Saturday, 30 November 2013

Saint Andrew.

Today, November 30th, is Saint Andrew's Day - St. Andrew being the Patron Saint of Scotland.   In his honour my friend J, whose late husband was a Scot, has bought a haggis to cook for her tea and my friend W has run the Scottish flag up her flagpole.

Sadly we English don't seem to celebrate our Patron Saint's day do we?    April 23rd is St. George's Day but as far as I know nothing is special about it.   The Scots seem to celebrate St. Andrew and the Welsh certainly celebrate St. David by wearing a daffodil.

I am afraid that I didn't even know who St. Andrew was, so if you are the same I will tell you that he was one of the apostles - a brother of St. Peter and was adopted as the Patron Saint of Scotland in the eighth century.   So Happy Saint Andrew's Day to all you Scots out there.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Has the world gone completely mad?

or does this happen every year as soon as December approaches?

Today has been that terrible thing here in the UK "Black Friday", whatever that means (can anyone enlighten me?).  Pictures on the six o'clock news show shoppers in Asda being pushed and shoved and falling over in their rush to get to the check-out.   One elderly lady with a broken wrist as a result.   And all just to get 'cheaper' televisions, food, fancy goods, anything for Christmas really.

And that is really the fly in the ointment - Christmas looms and the whole world seems to go mad with shopping frenzy.

Friday is market day here in our little town but whenever it is cold and damp and windy the market is much reduced.  This is because our market square is very exposed and no one in their right mind would spend time browsing on market stalls today as the wind whistled across the square.

So I went into the supermarket to do my little bit of 'top up' shopping - a few fresh vegetables and one or two perishables for the weekend table.   And the shopping frenzy was just as bad in there.

Could I please tell all the folk out there that it is not even December yet - the shops are not going to go away.   Let's all be reasonable, take our time, relax and enjoy the build up to Christmas - not go at it like demented earwigs.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Electronic babies.

One of the few chances I get to talk regularly to a really young person (22) is when I go to my hairdresser every Thursday lunchtime.  The visit has made life so much easier for me - I have forgotten how to wash my hair myself and my hair has got used to being washed once a week instead of each morning.   Some of our conversations are hilarious.

Today she was telling me that her father was just back from Everest basecamp.  I asked her where it was but she didn't really know.   Was it in Asia, she asked.   Then she remembered that he flew to Nepal - could you pin point Nepal on a map I asked.  She couldn't.

I think this is really the fault of schools because they no longer seem to teach any kind of Geography which relates to where places are.   I thought back to my days in Primary School, where we had a teacher well past retiring age (it was war time and teachers were in short supply).   Her name was Miss Kirkbride and she came to school accompanied always by her Great Dane.##  Her teaching methods were well ahead of her time.

I vividly remember having to bring every label off every tin we used at home into school so that we could pin point the place it came from on the map.  There would have been few tins from abroad as it was war time, but this activity fostered in me the need to look places up on the map.   To this day if I hear a place mentioned and I don't know exactly where it is, then I go straight to the Atlas to find it.   So thank you for that Miss Kirkbride.

##On the subject of the Great Dane, my father was once taking a short cut through 'The Pits' - a nature walk between two villages, one of which was the one where we lived- it was dark and very quiet.   All of a sudden something very cold touched the palm of his hand and he nearly jumped out of his skin.

It was the Great Dane being taken on his last walk of the day by Miss Kirkbride, who lived nearby.

But, back to my hairdresser.   Apparently she did a Child Development Course in the Comprehensive school but dropped out. Why? I asked.   Well, they gave her an electronic baby tag for the weekend, fastened to her wrist.   When 'the baby' cried she had to deal with it - change its nappy, feed it, cuddle it or whatever.  Being a weekend she had to wear the tag from Friday afternoon until Monday morning - this included getting up in the night to 'feed' it.  Going round the fashion shops on Saturday afternoon at   one point she had to stop and deal with the crying electronic tag in a rather posh fashion shop in the centre of town.   "It has put me off babies for ever!" she said. Can;t help feeling this ought to be compulsory in all schools - might stop a lot of teenage pregnancies.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Oh the glamour, the opulence...

Anyone who thinks there is anything glamorous about being the wife of a farmer needs to read this.   You see below the picture of my transport today.

I wished to spend the afternoon with friend M, and to this end asked the farmer if he could take me round there.  (sadly I can no longer drive).   He told me he was going that way anyway and I could have a lift with pleasure - there was a seat beside him in the tractor.

