Wednesday 30 September 2015


I must say that an hour of exercise for the over sixties this afternoon has left me pretty exhausted.   Half an hour is exercise for the brain and the upper body - lovely but needs a lot of concentration.  The other half is on our feet with a lot of walking up an down and sideways in time to music - again brain exercise but also exhausting.

I left and went into town to post an important letter and also to buy the thing I forgot on my shopping list - rich tea biscuits - not only a bedtime essential for the farmer but also half of one for Tess.

Now back home on a lovely afternoon and I have just entered today's cattle movement on to the Government site.   Because I only do this four times a year I always forget how to do it, which is rather annoying, but today I remembered quite quickly and it was done in no time.

I have a visitor for lunch tomorrow so cooked carrot and sweet potato soup in advance this morning; now all I have left to make in the morning is a blackberry and apple crumble.  The pressure is off.

Bake off semi final tonight - I wonder who will win.  Tonight is all based on chocolate and as I really don't particularly like chocolate I won't be drooling watching the programme.

Tuesday 29 September 2015

Food for free.

I think I can say with certainty thank goodness, that nobody who reads this blog is so poor that they cannot put food on their table.   And yet I think I can also say that there is something quite exciting about any food we get for free.

Today we had mushrooms on toast for tea with yet another crop of field mushrooms.   They taste altogether different from the bought variety and they were delicious.   

On Thursday the farmer's niece is coming to lunch and I shall make a blackberry and apple crumble - the blackberries being wild ones from the hedges in our own fields (the farmer picked about twelve pounds in all this year).   As for the apples, well here is the story.

Before the farmer's mother passed away someone bought for her an espallier apple tree which she had planted along the wall in the front garden.   But as she aged and could no longer garden, it began to run wild and was not pruned.   By the time I came along and took over the garden it was a complete mess, so the farmer decided to  saw it off almost at ground level, which he did.

Over the past few years it has grown one long, straight 'trunk' and this year it actually looks like a young apple tree.   What a surprise when it produced eight large cooking apples.  I shall be using the last of these in that crumble.

There is nowhere in the world (well, maybe New England) where Autumn is so perfect on a good day as it is here in the UK.   And this week has just been a succession of such days.   Warm sunshine, slight haze and hints of colours to come in the turning leaves.

Today friend W and I went for a spot of retail therapy - friend W found little to buy, I found trousers and a warm sweater.   But we had a lovely journey (W is a jolly good, confident driver and a pleasure to drive with) and a lovely cup of coffee in the M and S cafe afterwards.

Now I am sitting here enjoying a beautiful sunset through the hall window as I type this.   It can't be bad can it?  And outside the window, in the paddock, the last of the sun's rays are falling on the remaining red apples on another apple tree.  Nobody knows where it came from but it is certainly quite a sight.  Tomorrow I shall go out and try one of the apples to see if they taste as good as they look.

Sunday 27 September 2015


Sunday lunch as I promised:   the best garlic mushrooms I have ever tasted.  Then fish pie with salmon, haddock and prawns.  Ate too much so no dessert, just coffee and a chocolate.

The farmer meanwhile, much more healthily, climbed Penn Hill in Wensleydale with seven friends, so I leave you with a lot of photographs which he took.   The weather was glorious, the sky clear.  I hope it stays that way for the eclipse tonight.   If you look in the distance of one of the photographs you will see Bolton Hall - the home of Lord Bolton (Orde-Powlett) and splendid building on the banks of the River Ure.   Enjoy.

The stone 'plinth' on the topmost point is where the beacon is lit for special occasions (like The Millennium).   Aren't we lucky to live in such a beautiful place?

Saturday 26 September 2015

streaming colds.

Last Saturday we had our Winter flu jabs and four days later the farmer went down with an absolute streaming cold.  Probably there is no  connection between the two events but he has had a couple of days of heavy head cold although he has felt fine.   So far I haven't caught it but I am  taking Lemsip and having a hot toddy at bedtime to ward it off (well that's my excuse).   Today he is almost back to normal - most of his day has been taken up with sweeping up pine cones and needles on the drive.  This is a never ending job but if he doesn't keep doing it they fill the gutters round the house and they also paddle into the house, especially when the weather is damp.

Tomorrow is the last walk of the season for him and the group intend to climb Penn Hill, our local high point.   The leader last did it when he was sixty and wants to do it again tomorrow now that he is seventy.   As good a reason as any.

I shall be out to lunch (surprise, surprise) with three friends.   Tomorrow we are going to The Friar's Head at Akebar, which is not far away and does delicious meals.   If the menu is particularly good I will make your mouths water tomorrow.

