Monday, 30 March 2015

Thirty-eight days to go.

So, Parliament has been dissolved today, the House of Commons will be empty (more or less), there will be no Prime Minister's Question Time with its waving and bawlingand all the would be hopefuls will be out on the hustings.

Our letter-box will be stuffed with bumf which we will not read and by the time tomorrow comes I for one will be sick and tired of hearing promises, promises.

For two pins I would not listen to the television news until it is all over - but then I would miss news stories which it is important to hear.   So I must endure it all.

The one thing I can say though is that by the time Election Day comes I am sure all the candidates will be absolutely exhausted.  I suppose if you win then the euphoria will carry you along.   If you don't win - and of course that will be the majority of people electioneering - then I am sure total and complete meltdown will be the order of the day.

Our seat here in North Yorkshire, where Rt Hon William Hague has been the MP - and which is I believe the safest seat for the Conservatives in the whole country - is a whole new ball game this time.   William Hague was much respected by citizens of every persuasion because he was such a good constituency MP.  Now his resignation from the Government for pastures new means  we shall have to get used to a new face whoever it is.   For some things I wish I could go to sleep tonight and wake up in thirty eight days time.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

An Accident

Our Lane has several small areas of woodland; places where the wood is on either side of the lane and the trees almost touch overhead.  These places are magical and in a few weeks time the first of them will be thick with common orchids.

But these stretches have also got a hazard as our friend and neighbour, G, found out yesterday as he drove down the lane to the next  village of Barden.  As he got to the wood a deer ran out in front of him.   He managed to stop and the deer stopped and ran back into the woods.  G breathed a sigh of relief.

However, at the next patch of woodland he was not so lucky - another deer ran out, straight in front of his vehicle and he had absolutely no chance of missing it.   The deer was killed and his car was badly damaged.  He wasn't hurt but was sad to have killed such a beautiful animal - and sad to have to foot the bill for what has turned out to be a tremendous amount of damage.

And on the subject of the laws of the countryside and the death o f animals, the farmer saw Blackie, one of our two farm cats, coming up the field this morning dragging a rabbit he had killed, a rabbit as big as he was.    So there will be no need to feed the cats tonight, and as we are totally overrun with rabbits it is hard to feel any sadness in its passing.   I just hope Blackie killed it quickly and cleanly - cats have such a nasty habit of teasing their prey to death.

There is always death stalking in the country - stoats and weasels, foxes, birds of prey - it has always been the survival of the fittest (and often the cleverest, which I suppose brings in to play the laws of selection - the cleverest breed and thus bring off the cleverest offspring in theory).

April showers are frequent here today - sunshine in between - reasonably warm and the kind of weather that is forecast for the week ahead.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

One step forward, two steps back.

Isn't it always the same at this time of the year?   There is so much for the farmer to do on the land.   There is muck to be spread, fields to be harrowed (half done) and rolled, fertiliser to be spread. wind-blown branches and wood to collect (half done), gates and fences checked and repaired where necessary - and all before the cattle go out into the fields for the Summer.

We have had two sunny, pleasant, obviously Spring days.   Now today it is almost Winter again, with a very strong wind blowing and frequent showers.  How rarely is the ground just right for the tractor - it is either muddy or it is too dry.   Days of dry ground means that the farmer has had a very bad neck and shoulders, probably caused by jolting up and down on the tractor while spreading slurry.

Now only a few days from the end of March  (it always seems such a long month doesn't it?) which came in 'like a lamb' it seems likely that it will go out 'like a lion'.

Tonight (or rather in the early hours of tomorrow) we shall put the clocks forward one hour and evenings will become lighter.   Somehow mornings being darker is hardly noticeable.

Yesterday, over in Kirby Lonsdale, which is of course much further West than here in the Dales, all the daffodils were out and the lilac was heavily in bud. Here little is really moving apart from the young nettles which are springing up everywhere.   I am just having a day inside.  I have cooked a lunch (bacon and egg with chips, sweet corn and peas, followed by delicious fresh oranges - so good at this time of the year), shall now light the wood burner and have a peaceful afternoon doing the crossword.

Enjoy your weekend wherever you are.

Friday, 27 March 2015

A Kirby Lonsdale Day again.

Every so often friend W and I go over the Yorkshire Dales, through the Trough of Bowland and into the little town of Kirby Lonsdale to meet our friends P and D for lunch in Avanti, the Italian Restaurant there.

Because whichever way we go means going over the watershed of the Pennines, we never go over the Winter months, when the weather on the top can be altogether different from here.   So today was our first time this year.   The weather was beautiful.

Ingleborough, one of The Three Peaks, was snow topped and stood out brightly - usually it is cloud-covered but today there was a lovely view of it.

