Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Back to normal.

Here we are then - back to normal; all the washing, ironing and putting-away done, cases back in the boxroom, fridge full of eatables again and our Poetry gathering this afternoon.  I am putting my post on early as I rather want to watch the ceremony of the Queen and the State Opening of Parliament - really the parade, not the speech, so hope they show some of that.
Animals have started to arrive for our Summer eatage.   Yesterday friend and farmer G, brought eleven of his rather hefty young heifers to spend the Summer eating off the grass in one of our large pastures.   They are all either Belgian Blue X or Limousin (some cross and some pedigree).   These girls, who with the exception of one, are only a year old, are destined to join his suckler herd next year.  The one exception was here last year also and mysteriously got pregnant at a very young age (they later realised that one of their young bulls had been kept in the same pen for a few weeks, and had obviously been testing out his 'pulling the girls' skills).  She was really too young to calve and lost the calf anyway, but is being given a second chance!   At the moment they are rather wild and waiting for the farmer and Tess each morning, to follow them up the field.   Tess is very wary and it has definitely interfered with her rabbit-skills (which are pretty rubbish anyway).

In another field our friend and neighbour A has put his very young pedigree Holstein heifers,   They are so pretty and so elegant compared with the Limousins (bred eventually for meat rather than milk like the Holsteins).

The blossom is very far behind the blossom in Suffolk last week.   Our hawthorn is only just coming into flower and our plantain is absolutely full of bluebells. Today's shots were taken very early this morning by the farmer, so thanks to him.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Magna Carta

There were several reasons for us spending a couple of days in Lincoln on our way down to Aldeburgh.   First of all it is my home city and I do love to go back.   We always stay at The White Hart Hotel, which is within sight and sound of Lincoln Cathedral.   As I went to the High School, which in those far-off days was situated very close to the cathedral, it is all familiar territory.

Secondly, it is three hundred miles from here to Aldeburgh and I - rightly as it happened - judged it was too far for the farmer to drive in one day.

Thirdly it enables me to see some old friends - I still have a few down there and meeting up with them this year was lovely

Fourthly - and such an exciting reason - the Magna Carta is on show in Lincoln Castle and we were able to see it.   Signed of course by King John at Runnymede in 1215, Lincoln Cathedral has one of only four remaining copies.   It was in amazing condition - the "ink" was sheep's gall, pale brown but still, after all this time, eminently readable (if you could read Latin of course.)   The writing, done with a quill pen, was incredibly neat - a little work of art really.   And part of the seal made of beeswax and resin still survives on Lincoln's copy.

 I love wandering round Lincoln Castle.   It was a lovely day, so we wandered together and then I sat in the sun while the farmer walked the ramparts.   He doesn't like heights but, camera at the ready, I managed to catch a distant view of him.

One other thing - as a child my bedroom window looked over Greetwell Church, not all that far away, maybe a mile and a half, but separated by the River Witham.   I had always wanted to go and have a look at it and as we passed it on our way to see our friends we called - a beautiful building, parts of it dating back to the eleventh century.   Sadly it was locked (a sign of the times I suspect as it is in a very isolated place) but just standing outside was enough and really added a lot to the day.

Monday, 25 May 2015


For me, and for the farmer too, one of the nicest things about going on holiday is the coming back home.   We were away eleven days and that is just about long enough for us.  (and long enough for the grass on our lawns too!)

But Aldeburgh really is a lovely place to be.   The weather was decidedly warmer than it is back up here and we managed to dodge the showers as most of them took place while we were in having lunch somewhere, or just back at our hotel.

Here are some of the things we found so enjoyable about the area:

The colour of the place.  Most of the cottages are colour-washed in blues and pinks and ochres, the shingle is a sandy colour, the sea is a sandy colour - there is an over-riding gentleness to the colour everywhere, which is very restful.

Visiting the site of Sutton Hoo and the excellent museum was certainly one of the highlights.

I'm sure everyone knows that Aldeburgh was where the composer, Benjamin Britten, lived with his partner Peter Pears for well over twenty years.   Visiting his house and touring his studio and looking at the excellent exhibition with taped commentary through earphones was always going to be one of the highlights and it didn't disappoint.