There is no doubt about the season now is there?   Pleasant weather here and quite warm, but the mornings are chilly and tonight the forecast is for the temperature to drop to 1 degree.   We are having a good crop of runner beans but any frost will bring them to an abrupt end.   It has been a really good year in the garden though and my 'garden freezer ' is crammed to bursting with gooseberries, raspberries, peas, broad beans and runner beans.

On the hen front the new pullets are beginning to lay with two of them laying - and laying in the nest box.   Interestingly, they stay out in the run until the farmer goes down to shut them in at night and when he goes to let them out in the morning they are clustered round the entrance waiting for him to open the door.   It will soon be time to let them become free range, so that they can peck about in the fields, but the last lot were very difficult to get in at night, preferring to fly up onto the top of the straw bale stack and spend the night up there.    We shall see.

Friday 25 September 2015

I doesn't hurt to say 'thank-you'.

Sometimes it is necessary to complain about something.  Sometimes it is something 'big' and sometimes it is something that with hindsight we see as 'trivia'.  But nevertheless we seem to find no difficulty in registering our complaint, either on line or by telephone or even in person.

I thought about this yesterday when something quite remarkable happened.   At 11.30 on Wednesday morning I decided to order two Winter sweaters from Woolovers. (if you haven't dealt with this excellent firm do have a look at their website) and I rang their order line.   It was answered by a charming young man who took my order promptly and efficiently, made sure he had all the information he required, said he hoped I would like the sweaters when they arrived - and we parted company.)

Yesterday morning, (Thursday), less than twenty-four hours later the two sweaters were delivered by the postman to my doorstep.   I tried them on, they fitted perfectly, I liked them and their colours, (one deep pink and one blue/green) were really lovely.   No complaints there then.

I thought about how easy we find it (or maybe that should be I) to complain - and I decided to send the company an e mail along these lines:

The two sweaters I ordered less than twenty four hours ago have arrived, delivered to my doorstep by the postman.   They fit perfectly, I love the colours and the feel of the material (a mixture of cashmere and lambswool).   The young man who took my order was charming, helpful and cheerful and I would like all of you in the office to know how much I value the service I received.  Please pass this message round - a thank-you to you all for a job well done.

I had a thank-you e mail this morning saying how much they appreciated my e mail.   Sometimes it is a good thing to say well done.   I shall do it more often in the future..

Still in cheerful mode, as I write this we have had a visit from a grey squirrel, who inspected our bird table, had a nibble at the peanuts and then scooted up one of the Scots pines out of the way.  That is the first grey squirrel I have seen in the garden - I do hope he is a regular visitor.



Thursday 24 September 2015

Honest, trustworthy politicians.

Or is this a contradiction in terms?

Friends who live in America came for coffee this morning and we got to talking about politics.  About the sad demise of the Liberal Party, about Jeremy Corbyn and the absolute certainty that he could never be contemplated as P M (can YOU imagine him charge in a real war/peace crisis without Trident?) and the Conservative Party and the 'they don't make them like Churchill any more'.

And then we talked about American politics and the run up to the Presidential election and how unimaginable amounts of money were spent by some of the candidates on their campaign.

And we asked ourselves - what motivates individuals to go into politics?  Are any of their motives altruistic?

There are times - and this is one of them - when I despair of the world and the way it is going; when I look at the whole of the Middle East in turmoil, with thousands dying and thousands more on the move to countries which don't really want them;  when we have lost the true values of a good life and I really am quite pleased that I am old (ish) and won't live to see the eventual outcome of it all.

End of dismal post.   Sorry - it is a breezy day outside with bright sunshine and sharp showers so I can't blame the weather.


Wednesday 23 September 2015


It was our monthly Poetry meeting today in friend W's conservatory.   Friend S always calls for me and today she had her two black labs in the car - kind soul that she is, her partner was out and she didn't want to leave them at home, so they lay in the back of the car quite happily.

Today there were only seven of us but the poetry we read was so enjoyable - S read all Seamus Heaney, always a joy to listen to; we had Philip Larkin, John Betjamen, Pam Ayres and many more and then a lovely chat between poems.   It really is the most civilised afternoon and we are all so grateful for friend W's hospitality.

It is the Quarter finals of Bake Off tonight.  It is one of the few programmes to which the farmer and I are addicted (New Tricks is another) and tonight with its cream horns and creme patisserie sounds suitably complicated.  How they manage to talk to the camera at the same time as they are baking these complicated recipes I just cannot imagine.

Friends from America (Boston and Washington) are calling for coffee in the morning, so I shall have to be up with the lark.   Time now to go and empty the dishwasher.   See you tomorrow.

