The Book About Awayness

 

Artist's Book: away

Artist’s book: away

The process of relocating my studio is not over yet, but we are getting there. This relocating business has been ongoing since early 2012. There was no denying: my situation was either being away from my work or being away from my husband.

Artist's Book at Hamburg Book Fair 2016

Artist’s book at Hamburg Book Fair 2016

 

away-inside-text

It goes without saying that over those past years this has got me thinking a lot about what away means. I took to dictionaries. There was a wealth of meanings and sayings. I remembered an old lady who used to live in my mother’s neighbourhood. She had a lovely little pet companion, a dachshund by the name of Wastel. And one day he was no more. She never said he had died, she’d always say he had gone away. Awayness comes in various kinds. Some awayness we choose, others we are forced into. Some awayness is temporary, others will be permanent. Some awayness feels like alleviation, others hurt. Some awayness we hardly notice, others will be life changing.

away-headstones

Add to this, there was a constant flood of news about refugees. Migrants and refugees are facing awayness as fiercly as hardly any other group of people. Their homes might be bombed and non-existing in a matter of moments. Their loved ones might be killed. Their perspectives of getting an education or earning a living might vanish with the political regime changing. They might be left with just what they can carry or not more than the clothes they wear – everything else they used to live with is gone away in a moment of shelling.

away-tree

away-inside-rust

And there are people who see their homes flooded – this need not be the monsoon, it can be torrential rain in the Lake District. Or shaken to rubble by earthquakes, be it in Japan or Italy. Or burnt to embers by wild fires, be it in Australia or the Spain. Or blown to pieces by tornados in the US. Or washed to the sea as in Norfolk. Cattle are taken away by drought in Africa. These are but some of the many shapes and diguises in which we might encounter awayness.

away-stuttgart-underground

The news tell us of the catastrophy, or the war, the bombing or the accident. The news do not tell that people lost all their family photos, their favorite soft toy, the violin their granddad used to play. It might be small things, but nevertheless they cannot be replaced or rebuilt. Once they are lost they are away for ever and a life is changed.

away-chairs

When I had the idea to turn all this into an artist’s book, I knew this book would be different compared to all books I had made so far. I had to plan this book far away from my studio. I’d then pack my suitcase and travel to my studio for a working visit limited in time. Once there, I’d print all sheets and cut to size all material needed. I’d fold and press the cover sheets. There would be no board shear, no block cutter, and only the smallest of my bookbinding presses available to me after I had left heading home again. All machinery would be some 500 kilometres away. I packed a box with the hand tools I’d need: awl and needles, thread and bonefolder.

Cover: Metal Type

Cover: metal type to go in the press

Makeshift Workplace away from Studio

Makeshift workplace away from the studio

Thus this book is special in more than one aspect. It is the last artist’s book I printed in the old place. But it is not made entirely there. I took the printed and folded sheets to finish them off away from the studio. I worked on a makeshift workplace in the tiny flat we were living in at the time. This book is not just about the meaning of the term away. It is made in different stages of being away, part of the book’s substance is awayness. It is built upon, has taken shape within awayness. It breathes awayness.

away-cover

away-keepsake-close

The book itself is an edition of twelve one-offs. Each of the books comes with a unique compilation of twelve photographs depicting a scene of awayness. The text passages are taken from various dictionaries. All books are hand sewn as coptic bindings. The cover is printed on grey Gmund Bee paper. The pages are fitted with glassine sheets to protect the photographs. The book was presented to the public at the Fine Press Book Fair in Oxford in autumn 2015.

2015 Fine Press Book Fair at Brookes University

2015 Fine Press Book Fair at Brookes University

As I write this the sun is shining from a spotles sky. We had one more rather frosty night and everything out there is covered in white frost. The world looks a beautiful and quiet place. Normally around noon the rooks will come in numbers and search our meadow for lunch. I doubt they will do so today – with night temperatures as low as minus 7C the sandy soil gets rocksolid. The cranes have gone away on their annual migration. And we may expect those fascinating birds back some time in spring.

Migrating Cranes

Migrating Cranes

Leaving the Old Place for Good

 

The last morning in the old studio

The last morning in the old studio

On the last weekend of October we hit the road one last time to collect what was left in the old place. We were lucky in that this very weekend treated us to three lovely late autumn days. This particular year the typical Golden October days were rare, making these days even more special than they already were for us: I had come to the place where I had been working in during the past twelve years, and I had come here for one sole purpose: leave it for good.

 

All cleared.

All cleared.

It was a gorgeous autumn morning with mist clinging to the mountain Hohenstaufen’s base. Even though we had been clearing out bookbinding and printing gear on three previous occasions already there were still enough odds and ends left to keep us busy well into the afternoon. But, finally the space was cleared, nothing left. We handed over the keys, and off we were.

Hitting the road one last time.

Hitting the road one last time.

 

Monastry in Lorch

Monastry in Lorch

Leaving Waeschenbeuren behind we headed for the B29 road that would take us straight away to the motorway A7. We were surrounded by the mountainous countryside with trees and bushes at their autumnal best. Our route took us past the monastry in Lorch and right through Unicorn tunnel underneath the town of Schwaebisch Gmuend.

Einhorn Tunnel in Schwäbisch Gmünd

Einhorn Tunnel in Schwäbisch Gmünd

 

Crossing stream Rems

Crossing stream Rems

East of the town we crossed the stream Rems and on we went towards the city of Aalen. We were travelling on Monday but the following Tuesday would be a bank holiday in a number of German counties, so there was not as much traffic as on a normal weekday. We went on the northward bound stretch of the motorway A7, having a break at some point. The route took us through some of the low mountain regions one of them by the name of Rhoen. The highst elavation within the Rhoen region is the mountain Wasserkuppe just under 1000 metres. We did not have to brave that one, but the views of the many mountains either side of the motorway was stunning. The riges and slopes are forested and the trees had put on their colourful autumn foliage. In some spots large patches of European Larch were showing off their very special colouring.

