Thursday 28 April 2016


When one is not 'in' farming, then I think it is fair to say that most outsiders rarely think of the farming year in terms of what jobs need doing.   Yes, they notice when the lambs appear in the fields, when the oil seed rape comes into bloom, when the hay is cut and baled and when the combine harvesters begin their job.   But other than that I think it is all taken forgranted.  At least, speaking of myself pre-farming (that is before I became a farmer's wife twenty three years ago after a lifetime of teaching in an inner-city school) then I loved the countryside (I grew up deep in it) and I revelled in country walks and holidays, but I didn't give a lot of thought to how the farmer got his work done.

But certainly in this part of the world, I would say that the last eight months have probably been the hardest for local farmers for a very long time.   It was difficult to get the corn sown (there isn't a lot of it around here because The Dales is largely grassland and what corn there is is usually grown for cattle feed) because we had such lashings of rain, day after day that so that many fields were flooded (and towns like Carlisle too).  Cattle in many places had to come in early because of the state of the fields, although silaging time had been very good indeed, so everyone had at least got plenty of silage.

Now is the time for cattle - milking herds in particular (there are still a lot round here)  - to go out again into the pastures.   The grass has been greening up nicely and at long last it has been possible to get on to the drying-up fields to run over them with the chain harrows and then the roller.  One or two farmers in the vicinity have let their herds out this week - and these cows have been going round the fields like mad things, so enjoying their freedom after a winter of being shut in.   Now the weather has turned for the worse; we are getting snow (an inch yesterday, which went almost as quickly as it came) and then towards evening the sky clears and we are getting sharp frosts.   This means that the grass is damaged when the cattle come out after morning milking.

Straw for indoor bedding is running out and I think most farmers are keen to let their cattle out, but the weather has to be right.

Lambing of Swaledale sheep has not quite finished yet but the fields are full of healthy-looking lambs.   Once the first twenty four hours are past and the lambs have a good helping of colostrum in their tummies they are a hardy lot and really thrive better outside than they do shut in the barn.   Most of the Dales sheep up here are
Swaledales - with some mules and a smattering of Blue-faced Leicesters.

The farmer is saying that he can never remember it as cold and inclement as this in all his years of farming, but farmers are a hardy lot and they press on, knowing that sooner or later it will all even out as things will get going 'as normal' again.


Wednesday 27 April 2016

Typical British Weather.

There really is small wonder that one of the main topics of conversation among British people is that of the weather, because it really does play tricks on one.   Here we are at the end of April and what is it doing up here at six hundred feet asl?   It is snowing - about an inch has fallen; not settling for long of course, just that wet, slushy stuff which becomes so depressing.

It has been our monthly Poetry afternoon; nine of us reading out our favourite poetry and it was as enjoyable as ever.   I started with Browning's 'Home Thought from Abroad' which I always think is such a sad poem from a poet who was virtually exiled in Italy because he and his wife had eloped.   I find it sad too because of the line about the' brushwood sheaf round the elm tree bowl' because of course these days all the elms have gone to Dutch Elm Disease.   Now that Ash Die Back has arrived I wonder how long ash trees will remain such a feature of the British landscape.

I was too busy yesterday to manage to put on a post or to read any of your posts, but I have just caught up on almost all of them.  So more or less back to normal, whatever that is.

Monday 25 April 2016

The Thief.

The saga of the pheasant's nest by the front door continues - but not for long I'm afraid.   The farmer and I looked on Saturday and there were twenty-four eggs in the nest, and still going up by two each day.

Yesterday morning, on my way upstairs, I stopped to look out of the landing window and as I did so a magpie flew off from just under the window; in other words where the nest was.    I went to the front door and looked round the corner to see that half of the eggs had disappeared.   By yesterday evening there were only six left and this morning the nest is totally empty.   So I am afraid that any attempt to raise a clutch of young, be it by one hen pheasant or two, had been thwarted.

Well that is nature isn't it?  I must say I have always liked magpies so I can't be too distressed.   In any case the number of eggs in the nest meant that sitting on them would have been a disaster, so maybe it is for the best that they have gone to feed Mrs Magpie's babies (hopefully she has had more sense and laid just enough to sit on).

Sunday 24 April 2016

Gone for ever.......

