Stop and Smell the Roses

Stop and Smell the Roses


Sometimes, it seems that everybody is in a rush. They have too much to do and not enough time to do it. Busy, busy, busy. Ask someone how they are and the default answer is “Busy”.  Interestingly, the follow up question of “Busy doing what?” sometimes reveals that they’re just busy being busy.

But judging by Instagram (which is of course real life isn’t it?) there’s a sense that people are slowing down to find time for the things that are important in their lives. Taking time to stop and smell the roses. Being creative, making and doing. Lingering for five minutes over a cup of coffee. Arranging flowers. General faffing. Trying to make the world a better place.

We’ve been taking time out too.

Stopping to smell the roses

Generous Gardener Rose with colours picked out below

We have literally been stopping to smell the roses and admire their beauty (and pick them to make Rose Petal Posset). This rose is full of promise, poised to burst into flower and I love this colour combination.

Trying to be greener

rusting barrel under walnut tree in grassy area

We’re lucky that the printmaking space is in a beautiful old barn and lunch breaks can be spent by the pond or wandering down the fields, which adds to the enjoyment of the day and gives a chance for reflection and inspiration amongst nature.

We’re trying to make our printmaking space environmentally friendly but it’s a steady process and a balance between our commitment and student expectation.

Nearly all our inks are water soluble, which means we don’t need to clean with solvents but that can make a difference to the finished prints. Our students cut stencils for screen printing rather than use polymer emulsions, which is fine for beginners but experienced printmakers may feel restricted. Our Who Gives a Crap toilet paper and  recycled paper hand towels do the job they’re designed for, but they don’t look or feel luxurious.

Making & Doing

ox eye daisies in meadow with colours picked out below

The ox-eye daisies in the meadow this year have inspired me to have another go at reduction lino printing.

Lino reduction print "mayweed"

Last year, I tried reduction lino printing or suicide lino printing as Ruth likes to describe it and based my print on a sketch I’d done of some mayweed flowers growing next to the henhouse. Making these prints involves cutting and layering colours from a single lino block and it took me quite a lot of head scratching to make sure I cut the right bit at the right time. Read about the proper way to make reduction lino prints here.

Ignoring Ruth’s advice to keep it simple with a two or three colour design and to plan it properly, I waded in with a half-baked plan and five colours. On reflection, five colours was over-ambitious as was the decision to add in extra details half way through the process. It wasn’t a total success, but if it had been, that would be rather disappointing. After all, half the fun of creative projects is giving it a go and working out how to get better. The real sense of achievement comes when you can see how you’ve progressed. Even if you still have a long way to go.

Getting out into the countryside

Gate Farm Open Farm Sunday

To be fair, we do this every day but on 10th June everybody has the chance to go to the countryside and visit a UK farm. We’re not hosting this year, so for a change we can be visitors at someone else’s farm. Check out the Open Farm Sunday website for details of a farm near you.




Take a deep breath. And relax.

Instagram might does give us a very curated view of life but there’s no doubt that it doesn’t do any harm to slow down for a few minutes and relish the moment. To relax, be happy and inspired by our surroundings or other people. To actually smell the roses. Though possibly not if you suffer from hay fever.

Why didn’t I know that?

Why didn't I know that?

How many times do you read something and wonder why you didn’t know that before? It happens to me all the time. Sadly, when I share these revelations with my family, they all too often shrug their shoulders and tell me that it’s old news or ask why anyone would want to know or care.

Just in case you’re interested, here are six of my recent discoveries.



Along with almost everyone else, we’re trying to reduce our dependence on single use plastic. Some steps are easy; using fabric shopping bags has become second nature and it was simple to ditch cling film by covering food with a plate, foil (though that’s not perfect in ecological terms) or beeswax wraps. But buying fruit and vegetables is another matter.

bag of onions plastic not currently recycled

At the market, they’ll happily tip everything into your shopping bag but the supermarkets are dire. Nearly all their pre-packed produce is bagged in non-recyclable plastic and if you buy loose, they only provide plastic bags to keep everything together. I don’t put bananas or the like into a bag, but forcing the cashier to round up half a kilo of loose Brussels sprouts from the conveyor belt is a step too far.

Now I’ve discovered that some people put loose produce into mesh bags and, while I’m not sure if I’m dedicated enough to make my own or prepared to go through an explanation at the till each time, it’s worth consideration. If you’d like to make your own, read Celia’s instructions for sewing mesh bags.


Did you know that you can make macaroni cheese without all the palaver of making the cheese sauce and boiling the macaroni first? It turns out you can just throw uncooked macaroni into a buttered baking dish, stir in some cheese, pour over the milk and bake.


Organisation is a good thing. Alright, I’ve known that for a long time, but sometimes it takes time to do it. Originally, we planned to hire out The Barley Barn most of the time, so all our things were kept stored away to keep the barn clutter free and ready for hirers.

Over time, as Ruth’s printmaking classes became more popular, we seemed to be forever moving printing paraphernalia back and forth, so we’ve organised the barn to suit the current conditions.

making space for printmaking

A printmaking studio space has been set up at one end of the barn with areas for storage, preparation, printing and drying. There are with dedicated printing tables so that nobody has to faff around with clamps anymore and the moveable walls can be wheeled into place to hide all the printmaking equipment when the barn’s used for something else. We were so pleased with our new space that we wrote a guide to setting up a home printmaking studio space .