What he didn't tell me until I got outside and saw for myself, was that behind the tractor was the muck spreader.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.   What an elegant vehicle to travel in.   The lane is very bumpy and I had to hold on tightly.  If you think I was inelegant getting up into the tractor you should have seen me getting out!

But the most colourful part of the whole afternoon was still to come.   He collected me (again on the tractor and muck
spreader) but when we reached the lane end we kept going along the Main Road.   We were going to the field to spread the last load of muck before it got dark, so my afternoon with M (which had been lovely by the way) ended by the farmer and I gliding slowly up and down the field spreading the last muck of the day.

Still I had a nice afternoon out and I am not proud - after all, beggars can't be choosers can they?   Any ride is better than no ride at all and it is not everyone who can say they have been taken to visit a friend riding on a much spreader is it?

Monday, 25 November 2013

Silver Line launches today.

After my blog a few days ago - or rather my rant - about the article in The Times on the elderly, I was interested to see that Silver Line opened today.   For anyone who doesn't know, it is a telephone call centre for the elderly to ring if they are lonely so that they can be put in touch with someone who will chat to them.

We were shown volunteers speaking to callers but we were also shown groups of elderly folk sitting in drop-in centres chatting to one another, having a cup of tea and generally enjoying themselves.

What struck me about them was that they all looked so old!  My immediate reaction was, "OMG, do I look like that?"   The answer is, of course, that I probably do.   It's just that when I look in the mirror I don't see it that way.  I think to ourselves we are eternally young.   I certainly do not feel any different inside, or if I do the transformation has happened so slowly that I have not noticed it.

Long may it continue like that!!

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Stir- up Sunday

Today is stir up Sunday, the day when traditionally we make our Christmas puddings and get anyone who calls in to give them a stir and make a wish.   I know that now many people buy a Christmas pudding but I love the tradition and have kept it up.

Christmas pudding is the easiest pudding in the world to make and making it fills the house with a delicious Christmassy smell.  It is just a mixture of shredded suet, brown sugar, dried fruits and citrus fruits mixed with spices, flour, breadcrumbs and eggs, then well-laced with alcohol.

I suppose one drawback to making your own is that the pudding then needs steaming for many hours, but having an Aga means that I can do this in the bottom oven and just leave it in overnight.

And at Christmas when the farmer is responsible for firing it with brandy, carrying it to the table and slicing it up to be eaten with ice cream, fresh cream or brandy sauce it makes Christmas complete for me.

So today, pudding made, stirred and ready to go into the oven tonight.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Getting ready for next year.

I suppose one of the good things about farming is that one is always looking to the future, whereas in ordinary day-to-day life if you are sensible you develop a 'sufficient unto the day' attitude.

To that end the fertiliser has come today ready to make the grass grow in the Spring.   The prudent farmer buys it when the price is at its lowest and as our supplier rang to say that it was £50 a ton cheaper than at this time last year - the farmer ordered it and today it arrived on a large lorry.   It is now unloaded and stored in a cool, dry shed until such time as the land is ready to receive it.

Although it is cold, at least it is dry, the farmer, acting as Builder's Labourer has been up on the Milking Parlour roof again.   Half of the slates are now back and the job is in abeyance until next Thursday.   Our Builder is semi-retired and in his spare time is a loader for the Grouse Shooting parties on the moors around here.   He is grouse shooting Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

I try not to think about it as it is a way of life up here and I am not going to change anything, am I?   But he was out on the moors on Wednesday of this week and in the evening plucked and got to the oven- ready stage for his freezer - a pheasant, a grouse, a wild duck and a wood pigeon.   When I turned my nose up and said I couldn;t contemplate eating any of those, he replied that I would if I was starving.   I can't win, can I?

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Deeply offensive.

There is a leading article in today's Times 2 which I find deeply offensive.   I thought of writing to them but decided it wasn't worth it - that is what these journalists hope you will do, so I shall not give Deborah Ross the satisfaction of knowing that she has offended me.

The subject is old age and I am sure it is written tongue-in- cheek (particularly as the article 'so who is Reem anyway?) written alongside it and also by her, suggests she is heading that way herself.  (she looks on the top side of forty in her photograph).

