Sunday 31 August 2014

Virtual Friends.

I wrote a post the other day about how I valued all my blogging friends and how I would be hard-pressed to define the difference between  'real' friends and those that I blog with.  I have met quite a few of them and yesterday I met up again with Denise and her husband, John, (Mrs Nesbitt's space on my side bar) when they zoomed in on their motor bike to see us and to collect three different snippets of hardy geraniums for Denise's garden (Patricia, Johnson's Blue and Russell Pritchard).  It was lovely to see them again - this is the second time they have called.   They don't live all that far away - maybe fifty or so miles.   Blogging friends become real friends - and the whole idea of blogging justifies itself.   How the world has become so much smaller a place.   So thanks for calling in you two - and I hope the plants all grow - water them in well.

Saturday 30 August 2014

Are you a reader?

I could not manage without my daily 'fix'.   It has always been thus since I learned to read at about the age of four.   Now it is The Times every day, the local paper on a Friday, The Lady magazine each Friday, four books from the Library every fortnight and anything else which is either put in my direction from various friends or about which I read a favourable review and can't resist from that 'so easy to order' Amazon.   I have a permanent list of my favourite authors in my handbag and have an extra thrill if I happen to find one of their books I haven't read.  I also have a bookshelf by my chair which contains various books which I read in odd moments - books which I have read many times (some in diary form) but always enjoy again.   All Ronald Blythe's books (The Wormingford Trilogy, River Diary, The Time by the Sea, The Yeoman's House etc.) sit there, as do Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea (I sometimes think I could go on Mastermind to answer questions about those two books!).

The farmer, on the other hand, never reads a book.   He reads his daily Yorkshire Post, his weekly Darlington and Stockton Times and his weekly Farmers' Guardian - and when I say 'read' I mean he literally reads them from cover to cover and the last two take him all week.

What makes some of us avid readers and others not?   I have recently read of several famous figures who have never read a book in their lives.  Maybe it is something about the way in which we were brought up.   

In a family where there was always a lot of work on the farm to be done, I think that reading was probably frowned on as being a waste of time which could be more usefully be spent doing some job which waited.

My parents, on the other hand, were both avid readers.   In those pre-television days after tea was reserved for maybe an hour's homework, or if I hadn't any then perhaps an hour's pencil and paper games (which I loved and which taught me so much).  After that until bedtime we all three read.   My father read mainly poetry from his large collection of books.   The only book other than poetry that I remember him reading (it was almost his bible) was 'The Ragged, Trousered Philanthropist'.   My mother, on the other hand, read romantic novels and I was reminded of this earlier in the week when there was an article in The Yorkshire Post about Naomi Jacobs, one of my mother's favourite romantic novelists.

Jacobs was born in Ripon and was a real eccentric.   Gay long before such activity was legal, she advertised the fact by always wearing mens' clothes, sporting a monocle and having her hair cut into an Eton crop.   She was very forthright, and spent most of her life living in Italy, going shortly before the end of the Second World War.   Being Jewish she was affronted, much to the embarrassment of the man at Passport Control, when he did not stamp her passport with the J which had become the law at the time of the Nazi regime.

Reading through this there is a certain amount of 'Stream of Consciousness' to today's post - I am a past master at this art as the farmer often points out.  I start on one subject and then go off at a tangent onto something else.   Still, it makes life interesting doesn't it?

Friday 29 August 2014

Shortage of posts this week.

There has been a shortage of posts this week, mainly because I have been too busy doing cleaning jobs - Autumn cleaning rather than Spring cleaning here on the farm.

Cleaning is one of those jobs that when you start, each job you do shows up something else that needs doing - and so it goes on.
First of all the farmer rubbed down, cleaned and re-stained the back door.   That made the shed door opposite look very shabby, so her rubbed down and painted it, which in turn made the shed window look grubby.   And so it went on.   Then the sweep came and moving the wood burner showed up that the wall behind it needed attention, so the builder came and did that.   Finally today the farmer hired the carpet cleaner and cleaned the carpet.   This made the china on the Welsh dresser look in need of a wash - that is now done and that is it!

However I did take time out today - first to have coffee with the 'girls' as usual this morning and then this afternoon to go with friend W to see an exhibition of religious art painted by well-known twentieth century artists - Graham Sutherland, Elizabeth Frinck to name the two I can remember.  Interesting stuff.