Tuesday 22 September 2015

A Pleasant Day.

It is a lovely Autumn day today - when the weather is right then I really think that Autumn is the best season of all.  Sunshine, pretty clouds and a light breeze - what more could anyone want.

The farmer has picked me so many blackberries that the freezer has a complete drawer full - that means lots of blackberry and apple crumbles in the Winter - can't be bad can it?

Into town this morning as usual - lots of jobs to do - bank to call in to; newspaper bill to pay (it is £15 a week, so I try never to forget it, because £30 is a great blow to my housekeeping finances!);  my old age pension to collect from the Post Office (I know, I could have it paid into my bank account directly but there is something rather nice about having a separate account and actually getting the cash 'over the counter' as it were;) and last - but by no means least - meeting friends.   Friend W was off on another errand today so friend C and I had a pot of Earl Grey with our cheese scones in the usual cafe,and sat and watched the world go by for an hour.

Everywhere is beginning to quieten down for Winter here.   The schools are back and the caravan sites are beginning to empty of their caravans and there is much more space in the car park.   I don't suppose our traders are so happy but I am sure the residents are.

Now I am going to spend the afternoon completing a job I have been putting off.   Three or four times a year I produce a cryptic quiz and print off a hundred copies.   These are sold (mostly by a friend or by the place itself) for Foxglove Covert Nature Reserve and probably bring in about three hundred pounds a year towards their much needed funds.  So off to get my brain into cryptic gear.

Monday 21 September 2015

Goodbye Nancy

I belong to an over-sixty exercise class which meets each Wednesday afternoon for an hour's gentle (well - fairly gentle) exercise.   Ever since I started going the class has followed the same pattern.

We meet at 1.30pm and we do sitting exercises for forty minutes, then standing and moving exercises for the last twenty minutes.   After that we have a cup of tea.   If it is anyone's birthday we often have a special cake - last week it was one lady's ninetieth and we had a lovely hedgehog cake and sat out in the sunshine to eat it.

But up until quite recently we always had cake with our cup of tea because Nancy, one of the long-standing members, always but always baked cake specially.   Sometimes it would be something like a lemon drizzle cake or a chocolate cake, other times it would be fancy cup cakes with icing.   We never knew until she took the lid off the box what would be forthcoming.   Without exception those cakes were delicious.

Now, sadly, Nancy has died and this morning quite a few of us went to her funeral, held in the Methodist Church in our local market town.   We shall always remember her with a great deal of pleasure - she was always quiet, unassuming and gentle.   And she made jolly good cakes.

We are not the only ones who will miss her.   For some years she has worked tirelessly for Blue Cross Dog Rescue - both adopting dogs and walking them daily and also raising money for the charity.  There was a plate in church to collect money for them.
Such a kind lady - she will be much missed.

Sunday 20 September 2015

Away over the watershed.

Today we met my god-daughter and her husband for lunch at The Kings Head in the village of Ravenstonedale in Cumbria.   This involves driving through Hawes, up into Cumbria along the side of the Carlisle to Settle railway and then down into the village.   It is a delightful journey.   I took a couple of photographs in Hawes - one of the lovely hanging baskets -apparently when the Tour of Yorkshire cycle race went through last year residents paid for a firm to do all these hanging baskets using a lot of yellow flowers.   They looked so lovely that most people have paid the same firm to do them again this year - what a good example of community spirit don't you think?   Also, when the farmer stopped for petrol, I took a photograph of a villager washing down the Little White Bus which is another community project in an area where public transport is more or less non-existent and people wishing to get into our little market town on Fridays for market day are very grateful for the opportunity to come in on this bus.

Then it was 'over the tops' and into Cumbria through spectacular scenery - and at the end of it a delicious cheese and onion souffle followed by roast beef.   And a nice glass of wine,

Saturday 19 September 2015

New arrivals.

To our Medical Centre at 8.30 this morning for our Flu Jabs - over in a few minutes and back home.   Their system works like clockwork.

Now the farmer and friend T have gone tootling off to a village quite a few miles away to buy new 'point of lay'  hens.  They will be hybrid hens, bred to lay eggs - nothing beautiful but 'serviceable'. Still, we shall give them the best possible life - their half of the shed (the other half has the old hens in until they get used to one another, when they can mingle) has been cleaned out, de-flead and laid thickly with clean straw.  The farmer has scattered corn among it to give the hens something to do while they are shut up and getting used to being with us.   In a few days they will be let out into the fields - where they will experience grass for the first time - and also feel the sun on their backs.