Alright, so I am willing to accept that my sense of humour is pretty poor when it refers to old age, but I still think the article is beyond the pale.   It was in response to Esther Rantzen's recent setting up of 'Silver Line' - a help line for the elderly along the lines of Childline.
These are the things she suggests that old people (of which I have to accept I am one) can do to stave off boredom.
1.  Have sex and write about it. (I do not wish to discuss my sex life
with anyone thank-you).
2. Go kayaking or bobsleighing with one's grandchildren. (ie sitting down activities)
3. Reminisce about once being part of a target audience on TV.
4. Pay kids £10 per half hour to hear you talk about old landlines.
5. Kill a whole afternoon looking for your reading glasses.
6. Spend a whole afternoon looking for your car before you realise you actually walked and left the car at home.
7. Keep reporting things to the police so that eventually they start
offering you cups of tea.
8. Call and leave messages for your children because they never listen to their answer phones, so you can spend all day on the activity.
9. At the till rummage in your purse for the right change holding up the whole queue - then walk home slowly taking up the whole pavement.
10. Hunch over and get  wired by a qualified electrician so that you can become a floor lamp.

Growing old is not a joke and those of us who have reached it do our level best to stay ahead of the game.   I read up on current affairs, I belong a writers' circle and a poetry circle, I go to an exercise class, I go out for meals with friends and cook meals here for friends too

Alright, I am not one hundred percent mobile and cannot always walk quickly but I jolly well try not to take up more than my fair share of the pavement.

I suppose I am lucky that I live in a picturesque area to which many folk retire, so that the average age of the inhabitants is I am sure well above the National average.   There are clubs and societies, all well-attended, for almost everything - The Wensleydale Society which has talks and walks,  Round Table which does marvellous charity work, Photographic clubs, Painting clubs, Yoga, Pilates, Amateur Dramatics - there is plenty going on and also on many of the estates elderly people look out for one another.

Rantzen's new service is excellent - anyone who shut in on a cold Winter's night and lonely can surely get comfort from such an organisation.   But we don't need Times 2 to poke fun at us thank-you - however well-intended.

Our taxes helped to pay for the roads and pavements everyone walks on, our generation (I was a teacher for all of my working life) educated the generation which includes Deborah Ross, our parents fought in the Second World War for the liberty of this country and the young and middle aged do not have a prerogative over walking the pavements any more than they do over how long we take to go through the till.

It says a lot that the other article on the same somebody called Clover Stroud is headlined "I watch more porn than my husband does."  For two pins I would write another rant on that!

However, it is a freezing cold day and the builder and his labourer are up on the roof in spite of the weather, so I am sure I can be more suitably engage in making them a cup of tea.


Tuesday, 19 November 2013

On the farm today.

The last of the Summer eatage beasts have gone.   They went to our local market to a store beast sale.   This means that a farmer who has a plentiful supply of barley which he has grown himself and therefore does not have to buy in, will have bought them to keep indoors and fatten up to go to a fatstock market in about six months time.   Buying in Winter feed is a very expensive business so that those farmers who have to buy it all in tend to sell their stock off at this time of year.

We are having our milking parlour re-roofed this week.   We no longer use it as we went out of milk production when we had foot and mouth disease, but we must not let the milking parlour deteriorate.   For the sake of whoever comes after us it is our duty to keep the building in good shape - hence the builder is here and the farmer is acting as builder's labourer.

When I came back that way from my after-lunch walk with Tess I took a photograph - "for posterity" I told the farmer, and also to remind him of how to do it the next time it needed re-roofing.   He replied that he would be "pushing up the daisies" long before that as the last time it was done was apparently around 1930!!

It is the most beautiful day here today.   We awoke to an apricot sky of such clarity with an almost full moon still shining and the sky has stayed a clear blue all day.   It is cold and there is a slight breeze but the builder and his labourer say it is reasonably warm with the sun on their backs.

I am off now to choose my poems for tomorrow's Poetry meeting - one of my favourite afternoons in the month.

Monday, 18 November 2013


Anybody who has read my blog for a long time will know that the rook is my favourite bird.   I am not sure why this is except there are two images from childhood which perhaps make me lean in this direction.

The first one is one I have only been told about.   Opposite our house was a large rookery and every year when the young rooks were about to leave the nest they would have a large rook shoot to cull the birds.   Apparently, when I was just a toddler, I was found sitting in the middle of the back lawn, cradling a dead rook and sucking its beak.   I rather prefer not to think of this image very often.

The second is of course that rookery opposite the house.  The sound of the rooks would wake me every morning and I would often go to sleep to the sound of them returning.

