Monday, 30 June 2014

Busy, busy.

The farmer has decided that it is worth the risk to make hay this week as the weather looks as though it will be fairly dry.   So the first field was cut this morning.   It is his favourite activity and I must say that as the field is right next to the house the smell of cut grass is lovely.

He surprised Mrs Pheasant and eight babies in mid-field when he was mowing, but luckily he saw her in time and went round her, intending to go back and cut that bit later on today.

Washing and ironing has taken up a large part of the day - shirts take a lot of ironing (OK I know some of you don't iron but I am old-fashioned) and at last I have them all up on the airer - job done.

Some of you have asked for a photograph of the bride full face.  I didn't take many of the wedding at all - I didn't even get one with the bride and her Dad together - but I am hoping that the official photograph got one.

In the meantime, here is one of the happy couple signing the register in the civic hall - don't they look happy?

Sunday, 29 June 2014


Everything went off very well yesterday on the occasion of the wedding of my eldest Grand-daughter and her boy friend.  She looked an absolute delight, the rain held off and the sun was almost shining as she arrived for the ceremony in the City Hall in Newcastle.  She walked down the aisle with her Dad (my son, who I must say looked so proud of her) to the Northumbrian small pipes.  (I hope I identify them correctly - the wedding was, after all, in Newcastle, where the bride and groom met) and the instrument looked rather too small and sounded not quite as full as bagpipes.

The bridegroom and quite a few of the guests wore the kilt - a splendid show it made too.    And I was pleased to see that my Grandson wore the kilt too (his Grandfather on his mother's side was a McFadden, so he had some entitlement ).

We had a lovely day, leaving home early and arriving back late, lovely seeing them married, delicious food, meeting lovely people, many of whom I had not seen for twenty odd years and also meeting lots of new Scottish folk.

Today has been collecting Tess from the kennels, cooking lunch, having a gentle walk round the fields and now relaxing.   Back to normal tomorrow.

Photographs are of the bride and groom dancing the first dance at the evening disco and of my Grandson in the kilt.   Maybe more photographs tomorrow.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Was it the culprit?

Sorry there was no post yesterday and today's is very short, but we are busy in the run up to my Grand-daughter's wedding tomorrow - all very exciting.

But here is a conundrum for you - see what you think.

Friends S and T have a wild life camera in their garden - I think it was first put up to record blue tits nesting - but it is in use all the time and takes a shot every five minutes.

One night last week there was a shot of a dark shape which looked like a hedgehog on the lawn and in the same shot was a cat.   Next morning T found the hedgehog in the same spot with its head bitten off.   They looked at the camera shots and no other animal appeared throughout the night.  So - did the cat bite off the hedgehog's head - or did another animal appear and do the deed in the space of those five minutes?  We'll never know - but raises an interesting theory doesn't it?   Round here we get so very many road kill hedgehogs - could there be cat kill ones too?   There are plenty of feral cats about round here, all looking for an easy meal.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014


The fashion these days seems to be for taking selfies on one's phone.   My mobile is an ancient one - one of the first to come out I think - and has no sophisticated things like taking photographs.  I leave that to my digital camera.   But folk speak about selfies as though they are a modern invention.

But of course they are not.   Artists have been doing self-portraits of themselves for generations.  Those of Rembrandt and Van Gogh stand out  as being particularly memorable.  I always feel that Rembrandt tended to flatter himself (although he didn't do wonders for his skin tone) whereas Van Gogh either emphasised his haunted looks or really was at death's door.

But there is one in particular that I absolutely love.   I found it on the internet a couple of weeks ago and I have searched and searched for it again but I can't find it.   But what I have found is a poem about it by Billy Collins the American poet (born 1942 and twice Poet Laureate).

This afternoon is our monthly Poetry afternoon and I intend to read the poem 'Candle Hat' by Billy Collins.