.......or is it my taste buds?
The Jersey Royal potatoes are 'in' and I bought my first lot on our market on Friday because both the farmer and I love them.   To say that we were disappointed was an understatement.   They tasted of absolutely nothing.   What has happened to the taste?   The farmer says that he thinks he read somewhere that they used to use seaweed as a 'manure' and that they can no longer do this.   Whatever the reason I shall not be buying any more.   If anyone else samples them than I would be interested to hear how their taste buds reacted.

I do think our taste buds fade as we age.   I remember as a child, when we had a big vegetable garden, our first new potatoes were always dug early in the evening, and we all eagerly awaited that first boiling.   My father would bring in a bucket full, pour hot water on to them and stir them round with the copper stick to remove loose skin and dirt.   Mother would gently boil them and then put them into a dish add a knob of butter and garnish with chopped mint.   Food of the gods.

No potatoes taste like that any more.   Or do they?   Is it just me?

The same applies to tomatoes.   First my rule was never to buy tomatoes in winter because they were tasteless, but now the rule can
almost be extended to summer because tasty tomatoes are so hit and miss.   Up here in the North of the country, without a greenhouse, it is more or less impossible to grow one's own and get them ripe before Autumn.   And foreign ones are sometimes sweet, sometimes not.

And don't get me started on eating apples.   When I was a child I knew so many different kinds of eating apples - we had Ellison's
Orange Pippins and Beauty of Kent in the garden and our neighbours had an Egremont Russett, so we always exchanged a few of each.   Not so many years ago I went to a town in Worcestershire where there were boxes of rather scabby local named apples in crates and they were disappearing like wildfire.  We bought some and the taste brought back those childhood days.
But where are they now - among the Braeburn, the Golden Delicious, the tasteless?

So - is it my taste buds, or are things really like this?

Thursday 21 April 2016

Happy Birthday.

I am not a fervent Royalist - in fact I rarely think about the issue - but I do however admire Her Majesty the Queen for the way she conducts herself in so many areas of her life.

I am just old enough to remember the death of George V, the 'scandal' of Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson, and the coronation of George VI, so I go back a long way in all things royal.

In so many ways the Royal Family are privileged and yet there are also so many areas in which their lives are restricted by protocol.  They are always in the public eye whether they like it or not and every tiny slip-up is reported.

As she walked out into the grounds of Windsor Castle yesterday afternoon I couldn't help thinking that she began to look like an old lady.   Yes, I know she is ninety today, but by golly doesn't she carry her age well and just keep going.

So Happy Birthday Your Majesty.   I hope you have a lovely day.
And I wouldn't mind a slice of that super cake that Nadiya (Bake off) is baking this morning especially for the big day.  Hope it turns out to perfection.

Wednesday 20 April 2016


Before anyone thinks that something awful has happened and I am in a state, let me hasten to reassure you that I mean the other sort of harrowing.  

Last season our set of harrows finally fell apart and the farmer ordered new ones from our usual supplier.   They have been so long arriving that they only came this afternoon but as I write he is whizzing up and down the fields getting as much harrowing done before the weather breaks as he can.

When he unloaded them from the delivery van I said that they looked rather like knitting which needing unravelling; well my knitting anyway (never my strong point).
Tess and I walked down the lane for our walk after lunch (the farmer had to go to hospital this morning for a CT Scan on his shoulders).   It was a pleasure to see that the blackthorn blossom and the leaves of the hawthorn are just beginning to break out.   Things are always so much later up here.

Another beautiful day - every day is a bonus, even if it is set to become Arctic again by the week-end.

Tuesday 19 April 2016

Coffee morning.

As usual it was our mid-week gathering for coffee in our favourite Coffee  House this morning.   There were only three of us but good company, pleasant conversation and a jolly good cup of coffee - what could be better?   The owner of the cafe is a real connoisseur of coffee and keeps a lot of different blends.   Through trial and error I now always have a cafetiere of Etheopian which is a rich but mild coffee.

 We talked about our personal 'treasures' - not necessarily
worth a lot of money but precious to us for some particular reason.   Friend C spoke of a small vase given to her by an old lady when C was ten years old; of no monetary value and of course in the future, when C is gone, totally meaningless to anyone else.  I have similar things which I value for their memories.

For my first wedding in 1952 (!!) a brother of my mother's,
who was a very good embroiderer embroidered us a tablecloth as a wedding present.   I have it still - cream high qualiy cotton with an edging of cut-out ivy leaves worked in a deep coffee colour.   I never use it but would not part with it for the world.

I don't think possessions are all that important and yet there are things which hold memories - and memories are very important.   Are they important to you - and if so, how do you hold on to them?   Do you remember through small (or large) possessions, or do you have another method.  I would be really interested to hear your views.

