Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Steamed Pudding Recipe.

Yesterday's post about not wasting windfall apples and about making steamed puddings, brought in a host of comments; some from people who remembered them from their childhood and who dare not make them now because of their waistlines (I fall into that category too), and some from bloggers in America who say that they do not have steamed puddings over there. Well - wouldn't it be nice if I started a Steamed Pudding Movement over there??? Several people have asked for the recipe so I will give it to you. The only thing is that you probably can't get suet over there. We can buy suet chopped up into tiny pieces so that it is easy to mix in. What is suet I hear you ask? It is the hard animal fat which is cut out in chunks (sounds awful doesn't it?) I suppose that if suet is unobtainable then you could use another fat of some kind but I am not sure what. Elizabeth of The World Examining Works (see my blog list) probably remembers suet from her days in UK and could possibly advise on an alternative. Otherwise I would suggest whatever fat you use in making pastry. Experiment! (In UK this is marketed as Atora Beef Suet)

Recipe: 8oz Self raising flour (or plain flour and baking powder), 4oz suet or alternative fat (ration of 8:4 so easily convertible for US readers), milk or water to mix to a firm dough. Roll it out and line a pudding basin (or anything similar), Don't roll it out too thinly it needs to be about one to one and a half centimetres thick. Mould it to the basin shape with your fingers and remember to keep back enough to make a lid. Fill the lined basin with chopped fruit - apples are my favourite by my father loved steamed redcurrant pudding - so really any fruit will do. Add enough sugar to sweeten and then rollout and fit a lid with the remaining piece of the pastry - damp the edges to make it stick and press all round the edge well so that the fruit is firmly enclosed in the suet pastry. Cover with greaseproof paper and then with aluminium foil - not too tight because it must have room to rise slightly but cover it well enough to keep the water out.
Put the finished article into a pan and pour boiling water round it up to around the rim. Put a lid on the pan and put it on to a simmer heat for two hours. I have an Aga and I put the pan into the simmering oven. At the end of the cooking time take the basin from the pan, take off the coverings and invert the basin on to a plate. Juices will run out onto your plate - don't worry - that is the tasty bit!
Sit it in the middle of the table for limited worship before cutting into pieces. I like to eat it with a sprinkling of brown sugar and a pouring of single cream. The farmer likes custard. Yes it will be stodgy and very filling - that is why we only eat it in winter. As my mother used to say, "It sticks to your ribs!"
Remember, dear readers, this pudding has saved marriages, firmly fixed friendships, filled many an empty corner in hungry stomachs. In the old days, when our mums had plenty of time for cooking and not much spare cash, housewives (remember them?) would make up the recipe and just push the whole lot into a basin without rolling it out, so that what came out at the end of the cooking time was just a basin shaped suet pudding. Then they would serve it first course at a meal with the onion gravy (sauce) left from yesterday's meal. This would mean that they didn't need so much meat in the next course as everyone would be full up with suet pudding. You have been warned!
If anybody in US tries it, please let us know how it turned out and what you thought to it. Enjoy (don't expect to do anything in the least bit like exercise for an hour after eating it - and don't jump into the deep end of a swimming pool unless you can swim!)

PS Remember to check the water level in the pan from time to time and top it up with more boiling water to just below the rim.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Waste not, want not!

When I was a child and lived in the fens of Lincolnshire we had not much spare money, so it was the norm to use up everything - never to waste and always to use up "free" food from the hedgerow. So my mother would make crab apple jelly, blackberry pie, liver and bacon with field mushrooms my Dad had picked early in the morning, damson cheese; her larder shelves would be full of preserves, pickles, bottles and home made sauces. We had no freezer - not even a fridge, so that everything had to be preserved. She would even utilise any sour milk by straining it through muslin and making it into soft cheese.
Now that I live back in the countryside again I find that that spirit still prevails here, albeit that a lot of the "free" food is now frozen. And I find myself satisfyingly back in that mode again. So we pick the blackberries and make jam or blackberry whisky; we pick the plums, the gooseberries, strawberries and raspberries and make jam, and now we have also picked the sloes and this morning the farmer has made the sloe vodka.
Then there is the matter of the apple orchard and the walnut trees. Although our walnut trees are forty years old they do not fruit heavily - we are lucky if we get fifty nuts from the two trees!
So I have yet to try my hand at pickled walnuts (my favourite), as we soon eat our way through our walnut harvest (if you have never tasted a walnut straight from the tree you cannot imagine how good they are.) But apples - well that is an altogether different story
In the years when we get a good crop we store them in crates and eat them gradually over the Winter. In other years we manage to eat them all in a very short time. But the windfalls are a different story. I composed this ditty in my head on the way to Tesco this morning. It fizzles out because that was as far as I got - and I am due at a meeting in half an hour.