When they arrive I shall nip out with the camera and take some photographs (hopefully), so watch this space. 

Here are the photographs.   The hens were quietly standing in the corner of the hut and making charming little noises - obviously a bit shell-shocked after their journey.   Because it is such a lovely day and the sun is shining, the farmer has already put a small run out  for them so that they can venture outside if they dare, and perhaps meet the other hens through the wire - and at least get fresh air and sunshine for the first time in their 18 week life.

Friday 18 September 2015

Dairy Faming

Our small (90 acres) farm here in the Yorkshire Dales was, until the Foot and Mouth outbreak, a Dairy Farm.   We milked around seventy Freisian/Holstein cows and made a reasonable living from them.

We were unlucky enough to actually have Foot and Mouth here on our farm; all our cattle had been milked in the morning and by evening milking time they had all been killed, as had a hundred or so pedigree Swaledale sheep we were keeping for another farmer.

It was a tough time; but we got through it and came out the other side having been supported by some good people and having decided that, considering the farmer's age, we would not go back into milk production.   We now let out most of our land and also cattle and sheep keep for other farming friends.

But since those days the bottom has really dropped out of the Dairy Industry. This is traditionally an area where the farms are relatively small and mostly kept by one man - with sheep and/or cattle (milk or suckler herds) and maybe supplemented by hens or poultry for the Christmas market.    But now all that has changed.

As farmers have died off (the average age for a farmer up here is sixty-ish) so farms have been sold and incorporated into other farms so that now, around us here, there are some large dairy farms milking large numbers of cows.

But the world dairy market has been depressed so that even with these larger herds many farmers have found themselves in the position where outlay has cost more than the milk prices were bringing into the farming economy.

This week has seen the first signs of a recovery.   The Global Dairy Trade auction (GDT) brought an increase of 16.5 per cent so that now prices are at their highest since April.

At least this year has been an exceptional year for silage crops - large quantites and good quality, which means that the cattle should milk well over the winter.  And of course farmers will not have to buy in so much winter food.

Anyone who has witnessed the demonstrations by farmers throughout Europe knows that there is a feeling of desperation there.   And when I see that milk is often a loss leader in supermarkets, where it is priced as low as £1 for two litres in some instances, I do despair of ever seeing farmers making a decent living.   I think the farmer is well-pleased that he is out of front line farming now.

Where things will go in the future is anybody's guess, but I do hope it doesn't go the way I saw on the television the other day where very large herds of cows are kept indoors, principally as milking machines - all their needs are catered for,  but they never get out into the sunshine and the fresh air.   Anyone who has been close to cows will know that even on the coldest day of the year, if there is a bit of sunshine and the farmer accidentally leaves a door in the inside shed open for a second the whole herd is off down the pasture, tails flying, free as birds and enjoying every minute of it.   Don't let us ever deprive them of that.

Wednesday 16 September 2015


It was our exercise class for the over sixties this afteroon and this doubled up with the ninetieth birthday of one of our more active and spritely members, so we ended with a chocolate 'hedgehog' cake, courtesy of Mr Sainsbury, and a group photograph.   Delicious cake (undid all the good done by an hour's exercise of course). We sat in the garden of The Old School House, where we hold our class, in the Autumn sunshine and all had our photographs taken around Ruth who was holding her pretty hydrangea plant.   It was a lovely ending to a great afternoon.   Lots of fairly strenuous exercise and lots of laughs as we are all in varying degrees of decripitude.

The trees were covered in little, sour-looking apples, the lawn was covered in crisp, brown, dead leaves - no doubt about the season.

In the fields the farmer took this photograph of a giant puff-ball; he was just about to let beast into the field and knew that once they were in they would make straight for the puff-ball and trample on it.  I suggested I sliced it and we ate it with fried bacon but he said he 'didn't fancy it' (being the squeamish chap that he undoubtedly is.)   (this is the chap who, as a small child, suddenly found out where eggs actually exited the hen and didn't eat an egg for another ten years!!)

The late afternoon sunshine is gloriously warm and there is a light breeze.   Heavy rain is forecast for later tonight - yesterday the North East coast caught the edge of an Atlantic storm and had a huge quantity of rain in a hour, which flooded the main street to wellington boot height.  I understand that the same is forecast for further inland later tonight.

Yesterday and today I am having new windows put into my cottage in the village, so I am crossing my fingers that the work will be done before then.

Monday 14 September 2015

Views of the village

I thought you might like to see photographs of our proximity to the village.   Round by the road it is about two miles, but over the fields maybe a mile at the most.   Both photographs are taken from the same spot - look one way (north west) and see the village and look the other way (north east) and see open land.

