Friday, 30 September 2011

The New Poetry Bus Magazine

The second issue of this magazine is out. All credit due to the guiding light - Peadar O'Donoghue (Totalfeckin'eejit on my side bar). I got my copy yesterday - it is even better than the first issue. I do urge you to buy it

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Poetry Day

Today has been our monthly poetry day and as usual it has been a lovely afternoon. We are still meeting in W's conservatory and today the sun was so warm that two members had to have brollies up to shelter them from the sunshine.

We had a super selection of poetry - serious, funny, lyrical, modern, old, but all so enjoyable. Poetry was meant to be read aloud and somehow it is so much more enjoyable when it is read out loud than when one reads it to oneself.

Before we began our reading though S told us about the origins of Indian Summer. We are certainly having an Indian Summer here at the moment - days of pure, unbroken sunshine, warm temperatures and early morning mist. Perfect Autumn days and we are making the most of them up here in the Dales.

I think we had all assumed that the term 'Indian Summer' probably referred in some way to the sub-continent of India. No such thing. Apparently the most likely origin of the term relates to the North American Indian, particularly in New England and New York. Here raiding parties would take place if there was a thaw in January because of course the raiders could not be tracked back to their village if there were no snow tracks to follow. Or one other explanation is that when there was a warm break in the weather squash and corn were harvested.

You learn something every month at our poetry group - as well as a nice plate of cakes, courtesy of W, plenty of laughs and chat - and above all beautiful, varied poetry.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

New arrivals and old friends.

The sheep have begun to arrive. They are hefted sheep - this means that they live on the tops of the Buttertubs Pass between Wensleydale and Swaledale and the mothers teach their young to stay in the designated area. They pass this information on from one generation to the next (although one or two always go missing to pastures new). I have taken a photograph to show you but not a single sheep looked up!

A Swaledale is recognisable by its white nose. All noses were deeply buried in the lush green grass; hardly surprising when you consider they have spent months on the slopes where the grass is quite sparse. They will not have seen the like of this before and will gorge themselves for a day or two (usually resulting in a bout of diarrhoea) before settling down for the winter.

On our walk this afternoon I managed to take a photograph which encapsulates all that is going on in farming around here today. This is our neighbour's farm. In the foreground there is grass cut ready for baling up into late-crop silage for the Winter Then, beyond the beck (the line of longer grass) the new green shoots of next year's barley crop are just coming through. Beyond that is a strip of stubble where the corn has been cut and the straw led away. This stubble will be waiting for eventual ploughing in. In the far distance our neighbour is ploughing a big field ready to sow with some crop before the Winter. And beyond that the green fields to the horizon - all of which will house sheep over the Winter.

While we are on the subject, I notice that my calendar for this month has a picture
of a field of corn which has been harvested. The straw has been baled up to be collected and used for feed/bedding over the Winter. However, the caption says 'Hay Bales near Pickering, North Yorkshire'. So here - once and for all - is the difference between Hay and Straw. Hay is grass which has been cut and dried in the sun until it is brittle and golden. Then (very sweet-smelling) it is baled up and stored for feed in the Winter. (Our hay barn is a favourite place for hedgehogs to over-winter as it gets nice and warm. The cats use it as their winter home too).
Straw is the stalks of any corn crop (oats, barley, wheat), left after the ears are harvested. This is baled up and taken to the farm where it is used either for bedding or - often - chopped up and added to animal feed.

Coming back home through the front garden, I notice that the carnation/pink given to me as a present by Rosemary (Share my Garden on my sidebar) has made a nice sturdy little plant before Winter. And the lovely 'wild' sweet pea plant, given to me by N and S (if you are reading this N and S - thank you) is still flourishing and making lots of nice seed pods which I hope to dry so that I can grow my own next year. All over the garden clumps of Schizostylus are in full bloom. I do love their cheerful red colour - it brightens up the garden no end.

##I have just been told off by the farmer because the green in the middle distance (beyond the beck) is not next year's barley coming up, it is grass which is growing well and may very well get another cut if the weather holds - as it is forecast to do. The Times says it will be warmer here than in Hawaii by the weekend. How about that?

Monday, 26 September 2011

The sheep are coming.