Goya always wanted to keep painting well into the night but, of course, with such limited light in those days, he couldn't do it.   So he invented a hat with candles round the brim.  Collins's poem is so amusing - do try to read it.

So come on Tom (Tom Stephenson on my side bar), with your collection of candlesticks I am sure you could fashion something which would cut down greatly on electricity bills this coming winter!

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Anyone for tennis?

There is pretty much wall-to-wall football on television, even though we have been knocked out in the first round.   Yet it still dominates the air waves.   No-one in our house is the least interested, so I switch on hoping for something else.   What else is there?   Tennis for the next fortnight.

The only other thing we can't stand is the adverts, so that rules out Channels 3 and 4.   By this time I am totally tired of looking for anything so I do what I should have done in the first place.   Switch off.

Have we become so reliant upon television to fill our waking hours that we have forgotten how to find other things to do?   Usually the farmer and I watch the antiques programme over our afternoon tea, followed by the News and the local News.   Then we switch off and once the farmer has had his shower we tend to play Rummikub.   A night without a few games of Rummikub is a rare thing indeed in this household.

If you don't know the game, which is rather like the card game Gin Rummy but played with counters, I do urge you to buy a set before the Winter sets in.   We were introduced to it by our Dutch friends F and R when they came to see us.   When we went to the Netherlands we bought a set for ourselves and we have played it ever since.

Sad how games have died out isn't it?  I have spoken here about Pencil and Paper games before, but there are also games like Chess, Monopoly, Draughts, Dominos and the like.   When I first moved up here almost thirty years ago Domino drives were a great feature of Winter Friday evenings when you could find one to go to somewhere in the Dales most weeks.   And the home-cooking in the interval was also well worth going for.   Now I rarely see one advertised - presumably because nobody wants to go any more.

When I look even further back, to when I was young, then the Saturday night dances were all the rage.   We would spend hours getting ready to go and then share a taxi into the nearest town (in my case Lincoln) to go to either The Co-op Hall or the Drill Hall to dance the night away (under strict instructions from our parents to share a taxi home too and to never accept a lift home from a boy with a car or a motor bike).   Times have changed.   Where does boy meet girl these days - wish I had five pounds for every marriage in my generation when the couple first met on the dance floor!

Monday, 23 June 2014

A kind of lethargy.

Yesterday the farmer was walking with his walking group, so friend W and I went out for Sunday lunch.   I must say that it was a delicious lunch - starters and then roast rib of beef with all the trimmings.   There is nothing better than beef if it is cut from a big joint, as this obviously was.

We sat and chatted in what turned out to be a delightful restaurant until after two o'clock and then came home.   It was then that the kind of lethargy set in.   Instead of taking Tess for her walk I sat on the bench in the garden while she wandered up and down among the trees.  I didn't need tea - still full from lunch time - so there was little to do then.   During the evening we watched a programme about a London cabbie in Cambodia - enthralling.   He learned to drive a tuktuk and took over from the lovely driver for a week.  What a dignified man he turned out to be

He and his wife had come into the capital to live with their seven year old son, leaving their daughter of nine on their small farm in the country, where she was looking after an aged, bed-ridden grandmother full time.  They had moved from this reasonably idyllic life into the squalor of the city solely to give their son a better education than the father had had.   He turned out to be a man of such dignity.

We came away from the programme feeling there was nothing on this earth we should ever complain about again.   The clothing workers (many of our clothes are made in Cambodia) are exploited and keep striking for better pay and conditions (to no avail).   It makes me wonder whether to stop buying anything made in Cambodia, but then that is self defeating, because if nobody buys the goods then the workers will be put out of work.

The gap between rich and poor widens by the day - it is all very depressing.   Throughout it all this dignified tuk tuk driver carries on smiling (occasionally moved to tears as when he was speaking about the killing fields and the Khymer Rouge) and plying his trade for around sixteen hours a day - all to get his son an education (and he has to pay every day for it to continue).