The Ribblehead viaduct on the Settle to Carlisle railway showed up marvellously - pity there was no steam train crossing as we passed.

Arriving in K L we made our way to Avanti where we had a delicious lunch - you will see a photograph of my choice - chicken, saute potatoes and green beans in a parmesan sauce and then, as always (after strolling through the town with our friends) we came home by a different route, through the little town of Sedbergh.   Approaching Sedbergh were the Howgill Fells, standing out in the sunlight.

We never tire of the journey - today the fields were full of very young lambs gambolling up and down, the sun shone, there was very little traffic and a good time was had by all.  Enjoy my photographs, all taken from a moving vehicle, so they may well be a little out of focus.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

The farmer is not well today.   After sitting for four days solid on the tractor doing the same thing, he has stiff shoulders and a very stiff neck.   In addition he is coming down with a cold.  So he is rather sorry for himself.

Reading Bovey Belle's post today (Codlins and Cream) about the loss of a dear friend, made me think about how we lose friends as we age.

Several people, who because I live up North I have lost touch with other than cards at Christmas and the odd letter and e mail, have stopped contacting me.   I shall never know why.   P, who lives in the Midlands and is a very old friend, always read my blog and often answered it with an e mail.   He would also send me a photograph if he had visited an interesting church.   Suddenly he stopped all communication.   I sent him e mails, I sent him a Christmas card - but nothing has been heard of him since around last Autumn.   I have no way of knowing what has happened.

Similarly, friend C, who I know has had one or two strokes and has largely lost her memory, has stopped communicating.   As I hardly know her children (she had two sets of twins in eleven months!) and have no idea where they live, again I can't contact them to see what has happened.

Both these friends are well into their eighties.

Another much younger and very dear friend suddenly stopped all communication about three years ago.  Her husband still lives at the same address but on the census she no longer lives there.   I don't suppose I shall ever know where she has gone - but as with the other two I miss them greatly.   This is one of the built in hazards to getting old I am sad to say.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015


Looking out of the kitchen window while standing here still in my dressing gown, the weather looks reasonably good so I am about to bite the bullet and get into my gardening gear and go out and prune the roses down to three buds.   This has got to be the absolute last date for doing so as they are beginning to grow like mad.

We also spray at this time of the year for blackspot, which bedevils our roses every year.   Albertine, the climber, is the worse offender and according to the garden centre she is very prone to it.   He recommended throwing her out but I am afraid I love her too much for anything so drastic.   When I spoke to the farmer at breakfast time about the spraying he informed me he had done it last week when I was gadding off somewhere!

And speaking of this - we have three nest boxes up in our Scots pine trees by the house - all visible from the kitchen window.  They are quite high up and because of the farmer's balance problems I made him promise me that he wouldn't get the ladder to them to clean them out or replace the two which are very old.   I now find that one day when I was well out of the way (gadding off somewere as he chooses to call it) he got out the ladder, took the boxes down and replaced them.   You can imagine, he is very pleased with himself.

Today is our Poetry day and this afternoon I shall be off with friends to sit and read our favourite poetry all afternoon - wonderful, relaxing afternoon.

 Anyone over sixty reading this take note - I read in today's Times that 'experts' are now saying that us oldies should first of all make a pile of all slippers and burn them.   Then we should ask for arm weights and dumb bells as presents - we need to be out there getting fit, not sitting around in our slippers!   Have a nice day.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Election Day Looms.

I think we all know that the election takes place during the first week in May.   Do you think it would make any difference if, instead of being bombarded morning noon and night with electioneering, we had a month of complete silence, when we could think about things and make up our own minds?

Instead we are already getting shots of our leaders (??) cheering on their offspring at footie matches, preparing salads in very posh kitchens quite unlike any kitchen most of us watching possess and talking gobbldigook about what they intend and do not intend to do if they win the next election.

I for one hardly believe a word of it.   Neither do I believe that four weeks of intense electioneering will persuade all that many voters to change their minds.   We are a conservative (with a small c I hasten add) lot and once our minds are made up we tend to stick with it.

Roll on the second week in May when it will all be over, a government of some kind will be formed and life as we know it will return to normal, whatever that is.

And forests can stop quaking as all those election leaflets, most of which go unread, are binned.

Monday, 23 March 2015

My First field walk of Spring.

At last the fields are dry enough for Tess and I to have an afternoon walk over them.  Although there was a sharp wind blowing it was a pleasant afternoon and we set off in fine spirits.

I have to say that there is very little sign of spring yet.   In the fields the grass has yet to green up and there is no sign of bud on any of the trees.   Even the blackthorn, which is the first to show, seems to be waiting for a few days of warm sunshine.