Any day now the pedigree Swaledale sheep will be coming for Winter. The three fields where they will start their stay have been made ready all but the blackberry briars, which are sticking out into the field. One thing is for sure - if there is a thorny briar a sheep will get stuck to it. So this afternoon the farmer is going round the hedges cutting back the briars and loading them on to his tractor bucket ready to put on the bonfire.

Tess and I had a walk round the field - she off the lead for the first time with me. When she was small she used to chase rabbits and not come back when called so I have since always taken her on a long lead. However, today I thought it was time she had a chance to redeem herself and I must say each time I called her she came back and got a stroke. So hopefully she has grown up now and can frolic about in the fields to her heart's content. She always goes with the farmer without her lead but I am not agile enough to go after her if she doesn't come when called.

I think the Little Grey Men (do you know the book of that name by BB?) have taken up temporary residence under our Scots pines - these look just like little elf houses to me. So tonight I shall be looking out for Cloudberry and Sneezewort.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Autumn walk.

When the farmer set off this morning with his walking group it was pouring with rain and there was a thick mist - I thought that the lot of them were mad. Now ,four hours later, the sun is shining and it is really warm.

Tess and I had our walk down the lane. It is not easy walking as the muck leading season has begun and you do have to watch where you are putting your feet. There is a slight breeze and the early rain has meant that the leaves are pretty heavy and the breeze is blowing them off the trees. The air is full of leaves and the scent of dying vegetation (mixed with the muck!)

On the stone walls the lichen shines golden in the sunlight; the recent damp warm weather seems to have enhanced it. In the distance the tops of the deciduous larches in Forty Acre wood are already showing golden. The air is full of the sight and sound of rooks and there is a very autumnal feeling everywhere. We keep having to step back on to the verge as it is a chapel Sunday and all the traffic comes down our lane to the chapel in the next village.

When we arrive back at the gate I notice that the Cotoneaster horizontalis has produced a lovely crop of red beads to tempt the blackbirds. I do hope they leave them for a while - they make such a cheery picture and once the blackbirds find them they seem to almost disappear overnight.

In the farmyard a family of rabbits has discovered the lawn under the Scots Pine trees - as I stood in the bedroom window this morning five young rabbits were happily cropping the grass and although I suggested to the farmer that they were doing as good a job as a lawn mower, he was not impressed and went into Mr McGregor mode - so watch out rabbits - he is on the warpath!

Saturday, 24 September 2011

A Chinese Meal.

I went out last night for a Chinese meal with a group of five friends. Our local Chinese restaurant is at the bottom of the market square with lovely views of the town - and of the sunset too as we arrived.

It is a long time since I ate Chinese food and I had forgotten how good it was. We had a selection of delicious dishes which we shared - prawns in sweet chilli sauce, ginger beef, chilli beef, lemon chicken, fried seaweed, spring rolls, egg fried rice, spare ribs. It was lovely sharing too - made the occasion much more enjoyable. There is something about sharing food rather than having an individual plate of food.

We had lovely conversations and a lot of laughs and it was only just down the road - no long journey to get there. We must do it more often. I took the above photograph really to show the farmer, who is suspicious of Chinese food. I hoped it would tempt him to perhaps go for a meal one evening, Time will tell.

#On a different note, the woodpecker has been back at the bird box again, squeezing inside and then throwing out all the debris. I wonder what his/her plan is for this house - again time will tell. Have a nice weekend.

Friday, 23 September 2011


At fourteen weeks old today my young chickens have finally been let out of the pen and given their free range freedom. We did it yesterday lunch time when the farmer moved the run so that they could 'break out'. They were so delighted to be next to grass (they had been for the first six weeks after they were born - since then on concrete) that for the first half hour or so they stayed in the pen pecking at the grass and not seeming to notice that the pen was open at one end.

When it began to get dark they returned to their own hut, together with their ';mother' Goldie. Today they are roaming the yard and the fields along with the other hens. One of the cockerels has got a magnificent green tail growing and one of the hens is half blue and half orange - but on the whole they all favour their Buff Orpington father - a lovely golden colour.

The four cockerels will only have limited freedom for a few weeks, then - come the cold weather - they will be fastened in to fatten up. It sounds sad but we can't keep five cockerels and when I say 'fastened in' they still have a huge shed and a nice little outside run, so they are not exactly confined.

I have enjoyed having new chickens which I have bred myself - I shall certainly do it again next year and by that time entry to the bottom of the yard should be much easier as the farmer is intending to put in new (lighter) gates - at present they are so heavy that I cannot manage to open them unaided.

