Thursday 31 December 2015



Tuesday 29 December 2015

A Shaggy Dog Story.

Or rather a smooth-haired dog story.

Friends have a Doberman pup - he is now six months old and, to use their expression, 'daft as a brush'.   They have had Doberman dogs before and their training methods are excellent - every one has been perfectly behaved.   We also had their German Short-haired Pointer, Oscar, when they went to Japan to work for a few years, and he was one of the best and most faithful dogs we have ever had.  So they know their stuff when it comes to dog training.   Then why is this one taking a little longer?

The farmer met them on the lane last evening just as it was getting dark and chatted to them.   Tess and he got acquainted at the same time, although Tess gave him a pretty hard time.   She may only be half his height but she is a terrier after all and she gave him pretty short shrift.

We heard his story and I thought it would make interesting reading for you this morning.  His mother was pregnant with eight puppies and two weeks before their due date she fell down the stairs.   This precipitated their birth and all eight puppies were born alive and well.   But, sadly, their mother died in giving birth to them.   So all eight were hand reared, bottle-fed puppies.

I rather think he has grown up thinking he is a human,although he did spend rather a lot of the time his 'mum and dad' were talking to the farming trying to get a sniff at Tess's rear end (which she had absolutely no intention of letting him do!) so maybe not. 

HOSPITAL UPDATE.   My son has been back to see the eye specialist today, a week after he had an operation for a detached retina.   He has a good report, can now walk about normally, and is to go back next week for further examination.   So far so good.

Monday 28 December 2015


To say that there has been a lot of water about up here is the understatement of the year so far.   We have been virtually cut off from going far - not that we had any intention of going anyway, but my cleaner has been unable to reach her Mum's house in Hawes on Boxing Day for the first time in thirty years.

And of course, further down the country in East, West and South of the County, all our water from the becks and little rivers, and ultimately the rivers Swale and Ure have flowed into the River Ouse and then on through York, which has seen the worst flooding in seventy years.

Up here, where the rivers have always flooded, not a single house is built on the flood plain so although the roads are blocked and we are unable to go anywhere, no-one is seriously affected by water in the house.

Tomorrow the farmer is taking my son back to see the Specialist about his detached retina and as things stand at the moment they should be able to get through.   Bad weather is forecast for late tomorrow and early Wednesday but by then they should be home again and we are hoping that the news about the eye is good news.

It is sad that so many people's Christmas has been so spoiled and that the magic of Christmas for so many children has been marred - just hope Santa's toys made it through safely!

All that is left to do here in the farmer's household is to eat up what my mother always called the 'oughts' (not sure why).   So it is cold ham and pickles for lunch with fried potatoes, sprouts and carrots, and the remains of the trifle for pudding.   With bits like pigs in blankets and stuffing balls added I am sure we shall enjoy it all.  Then it will be clear the decks for a visit from the grandchildren tomorrow and seeing the New Year in in a couple of days.   Dare I say I shall be glad now when it is all over and things are back to normal (whatever that is).   Happy New Year to you all!

Friday 25 December 2015



Wednesday 23 December 2015

Spanner in the works.

My Christmas preparations have really gone well this year.  Every list has been ticked off and the farmer is getting all my fruit and vegetables from our market in the morning when he goes in very early for the papers.   He gives them the list before he goes into the paper shop and then goes across to collect it afterwards.   By half past seven it will all be put away.

We always have our Christmas Day alone - we eat a Christmas lunch, watch a bit of carefully chosen television, play a bit of
Rummikub, maybe do a jig-saw - a quiet day.   Then on Boxing Day we always have a party.   My son and his wife and their friends all come round for the day - lunch and then a buffet in the evening.   All is prepared.   The turkey is taken from the freezer; various nibbles have been prepared etc.   Then last night the bombshell.

My son rang to say that he hadn't told me earlier as he didn't want to worry me but that yesterday he had been to hospital as a day-patient and had an operation.   He had a detached retina.   The operation had gone well and he was now home - that was the good news.   The bad news is that until the end of next Wednesday - nine days - he has to lie flat on his left side, only being upright for ten minutes in every hour.

His wife is not in perfect health and has mobility problems herself, so it is going to be a difficult few days for them.   Now we are trying to organise some sort of routine so that we take it in turns to go round and chat with him.   His wife will come here for lunch, as arranged and one or other of our party will go round straight after lunch to sit and chat and cheer him up.   Luckily he only lives about a mile away.   But it is certainly a case of 'the best laid plans',

Here's wishing everyone who reads my blog a very happy Christmas and let us all hope that the New Year brings more peace to the world, although tonight's news about Afghanistan does not make that sound much of a possibility.

Monday 21 December 2015


Yorkshire is the largest county in the British Isles and in days gone by was so large that it was divided into three Ridings - the East Riding, the West Riding and - the one where we live - the North Riding.   Ridings are no longer with us but we are still called North Yorkshire.

As a county we are famous for various things.   The white rose of Yorkshire, which appears on the Yorkshire flag,  the Yorkshire Post, the daily paper of the county, the Great Yorkshire Show, which is one of the largest Agricultural Shows in the country the Wensleydale cheese, which is produced at Hawes in Yorkshire.   I could go on, but I will stop there at what is perhaps our most famous claim to fame and one which I made for lunch today.   The Yorkshire Pudding.

Traditionally it was eaten as a starter.   Critics always said that this was so that by the time you came to the Main Course you were so full of pudding that you didn't eat so much of expensive meat.  (In Lincolnshire the same was said of the Suet Pudding, eaten first with thick gravy.)

Two things are always essential when making a good Yorkshire Pudding.   The first is a very hot oven and the second is extremely hot fat in the pudding tins.

Today I came across a recipe from the cookery of Hannah Glasse (1796) and I thought you might be interested to read it and then compare it with the way I made it today.

'Take a quart of milk and five eggs. beat them up well together, and mix them with flour till it is of a good batter, and very smooth; put in a little salt, some grated nutmeg and ginger;  butter a dripping or frying pan and put it under a piece of beef, mutton or a loin of veal that is roasting, and then put in your batter.   And when the top side is brown, cut it into square pieces and turn it over and let the under side brown.   Put into a hot dish as clean of fat as you can and send it to the table hot .'

This is how I made mine today:  Put four ounces of plain flour into a bowl with a pinch of salt.   Break an egg into the middle and then slowly whisk in 5fl ounces of milk and the same of water and whisk until you have a smooth batter. Leave to stand for about half 
an hour.   Put either bun tins (for individual puddings) or a large tin for one larger pudding into a very hot oven with some dripping or lard and get it really hot before pouring in the batter.  Takes about twenty minutes.   Served today with roast beef and roast potatoes, carrots and sprouts.

My goodness me.   How times have changed when you compare those two recipes.   Surely Yorkshire puds must have been the food of the rich if all those ingredients were added.

The farmer loves Yorkshires and I, coming from Lincolnshire, never really make it quite right (or so I think although he never complains (he daren't)).  Perhaps he should have married a Yorkshire lass as this old rhyme suggests:

Here's to Yorkshire my lads,
The Land of Good Cheer,
The Home of the Pudding
Well known far and near.

Wed a lass who can make one,
Is the theme of my song,
But so long as she's Yorkshire
You cannot go wrong!


Sunday 20 December 2015

List making.

Are you the list-making type or do you just muddle through expecting it will all be alright in the end?   And is it?   I expect so.  After all, we are all different.

