Sunday 30 September 2012

What colour is it?

We are just about to redecorate our kitchen.   It has been the same colour for fifteen years although it has been re-emulsioned about five times in aconite, daffodil, sunflower, sunshine and pure gold.   All seemed the same colour to me and the farmer was able to make do with one coat because there was no noticeable difference.

Now I would rather like it in pumpkin, which doesn't seem all that different from the tuscan orange we have in our utility room but the farmer is vetoing this as it would mean two coats.

All these fancy names to supposedly make us change the colour when we decorate.  I do wonder how we view colours.

Following on from yesterday's post about the way I think men and women see friendships, I think they possibly see colour differently from women too.  I know there are far more men than women who are colourblind, particularly in the red/green area, but I don't think that is all there is to it.

I read an article in a magazine on the subject recently - it suggested that to a man a sweater would probably be 'blue' whereas to a woman it might be sky, pale, periwinkle, cornflower, or navy.   (Also I wonder how many men could distinguish betwee French navy and navy, but I'll bet most women can.)

I have to say that where colour and decorating come in the farmer is far more concerned with colouring-cover than he is with colour.   Although when we first moved in here it was rather a different story.   Our rooms and quite large, very light and with high ceilings.  I will always remember the day we sat on the sitting room window sill debating what colour we would have the walls.   I wanted them a colour which on the shade card was at the time called Stately Home Red.   At the suggestion the farmer visibly paled so I suggested that perhaps we could have it on the ceiling.  There was a silence and then this little, plaintive voice said, "I like my ceilings white."   Needless to say, the walls are painted in magnolia (or cream, or paper white, or lily, or any other fancy name you care to mention) and the ceiling and dado are white - after all, he's doing it.

So is this another difference between men and women?  Those greeny/brown sweaters so beloved of men - I wonder what men call that colour - I personally would call it sludge.

Saturday 29 September 2012


Some friends are for life, some come and go and some (as John of Going Gently wrote the other day) only stay on the periphery and never really become friends, merely acquaintances.

I have one friend, J, whom I met on my first day at Infant School when we shared a desk (yes we had 'proper' desks in those days, with inkwells.   My goodness me, the day we were allowed to use ink was indeed a red letter day (or probably a blue-black day), at the beginning we used a slate and chalk (yes, I am that old).  During all our years, we have never lost touch.   Now we meet only rarely - the last time was eighteen months ago when the farmer and I spent a few days in Lincolnshire, where she still lives in the village where we grew up.   But we speak at least once a month on the telephone and we always have plenty to say - we share interests in wild life and gardening.

Another friend, another J, and I lost touch many years ago until about five years ago I heard in a round-about
way that she lived in Knareborough, which is not too far from here.   I contacted her and we took up where we left off and continue to do so to this day, meeting whenever we can and corresponding regularly.

Other friends come and then go.  Friend, M, (I know you will be reading this) and I met when we bought houses next door to one another twenty five years ago.   We are still the dearest of friends.  With our previous partners we played Trivial Pursuit every Saturday night, taking it in turns to cook a meal and host the evening.   We had a tiny wine glass which became the winner's cup.   It had a strip of Dymo tape (remember that?) stuck round it - we were the Spring Cottage Sprites, they were the Amberley Atoms.  When both our partners died we were there for one another - and continue to be so now when we are both happily married again.

You may remember that earlier in the year I gave my God-daughter away at her wedding (I was her Godmother).  Her mother and father had been our neighbours for a few years and we never lost touch - we spent so many happy hours together boating - canoeing, sailing, narrow-boating - and there was such sadness when they both died.   Now we take pleasure in my God-daughter and her friendship.

One very dear friend, S, fell by the wayside.  How do such friendships fade?   We had worked together for years and were really close.   Then I retired and we gradually drifted away from one another.   I always remember her because upon hearing that I had never owned a teddy bear, she bought me a Paddington Bear for Christmas.   That bear (minus his hat as my grandchildred adored him and always put on his wellies and his hat)stands in the corner of  my bedroom.   I see him as I walk up the stairs - and every time I see him I am reminded of her and have a slight feeling of sadness that we lost touch.

Friend, W, and I go out together quite a lot.   Soon we shall be going to see the Autumn colours at Thorpe Perrow Arboretum as we do every year  Another friend, G, and I have coffee together every Tuesday morning after my Tesco run - and we never run out of things to talk about (much to the farmer's amusement).

And then there is my friend, P, who I met forty odd years ago and who has become part of the lives of both me and my son, so that I almost think of him as another son.   I shall see him when he comes for the weekend next weekend with his partner because he now lives in Windermere, which is only a stone's throw away.

What would I do without all these friends?   My life would be bereft I can tell you.   I would dearly love to make contact again with S (of Paddington Bear fame), but for some reason she chooses not to contact me andIi must respect her for that.