Thursday, 22 September 2011


Officially today is the first day of Autumn and already Autumn is creeping imperceptibly into the house. At about half past three in the afternoon, a chill begins to permeate everywhere (that is unless you are one of those people who have their central heating on all day), however much sunlight has been streaming through the windows. The smell of apples and onions hangs around as both are being stored for winter and more and more casseroles appear on our lunch table, served with thick slices of bread to mop up the gravy. The log basket in the utility room empties quite quickly and needs refilling so there is always bark debris to sweep up around the basket and the smell of logs is there too - different smells depending on which wood is being put out - sometimes hawthorn, sometimes holly and sometimes crab apple at the moment.

We have taken to eating our afternoon tea from a tray in the room where the wood burner is. We eat our sandwiches and cake while watching 'Antiques Road Trip' (how sad is that?) and by the time the News has finished it is time to draw the curtains because the nights have suddenly drawn in. That getting darker always happens suddenly doesn't it - and it always catches us unawares.

In the garden the last few roses are putting on a fine show and will continue to do so until one morning we shall come down stairs to find the cobwebs covered in sparkling white frost and then the roses will die. That, for me, is always the last sign of Autumn.

I suppose the most famous line which sums up Autumn has got to be 'Season of mists and yellow fruitfulness' - because it certainly says a lot in such a few words. Poor John Keats never had a chance to reach the autumn of his life, dying as he did in Rome at the age of only twenty-five from that scourge of the age - tuberculosis.
I wonder what a wealth of poetry he would have written had he lived longer.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Another busy day.

Now that I can drive again I seem to have got back into my old ways of dashing here and there - I shall have to watch it.

I have re-joined Wensleydale Writers' Group and there was a meeting this morning. I have not written for so long (other than this blog) so I think it is important that I give it a chance, to see if it rekindles my ability to write. H, at whose house we have meetings, had the most wonderful agapanthus in her lovely garden, so am posting a shot here for you to see.

This afternoon a friend, M, came up from Ripon and we went to the Wensleydale Sheep shop, which is at the bottom of our lane. I do love these little specialist shops. This one is a tiny one in the yard of a farm, where the owners keep a flock of Wensleydale sheep (black ones and white ones). They have out-knitters who knit garments for them, they have wool in variously dyed colours, patterns, bits and pieces made of wool, and (what my friend was looking for) 'tops' for felt-making. She has gone home with a large 'ball' of wool for felting so that she can make a teddy.

A cup of tea, a chocolate digestive and an hour's chat completed the afternoon. As she left it poured with rain but now, as I write, the sun is shining and it is a lovely evening.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

What is it with us and fungi?

All over Europe at this time of the year people go out on fungus forays and come back with baskets loaded with various kinds of edible fungi which they cook up into delicious- sounding meals.

What do we do here in the UK? Well, I would hazard a guess that most of you, like me, eat ordinary field mushrooms, maybe chestnut mushrooms - and at a push ceps or maybe a packet of those dried mushrooms which reconstitute pretty well providing all you are going to do is add them to some dish or other.

My mother cooked field mushrooms with liver and bacon and thick brown gravy - and it was delicious. But suggest trying anything other than that and she would quickly point out that they were 'all poisonous'.

Why, I wonder, are we so scared of them? I photographed one or two on my walk this afternoon and I must say they all look pretty poisonous to me. But I have no way of knowing whether they are or not.

Kent cob nuts appeared on our market stall last Friday. They looked absolutely lovely but I really would not know what to do with them - and they didn't look ripe by any means. The farmer brought in a handful of hazel nuts from the hedge yesterday - they look lovely too but I have never sctually tasted one.

So there we are - good food going to waste because we have never been educated to select the good from the bad, the edible from the poisonous. Or maybe, on second thoughts, it is not going to waste. Some squirrel somewhere is saying, thank goodness they don't know just how good these hazelnuts are!

On a completely different topic, I watched an interesting thing from the bathroom window yesterday. I'm sorry that it is such a rotten photograph but it had to be taken against the light and the bird box is some distance away. This year tree sparrows successfully reared two broods in this box. As I watched, a woodpecker began to peck at the hole. It pecked and pecked, and kept trying the hole for size until suddenly it could squeeze through. Then it proceeded to throw out all the nesting material, as though it were cleaning the whole thing out for use next year. It will be interesting to see if a woodpecker tries nesting in the box come the Spring, won't it?

