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.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Coffee Morning


On a nice, bright, breezy late winter's day, what was nicer than to go out at ten o'clock and meet friends at a Coffee Morning in the Village Hall.   There is always one on the first Saturday in the month for Church funds, but this was an extra one put in for a Primary School in an African village.   A husband and wife in the village give this school a lot of support and go out often to see how they are getting along - and to take extras they have collected.

There were a lot of African artefacts there, books, cakes, marmalade,  guess the square, and of course coffee and biscuits.  We sat chatting for an hour before coming home.   I hope they made a good amount of money for such a worthy cause.   I know just how much these African children value their education as a way out of the poverty trap.

I always think that when education first became compulsory in the UK the children would feel much the same - and what a long way we have come since then.

My two photographs today show our little village church which is directly opposite the other photograph which is of the village Memorial Hall where the coffee morning was held.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Friday

One of the problems with doing things at the same time each week is that it makes the weeks go by so quickly - and they go quickly enough as one gets older without any help from  that.

Coffee day in Penley's Bistro with 'the gang' (only six of us this morning so less noise than usual), was followed by a quick look round the market.  What I love about the market is the way it reflects the seasons.   This is particularly true of the greengrocery stall - Carricks - which is an absolutely glorious array even in the depths of Winter.   Gradually more and more produce emerges as the days lengthen.   Forced rhubarb (a bit of an acquired taste which the farmer doesn't care for) has appeared and I think looks rather tasty.   I have bought some today and intend to serve it for tea this afternoon -warm with custard.

That reminds me instantly of rhubarb and custard lollipops - the lollipops of my childhood.   They were like giant humbugs on sticks - transparent red 'boiled sweet' on one side and creamy yellow 'custard on the other.   Do you remember them?

And sucker and dabs, a bag of yellow lemonade powder and a 'dab' on a stick - a flat toffee for dipping in the powder.   And 'tobacco' a bag of toasted coconut which tasted absolutely delicious.   I could go on - there were so many to choose from - and no thought of what they were doing to our teeth.   But back to the greengrocery stall.

The new season's broccoli, tiny stems fastened together with elastic bands, steamed in under five minutes and eaten at lunch time today with fried potatoes and a hot pork and apple pie.   Rather than go on at length I have just thought - next Friday I will endeavour to take a photograph of the stall, weather permitting.

Sufficient to say that the said broccoli was absolutely delicious and I am pretty sure the rhubarb will be too.   Now I am just eagerly awaiting the arrival of the first asparagus - then it will be out with the thin bread and plenty of butter.

What about you, dear readers - do you have favourite Spring foods after the rather boring casseroles and soups of Winter?   If so, please do share them with us.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Mutton versus Lamb.

There are thousands of sheep around here.   In the Dales it is almost all grassland and something has to eat the grass.   In the Summer the dairy herds are out, their daily intake carefully controlled by electric fences; but all year round the fields are full of sheep.   Their woolly coats withstand any weather (they even survive being dug out of snowdrifts most of the time) and their main aim in life seems to be eat, eat, eat.  By this time of year the grass is of poor quality and to keep the sheep in good condition they have to have a supplement - in our case 'sheep nuts'.  Nigel, the sheep nuts man, rang last night to say he is delivering two tons of nuts some time today.   As the sheep eat two bags of this, plus two bales of silage every day, this should keep them going for a while.   They now recognise the sound of the tractor coming with their daily rations and run to meet it.  Sadly last week, they got too near and the farmer accidentally ran over and killed one of the sheep.

It has always been a mystery to me where all the sheep-meat goes.   Lamb is very expensive in the shops here.   We rarely eat it, mainly because the farmer finds it rather fatty (and I am hardly a meat-eater).   But when I went into our Deli/Butchery the other day I found that he had started to keep mutton - easily recognisable by its much darker coloured meat.   I spoke to him about it and he said it was becoming very popular.   When I was a child I don't really remember much lamb, I think it was almost all mutton.

Do you eat lamb - or mutton for that matter - and if so, what do you do with it other than serve it up as chops or a roast joint?

**If you are working from an old computer and getting cross because it it slow - I have read in The Times this morning that 7 years is the same as 85 in computer terms, so be forgiving.  (After my exercise class yesterday I felt twenty years younger so maybe you should start taking it on walks round the block!) 

