Monday 30 December 2013


There is a fear - largely irrational in my view - that we are about to be inundated with Roma beggars after January 1st.   I see today in the Times that Romania's Prime Minister has said that we should be far more concerned about bankers taking our millions than about beggars asking for pence on street corners. Certainly a comment worthy of thinking about.

Where we live it is rare to see anyone begging in the street.  I am sure this is not the case in the big cities.   There may well be homeless people up here - I am ashamed to say that I don't know whether there are or not.   There was one lady a few years ago who chose to live in her car but that situation seems to have sorted itself out.

But all this made me think back to my own childhood.   I don't remember beggars round our village, but tramps were an everyday occurence and my mother always welcomed them with open arms.

She had the ability to make a meal out of nothing; we always had plenty of veg in the garden and as she regularly prepared game and fowls for the butcher she often had a plentiful supply of meat (which she loved).  Tramps knew they would be welcome.

We had a stone wash house attached to our house, where my mother did indeed do the washing.   There was a brick copper which was lit every Monday morning and there was a black range which she kept clean and ready to light.

There was an old scrubbed-top table, which she always kept clear, and it was here that she sat any tramp who happened to call at the back door.   If it was cold weather she would light the range to warm things up and she would tell him to make himself comfortable in front of the range and wait for his dinner.

Any old clothes of my father's or my brother's would be passed on to the tramp.   He would warm himself up,  eat his dinner (which would always be substantial - she was a great maker of suet dumplings in the winter months) and then he would be on his way.

As far as I remember there was only ever one woman and she was called Pyewipe Liz (Pyewipe is a hamlet on the side of the Foss Dyke between Lincoln and Newark).   She used to come round regularly with her small daughter in tow and I rather think she lived in an old caravan.

These tramps seem to have largely disappeared these days.   Could be that they are now what we term 'the homeless' and that they gather in the towns and cities or it could be that they end up in Old Peoples'  Homes, although as I remember it they were not all old by any means - rather inadequate at coping with life.

It used to be said that tramps would leave a mark on the gate post of any house where they were welcome but I never remember any mark - but however they knew, word got around that tramps were always welcome at our house.

Sunday 29 December 2013

A Glutton for Punishment.

Well, I really think I must be, considering the amount of entertaining I have done over Christmas.   On Boxing Day I had a Lunch Party and a Buffet in the evening, for eight and seven respectively.   Now this evening I am having my grandchildren, along with their Dad and Step Mum for a meal and then I am giving a New Year's Eve Party.

Tonight's meal presents something of a challenge as there will be one vegan, one vegetarian, one piscatorian and two 'normal' eaters.
Jacket potatoes will feature heavily.

The weather today is beautiful - tomorrow is set to be awful - we seem to be alternating days of sunshine and storm.   Just in case you think this is a modern phenomenon, it is 134 years today since the Tay Bridge disaster, when the bridge collapsed taking a passenger train with it,at the height of a terrible storm.

Reading the report of the day which was published in yesterday's Times, it struck me how reporting has changed - and indeed how rescue operations have changed.   The article implies that they are not sure that the train has gone, but they know it went on to one side of the bridge and they know it didn't come off the other.   They 'fear' the train is at the bottom of the water but the only 'proof' they have is that two mail bags have been washed up on the shore.   How things have changed.

It set me thinking and talking with the farmer over our lunch time coffee about how many things have changed in my lifetime (and it is a jolly long one believe me).  Here is the list of the things I came up with:

Breach of promise is no longer a crime.
Homosexuality is no longer a crime.
You can no longer go to prison for debt.
The whip has been abolished as a form of punishment.
There is no longer a death penalty for murder.
Divorce laws have been eased and divorce is no longer seen as shameful.
 -We talk openly - and criticise openly - anybody.   I remember the career of a comedian (I think it might have been Max Miller) being seriously harmed because he mentioned Mrs Simpson on stage at the time of the Edward VIII scandal.
Illegitimacy is a word which has largely disappeared from our language.  I think more children are born out of wedlock than in these days.

These are just the things I thought of in a spare five minutes - I am sure you can think of many more.

Saturday 28 December 2013

Christmas and memories

Christmas is always a time for memories isn't it?   Family happy times, episodes from one's childhood, red letter days - they all seem to come into one's mind when carving the turkey or dishing up the Christmas pudding - or reminiscing amongst family members round the wood burner.