I could not exist at times like Christmas if I did not make copious lists and then tick things off the list as and when I do them.   So far I am totally up to date with my lists for Christmas - so far, so good.

Yesterday all I had on the list was to deliver a Christmas cake to a friend (her Christmas present) and to collect my clock from the repair man - lovely to seeing it going merrily on the mantelpiece in the sitting room in time for the big day.

Today I planned an easy day.   My only task was to hand-deliver the local cards.   I drove the car and the farmer (who is far more agile than I am) nipped out and put them through the appropriate letter boxes.   And we arrived home just in time to welcome the farmer's sister on her usual visit at Christmas to put a wreath on the parents' grave.

Now, having watched a lovely, very Christmassy Country File from Cornwall, we intend to sit and play Rumikub.   We are not particularly sporty and really don't want three hours of Sports Personality.

Tomorrow's list?  Do the last wash and iron before Christmas and after my cleaner has been to put up the decorations.  There might be photographs later although I am not one hundred percent good yet at getting them on to my blog.   Fingers crossed.

Friday 18 December 2015


What a week this has been weather-wise up here in the Yorkshire Dales.   Last Saturday it snowed all day and the roads were icy and in places impassable.   Tuesday, when my friends came to stay, it was thick fog all the way here from Cumbria.   When they went home on Wednesday it was gloriously sunny and breezy here but thick fog as they got into Cumbria.  Today it is cloudy, drizzly and very warm for December.   And to think it is only three weeks since huge parts of Cumbria were under water.   Contrary would you call it?

The farmer can't get on to the fields to do anything as (to quote him) everywhere is 'mud up to the eyeballs'.

And through all this some of my garden roses are still flowering - particularly Gertrude Jekyll, and the primroses and winter jasmine are in full bloom.

Thursday 17 December 2015

Today's Christmas jobs.

Neither the farmer nor I feel in one hundred percent health today - I think we both have a low grade bug, although as we both feel a lot better tonight it is obviously short-lived.

So today's jobs have been minimal, although both of us are staunch believers in keeping going through this kind of bug rather than going to bed or sitting by the fire.

Apart from his normal farming jobs the farmer has also cut a Christmas tree for my son and his wife, who like a 'real' tree each year.   I prefer a very small, artificial one - less pine needles to clear up.   Tess went with them to choose the tree  from our field and she thoroughly enjoyed chasing the rabbits, catching one - a real special event.

Thursday is my hairdresser's day and when I came back I finished decorating two of my four Christmas cakes which I make each year.   They are identical so I have photographed only one and after finishing this I shall endeavour AGAIN to put the photograph of it at the bottom of this post.   I am a big believer in the spider philosophy 'if at first you don't succeed, try, try and try again.'  Since going on to Windows 10 I have not yet managed to put a photograph on my blog.  So here goes.....

Not the best photograph - it does need turning to the right but don't expect miracles dear readers.   I dare not go back in case I can't repeat the exercise!  As it is it does look as though it will fall of the table.

Wednesday 16 December 2015


Back to normal today as our visitors make their way back through the Dale and over to the Lakes, where they live.   All our fog has gone and today has been very mild and sunny.   Seeing the sun again after a long time without it has been a joy.   We went over to the village of Ravensworth to buy our Christmas plants - this has become a tradition and this year the farmer drove me there.   Everywhere is so wet that he can't get on to the fields to do any work, so I think he felt like a drive out.

I bought a lovely poinsettia and two cyclamen plants (as I always do), a basket of plants as a present for a friend and a holly wreath for the grave of my first husband.   On the way we had to go through the town of Richmond - so I took a photograph from the moving car of Richmond castle as we passed it.   Not a very good photograph I am afraid.   Just before reaching the Nurseries we drove through the village of Ravensworth (where Sir Ian Botham lives) and I took a photograph there too.   It is a pretty village with a very big village green on both sides of the road.

This afternoon saw me completing a whole lot of jobs on my list of 'jobs to do before Christmas', travelling into town, going to the bank, going to the churchyard with the wreath, visiting my friend with her plant present and taking our sitting room clock to the clock repairer.  

The farmer and I always have our tea on trays and watch Pointless on the television.   Today the farmer watched it - I slept through the whole performance and only awoke when the news came on!!

Tuesday 15 December 2015


Met friends for lunch today in Richmond, driving there through heavy fog.   Lunch was a complete Italian affair in La Piazza - all delicious, but have eaten too much particularly as I have made a cassoulet for tea tonight - I think we will have to be a little late eating it.   The friends are coming back here after wandering round Richmond and will stay the night, so it is but a short blog today.  As my friend W remarked on our way home, it is a typical November day in December.   Oh to see the sun, if only for half an hour.

Monday 14 December 2015

A guest posts today.

A guest, G, does my post for me today.   On Saturday we had a good inch of wet snow.   It threw the whole place into chaos as drivers  forgot how to drive in such conditions and folk ended up on hills crossways on on the road.   This morning G sent me an e mail - here it is:

Leyburn Band was asked to play at the wedding of two Band members on Saturday.   We started playing at 12.30 and the wedding was due to start at 1pm.   We played and played, no bride.   Got to 1.30, still no bride.   She was travelling from Richmond (North Yorkshire) to Leyburn, a distance of eleven miles.  Unfortunately she was in a vintage Rolls Royce, not good in snow.   They got stuck several times and tried different routes.   Meanwhile we carried on playing, eventually taking requests from the congretation for their favourite carols.   The traffic outside the church was at a standstill, cars getting stuck on the hill in the covering of snow.   We carried on playing until the poor bride arrived - 90 minutes late!   She looked a little flustered, but beautiful with it.   The service was lovely, possibly helped by the feelings of relief that she had finally arrived.   Altogether we played over three and a half hours.   I think that will be a day that the bride and groom will not forget!

Thank you G for setting the scene on a snowy day.   Incidentally we drove through the dale yesterday with no problems at all - just a light covering of snow on the fields and the river well down - no sign of the recent flooding at all.   Today the snow (all inch of it) is disappearing and we are back to normal.   I hate to think what would happen should we get a real downfall.

Saturday 12 December 2015

Bleak mid winter indeed.

It began to snow at nine o'clock this morning and has snowed almost all of the day.   For a while it turned to sleet but now it is very cold and looks set to freeze tonight.

The farmer, not to be put off by the snow, walked with his walking group, way up in the Pennines and thoroughly enjoyed it.   The only nuisance was the journey home when so many drivers were playing silly 'B's on the road - driving in the wrong gear, getting stuck on hills, getting stuck cross ways on of the road.  It took him an hour to do a journey which usually only takes half an hour - but I had lunch all ready.

For lunch I did a favourite of his - I can't remember what it is called but perhaps someone can enlighten me - a Dutch recipe which entails a round of toast, covered by a nice layer of tasty cheese, covered by a slice of cooked ham and topped with a fried egg.   In the farmer's case he had this double.   I had a single helping.   It really is delicious and very filling.  Try it sometime.

Tomorrow we are (three of us) set to have Christmas lunch in Hawes, so I am keeping my fingers crossed that we will get through.  It will be such a disappointment if we can't, especially after last week's fiasco owing to flooding.

Keep snug and warm.

Friday 11 December 2015


Friday morning as always means coffee with friends in town - still just as enjoyable as it always was.   Some of us even had a crafty scone too ( cheese in my case).

