Monday, 31 August 2009

Where are you when I want you, Euterpe?

The muse was
on the washing line,
the ripe blackberry,
the last ripe cherry,
the rose gall,
the puff ball,
the new-born calf,
the puffy cloud.

She saw a poem in every one
but I ignored her plea;
at seven she's tired of waiting
and gone off for her tea!

Posted at 19.03 in response to TFE's request for spontaneous poems at seven!

This and that.

My "proper" post today will be on the dot of seven o'clock, when TFE (see my blog list) has invited me (and others) to post a poem. I do not have to start writing the poem until five minutes before I post it - so that it is entirely spontaneous. So I am religiously trying NOT to think of what I might write about in it.
So just two quite ordinary things for the blog today (sorry I missed posting yesterday but cooked a lunch for three of us and then walked and then didn't feel like posting). First of all - at the Wensleydale Show on Saturday a friend took a photograph of the farmer and me as we walked towards him. It is a nice relaxed shot and I thought you might like to see it.
Then to the Utility Room Floor. At last the beautiful stone tiles are down and they look lovely. The walls still have to be plastered but the floor at least is done and there is no more concrete dust paddling into the house. So thought you might also like to see the progression from soil to tiles.
It is typical Bank Holiday weather here today - as it was yesterdat - cool, showery and rather dull. The poor farmer has a lot of grass down which he is hoping to silage, so we are keeping our fingers crossed that it doesn't rain today.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

agricultural Shows.

It is the Show season here in North Yorkshire. Over the next two or three weeks each area will hold its own Show - all will be hoping for fine, dry weather - these fields can get so wet underfoot that visitors can be wading through mud by the end of the day otherwise. And - worse still - tractors will be needed to pull the cars out of the car park on to the road. But today - The Wensleydale Show (our local show, within walking distance of the farm) was held on a fine, chilly, blustery day. It usually attracts a crowd of around twenty thousand and I guess that is about how many would be there today. The local silver band were playing jolly tunes, various activites were taking place in "the ring" - heavy horses, trotting carriages, local fox hounds, vintage vehicles, a sheep dog troupe. The produce tents were buzzing with activity
Around the edges of the field livestock classes were being judged, rosettes given out, the supreme champion crowned - all the cattle and sheep had been shampooed and set so to speak - they looked lovely, their coats were shining, they even smelled lovely too.
The feed merchants all have stands and it is the tradition that each farmer is given lunch by his feed merchant - so we had delicious sandwiches of roast beef and a big slice of Yorkshire Parkin to sustain us.
I hope you enjoy the photographs I took - sit back and look at them and enjoy the show!
In the group class the theme was PICNIC and the most delightful entry - which won first prize - made me think of Raph of Raph's Ramblings (I know he loves Wind in the Willows) Ratty, Mole and Badger were there as were tiny tea cups, tiny cakes and tiny slabs of chees - Raph you would have loved it.
#Photos from the top left to right: Winning group entry PICNIC (wind in the willows); the winning fruit pie; vintage vehicles arriving; Holstein Supremem Champion; Jacob Ram; Prize winning dahlias; Showground by the sheep pens on a lovely day.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Is your glass half full or half empty?

Dick Jones of Patteran Pages (see my blog list) has posed a series of erudite questions which he has taken from a site called, simply, Edge. They are all questions which require an awful lot of thought. They were originally posed to the "great and the good" - i.e. scientists, philosophers etc
(all men, but we won't go into that here) - but Dick has answered them in an interesting way. So if you want to read questions and answers you need to go over to his site.
They are the sort of questions which make my nutmeg brain hurt! But I have been considering them and I shall address but one here (he invites us all to comment on them if we wish). I might address another one on another day but, frankly, I can only deal with one at a time. So here is the question:

What are you optimistic about?

Well, blog friends, I am optimistic about everything. Optimism is merely a state of mind, a concept and as such it has little bearing on the outcome of any situation. If you agree with that then you should also agree with me that there is little point in being pessimistic. I tried to think of a concrete situation rather than a hypothetical one in which the optimism/pessimism issue was to the fore. I remembered way back to 1939 when it became obvious that the appeasement of Hitler was not going to work, when the news was all black and it seemed inevitable that there would be war. I was a very small child. We were supposedly going on holiday for a week to the seaside and I had been talking about it for weeks. A few days before we were due to go my mother decided she could not even bear to pack the suitcase and, although I wittered and wittered (not understanding the course of events of course) she refused to get things ready and on the day we should have gone, instead we stood at our gate, along with the rest of the village after listening to Chamberlain's eleven o'clock broadcast "I have to tell you that we have received no such letter and that we are therefore at war with Germany". My mother was right not to go on holiday, you may be thinking. But I have to tell you that for a few weeks we were in for what became known as a "phoney war"; the weather was that beautiful early Autumn weather that can only really happen here in the British Isles and my mother never forgot that her pessimism cost us a week's holiday. For the rest of her life (and she did not die until 1971) she would sometimes remember that time and would say "We should have gone on that holiday you know - the weather was so good. It would have set us up nicely to fight that war!!"
So I am optimistic about things. If I sit here thinking that the awful war in Afghanistan is going to go on for years, that the world recession will never end, that swine flu is going to become an awful pandemic and sweep through the world, that I have lived my three score years and ten and could therefore pop off at any minute - what good will it do? None of those things will change in the slightest because I sit here in a pessimistic cloud. So - look on the bright side, I say - you have nothing to lose.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

What are we really like?

