Carving a butterfly

Sometimes it’s quite fun to do something totally random on the spur of the moment.

For instance, this afternoon I made myself a new paper knife.

This came about because I’d been pruning the buddleja bushes in my garden, a task I’ve been meaning to do for several weeks.  Today has been a lovely sunny day and I didn’t have to go out or do anything much else, so it seemed like a very good opportunity.  Following advice I found on several websites after a quick Google search, I went for fairly heavy pruning.  This resulted in quite a lot of material cut off, including several fairly chunky bits.

It occurred to me that the bigger offcut pieces might work quite well for whittling, a hobby that I’ve been meaning to try for quite a while (I did a little bit when I was growing up, but nothing serious).

One piece in particular, with a beautifully curved and slightly gnarled end, struck me as having potential to make quite a nice paper knife, and it just so happened that I was in need of a new one of those for my office since someone seems to have walked off with my old one several months ago.

Since the weather was so fine and it seemed a shame to waste it by going back inside the house straight away, I decided to strike while the iron was hot and so I grabbed my penknife and set to work out in the garden.

Actually, the first step (which I did in the garage) was to cut the piece of wood down to roughly the desired length using a saw.  I then decided that for the blade section it would be much quicker to saw away quite a lot of the excess material rather than trying to carve it all the way.  I suspect this may contravene some people’s strict definition of whittling but I don’t really care.

I didn’t make a note of the time I started or finished but I think it probably took a bit less than an hour of whittling to get the knife more-or-less how I wanted it.  I then finished it off with a little bit of gentle sanding (which again may be against some people’s whittling rules but, since I wasn’t taking part in a competition or intending to sell my work as a hand-whittled product, seemed to be a good way of getting a nice smooth finish that will make the paper knife much more practical and pleasant to use).

Here’s what the finished result looks like:

Butterfly Knife #1

(You can click on the photo to see it bigger in my Flickr photostream, where you will also find several more pictures of the knife.)

I must confess that I’ve not actually tried opening any letters with this, since I’d already opened today’s post by the time I made it.  However, it fits quite comfortably in my hand and I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t work perfectly well.  All told, I’m very pleased with how it’s turned out, especially for a first attempt.

The next challenge is to figure out what to make from the other buddleja offcuts that I saved.

By the way, in case you’re wondering about the title of this post (which, as seems to be fairly common for my titles, is perhaps slightly off-the-wall) I decided that since my new paper knife is made out of buddleja wood and buddleja is commonly referred to as the butterfly bush (on account of it being very popular with lepidoptera) I would call this my butterfly knife (although it’s nothing like the type of knife usually referred to by that name – for which see the article on Wikipedia if you’re interested).

Here, by way of conclusion, is a picture of a peacock butterfly on one of my buddleja bushes last summer:

Peacock

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Not quite self-sufficient

In principle, I’m very much in favour of the idea of growing one’s one food.  However, I’m glad I don’t have to rely on eating what I’ve grown for myself…

Today I harvested the first-fruits of this year’s yield from my garden – just enough spinach and rhubarb to contribute to tonight’s dinner (fortunately I was dining alone, as it wouldn’t have stretched).  That’s already better than last year, when I don’t think I managed to get anything at all edible out of my garden despite trying to grow several things, but I’m not expecting very much more of either crop and I’m doubtful that my sprouts are going to produce anything at all.  I should get a nice crop of nasturtium leaves if I actually remember to harvest them this year.

I steamed the spinach and enjoyed that as an accompaniment to the pasta con funghi (and other random ingredients, all non-home-grown)  that I cooked up for dinner. I’m sure there are more adventurous ways of preparing spinach but this simple approach works perfectly well and I didn’t want anything too complex to clash with the array of flavours in the pasta dish.

The rhubarb went, as it usually does in my kitchen, into a crumble.  There was only just enough fruit to cover the base of the dish, so I ended up letting the crumble topping mix in with it rather than sit on top.  I also varied this crumble a bit by using honey instead of sugar to sweeten the rhubarb (along with a dash of lemon juice – the citrus seems to complement the rhubarb quite well – and a bit of water) and drizzling a bit more on top, as well as using a mixture of plain and self-raising flour (instead of just plain) to make the crumble.  I’m not sure if that pushes it towards cobbler territory, as I can’t remember whether the use of raising agents is the differentiating factor (if there is one) between cobblers and crumbles, but it certainly helped to lighten it a bit, which was quite useful given the higher than usual crumble-to-fruit ratio.

Good while it lasted

It seems that the lovely summer weather we’ve been enjoying for the last week or so has now come to an end, at least in my corner of North Wales.  There were clear signs of overnight rainfall when I got up this morning and the sky is threatening more rain soon; it was spitting slightly when I last went outside.  Actually, to be fair, the weather isn’t (yet) nearly as bad as I’d been led to believe it would be today.  It’s certainly overcast but it’s not raining torrentially as people seemed to be predicting (not that I got round to checking up with an actual weather forecast).

Still, the fine weather was lovely while it lasted and I’m sure we’ll enjoy the next bout (hopefully fairly soon) all the more for having had some slightly less wonderful weather in the meantime.  Also, if it does come on to rain properly, at least it will save me having to go out and water my garden.