Wednesday 31 August 2011

A Day Out.

I am relishing the freedom of being able to drive again and today I drove through Wensleydale to Sedbergh to meet my God-daughter for lunch there. It was a grey day.
All the way along the route farmers had grass down for second-crop silage but there was slight rain on the windscreen of the car so the grass would not be drying.

I called in Westwood's very large second-hand Bookshop and found a Larkin book which had his 'Lines on a Young Lady's Photograph Album' in it. S read this at our Poetry meeting in the week - it really is such a lovely poem, so now I can read it whenever I wish to.

I stopped on the top of Sedbergh Moor on my return journey just to take this photograph of the Howgills for you to see. The valley on the right is the one which holds Cautley Spout - a superb waterfall. You can also see plenty of heather in full bloom - a delightful sight which would have been even better had the sun been out.

Tuesday 30 August 2011


A 'birdy' post today. First of all - the swallows are massing to leave us. I really do think we are a staging post on their journey South. One day there will be several hundred on the wires and the next day there will be none. The farmer took this photograph before I got up this morning (isn't it good that he participates in my blog?) - actually he took it in the wrong mode on my digital camera, but it seems to have come out alright. There were several hundred swallows there. At present there are none (mid-afternoon).

He has been cutting grass for a neighbour this morning on the top of the hill above our farm and he saw a flock of about twenty grey wagtails - a sure sign that Autumn is coming when they begin to flock together.

Finally - do you remember the pheasant who laid her eggs in the middle of our pasture. I took a photo of her nest and we decided that she had hatched four out of the eight eggs. We saw her this afternoon as we walked round the pasture with Tess, and sadly her little hatching is now down to one - the other three have disappeared to predators. Tess put her up in the grass and the young one followed its mother into the air. Nature works like this of course and I don't expect she remembers that she had four to begin with - but we are sad just the same.

My chicks progress. We thought there were five hens and three cockerels - however, a fourth 'hen' is developing a comb and it now looks as though there are four of each, so it is four to lay eggs and four for the pot!

Sunday 28 August 2011

The age of romance is not dead.

Today is one of the farmer's walking days. The day used to seem endless with him away all day on a Sunday but lately another walker's wife and I meet up for coffee - and it has made such a difference. We (and our dogs) meet, drink coffee and chat for the morning - so thank you J for your company.

The farmer has just returned. No prizes for guessing where they have been today because he brought me a little present (see the photograph above). The heather is out on all the moorland hereabout so he picked me a sprig. It is the grouse-shooting season; he didn't see a grouse but he did find me a feather. Here they both are. I could not have been more delighted with them if it had been a bunch of red roses!

Saturday 27 August 2011

The Wensleydale Show

Well, that's the Show over for another year and I must say that the weather could have been a whole lot worse. Great black clouds loomed around the showground but mainly the sun shone and the breeze stayed light. It was not a warm day but as the showground is on top of a rise people had wrapped up well. Only the really hardy were in their shirt sleeves. Even some of the hundreds of dogs that came with their owners had coats on.

The turn out was very good indeed, the car park was full and the overflow car park was full too, so I am sure that they will have done quite well financially. They need to do this each year in order to keep going.

The horticultural tents had fantastic vegetables, enormous leeks and onions (far too big to think of eating I would have thought); some of the flowers were lovely - in particular the sweet peas and the dahlias - and the most wonderful green gladioli.

In the baking section I particularly liked the cup cakes in the photo above - they won first prize and richly deserved it - I almost stole one to eat. My friend, H, entered the most beautiful jumper knitted in Wensleydale sheep wool - I was disappointed to find it had not won a prize.

When a sharp shower took everyone into the tents, we went into our feed merchant's tent and had lunch - they make the most super sandwiches and pork pies and serve tea and coffee - and give us a supply of free biros to last until next year. It is one of the highlights for me.

There were plenty of sheep on show. This Swaledale ram had a magnificent pair of horns although he had not won a prize. However, our neighbour had got the Supreme Championship with his Holstein milk cow.

I rather liked the black cockerel - and he had such a loud crow. And don't you think the feathery-legged chap is magnificent too?

Old tractors paraded round the ring and then lined up across the middle of the show ring, but by this time the black clouds were really threatening (you can see them in the background of the tractor photograph) so we thought it was time to beat a hasty retreat. It is only half a mile to home, so we were home well before the rain came.

Friday 26 August 2011

A Lovely Day Out.