Now I am back living in the country again we live within a mile of a very large rookery.   The farmer estimates at least fifty thousand birds in it.   During the Summer we see them scattered about the fields and trees or gathering in our little town, particularly on market day, when there are juicy pickings to be had.

But this time of the year (I have written about this before) just for a short time, until the days get even shorter, the journey of the rooks from their roost to their feeding grounds further up the Dale coincides with me sitting up in bed drinking my morning cup of tea.

Yesterday morning the sky was a deep and vivid red at dawn and for half an hour the rooks streamed past.   The sight was incredible.
In honour of that I am putting on again the poem I wrote about the rooks a few years ago.   Sorry if you are one of those who read it last time, but I make no apologies for printing it again - I just wish you could have seen the wonderful sight.


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 tops 
manipulating a gale.

Chattering, flying high,
sailing home on a
light breeze.

Building your stick nest
high on 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 at 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.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Five weeks and three days...

...before the turkey needs to go into the oven.   And I realise that any of our American friends have got to negotiate Thanksgiving before that.   But, judging by the shop windows in our little market town, Christmas is very close indeed.   Out have come the reindeer, the sleighs, the snowflakes, the fake snow and all the other paraphernalia of Christmas and away have gone all the things you might wish to buy.   Never mind, as I say every year, it will soon be over.

But one thing is different here on the farm.   Since last year the farmer has bought a new field.   It sits among our other fields and so completes the block of fields, which is very satisfying.   The centre of the field had been planted with young Christmas trees which had been sadly neglected, so much so that when the field first came into our hands the farmer was all for digging them up. 

But instead he cleared a lot of the long grass from around them and so gave them room to breathe.   Many are struggling, but some are flourishing and will be ready for Christmas this year. I am not at all tempted to have one - the thought of pine needles drives away any longing for the real thing - although there is nothing to beat that lovely smell of pine at Christmas.

Most of the holly berries have been stripped by the fieldfares; there are a few left and I hope they will still be there to bring in for Christmas but I am philosophical about it, certain that if the snow comes (and some is forecast for this week) then the birds' need is greater than ours.

One thing is for sure as far as Christmas is concerned.   Next Sunday - November 25th - is Stir-up Sunday, so next Saturday is the day I make my Christmas puddings (Delia's recipe as every year), so that any friends and relations who can be roped in to visit on Sunday can give the bowl a stir for luck.   Far better than putting sixpenny pieces in the pudding - a sure tooth-breaker if ever there was one.

Get writing those cards!

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Memories and Deja Vu.

How often do we look back and remember things from the past?   Believe me, says she from an advanced age, the older I get the more I do it.   Wet, dismal afternoons tend to sink me into reminiscence until I get up and do something quickly.   But are those memories accurate - no they are not, any more than that sense of deja vu is.

Do you remember what you were doing when JFK was assassinated.   That is one of those defining moments when they say that everyone remembers what they were doing (whoever 'they' is).  I am sure I remember - I lived in the depths of the Lincolnshire countryside, I was ironing, my young son had just gone to bed, my sister rang to tell me the news.

Daniel Finkelstein in today's Times writes about memory and 9/11 - another of those defining moments.

In 'The Invisible Gorilla' by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons there is an excerpt which suggest that memory plays tricks on us.   Apparently in a study a group of undergraduates were asked to remember what they were doing on the day and for a few days earlier than 9/11.  When the academics conducting the study went back to the same people a few years later and asked the same questions their memories were vivid but very inaccurate.   But there was also a difference.   They were willing to admit that they may well be wrong about those few days before 9/11 but they thought that no way was it possible that they were wrong about the day itself.

So it looks as though we feel secure in our memories of big events - even if the memories are false.

And of course, sometimes we have no memory at all of events - they have vanished for ever, even if we are reminded of this.   Yesterday friend W and I met our friends from Windermere at our favourite Italian Restaurant in Kirby Lonsdale for lunch.  During our lunch friend P asked if I remembered when I ran a choir in our little market town - I vaguely remembered that (it is about twenty two years ago) but I had completely forgotten that he was staying with me one day and I asked him to come to a rehearsal and play the piano so that I could conduct them, rather than try to do both at the same time.

But there was a momentous event as an outcome of this and I do remember that.   I was getting this choir ready to sing with other choirs at a Harvest Festival.   I was not the Principal Conductor, but would sing in the choir on the night.