This photograph stands with family photographs on the piano and it really sums up well the relationship I had with my siblings.   My sister, Vera, was twenty-two years older than me and my brother, Jack, was eleven years older than me.  So our parents spaced us out well.  This photograph was taken on the occasion of Vera's 75th birthday, when (as a total surprise) the whole family gathered for her birthday at the home of her daughter.  (she was totally overcome and made her daughter promise never to do such a thing again.)

My brother was to die suddenly in 1987 with a Coronary thrombosis, my sister lived on well into her nineties.   But this photo, taken in 1985, show us all having a good laugh about something.   And of such small incidents are memories made - and come to the fore at Christmas.

Friday 27 December 2013

Only remnants remain.

Remnants of turkey and the last few slices of ham remain on the meat dish.   In the bowl a small amount of cranberry sauce languishes.   A few sad vegetables have been heated in the microwave today and eaten for lunch along with the remains of yesterday's trifle.   The Christmas cards begin to wobble, the decorations begin to suggest tawdriness and I am rather tired of twinkling fairy lights.   Yes, you've guessed it, Christmas is over for another year.
Of course it all has to remain for New Year's Eve - then it can all come down and be packed away for another year.   Bits can be vacuumed up and by the second day of January we will be back to normal (whatever normal is).
But yes, as usual we have enjoyed it all - feasting, laughing with friends - what could be better?
Sorry I haven't blogged but I have been too busy.   And thank you to friend W, who was so worried that I hadn't blogged that she rang in the middle of the festivities to see if I was ill.   Commiserations to her also as she has now gone down with the most awful feverish cold.   She sounds dreadful on the telephone - and, if you are reading this W, we missed her terribly this morning at our Friday coffee get together.  She must get better for New Year's Eve because she is coming to sample my salmon and leek pie at my New Year's Eve party.
Coming out of the Coffee House this morning the gale, which is blowing directly down the Market Square, caught me unawares and blew me about twenty yards down the road - very scary.   In order to cross the road and get back to the car I had to cling on for dear life.   Maybe I am getting old after all - and that after saying over coffee that from today I am reversing the figures in my age and dressing and acting accordingly.   So folks, from today I am 18 again and am looking for something classy, short and sexy to wear -
I suspect it is an impossibility.

Saturday 21 December 2013

Only four days to go...

...and I have not even got the decorations out of the boxroom yet.   My cleaner comes on Monday mornings so I am waiting until she has gone and then the farmer and I will hit it hard.  We have cut a branch in the hopes that we can emulate Cro's lovely branch tree for our utility room.   Time will tell.

Most Christmas jobs are done however.   The food cupboard is full and the freezer is full.   The fridge is bursting with food and all the menus are written.   It is just the last minute vegetables to get on Christmas eve and we are away.

I do love Christmas cards.   For anyone who has decided not to send them any more (and I do appreciate that they are both expensive to buy and to post) I do urge you to think carefully.   When you have moved around the country a lot, as I have, it is the one time in the year when we swap up to date news and greetings.  Finding a pile of cards on the mat when the postman has been gives me pleasure every morning.

The farmer is shooting today and friend W and I have been into town, done a little shopping and spent an hour putting the world to rights in the coffee shop.   Now the wood burner is lit and I am making myself a coffee and settling down to read one of the Grantchester mystery short stories over it.   Not, in my opinion, brilliant writing, but readable all the same.

Did you see in today's obituaries that Paul Torbay, author of 'Salmon fishing in the Yemen' has died?  Now that is a great loss to present day literature. 

Friday 20 December 2013

Call me old fashioned.

Call me old-fashioned if you like, but there is an advert on BB C1 here in the UK at the moment, which appalls me and fills me with despair about the future.

As a retired teacher who concentrated on reading skills and extending vocabulary and widening interest, I sit and look at this advert, which seems to be on three or four times every night at the moment.   It is for BBC I Player and shows a railway carriage full of people of all ages travelling along through the countryside.   On one side of the carriage are people looking bored, dozing, looking miserable, generally fed up.   On the other side are folk who have tablets or whatever they are called on which they can get BBC I Player, so that they can watch their favourite programmes as they ride along,   Of course they are all looking happy and enjoying the journey.