Today my lethargy has not gone - the air is heavy and there is a feeling of thunderstorms in the air.  Typing this is keeping me awake, but only just!  zzzzzzzzz

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Spoil Sports.

If you read the comments on yesterday's blog you would see that Rachel had read in one of the papers, or heard on the news, that North Yorkshire County Council had ordered the removal of some bunting for the Tour de France, on the grounds that it was a Health and Safety risk.

I do sometimes wonder if 'Health and Safety' has gone too far.   Of course there are lots of areas where people were taking unnecessary risks and endangering not only their own lives but the lives of other people.  But really I do think this has been a step too far.

This morning we went to Masham for feed.   Masham is the town where the order was made so after loading up with feed we went into the market square to have a look.

It is a very pretty little town with a cobbled market square.  The whole place has a real French Provincial look to it and is a favourite tourist destination.   The tour is not going through the market square but is passing near, so the folk of Masham thought they would jolly the place up a bit and hold various events (as every other place is doing - music, barbecues - you name it).  To this end they made bunting of tiny little jerseys, each one about 12cm by 10cm, and strung this bunting between the lamp posts.  The authorities have deemed that should the bunting get wet and the weather windy the weight of the bunting might bend the lamp posts so they have had to take it all down.   They are now in the process of stringing it along the buildings instead.  I photographed this bit from the car park in the square to give you the general idea.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Yarn bombing.

A craft group in our little town has
completely covered a bicycle with knitting in bright colours.   It stands in a shop window just where the Tour de France will pass.   This morning I photographed it as I walked past.   Not a very good photograph, but it is market day and it was very busy, so I couldn't mess around lining up the shot.   Still - you get the general idea.  Isn't it lovely?

Thursday, 19 June 2014

The Armchair Gardener.

Following on from yesterday's post, in which I spoke of my father's love of nature and how much he taught me about it, it made me smile when some of you in your comments spoke of fathers being such good teachers for their offspring - and some of you said how your father had taught you about gardening.

My dad worked very hard, cycling to and from work (3 miles each way).   In the evening I would walk to meet him, pushing my doll's pram.  When we met, he would sit me on his cross bar and cycle, pulling the pram behind him for the rest of the way home (dangerous or what?).  After having his dinner he would do an hour in the vegetable garden, wash, get changed, walked two miles to his bowling club (with my mother and me in tow) and then play bowls on the crown green bowling green for an hour.  This left him little or no time for flower gardening.  But he loved the idea of it.

Today is a busy day for me, so I leave you with a poem I wrote a long time ago about him:

The Armchair Gardener.

Swathes of poppies,
banks of delphiniums,
frondy ferns and a
cascade of pools.

He planned it all from the
comfort of his armchair.
the golden dandelions
and a rash of purple thistles
painted their own canvas.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

A Perfect English Summer's Day

Today has been that rare thing - a perfect English Summer's Day.  Somehow these days we hardly ever get a day that fits into that category.  But today the sun has shone, there has been a slight breeze and everywhere smells of wild roses and honeysuckle.  Tess and I walked over to see friend M for the afternoon.   My ankle is certainly less painful after the acupuncture and I was able to take a gentle walk the mile or so across the fields to her house.

I asked the farmer to collect me rather than let me walk back.   It wasn't the walk that defeated me, it was the gates and fences - all constructed with hefty farmers in mind  and a gigantic effort for me.   Two gates were very hard to open.   I had to crawl under one electric fence as I couldn't bend down low enough to miss catching it with my back.   And the final straw was double gates with a very difficult bolt-like fastener which meant lifting one of the heavy gates to get it in line before I started!

But on the walk over I was struck, as I often am on such occasions, by the huge debt I owe to my father.  Although I was a late arrival for my parents and totally unexpected (literally, they didn't know until the day I arrived, possibly as much as two months premature) I had huge love and care from both of them.  My early birth weight of three pounds meant my mother fed me well and I soon caught up.

