Saturday, 31 March 2012

A Little Work of Art.

What about this feather from a cock pheasant for an exquisite work of art? What dandies the males of the bird and animal species are. It was the same with the male of the human species but it seems to have died out these days.

I have nothing against sloppy T shirts and jeans and trainers chaps - but wouldn't a bit of dandyfying be nice sometimes.

When my dad was a young man he would certainly not wear anything flashy - he couldn't afford it for a start - but he would always wear a collar and tie (loose collar, starched and with two studs) and always, always wear a trilby hat when he went out. That trilby would be raised if he passed any lady in the street in our village, whether he knew her or not.

And, incidentally, this lovely feather would have gone straight into the hat band on his trilby - I suppose his nod towards dandyfying.

Friday, 30 March 2012

The Nesting Season begins in earnest.

Today a visit to our Feed Merchants to stock up meant that we passed by the wetlands and so we took the opportunity to take Tess for a walk there. During April and May visitors are discouraged from walking on some of the paths because of ground-nesting birds, so bearing in mind that it was still March we walked them for the last time, being careful to keep Tess on a short lead.

There were hundreds of geese of various kinds, many all ready paired up and they all watched us carefully, giving out various alarm calls as we went along. The sun shone, there was little or no wind and it was a lovely walk.

Flowers are always out early here. These are old quarries which have been filled with water and the position is quite sheltered. I managed to take one or two photographs of flowers. The first germander speedwell I have seen, although the sun was so bright that it has more or less washed the deep blue out of the flower. Coltsfoot everywhere. Plenty of stonecrop leaves but no flowers yet.

At one point a goose marched in front of us calling loudly, as if warning his wife to lie low on her nest. If I had been on my own I would have turned back because I expected him to turn and attack us. But then he took to the water and swam off, still calling loudly.

What a lovely place for birds to nest. Curlew and Oyster Catchers were calling as well as geese, ducks and swans. But as the farmer rightly pointed out - there would still be predators here. The foxes would no doubt know exactly where the place was.

Moles had been active everywhere and many of the molehills had been dug into by rabbits. A perfect place to spend an afternoon. Now, if it is cloudly and cool tomorrow, I shall feel fortified by today!
Moles had been very active and there were mole hills everywhere

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Water Shortage.

The water situation is now getting very serious. Many areas are far worse off than we are here in North Yorkshire. When we were in Essex in May last year they were short of water then and the farm where we stayed with friends is an arable farm and they were really worried.

But the area has spread to a huge region in the East of the country. It is ironic that there is plenty of water in Scotland and in the West of the country but of course transporting it to places where they are short is far too costly and a huge logistical exercise. So hose-pipe bans are in place and we must all be careful with the water we use.

Our fields are bone-dry and hard. Hoof marks from last Autumn, when the ground was wet, have never gone and now they have hardened, making walking quite difficult. As you will see from the photograph, our beck is now very low. The Water Authority can take water from the beck whenever they wish and from its low state I would say they seem to be taking it at present. The water is very clear and I must say looks very pretty flowing over the stones.

Today the wild plum blossom is out in the hedgerow. In the same way that the snowdrops began to look tawdry before they died, so now do the daffodils - beginning to fade as the blossom trees take over. To everything there is a season.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012


I have been tagged by Geraldine of The Potters House, Penketh to answer some questions. I don't really like tagging and thought it had more or less died out in blogland. But I did read Gerry's answers and found that at the end of them I felt I knew a little more about her. So for that reason I am answering her questions here. Hopefully, at the end of my answers you will know a little more about me (that is if you want to!)

What would I do if I won the lottery? Well, as I have never done the lottery I couldn't win it. I have a fear of winning a lot of money because it would be such a worry. Nice little Premium Bond £25 suit me fine.

Where would I like to holiday this year? Newfoundland and Labrador was to be our destination as we both adore Canada. But my health will not allow flying so we are going to Northumberland instead - near to us and yet a county we barely know. Nice hotel, lovely beaches - suit us fine.

Top of bucket list? Don't know what this means - shows what a country bumpkin I am!