Yes, we do live in a very beautiful area of the country but sometimes it is nice to visit another area - particularly when to do so one has to drive through some of the best countryside in the Yorkshire Dales. I won't put another photograph of Ingleborough or the Ribblehead Viaduct on my blog - you have seen them so many times, but sufficient to say that W and I have had the most super day out, driving to the pretty little town of Kirby Lonsdale to meet friends P and D for lunch.

The weather could have been kinder as it has rained all day, but never a downpour and it was quite warm. We met in the bistro at 12.30 after stopping en route in Ingleton for coffee. We have been to this bistro before so we knew that the food was delicious and today was no exception.#

So just to make your mouths water, today's photographs are of our food. Starters for two of us was a salad of rocket, watermelon and feta cheese cubes, dressed with a balsamic syrup and served on a slate. Not only did it look beautiful but it tasted accordingly.

For the main course two of us had spaghetti bolognaise but W and I had Moroccan chicken tagine served on a bed of cous-cous. It was wonderful. Often when I cook chicken breasts they are dry but these were succulent and covered with a sweet chilli sauce. (I would guess they were poached in stock rather than cooked in the oven).

I resisted a pudding but the others had one. Creme brulee garnished with strawberries or sticky toffee pudding and ice cream.

A wander through the main street back to the car and it was time for home. It really has been a lovely day out - so thank you W for taking me; lovely chats, lovely friends, lovely food, lovely scenery - what more could anyone wish for?

As for my drawing project, I am sorry to say that I shall not have time today and probably not on Show day tomorrow. But back to drawing on Sunday and trying to catch up with putting the work on my alternative blog.

#Plato's Bistro, Kirby Lonsdale.

Thursday 25 August 2011

An Afternoon Walk

The farmer just managed to get all his last silaging in (and that of someone else he was cutting for) before the weather broke overnight. A great relief and the major jobs done apart from the everlasting "muck-leading" which must precede the cattle coming into the byre for Winter (the "muck" is still knee deep in there and rotting down nicely - a favourite place for the farm cats as it is generating heat).

So this afternoon we went for a nice leisurely walk in the Wetlands, which are old, disused quarries now filled with water. We walked for an hour and never saw another person - it could have been our own estate - and I am sure you will agree that that top photograph makes the idea very nice.

We saw the last remaining tiny wild flowers - the smallest member of the wild geranium family and wild mint; both are low-growing and easy to miss, although as far as the mint is concerned, there is so much of it that a lovely mint smell drifts up as you walk through it.

The geese have done very well there this year. The last time we went there were lots of goslings - now they are almost fully grown. I managed to get quite close before they lifted off and landed on the water, where they knew they were safe.

Finally we encountered a rather angry swan who did not like the look of Tess at all - I fear the feeling was mutual and as they can be quite nasty birds we decided that discretion was the better part of valour and turned round and retraced our footsteps.

It was a warm, sunny afternoon, only the huge puddles in the grass reminding us that we had over half an inch of rain overnight.

##spare a thought for the East Coasters in America who seem as though they are about to bear the brunt of a violent hurricane. First there was that awfully heavy snowfall, then they have had weeks of scorching heat, last week an earthquake and now the possibility of hurricane damage. So anyone out there reading this - we are thinking of you all.

Wednesday 24 August 2011

A busy day.

The farmer came in today to say that the plums needed picking in the garden as the wasps were having a bean-feast in them. By sheer coincidence I had just read Pomona's blog and she had talked of making plum chutney yesterday. So as I write this the chutney is bubbling on the Aga and the house is full of delicious, vinegary smells.
Thank you Pomona for the recipe - I look forward to eating the chutney in about three months time.

Half a cooking apple and a pound of plums remained. The farmer, never one to miss a chance, suggested a plum and apple crumble for lunch! (we do not have puddings as a general rule as we both need to watch our weight). So this meant a fairly light first course.

The garden is full of rocket. If you have ever grown rocket you will know that once you have got it, you never get rid of it as it self-seeds everywhere. So I picked a handful of rocket, washed it and sorted through it (you need to do this to take out bits of chickweed, fat hen and groundsel.) Then I put it in the food processor with a large handful of pine nuts and dribbled in best quality olive oil to make a thin pesto. Served with pasta and a top dressing of grated parmesan, this makes a lovely meal.

Now, all that remains is to pick the plum stones out of the chutney as it simmers down (yes, I forgot to take the stones out), and then pot it in sterilised jars. I am sure at the end of today I shall feel very virtuous.