At one o'clock Fiona, the dog-groomer, came to give Tess a good wash and brush up.   She drives her van to just outside the back door, hooks up to our electricity and then gets going - ears, claws, eyes, a good cut and then a sweet-smelling shampoo.   Tess looks beautiful.  I took before and after photographs but since upgrading to Windows 10 last week I just can't see how to get my photographs into my Pictures file, so must wait for my son to come round.

Then, on a perfectly awful afternoon, with a gale blowing and the rain pouring down, I wrapped my Christmas presents and got my cards all ready for posting.   Two good jobs done and out of the way.   With my trembles I need a helping hand with wrapping but the farmer stayed in because of the weather and helped by holding bits down while I sellotaped them and putting his finger on knots until I made a bow.   Sadly I had to wrap his present (slippers) when he took Tess for her afternoon walk round the fields, so it is rather cobbled together (quite appropriate for slippers though, come to think about it.)

Thursday 10 December 2015


Lots of bloggers are posting blogs about books for Christmas, and about reading.   I do like books for Christmas but of course the choice of book is so personal isn't it, so I usually give a book token instead.   As far as my own is concerned, if anyone wishes to buy me a book I usually give them a list with one or two possibles on and tell them to confer with each other.

I always make sure my library books are back before the Christmas holiday begins as  I do tend to forget renewals and that can soon be expensive - in fact almost buy the book rather than loan it.

But my bookshelves are full of books I have read but cannot bear to part with so I can always find something to read.   This week I have been reading Evelyn Waugh's 'Brideshead Revisited' - one of my all time favourites.   I must have read it a dozen times over the years and yet, each time I read it I find something new, and that is why I keep going back to it again and again.   I have just finished it over my coffee this morning and I really think I have enjoyed it more this time than I ever have done before.   Have you read it?   Is it your kind of book?

Wednesday 9 December 2015

Poetry please.

The one downside, as far as I am concerned, to having regular dates in one's diary, is that it does make every week go past like a rocket.
This applies to my various coffee dates, my hairdresser's appointment, my physiotherapist, and - as far as today is concerned - our Poetry meeting.

If you like poetry then I do encourage you to join a Poetry group.   If you can't find one then why not start one yourself?   Our group, which always meets on a Wednesday afternoon, usually has somewhere between ten and a dozen there; we meet in a friend's conservatory and each of us reads our favourite poems.   Then we have a cup of tea and a biscuit.

Today being our Christmas meeting, most of us chose Christmas poetry.   Two of us chose to begin T S Eliot's 'Journey of the Magi' but we both had enough to leave that one out.   Instead I started by reading Ogden Nash's 'The boy who laughed at Santa Claus'.

It wasn't all Christmas - we had 'The Highwayman' and 'The Lady of Shallott', both firm favourites with us all.   We had Wendy Cope and Pam Ayres, as well as more serious stuff - in fact a good mix.
Ted Hughes is always a firm favourite as is Robert Frost (Christmas Trees).

I always come home thoroughly relaxed - there's nothing like good poetry to put you in a good mood.  Give it a try.

Tuesday 8 December 2015

Watching the waistline.

My 'normal' Tuesday morning involves going into town to the Post Office for my pension (one of the perks of getting old) with friend W.   Then we meet friend C and all go to our lovely local cafe The Post Horn for coffee and scones.   The best cheese and/or fruit scones in North Yorkshire I always call them.

By the time I get back home it is time to think about preparing lunch and of course I am still full of scone, so never feel like eating much lunch.
This afternoon friend G called in the middle of a rainstorm  (it has, on the whole, been a very pleasant day) and our planned visit turned out to be a flop in that the candle makers, where we planned to go, was closed.  So instead we went to yet another cafe for coffee and a mince pie.   This meant that when I came in at tea time I didn't feel a bit like eating anything and actually just had an apple.

Today's healthy eating plan has gone out of the window.

Monday 7 December 2015

Slipping standards.

As an ex-teacher of English, who also happens to love English literature and who is very careful about spelling and punctuation (the latter is often arguable and can be idiosyncratic and I do allow for that), it does annoy me when I come across glaring errors.
 I bought my Christmas cards some weeks ago and they are now all ready for posting (this is not intended to be a boast!) and I bought them with the picture in mind and it was only as I was writing them that I came across two absolutely glaring errors.   Both were in the same box of cards - one was a beautiful card of geese standing in the snow and on the back the caption read - geese outdoor's in winter.   The other was a pretty photograph of a tawny owl sitting in a snowy beech tree (obviously beech because they hold their leaves longer) and here the caption on the back read - 'tawny owl on the beach while snowing'.

The first caption of course has a misplaced apostrophe, while the second caption has a spelling mistake (beach instead of beech) and in addition I would really question the grammar.  (it does tend to suggest that the owl is snowing and would have been better if it had said 'tawny owl on the beech in the snow').

Do such things matter?   Am I nit-picking or should we try to uphold standards?   I know that often we all make mistakes when writing our posts - but really, on Christmas cards should there not be some kind of proof reading to help avoid this?

Sunday 6 December 2015


Today, for the first time for a few days, it is dry, sunny and the wind has dropped considerably.   Today was to have been our jaunt over the Pennines and on to Ravenstonedale to meet up with four friends, exchange Christmas presents and have a lunch together.  And, looking out of the window, it is a lovely day for such a journey.

But the police have asked everyone to stay at home unless their journey is really necessary because the floodwater is everywhere and many places are underwater.  The fields opposite us are under water and our beck, which runs past my cottage in the village, is 'banking' but has not actually come over.   It did so five years ago with disastrous results and this time, when bad weather was forecast, the council came round with sandbags.

So we stay at home sadly (although there is a Snooker final on TV)
and I am cooking the lunch.   But better safe than clogging the road or getting stuck in deep flood water which is running off the high ground and settling on the roads in various dips.   Desmond (or the 4th serious storm of winter if you would rather drop the names) has certainly caused havoc here in the North of England.

Saturday 5 December 2015

Coffee Morning.

It was our village church coffee morning this morning.   The weather here is appalling as Storm Desmond passes through but did anyone chicken out of going to the village hall?   Of course not.   We are hardy village folk, used to going around in all weathers and we turned out in force.

Apart from anything else, A had made her famous small iced Christmas cakes - always popular, always delicious, always a good idea to keep in for anyone who calls just before Christmas.   K had made her equally famous mince pies with brandy butter, which she heated and sold for church funds (and donned her reindeer horns as a hint towards Christmas in the air).   It was a lovely, friendly morning in an otherwise terribly stormy day.

Many areas up here are deep under water - the further west one goes the worse it gets.   The farmer and I were due to go over the Pennines tomorrow to meet four friends for lunch in our favourite pub.   Sadly we have had to call it off.   The friends who live in Windermere are more or less cut off and we here in the Dales are also cut off, so best stay at home and keep warm.

Friday 4 December 2015

Ovine Chiropody.

Today was a big day for the sheep - they were all treated to a major pedicure.   Because of our enormous rainfall here during the month of November, the ground is absolutely sodden and whenever it rains (which at present is most of the time) the water just stands on the ground as it has nowhere to drain to.   This means that inevitably the sheeps' feet suffer and they get infection between their hooves.   If you see sheep in a field and they are kneeling on their front legs in order to eat the grass, then they have bad feet.

Today, the farmer who owns the sheep (we only over-winter them off the tops) came and two of them cut off the excess hoof on each sheep, cleaned out the space between the hooves and sprayed with an antibiotic spray to keep infection at bay.   Now for a little while they will be pain-free, but if this weather continues it will soon come back.

