Monday, 30 November 2015

Dark Days.

In these dark days, which seem to precede every Christmas, it is so very difficult to get motivated.   Today is a perfect example.   It is a very wet, misty day and has never really got light.   In addition it is very cold and 'cheerless'.   At my age I suppose I could be forgiven for sitting by the wood burner all day.   But that is not my way - in fact as far as I am concerned it is the 'thin end of the  wedge'.

So, after getting up in determind mood I have achieved a lot.   First of all I have done two loads of washing, tumble dried it, ironed it and got it up on the airer.   In addition I have baked Christmas cake
 number three out of four and cooked a Cottage pie for lunch, which we ate with our own broad beans from the freezer.

I am in the process of compiling another quiz for our local nature reserve so I have also finished that and am just about to print off one hundred copies.   After lunch I made myself go into town to return my library books (they are due back on Wednesday).   Really the thinking about going was worse than the actual deed - and don't you think that is true of so many tasks?

Now I have been reading your most interesting comments on my last post on rabbit shooting - what would I do without blogging I wonder - it always injects a point of interest into my day however humdrum the day turns out to be.

There is an article in today's Times about how Norwegians approach this dark time of year, how they take the whole concept of winter on board, dress accordingly, completely change their way of behaviour and embrace it fully.   Maybe we should all do the same.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Ethics of food.

There is a bit of a movement here in the UK which suggests that it is 'ethical' to eat road kill.   Now I can see that in The States and Canada, where road kill might be something like an elk then maybe this is possible (does anyone eat elk?) and it would be with a deer here in the UK.   But on our lane roadkill means hedgehogs (sadly), rabbits and pheasants and all three are usually flattened, not just killed.  

This week there was even a grey squirrel - which most people here look upon as vermin.   But on Friday our local weekly paper published a recipe for squirrel.   Apparently good butchers are now able to get them quite easily and the recipe called for a whole, skinned one.   I really do draw the line at eating squirrel (has anyone out there eaten it?) but the recipe suggested that rabbit (or bunny as the recipe said - and that is going too near the sentimental for me ever to eat it)  would make a suitable alternative.

 This brings me fairly neatly to the subject of my blog today - rabbits.   Yes, they are pretty - and seemingly harmless - creatures, but frankly they breed like - well - rabbits.   And at present our fields are full of rabbits, which keep breeding throughout the winter in all but totally icy conditions, so no let up there then.   And so far there is absolutely no sign of the cruel disease myxymatosis, which does wipe out some colonies when it strikes but to which many rabbits are now immune.

The plain fact is that ten rabbits are said to eat as much grass as one cow.   In addition to this they also dig their burrows out into the field, leaving huge piles of earth which smothers the grass.   So every now and again the farmer has to take steps to eradicate some of them.   I don't think he likes it any more than I do, but it is necessary.

So to this end a couple of young men came 'lamping' on Friday evening.   This means they come after dark with strong lamps to dazzle and mesmerise the rabbits and then they shoot them - cleanly and quickly.   I have to report that in an hour they shot forty
and since then there has been no sign of a dead or injured one in the fields so we can assume that all died quickly and humanely.  Interestingly a local butcher takes them and they sell well.

We ate rabbit - stew, pie, when I was a child and we loved it.   Sadly, I just couldn't eat it now.   They intend to come back in about a week, when the weather has settled down after the storm we are getting at the moment, and try to shoot another forty.

I'm sorry if you find this distasteful - but it is a necessary evil.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Unsolicited gifts from Charities.

If, like me, you are fed up with unsolicited gifts from various charities, especially around Christmas, please go to my yesterday's post and read the reply from Anne of The History Anorak - she works for one of these charities - who explains very clearly why such charities find it necessary to do this at Christmas.  It makes most interesting reading.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Eyes versus tum.

Oh dear, there are occasions when my eyes are bigger than my tum, as my mother used to say.   Meeting this morning for our Friday morning coffee and chat, I (and several others) just couldn't resist a cheese scone.   Our usual cafe is closed today for a new floor, so we went to our usual Tuesday cafe, where without a doubt they make the best scones in Yorkshire.