Is this kind of friendship a "Woman Thing" - or do men have friendships on this scale too?   I would love to hear your views on Friends.

I hope to have a photograph on today - my son taught me how to work the new Blogger last night.
Incidentally, if you wish to see the damage our five inches of rain caused to his road, go to made out of words on my sidebar for a couple of photographs

Wednesday 26 September 2012


The rain has stopped for the moment, after more than five inches.   Already the beck has gone down considerbly although where it runs through our fields it has left its signature all along the banks.   It swept through the wood, carrying with it piles of pine needles; it raged through fencing leaving behind debris in the form of plastic bags, weeds etc; it created several new paths, which may or may not become permanent; if broke down many fences and toppled several walls.   As I write this the farmer is mending a particularly sensitive fence, where some inquisitive beast would be only too pleased to push through, cross the still swollen beck and trample about in the wood given half a chance.

What havoc it has caused everywhere.   Even in our small village quite a few houses have been severely flooded and although the water is receding there are still places on the roads where it is necessary to go really slowly through water still pouring across the road.   And all this water will eventually end up going through York, because it is all making for one or other of our becks and all our becks flow into either the River Ure or the River Swale, and both of those rivers join the River Ouse before it flows through York.  So they will be bracing themselves.  How frightening water can be.

I suppose if we lived in somewhere like Bangladesh, where it regularly floods with the monsoon every year, we would be well used to it and act accordingly.   But sadly we always seem to treat it as though it can't happen here.   And once it has happened then it dominates the conversations of everyone you come across.

The Aga is back up to full power after the farmer took it to pieces and cleaned it.   Because our oil ran low he thinks that the carbon built up and thus inhibited the flame (I don't know what I am talking about here) so that the oven temperature was not high enough to cook anything properly.   Whatever the reason, it is now on full power again and the kitchen is lovely and warm.   And believe me, we need that - it may only be September  but already there is an Autumn chill in the air.   Get your Winter woollies out.

Tuesday 25 September 2012

Five inches and rising.

As I look out of the kitchen window and see the rain gauge, and see that it is almost full again, I can tell you that we have so far had almost five inches of rain in the last thirty-six hours and it is still pouring as I write.   The field opposite is a lake, as are the fields above and below it; our drive is underwater and I cannot get out of the lane.

I usually go to Tesco on a Tuesday morning and then on to a friend's house for coffee - it is always a jolly occasion as we have so many interests in common and can chat non-stop.  But she rang me earlier this morning to say that not only had she got water coming through her roof but that also the approaches to her house were cut off by water.

There is something very scary about our rivers up here.   They can rise as much as twenty feet in an hour and when they are in spate they make a noise like an express train going through.   They sweep away everything in their path.

I did try to go into our little market town a while ago, but where our lane joins the main road into town there was stationary traffice because the dip in the road a hundred yards further up was impassable.  So it is lunch from the freezer today.   Luckily it is full, as always, so we shall not go hungry.

I feel sorry for the cattle out in the fields.   They stand dejected up against the hedge sheltering them from the worst of the weather.   They have their heads down and look as though they are just waiting for it to pass over.

The same can be said for me.   I shall sit by the wood burner, crochet another Afghan square for my blanket and read my book.   I have just finished reading Julian Fellowes's 'Past Imperfect' which was an interesting book because it gives the reader such an insight into what life was like for the upper class in the days before we all became equal (ha!ha!).   He is the chap who wrote 'Downton Abbey' which I didn't watch but which was very popular I understand.   If they ever put 'Past Imperfect' on the TV I shall at least know what happens.    It has a very good story line.

If you are suffering from this awful weather - keep dry and warm.

Monday 24 September 2012

A Deep Depression.


I am, of course, referring to the weather.   But, frankly, if this keeps up for long, it will also
refer to my state of mind.  We are not at the end of September yet and today is disgusting.
I had an inkling it was coming when Heather (Ragged Old Blogger) said it was awful yesterday
in Somerset.    Now today, it has reached here - strong winds and pouring rain.

Nothing changes you know.   It is more than twenty years since I left teaching but today, going
into town to the Bank, I passed teenagers (mainly boys) in their lunch hour, going into town to
the sweet shop rather than eating school dinners.   This is a distance of about half a mile - the rain
was pouring down - what kind of protection did the lads have?   None.   No blazer, no macintosh,
no coat - just blue cotton shirts and navy jumpers.    And they would have to sit in them all afternoon
in lessons.

So here is a question for you today, bloggers.   Should a Headmaster put out an edict that pupils
may not leave the school premises in the rain without adequate protection against the elements?
Or should he just let them get wet and suffer the consequences?