Monday 18 April 2016

It's that time of year again.

The beginning of April each year means just one thing to small businesses like ours on the farm.   It means that it is the Financial Year End.   Yes, I know that I should carefully number every receipt as the year goes by and match it up with the same number in the ledger.   But I am afraid I just file them all, which then leads to a lot of boring, direful, and time-consuming work.   That is what I have been doing on and off for the last two days.

I try to get the farmer interested, so that when/if I pop my clogs he is able to take over the book-keeping.   His answer to that is to say that he will just put everything into a shoe box and take it round for the Accountant to sort out.

As to the Vat return (the quarter ends on April 30th) then he says he would take that round too for her to sort out.  My warnings of exorbitant bills for all this financial activity fall on deaf ears.

But today, don't ask me why, I just felt in the mood for adding up and  zoomed through the ledger with ease and got it all to balance.   Then I ruled it off with a flourish and inked in my pencilled figures.   I can't tell you what a good feeling that has given me.  Now on to numbering all the receipts to match the ledger entries - a doddle after all those figures.

I have to report that one swallow has become three swallows today and as the weather is in a getting warmer mood for the beginning of this week, then they should settle in happily.   But I hope they seek out a warm, sheltered spot as Arctic weather, with scattered snow showers, is forecast from Friday onwards.

The farmer is more or less back to his old self today and has finished his 'muck spreading'.   Tomorrow is going to be the day for collecting all the debris which has fallen from the trees during the winter months.  It is already raked into heaps but really does need removing before the summer cattle take over or they will spread it around again.

Well - back to receipt numbering - not the most exciting of jobs but not all that taxing on the brain for an evening task.

Saturday 16 April 2016

Oh dear Mrs Pheasant.

Oh dear Mrs Pheasant/s - I don't think you have got the general idea at all.   The nest outside our front door, which had eight eggs in at the start of the week, now has sixteen eggs in it and still counting.

The farmer says that the likelihood is that two hen pheasants are using the nest and that either both will desert it, one will fight off the other and try to sit on all the eggs (far too many), or they will both sit side by side if they don't fall out.   So we shall have to watch and wait to see what happens.   One thing is for sure though -it is unlikely we shall have a happy brood of babies in the front garden this year.   Such a disappointment.

Friday 15 April 2016

Salmon Mousse

I asked friend E this morning if I could put on her Salmon Mousse recipe (which makes a tin of salmon go a long way you may remember) she is delighted to let you all have it.   Do give it a try - all the ingredients are things likely to be in the store cupboard and it really is delicious.

Salmon or Tuna Mousse.

1 200g tin of salmon or tuna.
1 small tin evaporated milk.
gelatine to set one pint.
2 tablespoons warm water
1 tea spoon lemon juice.
2 tablespoons mayonnaise.
1 teaspoon creamed horseradish sauce (optional).

Put the gelatine into the warm water and leave it on a very low heat
to completely dissolve.   Flake fish into a bowl (remove any skin and bones) and add mayo, horseradish and lemon juice.  Whisk up
the evap milk until it is stiff and then gradually add the gelatine and water mixture, stirring carefully.   Stir this into the fish mixture and chill (preferably overnight).   Decorate with cucumber and serve.
E adds a little tomato puree to make the mousse a bit pinker. 

This looks lovely on a buffet table and really does taste very good.
From the ridiculous to the sublime.   My son (made out of words on my side bar) put a clip from u-tube of the funeral of JohnPaul Sartre on to a post the other day.   It is only three minutes long and really is amazing.   I can't think of any modern day philospher who would get this sort of send-off.  (I am ashamed to say that I can't actually think of any modern Philosopher).   They don't make them like Sartre any more do they?  Do have a look if you have three minutes to spare.

Thursday 14 April 2016

These days...

The rather sad story of John Whittingdale says such a lot about the times we live in.

When we were young in the fifties it was a time when you met 'boys' all the time.   There were numerous social occasions - anything from the village 'hop' to the Saturday night, full orchestra 'posh' dances.   There were Youth Clubs and Activities.   Living, as I did, in a village - there were all the village boys (we so called 'sophisticated' girls always thought these below our dignity although, of course, in the end quite a few village girls married village boys.)

We didn't, of course, have access to social media, we didn't go around with our heads glued to our mobile phones.   Texting was well in the future, as were dating agencies and all on line ways of meeting people.   We met the opposite sex at work, on the bus or train going to work, or if we were lucky enough to go on to further education - a choice only open to a few whose parents were 'rich' enough, at places of further education.