Monday, 19 September 2011

The Ruby Wedding.

Up here at the bottom of the Dale it was a lovely sunny afternoon. But it was chilly, so on Saturday I bought myself a fine wool jumper to wear under my linen jacket. Yesterday morning was so chilly that I also added my thermal vest!!

At the top of the Dale, where the celebrations were being held it was also a sunny day. In between we drove through torrential downpours and the river, which we followed all the way, was banking. I was very pleased that I had my warm clothes hidden under my linen jacket.

As we approached we saw all these hardy young things in their finery - mostly strapless or thin-strapped long dresses with no cardigans. Most men dressed in their best suits (they are a conventional lot the men up the Dale).

I have to say that the marquee was absolutely lovely. The family had had a wedding reception in it the evening before, so it was decorated for a wedding anyway. Now Mum and Dad were celebrating their Ruby wedding in it. Earlier in the year they had celebrated by spending a holiday in NewZealand (missing the earthquake by only a few days).

Sadly, apart from the 'bride' and 'groom' and one other couple, the farmer and I knew no-one there. We chatted to those we knew, made our donation to the Air Ambulance and crept away before the arrival of the hog roast. We drove home the long way round and called in Reeth for an ice cream. Already the Dale has begun to wind down for Autumn. The schools are back and there were few tourists about. It is a short season up here.

But the scenery was magnificent even if there were few people around to enjoy it.

Saturday, 17 September 2011


Three quarters of an inch of rain in the last twenty four hours and the river here is 'banking' (reaching the top of its banks). One of the biggest of the Dales Shows is on today - Stokesley Show - I can only imagine the quagmire which is the showground after all that rain.

We are going to a Ruby wedding celebration tomorrow in a marquee quite near to our local river, so we are hoping it has not burst its banks and flooded the field.

There has been a sharp blustery wind too and I noticed leaves down in profusion on my afternoon walk. Strangely enough the ash - which comes into leaf last of all - is the first to drop its leaves and our lane is lined with them today.

I looked up the ash before doing this blog, to find that it is more or less a worldwide tree - very common - and it belongs to the same family as the olive tree. In fact the rowan, or mountain ash, is not an ash tree at all and belongs to quite a different genus.

On a different note, I am sure we are all saddened by the deaths of the four miners. Until their bodies were found there was maybe a faint glimmer of hope but that hope was quickly dashed as one after another the bodies were discovered. Our hearts go out to their families.

Have a lovely weekend.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

A very busy day.

The day did not begin auspiciously when I stepped out of bed and saw this on the carpet at MY side! Where had it spent the night before it curled up and popped its clogs?

I decided that today was the day I would make a large batch of Welsh Rarebit - divide it into quarters, have one quarter as part of our lunch and freeze the other three quarters. It is a bit fiddly and by the time I had finished I had used just about every receptacle in the kitchen so an extra dishwasher run today.

After lunch I needed to go to the Wensleydale Sheep shop just down the road to talk about wool for a friend, so I took Tess in the front seat of the car, well strapped in with the seat belt (otherwise a warning buzz keeps going off) and after going to the shop Tess and I walked along a bit of the lane we rarely go on. It was a glorious afternoon - so peaceful. On the whole mile there are only six houses and I really don't think anyone was at home in any of them.

Tired after my walk I needed a sit down but it had to be a short one. The last of my grandchildren, my second grand daughter, goes off to Bristol University this week end for the first time. I had promised to bake her a cake and as her Dad is taking her tomorrow evening I thought I had better get it done today.

Then, as the house was full of the smell of baking, I thought the farmer would come in hungry at tea time and think I had baked a cake for him! So I made a batch of what I intended to be butterfly cakes, only to find out I had no icing sugar left. In the end I put a blob of bramble and apple jelly on to each one and stuck the 'wings' in that. He said they were delicious but I so rarely bake cake I think he would have said that about anything.

After all that I was jolly pleased to sit down after tea. The farmer has gone out again. He has cut down and grubbed up a hedge and created a new gateway into a new little field we have made. Then he burnt the pile of greenery out of the way because a load of gravel for the new gateway is coming at crack of dawn tomorrow. It's all go here.

Apple Chutney Recipe

An extra post put in for those who requested the chutney recipe. Bear in mind that I haven't tasted it yet as it has to mature for a month - but licking the spoon tasted good so I have high hopes!

