Thursday 31 July 2014

Thursday again.

Have you noticed how, if you have regular appointments at the same time each week, the weeks seem to fly by?   Thursday at 1pm is my Hairdresser (I cannot remember the last time I washed my own hair - I hate doing it).   This means an early lunch (meals are very regular here on the farm, so that the farmer knows what time to come in- his mother trained him well).

After that I usually do a little shopping in our little market town - stocking up on bits and pieces so that all I have to do tomorrow is to buy my fruit and vegetables from the market after our weekly coffee jaunt (another thing to make things go quickly through the week).

Then, at half past four a gang of us are off the see 'Best Exotic Marigold Hotel',   I think that all but one of us has seen it before - but it has such a 'feel good factor' we thought we would go and see it again.  Do we imagine ourselves in that kind of situation?   I suspect we do a bit.   Well - we can all dream you know.

All these things serve to shut out the awful world situation.   I can't do anything about it (except despair) so best to get on with life - although it is not enough.

My friends S and D finish their Land's End to John O'Groats walk today; they have been walking since May 18th and are to be congratulated on finishing.   Photographs if and when I receive them. 


Wednesday 30 July 2014


If I never see another pea it will be too soon!   As usual, all our crop of peas is ready at once.   As peas are the farmer's favourite vegetable then he always grows rows and rows of them.   They are not my favourite vegetable - by a long way.

So yesterday he spent much of the day sitting in the Utility Room with buckets of pods and gradually shelling them ready to freeze.   I have not got that kind of patience, and frankly, the difference between a frozen home-grown pea and a Bird's Eye frozen pea is negligible.

Now I am freezing them.  I admit they freeze very well - I open freeze them and bag them up afterwards.   The second freezer has been switched on (we only use it for our own produce) and once all the peas are in and the ongoing crop of raspberries (which I adore and which freeze very well) added there will barely be room for the broad beans, which should be ready in about a fortnight.

So my culinary skills will be stretched to the limit finding ways with peas (other than peas with every meal and pea omelette) - as for the raspberries - trifle or raspberry crumble anyone?   P, if you are reading this over in the Lakes, I promise a crumble next time you are over here.

Poetry meeting today - only a few of us - so must read through my
chosen poems a few times to make sure I am word perfect - nothing worse than a stumble - spoils the rhythm.

Monday 28 July 2014

Isolation or in a crowd?

Yesterday's post brought some interesting comments on where to live.   Cro prefers to live in a small community of just one or two houses, away from 'civilisation'; others prefer to live in small towns and some prefer city life.

Often, when we are driving through The Dales, we pass isolated barn-conversions which are really beautifully converted and I look at them and imagine living there.   Our friends K and J live in just such a conversion.   They have a large field surrounding their property and it is reached down a long lane.   They have a horse, and a few sheep and their life is idyllic.   But, they are young.

As old age creeps up on one - and believe me, that is exactly what it does - these small hiccups don't happen overnight, they occur when you least expect them - you have to be realistic and think of moving nearer to civilisation.  

I have a dear old friend, J, who lives in Lincolnshire (the county of my birth and childhood) and quite often we communicate by telephone. She still lives in the village where we were both born and where we started infant school on the same day.  She is about to have a knee replacement next week and various folk are rallying round to help her and her husband over the next few weeks.   It's called 'community spirit' and it does give one a warm feeling.

Do you read 'Going Gently' on my side bar?   If you don't then I do urge you to start reading John's daily doings.   His life is the best example of community spirit that I know.

Here, the farmer and I are fairly isolated - just one neighbour (expecting a baby today, so we are eagerly awaiting a new baby any day now) - the nearest houses are three fields away or perhaps a mile round by the road.   There are various other farms nearer than that but they are down various lanes. so we never feel isolated.  However, I don't think I would like to live here alone.

Each to his own is the answer I suppose.   I have friends who are city dwellers and the thought of living way out in the country would drive them crazy.   I have tried both - and enjoyed both - but the country wins every time.   How else would I know when the rosebay willow herb came into flower, or when the blackberries began to ripen.  Not important facts maybe - but I clock them all in my mind.

Sunday 27 July 2014


One of the highest market towns in England, Hawes in about fifteen miles further into Wensleydale than where we live.   It is a thriving little town with its own shops, a thriving Auction Mart which is a centre for Swaledale sheep, and a permanent air of being a holiday town.   Even in the middle of Winter you rarely go through Hawes without there being several coach loads of tourists wandering around.
We needed to go to Hawes today, and knowing that in addition to plenty of tourist coaches there would also be the inevitable hordes of motor cyclists who go there on Sunday mornings and congregate in one or other of the outside cafes, we went very early.
It was a lovely journey, as it always is.   And, as usual, I thought about how living here makes us take the scenery forgranted, whereas if we were up here on holiday we would be looking at the fields full of sheep, the river, the hills, the ancient buildings and gasping at the beauty of it all.
I took a couple of photos going into Hawes.   The Tour de France went through the outskirts of the town and the inhabitants really decorated the town for the occasion.   They have left the bunting, the hanging baskets, the yellow bikes in place for the Summer - and what a lovely place it looks.
It will be different in the middle of Winter, when its height makes it prone to snow, rain, strong winds and bitterly cold weather. But let's enjoy it while it is there.
The biggest downside I suppose to living up there is that it is so far from anywhere.   A visit to hospital means a journey of around just under sixty miles.