But, once I began to walk well my father took me everywhere with him and as he was a countryman this meant going out into the country and looking at the wild flowers, and identifying them, and marvelling at their beauty.   And I still do this today, thanks to his early walks with me.   Sometimes, as I walk, I hear him pointing out various plants - he loved Germander Speedwell and that always reminds me, as does Alchemilla (Lady's Mantle).  I saw both of these on my walk today.

Here is a photo of him with my mother, in 1911 - my sister sits on my mother's knee (she was twenty two years older than me).  I have posted it before, but post it again on this beautiful Summer's day - thanks Dad for making me appreciate it so much.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

We have gone yellow!

Our little market town has gone yellow.   A fortnight on Saturday (July 5th) the Tour de France whizzes through and the whole town is coming out in support.

All window boxes, tubs and hanging baskets were planted with yellow flowers by the council yesterday - I watched them being done and now they have a fortnight to fill out and get more blooms on them.

There is bunting everywhere.   Some of it is just a series of yellow triangles, some is bunting made in the shape of tiny shirts - yellow, white and red and white spotted alternately.  Posters saying 'Leyburn welcomes the Tour de France' have appeared on the fronts of shops and the shop windows are full of yellow items and miniature bikes with riders (all for sale of course).

A local craft group have completely covered a bike with knitting in bright colours, including yellow of course.  One of the group (G) sent me a photograph; it is in my computer somewhere - trouble is that I can't find it.   However, the bike (very colourful and jolly) is now in the window of the most prominent hardware shop in the town, so when I next go in I shall take a photograph of it there.

There is already an air of expectancy in the town.  It can only build over the next two weeks.  I am beginning to catch it myself, but at the moment the wedding of my grand-daughter (June 28th) takes precedence for excitement.   I remember thinking when she was a tiny girl, 'I wonder if I shall still be here when she marries' - well it looks as though I shall be unless something catastrophic happens in the next ten days!!

Monday, 16 June 2014

I don't care for radishes at all, but the farmer likes them, so today we tried some of these giant radishes which have grown very quickly in the garden.  After trying one with a ham sandwich at tea time I must say that I like them even less now.  But  they are very pretty colours.

My mobility is sorely tested by a very bad arthritic ankle.  I have been visiting the specialist for over a year and he has finally told me that short of fusing my ankle so that it is rigid, there is nothing to be done, so he has signed me off and I have to put up with it.

So today, in a last ditch stand, I have started a course in acupuncture with one of the G P's in our local medical practice.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical art which involves inserting fine needles at certain points.   I had six needles into my foot and ankle, none of them where the swelling was - all of them, according to my doctor, were on meridian lines, which go back to  ancient Chinese medicine.  Well, we shall see.  I understand that around sixty percent of his patients find some relief, so I am hoping that I am one of that sixty percent. From the moment he inserted the needles there has been a tingling in my foot and ankle - hope that is a good sign.  Watch this space.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

An Ordinary Saturday

Today was our village coffee morning in the village hall - usually on the first Saturday in the month but this month postponed for a week because last Saturday was our village Feast Day when the children run races on the Village Hall field, there is a party tea for them in the village hall and fun and games in the evening.  Last Saturday it poured with rain but it didn't seem to have stopped the enthusiasm and I understand that everything went ahead as planned and was a great success.

So coffee morning this morning, always a jolly occasion where we meet lots of folk we don't see at any other time (especially me as I live a mile out of the village).  The people who run it work very hard; there is always a raffle, run by M and J, who arrive early to set everything up on the table.   I always contribute but rarely have the tickets as a lot of the prizes are chocolates (must avoid those or I shall begin to pile back the pounds), or wine (don't drink it).  Today there was an extra stall selling home-baked quiches and puddings.   I bought a lovely rhubarb and custard quiche and we had some at lunchtime - jolly good and quite different.

The farmer is helping friend and neighbour G to bring in the silage bales.  If they are left out in the fields, when they are wrapped the crows peck at them and once the air gets in the whole idea of silage is defeated.