Heading north

Heading north

 

Having a break

Having a break

Further north we had to battle what is called Kassel mountains. Here the motorway climbs a number of slopes and driving a van loaded to the brim can be challenging.Only a few kilometres shy of Kassel we left the A7 for the A44 and later the A33. Now the countryside becomes slightly less mountainous. Crossing the stream Twiste shows a meandering creek whose banks are decorated neatly with birch trees. The land gradually flatens out, the streets are lined by rows of trees and wind power stations are more abundant than in the south.

Crossing stream Twiste

Crossing stream Twiste

 

Flat country

Flat country

trip-notfartogo

Around Herford we left the motorway for road B239 taking us through Luebbecke right on the foot of what is called Wiehen Hills. These are part of the most northerly low mountain region in Germany and the last mountain proper we had to conquer. Their highest elavation is the mountain Heidbrink with just under 320 metres. Further north streches the North German Plain towards the coastal regions of North and East Sea respectively. Luebbecke is famous for its privat brewery Barre whose buildings greeted us while we were going downhill. Leaving Luebbecke behind we came passed its port which is on the banks of Midland Canal. Building this waterway started in 1906, it runs almost straight west-east. It links river Elbe with river Weser and – via Dortmund-Ems Canal – with river Ems and the Ruhr region. The Midland Canal actually crosses both river Weser and river Elbe.

The town of Lübbecke

The town of Lübbecke

Crossing Midland Canal means we are almost there. Dusk was closing in, the clocks had changed back to winter time only the day before. We got home just after 5pm. The last we had loaded on to the van was my studio’s 1950s fridge. This was the piece we definitely wanted to unload straight away. There was no way I could have defrosted it prior to loading. We had pampered it with a huge pile of old towels squeezed inside to sponge up the water from the thawing ice. This had worked perfectly fine. We left the rest of the load on the truck for Tuesday. We had to hand the van back just after noon.

The barn in January

The barn in January

This is the barn as it looked in January. In the meantime we have cleared out the straw and where the straw was now sit all the type cabinets. And this is the printroom-to-be as it looked in April. It is still a long way until the presses can move in there and I shall be able to start printing again. We are getting there step by step.

Printroom-to-be

Printroom-to-be

 

As I write this the wind is blowing strongly and there are powerful gusts outside. It is chilly and there are like fits of rain or drizzle. The sunflowers must feel pretty shaken by now. All of a sudden this morning the sky filled with large birds and their cries. It looked like a huge flock of cranes gathering to hit their road heading south for the winter. They were awesome to watch.

Sky filled with birds

Sky filled with birds

Movable Type.

 

Movable type

Movable type

Moving tons of metal type and printing presses is a hard job to do, no matter what time of the year. However, there was one thing I absolutely did not fancy: having to move my type and presses during the winter months. When in August I realised that all the type cabinets might fit into our barn for short time storage, I considered moving the lot during October. The printroom is still far from being finished, but it might be ready to use some time in December. Having all the printing gear at hand, would mean it can go in there the moment the paint on the walls has dried. Dates were fixed and time went quickly. Add to this: it went cold.

Memphis

Memphis

 

First cabinets on pallets

First cabinets on pallets

I drove south again on 10 October. I had just about one week to shove all the type cabinets on to palettes and thus get them ready for transport. The articulated lorry would come to pick it all up on 18 October. Packing up stuff is a peculiar job. Each piece you pick up, shove around, wrap in bubble foil and strap to a palette comes with its very own story, be it long or short. Some of those stories you had forgotten about, others you all of a sudden realise you had not even been aware of.

movable-type-hands

I have a small number of oversized type cases. In German they are called „Brotschriftkasten“, which literally means case of bread type. The reason for this was: the larger cases held more type specimens and were used to compose long texts. It was these cases that helped the printing office make its core income, hence the name bread type: the type that payed for the bread. I kept one of these cases, housing a rather old and worn type, sitting on top of one of my older type cabinets. Normally the cabinets would have been made of beech wood. This one was made of fir or spruce and it looks rather bashed-up. My landlord helped me lifting the case off of the cabinet and place it on another to be strapped in for transport. Only when I started taking the cases out of the old cabinet I became aware of a label that was pasted on to the wood. It was an old rail transportation label stating that this piece of furniture had been on its way from the main station in Stuttgart to its destination on 12 April 1928.

movable-type-cabinets-03

This cabinet was travelling in the times of the Weimar Republic, when Kurt Tucholsky was still alive and writing, a decade before the start of WW2. It reminded me of meeting a printer once at a fair. He was running his own printing office which had been a family business for at least three generations, perhaps more. Both, his father and grandfather had seen all their type taken away more than once by the military during war times – to be made into ammunition. I could almost feel his disgust about such an utterly savage act. Type was the medium that had made possible and helped spread education, knowledge and understanding. With printed books and leaflets people could learn each others languages, could descry other peoples’ culture and art and customs and recipes. Metal type was a means of understanding, a means of crossing borders and connecting people. „This is a printing office, crossroads of civilization, refugee of all the arts against the ravages of time …“ You can almost hear Beatrice Warde’s words (dating back to 1932) ringing in your ears. You can hardly imagine anything worse than turning metal type into ammunition to kill off people. Nevertheless, it has been done again and again.

Where The Red Poppies Dance

Where The Red Poppies Dance

Another of my very old cabinets is the one housing the small family of Trajanus, the fount I used for my artist’s book „Where the Red Poppies Dance“. It is the type of cabinet that comes with four oversized cases plus ten normal size cases and ten narrow cases for larger type. On the Sunday my dear friend Ivonne came to help me all day. A more than heartfelt thankyou goes to her. It is totally her credits that I managed to have all cabinets ready for transport by the following Monday evening. I would not have been able to achieve this without her tireless effort. We took out the large cases and discovered a nest neatly made by one of my furry visitors. What a thoughtful choice! Trajanus is one of my favourite founts and here we were: The specimens of the 9 point lower case ‘d’ had been snuggled into a neat and cosy looking circle and cushioned with little snippets of paper – part of which had been labels in another of the cases, containing ornaments. But there was still more to come.