Thanks to Studio Sylvia, I have been given a task. That task is to tell you seven things about myself. And, as usual, that has set me thinking. Blogland friendships are unique in that we get to know quite a lot about each other and yet, only rarely, do any of us meet. I met Elizabeth of About New York when I was in New York earlier this year - that was lovely and we got on like house on fire, as they say. This week Derrick of Melrose Musings passed quite close to the farm but, of course, didn't know where I lived so couldn't call. Fiona of Marmalada Rose lives fairly near and we have met and it is only a matter of time before Denise of Mrs Nesbitt's Place calls to see me when out on the motor bike. But on the whole we form a picture of each of our blogland friends.
I often imagine Scribe, sitting with his evening drink, out on the decking watching the birds on his river. Or I might imagine Carol of Mistlethrush out on one of her bird-watching walks in the lovely Lancashire countryside. When Kate of Chronicles of a Country Girl went on holiday to Maine the other week I thought of her in that lovely coastal area. These are vicarious pleasures, but they are so enjoyable.
But seven things you don't know about me? Well that is more difficult. Here they are. I am supposed to ask seven of you to do the same. Instead of that I invite anyone who wishes to participate to try and find seven things about themselves that they wish to share - to "fill in the background" as it were. Why not have a go?

Seven Things you never knew about Weaver of Grass.

I am a Scorpio.
I am afraid of moths.
I don't like going to parties.
I am hard of hearing but hate wearing my hearing aid, preferring my own little world.
I hate confrontation and try to avoid all arguments.
I couldn't live without bananas.
I am very lacking in patience and want things doing yesterday.

So now I hope you know a little more about me.

# To fit in with the slightly enigmatic nature of this post I am posting a photograph of myself taken in 1979 - a photograph we always think of as "The Spy who stayed out in the cold"!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009


Today starts the round of local Agricultural Shows in The Yorkshire Dales. First is Reeth Show, scheduled for today and I have to say the weather could not be worse. It is a dismal, dark day with persistent rain. Reeth Showground is at the foot of Fremington Edge - an escarpment - and gathers the water very quickly. On really bad days cars in the car park have to be helped out by tractor at the end of the festivities. But I don't suppose the weather will stop anyone from going. They are hardy folk up here and used to being "close to the weather". Wensleydale Show is on Saturday, Muker Show next Wednesday, Kilnsey Show in Wharfedale is also in that week and then finally Nidderdale Show at Pateley Bridge the next week. All will be hoping for fine weather.

These shows have had to change their format over the years. When they first began, farmers in this area rarely went anywhere and the showground was their annual meeting place, where they could chat to other farmers, meet friends, talk to their feed merchants, show their cattle. Their wives could show off their baking skills by entering all the classes for food. If they were gardeners they could show off their prize sweet peas, dahlias, begonias, chrysanthemums.

But, of course, life is not like that any more and farmers are as likely to travel as anyone else - they even whiz round their fields on quad bikes these days.

So the shows have become more varied in an effort to attract holidaymakers to the area as well.

But we shall be there at the Wensleydale Show on Saturday, whatever the weather - if only for the delicious beef sandwiches our feed merchant makes for our lunch. We can sit in his marquee and look at the proceedings over a cup of tea and that lovely beef.

And, speaking of beef, brings me to the photograph above. Autumn is well advanced up here. Seeded plants line the roadsides, horse-chestnut trees are beginning to turn golden and drop their "conkers" for little boys to collect, and the mist is beginning to rise in the evening. A couple of nights ago the farmer called me to look out at the way the mist was rising in the fields. It was dusk, the sky was a clear pale blue and a ribbon of mist lay just above the ground. It was beautiful. I went out into the front garden and took this picture of the cattle in the field. I took it first in normal auto mode and all I got was a dark shot with gleaming eyes, but switching to night mode produced this shot where you can just see the mist beginning to form.

The cattle are our neighbour's Limousin heifers. This breed is thought to be an ancient breed - even the cattle in Lascaux caves are thought to represent it. They originated in central France (Limousin and Marche areas) where there is a rugged, rocky, harsh climate, hence their sturdiness. They make good beef, lean but marbled with a low bone density. They were first imported into Britain at Leith docks in 1971, when 179 bulls and heifers arrived. By 1986 the Limousin had taken first place in front of the Hereford breed in the beef carcase class - and it still holds that position today. They are a bit frisky for my liking but the colour is very beautiful and they have the most lovely eyes!

