Thursday, 28 April 2016


When one is not 'in' farming, then I think it is fair to say that most outsiders rarely think of the farming year in terms of what jobs need doing.   Yes, they notice when the lambs appear in the fields, when the oil seed rape comes into bloom, when the hay is cut and baled and when the combine harvesters begin their job.   But other than that I think it is all taken forgranted.  At least, speaking of myself pre-farming (that is before I became a farmer's wife twenty three years ago after a lifetime of teaching in an inner-city school) then I loved the countryside (I grew up deep in it) and I revelled in country walks and holidays, but I didn't give a lot of thought to how the farmer got his work done.

But certainly in this part of the world, I would say that the last eight months have probably been the hardest for local farmers for a very long time.   It was difficult to get the corn sown (there isn't a lot of it around here because The Dales is largely grassland and what corn there is is usually grown for cattle feed) because we had such lashings of rain, day after day that so that many fields were flooded (and towns like Carlisle too).  Cattle in many places had to come in early because of the state of the fields, although silaging time had been very good indeed, so everyone had at least got plenty of silage.

Now is the time for cattle - milking herds in particular (there are still a lot round here)  - to go out again into the pastures.   The grass has been greening up nicely and at long last it has been possible to get on to the drying-up fields to run over them with the chain harrows and then the roller.  One or two farmers in the vicinity have let their herds out this week - and these cows have been going round the fields like mad things, so enjoying their freedom after a winter of being shut in.   Now the weather has turned for the worse; we are getting snow (an inch yesterday, which went almost as quickly as it came) and then towards evening the sky clears and we are getting sharp frosts.   This means that the grass is damaged when the cattle come out after morning milking.

Straw for indoor bedding is running out and I think most farmers are keen to let their cattle out, but the weather has to be right.

Lambing of Swaledale sheep has not quite finished yet but the fields are full of healthy-looking lambs.   Once the first twenty four hours are past and the lambs have a good helping of colostrum in their tummies they are a hardy lot and really thrive better outside than they do shut in the barn.   Most of the Dales sheep up here are
Swaledales - with some mules and a smattering of Blue-faced Leicesters.

The farmer is saying that he can never remember it as cold and inclement as this in all his years of farming, but farmers are a hardy lot and they press on, knowing that sooner or later it will all even out as things will get going 'as normal' again.


Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Typical British Weather.

There really is small wonder that one of the main topics of conversation among British people is that of the weather, because it really does play tricks on one.   Here we are at the end of April and what is it doing up here at six hundred feet asl?   It is snowing - about an inch has fallen; not settling for long of course, just that wet, slushy stuff which becomes so depressing.

It has been our monthly Poetry afternoon; nine of us reading out our favourite poetry and it was as enjoyable as ever.   I started with Browning's 'Home Thought from Abroad' which I always think is such a sad poem from a poet who was virtually exiled in Italy because he and his wife had eloped.   I find it sad too because of the line about the' brushwood sheaf round the elm tree bowl' because of course these days all the elms have gone to Dutch Elm Disease.   Now that Ash Die Back has arrived I wonder how long ash trees will remain such a feature of the British landscape.

I was too busy yesterday to manage to put on a post or to read any of your posts, but I have just caught up on almost all of them.  So more or less back to normal, whatever that is.

Monday, 25 April 2016

The Thief.

The saga of the pheasant's nest by the front door continues - but not for long I'm afraid.   The farmer and I looked on Saturday and there were twenty-four eggs in the nest, and still going up by two each day.

Yesterday morning, on my way upstairs, I stopped to look out of the landing window and as I did so a magpie flew off from just under the window; in other words where the nest was.    I went to the front door and looked round the corner to see that half of the eggs had disappeared.   By yesterday evening there were only six left and this morning the nest is totally empty.   So I am afraid that any attempt to raise a clutch of young, be it by one hen pheasant or two, had been thwarted.

Well that is nature isn't it?  I must say I have always liked magpies so I can't be too distressed.   In any case the number of eggs in the nest meant that sitting on them would have been a disaster, so maybe it is for the best that they have gone to feed Mrs Magpie's babies (hopefully she has had more sense and laid just enough to sit on).

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Gone for ever.......