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Lots of exercise

Every Wednesday afternoon I go to an over sixties exercise class.  Sometimes there are twenty there, sometimes only ten - the latter today but by golly after an hour's concentrated exercise to music I come out feeling as though the blood is coursing through my veins faster than it has done all week.  I wish the class was held every day.   Yes, I know there is nothing to stop me doing the exercises at home, but the flesh is weak and we are all agreed that we never do.   Still, once a week is better than not at all and I continue to go and to thoroughly enjoy it.   There is a lovely lady who always bakes small cakes for us at the end (coffee and walnut today) - defeats the object I suppose but it is such a treat.   Today I took her some of my hens eggs as a thank you for the lovely treats.

My hens are laying very well; in fact they have not stopped throughout the Winter and now that the nights are drawing out the farmer has to make a special journey down to the hen house after tea because before tea they are roaming far and wide across the fields.   I do hope I am not tempting fate by saying it, but in twenty years we have never lost a hen to the foxes and yet we know there are always foxes about.    But then, judging from the large numbers of half grown bunnies, who are still a bit green behind the ears and probably easy to catch, perhaps that is the easy option for Mr and Mrs Fox rather than a scraggy old hen (many of the remaining hens are eight years old - I think it is probably three years since we had any new ones.)

Yesterday the weather was absolutely dreadful with blizzards and a bitterly cold wind.   Today it is much warmer and has been a pleasant day.   But tomorrow a wet day is forecast again and I notice that the two cornfields directly opposite our farm are actually standing in water.   The farmer says they have always been very wet fields, but the farm concerned changed hands the year before last and the farmer who bought it has a very large milking herd of cows and needs a lot of corn for feed, so he can't afford to leave these fields as grass (they are too far from the farm to make it viable for him to bring the cows there to pasture every day in Summer).

Do you eat Wensleydale cheese?   It is produced in Hawes, about fifteen miles from here along through Wensleydale and most of the dairy farmers round here sell their milk to the  Wensleydale Cheese Creamery.  The Creamery is a real success story having been subject to a management buy-out some years ago when it was threatened with closure.   Now there is also a restaurant and a shop where you can buy every sort of  cheese they produce - all are available to sample before buying.

Well that is from exercise, through coffee and walnut cakes, to hens, foxes, farms and then to cheese.   I think that is enough to keep us going for today, don't you?

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

A Lazy Life

Dogs have a good life if they are part of a loving family, don't they?
I suppose Border terriers are really working dogs, bred originally in the Border area between England and Scotland for ratting and rabbitting.   But although a few are still working dogs, round here many are kept as household pets and apart from her morning and evening walks round the fields, when she chases (but never catches) the rabbits and pheasants, Tess is here in the house with me.

Her habits during the day never vary - especially in the Winter months.   She moves with the sun (if it is shining).   As we face South she can always find a sun beam on a carpet somewhere that is wide enough to stretch out on and take full advantage of.   If the sun stops shining then it is basket by the Aga (complete with schnoozle blanket) or in front of the woodburner if it is going.

Her favourite place of all is the stairs and she moves from landing to landing as the sun moves round.   Yesterday friend D, just before he went home to Windermere, took a photograph of her and this morning he e mailed it to me.   I have stored it so safely in my computer that I can't access it!!   So I have just taken another of her in exactly the same place - and here it is.  She is to be cut in a fortnight and will become a completely different dog on the outside - on the inside she will remain the same, a dog who loves rabbits, food and home comforts  in that order.

Monday, 23 February 2015

A New Hub

How fortunate that a very computer literate friend should coincide with the arrival of my new computer hub!   Within ten minutes D had the old hub disconnected and the new one up and running.  If I had been on my own when it arrived I would just have got the box opened in that time - it really was the most complicated arrangement and as I needed the box to return the old hub it had to be opened carefully.   So very sincere thanks to D for making it all look so easy.

I think this is Winter's last serious fling.   It is bitterly cold, there is a strong wind blowing and one minute the sun is shining and the next there is a snow blizzard.  It is a good day for staying in and I am doing just that - the wood burner is going merrily, I have a new book to read, there is enough food left for lunch without me preparing anything and my new tumble drier is taking care of the guest room bedclothes.

Looking at the week's weather forecast there does seem to be sun shining to some extent every day.  As our house faces due South this means that it warms up nicely and it also means that the solar panels are working and providing us with some electricity.   But I can do without the snow showers in between thank-you.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

An early posting.