Somebody made themselves at home in Trajanus type

Somebody made themselves at home in Trajanus type

When we started to take out the cases in one of the other cabinets, the meanwhile homeless mouse was sitting there staring at us. It had started building itself a new nest on the floor beneath the lowest case. It was a very beautiful mouse, though, with a nice long tail and lovely spherical black eyes. We tried to catch it but with no avail. It took flight and appeard to have vanished. In this place I’ve seen a number of furry visitors and feathery ones, too. Normally I was able to return them into the wild where they belong and are happy. I have no idea what happened to this one. It might have taken its chance to travel to a new place. If so, I’m sure it will love our barn and not regret its decision to cling on. That is, at least until its first encounter with one of the martens that live here, or for that matter our neighbour’s cat.

movable-type-wine-luck

I should have known, but it still came as a surprise that there were so many cases so heavy weight. A few of them were the ones coming with Baskerville. In my first couple of years we were given the opportunity to use a colleagues Monotype caster to cast our own type. We chose to cast 10 point Baskerville. And we decided to cast more than normal, to make it our bread type, so to speak. But there were other cases full to the brim, too.

movable-type-cabinets-04

During this one week I was taking out each type case from each cabinet and putting it back in after the cabinet sat firmly on its palette. I saw them all once again. The ones that I have used often and the ones I always wanted to use and up to now never found a suitable project for. I saw all the ornaments, decoration, borders and clichés. I cut up my old worn needle felt carpet from the floor to use it as padding in the cases.

Old carpet as padding

Old carpet as padding

On one day I came across two cases that were amongst the first I had bought. The owner had been a photographer, running his own shop and, in a way, publishing house. He produced a number of series of postcards. One edition pictured locations where hill walkers and hikers would go to, particularly the pubs or snack bars there. The other edition was of famous people of the time, singers and actors mostly. He would take the photographs produce the prints from them and then print a small text on the back of the postcard. The text would either be the name and details of the person or the place and elavation of the location depicted. He also produced autograph cards that would be signed by the singer/actor.

movable-type-stars

Since he was neither a printer nor a composer he used his type in a somewhat unorthodox way. He compsed the text, printed it and kept it for using it again. Basically this is what printers would have done. But a printer or composer would not have used cellotape to keep the set type together. He did so, with the effect that over the years the glue became somewhat half-solid and almost un-removable.

movable-type-cabinets02

Add to this, while keeping all his old text bits, he gradually ran out of type. He must have kept ordering more over the years or decades, but at some point the type he had started off with would be out of stock at the foundry, or given a re-design. Quite obviously he decided to take one similar to the one he had putting it in with the rest of the old. After so many years he ended up with at least three or four different sorts of 8 point type in one case. We had tried to sort it, but given up on it. There was no way of ever working reasonably with type like this. I had kept these cases solely for the reason that they were amongst my first. I saw clearly that this was the moment they would go to the scrap metal merchant. Back then I had bought two cabinets from his stock, one of which was a smaller, almost delicate nice little furniture. However, the photographer being a smoker and handling chemicals obviously at the same time, there must have been an explosion of some sort on the cabinet and you can still see the spill of the blast.

The evening prior to loading

The evening prior to loading

 

Proofing press on forklift truck

Proofing press on forklift truck

So many stories. Still far from all being told. On Tuesday 18 October early afternoon the articulated lorry reversed back into the yard and parked in front of my old studio’s doors. A forklift truck packed the cabinets and presses one by one on to the truck, which was said to measure 22 metres in length. We agreed to meet again Thursday 8.30am.

Type cabinets safely arrived at their new home

Type cabinets safely arrived at their new home

I was on my way back all Wednesday covering 560 kilometres to our new home, hoping all would be fine. On Thursday the truck was late, stuck in a traffic jam. It got to our new place in Westphalia just after 11am. While the forklift truck was unloading the cabinets and presses it started to drizzle, but never rained. We just so managed to pack almost all cabinets into the barn. Three of them had to go inside with the two proofing presses. There has been no frost so far.

The old place: almost cleared

The old place: almost cleared

As I write this it is cold outside with the occasional shower. Earlier today I have put protective foil to the windows in the printroom-to-be. Tomorrow the plasterwork on the inside walls will start. A number of young shrubs and bushes are waiting to be planted where our garden is going to be. However, I won’t be able to stay that long – the last odds and ends will have to be collected at the old place – this coming weekend.

Autumn evening at the old place in October

Autumn evening at the old place in October

A Bindery’s Trek: Episode 2

 

Diary

Diary

During my ongoing process of relocating I found things I had long forgotten about. One of them was a little red notebook. Its cover is made from red plastic sheets and it has a white wire binding. I used it as my travel diary during a family summer holiday in France and we must have bought it locally at some stationary shop. There is no note about the year but it must have been in the early or mid 1970s. I had pasted in picture postcards of the location and vouchers of a pancake (crêpes) vendor called „The Golden Anchor“ plus a table of the opening times of a marine zoo.

Diary

Diary

 

Diary with printed poems

Diary with printed poems

Until today I keep my diaries like this. I even constructed a special type of book which is designed to keep safe bits and pieces pasted on to the pages. My journals have always been companions for me. They are all worn and brim over with all sorts of snippets and odds and ends. I very vividly remember a trip to Scotland in 2006 during which my journal got soaked inside the rucksack. It was one of the first I had designed and made entirely myself. I dried it over night under some more or less heavy things I had with me, and it was fine. It still is.

Historical binding

Historical binding

Folding sections

Folding sections

In September we set out with a rented truck a second time to get the remaining components of the bindery. The intended side effect was to clear the front part of the old place in order to be able to move out the presses and type cabinets from the back. I left our old farm in the north on Thursday 22 September.

Prior to sewing

Prior to sewing

There was still paper left to pack and load. There were two old wardrobes that wanted to be dissembled, one of which we had turned into a storage place for prints years ago. There were four sideboards and work benches one fitted with a thick and weighty worktop made of black schist. Ad to that there were a fair number of type cases that would have to go on this tour because they don’t fit in any of the cabinets.

