Thursday, 22 January 2015

Off on my travels

I am away for a long weekend with our eldest daughter in Sheffield.  I'll see you when I get back.  I am hoping the snow will have melted by the time I arrive!

Some Rosebay Willowherb to cheer you up on this grey winter day.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Diet, Histamines and Health

I have been walking regularly this NewYear.  This past week I've included lots of hills, as I am off to our eldest daughter's for a long weekend, and we are planning visiting Lincoln and there is a big hill between the train station and the Cathedral!

Anyway, this was yesterday's shorter walk - just up the hill behind the house to take a photo of the snow on Black Mountain.  I bet it's chilly up there!

As you can see, it was still pretty chilly along our lane.  This was 2.30 p.m. ish.  The frost was lingering and hadn't left the hedgerow . . .

. . . nor from the North-facing fields and hillsides.  Our house is out of sight on the left.  The ivied tree on the left is on the edge of Castle Field (where there used to be an Iron age enclose - now quarried by Next Door, who has a real sense of history - NOT.)  You can just make out a couple of the cairns along the top of the ridge (right hand side).

Frost lingered along every hedgerow and the long line of high ground between the Towy Valley turning at Llandeilo (where it heads for Llandovery) and Bryammon, the far side of the ridge.  There is a walk along the ridge, taking in the 4 cairns which are up there, which I intend to do with a walking friend when I get back from Sheffield.

I even climbed half way up (without stopping) the next bit of steep hill (2 arrows on the map) to take this photo of Dryslwyn castle, which is in line with the gorse blossom. The frost highlights the layout of the Medieval village which once topped it alongside the Castle.

Anyway, with a month to go to my next appointment with the Respiratory Nurse, I have re-visited the notion that my peak flow readings can be choreographed (!) with fluctuations in histamine levels due to food intake.  Unfortunately, it would seem to be the case.  Some foods are naturally high in histamines, others are histamine liberators.  Sadly, chocolate comes under the latter category, and I have had regular bars of chocolate ever since Christmas.  I had persuaded myself that the lingering effects of a recent cold had made my lungs a bit congested, but I think it is linked to poor eating choices.  So I have cut out the choccy bars and guess what, an instant rise in peak flow from 390 to 420, no probs!

I have cut out bacon and sausages and cured meats, I have cut out bread (I'm ok with the wheat part but probably not with the yeast), all nuts, no leftovers, of course NO dairy, because of being dairy-intolerant. I had made my own crumpets this week, but have frozen them for when I have the girls back home, as they have yeast in, so . . .  Which now leads to the question, how do I eat the lactose-free cheese  I have in the fridge, now there's no bread to toast it on?!  I will have to do some cheesy pasta I think, probably for tea tonight, or some Cauliflower cheese.  Everything has to be as fresh as possible, and I try to buy organic fruit and veg where possible.  The high histamine list is limiting though - I know I can't have beer or cider without Consequences - think gut here, as much as lungs - but I am OK with red wine these days.  I have tried to be sulphite-free for years, but it's in SO many things, dried fruits, even crisps, fruit squash, anything that may need preserving.  Don't think that sticky bun is OK because it's NOT from a sulphite point of view and probably has 40 ingredients and so I feel guilty even when I eat one as a rare treat.  When I bake a similar bun at home it might half 4 or 5 ingredients.  What a difference . . .  I always read ingredients on tins and wrappers, but most of the time try and make it all home-made and in the summer months, home grown too.  All my soft fruit is home-grown, all the cooking apples stored and only bought when those run out.

I had several of my home made Cornish Fairings earlier on (ginger biscuits).  Then I read that I should avoid cinnamon, cloves, and various other spices, and then there is curry powder. . .  I LOVE curry.  Well, I can't be good ALL the time can I?

Anyone else out there suffering from histamine problems?  I can recommend The Low Histamine Chef, though I don't think I can toe the line as she does.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Museum III post (last one, I promise!)

A little bit of August seaside sunshine to combat this morning's hard frosts . . .

A fresh post on Ivor Gurney, over on the Edward Thomas blog.

More photos and comments to follow here later.


Now this is what I call a beautiful piece of furniture.  This chest was made and carved with traditional Carmarthenshire designs in 1686.  Lovely.  Below, is the design on one end.

I was taking photos of the Medieval tiles, some of which came from Greyfriars in Carmarthen, which was the home of the Franciscan Friars in Carmarthen, until Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries.  Only when I looked at this photo prior to writing this did I notice two Shiela na Gigs flaunting their all in the middle.  Oops!  In Carmarthen too . . .