Last book read - The Snow Child - wonderful. Read the review a few posts ago.

Earliest memory - seeing the Hindenberg airship.

Favourite film - loved Mamma Mia, loved Most Exotic Marigold Hotel - favourite tends to be the last one I saw.

Would you like to change your name? Quite happy with the one I have got thank you.

Did I enjoy school? By and large yes I did although my parents were not well off and I was landed in a rather 'posh' school because I won a scholarship. But it certainly set me off on the right lines.

What would you be if you could be anything? Myself, right now.

Favourite smell? Quite like bacon frying; honeysuckle; new babies; cowslips.

City versus country? Did a post on this a couple of weeks ago - I have been lucky enough to live in both - country now though and wouldn't like to return to city living.

If anyone who blogs with me would like to try these questions - I would love to read their answers but I won't presume you want to do so by naming individuals. Thanks Gerry for giving me the idea.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Busting out all over.

Paul Simon in today's Times speaks of a 'green wave' moving across from the South and gradually moving Northwards. Apparently satellites detect chlorophyll in newly emerging leaves of the plants and trees. I don't think any other season is quite so exciting.

The weather forecast is for it to become a little colder by the weekend and the farmer of course
suggests that it will be really cold for Easter (a typical English Easter is what he actually said) - so we shall see.

But the sun today has brought out so many plants. After lunch I drove into Bedale for a manicure - the blossom trees are in full bloom, the daffodils are out everywhere and the horse chestnut's leaves are open.

Walking round the field with the farmer later in the afternoon, sadly something had pulled out a rabbit's nest and taken the babies. I hope it was a fox but the farmer thought it was more likely to be our farm cats, who are partial to baby rabbit. The rabbit hole is clearly visible, so one can only assume that the nest was fairly near to the surface.

I felt quite sad, but was cheered up by the field gate when I found a branch of blackthorn out - always a joy to see, although 'blackthorn winters' are famed up here, so maybe the farmer is right about Easter after all. Only time will tell.

Geraldine (The Potters House, Penketh) tagged me last week with a list of questions. Someone had tagged her and I must say that her answers were most interesting and told me so much about her. Tomorrow I shall answer her questions so that you know a little more about me and then I shall tag a few people, although whether you take it up or not is entirely up to you of course.

Enjoy the Spring while it lasts.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Afternoon tea at Constable Burton.

The Queen's Diamond Jubilee is coming up shortly and a lot of our villages are planning parties to mark the occasion. This means collecting funds to mark the event and our neighbouring village has decided to do it by offering afternoon teas on alternate Sunday afternoons in the Village Hall.

I went along yesterday with two friends, W and S. We were there almost as soon as it opened and I must say that the Hall looked splendid. Every table had a really beautiful tablecloth - lacy and hand-embroidered - apparently they had been given to the village hall by some kind lady. Each table had a small vase of seasonal flowers - ours was pulmonaria and euphorbia and a tiny sprig of forsythia.

The cups and saucers were china ones and each table had a china teapot, sugar basin and milk jug.
And the cake table had to be seen to be believed. There were plain and sultana scones with cream and home-made jam, victoria sponge cake with cream and jam in the middle, fruit cake and Wensleydale cheese, butterfly cakes, fairy cakes with butter icing, ginger cake, coconut cake.
Everything was home made by the ladies in the village.

The sun shone, some people sat outside on the village green, among the blossom trees and daffodils. The place was full for most of the afternoon and to add to the pleasure there was a huge selection of books to buy for a donation. I resisted the temptation.

My son and his wife decided to come but they had forgotten that British Summer Time had arrived, so they arrived when almost all the cake had gone. They had sandwiches and fruit cake - so all was not lost.

A lovely afternoon in a lovely village and a nice start to the Jubilee Fund too I should imagine.

##As Gill quite rightly pointed out - it is not the Queen's Silver Jubilee - but neither is it her Golden Jubilee - it is in fact her Diamond (60 years) Jubilee. Sorry about the mistake and thanks, Gill, for pointing it out.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Two sure signs that Spring is here.