Type cases in waiting

Type cases in waiting

Artist's book on Human Rights

Artist’s book on Human Rights

However, this tour still was abut moving my bindery, making it complete in the new place. I enjoy making books differently. I still want them to bring a message or come with blank pages to hold a message somebody puts in. I still want them to be proper books and be handled as books. I believe the nature of a book is that of a vessel, transporting something inside, that will be revealed or set free by opening it and turning the pages.

Cover from towel linen

Cover made from towel linen

books-canvas

Cover made from brocade

Cover made from brocade

As a child I adored those wee little Chinese boxes all covered in cloth. Mostly the fabric used was shiny brocade and inside the box was something delicate. A precious brush for calligraphy. Or meticulously carved chopsticks. Once I started bookbinding I wanted to have a go at using fabric for book covers. Over the years I tried a lot of different qualities of fabric. The most sturdy must have been some hessian from a coffee sack, the most delicate a silk cutwork fabric, handmade in Asia.

Artist's book

Artist’s book

 

Loading type cases

Loading type cases

We kept loading the truck for three full days. The last to go in were, again, potted plants. Some young shrubs and bushes, some ferns plus the two hydrangeas and the begonia still in bloom. For a brief anxious moment it looked as if it was impossible to fit all in. But then, quite miraculously, it worked out and we made the lifting ramp go shut. In my van, once more unjustly dwarfed by its bulgy cousin, some items were nestled together that were telling of the more challenging part of the relocation process that is still to come. Two small platen presses, one of which our Adana 8×5, were carefully padded for the journey. The larger platen was strapped safely in the truck. The printing gear was till sitting in the old place untouched.

Trucks loaded

Trucks loaded

This time the journey back went pretty uninterrupted. Wednesday was a sunny day with temperatures in the mid 20s feeling like late summer. Back at the farm the sandy soils had gone dry like dust. Thursday was the day to unload. We had one whole day, but we only just so managed to have the truck empty before it went too dark for the job.

Still loaded

Still loaded

 

There it goes

There it goes

There was an early start on Friday to hand back the rented truck. Here it goes, dawn just breaking. Only minutes later the really big vehicles came to the farm. But this is a different story altogether, to be told in in one of the posts to follow. First of all we will have to prepare for moving the presses and type cabinets in mid October. The date is set. Stay tuned.

Stay tuned.

More to come

As I write this the sunflowers keep nodding their golden and bronze heads in the wind. We have had chilly nights, unseasonably chilly to be honest. The crows and jackdaws and magpies had their family gathering on our meadow today playing a game around the walnuts on our neighbour’s tree. And the far reaching view to the west is restored after the field of maize has been harvested these past days.

Evening early October

Evening early October

Garden Reloaded: The Raised Bed

 

Old bricks

Old bricks

At a fairly early stage I had the idea of having a raised bed for my herbs. With so many bricks having to go from the stable (during the process of turning the stable into the print room) it was tempting to have the raised bed with a red brick wall made from the old bricks, that had served as flooring in the stable for at least decades.

Shower of sleet in late April

Shower of sleet in late April

Our herbs sat waiting in their pots on our patio. In late April they got showered with sleet. There was a meadow to begin with, and a rumble strip with demolition waste, that I don’t know how many generations had a habit of dumping there. In the first place the debris had to go and the grass. The grass was easy to remove compared to all the rubble. The latter had to be dug out and this took me weeks. It was rusted keys and shards from cups and broken bricks and tiles and bits of concrete. And bones. Old bones, from cooking broth so I believe.

Weeding

Weeding and digging

Mr blackbird

Mr blackbird on the outline

In June I could put down the outline. The bed is facing southwest. It will have full sun from one side and the small pig stable in its back. The stable’s wall heats up considerably on hot summer days and reflects the heat of the sun until late in the evenings. Mr blackbird was very torn: the open soil made it so much easier for him to find food for his chicks, but that lady digging was a bit of a nuisance. This was when Mr and Mrs blackbird were raising their June chicks.

Windmill in Levern

Windmill in Levern

Raised bed in July

Raised bed in July

The village Oppenwehe is part of a municipality consisting of 13 villages and hamlets altogether. The municipal administration is located in the village Levern. It was there that I first saw that red bricks were used in traditional gardening around here. There is a little gathering of historical housings in Levern. They nestle around a large windmill, in which couples can get married. One of the old homes shows off a traditional farmer’s garden. And all the margins of the beds were neatly laid with red bricks. Putting in that margin around my bed-to-be took a while during July.

Raised bed in July after rain

Raised bed in July after rain

For some time there was very little progress as to the raised bed. There were so many other things on the agenda. In August we hit the road to fetch the bindery, but work resumed in September. We started to mix mortar and build the brick wall. By this time the old bricks had been waiting piled up on the site. They had got washed down repeatedly. We’d had torrential rain on one or two occasions. And all of a sudden there it was: a raised bed made from red bricks. We filled in the rest of the rubble for good drainage. Then we put in the sand that had been sitting in heaps around the bed. And on the sand we put a layer of garden soil mixed with compost.

Brick wall growing

Brick wall growing

Raised bed from red bricks

Raised bed from red bricks

Sand goes in

Sand goes in

By late September the herbs at long last could abandon their tiny pots and move into their new bed. Here they have plenty of space and all the sun they can wish for. There is two small bushes of rosemary, one sage and a variety of thyme. There is caraway and oregano and marjoram and parcel, which is a cross between parsley and celeriac.

Raised bed with herbs

Raised bed with herbs

Red Admiral

Red Admiral

Some fellows are quick in making friends: the red admiral butterflies seemed to love the place from the start. A number of them kept coming back sitting on the bricks in the sun. And the bumblebees came to visit the lavender which is still in bloom.

sunflower-bronze

As I write this it has gone chilly outside. Temperatures have dropped rather quickly these past days. The swallows and martins have left for warmer regions. I have seen more geese flying in formation. The starlings are still here, though. The sunflowers show all shades of bronze and golden-brown. In the barn the nest of the white tailed bumblebees seems abandoned at last. And dusk sets in so much earlier in the evenings. But the sunsets are still as stunning as on our very first evening here.