The sheep dog who came with them (dog being the operative word) was very interested indeed in miss Tess (we walked down to take a photograph for you) and for once she didn't bark but just danced about elegantly and flirted outrageously (I was a)ashamed of the display she put on and b) pleased she had been spayed!

Thursday 3 December 2015


The farmer and I struggle each year to find one another a token present at Christmas.   There is really nothing we want but it is rather nice on Christmas morning to exchange a small gift - and so we make some kind of effort.

As children we got what we were given and there was never enough money for it to be anything massive - certainly not in the circles either of us moved in.

But these days the nearer it gets to Christmas the more I am struck by the injustice in the world.   In Africa there are children who live out their whole lives on rubbish heaps, scavenging enough 'rubbish' to keep alive by selling it.    In North Africa there are children - and innocent men and women - whose whole lives have been turned up side down by the on-going conflict.   In Europe there are thousands of refugees braving the increasingly cold weather trying to reach the sanctuary of a safe haven in any country which will have them.

On television we see women (and men) in their finery, strutting their stuff in a world full of glamour and glitter.   And now, today, the farmer's paper has a Christmas gift guide with perfume at £210 for 100ml, handbags at £650,   a bra and panties for £250 - I won't go on, I find it all too sickening.

If folk have that much money to spend then I would suggest there are better, more charitable ways of spending it. Safe havens for the people of Syria trying to get on with normal lives, blankets for children who are refugees in Eastern Europe and who have come from the heat of Africa to the intense cold of central Europe and still have nowhere to go.   Again I could go on, but I do find it so sickening - in fact I feel sometimes like opting out of the whole thing called 'normal life' and going to live somewhere in isolation.   But of course one cannot do that.   Is there any kind of answer to the injustice of it all?   I doubt it.

Wednesday 2 December 2015

Busy Day

Today friend W and I did our final run to top up on all things Christmas - food I mean.   My freezer is now full to bursting and apart from fresh vegetables nearer to the big day I have nothing left to do apart from one last cake to make, and I intend to do that in the morning.

After our shop we called on the way home at a restaurant we know and had fish, chips and mushy peas with our favourite drink of lime juice and soda water.   We are conoisseurs of this drink and rate it out of ten - this one was up there with the tens.   You would not believe how they vary from ultra weak to ultra strong and everything in between.   Similarly they vary greatly in price from around 65 pence to well over and £1 .

Our journey to the  shop on our large retail park was in sunshine but by the time we returned we ran into rain again - it has rained here for days and it is getting very depressing.   Now I am off to finish writing my Christmas cards.  See you tomorrow.

Tuesday 1 December 2015

 For many years now I have collected hares, which are my favourite animal.   I think this goes back to my childhood in rural Lincolnshire, where hares were so common in the flatlands.   I have hare statues, hares pictures and dozens of hare cards.   These cards I keep until I have enough to make another collage, then I buy another clip frame and mount the cards.   The farmer then sighs heavily and says, 'Another nail in the wall.'   Our utility room is hung with hare pictures and I have enough for another collage when I get round to doing it.

Now, one of the best things about blogging is the nice relationships one gets with folk - I have met a few and got on well with them all (I feel this is because we are attracted to like-minded bloggers).   But there of course many more who, although we communicate almost every day, we are unlikely ever to meet.   But in a strange sort of way we still get to know one another.

Such a one is Gayle (angry parsnip/two little square black dogs) who lives in Tucson.   And just look what arrived in the post from her this morning.   Certainly this jack-rabbit has ears bigger than any hare I have got so far!   Isn't he splendid?
   So I publish him on my blog and say thank-you to Gayle for thinking of me and giving me the pleasure of a lovely surprise when I opened the mail this morning.

Monday 30 November 2015

Dark Days.

In these dark days, which seem to precede every Christmas, it is so very difficult to get motivated.   Today is a perfect example.   It is a very wet, misty day and has never really got light.   In addition it is very cold and 'cheerless'.   At my age I suppose I could be forgiven for sitting by the wood burner all day.   But that is not my way - in fact as far as I am concerned it is the 'thin end of the  wedge'.

So, after getting up in determind mood I have achieved a lot.   First of all I have done two loads of washing, tumble dried it, ironed it and got it up on the airer.   In addition I have baked Christmas cake
 number three out of four and cooked a Cottage pie for lunch, which we ate with our own broad beans from the freezer.

I am in the process of compiling another quiz for our local nature reserve so I have also finished that and am just about to print off one hundred copies.   After lunch I made myself go into town to return my library books (they are due back on Wednesday).   Really the thinking about going was worse than the actual deed - and don't you think that is true of so many tasks?

Now I have been reading your most interesting comments on my last post on rabbit shooting - what would I do without blogging I wonder - it always injects a point of interest into my day however humdrum the day turns out to be.

There is an article in today's Times about how Norwegians approach this dark time of year, how they take the whole concept of winter on board, dress accordingly, completely change their way of behaviour and embrace it fully.   Maybe we should all do the same.

Sunday 29 November 2015

Ethics of food.

There is a bit of a movement here in the UK which suggests that it is 'ethical' to eat road kill.   Now I can see that in The States and Canada, where road kill might be something like an elk then maybe this is possible (does anyone eat elk?) and it would be with a deer here in the UK.   But on our lane roadkill means hedgehogs (sadly), rabbits and pheasants and all three are usually flattened, not just killed.  

This week there was even a grey squirrel - which most people here look upon as vermin.   But on Friday our local weekly paper published a recipe for squirrel.   Apparently good butchers are now able to get them quite easily and the recipe called for a whole, skinned one.   I really do draw the line at eating squirrel (has anyone out there eaten it?) but the recipe suggested that rabbit (or bunny as the recipe said - and that is going too near the sentimental for me ever to eat it)  would make a suitable alternative.

 This brings me fairly neatly to the subject of my blog today - rabbits.   Yes, they are pretty - and seemingly harmless - creatures, but frankly they breed like - well - rabbits.   And at present our fields are full of rabbits, which keep breeding throughout the winter in all but totally icy conditions, so no let up there then.   And so far there is absolutely no sign of the cruel disease myxymatosis, which does wipe out some colonies when it strikes but to which many rabbits are now immune.

The plain fact is that ten rabbits are said to eat as much grass as one cow.   In addition to this they also dig their burrows out into the field, leaving huge piles of earth which smothers the grass.   So every now and again the farmer has to take steps to eradicate some of them.   I don't think he likes it any more than I do, but it is necessary.

So to this end a couple of young men came 'lamping' on Friday evening.   This means they come after dark with strong lamps to dazzle and mesmerise the rabbits and then they shoot them - cleanly and quickly.   I have to report that in an hour they shot forty
and since then there has been no sign of a dead or injured one in the fields so we can assume that all died quickly and humanely.  Interestingly a local butcher takes them and they sell well.

We ate rabbit - stew, pie, when I was a child and we loved it.   Sadly, I just couldn't eat it now.   They intend to come back in about a week, when the weather has settled down after the storm we are getting at the moment, and try to shoot another forty.

I'm sorry if you find this distasteful - but it is a necessary evil.

Saturday 28 November 2015

Unsolicited gifts from Charities.

If, like me, you are fed up with unsolicited gifts from various charities, especially around Christmas, please go to my yesterday's post and read the reply from Anne of The History Anorak - she works for one of these charities - who explains very clearly why such charities find it necessary to do this at Christmas.  It makes most interesting reading.

Friday 27 November 2015

Eyes versus tum.

