Snowdrops, Trowels and Wool

I can scarcely grasp we are coming to the end of winter. The days are lengthening and while the nights are still frosty, to the tune of several degrees below zero, during the day with the sun out it is not hard to see that we are slowly transitioning to a new period. Before we are well and truly there (and the bare branches and cold wind show we are not quite there yet) I wanted to write to you what what I’ve been making in the winter months, what my current projects are and what has been happening otherwise and have been up to in these late winter days.

It’s been a busy winter for us, with new things, changes to get used to and I haven’t written here as much as I sometimes do. That’s just how it goes at times, and now spring is knocking on the door, or more specifically; the garden gate. So far the spring bulbs on the balcony are mostly a handful of snowdrops, but I have spotted early crocuses and daffodils in patches of grass in the city. At the end of February I spotted this year’s first bumblebee – a bombus hypnorum or Tree Bumblebee queen – basking in the late winter sunshine. Definite tell tale signs that change is on the horizon, though winter will still be hanging out close by and swoop in as and when until at least the end of April.

We’ve had an odd winter, one of extremes. In December we had an extended period of properly cold weather in which the land was clad in a layer of frost and ice crystals made beautiful patterns on our windows. This period was followed by very mild -or, more to the point; warm- winter weather in which Europe wide we broke through multiple records. This pattern then repeated itself in January and February. Would love to have a bit of “actually very normal weather for this time of the year” to hang out with us for a bit, but that sort of thing seems to have vacated the building with climate change. Anyway, I can’t complain about this winter, because even though most of it was too mild or even warm we actually had longer periods of properly cold weather so it has actually felt like winter visited us.

Included are some photos I took over the winter months on our outside adventures. Because we had some lengthy cold and frosty weather skating on natural ice was possible for the second year in a row (of course this used to be every year once upon a time, but you know the drill). I also went on some hauntingly beautiful early morning misty walks that had the feeling as though I’d walked into a fairytale of old where a witch could walk out of the lake at any moment or one of the fair folk could pop up from behind a tree to send me on a quaint quest.


I started another sweater project since I last spoke to you about my knitting. It’s another lopapeysa, but this time I’m knitting one for my partner. For the main colour I’m using yarn from a Icelandic jumper I had knit a while back, but have since frogged. For the pattern I’m revisiting some old friends: I’ll be using the Grettir pattern for the yoke and adding colourwork to the ribbing and cuff from another pattern. This is the second lopapeysa I make for him, he wears the first one all the time in the colder weather and during our cold spell in December I pitied him with only the one, so it inspired me to make him another one, ha! Incidentally his old one got a rip in the neckline and yoke at the end of January that required some complex mending to get right again, so that feels like a confirmation of sorts. So far I’m really loving these colours together and of course Ístex is lovely to work with! I’m not sure if they still have problems at their mill though because lots of colours are – and have been for some time – out of stock in the many stores that I’ve browsed (fingers crossed it gets sorted soon!).

Additionally I’m still working on my Selbu sock pair, though admittedly with less focus now that I have the Icelandic yoke in the works. Things are still moving forward though and I have finished sock number one and cast on for the second sock.


As for weaving projects I’ve finished my second floor loom project! For some reason I wasn’t that diligent about taking photos of it during the making process but I do have some to share. It is another scarf, and shares some characteristics with my first floor loom project but is at the same time strikingly different. A finished project post with more details will follow, you know, when the stars align and the pixie dust cooperates.

In the meantime I’ve been preparing the next project for the loom! It’s the first time I’m using specific weaving yarn to make a project and also my first project in thin (seriously thin) yarn. I’m using a traditional Scottish tartan plaid pattern and got a weaving software program to make the edits I want to the pattern. Another project with lots of firsts and learning and I’m incredibly excited! Because the yarn is so thin every stage of the project takes longer and is more laborious; more warp threads, more threading, more heddles etc etc. I think the selection of colours used for this weaving project are very promising though so that makes up for everything taking much longer.