Self explanatory - see notes below.

The Pygmy Cups are on the left of the middle shelf.

Above, various remains from 100s of 1000s of years ago in the form of bear? jawbone, Mammoth tooth, etc.

From Mesolithic times onwards, remains of polished stone axes (some ritual/ceremonial), mace heads, loom weights, arrow tips and axe heads all found in Carmarthenshire.

Love spoons were made by chaps to give to their girls, as a token of their love.  All I can say is, whoever made this WONDERFUL love spoon with little Harvest mice on it, had great skill, and loved his girl with all his heart.  She must have said yes on receiving this : )  (Little bunny in the centre top row).  The chain links to either side would have been carved from a single length of wood.  Amazing craftsmanship.

This little cottage is Penrhiwbeili farmhouse in its final incarnation, when the steep thatched roof had been replaced with wriggly tin.  I would think inside it was pretty basic - loo up the end of the garden for certain!  The room settings below show it as it was before the contents were donated to the Museum and the rooms laid out as they had been lived in up until the end.  Sorry about the glare, as it is all behind glass.

I hope you have enjoyed these posts and will visit if you are ever in the area.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Museum Post II

Elsewhere inside the Museum now.  The big old kitchen, with plenty of room to sit down and eat and a huge table to work at .  A shame it's so grey with the paintwork, and it would have been nice to have some bowls, jugs, and a tea-service out, but perhaps it's a work in progress, or had a Christmas display which has just been cleared.

Part of the farming section, with various farm tools.

42 looks like a dog collar with 6" nails through it - perhaps it started life as a dog collar, but this was worn by a calf when they wanted to wean it off the cow - needless to say the cow would put up great resistance to being suckled by a calf wearing this!  When we first moved down here, I remember seeing one in an old derelict cottage.

A lovely selection of old butter pats.  These were often carved from Sycamore as it is a wood which could withstand a good scrubbing with soap and hot water.  Kitchen and Dairy tables likewise, often had scrubbable Sycamore tops.

A variety of butter churns in this display.

Milking outside, as it was done in the days before larger herds and milking parlours.  I think the lady is wearing clogs (very practical) and she has a hat on so she can lean into the cow to milk without getting essence-of-cow on her hair . . .  Reminds me of a scene from Tess of the D'Urbervilles, only there they milked in the pasture.

An old Fair scene - one at St Clears, west of here, judging by the writing on the pen to the left.  Perhaps around the time of the First World War, judging by the attire?

A display of very Welsh things - a Harp, a Big Wheel as much spinning was done in the home before factories set up; a Welsh quilt and a Welsh blanket behind the lady in Welsh dress, with her warm woollen shawl.  A tall hat in the background is shown being worn in the Salem print on the wall on the right.

Various pieces from the locality, including truncheons and pistols used by the Police.

Various pieces of military attire.  

The bone in the centre is that of an ostrich, and has been turned into a piece of art by prisoners (I assume) turning it into Scrimshaw.  The other pieces there are all made from bone too.

More tomorrow.

Support your local Museum - part I, the Early Christian Monuments

On the way back from town yesterday, we called in at our local Museum, which is housed in what used to be the Bishop's Palace at Abergwili on the outskirts of Carmarthen.  I used to volunteer there, when my mum was still alive.  That seems such an age ago now.  Anyway, I wanted to see if there were any new exhibitions there.  It was much the same, although some displays had been moved around a bit, but my favourite things were still there.

One of the Early Christian Monuments in the grounds of the Museum.  You can just see the mark of half a wheel cross just under the middle of this stone.  Though it does bear a passing resemblance to a crossbow too!

I shall turn to Nancy Edwards ("A Corpus of Early Medieval Inscribed stones and Stone Sculpture in Wales," Vol. II) to help me with the histories of these stones.

This stone (probably originally a standing stone, but then re-used in the early Christian period) was found at Cefn Cethin Farm, not far from the old Llandeilo - Llandybie road.  It was known locally as Maen Hir or more commonly, as Maen Llwyd (translates to menhir, and 2ndly, grey stone).  It may have functioned as a boundary marker or acted as a focus within a cemetery located near the routeway.  Dates from the 7th - 9th C.

The Voteporix stone is a famous local stone, originally incorporated into a stile at Castell Dwyran (St Teilo's) church - this around 1880 although it was subsequently removed to a field in fromt of Gwarmacwydd House, Llanfallteg, before being donated to Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society.