We’re hoping that our more organised space will make life a lot easier.


Did you know that pressing hard on your upper lip, just under the nose, can stifle a sneeze? Me neither but apparently, it’s true.


I’ve discovered What3Words, which is an amazing concept. They’ve divided the world into grids 3 metres x 3 metres and given each grid a combination of three words that uniquely identifies it.

Postcodes are generally alright, but they aren’t always accurate enough to pinpoint a location and open fields don’t have a postcode so it’s difficult to direct anyone to them, as we had to do with an ambulance when a rider fell from their horse. With What3Words, we can direct people accurately.

seaweed.splashes.term field gateway

The place in the photo above is known in the family as “The Double Gates”, “The place that Bill calls The Double Gates” or “Where the track crosses from Great Forest to Grove Field” and goodness knows what all the walkers and riders who use the bridleway would call it. But now, we can officially say that it’s the point known as “seaweed.splashes.term”.

I just need to remember not to call it seaweed.splashed.term because that’s in Canada.


I’ve discovered that sourdough rolls are much easier to make than loaves. I’d almost given up with baking sourdough bread because my loaves were either dense and heavy or so full of holes that it was impossible to spread butter onto a slice. Just before Christmas, I tried the sourdough cinnamon rolls recipe from The Clever Carrot and it worked! Following that triumph, I’ve made a few batches of Soft Share and Tear Rolls from her book Artisan Sourdough Made Simple with equal success and I’ve decided that for the time being, I’ll stick to making rolls rather than loaves.

Have you had a recent “Why didn’t I know that?” moment? Do share.

Continue reading “Why didn’t I know that?”

A Country Style Christmas Wreath

A Country Style Christmas Wreath

At this time of year, it’s good to take time out from the frantic Christmas rush and clear your head. My favourites are to get out into the fresh air and to do something creative, so what better than taking a pair of secateurs and snipping some greenery to make a Christmas wreath. While I greatly admire the glory and perfection of a florist’s wreath, I’m more than happy with a simple, country style wreath using foraged plants. I don’t mind if it’s a little wonky and isn’t made with the season’s must have flowers, as it’s as much about the gathering and making as it is about the finished wreath.


How to make a rustic Christmas wreath


If you’d like to make a country style foraged Christmas wreath, here’s what to do.


making Christmas wreath with fresh foliage


Cut a few willow whippy branches of willow and twist and twine them together to make a circle. Tie them with string if you think your circle might spring apart. Alternatively, buy a wire ring which has the advantage of being round and won’t fall to pieces.


The trimmings from your Christmas tree are excellent foliage for your wreath. I presume you trim and shape your Christmas tree? Snip a little off the back to make it fit close to the wall? Prune back any wayward branches? Haven’t you read our tips for decorating your Christmas tree? Some people worry about cutting anything off their tree, but I always do, just to give it a good shape. Also, the offcuts are very useful.

As well as your Christmas tree trimmings, cut some holly, ivy, bay leaves, rosemary, thyme or anything green about 20 – 30 centimetres long. The larger your base, the longer your stems will need to be.

Binding foliage for country style Christmas wreath

Using florists wire, bind the greenery to your base. Place a few stems on the base, wind the wire around to hold them firm and then lay the next stems on top to hide the wire and continue to wind the wire round the stems and base, working your way around the circle. When you get back to the beginning, gently lift the heads of the first stems, bind the final stems and then drop the first heads back down to cover the wire. Cut and secure the end of the wire.


Collect some pretty seed heads, berries (fake or real), fruit, feathers, baubles or anything else that takes your fancy and poke and weave them into the wreath by slipping them under the wire. If you can’t do this, wire them in separately or stick them on with a hot glue gun. This is the chance to cover any bits of wire that may be showing.


Choose how you want to hang your wreath. Are you decorating it with a ribbon? Will the ribbon hang at the top or the bottom? Decisions, decisions. Either wind the ribbon around and tie a bow or make a ribbon bow and attach it to the wreath with wire or glue. If your ribbon is at the bottom, make a hanging loop at the top with a piece of twine or ribbon.

Find a door, hang your wreath …

Christmas wreath from the hedgerow

… stand back and admire.

Simple triangle shaped Christmas wreath

Of course, you don’t have to make a circular wreath. Tie some sticks together in a triangle shape and decorate as little or as much as you like.

twiggy heart shaped wreath

Make a heart shaped wreath.

Giant Christmas wreath hanging from ceiling

Make a giant wreath and hang it from the ceiling. Using the same technique, but on a larger scale, this wreath is a metre across and dangles from above.

If you don’t have the time or the greenery, buy a plain fir wreath and personalise it with your own decorations.

Whichever you choose, have fun.

Collect, Inspire, Create

Collect, Inspire, Create

Collect, inspire and create in October or should I change the title?

Autumn arrangement of squashes, apples, quince in The Barley Barn at Slamseys


We’ve been collecting autumnal things to decorate The Barley Barn and Ruth has been running autumn themed printmaking workshops for which her students bring in things that remind them of autumn to inspire their printmaking. One person got out her great granny’s cookery notes and made some autumnal gingerbread while others have brought in collections of fruits and vegetables, fabrics, ornaments, colour swatches and wonderful sketches. All of these different collections have been used as inspiration for some interesting printmaking and perfectly fulfil the criteria: collect, inspire, create. Continue reading “Collect, Inspire, Create”