A barn filled with straw

A proper farm needs a barn and when we moved in at our farm in spring 2016 the barn was filled with straw. The stuff must have been sitting there for decades. It was mixed with hey from meadows long gone. Some of the straw was in bales, some bales had disintegrated from the weight of the bales piled on top of them, some straw was loose and long, some had been finely chopped. All of it was a fire hazard and it blocked the space almost completely. So it had to go. Somehow.
This is the story of how a barn full of straw became a barn with space for stories. Countless loads had to go and it would take three years to get the deed done.

January 2016

First of all we needed to clear the way in and out. The plan was to use this space as a temporary storage for the type cabinets that were to be brought in before winter come. Here it was mostly bales, some of which had been crushed. By autumn the space was free. We were lucky in that a farmer in a village nearby would use the straw as bedding. He kept coming in with his trailer to get the stuff – all the way through until March 2019, when the last load went.

August 2016

In late October 2016 the type cabinets and presses arrived, all neatly packed on palettes. The forklift truck sorted them one by one in to the now free space in the barn. They were supposed to sit there until the pressroom was ready to be furnished. Unfortunately we got minus 9 degrees for a number of days in November. It would be mid January when we were able to get the cabinets out of the barn and into the pressroom.

October 2016

Next we tried to tackle the bales in the middle part of the barn. This could be done by picking them up with a fork and tossing them in the trailer. The trailer would fill up quickly. But underneath the bales the loose straw emerged. Partly this was long and tangled and broken baler twine was mixed in with it. Work became arduous.

January 2019
January 2019

Every now and then the odd bale turned up within the mass of loose straw. Once the huge pile in the middle had shrunk loading the trailer became even more cumbersome , as the material had to be lifted up to be tossed into the trailer.

January 2019
January 2019

The crushed straw was the worst to get loaded. We needed a special gripper device mounted on to the tractor. It looked like the jaws of a lion made from steel. Together with the farmer Albert we devoured, so to speak, our way through the mass of crushed straw.

January 2019

At some point we lost track on the number of loads we had got out. When a trailer was loaded we looked at what was still there and estimated how many more loads it would be. We never got it right.

April 2019

And then, all of a sudden, the straw seemed to give in. In early March 2019 the last load rolled out through the barn door. And it became apparent that this space was really beautiful. It had potential. What was left was the stuff right at the bottom. This went on to our compost heap. In places it could be rolled up like a carpet. Buried underneath the huge pile of straw was the cavern that was used to store potatoes and field mangels to feed the pigs. The ceiling of this pit had given up in places and had broken in. In normal years there would be some half metre of water standing down there. After two dry summers it was of course dry. As we had no notion to keep pigs any time soon, we decided to fill the pit with sand.

May 2019

To have the pit filled evenly took us a few loads of sand and a couple of weeks time. Some of the sand was wet and sticky, some was nice and dry. Generously our neighbours stepped in to help. Thank you, mates!

July 2019

Here the deed is almost done. The sand could be filled in only from one side and had to be worked to the other side with shovel, rake and wheel barrow.

July 2019

We had kept some of the straw to fill old coffee sacks. 2019 was the year of the studio’s 20th anniversary. To have the barn free of straw came in handy: we could have readings from my artist’s books in this space. And we would have those straw filled sacks to sit on. Now it was just the lamps and sockets that wanted to be fixed.

August 2019

Here we are: A barn to be filled with stories.

August 2019

An almost endless summer

This summer was a challenge for two reasons. Firstly: it started in mid April with temperatures rising to 30 degrees and lastet well into October. And even though November has seen the odd morning with white frost it is still too mild for the season. Secondly: there was hardly any rain.

Since we moved here in 2016 we have planted more than 30 trees and well over 40 shrubs and bushes. Most of them had been in the soil for less than or not much over one year, so the ongoing lack of rain was putting them at considerable risk. Starting from April until well into October watering the bushes and young trees was a main concern.