Oh dear, there are occasions when my eyes are bigger than my tum, as my mother used to say.   Meeting this morning for our Friday morning coffee and chat, I (and several others) just couldn't resist a cheese scone.   Our usual cafe is closed today for a new floor, so we went to our usual Tuesday cafe, where without a doubt they make the best scones in Yorkshire.

I did already know that a group of us were meeting at our local Auction House Cafe for lunch (and that was only two hours later) but that didn't deter me - although it should have done.

In the cafe, where seven of us met for lunch (an old friend had come up from Oxfordshire for a few days, so it was nice to meet up) I did not feel like eating at all.   But I succumbed to a gruyere, beetroot and orange chutney panini with salad.   It was delicious.   But I now feel that I never wish to eat anything again.   I probably feel like John (Going Gently) when he has had a surfeit of Scotch Eggs.

But at least I have not succumbed to Black Friday and have given all shops a very wide berth.

Thursday 26 November 2015

The Chaser.

The last of the ladies have come in for now and we have as many as our loose housing will comfortably hold.   There they will stay until maybe a couple of weeks before their due date when they will be taken back to the Home Farm to calve.

All the cattle are inside apart from the final seven heifers who are out in the field with a good old solid Saler Bull.   All the cows and heifers on our neighbour's farm (it is a dairy farm with Holstein breed) are artificially inseminated (AI) but it is quite expensive to do and if, after a couple of tries, the fertilisation has not taken place then they are put out with the bull in the hopes that he will do the necessary.

Sadly, if that doesn't work after a couple of months then the heifer or cow is deemed to be barren and sent to market.   It is a harsh world but dairy farming is a business and the farmer can't afford to be sentimental.  So at present the neighbouring farmer lives in hopes - after all, these calves have been reared and that is an expensive business.   It is always sad if it turns out to be for nothing.

But as of today they are enjoying life out in the open with plenty of good grass still there for the eating and with a gentle giant 'chaser bull' for company.

Wednesday 25 November 2015


It was our Poetry afternoon today and ten of us met to read our favourite poems.   As always, there was a huge variety - something for everyone - and it was really a splendid afternoon.   I personally find it one of my favourite afternoons of the month.   We meet at 2pm and usually end with a cup of tea at around 4pm.   If there is no Poetry group in your area I really can recommend your starting one for like-minded folk.

Christmas preparations go ahead smoothly (so far) with all presents bought (yes, I am lazy and buy all my grandchildren vouchers).  About a third of my cards are written and stamped (I buy a book of stamps each week when I go into the post office).  Many of my cards go to friends who I haven't seen for years, so letters go in them and they take some time, but the bonus comes when I receive a letter from them.

I make four cakes and two are now finished - both of them using glace fruits only.   I shall make a third one tomorrow morning - a more conventional one - then it will just be one more to go.

I really quite enjoy this run up to Christmas because puddings and cakes make the house smell so nice and spicy.   But what I would do without Delia's Christmas Recipe Book I really don't know.

Tuesday 24 November 2015


There seems to me to be a phenomenon whereby even if the temperature rises on the thermometer it still feels colder.   After several days when there was a frost, today the temperature was eight degrees when I awoke and it has stayed around that mark; and yet, because it is damp and rather miserable, it feels so much colder.   This tends to suggest that how cold one feels is all in the mind.

It is the dampness which makes the cold feel as though it has got through to the bones.   I really think I could do with borrowing Cro's hat (if you haven't seen it do go to Magnon's Meanderings - I think he looks rather handsome in it).

Today, to my absolute joy, the long-tailed tits have arrived on the fat balls.   They come every Winter and if other years are anything to go by then once they have found them they do tend to visit every day.  Blackbirds are also arriving in large numbers so I have begun scattering crumbs for them.   They also love suet.   One of the pleasures of Winter is the bird life round here.

Keep warm wherever you are.

Monday 23 November 2015

Winter Landscapes.

Yesterday afternoon, with a bitterly cold wind blowing, we braved the weather to drive the twelve miles or so to Thorpe Perrow Arboretum in order to buy a season ticket for a Christmas Present.
It really was the most beautiful afternoon and I took photographs of the journey back.

I love winter landscapes with bare trees - and yesterday's journey was a joy.   So enjoy looking at the countryside around our area.

The top photograph is of my favourite farm.   It may not look anything special in the photograph,  But you should see the view!

They've arrived.

The first lot of 'pregnant ladies' arrived into the loose housing this afternoon and have settled in well.   They walked over the fields and came into the bottom of the yard, making their stately way up into their shed for winter (well until their due date).  More will come in the days to follow.   I love it when they are here and I can take things like brussels sprout trimmings and potato peelings down for them.  Anything a little big different is relished - just like pregnant humans I suppose.

What made us laugh is that the hens all came up to have a look what was going on and stood about in the silage shed.   It was freezing cold but they didn't want to miss anything.

Sunday 22 November 2015

A mere trifle.

Several people have once again requested the recipe for a proper English Trifle.    It is a good standby - I made one yesterday for my grandchildren coming.   So here is the recipe again in the run-up to Christmas.   And please - in the interests of continuing to keep such things pure to their origins - do NOT add jelly.

In the bottom of a really pretty glass dish layer either sponge cake, trifle fingers or (at a push) sandwich or even Madeira cake.   Here in the UK you can actually buy Trifle Sponges .   Cover them
 liberally with enough sherry to really soak in. and leave for a couple of hours.    Next add a layer of fruit.   I usually use raspberries (we grow them in the garden and there are plenty in the freezer) - black cherries are a good alternative but if using tinned cherries then drain well or you will dilute the sherry (and you wouldn't want to do that would you?)   Next comes a layer of 'ordinary' custard - either make it with eggs and full cream milk, or be lazy and make it with custard powder (but always full cream milk).   When it has cooled you can put in a layer of amaretti biscuits.   Finally cover with whipped double cream - don't whip too much - you need it thick enough to hold its shape but don't overdo it.   Then it needs a chill in the fridge until about an hour before serving, when bring it out so that it reaches room temperature.   Enjoy.

Saturday 21 November 2015

While the cat's away...

Yes, two mice, Friend W and I, treated ourselves out to lunch today as the farmer was out with his shooting syndicate.   The weather is very cold, but sunny and clear with a sharp wind blowing.

We went into our little market town, had a look round one or two Christmas displays, decided there was absolutely nothing we needed in the way of decorations (which we bring out for just a few days each year and then put away again).

I left home, leaving behind me a strange beeping noise, which I just couldn't locate.   I returned after a jolly good lunch of scampi, chips and peas - something I would never cook at home as the farmer will not eat any kind of sea food - and the beeping was still going strong.  Of course, the farmer located it in all of a minute when he came in from shooting - it was an indication from the smoke alarm that the battery was running out.

Trifle made ready for my grandchildren visiting tonight, almost time for Strictly Come Dancing from Blackpool's Tower Ballroom - a venue I knew well in my teenage years - and just about room in my stomach for a small helping of trifle after that scampi.

Thursday 19 November 2015

Our local 'fancy goods' shop has dressed its windows for Christmas.  Yesterday afternoon friend W and I went in to have a look at the special things they have in for Christmas (and to have a coffee in their lovely cafe upstairs - and to resist the cake).

It is a bit early to put on such a display but when I complimented the lady on her window displays she said they had specially done them early before a lot of the attractive stuff had been sold.   It is easy to get things out of the window so there is no problem. 

It has certainly made our little town look festive.   Inside the shop one of the attractive features is that they have a lot of glassware and crystal and these displays have been fitted with small lights which reflect around the shop.