Apple Chutney.

Into a pan put 3 pounds of windfall apples, around one and a half pounds of onions - both roughly chopped. Add a couple of lemons sliced and then cut into pieces, twelve ounces of raisins and two or three cloves of garlic chopped small (as much or as little as you care to add.) Pour in a bottle (17 fl oz) of cider vinegar and cook gently until the apples are soft. How long will depend on the type of apple, but try to retain a little shape in them.
Then remove from heat and add fourteen to sixteen ounces of dark brown sugar - again you can regulate this depending upon how sweet you like your chutney. Then simmer gently until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is thick. Watch it carefully towards the end as it easily begins to burn.
Remove from the heat source and add one teaspoon each of ground ginger, turmeric and cinnamon. Stir well and pot in sterilised jars.
It is ready to eat after one month.
Enjoy either with cold meats, cheese or as a sandwich.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Too many outings now that I can drive!

I was out all day yesterday. It is my Tesco morning and that took me up to lunch time by the time I had cleaned out the fridge and put the food away. In the afternoon I drove down to Ripon to see a friend, who is a real inspiration. We had a lovely afternoon and I returned home with a bag of apples. In the evening the farmer and I went to The Station Cinema in Richmond to see 'One Day'. I loved it - very romantic - but not sure it was the farmer's cup of tea. He said it was 'alright' and he kept awake, so that is better than nothing.

This morning, of course, I had to use up those apples. So after a quick trip into town to stock up on cider vinegar and dark molasses sugar, I made six pounds of apple chutney. Since then I have been down to our feed merchants to stock up on animal and bird food with the farmer.

Just back I feel like having a sleep (it is 3.15pm) but am trying hard to fight the temptation by doing my blog instead. So if this suddenly fades out you will know the reason why!zzzzzzzzzzzz........

##The second issue of the Poetry Bus Magazine is due out today. It you are interested in buying one then go to Totalfeckineejit on my side bar. I am sure he will have information there before too long.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Our very own shillelagh.

Hands up all those who could spell that without resorting to a dictionary (TFE excepted of course). It took me ages to find the word even then.

For years one of our old, gnarled hawthorn trees in the pasture has had this great lump of wood attached to one of the branches. A few years ago the branch broke off, leaving just a stump, but the lump remained. We used to look at it and say how much it reminded us of a shillelagh.

Now this Summer, the heifers in the pasture have obviously found it a good scratching post and gradually, over the Summer, they have dislodged it, until the other morning the farmer found it lying on the floor.

It is so like a shillelagh that I can't help feeling this is how they were formed. According to my dictionary, the term is probably from Shillelagh oak wood in County Wicklow so this makes sense doesn't it.

Whatever the origins, it is lovely to have such a good example and I intend to put it on the window sill and admire it, at least for a while.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Wild Swimming.

Spare a thought today in this howling gale (the tail end of Hurrican Katia I understand) for poor David Williams, the Little Britain star who is, as I write, endeavouring to swim the last stretch of the River Thames - the tidal stretch, downstream to Teddington Lock.

He has had huge support and has so far raised £800,000 for Sport Relief, having swum 116 miles. People have cheered him along all the way, which he says has helped enormously. There has been a fleet of support boats too, which must have made a difference.

At one point he began to turn blue and his physio made him get out of the water and don a wet suit. But the most horrifying thing about the swim is that I understand 500,000 cubic metres of raw sewage has entered the Thames since last Monday. He has already got a gastric upset - hardly surprising.

People have always been attracted to wild swimming. The late Roger Deakin wrote a wonderful book on it called Waterlog. My son borrowed it and has kept it as he has become rather addicted to it himself, much to my horror and that of his wife too.

I read in the Times today about a terrific heatwave in 1911 in September (well, no likeness there then as it is a gale and freezing cold outside) when on September 6th a forty year old Yorkshireman, Thomas Burgess, made his sixteenth attempt to swim the English Channel. He was naked apart from goggles and a bathing cap and was smothered in lard. He was constantly seasick and was stung by jellyfish but the crew of his support boat lifted his spirits by singing La Marseillaise!!!

They fortified him with grapes and hot chocolate and he landed at Cap Gris Nez (the closest point to England) after 22 hours and 25 minutes in the water. See - they always made them tough in Yorkshire - even in those days.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Daddy Long Legs!