I smiled to myself as I wrote that.   My mother ended up with severe arthritis in her knees.   If I knelt on
a cold floor when I was young, she would immediately tell me to get up, reminding me that when she was
in service and had to scrub stone floors - that was when she 'caught' the arthritis that crippled her in the
final years.   I would smile to myself and take absolutely no notice.   That is the prerogative of the
young I suppose.   But now that I have arthritis in my knees it is a different story.

Keep dry and warm.

Sunday 23 September 2012

Hazards in the fields.

This mnorning when the farmer was making his early round with Tess and Tip (the sheepdog), he found an enormous silver metallic blow-up balloon stuck in the hedge.   Already the cattle were pulling at it and investigating it.   Luckily it had not deflated.

If it had deflated then the cattle would probably have chewed on it and even eaten it - with probably fatal results.   Why are shops allowed to sell such dangerous materials (this seemed rather like an airship in shape) when they are such a danger to animals in the fields?

The same goes, of course, for those 'chinese lanterns' which land in the fields.   Cattle are curious animals and if there is any foreign body in the field, they will go to investigate.

I took a photograph of the offending object, but have still not worked out how to put such photos on under the new system.   I am sure my son managed to get me the old system back last time by clicking on 'classic' but sadly, I can't find the word!

And as the last time I spoke to him he was on top of Scafell Pike in the Lake District, it is pretty useless ringing him today.

Saturday 22 September 2012

Sheep Shop.

Yes, after a break of a few days (sorry, too many things on) I have two 'sheepy' stories for you today.

First of all, an explanation for the two photographs above (assuming that when I finish this blog I can see how the new version of blogger allows me to post photographs).  Because I now have a shake in my hands, I can no longer do much in the way of embroidery.   So I intend to crochet an afghan rug over the Winter.   As the farmer quite rightly says - after the first few squares it will serve the dual purpose of giving me something to do on the days when the weather is too awful to go out and at the same time it will keep me warm.

To this end I went the half mile or so down the road to our Wensleydale Sheep Shop.    This is a marvellous shop on the farm where they keep Wensleydale Sheep (a rare breed) and have the wool spun and dyed/  They sell wool and also finished knitted garments.   The little shop is a joy to go in and no distance to travel.
Go and have a look at their web site if you wish to know more.

I chose a few colours to get me started and shall do so on the first wet day.

Last night nine of us friends went out for a Chinese in our little market town of Leyburn.  We do this now and again and it is always a jolly occasion.    Friend, S, who works as a volunteer 'trolley dolly' on our Wensleydale Railway told us the most hilarious story - which I shall now tell to you.  I shall call it 'The Sheep who achieved fame'!

As S was preparing her trolley someone came up to her and said that there was a sheep in the Gift Shop.  I suppose at first she thought it was a sheep toy or something; whatever the reason, she didn't take it seriously until he repeated - THERE IS A SHEEP IN THE SHOP!!!

She went into the shop and for an instant couldn't see a sheep anywhere - that is until she went behind the counter, where sure enough, there was a full-grown sheep, who quickly shot out of the shop and on to the Station Platform.

She was worried that the sheep would get on to the line, as there was a train due (the line runs from Leyburn to Leeming Bar, then back through Leyburn and on to Redmire - maybe five miles away.  There it remains a few minutes and then returns to Leyburn to begin its journey all over again).   This is a tourist train and not a main line train.   In an effort to remove it from the area of the railway line, she shooed it in the other direction and it ran out of the station ad on to the Main Road, where there are serious road works.

She rang the Police, who responded quite quickly and removed it.   But of course, no-one knew who the sheep belonged to, except it seemed to be from somewhere in the town.   That is, until the little train chugged in from Redmire.   Then the driver of the train asked if they had seen a sheep.

Apparently the sheep had been on the railway line and the train had had to go slow, all the way from Redmire, waiting for the sheep to move off the line.   Where is the sheep now?   I suppose only the policeman who moved it off the road knows - but as all sheep are now electronically tagged, no doubt it will get back to its flock eventually.

My goodness me, we do get a lot of excitement up here in The Dales.

Sorry - I can't get the photos to load.   If any kind soul reading this - one who is more computer-literate than I am - knows how I can dump the new systemn and go back to the 'classic' system which has served me well for years - please give me simple instructions!

Wednesday 19 September 2012


Why do blogger have to change things, just when everything is running smoothly?
Well, I am posting this morning's blog in the hopes that it works!

Harvest time, Michaelmas (Sept 29th), the dying of the the year - yes it is that time
again, when there is a smell of decaying vegetation in the air, when the nights are decidedly
cooler and even during the day time there is a hint of cooler weather to come.

It is also the time of those enormous 'harvest' spiders who seem to come out of the
woodwork and gallop across the carpet just when one has settled down for the evening.
In our back sitting room the carpet is a creamy-fawn and spiders show up very well as
they scuttle from the safety of one piece of furniture to another.   There could be spiders
in the kitchen as well, but as the 'carpet' is dark green they are well-camouflaged there.