We certainly came home full of the Christmas spirit.   Then I unwrapped the puds I had made and steamed overnight.   They seem to have shrunk a bit and I am not altogether happy with them, so I am now off into town to buy another small bottle of rum and a small white loaf for more breadcrumbs and then I shall make one more large pudding for our Boxing Day gathering.   The farmer and I might cheat by eating one of these smaller puddings before the big day.  There is always advantage to be gained from adversity if you know where to look.

Wednesday 18 November 2015


, Today sees the delivery of the straw for winter housing for the in- calf heifers and cows belonging to our friend and neighbouring farmer A.   At present the beast are still out in the fields but this week has seen a lot of rain and the fields are now wet and muddy, so although it is better for cattle to stay out for as long as possible,  it really is time they came in.   Hence the urgent delivery of straw for bedding.

The straw is coming from Bedale, which is about twelve miles away, and the first load set off in sunny weather.   But as the tractor and trailer turned into our farm the heavens opened and there was what can only be described as a 'cloud burst'.   I had my camera all ready to walk down the yard and take a photograph for you - but no way could I go out in that downpour, so I put on an anorak, nipped quickly to the edge of the patio and took one of the back view of the trailer.   I think you can get the general idea of the weather from the photograph.

Within about ten minutes it had stopped but not before the water had run off the tops and down the side of the field opposite flooding it yet again.   I took a photograph from the landing window of that.   The trouble with living at the foot of hills is that every rain storm produces more and more water.   Luckily it drains off quite quickly.   This afternoon the farmer intended to bed the housing down with straw ready for the ladies to arrive.   Instead he will spend much of the afternoon trying to brush the water out of the housing.

Tuesday 17 November 2015

Come on everyone.

Come on everyone, think 'cheerful' - think Christmas.   This afternoon I have made my Christmas puddings for this year - one for us, one for my son and his wife, one for friend G and one for my daughter in law's Mum.   Here is a photograph (not a very good one - sorry).

Please, let's all hope for happier times ahead - let's all have a virtual lucky stir of the pudding mixture before I steam it up in the morning.   Wish you could smell the Highland Park from here.

Monday 16 November 2015


David of Rambling by Nature (there doesn't seem to be a way of leaving a comment on his blog, it just suggests entry by Twitter) lives somewhere between the North York Moors and the Yorkshire Wolds - both very beautiful areas here in Yorkshire.   He speaks of wonderful wildlife there but says he still hasn't seen any Fieldfares yet.

When the farmer came in at lunchtime he said our fields here on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales were full of fieldfares this morning.   They were not after the hawthorn berries - indeed there are none left to forage for, they have eaten them all, or dropped them on the grass, where they do not seem to go down and pick them up.   No, these fieldfares were all in the grass and seemed to be searching for grubs of some sort.

Fieldfares are in the Thrush family of birds and visit us here on the farm every Winter, where they seem such wild birds.   And yet we have sat on a bench in a park in Norway and thrown crumbs from our sandwiches to a fieldfare pecking around our feet.   How differently they seemed to behave there.

We get such pleasure from the birds which visit our bird table and I am afraid we spend an awful lot of money on bird food.  But we justify it by saying that we don't go out all that often so we pay to watch the birds instead.  What do we feed them? 

All of the tit family love the fat balls, the sunflower hearts and the coconut (we buy one and the farmer saws it in half and hangs it in the rowan tree).   The robin adores the meal worms.  The woodpeckers love peanuts, mixed seed and the coconut.  The greenfinches love niger seed.  The blackbird loves a hunk of old cheese on the table itself.  All the other birds eat a variety of things and many of them - chaffinches in particular - prefer to be ground eaters, as do the collared doves.  We get a large number of pheasants and the farmer scatters corn for them to eat.

Harsh weather - maybe even snow showers - is forecast for the weekend.   Who knows what we shall get in then.    It is always exciting to watch and wait.

Sunday 15 November 2015

So far, so good.

Up to now (10.33) we have been fairly lucky with the expected weather.    There has been a lot of rain over night and the field opposite is flooded, but now, although it looks very stormy and the wind is blowing a gale, the sun keeps pushing through the big black clouds.   So we are hoping the worst is over.   About five or six years ago our village flooded very badly and several of my friends had their houses badly under water - we just hope that this doesn't happen again.

I think we are all stunned by the happenings in Paris on Friday evening; to think that while the farmer and I were watching the beautiful photographs such carnage was taking place relatively near at hand.   And of course, the venues chosen were where young    people gather in the main, just as the perpetrators were themselves young men.  There is a circle of death and destruction which just goes on and on and gets bigger and bigger.   Bombs rain down on beautiful cities like Aleppo, which is now no more than a shell; its people flee and  create a huge tide of refugees fleeing to countries of which they really know so little and to a climate which is so different from their own.   Those tiny terrified faces of the children haunt me sometimes in the night.  One feels helpless.   One side creates mayhem so the other side creates bigger mayhem.   Where will it all end?


Saturday 14 November 2015

A Pleasant evening.

The farmer and I went out last evening, a few miles down the road to an event for our local Nature Reserve.   It was called 'Light and Inspiration' and was an audio visual presentation of photographs from Iceland, UK, Scottish Isles, Italy, Canada and the Serengeti in Africa.   The photographs were stunning and the audience of almost 120 were receptive.   The presentation was followed by a curry supper.   We met charming people and had a thoroughly enjoyable evening.***

What a shame when upon returning home we began to hear the dreadful news from Paris - news which got worse overnight.   I suspect, because of the venues, that most of the people involved were young people just starting out on their lives; I also expect that they were from various religions, including muslims.

The violence and slaughter in the world gets worse by the day and for us, innocent folk who stand by, there is nothing we can do about it, which certainly makes me feel helpless. 

***To view some of the photographs we saw in the presentation go to it is well worth a look.

Friday 13 November 2015

Contrary weather.

The weather is really contrary today.   One minute it is blowing a gale and pouring with rain; a couple of minutes later and the sun is shining and the wind has dropped to little more than a breeze.   So far we have had well under an inch of rain, which is bearable.   But the forecast for tomorrow is for more of the same, so the farmer has decided not to walk with his winter walking group.   It will be wet and slippery underfoot apart from anything it might be throwing down from the sky.

  Last night I watch Ben Fogle on Channel 5 with a couple and their children, who had opted out and were living in Devon on a smallholding.   I found it fascinating but the farmer fell asleep after the first ten minutes.   I have given him stern warnings about what will happen if he does that when we next go out.
These warnings included creeping out, driving home in the car and leaving him stranded (he knows I won't do this as I hate driving in the dark and am really very dangerous trying to do so).

I can't help wondering what the weather is doing further North and West - conditions were expected to be very bad.   Certainly I have heard reports that our rivers are well up on yesterday here in the Dales.   Luckily we have only a short distance to travel into our little market town and no river near, so at least we can go that far.   Any futher and, if the rivers rise further, we shall be curtailed.

Thursday 12 November 2015


Having just listened to the week-end weather forecast I feel like drawing the curtains, lighting the wood-burning stove, cooking a large pan of soup and hunkering down.

I am not sure that 'naming' this year's storms is a good idea.   Somehow just saying that a stormy week-end is in store for us doesn't sound as bad as saying that 'Abigail' is on her way over the Atlantic and is set to wreak havoc across the North West - the further North the worse it is set to get - with up to six inches of rain forecast for some areas.