It is a glorious day today - haze and already at 9am wall to wall sunshine. The clocks have gone forward one hour and it is officially British Summertime. The farmer is walking with two friends today. They are going up to the top end of Swaledale on the high tops. After writing this I shall be packing his sandwiches but I am leaving it until the last minute because he is having roast ham in the sandwiches and Tessn cannot resist roast ham. Wherever she is she can smell it from a mile off and will, for the rest of the day, refuse anything else. Oh, how I spoil that dog.

The two sure signs? Well first of all the marsh marigolds are out on the beck. I adore these. They remind me so of my childhood, when we called them 'kingcups' or 'waterblobs'.

Secondly, Mr and Mrs Magpie have spent this week constructing this year's house in a tree just across from the farm. As usual, it is quite large and has a little domed roof to protect the babies when they are born.

Blackbirds flit and lurk with mouthfuls of moss and bits of straw, so they are all building madly and the farmer is keeping his eye open for the first swallow as rumour has it that they are going to be early this year. Certainly if this weather continues then I think he may be right.

Our neighbouring village is trying Sunday Afternoon Teas today from 3pm to 5pm and several of us are going to give them a bit of support. I hope the venture turns out well. They are presumably doing it for Village Hall funds and when I came through yesterday they had signs out on the roadside advertising the venture. Might take some photos for tomorrow's blog, to whet your appetite.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Kirkby Lonsdale.

Yesterday my friend W and I made the hour and a half's journey over to Kirkby Lonsdale to meet our friends from Windermere. As usual - Ingleborough (one of the three peaks) was in thick haze so no photograph of that. As we passed by the Ribblehead Viaduct there was a long diesel-pulled passenger train going slowly over it and a lot of spectators on the side of the road, so it was obviously a special train.

We love the journey and arrived on time. We usually lunch in a lovely Italian Bistro called Avanti.
As I was going out in the evening too, I just had a delicious Greek salad but the others all had chicken dishes which looked scrumptious.
Afterwards we had a wander round the town and I took some photographs for you to see, to give you a taste of the place. There is a lovely churchyard with a superb view of the Lune valley - it is called Ruskin's view - I have posted that before.

So these photographs are of 'everyday' Kirkby Lonsdale - the cheese shop (which is quite something), the quilt shop which shows its wares off in a little passage next to the shop, the lovely street names, the pretty little shops (some of them selling slightly old-fashioned wares), the Kirkby Lonsdale Institute with its flags flying outside.

We came back another way, through Sedbergh and I managed to get a couple of photos as we sped along - so they are both a bit blurred, but you get the idea. The first is of the distant Howgill fells, with a stone wall in the foreground and the second is the River Rawthey, made famous by the super Basil Bunting poem.

If you are ever in the vicinity of KL always pop into the town for a wander - it is a lovely little place. Have a good weekend.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Tidy versus Untidy - Is there a happy medium?

I am afraid I am a tidy person. You see - in the first sentence I have to make a veiled apology for being tidy. I like a place for everything and everything in its place and however hard I try to be otherwise I find that if things begin to get untidy I have to tidy up. That doesn't mean I can always find things because sometimes I put things away in places I forget about. But it does mean they are not on show.

I have some friends who are untidy; whose houses are a jumble, the sink full of washing up still to be done, a pile of ironing on the sideboard, a clutter of things around. These seem to me to be the happiest of my friends and sometimes I wish I could be like them.

Others strike the happy medium where some things are put away but others are left out; where the book finished the week before last is still on the side table and has not been put on the bookshelf. This is the personality I envy the most.

This same feeling spills over into the garden. I would love to have a really wild garden and I do try to let things seed themselves. In fact my age has been a help here to some extent because there are a lot of jobs in the garden that I can no longer do and have to be left to the farmer. He is a good, straight-forward chap in the garden but doesn't do the fancy stuff.

People throw rubbish out of their cars as they drive down the lane and I am always taking a carrier bag with me on my afternoon walk so that I can pick up beer bottles, pepsi bottles, crisp packets and the like. This is the rubbish that no-one in their right mind likes.