Divorce and what were then called 'illegitimate' children were almost unheard of, certainly in villages.  I only remember two in our village - one belonging to the daughter of our neighbour (when I asked my mother if you could have a baby without being married because I realised it had happened next door, my mother said to mind my own business and get on with what I was doing.)  The other belonged to a woman further up the road and was the result of a liaison with a pillar of the church - the 'result' was so like him to look at that it caused a bit of a furore which eventually died down.
Some I suspect were brought up by grannies who passed them off as their own daughters/sons.

If there was a divorce in the village I never heard of it (it was a small village) but that is not to say there were not unhappy marriages - more that divorce was often not an easy option financially. 

Now Dating Agencies seem to be almost the name of the game.   I know of several very happy marriages which have been the result of such meetings.

Sometimes, as in the case of John Whittingdale, the news media can be cruel.   What should have been his own private affair is now plastered all over the papers.  There are so many shady / criminal people out there and such a small amount of knowledge given - and often not strictly speaking true - that the whole thing is risky

That applies to all virtual relationships including that which exists between us on Blogger.  For all most of you know I could be male, forty-five, married, divorced, foreign, - I could go on but I won't.  We take one another on face value.

All of this makes me sorry for John Whittingdale.   Here is a man who works hard and is probably lonely.   He should now be left in peace, not derided and certainly not hounded by the media.   Newspapers are good for carrying information but they can also be incredibly intrusive and cruel.


Wednesday 13 April 2016

To begin at the beginning:

Another wet day, although the sky seems to be lightening.   We both awoke at around half-past four and didn't get back to sleep again.   Me because I am always the same when I am going off for the day and the farmer because two arguing blackbirds kept him awake.

One is nesting in the tree peony/clematis in our front garden (that 'dad' sits on the wall by the side of said tree peony) and the other is nesting in the ivy on the opposite wall by the telegraph post.  (that 'dad' sits on top of the post).   And as soon as it is dawn they start to sing.   And they sing.....and they sing.   It is now half past nine in the morning and they are still at it.   I suppose we must give them the opportunity; after all once the babies are born they will be run off their feet (or maybe flown off their wings is a better description).

Today I am going to Kirby Lonsdale with friend W to meet our friends P and D.   I will post details of the delicious Italian food later in the day if I haven't eaten too much. 

It poured with rain for much of the day with a brief Spring-like period just as we reached  the little town.   These two half-grown
cats were taking advantage of the sunshine in a rather unusual place.   By the time we had eaten our meal it was raining again and as we walked back to the car park they were back under the verandah in their cosy bed with their mother!

As so the food, as usual it was superb.   The restaurant we always go to is an Italian one called Avanti (if you are ever in Kirby Lonsdale do give it a try but book because it is always full).
I took a photograph of my meal - a pasta meal with spicy Italian sausage.   It was a mixture of linguine, spicy sausage, roasted cherry tomatoes and wilted spinach - all with an oily dressing.   How easy it must be for the Italian housewife to rustle up a tasty meal if someone calls unexpectedly; these were all the foods which you would have in your fridge.

Tuesday 12 April 2016

Rain, rain go away.

And please don't even think about coming again another day.   We have had quite enough rain so far this year to last us a long time.   It has rained here overnight and from ten o'clock this morning.   And now at almost seven in the evening it is still pouring with rain.   The farmer is feeling much better and is itching to get out and get on with all the jobs he has to do - but it is far too wet to get on to any of the fields.

One extra pheasant egg is appearing each day.   She will probably lay a dozen or so before she sits on them.  The farmer has spotted one more nesting place.   He is very good at spotting them.   The pied wagtail pair are nesting under the roof of the silage shed.   He has watched them going in and out with nesting material.

Birds really are clever the way they construct their nests aren't they?   A couple of years ago the farmer took my camera with him on one of his organised walks and photographed this nest in a piece of old material hanging from a beam in the barn where they had their lunch.  I have put it on my blog before but for any new readers I make no excuses for repeating the exercise.
This afternoon I went round to friend M's for the afternoon and we had a lovely chat about this and that and lots of laughs.  M is my oldest friend up here - we were neighbours and met the day we moved in more or less.   Another friend, G, called in and M made us a cup of tea and we had further chat until it was time for Tess's afternoon walk with the farmer (yes, I am afraid she can tell the time).