We live on the Eastern side of the Pennines, so in theory should miss the very worst of it, but we shall have to wait and see.   The farmer is abandoning his plans to walk on Saturday (I had planned to go out to lunch with friend W - and he insists he wants me to do this and he is happy to 'cope' on his own, so I shall take him up on that.)

You will see that I have put our local river, the Ure, on as my header as well as on the post below.   If the forecast is as bad as it says it is going to be then the Ure will flood much more than this and York will end up with major flooding.   I suppose it is the price we pay for living in such beautiful countryside with its hills, its dales, its becks and its rivers - you can't have one without the other.

The farmer is hurriedly cleaning out the loose housing, shovelling up the manure from last year with his large shovel on the front of his tractor.   He has borrowed a massive tipping trailer from our friend and neighbouring farmer G and this afternoon has taken six trailer loads out into the field to make a long heap, where it will be left for the rest of the winter to rot down and mature.

By the beginning of next week the dry straw 'bed' will be down ready for in calf cows and heifers to arrive.   If the fields are really wet  then farmer A will want them off the grass and into warm and dry conditions to avoid foot problems.

If you live in the West of the UK then keep warm and dry and look forward to next week when it is set to improve a little.

Tuesday 10 November 2015


It is still windy here this morning.   As I am sure you remember from previous years, we have a huge rookery about half a mile further down the Lane and this time of the year, when the dawn coincides with my sitting up in bed drinking my morning cup of tea, I see thousands of them pass the window.   Sometimes, depending upon the direction of the wind, they pass over the house rather than past the front windows, but this morning, with a strong West wind blowing, they were almost hitting the window in their frenzy to get to their feeding grounds (ploughed fields, grass fields,
anywhere where there are easy pickings).   They pass in a huge  wave which takes about a quarter of an hour to pass, and this morning the wind was so strong that it kept blowing them back - they were flying directly into it, so that they were swirl past, then swirl round and have another go.   And it did strike me forcibly that their wings must have incredible strength.   Correct me if I am wrong (and I am sure somebody will) but surely the larger the bird the greater the wind resistance.  They were really struggling.   No wonder they are such strong birds.

On a totally different subject - but still about the countryside - friend W has lent me a book - 'The Shepherd's Life - A Tale of the Lake District' by James Rebanks.   It is unputdownable and should be compulsory reading for all school teachers who belittle children who wish to go into following their fathers into a farming life rather than going out into the wide world and 'making something of themselves'.  Also, for the information it gives about farming sheep in this upland country.   We live in the Yorkshire Dales but on the high ground life is much the same as the Lake District - the only difference being that the predominant sheep is the Swaledale and not the Herdwick.   Do read it if you get a chance.

And on the subject of yesterday's blog about the weather - the river Ure did come up and cut off several people who had to be rescued from their cars (in Aysgarth and in Appersett) and apparently by this morning the Ouse in York, where all our water eventually goes, is eleven feet above normal.  At present the wind has abated a little and it is not raining. 

We have just crossed the River Ure at Ulshaw bridge on our way to the Feed Merchant at Masham and the farmer stopped so that I could take a couple of photographs of the Ure in flood for you to see.

Monday 9 November 2015

The West Wind and the Rain.

There is one combination here in the Yorkshire Dales which is lethal as far as the weather is concerned.   That combination is heavy rain and a strong wind (Abigail) blowing from the West.   Here it has been a blustery day with periods of sun and periods of rain, but higher up the dale, on the tops, it has been continuous rain (over two inches today) and that has led, as it always does, to serious flooding of the River Ure.    The Ure, usually a gentle, peaceful river, is fed by dozens of streams, becks, gills (call them what you will) which cascade over the fells to join the main river.   By tonight it is well over in those places which local know will cause problems and many road are impassable.   Hawes, which is fifteen miles West of our farm, has serious flooding all round it and will have to sit it out until the water goes down (few, if any, of the cottages and farms are affected - the Ure has always done this since time immemorial, so all building has been built to take this into consideration.)

Friend W and I went to Teeside Park shopping centre this afternoon to buy our turkey crowns from Marks and Spencer - they are frozen and we took our cool bags and transferred the turkeys to our freezers on our return.  (we do this every year and I can thoroughly recommend them).   By the time we reached the A1, about six miles to the East of our village, the wind had dropped and the rain had stopped.   On our return we collected both wind and rain in the same place.  It had rained and blown here all afternoon.   That, in a hilly area, at this height is the nature of the weather, Abigail or no Abigail.

Sunday 8 November 2015


To say that it has been wet here is a bit of an understatement.   Yesterday we had an inch of rain and although it was lovely and sunny first thing this morning we have already had one heavy downpour and it looks a bit stormy again.   'Abigail' is due to hit us later tonight, although it is going to be worse further North.

The farmer took my camera with him on his morning walk with Tess and took these photographs of fungi growing under the trees.  Just the time of year for them:

Saturday 7 November 2015

Stormy weather.

The good news is that at last the awful fog has gone.   The bad news is that it has been pouring with rain and a gale is blowing up as I write.   It is forecast to get more and more blowy over the next twenty four hours and our weather forecasters in their wisdom have decided to adopt the American habit of calling our winter storms by names - starting with A - so this is Abigail on its way.

The first Saturday in the month means only one thing here in this Yorkshire Dales village - the monthly Church Coffee Morning.   Considering how heavily it was raining and what a positively awful morning it was the fact that there were forty villagers there was good.. 

People work so hard for it.   I was able to buy two beef lasagnes for £2.50 each, baked by A, who makes delicious lasagne (either turkey or beef) and two pies, baked by another A - one beef and onion and one chicken.   Again the price was £2.50 each - so four lunches for £10 can't be bad.  We had the beef pie for lunch and it was delicious with new potatoes and broad beans from our freezer (grown earlier in the year in our garden).

The other good thing about the morning is that villagers come along who I would never see were it not for this meeting.   I spoke to E, to another E and to L - all nice long chats about this and that.
I sat, as usual, with friend W - and we can chat until the cows come home!

.Then along came A (she of the lasagne) and we chatted about her grand=daughter, who has a tea shop in our little town.   What an enterprising young lady.   On bonfire night she had the foresight to open up her cafe and serve jacket potatoes with various fillings and hot chocolate to folk watching the bonfire.   She did a roaring trade - and so she deserved to with such enterprise!

Home again in time to cook lunch.   By this time the pouring rain had stopped and a glishy sun had come out.   Now at almost four in the afternoon it is beginning to get dark.   All those bonfires scheduled to be lit tonight (round here at any rate) will be soaking wet and will take a bit of getting going I would think.

As for the farmer and I - we will light the wood burner in a minute, eat tea on our knees in front of it and then watch Strictly Come Dancing - pure indulgence, but why not.   Isn't that what life is all about?

Friday 6 November 2015

Thoughts from the local Auction Mart.

Sitting in the car waiting for the farmer at lunch time after my morning creating mayhem in our local coffee bar where we all meet for coffee and do make rather a noise (I thought we were quieter than usual this morning); I do a bit of shopping and then walk back to the Mart and sit and wait for the farmer.  Two things struck me forcibly as I sat there.

The first of these is that farmers are not known for their sartorial elegance.   All shirts are check and mostly bought from the same agricultural merchants, so that the wearers almost look institutionalised.   Everyone wears a cap - and the caps are in various states of dilapidation.  (my farmer has four caps - one for best and then deteriorating downwards until rock bottom is reached with number four).

