Wednesday, 1 October 2014

At last!

At last the prevailing wind is blowing from the West and the farmer can have a bonfire.   The huge pile of rubbish (being replenished with various  hedge cuttings as I write this) is burning.   For the last few weeks what wind there has been seems to have always been from the North which would have meant that all the smoke would have arrived at the farmhouse - not good.

Now all the 'rubbish' can be burnt before the week-end, when it is forecast there will be rain.  If it had to be left until after then the whole pile would have to dry out again. 

This Summer has been remarkable - at least July and September have been (a bit of a blip in August).  It has brought to mind the Summers of my childhood, when we used to set off on our bikes after breakfast, a pile of sandwiches and a bottle of orange in our bike bags, and go somewhere for the day - fishing with our nets in some little beck somewhere, swimming in the river, blackberrying, gathering mushrooms - we always found something to do.   There was so little traffic in our village so the roads were relatively safe.  And - above all - the weather seemed always to be kind.

There must have been bad Summers, mustn't there?  Perhaps I choose to forget those.

The field opposite, where only a couple of weeks ago they were cutting the corn, has been 'mucked' and then ploughed and resown both together - all in the space of a day.   The field in front of it, alongside the lane and right opposite our farmhouse, has been sprayed off - you will see that the grass is yellowing and dying.  This afternoon they are spreading a thick layer of slurry (thank goodness for that West wind) - soon, says the farmer, it will be ploughed and sown too.   This field has been grass as long as the farmer has lived here.   The farm has recently been sold, so it is all change.

I just went down the yard to have a look at the state of the bonfire after my lunchtime walk with Tess (and a long chat with E, an old farmer friend,)

 and Blackie, ever the opportunist, met me on the lookout for a saucer of milk.  I actually managed to snap him in the middle of a miaow!

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

A New Lane.

This week the contractors are re-surfacing our lane.   We were given due warning and were told that it would be sometimes difficult to get in or out on to the Main Road, but so far things have run quite smoothly.   This morning, my 'Exercise' morning, friend W was unable to get to the farm (thank goodness for the mobile phone) so at the last minute I had to drive myself and go round the long way - only a slight inconvenience.   The workmen told me that by the time I returned I should be able to get in the 'normal' way .  I had to remove a few bollards - but I managed it and I must say that it is lovely driving over such a smooth surface - plus the smell of tar is wonderful for clearing the nasal passages.

The farmer (who doesn't like to miss anything!) seems to have spent the morning - and so far this afternoon - hovering somewhere near the lane - cleaning up pine cones and pine needles (a never ending job), cutting back the bramble thorns in the hedge and generally trimming back various shrubs.   Now the workmen are nearly to the bottom of the lane, so they will soon be finished and we shall be back to an open lane again.

After an hour's strenuous (for me) exercise this morning I just feel like sitting around this afternoon, so shall spend it catching up on everyone's blog.  Our Tuesday morning class has closed after today as our Local Authority have withdrawn their funding, but luckily there is another class which meets on a Wednesday afternoon - so next week I shall go to that.   This will mean I shall be out Wednesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons for a while (classes on Art and Literature and on Diaries on Thursdays and Fridays from this week).   This should mean body and brain exercised thoroughly!!

Monday, 29 September 2014


(Pronounced outshmiter).

On Friday lunch time our Dutch friends showed me how to make this dish for a quick lunch.   I find it really strange that although our two countries are separated by only a short stretch of water, our diets seem to be completely different.
 The finished dish is really little different from our bacon and egg, but it makes a complete change and is interesting.   Try it sometime:
Lay a slice of bread on to each plate ready to receive the finished dish.   Lay one or two rashers of bacon (or ham,) per person into the bottom of a frying pan, break an egg on to each rasher and then cover it with a thick layer of grated cheese.   Cook over a medium heat shaking the pan regularly to keep the rashers separate.   When cooked (about five minutes) take each one out of the pan carefully, using a fish slice, and lay it on top of the bread.   Eat!  Enjoy!

Sunday, 28 September 2014


Today the farmer has been with his walking group to one of the remotest of the Yorkshire Dales - Grisedale.   A few years ago someone wrote a book on Grisedale called 'The Dale that died.'
So remote and cut off is the dale that it became almost impossible to live there.   In the Winter children were cut off from school, often for several months and even when they could go they often had to walk several miles to get there over wet and boggy ground.

Now all that remains are one or two inhabited farms, a couple of cottages and a lot of ruins.   There is a Quaker burial ground, there is a beautiful packhorse bridge, there are ruined barns and farmhouses (plus one which has been 'done up' and provides a rather nice house - but note there is a four-track outside - essential vehicle in this terrain.)