The hazel catkins are out, although they are sparse on the tree I photographed.   Interestingly, underneath the tree are the shells of most of last year's nuts, neatly broken in half (probably by the sharp little teeth of mice), their contents eaten to stave off winter hunger.

Tess led the way along the beck side, watched by numerous rabbits from a safe distance - they are everywhere.   The side of the beck in our little plantain is peppered with rabbit holes - there is a large warren there,

While we are on the subject of the plantain, the farmer has seen (and heard) a pair of buzzard in the tree tops and we are hoping that they will nest there this year.   They are beautiful birds with their majestic hovering and floating in the air currents and they only take dead carrion so are no threat to small hedgerow birds.

Two pairs of yellow hammers are investigating the hedge where they always lay - and appearing at the bird table to top up on seed throughout the day.   They are most welcome.

At the field gate back on to the lane deep golden lichen grows thick on the blackthorn branches - almost the only golden yellow I see on my walk.  No sign of celandines and not even a marsh marigold in bud.   But I shall keep watching.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Yum, yum.

The farmer and I, along with friend W, have been out for Sunday lunch.   Isn't it good to do this?  When I was young I don't remember our parents ever doing anything like this.   Morning coffee perhaps at a friend's house, or afternoon tea (we always went twice a year to a great Uncle and Aunt who were very 'posh', so that I always had to be on my best behaviour and had a new pencil and a new exercise book to take so that I had something to do to keep me quiet).

Coming, as I do, from Lincoln, then Stokes's Coffee house was always a place to meet for morning coffee.   Last time I was in Lincoln I was pleased to find that it is still there in Glory Hole - a bridge over the River Witham.
But now the thing to do is to go out for Sunday lunch - a full roast dinner which saves a lot of hard work on the part of the cook, and also means a couple of slices off a really big joint, which is much more succulent that a tiny joint for two.

What did we eat?  Predictably the farmer had roast beef and Yorkshire pudding with horseradish sauce and vegetables (he also had mushroom soup first).   W and I both had roast pork with stuffing and apple sauce and vegetables.   It was delicious.

Did we need any more?   No, definitely not - we were full to bursting.   Did we have any more?   The farmer had chocolate brownie, W had poached pears and I had icecream.   All followed by coffee.

We are now home - Tess has been walked on this lovely Spring afternoon - sun shining, sharp breeze, lambs in the fields, daffodils out in gardens, primroses out in the hedgebacks - oh yes -Spring has definitely sprung. Now I am going to sit in the chair and sleep off that Sunday lunch.

Saturday, 21 March 2015


Friday, 20 March 2015

A bit of a non-event.

Well, a bit of a non-event I thought.  Yes, the partial eclipse happened dead on the minute it said it would.   And yet it only became dusky.  The birds continued to eat at the feeder and the robin was singing its beak off throughout.  I expected all the rooks to be on their way home to bed and all the little birds to retire to the bushes, but it didn't happen.

Perhaps, now that the sun is a lot stronger, that tiny sliver of sun along the side was enough to stop it going really dark.  Whatever the reason, a cock pheasant and one of my hens kept up a spat, almost a running battle, over the poultry wheat through the whole thing.

And yes, Cro Magnon, I do agree with you - I shall be celebrating the first day of Spring tomorrow as it should be.   Not that I shall be dancing naked round the blossom tree or anything like that, but I shall be taking deep breaths of the Spring air and saying goodbye to Winter  -even if it does happen to be premature (as is suggested in the comments on my yesterday's post by one or two answers from the States).

There is a plethora of Spring flowering plants on our market today - primroses and polyanthus in pots, bunches of daffodil and tulips to put in water ; everywhere you looked there was yellow and red and purple - it does the soul good.

Oh, and by the way, regarding the Spring celebrations - there never was a time when I danced naked round the blossom tree (in fact I think I feel more like doing it now than I ever did!) 

***Pictures on this evening's television news showed just how very exciting the eclipse was as it moved further North - the North of Scotland had a total eclipse and it really did go completely dark up there.   It was lovely to see the young school children so excited.

Thursday, 19 March 2015


Well, it has well and truly sprung today - wall-to-wall sunshine, albeit hazy and little or no wind.   In the sun it is a very warm day; in the shade it is still quite cold.   The weather has brought out the lawn mower brigade in force - they are everywhere like flies and making the rest of us who haven't even oiled ours after winter, feel guilty.

It was just the day for the lime to be spread on the fields and shortly before lunch time the lorries and the lime spreader arrived.   From the top road (where I ventured on a trip to Richmond with my daughter in law to sample flapjack and coffee in a lovely bistro) we could see the white 'cloud' strips across our fields.