In another exciting weaving development; my parents got us a bobbin winder for Christmas and it is the most gorgeous thing! Previously we would laboriously wind the bobbins by hand, usually spread over a few hours, but in the case of the thin yarn pictured above usually spread over a couple of days. The bobbin winder though makes fast work of it, like faster even than I thought they would, and winds a bobbin within a few minutes. Both me and my wrists are, as you can imagine, terribly excited about this development! The winder is from the Swedish Glimakra brand and runs very smooth. They make amazing looms as well, though sadly not of a size I could currently place in my house.


I’ve been in need of some more sturdy and solid clothes for working in the garden, so for sewing this will be my main focus for the remaining and upcoming season. So far I’ve mainly been drawing up plans and matching them with suitable patterns and hacks. I’m primarily inspired, for now, by traditional work and outerwear. I don’t have a lot to show for it beyond sketches in my journal but I have cut out and begun sewing the first pattern that I knew I wanted to commit to (dungarees!). So I hope to have that done soon as gardening season is upon us!


A big thing happened to us Treehouse folks this year, hold on to your hat friends, because we are now proud tenders of an allotment! We got the email there was a spot free for us, if we still wanted it, at the end of December. We went to have a look at it a few days later and then signed the documents in early January. It’s been a huge surprise and been moving all really quick since getting the news. You may remember we had been on the waiting list to get on the actual waiting list for two years and then at the beginning of last year moved on to the official waiting list. Given that situation and the fact that it is an allotment plot in a bigger city we really hadn’t expected to hear anything back about it for at least a few years. Honestly we were very surprised and slightly shocked and taken aback when we first got the news (all in a good way though!). It has been the source of a lot of excitement, planning, and a dash intimidating here and there, and it saw us scrambling for a basic garden tool kit (for gardening in pots, even big containers, you need a different tool kit than for planting directly in the soil!)

An allotment, for the uninitiated, is a plot of land, usually part of a community of small gardens, to be used for individual and non-commercial gardening. The name we use over here translates to “People’s garden” of “Folk garden”. Our allotment plot is what they regard as a small allotment there, which to the new owners (us) was mildly hilarious to process as it is bigger than the average apartment here in the city. We’ve been getting to know our allotment, looking at what soil type we have and the like. Apart from getting tools, seeds and planning our garden we’ve also been gathering information and advise. I mean, it helps that we’ve been container gardening for a while but gardening in full soil and on such a bigger scale is a very different thing. We are hopeful and excited though, and I’m sure we will learn a ton and make copious mistakes while we are at it, but that is all part of the process and it’s been a long held dream! The, admittedly very loose, plan is to do a mix of mostly vegetable and fruit plants with some flowers as well as some dye plants thrown in. We will focus on organic and nature and environmentally friendly gardening and we will add wildlife features to the plot. There are many birds in the trees and shrubs in the area, and it is situated near a river, where we were told a kingfisher couple lives (fingers crossed we get to meet them!). One of the allotment holders also told us they had spotted foxes there! So a lot of things to be excited about indeed! Obviously in winter there is less to do there than in the coming months, but we’ve been a few times and done some small chores over the past weeks. Anyway, I’ll try to document our victories and struggles in our new space over the year by and by, so yay for those readers who like my garden and outside updates!(?).

Apart from the allotment excitement, things have been moving on our balcony garden as well. We had a really cold period in December in which everything came to a standstill, but since then with the mild weather things have started moving again with lots of bulbs popping their head above the soil. The entire month of February was dominated by snowdrops on the balcony. They flowered long (and are still going on!). I had wanted to plant them last year too, because they bring some much needed spring hope and fresh green in late winter but missed the opportunity. So this year I made sure to include a bunch in my organic bulb order in the summer and I’m so glad I did, February really belonged to them. I was going to tell you all that apart from them none of the other flowers had blossomed yet but on the very day that I was going to post this – after a week of basking in afternoon sun- the first daffodil and Iris decided to make their grand entrance so I quickly took some photos so you all can enjoy them as well. I can already tell March in the flower pots is going to be amazing!