I am just putting on the photographs he took for you to see.  There is a fascinating one where he peeped into an old ruined barn and saw an old pair of trousers hanging from a beam.   A blue tit had built a nest in the trousers - how resourceful birds are.

Here they are then - what do you think to 'the dale that died'?

Saturday, 27 September 2014

I am back.

After a couple of very enjoyable days with our very dear Dutch friends, they returned home to the Netherlands this morning and here at the farm we are 'back to normal'.   A carrier full of bulbs to plant from our friends means that we have spent the afternoon planting some of them.  The tubs outside the farmhouse door have been planted with dwarf narcissi and the old pigtrough with a mixture of crocus and snowdrops.   The job has taken me most of the afternoon and now this is a bit of delay tactics to prevent me having to iron the bed linen ready to air it and return it to the spare beds in the guest room, ready for our next guests.  I love planting new bulbs - it looks forward to Spring as though we haven#t got to get through Winter first.

Yesterday we drove the fairly short journey to the Tan Hill Pub - the highest pub in England at 1732 feet above sea level.   It was a gloriously sunny day with good clear views, so that we could see across the moors to Teesdale and on to Weardale.   The Tan Hill stands fair and square on The Pennine Way, so it is in no way a posh pub - it caters for walkers.   The floors are stone flags, there is a huge log fire burning in the grate, various dogs lie around enjoying the rest, there is a smell of good, wholesome food cooking, and there is a constant stream of folk coming and going.
After a drink we returned another way, coming through Swaledale and back home.   In the evening we went to a pub near to the farm for a celebratory meal for our friends' Golden Wedding.

I though you might like these photographs of the pub - and the little flock of bantams, great opportunists who dashed from one group of folk to the next, always on the look-out for crumbs.   They are not daft these hens (as John is always trying to point out.)

Hope you like the bottom one, showing the farmer in pensive mood.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

a Gap in Blogging.

There will be no post for a few days from today as we have friends coming to stay.   See you all again at the week-end.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Divisions of labour.

We do not have clear divisions in our household.  I must say that whatever I ask my husband to do he does willingly, so much so that I try not to ask.   But there are some jobs which we know are 'ours'.

I change the bedding, do the washing and ironing and cook all the meals.   He organises the dustbins, gets them to the gate on time, cleans them afterwards (I don't even know whether it is black bin or green bin week).   He cleans out the woodburner, lays it and re-lights it - if he is around he does the stoking but I am capable of putting a couple of logs on in an emergency.  This sort of division of labout has been achieved 'comfortably' and suits us both.

Then there are the 'suspect' ones.  Who cleans the shoes?   My father was always in charge of shoes in our house and would spend an hour each Sunday morning cleaning off old polish and repolishing all the shoes - we always had the best polished shoes in the road.   Who washes up the things which either aren't suitable for the dishwasher or won't fit in when there have been too many of us?  If I have cooked the meal then the farmer takes on this role without even mentioning it.   If there is another man present he usually hands him the drying cloth and suggests that he might help.

This lunch time, after washing the dog's bedding (I came down in the middle of the night and was nearly knocked back by the doggy smell emanating from her bed) it occurred to me that a clean of the washing machine might be a good idea before I washed my best cardigan.   I had to remove the dispenser drawer.   I read the instructions, I stood directly in front of the machine at the right angle, I read the drawing - nothing worked.   I called in the farmer (who happened to be mowing the lawn), who came in, looked at the drawing and removed the dispenser - all in a flash.    I must accept that there are some jobs better suited to him than to me.   It hurts.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

We can see!

For the first time for a week, the sky is clear and there is a slight breeze.   All the heavy mist and early morning fog has gone and the air is breathable.

I am doing the washing a day early because it is a fine day, because the farmer and I are going to a funeral tomorrow and because we have dear friends coming to stay in the middle of the week.   So I snatch at a good, breezy day.

The painters have almost finished painting the outside of our farmhouse - only the downspouts left to do and they will be done tomorrow, weather permitting.   So this morning I suspect the farmer will clear up all his prunings from the front garden.   He has drastically pruned back a lot of bushes as the garden resembled a jungle.   I'm sure it will be better for it come the Spring.

The over-riding sound in the garden is the song of our British robin - clear and strident, he seems to be singing from every bush and tree.   It pleases me because, if you remember, the farmer disturbed a robin sitting on a nest in a watering can in the vegetable garden and she never returned to the nest.   Later in the year I saw a robin venturing deep into a wygelia bush with a mouthful of worms - I do hope it was the same one and that she had nested again.   And now I hope it is her offspring I am hearing.   I have seen plenty of baby robins around - just like their parents but without the red breast until they reach maturity.