Saturday 26 July 2014


'Brag sweet tenor bull,
descant on Rawthey's madrigal,
each pebble its part
for the fells' late Spring.

So wrote the poet, Basil Bunting, who visited the site as a child and never forgot it.

Brigflatts is a Quaker Meeting House in Cumbria, about a mile outside Sedbergh, on the Kirby Lonsdale road.   It is the oldest Meeting House in the North of England, and the third oldest in the country.

Yesterday, after our lunch in Kirby Lonsdale, friend W and I called in at Brigflatts on our way
back.   We have called before, and indeed friend W has been to meetings there in the past, but this time I had my camera with me.

I can tell you that it is, without a doubt, the most peaceful place I have ever been.   Any church or religious building (in any sense of the word) has a kind of peace about it.   But this is something special.

The tiny settlement has just three houses and this Meeting House (built in 1675).   There is a Peace Garden, and there is a Cemetery - in which lies the body of Basil Bunting, who died in 1985, at the age of 85).   I can't think of a nicer place to be buried.

Inside there are benches all the way round and a gallery above.   And at the bottom of the wooden staircase up into the gallery there is a little gated area where dogs were allowed to wait for their masters - this is a remote country area and Quakers would often walk some miles across the fields to reach the Meeting House - presumably often accompanied by their dogs.

'fell-born men of precise instep
leading demure dogs
from Tweed and Till and Teviotdale
and hair combed back from the muzzle.
Dogs from Redesdale and Coquetdale
taught by Wilson or Telfer.'

Incidentally, the Rawthey, mentioned in the first stanza, is the River which runs nearby.


Friday 25 July 2014

Out for the day.

Friend W and I are off on one of our jaunts today, across the Pennines to Kirby Lonsdale to meet a friend for lunch in the Italian there.   It is usually two friends, but one of them, D, is almost finished the Land's End to John O'Groats walkMy son and his wife have set off up to
the very North of Scotland to ferry them during their last few days - they have a cottage in the forest up there (hope there are no midgies).   The walk ends on August 1st - they have now averaged twenty miles a day - amazing.

Our drive - which we always enjoy - will be through some of the wildest and most beautiful parts of the Yorkshire Dales, and through between the Three Peaks (famous for the Three Peaks Walk).  Photographs may well be posted tonight (if I can remember how to post them using my new computer's set up).

Watching some of the Commonwealth Games last night (the swimming) I found myself cheering for the Scots girl when she overtook the English girl in the last length.  Not very partisan I'm afraid - but what a swim.

The farmer is staying at home this morning rather than his usual trip to the Auction Mart,because yesterday, in the middle of grass-cutting, his grass cutter broke down and - as it is over twenty years old and has broken down several times before - the upshot is that a new one is being delivered this morning.   In the middle of grass cutting we can't manage without this vital piece of equipment.

I must go and get ready.   This weekend in our little market town, it is the 1940's week-end (don't ask me why folk wish to get dressed up in officer's uniforms (never Privates) and parade about the town celebrating a war during which they weren't even born, but there it is.   Tomorrow the town will be a no-go area so we need to dash in for the week-end's milk before I go.  Have a nice day and keep cool.  (or dry if you live on the other side of the world.)

Thursday 24 July 2014


We are having a real heatwave here in the UK - day after day of hot sun and more or less cloudless skies.   For the farmers it is a real boon; the grass is growing well, the hay is crisping
and they are all able to get on with haymaking and silaging without looking at the sky every hour to see whether rain clouds are looming.

The Summer feels like the Summers used to feel when we were kids.   Our Mums would pack us up a load of sandwiches (usually home made jam). a piece of cake (if we were lucky) and a bottle of something to drink, and we would be off for the day on our bikes.   We mostly went down to the river - to swim, to lounge on the bank, or (if there were any houseboats moored) to chat to anybody there.   And of course we would swim in the river.   As far as I am aware, certainly on the Witham,'my river, ', nobody ever drowned.  And we would burn in the fierce heat.   It was a matter of honour to get one's back so burnt that it peeled and then browned.

We learned to be pretty self-sufficient, to look after ourselves, to keep well clear of unsavoury characters (oh yes, they were around in those days too), and to arrive home in time for tea.   Woebetide us if we were late - and in any case we would be famished by then and ready to eat.

The big thing that has changed of course is the volume of traffic on the road.   Hordes of cycling kids carrying shrimping nets and paraphernalia would be a major hazard on the roads now.
And the computer has come and taken over the lives of a lot of children.