Steamed apple pudding.

Men always seem to smile when you
have steamed pudding on the menu;
It's as rare as hens' teeth here.
Maybe happens once a year
When there's been a sudden windfall
then he gathers up them all
and puts them on the kitchen table
with a smile to match Clark Gable's.
I cannot resist that wistful smile
so you will find in a little while
I've succumbed and made a pud! (and to hell with the diet for one day!)

Monday, 28 September 2009

Monday Poem

TFE has really pushed the boat out this week, giving us two Ted Hughes's Poems to read. The trouble with reading really good poetry is that anything one writes afterwards seems like rubbish. On the other hand, I do firmly believe that in order to write well one has to read, read, and read again. So there you have it - caught between a rock and a hard place.
I did love both poems - well I would, wouldn't I - they are both concerned with the countryside which is almost my obsession! So I read them both, and other bits of Ted, until Saturday and then I sat down and wrote what could be loosely called a poem. So hear it is TFE - I couldn't let you down, could I. But it needs to go on record that it has made my nutmeg brain work overtime.


Barely a movement, too little light
to see, except for the
barn owl
policing the verge,
gliding with unwavering eye
on the dark grass;
and the hedgehog
snuffling purposefully
down the yard
crunching a snail;
and the rooks,
restless in their rookery,
stretching their wings,
for that first orange blade,
that shaft that pierces through
the half-light and falls
on the trunks of
skeletal trees. PT

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Phew (2)!

Suckers and seeds
the weeds will win -
we'll 'ave the 'ole world
for our own.
And then, how glorious
will come in
the era of the great
self sown." (Taken from one of the Wormingford books by Ronald Blythe)

Rule number one in gardening. Never plant a tree peony seedling and a clematis montana near to each other. What will happen is that there will be war to see who is to take over the whole garden. Oh yes - it looks lovely when the tree peony is full of yellow blossoms and the montana is a mass of pale pink, but once they have finished their flowering period then they GROW.
This morning the farmer has waged his own war on them both - hence the photographs.
Whilst he was doing that I was cutting back my herbaceous geraniums - they have given such good service (patricia, johnsons blue and mezerium) but now the flowers are dead. I have cut them all off and - hopefully - we shall now get a lovely display of orange leaves throughout the autumn - I will keep you posted.
There is something very satisfying about the autumn clean-up in the garden. You begin to cut back and you find things you had completely forgotten about (they will have been swamped by some rampant neighbour). Under the tree peony is a clump of naked ladies (colchicum) - I don't remember planting them - it must have been years ago - and they must have struggled towards the light through the shade of the tree peony every year since. Poor things - they are weak and trambling. They should have better luck next year though.
As usual, the rudbeckia is the star of the autumn show, although it too has been attacked by the clematis and the tree peony. You really can't win, can you? Luckily the farmer is a dab hand with his pruning shears.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Saturday morning in town.

When I say "town" I mean our little local town which has only a fe w thousand residents and where, whenever you go, you meet so many people you know that it takes three times as long to shop. That's not a bad thing, is it?

Today it is warm, sunny and cloudless - so our little town is looking at its best. It is also the fourth Saturday in the month, so it is Farmers' Market Day. Don't get too excited about this - we are not talking here of those wonderful Canadian Farmers' Markets - where there are acres and acres of produce and handicraft stalls. No, our Farmers' Market has only about ten stalls - one selling very expensive (but scrummy) cakes, two vegetables (organic), one buffalo meat, one butcher, one herbs, one garden plants, a couple of cake stalls and a wine stall. Sadly it is not all that well attended. You will see that one of my photographs has not a single person buying. So it does not bode well for the winter.