I did already know that a group of us were meeting at our local Auction House Cafe for lunch (and that was only two hours later) but that didn't deter me - although it should have done.

In the cafe, where seven of us met for lunch (an old friend had come up from Oxfordshire for a few days, so it was nice to meet up) I did not feel like eating at all.   But I succumbed to a gruyere, beetroot and orange chutney panini with salad.   It was delicious.   But I now feel that I never wish to eat anything again.   I probably feel like John (Going Gently) when he has had a surfeit of Scotch Eggs.

But at least I have not succumbed to Black Friday and have given all shops a very wide berth.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

The Chaser.

The last of the ladies have come in for now and we have as many as our loose housing will comfortably hold.   There they will stay until maybe a couple of weeks before their due date when they will be taken back to the Home Farm to calve.

All the cattle are inside apart from the final seven heifers who are out in the field with a good old solid Saler Bull.   All the cows and heifers on our neighbour's farm (it is a dairy farm with Holstein breed) are artificially inseminated (AI) but it is quite expensive to do and if, after a couple of tries, the fertilisation has not taken place then they are put out with the bull in the hopes that he will do the necessary.

Sadly, if that doesn't work after a couple of months then the heifer or cow is deemed to be barren and sent to market.   It is a harsh world but dairy farming is a business and the farmer can't afford to be sentimental.  So at present the neighbouring farmer lives in hopes - after all, these calves have been reared and that is an expensive business.   It is always sad if it turns out to be for nothing.

But as of today they are enjoying life out in the open with plenty of good grass still there for the eating and with a gentle giant 'chaser bull' for company.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015


It was our Poetry afternoon today and ten of us met to read our favourite poems.   As always, there was a huge variety - something for everyone - and it was really a splendid afternoon.   I personally find it one of my favourite afternoons of the month.   We meet at 2pm and usually end with a cup of tea at around 4pm.   If there is no Poetry group in your area I really can recommend your starting one for like-minded folk.

Christmas preparations go ahead smoothly (so far) with all presents bought (yes, I am lazy and buy all my grandchildren vouchers).  About a third of my cards are written and stamped (I buy a book of stamps each week when I go into the post office).  Many of my cards go to friends who I haven't seen for years, so letters go in them and they take some time, but the bonus comes when I receive a letter from them.

I make four cakes and two are now finished - both of them using glace fruits only.   I shall make a third one tomorrow morning - a more conventional one - then it will just be one more to go.

I really quite enjoy this run up to Christmas because puddings and cakes make the house smell so nice and spicy.   But what I would do without Delia's Christmas Recipe Book I really don't know.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015


There seems to me to be a phenomenon whereby even if the temperature rises on the thermometer it still feels colder.   After several days when there was a frost, today the temperature was eight degrees when I awoke and it has stayed around that mark; and yet, because it is damp and rather miserable, it feels so much colder.   This tends to suggest that how cold one feels is all in the mind.

It is the dampness which makes the cold feel as though it has got through to the bones.   I really think I could do with borrowing Cro's hat (if you haven't seen it do go to Magnon's Meanderings - I think he looks rather handsome in it).

Today, to my absolute joy, the long-tailed tits have arrived on the fat balls.   They come every Winter and if other years are anything to go by then once they have found them they do tend to visit every day.  Blackbirds are also arriving in large numbers so I have begun scattering crumbs for them.   They also love suet.   One of the pleasures of Winter is the bird life round here.

Keep warm wherever you are.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Winter Landscapes.

Yesterday afternoon, with a bitterly cold wind blowing, we braved the weather to drive the twelve miles or so to Thorpe Perrow Arboretum in order to buy a season ticket for a Christmas Present.
It really was the most beautiful afternoon and I took photographs of the journey back.

I love winter landscapes with bare trees - and yesterday's journey was a joy.   So enjoy looking at the countryside around our area.

The top photograph is of my favourite farm.   It may not look anything special in the photograph,  But you should see the view!

They've arrived.