Sunset September

Sunset September

A Bindery’s Trek: Episode 1

 

Bespoke books

Bespoke books

 

Binding books

Binding books

Bespoke books are wonderful things, both while making them and when using them. For making them you need imagination, a feel for the materials you work with, experience. You need a number of tools, most of which are handheld. You need proper devices for cutting paper and boards. And you want a workplace you feel at home with. Having to move a bindery leaves you with a few boxes of tools and a number of items which are either heavy-weights or gaggers or both.

Bespoke books

Bespoke books

 

Board shear

Board shear

In mid-August we set out to get the bindery. After all, this had been scheduled for July to begin with. The most tricky to move were the board shear, the block cutter and the huge metal storage racks. The rest wass packed in boxes, some heavier than others. And there were the packs of paper, of course, sitting in piles or still stored in the racks.

Board shear: weight

Board shear: weight

We rented a lorry, drove 560 kilometres south and slightly east to where the studio still sits waiting. The board shear was built around 1912 or 1913. Its frame is cast iron, the table is wood. We decided against taking it apart. We took off the weight which when working is the balance to the cutting blade. Its shape resembles the drawn bombs in 1970s comic stories of bank robberies. It has an estimated weight of 40 or 50 kilograms and as it is rounded it is virtually ungrippable. It comes as a surprise to basically anybody who tries to lift it up. It almost always fools people new to the job. The block cutter is not even half as much fun. It comes in one piece. Fullstop. It is bulky and heavy and the lever is fixed and protrudes and will poke you unless you keep in mind that it’s there.

Board shear

Board shear

 

Loading ...

Loading …

We started loading with a fair number of boxes and the board shear. We decided to have the block cutter in my delivery van, which was unjustily dwarfed by the truck we had rented. The four book binding presses were perfect company for the block cutter. The metal storage racks could not be loaded upright, as their height exceded that of the shipping space. We laid them, which gave us the opportunity to pile the packs of paper on top of them.

Packed paper

Packed paper

 

Marbled paper handmade by Victoria Hall

Marbled paper handmade by Victoria Hall

Transporting packs of paper always makes me feel uneasy. You need to wrap and pack them neatly. I have a good stock of very different qualities of paper. The range is from deckle edge papers and designer papers to glassine, Japanese and handmade decorated papers. Some of the qualities in my stock are old papers you would not be able to go and purchase nowadays. You would need to be lucky, as I was, to come across them at some old bindery or printing office closing for good.

Sewing sections

Sewing sections

Even if the books you set out to make are of a fairly reasonable, say ordinary size, you will need a quite large table to work on. You will have to handle full size sheets of paper while folding to produce sections you can then sew together. So the table needs to be big. My worktable is built from four type cabinets set in a square with a large chip board on top. We started loading this table with disassembling it. We filled the cavities in the shipping space with rolls of bookcloth. We stuffed the canvas booth I use when at arts&crafts fairs on top of one of the lying storage racks. It comes with large rolls of canvas (kind of like sails) and a number of battens making up the wooden frame of the booth.

Book covers made from fabric

Book covers made from fabric

Basically, books are made of two materials: paper and cloth or fabric for that matter. I love to use fabric for my books’ covers. Cotton or linen, even towel linen, hessian or silk, corduroy or Chinese brocade, Italian jacquard and African batik, English linen with classic flower patterns or even handwoven material. I love the touch of the fabric on the book. The variety of patterns is fascinating. All my stock of fabric made up for a number of large movers’ boxes plus a couple of bolts of cloth.

canvas

 

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At this point we must have been loading for almost three days. A heartfelt thankyou goes to Denny, a dear friend who came round on Saturday to help us almost all day lifting and dragging and piling. She was patient enough to find spaces for small odds and ends. Where would we be without her help? Still loading, I presume. And a big thankyou to Klaus, my landlord, who helped lifting the block cutter into my van and gave us a hand with the board shear.

Upcycled book

Upcycled book

On the field beyond my studio’s windows a small circus was camping, the tent packed away. All shows were over. One large pole had been painted blue and was drying in the sun. They were preparing for moving on some time next week. A long tent was put up as a shelter for the animals. There were two camels, a small herd of goats and four ponies. On Sunday just before noon the camels had pushed over the fence and that was when the four ponies went for it. They cantered away across the road having car drivers slaming on their brakes. We all left what we were doing running to help catching the ponies. We stood guard at the road and everybody else was grabbing collars and ropes to get the ponies. The four obviously were enjoying themselves cantering across the field, meandering around the old apple trees there having their people chase after them. It was a field I know fairly well as I used to walk our dog there. Finally the ponies were all caught safely and put back in their pen, together with the camels who had a look on their faces saying „It was not us.“

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Last but not least we loaded: potted plants. They all had been given asylum in my mother’s garden. We had left the plants in her expert care in spring 2015. We could not load them all. We decided on the young bushes like yew, rowan and guelder rose. Plus all the pots with tulips, daffodils and herbs. Plus the bryony. That was when we closed the door of the lorry. The trip back was in a way an adventure as we got stuck in a massiv traffic jam following a road accident of an HGV which had spilled its load on to the motorway. This event nailed my dear husband driving the lorry to the spot. He had set off early in the morning and when he got home it was 8pm. He had spent most of the day on the road, almost 15 hours altogether. We got the plants out of the truck and that was that.

 

Back home.

Back home.

 

Lorry empty

Lorry empty

The aftermath of this hampered journey left us with only one morning to unload the truck, as the deadline for handing back the lorry was 2pm. A whole bunch of heartfelt thankyous goes out to our neighbours. Three of them came to give us six hands for a couple of hours after they were through with the morning chores on their farm and with their cattle. We were five to unload the truck. We managed to be at the car rental company by 1.58pm. Slightly tight, but still in time.

Unloading complete

Unloading complete

Most of the bindery has moved by now. So far everything seems to have arrived unscathed. The plants are striving, the bryony is showing a new set of flowers. The weight of the board shear is in place again the working table re-assembled. The bindery is not yet back to full working order, but we are not far from it. We have booked the lorry for another trip in late September.