Tess is limping and the vet thinks she has pulled a muscle rabbit chasing, so for a few days she has to walk on the leash to give the muscle time to heal.  She does not care for it.

Elizabeth tells me that three inches of snow are forecast for New York for tomorrow - seems winter is still trying to win the battle.  We do not want you here winter - begone!

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Your opinion needed!

There is a lot of debate at the moment about the learning of poetry in schools and whether it is necessary - indeed whether it is a good thing or a bad thing.   I am horrified by this - both as an 'ordinary' person and as an ex-teacher.   I question what is wrong with learning some (and I emphasise the 'some') stuff off by heart.

Let's take it one step at a time and begin with children in their early learning years.   Nursery rhymes are so very important for so many reasons.   Firstly they are part of our heritage and most have their roots in historical facts.   Secondly they are fun to learn and the more fun that can be inserted into early learning the better.   Thirdly - they rhyme on the whole, and this rhyme is such a great help in the early stages of reading, when children learn that words such as
 wall and fall, men and again, bell and well, out and Stout (I will leave you to work out which Nursery rhymes they come from) have a rhyming pattern and often a pattern of letters to match.

But the real debate has apparently centred on whether or not pupils should be allowed to take poetry books into examinations or whether they should have learned the poems they have studied 'off by heart'.

It may well be asking too much for pupils  (often with an enormous work load as it gets to the exams) to learn every poem they have studied off by heart.   But really, is any question going to ask them to write out the whole poem?   I doubt it.   What the questioner is likely to want  is an essay/answer which shows that the pupils has studied the poem, enjoyed the poem, knows it well enough to be able to quote snippets, and loves the subject he or she is studying at an advanced level.  (how important a good teacher is in this!)   This doesn't just apply to English and Poetry - it applies to all the arts.   A good example would be for instance  in music a study of Purcell's opera Dido and Aeneas  should at least mean that the student should be able to quote the ground bass from Dido's Lament - ten notes - is that too much to ask?   Those ten notes are really the key to the whole Aria and the same applies to Poetry.

Finally, we all remember poetry we learned at school don't we? 'Old Meg she was a gypsy and lived upon the moors' (remember learning that?)   'I wandered lonely as a cloud' - what about that?  A friend helps out at an Alzheimer's society meeting each week and talks to the gathering about things to jog their memories.  A couple of weeks ago she read them the first verse of Wordworth's 'Daffodils' and after a couple of readings many of the folk gathered there could remember bits of it from their own childhoods and could still recall enough to join in.   If that doesn't prove that learning of poetry is worth doing then I don't know what does.

Have you an opinion?

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Can you kill?

An odd question no doubt but one which was very pertinent yesterday when friend S collected me to go out for our lunch.   Just above our farm gate on the lane she had seen a hen pheasant sitting in the road,barely moving and yet obviously still very much alive.  We came to the conclusion that she had been hit by a vehicle and injured but not killed.

As we passed we pulled up and looked at her.   She returned our gaze but didn't move.   She really needed putting out of her misery. But - and here's the rub - neither of us could bring ourselves to do it.   Nor, more to the point, did we know how to do it.   We couldn't even bring ourselves to run over her.  I took the easy option and rang the farmer and asked him to deal with it.

 The farmer said that when he had finished eating his lunch he would walk up the lane and put her out of her misery.   By the time he got there somebody had run over her and she was well and truly dead.

The point is - could you have killed her?  If so, how would you have done it?  Surely by now I should have learned how to kill a suffering animal out in the fields, but I can't bring myself to do it, or even to learn how to do it.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Paninis at Noon.

Better than  pistols at dawn any day metaphorically speaking.

Back to our local Auction House, Tennants of Leyburn, today, past the mini covered in old pennies that I featured in a post last week, and into the Cafe with friend S for a chat and a friendly lunch.

Two hours in which we ate paninis with salad (mine was ham, gruyere and piccallili), drank coffee and covered a wide variety of topics.   We never run out of things to chat about.

During our lunch we could sit and look on the big screen too, the screen showing details of items in the forthcoming Sale with their estimated value.   I must say that there was a time when I would have positively drooled over some of the Chinese porcelain, some of the beautiful jewellery, paintings and furniture.   Now I no longer have any desire for any more 'stuff' whatever its value.

Because the sale is a very important one and is starting this Friday the Auction House was abuzz with dealers all taking the opportunity to assess the goods and mark  their catalogues prior to auction day and then come into the Cafe for lunch and a bottle of wine.