During spring and early summer there was a wealth of poppies and cornflowers and bees and bumblebees were feasting. I desperately tried to keep the crimson clover alive and it started flowering in early autumn. We had a large plot of buckwheat which the bees enjoyed and once the seeds appeared the plot got invaded by sparrows.

We had a patch with rye which mostly succumbed to the drought. But the crown-of-the-field was going strong. The patches with flax were doing well. Some of the rhododendrons kept struggling and some even did not manage to open their flowers due to lack of water.

After last year’s failure to bear fruit due to a spell of rather late frost, this year the fruit trees went bonkers with blooming and making apples and pears. Unfortunately the latter became gradually more difficult due to the lack of rain. Most of our young apples got infestated by insect larvae. Some just stopped growing and ended up as miniature apples eventhough they were meant to grow into propper edible fruit. But we got a fair share of pears and a few apples.

Our sunflowers were thriving. At first they were full with bumble bees and once they started building seeds they got raided by the birds. They all came to feed: blue tits and great tits, goldfinches and greenfinches, sparrows and willow tits. The goldfinches came as a family with three youngsters. Later in summer they all were joined by chaffinches and the little wren came back – no idea where it had spent summer, but it had been there in early spring already. In November a cheeky robin appeared feasting on the left over elder berries.

The climbing beans waited out summer and started flowering and producing beans once the days got shorter and the worst heat had gone around September. We did have a bumper crop of beet root and black currants and a fair share of sweet corn. And pumpkins. This year it was Hokkaidos, Sweet Dumpling and White Acorn.

In late May Lotta came to complete the team. Back then she was around half a year of age and we picked her up at an animal shelter. As far as we know she had not been living with people so far, and a lot of pretty ordinary things were completely unknown to her. On a first encounter she decides to sit down and think about it.

She chewed up a couple of things but luckily she learned pretty quickly to keep her teeth off cables and she did not ruin any of our shoes. She has grown into a friendly funny little mate and we love her to bits. There is still a lot she needs to learn but she is young enough so there is still time. We have started attending dog school in summer and she is making good progress.

With having the dog we now get out and about much more. This is lovely because we do live in a beautiful spot and in autumn the cranes come to rest and you can see them feed in the fields – which is not to every farmers liking. Nevertheless they are impressive birds.

Our house garden was getting along fairly well in the dry weather, apart from the hydrangeas. They are thirsty plants and wish for a fair share of rain. I kept watering them but they did not manage to grow to their usual size. The roses, though, and the grasses could take advantage of the dry weather, mainly because we did have no strong winds or gusts. So the grasses still stand in their beauty as they did not get torn to pieces by gales.

We almost lost one of our medlar trees to root voles. The roots had gone alltogether. I put the young tree in a pot with good compost soil and kept it in a sheltered place on the patio. It dropped all its buds, but kept its leaves that were far too tiny. At some point in summer it started growing new leaves of normal size. Now its leaves are golden and it prepares for winter. Next spring we will plant it out again. From our second medlar tree we got a nice first harvest which made for three jars of medlar jelly. We had our first three walnuts but their size does not seem right.

By the time I write this it has gone dark outside. Not all of the resting cranes have left by now. Autumn has coloured the foliage of the trees bright yellow and golden. They days have gone short and rain is falling every now and then. We could do with a couple of weeks of ongoing rain to moisten the dried out soils.

Summerly spring

When we moved in here two years ago, there was no garden. The whole plot was a meadow cut several times a year to feed cattle. It was an ocean of green forage grass. No trees, no bushes, no flowers.

We planted our first trees in late 2016. Among them were a walnut tree, a pear tree, a few apple trees and two medlar trees. We put up a raised bed for herbs and over the past two years a number of bushes and flowering plants have been planted as well as black and red currants and gooseberries. We have come much nearer to something that can be labelled a garden.

