The travel posts are over, and now I can return to updating you on the garden and the animals.
It’s been pretty warm weather-wise – we only had our first light frost this week – so I’ve put off winter-proofing the quail coops until 2 days ago.
To keep out the worst of the winds and rain, I wrap the smaller coops in clear plastic. I want them to still get light, and to be able to see out. I also fill the coops with loose straw. The quail LOVE to be able to burrow around in there.
I don’t put plastic on the big coop. It’s big enough the rain can’t get in except at the edges, and there’s lots of areas where the quail can get out of the wind. I do put a lot of straw in it, through.
Look how pretty the nasturtiums look – they are blooming up a storm, even though it’s the middle of November.
Partly because of my travels, I didn’t get much of a fall vegetable garden in. I did plant garlic, and I planted the greenhouse in some beets and kale.
I also moved a few of my more delicate potted outdoor plants inside. It’s nice to be able to have a place to put these, finally.
The “Hardy Nasturtium” I planted this year is growing tremendously. I hope it will survive the winter okay, because I really love it.
It’s finally blooming, too. The hummingbirds love the flowers.
The ducks are full grown, and are doing their job as slug patrol.
An unexpected benefit of having them loose in the garden all day is that they keep the chickens in line. I have a couple of young, flighty chickens, and I used to have some trouble with them flying over their fence into the garden. Not while the ducks are on duty! The ducks LOVE the chickens (they are sex-crazed little maniacs, and I think they hope the chickens are drakes!) and given the chance, they will follow the chickens around the yard and try to seduce them. The chickens are not amused. If the ducks are in the yard, the chickens won’t go there.
Another benefit of the ducks is their eggs. Surprising the heck out of me, they are actually using their nest box!
And I completely adore duck eggs. They taste better than chicken eggs, for sure! I’ve never been able to eat eggs on an empty stomach – if I have scrambled eggs for breakfast, it always makes my stomach feel a bit icky. Duck eggs don’t have that effect on me. I’ve heard that people who are allergic to chicken eggs can eat duck eggs without a problem, so how cool is that?
The chickens are not laying right now because of molting, and winter light, and a variety of other excuses. But they do still have work to do. Year-round, they are my master composters.
They have a large yard, that they have turned to dirt. To keep the ground soft enough so they can dig for worms and bugs, I keep a layer of straw on top of it.
If I throw it out in sections, they will take care of spreading it out.
They also eat all the grass seed in it, and break the pieces up, and poop in it, and basically turn it into this lovely pre-compost. One or twice a year, I go and scoop it up and put it on the garden.
It finishes composting directly on the garden, and I put more straw out for the girls to get to work on. The chickens are definitely earning their keep even when they are taking a vacation from egg-laying.
I’ve been making lists of what I plan to accomplish next year.
I want to build a second rotating quail bed for the extra females to live in, so I can get them out of the big coop. I also want to hatch some more quail to add to the female population. Right now, I just have two mated pairs, and three solitary females.
Once the quail are moved, I can remodel the big coop a little bit, and hatch some miniature serama chickens.
I also want to build the colony rabbit house, and start raising meat rabbits.
Also a must-do is finishing the various fencing around the property, and put in some new raised beds along the side front yard.
And then….wow. I think all the building might be done! If all this gets done in 2016, starting in 2017 I’ll be able to start working on the purely decorative stuff that been sliding by because of lack of time/money.
According to my favorite custom of getting up early to explore new cities while the rest of the tourists are still sleeping, I grabbed a quick bowl of fruit for breakfast, then went to see St. Mark’s in the morning.
The previous night’s rain made lots of bathing pools for the pigeons.
But there’s always some folks that prefer a good shower.
Since the Palace and the Basilica weren’t open yet, I spent awhile just taking pictures of the carvings outside.
Some of it was rather creepy.
And then they let me into the Basilica, where I couldn’t take any pictures. Bah. It was beautiful, and had a feeling of immense age about it, which I didn’t feel inside the English churches.