My other photograph today shows the spread at the party on Saturday afternoon for the thirtieth anniversay of our local village study group.   Sadly, it was an awful day with heavy rain and some of the people who were expected didn't turn up.   But those who did had a nice chat about old times.

P S  The chocolate cake was delicious!

Sunday 13 September 2015

No boundaries

This morning there is one sound filling the air.   It is a lovely sunny Autumn morning for the farmer's walk and for once I am not going out to lunch with friends so Tess and I will be here alone for most of the day.  But we should not be lonely because there is a bellowing across the fields non-stop.

Yesterday our friend and neighbouring farmer A's bull got out.   There was an electric fence around his field but somehow he circumnavigated it to get in with the next farmer's heifers.  Pandemonium.  Well, reluctantly, he is now back one field further away and well-fenced in.   But, of course, animals have no concept of boundaries and ownership; as far as he is concerned there are ladies close a hand in need of his services and it is his duty to get there and get on with it. 

I fear he will protest strongly all day.

Friday 11 September 2015

That;s it!

As Autumn approaches the very last few jobs are being cleared up on the farm, and the last three fields have been silaged today.   The weather forecast is for rain later tonight and the farmer is just bringing the last of the bales in, but the wretched crows have done such a lot of damage to the bales that he is now going to have to patch them all with sticky tape.   Why do they attack the bales I wonder?   I have a theory that they can see themselves in the shiny black plastic and think it is another bird.   Whatever the reason, it is a wretched nuisance - however fast one is bringing the bales in the crows have always got there first.

In the photograph of the field with the bales in you will see a little barn in the corner.   The farmer and I had plans to get this converted into our retirement home, sell the farm and just keep three or four fields around the barn, so that he could 'play at' farming in his retirement.   But sadly the barn was just too small for the Planning Authorities to give us permission for enough extension.   All they would allow was a lean-to kitchen, bathroom and one bedroom - all opening off the sitting room.  This was really not viable.

Tess and I walked round the field where the bales were, taking care as we walked up the lane, to avoid the dead, squashed flat hedgehog which she insists on rolling on each time we pass it.  The blackberries are ripening, as are the rose hips (the birds always seem to leave these until lean times - I assume they are not so tasty).  The hawthorn berries are also ripening but they are not very prolific this year, which always means that the fieldfares and redwings on their journey over from Scandinavia will stay with us only a short time.

There is really something wonderful about every season isn't there?
Spring has the arrival of all the Spring flowers and the hint of warmer days to come; Summer (if we are lucky) has warm days, picnics, children home from school and very colourful gardens; Winter has the beauty of the frost on the leaves, log fires, Christmas;

Autumn has the wonderful smells of rotting leaves as they fall from the trees, the hint of cooler days to come, incredible soft colours in the trees, the departure of our Summer birds.   We are so lucky to have such a varied climate - wouldn't it be boring if the weather was the same every day? 

I apologise for the quality of some of the photographs.   Sometimes I have a severe shake on my hands and today was one of those days.

Thursday 10 September 2015

It is all go.

In spite of the good, dry forecast for this week, today is the first perfect day for silaging.   It is sunny, breezy and there is a good drying atmosphere.   As I sat in the hairdressers half an hour ago a succession of silage wagons went past - I think most farmers will be doing their third cut of the year.   Mark my words - there will not be a shortage of feed in the coming winter unless it is a drastically cold one.

Our absolutely last cut is down and the contractor is coming to bale and wrap it tomorrow lunch time.   With luck it will all be led in by tea time tomorrow.

There has been a Study Group in our village for thirty years this week-end.   In the first instance it was started by a man called David Hall, who sadly died some years ago.   The idea was to make an in-depth study of our village (there is very early evidence here -hence our 3000BC axe head, which I put on my post some time ago) and eventually to write a book.   The book was written but the Study Group continued.  They now meet once a week during the Winter and have various speakers - for example, we live in a lead mining area too, so it is always interesting to hear about that.  As the years go by the wide spectrum of speakers continues to increase.   Many members have either moved on or sadly died.  Others, like the farmer and me, have just stopped going (me because I find hearing difficult, even with my hearing aid) and the farmer because after a day out in the fresh air he can no longer keep awake!)   Saturday is their thirtieth Birthday Party and all past members have been invited.  (I was secretary for six years) - so that will be the highlight of our week-end.

Wednesday 9 September 2015

Keeping going.

As one gets older it is easy to sink into a state where the world passes one by.  I try very hard not to let that happen, and it is one reasons I to blog every day if possible.