If the farmer spots one he keeps quiet in the hopes that I don't see it.   If Tess spots one
she watches it warily.    If I spot one I shriek and pull my legs up on to the settee.   Poor old
spider, it isn't doing any harm.   Why is it that so many of us are so terrified in such an irrational way?

I am reminded of a story from my past, which I may have told on my blog before - but if so and you
are a long-time reader, you don't need to read it again.

When we lived in the Midlands, we had a bungalow with a very long garden.   At the bottom of the
garden was another road and a couple of middle-aged spinster sisters who lived there used to very
kindly watch over our house when we went away on holiday.

One year when we returned, they rushed over to tell us that a teenager from higher up the road had been
acting suspiciously at the bottom of our garden.   He had a glass and he tipped something behind the
bushes.   They suspected drugs (one of them was a Special Constable).

My then husband, who worked in the Prison Service and had years of experience with such things, went to
the house where the youth lived and knocked on the door.   The lad came to the door (his parents were on
holiday too).

"Now lad, what were you doing in my garden the other night?" - my husband no doubt used his best prison-voice.

The lad looked very shame-faced but admitted that he had used the well-known glass and postcard method
to collect a spider from the carpet as he was very scared of spiders.   He didn't want to kill it and he didn't
want to put it in their garden in case it came back inside.   So he carried it down to our garden and popped it behind a bush!

My husband told him he could put spiders into our garden whenever he liked!

Tuesday 18 September 2012

The Coming Equinox.

The Autumn Equinox occurs this week-end - then we are well and truly into Autumn and almost all hope of an Indian Summner is a pipe dream. Interesting then that my son should choose this coming weekend to go camping in the Lake District with his daughter and her partner and also his son. My worst nightmare.

I think this nation can be divided into two quite nicely - those who adore camping and those who abhor camping. I think you could do marvellous sets and venn diagrams using this as a starting point (assuming that your maths was good enough, which mine definitely isn't).

When my friend G and I went up to Tan Hill the other day (see an earlier blog), there were several of those little low tents, just high enough to crawl into and zip up. When I mentioned these to my son, he said they were 'marvellous', you could just strap your head-light on, crawl in, get into your bivvi-bag and read the night away. At the time he was re-reading James Joyce's Ulysees and it did strike me "what have I spawned that could be so entirely different from me!"

Laughing about this with friend, G, this morning, she told me a lovely camping story, which I must share with you.

A friend of hers some years ago had a seven year old son, who really wanted to go camping. He kept pestering his mother to take him but she really didn't like the idea of going away for the night to a camp site a long distance away, in case he didn't really like it. She hit on an idea.

Together they listed all the camping equiment they needed, gathered it all together and packed the boot of the car. Then they set off. They lived in quite a big village and she drove all round the outskirts of the village, down a few lanes and back again, until she arrived in the large orchard of her neighbours next door. Driving down to the bottom of the orchard, they unpacked, pitched the tent, cooked their meal and had a lovely night camping. Next day they drove home by the same route and he arrived home having enjoyed a lovely camping holiday, blissfully unaware that he had only been next door.

It is interesting,before I sign off today, how farming has caught up in spite of the bad weather. Round here the harvest is all in. We are mostly grass land but some farmers with dairy herds grow a few fields of grain for feed and they have all been harvested and the straw led away.

This coincides with the time of the year when the rooks begin to flock again - any day now they will start passing my bedroom window as I drink my morning tea. In the meantime they are totally destroying the peace of the countryside round here by clacking and cawing in the trees - the noise is deafening and if they are not in the trees then they are in the harvested cornfields picking up any dropped grain and searching for worms and leather-jacket grubs. The cornfield in the middle distance of this photograph (just down the road from our farm) is absolutely covered in rooks looking for a tasty meal.

Monday 17 September 2012

A New Tractor?

The farmer is contemplating exchanging one of his tractors for a more powerful one, so that it will pull the slurry tank uphill more easily. To that end, today, we had a lovely drive over to the Lake District, to our tractor supplier.

It was very changeable weather - one minute sunny, the next heavy cloud and pouring rain. But I am a sucker for a day out - Tess is too. We came back via a completely different route, passing through various Dales villages.

I have taken some photographs from the moving car, which I post above. They are not very good, but I couldn't keep asking the farmer to stop - so I had to take pot luck. We stopped at a super cafe we know and had sausage and mash for lunch - it was absolutely delicious.

Has he bought the tractor? Oh dear me, it is far too early to say - still lots of deliberating to do.

Sunday 16 September 2012

Great North Run.