Bindery tools

Bindery tools

 

As I write this the sunflowers open their huge flowers one by one. They are of various shades of bronze, from dark brown to almost yellow. The swallows and martins are still chasing flies on our patio. They have not left yet for their autumn migration. I’ve seen a flock of starlings recently, so these are staying on, too. They were gathring in numbers in an old oak tree, of which we have so many around here. In a blink they had vanished from the sky and hid within the foliage of the tree. Summer is clinging on longer than usual. But this morning, quite early, I watched a formation of geese in the sky travelling. It looked as if their intention was to be gone.

Sunflower

Sunflower

Wildlife around our new home

Blackbird virgin flight

Blackbird virgin flight

We have moved to the countryside and it goes without saying that we are surrounded by what is commonly called wildlife. Some so far have not introduced themselves in person. They prefer to leave their business card. And they do so in numbers, well, we could have done with less.

Fresh molehills

Fresh molehills

Some make themselves heard in the darkblue very starry nights we have here. Quite certainly it will be some kinds of bird of prey. We hope to learn their names over the course of the years. Just across the small road to the west there is a field of maize and from out of there a pheasant has made its voice heard every now and then. Also, the area is home to bats. They come in the latter part of the blue hour hunting for whatever dares to be in the air at that time of the fading day. In spring it was cockchafer. Cockchafer grubs are living in the soil in good numbers and all sizes. There is a lot of oak trees around.

Cockchafer grubs

Cockchafer grubs

dead-beetle

wildlife-puppa

Swallows and barn martins are treating us to their flight shows. On a good day they chase off the falcon and after their success seem to give eachother what looks like a flown high-five. For the past two weeks or so every now and then they gathered on our roof chatting cheerfully and with a lot of hubbub – as they always do, even while hunting. I was wondering whether this could be some ritual to prepare for their upcoming migration. A family of redstarts is living in and around the barn. And wagtails search the meadow each time it is freshly cut. Up in the oak trees lining the small road magpies live and crows. And bussards draw their circles on the spotless summer sky – every so often chased away by either the crows or the magpies.

Wood pigeon

Wood pigeon

 

Heron

Heron

There are pigeons. Or doves for that matter. Currently, which is late August, the wood pigeons have their ramshackle nest from sticks in the back part of our barn. They have at least one chick, fluffy and dark grey. We have had a grey heron visiting and a stork in spring. A flock of cheerful sparrows is living in our front garden. The two purple hawthorn trees are theirs and the yews next to the hawthorns too. And we had blackbirds breeding in the corner of our patio. They had three clutches and raised twelve chicks.

Daddy blackbird

Daddy blackbird

 

Blackbird flegling in June

Blackbird flegling in June

Some wildlife has failed to leave while it was still time. I found the mumified carcass of a marten in the old hey in the barn. It was stuck between an almost ancient bale of hey and the brick wall, baring its teeth. A somewhat eerie sight in the twilight of an old barn. And our neighbour’s dog managed to cut one lad’s life short by catching a root vole in what is to become our back garden.

Late marten

Late marten

There have been butterflies almost right from the start. But with the meadow now having more flowers than grass they seem to have become much more abundant. Also there are two large bushes of privet in the front garden which have attracted a great many and all sorts of insect visitors during bloom. Plus we planted some flowers in our garden-to-be, amongst them lavender and sage, a white hollyhock and a few roses. The white butterflies obviously cannot resist the little yellow flowers that have sprung up in our meadow, presumably some kind of hawksbeard. It is their place to look out for a date. They dance in pairs or threes or fours up into the sky.

white-butterflies

butterfly

But other butterflies, like the small tortoiseshell, seem to clearly prefer our white Echinacea. The species that seems to be very abundant is red admiral. It is very eye catching with its brilliant black and red wings.

Red admiral

Red admiral

There are hoverflies as well and of course bumblebees and ladybirds. We have had a nest of white tailed bumblebees in a stack of old straw in the barn all summer. It seems abandoned now, as could be expected by September, but there are still bumblebees around. Some built their nest in crevices of the brick wall of the house. And there are midges or rather mosquitoes. I have seen the majestic hornets, the tottery daddy longlegs, and only recently, some golden-brown very delicate dragonflies have paid their visit. The place here not only is rural, but there is a peat bog not far, too. So dragonflies do not come as a total surprise.

Borage visitor

Borage visitor

It was to be expected that a certain proportion of our plums would be claimed for dinner before we could harvest them. Tiny pink larvae were eating them up from within. We have put up large barrels to collect rain water from the downpipes. The vessels got inhabited in a blink. Almost from the start little swimming beetles raced around. Later the larvae of great diving beetles caught whatever they could catch. They are known to be greedy.

Bumblebee

Bumblebee

As I write this it is a sunny late summer afternoon. Temperatures have gone down to the mid-twenties. The old ivy on the wall of the little stable is in its early bloom – much to the solitary bees’ liking.

 

A Garden-to-be

Our former garden

Our former garden

This is a photo of the garden we had in the past. It is an allotment not far from Stuttgart. The rhododendrons have grown taller than two metres in over 10 years in their specially built sheltered raised beds with acidic soil. There is an extra bed of ferns, there are apple trees, a pond with irises and a huge walnut tree amongst far more. We have moved away from there, some 600 kilometres north. Instead of loamy the soil here is sandy. Instead of mountainous the area here is lowland and flat. When I chose the rhododendrons for our former garden in Swabia, I watched carefully to pick those that could deal with temperatures below minus 20 degrees centigrade. We need not expect winters getting that cold here in the north of Westphalia with the coastline of the North Sea just over 100 kilometers away. Instead we’ll have to keep in mind that winds can be rather rough. We are no beginners as to gardening, but here conditions are so different to what we are used to we can consider ourselves starting all over again.

Garden-to-be in late April with snow flurry

Garden-to-be in late April with snow flurry

This would not be an old farm if it did not come with some land. There is a front garden with bushes and yews and hawthorn and a small white lilac tree. But in the back there is all meadow. Over the past so many years it was cut to feed cattle. When we moved in earlier this year the grass was dense and looked juicy.