But I can sit here in our cool dining room, which faces North and is always cool however hot it may be outside, and I can read, I can reminisce about the old days if I wish to, I can plan what I intend to have for lunch (nothing too strenuous to make), but above all, I can keep out of that scorching hot sun - I no longer enjoy its close company.

Wednesday 23 July 2014

The media have a lot to answer for.

I am attending a class on Tuesday evenings on the Poetry, Literature  and Art of the First World War.   In it we are looking at the Poets - Wilfred Owen, Sassoon and the like; the Painters  - Paul and John Nash, John Singer Sergeant etc.  And we are discussing the effect these people had upon the general population during and after the conflict.

In those days, what else did the public have to inform them?   Well they had propagaganda films, posters, leaflets etc. They had the word of mouth of those returning from the Front.  And they had the gradual realisation that what started as a 'jolly hockey sticks' kind of jaunt, where it was almost fun to join up, to the point where it became obvious that 'over there' it was hell on earth.

How very different then from now where it is thrown into our faces while we sit on the settee eating a box of chocolates, or doing the washing up, or the ironing.

In the newspapers the Headline will be accompanied by a photograph, usually a very graphic one.  It will move from one conflict to another, leaving behind one when another starts up.  (Is there still fighting in Aleppo?   If so it hasn't been in the newspapers for weeks - other conflicts and disasters have taken over).

Last night the Headline news on the television was of the awful situation in Gaza - where a building was destroyed and the dead were being brought out.   One person was still alive - a finger moved - but the rest of her family were dead.

Is it a coincidence that there do not seem to be war poets, war painters or anyone writing about these wars?   Or are there such people in the places where they are occurring?

And is this daily 'in your face' contact perhaps making us impervious to the awfulness of it all?   I don't know the answer - I just know that there seems to have become a point where the newsmen move from country to country, grasping the sensationalism and then moving on.

War these days is dreadful in a completely different way with all the sophisticated weaponry, but the result is the same - thousands killed in the name of some ideology or other.   We need to know about it -  but how and under what circumstances would we be best served?

Tuesday 22 July 2014

There is a shortage of time today as the farmer and I are going to our friend's funeral later this morning and then will not be back home much before tea time.   This evening is my evening class on the art, literature and poetry of the Great War (which I am enjoying immensely).   So here is a bit of inspiration for you.

When we went to my Grand-daughter's wedding a couple of Saturdays ago, we passed very close to The Angel of the North, the iconic statue by Antony Gormley, which stands alongside the A1 trunk road just outside Newcastle.   There is a convenient lay-by and the statue is surrounded by a large, grassy area.   I hadn't realised just how very tall it is - it is most impressive.   It has made me want to go to Crosby, near Liverpool, to see his figures in the sea even more.  Good art is always inspirational.

Here you are Liz - I have made the print more readable - just for you!

Monday 21 July 2014

Red sky at night

I am learning all the time. We are haymaking again today; another friend, with a much larger field, wants his making into hay for his horses and he wants it to be ready to lead in at the week-end. This week looks a reasonable week so that the farmer has begun the cutting today. He looked at the long-range forecast last night (on Country File John)and the forecast up until the week-end looks quite promising. It struck me forcibly on Friday how farmers and countrymen in general decided on the order of jobs in the days before there was any sophisticated forecasting. There was a sharp breeze blowing and the leaves on our rowan tree outside the kitchen window were almost blowing inside out. The farmer remarked on this, saying that the leaves were blowing inside out - that was a sure sign that rain was on its way. And I thought of all the other country sayings: Red sky at night a shepherd's delight. Red sky in the morning a shepherd's warning. Rain before seven, fine before eleven. It's the west wind that brings the rain and the east wind that brings the cold. The North wind brings the snow. There are countless others and that and the farmer's intuition were all he had to go on when planning farm jobs. The farmer will often come in and say ' there's rain in the air' or 'there's snow coming in' and he places a lot of importance on the view over the moor from our kitchen window - a lot of weather comes from there he believes. And he is probably right. So nowadays it is a combination of things that decide when farmers begin their haymaking, but it is still a tense time. The price of cattle feed in Winter fluctuates greatly and the more each farmer has stored in his barns when winter begins the happier he will be.