The other babies around are the pheasants.   The ones bred for the shooting season have been let out to wander, scratch around and grow fat (they are fed daily at feeding stations) and the Lane is thick with them, half grown and wandering about.   Driving through them is like going through an obstacle course, although I do sometimes wonder whether it is better to be killed on the Lane or to be injured in a wretched shoot and left to die a painful death (you can tell from this that I am not in favour of shoots - and I could never eat a pheasant.)

Speaking of such things, I read in the paper that London restaurants are going to be serving roasted grey squirrel shortly.   No thanks.   As my friend W remarked yesterday - they are just like rats but with a bushy tail.   And would you eat rat?

And speaking of squirrels - many years ago friend M bought me a box bush in a tub cut in the shape of a cockerel.   For years I have trimmed it with scissors and kept it in shape - or so I thought.  Sitting chatting to friend W yesterday I asked her if she though my cockerel was well shaped, she pointed out that it had two 'ears' and that she thought it was meant to be a squirrel - so squirrel it remains.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Estate villages.

Around here in North Yorkshire, we have quite a few small villages which were originally Estate villages - that is where the Lord of the Manor owned the whole village, which was lived in by his workers.
Gradually these villages have been sold off so that now almost all the houses are privately owned.   Often even the 'big house' itself has changed hands.   In fact I don't know of a single Estate village which still exists intact.   I do however, know of quite a few that started off that way maybe a century or two ago.

Such a one is a lovely little village near to us called Constable Burton.   One thing it has is a really thriving Village Hall where the village hall committee put on coffee and cakes, or afternoon teas - all kind of things - and this morning a 'table top sale', to which friend W and I went.   We had a wander round - buying the odd thing and having a go on the tombola.   Then we went on to friend M's for coffee and pastries (very yummy pastries they were too) and a lovely morning's chat.  (funny isn't it, but it only seems to be women who do this - has anybody heard of a group of men sitting chatting all morning over coffee?)

The farmer meanwhile went to a Farm Sale.   Further up the Dale a farm has been sold as the farmer retired and today was the day for selling all the paraphernalia of farming, from hoes, rakes and shovels right up to tractors and muck spreaders.   There was a huge turnout apparently, most of whom had no desire to buy anything but wanted to find out how much things would make.   The farmer bought nothing but he did meet lots of friends and had lots of chats and came home with a lot of information, even if it was not gleaned over coffee and pastries.

Back to out visit to Constable Burton. The Village Green,  is so pretty, particularly at this time of the year when the leaves are turning.   At the bottom of the slope runs our beck (the same one which runs through our fields).   It runs through the Hall grounds before getting to this point.  There is a story that a century ago they used to breed trout in the grounds and a net was stretched across so that the trout could not swim back upstream to our village.   The village lads used to creep down at dead of night and remove the net so that next morning they could catch a big fat trout for breakfast.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Are you one of the 37%?

According to yesterday's Times, 37% of us  are scared of spiders.  It doesn't say the percentage of men to women but I suspect (and hope actually, because I rely on the farmer to protect me!) this particular fear applies more to women than to men.

I put my fear down to a childhood deep in the Fens of Lincolnshire, before the days of waterclosets, when we had a 'lav' at the bottom of the garden, which was emptied every Saturday morning in a kind of ritual by my Father.  (emptied under a large damson tree actually, and we had a fantastic crop of damsons!)  This building was inhabited by a particular kind of spider.   It had a largish, spherical body and eight long, very spindly legs and at this time of year the corners used to be full of them.   I hated them, although they never moved or showed the slightest inclination to be interested in me.  I just used to get out of there a.s.a.p.

There is, apparently, a new app - 'spider in da house' which means you can sit in front of the television of an evening and every time one of the gigantic things which scoot a bout at this time of year scampers across the room, the app allows you to identify it.

No thanks, I prefer to let out a scream, pull my legs up on to the settee  and allow the dog to chase it (she never catches it).   I do, however, have a small pocket of courage.  I do subscribe to my father's old ethic - 'if you want to live and thrive, let all spiders run alive', so I am brave enough to resort to the postcard and glass method in a dire emergency.  Then, eyes averted, dark or light outside, wet or fine, cold - a foot of snow - or warm  I will put the glass on the floor, shove the postcard underneath and then carefully carry it outside.  At least I am giving it a sporting chance.

As for undergoing a course at London Zoo (as did Hilary Rose, the writer of the article in the Times) no thanks.  Mice I can tolerate (just), Daddy Long Legs (as long as they don't come too near and catch me with those spindly legs, even earwigs (although that is cutting it a bit fine) but I will leave spiders to my brave hero of a farmer, who can pick them up gently and carry them outside with no trouble at all.