The first lot of 'pregnant ladies' arrived into the loose housing this afternoon and have settled in well.   They walked over the fields and came into the bottom of the yard, making their stately way up into their shed for winter (well until their due date).  More will come in the days to follow.   I love it when they are here and I can take things like brussels sprout trimmings and potato peelings down for them.  Anything a little big different is relished - just like pregnant humans I suppose.

What made us laugh is that the hens all came up to have a look what was going on and stood about in the silage shed.   It was freezing cold but they didn't want to miss anything.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

A mere trifle.

Several people have once again requested the recipe for a proper English Trifle.    It is a good standby - I made one yesterday for my grandchildren coming.   So here is the recipe again in the run-up to Christmas.   And please - in the interests of continuing to keep such things pure to their origins - do NOT add jelly.

In the bottom of a really pretty glass dish layer either sponge cake, trifle fingers or (at a push) sandwich or even Madeira cake.   Here in the UK you can actually buy Trifle Sponges .   Cover them
 liberally with enough sherry to really soak in. and leave for a couple of hours.    Next add a layer of fruit.   I usually use raspberries (we grow them in the garden and there are plenty in the freezer) - black cherries are a good alternative but if using tinned cherries then drain well or you will dilute the sherry (and you wouldn't want to do that would you?)   Next comes a layer of 'ordinary' custard - either make it with eggs and full cream milk, or be lazy and make it with custard powder (but always full cream milk).   When it has cooled you can put in a layer of amaretti biscuits.   Finally cover with whipped double cream - don't whip too much - you need it thick enough to hold its shape but don't overdo it.   Then it needs a chill in the fridge until about an hour before serving, when bring it out so that it reaches room temperature.   Enjoy.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

While the cat's away...

Yes, two mice, Friend W and I, treated ourselves out to lunch today as the farmer was out with his shooting syndicate.   The weather is very cold, but sunny and clear with a sharp wind blowing.

We went into our little market town, had a look round one or two Christmas displays, decided there was absolutely nothing we needed in the way of decorations (which we bring out for just a few days each year and then put away again).

I left home, leaving behind me a strange beeping noise, which I just couldn't locate.   I returned after a jolly good lunch of scampi, chips and peas - something I would never cook at home as the farmer will not eat any kind of sea food - and the beeping was still going strong.  Of course, the farmer located it in all of a minute when he came in from shooting - it was an indication from the smoke alarm that the battery was running out.

Trifle made ready for my grandchildren visiting tonight, almost time for Strictly Come Dancing from Blackpool's Tower Ballroom - a venue I knew well in my teenage years - and just about room in my stomach for a small helping of trifle after that scampi.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Our local 'fancy goods' shop has dressed its windows for Christmas.  Yesterday afternoon friend W and I went in to have a look at the special things they have in for Christmas (and to have a coffee in their lovely cafe upstairs - and to resist the cake).

It is a bit early to put on such a display but when I complimented the lady on her window displays she said they had specially done them early before a lot of the attractive stuff had been sold.   It is easy to get things out of the window so there is no problem. 

It has certainly made our little town look festive.   Inside the shop one of the attractive features is that they have a lot of glassware and crystal and these displays have been fitted with small lights which reflect around the shop.

We certainly came home full of the Christmas spirit.   Then I unwrapped the puds I had made and steamed overnight.   They seem to have shrunk a bit and I am not altogether happy with them, so I am now off into town to buy another small bottle of rum and a small white loaf for more breadcrumbs and then I shall make one more large pudding for our Boxing Day gathering.   The farmer and I might cheat by eating one of these smaller puddings before the big day.  There is always advantage to be gained from adversity if you know where to look.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015


, Today sees the delivery of the straw for winter housing for the in- calf heifers and cows belonging to our friend and neighbouring farmer A.   At present the beast are still out in the fields but this week has seen a lot of rain and the fields are now wet and muddy, so although it is better for cattle to stay out for as long as possible,  it really is time they came in.   Hence the urgent delivery of straw for bedding.

The straw is coming from Bedale, which is about twelve miles away, and the first load set off in sunny weather.   But as the tractor and trailer turned into our farm the heavens opened and there was what can only be described as a 'cloud burst'.   I had my camera all ready to walk down the yard and take a photograph for you - but no way could I go out in that downpour, so I put on an anorak, nipped quickly to the edge of the patio and took one of the back view of the trailer.   I think you can get the general idea of the weather from the photograph.