It is important to keep one's body going as well as it can - errors and omissions excepted - and to this end I attend an 'exercise for the over sixties' class.  It started up again today and I can tell you that I have come home after the class realising just how important it is to attend such a class.

 I have exercised parts that have not been exercised since the end of July - and by the time I had had my tea my body was pointing out to me which parts they were.   But even more importantly - my brain had got lazy and I found that very scary.

Our tutor, Sue, sits us in a circle and we do a variety of exercises which she calls out at the last minute - doing them with us so that we get the general idea (albeit wrong way round as she is facing us!).   It means we have to concentrate one hundred percent and I almost felt I had forgotten how to do this.

It was only during the cup of tea at the end that I was relieved to find that everyone else felt the same.   So I cannot emphasise strongly enough that if we want to keep as fit in body and mind as we can for our age, a class like this is essential.

Tuesday 8 September 2015

Hospital visits.

More hospital visits - after the marathon last year we both hoped we were on the roads to recovery.   The farmer had X rays of hip and knee three weeks ago because both were giving him a lot of trouble.  He went for the results yesterday and found to his relief that he does not need new joints but does need intensive physiotherapy.   As I write this he is receiving just that from our physio, who luckily just happened to have a cancellation today.

I had to go yesterday all the way to hospital forty miles away in Middlesbrough (one of the down sides of living deep in the country).   The farmer's joint problems mean that driving is painful at the moment, so I drove until we hit the town bit (I no longer drive in towns), but had to contend with the farmer sitting on the edge of the passenger seat, gripping his knees with his hands and giving a pretty good impression of a white knuckle ride!

The upshot is that I have to have a fingernail removed on my left middle finger to check whether the malformation of the nail is melanoma.   This will happen as a day patient in around three weeks time - so another white knuckle ride on the outward journey, although the return journey will no doubt be a different matter.

Chimney sweep to the woodburner this morning - now, after lunch, the room is sparkling clean again and it is a good job done before winter.

Monday 7 September 2015

The start of Autumn

There is one meal which, for me, signals the start of Autumn.   My father used to grow very large vegetable marrows and mother used to store them throughout the winter under the pantry shelf hanging in string bags from hooks.   They kept very well.   But she always kept one for a meal right at the beginning of the season, and we had a stuffed marrow.   I still do it every year and I still use my mother's recipe.   It is one of my very favourite meals, not least because it conjures up happy memories of my childhood.

We don't grow them, but I happened to spot one in the supermarket the other day.   We had it for lunch on Sunday, with broad beans from our garden (my mother always did the two together) and followed it with the last of our raspberries with vanilla ice cream.

If anyone wants to try it - here is my mother's recipe:

6 good quality sausages, skins removed. Diced pancetta.
1 good sized onion.
a good quantity of chopped sage, thyme and parsley.
Vegetable marrow.

Chop the onion small and gently fry it in a little olive oil until it is cooked.   Mix with the sausage and pancetta - best to do  with your hands to get it all well mixed together.   Then add the herbs and do the same, so that you have a good mix.

Slice the marrow into thick slices, discarding the ends.   Peel and core.   Lay in a non stick tin and stuff each one with a generous handful of the sausage mix

Cook in a hot oven (as I use the Aga I can't really say temperatures), but it is important to get the sausage mixture cooked thoroughly.   The marrow will take care of itself.

These rings are good eaten hot or cold.

Sunday 6 September 2015


Our day out was very enjoyable.   I fully intended to post details when I arrived home, but a crisis intervened.

I had only been home about an hour when there was a great , commotion in the yard and Tess started barking furiously.   Then I lady I didn't know ran past the kitchen window.  When she didnt appear at the back door I went out to see what was happening.   She was standing at the bottom of the yard screaming at a Jack Russell terrier and beating him.   Tess could, of course, hear him yelping.

When she saw me she ran up the yard (with the dog on his leash) crying out 'Oh I am so sorry, I am so sorry.'   After I had calmed her down I found out the her dog, quite out of character , had left her on the lane outside our gate, rushed down the yard to where my chickens were happily scratching about, and killed one.

I assured her that it was not her fault and that the hen was about eight years old and it was too late to do anything anyway.  We then chatted (I thought it would calm her down) and it transpired that her mother, who died sixteen years ago, had been a friend of mine and that her father was a friend of the farmer and belonged to the same shooting syndicate.   I think what had happened was that she had just been on holiday for a fortnight and had left the dog with her father, who has two labradors.  Her father told her that her terrier was far too fat and he would get in in shape while she was away by letting it run wild on the moors with his two dogs.