Now to the latest Salley Vickers book I have read.   I have already recommended two - Miss Garnett's Angel and Aphrodite's Hat.   Now here is another one to add to the collection - equally brilliant so do look out for it - 'The Cleaner of Chartres' - an elegantly witty story full of intricately woven patterns and such interesting character studies.   Do try to get hold of it.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

A List of Jobs

It is around eight or nine weeks before we embark on our holiday of a few days in a hotel (The White Hart) in Lincoln, followed by a whole week in Aldebrough at The White Lion.   Seems a long time yet but I know from experience that it will be here in the blink of an eye.

Before that there are so many jobs to do on the farm, and each one depends entirely upon the weather conditions.   At present, when it is fine the farmer is busy gathering up Winter's detritus of wood from our many trees.   This includes huge , smaller branches, twigs and even smaller bits.

The very small bits will go on the bonfire in the field, the twigs will be broken up and put into the stick box for lighting the wood burner; the small branches will be sawn and put into the log pile and the huge branches will be stores under cover to dry and then sawn up later in the year for next year's wood supply.  This wood is mostly ash, alder and bits of hawthorn and holly.

He already has collected one trailer full of wood and in the next few days will finish the clean up by gathering in another two or three trailer loads.   That will be one job he can tick off the list.

Then all fences and gates have to be checked to make sure they are animal-proof and if they are not, then they need a repair - this also takes a few days at least.

We hope that all fences and gates have been repaired but going round doing other jobs gives the farmer a chance to check on them all.

All the fields need lime.   This has been ordered and will arrive when the farmer decides that the state of the ground is right.   This will then be followed by commercial fertiliser , 20:10:10  and then all this lot has to be harrowed and rolled.

The farmyard manure, which at present lies rotting in a pile, is also ready for spreading when the time is right.

Animal wise, the sheep have to go home before we go away on holiday and no sheep and lambs or young cattle come until we arrive home.

It doesn't sound all that much but believe me that holiday date will be here before we know where we are - and all must be shipshape.

Friday, 13 March 2015

The battle of the titans.

(note the small t).

We awoke this morning to snow and a temperature of one degree.   Everywhere was slushy and wet and the sky was a dark grey.

Remember that Tess had a haircut yesterday - quite a close haircut after having a winter unshorn where her hair had got long and shaggy.   What to do?   

Nothing said the farmer.  She is a farm dog, she will take it in her stride.   I reminded him that when the weather took a turn for the worse he put on an extra fleece not went out in a T shirt rather than an anorak.

So when I was out for our coffee gang meeting this morning I bought her a little waterproof, fleecy lined jacket.  I guessed at the size, got it home and found it was too small and had to go back into town to change it for the next size up, which is marginally too big.
Does she appreciate it?   No she does not.  She absolutely hates it and her lunchtime walk really was more of a lunchtime drag.   But she must wear it for a day or two while this weather lasts.   I cannot risk her getting a really bad chill.   Hopefully she will become more accustomed to it.

What was the farmer's reaction?   "How degrading" was his only comment.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Tess has been to the hairdressers this morning (so have I!) to have her first cut of the year.   Needless to say, after several days of almost Spring-like weather the forecast is for cold straight from Russia over the week-end.   The farmer refuses to let her have a little coat - he says she is a farm dog and must go out in all weathers.  I worry about her getting cold for the first few days although I think she is too busy chasing rabbits to really notice.
I post below at photograph of her after her cut (you could compare with the photo I posted of her a week or so ago when she was sitting on the stairs and looking like a ragamuffin).  I just could not get her to look at me, but it does show her lovely colouring and her smart appearance.
Now for a sad story.  I told you a while ago that our neighbouring farmer and friend A had two barn owls interested in his box in one of his barns.   They reared two chicks there last year and we have great hopes of them doing the same this year.   Now I hear this morning from friend G that a Naturalist friend of hers has picked up a dead 'road kill' barn owl quite near - maybe two or three miles round by the road but, as the owl flies, only perhaps five fields away.   Should it be one of this pair then sadly there will be no chicks this year - we must just wait and see.  I have taken a photograph of my stuffed owl to put on here.   Sorry about the quality of the photograph but it is behind glass and whichever way I turned it there is reflection.   It is a beautiful creature.   I used to collect Victorian stuffed birds and have seven or eight.   At least now most (wish I could say all) stuffed birds are ones which have been found dead.   In Victorian times I think they were trapped for the purpose - gruesome and one of the reasons why so many of these beautiful species began to get less and less.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Being a G P

Yesterday I had an appointment with my G P at our local Medical Centre.   I am always impressed by their efficiency and by the pleasant atmosphere - all the staff make you feel welcome.