Sunday 20 July 2014

Gone haywire. The print has gone large and is filling the screen. All semblance of a post as usual has vanished. As you know, I hate change and never understand what has happened, but I will press on until my son can come and hopefully sort things out for me. Yesterday was a hot, humid and at times wet, day here, with thunder in the distance. The farmer is gradually returning to 'normal' after his series of tests and is now waiting to see the specialist. Today he feels well enough to walk round the lead mines in Swaledale with his walking group and as there is a slight breeze it should be pleasant. Friend W and I are going out for a sandwich lunch somewhere and then this evening a group of us (9) are off to the Chinese for a meal. Where would we be without friends eh in these dismal, dark days when the news from all quarters is of wars and rumours of wars? I prefer to bury my head in the sand and not listen to the News bulletins if I can help it - after all, we only get one view and it always appals me how the news cameras are there for the drama and move on after a couple of days as though the whole thing has gone away - it seems it is no longer news-worthy. Yesterday W and I went to a village called Preston under Scar, where there are a lot of artistic folk living, and once a year they have a week-end Art Exhibition in their Village Hall. It is always a pleasant occasion and coffee and biscuits with friends is good too, isn't it? Back to normal (whatever that is) soon I hope. Enjoy your Sunday. My son has corrected it for me and shown me how to do it if it occurs again. Thanks for all those helpful comments. I am pretty sure that I hit the wrong button during posting yesterday. Anyhow, all's well that ends well. Nice Wensleydale cheese, walnut, apple and mayo sandwich for lunch, sitting looking out over a lovely view of Wensleydale. What's not to like.
This is an experiment folks to see if it prints on my blog page. Something has happened so that when I try to get on to my 'New post' page, the print comes up so large that I can't get the blog on. I have tried everything to return it to normal - pressing 'new post' no longer sends me to the right place. I expect it is a simple problem but at the moment the way to correct it escapes me. Any ideas anybody?

Friday 18 July 2014


Please don't think I am 'trying to teach my grandmother to suck eggs' as we say, but it has struck me over the past few weeks, both on my blog and chatting to friends here, that people really don't understand the difference between hay and silage.

In the old days, when fertilising the fields meant spreading the 'muck' from the cattle etc. and when the cattle, certainly here in The Dales, spent their winters inside in the small barns dotted around the fields, the farmers made hay.   The grass would not be as plentiful as it is now with all the artificial fertilisers which are put on early in the year, and sometimes, if they were unlucky, they would only get one crop.   Two crops was considered a bonus.

The hay would be baled in small bales and stored in a section of the small barns, so that each morning the farmer could go in and fill the hay racks for the cattle.   They would be let out once a day for water (and how they loved that).  Before the days of balers the hay would be forked into the back of these barns and the farmer;s father would always go round the edges of the field and gather in the bits and pieces, so that none was wasted.

Any spare hay would be stored on pallets in a hay barn - or made into a haystack which would be thatched before the winter to keep it as dry as possible.

Farmers still make hay up here.   My farmer makes it because it is his favourite job on the farm (sense of nostalgia?).  Folk up here who only own one field, particularly if they have a horse or two, make hay and store it for the winter feed.

But the majority of farmers make silage.   Here in The Dales it used to be all small farms, but as they are sold off when farmers die or retire, so these small farms tend to be added to existing farms in the locality.  The herds of milking or suckler cattle are increasing in size and huge quantities of winter feed are required.

Usually the first thing they do is to fill a silage clamp with what we call 'forage' - grass which is cut, gathered up and put into a clamp, which is often covered with plastic and then weighted down with something like old tyres, to 'cure' before the winter.   The clamp is often near to the winter-housing so that the cattle can help themselves.

The rest of the silage (two or three cuts over the summer, depending upon the weather) is baled up - in either square or round bales, wrapped in plastic and stored on the farm.

So often I hear people saying the hay in the field looks good, when it is really a silage crop.   So I thought I would clear that up once and for all.

Fridays come round quickly - my morning coffee with a group of friends day - so I am putting this on before I go.   Later in the day the farmer and I have to go to Hospital in Middlesbrough for the farmer to have a lot of balance tests, so it will be a busy day.


Thursday 17 July 2014

Job done.

Our first batch of haymaking - three fields - is cut, dried, baled and, as I write, being collected in - well before the threatened thunderstorms.  And it is looking good - always a relief.

There is more to come, but at present things are up to date.

I am feeling confident with my computer and friend S came along and showed me how to delete things in batches rather than one by one.   She is understanding - when I said that I was useless at anything new and lacking in understanding about how the computer really works, she very kindly reminded me that I was not brought up in the computer age.

But I know this for sure - it is a marvellous thing for people over retirement age to get involved with computers - to try and master new skills.  Alright, there will be frustration and you will have to keep learning new tricks, but it keeps the old grey cells active. 

Wednesday 16 July 2014

I hardly dare to say so, but so far I am managing well on my new computer.   The engineer, who has looked after me from the beginning, found an Acer which is an updated model of the one I already had, so it is not all that different.  The only difficulty so far is that the keyboard is further over to the left and I keep pressing the wrong keys.   Being a shorthand typist in a previous life (very previous) I don't usually look at the keys, but at present I am having to.

Haymaking is on hold as, contrary to the long-range forecast at the weekend, which said it would be fine and sunny until thunder on Friday, today  it has become cloudy over the last hour and there have been several heavy showers.  Hot sun is forecast for tomorrow, so with a bit of luck the farmer will get it in then before the weather breaks for real on Friday.