The exhibition was mounted at our local Auction House and there is a Sale tomorrow, so today is viewing day and there were a lot of people looking round.  We had a look round the Lots for sale.   I often watch Antiques programmes, mainly because they usually occur around tea time and we have tea on a tray and sit by the wood burner.   The experts always seem to pick up a bargain.   I must say, looking round the stuff on offer today there did seem an awful lot of rubbish.   I'm sure that judging by the number of people there who were marking their catalogues and looking into boxes and crates with a serious look on their faces, there was a lot of good stuff to be had - but it was hard to see from where I stood.   There were several fur coats, each with an over-riding smell of mothballs.

I do think all these antiques programmes have made us all much more aware of what there is on offer and what is to be found among stuff that all looks pretty useless.

Autumn draws on here - today there has been sun but also some very heavy showers - fine, warmer weather forecast for next week.  It can't come too soon.   We still have three fields to second silage yet.


Wednesday 27 August 2014

The First Love Letter from America?

I just sat reading 'River Diary', one of Ronald Blythe's delightful books.   In it I read of the migration from the Stour Valley in the East of England to The New World - and in particular to New England.

Whole families went - how brave in 1630 when they really had little idea of what awaited them when they got there.  Many children died en route on the sea journey, as did many of the livestock they took with them.  And I love the way that they even took seed corn, but of course in those days the seed had not been dressed, so they also took many of our native wild flowers - scabious, corn cockle, poppies, thistles.

The leader of the group which sailed on the Arabella was one, Mr Winthrop.   He went alone, arranging for his wife and family to follow on another ship.   And it is his letter which survives - and which, as Ronald Blythe suggests, may well be the first love letter from America.

In it he writes:

Mine own, mine only, my best beloved.   Methinks it is a very long time since I saw or heard of my beloved and I miss already
the sweet comfort of thy most desired presence, but the rich goodness and mercy of my God makes supply of all wants.   He sweetens all conditions to us, he takes our cares and fears from us.   He will guide us in our pilgrimage.   My dear Wife, be of good courage:  it shall go well with thee.   Once again let us kiss and embrace.   Your ever John Winthrop.

It would be so interesting to find out what happened when they got there.

Here on the farm the second load of straw has just arrived.   We are mainly grass farms round here, with either milk or suckler herds.  Any 'corn' which is grown usually goes for 'whole crop' and becomes part of the Winter feed.   So most farmers have to buy in their Winter straw (mainly for bedding).   We over-Winter mainly in-calf cows and heifers from our friend and neighbour - they will begin to come in around the end of October - so all the straw needs to be here well in advance - hence two loads today.

I wonder if there are still Winthrops in Massachusetts.

Tuesday 26 August 2014

Read the post and make a wish.

It's that time of year again - time to have the wood burner chimney swept before we start having fires in it.   Today was the day and 'Skip' came at mid-day.   When the farmer took the wood burner out he found that the wall behind is very cracked.   As there is plaster board under the rendering he has decided that there might be a fire risk, so he is leaving the wood burner out tonight and contacting the builder to call in and re-render it all.

So this afternoon is 'wash the ornaments', 'clean the windows',
generally spruce up the room afternoon.   At present (presumably because of a rapid change to colder, wetter weather) my mobility is severely limited, but I am able to pace myself and keep doing little jobs.   I have just washed the windows while the farmer tackles the secondary glazing.   I am just thoroughly ashamed of the dead spiders that resided on the sill between the two panes of glass.   Slut that I am - my mother would have been horrified.

How times have changed.   With all the mod cons we have we still don't necessarily keep the place as clean as our mothers did - and they on the whole used carpet beaters and good old-fashioned elbow grease.

Sunday 24 August 2014

A Wedding Anniversary Outing.

This being the week of our twenty-first Wedding Anniversary, we had a day out today.   But first the farmer took me up on to the Moor above our village, where the heather is in full bloom.   This has been a very good year for grouse and the heather was full of them.   It seems a pity that they have to be shot (the shooting season has already started). Our friends S and T have bees, so there should be plenty of good heather honey this year.
Then we decided to go up into Coverdale (most of the Dales are named after the rivers which drain out of them), calling first at The Forester's Arms in Carlton in Coverdale for a roast pork and apple sauce lunch (delicious).  Then we set off.   Before we began our climb up to the top, the farmer took Tess for a short walk along the side of the River Cover and I took this sneaky photograph (the farmer does not care to have his photograph taken).
Climbing up the steep hill to the top of the Dale, we kept a sharp look out for what we knew were up here somewhere, and - sure enough - there they were, creating a very effective road block.   With horns like that (and most of them mothers with calves at foot) you don't argue, so we just had to sit and let them decided when to move.   There were a few scary moments I can tell you and one in particular was roaring loudly and kicking its heels.   Any of one them could have scored the car with a horn - but they didn't and eventually they moved off.   But they are magnificent creatures aren't they?  I sometimes buy Highland beef in our local butchers and it usually comes from this herd.
Then it was down the steep hill and into Wharfedale, turning off quite soon on to Langstrothdale Chase, where we drove alongside the infant River Wharfe.   Here the river flows between flat rocks which have been worn away by the water,  It is a lovely place for children to play as the water is quite shallow, but today there wasn't a child in sight so Tess enjoyed a good wander round.