But sitting there in the Waiting Room and looking around at the other people waiting I decided I would not wish to be a G P.   Any really interesting work is passed on the Consultants in the appropriate field, and I suspect that they gather far more criticism than praise.

But the real thing that put me off was how most of those waiting to be seen seemed to have taken no care at all over their appearance.   One very large man was wearing shorts and trainers without socks (and the trainers were not even laced up).  Nobody was smartly dressed and quite a few folk looked unwashed.   

If I am going to see the doctor I always shower before I go and put on clean clothes - I think we owe it to them to be as clean and tidy as possible.   If we don't it is tantamount to going to the dentist without cleaning one's teeth.

In fact when I got home I sat and thought about the experience and could not think of a single plus in taking on the GP's job for life.  Seems to me it is a lot of responsibility for very little reward.   Do you feel the same?

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Friends, bulbs, Spring.

We have dear friends F and R who live in Hillegom in The Netherlands and twice when they have visited us they have arrived with a bag full of bulbs - for there is nothing better than bulbs from The Netherlands.   So we have a garden full of Spring flowers just coming out and every day reminding us of our friends.

At present it is the crocus - and as I returned from my walk with Tess at lunch time I saw that a bumble bee was working from flower to flower.   I rushed and got my camera, but by the time I returned with it the bee had moved on.  But surely - a bumble bee out and about - a sign of Spring.   And the sun is out too.

One thing about living right out in the depths of the countryside is that one has far more opportunity to chat to strangers.   On that same walk I met a chap walking.   He was up here on holiday and had left his car parked by the Village Hall.   As he came up the lane he had missed the footpath sign and now faced going back by the busy main road.  I showed him how to get to the footpath by crossing one of our fields - no footpath but nothing in the field and I knew the farmer would have given him permission. But before he went we had a lovely chat about his ancestors who had lived in our little village.  These things just don't happen in towns do they?  We parted with me telling him to watch out for the kingfishers, the egret and the buzzards (we think we might well have a pair which are about to nest in our plantain).   He was pleased to report that he had seen oyster catchers, curlew and plovers just down the field.  Oh yes, Spring is definitely on its way.   And The Times says that the sand martins are back in force - so soon they will be up here making their nests in the banks of the River Ure.   Then it will be but a short while before their cousins the swallows follow suit and arrive to drive us out of our garage for the summer.

How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour?
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower   (Isaac Watts)

Monday, 9 March 2015

The world of dog-breeding.

I think the world of dog breeding may well be a bit 'cut-throat'; like any other competitive area it is bound to generate jealousies and ill-feeling.

One thing is for sure, however much these pedigree dogs are family pets, they are also valuable assets.  Sixty years ago my first husband and I lived in a bed sitter in a very large house, where the owners lived downstairs and the upstairs was all divided to let.  The man bred Wire Haired Fox Terriers and the woman bred Pekinese and these were family pets without a doubt.   But both of them took it all very seriously.

The dogs were shown and one of the terriers reached Crufts, won its class and eventually became Supreme Champion.   There was great excitement amongst the residents of the house.   But when they came home the man had sold the dog to new owners in the US for a reputed £2000 (quite a lot of money in those days).

Now this week an Irish Setter has died after appearing in this year's Crufts Dog Show and the post mortem showed that it had poisoned meat in its stomach, so there is now speculation as to whether it was poisoned at the Show or not.   I must say that I saw its owner (or I rather think it was co-owner) on the news a little while ago and I thought she conducted herself with great dignity when she said she didn't wish to blame anyone at this stage and hoped that it would all die down and the photographers outside her house would now go away.

It all made me rather pleased that my 'mutt' was never going to be going anywhere near a dog show, where she would certainly come last although she is a pedigree Border Terrier.  What I do know about her for a certainty is that she gives me  her unconditonal love - providing of course I give her bits of her favourite food (ham) now and again - i.e. every time we have some.   And if there was a prize for the most sensitive nose then by golly she would be in with a chance - she can smell ham a mile off.

Sunday, 8 March 2015


The grass is just beginning to think about growing - and never forget that grass is the most important thing of all in our Dales farms, where almost every field is grass for cows and/or sheep.   The few that are not are growing food for cattle in Winter.

We have recently had our grass fields tested and we find that they are in need of lime.   So tomorrow morning the farmer will be ordering lime to be spread before the grass really gets going.   Hopefully I can get a photograph when the lime comes.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Signs of Spring.

Here in the UK I think we all do it - after winter begins to throw out its last desperate gasp (only fourteen more days to the official opening of Spring) - we search desperately for the first signs.   I saw a sign this afternoon when I saw the first daisy on the roadside verge.
But then, coming back into the garden, I saw what I had missed - the tete-a-tete daffodils in the manger up against the wall in the front garden were in full bloom.   So there you are - they are my new header now.