Tomorrow friend W and I are off to Kirby Lonsdale to meet our friends P and D for lunch in the Italian - we always have a bet on whether or not we shall be able to see Ingleborough* - more often than not it is covered in cloud.   If the weather stays like it is now then I think it is unlikely that we shall see it.
*Ingleborough is one of the 'Three Peaks' - the other two being Pen-y-Gent and Whernside.

Monday 11 April 2016


I have said for a few days that I thought a hen pheasant had chosen our walled front garden for her nesting site this year and yesterday, when I went out to prune the roses (very late but the first day that the weather has been warm enough for me to venture out), I saw it.

It is in the same place as last year - in the corner where the porch meets the wall of the house-
and sheltered by self-sown aquelegias. The position faces due South but these aquelegias provide shade for her when she begins to sit.   Yesterday there were eight eggs in the nest and I was quite pleased with the photograph as it has the appearance of being in a much lighter place than it actually is.

Good luck with your new family Mrs. Pheasant.


Sunday 10 April 2016

Naming of fields.

Yesterday I had difficulty getting all of my pictures on to my post - I am still not quite used to the new method of transfer that I am using on my new(ish) computer.   Most of them are quite unimportant to the text, but one I thought would make an interesting post.

Most of our fields have names and they all go back to well before the farmer's father took over in the twenties.   And most of the names are meaningless to us, although the farmer continues to use them as a means of identification when talking about a particular field.   There is 'commons', which presumably was once common land for the villager's use.   There is Peacock's, which we presume once belonged to somebody called by that name.   And there is the cow-house field.   To anyone standing looking at the field they would wonder about the name, but towards the bottom of one boundary there is a fairly high wall, which was obviously once a substantial barn.   The barn has long since gone, presumably the stone carted away to be used on other projects - so only the name remains.

I remembered that I wrote a 'poem' about these early names so I thought I would put it on my blog again today - here it is:

Names on the map.

Cow-house field.
An acre square,
where buttercups and grass
vie to catch the eye,
and the brown hare hides
in the long grass.
Only a strip of wall remains,
half-hidden in a hawthorn hedge;
the rest carted away
to fill gaps and mend walls. 

Parson's Barn.
 Nothing there
but a cross roads
described by grey stone walls,
and a ribbon of cow parsley
and a thrush, singing
in the sycamore.
The stone's long gone 
to cottage and to wall;
the timbers to crackle

on the Autumn bonfire.

Chapel corner.
A bus-stop where
the road bends round
towards the town;
where children stand each morning
swinging their satchels.
The tin chapel
where the congregations' hymns were
drowned out by
the rattle of rain on the roof
now rusted and fallen into
the tall nettles.

Peacock's field.
The grass cut yellow.
The cock pheasant stalks
in his finery;
the curlew's nest lies
brutally exposed.
Images of an exotic bird
fill the mind.   But 
the truth is
George Peacock was a farmer.
His name lives on
on the map.                    2010

Saturday 9 April 2016

A Walk

It is a long time since I ventured out into our fields.   I dare not go alone as I am just no longer sure-footed and am afraid of falling over on the uneven ground.   But today the farmer offered to accompany me as he is still lacking in any energy and is tired of sitting around.  So come round the fields with me and enjoy the walk on what is a beautiful Spring day here with warm sunshine and barely a breath of wind.

Out into the pasture with a beautiful blue sky overhead and full sunshine on our backs.   The grass in beginning to grow at last and there are tiny buds on the hawthorn.   The cam across the middle of the pasture - mostly hawthorn but with an ash tree and a wild plum amongst it - and plenty of ivy too - is beginning to green and the picture is altogether Spring-like. 

Going through a gap in the cam we see that there are still berries on the holly from last year.   The farmer says this is probably because the ground was so wet all winter that it was easy for the birds to get at the worms and grubs - both of which they would rather eat than holly berries.   Here and there the field is dotted with the tiny 'suns' of celandine and when we reach the barn in the bottom corner I am please to see the pair of stock doves flying in and out of the 'window' carry bits of sticks.   Never very good house builders (two sticks across and a little bit of moss) they always choose this barn with its 'shelf' in the eaves.

At the beck the marsh marigold is just beginning to flower - plenty of buds but only one or two small flowers so far.   On the edge of the beck with wild gooseberry is in full leaf and already has small fruits.   When they are 'ripe' they are always too sour to eat.