Then we climbed up again on to the tops, where hang gliders like to play - and sure enough we saw at least five.   You have no idea how hard it is to get a photograph of a hang glider but the farmer took this out of his window.  If you have got the nerve to jump off the edge of the cliff, how wonderful it must be to float around with such a view below.
And so back down the long hill into Wensleydale and home territory again.   In the distance the village of Gayle and the little town of Hawes.   We were back by 3.30pm having had a lovely day out.   I hope you enjoy the pictures.
I see I have somehow managed to get the Highland cow into the post twice.   Sorry about that - but I shall leave it there - just to make you realise how scary it was.

And here is the photo I have forgotten, of the infant River Wharfe and the eroded stones.
I hope you enjoyed our day out.   I just hope I don't have nightmares tonight about those horns!

Saturday 23 August 2014

The Wensleydale Show

The weather held warm and sunny until 5.30pm when there was a thunderstorm with lightning and very heavy rain, but by then the Show was closing so it wouldn't spoil the huge success of the event.  The farmer said there were more there than he ever remembered and he has been going to the Show for decades.

The highlight for Tess and me, as we went up our Lane on our after lunch walk, was the aerobatics.    The show field is at the top of the Lane and the small aircraft was not allowed to perform actually over the showground, so he performed over our fields and Tess and I had a grandstand view of loop-the-loops and dives.

The other thing which amazed the farmer was a show by the official Honda Motor Cycle Display Team.   I have included one of the photographs the farmer took - he said the whole performance was quite terrifying.

Cattle, sheep, cakes, vegetables and flowers - there was everything.  You will see a photograph of the Supreme Champion Swaledale sheep (a blue band around its middle) and two lovely prize-winning Jersey calves belong to our friend and neighbouring farmer.  I shall now endeavour to get the photographs on to my post.   This new computer is still causing consternation where photographs are concerned - so here we go (fingers crossed

The last photograph shows a steam engine pulling a green 'hut'.  This came past our farm at the height of the thunderstorm.   Had it not been raining I would have gone to the front gate to take the photograph - as it is you can see the poor driver getting soaked as he chugs down the Lane.   But I wanted to include the photograph because it is not every day these days that such a piece of machinery passes the front door.

Friday 22 August 2014

Watching a little miracle.

Yesterday, when visiting friend M, we stood in her bay window looking out over her front garden, when - about two feet outside the window, perched on a low stone wall, we saw a bird.
It was a juvenile sparrow hawk - male - easily identified because the male is smaller than the female and as a juvenile it also has two 'fingerprint' spots of white on the top of its head.

We stood and watched it for ten minutes.  During that time it moved its head from side to side, it watched us carefully and every now and then it would raise one or the other claw up into its breast feathers.   For a split second we turned to face one another - we looked back and it had gone.   In a flash it had disappeared as though it was just waiting for us to take our eyes off it before it flew. 

But what a treat.

Thursday 21 August 2014


Well, it was a toss-up whether the weather won or we did and in the event the three fields of silage were rowed up, baled and wrapped shortly before it began to rain quite fast.   As I write this the farmer is bring the last load into the yard to stack ready for Winter.   It is always a relief when that stage is reached.   We still have several more fields to go, but that is all for the time being.

Thursday is always 'Hair' day for me and this afternoon I went straight to see friend M for the afternoon, for a nice chat and a pleasant reminisce about the old times.   It is surprising how good it is to have an afternoon like this - complete relaxation - and renewal of the spirit.   Especially in these troubled times.

I usually take Tess with me, but today I left her at home.  I am sure she would be pleased because while I was away another friend called and took her for an extra walk.  The very word 'walk' sends her into a state of ecstasy.

The news from everywhere seems particularly appalling at present.   The question is - should we listen to it or not?   I feel that we never get a true picture from the BBC News Bulletins (but then, what is the true picture, does anyone know).  One feels so helpless against all the hatred, the killing (which sadly involves the innocent as well as those fighting on the 'other side'), and the injustice.  It is hard not to feel totally complacent, but I ask - what can we do?