Last evening was the second of four classes in 'The Art and Literature of the 1914-18 war.'   There are seven of us and we have really interesting and lively discussions.   I am enjoying it so much.

As I write this I can hear the farmer in the background, listening to the news.   Rockets fall in Gaza, children killed and injured.   It is always the innocent who suffer isn't it - just as it was in the Great War .   When will they ever learn?   The answer, we all know, is never.

I will sign off now and explore a few new channels on my new toy.  See you tomorrow.

New computer today!

Today's the day - this is just a warning; if I can't get on to my blog then there will not be one until I have learned the ropes.   If my son is reading this then I assure him that I am quite willing to be thought of as a computer idiot!

Tuesday 15 July 2014


Two funnies to make you laugh this morning.

Electricity was late coming to our village and even later coming to our farm which is quite remote from the village and over two or three fields.  The farmer thinks it reached our farm around 1946 or 7. (before that it was oil lamps).

The farmer's father, Bert, and his dear friend and neighbouring farmer, Ammy (short for Ambrose) were intrigued by the whole idea.   They spoke to a farmer at the Auction Mart, discussing whether or not to buy one of these new-fangled electric fences to keep cattle in or out of an area.

'I'm not spending good money on one of those daft things,' he said. 'Nobody in their right mind would expect one thin bit of wire to keep cattle out.   I'll buy more posts and rails and keep building fences - cheaper in the long run.'

After much discussion Ammy and Bert decided to give electric fences a chance and bought one to try between them.   Ammy put it round a piece of woodland he wanted to keep the cattle out of.  Bert stood at the switch while Ammy knocked in the stakes and threaded the wire through until he got back to where Bert was standing.

'I'll tell you what, Bert.   I'll stand here with my hands on the wire and when you switch it on, I'll tell you just how long it takes for the electricity to get round to where I am standing.   Get your pocket watch out and you can time it.'  

Need I say more?  I find the story quite heartening - sounds just like me and my computer sixty odd years later!

Now a question for every gardener amongst you.   How is it that blackbirds (2 this morning) can manage to negotiate raspberry netting and get at the ripe raspberries, but can never find their way out again, so that the kind-hearted farmer has to lift the wire and shoo them out?

Friends T and S are equally bird-friendly, so much so that yesterday when T was picking their ripe strawberries for lunch and putting them in a box just behind him, he turned to find a blackbird perched on the box, helping himself!

Monday 14 July 2014

I am a computer idiot

Thinking about my new laptop and discussing with my son what I need transferring from my old one, it quickly became obvious that I really have no idea how computers work at all.   The few things I use it for (blogging, e mails, cattle transfers, vat returns and the like) I am quite proficient at - but try to do something different and I don't understand how anything works.   I really should have gone on a Computer course when I first got my lap top - but I never did and I am not prepared to do so now.   So my resolution when the new one arrives - explore a few more avenues and learn how to do one or two things which at present defeat me.

Everyone round here has grass down.  Some for making hay, some for forage and some for silage bales.   The farmer has cut three fields for friends in the village today.   The forecast is for the weather getting hotter and hotter until Thursday when it breaks and we get thunder storms so, as the farmer's three fields are for hay, he is hoping that all goes well.   Keep your fingers crossed for us.

Sunday 13 July 2014

A Day for remembering

Today we have heard of the death of a friend - always a sad thing.   C and his late wife R came to live in our village not long after we (my first husband and I) arrived up here from the Midlands.   They took over the village Post Office and Shop.

From that day on the shop became the hub of the village.   We went there for our papers in the morning and if anyone was not well, C would deliver the paper without being asked - somebody would have reported it to him in the shop.   Nothing was too much trouble for them.   R baked delicious goodies for sale - by the slice if that was all that was needed.   Old ladies had their orders delivered and their list collected if necessary.   When my husband was seriously ill and I was housebound C would call and make me go out for the afternoon, taking over the job of sitting with the invalid.   On market day he would call in for my fruit and vegetable order and leave it on the doorstep later in the day.

They had had tragedy in their own lives, losing their son at a very early age.

Eventually they decided to retire, sold the shop and moved on.   We all missed them terribly.   Some years later R also died and now, today, we have heard that C has succumbed to cancer.

I - and many others I am sure - feel a great sadness at the death of this humble, unassuming man, who was always smiling and good-humoured.   Good-bye C, I shall miss you.  It has been a priviledge to know you.

Saturday 12 July 2014


Today's quote in The Times  'Universal Register' gives food for thought.
'Happy the man who,far away from business, like the race of men of old, tills his ancestral fields with his own oxen, unbound by any interest to pay.'

What does bring happiness?   I have always had the wanderlust.  As a young woman, it was unheard of for anyone to go back-packing (too soon after the war), and in any case there wasn't that kind of transport or money.   Then I would devour travel books.   One book 'Kurun around the world' about sailing round the world, caught my imagination and I read it over and over again.  Then it was people like Vita Sackville-West and her wonderful 'Twelve Days' about her journey across the mountains of South West Persia.   My travelling was all in my mind.