Spring this year is giving our garden a hard time in a way. To begin with there was the „Beast from the East“, or as we called it here „March Winter“. It came with two bitterly cold snaps, and to make things worse, there was somethig like a week in-between with pretty mild temperatures. By the time the second Siberian snap hit, some plants had already switched into end-of-hibernation-mode. To make things even more challenging, shortly after the rather late winter frost there followed a period of summerly temperatures reaching up to 30 degrees in April. Add to this there was not much rain over the whole of April and we have had barely any rain in May so far. Instead, we are having blue sky, sunny days with an at times gusty wind and temperatures well over 20 degrees for weeks. There are a few newcomers in the garden planted only recently, which now need some shelter from the sun and the wind. The willow baskets I made last year during a workshop come in handy now.

Sheltered rose

We have had losses and near-losses. And a considerable number of plants can clearly be seen fighting through the challenging conditions. Some of the herbs, mainly thyme, which is very much to the liking of a great number of butterflies and bumblebees, have frozen back to almost nothing. They are still struggeling to recover, but, pretty surprisingly, it looks as if most of them would be back for their visitors in time. The two buckthorns went strong after the winter, but one of them went all floppy recently and needed to be watered. Of the two wild pear trees we have, whose home are the dry regions in Turkey and the Balkan peninsula, one suffered from the dry conditions and needed to be watered. The wild pears are, as is our common juniper, supposed to be drought tolerant. They both seem to be approaching their limits these days.

Somebody checking the cover of a new bed

All the new beds we laid seeds in need to be watered almost on a daily basis. Something that has been ongoing for several weeks by now. It means getting up at 6am and going out to water the beds and plants in need, as later on the sun will be shining from a spotless sky without mercy and the wind will take up speed over the day. When preparing the new bed for parsnip, beetroot and mangetout, we, again, unearthed bricks, roof tiles and beautiful broken floor or wall tiles, shards of glass panes and all sorts of rusty somethings.

Unearthed treasures

Oriental poppy

We have, well, I’d prefer to say: almost, lost one of our medlar trees to a hungry root vole. We realised the tree had stopped growing its leaves any further and took it out, finding there were not even traces of roots left. For whatever reason the vole managed to overcome the wire basket we had planted the tree into, to keep it safe from any root predators. We now try to nurture the medlar tree back to health in a pot placed in a shaded corner. Fingers crossed.

Young apples


We are going for sweetcorn, broad beans, mangetouts and pumpkins again. And we are having a go at carrots, parsnip and beetroot this year around. It looks as if we were expecting a nice harvest of black and red currants and gooseberries. There is some hope for our first home grown apples and some pears. We might even have medlars again, the second tree has not been mauled by the root voles and there has been no disruptive late frost during bloom, but many bees and bumblebees busily pollinating.

Red gooseberries


The rhododendrons are in bloom now. We planted them last autumn. Even though they were exposed to the bitterly cold winds in March they are still going strong. But the continuing dry conditions are not quite to their liking.

Perennial flax

Chrysanthemum with rosechafer

The sunflowers are growing rapidly. The perennial flax and chrysanthemums are in bloom, as are the many varieties of sage. The lupines, that were lucky enough to not end up as dinner for the hare, are now showing off their whites and pinks and purples. And the poppies have opened their bespoke simple red flowers. There are so many more visitors then we had in our first summer. We have honey bees, solitary bees and bumblebees, all sorts of butterflies and moths, dragonflies, hover flies, black lice and lady birds, spiders and grasshoppers. The hornets have become regulars since last autumn, when they discovered that our mature ivy is a pretty good hunting ground. We do have beetles. Lots of, particularly cockchafers. This is no surprise knowing there are legions of their grubs in the soil of our garden.

The onions I put out last spring as a vague experiment to chase away root voles are now getting ready to push out their flowers. And, after all, we managed to give our bryonies their long time home. It is a raised bed of sorts and is secured against soil living rodents. The bryony instantly started to grow vigorously and is now in bloom already.


As I write this, I have already spent over an hour with watering early in the morning. There are clouds in the sky but they do not carry the promise of rain. The swallows and house martins are feasting out there. The sparrows are chatting happily, they have discovered our huge compost heap only recently. And the wee blue tits, who readily moved in at the nest box we had put up in late winter, are bringing in eagerly caterpillars of all colours to feed their chirping young.