.......or is it my taste buds?
The Jersey Royal potatoes are 'in' and I bought my first lot on our market on Friday because both the farmer and I love them.   To say that we were disappointed was an understatement.   They tasted of absolutely nothing.   What has happened to the taste?   The farmer says that he thinks he read somewhere that they used to use seaweed as a 'manure' and that they can no longer do this.   Whatever the reason I shall not be buying any more.   If anyone else samples them than I would be interested to hear how their taste buds reacted.

I do think our taste buds fade as we age.   I remember as a child, when we had a big vegetable garden, our first new potatoes were always dug early in the evening, and we all eagerly awaited that first boiling.   My father would bring in a bucket full, pour hot water on to them and stir them round with the copper stick to remove loose skin and dirt.   Mother would gently boil them and then put them into a dish add a knob of butter and garnish with chopped mint.   Food of the gods.

No potatoes taste like that any more.   Or do they?   Is it just me?

The same applies to tomatoes.   First my rule was never to buy tomatoes in winter because they were tasteless, but now the rule can
almost be extended to summer because tasty tomatoes are so hit and miss.   Up here in the North of the country, without a greenhouse, it is more or less impossible to grow one's own and get them ripe before Autumn.   And foreign ones are sometimes sweet, sometimes not.

And don't get me started on eating apples.   When I was a child I knew so many different kinds of eating apples - we had Ellison's
Orange Pippins and Beauty of Kent in the garden and our neighbours had an Egremont Russett, so we always exchanged a few of each.   Not so many years ago I went to a town in Worcestershire where there were boxes of rather scabby local named apples in crates and they were disappearing like wildfire.  We bought some and the taste brought back those childhood days.
But where are they now - among the Braeburn, the Golden Delicious, the tasteless?

So - is it my taste buds, or are things really like this?

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Happy Birthday.

I am not a fervent Royalist - in fact I rarely think about the issue - but I do however admire Her Majesty the Queen for the way she conducts herself in so many areas of her life.

I am just old enough to remember the death of George V, the 'scandal' of Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson, and the coronation of George VI, so I go back a long way in all things royal.

In so many ways the Royal Family are privileged and yet there are also so many areas in which their lives are restricted by protocol.  They are always in the public eye whether they like it or not and every tiny slip-up is reported.

As she walked out into the grounds of Windsor Castle yesterday afternoon I couldn't help thinking that she began to look like an old lady.   Yes, I know she is ninety today, but by golly doesn't she carry her age well and just keep going.

So Happy Birthday Your Majesty.   I hope you have a lovely day.
And I wouldn't mind a slice of that super cake that Nadiya (Bake off) is baking this morning especially for the big day.  Hope it turns out to perfection.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016


Before anyone thinks that something awful has happened and I am in a state, let me hasten to reassure you that I mean the other sort of harrowing.  

Last season our set of harrows finally fell apart and the farmer ordered new ones from our usual supplier.   They have been so long arriving that they only came this afternoon but as I write he is whizzing up and down the fields getting as much harrowing done before the weather breaks as he can.

When he unloaded them from the delivery van I said that they looked rather like knitting which needing unravelling; well my knitting anyway (never my strong point).
Tess and I walked down the lane for our walk after lunch (the farmer had to go to hospital this morning for a CT Scan on his shoulders).   It was a pleasure to see that the blackthorn blossom and the leaves of the hawthorn are just beginning to break out.   Things are always so much later up here.

Another beautiful day - every day is a bonus, even if it is set to become Arctic again by the week-end.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Coffee morning.

As usual it was our mid-week gathering for coffee in our favourite Coffee  House this morning.   There were only three of us but good company, pleasant conversation and a jolly good cup of coffee - what could be better?   The owner of the cafe is a real connoisseur of coffee and keeps a lot of different blends.   Through trial and error I now always have a cafetiere of Etheopian which is a rich but mild coffee.

 We talked about our personal 'treasures' - not necessarily
worth a lot of money but precious to us for some particular reason.   Friend C spoke of a small vase given to her by an old lady when C was ten years old; of no monetary value and of course in the future, when C is gone, totally meaningless to anyone else.  I have similar things which I value for their memories.

