quilting made this for me a couple of years back and needless to say I treasure it very much.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


There are a few changes to the blog. I've added categories to the posts so now you can search for everything I've written about composting or recycling, or just look up all the recipes.

I've also added a new poll. Apparently this one won't cause pop-up ads which has to be a good thing. The poll is a challenge to switch off appliances at the wall instead of leaving them on standby. I'm very bad at this myself, because some things need to be left such as the fridge and freezer. Other things have to be left on or you have to reprogramme them every morning, like clocks and VCRs. But the TV is plugged into the same socket as the VCR, so then I have to leave the TV on standby because I don't want to reset the VCR.

But why do I? I could reorganise the plugs so all the things that need to stay on are in one socket and everything else isn't. Then I could switch them off. And anyway, do I need all these clocks? For example, the microwave has a clock and so I don't switch off the microwave. But why does it need a clock? There are other clocks in the kitchen. So I'm going to sort out all the switches and plugs, and I will turn off as many appliances as possible when they are not in use. That should save electricity, and it will stop the house looking like one of the landing strips at Manchester airport, all lit up with little standby LEDs all night long.

Today's quilt is called "40 Shades of Green". Steph and I made it for Dad, who lives in Ireland, and it really does contain forty shades of green.

Kettle challenge poll results

I was really pleased by the response to the sidebar poll all through August. The final result was:

  • 8 people (31%) I've gone green! I have started boiling just enough water in my kettle.
  • 14 people (45%) I was already green! I have always boiled just enough water in my kettle.
  • 3 people (12%) I don't accept your argument! I will continue to boil just as much water as I like in my kettle.
  • 1 person (4%) I'm greener than thou! I don't have a kettle.
I've removed the poll now because I suspect it may have been responsible for the annoying pop-up ads that have been appearing lately. I hate those! But when I figure out how to stop them I will be adding a new poll and a new challenge

Today's quilt is one I made for my gorgeous Goddaughter, Rebecca. And as an extra bonus, you get to see her lying on it.

Saturday, September 02, 2006


As part of the kettle campaign I emailed a number of tea companies and suggested they add advice to their
packaging and publicity about not boiling too much water in their kettles. Well today I got this email from Tetley:


You recently sent us a suggestion to add a note about the energy usage of kettles to our packs and adverts. This was discussed at a recent meeting and I just wanted to let you know that we will be incorporating this, and other suggestions made about energy, into our website and printed materials.

Adding information to packaging is more complicated! At Tetley we change our packs when we have to adhere to changes in labelling legislation or, about every 2-3 years, to make a few design updates. Due to the volumes we use, it isn't practical to make this more regular. This review was only completed at the beginning of 2006 so it is a while until the next one but we will try to
incorporate your suggestion at that point.

Kind regards Charlotte Moss Tetley

GB Consumer Services

I think that's fantastic.

Today's quilt is one I made for Thomas. It has cute jungle animals on the front, and a leopard print on the back, so when he goes to university he can take it with him and put it on his bed upside down. It will look cool, not babyish in student digs, but only he will know it's his jungle animal quilt on the other side.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Quilt Show - day 3

The American pioneers used to have "quilting bees", where several women would come together and work on a quilt all at the same time. It's the same idea as a barn-raising. The whole community works together for the benefit of just one member. But each person who works knows that they can call on the community when they need a barn, or a quilt, or anything else. Participating is also fun, a social event. And it builds communities.

Modern communities are often not based on geographical proximity but on shared interests. I can't remember the names of my next door neighbours, but I have friends in America, New Zealand, all over the world who share my interests. In particular I participate in communities of quilters and we do have our modern versions of quilting bees.

The quilt pictured is a "round robin". Several quilters get together (via email) and agree on the rules. Then each member makes a centre (mine was the string pieced star in the middle of this quilt) and mails it to the next quilter on the list. When you recieve a centre, you add a border to it, then mail it to the next person. After six rounds, you get your completed quilt top back. In the meantime you have added something to five other quilts. I think this quilt is a stunner, and the panel on the back with six names embroidered on it reminds me of my quilting friends all over the world.