Within about ten minutes it had stopped but not before the water had run off the tops and down the side of the field opposite flooding it yet again.   I took a photograph from the landing window of that.   The trouble with living at the foot of hills is that every rain storm produces more and more water.   Luckily it drains off quite quickly.   This afternoon the farmer intended to bed the housing down with straw ready for the ladies to arrive.   Instead he will spend much of the afternoon trying to brush the water out of the housing.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Come on everyone.

Come on everyone, think 'cheerful' - think Christmas.   This afternoon I have made my Christmas puddings for this year - one for us, one for my son and his wife, one for friend G and one for my daughter in law's Mum.   Here is a photograph (not a very good one - sorry).

Please, let's all hope for happier times ahead - let's all have a virtual lucky stir of the pudding mixture before I steam it up in the morning.   Wish you could smell the Highland Park from here.

Monday, 16 November 2015


David of Rambling by Nature (there doesn't seem to be a way of leaving a comment on his blog, it just suggests entry by Twitter) lives somewhere between the North York Moors and the Yorkshire Wolds - both very beautiful areas here in Yorkshire.   He speaks of wonderful wildlife there but says he still hasn't seen any Fieldfares yet.

When the farmer came in at lunchtime he said our fields here on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales were full of fieldfares this morning.   They were not after the hawthorn berries - indeed there are none left to forage for, they have eaten them all, or dropped them on the grass, where they do not seem to go down and pick them up.   No, these fieldfares were all in the grass and seemed to be searching for grubs of some sort.

Fieldfares are in the Thrush family of birds and visit us here on the farm every Winter, where they seem such wild birds.   And yet we have sat on a bench in a park in Norway and thrown crumbs from our sandwiches to a fieldfare pecking around our feet.   How differently they seemed to behave there.

We get such pleasure from the birds which visit our bird table and I am afraid we spend an awful lot of money on bird food.  But we justify it by saying that we don't go out all that often so we pay to watch the birds instead.  What do we feed them? 

All of the tit family love the fat balls, the sunflower hearts and the coconut (we buy one and the farmer saws it in half and hangs it in the rowan tree).   The robin adores the meal worms.  The woodpeckers love peanuts, mixed seed and the coconut.  The greenfinches love niger seed.  The blackbird loves a hunk of old cheese on the table itself.  All the other birds eat a variety of things and many of them - chaffinches in particular - prefer to be ground eaters, as do the collared doves.  We get a large number of pheasants and the farmer scatters corn for them to eat.

Harsh weather - maybe even snow showers - is forecast for the weekend.   Who knows what we shall get in then.    It is always exciting to watch and wait.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

So far, so good.

Up to now (10.33) we have been fairly lucky with the expected weather.    There has been a lot of rain over night and the field opposite is flooded, but now, although it looks very stormy and the wind is blowing a gale, the sun keeps pushing through the big black clouds.   So we are hoping the worst is over.   About five or six years ago our village flooded very badly and several of my friends had their houses badly under water - we just hope that this doesn't happen again.

I think we are all stunned by the happenings in Paris on Friday evening; to think that while the farmer and I were watching the beautiful photographs such carnage was taking place relatively near at hand.   And of course, the venues chosen were where young    people gather in the main, just as the perpetrators were themselves young men.  There is a circle of death and destruction which just goes on and on and gets bigger and bigger.   Bombs rain down on beautiful cities like Aleppo, which is now no more than a shell; its people flee and  create a huge tide of refugees fleeing to countries of which they really know so little and to a climate which is so different from their own.   Those tiny terrified faces of the children haunt me sometimes in the night.  One feels helpless.   One side creates mayhem so the other side creates bigger mayhem.   Where will it all end?


Saturday, 14 November 2015

A Pleasant evening.