Yes - they're back. The first one appeared fastened to the outside of the kitchen window at breakfast-time this morning. They always start to appear at about this time of year.

Of course, their proper name is the Crane fly. I must say they do appear to be aerodynamically challenged with their long thin bodies, their spindly long legs and their diaphonous wings. All of which leads to me question what they are put on the earth for?

They join (for me) slugs and snails in that list of things which seem to serve no useful purpose. Except, when you think about it, a mouthful provides a decent meal for a blue tit at this time of year, when food is beginning to become scarce.

They may not be efficient at flying (they are easily blown about in the breeze) but the shape of their body means that they are super-efficient at laying their eggs in the ground. These eggs, which develop into larvae - called leatherjacks (for obvious reasons) make the staple food for many birds in winter, not least the rook from my poem of yesterday. These leather jackets eat through roots and destroy plants so the more that are eaten the better.

I suppose I have answered my own question 'What are they for?' - they are all part of life's rich pattern and as such we must tolerate them hanging about on our windows. Windows certainly seem to attract them and once there they tend to die there and cling on, waving about in the breeze until the window cleaner calls again.

The farmer took a series of photographs of this chap during breakfast. Each time the reflection of the glass spoiled the image until I got the idea of holding up the slate teapot stand against the glass. He went out three times without a single moan. What it is to be married to such an equable man!

Friday, 9 September 2011

Caw! Caw!

Now that the weather is getting cooler suddenly the rooks are about again. Going up to see a friend this afternoon and passing field after field of corn stubble I noticed that every field was full of rooks poking about in the stubble; I suppose looking for insects and larvae and also eating the corn lying around - gleaning in fact. It was a warm afternoon and I had the car window open. The cawing noise from the fields was amazing and it reminded me that a few years ago I wrote a poem 'Rook', so I thought it was time to give the poem an airing again as I am sure some of my blogging friends were not reading my blog the last time I published it. Apologies to those of you who have read it before:


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
and manipulating a 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's morning.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

It's that time of year again.

Yes, the chimney sweep came this morning to sweep the multi-fuel stove chimney. Soot is so fine that it creeps everywhere, even though our sweep is very careful. So it meant emptying the room of all ornaments, putting down dustsheets and then, afterwards, giving everywhere a thorough clean. All done now and it feels good (apart from the twinges in my back). And there is black on all the dusters and cloths to prove it!

I remember having the sweep when we were children. No such things as sweep with a vacuum cleaner in those days, so there really was soot everywhere - soot which my father gathered up and put into a heap in the garden to 'weather' ready for putting round the plants.

Whenever the sweep comes I am always reminded of my first Sunday School prize, which was Charles Kingsley's "The Water Babies" which has as its hero Tom - the chimney sweep boy.

I read up a little about Kingsley this morning. He is a largely forgotten author here now but was quite famous in his day (1819 - 1875) but such an enigma of a man.He was son of a vicar and became one himself before becoming Professor of Modern History at Cambridge and Canon of Chester and Westminster. Yet he was a terrible racist.

As far as Tom in Water Babies is concerned - then Kingsley certainly championed the cause of the working man and was appalled at working conditions. It is hard to believe now that not so very long ago children were sent up chimneys to clean them out. Tom of course goes into the stream to clean himself afterwards and becomes a water baby, meeting all kinds of characters like Mrs Do-as-you-would-be-done-by.

Even when I came up here to live in 1987, local country people did not pay anyone to sweep their chimney. A favourite method was to stuff a bag of straw or an old rubber wellington boot up the chimney and set fire to it. Another method was to drop a holly bough tied to a piece of rope down the chimney and pull it back and forth. Can you imagine the mess? Discussing this with the farmer at lunch time he says that some people would push a goose up the chimney, it would fly towards the light and dislodge the soot on its way up. I think we had better draw a veil over that method, sufficient to say that if the goose had any sense it would fly off and find somewhere else to live.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

A Visit to Studley Royal Park.

A friend and I went out to lunch today. I had to go to the hairdresser in Ripon, so while we were there we went round an art exhibition in the Cathedral and then on to Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal.

Lunch in the restaurant at Fountains Abbey was delicious. Pan-friend mackerel for my friend and Yorkshire rarebit for me. Then we had a tour round the National Trust Shop where I started my Christmas shopping!!