So Tess and I were able to stroll round the fields as the grass had been cut.  Pleasant walk until we went through one stile only to find that the farmer had let some frisky young heifers into the field to pike (eat the grass round the edges), so we beat a hasty retreat.

There are still patches of wild flowers in the hedge bottoms, in particular Germander Speedwell (bird's eye) which I love for its clear blue colour.

That is the majority of first cut silage in and stacked.   Each time this happens (there is at least one more cut to go, two if we are particularly lucky) there is a sigh of relief.  This food for Winter is a vital source of nutriment for all the cattle when they are indoors as they are for about six months of the year here.

Our television channels have been taken over by World Cup Football.   Can I say here and now - and I will say this only once (I promise) - I couldn't care less about football.  I just wish the news wasn't deferred until ten minutes past seven in the evening to accommodate it.  Having said that, the news is so depressing at the moment that I don't feel like watching it at all.

Friday, 13 June 2014


No, I didn;t know what it was either until I called in to see my Optician this morning (I had caught my glasses and knocked them off kilter and needed them straightening) when he asked me whether I dared to have them done today.   It is Friday 13th and triskaidekaphobia is fear of the thirteenth.

I found it interesting, particularly after the chat friend W and I had yesterday as we walked round the garden at Thorpe Perrow.   There were such a lot of superstitions around when we were children and I really think our mothers half believed in them.   Although we no longer believe in any of them and know them to be rubbish, we still pay a bit of lip service to them.

Here are some of the ones we remembered from childhood.   Can you add any?

Never put your shoes on the table - could spell a death in the family. (or, I have a feeling, an unwanted pregnancy)
Never bring either lilac or hawthorne into the house - both are very unlucky.
If you spill the salt then throw some over your shoulder with your other hand(we couldn't remember which hand or which shoulder!)

Breaking a mirror means seven years of bad luck.

You must say 'white rabbits' on the first of the month.  If you forget, then as soon as your remember, turn round three times and say 'abracadabra, fiddle de dee, gobblededook'.

Cow parsley may be pretty on the Lane-side but never pick it - its other name is 'mother-die' (need I say more?)

Never smell dandelions - they make you wet the bed.

A lot of rubbish really yet our mothers half believed it and mine, at any rate, never broke any of these rules.

 With reference to that first one about shoes on the table and unwanted pregnancies , I have just read an excellent novel by Susan Hill (if you don't know her as an author, do try her work) called 'A Kind Man'.  Unwanted pregnancies feature largely in the book and it is easy to forget in these somewhat promiscuous days how when I was young, fear of unwanted pregnancy was uppermost in every young woman's mind.  And go one generation back from that to my mother's time and it often spelt disaster for all concerned.

Finally, I have heard from my friends who are walking from Land's End to John O'Groats.  They have walked almost four hundred miles so far, averaging eighteen miles a day, and have reached Shropshire.   They hope to be in Liverpool by June 20th - so far, so good.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Another outing.

Today, Friend W, her Jack Russell Sophie, and I went to Thorpe Perrow Arboretum for a wander round in the lovely warm, sunny weather.

Thorpe Perrow is the home to Sir John and Lady Ropner.   They have a private garden (which you can see in the photograph of their house across the lake) but the rest of the arboretum is open to the public.   It has a huge collection of rare trees as well as collections of things like narcissi, acers, bluebells, flowering trees at certain times of the year.

After our wander we had a soup lunch (pea and spinach) in the cafe - delicious and a combination I haven't tried, so shall put it on my list of soups to make.

We came home through beautiful Summer countryside, calling at Brymor Ice Cream Parlour (black cherry whim-wham/strawberry cream) for a cornet on the way.

The farmer has been busy spreading slurry on the silaged fields, so it was a good day to be out of the way; the breeze had blown the strongest of the smells away by the time I arrived home!