Finally, we sowed our first seeds of the season! Not too many yet, but with the arrival of March we will soon be chasing more and more windowsill space. So far we have sowed some cold resistant and fast growing salads, broad beans and peas. I’m most excited though about the batch of chilli peppers we sowed. These grow at a snail’s pace and really need to be sowed as one of the earliest seeds if you want to have a hop e of harvesting some in late summer/early autumn. We got two heating mats specifically for seed growing this year, in other years I didn’t bother and just let them sprout as and when on a windowsill, but this year with the energy crisis we are just not using the central heating much and the house is colder than it was other years. For seeds like chillies (but also other heat loving veg, herbs and flowers) who need a consistent temperature of 20 degrees to sprout it was just tad bit too cold and they needed a little help. So now we have them on a heated mat, in one of those plastic mini greenhouses. This year we grow 6 different types of chillies ranging in spiciness which is more than we have had in any year before. We eat a lot of chillies though and there are a ton of varieties to choose from so narrowing it down to this was still quite hard! Anyway the real avalanche of seed sowing and seedlings growing on the windowsill (and figuring out how on earth we can make room to add some more) is still about to start and I’m a bundle of excitement! Since having an outside place to grow things this has become one of my favourite and most anticipated times of the year and with and entire allotment to fill this year it will be even more exciting!


I was reading Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake when the allotment news came in which is a book I’ve been enjoying so far but despite that I kind put it on hold at the start of this year with the allotment news. I have been throwing myself at all our gardening books and tried to soak up as much information as I can before the season gets going at start of March. Some of these were books we already had (and I had read or partially read some of them) but some are new. I felt we particularly could use some extra help in the vegetable growing area, as despite having grown some veg on the balcony before, it has been mostly flower and other plants focussed and it has certainly not been on as big a scale as this year is going to be on the allotment. This pile has been very helpful and I have enjoyed reading these over the many winter evenings.

I want to sing the praise of old favourite “The Complete Gardener” by Monty Don which I had first gotten when the new edition came out, mostly for the non-veg gardening bits but now have been reading the fruit, herb and veg sections. It’s a good book with lots of information on organic gardening without it becoming patronizing or snobbish, additionally I also think it has a pleasant tone of voice that is easy to read. Another book that we’ve been using is Step by step Veg Patch by Lucy Chamberlain this book was recommended to us by one of my partner’s colleagues who is in year two of her own allotment journey. This is not the most deep dive book out there, but it does provide a good instep for beginners with a nice concise two page spread on each veg/fruit/herb and makes the whole idea of planting a garden look a lot more accessible and less overwhelming to newbies like us. The thick white book ( a whopping 850 pages) is a deep dive book that works kind of like an encyclopedia and I wasn’t sure how much we would use it so early in our journey but the encyclopedic nature actually works really well for us and every topic I’ve wanted to look up has been in there so that is good too. I’m now reading a book on permaculture and vegetable gardening. It was written for an American audience with specifically a Californian context but in the translation the translators also “transcribed” some of that to a context – temperature, plant types, example photos etc- for this bit of Europe. Which is good, because despite climate change doing its very best to make it happen, for now at least I don’t have a hope of growing the tropical fruits that are copious in the writer’s own garden. That said, there are some cultural things and examples that were left in that make the whole a bit mix of a mixed matched roller-coaster to read at times (though also cool to see these differences). Another thing this book does is have ludicrous garden examples, and goalposts for gardeners (especially what the author specifies as a small or mid sized garden which really is not, and makes you wonder whether the people involved have ever had or spoken to someone with an actual small garden). Now I’m aware this is a thing many gardening books do, so maybe not so much this book fault but an industry wide thing. That said I wanted to read this book because I wanted a good and comprehensive introduction to permaculture and (so far) I think it does that well and there are certainly things in there that I’m going to incorporate in our gardening practise.

So, thanks for joining me here on this early March day. I hope the advent of spring is treating you all well!

One thought on “Snowdrops, Trowels and Wool

  1. Dank je voor het mooie winter overzicht. super leuk dat jullie de tuin toegewezen hebben gekregen. Goed om een aantal boeken te lezen zodat je een plan kunt maken en de voorbereidingen kunt treffen. zal een proces worden en in de loop van de jaren steeds bedrevener worden. echt heel leuk en veel plezier met het werken zaaien en oogsten! groeten Margot

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