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Freedom at last.

Oh how wonderful it is to be back on the road! This morning the farmer came with me to Tesco in the passenger seat and I was fine. This afternoon I have been to the library under my own steam. Another couple of days and hopefully I shall be back to 'normal'.

It is the Wensleydale Show on Saturday and today the tents are all going up. As shows go up here this is one of the major ones, so there are a lot of large marquees going up - all within sight of the farm, because the show is within walking distance.
It is always quite exciting to see the showground take shape but it is also a bit sad because it marks the beginning of Autumn. This year, of course, it also falls on our Bank Holiday weekend which is another Autumnal marker.

We usually go to the show at about lunch time as our feed merchant provides all his customers with delicious pork pies, sandwiches and cups of tea. Before that the farmer is a show judge for another smaller show in the village of West Witton, about five miles away. Here he judges the vegetables, the eggs and the hay. Quite a busy day for us then. I will, of course, take photographs so that you can share in the fun.

Spare a thought for John Gray (Going Gently on my side bar) who lost his beloved bulldog Constance very suddenly the other day. It seems to be the way with bulldogs, who do not live all that many years. I have now heard of three who have died suddenly from what appears to be a heart attack.

If you are not a dog lover then you probably won't understand the heart ache. But if you are a dog lover then you will know just what it is like - if you have the time please just pop over and leave your condolences.

To end on a more pleasant note. The field opposite is full of pedigree, in-calf Limousin heifers. They really are the most beautiful animals. When I sit up in bed in the mornings to drink my cup of tea, this is the sight that greets me from my window. What more could anyone wish for?

Monday 22 August 2011

Three cheers!!!

Just got my driving licence back today - no time to blog - off out with the farmer to learn to drive all over again after a nine month break (and a new car in between). See you tomorrow.

Sunday 21 August 2011

Wedding Anniversary.

Today the farmer and I have been married for eighteen years - so we have been celebrating! We went out to the Grantley Arms for a delicious lunch (Med. veg soup for both - roast beef for the farmer, chicken with a parmesan crust for me) and coffee with chocolates. It is a lovely pub at the entrance to Nidderdale, which is a dale we rarely visit.

We took Tess and walked on Nutwith common, which somehow always reminds me of Rupert the bear and Nutwood. Then it was on the the Grantley Arms. The flower garden was alive with butterflies - I managed to catch two on camera.

After lunch we rode on through Nidderdale to Pateley Bridge which is the main town of the Dale and lies on the river Nidd. It was heaving with tourists, so we kept going, over Grassington Moor and down into Wharfedale.

Today is the last day of the Kettlewell scarecrow festival, so we called in there. There were hundreds of people there too but the parking is so well-organised that it all went smoothly. I took some of the best ones for you to see. In the church the Lofthouse Silver Band was playing. The sun was shining and every shop and pub was heaving with people. It must be a very profitable week for the village and all credit due to them for repeating it every year. A lot of hard work goes into it.

We came home through Wensleydale - always nice to be in our own dale - our day out slightly marred by roaring police cars as we got near to home. There had been a motor-cycle accident in Wensley. Luckily the man did not seem too badly hurt as he was talking to the ambulance men. Motor cycles are such a hazard on our narrow roads. They pay their road tax and have as much right to be on the roads as we have but they can be scary when you don't see or hear them coming up behind you.

Home again by 4.15pm - thank you to the farmer for a lovely day out.

Friday 19 August 2011

"How doth the busy little bee....

''''improve each shining hour.
and gather honey all the day
from every opening flower".

Well, come hell or high water the farmer has started second-crop silage. Yesterday they came to bale it up and wrap it and managed to get 45 big bales down before the heavens opened and it rained heavily - and got dark.

This morning it is sunny and warm and there is a light breeze, so we begin again and as I write it is being baled up, so fingers crossed it should be in by tonight, which only leaves three fields to go this year.

Tess and I wandered round the field margins. As the grass has now been cut it is easy walking. I was struck by the number of wild flowers which are still flowering but already going into Autumn seed, to make provision for next year. And the same can be said of the bees.

There was a lot of knapweed and almost every bloom had a bee on it, gathering nectar to store for the winter. Isn't marvellous how every living thing stores up 'food' for the winter - in other words, for survival? Hedgehogs are getting fat on our farm cats' food. We do not begrudge them a single bowl full - they keep our slug numbers down and they must be fat to survive winter in the haybarn, where they lose a huge amoung of their body weight during hibernation.