We found two patches of this interesting plant which a passer=by told us was 'toothwort'.   It is lilac-coloured and close to the ground, with little or no stem.   It was growing at the root of a large tree.  I looked it up in Keble Martin when I got home.  Toothwort is a parasite and it does grow on the root of trees.  Keble Martin gives the only colour as cream, so I shall try and find out more about it.   Anybody know anything?

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Rosa Canina - the dog rose - surely the most beautiful of all our British Wild Flowers, is out at last.   The first flowers spotted today on the wall by the paddock when I went for a walk after lunch with Tess.   I am sorry I couldn't get nearer to take a better photograph but there is a ditch between the wall and the grass verge.   But here it is in all its beauty and simplicity.

The farmer has a new toy - it came this morning and he is already playing with it, mowing the grass by the Scot;s Pines.   After lunch he decided to go into the field to mow the grass between the Christmas Trees.   The gateway into the field is very muddy, where the young heifers have paddled it up, but he decided that if he had 'a good run at it' he could surf through the mud and reach firm ground.   Within minutes he was back in the yard for his little grey Fergie to push the mower out of the mud.  I haven't seen him since, so I hope he is happily mowing up and down.
Three stories for the price of one today.   Here is a photograph of our Friday morning 'coven' in the Coffee House.   One of the Bistro staff took the photograph.  It is our weekly meeting and none of us would miss it for the world - a good natter and a meeting of friends keeps us going.  I am back row on the right (in the navy blue jacket).

Until tomorrow.

Monday, 9 June 2014

June is in full flow.

Everything is 'busting out all over' now.  I love this time of year, before everything begins to look tired and windblown.

We have two bats.   I don't know what kind they are, but all the time I have lived on the farm (twenty one years) we have always had two bats.   Can they be the same two?   How long do bats live?
We see them flying up and down the yard at dusk every night.   They obviously never have babies or the group would get bigger, so we can only assume they are the same sex!

My poor Buff Orpington cockerel died yesterday.   It was a hot, sunny day and he used to make a nice dust bath for himself by the holly hedge in the pasture.   When the farmer walked down the field at tea time yesterday with Tess, he was there as usual but he had died at some time during the day.  He must have been seven or eight years old and he has been slowing down over the past year, but I am sad to see him go.

Looking through a piece for today's date in a book by Derwent May, who writes the Times daily Nature Notes, I see he is writing about field poppies.   I love them.   They have become symbolic of the loss of life in war.   As children we used to pick bunches of them but they usually died before we got them home - or at the very least lost some of their petals.   As I write this I remember how, as children, we used to make dolls from poppies by bending the petals back and tying them round the middle with a blade of grass, thus making a red dress and leaving a 'head' of the seed head.   We would take bunches of these home.

It's funny how things like this come back to one out of the blue.   Simple country pleasures which seem to have all but died out in this computer age.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Sunday Lunch.

Here on the farm we rarely have what I would call 'a proper Sunday lunch', mainly because there are only the two of us and such a tiny joint of meat would be tasteless.   One thing is for sure, to enjoy beef, lamb or pork you really need a good, substantial joint to cut at.

During my childhood we always had such a meal on Sundays - the three 'meats' would be taken in turn and they would last almost all the week.   The housewife would be busy with chores all week so it would be helpful to have menus mapped up.   It would be roast lamb and mint sauce on Sunday, cold lamb with fried potatoes left from Sunday on Monday (washday, so no time to cook), shepherd's pie on Tuesday and maybe even on Wednesday - or perhaps rissoles made with the left over scraps of lamb - and then round to Friday when we always had fish.  So simple and no need to think about it.

Today is the farmer's walking day, so friend W and I went out for a 'proper' Sunday lunch.   We never thought to reserve a table, but we managed to squeeze in at a local restaurant where lamb, beef and pork were all on the menu.   We both chose roast local lamb.

It was well-cooked, nicely presented and delicious.  Roast lamb, Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, cauliflower in white sauce, broccoli, green beans, carrots and cabbage.   We followed this with a cup of coffee and came home thoroughly satisfied with our meal.