Wednesday 20 August 2014


Today it is still sunny, although quite cool.   But there is no rain about, which is good for the farmer as he has grass for silage down.   However, rain is forecast for morning and the man who comes to bale and wrap our silage can't come until tomorrow morning by which time we expect it to be too late.  This means that the lying grass will have to get wet and then dry off again - sad because this  does mean a deterioration in the quality of the silage.  But this is farming and as usual, the farmer seems quite philosophical about it all.

Tess has been for a cut and blow dry today.   My goodness me, doesn't she look smart (and smell sweet!).   I tried to get 'before' and 'after' shots for you but she refuses to look at the camera or to stand for her photograph.   I tried in vain.   She earned a lot of Brownie points from the farmer on her return because when they walked round the fields together she chased and actually caught a young rabbit.   So that is one less.

My afternoon was spent at our Poetry meeting - always my favourite day of the month.   Seven of us today and I think we all felt that with world news as it is, we needed to read cheerful poetry.  There was quite a bit of Betjamen.   We always smile about him because a friend, J, who has been dead for three years now, always considered him to be a second-rate poet.   So when any of us read one of his poems we feel the need to apologise to her before reading it.  We chat between poems - about the poem itself or the poet, or something it reminds us of.  It is such a lovely, relaxed meeting of friends, and we sit in friend W's conservatory, where it is always pleasant and warm.

Tuesday 19 August 2014

A General Farming Day in the Countryside.

I have just walked with Tess and all around me were the sounds of farm machinery.   Autumn is on us whether we are ready for it or not.   Last night there was such a low temperature that some areas had a frost and some areas of Scotland are even forecast to have a covering of snow at the week-end.   The Times says we may get an 'Indian Summer' but there is certainly no sign of it at present.    So things have to be speeded up.

The forecast is for sunshine and showers - the showers being very picky where they choose to fall.   Yesterday, returning from the hospital, we came through areas where the roads were swimming in water and then, a hundred yards further on, an area where the road was completely dry.   And so it is today too.

With this in mind the farmer has chosen to cut half of his second-crop silage grass this morning.   There is a good crop on the fields and I have just walked down between the rows with Tess, looking in the hedgerow for blackberries.   I like to leave some of them for the birds, but just a few to add to a couple of cooking apples makes such a nice sweet.   Now we hope for a couple of days when the showers miss here and the grass dries up nicely so that it can be baled.

In the hedgerow the hawthorn berries are red and already the birds are eating them.    I wish they wouldn't because this is really their Winter food and at the rate they are eating those berries they will all be gone when the harsh weather comes.

Saturday is our Wensleydale Show - in the fields at the top of the Lane - and today they have begun to erect the large marquees.   There are a lot to put up - one for the cattle on show,  others for handicrafts,baking, produce, exhibitors, poultry - such a lot of things.   And then there will be all the Trade Stands.   As this is the one hundredth Show it will ne a very special one.   I wish I was mobile enough to walk round it with the farmer, but sadly I just cramp his style and he has been enjoying the Show for the last sixty years or so, so I now insist that he goes on his own.  I will see if I can persuade him to take the camera so that my readers can get a taste of things.

New electric blankets have been ordered for all beds this morning - that is a sign that things are cooling down.   Until they come it is a case of snuggling up and keeping warm.   Enjoy your day wherever you are.

Monday 18 August 2014

Who he?

'I have nothing to say and I am saying it.   And that's Poetry'.   Who said it?   I really can't remember.   It might have been John Cage, the Composer who wrote '4 minutes 33 seconds' which was total silence, when one listened to the sounds all around.  However, whoever it was, I feel a little like that this morning.   After two enjoyable but rather busy days I switch  and go to my post page and wonder what to write about today.
 Saturday the farmer and I had a purge on the kitchen windows.   Not exciting I'm afraid, but Secondary Glazing is heavy and quite unmanageable for me - so he did the hard work and I washed, dried, ironed and rehung the curtains.   Now we keep admiring our handiwork and also feel ashamed about how dirty they looked before we tackled the job.

Yesterday was a walking day for the farmer and so friend W and I went out for lunch and, as usual, ate too much.   My starter was three cheese fritters on a bed of salad and her's was black pudding fritters.   Then we both tucked into roast lamb - delicious.  (but not conducive to encouraging thinking too hard).

Today we visit our University Hospital forty miles away to see the Consultant about the problem with the farmer's balance and are due to leave home in about an hour.