There will be some at the show on Saturday, when local breeders still take pride in entering the cattle classes. We shall be walking round the marquee to look at them. I shall be taking photographs.

# With regard to our yesterday's bookshelf - several blog friends have posted late entries, so I shall now go over and add them to the list - there is still plenty of room!

## Thanks to the Limousin Cattle Society website for the information on the breed.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

The Complete Bloggers' Library Shelf.

Well, I will say this for you, Bloggy Friends, you are an eclectic lot! So here is a Bloggers'Library, made up of your choices and listed in alphabetical order.
First the poetry shelf. There would be works by:
William Blake, Roberty Browning, e e cummings, Robert Frost, Seamus Heaney, Alfred Noyes, Tennyson, Wordsworth. Let's say that the top shelf of our bookcase would be the complete works of all of these.
Now the the rest. Well, bloggers, if we all work our way through this lot we shall not be short of reading matter for a year or two. So here they are in alphabetical order of authors:

Jane Austen - complete works; Lewis Carroll - Alice in Wonderland; Pat Conroy - The Prince of Tides; EM Forster "Room with a View", Sebastian Foulks - Birdsong; Kenneth Grahame - Wind in the Willows; Herman Hesse - Complete works; James Herriot - The complete works; Elizabeth Jane Howard - Complete works; James Joyce - Finnegan's Wake; Charles Kuralt - On the Road; Jack Kerouac - On the Road; Milan Kundera - The Unbearable Lightness of Being; Ted Kerasote - Meale's Door Lessons from a Freethinking Dog; Anne Morrow Lindbergh - Gift from the Sea; Harper Lee - To Kill a Mocking Bird; Sarah Orne Jewett - The County of the Pointed Firs; Colleen McCullough - First Man in Rome; Hermann Melville - Moby Dick; Ian McKewan - The Daydreamers; Margaret Mitchell - Gone with the Wind; L M Montgomery - Anne of Green Gables; Mervyn Peake - Gormenghast; Mollie Painter-Downe -Good Evening, Mrs Craven; Shel Silverstein; Carol Shields - The Stone Diaries; WG Sebald - Austerlitz; John Steinbeck - Travels with Charley; Mark Twain - Huckleberry Finn; JRR Tolkein - The Hobbit; John Wain - Strike the Father Dead; PG Wodehouse - The Complete works.

That seems to be it. If I have missed anyone out I do apologise - but there is certainly plenty there to keep us all going over the winter - enjoy your read!

PS If you go over to Caroline at Coastcard you will see that she has a whole shelf of her own to add to this.

## Addenda. More suggestions are coming in - so here is another shelf full to add to things:-

The Bible; Poetry of Mary Oliver; Wallace Stegner's "All the Little Live Things"; The Poetry of Stephen Crane; May Doria Russell's "The Sparrow"; Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women" - and for Friko - any female modern poet you choose to add.
What astonishes me is that there is not a travel book amongst them apart from the steinbeck. Maybe I shall have to run a special travel book meme in the future!

Monday, 24 August 2009

What is your favourite book? And why?

The Times is conducting a poll on-line to find out the sixty best-loved novels published since 1949. Should you wish to register your vote, go to and then click on The Cheltenham Literature Festival - for this festival is sixty years old this October and the list of the best sixty novels will be published to coincide with the festival in October. But this got me thinking about reading and books and enjoyment.
I find I love a particular book so much that I read it several times over. But what I love and when seems to depend upon my mood, the state of my health - lots of things. Is this just me, or are you the same?
For example - if I am really down and under the weather and my brain seems incapable of reading anything properly - then I will pick up "Anne of Green Gables", which I must have read twenty times since I bought it at Montgomery's house on Prince Edward Island. Each time I read it (and it is very easy to read as I almost know it off by heart) I picture the house and its grounds and the lovely holiday we had in that area. On the other hand, if I am in a real reading mood and having nothing new to devour - I may well go for Sebastian Foulks's "Birdsong" or Evelyn Waugh's "Bridehead Revisited" - or even a book of the poems of RS Thomas. With me, so much depends upon circumstance. Anything by Anita Brookner I could read again and again.
So here is the task I set you all for today.
For whatever reason you choose to imagine - you are in solitary confinement for a whole day. You may take one book with you - it could be a World Atlas, a book of Poetry, a novel, a travel book - anything at all (cookery book?). Which book are you going to choose to be your day's companion. I would love to know.
I will register my own, here and now. A whole day cut off from the world would most likely see me reading - yet again - John Steinbeck's "Travels with Charley" . Why? (yes I would like to know why from you as well) - I find it enchanting, poignant (JS died not so very long after writing it), funny, and - to a doggy person like me - delightful.
What would you choose?

Sunday, 23 August 2009

a Special Jaunt.