For my first wedding in 1952 (!!) a brother of my mother's,
who was a very good embroiderer embroidered us a tablecloth as a wedding present.   I have it still - cream high qualiy cotton with an edging of cut-out ivy leaves worked in a deep coffee colour.   I never use it but would not part with it for the world.

I don't think possessions are all that important and yet there are things which hold memories - and memories are very important.   Are they important to you - and if so, how do you hold on to them?   Do you remember through small (or large) possessions, or do you have another method.  I would be really interested to hear your views.

Monday, 18 April 2016

It's that time of year again.

The beginning of April each year means just one thing to small businesses like ours on the farm.   It means that it is the Financial Year End.   Yes, I know that I should carefully number every receipt as the year goes by and match it up with the same number in the ledger.   But I am afraid I just file them all, which then leads to a lot of boring, direful, and time-consuming work.   That is what I have been doing on and off for the last two days.

I try to get the farmer interested, so that when/if I pop my clogs he is able to take over the book-keeping.   His answer to that is to say that he will just put everything into a shoe box and take it round for the Accountant to sort out.

As to the Vat return (the quarter ends on April 30th) then he says he would take that round too for her to sort out.  My warnings of exorbitant bills for all this financial activity fall on deaf ears.

But today, don't ask me why, I just felt in the mood for adding up and  zoomed through the ledger with ease and got it all to balance.   Then I ruled it off with a flourish and inked in my pencilled figures.   I can't tell you what a good feeling that has given me.  Now on to numbering all the receipts to match the ledger entries - a doddle after all those figures.

I have to report that one swallow has become three swallows today and as the weather is in a getting warmer mood for the beginning of this week, then they should settle in happily.   But I hope they seek out a warm, sheltered spot as Arctic weather, with scattered snow showers, is forecast from Friday onwards.

The farmer is more or less back to his old self today and has finished his 'muck spreading'.   Tomorrow is going to be the day for collecting all the debris which has fallen from the trees during the winter months.  It is already raked into heaps but really does need removing before the summer cattle take over or they will spread it around again.

Well - back to receipt numbering - not the most exciting of jobs but not all that taxing on the brain for an evening task.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Oh dear Mrs Pheasant.

Oh dear Mrs Pheasant/s - I don't think you have got the general idea at all.   The nest outside our front door, which had eight eggs in at the start of the week, now has sixteen eggs in it and still counting.

The farmer says that the likelihood is that two hen pheasants are using the nest and that either both will desert it, one will fight off the other and try to sit on all the eggs (far too many), or they will both sit side by side if they don't fall out.   So we shall have to watch and wait to see what happens.   One thing is for sure though -it is unlikely we shall have a happy brood of babies in the front garden this year.   Such a disappointment.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Salmon Mousse

I asked friend E this morning if I could put on her Salmon Mousse recipe (which makes a tin of salmon go a long way you may remember) she is delighted to let you all have it.   Do give it a try - all the ingredients are things likely to be in the store cupboard and it really is delicious.

Salmon or Tuna Mousse.

1 200g tin of salmon or tuna.
1 small tin evaporated milk.
gelatine to set one pint.
2 tablespoons warm water
1 tea spoon lemon juice.
2 tablespoons mayonnaise.
1 teaspoon creamed horseradish sauce (optional).

Put the gelatine into the warm water and leave it on a very low heat
to completely dissolve.   Flake fish into a bowl (remove any skin and bones) and add mayo, horseradish and lemon juice.  Whisk up
the evap milk until it is stiff and then gradually add the gelatine and water mixture, stirring carefully.   Stir this into the fish mixture and chill (preferably overnight).   Decorate with cucumber and serve.
E adds a little tomato puree to make the mousse a bit pinker. 

This looks lovely on a buffet table and really does taste very good.
From the ridiculous to the sublime.   My son (made out of words on my side bar) put a clip from u-tube of the funeral of JohnPaul Sartre on to a post the other day.   It is only three minutes long and really is amazing.   I can't think of any modern day philospher who would get this sort of send-off.  (I am ashamed to say that I can't actually think of any modern Philosopher).   They don't make them like Sartre any more do they?  Do have a look if you have three minutes to spare.