All this activity makes the problems in the Middle East go to the back of my mind.   Is that a good thing or a bad thing?   I don't know.   I just know that seeing all these displaced people - in particular the children - traumatised, bewildered, hungry, thirsty, often having lost their parents and, above all, terrified, and all because of their religion, makes me despair.   And as I can do so little about it, perhaps it is best to ignore it.   I do feel that the BBC tend to go where the 'drama' is and then move on.
Please don't think I am trying to trivialise things - but is there still fighting in Aleppo?   If so the cameras seem to have moved on to where it is more 'sensational'.   Even our local news on the BBC has a catalogue of car accidents, murders, assaults, burglaries and the like - and only very rarely something pleasant and uplifting.  What is the world coming to ?

I see that I have asked four questions in my post today.  Answers on a Post Card please.

UPDATE   The farmer has seen the Consultant and the problem is not serious - he has an inner ear fluid imbalance which is making one ear do all the work - exercises are to be done in order to try and help it.  The scan showed nothing out of the ordinary - great relief all round.

Friday 15 August 2014

The fruit seasons.

Last month our Friday market stalls were full of peaches, nectarines and apricots - three of my favourite fruits and all at the height of their season.   Now the season has passed.   Nectarines have disappeared completely and the peaches which are still available have lost that luscious juiciness.   So what has come in their place?

Years ago it would have been Beauty of Kent, James Grieve, Worcester Pearmain, Cox's Orange Pippin, Ellison's Orange Pippin, Beauty of Bath - and a whole range of other eating apples.   Sadly, certainly up here in Yorkshire, none of these is available.   Are they still grown in the apple-growing areas?   I don't know, but they certainly don't arrive in markets and shops up here - we seem to have a choice of Golden Delicious (tasteless), Braeburn (which I think come from New Zealand) and New Zealand Cox's (maybe English Cox's later in the year).

But I am not despairing - for what has arrived in record numbers this year is the Victoria Plum.   My favourite English fruit - so ripe that it slips off the stone.   I buy a pound on the market and by the time I arrive home (they have been on the passenger seat in the car) I have eaten them all.   It is a crime to cook them - they are far too tasty.

They were, of course, named after Queen Victoria.   The first tree was discovered in a garden at Alderton in Sussex.   It was introduced commercially into Sweden in 1844 by a nursery owner called Denyer and is apparently very popular there still, where it is called 'Denyer's Victoria'.   But an English Victoria Plum takes a lot of beating - try one sometime.

Thursday 14 August 2014

It is all happening out there.

Following on from yesterday's post about living in the country -
last evening we watched a programme on T V about wild life vets who dealt with big animals all over the world - last night a rhino, an orang-outan and a walrus.    As we were watching (it was gradually getting dark outside) the farmer touched my arm and nodded towards the window; there, just outside on a post, was the tawny owl.   He sat there for about five minutes - more exciting than what was on the television.   And all the while he was there bats were flitting back and forth in front of him.

This morning Tess and the farmer have just returned from their morning walk.   What did they see?   They saw a buzzard land in the field, snatch a rabbit and fly off with it.   Yes, all wildlife is there in the country.

This morning the farmer smiled to see a lovely photograph in The Times of a harvest field in Somerset (or 'down south' as we are prone to saying up here).   The caption read something along the lines of 'all is safely gathered in', suggesting that it has been a good harvest and that it is over.

More proof, if proof were needed, that there is an invisible line from Birmingham to the Wash and that anything which happens above that line is back in the Middle Ages.   Harvest is just underway up here - winter barley has been harvested, but spring-sown barley is only just ripening - and wheat has a few more weeks to go.

When I was a child the church/chapel harvest festival did not take place until every farmer in the area had finished the harvest.   And the decorations consisted of vegetables and fruit.  The dado round the chapel walls had string stretched along it and Michaelmas daisies threaded through it.   A row of large Bramley apples would be spaced along the pulpit and on the day the congregation would hope there was not a pulpit-thumping preacher who made all the apples wobble, or even worse, fall off.   A big sheaf of corn would take pride of place.

Now Harvest Festivals are around the beginning of September, set well in advance and always seem to have an awful lot of tinned food as part of the decoration of the church.  How times change - maybe not always for the better.  In my childhood days tinned food was frowned upon, certainly by my mother, who always had a tin of salmon, a tin of peaches and a tin of evaporated milk in the cupboard, in case anyone called, so that she could offer them tea.   Other than that I don't remember eating from a tin.