Next was the Doge’s palace, which did allow photos.
One of the my favorite parts of the palace was the views through the windows.
The prison/dungeon was MUCH larger than I thought. All these little passages…if there hadn’t been signs to direct me, I’d probably still be there.
In one of the rooms, there was a little slot in the wall.
I peeked through it, and found myself observing a woman in the next room who thought she was alone. You just never know who’s watching.
My ticket included entry to the Correr museum, so I took a quick run through there. I found the chopines particularly fascinating.
I also loved these illustrated books.
Entirely hand-painted, and so tiny.
There was also tons of sculpture and paintings, but I’ve never seen the point of taking photographs of those. If I like a painting, I’ll just buy a postcard or print – much better than a snapshot! I did take one, though, just to show you something amazing.
The Correr is a series of little rooms, and in most of them, there’s no guards or docents or anyone at all. A lot of the time, I was the only person around. And there is no glass or barrier of any kind between you and the art. There’s not even any signs not to touch! How do they keep people from messing with it? In America, you’d have kooks bringing in bottles of spray paint or something…or at least leaving fingerprints all over it. It’s puzzling, but awesome.
The last thing I did in Venice was take a boat ride down the Grand Canal.
It’s so much fun, because the boats rock with the waves. After we reached the Canal, we slowed down, and I went outside beside the driver so I could get better pictures.
Although I didn’t take nearly as many as I could have done. I mostly just wanted to be there. Unlike some folks. This girl is in a gondola, on the Grand Canal, and she can’t be bothered to look up from her phone. I kept glancing over at her, and nope. I tell you, I hate smart phones.
Labor in Venice is interesting.
There was one small street I walked down, and workmen were gutting the inside of a building. All the stone rubble was taken out by hand, put in a wheeled cart, and handwheeled to the canal. Where it was emptied into a boat to be taken away.
I loved all the little gardens.
Sadly, a lot of the destruction of Venice is happening due to large cruise ships traveling up the canal. The residents are trying to stop this, but so far, no one is listening.
Although I loved it, two days in Venice was enough for me. I was ready to go back to London for one day…before I headed home to America.
My last day was all about bookshops and tattoos. My first stop of the day was Cloak and Dagger Tattoo in Shoreditch. They are super friendly and nice, and just the perfect place for a complete newbie to get her first tattoo!
I’d been thinking for years about getting one, and finally I’d settled on a place to put it – and a design that was properly meaningful to me. I went with a simple black silhouette of a dragonfly on the back of my ankle.
Dragonflies have a unique lifecyle. Depending on the variety, they can spend years living in a wingless form, underwater, completely aware of what they are truly meant to become. It is only when they leave the water, that they understand they are creatures of light and flight. I find it a perfect analagy for our life here on earth. We are wingless creatures, living in a world that isn’t truly ours. A lot of us are completely unaware that we are meant to be something else – and even those of us who do understand, well…is it possible to truly know the joy we will feel when we are finally able to leave this murky world and find our wings and the Light, our Saviour, Who is meant to live in us?
Everyone told me that having a tattoo done on the back of my ankle would be incredibly painful – but it hardly hurt at all. It felt like the artist was just scraping the tip of a safety pin over my skin! Even when he hit a sensitive spot, it was barely a 2 on the pain scale. Even afterwards, it didn’t hurt. The hardest part was remembering to take proper care of it, since I kept forgetting it was even there.
After the tattoo, I went to Hatchard’s Bookshop to pick up a couple copies of the new illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone. It was just being released on this day and I was super excited to be getting the British version, rather than waiting for the US one to come out.
Hatchard’s Bookshop is the oldest surviving bookstore in the UK, and it’s glorious. If bookstores were anything like this in the US, I might be tempted to give up my Kindle in favor of printed books again…but honestly…probably not. Kindles are just too perfect!