Today there was a new stall from Whitby selling shell fish products and smoked fish - it all looked so fresh and tempting. Unfortunately the farmer is not a shellfish eater and does not like anything smoked - so I gave it a miss. Now i am wishing I had bought some crab for my tea!

It has become a tradition that a group of us meet for coffee in The Bolton Arms (the building on the horizon in the photograph with the garden plants in the foreground) on Farmers' Market day -so you can imagine us sitting in the bay window of the lounge there, looking out over a gloriously sunny dale, drinking coffee and chatting - lovely morning.

Have a good weekend - and those involved in TFE's Monday poem had better get thinking, methinks!

Friday, 25 September 2009

A Walk on the wild side.

Fancy coming for a walk round the fields with Tess and me? It's a while since you came and, as it is the last Friday in September, Autumn has already "set in" as they say around here.
Down the yard the hens scratch desultorily in the grass. They are not hungry but wander about looking for the odd bug or worm. As we go into the pasture the cool South Westerly wind catches the gate and slams it shut, scattering the sheep.
The hawthorn leaves are beginning to turn. Here and there is a hawthorn tree with plenty of ripe, red berries but many have no berries at all this year, which is not good news for the fieldfares and redwings who will shortly put in an appearance. They have already been seen quite near and when they come we shall probably hear them before we see them.
Most of our hawthorn is very old, the trunks are split and gnarled. But they are truly a tree of the North, hardy and used to clinging on tenaciously against the elements, so they don't die easily (unlike the sheep who can die at the drop of a hat). The hawthorn leans with the prevailing wind (Westerly here) and weathers most storms, although a few years ago a gale lifted one - roots and all - clean out of the ground and deposited it upside down in the middle of the pasture.
The leaves on the willow by the beck are just beginning to turn yellow. This too is an ancient tree with a gnarled trunk - it has always been there within the farmer's memory.
On the blackthorn the sloes are ripe and squashy. The birds avoid these unless times are very hard as they are so sour. This afternoon, on our last walk of the day, we shall take a bucket and pick the sloes, bring them in and pop them in the freezer, then tomorrow put them into a demijohn and pour in a couple of bottles of vodka, give them a good shake, add some sugar and leave them until Christmas.
The thistles have gone to seed. Each plant sports a top knot of thistledown which will blow about in the wind, ensuring a healthy crop of thistles for the butterflies next year. However many the farmer chops down each year at least as many survive to flower and seed!
Blackberries continue to ripen but are beginning to go over the top. The day is fast approaching (October 15th) after which one should never pick blackberries (the devil is said to urinate on them on that day, says folklore) sorry but I am afraid you can never get far away from a lavatorial theme on the farm! The blackberry leaves meanwhile are turning beautiful shades of red and yellow, proving once again that Nature creates wonderful works of art every Autumn.
The fields are greening up after hay and silage making. Although Autumn grass is of poor feed quality it will provide enough for the Swaledale sheep, who are used to a meagre diet and are very hardy. We shall supplement the grass with sugar beet and they will thrive.
Where there are rabbit holes, Tess will find them. She goes carefully up each hedge, setting up grey partridge and pheasant who rise and fly off, seriously annoyed at her intrusion. Where she finds a rabbit hole, she sticks her head down and calls, "Oy, you down there, I know you are there!"
Elderberries ripen by the day. The birds love them but unless you are a wine-maker they are not much use, so we leave them for the fieldfares and redwings
On our return home I notice this lovely patch of lichen on the garden wall - inspiration for any embroiderers out there. And on the cotoneaster growing along the wall the berries hang like so many red beads, to tempt the blackbirds. One day soon they will descend and clear the bush in the space of an hour.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Beautiful craftwork.

Following on from yesterday's vignette, I thought I would show you the little box close-up - photographed in the daylight. This tiny box measures twelve centimetres by four centimetres and is about three centimetres in depth. It is made a thick card and then hand-painted. It has tiny hinges to open and close it - and the inside is just as beautiful as the outside.