The venue was St. Wilfred's Church in Harrogate.   We set off with the bus driver assuring me that he knew exactly where St. Wilfred's was and he duly dropped us off there with about twenty minutes to spare - time to get into the choir stalls and get ourselves organised.
He drove off with a cheery good-bye, telling us that he was going to stop down the road and get fish and chips and sit and eat them and listen to his radio.   Of course it was dark by this time and we trooped up the drive to the church in dim lighting.   At the door was a large sign which said "Welcome to St. Luke's Church" - we were in the wrong place!

The youngest and fittest set off at a gallop down the road to where we could see the lights of shops in the distance.   We huddled on the side of the road.   Luckily she caught the driver, he came back and we toured Harrogate asking all and sundry for how to get to St. Wilfred's.   We arrived half way through the first verse of We Plough the Fields and Scatter - hot and bothered, wind-blown and puffing heavily.   I can assure you I can still remember the look of relief on the face of the conductor.

And I will tell you this for nothing.   Should I ever pass St Luke's Church in Harrogate again I shall be in no doubt at all that I am having a strong feeling of deja vu.


Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Done It!

I seem to subscribe to the maxim these days: "Never do today what you can put off 'til tomorrow" - alright, I have twisted it round to suit my own ends, but you know what I mean.

For days I have been unable to find things in my wardrobe and chest of drawers.   The cold weather has taken me by surprise and there are plenty of thin blouses but not enough jumpers easily accessible.

Today I got up determined to do something about it.   I have done it!   I am feeling suitably smug and satisfied.   All my Summer clothes are now in the spare wardrobe and all my Winter jumpers are either washed and on the washing line in the garden or freshly ironed to get out the storage creases and hanging in the wardrobe.
I have done a check on everything and collected all the stuff I have not worn for at least a year and put it together in bags to take to either the Charity Shop or the clothing bank in our little town.

Now my dilemma is how to persuade the farmer to do the same.  He says it needs doing - so here is a question for you:   Do I do it for him or do I let him do it himself? (i e leave it undone all through the winter I guess.)   Oh dear - Men - they do have their uses but cleaning out their clothing drawers and cupboards is not one of them.   Good job I love him!

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

A Good Read

If you love travel books, read on.  Otherwise, give today's post a miss!

In the early 1930's Patrick Leigh Fermor, at the age of eighteen, set out to walk from The Hook of Holland to Constantinople.  It was, as it says on the flyleaf of the book, 'the defining experience of his life'.   He wrote two books - his best known works - 'A Time of Gifts' 1977 and 'Between the woods and the water' 1986.   Both books, as you will realise, written well after the experience.

But these two books only took the reader as far as the Iron Gates in Rumania and although he planned to complete the trilogy he somehow could not find the energy and enthusiasm needed to do so.

The Broken Road completes the journey but although Fermor was working on it spasmodically until he died in 2011 it has taken his literary executors (Colin Thubron and Artemis Cooper) to edit what was left of his diaries and notes.

The book is mainly about the Balkans area as it existed in the 1930's and is full of wonderful stories about the places he sees and  - more importantly - the ordinary people that he meets.   It is a world that no longer exists - a lot of it geographically and almost all of it in terms of the way in which the people live.  I found it fascinating and really hard to put down.   Now that I have finished it I am going to read it again.   I am also going on to Amazon to see if those two early volumes are still available, and if they are they are going on my wish list.  I had to keep referring to the map in the front of the book as it is an area I know so little about.

If you love travel books, do please put it on your christmas list.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

My favourite walk.

Readers of my blog who have been following it for some years may remember that my favourite walk is the walk to Cotter Force in Upper Wensleydale.  (A force is a waterfall in dalespeak).   For the last year or so my mobility has been such that my ankle has not been up to the quarter of a mile walk each way, but today there is a distinct improvement so I suggested to the farmer that we had a ride out.

First of all we went to the Dales Countryside Museum where there was an interesting art exhibition - pastels, oils, pottery, stained glass, fabric collage - I must say it was impressive and there was a lot I liked.   Perhaps, because of my love of rooks, one of my favourite pieces was an etching called 'High Rise Appartments' which was of tree tops and rooks nests.

I think if folk take the trouble to mount an exhibition like this (my previous husband was a painter so I know just how much work goes into such a thing) then the least we can do is to go along and see it.

We popped over the road to the Craft Gallery where Fiona (Marmalade Rose on my side bar) has work on show too and then drove on the two miles further than Hawes to Cotter Force.

