Monday, 27 September 2010

The Silk Worm Diaries - chapter one:

silk worms of the Chinese Oak silk moth

Begun this day, Monday 27th September; each chapter will appear as a weekly installment. The catalyst is my crazy spur-of-the-moment decision made yesterday at the Malvern Autumn Show to make my own silk-paper to incorporate into tiny fabric keepsakes. For the prologue to this project, please refer to my journaling blog - yesterday's post on purchases (final paragraph). From that you will see how one thing led to another and I am now the proud owner of twenty silkworms; not exactly a silk-worm farmer (yet) and if I ever arrive at the silk production stage, it will be a miracle.

you can just see the tiny 'Eri' silk worms in the lower box

Well, they survived the night in their plastic boxes within the confines off the motorhome cab. This morning they appeared totally comatose and I could not tell if they were alive or dead. They certainly weren't moving, nor eating the leaves that had been supplied with them; privet for the beautiful Samia ricini (Eri silk moth) and hawthorn for the less exotic-looking Antheraea pernyi (Chinese Oak silk moth).

the Eri silk moth (can be fed on privet) - more beautiful than this in real life
and the Chines Oak silk moth which can be fed on hawthorn, amongst other UK hedgerow plants

Back home, after feeding Raymond (husbands come first), and then the hens, I prepare a new home for the older and larger Oak moth - from now on I'll refer to it as that. I plod down the garden in the rain to cut hawthorn twigs, ploughing through a forest of wet nettles and goose-grass that deposit their clinging burrs onto my jersey. The clipped twigs are inserted into a jar of water, plugged with kitchen towel so the caterpillars (worms) do not fall in and drown themselves. Over this I place a defunct liquidiser jug and stand the whole contraption on the window cill. I transfer the torpid creatures onto the new leaves. They are supposed to eat themselves into cocoon stage within six weeks; I hope the hawthorn leaves in our hedgerow have not all dropped by then or I will have wasted my investment.

Just hope these 'oak' worms don't escape!

The Eri caterpillars are so tiny and look completely shrivelled. They go into a larger plastic sandwich box with fresh privet snipped from under a dripping willow that deposited water down my neck. That box too is placed on the window cill. The mustn't get too hot; little chance of that; our kitchen is always icy cold, even in the depths of summer. Half an hour after moving the thread-like creatures into their new home, half of them have migrated onto the fresh privet stalks. There are supposed to be 20 but I can only count 14; I don't intend to investigate. The 'oaks' have either found an appetite or prefer their semi-unconfined surroundings for they look as if they intend to go walkabout (which the man assured me they would not, unless they are hungry). Maybe they don't like my hawthorn; they stick their faces into the air and sway from side to side, as if mesmerised, but do not seem to be eating. I think I had better swathe their feeding jug in fleece or muslin overnight for there's no knowing where they might end up in this rambling house if they decide to migrate. I only have ten of these; can count eight ???

I'll be adding to this diary regularly, detailing how things progress; and hopefully - eventually - reporting the production of my first silk. Meanwhile, I guess the internet will reveal more on the care of silk worms. I just hope I am more successful than I was aged seven with my classroom mulberry/lettuce gobbling silkworms in 1944! It's two hours since the worms had their new home and time to prepare our own supper, but hurrah - they're all eating theirs: the 'Oaks' dispersed amongst the foliage, the 'Eris' clumped together as a crowd, one whole privet leaf consumed. And with all these mouths to feed, we dare not go away again!

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Such a day

Sunny, a chill Autumn day; but sunshine over the Malverns and such a joy to be here. Over the years, I have come to regard this place, this Showground, as somewhere that truly tugs at my heart. Why? It has to be the people; all who are involved. And exhibitors who have become to me so many fond acquaintances.

Yet there is always something new: the Good Life Kitchen Garden Stage designed by Mark Diacono of Otter Farm; the UK's only climate change farm and home to orchards of olives, peaches, almonds, szechuan pepper, apricots and a vineyard. I sat through one of his presentations, absolutely mesmerised, for not only did he impart so much horticultural knowledge, whilst throwing together a home-grown nectarine salsa, he even managed to outflank the ever-loquacious Joe Swift. Such multi-tasking warranted more stage time to him and less to the antics of BBC presenters. Were we at a pantomime or an RHS Show? I'll have to obtain a copy of MD's new book, 'A Taste of the Unexpected', and delve more deeply into topics that are becoming increasingly relevant to those of us who like to grow our own edible crops.

I'm agonising over whether to continue my 'gardening' blog - created in May because there seemed to be many Malvern-orientated bloggers out there. Some of us met at the Spring Gardening Show and I spotted quite a few alongside the stage today; some lack of communication I guess ... so I am thinking this one through. I had planned to garden-blog about 'Red Love' - announced last night that I would do so; but think I'll showcase this delicious new apple right here. It's a tenuous link into which I will not delve right now, but to cut an involved story down to it's fruit roots. 'Red Love' is a new red-fleshed apple, tart but sweet, with flowers the colour of deep crab-able crimson and a heritage story to go with it. Exclusive to Suttons but bred by Swiss nurseryman Markus Kobelt, whom I met at the UK launch a couple of weeks ago in Kent. 

I'll be writing more about this remarkable introduction in a forthcoming magazine feature on the Malvern Autumn Show, so will reserve more words for that. Meanwhile, my own Autumm journaling harvest is progressing in the motorhome cab, although the heating appears to have packed up so the duvet seems preferable to artistic endeavour!