The lid has a pastoral scene of trees hand painted in delicate greens. Inside the lid is the quotation from WH Davies - What is this life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare? There are also three tiny sheep grazing. Then in the bottom of the box are three brown and white cows - all so beautifully painted. The edge of the lid has a border of grazing sheep - when I tell you that there are twenty five of them round the lid you will realise how small they are.

I am an admirer of exquisite workmanship in whatever field and this is so well done.

It was made and painted by Catriona Stewart in 1989. I have looked her up in Google but it is quite a common name and there are too many entries to pick her out, so whether she is still making these lovely boxes I don't know. If anyone out there has come across her work I would love to have details. In the meantime just enjoy the beauty of her workmanship.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

A Vignette

Kate (Chronicles of a Country Girl) put what she called a Vignette on her blog yesterday. It was a display of things, grouped together, which had significance for her. In a way it made a kind of statement and she invited readers to do the same.

I am afraid I am a bit of a hoarder when it comes to "knick-knacks" - I have an awful lot of them about, cluttering up surfaces. But each one has a memory for me and I could not bear to part with any of them.

Things which my son bought for me when he was small - a replica pot from the Vasa which he brought back from Sweden; a fine china beer mug he once bought us for Christmas; even an egg timer he bought when he was very small and which is well past its sell-by date - I have kept them all because they mean a lot to me. Small things of my mothers (her thimble), things which my sister or brother gave to me. I suppose we all have these things.

This little group in the photograph stands on my desk in the window of the sitting room. I took the photograph after dark, hence the dark background. There are seven things and they are all of great sentimental value.

The photograph of my parents with my sister was taken in 1910. The silver frame was given to me by the cast of an amateur dramatic company of which I was musical director. The tiny suede book is a copy of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam which belonged to my dear Aunt Nell, who has been dead for many years; the silver paper knife was bought for me by my late first husband on our Silver Wedding Anniversary; there is a tiny pair of scissors there too, in an Art Nouveau pewter case - this was bought for me by my niece quite recently but I love the workmanship - it is quite exquisite; the little box is very delicately watercoloured and deserves a picture of its own so that you can see it more clearly. It was bought for me by a dear friend who sadly died a few years ago. Tomorrow, when I have more time I will try to show you the box close up - it is beautifully painted. And finally, the little bottle. I don't know where it came from and it don't know what it has held but I just love it.

None of these things has great value but I love them all because of the memories they hold for me. I suppose when I have gone they will be dispersed and their meaning will be lost for ever - and that makes me sad.

Vignette anybody? PS And the little silver mouse? How did he manage to creep into the photograph - he gets everywhere - he is a real showman and likes to steal the limelight. Where did he come from ? Ah - that's a secret!

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

What a coincidence!

How many times do we have cause to utter those words!

The photograph is of our village. We live about a mile and a half out of the village but it is still "our village". The farmer was born in the house we live in and has never lived anywhere else (apart from a very short time after our marriage, when we lived in the attached farm cottage). He went to school in the village - walking across the fields each morning to get there. His father and his mother went to the same school. When he was a young man he knew almost everybody who lived there.

My mother and father were both born in villages. My father only ever moved about three miles away in his entire life. My mother went into service at 14 into a house in Lincoln, which was twelve miles away from where she lived - she then married and moved four miles. I was brought up in their village and as a small child we used to play pencil and paper games (my parents and I) to pass winter evenings (pre TV) and I could name every house in the village and everyone who lived there!

But life isn't like that any more, is it? Now there are only a handful of "locals" - the rest are incomers (or off-cum'd 'uns as they are called by the locals). The farmer knows these locals and their wives or husbands, because they married local too - ten miles was as far as you went looking for a mate when you had to walk! He came name the provenance of local families for several generations back given half a chance to reminisce!

But now we are mobile. My Dad never owned a car. In their entire lives my parents went once to London (not impressed), several times a year to Glasgow, where my brother lived and many times to Lowestoft, where my sister lived. When I moved to the Midlands their horizons widened considerably as they came to stay with us.

I went abroad for the first time to Paris in 1953 - then after a gap of a few years I have been all over the world. My sister and her husband went round the world on a cargo boat as a retirement present to themselves. My niece lived and worked in the Solomon Islands for some years. How the world has changed.