The farmer and Tess set off at a fair pace, I followed, stopping when I had to, taking a few photographs, resting my ankle.   But I made it all the way to the Force and back and it was such an exquisite day that I enjoyed every minute of it.

In a field at the side of the Force were some lovely goats - I thought at first they were deer from a distance, but then I saw the Billy goat and there was no mistaking him!  Grey, shaggy, scruffy and long-bearded - as the farmer quite rightly said, we were lucky to be upwind of him rather than downwind!

The Autumn trees along the river were very pretty and the Force itself was quite full.  I took a rare photograph of the farmer looking at it.  Sorry it is in full sun - but any photograph of him is hard to get and I have to snap him while I can!


Saturday, 9 November 2013

Out again!

The farmer is shooting today around our fields and those of our neighbours.   Before he went I warned him that he could only bring a pheasant home if he was willing to hang it, skin it, cut off the breast and legs, cling film it, freeze it, defrost it, casserole it and eat it.   That should ensure he doesn't arrive home with one.   That should also tell you that I hate pheasant.  I like my pheasants roaming the fields free and colourful - and that is how they would remain if it was down to me.

I have been out to lunch again!   As our Friday gang are all going out for a Chinese tonight we didn't need much at lunch time, but dear friend W collected J and M and then came down the Lane for me and we all went to the nearby village of Constable Burton for a bowl of soup and a roll (no John, not a roll in the hay, just a bread roll).

The choice was carrot and coriander or broccoli - I had the latter and it was delicious.  Then we had coffee and a Jammie Dodger before coming home to take Tess for her walk, light the wood burner and sit down to write this. Outside it is a cold, damp Autumn day - one minute sunny the next a sharp shower and very cold with it.   However, the weather is set to turn much warmer later today, so our outing to the Chinese (my mouth is already watering at the thought of those tiger prawns in batter) tonight should see a pleasanter temperature.

Just look at those wonderful Autumn colours on the village green just outside the door of tje Village Hall.

Friday, 8 November 2013

An unexpected outing.

Often the best kind of outing.   On Fridays I always meet a group of friends in town for coffee at 10am.   As I was getting ready to go, friend G rang and asked if I would care to join her and friend J for lunch in The Three Horseshoes in Wensley village for a fish and chip lunch.

Casserole all ready for the farmer, so no reason to say no.  They called for me at noon and we tootled down the Dale the three miles or so to the pub.   Delicious fish and chips and mushy peas in an old fashioned environment - lovely, easy going, dogs allowed in the bar with its scrubbed wooden tables and comfortable settles for sitting on.  There were logs burning brightly in the wood burning stove and a lovely view from the window.   What could be better?

After lunch we strolled next door to White Rose Candles, who have already got their Christmas candles on display.   It is a fascinating place where they are making candles as you wander round and where the smell of melting candle wax pervades the air.

There is every sort of candle you can imagine, and every colour too.  The easiest thing to do is to copy down their write up from their hand-out.

'White Rose Candles est. 1971 has a reputation for high quality handmade long burning candles, made in their old watermill using unusual machinery.   Dinner, pillar, aromatherapy and church candles are our speciality.   Also available are a wide range of candle holders.'   You can get a better idea of what is on offer by going to their website at but I can assure you that their stock is absolutely beautiful and at present so very Christmassy.   Do go and have a look on the web site.

I am putting on some photographs I took (with their permission) as we walked around.

Thursday, 7 November 2013


I was brought up during the Second World War when our maxim was always  'waste not want not.'   Every scrap of garden produce was used, every crust of bread used to make a bread and butter (or more likely margarine) pudding, nothing but the vegetable peelings thrown away - and those to the pig.

The farmer was brought up like this too and still frowns upon waste (although it is more than he dare do to say so!) - all our unused food (and there is very little of it) goes into the feed trough for the hens.
So you can imagine that this year has been quite difficult because our garden and orchard produced an enormous crop of apples, both eaters, cookers and don't know whichers.   Also a huge crop of cooking onions.

The farmer has picked them  and put them into boxes and there they sit on the bench in the shed window.   Every time I go out into the yard they glare at me accusingly from the shed window. They don't quite knock on the window and call, 'Oy, it's time you used us!' but they might just as well, because I feel that.

I have made apple pies and put them in the freezer, I have made apple and blackberry and apple and raspberry crumbles and put them in the freezer, I have stewed apples, put them in plastic containers and put them in the freezer.   As yet I have made no noticeable inroad into any of the boxes.