The farmer and I went out last evening, a few miles down the road to an event for our local Nature Reserve.   It was called 'Light and Inspiration' and was an audio visual presentation of photographs from Iceland, UK, Scottish Isles, Italy, Canada and the Serengeti in Africa.   The photographs were stunning and the audience of almost 120 were receptive.   The presentation was followed by a curry supper.   We met charming people and had a thoroughly enjoyable evening.***

What a shame when upon returning home we began to hear the dreadful news from Paris - news which got worse overnight.   I suspect, because of the venues, that most of the people involved were young people just starting out on their lives; I also expect that they were from various religions, including muslims.

The violence and slaughter in the world gets worse by the day and for us, innocent folk who stand by, there is nothing we can do about it, which certainly makes me feel helpless. 

***To view some of the photographs we saw in the presentation go to it is well worth a look.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Contrary weather.

The weather is really contrary today.   One minute it is blowing a gale and pouring with rain; a couple of minutes later and the sun is shining and the wind has dropped to little more than a breeze.   So far we have had well under an inch of rain, which is bearable.   But the forecast for tomorrow is for more of the same, so the farmer has decided not to walk with his winter walking group.   It will be wet and slippery underfoot apart from anything it might be throwing down from the sky.

  Last night I watch Ben Fogle on Channel 5 with a couple and their children, who had opted out and were living in Devon on a smallholding.   I found it fascinating but the farmer fell asleep after the first ten minutes.   I have given him stern warnings about what will happen if he does that when we next go out.
These warnings included creeping out, driving home in the car and leaving him stranded (he knows I won't do this as I hate driving in the dark and am really very dangerous trying to do so).

I can't help wondering what the weather is doing further North and West - conditions were expected to be very bad.   Certainly I have heard reports that our rivers are well up on yesterday here in the Dales.   Luckily we have only a short distance to travel into our little market town and no river near, so at least we can go that far.   Any futher and, if the rivers rise further, we shall be curtailed.

Thursday, 12 November 2015


Having just listened to the week-end weather forecast I feel like drawing the curtains, lighting the wood-burning stove, cooking a large pan of soup and hunkering down.

I am not sure that 'naming' this year's storms is a good idea.   Somehow just saying that a stormy week-end is in store for us doesn't sound as bad as saying that 'Abigail' is on her way over the Atlantic and is set to wreak havoc across the North West - the further North the worse it is set to get - with up to six inches of rain forecast for some areas.

We live on the Eastern side of the Pennines, so in theory should miss the very worst of it, but we shall have to wait and see.   The farmer is abandoning his plans to walk on Saturday (I had planned to go out to lunch with friend W - and he insists he wants me to do this and he is happy to 'cope' on his own, so I shall take him up on that.)

You will see that I have put our local river, the Ure, on as my header as well as on the post below.   If the forecast is as bad as it says it is going to be then the Ure will flood much more than this and York will end up with major flooding.   I suppose it is the price we pay for living in such beautiful countryside with its hills, its dales, its becks and its rivers - you can't have one without the other.

The farmer is hurriedly cleaning out the loose housing, shovelling up the manure from last year with his large shovel on the front of his tractor.   He has borrowed a massive tipping trailer from our friend and neighbouring farmer G and this afternoon has taken six trailer loads out into the field to make a long heap, where it will be left for the rest of the winter to rot down and mature.

By the beginning of next week the dry straw 'bed' will be down ready for in calf cows and heifers to arrive.   If the fields are really wet  then farmer A will want them off the grass and into warm and dry conditions to avoid foot problems.

If you live in the West of the UK then keep warm and dry and look forward to next week when it is set to improve a little.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015


It is still windy here this morning.   As I am sure you remember from previous years, we have a huge rookery about half a mile further down the Lane and this time of the year, when the dawn coincides with my sitting up in bed drinking my morning cup of tea, I see thousands of them pass the window.   Sometimes, depending upon the direction of the wind, they pass over the house rather than past the front windows, but this morning, with a strong West wind blowing, they were almost hitting the window in their frenzy to get to their feeding grounds (ploughed fields, grass fields,
anywhere where there are easy pickings).   They pass in a huge  wave which takes about a quarter of an hour to pass, and this morning the wind was so strong that it kept blowing them back - they were flying directly into it, so that they were swirl past, then swirl round and have another go.   And it did strike me forcibly that their wings must have incredible strength.   Correct me if I am wrong (and I am sure somebody will) but surely the larger the bird the greater the wind resistance.  They were really struggling.   No wonder they are such strong birds.