Swallows gather in even larger numbers on the wires - earlier than usual this year I think; the swifts have gone on their way back to Africa, where they spend the winter before returning here again next year - and during that time their feet will never make contact with the ground.  I will be sad to see them go, but then I have the fieldfares to look forward to - and we still have yellow-hammers at the birdtable - lovely little birds with a bright yellow head.

We have a semi-tame cock pheasant who doesn't ever seem to leave the garden.   He arrived as he began to moult and has stayed ever since, coming out of the undergrowth each morning when the farmer fills the feeders, and almost eating out of the farmer's hand.

Yes - life in the country is never dull.

Wednesday 13 August 2014

Dales Life

Or perhaps that title should read 'Country Life' because I suspect the same situation applies anywhere in the country.

I have been at friend M's all afternoon and we were chatting about  folk in the village, who was related to whom, what they did and various things about their lives (we have both lived up here since 1984).   And it struck us both about how different things were from how they were in towns.

Yesterday I met friend E in the Lane and he informed me that the farmer's sister had a birthday earlier this week and that she was 75.  The farmer thought it was 76, but of course E was correct - as the farmer said, E has kept check on everything over the years.

Some folk might call all this nosiness, but I prefer to call it taking an interest in people.   You have only to read John's lovely daily posts to realise that the same things happen in his Welsh Village (Going Gently on my side bar.)

My friend came up here from a London flat and told me that she didn't even know anyone who lived in the same corridor as she did.   I came up here from Wolverhampton and lived there, in the same cul-de-sac for seventeen years, and - apart from my immediate neighbour and an old man opposite, I never got to know anyone.

So which is better?   To know nobody or to know everyone in the village and take an interest in their lives.   I know which I prefer.

Following on from yesterday's blog when I said I was really tired and felt I had overdone things by having an hour's exercise, followed by half an hour's Physiotherapy and then taking the dog for a walk.  I was quite right.   At supper time, when I got up from my chair, my arthritic knee 'gave way' and I ended up falling heavily on the floor on my hip.  Luckily nothing was broken and today I have gradually improved as the day has gone on.   I shall not do so much in one day again.

Tuesday 12 August 2014

A very tiring day.

Today has really been a day and a half so far (mid-afternoon).   This morning my on-line grocery order came at 8am and I had that to unpack and put away.   Then at 9.30am friend W called and we went to our Exercise Class for the over 60's (strenuous but very necessary).

The farmer collected me from the class and together we went to our Physiotherapist for half an hour's pummeling each.  I always come out feeling as though I have gone a couple of rounds with Mohammed Ali.  After lunch I took Tess for her walk and now I am thankfully sitting down at the computer.

Since Saturday the farmer has picked about  fourteen pounds of wild mushrooms from our fields.   They are delicious, particularly with dry cure bacon in a thick sauce made with white sauce and flavoured with the juice from the mushrooms.
Recipe herewith:

Cut mushrooms into fairly small pieces and fry gently in a knob of butter.   Meantime, make a roux with butter and cornflour and then add full cream milk to make a white sauce (I always add a pinch of mustard to pep it up a bit).  When the mushrooms are cooked (only a few minutes), pour the sauce into the mushroom pan and stir well so that you end up with mushrooms in what looks like gravy.  Stirring in a drop of cream makes for a richer sauce.   Serve with bacon rashers, or serve on toast - however you like it best.   Delicious any which way.

Tomorrow I shall make a batch of Mushroom Soup - some to eat and some to freeze.  More mushrooms to come I suspect - and the wild blackberries are just starting.   Nature's bounty - but at least blackberries freeze well.

On my return from my afternoon walk I met an old farmer friend, well in his eighties.  We are still feeling the effects of Hurricane Bertha and the wind is strong.   He greeted me with the words, "Good harvest weather."  It traspires he was talking about the old, old days, when the corn was cut with a binder and fastened into sheaves, which were then heaped into stooks to dry.   On this kind of day they dried very quickly.

He was surprised to find that I had a computer and enquired whether I had any plastic cards.   Finding that I did, he asked if I paid for my grocery order with plastic and when I replied that actually I order my groceries on line and pay for them Direct Debit, he remarked that I had really had reached the twenty first century.  Funny isn't it, how everything is relative - I am in awe of those who used tablets and I-pads, which seem far and above what I understand.   Not sure what I shall tackle next!

Monday 11 August 2014

Bertha's legacy

Bertha's legacy is still bothering us today.   Yesterday was heavy rain.   We had almost two inches in two days, but it was not as bad   as we feared.   Our rivers (mainly the Ure and the Swale) are given to rising up to twenty feet in an hour when conditions are bad, but all that has happened is that they are full.   And they go down again as rapidly as they rise.