Scarlet lily beetle on imperial fritillary

Late Winter

Time is flying, even though winter has been clinging on for quite a while this time around. We have seen snow in February.

And even before the snow came there were birds coming to our feeders. They did not do so during the previous winter. But they seem to have developed some sort of liking for our young garden. We have great and blue tits visiting, a pair of wrens, a pair of chaffinches has started coming only recently. There is a robin, and blackbirds. And the cheeky magpies are clearing the crumbs off the ground. Even some crows come for the larger bits that dropped off the hanging feeders.

We did not cut the sunflowers in autumn, but left them for the birds to feed from instead.

Can you spot the onions? I was eager to find some winter onions to put in the beed . Not only did I have an early harvest in mind. But I’m still  trying to keep the root voles at a good distance. Some say the scent of onions and leeks is not to their liking. Others say the voles don’t really care.

The old oaks along the small street are utterly unfazed by the snow. They are beautiful throughout all seasons.

And right over there, in the northwesterly corner of our garden our rhododendrons wait for spring to come. Their buds are large and strong and we hope for a colourful April and May bringing out whites and deep purple and golden yellows.

One of the rhododendrons got some special decoration: a black nightshade chose to grow over the strong branches. It still carries plenty of its berries.

We have had a sparrow hawk visiting our patio. Casually sitting on the rim of one of the plant pots trying not to look to where the feeders for the little birds are. We have put up the nesting boxes regardless.

This is what the daffodils looked like in mid February. The cold has been following us far into March. Two periods with bitterly cold air from the east swept over the garden – one almost a week long the second one slightly shorter. I had wrapped up many a plant pot and some of the herbs. But the rosemary bushes still suffered and will need to be cut back. During a short slightly warmer spell in March we managed to plant a few ferns as companions for the rhododendrons.

Elsewhere people have put in a lot of effort to beautifully lay a hedge. We saw this along a road in Oxfordshire, some miles north of Burford, after staying on a few days following the Oxford Fine Press Book Fair in late March.

As I write this the sun is out again after a little bit of early spring rain. I have started digging out new beds for new flowers in our meadow. There are many lovely seeds that want to be given a space that suits them. There will be a wealth of flowers for bees and birds and butterflies – wind and weather permitting.

January full moon



Late Autumn

November morning

The days have become short and the trees are balding. Some mornings come with a hundred shades of grey and silver while dense fog flows like a giant’s veil over the barren fields. Summer has gone, winter is not yet here. A few of the many cranes have not departed so far.

The untimely frost in late spring did not allow us to have apples or medlars. But we did get a wealth of pumpkins instead. We had beans and mangetouts and many a cob of maize. We had small forests of sunflowers. The place got invaded by butterflies, bumble bees and lady birds.

We had a stoat visiting in early spring. We had hares boxing in dusk. And we had three little ones in September at the foot of one of our apple trees.

Young hares

Where the beans and maize were grow winter onions now. Many of the sunflowers are still standing. The birds were quick in finding them devouring their seeds.

Bird feeder

October sunflowers

And there are still flowers – even in mid-November. The nasturtiums shine in bright yellow and orange and a beautiful brown-burgundy.

November orange

The white dead-nettles are still in full bloom. They are the first to go ahead in late winter feeding the early bumble bees. They still fed those large bumble bees when we were working outside in early November. There is a second generation of borage flowering right now. And we had butterflies baking in the autumn sun in late October. A large oriental poppy braved the autumn storms.

Oktober poppy


Our garden has changed. Some of the changes result from the change of season, some have come about through us working. It took us almost four days to get all the shrubs planted that will grow into our hedgerow over the next couple of years. Most of the time we had to spend on clearing the strech from weeds, mainly quitch. The long striped roots in some places looked like a pack of spaghetti. There is sea buckthorn now, and broom, juniper and cherry laurel, elder and a young birch tree. All of them with their roots neatly safeguarded by wire baskets to prevent the root voles raiding the newly planted.