Today, my eldest Grand-daughter - Emily - is running in the Great North Run; this is a half-marathon run around Newcastle, where she lives. I am sponsoring her and the money is going to a community-based, volunteer-run gallery - PH Space. If you wish to learn more about them, please go to

There are thousands running. I put on the TV to see if I could see her - vain hope of course - but I have been thinking about her all morning and wondering how she is doing. Hopefully, I shall hear later in the day.

Just before the start the Red Arrows rlew over with their usual red-white-blue formation. It all looked very exciting.

The farmer is away today on his fortnightly walk with his walking group so I have taken the opportunity to catch up on doing the books, checking my bank statement and doing a bit of reading. Now lunch calls - the remains of last night's cauliflower cheese with some smoked ham. Now that I have written it down, I am suddenly hungry!

Saturday 15 September 2012

Out for the Day.

Regular readers of my blog will know that there is nothing I like better than a day out. Today, just as a huge load of straw arrived to be unloaded and stored for Winter, a friend, G, also arrived and said did I fancy going out for a jaunt. Did I??? No need to ask, of course.

We set off through Wensleydale for Hawes, and the first photograph today shows the nice waterfall in Hawes town centre. There is an exhibition of quilting on at the Hawes Countryside Museum, so we went round that and then we called in at the Herriot Gallery for an exhibition of the paintings and etchings of Piers Browne - these were, as usual, an inspiration. His work is absolutely lovely.

Then it was off over the Buttertubs Pass with its spectacular moorland scenery and down into Swaledale. The weather was perfect with lovely long views of the moorland countryside. Now and again we spotted a grouse in the heather, but other than that - no birds.

We decided to drive up to the Tan Hill pub for a spot of lunch. After the pub in Flash in Derbyshire, I understand that the Tan Hill is the highest pub in England. There were plenty of bikers there, as there always are in Summer. A lot of the bikers round here only licence their bikes from April to September, so I expect many of them were taking advantage of a really nice day to get in an outing.

Home-made tomato and basil soup with hot rolls and butter - then off up the track to give the dogs a walk. Someone had a tepee by the pub - very colourful but nobody around to explain whether they were actually camping in it or not.

We came back by a different route, over Surrender Bridge and past the old lead mine workings, now just a ruin but once, a couple of centuries ago, the absolute hub of the Dale. And to end our day out a delicious ice cream in Reeth, which was also heaving with visitors. Seems that everyone was taking advantage of that late Summer sun.

##The commonest sheep around these parts is the Swaledale sheep - notable for its horns and its white nose. Here are a couple of them taking advantage of the sunshine. They are very hardy and stay out in all weathers.

Friday 14 September 2012

A Book to Read.

Regular readers of my blog will know that I love the books by Ronald Blythe above all others. I have almost all of them and read them over and over - they are that kind of book. If i can't sleep I get up, make myself a drink and sit by the Aga. On the bookshelf by the Aga are all my favourite books including everything I have by Ronald Blythe. I choose a book, open it randomly and read. Within a moment I am transported to some country lane, some country churchyard, the precincts of some church or cathedral, or into the life of some poet and painter from the past and there is magic in the air.

Ronald Blythe is, I believe, ninety now but from what I understand he is still going strong and lives - as he has done for half of his lifetime - in Bottengoms Farm on the Suffolk/Essex border - John Constable country and the place where he grew up and has never left for long.

This latest book is called 'at the yeoman's house' - that house being Bottengoms farm. This is, in a way, a history of the house and of the people who inhabited it - and in some ways inhabit it still. I have found it absolutely fascinating, so readable and quite impossible to put down. The book is separated into twelve quite short chapters - each one dealing with a different aspect. There is one, for example, which deals with the old floors, many of which are still in place today.

There are lists of the people who have lived in the house, lists of the flowers in the garden, even bills dating back to 1541. John Constable walked this land, John Nash, the war artist, lived in the house before Blythe; the house is soaked in history.

My friend, G, lent me the book. I love it so much that I cannot bear to give it back to her, so she has ordered another copy for herself and I am to keep this one for my big 'O' birthday, which comes up on Hallowe'en. I do urge you to look out for the book and buy it - sheer bliss.

Thursday 13 September 2012

Out to Lunch.

A friend and I seem to have got into the tradition of lunching out for one another's birthdays. As her birthday was a couple of weeks ago, we decided today was a good day to go to lunch at The Deanery in Ripon and then after lunch cross the Close and visit the Art Exhibition in the Cathedral.

Our table was booked for 12.30, so after parking the car we had a little time to walk to one or two of the lovely Galleries along Kirkgate in the town. There are always paintings and various 'objets d'art' to look at and - as usual - we drooled over various things on display.

Then it was back for lunch. I have photographed mine for you.
First course - Goat's cheese, mousse and a poached pear.
Main course - Butternut squash risotto.
Dessert - Vanilla cheescake, strawberry mousse and strawberries.