An early posting today before I get ready for my friends coming.  I have just switched on to do my Tesco order for the week, so this is going on at the same time.

The ham turned out first class and is all ready for carving.   I have to make the salad and I forgot tomatoes but am too lazy to go back into town for them so shall do without them.   The almond tart for sweet at lunch time is made and the farmer sampled a bit for tea last night so I know that is alright too.   Now I am really looking forward to seeing my friends - I just hope that the snow on the high ground doesn't deter them from coming; whichever way them come they have to cross the watershed of the Pennines.

When we go to bed we always put Tess in her crate and shut the door.   She sleeps by the Aga so she is always nice and warm.   Last night the farm cats were at the door asking for milk and in his rush to give i n to their demands (he is besotted with Blackie!) he forgot to close the crate door.   Luckily I forgot to take my medication and had to come down stairs.   I met a rather worried Tess at the bottom of the stairs wondering whether to come up and jump on the bed or whether to sneak into the sitting room and curl up on the settee in front of the wood burner.   I think, from the look on her face, she was quite relieved to have all her choices removed.
Now I shall press on with my soup-making (parsnip and apple ) very warming on such a cold day.   Have a good weekend.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Saturday

This post is going on early today as I sit here waiting for the thirty minutes 'simmering time' for my ham before I transfer it to the bottom oven of my Aga.   Friend W had given me a nice recipe for roasting it entirely but I find on reading my Aga book that the oven is probably too hot to do that, so it is recommended I simmer it slowly and then roast it for a little while at the end, which is what I am doing.

Friends are coming tomorrow and staying overnight.  I am trying to get well-prepared so that I can spend time chatting to them rather than doing things in the kitchen.   They are driving over from the Lakes and the weather forecast for tomorrow suggests there may be snow coming in from the West so I am hoping they beat it all the way here.

Mind you, snow is relative isn't it?   I was speaking by telephone to a friend in Boston (Mass) last evening - they have eight feet (yes, I did say eight feet) of snow and another storm is forecast for today when another four feet could accumulate.   They seemed quite matter of fact about it, saying that as long as they kept the path to the front door clear the mail would be delivered.

I think we over here get in too much of a panic about snow.   I remember  waking up in Moscow to a very heavy snowfall and going out to find the roads quite clear.   Eventually our bus came up behind the reason - a giant snow-blower was sucking up the snow and throwing it into the Moscow River.

So far today (9.17am) it is a lovely sunny day with a light breeze.   I suspect a very cold wind but at present I don't intend to open the door to find out (I am still clad in a dressing gown).

Enjoy your Saturday.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Wintry scenes

The weather here is suddenly turning wintry again; after a few weeks of warmer weather colder weather is on its way.  This became quite evident as we went across from East to West today to meet our God-daughter in Sedbergh for lunch.  Luckily we had no hold-ups as we were late setting off after coffee with friends on our usual Friday morning meet and then a quick shop on the market with the farmer.

We arrived at our cafe destination to meet her only to find that a poor man was stretched out on the floor of the cafe attached to a defibrillator and attended by a couple of paramedics. We went to find another venue feeling it best to let the paramedics get on with their business without us sitting there eating our lunch - although there were a few other folk doing just that.   I hope the man (who didn't look all that old) is now on the road to recovery.

Coming home again in dull weather I took a few photographs to show you.   When you see photographs in travel magazines and the like they always show the Dales at its best - but in the Winter it can be quite a dull, forbidding place, and so it was today in many ways.

At Cotter Force the farmer took Tess for a walk (and a paddle) while I just took some photographs.   Both of these becks are tributaries of the River Ure, OUR river, which eventually flows into the Ouse and then into the Humber estuary.

As we came back through Hawes - a little market town which is a long way from anywhere, always busy - even in the depths of Winter - I took a photograph because it struck me that it is a perfect example of so many places up here where the cottages were all built long before the advent of the motor vehicle and hardly anyone has a garage although many of the homes have probably got two or three cars between them.   This means that the quite narrow roads are always lined with parked cars.   I wonder what our ancestors would think to it now.

There is a stretch of road after Hawes where the Ure makes an absolutely perfect meander and I managed to catch a bit of it, although again there is a blur because the farmer was going at his usual fast pace and I was photographing as we went, with the window open.