That neatly brings me to coincidence. I could tell you of dozens of times when, on holiday, I have met people and within a few minutes of starting a conversation I have found a link - either they live in a place where I know somebody, or we have a common acquaintance - or something similar. These kinds of coincidences give credence to the idea that truth is always stranger than fiction.

Sitting on the banks of Lake Maligne in Canada a few years ago, drinking a coffee and looking at the beautiful scenery,a couple asked if they might share our table. They asked if we were English (I'm afraid it shows!) and where we came from? After a few minutes conversation they located the exact village where I had been born and asked if I remembered a Mrs McGillivray.

She had lived next door to us for some years. "She was my sister!" the woman said.

Have you had similar experiences? I'll best most of you have. If so I would love to hear about them. Have a good day.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Two memes in one day!

TFE's challenge seems to come round so quickly. This week he suggested that we listen to Bruce Springsteen and then write something. The song he put on his blog was about one's hometown.

Over the week I have been doing a bit of research into song lyrics and (sorry you afficionados) really the lyrics strike me as a bit inane. (Bob Dylan - my hero - excepted of course.) So here is my poem for today, Peader. I have tried to write my own lyrics on a similar theme to hometown. If anyone wants to set it to music - feel free!


There are rooks and crows and

everybody knows

that they all flock together

in the wintry weather.

As they all fly by

in the wide blue sky -

where am I to be found?

With my feet on the ground -

I'm a homebird.


There are deserts in Arabia

and great walls in China.

I've been there, done that

even been to Carolina.

But when I stood on the wall

and when I went to Nepal,

Where did I want to be,

back home across the sea -

Cos I'm a homebird.


There are planes to the North

and trains to the South.

Ships sail the ocean

and it gives me the notion

to go off on the track

with a pack on my back.

But when I get there

I just want to be here -

I'm a homebird.

Homebird! Homebird!

a travel around, head in the air,

feet on the ground - homebird!

- unlimited dooby doos to follow. PT

And now for Derrick's meme - we have to put on a photograph which is a failed one. Believe me Derrick I have hundreds of those. Luckily these days we can delete them rather than pay to have the rubbish printed off. Most of my abject failures involve moving figures which have just moved too fast for me to snap. This one is no exception.

Sunday, 20 September 2009


Wow! Such a lot of you RSVP'd to my invitation that I ran out of scones and had to dash in and bake some more! It was lovely to see you all - we must do it again sometime. Later today, when I cannot garden any more because my back will be aching, I shall answer all your comments individually - it was such an enjoyable day.

Now to today's theme - and it is Patience. Have you got any? No, I'll re-phrase that - have you got any to spare, because I am totally lacking in it. If there is anything needed doing around here I want it done yesterday. The builder, who is fitting us in between golfing, holidaying and grouse shooting, has been very good for teaching me patience - the alterations have gone on for quite a long time and on the whole I have contained my impatience.

But the farmer! Now there is a model of patience for you, if ever there was one. You see above a photograph of our very old back door. It has been a back door for thirty or maybe even forty years. The builder suggested a new one. But the farmer has two maxims - never throw anything away until it is absolutely done for,(he uses a morth earthy word!) and if a thing is worth doing it is worth doing well. So I have to tell you, dear readers, that he has spent four days (yes - days - not hours) rubbing this door back to the bare wood. And yes, since you ask, we do have a sander, and no, since you ask again, he did not use it. He used glasspaper wrapped round a small block of wood with the addition of what we call around here "elbow grease". For four whole days (minus coffee and lunch breaks) he worked diligently upon this door. On the fifth day he stained it.

I think it has come up magnificently and I am full of admiration for one who can spend that amount of time. After four hours I would have thrown in the towel (or in this case the glasspaper) and gone out and bought a new door.

So five stars for my wonderful farmer. Have a good day - hope everyone is ready with their poem for TFE's Monday meme and their rotten photo for Derrick's meme too.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Call in for a ruminate!