Today all that remains is a gale force wind.   This means that I shall dry my washing inside.  I find it difficult to peg the washing on the line when conditions are calm, so shall not attempt it in a gale.

Luckily the sun is shining, the clouds are scudding across the sky and there is no element of gloom and doom.   The news on the radio is depressing enough without the weather matching it.

I am just very glad I am not booked on a ferry  crossing the North Sea in the next few days.   I feel sick just thinking about it.

Sunday 10 August 2014


Today it is very, very wet indeed.   I think we are supposed to be getting the remnants of Hurricane Bertha, downgraded to a Tropical storm and now downgraded again, but nevertheless providing us with huge quantities of rain today.   We are told to expect gale force winds by bedtime, but at present it is just still and pouring with rain.

Another four pounds of mushrooms this morning.   What to do with them.   The farmer rang his sister who lives twenty five miles away - she said she would love them.   I took enough out for tea tomorrow and we took the rest over there.   The good news is that we were invited over for Sunday lunch too, so we had a jolly day out.   On my return I quickly cobbled together a blackberry and apple pie with the blackberries the farmer picked this morning - the fields are really yielding up crops for free at the moment.


Saturday 9 August 2014

Storms - the good and the bad effects.

Shortly after putting on yesterday's post the skies over the farm went very dark.   By four-thirty in the afternoon it was almost dark and there was thunder in the distance.   By five o'clock the storm was overhead, with lightning and thunder almost at the same instance and then a horrendous downpour - 21mm in about ten minutes.   The sky stayed black all evening and thunder rumbled in the distance but the storm never came here again and today it is a bright, breezy day with blue skies.   Tomorrow is set to be wet again, so we are making the most of today.

But the good effect?  Well, of course it was very warm and humid yesterday - then there was that downpour - and this morning our fields are full of  wild mushrooms - they have sprouted up everywhere overnight, as they are wont to do if the weather conditions are just right.   In about five minutes the farmer picked four pounds and carried them home in his body warmer.   He left the larger ones, which had already become maggoty.

Saturday mornings friend W and I often go into our little town for a coffee (yes, I know we could have one here, but it is nice to drink it in a cheery environment where we are likely to chat to folk and pass the time of day).   So when she brought me home, she took one pound of the mushrooms to have on toast for her lunch.  I rang my son, D, and he popped round for a pound for his tea (he is vegetarian, so he obviously likes them), our neighbour G had a pound and that leaves one pound of them for our tea this evening with some lovely dry cure bacon rashers I happen to have in the fridge.  I can hardly wait.

We have not had mushrooms on this scale for many years.   Conditions have to be just right.   I know I could dry them, or I could freeze them, but it seems such a shame not to enjoy their freshness and give pleasure to several other folk as well.   Maybe there will be another crop tomorrow morning.

Apropos my post yesterday and my mention of spring tides.   I said that I really knew nothing about the term.   Well A Heron's View has explained it all in yesterday's comments, so if you want to know more please do go back to yesterday's post and read his comment.

Friday 8 August 2014

Is Bertha coming on a visit?

Is Bertha calling in on us, or isn't she?   Seems it depends which newspaper one reads (although the news is so dire in them all at the moment that you can be excused from reading any).   But the general theme is that Big Bertha, the Caribbean Hurricane recently downgraded to a 'mere' Tropical Storm, might conceivably 'clip'the South East of England some time on Sunday (can somebody reading this explain why, when Bertha is approaching from the Atlantic, she will clip the South East corner rather than the South West).

And so we are promised - rainfall of more than 2 inches, coastal gusts of more than 60mph, and heavy Spring tides (in August?)

Isn't it always the same here in the UK?   Just as the plums, apples and pears are ripe, a gale arrives to blow the fruit off the trees.   Just as the Combine Harvesters get their pyjamas off ready to tackle this year's crop of wheat up here in the North, wet weather arrives to postpone the day.   And just as the farmer sharpens his new grass cutter to cut second-crop silage, it looks as though that will be postponed too.

Well, I for one will show my contempt for the weather.   I shall have a bowl of English strawberries, with English cream, for my tea and I shall sit this evening and eat the Victoria Plums I bought on the market this morning, when I shamelessly squeezed every one and picked out a dozen which were all fully ripe and ready to ooze their juice straight into my open mouth.