They didn’t have any of the Harry Potter books out yet, but when I asked, a clerk got them from the storage area for me. I took them up to pay, and the guy at the register refused to sell them to me (very politely, calling me ‘madam’.) He said the release date they had on their computers wasn’t for two days from now. I said I’d checked the publisher’s site, and they said it was today, and could he double-check that? It took two clerks ten minutes, but they finally discovered I was right and their computers were wrong. So I was the first one to buy one of the HP books at Hatchard’s – and possibly, the first one in the whole of Britain, if the stores had been given the wrong date (the US release date instead of the UK one.)
It’s a marvelous book. Well worth hauling it all over the airport the following day. It’s VERY heavy…and I had two of them. Look at these illustrations!
The most common question I’m asked is a variant of: Don’t you wish you were still there/could have stayed? The answer is: No.
Before I left on this trip, I was feeling very burnt out and stretched thin, like too little butter over too much toast, as Bilbo likes to say. Because I was saving for this trip, I hadn’t gone anywhere new in two years, and I was really feeling it. The trip itself was often stressful, because constantly having to find my way in new places (when I have zero sense of direction!) and figure out how to handle new things every day for twenty-three days was…out of my comfort zone, to say the least. This was my first solo trip, the longest trip I’ve ever taken, and only the second time I’ve been out of the States (unless you count Canada, which I don’t.) By the end of it, I was ready to come home. It was amazing and incredible and I’m so glad I went, but I was definitely ready to come home.
But it did its job of rebooting my brain. The final morning I woke up in London, I woke up with a new short story ready-made inside. The exact words were just there, like a gift. Before I went to the airport, I dashed out to the first shop that sold notebooks. On the plane from London to Reykjavik, I wrote the words down, non-stop. After a two hour layover in Reykjavik, I wrote for another three hours non-stop on the way back to Seattle. These gifts. These marvelous gifts.
I don’t remember dreaming at all while I was on the trip, but for two weeks after I got home, my brain was an explosion of color and sound and vivid, vivid dreams every night. More gifts. These are the things you don’t think of, when you consider traveling, the benefits that you don’t realize will happen. I was in the middle of writing a particular novel when I left, and I was a little worried that I’d lose the thread of it – because it was already giving me trouble. Now I’m back, it’s just bursting out of me, and I can’t wait to finish it, because the next book will be all about the things I saw in Europe – as seen through the eyes of a monster-hunting steampunk girl in Queen Victoria’s court.
But I’m happy to let Winnifred Sebastian-Veals do the traveling for awhile now, while I return to the calm solitude of my garden, my animals, and my art.
From Bath, I took the train back to London. I was really excited to do a little guided mudlarking along the Thames with LondonWalks. At low tide, you can walk along the shore and discover all kinds of cool things, many of them from the 1700s or earlier. As my guide stressed, however, you do have to be careful. Wear gloves and don’t touch your face until after you wash up, because you can catch a really nasty (and sometimes fatal) virus.
The south shore of London is very modern, and thus not very nice in my opinion, but it did give me a chance to walk across the Millennium Bridge. Didn’t see a single Death Eater, though….
I found several interesting things on the beach.
The red shard is part of an 1700s pottery plate, and the guide said it was unusual because it’s glazed on both sides. The long narrow pieces are also from the 1700s – the pipe stems from disposable clay pipes. Smoke once, throw it in the Thames. The piece in the upper right corner is my favorite thing, though. Since it has a fragment of writing on it, the guide was able to narrowly identify it as part of Victorian marmalade pot!
Then it was back to St. James Park for a look at the pelicans, which, once again, were on the far side of the island. Sigh. I did see lots of young swans.
And this bird, which I saw all over Great Britain. I think it’s a magpie?
And this lovely heron.