The beck flows through our little plantain which is still very bare and wintry.   We walk up the side of the big pasture, and past all that remains of what was once a barn - long before the farmer's time but enough for the field to still be called 'the barn field'.  Then up past the myriad rabbit holes and up to the top and the lane.
Both the farmer and I have gone far enough, but we feel better for our walk and it is lovely to see Spring emerging again - as it does each year even when we think it is never going to happen.

Friday 8 April 2016

This and that.

The farmer must be getting better - he actually joked with me just now as he passed by the computer on his way downstairs after his shower.   I had just put my blog up and he looked at the header.   I asked him where the church was (we were married in it twenty three years ago this August) and he said it was somehow familiar and he was sure he had been there (he went to Sunday School there until he was about fourteen) but he just couldn't think where it was!
Of course he admitted the truth after a minute, but at least he was not in the state he has been in for the past fortnight -so he is well on the mend.

Now to what I was really going to say today.   The birds are well and truly beginning to nest around here now.   I think there must be a blackbird nesting every twenty or thirty yards along the hedges in our fields as the hedges are full of them.   The front garden, which still has not had its winter dead foliage removed, is full of blackbirds gathering nesting material (and is as good a reason as any for leaving the foliage on until clearing it one day around now when the weather urges you to get out into the garden).   There are two pairs of yellowhammers who almost live under our bird table pecking up anything which the tits drop (for every seed they eat they seem to drop around fifty on the floor).   The farmer has seen them in the hedge so I am sure they will nest here as they always do.   The clematis which climbs through the tree peony in the front garden and makes a pretty good thicket is always nest to a few birds - often hedge sparrows and there are certainly birds flitting in and out.   The nest boxes all seem to be occupied.   Whether Mrs Pheasant has decided on the front garden as her possible nest site I don't know, but I do know that when we clear the rubbish we must go carefully so that if she has we can make sure we leave her adequate cover.

Next  - and final - topic for today.   Last Sunday evening about ten of us went round to a friend's house for supper - she is a wonderful cook and the spread she laid on was magnificent.   One thing she made was a marvellous salmon mousse which, as she said, makes a small tin of salmon go an awful long way.   If anyone would like the recipe I will ask her if she minds me passing it on - she obviously got it from a recipe book originally but has adapted it so much to her own needs I am sure it wouldn't be breaking any copyright.

Thursday 7 April 2016

Brain Overload.

A rather comforting article by Jenni Russell in today's Times, writing about how our brains really can't cope with being overloaded.   I am sure this is true, and I am sure the older we get then the more information we store and the less able we are to recall some things.

When I first moved up here thirty years ago and lived in the village with my husband (who died in1991) some friends from our very young days called in to see us.   We hadn't seen them for thirty years and I am sure it was lovely to see them again.   But about three years ago we spoke to one another on the telephone and I speculated about how long it was since we had been face-to-face.   I estimated maybe getting on for fifty years now.   There was a stunned silence and then she reminded me of the meeting when they called in to see us and our little black pug.   'Of course', I said - but not true.  I couldn't remember it at all, and to this day I still have not remembered that visit.

I am sure you have all experienced trying to remember a name from the past.   The farmer and I do it all the time - then I will remember the Christian name and a few seconds later he will remember the surname.   Or I go into town with a shopping list but forget something on it (fatal to go in without a list because I hardly remember anything.)

Apparently the psychiatrist Edward Hallowell has looked into the
chemical processes which occur in the frontal lobes of our brains when they suffer such overload that they just cannot cope with the pressure any more.

Simply put - overload leads to crisis mode, where the brain is much more likely to make mistakes.   There is only so much that the neurons within our brains can do in any one day.   Small decisions can use just as much energy as large ones.   But there are ways in which we can help things along.

One - and one which I follow along with the farmer - is one which people like President Obama follows:   he wears the same kind of clothes, he always has the same breakfast - all the things which involve making simple decisions.

Every day we have porridge and a banana for breakfast.   We eat our meals at set times - breakfast at 7.30am; lunch at 12.30pm; afternoon tea at 5pm;  bedtime drink at 10pm.   Are we prioritising our brains in what they need to work on?   Well I really don't know that.   But one thing I can tell you is that I always buy a certain plant in early December because it is Christmassy.   Because over the years I have learnt exactly how to nurture it, I manage to keep it until the middle of Summer,by which time I am usually so fed up with it that I throw it onto the compost heap.   I have been trying to think what it is called since this morning and had got as far as remembering that it began with a P.   While I have been typing this post the word has come to me - Poinsettia!   Had I used up all the
energy generated by my neurons or was it just old age?   You tell me.