And secondly - that you can tell a farmer by his walk.   Without exception they drive into the Mart Car Park, usually in four tracks or pick-ups, which are almost always covered in mud from their stock yards (or worse), they step out and walk towards the Auction Ring - no - correction - roll towards the Auction Ring, because all the farmers I saw this morning walked with a rolling gait, caused I suspect by living more or less all year round in wellington boots.

I haven't painted a very attractive picture have I?   Who would possibly be keen to marry a farmer after that description?   Well I would for one - and I have never for one moment regretted it!

Thursday 5 November 2015

All gone.

Earlier this week the very last of the beef cattle we have for the Summer went home.

Our farm, now that the farmer is semi-retired, is basically divided into three parts.   One part, Summer grass, is rented out to our neighbouring dairy farmer from April to October; another part, pasture, is rented out to our neighbouring beef cattle farmer and the third part we keep for silage, both to sell (first crop) and to keep for winter (second crop) when we house dairy cattle in calf for our neighbour. (and feed them)

Now apart from some sheep which we over-winter, all our fields are empty of stock.   The farmer is pleased about this because the land is very wet at the moment after days of thick, damp fog.   Some of the grass is very long and you could be forgiven for thinking it is a shame that the beast have not been able to eat if off before they go inside for the winter.   But the fact is that at this time of the year, although the grass grows well, there is very little nutriment in the grass and cattle left in the fields eating just grass begin to lose condition.

So there we are.  Empty fields.   Now next week the farmer can hire a very large 'muck spreader' for the day and empty the well rotted manure from our loose housing and make a heap in one of the vacated fields.  Then he will fill the loose housing with deep straw, clean out the water trough and get the whole place all ready for the day when our neighbour announces that he has some pregnant dairy cows ready to come in.

And so the cycle of the farming year goes on.

Wednesday 4 November 2015

You have to laugh.

Getting old is no joke.   Of course we all begin to age the day we are born, but arriving at  'real' old age sort of creeps up on one.  I don't think anyone really anticipates it until it happens - and it doesn't seem to happen overnight.

When it arrives you have to welcome it (let's face it the alternative is worse)with a smile.   In fact today I welcomed it with a belly laugh once the whole episode was over.  I thought I would share the episode with you.

I went into town (yes, you are quite right, it was for another coffee and cheese scone meeting) a quarter of an hour late and found that most of the Parking spaces in the market square were taken.  There seemed to be one left and the cars parked either side had parked right up to the lines, so that the space was quite narrow.

I managed to squeeze in and opened the door to get out.  I couldn't open the door quite far enough because of the next door car door.   I got my feet out and on to the cobbles, twisted my body round on the driver's seat and levered myself up.   But I couldn't get one leg in front of the other and found it impossible to get out.

 Then I decided to get back in, sit down, pull my legs in and back out to find another space.   I sat down but I couldn't get my legs back in.   I pushed and heaved and leaned heavily on the dashboard - leaned on something which started up Radio 1 at the top volume - it shook the roof of the car!!!   I didn't know how to switch the darn thing off because I hadn't known how I had switched it on in the first place.   I couldn't close the car door because I couldn't get my legs in, so Radio 1 reverberated throughout the Market Square (at Volume 24).

I pressed all manner of buttons, switches and twiddly things until finally, after several minutes, I hit the one that turned the Volume back to 0, so at least there was silence.

By golly, I soon managed to get my legs back in after that I'll tell you.   And when I got home the farmer didn't know how to turn the darned thing off either (we had a new car in February) and had to twiddle for a while before he hit the right button.

I am sure you'll agree - you have to laugh don't you?


Tuesday 3 November 2015

Hiding one's head in the sand.

I have really got so tired of seeing the News these days and reading the National Newspapers, that I feel like no longer reading or listening to any of the news.   All my life I have tried to take an interest in current affairs; if somewhere in the world is mentioned and I don't know where it is, I have a World Atlas by the side of my chair so that I can look it up instantly.   But suddenly I find every piece of news so appalling and I feel so helpless to do anything about it that I really no longer want to hear it.   Is this cowardly?   Should I listen although I can do nothing to help?   Should I put myself through the pain and sleepless nights after seeing refugees fleeing from war-torn countries, small children with real terror in their faces being carried in rickety boats across the Mediterranean Sea to land on islands where they are seen almost as a nuisance by everyone, where no-one really wants them in spite of their own countries being destroyed, their lives in ruins, their fear of death - or worse -?

And should I then read of the millions of pounds about which we know nothing - the football scandal, the huge sums of money paid to people like footballers (is anyone really worth £250,000 a week?), the bonuses paid in big business, the VW scandal?   Does any of it make sense to you?   Is it best ignored or should we listen and learn what we can - and still be helpless to do anything about it? Or should we put it out of our minds and go about minding our own business and no-one else's?  That's the dilemma.  

Monday 2 November 2015


One of the features of our weather round here is that we do tend to get rather a lot of fog.   And when that fog comes it can be very localised.   Today it is very foggy on the farm - that cold, clinging kind of fog - and yet two or three miles away the sun is shining.   Our friend and neighbour G has been into Middleham, the race horse town, which is about five miles away, and it is a bright sunny day there.   But as it is now after two in the afternoon I don't think it will ever get really light here and the sun will not shine for us.

I don't think anything fetches the leaves off the trees like fog does.  It seems to cling to them, making them heavy.   The ground everywhere is covered with yellow, green. orange and brown leaves (particularly where there are sycamores) and they really are putting a show on this year.

I was intending to drive up to the Supermarket this afternoon so that in addition to my weekly order I could also look at and buy the dried fruit for my four Christmas cakes.   But the weather is too awful, so my order has just gone on line and the dried fruit can wait.

I am not quite back to normal after my visitor as I spent too much time on my feet and my wretched ankle is very painful and I am having to sit with my foot up as much as possible - a perfect excuse to read one of my birthday presents (from friend G), Bill Bryson's latest book "The Road to Little Dribbling."

Sunday 1 November 2015

Post birthday.

I am getting back to normal today.   My niece has gone back home to near Derby, driving part of the way through thick fog and part through sunshine and then getting home to a dull, damp day.   She has just rung me to say she is back home.

Yesterday I had a really lovely birthday with lots of cards, e cards and e mails - three deliveries of beautiful flowers - sixteen cards through the post and quite a few visitors too.

Today I am busy organising meals for the farmer and me from left overs, changing and washing the bedding on one of the spare beds and putting on a quick blog.   So here it is.

I thought you might like to see photographs of two of my presents which are so artistic and so beautiful.   Unfortunately the stained glass panel has not photographed well but the vase has come out first class.

So now I shall go and sit wearing the jumper the farmer bought me  and reading the latest Bill Bryson book, bought me by  friend G.

See you tomorrow.

Thursday 29 October 2015

What a difference a day makes.

The last two days here have been damp and foggy; even the birds stayed away from the bird table (I think they are afraid of the Sparrowhawk when that sort of weather descends).    Now, today, after a morning of heavy rain, which has cleared away the vestiges of the fog, the sky has patches of blue, there is a breeze and now and again the sun comes out.    So much better weather.

My visitor has just rung to say that she is running late and will not be with me for another two hours.   As I am all ready for her arrival I have a couple of hours to myself.   The farmer has lit the  multi fuel stove early for me and I have a good book, so I shall go and sit by the fire and relax.

If you have not read Ian McEwen's latest book 'The Children Act'
do try and get hold of it - it is excellent.  He is such a brilliant writer.