And then I read Tom's blog (Tom Stephenson on my side bar) about a rather one-horse town across the pond and JoAnn's photographs (scene through my eyes on my side bar) and they both reminded me of an amusing incident on one of our visits over there.

We were staying near to the Athabasca River and the farmer decided he wanted to go white-water rafting.   I didn't (I am a coward on such things) but as we were being fitted with life jackets I decided I would go too.

From the moment we set off I was terrified.   The farmer and I were at the very back of the boat - the only person behind us was the chap in charge of the boat.   We got stuck on a large rock and this chap called to the other boat and asked him if he would 'give us a push off the rock'.   That was bad enough, but when this didn't work he indicated that he would get out of the boat to deal with the situation.   Frozen with fear I watched as he jumped out, visualising us going down the river sans operator - sort of up the creek without a paddle so to speak.   My fear disappeared completely when I realised that the depth of the water was such that it didn#t even come over the top of his trainers!  Next morning I bought a little wooden canoe to remind me of the incident - and it does just that every time I look at it.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Penny Lane

Here is one for all you Beatles' fans out there.

Our local auction house Tennants of Leyburn, which is very big and very impressive, has a mini covered in old pennies in the foyer.   It has the words Penny Lane as a number-plate and is to be included in a sale soon.   The expected price is around £7,000 if you are interested.

Friend W and I went to have a look at it this afternoon and then had a wander round the stuff to be included in tomorrow's sale.   So much of it looks to be rubbish but I know from watching various  antiques programmes that this is not so - china, bric a brac, books, furniture, textiles, lovely very old dolls' prams, christening gowns in what looks like tussore silk (remember that?) - the list of stuff is endless.   Fascinating to look round but nothing I actually craved - in fact I rarely do these days = stuff is something I already have too much of.   But a really interesting afternoon out - so thanks for that W - now a rest before getting ready to go out for a meal.

John and Chris's big day - we shall all be thinking of them.   Wouldn't it be great if we could all turn up at the wedding?

The farmer and I are out to dinner tonight and I am now trying to work out what we can have for lunch which is not too filling.  I do want to do justice to garlic mushrooms, plaice stuffed with prawns and a poached pear.  See you later in the day - hopefully.

Thursday, 5 March 2015


I make a six-weekly visit to my Physiotherapist and today was the day.   It used to be the farmer going too but he has now been 'signed off',so I go alone.  It is only a journey of around ten miles and the countryside was looking decidedly prettier as the snow melted away.   There were even daffodils out here and there and plenty of crocus.

I can't say that I enjoy the visit but it keeps me mobile.   She says I suffer what she likes to call 'teacher's back' this being a condition where vertebrae in the lower spine tend to get locked together and form strong tissue which limits movement.   She does this complicated 'twist' which I hate (I find it difficult to breathe while she is doing it) which aims to release some of the fluid which has built up and send it into the lymphatic system.   I certainly feel better for it, so shall continue to go.   All part of the process of getting old I find.

I ordered two books from Amazon just after Christmas and was told that they would be delivered in March.   True to form they arrived this morning - can anyone explain to me why they took so long?  As a matter of interest they are two books (paperbacks) written by Shane Spall (wife of Timothy, the actor) about their adventures on their Dutch barge 'The Voyages of the Princess Matilda' and 'The Princess Matilda comes home'.   Light reading, but just right for sitting by the stove on a cool, windy night waiting for The Sewing Bee to come on television - so that is what I am off to do right now.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Wednesday again.

One of the downsides of doing things on the same day each week, as I have said many times before, is that it makes the weeks fly by so quickly.   Today was exercise day - the day when a group of us over sixties meet our tutor, S, for an hour's exercise to music.  It is fairly strenuous but by the end I can literally feel the blood coursing through my veins and I know it has done me good.

Today was also the day when Tess had her booster annual jabs and the thing which she hates even more - the kennel cough stuff which the vet squirts up her nose.   That meant an early start.

The weather has improved considerably as the day has gone on and by the time I came out of the exercise class the thermometer in the car was showing ten degrees.   A great boost and set to stay that way for a few days at least.

On an entirely different subject - farm machinery wears out.   Even the most diligent farmer who greases and cleans machinery before he puts it away for the rest of the season (the farmer is one of these) must face the fact that sooner or later machinery needs replacing.   This year it is the turn of the fertiliser spreader  and a nearly new one should be delivered any day soon ready for this year's spreading.

There really is no point in letting all the machinery and equipment get run down - otherwise when the time comes to put it to use more time will be spent stationary underneath it with spanner and oilcan than actually doing the job it is cut out for.