As soon as she had gone I rang the farmer and asked him to come and make sure the poor hen was actually dead and not suffering.   In fact he found that the dog had injured two hens and that neither was dead, so he had to kill them both.   A shame, but we really couldn't blame her and she was so very upset.

Now to Ripon.   It was a pleasant drive down and lunch in Lockwoods, North Street, Ripon - an award winning bistro - was excellent.   Charming young staff, lovely atmosphere and delicious risotto - bacon, pea and parmesan - very large portions, so much that I couldn't finish mine.  We ate it with soda water and lime juice and decided to have a coffee later.  I forgot to photograph the actual meal (we both had the same) but here is a photograph of the interior of the bistro.
Now on to the Art Exhibition in the Cathedral.

We were in many ways rather disappointed as we didn't feel that the display was as good as it has been in previous years - maybe it is better to say that it wasn't to our taste.   But it was interesting to look round nevertheless, and there was one large video display which was absolutely captivating and which I would happily have on my television screen at home (although of course the one in the cathedral was much larger).

It showed open sands and a gentle, benign sea.  Then a tractor came and wove intricate circular patterns in the sand.   Cumbrian heavy horses appeared -fifteen of them, with riders, and they followed the patterns - first you saw just their bodies, then their feet and finally the whole of them plus riders.   As is always the case in cathedrals, the light was not conducive was to photography but I managed to capture one shot.

Perhaps the highlight for many people was that The Northern Sinfonia were playing Dvorak and Vivaldi that evening in the opening concert of the Ripon Festival and they were having their final rehearsal.  I find listening to music painful because I used to play to a high standard, accompanying our school's Gilbert and Sullivan productions and staff variety shows, as well as playing a number of early instruments (harpsichord, recorders, crumhorns, and the like).   Now my hearing problems are such that I can no longer differentiate between the notes and hear them all as one big jumble.  I thought they were playing Vivaldi when in fact they were playing Dvorak - and as I know the Four Seasons well, this about said it all.

We ended our afternoon by popping in to Booth's, a supermarket in the town - just for a wander round (and a sample of Welsh cake which was on offer).   Then the ride home.  A lovely afternoon.


Saturday 5 September 2015


Friend W and I are off in about an hour to our little cathedral city of Ripon, about twenty miles south of here.   We shall first of all go to the award winning restaurant Lockwood's for a spot of lunch, and then - the purpose of our visit - we shall go to the cathedral to see The Great Northern Art Show, which is on every year at this time.   It showcases Northern artists and is always well worth a visit.

Of course one cannot take photographs and I know from past visits that long range views of the cathedral itself are extremely difficult as it is surrounded by buildings.   But I shall do my best to give you a taster of our day out - even if it is only a photograph of my lunch to whet your appetite!   Back later.

Friday 4 September 2015


First of the second crop silage is being led in as I write this.   We sell all of our first crop to the farmer and friend opposite.   Second crop we keep for ourselves but always do it in two halves as it is a lot of grass to have down in case the weather turns bad.

It has more or less stayed dry since the grass was cut - yesterday it rained all day but only slightly, never enough to wet the footpaths and road, and with the breeze it dried as fast as it fell.  Today it has been a blue sky day with a stiff breeze and very cold - only 11 degrees.

By this morning the farmer decided the grass was ready.   He no longer does it himself after cutting.   He gets in sub-contractors and they came at lunchtime.   During the afternoon they have completely transformed the grass lying in the fields - they have rowed it, baled it and wrapped it and now the farmer is leading it into the silage clamp and when that is full the rest will go into the back of the shed, leaving room for straw in front.   Before he put the silage into the clamp area he put rat poison down.   At present the rat population is out in the fields enjoying the leavings from the wheat and barley fields, but once it turns colder they will come on to the farms and make their way to the back of silage heaps and nibble away at the plastic covering.   So the farmer (and all the other farmers round here) get in first.  We can't allow the rat population to get a foothold.

Sometimes, when I write about silage some of my American readers are puzzled about what it is exactly.   The farmer says the best way to think of it is as pickled grass.   In the old days, when my father in law began farming getting on for ninety years ago, silage was far in the future.   The only grass crop was hay and that was usually one crop a year up here in the Dales.   It had to be an exceptional year for the farmers to get two crops of hay.   This feed had to be eked out with chopped root crops and cattle cake, which they bought in slabs. And all the cutting and chopping was done by hand.

Of course in those days the Dales farms were relatively small and milking herds consisted of maybe twenty or thirty cows.   Farm incomes had to be filled out with keeping poultry and selling the eggs, keeping turkeys and geese for the Christmas table, and keeping a pig which would at the very least keep the family in meat for a large part of the winter.