And last, but by no means least, just gently riding round the beautiful Suffolk countryside - so different from our own here in The Yorkshire Dales,  was a delight.   Narrow country lanes, very little traffic, hedges white over with hawthorn blossom, lane-sides frothed with cow parsley, purple and white lilac in bloom everywhere, horse chestnut trees in flower -some with white 'candles' and some with pink or red, field after field of arable land (we have so little of it up here), lots of it sown with bright golden rape in full blossom, I shall remember it all forever. 

Here are a few more shots:
This is the side view of Britten's house, but the Wisteria was so beautiful I thought you (and probably they when they lived here) would like this view the best.
The Maggi Hambling shell on the beach - a contentious issue I believe in the town, but the farmer and I loved it - most impressive.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Back again.

Thank you to everyone who showed concern at my absence.   The farmer and I have been away on holiday and it did seem a sensible idea not to publicise the fact on my blog page.   But it has really been heartening that folk are so concerned - thank you all so much.

We spent a few days in Lincoln (my home town) and then a week at The White Lion Hotel in Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast.   It is an area which has always interested me - it was for many years the home of the composer Benjamin Britten and his partner Peter Pears.   We went round The Red House, which was his home, and I must say that I found it all very inspiring.

And we met - and went for coffee - to see Sue and her husband Col.
They invited us round one morning - their small-holding being only a very few miles from where we were staying.   We had a lovely chat and also a tour of their set up.   Golly, they both work hard and keep the whole place in such a smart way.   We really enjoyed our time with them - so thank you to you both. (a quiet life in Suffolk on my side bar).

We drove back to Lincoln yesterday and have driven home today - I thought (quite rightly as it happened) that the journey was too far for one day  for the farmer to drive.   It was interesting staying uphill by the Cathedral last night as this weekend there is a convention of Harley Davidson drivers in Lincoln.   There are hundreds of tents on the Lincolnshire Showground field, and many of the hotels are full.   Judging from the signs on the back of the hundreds of bikes we saw, the drivers seem to have come from all over Europe.   Masses of middle-aged, rather portly, grey haired men, standing around in groups and talking bikes.

Our bedroom window in The White Lion Hotel (lovely and I can thoroughly recommend it) looked over the sea and I was fascinated to see this fisherman go out to his crab and lobster pots each morning and then sell his fish from the shack on the shingle.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

The Countryside is full of busyness.

Yes, there is no doubt about it, everything and everybody is busy in the countryside at this time of year.   There is so much to do, so much to look at, so much to think about - no time for boredom at all.

In March the Lesser Celandine put on a magnificent display of miniature suns, all over our front walled garden.   Some might call it a weed - but I like the definition of a weed as a plant that is growing somewhere it is not welcome.   Well, I say welcome every year to the Lesser Celandine.

But, sadly, it does outstay its welcome and has, over the past few weeks, become Persona Non Grata as it has taken over the front garden.   Every available empty space is now covered in tiny green leaves, shallow rooted but growing fast.   So the farmer has been all morning in the front garden with the hoe.  

I was watching him from the landing window and I saw what I have suspected for the last week.   A blue tit has nested in a hole in the garden wall.  There must be babies because mother and father have been so busy all morning, in and out, one after the other with never a pause.   It must be so exhausting and they were very aware of the farmer, only yards away, but soon lost their fear in their frantic effort to keep up the feeding.

Yesterday eleven young Holstein heifers came into the field next to the paddock.  It is one of the fields rented by our friend and neighbour A.   When he brought them yesterday morning a roe deer was feeding mid way down the field.  As he let out the heifers from their cattle carrier she saw them as they leapt and careered about for the sheer joy of being let out for the first time this year.   She took off like a jet plane, straight down the field, clearing the hedge at the bottom in one leap - and away.

Two pairs of yellow hammers are more or less a constant at our bird table - both Mr and Mrs are there  - another case of babies to feed I suspect.