Has no-one ever told them about looking out of the window and watching the scenery go past?   Watching the villages, the towns, the folk working in the fields, the animals, churches - the list is endless.

When our son was small we would play games on long journeys.   One that I remember was spotting a red London bus when we went to London, or spotting the Cathedral when we went to Lincoln (it is on a hill in the middle of flat country and can be seen from miles around). We used to say "Last one to spot the Cathedral is a monkey's uncle!"

Are we going to become a nation of people where no-one raises their head from a screen of some kind, where no-one is at all interested in what goes on around them?   There are so many fun things to do on journeys both in this country and abroad.

Travelling in China a few years ago, of all the images I retain probably the most vivid is of women in a remote village in the middle of nowhere standing round some kind of grinding stone while a donkey walked round and round grinding the corn.   In this country on train journeys I used to look for the churches - had they spires or towers, about how old were they, were they in the middle of the village or were they on the outskirts, perhaps as part of an estate?

Please let's all resist this with all our might.  For the sake of our children and grandchild we must keep them interested in the real world out there, the world they can actually see, not the one which is portrayed in a television programme.

Wednesday 18 December 2013

Busy days

Lots of Christmas jobs done this morning.   Three cakes marzipanned ready to ice over the week-end, Christmas menus written out and final shopping list (quite short) written out.  Now I am about to get ready to go to our Poetry afternoon.   The weather was beautifully sunny but I see from the landing window that it is now raining quite heavily, so obviously a mixture of sunshine and showers.

I found a rather nice piece of Christmas poetry to read, although as usual with poetry I really think the poet (Sir Walter Scott in Marmion) saw the scene through rose-tinted specs.   It begins
"Heap on more wood! - the wind is chill"and ends "A Christmas gambol oft would cheer a poor man's heart through half the year."
I doubt it in those days - but the Christmas spirit is lovely.

Thinking of Mandella's death this week I am also reading his favourite poem which is Invictus by W E Henley.   A very inspiring read.   Depending how many there are there (anything between six and eleven) I also have Thackeray's The Ballad of Bouillabaisse and Vernon Scannell's Uncle Edward's Affliction.

It is always one of my favourite afternoons in the month - lovely company and always poetry I have never come across before.

Sun is now blazing away in my eyes again.   Have a nice day.

Tuesday 17 December 2013

Bringing home the tree.

Our new field has a copse of Christmas trees and today my son and his wife (made out of words on my side bar) called.   The farmer was able to cut them a tree and my son carried it home across the fields - what a Christmassy feeling that engendered.   I like to think that tonight it will be up in their living room and they will be decorating it.   A week tomorrow will be Christmas Day so deck the halls with boughs of holly and Christmas trees.   Incidentally, on the subject of holly, the birds have stripped the berries off in the last week and there is not a berry to be seen.

Monday 16 December 2013

Still no more to eat.

I have no will power where good food is concerned.  The Christmas carvery yesterday was first class.   Huge turkey, huge joint of beef, various sauces, Yorkshire puddings, stuffings, potatoes (mashed and roast), swede (mashed) parsnips (chipped and delicious), sprouts, red cabbage, carrots, filled the counter from end to end - all piping hot and cooked to perfection.   I had some of everything apart from the Yorkshire pudding which I thought was the last straw.  (the farmer even added that to his plate).   There were eighty five eating there (fully booked) and I would hazard a guess that if you had removed everyone from the farming community there would have been no-one left.   There were some large tummies and some very healthy appetites.

All three of us really enjoyed our meal.   The farmer and I chose Christmas pudding for dessert, friend W had a lovely meringue.   She took a photograph of the dessert table for you to see - plenty of
 calories there I am sure you will agree.

Sufficient to say that it is now a quarter to eleven on a Monday morning, my cleaner has just gone and I have had nothing to eat yet apart from one round of toast for breakfast.

Everyone in the restaurant worked jolly hard and I would guess they were there incredibly early in order to have everything ready.   The restaurant is itself run by the farmers who send their sheep down off the tops to spend the Winter on our farm.

I did intend to take a photograph of my full plate but forgot until it was an empty plate!