I married young and my first husband had travelled widely in the army in the Far East (was also a Japanese Prisoner of War on the Death Railway).   The year after we married, we went to Paris for a week.  My mother was very scared that we were flying there (one way on an Elizabethan and back on a Viscount) and begged us not to tell her which day we were going.

Then it was buying a house and raising a family, so back to reading about travel again - anything I could lay my hands on.   But finally, in early retirement we were able to spread our wings, mainly Eastwards - China,  Moscow, Leningrad (as it was then), Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Trans-Siberian Railway, Italy with all its art treasures and the wonderfully ancient cities of Turkey.
Sadly at this point my husband died.

Two and a half years later I married the farmer.   He milked his cows twice a day for 365 days a year - so no holidays there then.  The first year of our marriage I went to Sienna alone (beautiful city) and the next year to Marrakesh (equally beautiful with the glorious mountains near at hand). By this time, appreciating my itchy feet he began to join in (finding someone else to take over the farm for the holiday period) and over the years we have been many times to Canada, to Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Charleroix coast of the St Lawrence, Vancouver and Vancouver Island, Newfoundland - and then down into the US - to New England, the Central States, Texas, New York, Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, the Canyon Lands - and up the coast of Norway to the Russian border, various parts of Spain, walking in Portugal, looking at frescoes in Italy, seeing the lavender fields of Provence, sunning ourselves on Mediterranean islands. 

Now our long distance travelling has come to an end as my mobility has worsened.   We have our holidays in the UK and I sit a look at the scenery while the farmer has his long walks.

I look at the photographs of all the holidays I have had and get huge pleasure from the memories.   The farmer has gone back to his life of enjoying pottering around his fields.   He is just as happy as he ever was and if I ask him whether he would have travelled if we had not met he assures me he wouldn't have gone anywhere.

He is the only person I have ever met who is totally happy and contented within his own skin.   Within the bounds of his own stone walls and field boundaries, with his cattle, his thistles! and his neighbours there seems to be nothing more he wants.  How I envy him his completeness.   Horace's quote sums him up to perfection.

Friday 11 July 2014

Should I be gracious or irritated?

Yesterday, in the Library, something went wrong at the self-service check out, when the machine told me to get one of my books stamped at the desk.   As there appeared to be no-one else in the Library, I left my card and my books in the machine.   When I returned to the machine there was a lady (much younger than yours truly!) standing there.   I apologised, took my books out and prepared to start again.

At this point she interrupted and suggested that she did it as there was 'really no need to start again' and she would 'do it for me dear'.  It was that final 'dear' that got to me.   I may look as though I am almost in my dotage but I am definitely not and am more than capable of running a few library books through the machine.

This sort of thing happens all the time.   I am wielding my shopping trolley off the pavement (I am often quite lethal with a shopping trolley) and some kind gentleman of indeterminate age will ask if he can do it for me.   Or I am carrying a cup of coffee to my table in a self-service restaurant and someone will ask if they can carry the cup for me (I have a tremor).

My immediate urge is to snap out that I am not in my dotage and that I am quite capable of doing it myself thank-you.   But then I think, they are only doing it to be considerate - so I smile (perhaps a tad frostily) and thank them politely but no thanks.

I do wish people wouldn't do it.  I am sure they mean well, but it just serves to make one feel older and less capable of managing.   Or is it just me who feels like this.   Am I being an awkward old cus?

On a lighter note.   The word 'thwaite' is a Yorkshire dialect word meaning 'clearing', which makes our surname 'Thistlethwaite' mean a clearing full of thistles.   The thistle is a real menace round here and there is no doubt the farmer develops a killer instinct where they are concerned.   I often wonder if it is in his blood going back to antiquity when the name was first coined.

Today is a thistle-slaughtering day.   Thistles and nettles are both important for wildlife and the farmer keeps large patches of both where they can do little harm (other than seed like mad), but in the pastures he tries to keep top side of them.

So here he is today - sharpening his thistle- cutting knife and then cutting thistles and nettles down in the hedgebacks.

   The cattle are very interested to see what he is doing.

Thursday 10 July 2014

Up and running again.

I didn't put on a blog post yesterday because my computer suddenly went into  crisis mode.  It switched off and told me that my battery had become 'critical'.   I rang the engineer who looks after my computer for me and he has just been.

The upshot is that I am getting a new laptop.   This one is seven years old and has been a good old faithful friend but sadly it has outlived its usefulness.   The engineer has gone off to find me a new one which  (hopefully) has Windows 7, which I am well used to.  Hopefully I should have it within the next day or two.

He couldn't find a fault and I never use it on battery, always on power, but we had just had a thunderstorm and he thinks that might have had something to do with it.