As I write this we have not had frost yet. It is mid-November and it was a day of heavy showers and strong blustery winds. However, there was the odd sunny spell. The oak trees have not yet lost all their leaves. Some mornings the dew looked as if it was white frost. It was not, but it might well be any time soon.


On the Brink of Summer

Lady od Shalott

It is only late May and it is still some time to go until we’ll have summer proper. But the light and the atmosphere feel like summer already. The huge oak trees have put on their full green coats. The tulips and daffodils are long gone. Now is the time for the poppies, the wild ones and the garden varieties. The first roses have started to bloom just recently. A dark blue larkspur shines next to the huge white oriental poppy.

Oriental poppy with visitor (white tailed bumblebee)

Bumblebee feeders

We have a large population of dead nettles alongside the old stables and in the odd far corner. Presumably, they have been dwelling here for a very long time. They are our bumblebee feeders. They start flowering early in the year and will feed the white tailed bumblebees (who are the earlybirds amongst the bumblebees at the very start of the season) while temperatures are still rather low. The abundant white flowers keep feeding them and their cousins including honey bees and solitary bees for months. All the bees and bumblebees here have done a fabulous job: One of our apple trees is determined to deliver fresh apples in its first year with us. The others have tried but were too early and their flowers got caught in a late spell of severe frost. But this one tree waited out the frost period before opening its buds. There is still a long way to go before we can pick our first apples. Fingers crossed.

Gooseberry youngsters – they are supposed to turn red at some point

We have put up the netting over the berry bushes these days. There are red and black and white currants and red and green gooseberries. There was good reason to do so, because our meadow welcomes a great variety of diners as regulars. We like our little helpers that come day after day and browse our meadow for grubs and wireworms and whatever they can find to fend for themselves or feed their chicks. Our guests are rooks and starlings, magpies and fieldfares. There are wagtails and black redstarts on the ground and martins and swallows in the air, there are sparrows and tits and a pair of goldfinches was checking things out the other day. However, we’d rather they stick to browsing the meadow than picking the berries off the bushes.

A very young ladybird on garden sage

Some of our little helpers are even smaller. These are ladybirds and hoverflies and all sorts of butterflies. So far I’ve seen peacock butterfly, small tortoiseshell, brimstone butterfly, a small emperor moth and many others.

Slightly longer ago we put up little fences around our fruit trees. At the foot of the tree we keep a circular patch free of weeds and grass. It is here where we decided to sow crimson clover. The sandy soil is poor in nutrients and the clover’s rhizobia will improve soil quality over time by fixing nitrogen straight out of the air. The clover is not hardy and come winter will wither and leave its roots in the soil and thus share all the fixed nitrogen with the roots of the trees. We needed the fences because apart from the feathered diners we als have hares coming in at dusk feeding on the green stuff on our meadow. They even had a go at the broom bushes which I cannot appreciate. The books say broom is poisonous to hares and other wildlife. But those hares might not have read the books yet. We also put nasturtiums in with the clover. They are said to attract black lice and also they have nice flowers. The hares are welcome to munch the dandelions and daisies and sheperd’s purses in our meadow, but we wanted to make sure they leave the clover and nasturtiums and lupines alone.



The pumpkins are going strong on top of the compost heap. I put them out much earlier than last year so I’m hopeful we’ll have a nice harvest. I had an experimental go at what is called The Three Sisters, that are maize plus climbing beans plus pumpkins. As we have strong winds pretty often and I wanted to grow climbing beans I felt it was a nice solution to have the maize as posts for the beans (with the pumpkins growing elsewhere). However, the beans are outgrowing the maize so I had to put up bamboo poles nonetheless. I’ve had to water this bed on a daily basis and it still looks like a bit of an adventure. But the broad beans nextdoor are doing well, and I had some old seeds of purple Mangetouts which are growing surprisingly strong.

We had a furious storm on Monday night. Tuesday morning the rain gauge revealed that just under 16 litres of water had fallen on to each square metre of ground. The pinks looked somewhat bedraggled. Some of the climbing beans succumbed to the strong winds, still not having attached themselves in time to either the maize plants or the bamboo poles. There were gaping holes in the soil where the water had hollowed the burrows of root voles and moles.