Friday, 24 September 2010

Back at Malvern

Autumn squash and the epitome of a garden harvest

According to my classification of what I blog about, this post should by rights appear on my gardening blog. But that is in such a state of disarray, is languishing (or rather sulking) for lack of attention, and I am ashamed of it. So for the moment I'll continue to revisit Malvern under my wild child umbrella. It's the RHS Autumn Show (Sat 25th and Sun 26th) - billed as both 'a celebration of nature's harvest' and the 'autumn food and gardening show'. We arrived on site early this afternoon with motorhome and a bitterly cold northerly wind. At the Spring Show it rained and was also cold (it was the Spring Show that prompted me to start a gardening blog); today no rain but grey skies which are not conducive to good photography! WiFi press pass obtained and an advance copy of the show catalogue which I will read cover to cover this evening, the better to know where I am headed tomorrow, I make straight for the 'Good life Pavilion'. There's so much to cover.

It was good to bump into friends and acquaintances, particularly Claire Potter and Paul Hervey-Brookes, who are so much a part of my Malvern experience. Claire is not exhibiting at this show (and it's a long way from Brighton), but Paul is, and has created the most beautiful 'Living Landscape' focal point in the pavilion, alongside a number of other edible gardens. More tomorrow when I've studied the catalogue and talked to some of the designers.

the concept behind Paul's living landscape is subtle and fascinating - my photo does not do it justice

Right now I need a cup of tea with toasted teacakes, and some 'journal spilling' on papers I prepared at home late last night; autumnal colours all ready for pasting in my own vegetable and fruit harvest and adding words which will also spill out as the evening advances.

Taken in the motorhome cab (my away-from-home studio) - and this should be posted on my journaling blog, but isn't. I'd better attend to that, as well! Take a look, if you will - I have now done so, courtesy of a good generator to power lights and laptop.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Playing around again

Just back from a short press trip to Dorset with the Caravan Writers' Guild. I open my blog and decide I just do not like the changes I had made to its style so have played around again; it's still not right - the heading is boring; I shall have to work on that, and on some of the colours. I only hope I have not made it too hard to read (my apologies if I have; please hang in there whilst I experiment; I can't manage the clever stuff). Apart from the Guild activities - barbecues and the like with fellow journalists - Raymond and I visited some fascinating places in connection with forthcoming articles; I making notes and writing words whilst Ray took some most beautiful photos which I will share when he has kindly passed them to me. Because, although I took my camera, I was not as well organised as I should have been. Day one, as soon as we arrived, I took the ducks shown above at a farm park we visited for lunch. Day two, I forgot my camera - left it in the caravan. Day three I took it but had forgotten to charge the battery! Day four, I had it with me but left it in the car when I went for a long solitary walk upon Holt Heath; I had wanted to photograph a wide band of flint pebbles that I discovered in an old quarry (I scribbled notes instead). 

I haven't yet downloaded the pics I took on Monday which was a day off (miraculous) and I spent most of the time journaling in the caravan with no pressure for once to do anything. Yesterday was spent travelling home and then preparing to depart again for the Malvern Autumm 'Food & Gardening' Show. We've been away every week this month and long for some time at home without deadlines. Then I'll be able to catch up I hope with all that has been neglected this long and busy summer. Meanwhile, all I can say is 'hello' - for what are words without pics to illustrate where one has been or what one has done? Although actually most of what I am taking at the moment are textural - the bark of a tree or patterns on a stone wall, from which to create image transfers onto fabric as backgrounds for other work.

Friday, 10 September 2010

I cannot believe this !

This will be  a short post, for we have only just arrived back from a working trip to Kent and are exhausted after driving with the caravan on the M25; took us four hours to get home and only three to drive down there on Tuesday - but then that was between one and four o'clock in the morning! But that is not the purpose of this post, to bemoan the traffic, but to say a most enormous THANKYOU to all who have stuck with me since I began this 'wild somerset child' blog back in January 2009. 

For I switched on the computer and discovered that I now have 100 'followers' to this wild blog. I am so very grateful to all who read and leave me comments from time to time. You keep me focussed when I am having a 'grey' day, which has happened all too often of late. I remember my first hesitant post and wondered whether anyone would ever read it, and whether anyone would get in touch. And you have, from so many corners of the world.

I wondered what photo would best show my feelings - should it be one taken whilst in Kent? Some flowers? Trees? Birds? And then I remembered the cheeky little chappy I snapped in the trial garden of Suttons Seeds at Hadlow College, taken on Wednesday after we had attended the most wonderful press presentation of new varieties to be launched next year. The words on his little body just seem to say it all - from the seed sown by my first post, my blog has grown and I have gained such friendship. Thankyou to you all.

And for those who aren't particularly enamoured of baby scarecrows, here's a shot I took from the top of the tower at Igtham Mote only yesterday. I love this medieval manor house (dates back to 1320) though it was a tad too busy for my liking and I had to go and sit quietly in the courtyard, which revitalised me, though the wooden seat was distinctly damp! Raymond was taking 'proper' photos for the travel article we were engaged upon, whilst I spent most of my time snapping tree bark and stone walls to turn into fabric backgrounds for my little textile books. Eventually, whatever I create will appear on my journaling blog. For now, I reflect on the true nature of friendship, and wonder whether there is any possibility of my reaching as many years as I now have followers. Somehow I think not - I still have over a quarter of a century to go. My thoughts turn to tomorrow's date and particularly dear bloggers in America.

taken from the turreted tower, after climbing the spiral staircase