So I am about to 'bite the bullet'.   As I use it for quite a bit of farm work (Vat, cattle movement etc.) I am hoping that the farmer will agree to go halves on the cost!

So there may well be a delay while I get used to using a new set-up - I hope not but you never know.

In spite of the weather forecast telling us that it is set to be a wet day, the sky is cloudless blue and the sun is shining.   Haymaking is severely delayed by these Summer downpours we have been getting.   In order to get good hay you really need four days of sunny, breezy weather - and we have not had a run of four dry days for several weeks.The farmer does sub-contract haymaking for quite a few folk around the village who have only perhaps got one field.   They are all very patient and do understand the situation - but it is frustrating (probably more so for me than for the farmer, who has had a lifetime of haymaking rather than just twenty years!)

Monday 7 July 2014

There are not enough hours in the day.

Some people seem to have a lot of spare time when they reach retirement age and begin to be bored with not having enough to do.
Well, for what it is worth, it does not happen in this household.  There are rarely enough hours in the day for me to get through my mental list of jobs.
This morning (Monday) is my traditional 'wash day'  - it has been so throughout my life, come rain or shine, so don't expect me to change now!   Luckily today has been bright and breezy and the washing has dried and is now ready for ironing (a tomorrow's job).
Then friend S, came for coffee (my weekly cleaning lady leaving just before she arrived) and went just in time for me to get lunch for the farmer and me.   Friend S brought me a lovely bunch of white daisies, mauve scabious and dark purple cosmos out of her garden.   They sit on my kitchen table and really brighten up the room.

After lunch it was 'walk Tess' time, followed by a trip into our little market town with a list of various jobs to be done and then a visit to see friend M,   She has ducklings which hatched off in the herbaceous stuff in her front garden.   M has bought duckling crumbs and put out a little pond for them.   They are now quite well-grown and seem set to stay.  Well, they have no reason to go, have they?

Then it was home again, get the tea, watch the evening news and put this blog on.   Then I shall fold the washing and put it in the basket for tomorrow.   Jobs done, feeling of satisfaction all round.

If anyone has a remedy for cramp I would like to hear it.   I have cramp in my feet sometimes - ten times in the night last night to be precise about it.   I remember as a child hearing my mother walk around the bedroom trying to eliminate her cramp - so maybe I have inherited it.

The Great Yorkshire Show begins tomorrow - our friend and neighbour has gone with cattle to show - it is a very prestigious affair.   Thunderstorms are forecast for the area - nothing new in that - one year it rained so much that the whole show ground became a quagmire and part of the week had to be cancelled and the traffic could get neither on or off the fields.

But that's farming for you.

Saturday 5 July 2014

Tour de France

I was really self-indulgent today.   I bought two micro wave ready meals for lunch (not very thrilling) and sat from 10.30am until the finish later afternoon, watching the Tour de France.

I thought the organisation was splendid, although quite often, particularly in 'special' places - like on the Buttertubs climb- the crowds were huge and really got in the way of the cyclists, being silly and jumping out in front of them (one man wearing only underpants and with his arms blackened).

It showed the Yorkshire Dales off to great advantage on a gloriously sunny day - we looked our absolute best.  We were proud to live in such a beautiful area.

Then, sadly, right at the end, Mark Cavendish crashed out and it looked as though he had broken his collar bone, which will surely put him out of the whole race.  He looked to be in severe pain as he limped on his bike to the finish line.  What a disappointment for the British team - I wonder where they go from here.

All credit is due to Gary Verity, Head of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, who was largely instrumental in bringing the tour to the area.   He should feel very proud (and relieved) tonight, although tinged with sadness over Cavendish.

Back to normal for the whole area soon, although many places are continuing festivites tonight with barbecues, parties and the like.   The farmer and I are staying  put.

I have managed to get most people back on my blog - still a few more to go - and I am having difficulty with Linda and with Dominic - they just will not arrive on my blog list.   I will get Dominic to look at it for me when he has a minute.   In the meantime please keep visiting.

Friday 4 July 2014

Le Grand Depart.

Well folks, it is almost here.   Friend W had this brilliant idea that today the two of us would drive through Wensleydale,  Bishop Dale and Wharfedale to Skipton, following the Tour de France route in reverse.

What we had not anticipated was that every cyclist in the North of England would be out today, presumably following the route.   Between here and Skipton we met about a thousand cyclists.   This is no exaggeration - I counted 100 in the space of about three minutes and they just kept coming.   Every village has its yellow bunting out, every spare field along the roadside is beginning to fill up with camper vans, tents, burger bars, coffee bars and the like.   There is already a carnival atmosphere everywhere - I just hope the weather is better for them tomorrow as it was a wet day today.

We enjoyed our day out - coffee at Kilnsey Trout Farm, where somebody had rigged up a bicycle and a mini-water-wheel which kept the wheels on the bike moving by means of a long chain.  Lunch in a nice little cafe down one of the alleys in Skipton (Scampi, chips and salad) and then back along the same route but with only a few cyclists this time.   So thank-you W for thinking of the idea - a jolly good one; at least I can imagine where the cyclists are going when they do it for real tomorrow.