This weekend being our Wedding Anniversary, we set off today on our special jolly jaunt - we go on the same trip every year - I know it is boring but we love the high country and it has become a tradition. The weather forecast for the North was abysmal but were we daunted? No we were not. Ten of the clock chimed and we were off - Tess in the back too.
Up over the moor and into Arkengarthdale - the first sign of really high ground. The weather was still fine, sheep were grazing the sides of the road, the heather was beginning to come out on the hills and the roads were fairly empty of traffic. What could be better.
We turned out of Arkengarthdale and climbed up towards Teesdale, already there was a sprinkling of rain on the windscreen. Here it is wild country, no houses just mile after mile of high moorland. Then suddenly there it is in front of us - Teesdale - no sun to brighten the picture but a vast expanse with the River Tees at its centre.
These high dales - each called after the River which carved its way through them - are spectacular at this time of year with great swathes of heather in bloom. Above Barnard Castle we enter into Raby Castle Estate country - these vast tracts of land are owned by Lord Barnard. All Raby Estate Farms are painted white, so that wherever you look there are white buildings showing up well against the hillsides.
Then climbing again, through Middleton-in-Teesdale with its busy main street and up on to the really high land climbing over into Weardale. This was, historically, lead-mining country and the names of the villages make depressing reading - Killhope, Crowhill, Nenthead, Ireshopeburn.
At Killhope one of the lead mines has been restored as a museum. By this time the rain is pouring down, but the farmer pulls into a layby, opens and window and takes a photograph for you. You will see it is very dark but perhaps if you bring it up full size on the screen you might see it in more detail. Those lead miners had a dreadfully hard life. Remember today it is almost midsummer - they worked in all weathers, in the bitter cold, the pouring rain, the snow - all for a pittance and with living conditions little short of squalor. Actually driving along the road through the lead mines on a day like today really brings it home to you what awful conditions they worked in.
At Ireshopeburn we called at "our" pub for Sunday lunch (along with about a hundred other people judging by the car park). We ordered and had a long wait but when it came we knew it had been worth the wait. Traditional food for this part of the world (we were surrounded by Durham dialect, very strange after our usual North Yorkshire) - Roast beef, horseradish sauce, mashed potatoes, roast potatoes, new potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, cabbage, swede, cauliflower, peas and very tasty gravy. Of course the joint of beef they cook is an enormous rib of beef, so that the taste and the tenderness are wonderful. I did wish I had had a doggy bag for Tess as I found it impossible to eat all of mine!
Then it was off again, downhill now to Barnard Castle, along the main street, past the ancient Butter Croos in the photograph, back over the River Tees and finally into Richmond with its castle ruin. After a round trip of about one hundred miles we were back home, dying for a cup of tea. As usual we had had a lovely celebratory day out - and at home there had been no rain at all.
# Photos - from the top Lto R Crossing the River Tees, The Buttercross at Barnard Castle.
Killhope Lead Mine, A Raby Estate Farm, Heather on the moors, Teesdale opens up before us,

Saturday, 22 August 2009

A Round Walk.

Early Autumn. Already the hawthorn berries are beginning to turn red. As we go out of the yard and into the bottom pasture we see just how sparse the berries are this year. It's going to be a lean year for the fieldfares when they arrive.
We decide on a round walk across our fields and those of our neighbour. The blackberries in the hedge are beginning to ripen. Last night's half inch of rain should help them to swell nicely.
We pass one of our little stone barns, once such an important link in farm husbandry, now not used at all. This barn is developing a deep crack down one wall; how long before it is just a heap of stones? In the next field another barn has lost the stone slabs from its roof, probably removed by the farmer to roof another building some years ago. I scramble through the nettles to take a photograph looking out through the rafters. Elder bushes grow tall inside the building. It was in here, some years ago, that one of our old sheepdogs chose to die. She never went away and one day she was missing from the yard. My father-in-law searched for her and found her a few days later, lying dead in the straw. She has crossed three fields to die away from home. As he said, "She was never one to want a fuss making."
We cross Mill Lane and walk on to our neighbour's land. A giant machine stands in the corner of the stubble and we walk over to look at it. Until last week, when it was harvested for whole crop, this was a wheat field. Now the machine is about to start spreading liquid manure (sorry but I have to mention it now and again - it is an integral part of farming!) and I must say it is an amazing feat of engineering.
You will see the slurry tank in the photograph. Into this tank goes all the washings out from the milking parlour and the feeding area - cow poo and water basically. A pipe leads from the tank, across our fields and our neighbours, ending up at this giant machine. In the photograph he has cultivator blades on the back - he drives along digging a furrow and putting in the slurry manure at the same time. When he reaches a grass field he changes the cultivators for discs so that slits are made in the grass for the slurry to soak in.
We walk down the lane. I take a photograph and although the farmer tries to get out of the way I manage to get him in the frame - so here is a rare photograph of him!
On our way back along the beck-side we pass a lovely woodland area. Here the rowan trees are in full berry and glow on the lovely sunny afternoon. Tess is really enjoying her free scamper and stops to nibble at the grass on the beck side.
Back to the home pasture we are greeted at the stile by the heifers and a lovely "cowy" smell - such a part of farm life. As we reach the yard Blackie, one of the farm cats, also comes out to say hello.
When we get home we find that during our walk the young blackbirds have stripped every berry from our rowan tree. We don't begrudge them a single berry but we do wish they had taken those in the woodland first!