Taking Tess for a walk on my return persuaded me that I was walking off the excess of calories, and now I can sit at the computer for an hour before the farmer returns.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Is it me?

A petty irritation niggles at me every Saturday when the farmer opens his Yorkshire paper.   He takes it all week but on Saturdays it has various supplements including one which is all about the country.  I enjoy reading it.

But one thing really gets at me.   One of the contributors writes a weekly, chatty article outlining what she has been doing all week.   But, instead of using chatty language she will use 'big' words and it always seems so unnecessary.

For a few examples:
noticed, instead of saw (I noticed that sheep had been clipped)
luncheon, instead of lunch (the luncheon was delicious)
tasks, instead of jobs (help with a few gardening tasks)
donated, instead of gave (she donated me a much better......)
purchased, instead of bought (I purchased several things)
ventured forth, instead of went for a walk (to see the town)

Is this petty nit-picking?   It happens on television too, on antiques programmes, when the expert asks 'where did you get this?' the person often answers 'I purchased it at a car boot sale'.   What is wrong with 'bought' or even 'got'.

Maybe I am guilty of this on my blog (if I am will you tell me, please) but it always seems to me that if you are writing a chatty article then you use chatty language.  Is it just me?

On a completely different subject, I see in today's paper that the Government are pledging to 'eradicate illiteracy within a generation'.   Fifteen percent of children leave Primary School without this skill - a skill which becomes absolutely vital once they reach Comprehensive School, where everything moves at a faster pace and many of the classes may well be mixed ability classes.

Might I make a few suggestions (as an ex-Head of Deparment in a large Comprehensive in a very deprived inner city area) - give the schools more expertly trained, dedicated and committed teachers who know what they are doing in teaching the skills involved in learning to read and write, keep the classes small, and do bear in mind that many of the children we are speaking about come into Primary School having barely held a pencil or seen written language.

And, changing the subject again - the farmer has just cut the verges of the Lane - I am desperately hoping those baby rabbits got out of the way in time.

Friday, 6 June 2014

A Life of Fear.

Perhaps 'fear' is too strong a word, maybe 'wariness' is better, but poor old rabbits can never relax can they?

At present the sides of our Lane are full of rabbits - rabbits in the cow parsley conjures up a lovely image and indeed these are baby rabbits, small enough to fit in your hand, tiny bobtails, pretty little ears and SO very cuddly.

But absolutely everything is a threat to them for the whole of their lives (and especially while they are so small).   Jackdaws and Magpies can easily get down into the nest if it is too shallow, and pick off those babies one by one (for make no mistake, once they have found one baby they will be back).  Stoats and weasels can  reach the nest however deep underground it is, and stoats and weasels have their own young to feed - easy meat.   The fox will be round at dusk and he knows every rabbit hole, so is on the lookout for a rabbit that is tardy getting back to its burrow.   The farm cats seem to exist on baby rabbits at this time of the year, rarely eating the food that is put down (they leave that for the hedgehogs).   And last but by no means least, there is the threat of man.   It is said that ten adult rabbits can eat as much grass as one cow, so small wonder that the farmer is liable to wander round at dusk with his gun.

And so these adorable babies seem to loiter along the sides of the Lane in the long grass and the cow parsley.   It must seem like a forest to them and perhaps they feel safe there.   But why do they have to run across the road in front of the occasional traffic?   This morning, while driving up the Lane, ten babies hopped across in front of me - I slowed down and missed them all, but a lot of drivers wouldn't bother.   Rabbits are expendable and there are plenty more to take their place.

What must it be like to spend life on the edge.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Le Grand Depart.

The Tour de France will be coming within a mile of the farm on Saturday July 5th and great preparations are afoot.   Ten thousand folk are expected to descend on our little area, all hotels and B and B's have been booked up for months ahead and all the roads around the area are to be closed from early morning on the day itself.