Yellow meadow

Yellow meadow

When the wind went over it, it moved in powerful waves like if it was an ocean of green. We started mowing it with our sit-on mower at some point in May. It grew so quickly we had to cut it almost every 10 days because otherwise it would grow too tall for our mower to handle. Come August the meadow has changed from the uniform green of grass to a mixture of yellow and a great many shades of greens. It was time to take out some very old, very much used books again.

Very used old books

Very used old books

 

Muckheap in February

Muckheap in February

The old farm comes with two stables. The larger one was used for cattle, the smaller one for pigs. Both are built parallel to each other separated by the pit for the muckheap. The basis of the pit is made of neatly laid bricks. The times in which animals were kept here are long gone. The muckheap must have been disused for quite some time, 15 years at least. What was left in there had a lot of time to rot away thouroughly. Which is exactly what it had done.

Muckheap in June

Muckheap in June

 

Composters

Composters

The material resting there was moist and dark and densely inhabited with all sorts of creatures of decomposition: worms of all kinds and larvae and little shiny blue-black beetles. I carefully scraped all of it from the bricks and mixed it into the various composters when setting them up. With all the little helpers already in there the process of decomposition could start straight away.

Muckheap early August

Muckheap in early August

Muckheap mid August

Muckheap in mid August

During the process of clearing the old straw and hey from the attic and the barn I put one compost heap where the muckheap was. It is a good place. The pit only opens to the north, it is sheltered from all other sides by walls of buildings. It gets some sun but only for a few hours each day. This heap is keeping its moisture nicely. It grows little mushrooms each night. The pumpkin seeds I put in there in July are going strong.

Garden-to-be in early April

Garden-to-be in early April

Garden-to-be in late May

Garden-to-be in late May

One wall of the pig stable faces east where the place of the muckheap is. The opposite wall faces west and overlooks much of the meadow. We learned that at the foot of this wall there was a rumble stretch. Apparently a certain amount of debris had been dumped here over the years or rather decades. I took up the challenge of clearing this away. It took me a couple of weeks to dig through it.

Garden-to-be in early June

Garden-to-be in early June

 

Old tiles

Old tiles

Some very nice old floor tiles emerged. However, most of what came up was broken bricks of all sorts. There was a rusted key, some shards with floral designs and some broken glass from old fashioned bottles. Now that this strip is cleared I can start building a bed for my kitchen herbs just in front of the old stable.

Garden-to-be in mid July

Garden-to-be in mid July

As I write this dusk is closing in. The sun sets much earlier now. We had a pretty hot and rather windy day, the last in a row with temperatures around 30 degrees centigrade. During the past couple of days countless white butterflies kept dancing in the heat of the day above our yellow meadow – in pairs or in threes. If the night sky is clear it takes a dark shade of blue and we have the most beautiful view of the stars twinkling. Just recently we saw a very bright falling star.

Four legged neighbours

Four legged neighbours

Anybody longing to learn more about the garden we had to leave behind? Go for it.

 

Straw

oldstraw-hey

When visiting the farm for the first time, we knew in an instant there would be a number of challenges connected with our new home. One of them was to move out the old oak-style furniture. In the end it all added up to some two tonnes of chairs and tables and wardrobes that went. This sounds a lot. But there was a challenge bigger than that waiting for us: old straw.

Old straw in the barn as it looked in January

Old straw in the barn as it looked in January

In fact it is old straw plus old hey. Either partly in the form of bales and partly loose. The straw/hey was packed mainly in two spaces: the attic and the barn. The straw and hey had been in there for at least the past 15 or 20 years. But part of it might have been sitting there for significantly longer – considering the state it is in.

Old straw in the barn in early August

Old straw in the barn in early August

The stuff in the attic was mainly bales. They were tightly and meticulously packed and in places some strength was needed to haul them out from underneath a beam. The bales were easy to handle but it was an awful lot. Even after far more than 20 loads have gone so far, there is still one load of bales waiting to be given a lift. At first the bales got loaded onto a trailer through a hole in the ceiling of what is called the „Deele“, the large farm working-entrance hall.

"Deele" with trailer to load some bales of straw from the attic

“Deele” with trailer to load some bales of straw from the attic

Later we started throwing the bales through one of the windows in the attic with the trailer parked underneath in the meadow. One advantage was that we could feed more bales onto the trailer as it had not to squeeze through the farm door when leaving. The other advantage was we did not have straw distributing itself in the house all over the place. The straw and hey is being used as bedding for livestock.

Old straw in the attic

Old straw in the attic

The stuff in the barn is a different story alltogether. Much of it is loose with some bales hidden in between. The bottom part of it, sitting directly on the brick floor, shows signs of a slow process of decomposition. Large brown sheets have formed, in a way resembling papyrus. In the far left hand side corner of the barn some kind of white-tailed bumblebees have their nest in the old straw-hey mixture. They are quite not amused about anybody manipulating their home. They’ll let you know instantly with a do-not-mess-with-us buzzing sound. The bumblebees will abandon nest in September and have a new one next spring. Thus we can clear away the nest once the bumblebees have left it.

Paper-weight egg found in the old straw

Light-weight egg found in the old straw

Even within the straw and hey in the barn unexpected treasures emerge: an egg as light as paper. I know there used to be a henhouse on the premises, but it got pulled down very long ago. How old this egg might be? We’ll never know.

compost-built-up

By chance I came across a book outlining a method of decomposing straw and hey. It sounded interesting and like some sort of solution for some of the loose stuff we have. There is no shortage of space to pile up heaps of straw for letting it rot away. We needed to have compost heaps anyway for all the grass we had to cut and for weeds and other stuff that had to go from where it was currently growing. We now have composters of different styles working. One is built from old oak beams we found in one of the stables. Two are simple heaps set up layer by layer.

compost-oakbeam

I spent days putting up compost piles and packing old straw out of the barn wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow. While piling up the old material it had to be mixed with nitrogen fertilizer of some sort. I decided on pellets of manure. It keeps the little helpers going while they eat up all the old straw and turn it into compost for gardening. Apart from nitrogen – and phosphor and potassium – they need moisture. Consequently I kept watering the heaps while it was hot and dry in July. With the beginning of August we got some nice and steady rain that works well with the heaps of straw. They seem to be rotting quite nicely, feeling moderately warm inside.

straw-compost-fence

straw-compost-stables-0

I stuffed pumpkin seeds into one of them. I do not hope to be harvesting any pumpkins in autumn. I wanted a plant producing great big leaves to cover the surface of the heap and prevent it from loosing its moisture. The heaps of straw are big and it takes a while to water them and there is so much else to do. The first half dozen seedlings are showing and maybe there will be more to come.