Each course was served on slate. There were white tablecloths, white damask napkins, a nice jug of water with lemon pieces in it and excellent service. When I showed the farmer the photographs on arriving home, his comment was that it was not his sort of lunch if there weren't heaps of vegetables on the table to help oneself to!! Men.

We had elderflower presse to drink and coffee to follow. It was a lovely lunch in pleasant surroundings - who could ask for more?

Now to the exhibition. As usual, for us it was like the curate's egg - yes there were some really exciting pieces - notably the work of Piers Browne - (Dominic and his wife own a Piers Browne and they find his work exciting too) but there were also one or two exhibitors who we felt were not really of the right calibre to be included. This is a prestigious show and it is sad that in some ways the standard seemed to have fallen a little. However, as always, it is a good show to visit and gives us plenty to discuss on the art front.

We were back home by four o'clock this afternoon. It had been an enjoyable outing all round. I am looking forward to my birthday now (even if it is a big 'O' I am not enjoying the thought of!

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Bits and Pieces.

First of all - Congratulations to Andy Murray on winning his first Grand Slam title. That and the Olympics - such a boost to his confidence. I am so glad for him.

Secondly - The Olympics - that wonderful parade and the 'feel-good factor' it has left. If only it could continue and we could all feel good right through the Winter.

My friend has lent me the latest Ronald Blythe book - 'at the Yeoman's House'. So far I have only read a chapter but already I am enthralled. Regular readers of my blog will know that I am a keen enthusiast of his writing and have most of his books. This book is really about his house - Bottengom's - and about its building, the people who have lived there, and the surrounding farm lands and their working.

Today that same friend has heard of the death of a very old friend in Shetland, and the two things combined to make me think of how - as each generation dies out - things die with them which can never again be recaptured.

Blythe talks about talking to an old villager before he died and hearing about a farm in the surrounding Suffolk/Essex countryside where they had stabling for fourteen horses - mostly pure bred Suffolks. Even their names were traditional - Blossom, Bowler, Captain, Matchett, Diamond, Duke, Boxer, Kitty, Gypsy and Ginger. Now, of course, that stable is empty and is falling into disrepair. The same has happened all over the country - some have fallen down, some have been converted into state of the art homes.

I smiled at the names of the horses. When I recently went round a National Trust property where the local Police horses are stabled - we saw their names on the doors - Pete, Dave, Jim to name but three.

And in the case of my friend's old friend who has died in Shetland, what has died with her is her use of colour in the wonderful Shetland patterns she knitted. The patterns may have survived, but her use of colour will have largely died with her, apart from the garments her friends and family have kept.

And that brings me nicely to Kaffe Fassett and his use of colour. I am intending crocheting an Afghan blanket this Winter and have first to establish the colours I wish to incorporate. The choice is hard. I have borrowed one of Kaffe's books and I don't think it has made the decision any easier because as I turn each page I find another combination I love. I have photographed bits and pieces of the colours here and there, to use as a decision making tool. Then I decided to iron my scarves (yes it is getting to that time of the year) and found one in purples, mustards and greens - and I love that too. So I have photographed that. After this blog it is decision time and time to go on the internet and get ordering the wool.

Monday 10 September 2012

Another of Nature's Wonders.

I am pleased to say that I have successfully fought off the bug which attacked me and caused me to have a day in bed. Up to now (fingers crossed) the farmer has not caught it, so we plough on. The silage is all in, the hay too - and now it is spread the slurry on to the newly cut grass before the Autumn rains make it too soft for the tractor to go across. This is certainly a busy time on the farm.

I must mention The last Night of the Proms on Saturday night, which I think was one of the best ever, not least because they didn't do anything silly to Sir Henry Wood's Sea Songs - I love them so much and for a year or two they cut some of them out - such a shame. And some of the water based Olympic medallists came on stage for Rule Brittannia, which was nice.

And then of course there was the closing ceremony of the Paralympics last night - another absolutely splendid occasion which really makes one feel proud to be British. What a Summer it has been - and having just watched the news and seen the thousands out on the streets of London to cheer all the Olympians as they toured round London - I think that was a fitting end. I do hope we don't all slip back into the doldrums when we look at the financial situation again.

Now onto the subject of today's title - it is at this time of the year that I find nature begins to reveal her wonders. The leaves come off the trees and hedges and beautifully- built nests are suddenly revealed, or in this case we find an empty wasps/hornets nest.

In the yard we have what the farmer calls 'The Sin Bin', which is a separate little hut and run where he puts any hens who go broody on us. When they go broody they stop laying eggs and tend to sit all day on the eggs of other hens in the hopes of building up enough to start breeding. This really makes the farmer cross for some reason, so he takes them out of the hen hut and puts them into the sin bin until they go back on to laying again - usually about a couple of weeks.
They seem quite happy in there and have a perfectly adequate run, but don't go out into the fields every day.