I hope those of you who popped over to view Cro's 'tree' were inspired to do something similar.   I see that Cro in his comments on my blog yesterday, says that he has added various bits of holly and ivy to the original branch.   I hope he puts an updated photograph on his blog today.

For me there is something magical about the build-up to Christmas Day - a build-up which for me comes to a head with the Nine Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve on BBC 1 - I never miss it and it always means the start of Christmas proper for me.   In the meantime there are lists to make and tick off so that I know haven't forgotten anything vital.   Are you a list-maker?   Or do you just trust to luck that everything will be alright on the day? 

Sunday 15 December 2013

A New Day

Yesterday's 'easy' day turned out to be quite busy, but enjoyable.   One thing I did do was walk in the fields with the farmer and Tess after lunch, looking for a suitable branch to hang in the back utility room (the entrance everyone uses when visiting us).   If you haven't seen the lovely decorated branch which Cro has put up for Christmas then do go to his blog (Magnon's meanderings on my sidebar) and look at it.  He has given me an idea for something similar so we went off on a search.   We found a lovely hazel branch with catkins already forming.   Later this week the farmer will cut it and I thought I would spray the catkins and then decorate the branch in a similar manner to Cro's - so thank-you for the idea Cro.

WE came back but naughty Tess decided that the numerous rabbits were just too tempting and when we got back to the yard there was absolutely no sign of her.   I came into the house to make a cup of tea while the farmer went back to search - there she was, nonchalantly coming up the field as though tomorrow would do.

Our Christmas trees are flourishing - my son is having one and will come to cut it shortly.   But we have decided against having a 'real' one  - the thought of pine needles everywhere is too much to bear.  I am rather ashamed to say it though, as the smell of pine is so beautiful at Christmas.

Today the farmer is taking friend W and me out for a Christmas lunch in Hawes at the cafe belonging to the farmers whose sheep we over-Winter.   It will be a gigantic meal of their own produce - I shall over-eat and all we shall feel like doing is sleeping it off all evening - must watch the results of Strictly though - who will come off this week and which four will be in the Final next week?   I wonder.

If there is an opportunity to take photographs at the Christmas lunch I will do so and post them later in the day.   In the meantime, have a nice day - it's a lovely one here.

Saturday 14 December 2013

An empty day.

Today there is absolutely nothing that I have to do - I am totally free.   It is a good feeling and I shall revel in it.

Maybe I shall give my fridge a good clean out and wash, so that it is ready to accept Christmas food - but then again I might leave it for another day.

One thing I shall do is to concoct something tasty for lunch from whatever I happen to have in there.   It seems to consist of two chicken breasts, an unopened pack of button mushrooms, some new potatoes and some cheese.  (Tomorrow the farmer is taking friend W and me out for Christmas lunch), so I shall go and dice the chicken, chop the onions and mushrooms, par boil the potatoes and make some cheese sauce.   Then I shall assemble it all, put the sliced potatoes on the top, grate over some parmesan and pop it in the oven.  I hope it will turn out to be a tasty treat - time will tell.

Strong winds and storms are forecast for this area again - but at present it is the calm before the storm with warm temperatures (ten degrees), a slight breeze and sunshine.  When the sun is low in the sky, as it is now, our house gets beautifully warm (we face due South).   Tess is well aware of where the sun hits and follows it around - at present on to the stairs where she slumps rather than sits, eyes closed, lapping up every sunbeam.

The farmer is away clearing up briars he has cut off the hedges and branches which have fallen off the trees during the last storm.   The briars will form the basis of the last bonfire before Christmas and the branches will be sawn up for the log burner.   Country life is good.

Friday 13 December 2013

A Journey

Christmas looms and our little market town has gone mad today (market day).   All the fruit and vegetable stalls, the fish stalls, the butchers - had great long queues and people were rushing hither and thither as though tomorrow was the big day.   The local band was playing carols in the square.   The supermarket was so busy that there were no trolleys to be had and even if there had been there wasn't room to push them between the people in the aisles.
What is it with folk that they seem to have this need to stock up on so much food?   After all, the shops are really only closed on Christmas Day - most of them open again on Boxing Day morning, at least for part of the day.