Now, with much bigger farms, many more cattle, and the need for more  feed, the invention of silage has really been a godsend.  What our forefathers would think to the ease of farming these days I can't imagine.

So here are the photographs I took today (with varying degrees of success) - mainly for the benefit of American readers as I am sure every Brit has seen silaging many times over the years.

Thursday 3 September 2015

Forward Planning.

There is always a list of forward planning things up here in the sticks.   We started them yesterday:
  1.  Get in the second crop of feed silage for winter.   We started the day before yesterday and it is drying well.   Hoping that the rain will hold off today so that we may soon get it baled - that will mean that half the crop will be in.
2.  Order the winter oil for the Aga and the central heating.   This was done and came yesterday.   After reading Rachel's blog today we are hoping the price has come down.
3.  Booking the chimney sweep to deal with the chimney of our wood burner.   I am about to ring him when I have put this blog on.
4.  Order half a ton of anthracite to boost the fuel for the woodburner.  I shall do this when I have finished the morning's post.
5  Make sure that the log pile in the big shed is high enough to keep us going for some time into the winter.
6.  Order the carpet cleaner so that all our carpets and sparkling clean for winter.   We can't do this until the decorator has been as he is coming shortly to decorate the bedroom and the kitchen (can't bear the thought as his comment on looking at the rooms was 'you have got rather a lot of stuff, haven't you?' (the farmer and I have promised to move it into another room before he comes) (by that read 'the farmer'!)
7.  Check on wardrobes for any replacement sweaters that might be needed and purchase.
8.  Sit back with a sigh of relief and just wait for the cold to arrive.

Off now to the physio for my six-weekly going over.


Wednesday 2 September 2015

Modern technology

I have come to the conclusion that modern technology and farmer's wives do not go together.    I have an ordinary lap top, a mobile phone, a recently bought new landline which is so complicated and needs help from BT (Caller display for example) and repeated phone calls have not yet resulted in successful completion of this,and last but not least this week a Canon MP510Printer.
Last weekend I got a piece of paper stuck in my printer.   It made a horrible screeching noise and told me I had error 5110. Having gently pulled out the paper and leaving a bit behind, it was obvious that 5110 meant something along the lines of 'you stupid woman, you have got a bit of paper stuck in the works'.

I asked my cleaner yesterday - she is the most sensible and practical woman I know - to have a look at it and she tried and failed.   This afternoon I had got to the stage of looking on line for a new printer as I really can't manage without it at the moment.   A few minutes ago the farmer was passing on his way upstairs for his shower and he said was I sure I couldn't get into the printer's innards.   I thought 'well I can get in as far as  the cartridges so I will try getting that far and see if I can see the paper'.   Lo and behold the paper was there and easily pulled out (gently I might add).   The farmer went on his way happily, content that he had really solved the problem.   I am relieved and must now pluck up the courage to ring the computer engineer and tell him he needn't call round.

Why, at the slightest difficulty with anything mechanical, do I go into panic mode?   Can anyone explain it to me and what can I do about it?

Tuesday 1 September 2015

What day is it?

Is it just me, or is everyone else the same?   This weekend has been August Bank Holiday week-end so that everything has now got out of sync.  My cleaner usually comes on a monday, but chose to come today instead, which means that now I shall think it is Monday all day.

I am a bit like Eliot's J Alfred Prufrock, who measured out his life in coffee spoons, only I measure out my retirement life in various activities which tend to always happen on the same day each week.
Monday - cleaner and washday; Tuesday - into town with a friend to the Bank; Wednesday afternoon - exercise class; Thursday - hair day; Friday - coffee with friends in town; Saturday - often into town with a friend; Sunday - every other Sunday out for lunch when the farmer walks with his walking group.  In addition I have to fit in any other things - this week it is a visit to the Physiotherapist for example.   It does make the weeks pass by quickly and enjoyably, but any deviation and I am thrown into confusion.

Today the farmer has started second crop silaging.   There is a good, heavy crop of grass and as I write this I can hear him cutting the paddock next to the house.   The weather forecast is not brilliant, but silage is not quite as critical as hay and he is hoping for the best.

 I have just made a plum crumble for lunch with this morning's crop of ripe plums picked before the wasps got at them.   The complete pea crop from the veggie garden is now in the freezer and the broad beans are almost finished.   My spare 'garden' freezer is nearly full - maybe just room left for the runner beans as we had the first ones for lunch yesterday and they were delicious.

There is something so satisfying about eating one's own produce, particularly when, like me, all you have to do is cook and eat it as the farmer has done all the hard work.