On this equinoxal (?) week-end, wouldn't it be nice if you popped in? Knock on the door (don't ring the bell, it is very temperamental and only works when it feels like it), come and and say hello. If the sun is still out we'll sit on the bench on the lawn with a cup of tea and a cheese scone amid the last few flowers and ruminate together.
How has your Summer been? No, I don't mean weather-wise; we have talked enough about the weather. I mean how have you been this Summer. Have you been well and healthy, or have you had to fight illness like poor TFE with his nasty attack of swine-flu? We are all a year older than we were this time last year - do you feel a year older or are you weathering the storm of old age?
Have you kept going through thick and thin, always putting on a brave face - like my Spirea Antony Waterer (if you are reading this BT, please ask Twisted Willow if he knows who Antony Waterer was!). Or have you fought against adversity and still made it through the Summer, like my Japanese Anemones which I chop up every year. As their roots go under the garden path they manage not only to survive but flourish.
Have you been determined to put on a brave face, like my tiny Gertrude Jekyll rosebud here, which has popped up in spite of the plant being pruned back almost to ground level.
Or are you still putting on a brave face despite what lies ahead, like my rose which is covered in new buds, hoping to make it before the first frost.
Have you sparkled and been the belle or beau of the ball, like these splendid kaffir lilies, which spread around the garden like the wildfire they so copy in colour?
I expect, like me, there have been good times and bad times. In my case any bad times always seem trivial when I compare them with the bad times others of my acquaintance seem to suffer.
All I can say is thank-you for calling. I hope you enjoyed sitting on my bench and chatting - and having a cup of tea and a scone (if you are not a tea drinker then coffee or hot chocolate is always available (or even blackberry whisky TFE and Derrick!). It has been lovely chatting to you. I know that, like me, you will go forth into Autumn next week (or Spring if you live down under) full of hope and looking forward to lots more bloggy chats. In the meantime, have a good weekend.

Friday, 18 September 2009

A Jolly Day Out.

Today, a friend and I have had a day out. I took my camera to record our exploits and then - for the first half of the day - forgot to use it. We had a lovely lunch in a local pub - ate too much - then went on to Fountains Abbey.

Our real destination was Ripon and the annual Art Exhibition, which is held in the cathedral and features most of the leading artists in the area. It is difficult to get a really good shot of Ripon cathedral and it is in such a built up area, so I took one from the front seat of the car as we approached, so at least you can get some idea of what it looks like.
Later I took one while walking down Kirkgate - sorry there is a lean on the cathedral Derrick (I am sure you will notice) but that is the only way I could take it. Kirkgate itself, as you will see from the photograph, is an interesting and rather quaint little street.
The market square in Ripon had a little Victorian trailer - looks almost like an old fashioned bathing machine - the building in the background is the Town Hall and here every night at sundown the Ripon Hornblower blows his ancient horn to warn the townspeople to get inside and lock their doors!
The journey from here to Ripon is interesting - I have featured parts of it on my blog in the past. One place I have not mentioned is West Tanfield - here the road crosses the River Ure and the view from the bridge is spectacular. Considering I took the photograph from the open window of a moving vehicle I don't think it is too bad.
Hope you enjoy these photographs. I am sorry it is a brief blog tonight but time is short. Have a good weekend - and those of you who are joining TFE's Monday meme and Derrick's Monday meme had better get cracking.
## What of the art exhibition, you may ask. Well - as ever - it was very good. There were some brilliant seascapes but very little this year which blew me away. The only picture I really liked was sold (just as well as I would have found it hard to resist as it featured a hare).

Thursday, 17 September 2009

The Country Girl.

TFE's Monday challenge for next week is to write a poem about one's "Hometown". Quite a challenge, I think - but I shall attempt it, come Monday.
But the whole idea set me thinking while I was gardening(well, snipping a dead head off here and there - the "real" gardening I now have to leave mainly to the farmer). Where we are born and live our early lives must surely shape our whole life. When I lived in a multi-racial city I used to look at some of the people from the Indian subcontinent, who had moved there, and wonder whether they ever felt a longing for the heat, the smells, the landscape that they had left behind.