Friday, 21 August 2009

Farming Update.

It seems a long while since I posted on farming, but the fact is that during the Summer, once the hay and silage are done things seem to tick along nicely without any help here on a Yorkshire Dales lowland farm. There will be second-crop silage shortly, but in the meantime there were sheep to be spained.
We have pedigree Swaledale sheep with their lambs (two per mum) - they have been here since the lambs were just a few weeks old. These sheep normally live on the uplands and come down here for the Winter, but a spell here with their lambs gives the ewes time to build up a bit of strength. Now the lambs are old enough to manage without their mums, so this week their owner, Bob, came down from Hawes, high in the Pennines, to separate them.
The Pennine walkers have gone home (my "lodgers" were only doing half of the walk and are now on their way back to their home in Windermere) or, in the case of the other two set off to walk from Hawes to Keld. The bed linen is blowing merrily on the washing line and should be back on the beds by tonight in case of more visitors.
I had the coffee on to welcome the sheep spainers when they arrived(and the fruit cake tin ready on the table). It will be a relief now when the table is repaired so there can be no more accidents.
In the meantime congratulations to Ireland who have set a new world record by having 175 combine harvesters all working together in the same field of 110acres at Duleek in County Meath. They all started the harvest together and had finished the whole field in fifteen minutes. In the process they earned over two thousand euros for charity and earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records (the previous record was 56 combines somewhere is Australia).
There is a fantastic photograph of them, but I can't really show it to you because of the copyright laws. However, if you go to Farmers' Guardian website there may be the photograph on there.
. In the meantime, enjoy your day.
Two hours later - the heavens have opened and the washing hangs dripping on the line. Pity the poor walkers mid way between Hawes and Keld, on Great Shunner Fell. You can rest assured that if it is wet here it will be very much wetter up there!
##Photographs. The farmer and Bob survey the heifers in the paddock.
Two photographs of sheep getting into the trailer on their way "home."

Thursday, 20 August 2009

The Pennine Walkers arrive!

Absolutely on time the Pennine Way walkers arrived for my daughter-in-law to collect them at Hawes yesterday. They all looked brown and fit and healthy and the weather had been mostly kind, with only two downpours. After hot baths and a good cup of tea they were all feeling fine.I cooked a meal for all eight of us (four walkers and four family) and was very pleased with the result of Gordon Ramsay's recipe from last week's Times. I did a huge chicken with nectarines, onions and garlic (masses of the stuff) and it was delicious.

I forgot to take a photograph until the meal was almost over, so the table looks pretty distressed - but we had eaten well. There was a crisis about three o'clock in the afternoon when I wanted to lay the table - the farmer had to add the extra leaf into the middle (there is a handle to crank the table open) and as he did so the table fell apart! He spent the rest of the afternoon cobbling it together so that we could still eat there. This morning I have to ring the furniture repairer to come - it is a very old farmhouse table and we love it dearly, so shall have to bite the bullet and have it repaired, regardless of cost.

The photograph shows all four of the walkers - don't they look fit and healthy?

I am off now to read all the Transforming Moments from yesterday's meme, hosted by the golden fish. Have a good day.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

A Transforming Moment.

First of all I have to admit to a very Senior Moment! About a week ago, reading someone on my blog list, I saw that he (I am pretty sure it was a he, but I might be wrong) was hosting a meme today asking us to write about a transforming moment in our lives. What a good idea, I thought and promptly left him a comment to say I would join in. Since when I have heard nothing from him and now - although I have searched my blog list - I can't remember who it was. All I know is that on my desk diary I have an asterisk today, and a note to saying "Transforming Moment today". Well dear friends, I have had a few, so I shall post about perhaps the most important - and hopefully whoever invited me to do it, will see it.

What chance moments or encounters steer us through our lives. Had we been on the other side of the street we might never have met a person who has become important to us. Had we not taken a particular job we might never have ended up in the city or countryside that shaped our later life......and so on. Some put it down to the fickle finger of fate. I put it down to chance really.

When my first husband and I retired from teaching in 1984 (in my case it was very early retirement, I am not THAT old!) we decided to stay in the city where we lived at the time. Then after three years we began to realise that it was the countryside we longed for and so we began to search for somewhere to live. And this is where chance stepped in. We wanted a little unspoilt village, we wanted to be fairly near to our son and our grandchildren, and we wanted plenty of nice countryside for walking in.
So what made us choose this village - we had never been here, nor did we know anyone here. The only criterion it fitted was that it was in The Yorkshire Dales and we had been walking in The Dales with friends a few times.

Sadly, four years later my husband died. And I should add here that "the village" really were marvellous - they gave me tremendous support during the time I nursed him at home - they made his passage as easy as was possible and I shall always be grateful for that.