When the farmer lifted up the roof of the hut to refill the corn and water feeders this beautifully constructed nest was on the straw on the floor. We presume it had been attached to the side of the hut and had gone unnoticed. It had either fallen down or the hens had pulled it down to get at larva inside. It is completely empty now - but really so very well-made. There is always straw in the yard and the greenish/grey paper-like substance of which it is made is interlaced with bits of straw.

At present it is on the window sill in my Utility Room alongside some horse medicine bottles - I can't bear to throw it away - it is a little work of art.

Saturday 8 September 2012

Autumn draws near.

All the fields have been cut and the grass is short again. This means that Tess and I can walk in them with ease and although I am a little shaky today after my day in bed yesterday, we went for a walk after lunch.

Tess was delighted to be in the fields again. The hedge-bottoms are full of rabbits and for most of the time she had her head down a rabbit hole and her bottom up in the air. I tried picking blackberries but only got about a tea-cup full, so now need a cooking apple so that we can have stewed blackberries and apples with custard for tea (one of the farmer's favourites). After this blog I shall walk down to the veggie garden to see what the apple trees have to offer me.

There is a distinct feel of Autumn now everywhere. The rose hips are turning bright red and all the rosebay willow herb is rapidly going to seed. In the big ash tree a parliament of rooks is duscussing something important - don't know what it is - wish I could speak their language!

And, best of all, a dozen or so curlew are flying round the fields and calling as they go - I love curlews and as Autumn approaches they begin to pay us visits. Lovely.

Sadly, I had to cancel my visitors for the weekend. I didn't feel up to entertaining them and in any case, it is a nasty bug and it will still be lurking around. I just hope the farmer doesn't go down with it when it is just his busiest time of the year.

Do my readers remember the poorly heifer who we expected would miscarry her calf? She has been indoors on her own for the last two weeks or so, fed and watered and re-strawed daily but not really making any improvement. Well yesterday she finally aborted the calf - 5 months pregnant and David said the calf seemed to be almost perfectly formed (a bull calf) but only about half the size of Tess. I hope she will now begin to pick up and get back to normal. She has been eating and drinking normally and does not seem to be in any kind of pain.

Tonight is one of those Iconic nights which I am afraid I must take advantage of - The Last Night of the Proms is on Television. Although it is not the farmer's 'cup of tea' he seems happy to let me watch it - I have done so ever since I can remember. So if you are watching it too - enjoy.

Thursday 6 September 2012

A Day and a Half.

What a day all round.

First my day. I had a hair appointment at 10.30 in Ripon and set off in plenty of time at 9.30, only to come across a large bale of straw which had fallen off a trailer and was totally blocking the road - hold up number one. When I finally arrived in Ripon with about ten minutes to spare, it was to find that the huge car park, which on Wednesdays is usually three quarters empty when I go, was full and overflowing (it is Market Day and the market is huge). I had to drive around for twenty minutes along with about twenty other cars until finally a shopper just in front of my car pulled out and I got a parking space and arrived at the hairdressers a quarter of an hour late.

Meanwhile, the farmer had arranged for the baler and the wrapper to come at 9am, so that by the time I arrived home to cook his lunch baling was almost finished, but the baler had broken down and the man had gone to borrow a replacement. After lunch he finished baling and began wrapping and immediately the farmer began leading the wrapped bales in. (leaving them out just encourages the crows to peck holes in them and let in the air).

At the precise moment he began, the first load of Winter straw arrived at the gate - an enormous double lorry load and at the same time our farmer neighbour arrived to help him unload it. That took up most of the afternoon and now - after tea - the farmer is out again leading in the bales.

I have friends coming tomorrow for the weekend and I was doing a bit of tidying up of the utility room a while ago and opened the back door, only to find that the strong wind that is blowing today has blown a mountain of straw up against the back door.

In addition to all that, my friend has gone down with a bad cold and as I have spent two days in her company earlier this week, I feel as though I too am going down with a cold tonight - or am I just imagining it? I shall have to wait until tomorrow morning and see what develops. If it is a cold then I shall have to give my friends the option of staying at home if they don't wish to catch the cold. At least there is a good provenance for her cold - she went to a wonderful lecture by that wizard of colour, Kaffe Fassett, on Saturday in York and he had an awful cold, so she thinks she may have picked it up there when he signed his latest book for her. Personally, if you are going to catch a cold, I can't think of anyone I would rather catch it from!

Wednesday 5 September 2012


This is the sight that greeted us when we stepped outside the back door this morning. Quite a grisly find but the question is what did it?

Surely it either has to be a sparrow hawk swooping low over the hedge or one of our farm cats. Whichever it is, it seems to have happened quite late in the evening and either the bird (collared dove??) has been plucked and carried away or eaten on site down to the very last piece of bone and sinew because there is absolutely no sign of anything more than one wing joint.