On a totally different subject - but still about the countryside - friend W has lent me a book - 'The Shepherd's Life - A Tale of the Lake District' by James Rebanks.   It is unputdownable and should be compulsory reading for all school teachers who belittle children who wish to go into following their fathers into a farming life rather than going out into the wide world and 'making something of themselves'.  Also, for the information it gives about farming sheep in this upland country.   We live in the Yorkshire Dales but on the high ground life is much the same as the Lake District - the only difference being that the predominant sheep is the Swaledale and not the Herdwick.   Do read it if you get a chance.

And on the subject of yesterday's blog about the weather - the river Ure did come up and cut off several people who had to be rescued from their cars (in Aysgarth and in Appersett) and apparently by this morning the Ouse in York, where all our water eventually goes, is eleven feet above normal.  At present the wind has abated a little and it is not raining. 

We have just crossed the River Ure at Ulshaw bridge on our way to the Feed Merchant at Masham and the farmer stopped so that I could take a couple of photographs of the Ure in flood for you to see.

Monday, 9 November 2015

The West Wind and the Rain.

There is one combination here in the Yorkshire Dales which is lethal as far as the weather is concerned.   That combination is heavy rain and a strong wind (Abigail) blowing from the West.   Here it has been a blustery day with periods of sun and periods of rain, but higher up the dale, on the tops, it has been continuous rain (over two inches today) and that has led, as it always does, to serious flooding of the River Ure.    The Ure, usually a gentle, peaceful river, is fed by dozens of streams, becks, gills (call them what you will) which cascade over the fells to join the main river.   By tonight it is well over in those places which local know will cause problems and many road are impassable.   Hawes, which is fifteen miles West of our farm, has serious flooding all round it and will have to sit it out until the water goes down (few, if any, of the cottages and farms are affected - the Ure has always done this since time immemorial, so all building has been built to take this into consideration.)

Friend W and I went to Teeside Park shopping centre this afternoon to buy our turkey crowns from Marks and Spencer - they are frozen and we took our cool bags and transferred the turkeys to our freezers on our return.  (we do this every year and I can thoroughly recommend them).   By the time we reached the A1, about six miles to the East of our village, the wind had dropped and the rain had stopped.   On our return we collected both wind and rain in the same place.  It had rained and blown here all afternoon.   That, in a hilly area, at this height is the nature of the weather, Abigail or no Abigail.

Sunday, 8 November 2015


To say that it has been wet here is a bit of an understatement.   Yesterday we had an inch of rain and although it was lovely and sunny first thing this morning we have already had one heavy downpour and it looks a bit stormy again.   'Abigail' is due to hit us later tonight, although it is going to be worse further North.

The farmer took my camera with him on his morning walk with Tess and took these photographs of fungi growing under the trees.  Just the time of year for them:

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Stormy weather.

The good news is that at last the awful fog has gone.   The bad news is that it has been pouring with rain and a gale is blowing up as I write.   It is forecast to get more and more blowy over the next twenty four hours and our weather forecasters in their wisdom have decided to adopt the American habit of calling our winter storms by names - starting with A - so this is Abigail on its way.

The first Saturday in the month means only one thing here in this Yorkshire Dales village - the monthly Church Coffee Morning.   Considering how heavily it was raining and what a positively awful morning it was the fact that there were forty villagers there was good.. 

People work so hard for it.   I was able to buy two beef lasagnes for £2.50 each, baked by A, who makes delicious lasagne (either turkey or beef) and two pies, baked by another A - one beef and onion and one chicken.   Again the price was £2.50 each - so four lunches for £10 can't be bad.  We had the beef pie for lunch and it was delicious with new potatoes and broad beans from our freezer (grown earlier in the year in our garden).

The other good thing about the morning is that villagers come along who I would never see were it not for this meeting.   I spoke to E, to another E and to L - all nice long chats about this and that.
I sat, as usual, with friend W - and we can chat until the cows come home!