I was born in very rural Lincolnshire - the low fenlands that stick out into the North Sea. This was in the 1930's and it was a very insular community. The vicar and the schoolmaster and the judge who lived in the "big house" all had cars, and the man who lived at The Manor had a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce. Other than that we all caught the train or the bus and thought nothing of it. Distances were a mystery to us - a journey of fifteen miles was a day's journey if you had to catch two buses to get to your destination.
Man-made fibres had yet to be invented in quantity and we wore wool, wool and more wool in the winter, to keep out the cold east winds which the locals said blew straight in from Russia as there was nothing between us to stop it.
I cut my teeth in the country and lived there for the first thirty years of my life. Then I moved - first to a small cathedral city and then to a big urban connurbation with a huge multi-racial society. I loved my teaching years there, but even then I got out into the countryside every weekend to walk.
Now I am back in deepest Yorkshire - back to my roots almost - and those city years have fallen away.

I am a country girl, used to living
close to the weather.
When the East winds blew
"straight from The Urals",
cutting their scorching coldness
straight through my layers
of clothing,
I tightened my belt,
drew my scarf closer,
and struggled - leaning -
into school.

City living's not for me.
Not for me the brightly lit
shop windows,
the paved footpaths,
the heavy traffic,
the noise,
the smell.

My noise is the noise of
of cattle lowing,
of the faint hum of the distant tractor
as it cuts the new furrow.
My smell is the new-mown hay,
the steaming cattle-dung,
the heady scent of may blossom
on the hedge.

Old habits die hard.
I cannot shake off my country cloak.
I have returned
to my roots. PT

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may

.....Old Tyme is still a flying

Yes - Robert Herrick knew a thing or two about making the most of life because nothing stays the same. Nothing is forever.
I have been in reflective mood all afternoon since a friend called to say that they were going to move back to the South of the country to be nearer to their children, as they feel their health is beginning to deteriorate. (Shall miss you, M).
We have been friends for well over twenty years and have weathered a lot of storms together. We were widowed within a month of each other and, together with a third friend, also widowed about the same time, we gave each other love and support. Now all three of us have new partners.
Of course, we all know that nothing is forever - but somehow we put the fact to the back of our minds until it is brought to the forefront by some event. But it is all part of the natural cycle of life - we are born, grow old and die and the next generation takes over, just as each year the plants come up, flower, fruit and die back
The apples ripen on the trees, are harvested - and eaten! The nuts grow on the hazel bushes, ripen, fall off and are taken by the squirrels! Every year the holly comes into berry, decorates our homes at Christmas and then starts all over again.
Yes - I am in philosophical mood - and not a little sad - to think that another stage of our lives is coming to a close - thank goodness for e mails, I say, at least we can keep in touch that way. Now I have to persuade her to start a BLOG, so that I can read about her daily exploits - how about it M?
##The hazel nut tree and the holly bush were photographed in the pasture this afternoon;
the apple tree in the vegetable garden.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Any day now.......

Sometime around the beginning of next week (Sep 21 to Sep 23, depending on which book you read) the autumnal equinox will occur, when day and night are equal. Whether or not we notice it will depend upon the weather. Yesterday (in spite of very high pressure on the barometer - can somebody explain how) it drizzled here all day and by half past six in the evening it was almost dark. Today - as the sky photograph above shows - it is glorious, although as the wind has swung round into the North East - it is distinctly autumnal in temperature.

Lovely how everything is drawing to a close - leaves are beginning to turn brown, fungi pop up everywhere overnight, flowers in the garden have taken on that faded look, cobwebs hang between branches, giant spiders (I believe these are always "lady" spiders who have eaten their mates - I like the idea but am not sure whether or not it is a myth!) lurk in the corners of rooms and come out at a rate of knots just as one is sitting down to watch something on the telly.
I went with my daughter-in-law round the garden centres today - and there is a distinctly autumnal feeling there too - very few customers, everything has 20% off and all the plants are beginning to doze off. However - the hebe was still in flower and the butterflies were mad for it.
As our own contribution to the season, the farmer has just lit our wood-burning stove for the first time - very exciting (see photograph!) - all that remains is to tip the jig-saw out onto the dining table, settle down for the evening, draw the curtains and it's Goodbye Summer!

Monday, 14 September 2009

TFE's Monday Poem.