But what about village greens and village churchyards? When I was a child I don't think our churchyard was mown. Everyone kept their grave tidy and well cared-for - my aunt used to come down every Sunday to tend the graves of her grandparents - cutting the grass, changing the flowers. But the periphery of the churchyard was left to grow its snowdrops, its daffodils, its cow parsley - all in their season.

Our village green is cut every week or so by a contractor in the Summer and I must say it looks very smart. I don't really think I would like it any other way. But what about the roadside verges? Our lane is a froth of cowparsley a bit later in the year and in a few weeks time it will be golden with dandelions. For about a week it will be 'gasp' beautiful

And what about untidy farms. The farmer is a tidy farmer and our yard is always neat. But I could name farms where the view of the farm yard is disgusting - old silage bags, old wooden pallets, heaps of manure, mud all over.

Does tidiness matter or is it just me with my tidy mind wanting to have everything up to scratch?

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

A necessary chore.

Sorry chaps but this is a 'girly' post today. I have been putting the job off for weeks but I have done it this morning; I have cleaned out my wardrobe.

Anything I have not worn for a year but is still in good condition has gone into a bag and after lunch will make a short journey to the charity shop. Anything which I consider to be past its sell-by date has gone into the dustbin. Everything else has been sorted into 'outfits' - alright, I know that it will only be a week or two before I decide that that blouse goes better with those trousers etc. but I do get a good feeling when I see it all neatly ordered. All the Winter clothes have been moved to the wardrobe in the spare room.

Shoes have been cleaned and tidied and everything in the wardrobe is shipshape. Now there are just eight drawers of T shirts, blouses, jumpers, cardigans etc. to go! But not today. Enough is enough for one day.

Thinking about it though - maybe this is a chaps blog too. Now come along you chaps. How long is it since you sorted the wheat from the chaff in your wardrobe? If you are anything like the farmer there will be one or two very ify pairs of trainers lurking in the far corners and one or two pairs of trousers that haven't seen the light of day for a long time.

So chaps - if you do it - you could pin up a list of replacements you need for this Summer. In my case it is quite a short list - just a couple of pairs of jeans and possibly some sandals (that is apart from anything that tempts me) but then, men don't seem to have minds that work like this, do they?

And of course there is also the thorny problem of 'should I clean his wardrobe out for him?' What do you think?

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Favourite words.

I have several favourite words that are with me always - words like honeysuckle, friendship, love; but some words I love come and go with the seasons. Today of all days, the day of the Spring Equinox, when day and night are of equal length, my favourite word has to be 'vernal'. What wonderful, green imagery it conjures up.

And how our forefathers must have rejoiced in it - the day when officially Spring has begun. Does anyone know exactly when we knew this to be so? The day when greening up is set to begin; when, however chilly it is we know that warmer weather is only a puff of wind away. I might not know when we humans first knew this to be so but I am jolly sure that the birds have always known. Blackbirds are scratching in our front lawn, which the farmer has mown this morning. The birds are coming up with beakfuls of moss to line their nests - they are not slow to get started on the great breeding game.

Furthermore, the sheep are getting really itchy feet. Bother this lowland grass - we want to be back on the fells - back where the sun shines and the wind blows and the air is free for all of us.
This is all very well, but did they really need to knock down this fence in their agility trials?
Not much in the way of thanks to the farmer for a Winter of food and comfort is it.

We meet them when we are out on our walk. They are torn between coming towards us to see if we have any sheep nuts or hay for them to eat, and running away from a dog. Tess finds something = maybe a nest of baby rabbits - in the wall and barks madly. That decides it - all the sheep turn tail and run into the next field. Any day now they will be going home. And not a moment too soon says the farmer as he sets out once again on his tractor with his hammer and a bag of nails.