When Margaret from Thousand Flower was here last week she told me another easy recipe and I tried it today.   Alright, it only used four onions and four apples, but I have to say it was delicious and I shall certainly use it again and again.   So - here it is, in case you too are overloaded with apples and onions.   And even if you aren't then there is no reason why you shouldn't buy some especially.   I served it with a casserole made with steak, potatoes, celeriac, carrots, peppers and swede in a rich gravy.  

All you need to do is peel and quarter equal quantities of apples (in my case they were eaters as I have so many) and onions and saute them slowly.  I used a knob of butter and a small amount of rapeseed oil for this.   When they were a nice golden brown I sprinkled a scant spoon of sugar over them to give them a bit of a glaze.  Believe me, they were fantastic.   Try it sometime.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

A Cautionary Tale.

In our field, let's call it Field A, there are thirteen heifers, destined to go to the Christmas market for beef.   They are young and are fattening nicely and it is not intended for them to get in calf, hence their being housed in our fields, well away from the bull on their farm (the farm opposite ours belonging to a friend, who rents some of our fields for just this purpose.)

The day before yesterday their owner went into the field to feed them their cattle nuts, as he does every morning, and he noticed a lurking presence in the corner of the field.   Yes, you have guessed it.   In the next door farmer's field was a young, agile Aberdeen Angus bull with his entourage of heifers.   Presumably all of them have been 'bulled' and are in the early stages of being in calf.

The said bull was 'leaning heavily' against what looked rather like a flimsy piece of fencing and he was eyeing one particular lady heifer with a roving eye.   Taking no chances the farmer filled one of the feed basins with feed, shook it to attract their attention and walked off across the field towards the gate into the next field.   They followed eagerly.   He led them through that gate, across another field and into our paddock - i.e. two fields between them and the bull.  So they are now in Field C.

Yesterday morning he noticed that one of these heifers had indeed come into season.   Any longer and Mr Bull would have undoubtedly pushed down the fence and made his amorous advances.   All goes to show that farmers need to keep a sharp eye on things all the time.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

They have arrived.

The fieldfares have arrived.   Huge flocks are swooping over our fields with their chack-chack-chack call.   You can pick out their grey heads and their white underwings as the fly from tree to tree.

As Tess and I walked down the Lane after lunch today the hawthorn bushes and the rose hip bush were full of them.   They flew off as we approached - flew into a bare ash tree in the hedge.   Quietly, so as not to disturb them, I took a photograph.   You can certainly see the bare ash tree but whether you can see the fieldfares in it is another matter.   If you can't - try blowing the picture up larger.   One thing is for sure - they will clean the bushes and small trees of berries and then they will be off to pastures new.   So I am enjoying them in their exotic wildness while I can.

The man from our local Hunt has been to say that they will be foxhunting in our area tomorrow.   I wish foxes could read.   If they could I would be out posting large warning notices for them to lie low.


Monday, 4 November 2013

This morning's mail.

The morning's mail fell with a crash on the vestibule floor and scattered across it.   There was a lot of it.   This is what it comprised:
1.  A brochure for solar panels.   (We already have solar power and have no need for any more.
2.  Another brochure for curtains, shutters and blinds - 'order today, delivery by Christmas.' (Don't need any)
3.  A thick book of cheap outdoor clothing.(Not the sort of thing we wear and we have never bought from the company).
4.  A world wide travel brochure. (I can no longer get travel insurance.)
5.  Two charity Christmas appeals.( I don't believe in spreading my charity thinly.  I already donate to children in Syria and RSPB Bird Reserves monthly.  At Christmas a special donation to Cancer charities in memory of my dear friend is also given)
6.  A Home Insurance brochure. (All our insurances are dealt with by the farm's Insurance Broker).

In other words - none of it was of any interest.   The lot went into the bin unopened ready for recycling.   Does this seem a waste of resources to you - or is it just me?   Surely it is a waste of paper, a poor use of manpower, extra, unnecessary work?  Does anyone actually read these brochures and order from them?

In total this morning's post weighed 825g.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

A Birthday Lunch

Today it is a typical November day - one minute bright sunshine and the next a blustery shower.   The air is full of showers of orange leaves, like pennies falling, and waves of starlings blown about in the wind.   A lovely day from inside the car but outside the temperature is 3.5 without the wind chill factor, so best inside.