.Then along came A (she of the lasagne) and we chatted about her grand=daughter, who has a tea shop in our little town.   What an enterprising young lady.   On bonfire night she had the foresight to open up her cafe and serve jacket potatoes with various fillings and hot chocolate to folk watching the bonfire.   She did a roaring trade - and so she deserved to with such enterprise!

Home again in time to cook lunch.   By this time the pouring rain had stopped and a glishy sun had come out.   Now at almost four in the afternoon it is beginning to get dark.   All those bonfires scheduled to be lit tonight (round here at any rate) will be soaking wet and will take a bit of getting going I would think.

As for the farmer and I - we will light the wood burner in a minute, eat tea on our knees in front of it and then watch Strictly Come Dancing - pure indulgence, but why not.   Isn't that what life is all about?

Friday, 6 November 2015

Thoughts from the local Auction Mart.

Sitting in the car waiting for the farmer at lunch time after my morning creating mayhem in our local coffee bar where we all meet for coffee and do make rather a noise (I thought we were quieter than usual this morning); I do a bit of shopping and then walk back to the Mart and sit and wait for the farmer.  Two things struck me forcibly as I sat there.

The first of these is that farmers are not known for their sartorial elegance.   All shirts are check and mostly bought from the same agricultural merchants, so that the wearers almost look institutionalised.   Everyone wears a cap - and the caps are in various states of dilapidation.  (my farmer has four caps - one for best and then deteriorating downwards until rock bottom is reached with number four).

And secondly - that you can tell a farmer by his walk.   Without exception they drive into the Mart Car Park, usually in four tracks or pick-ups, which are almost always covered in mud from their stock yards (or worse), they step out and walk towards the Auction Ring - no - correction - roll towards the Auction Ring, because all the farmers I saw this morning walked with a rolling gait, caused I suspect by living more or less all year round in wellington boots.

I haven't painted a very attractive picture have I?   Who would possibly be keen to marry a farmer after that description?   Well I would for one - and I have never for one moment regretted it!

Thursday, 5 November 2015

All gone.

Earlier this week the very last of the beef cattle we have for the Summer went home.

Our farm, now that the farmer is semi-retired, is basically divided into three parts.   One part, Summer grass, is rented out to our neighbouring dairy farmer from April to October; another part, pasture, is rented out to our neighbouring beef cattle farmer and the third part we keep for silage, both to sell (first crop) and to keep for winter (second crop) when we house dairy cattle in calf for our neighbour. (and feed them)

Now apart from some sheep which we over-winter, all our fields are empty of stock.   The farmer is pleased about this because the land is very wet at the moment after days of thick, damp fog.   Some of the grass is very long and you could be forgiven for thinking it is a shame that the beast have not been able to eat if off before they go inside for the winter.   But the fact is that at this time of the year, although the grass grows well, there is very little nutriment in the grass and cattle left in the fields eating just grass begin to lose condition.

So there we are.  Empty fields.   Now next week the farmer can hire a very large 'muck spreader' for the day and empty the well rotted manure from our loose housing and make a heap in one of the vacated fields.  Then he will fill the loose housing with deep straw, clean out the water trough and get the whole place all ready for the day when our neighbour announces that he has some pregnant dairy cows ready to come in.

And so the cycle of the farming year goes on.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

You have to laugh.

Getting old is no joke.   Of course we all begin to age the day we are born, but arriving at  'real' old age sort of creeps up on one.  I don't think anyone really anticipates it until it happens - and it doesn't seem to happen overnight.

When it arrives you have to welcome it (let's face it the alternative is worse)with a smile.   In fact today I welcomed it with a belly laugh once the whole episode was over.  I thought I would share the episode with you.

I went into town (yes, you are quite right, it was for another coffee and cheese scone meeting) a quarter of an hour late and found that most of the Parking spaces in the market square were taken.  There seemed to be one left and the cars parked either side had parked right up to the lines, so that the space was quite narrow.

I managed to squeeze in and opened the door to get out.  I couldn't open the door quite far enough because of the next door car door.   I got my feet out and on to the cobbles, twisted my body round on the driver's seat and levered myself up.   But I couldn't get one leg in front of the other and found it impossible to get out.