Monday, 19 March 2012

No Sunday Post

This was because we were out in the morning and I never got round to it for the rest of the day.
In the morning we went to our local Auction House as it was a viewing day for a catalogue sale.
Tennants is called 'The Christies of the North' and I must say that looking round the stuff on auction at their catalogue sales you cannot help but be amazed by it.
Apart from the usual lots of lovely furniture, china, silver and jewelry there were also massive collections of butterflies pinned on to board and stored in cabinets, shells (hundreds of them) and - most horrific of all - a room full of stuffed animal heads. There were tiger and leopard rugs and then dozens of stuffed heads - who would wish to buy such things?

We usually stay and have a Sunday lunch in the restaurant but yesterday we came home because I had left a nice fat herb-fed free range chicken cooking slowly in the Aga. It was delicious.

The first dandelion has appeared in our lawn. We have a constant battle with them throughout the season but I must say that the first flower is always a joy to see. What a pity they are seen as weeds because they have such a lovely flower.

It is only a matter of time before the first buttercup also rears its golden yellow head among the flower beds - or, worse still, in the lawn. I don't know which is worse to remove - the deep, deep root of the dandelion or the creeping sneaky root of the buttercup. Apparently buttercup flowers make a good skin potion if they are warmed in vaseline. And of course, dandelion flowers make delicious wine and their new leaves are tasty in salads.

But if we leave them all then they will take over; and then where will our reputations be?

Do admire the lovely rose in the photograph. I try to avoid carbon footprints/air miles etc. But I do make an exception for Tesco's roses. These have been on my kitchen window sill for three weeks tomorrow (I took this photograph a few minutes ago); the bunch of ten cost me three pounds and they are guaranteed for a week. After three weeks they are still going strong and I cannot over-estimate the pleasure they have given me.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Country Life.

No sooner has the farmer finished spreading the slurry from our neighbour's slurry tank than the 'big one' arrives. Yes, the farmer has hired the giant muck spreader for the day in order to attack the 'muck heap'. This is the serious stuff piled up in the field since he cleaned out the loose housing half way through the winter. When he did this, if you remember, the cats were mightily put out as they used to sit in the loose housing watching for any little mouse that dared to show its face. They also knew that manure of that depth heated up, so it was a nice warm place to sit on a cold day.
Since it has been lying in the pasture the sheep have been using it for climbing practice. Any day now they will be going back to the fells, so they need to perfect their climbing skills again having spent their entire Winter on flat ground. So today, when Tess and I walk round the fields, we shall have to watch where we go, otherwise we shall be hit by flying muck.

Rabbit holes are multiplying daily and baby rabbits are appearing. The two are connected as rabbits usually scrape out a new hole for breeding. Their Winter quarters will have become quite smelly and rubbishy, so new beds are needed for the birthing of the litter. I think all animals are the same really - gettings one's quarters ready is an instinctive part of the breeding process.

The marmalade I made has been put away in the cupboard. There is something quite satisfying in stacking six jars away in the jam cupboard. It is a bit of a chore to make and even more of a chore to wash up the preserving pan afterwards but putting the marmalade into the cupboard makes it all seem worthwhile.

My four cockerels remain shut in their housing. They seem quite happy although they are quite aggressive when the farmer goes in to feed them in the mornings. The trouble is that they eat such a small amount and therefore they are not getting fat. The question is - what do we do with them? Do we kill them one by one and put them out for the fox - Mrs Fox will have cubs now and will always be on the look-out for food; do we kill them and prepare them for eating and then casserole them - that way it might not matter that they were skinny - or do we kill the four all at once and bury them? One thing is for sure - I have asked around and nobody wants a cockerel, we can't let them out because they would just fight their father for supremacy over the hens, and we can't keep them forever. A dilemma. What is the answer? Solutions on a postcard please.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Thorpe Perrow Arboretum

A Spring Day - three good friends - Soup of the day in the cafe Tomato and Basil - what's not to like? So off we went to Thorpe Perrow Arboretum at Bedale yesterday morning.

I have posted so many times about the place but really, whatever time of year you go there is always something new to look at, the paths make for easy walking, everywhere is so very well looked-after and there is always an atmosphere of peace and calm.