Crops seem to have been good everywhere,but runner beans in our garden, notoriously late arriving up here, are just beginning to grow and are now to be battered by strong winds if the forecast is to be believed (that is all they need), and the single apple which has grown on our apple tree and which we have been watching with interest as it visibly swelled, has outgrown its strength and split from top to bottom.   Well you can't win 'em all - our sweet peas are lovely (even if we can't eat them).

Thursday 7 August 2014

Are you a smoker?

Over the past few months the farmer and I have spent quite a lot of time visiting hospital for various things.    It always amazes and horrifies us to find that just outside the entrance there is always, come rain or shine, a cluster of patients in wheel chairs, smoking.  Some of them have terrible coughs, all of them look seriously ill.   And yet they still smoke.

Before anyone castigates me for not understanding how difficult it is to give up smoking once one has started - I do know several folk who have managed it (often with help from their doctor or health centre these days).   And before anyone tells me off saying that it is a personal choice - I agree with that wholeheartedly, but I would reply that if they then get ill with some lung complaint which requires hospitalisation, then they are taking up a bed which could be used for another patient.

My father was a heavy smoker until he was in his late sixties, when he got bronchitis AGAIN and the doctor told him that if he smoked through another Winter the disease would kill him.   He never smoked again and was a great advocate for not smoking, but when he died, in his eighties, he died of emphysema.

I hate it so much - and another thing which really gets to me is that in our little town there are one or two places where the ground is covered with cigarette ends.   One of the pubs, really quite a nice building, with nice tables and chairs outside, has the ground littered with cigarette ends and nobody ever seems to sweep them up.

Even worse, a really good bakers in the town obviously has one or two staff who go into the alley at the side of the shop for a smoke.   They grind their cigarette ends into the pathway and nobody ever bothers to sweep them away.  So the path, which leads through to the Car Park, is littered with them.

Am I being paranoid here?   I hope not, but I really do find it quite upsetting.   If people must smoke - and I repeat, it is their choice - then I would like to suggest that they do so in the open air, and dispose of their ends theselves.  

End of rant.

Wednesday 6 August 2014

Folk Lore??

A fortnight ago today I drove through a Police Speed Trap.   I didn't see it until the last minute but on the whole I never exceed the speed limit.   I glanced at the speedometer - and I think I was doing 32 miles per hour, certainly no more than that. (it was a 30mph limit).

So since then I have been waiting with trepidation to see if I would get a notice to say I was over the speed limit.   But what has surprised me is the folk lore that surrounds such events.   Here are some of the things I have been told:

Whether you get caught or not depends on who is pointing the camera - they could let you off if they like the sight of you.
All speedometers are set in such a way that if you think you are doing 32 you will only be doing thirty anyway.
They will allow you 10%.
They won't allow you 10%
By law (!) they have to send you the notice within fourteen days.

Well, fourteen days is up today and I have heard nothing.  I will keep you posted. 

Tuesday 5 August 2014

Goodbye and hello.

The farmer counted the swallows and house martins gathered on the electric line this morning; there were over one hundred.   Already the swifts have gone - now the swallows gathering, soon to take flight for Africa.   It spells only one thing here - it is Autumn.

Autumn comes early up here in the North of England.  We are more than 700 feet above sea level and several nights there has been a warning that there might be a frost.  (the farmer has remarked that this is what happens every year just as our runner beans begin to form).

The grass verges on the lane are dying back and the temperature has not risen higher than twenty degrees for the past two weeks.

But there is some compensation to come.   Soon there will be blackberries on our field hedges (a good crop this year), plenty of hazel nuts in the fields - and the wonderfully colourful Autumn leaves to look forward to.

But, best of all, the rooks are coming in earlier each night.   And how I love the rooks.   Another couple of weeks and they will be homing in on their rookery  before I have gone to bed.   There is a rookery just behind the Old School House, where I have been going
to classes in the evening, and quarter past nine sees them all circling round, making a racket before they settle down.   And how I love it.

So all is not lost.   There are pleasures and there is sadness with each season - we have only to look for it.

Sunday 3 August 2014

A New arrival.

Yesterday morning at 4am my neighbour had a baby boy.   He was born at home and I went round to see him this morning - just 29 hours old, snug and warm on his Dad's knee, wrapped in a fluffy blanket fast asleep.   His young brother played on the floor with his toys, the atmosphere was peaceful and joyful.   Everything had gone well and everyone was happy.  He was so beautiful.

And I contrasted it with the babies born in Gaza this week, quadruplets shown on television earlier in the week, born in a shelled hospital, their home destroyed, nowhere to go, no future unless things alter drastically.   And I despaired.

Here they are