But most of the garden is fine despite the very strong winds and violent gusts dashing the hail against the window panes. We live on sandy soils and the large amount of water was welcome after what had been a rather hot and slightly windy weekend. We only just missed out on 30°C and it started getting humid.

As I write this dusk is closing in. It is after 10pm – the days are long, the sun rises early. The rooks that sleep in the oak trees wake up around 5.30am and straight away start telling each other the dreams they had last night. Soon the foxgloves will open their flowers, and the large bush of oxeye chamomille, too. And there will be more roses.

Patio rose Yorkshire Princess

Relocation Process Complete


This is my last post in the Relocation Journal. The seemingly endless process of relocating my studio has come to its end, at long last. The opening weekend went ever so well. Over the three days we had lovely spring weather. The white tulips in our garden opened right in time.

We put up the banner with the new name of the press just a week before the opening, showing the fork and broom that had been on the floor in the stable when we first visited the place. We had assembled the new shelves for my books and arranged the large red sofa and the old-style chairs. On Friday we picked up the abundant bunch of tulips for the big yellow flower vase.

On Friday evening all our wonderful neighbours came to have a look. They had all been eagerly waiting to see how the old stable would turn out and what the presses would be like. On Saturday and Sunday I was busy printing. I had hand set a keepsake for the event and printed the two colours on the front page during the days prior to the opening weekend. I would be showing printing the back page during the two days of the Open Studio. My husband had meticulously removed all the flash rust, that had gathered on my Grafix proofing press during the three months it had been sitting waiting in a cold room. At last the press was in good working order again. After one whole year I was printing again.

The two days went quickly. The place kept being crowded with visitors. I was busy printing and answering questions. I printed the keepsakes in good quantity. Their back gives the date of the next open studio which will be in the course of the upcoming LandArt-Festival this summer.

My studio has joined the LandArt-Route which is made up of five circuits with a large number of stations on each. No 5 is the most northwesterly leg and my studio is No 16 on this track. The whole route has been set up by the Landkreis Minden-Lübbecke and amongst the stations are studios and workshops of artists and crafts people as well as museums, windmills and cafes.

After the opening weekend I was taking a couple of days off work. It was the perfect time of year to have a break doing the garden work. We had decided to have some currant bushes, red, white and black, and some gooseberries to go with them.

We’ll have to be patient and see how the cockchafer grubs, wireworms and root voles will deal with all this. I planted all the berry bushes within a wire basket each, which hopefully will keep the root voles at bay. We had been treated to a stoat dancing on our meadow in the spring sun lately, which makes us hope that the numbers of root voles won’t climb that much. Add to this the little owl is not far. As to the grubs and wireworms our hopes rest on the shoulders of our resident mole, and the starlings and crows ransacking the place on a regular schedule. Spring is in a very good mood and made the tulips and cherry trees show off their beauty.

As I write this dusk is closing in on Easter Monday. The weekend treated us to lovely sunshine, cold winds, rain, sleet and even hail, plus stunning sunsets. We had some ten liters of rain to the square meter over the past four days. The soil and plants needed it badly. And, of course, by now we are looking forward to the start of the asparagus season here. Add to this: the first swallows and martins have arrived just a week ago.

From Stable to Pressroom


Cattle stable in January 2016

When we first came to this place the stable had been disused for at least 15 years. The cattle had moved out, the floor and cesspit had been cleaned. The floor was made of red bricks, there was an old wheelbarrow, a fork, a broom. Cobwebbs. Saltpeter. Drinking troughs.


Stable outside January 2016

That was where we started in the summer of 2016.

The old oak beams had to go and with them the attached pipes and drinking troughs. The screws were rusted in, the oak beams fitted perfectly and were pretty hard to get out.

Oak beams

The floor was made with red bricks neatly laid out in a bed of sand. Wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow the bricks went out on a huge pile outside. Many of them now rest in the wall of a raised bed for our herbs.