It was quite possibly originally associated with a Bronze Age barrow, and also positioned with reference to the Roman road west of Carmarthen.  A simple ring cross tops the inscription. 'The use of "memoria" and the layout of the cross and inscription suggest Christian contacts with the Continent or possibly North Africa'.  'Voteporix was "Demetarum tyranne Vortipori" - which translates to "Vortipor, tyrant of the Demetae" - the king of Dyfed castigated by Gildas.' (Carmarthenshire was part of the kingdom of Dyfed.)  However, the use of the Latin term "protictoris" suggests a title originally referring to a member of the Roman imperial bodyguard, and may be an hereditary title.  It dates to the late 5th or early 6th century.  Note remains of Ogham inscription along top left edge.

The Severini stone was near the highway in Llan Newydd parish, but by 1829 was used as a gateost and then moved again to Trawsmawr Farm.  The inscription translates to "Of Severinus, son of Severus".  Late 5th to early 6th C.

Much more impressive is this replica stone (the original being in the National Museum at Cardiff).  Originally standingon a cairn,  in a "field of stones" on the east bank of the River Sannan at Llanfynydd (our nearest village, about 3 miles away).  The sandstone it was made from would have been quarried some 6 km away.  Inscription is "Eiudon"  and was known locally as "Eidon's stone".  It was not in association with any ecclesiastical site, but may well have been a marker on the parish boundary between Llanfynydd and Llanegwad (our parish).  The design is similar to the crosses at Carew, Nevern and Llantwit Major (esp. the latter)  with plaitwork and interelace and fret patterns, including a ring-knot, T-frets and pelletes, normally considered to be Viking-age motifs.  Date: 2ne half of the 10th or early 11th C.

Still stone, but this time (above and below) wonderfully carved gargoyles which once adorned a large Carmarthen mansion.

More photos to follow.

I bet I have stunned you all into silence now!

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Keeping Fit - or trying to!

Use it or lose it, they say, and how true.  I managed to get out between belts of first snow, then rain for a walk up the hill behind the house yesterday.  I like to try and keep active, and am more motivated now as I am going up to Sheffield to stay with my eldest daughter and we are having a day out in Lincoln - and the Cathedral (which we plan to visit) is at the top of a very steep hill!

We had a short flurry of very wet snow at breakfast time - big blobs of snow the size of 2 bob bits.  It didn't lay really, as it was so wet on the ground, but it was noticably colder outside and the birds were very grateful for their breakfasts.

The nut feeder and two seed feeders front of house feed the Sparrows who live behind our barge-boards, and sundry other small birds - Blue and Great Tits, Chaffinches, and a Robin.  Not to mention no end of blardy Jackdaws, one of whom lands on the biggest seed feeder and rocks it whilst pecking frantically so lots of seed falls for the birds beneath it.  I have had to take down the feeders for the fat balls because they were just demolishing the fat.  I now hang those from graceful branches in the hedgerow which won't support a Jackdaw.  In the Damson tree in the yard, I have more fat balls and a larger nut feeder, and I have umpteen Blue, Great, and Coal Tits visiting it, more Chaffinches, Nuthatches and a Greater Spotted Woodpecker.  Another GSW also visits the one in the front.  I have a third feeding station (just seed) in the Buddleia by the front gate.  They are all very busy this time of year.

A not very good photo of the Woodpecker on the Damson tree feeder.

This is the little stream which crosses our paddock, as it pours out of the culvert near the lane edge.

Although I stopped by our field gate to look back at the house, I then made it right up the hill without stopping, even though I did walk a little slower and not push myself too hard.  I was hoping for some distant snowy pictures, but there was low cloud.  Here is the pond in the top field and some vaguely whitened fields the other side of the valley.

A big old oak gatepost sports a crew cut of emerald moss.

A pathetic smattering of snow remained. . .

A bit of dead bracken across the valley, and the lane leading up to Llanfynydd village.

Slight snowy highleights the other side of the Towy valley.  You can just make out Dryslwyn Castle centre picture.

A little bit of colour in the landscape.

A last wintery glimpse . . .

Then I came home and practiced Prayanamic breathing (good for asthmatics), Meditation, and then Chair Yoga.  I was horrified at how stiff I have become since not having the horses, so that has got to change!  No wonder I was so stiff after a bit of gardening recently.

Anyway, another poem (Robert Frost this time) over on Dust on the Nettles.  Enjoy.