When it arrives I will take a photograph of it to show you.  (I'll bet you can't wait and are filled with excitement!!)

**The lovely lady who always brings little cakes to class for us to eat with a cup of tea afterwards, excelled herself today with apricot and amaretti buns - delicious.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Still at it.

An extra early start today as the farmer had to be at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough (forty odd miles away) for 9.30am.  Getting up at 6.30am (the farmer's usual time, but not mine) it was dark, snowing and freezing; although the rooks were already going past the window on their way to the feeding grounds up the Dale (what they will find to eat I don't know under six inches of snow, although the farmer says they will tuck into the sheep feed if they get there first).

I thought the weather bad enough to cancel the farmer's appointment as it was only for a progress report on his balance problems, but he was philosophical about the whole thing and was ready to set off as planned at 7.30am.   I was visualising hold ups, accidents, slippery roads and the like.

Our farm is at around 650feet above sea level.   The weather was coming in from the West and we were going due East.   By the time we had gone five miles East and 250feet lower there was absolutely no sign that there had ever been any snow.   It was a bright sunny morning and a light breeze and we arrived at the hospital in plenty of time.

The farmer's check up was good.   His exercises have improved his balance no end and he now has to go back in three months for stringent balance tests (which he hates).

Coffee and cake in the Costa Coffee Shop (lemon tarts are delicious) and we were ready for the return journey.   Driving back we could see our snow covered hills in the distance and we arrived back just after a blizzard according to the lady in the fish and chip shop where I bought our speedy lunch.

I intended to take a photograph of our crocus-covered village green as we drove through the village.   Well, here are two photographs of the village's Main Street and green - but you will have to imagine to crocus as there is two or three inches of snow covering them.

As I write this three hours later it is snowing again but warm weather is promised for the day after tomorrow lasting into the week--end.  So Spring really is on its way.

Monday, 2 March 2015

The Lion arrives.

Well March certainly came in like a lion here in the Yorkshire Dales yesterday (in like a lion, out like a lamb).   By afternoon there was a gale and it was snowing heavily.   This morning there is an inch of snow lying on the fields, ten hen pheasants and four cock pheasants feeding at the bird feeders, a gale blowing and no sign of a let-up.   As I write it is snowing heavily.   The good news is that it is set to become much warmer by the week-end - can't come soon enough.   Tomorrow the farmer and I have to see his consultant at the James Cook Memorial Hospital at 9.30am - which means leaving here by 7.30am, so we are hoping for a better morning.
Spot the hen pheasant mid right hiding behind a bit of shrub.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

White Rabbits!

Did you say 'White Rabbits' today - you should have done as it is the first of the month.   If you forgot, then turn on the spot three times and say 'Abracadabra, Goobledegook, Fiddlededee' each time you turn.   Yes - rubbish I know, but I have always done it and shall not stop now.

Also Saint David's Day - a fitting start to the week in which John and Chris (Going Gently on my side bar) marry.

Also these days what the weather men like to call the first day of Spring.   Sorry weathermen all, but the first day of Spring for me will always be March 21st and - judging by the temperature outside -  the weather feels as I do.   There is a sharp, cold wind blowing, the sun is shining and the windows are covered in rain drops.   The sky is an angry yellow colour - it is certainly not a day for hanging about.

I succumbed yesterday to buying a spit-roasted chicken from our local Deli so I have now to make an interesting Sunday lunch from it.   I shall make a gentle, soothing onion sauce, slow cook a casserole of ratatouille and mash some potatoes - or maybe put them through the ricer to make them extra special.   

On the subject of potatoes, which (now that we no longer grow our own) can often be so tasteless - if you haven't tried the Elfe variety do give them a go.   I think they originated in Israel, but are now freely grown over here in the UK.   Their flesh is golden and they have a lovely taste - and mash beautifully too so what's not to like.

At the Coffee Morning yesterday I bought, from the second hand book stall, Paul Theroux's 'Dark Star Safari' about his solo journey from Cairo to Cape Town.   Now that I no longer am able to travel great distances abroad I have become a real armchair traveller (alright, I admit it, I always was) and as the day was miserable yesterday I sat in front of the wood burner, the dog at my feet, and read.   I am just about to enter Kenya, the year is 2000, it is pretty scary but not for me in front of the fire.   And, of course, I know he survived or he wouldn't have written the book would he?

I suppose John and Chris are beginning the countdown to Friday - I do hope all four dogs are going to the wedding suitable dressed in their tuxedos (Winnie will be bursting out of hers if she continues to steal ham rolls off poor suspecting folk - see Going Gently .

Have a good Sunday.