I already knew the farmer from walking across his fields with our dogs and after two years I married him. That day will be sixteen years ago the day after tomorrow (21st August 1993).

So really, choosing a transforming moment - or as I prefer to call it - a pivotal moment - was easy. It was that day in September 1987 when, after looking at countless houses, cottages, bungalows in The Dales, we signed on the dotted line and settled here. Had we moved to any other village I would never have met the farmer and my life would have been very different.

As it is, I came out of retirement and became a farmer's wife - feeding the calves, doing the books, helping out in any way that I could, baking countless cakes and cooking huge meals for hungry workers. All that has subsided now with the retirement of the farmer but that tremendous U turn that took place in my life makes me feel very lucky. To have one very happy marriage is good - to have two is wonderful and I am eternally grateful for that tiny moment when I put my signature to that title deed.

Have a good day folks - I shall now begin the preparations to feed the Pennine Way walkers tonight as they land on our patch.

STOP THE PRESS! I have just been over to read Dave at Pics and Poems and he is taking part in the meme too - so I have been reminded that it is Steven at the golden fish who is hosting it - so do pop over and read them both.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

The Wensleydale Railway.

A dozen of us from our Writers' Group went on the Wensleydale Railway at lunch time today. We caught the steam train at Leyburn Station at 12.35 and trundled down the line to Redmire (about six miles) which is as far as the line goes in that direction. Then it was back to Leyburn and then about four miles in the other direction until we got to a place where there is a passing line - there the steam train chugged past to join the other end of the train and we returned to Leyburn. It was a jolly expedition.
I was looking out for signs of wildflowers on the track side. There has always been a history of flowers by the railtrack, as conditions are usually ideal for their growing - sheltered spot, good drainage etc. Most of them are well over and have seeded by now, but here and there were patches of soapwort, banks of rosebay willow herb, self-sown buddleias, ox eye daisies and plenty of ragwort.
Ragwort is poisonous to horses and apart from the roadside verges we see little in the fields as farmers are very good at removing it because of the danger but here on the sides of the railway line it flourishes.
There were lovely views over Wensleydale and Bishopdale, fields of sheep and cattle, the odd group of scratching hens with a magnificent rooster in one case, and here and there glimpses of the road so that we kept being reminded of exactly whereabouts we were. It was strange getting a rail side view rather than a road side one.
We took sandwiches and ate them on the platform at Redmire station, where we stayed for half an hour before beginning the return journey. The smell of steam was nostalgic and the rattle of the wheels brought back memories from train rides long ago. Now we must hope that the journey stimulated us all enough to produce some "railway" writing for our little booklet.
I hope you enjoy these photographs. You will see that an old style bus is waiting at Redmire station. This takes passengers on a further tour of the Dales before returning them to Leyburn.
Doesn't the Station Master look to be enjoying himself (the railway is manned by volunteers).

Monday, 17 August 2009

This and that!

Monday morning at 9 sharp the carpet fitters came. The young man cut me a lovely rectangle of the art nouveau lino which I shall now frame and put on the wall in the room where it lies under the new carpet. When it is all straight I will post a photo on my blog.
Following on the idea of a house giving up its old secrets (lino, wallpaper etc.) I was interested to read in today's paper that English Heritage, who now administer Epworth Old Rectory, where John Wesley the Methodist founder lived, have commissioned a study to see what can be found out about the house before they begin to restore it. It is a beautiful Queen Anne listed building and they intend to make it as authentically like it was in the early 18th centuryas they can. And lo and behold they have found - in an area where nobody has looked for many years - what seems to be a piece of authentic 1716 wallpaper with a design of leaves and pineapples.
The builder has been today and has plastered the utility room. Now he has gone off for four days holiday! As I have a host of visitors who happen to be walking The Pennine Way this week I can't say I am sorry. He promises to come back next week and finish it all. We shall see.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

The Friendship Pack.

We all love our dogs and we know that really they are pack animals and they see us as part of their pack (if we have trained them correctly then they see us as the pack leader). But sometimes dogs have to have doggie pals as well - and here today (thanks to Glennis for the photographs) is Tess's Friendship Pack. Millie, Gem and Tess are to be seen out walking and rabbitting together in the fields. Millie, who has short legs, stays close to her Pack Leader (human) but Gem and Tess go off at speed after anything on four legs that moves. Luckily Gem is fully trained and comes when called. Tess is learning fast and usually comes when called - if not she soon follows Gem. If there is such a thing as doggie love then I know that Tess loves these two to bits. Have a nice evening - it is very Autumnal here. Tess has just had to have a bath as she has been rolling in the builders' concrete. At present she is charging round the house trying to get her hair dry.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

I am floored!