We decided to have my birthday meal near to home.   With so many nice pubs to choose from it seemed silly to go far away from home on a day when it really wasn''t suitable for a stroll afterwards.   So we chose to go to The Bolton Arms in Downholme, near to Richmond and about five miles from home.

A wise choice as the menu was varied and the food was delicious.   The farmer had leek and potato soup and roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding (what else I ask), and I had the soup followed by haddock, prawn and spinach crumble.   Coffee and chocolates to finish - all delicious.    

Then a short ride round Swaledale

produced a few photographs to show you today.   Leaves turning, showers in the distance, grouse moors but no grouse to be seen (they have learned to lie low**), above the tree line only an isolated tree showing.   We arrive back to the Cross Tree in our nearest village, then home down the Lane to Tess waiting for her lunchtime walk.

*The bottom photograph of the sheep (with Mr Sheep in attendance but out of shot as he is not a pretty sight!) was taken from our table in the dining room.

**Grouse shooting ends at the beginning of December - then the grouse will be safe until the glorious (or inglorious depending upon your point of view) twelfth next August.

Now after this blog it is feet up and an hour with Patrick Leigh Fermor - what could be better?

Saturday, 2 November 2013


Today is a typical November day.   One minute it is raining, misty and dark - the next it is sunny and there is a sharp South east wind blowing.   I have just been for a walk in the fields with the farmer and the sun on our backs was really warm.   Now we are just back in time to miss a sharp shower and a very black sky.

Luckily I managed to catch a few photographs in sunlight.

Hawthorn berries hang like heavy beads on the hawthorn trees.   Any day now the fieldfares will arrive and begin to strip them away - in a day they will all be gone.

In the fields the Swaledale sheep graze.   There is plenty of grass for them and they will stay there all Winter.   A hardy breed, bred for the tops of the hills and only coming down to lower land in the Winter, they do not flourish inside and need to be out in the open to keep healthy.

On the blackthorn bushes the sloes hang heavy.   I still have plenty of sloe gin left from years ago so they are going to waste - I expect the birds will eat them eventually if it is a bad Winter, although they are bitter and not enjoyed on the whole.

The milking cows are already in for the Winter, perhaps being let out to the field next to their Winter housing on nice days and always in at night and being fed cattle feed and silage as there is little or no goodness left in the grass and the farmers need to keep up a good diet in order to get maximum milk yield.   But the young 'bulling heifers' - young female herd followers who will be out to AI in the early Spring are still out enjoying the last of the sunshine and helping to build up their strength and hardiness.

Leaves are falling rapidly now, particularly on the ash trees.   We have many of these in and around our fields and I think of the possibility of losing them all in a few years to ash die-back, which is already attacking the trees in some parts of the country, and I am saddened at the thought that they might all disappear.

Out to a local pub for my birthday Sunday lunch tomorrow - so nothing to cook - that is a nice bonus.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Water under the bridge.

I have not had a chance to blog since Monday.   'A lot of water has flowed under the bridge' since then, as we say here in Yorkshire.   Luckily all of that water has been clear and healthy!

On Tuesday the farmer had to go into hospital for check-ups - the results were good so that was a relief.   Wednesday was spent getting ready for yesterday, so that I could have a relaxing few hours.  And in the afternoon it was our monthly Poetry meeting  - never to be missed if I can help it.  Then yesterday   it was my birthday, so I had my cards and presents to open - and two huge bunches of flowers sent by delivery vans to unwrap and arrange.   But the really exciting birthday present came at around three o'clock in the afternoon with the arrival of Margaret from Thousand Flower (see my side bar) along with her husband and daughter.

How marvellous is the power of blogging.   For someone like me who lives in a fairly remote place and who relies on others for  transport since I can no longer drive , the benefits are enormous.
Margaret and her family live in the San Juan Islands off the coast of Seattle, just inside the United States (around 4 miles from the Canadian border) and they were on holiday visiting Iceland and the UK.   The farmer and I invited them to spend the night here with us.

What a lovely evening we had - we chatted from the moment they came through the door, as though we had known one another for ever.   We had a meal together and this morning they left on their journey to York to catch the train back to London and then tomorrow home to their little island.

Now they are gone.  The house seems quiet and empty so this afternoon I went to visit friend M, and we sat and turned over old memories as we always do.   We have been friends for years and - as with Margaret - we never run out of things to talk about.

So back to normal.   Blogging back to normal too I hope - so see you tomorrow.