I came home from town and the farmer and I, with Tess, went the thirty miles to Sedbergh to meet our God-daughter for lunch and to exchange Christmas presents.  Well, it should have been thirty miles but two thirds of the way there (it was pouring with rain by this time and the cloud was down low on the hills) the road was closed and we had to make a twenty mile detour, which made us late.   Coming back we made the same detour, only to find that when we reached the turn off the road had been opened in our absence!

Still, one more job to tick off my list.

Thursday 12 December 2013

Super rich

There is a lot in the papers at present about the super rich because of the Saatchi/Nigella court case.   Having read it all in The Times, I have decided that I have absolutely no desire at all to be in the super rich bracket.   It would seem to me that as long as we have enough for our needs (rather than our wants), are healthy, well fed, warm for the winter - what more is necessary.   The whole thing about being super rich seems to me to be obscene when I think of all the people who are below the poverty line and are going to go hungry and cold this winter.

£1500 each month on fresh flowers?  I love my bunch of daffodils for New Year - what pleasure I get from watching the buds open to remind me that Spring is not all that far away, and to prompt me to go out into the garden to see how far up the snowdrops are.

A Home tutor for my children?  I think children should grow up in the kind of environment where they meet 'all sorts'.   That way they learn to get along with everybody.

£500 on a bottle of wine - no thanks.

It would seem to me that this kind of life is life lived in a bubble, protected (or excluded which ever way you look at it) from real life so completely that the two never ever meet.

I have a home help one morning a week.   She has been coming to me for over fifteen years and we are great friends.  (She is my main source of information as to what is going on in the area!)  No way would I want a housekeeper - somebody to make all the decisions for me - I like to decide what we are having for lunch.

There is something immoral about great wealth in a world where so many are starving.   But the sad fact is that if all that wealth were to be shared out equally then after a year or two some would be super rich again and others would be poor.  It seems that making money is an interesting occupation for some whilst others just spend it.

One thing is for sure.  Wealth is not for me.   I have never bought a Lottery ticket and after reading about the super rich I never shall.  The chances of winning six million (as someone did a fortnight ago) are very remote - but I don't wish to, thank you.   Luckily the couple who did win it, having bought each of their children a house, are carrying on as normal as they can't think of anything they want.   I hope it continues that way for them.

Tuesday 10 December 2013


This morning was my last exercise class for the over sixties before Christmas.  A full hour of exertion, stretching every muscle in the body (or so it seemed) including quite a few I didn't even know I had!  After lunch I have just taken Tess for her walk, which I think loosened me up a little and now I am putting on a hurried blog before a friend pops in for a cup of tea.  How lovely it is to have such a full life.

Tomorrow morning both the farmer and I are going to our monthly Physiotherapy session.  I think I shall need it after today's exertions and the farmer is going round the farm cutting back briars and collecting them up in the top fields so that he can allow the sheep in there.  If they go in with the briars still sticking out from the hedges then within hours some of them will be tangled up in the thorns.

Lovely day here, slight breeze blowing from the South West and a nice sun shining gently over the fields.   All my cards are posted, as are all my parcels; all my present shopping is done.  I do not decorate the house until Christmas eve (I hate shrivelled up holly) so I can sit back and enjoy it for a few days now.   Have a nice day.

Monday 9 December 2013

A busy day.

Today has been a jolly busy day here in the Dales.   Well it has for me at any rate.   This morning friend S and I drove over to our local nursery twelve miles or so away (and through some of the most beautiful Swaledale scenery) to stock up on Christmas plants.

I bought a holly wreath for my first husband's grave, a poinsettia plant, three cyclamen in full flower, a solanum covered in orange berries and a bowl of fern surrounded by white hyacinths.   They are now spread around the house and it begins to look as though Christmas might well be coming soon.

After a hasty lunch friend W and I, along with friend S. sped off to Teeside Park at Stockton on Tees to that store few of us could manage without at Christmas - Marks and Spenser.   Here I bought my turkey and a large piece of gammon, along with lots of nibbles and canapes for Boxing Day.   Now they are all in the freezer and another aspect of Christmas can be ticked off my list.

I do love the run up to Christmas with its organising, its stocking up of all store cupboards, its planning.   Goodness me, I am merely having seven people to lunch and evening meal on Boxing Day and a group of friends on New Year's eve, when I shall be cooking a meal, but I seem to be getting enough food in to feed an army.