The farmer and I will not be going into our little market town to watch it - in the first place it is too far to walk there and back (for me particularly as I have limited mobility) and also I suspect that they will be past in a flash and it will all be over.  I understand that there will be 150 support vehicles too.

But it will put us firmly on the map for a short time and I think watching it on television might be the better option, for us at any rate.   Certainly lots of smartening up has been done, potholes in the roads, caused by a wet winter, have been repaired and roads have been resurfaced.   Well, we want to look our best if we are to be on the television don't we?

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Silage time.

Yesterday was a lovely summer's day, hot and sunny although there was the odd thunder shower during the day.   The grass in the silage meadows is getting very long and is consequently beginning to die off down at the bottom.   It was decided that it was the day for cutting the grass and beginning the process of cutting, tossing, tossing again, rowing, baling and wrapping, although rain was forecast for today.

So the farmer and a couple of friends cut all day (until 9.30pm) and there is now a lot of grass down.   There is always a hazard because curlew nest in the fields around here so you have to be on the lookout for them.   The farmer saw a mother with four chicks - she hurriedly took them into the bottom of the hedge out of the way.   Then he spotted a curlew leaving the nest.   By the time he got back to the spot she was sitting again and he was able to cut round the nest leaving her enough cover to hatch her young safely.  Also whoever does the next stage of silaging will be able to see clearly exactly where the nest is,so hopefully she will bring them off alright.

This morning, as predicted, it is raining - but hopefully it will soon dry up.   And, as the farmer says, the grass is dying off at the bottom so it was desperately in need of cutting and it will eventually dry out enough to continue.

We are making yet another visit to hospital in Middlesbrough today
(an hour away) - this time is for the farmer and his perforated ear drum.

Victoria sponge recipe

Recipe as requested:

8 ounces each of butter, caster sugar and self raising flour plus four
eggs - all can be put into a bowl together and beaten for two minutes until smooth.  If you think the mixture should be a little 'slacker' then add a touch of milk.  Pour into two greased sandwich cake tins and bake at 180 degrees for around half an hour (look after 25 minutes) until firm to the touch and shrinking from the sides of the tins. Remove from tins and cool on wire racks.  Sandwich together with jam or whipped cream or butter cream (or any combination) and sprinkle the top of the cake with sieved icing sugar (or water ,and decorate). You can flavour the cake by replacing some of the flour with sieved cocoa and adding chocolate butter cream, or adding a couple of tablespoons of strong coffee dissolved in a little hot water (take care not to make the mix too slack) and adding coffee butter cream.  You can also flavour with orange (zest and a little juice) or lemon.  Or what about coffee and walnut or chocolate and orange?

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Victoria sponge (for US readers only)

A Victoria Sponge - or Sandwich cake - is what I think all my US followers would call a Layer Cake.   It is two sponge cakes baked
in separate tins and then sandwiched together with some kind of butter cream.  So many folk have asked that I thought I had better put on a special post about it.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Bolton Castle.

Yesterday being the first day of Summer, according to the weather man (sorry but I am traditionalist and I will stick to June 21st as the first day of Summer if you don't mind.), we were invited to tea by friends in the pretty Dales village of Castle Bolton, only a few miles from where we live.

It is a splendid little village, entirely overshadowed by the magnificent Bolton castle - a fourteenth century edifice which in 1568 became, for a short time, the prison for Mary Queen of Scots.

Our friends live very close to the castle and their terrace has the most beautiful view over the Dale.

The journey there was interrupted by a farmer moving a flock of sheep along the main road (not all that unusual an occurrence) but even that was pleasant to watch in the lovely sunshine.

I have taken a series of photographs of the Castle as we approached and then a final one from the other end of the village street.

A lovely afternoon - good friends - nice conversation - a lovely garden - and to end,

a delicious coffee sandwich cake (the farmer brought an extra slice home and has just eaten it for his tea today).