Red bricks and a drinking trough still in place

First bricks taken out of the floor and a drinking trough still in place

More bricks to go

The floor would keep us going for quite some time. All the bricks had to go. Then there was the cesspit. There was a fair amount of water in there which had to be pumped up. It went on to the compost heaps. The cesspit itself got filled with rubble and sand.

One part of brick floor done

Once the last of the oak beans had gone the rest of the bricks was easier to remove.

The sand could be roughly leveled out and the wooden doors went.

The next step would be the windows. The old simple stable windows had to make way for new ones. We decided to have long narrow windows and keep the shoulder in the wall at the bottom of the windows.

Adjusting the windows

And then came the day when things really happened: the concrete for the floor went in.

Concrete delivery

The room had changed already.

With windows

The concrete had dried and solidified. Now the new windows went in. To the right there are still the glass bricks in place. These would go at a later point to be replaced by proper windows.

With heating

Once the plaster work was finished the heating could go in.

The painters with the last touches

The painters finished in mid January 2017. Three doors had been taken out and bricked up, one door needed to become wider. The windows went in and a short ramp had to be built at the entrance. We got the all clear to move in presses and type.

First press to move in

And we gladly started shoving it all in. In October the presses and type cabinets had arrived on an articulated lorry. They had been sitting in the barn and a side room waiting for better times to come.

These buckets and machinery got snowed in. At this time none of it was needed anymore.

The studio has almost moved in. The date for the opening is set for 31 March to 2 April.

The studio will be re-born with a new name. One of the images that stuck with me right from the start was a fork and a broom on the stable’s lovely brick floor. The new name of my studio is: The Fork and Broom Press. There is a new website too. Just klick on the new name here.

As I write this a little owl is calling to make sure the place is his. The tulips are growing and the daffodils are showing first small buds. Spring is round the corner. The daisies have already opened their first flowers. A pheasant made our meadows his the other day. He was striding the place during a downpour and he got soaked.


First Winter

Neighbourhood in January

We are settling in gradually. There has been a nasty cold spell rather early in November that left us wondering what winter would be like here at our new home. We had expected it to be milder than where we used to live.


We’ve had a number of tasty cakes, there have been stews and biscuits and flapjacks – which, for as long as I shall live, will remind me of Keswick youth hostel, where I had them for the first time.  But, basically, our first winter in the new home is still quite busy.

New windows

On a sunny day in November the new windows were built in on the front facing east. Originally there had been glass bricks in place. After breaking down the glass bricks the yard was covered in shards. The large door will be replaced next. The hinges are worn and each time we have strong easterly winds the door keeps rattling.

Medlar tree

In mid December we discovered that the young medlar trees we had planted only weeks before quite obviously were to the liking of the resident rabbits. So we needed to quickly build some protection for the young stems from the wire mesh we had used to keep the root voles off of the tulip bulbs.

In December there was not enough time for the painters to get all their work finished in the pressroom-to-be, so they resumed their work in January. The last task was the varnish for the concrete floor. There was no chance we could move the type cabinets and presses in any sooner than mid January.

Some snow

The builders had left part of their machinery in our back yard and in January some snow fell covering it all nicely. In the following days temperatures stayed low, there was no more snow but we had fog.

Fog in January

Now this is when you realise that there is a peat bog not far. Over a few days there was fog and frost and the fog set out to freeze on to all surfaces. It froze on to wire mesh and barbed wire, branches and twigs, leaves and spiderwebs.

Oak trees in January

The scenery became magical and almost surreal.

Front garden in January

The view to the west changed once more.

Into the west – January

We live in a very beautiful place all year round. The rooks still come for their lunch browsing our meadow. A family of magpies joins them every now and then. Geese travel to and fro over our farm. They might be roosting in the bog and feeding elsewhere – or the other way round.

As I write this the woodpeckers are hammering their trees and the little birds have started to sing their songs again. There will be another cold spell. But days are much longer than they were during winter proper. Soon spring will come and the tulips will start to grow and colour the garden.

Sunset early December




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



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.


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.



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 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.


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.


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.



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