Speaking of food, I think Tess is becoming a food fad; sad to admit she has me on a short string. She went without food for the whole of Wednesday and Thursday, rejecting her usual biscuits and tinned meat. I threw them away and opened a new tin and a new box of biscuits of a different flavour and she rejected them too.
Last night - in desperation - I scrambled two eggs and put them down on a plate. In the blink of an eye she had eaten the eggs, then the biscuits, then the meat - licked everything clean. Today I have bought ham, which she adores. Already on the three times I have opened the fridge door she has been at the door in a flash looking to see which shelf the ham is on.

Couldn't resist a long shot of a chinook going over as we were on our walk. What a lovely view they must have had on such a glorious day, even if they do disturb the peace with their racket.

Thursday 18 August 2011

Larkin and old photographs.

Yesterday was our Poetry Afternoon - as ever it was the most civilised gathering of beautiful poetry, lovely friends,, laughter and chat - not to mention the delicious home-made flapjack.

S read a poem I had not heard before. If you don't know it I urge you to seek it out. She read Larkin all afternoon, and this one 'Lines on a Young Lady's Photograph Album' I had not heard before. The poem brought the young lady to life as you saw her in various guises and we talked afterwards about how snapshots from the past are really moments caught in time.

This morning I looked out three old farm photographs for you to see. They are images of a style of farming long gone but for me they capture so many things. There is innocence there in the image of the farmer and his brother sitting on the old farm horse, their dad and elder sister standing by the side. There is a shot of the hay cart leading hay in the days when it was stored in a hayrick - hardwork and skill here. I don't suppose there are many people left who could construct a hay rick now. And finally there is the shot of the tractor stuck in the snow. The farm got its first Fergie tractor in 1947 - so the bad winter must have been after that. In addition the children are grown up. But, whatever the date, it does make you realise that tractors might well have made many jobs easier on the farm but there is still the weather to contend with.

Which brings me neatly to today, when we are desperately trying to make our last lot of silage. The farmer cut the grass yesterday as the forecast is for showers only. So far we have missed them but this morning there is a very heavy dew and hardly any breeze, so the grass will not be drying. Some jobs in farming remain stressful despite modern machinery.

However, it is an ill wind..... , it is giving the farmer time to pod two buckets of broad beans which I shall then blanch and freeze if I can find room in the freezer. He has brought in such a medley of vegetables in small quantities this morning - one courgette, eight runner beans, six yellow beans, broad beans, the last few peas and a few carrots - so for lunch I shall put them all in a tomato and basil sauce, cover the lot with cheese and hope they taste good.

Back to poetry another S read a poem in Yorkshire dialect (although she is from Lancashire, she made a jolly good stab at the dialect, which made me realise just how closely the two dialects are to each other). In it she talked about a 'wintredge' (not sure about the spelling here). Any idea what a wintredge is? Well I will tell you - it is a clothes horse for drying clothes on. In the summer you could spread your clothes on the hedge to dry in the sun; in the winter you needed to have something to hang them on - hence the wintredge. Those old clothes horses used to make lovely tents for putting a cloth over on the lawn on a summer's day - I can still smell the grass and feel the heat as you lay inside the lovely little tent. Wish I had a photo of it!

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Things I wish I had done.

Dick Jones (Patteran on my side bar) has a lovely, rather sad poem on today about the missed opportunities he has made and how they now have to be left to the next generation. I have thought along those lines a lot lately and his poem has prompted me to write about it. (alright - like John - Going Gently - I just have nothing to write about today.)

When one reaches a certain age (don't ask, but I have definitely reached it) there are some things in life that one knows are completely beyond the bounds of possibility. So I intend to list here all the things I can think of that I wish I had achieved in my life but which I have left far too late.

1. Visiting India. I have always wanted to go to India. My first husband would not go, although we went to many places in the far east. The farmer will not go as he likes his holidays 'sanitised'. But I had a two year gap between marriages, so to speak. I should have gone then, but I didn't (went to Marrakesh instead).

2. Going on a trek to Nepal. I should have done this whilst I was fit and healthy and able to walk long distances. Now I can only 'do' it through books like Colin Thubron's 'To a Mountain in Tibet'.

3. Trying harder to make a career in journalism. I left school eager to be a journalist. I ended up being a school teacher instead. I enjoyed my teaching years immensely but only now do I realise how much more I would have enjoyed writing for a living if I could have made it successful.

