It seems no time at all since we were enjoying the autumn in all its lovely manifestations:
but one morning you wake up to hear the throaty echoing calls of the wild geese, and you know that winter is here.
The greylags have arrived from northern climes and will stay near us for the winter. It's nice to hear them flying over in the early morning on their way to grazing grounds. Soon they will be joined by the wild swans. To birds that spent the summer in the far north, Ireland must seem like Florida at this season!
Everywhere the birds and animals are checking out supplies for the dark months. This fox was busy exploring a log pile and some discarded household items near a local garage. He is clearly well used to taking chances (although not that much of a chance - this picture required quite a long lens).
With the coming of the colder days, the cats show different tastes. Paudge Mogeely likes to be out of doors even on a frosty morning,
Marigold enjoys watching a bit of television. Here she is predicting which stag will win the face-off.
Otherwise she takes it very easy indeed. Here's a test for you. In the midst of all this festive preparation, can you spot a small marmalade kitten-cat?
No, neither could I, when DH showed me the picture. Here is a close-up.
Is that comfortable or what? She likes the sheepskin. Nearly as much as the dinner gong.
Troushka is an energetic little dog and grabs life with all four paws. This, it has to be admitted, can make her less than presentable at times. Think wet muddy pathways, tempting streams, unspeakable bones buried and retrieved several times... eventually, we had to yield to the inevitable and place her in the hands of the professionals. Again. You will remember that she had a nice trim and brush-up only a few months ago. Look at what faced the groomer this time!
Har har! I enjoy life, I do! Whaddya bring me here for, by the way? A bone, hopefully.
Oh for Pete's sake! Who put this danged perfume on me?
Those of you of a tender heart, be assured that she recovered her sense of humour quite quickly. And no, we made sure she didn't feel cold for the few days it took her to adjust. She won't stay long like this, more's the pity!
Here is the usual morning view from the house. 'Red sky at morning, the shepherd's warning'; is the old saying, but occasionally it brings us a clear sunny day. When it does, we grab boots and coats and head for the hills.
Never get tired of the Upper Lake above Killarney. In summer the boatmen row their customers up here and on to Lord Brandon's Cottage, but in winter it's deserted. Except for us. That's Eagle Rock just across the water there.
Even in winter, this view down over the lakes is breathtaking. If you just visited Killarney town you would have no idea of all this beauty waiting outside in the hills. In there, it's all souvenirs and knick-knacks and tourist shops. Out here you realise what has been bringing visitors for centuries.
Tamzin managed to fall into the lake. She can be a bit daft like that. But a good shake cheered her up and we ran her along the sandy little beach until she was warm and happy.
Of course there has been a great deal of knitting and other frantic preparation for the festive season.
This little fisherman's gansey (also known, rather delightfully, as the Peedie Orcadian, the term 'peedie' meaning small), was for my little grand-nephew, now all of two years old. I made it a little larger than required, to allow for the inevitable growth over the next few months. At that age you turn your back and they're six inches higher!
And this was a fine cobweb stole in tuck-stitch, using a silky grey yarn with touches of gold and silver. Worked that on the good old Brother KH230 knitting machine and though it took a bit of time, it was done far quicker than if I'd essayed it by hand.
Now hear this. Celtic Memory IS NOT GOING TO MAKE ONE MORE SHAWL. NOT A SINGLE ONE. I mean, how many shawls can you wear, for heaven's sake? A new design turns up on Ravelry, utterly irresistible, I rush for the needles, choose a yarn from the hefty stash, and start off. And then, after a few rows, I catch sight of the innumerable shawls, scarves, stoles, draped all over the place, and wonder what the heck I'm doing.
Of course if a friend wants a shawl specially, then it will be made with all possible speed, but for myself, no. Only something I actually need and will wear constantly. Right?
Er.... I think, anyway.
It's New Year's Eve. Heaven alone knows what 2017 will bring, but chez Celtic Memory we are making lively preparations to ensure that it is busy and happy. (Now what makes you think that means a shiny new knitting project? Why on earth should you think that? 'Cause we know you too well,' comes the triumphant chorus...)
OK, I'll admit it. The ending of an old year and the beginning of a new one just sort of did seem the right time to start something fresh. Well, doesn't it to you? But not just a single new project. Oh no.
Here is the plan. Look at it carefully.
Let's take the top layer first. On the left, a cone of beautiful purple/blue wool, sourced from Texere Yarns in Bradford years ago. I love the yarn, I love the colour, I started several projects with it at different times, but always frogged them in the end. Nothing was quite right.
On the right, a big fat cone of stunning bright blue lambswool (colourway Matisse) grabbed as a one-off from Fairfield Yarns in Rochdale, UK. Wonderful.
Now either of these is a little thin for my liking at this time of year when what is desired is a quick fun project. But put them together... and you get that nice fat yarn ball in the centre. Combines all the qualities of both and makes for a subtly new colour.
Planning to make the Chimney Fire cabled jacket - if you're on Ravelry, you can look it up. If you aren't on Ravelry, why not? Maybe New Year's Eve is the time to join?
Now to the bottom layer. A rather battered and heavy box, in two sections. I'm showing it to you now, in this less than attractive state, because the next time you see it, it will be very different. This is the beginning of a sort of doll's house with a difference. A few years back, my dear friend Lene (she of Dances With Wool) and I were sitting in her house up in the Arctic Circle and, over our festive hot chocolate, she confided her secret desire to create a lovely doll's house in which she made every single thing - tiny rugs, cushions, curtains, furniture, everything. Immediately I wanted to do the same - but my idea is to make one of those old-fashioned farms where the people live at one side, and the cattle next door. One side will have an inglenook fireplace and perhaps an upstairs half-floor with truckle beds. The other will have stalls for cattle, an upstairs loft for storing the hay, and all kinds of farming things. Imagine making tiny forks and rakes and buckets? Miniature afghans for the settle (that's a wooden high-backed bench that can convert into a bed at night)? This is going to be so much fun.
(Incidentally, I took a look online last night in bed, when I couldn't sleep for wondering how you made a miniature inglenook, and discovered that I'm not exactly the first person to get enthusiastic about making these little homes. Thousands of passionate aficionados out there already! But I bet they won't have miniscule socks hanging over the fireplace...)
Speaking of fireplaces, and indeed socks,, here are two happy little Pippi Longstockings who have come to live with us. I saw them in a shop, when there with a friend, and couldn't resist one. Went back the next day to buy the other, after agonising all night because I thought they would be lonely when separated. Alas, sister had gone. Sad.
BUT - on the Solstice, Dec 21, what was tucked into my mailbox? Yes, the twin sister. My friend Eileen, who knows me better than I know myself, had gone straight back and got the other, so that they wouldn't be separated/. What a girl.
May 2017 bring all the good things that you hope for, and fewer of those that you might fear. I do believe that if we all work hard at doing happy, useful projects, whatever they be, we can keep a warm and firm girdle of safety around the world. Join me!