I made an early day of it, because the British cold that I started in the Scottish Highlands was really starting to kick in. I felt so bad by the time I was settled into my hotel, that I even considered whether I wanted to catch my flight to Venice at all. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to enjoy it, and I was a little nervous about flying if my head was all congested. I stopped by Boots Drugstore, and threw myself on the mercy of the salesgirl. She set me up some special travel ear plugs, some fizzy Vit. C and zinc tablets, and some decongestants. So I went to bed, and before I’d even properly gotten to sleep, the fire alarm in the hotel went off. I got up, and went out into the hall, but there was absolutely nothing going on, and after a couple of seconds, the alarm cut off. Another girl opened her door, and we discussed the odds of their actually being a fire, and decided to go back to bed.
I had to get up at four am, and fortunately, I was feeling better. And I’m so glad I didn’t miss Venice! My flight was fine, and the airport was simple to navigate. One tip: don’t buy your Aliliguna (water bus) tickets inside the airport. Everyone does that, and there’s a long line. If you wait until you get to the dock itself, there’s no line at all.
To get to the dock, you have to walk for about 11 mins through a parking lot and down the street (it’s well-marked), and then suddenly there’s the water, with a long line of water taxis and buses.
Around 1pm, I arrived at St. Marks.
All it took was one quick glance toward the square itself, and I decided to delay that part of Venice until evening. (Thank you, Rick Steves. Your Venice Guidebook was SO helpful, and never steered me wrong!)
Geez. Even in October, there’s too many people during the midday – I can’t imagine the hell of summer!
I booked at the Casanova Hotel, which was right behind St. Marks Square, and easy to find. I was stymied briefly by the light switches – until a maid showed me how to insert the brass part of my room key into a slot to activate the power.
Also interesting was a bell pull inside the shower. To pull in case you fall, and need emergency assistance!
After I checked in, I went and got myself lost. On purpose, since good old Rick Steves told me I couldn’t get really lost. All ways eventually loop back around to the Grand Canal, and San Marcos.
Once again, the weather was flawless.
The water was so gorgeous. So many different colors. I kept trying to capture its true colors, but I don’t think I ever did. Beside the Grand Canal, it smelled purely of saltwater, but in some of the smaller canals, it smelled of deeper, riper things. Not unpleasantly, though.
I spent almost all time in Venice just wandering around. The shopping wasn’t much – mostly very high-end designer stores, which I find boring – and glass/mask/paper stores, which after awhile, all start to look alike. I did buy a beautiful wire mask, and a handmade black glass cat for myself, as well as a few Christmas gifts for people who might be reading this blog. 😉
I kept passing signs for McDonald’s, but never actually found it.
One thing you should know about me is that I am not a foodie. I really don’t like restaurant food – homemade is so much better! The only real reason to eat out, in my book, is for simple convenience – or because you’re being social with friends. Since I was solo on this trip, I had no reason to be social, so it was all about convenience. I never did eat at any of the sit-down restaurants in Venice; I just walked up to one of the many sandwich places when I got hungry. I would have actually eaten at the McDonald’s if I’d come across it, because one thing I do find really interesting is how different a chain restaurant is when it’s in a foreign country. The menu is different, and and there’s all these odd little cultural details that fascinate me. In York, I ate at KFC – and I swear their chicken is a million times better than here. And you get little pots of gravy to dip your fries in.
The displays of fresh seafood along the street were beautiful, though.
After wandering until I was exhausted (I was still feeling a bit under the weather), I had a little rest in my hotel room until around 7pm. Then I finally went to St. Marks.
Most of the people had left, and the lighting had changed to one of those evenings where the sky is half stormy and half still blue.
Every so often, a flock of pigeons would take flight and fly by me, so close on both sides that sometimes their wings would brush my shoulders.
And then it started to rain, which drove away pretty much everyone but myself. The bells in the clock tower were chiming, and it was the closest thing to pure magic I’ve ever felt.
I walked down by the water, and managed to take the best two photographs of the whole trip:
And I think I’ll end this post here. Next up, Venice, part II.