You will see that I have more or less got my Blog List back on to the page.   It has taken me ages and I think I have got most of you.   Anybody I have missed I should be able to pick up when they next leave a comment.

Thursday 3 July 2014

Haylage after all.

By the middle of the afternoon it was quite clear that the best of the Summer weather had gone and the clouds suggested that there was rain in the air.   So the farmer rang friend and farmer G, who lives opposite, and he came across and made it all into big-bale haylage.   Disappointing because it was so nearly hay, but this morning we found there had been several centimetres  of rain overnight and the crop would have been wet.   Today has been cloudy and cool, so the farmer is quite relieved that it is all baled and in the open barn.

This morning was our morning for going to the Physiotherapist - it takes up most of the morning but we both find it beneficial.   Then, immediately after lunch it was my hair appointment.   Sadly, when I returned, there was a message on my phone from friend W, inviting me to go down to Ripon to look at the decorations put up there for the Tour de France which comes through here on Saturday.   I had missed her by under five minutes but there was little I could do.

Things are hotting up in our little town and I suspect that it will get more frenetic tomorrow when the arrangements really begin to kick in.   Various yellow signs indicating parking and such like are in place.   Pubs and restaurants have large signs advertising their food and already there is a festive air about the place.

Here on the farm I suspect that life will go on as normal as the farmer has decided he will not walk the two miles to see the cyclists go past.   I would love to go but have no way of getting there as all the roads are closed to traffic - it is Shanks's pony or nothing.  The celebrations are set to go on all week-end with live bands, childrens' play parks, bouncy-castles and the like - hopefully

we shall be too far away from the activity to hear the extra noise.

OK - maybe you think we are spoil-sports but we don't mind everyone else joining in the fun - it is just not for us.

This is a photograph of the giant Wensleydale Cheese I told you about (really a silage bail wrapped in plastic with a cheese-wrapper on it) - sorry it is such a bad photograph but this is as near as I could get without endangering life and limb on the main road.

Sorry to everyone - I have accidentally removed my favourite blog list -  am slowly (with difficulty,) putting it back on again but don't let it stop you paying me a call.   After an hour of working on it I am exhausted - so I will put more on tomorrow.

Wednesday 2 July 2014


According to the weather forecast this is the last day on which we can expect hot dry weather - and the hay is not yet quite ready.   As I write this the farmer is shaking it up again, but  as showers are forecast for this area tomorrow he has prepared our friend and neighbour, G, for the fact that we may have to make it into haylage (this means baling and wrapping) - G will come in later this afternoon and do this if necessary but we are still hoping for hay.

With the Tour de France passing through our town on Saturday, things are beginning to hot up.   The farmer tells me that large 'Wensleydale cheeses' have appeared in the field belonging to our friend and neighbour S - I will take a photograph of them when I go later for my acupuncture and put it on this post after tea.  We are hoping to more or less avoid the town from tomorrow onwards as there will be such activity and very little parking.   I would dearly love to watch the cavalcade go through (it includes outriders of 35 French gendarmes amongst others), but as we are over a mile from where the road is closed and there is no alternative but to walk in, that rules me out.  Also, I understand that our lane is scheduled to become a one way 'street' on Saturday - the wrong way to approach the town in any case.

I have deleted the Krishna spam from my comments page yesterday - why do these people have to make life difficult?  

What about that young Australian chap, Nick Kyrglos (aged 19) knocking the Number One seed Rafael Nadal out of Wimbledon yesterday.   Nadal said 'I wish him all the best' - let's see how he does in his next match - each match gets harder the nearer we get to the final.   But don't we British love the underdog?

Tuesday 1 July 2014


The process of haymaking continues and the weather has so far this week been perfect for it - bright sunshine and a gentle breeze - and not too hot.

The farmer's favourite activity got off to a good start.  He always begins with his own crop (he only makes one field into hay, the rest is silaged) but now that the heavy grass crop is cut he finds that it is very wet underneath.  This is because there is a heavy crop of grass on the field and we had some very wet weather earlier in the year which has made it difficult to dry out.

So it is going to take longer than he anticipated to get it baled up.   Twice today he has tossed the hay - and as I write this he is out shaking it up again.   The top is dry and crisp but underneath it is green and damp.   Let's just hope that the weather holds out for another day or two.  Several people are waiting for him to begin on their fields, so there is plenty to do.

Have you noticed that the instant the tractor starts up, a seagull appears?  They are such opportunistic birds and they appear from absolutely nowhere.   By the time I took the photograph  here, one had flown in and by the time I came out of the gate there were half a dozen - all with their beady eyes fixed on the ground looking for anything eatable the shaker turned up.

Keep your fingers crossed for more fine weather please - both for our own field and then for the fields of various friends who are patiently waiting in the wings.