 Then I decided to get back in, sit down, pull my legs in and back out to find another space.   I sat down but I couldn't get my legs back in.   I pushed and heaved and leaned heavily on the dashboard - leaned on something which started up Radio 1 at the top volume - it shook the roof of the car!!!   I didn't know how to switch the darn thing off because I hadn't known how I had switched it on in the first place.   I couldn't close the car door because I couldn't get my legs in, so Radio 1 reverberated throughout the Market Square (at Volume 24).

I pressed all manner of buttons, switches and twiddly things until finally, after several minutes, I hit the one that turned the Volume back to 0, so at least there was silence.

By golly, I soon managed to get my legs back in after that I'll tell you.   And when I got home the farmer didn't know how to turn the darned thing off either (we had a new car in February) and had to twiddle for a while before he hit the right button.

I am sure you'll agree - you have to laugh don't you?


Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Hiding one's head in the sand.

I have really got so tired of seeing the News these days and reading the National Newspapers, that I feel like no longer reading or listening to any of the news.   All my life I have tried to take an interest in current affairs; if somewhere in the world is mentioned and I don't know where it is, I have a World Atlas by the side of my chair so that I can look it up instantly.   But suddenly I find every piece of news so appalling and I feel so helpless to do anything about it that I really no longer want to hear it.   Is this cowardly?   Should I listen although I can do nothing to help?   Should I put myself through the pain and sleepless nights after seeing refugees fleeing from war-torn countries, small children with real terror in their faces being carried in rickety boats across the Mediterranean Sea to land on islands where they are seen almost as a nuisance by everyone, where no-one really wants them in spite of their own countries being destroyed, their lives in ruins, their fear of death - or worse -?

And should I then read of the millions of pounds about which we know nothing - the football scandal, the huge sums of money paid to people like footballers (is anyone really worth £250,000 a week?), the bonuses paid in big business, the VW scandal?   Does any of it make sense to you?   Is it best ignored or should we listen and learn what we can - and still be helpless to do anything about it? Or should we put it out of our minds and go about minding our own business and no-one else's?  That's the dilemma.  

Monday, 2 November 2015


One of the features of our weather round here is that we do tend to get rather a lot of fog.   And when that fog comes it can be very localised.   Today it is very foggy on the farm - that cold, clinging kind of fog - and yet two or three miles away the sun is shining.   Our friend and neighbour G has been into Middleham, the race horse town, which is about five miles away, and it is a bright sunny day there.   But as it is now after two in the afternoon I don't think it will ever get really light here and the sun will not shine for us.

I don't think anything fetches the leaves off the trees like fog does.  It seems to cling to them, making them heavy.   The ground everywhere is covered with yellow, green. orange and brown leaves (particularly where there are sycamores) and they really are putting a show on this year.

I was intending to drive up to the Supermarket this afternoon so that in addition to my weekly order I could also look at and buy the dried fruit for my four Christmas cakes.   But the weather is too awful, so my order has just gone on line and the dried fruit can wait.

I am not quite back to normal after my visitor as I spent too much time on my feet and my wretched ankle is very painful and I am having to sit with my foot up as much as possible - a perfect excuse to read one of my birthday presents (from friend G), Bill Bryson's latest book "The Road to Little Dribbling."

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Post birthday.

I am getting back to normal today.   My niece has gone back home to near Derby, driving part of the way through thick fog and part through sunshine and then getting home to a dull, damp day.   She has just rung me to say she is back home.

Yesterday I had a really lovely birthday with lots of cards, e cards and e mails - three deliveries of beautiful flowers - sixteen cards through the post and quite a few visitors too.

Today I am busy organising meals for the farmer and me from left overs, changing and washing the bedding on one of the spare beds and putting on a quick blog.   So here it is.

I thought you might like to see photographs of two of my presents which are so artistic and so beautiful.   Unfortunately the stained glass panel has not photographed well but the vase has come out first class.

So now I shall go and sit wearing the jumper the farmer bought me  and reading the latest Bill Bryson book, bought me by  friend G.

See you tomorrow.