There can't be anyone out there who doesn't know by now that we have the builders in in a big way - everywhere is upside down. But there is light at the end of the tunnel as the Dining Room is almost finished. The builder has completed the work, the farmer has painted the woodwork, I am waxing the mantelshelf (thank you for all your advice, I am following it) and on Monday morning the carpet layer is coming. We are lucky to live in the kind of house where once the room is organised and polished I can close the door and keep it that way until the rest of the house is finished. But it is the floor I find fascinating. There is social history there.
The chimney breast shows evidence of four or five different types of firegrate - some very high up on the wall and some lower down. There has been so much hacking out of grates and refitting new ones that we have had to have the wall replastered.
Various hearths have been put down and one, small green ceramic tiles, still has remnants in place. And on the floor is linoleum - tacked down - and I would guess it has been there since the house was built in 1925. (it was covered with underlay which we are discarding and replacing).
My mother (born in around 1896) used to talk about her grandparents' cottage in the village where she lived. She used to say that the floor was old flags laid on to soil and that when it was damp weather the flags would be damp and sometimes worms would wriggle through into the kitchen. Her grandmother used to save all the old clothes in order to make rag rugs to cover the floor. Nothing was ever wasted in those days (quilts from old shirts to cover the bed , too).
When I was a small girl all heavily- used rooms had linoleum. The "best" room would have lino too with a square of carpet in the middle. The housewife would polish the lino round the edge.
Then manufacturers hit on the idea of making strip lino which looked like woodblocks, so that it looked as though the carpet square was laid on a wood floor. Eventually fitted carpets came into fashion and everyone wanted one. Now, of course, laminated floor is in vogue (not for the farmer it isn't!). How fashions change (and how much better off we all are than our forbears).
What I find interesting is that the lino in our Dining Room is tacked down to the wood floor, so it will stay there as a reminder of that social history. The design shows the era in which it was put down. It is pure Arts and Crafts/Art Nouveau - that time when designers rebelled against all things Victorian and looked to Nature to provide the inspiration. I love it. But do I love it enough to have it as the focus of the room? No thanks - I like my feet warm in the Winter. But I am tempted to take a piece up and put it in a frame before Monday morning when it will be covered up again for the foreseeable future.

Friday, 14 August 2009

A Childrens' Story.

Today's Train Adventure is in the form a of childrens' story - sorry folks - but I shall be back to normal next week (whatever normal is) and after today I have a set of five pieces I can present to our Writers' Group - all about railways. This is not a competition, merely trying to write stuff suitable for a little booklet to go in the railway shop. I am trying to recreate the first holiday I remember. Those of you who have children young enough for this story - I would appreciate any comments you have or any alterations you think would improve it. Thanks.

Daisy's First Holiday.

It was Trip Week in Lincolnshire and all the Dads in the village were at home for the whole week. Some Dads were going to work in the garden. Some Dads were going to go fishing in the river. But Daisy's Dad was going to take Daisy and her Mum on holiday.

Daisy was three years old and had never been on holiday before.

They were going to Skegness - to the seaside - on the train!

Daisy knew about trains. If she stood in her bedroom window at eleven o'clock in the morning she could watch the Skegness train go past on the railway line at the bottom of her garden.

Sometimes she would go to the fence and stand and wave at the train. Sometimes the engine driver would wave back to her.

Mum packed a big suitcase for her and Dad and a little suitcase for Daisy. Then Daisy found her new bucket and spade. She was going to carry those. She had a packet of paper flags too but Mum had put them in the suitcase so that they didn't get lost.

The train stopped at the station in the village. At a quarter to eleven Dad locked the door picked up the big suitcase, gave the little suitcase to Mum and made sure that Daisy had her bucket and spade. They were off.

It was exciting waiting on the platform. Then she saw the Station Master walk out on to the line and open the big gates to let the train through. Then the signal went "plop" and Dad said,

"Here comes the train!"

It chuffed into the station and stopped right by where they were standing. Dad opened the carriage door and they climbed in. It was a very high step and Mum had to help Daisy. But when she got inside she saw two long seats and some pictures on the walls. One of the pictures was of a jolly sailorman jumping up in the air and it said "Skegness is so bracing." Daisy didn't know what bracing meant but Mum said it meant they were going to get plenty of fresh air.

The next stop was at Bardney, where Daisy's Grandpa lived, and he was joining them for the holiday. When the train got near to Bardney Dad got up and went to the window. There was a big brown strap to open the window with. Dad pulled in out and let the window down. A very smoky smell came into the carriage. "Pooh," she said. But by then they were in the station and Daisy could lean out and look for Grandpa. There he was with his suitcase. She waved -

"Here we are, Grandpa!" In a moment he was in the carriage and sitting beside her.

They were off again. She could hear the wheels making a funny noise on the track. She listened. They were saying "Diddle-de-dot, diddle-de-dot, diddle-de-dot." Soon she joined in.

"Diddle-de-dot, diddle-de-dot, diddle-de-dot," she said. And then, just when she had got it -r ight in time with the wheels it changed and went, "Diddle -de-dot, diddle-de-dot, diddle-de-diddle-de-diddle-de-diddle-de-dot.!" Dad said the wheels were going over the points.