Wednesday 6 April 2016

Exercise and other topics.

My Physiotherapist suggested that I try to lose a stone in weight in order to help my arthritic ankle (on one side) and my arthritic knee
(on the other side).   I have so far lost half a stone (seven pounds) and already feel better for it.   Of course this weight loss was 'helped' by having to run up and down stairs during the worst part of the farmer's recent illness.

I also go an an 'Exercise for the over Sixties' class on a Wednesday afternoon.   Our tutor, Sue, puts us through our paces for an hour giving exercise to our coordination, our brains and our bodies.  Of course we have had a fortnight off for the Easter break and by golly was it hard this afternoon.   During the leg work (mostly moving to music) I kept thinking I would have to sit down but I managed to do it all right to the end.   And I felt much better at the end of it
(after a sit down and a cup of tea but no biscuit).   I am sure it is good for us all, but it does take a certain determination to continue, particularly when the weather is like it is today - cold (six degrees), windy and mostly wet.

Now to clear up something else.   The Buttertubs.  Several people have asked recently exactly what the Buttertubs are, so here is the explanation.   I have written this before but obviously I have new followers who missed it.

Most, if not all, of the Dales in the Yorkshire Dales National Park are separated from the next Dale by high ground.   We live on the edge of Wensleydale and the next Dale North of us is Swaledale.
Between the two there is very high ground - and a narrow winding pass.   Right at the top of that pass there is a formation of rocky cliffs and deep fissures (they are now carefully fenced off from the road) and these are The Buttertubs, so called because in earlier times farmers' wives who made butter and took it to markets would put any spare butter they were bringing back down these fissures in order to keep it cool for the next week - I am of course speaking of long before the days of refrigerators.  And so it is usually called The Buttertubs Pass.   The grassy hills surrounding it - moor and quite wild - is where in Summer the hefted sheep belonging to various farmers spend their time grazing.   Before they go up there their horns are carefully marked so that when they come down in Winter (it is too bleak up there) it is easy to identify each owner.   This practice has gone on for generations.  Almost all of these sheep then spend the winter at one or other of the lowland farms (we are only six hundred feet above sea level, which is considered lowland around here.) 

The farmer continues to improve slowly, doing a little more each day, but he is not better by any means and is getting subcontractors in to do various jobs which can't wait.  He has not been cheered today by a friend ringing him up to tell him that he knows someone who appears to have had the same 'bug' which has lasted for a month!

Tuesday 5 April 2016

Back to normal - well almost.

Needless to say the farmer is wanting to run before he can walk and is champing at the bit to get outside.   At least it is too showery and the ground is too wet for him to do much on the land -so that is a help.   But he is not a good patient.

I am relieved to say that he does get a bit better and a bit stronger each day.   Today saw a normal lunch of salmon, mashed potatoes, mashed swede and sweet potato chips with herbs.   And for tea a slice of New York Pork Pie (Tesco's which is very nice with slices of ham and green olives through the middle of the pork) with coleslaw and then a bowl of melon and pineapple pieces (Tesco again).   Needless to say I went up to Tesco after lunch, hence the nice food for tea.  He is also managing to drink the recommended two litres of water each day.   Every day sees him able to do a little more and today has been a busy day about the farm so at least he has been outside as a spectator.

The sheep which we over-winter (they go back up onto the Buttertubs in the Spring) went home today.   One hundred and forty four of them loaded on to three sheep trailers, pulled by three Land Rovers.  It is quite nice to see them gone this year.

Friend and farmer G, who lives opposite also over-winters sheep and they went yesterday.   When they came to load the sheep on to the wagon twenty were missing.   He went to investigate and found they had all twenty jumped over the wall into the field belonging to
a neighbouring farmer.   There was no connecting gate and no way could he persuade the sheep to jump back over the wall.   No - he had to dismantle a section of wall to let them through and now he has to build the wall up again!

My day consisted of our normal coffee in The Post Horn (without a doubt the best cafe in our little town) - four of us this morning.   Then after lunch up to Tesco (about three miles away) - blissfully in the car on my own.   The views from the top road were wonderful - straight down Wensleydale and as clear as a bell.

Changeable weather - sunshine and showers - temperature of 11 degrees on the car dashboard - still feels pretty chilly to me.   Back to our exercise class tomorrow afternoon - yes - Easter holidays are really over.   I am always glad when things get back to normal.   Are you?