After a cloudy and rather miserable day, the evening sky as friend W drove back from Teeside, was absolutely beautiful - a mixture of duck egg blue sky and apricot clouds.  S and I were lucky that we could just sit there and admire it.  Poor W had to keep her eye on the road as the traffic was horrendous.   We all agreed that we are so lucky to live here in the Dales where traffic is so light and we can enjoy the peace and tranquility without all the pushing and shoving and overtaking we experienced on the way back.

Sunday 8 December 2013

Santa's Grotto.

You can;t escape it can you?   As I said in yesterday's post, I deliberately avoided our little market town yesterday as it was Christmas themed all day.

This morning the farmer and I made the twelve mile journey to our nearest beautiful forest/nature reserve in order to collect a couple of season tickets (my last present - I have now finished my Christmas shopping and am trying not to sound smug).  It doesn't open until eleven in Winter months and as it was only just that time we expected there would be no-one there.

We turned the corner into the Car Park and there wasn't a space!!  Why not?   Alas, Santa had moved his Grotto to a little hidey hole within the park and there was a queue a mile long - children, parents, grannies and grandads - all eager to visit Santa.   I had to queue ten minutes to get to the ticket office.   And what a ten minutes.  Several children were sending up clouds of bubbles, so that the air was full of them; others were charging about full of excitement.   The atmosphere was lovely.

And it struck me as I stood there.   There was not an under-privileged child in that queue (certainly not in monetary terms) - it was £6.50 per adult to get inside for a start.  In terms of love and security of course, one never knows.   But when I see pictures on the television of our inner city children, our under-privileged children, the children of parents out of work and struggling to put a meal on the table, I realise that we do, on the whole, live in a very affluent area.

So I think we should all spare a thought this week-end, in the run up to Christmas to those for whom Christmas will maybe not be a happy one this year (this includes those whose homes have been flooded or washed away in this week's storms) and it also includes all those refugee children from Syria for whom Christmas is of course not an occasion they celebrate, but who for the last few years have had absolutely nothing to celebrate anyway- and nothing  for the forseeable future.

We are so lucky.   Let's be thankful for it.

Saturday 7 December 2013

Snug and warm

The storm of two days ago and the subsequent tidal surge all down the East coast of the country has been pretty devastating for a lot of people, particularly in the run-up to Christmas.   The South Yorkshire coast and the coast of Lincolnshire have been particularly badly hit and some houses have been washed away.   What a nightmare it must have been.

Now the weather is back to "normal" and it is as though the storm has never been, apart from branches off trees.   There are quite a few of what the farmer calls "Nature's Prunings" around our fields and they always come in handy for winter logs once they have dried out.

Meanwhile, the cows are snug and warm in their barn and to satisfy those of you who asked, the farmer took a couple of photographs of them.   Once they get in that straw and out of the wind, and their food is provided twenty four hours a day, I think they imagine they have died and gone to heaven.

This morning friend W and I have been to the village monthly coffee morning in the Village Hall.   There was a goodly crowd there, including one or two newcomers to the village - which is good as it is a good way to meet everyone.   There was a cheerful log fire burning in the grate and I think we all enjoyed it.   K provided hot mince pies with a topping of brandy butter as a little extra and they were scrummy.

The farmer meanwhile, well wrapped up, is shooting today.   As I write this I can hear the guns in the background.   The local Hunt called to say they would be hunting our fields today but when the farmer told them that we would be shooting they changed their minds.   I suppose the sound of the guns gives the fox too much warning of approaching danger. I was just pleased that any foxes in our area would get a reprieve.

Our local market town is holding a fun day today.   There is an ice rink in the Market Place, a Craft tent with presents to buy, the local brass band is playing, Santa has a Grotto and is switching the Christmas lights on at 5pm this evening - it's all happening and I am sure the children will love it.  They have even relaxed parking charges for the day.   I am steering clear - I have no desire to see Santa in his Grotto, my Christmas shopping is finished and I am sure that my ice-skating days are over (they actually never started).
Call me Mrs Grinch if you like, but I shall sit by the fire when I have taken Tess for her walk in a few minutes.

Keep warm and snug and have a lovely weekend.

Thursday 5 December 2013

Just in time.

Just in time before the big storm the milking parlour roof is back on and the first batch of cows are warm in the straw of the Loose Housing.