The daffodils are just coming out. The ones that are in full bloom are obviously the early-flowering ones, many of them with swept back petals. There were some patches of blue scilla which were also in flower and a lovely bush of witch hazel too. Blossom trees were just coming into flower - give them another fortnight of sun and they will be spectacular.

No photographs of the lake this time but as we leaned over the bridge and looked into the depths we could see countless frogs around and several enormous carp lazily swimming up and down. Do carp eat frogs we wondered? There were also several pairs of mallards and I am pretty sure they do.

We always sit outside to eat our soup as one of us takes a dog, Sophie. The sun shone on our backs, we had nice conversation, the soup was delicious. We were home again by half past two - in time for me to make a batch of marmalade.

If you are ever in the area of Bedale, do go and have a walk round to see the place for yourself. It is privately owned. How wonderful it must be to live in the middle of such a lovely garden.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

The Tools of the Trade.

One of my father's favourite sayings was, "It's a bad workman that blames his tools." It was quoted to us often when we blamed the brush/shovel/hammer we were using for a job badly done. But I have been reading about such things and have gleaned some interesting information which I pass on to you.

John Constable, when he was working on his picture 'The Cornfield' moved to London to finish painting it. He had always painted 'from nature' but this was impossible in London, so he wrote to the botanist, Henry Philips, asking him for a list of the wild plants which would be growing in the area during July. And just listen to the list: 'all the tall grasses are in flower - bogrush, bulrush, teasel. The white bindweed hangs its flowers over the branches of the hedge; the wild carrot and the hemlock flower in banks of hedges. Cow parsley, water plantain and the rose-coloured persicaria in wet ditches is now very pretty. The catchfly graces the hedgerow and also ragged robin. Bramble is now in flower, poppy, mallow, thistle and nop. Goodness me - how many of these do we recognise now? Thanks to two things many of these have disappeared from our countryside. One of those things is undoubtedly modern farming methods but I believe the other to be our obsession with keeping our villages neat and tidy. Almost everywhere now has a Tidy Village Competition, and almost every village therefore has a tidying up day when offending 'weeds' are pulled up. Thank goodness these plants were still around in Constable's day and are still around in his paintings.

And then there are the tools needed for writing books. Those tremendous books The Odyssey and The Iliad, said to be written by Homer and credited to him on many a book cover, were of course handed down through word of mouth for generations before they were written down. How do we know this? Well Homer was said to be blind. But they were such powerful stories that eventually someone wrote them down for posterity.

Henry James developed severe arthritis and could no longer write his books by hand. So he had to make quite a change and dictate the books to a chap who typed them for him. Martin Amis certainly used to use a typewriter and said that the bell at the end of each line spurred him on to write more. I wonder if he has converted to computer now.

Iris Murdoch, one of my favourites, wrote all her books in pencil in exercise books and that certainly never hampered her style until the sad day when she found out that she could no longer write and the dreaded dementia set in.

I could go on. For example how did Beethoven continue to write his magnificent music after he went deaf? Could he hear every single note and cadence in his head? He must have done because there was no noticeable deterioration in his work.

And how did Degas manage to achieve that incredible purple in some of his Dancers pictures - a colour which reduced my first husband (himself a painter) to tears when he first saw it in the Pushkin in Moscow? What incredible mixing of colour did he use to achieve it?

All food for thought on this glorious Spring day when the sun is shining and the flowers are opening in the garden. I am going to Thorpe Perrow Arboretum shortly with friends - to see the daffodils and (hopefully) the baby frogs and to have a lovely bowl of soup in the cafe after our walk. My tools of the trade today will be a fairly stout pair of walking shoes - that's all. My report will appear tomorrow.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Dogs and films.

First to Tess. Yesterday we had her trimmed - well perhaps that is an understatement - we had her shaved. She looks very smart but you can tell she is a little overweight and needs to go on a diet to slim down a bit. I gave her two biscuits at bedtime instead of three and she was looking for the third one. Does that mean that dogs can count? I have posted two photographs (above) before and after. Neither one is a good one but it is difficult to get her to stand for a photograph and I didn't want to disturb her - but I am sure you get the general idea.