Monday 4 April 2016

A Day and a Half.

I shall not be sorry when bed time comes tonight - today has been an uphill climb.
First of all, the farmer is definitely on the mend and is doing more each day although he tires easily.   But today a positive sign when he said he was bored.   He is itching to be out in the fresh air.

Now to my frustrating day.   Today is the day my cleaner comes and she came downstairs after cleaning the bedrooms and asked if I had seen what was outside.  Immediately opposite our gate was a huge Portakabin with two doors.   Over one was the word 'Canteen' and over the other 'Toilet'.  A large lorry, using a crane, had just deposited it there and it meant that a tractor and trailer, or any piece of farm equipment would be unable to use the gate.   The farmer went out to speak to the driver who said that he had put it exactly where he had been told to put it - and drove away.

Now comes the efficient bit.   I got on the phone immediately to British Gas - the recorded message said to press keys 1 to 7, depending exactly what I wanted.   I pressed two - and numbers 1 to 7 were repeated.   This time I pressed 7.   A pleasant young lady listened to me, took my phone number and said she would ring me back within an hour.   Ten minutes later a man rang, apologised and said there had been a misunderstanding and that he would be there within half an hour.  And half an hour later the Portakabin was moved.   I was most impressed and said so.

After lunch we needed to take some papers to an office in Aske Hall stables, a complex of offices the far side of Richmond.   The farmer does not quite feel up to driving so I had to drive.  At the best of times I never ever drive when the farmer is in the car - it is just like taking my driving test all over again.  Today was no exception - 'vibes' emanated from him so that I knew that most of the time I was not in the gear he would have chosen for the conditions.   There were terrible traffic jams in Richmond on the other side of the road (the side we would be on when we returned) so we came back on the country (narrow) lanes.   There were steep climbs and narrow bridges.   I have never been so relieved to be home in all my life.

I am just about back to normal now and shall go and sit by the wood burner and watch a gentle walking programme.

Sunday 3 April 2016

Let's put the last week behind us.

It really seems this morning that the farmer is on the mend.   Each day he is eating a little more and getting a little stronger.   Also he is getting a little more irritable because he is not back to 'normal' yet and still feels 'weak as a kitten'.   But to perk him up  I am making him something which is usually forbidden food as we watch our weight;  I have a steamed apple/suet pudding with brown sugar on steaming.   As we have both lost seven pounds during the week I don't think it will do us any harm.

So - I thought you might like to know a little bit about our market town.   We only live a mile away and it is a remarkably compact little town, where you really can get most things.   There are clothes shops (several and all differing prices), kitchen shop, hardware shop, two supermarkets - an ordinary one and a very good deli -, several butchers, quite a few coffee shops as it is a tourist destination, a chemist, a florist, a very good fancy goods and furniture shop - so really everything you would need.

Also - and again this is enhanced because we need to encourage tourism - there is a lot going on during the year.   The list came through the door yesterday and I thought you would find it interesting reading.

April:   The Wensleydale wander (a walk); A tulip festival in a local garden:  June:   The Queen's birth celebrations; The Food and Drink Fair:  July:   1940's week-end; James Herriiot Trail Run:
August:  The Wensleydale Show:  September: The Hunton Steam Gathering; (,uk):  November:  Bonfire and fireworks display:  December:  Christmas event.

In addition to this our local auction house has a list of concerts, including one given by the Halle Orchestra and our local Castle (Bolton Castle) has lots of events of historical interest for both adults and children.

I think this a splendid number of things going on in such a small town (although there is a lot of new building going on so it will be a much larger town in the not too far distant future!)

Saturday 2 April 2016

Normality will be resumed shortly.

I really feel that things are beginning to get back to normal after a very worrying week.   I feel better after learning of three people who have exhibited the same symptoms this week and have been just as ill as the farmer.  So it really does look as though it has been a bad dose of flu of some kind.

Today, although lacking in any kind of energy, the farmer is up and dressed and keeps doing small jobs around the house - anything to try and keep on the move as he is of course stiff in his joints from lying/sitting so much.   He is also eating small but nutritious meals which is pleasing.

I took Tess for her afternoon walk down the road - possibly the longest walk I have done for a long time - maybe half a mile (and then of course the return journey).  It is a rather dreary wet day but quite warm and I think we both enjoyed it.

So it does look as though normal service will be resumed within a day or two.   Enjoy your week-end.