What I want to know is how anyone like me ever gets any work done when there is so much to see from my kitchen window.   I think it is a jolly good job I have a cleaning lady and a dishwasher.

Monday, 11 May 2015


There are nine dead cock pheasants on our lane this morning, all killed by cars (except one which the farmer thinks was probably killed in a fight).   The trouble is that this time of the year cock pheasants are very territorial - one is 'in charge' of our garden and the area under the trees by the side of our house.   He calls constantly for his 'girls' and they come running.  Any intruder is fought off savagely and while these fights are happening both contestants are totally oblivious to anything going on around them.   The fights can go on for hours if neither gives way.

Casualties - either in the fields after fights or on the roads after car deaths - are usually collected up by crows, or by buzzards or even by rooks and jackdaws.   They soon disappear and are a valuable food source for other wildlife - foxes are round at night, and badgers.  There is always something on the lookout for dead food around.   This is probably the reason why so few dead birds are seen in the fields .

Rabbits, of course, are killed on the lane in their dozens.  Several folk go round shooting them at evening and there are the organised shoots.   Anyone who thinks this should be banned needs to remember that from the farmer's point of view  ten rabbits eat as much valuable grass as one cow.  Often folk who shoot or use ferrets to kill rabbits, remove the dead ones and take them up on to the moor, where they are valuable food for the buzzards (we have quite a lot round here) who prefer their food to be dead.

Apparently all this road kill provides some food too.  People who run over deer (it happened recently further down our lane, where our neighbour did £4000 worth of damage to his car when he hit a deer) sometimes take the deer home, have it butchered and put it in the freeze r.   And in some parts of America road kill which is suitable for human consumption has become known as 'highway pizza'.   A new cookery book called 'A Feast before your very tires' has been published, which tells its readers how to skin a duck and de-bone an elk!

Over here in the UK there is becoming a movement for eating fox cub fricassee, badger or hedgehog casserole - can't say I fancy it myself.   You may be interested to see the results of a National Road Death Survey, which was carried out by the Mammal Society in 2000-2001.   I don't know how it can have achieved any kind of accuracy, but it should be a guide and it makes astonishing reading:

Suggested Annual Toll of Road Deaths. 2000-2001

100,000 foxes
100,000 hedgehogs
50,000 badgers
30-50,000 deer
Plus quite a large number of birds of prey - mostly
kestrel, tawny owl and barn owl.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

A Love of the Beauty of the Countryside.

There really do seem to be an awful lot of people who do not care two hoots about the beauty of the countryside.   Do I look back to my childhood with rose-tinted specs?   I hope not, but maybe I do when I say that there was little or no rubbish lying about.

My father and I used to walk miles looking for nests (and leaving them untouched once we had found them) - wrens in lane-side banks, yellow hammers in hawthorn hedges, blackbirds in holly hedges.  We would take our wild flower book and identify (but not pick apart from perhaps one bloom for me to press in my wild flower diary) any wild flower we passed.   We would look up leaves in my tree book to identify the tree.   Did we ever leave, or even see, any rubbish?  Not that I remember.

I have spoken many times on this blog about folk driving down our lane and throwing beer cans, fish and chip boxes and papers, out of car windows.   I go round with a bag and rubber gloves and pick the rubbish up from our bit.   But why do they do it?   Do they not appreciate that there is such beauty in the countryside and it should not be desecrated?

Luckily round here we do not get too much fly-tipping.   Perhaps it is because we are not near to any big urban conurbation.  We, on the whole, don't get the dumping of white goods (fridges, washing machines etc.) - after all we have a jolly good tip in our little town and private individuals can take any of these items and leave them free of charge.  (Companies have to pay I believe, but surely it is not beyond the bounds of their intelligence to add on the cost of this to the original estimate.)

In the year 2013/2014 did you know that local authorities in England spent a total of £45.2 million on the removal of fly-tipped waste?   500,000 enforcement actions were carried out, local authorities spent £17.3 million in carrying these out.   It is an offence and and there were over 2000 prosecutions.