4. Learning to ride a horse. I am scared of horses but love them - a combination which I guess applies to many people. I wish I had had the opportunity when young to learn to ride so that I became comfortable with horses and could enjoy keeping a couple of Dales ponies now that I have the room.

5 Taking my musical education more seriously. I play often and enjoy it but I would have liked to go further, to play in a group, to perform, to improve.

Ah well - everyone has regrets in their lives and I suppose these are petty ones, in fact rather selfish ones. I have had two happy fulfilled marriages, I have one son of who I am very proud , three lovely grandchildren and one lovely step-grandchild. Life has been good to me and still is. Nevertheless, as I look back I can't help wishing I had taken action on these things before it was too late.

Is it only me who has such thoughts, or does everyone have these regrets?

****I have just realised that this is my 1020th post in just under three years - now that is something to celebrate - no regrets there!

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Flaming August

The weather first thing this morning was more like November than August. It was raining heavily, the temperature was twelve Celsius and the cloud was heavy and low, so that driving to Tesco for our weekly shop meant driving through thick cloud like heavy fog.

On the lane the blackbirds were taking advantage of the deep puddles to have a bath.They look pathetic at the moment - they are in full moult and look so mangy and can hardly fly, so that having a good bath must feel very good for them.

At the bird table there were fifty odd chaffinches on the ground feeding and on the feeders tits, woodpeckers, greenfinches, but no goldfinches. The thistles left in the fields will now be in full seed and thistle seeds are their favourite food.

I have been reading a couple of books this week - one about the Metaphysical poet, John Donne and the other about Roger Deakin, the marvellously eccentric man who rebuilt Walnut Tree farm using reclaimed materials and who was a great fan of wild swimming, so that he filled the moat around his farm and swam in it every day.

Then quite by chance the two came together when I was reading 'River Diary' a diary of 2006 by Ronald Blythe. Roger and he were great friends and when Roger was dying (he died of a brain tumour) Blythe goes to see him, along with two other friends. Blythe reads him some John Clare poetry - The Nightingale's Nest (which I have featured on my blog before) and is sure that he can hear it although he is close to death. Then Deakin requests John Donne's Prayer.

I had not come across this poem before. I am not at all religious, on the contrary I have no faith at all, but I do find this prayer strangely moving and hope you do too.

Bring us O lord God, at our last awakening
into the house and gate of Heaven,
to enter into that gate
and dwell in that house, where there shall be
no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light;
no noise nor silence, but one equal music;
no fears or hopes, but one equal possession;
no ends or beginnings, but one equal eternity,
in the habitations of thy glory and dominion.

Donne was a strange man, deeply religious - he lived for years with his shroud on the wall behind him I understand - and my goodness me he wrote some wonderful poetry, both love poetry and religious poetry. There is a balance to this prayer which I find very beautiful. I hope you do too.

As I write, mid-afternoon, the August sun is shining and it is hot, although there is a strong Westerly blowing and every now and then clouds roll in and threaten rain.
What strange weather we are having - we could do with a bit of balance there too.

Sunday 14 August 2011

Peace and Quiet

It is the farmer's walking day today so he was off walking at 10.30am. As Dominic was also away with Trio Gitan (see the top of my side bar), playing in Hull this afternoon, my daughter-in-law came to lunch. After lunch we went for a walk with Tess at Jervaulx Abbey.

Jervaulx was a Cistercian monastery in the days when this area was covered in Cistercian abbeys, all of which became hugely rich on great flocks of sheep. All that remains now is ruins but they are very beautiful. In Spring and early Summer they are a haven for wild flowers and nesting birds. Now the Autumn colours are beginning to show.

We sat on a seat and took in the peace and quiet. Until, that is, a large family arrived for a picnic in the great chapel area. All that remains here are a few columns and a row of exquisite tombs of some of the abbots. The family immediately set up a cricket match, which wasn't exactly peaceful.

Then, to make matters worse, the boys in the group (there were about eight of them ranging in age from about three to maybe eleven) began to climb up the ruins, although there are notices everywhere forbidding going anywhere near the ruins. Then they began dislodgling stones and throwing them down.

What does one do in such circumstances? The parents were there but ignoring the behaviour. Apart from the destruction and the desecration it was also very dangerous. There were several people sitting on the seats enjoying the sunshine, but none of us said anything. One by one we got up and left. Eventually the boys climbed down.

Dilemma - what should we have done? What do you think? If you look carefully, you can see the children in one of the photographs above.(top left)