Each Monday Totalfeckineejit (see my blog list) is asking us to post a poem on a given theme. This week he tells us to listen to a piece of music and write about the experience. Here is my contribution - with a brief explanatory note:-

I have a hearing loss, which I have had for many years. Over that time my brain has somehow "forgotten" harmony. Don't ask me how - but I understand it is a common problem amongst musicians who have a hearing loss. Because I am a musician and like to listen to the harmony I find I can no longer listen to music - the sound is meaningless and I am sometimes at the end of a piece before I have even got the "tune" so that I can identify it.

Missa Solemnis (Beethoven)

Bath, it was. The
lawn, a fine
summer day, filled
with the
resonance of
student voices.
And a record
on the grass,
and a glass
of wine - chilled white.
And that first
full burst
of voices -
loud -
splitting the air -
all other sounds -
then fading
to one,
crystal note
that cut
thro' the soul
and pierced
my heart.

My ear now distorts
and fragments music.
The chords disperse
and sound like shattered glass.

I need a place
in which to store that memory.
I cannot shatter my dreams.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

The Farm in Autumn.

All the signs of Autumn are here now. In the fields the grass has all been cut, baled and stored away. The fields at the moment are striped with the pale green of the new grass and the pale cream of the dead grass. It makes a most marvellous foil for the colourful cock pheasant who frequents our bird table now that the weather is getting cooler. Of course, when I went out this morning to take his photograph, he was nowhere to be seen.
The grass-cutter has been cleaned and oiled. Its cover is on and it stands in the corner of the paddock waiting to be put away in the implement shed.
Around the paddock the hedge is full of ripening brambles and pale orange rose hips. I looked at them and remembered the marvellous display of wild roses earlier in the year. Really the wild rose (rosa canina) really pays us back for allowing her to bloom in our hedge - first the beautiful pale pink flowers with their delicate scent and then the rose hips to colour the hedge as it bares for winter - and there is a third thing too - the fieldfares and redwings will be here shortly and they will flock to the hedge to devour the ripening berries.
All but the final nest of fledgling swallows have gone. One morning, earlier in the week, we got up to find the yard empty of the swooping house martins and swallows - now there are just three or four still practising their flying skills. I hope they make it to Africa.
And this morning - joy of joys - as I sat up in bed drinking my morning cup of coffee (tea all the week and coffee on a Sunday - the farmer is a creature of long-held habit) a hundred rooks flapped past, filling my bedroom window with a ready-made painting - last week it was house martins swooping down from the eaves of the house - this week it is rooks flapping up from their rookery in Forty Acre Wood to their feeding grounds up the Dale. A few leave the flock here and forage in our fields - the rest fly on. At dusk they will return - we shall hear them coming before we see them if we are out on a walk.
Two other signs of Autumn on the farm. Yesterday the over-wintering sheep came. One hundred and fifty Swaledales - already they are FTB, as the farmer would say (full to bursting) with our better-quality grass (they have come from the tops, where the grass has already stopped growing with the cold nights) -and they lie contentedly in the bottom pasture. You will see that each one has their owner's mark (two red spots) - so that if they get out (they are very clever at escaping) we can easily pick them out from the sheep on the neighbouring farm.
And, finally, the ever-present question of manure rears its head again. Last Winter's final lot of manure in the Loose Housing has yet to be cleared. It will have to be done soon so that the building can be prepared for this winter's heifers from our neighbour. So this week the farmer will hire a giant muck-spreader for the day and work from dawn to dusk spreading it on the fields. The farm cats will not be happy - they have spent the summer lying in there - mice are easy-pickings in between the baby rabbits from the fields.
Finally - I can't resist putting on my Rook poem again. I wrote it last Autumn and posted it then. But the rooks are back again, so forgive me for giving it another airing. Have a lovely Sunday.
It seems to me the wind
is your friend.
Soaring, tumbling,
playing with the thermals
on a still day.
Tacking, swooping,
cutting along the hedge-top,
manipulating the gale.
Chattering, flying high,
sailing home on a
light breeze.
Building your stick nest
high in the bare branches
for it to rock and rattle
round the rookery.
You joyful bird
with your black lustrous plumage
and your crusty beak
that stabs the ground
for leather-jackets.
You can
fill the sky with movement,
write a tune on the wires,
blacken a field with your parliament,
and fill my heart with joy as you
surge past my window
in your thousands
at dawn on a cold, winter morning. P.T.