From the end of this month another law comes into effect - that of fly-grazing.  It will be illegal to graze a horse and if one is grazing on a farmer's land without permission the farmer can detain it.  The same applies to local authorities and horses found grazing on common land, roadside verges, village greens and the like.   The sad thing about this is that many of the animals we are talking about are probably not wanted anyway - farmers don't want them either and they become desperate for a home (a horse sanctuary, or worse).

I look out of my window this morning on green fields, blossom, neat hedges just coming into leaf.  The whole world is beautiful and yet it can be spoiled by the thoughtless few who choose to throw their rubbish out rather than make a tiny bit of effort and take it to a tip.   Sometimes I despair.

Reading this through it does occur to me that the invention of plastic bags has a lot to answer for (none of that around when I was a child).  Not only plastic bags blowing about in the breeze but also scraps of plastic draped about in the hedges along roadsides.

Friday, 8 May 2015

A lonely little petunia..... the onion patch!

We still have in-calf cattle in our loose housing.   They can smell the grass growing and they are getting restless.   A few at a time they are being let out and when that happens they frolic down the pasture like little children (albeit ungainly little children).

But some have to wait in for the freeze-brander to arriver, hopefully this week-end.

In the meantime we have a pedigree Jersey heifer in among the mature in calf Holstein ladies.   She is also in calf, but it is her first calf.   I wonder if she realises that she is different.   She is certainly beautiful, especially around the eyes.  And she is very tame.

Whenever the farmer goes to bed them down in the morning, she comes across for him to stroke behind her ears, which he does.   But there is a down side to this because when he stops she is inclined to nudge him to do it again - and of course she doesn't know her own strength so a nudge from her is enough to send him sprawling.   It hasn't happened yet, but he is very aware of how dangerous it can be in there - thirty or so animals, none of them meaning any harm, but all of them capable of doing him some injury.

Here is her photograph - don't you agree she is a beauty?

Thursday, 7 May 2015

A Telephone call.

The party with which the farmer and I have the most sympathy (they hope) made me smile this morning.   After a six o'clock news last night when it became obvious that there was nothing of importance in the whole world other than our election, and after an eight o'clock news bulletin on Radio 4 in similar vein, when the phone rang I thought it would be a cold call.   Not at all.   A charming chap asked for the farmer and when I said he was out doing what farmers do during the day - i.e. work outdoors, not sit in the kitchen drinking coffee - he asked if I was the farmer's wife.

When I said I was he said he was just ringing to remind me that it was Election Day!!!   I told him that after blanket coverage I was unlikely to forget the fact.  He then said he was just reminding me of the candidate's name and also the candidate in the local elections too.

It was only after he had rung off that I wondered why I hadn't made some kind of reply to his enquiry for the farmer first and me a poor second when the farmer wasn't available (or am I being unreasonable here?)

It is so easy in these days of so-called equality of the sexes (rubbish!) to get hot under the collar and read too much into things, but I did feel the chap was taking rather a lot forgranted.   Do you agree or is it just me?

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Last post.

No, don't listen for any bugles - I mean this is the last post I shall write before I have to go to the Polling Station and cast my vote tomorrow.   And I have no more idea of who to vote for now than I had at the start of the campaign.   As all the Party Leaders were buzzing around like blue-*****-flies yesterday, getting their responses wrong, slurring their words, generally looking exhausted (which I am sure they all are) - Nick Clegg even managed to travel all the way from Land's End to John O'Groats - I found them all totally unconvincing, I suspected lies from all of them on one issue or another, and my brain just seized up.

Yes I shall go and put something on my Ballot Paper - but how I feel at the moment it might well be 'I don't wish to vote for any of them' written across the top of the paper, making sure I don't get anywhere near a voting square.   And the possibility of the  whole thing being so indecisive that we have to have another election before Christmas just doesn't bear thinking about.

Meanwhile, everything here carries on as normal. The flowers continue to come out slowly in the garden, the weather is unseasonably cold, we have had well over two inches of rain this week, my exercise class has just finished and I am pretty much exhausted, but I did enjoy it tremendously.   So until tomorrow, relax, put your feet up and totally forget that there is an election tomorrow.