Then we toured round Studley Royal Park, which is attached to the grounds of Fountains Abbey. There are roe, fallow and sika deer - we saw them in the distance. The park was laid out more than three hundred years ago and is very beautiful. The sweet chestnut trees have the most fantastic gnarled trunks. The chestnuts were just beginning to fall and lay on the ground under the trees.

The weather was not desperately kind as there was a strong wind blowing but at least the sun was shining. I do hope this is not the last outing before Autumn sets in in earnest. St Luke's little summer is coming up and I am hoping for great things.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Farm Cats

We have had our farm cats for about six years. They came as very wild young kittens from a neighbouring farm which had become overrun with feral cats. They were already named, very imaginitively, as Blackie and Creamy (no prizes for guessing which is which).

Creamy had a Siamese father we presume as there was a very randy Siamese Tom in the area and many of the feral progeny had Siamese features. I wouldn't blame any feral female for falling for him as he was such a beautiful cat. But it did mean that Creamy was especially wild.

Over the years Blackie has become tamer. He now comes into the utility room and calls loudly for milk every evening. Once the bowl is put in place he calls Creamy to come up the yard and, providing there is no-one about, Creamy cautiously creeps up for milk.
But recently Creamy has become braver and last week he came just inside the door. It is still impossible to approach him or stroke him but I did manage to get this photograph.

They more than earn their keep - they keep down the mice and rats and young rabbits very efficiently. ?

Monday, 5 September 2011

Getting ready for winter.

It is not a day for being out in the fields unless you have to be. There is a strong South West wind blowing and there is sharp rain in the air. A day, therefore, for getting ready for winter.

We have a wood-burning stove so this morning the farmer replenished the dwindling log pile. At present we have holly, hawthorn, crab apple and some ash - all from fallen or dying trees, so there is plenty of wood to saw up. He does this in the big shed, so he is warm and dry whilst he is doing it and the logs keep warm and dry off before they are brought in for the stove (any day now).

Yesterday, when we gardened, I almost swept the drive which is thick with pine needles from our Scots pines. I never got round to it and i must say that I am pleased on reflection. A big load of straw is coming around 5pm - if this wind is still blowing then there will be straw everywhere. But those pine needles are a real nuisance. When the farmer gardened Tess did not wish to be in the house with me, nor did she wish to be in the garden with the farmer, so I left the front door open for her. The result is a carpet of pine needles throughout the house! Luckily my cleaner comes on a Monday morning so all is now clean and tidy.

My next job is to call the chimney sweep - that stove chimney needs an urgent sweep if we are to begin using those logs.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Work in the garden.

It is a warm but cloudy day here - just the right kind of day to work in the garden, so the farmer has started the Autumn clean-up. Because it has been such a wet Summer things have gone rampant.

The Clematis Montana Alba has colonised the big tree peony and the wall climbing rose, so I have spent half an hour cutting it back where I can reach it. I have no doubt I shall have cut off some of the wrong bits, but there is so much of it that it won't matter and I can pull it out when the leaves die off.

One of the long borders has become totally overrun with couch grass (wickens up here) which means everything has to be dug out in an effort to get rid of the wretched stuff. The farmer has made a good start on that, as well as cutting back many of the flowers which have finished for the year.

But there is still plenty of colour. The orange crocosmia is flowering well. I like it because it always reminds me of my childhood and the big patch of what was then called montbretia just outside the kitchen door. The rudbekia is also in full bloom. It is a useful plant to have in any garden as it flowers with unfailing regularity and looks like a lot of miniature suns.

The rose on the wall is on its third flowering, in spite of being almost choked out by the clematis. This rose, which was un-named, came from Woolworths about fifteen years ago and cost £1.50. It is on its third flowering of the year and is covered in bloom. Each year I cut it back to six inches above the ground and it still makes more than wall height.

The astilbe is still in bloom and has done well this year with all the damp. Any minute now the farmer will be in for his afternoon cup of tea. Sunday lunch was not quite to his liking today. Yesterday we had his kind of meal - sausage and mash with onion gravy and green beans from the garden. Today we had my kind of meal = Moroccan chicken (poached in white wine and served with sweet chilli sauce) on a bed of lemon and thyme cous-cous and served with ratatouille. We followed it with roast nectarines and creme fraiche. He said it was 'alright' which is I suppose some kind of praise - at least he didn't say it was horrible!