The builder finished yesterday and spent most of the day doing odd jobs which will save the farmer a lot of time.   Also I do object to the farmer going up a ladder at his age so the builder cleaned out the guttering all the way round the house.  As we have a stand of Scots Pines close by, the guttering gets absolutely full of pine needles.   Then when the winter rains and snows come the guttering overflows.

There is a lovely story in the farmer's paper this morning about a family who had a West Highland White dog.  A while ago they bought a Rottweiller bitch and a couple of weeks ago she presented them with a litter of eleven Wotties!!!  Two died but the other nine are thriving.   Apparently Dad is playing an equal part in their rearing.   They look like rather large Border Terriers (like Tess) and are absolutely adorable.  There are two outcomes - one is that all the puppies have already been found new homes when they are old enough to leave their mother; the other is that the West Highland dog is off to the vets next week.  All I wonder is how he managed it.   Did he have a ladder?

Photographs of the new roof and of the contented cows will be posted later today hopefully.   At present there is a terrible storm raging outside - high winds and pouring rain.   Later I am going out to lunch with friends (am already dreaming of the crab cakes, which are always on the menu) But the farmer has said that he will take the photographs once the rain has stopped.

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Winter draws near.

The weather forecast here in the North of England is for cold weather coming down from the Arctic tomorrow and leaving a scattering of snow on the tops.   The builder is just putting the finishing touches to the milking parlour roof as I write - he will be pleased to get it done just in time.

In the garden the last few roses of Summer are blooming in the tub by the front door.   They are so pretty - I have no idea of the variety but I have had this rose a few years and it never fails to please early and late in the season.

This morning the farmer drove me over the tops to Richmond to go to the audiology clinic to have new hearing aids fitted (in both ears for the first time - everything sounds so terribly loud this afternoon.)   On the way back we saw that they are burning the heather all round us.

The grouse-shooting season finished last weekend and the game keepers like to get on with the heather burning straight away if the weather is right - and it is at the moment.   The purpose of burning the heather (which they do in controlled patches throughout the moor) is to encourage the young shoots to grow back green and healthy.   Grouse more or less live on heather and they eat the young shoots and the seeds they produce.   Each patch is burnt once every four years.  I must say that it produces the most beautiful smell which wafts over the moor as the day wears on.   Columns of white smoke drift along and today these extend the full length of the moors on all sides.

Christmas cake number two is in the oven as I write this - smells good.   Two down, two to go.  I always feel well on course when I have done all four.  Christmas Day is three weeks tomorrow it you need a reminder!

The first of the cows who overwinter in our Loose housing came in this morning.   There has been such a lot of late grass this year that has been ideal for dry cows, who don't have to be fed to encourage the milk yield.   But now that they are in they have settled in quickly, lying down in the deep straw and only getting up to come to their troughs when I went down there at lunch time with a few savoy cabbage leaves cut from the outside of our lunchtime cabbage.   I must say I like the Winter cows in = it happens every year and emphasises a sense of continuity on the farm.

Get in the logs, get out the hats and scarves, be ready for that first icy blast!

Sunday 1 December 2013

a Baking Day

Apart from the usual Sunday lunch cook I also made the first of four Christmas cakes which I make every year - three as presents and one for ourselves.   It has just come out of the Aga - baking slow-cook fruit cakes is a complicated process in a two-oven Aga and is best done in an Aga cake baker.   This is like a large handleless saucepan where the cake sits on a rack, a lid is put on and the cake really steam-bakes.   Results are usually good and this one looks good so far.   One down, three to go.   I have just annointed it with Highland Park whisky (the farmer's favourite tipple) so that the house is full of lovely smells.

In addition I tried Cro Magnon's Soda Bread recipe (if you want to try it go to Magnon's Meanderings on my side bar for the recipe).  My husband reminded me that we ate soda bread fresh every morning years ago in a farm B and B in Ireland.   The bread is delicious.   If I make it again I shall omit the herbs as this made it only suitable for eating with savoury things (we both had it for Sunday tea with a chunk of cheddar),   Made without the herbs it would be good for breakfast toasted and spread with honey or marmalade.   But I do urge you to try it - as Cro says, it is fairly foolproof and is a good standby.

Photographs of both baking efforts here!