Pumpkin seedlings

Pumpkin seedlings

straw-compost-mushroom

With part of the straw having been in a state of decomposition already there are fungi and mushrooms appearing on the straw within days. The tiny grey mushrooms are pretty short lived. They last a day or two and melt away quickly. I am curious how the heaps will develop.

august-rain

As I write this it is overcast and has cooled down considerably compared to just a week ago, when it was still hot and dry and kind of like an old fashioned summer in the countryside. The steady rain had started early this morning and now everything is thoroughly moistened. The pumpkins are doing their best to grow large leaves.

tripod

Settling in Gradually

Photo by Denny Boehm

Photo by Denny Boehm

Three months ago we were handed over the keys of the house. We are moving in gradually. There is a feeling of both familiarity and newness. We keep coming across things, we had not realised were there, things that come as a surprise. Old doors and windows burried and forgotten in the straw in the attic. Signs of habits long kept but somewhat outdated: all tools are labelled with the name of the owner and date of purchase. The umbrella too.

Underneath wallpaper

Underneath wallpaper

Underneath wallpaper

Underneath wallpaper

The main part of the house is said to date back to around 1893. Some parts might be much older. The vital parts like bathroom, kitchen and heating are pretty contemporary. A fact we are very grateful for. They are in good working order and we need not touch them for now. There is still enough work left. It goes without saying that the whole place has been designed for the every day work of a farmer. Accordingly we’ll have to convert part of it into a printroom and another part into a place where books will be bound. While these more substantial changes are being planned for, we tend to the lesser chores, which have to be tackled just the same.

Baler Twine

Baler Twine

All space used for work or living is on ground floor level. But of course there is an attic. It is not fitted for living in, unless you are a pigeon, an owl, a martin or a barn swallow, a marten or whatever sort of mouse. Some 20 years ago the whole of the attic was tediously packed with one layer of bales of straw. Currently we are step by step, meaning load by load getting rid of the old straw. From underneath or in between the bales some nice things emerge that have been burried there untouched for decades.

Impression of an old door having been in the straw for decades

Impression of an old door having been in the straw for decades

 

Buttons in a bucket

Buttons in a bucket

The most peculiar of them certainly is a bucket filled with buttons. But also there is an old stained mirror, an old farmhouse door, feeders for chickens, parts of an old fence, spare bits for a tractor which is long gone (it has left its keys in a clear plastic box with many others), piles of snippets of all sorts of tiles and a number of huge coils of baler twine. A farmer from one of the surrounding villages comes round every now and then and we load his trailer to the brim with the old straw. When I am up there in the attic piling bales of straw to have them at hand for the next loading there is somebody carefully watching. It is a tiny male black redstart. He is not on his own there, the whole family is living hidden somewhere in the attic. I could watch all three of them outside when working in the garden. They can be quite talkative at times.

Feeders in the attic

Feeders in the attic

 

The garden-to-be is currently just a somewhat spacy meadow. On an old photograph it looks like if it had been used as pasture land. (We found the old field gates packed away in a shed.) Just beyond the fence in the back two large cherry trees are the happiness for some small flocks of starlings. They have a hang for the ripe cherries and are feasting there. For the past so many years the meadow was mowed and the grass or hey fed to cattle. This spring there seemed to be only one sort of grass and it was growing very quickly. We hardly managed to mow it in time before it grew long enough to clogg up our sit-on mower. However, the growth has slowed down and there are other species showing now.

Yellow meadow

Yellow meadow

Some species of hawksweed appeared in July turning most of the place into a sea of yellow. In one area there is a large population of mugwort. Somewhere I spotted dark mulletin, and out on the margin the odd poppy.

Trough

Trough

plant-pot-01

plant-pot-02

For a small scale start we re-planted some pots that have been overlooked for some time. With the help of a neighbour and his traktor we moved one trough to the entrance of the yard. Some of the shrubs had dried and had to go. I put in some flowers and grasses to accompany what might be a dwarf juniper which proved to be determined to stay.

plant-pot-03

In the large room that is to become the bindery we found a basket-like plant container. With a bit of help we managed to move it outside and put in a species of Moroccan mint. I gave it some wallpepper for company. Wallpeppers are abundant all over the place as we have dry sandy soils and enough sunny days for them to strive.

plant-pot-basket-01

Old carpet in the study

Old carpet in the study

Apart from tidying up the attic and gradually developing the meadow into a garden, there are some lesser tasks in the house. The room that is to become my study was fitted with a rather old and worn carpet. The process of replacing the carpet with tiles is ongoing.

New tiles in the study

New tiles in the study

More new tiles in the study

More new tiles in the study

 

Morning light

Morning light

Almost empty

Almost empty

The room that is to become the bindery is being used as storage space on a preliminary basis. First of all we moved all the old furniture there that was to go. Once all of this had gone the space was almost empty for a day or two. Then the movers came and we piled everything in there that had been stored in the container for over a year. And at times we needed to make space for the trailer to be loaded with bales of old straw.

Reloaded

Reloaded

 

With trailer

With trailer

As I write this the wind outside plays with the oak trees’ foliage in the night. I know there are mosquitoes out there. And owls. I have seen them sweeping the night sky without making a noise like if there was a shadow flying by. We could do with some rain. The past days have been mostly sunny and windy at times. And hot. The sand from the dry soils is blown everywhere.

White hollyhock

White Hollyhock