"Are we nearly there?" Daisy asked. But Dad was pointing out of the window. There was Tattershall Castle - a big red castle in the middle of the fields. She asked who lived there but Mum said nobody had lived there for ages and ages.

In no time at all they were there. Suddenly the train stopped and when Daisy got out on to the platform the railway line had stopped too.

Dad said this was because the train couldn't go any further - they had reached the sea.

They had their tickets ready for the ticket collector as they left the station.

And there was the sea. Right in front of where they were standing there were waves and seagulls and ice cream carts and - best of all - sand. Daisy could not wait to use her bucket and spade.
##The view of Tattershall Castle in Lincolnshire is painted by Malcolm Rivron. The river in the foreground is the River Witham.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Durango to Silverton.

As the ticket says, this journey is "a trip to yesterday". We are about to have a trip on the Durango to Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway, established in 1881 to carry silver from the silver mines down into Durango. It is the year 2000 and the mines are long gone. Silverton is just a tourist attraction with dirt roads and the ghosts of old silver miners.
To Silverton and back from Durango is a round trip of ninety miles during which the engine needs six tons of coal. We are only going one way - to Silverton and the journey will take three and a half hours of steady climbing.
As we stand on the platform at the station at half past eight on a sunny morning, the sturdy little engine chuggs importantly into town. We find our reserved seats, there are two hoots on the whistle and we are away. There is a holiday atmosphere with people waving from the platform.
This is a bit like playing at trains except that this is seriously hilly country as we climb through miles of pine forests on either side of the track. We are never far away from the Animas river - we are labouring up the side of it and it is cascading theatrically down to Durango. Suddenly we cross it and the river appears disconcertingly on the other side of the coach.
When we arrive at Silverton we find we are high in the Rockies and surrounded by snow-capped mountains.
We return by road, over the Molas Pass (10,899 feet asl) - these a real mountains and we are suitably impressed.
Meanwhile, engine 482 cuffs off down to Durango, blowing its whistle - to start the journey all over again. I am sure the journey back will be a "freewheel" after all that puffing and blowing.

# Apologies for the photographs - as they are stuck in a journal I made I have no option to to photograph them again rather than scan.
## If anyone reading this knows Durango, I would love to know if EO's is still open - in all the trips we have made to the US EO's restaurant stands out in a class of its own.
I have been "killing two birds with one stone" this week. Our Writers' Group are producing a booklet for our local little railway and we have all been asked to write on railways - so I have put them on my blog as I am very short of time (builders!) Tomorrow will be the last on and it will be written for children.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Denver to Salt Lake City on the California Zephyr.

We reach the mile high city (5280ft asl) in the late evening and have only one day before we board the Amtrak train; just long enough to take a tour of the city and to visit the Capitol Building with its gold dome (Denver found gold in 1858). we climb the staircase with its 77 steps and its 176 brass banisters - one man is employed just to clean the brasswork full time. This is a seriously big city with 2.4 million people and we country hicks are just a little daunted.
But next day we are up bright and early to catch the Amtrak California Zephyr as it heads West from Chicago to Los Angeles. It is due into Grand Union Station, Denver at 9.30am. We arrive at 9am only to find that it is already two hours late. That gives us two hours to wander round pedestrianised down-town Denver with its lovely shops and walkways (shops were not open which pleased the farmer no end.) We sit a while in Writers' Square alongside Thomas Jefferson on his bench, then it's back to the station - and what should we see but a whole wedding party in 1890's costume. They have hired a special "bullet" carriage en route to Reno and the wedding. You can see the bride and groom in the photograph. They are all so happy that it starts our journey off on a jolly note.
When the train arrives it is long - very long - two storeys of shiny silver metal pulled by three huge engines. We take our very comfortable reserved seats and settle back to enjoy the ride.
We climb zig-zag out of Denver up into the Rockies at 5 mph and after travelling for an hour we can still see the city below us.
What a feat of railway engineering. The labour which must have been involved in its construction is awesome. In some places the line has been cut through solid rock and we slide through with what looks like only inches to spare. Electric wires are stretched along the rock faces to give early warning of rock falls.
We glide smoothly past enormous conifer forests, ranches straight out of High Chapparral, river valleys and areas of barren wasteland. We are deep in the Rocky Mountains and we see wonderful scenery but very few people.
Attendants bring us drinks, guide us to our Dining Car, and finally, when we arrive in Salt Lake City at three o'clock in the morning (four hours late by this time) that same attendant is there - with a smile - to help us down his steps onto the track. Yes, he assures us, we are in Salt Lake City - but of the station and any platform there is no sign. We climb down, collect our luggage and make for our hotel The Marriott, and a very welcome cup of tea.
##Apologies for the poor quality of the photographs - they are stuck in a journal and I have had to photograph them from there. They are - from the top: Statue of Jefferson in Denver Writers' Square, The bride and groom in 1890's costume, Grand Union Station, Denver, The waiting room, the Great Salt Lake.