Now to the film 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel'. A lady writes in the Letters Page of today's paper that she was very disappointed as it was so bland. Surely that was part of the point of it - retirement can easily lack excitement unless one goes out of one's way to make it exciting and surely these retirees did just that. The cinema holds a hundred people and I would say there were about eighty there and the average age was probably around seventy - certainly the farmer was one of the youngest. In many places the one-liners really struck home and a great guffaw went through the audience.

We loved it. We loved the incredible colour, dirt and noise of India, which assaulted these six travellers as soon as they stepped out of the airport and we loved the way each of them tackled the problems of living there. The film was a delight from beginning to end.

What makes our Station cinema so enjoyable too is that there is a restaurant as well as a range of artisan shops. There are two screens, each showing a different film and each seating just 100 people. The seats are steeply tiered so that nobody's head gets in the way for viewing.

We went to the 5.30 showing, arriving at four-thirty to give us time to have two pots of tea and a Croque Monsieur, together with a nice basket of fries. We sat and relaxed and ate our tea before going into the cinema about five minutes before the start. What could be better?

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

A Day in the farming calendar.

Yesterday's blog brought in some interesting comments about town versus country living, with most people preferring the countryside. Some of you had lived in towns (I have too) and are now 'put out to grass' as it were and I do think that the overall slant towards country living is probably because my blog followers tend to be country lovers.

But today, my friends, if you lived where I am living you might change your mind, for today is 'spread the muck' day. Cattle have been inside since October and the middens are full. The dairy herds have been milked twice daily and swilled out with water afterwards, so the slurry tanks are also full. Given that the ground is nice and hard, what do all the farmers in the vicinity do today?
Spread the muck on the fields.

It is impossible to have a door or a window open and even so the smell creeps in - not an altogether unpleasant smell but not the perfumes of Arabia.

I have taken Tess for a hairdo today so hopefully I will be able to post before and after photographs later in the day after I return from seeing 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' - we are really looking forward to that and I will report on it tomorrow.

Monday, 12 March 2012

City versus Town Living.

At the weekend many of the newspapers do profiles of various celebrities and ask them questions. The other week somebody said that their worst nightmare would be to live in the country - they couldn't possibly manage without the bright lights of the city. Having tried both I definitely come down firmly on the side of the countryside. How about you?

I subscribe to the idea of what Ronald Blythe calls 'Doctor Nature'. He talks of a sequence of green meditations while he is gardening - he talks of the therapeutic qualities of pulling up nettles and chopping out bird-cherry stalks while at the same time listening to the linnets singing.

I had a similar experience this morning while pegging out the washing. It has been a glorious day here with pure, unbroken sunshine and only a slight breeze. As I hung the sheets on the clothes line a blackbird sat atop a telegraph pole by the gate - and sang and sang. I stood long after I had finished pegging the sheet on the line just to listen to his song. I came in feeling utterly refreshed.

When I go into the village I know almost every one I see in the street and can say hello, stop and chat, pass the time of day. There are quite a few seriously ill people in our village - at least two with Parkinsons, several in varying stages of dementia, one with MS, one seriously injured in an accident - to name but a few. I am sure they and their carers get more consideration in the village than they would in the impersonal atmosphere of a town.

And tonight there is a clear, dark sky. Two planets - Venus and Jupiter - are particularly bright at the moment and are lined up together in the night sky. How clearly would I be able to see those if I lived in a city which had street lights? As it is, I can stand and look at them to my heart's content. Outside it is clear and silent. Soon the owls will start calling to one another in the Scots pines and the bats will be coming out - just emerging from their winter sleep. So it is no hardship to take Tess out for her final utility walk down the yard.

The weather girl on our local Television tells us that tonight will be a good night for seeing the Aurora Borealis. Well the sky to the north will be dark enough. Whether we see it or not is in the lap of the gods but one thing is for sure - we have more chance here than we would have in a brightly lit city.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

When is a weed not a weed?