We neither saw nor heard anything but I do wish that whatever did the dirty deed had cleared up after himself. (It is almost certainly a 'he' because no female would have left such a mess, would she?)

Tuesday 4 September 2012

September walks.

"Robins sing among the fallen apples, and the cooing of wood pigeons is attuned to the soft light and the colours of the bowers. The yellow apples gleam. It is the gleam of melting frost. Under all the dulcet warmth on the face of things lurks the bitter spirit of the cold. This is the bitterness that makes the September morning so mournful in its beauty."

Oh yes, we undoubtedly know it is September and Summer is past. But as we have had little Summer to savour, this week is such a bonus. The sky is blue streaked with stringy white clouds, there is a pleasant breeze and the hazy sun shines from rising to setting.

And, at last, the farmer is confident enough to cut the grass for second-crop silage. The forecasters have said that it will be find all week, so the risk is much reduced - it is a risk worth taking and the grass lies in neat rows across the fields.

Tess and I are at last able to walk down Cow House field, so called because the farmer's father used to walk down to the cowhouse when he was a boy every morning to milk the cows in there in Winter before he went to school. The cow house is long gone, its stone used to repair other walls and buildings. All that remains is a bit of stone wall among the hedge.

We walk down the line between two rows of cut grass. Rabbits scatter as we walk down and Tess spends much of the walk on her back legs, scouting for rabbits. I dare not let her off the lead because the farmer is going up and down the field with his haybob, tossing the grass to dry it.

The horses rest in the shade of a tree and the milking herd lay quietly in the field, chewing the cud. In the hedgerow the blackberries begin to ripen and the thistle are gone to seed.

We stop by the old lichen-covered gatepost in the hedge to listen to the rooks calling in the trees along the hedgerow and high above us the swallows swoop after insects. High swallows - a sign of fine weather according to the farmer.

In the front garden the climbing rose has a sudden burst of new flowers, the last burst of Summer I suppose, but none the less welcome for all that.

In the air is the smell of cut grass, the clack-clack of the haybob, the cawing of the rooks, the shrieking of the swallows. No it is certainly not quiet here today, but nevertheless the sounds are all welcome ones. I push up my sleeves to get the sun on my arms and get a dose of Vitamin D to build me up for Winter. Tess on the other hand has only one thing on her mind - rabbit.

The opening paragraph is, of course, the work of Edward Thomas - the poet of the countryside who died so tragically in the Great War at Arras. The last entry in his diary:

"The light of the new moon and every star
and no more singing for the bird."

Such a tragic end for such a sensitive man. But what a legacy he left behind.

This Summer's legacy is one of water - the fields are still wet and our memory of Summer is of rain. But let's rejoice in this glorious Autumn weather while it lasts.

Monday 3 September 2012

Want a good read?

I have just read a really lovely book by an author I had not come across before, Bella Pollen. It is not her first book which is also exciting because it means I have several more to read.

We have quite a small library here and I often think that the books never change, but I have certainly never seen books by this author during my previous searches.

'The Summer of the Bear' is a novel basically about a woman's search for answers to the death of her husband in mysterious circumstances and her attempts to keep her three children together on an island in the Outer Hebrides. It is a mystery story, a ghost story, a love story - all rolled into one. If you want a good read, do look out for it.

Dry weather is forecast here for the whole week, so it is all stations go as the farmer bites the bullet and cuts all his grass for second-crop silage. It is not hot but the sun is out and there is quite a keen wind blowing - just the right conditions at this time of the year particularly as the ground is so very wet following our wet summer. So keep your fingers crossed for a good, dry week and a good crop of silage at the end of it, so that the barn is nicely filled with winter feed.

Sunday 2 September 2012

Visiting a Nature Reserve

This afternoon, after a delicious lunch with a friend, (thank you G), she took me to her favourite nature reserve for a walk. The reserve, called Foxglove Covert, is slap bang in the middle of the Army Garrison at Catterick.

It might seem a strange place to have such a reserve, but it has been built up over the last twenty years or so and is now such a tranquil place with an immense variety of wild life. Today was a bird ringing day and there were nets out to catch and ring the birds. They have moth identification days too and there is a special classroom for children to go.

We walked round, we sat in a hide and looked across the still pool with many exquisite dragonflies hovering around it. We watched a heron standing by the edge, and we walked, listening to the sound of water trickling in the stream at the side of the path.

Within the field centre itself there is a welcoming team of volunteers, plus the warden and staff, who are always there to advise, to give information, to dish out tea and cake, should you feel like making yourself a cup.

It seemed to me to be a haven of peace inside a Garrison which, basically, is built to train men for the opposite of peace. Sadly, I forgot to take my camera. But if you wish to learn more about it
and follow events there, then go to