When it has a pretty flower and is in the right place is my answer.

At the moment it is celandines. They are everywhere in our front garden and, as with all weeds, they grow where they like to be and they spread like wildfire if they are in the right place. The celandines are out and the big question is - do I leave them or do I dig them up. (The I is figurative, as I no long do that kind of gardening, so for 'I' read ' the farmer', although after my hour out there this morning, when I retired to put this blog on, he said ' you'll no doubt be back out to give me instructions.')

I like what I choose to call a 'wild garden'. I don't like things in rows and I do like things to seed themselves. Thus our garden has about six clumps of Lenten roses out at present - all from one parent plant and all self-sown. Later on it will be aquelegia - almost a pest in our garden but with such an amazing flower.

But I suppose the bane of our lives has got to be the Japanese Anemone. It has such a beautiful flower and many people who remark on the show we have say they wish they could grow it in their gardens, but it just won't 'take'. To them I say 'you can have it with pleasure' because although it has a beautiful flower it is such a pest because the roots are under the garden path and there is no way we can get at them without taking the concrete path up.

The herbaceous geraniums, of which I have many, have all last year's dead foliage around them. I started to pull it out and found it was full of over-wintering ladybirds, so it will have to stay for now. The clematis montana, which goes mad along the wall, has three nests in it, so I have only cut it back a little bit in case they wish to nest there again this year.

I am reminded of the verse - and I did know who wrote it, but have forgotten:

Suckers and seeds
the weeds will win,
we'll 'ave the 'ole world for our own.
And how glorious will come in
the era of the great self-sown.

Nothing is more appropriate to our garden. The farmer is out there toiling as I write. It is a walled garden and the sun is shining; the birds are singing in the Scots pines; the black cat is watching the seven hen pheasants pecking under the bird table (they are watching him too); the pretty little tree creeper is working its way up and down the bark of the pines and all's right with the world.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Big Fatstock Show.

Today has been a big fatstock show at our local Auction Mart - it is an important event up here in the yearly calendar and the farmer went along with my camera. He did invite me along too but on the whole women are seen as being out of place unless they are actually showing or selling something, so I kept away.

Before he went I nipped into town to post a parcel, only to find that there was no power at the Post Office, so all the machines were down and the place was closed and in darkness, so the parcel will have to wait until Monday.

Back to the fatstock sale. The supreme champion was the black heifer above. Although she is black, her breed is Belgian Blue and she was sold for £3,400. 00 and will go for breeding in the hope of getting some good progeny from her. The Reserve Champion was the big lad, the brown Limousine. He has been castrated so cannot be bred from but before he goes for beef (which he will do eventually) he will probably be shown around the country by his new owner, in the hope that he wins other fatstock shows. He fetched well over £4,000. 00.

Someone in the comments yesterday asked if we had Foot and Mouth here on the farm. Yes, we did. I know I have already told the story, but for the sake of those who don't know I will just tell
it briefly again. The farmer went round the flock of sheep one morning in early April and found one sheep standing on its own and looking under the weather. When he examined it he knew immediately that we had Foot and Mouth disease. At the time, we also had a dairy herd and although they were not affected they had to be killed too. The Ministry vet came and verified that it was Foot and Mouth. We drew a kilometre circle around the farm and everything in that circle was slaughtered, so we took out five other farms too. By five o'clock that afternoon everything on our farm - all the sheep and all the cows - was dead.

It was a terrible time and felt like a bereavement. But like everything else you spring back and recover and now it all seems like a bad dream.

Before I finish today's blog I want to put on one more thing. This is for UK readers alone. The government charges the fuel tax on air ambulances. It does not do so on lifeboats and many people feel - rightly in my opinion - that air ambulances should be exempt duty too. It is a subject dear to my heart as only fifteen months ago I was airlifted to hospital. Air ambulances rely entirely on public donations. In order for the government to have to compulsorily debate the issue the petition needs 100,000 signatories. At present I think they have about sixteen thousand. Do you feel like signing the petition? I am useless at doing links, but if you are willing to sign the petition this is the site to go to: