Monday, 29 June 2015

Another busy weekend - Towy Valley vintage fair first

We spent Saturday doing a car boot sale associated with our local Vintage Show.  It was a long day and I was glad I took a good book to read.  I did have a wander round a little bit though, and took some photos to share with you.  It is a rather "blokey" type of event, and if I an honest, the way they have it now, without a main central arena for tractors to parade round in the afternoon, spoilt it for me.

. . . and the dog came along too!

Other canine visitors were enjoying the sunshine.

This is Molly, a rescue dog.  She had been used for breeding on a farm somewhere, and when no longer producing puppies, was driven a long way from home and dumped.  Neighbours of our friends who took her in after she was found wandering and starving, said that they had heard a dog yelping in pain, with much shouting and presume this was Milly being chucked out and beaten to chase her away.  All good puppy farming practice - though tieing their legs together and chucking in the river used to be favoured . . .   This usually happens around the age of 7 for brood bitches like this one, who had never seen the outside of the barn where she was kept to produce endless litters.  Only now, after several months of love and care is she starting to relax and realize that not all people are out to hurt her.  She's a lovely little dog and starting to become more friendly now, bless her.  We were lucky to have our stall next door to our friends and so we could chat all day.

A sneaky and rather blurred photo of our friend with his t-shirt sunhat!

Above and below, a steam powered mill for flour.

Another static engine, producing boiling water.

Some for Pat's (Weaver of Grass) husband and Sharon's (Mornings Minion) and any other tractor fans out there.

This is from a horticultural tools display.

Now - my OH's next project:

This one was my idea, after spotting it at an auction when we viewed last week.  It is solid oak and VERY heavy, but fortunately we managed to get it onto our wheeled trolley and down to the workshop without too much effort.

The ancient brown paint on the sides and very bottom of the front will have to go (mask on though, as it will be lead-based.)

Below: note the date carved inside under the - fetching! - blue paint.  1740.  When George II was on the throne and the year of the Great Frost, when the lowest average temperatures ever were recorded. On 1 August, the song "Rule Britannia!" was first performed at Cliveden, home of the Prince of Wales and three weeks later, the first issue of grog was handed out to the sailors of the Royal Navy . . .
I will show you the "after" photos in due course.  This is a "keeper".

Friday, 26 June 2015

Keeping busy . . . and everything is coming up roses!

One of my David Austin roses - Graham Thomas.  Most of the roses on here are David Austin ones, or from David Austin.

We have been busy here - as always - my OH with his woodworking and making/repairing things, and me with painting and tidying up.  The tidying up has been in the yard/stables/barn recently where I am trying to sort out "useful" bits of wood from rubbish.  According to my OH 98% of it is useful, but I have had to take a stand!  I asked him if he intended to take the upright piano remains with us when we move.  The answer was no, so after I had swept all the generations of leaves out of the end pony box, we set to to move it.  My golly gosh but it was heavy and unwieldy.  It wanted to fall over, lean and generally be unhelpful, but we finally managed to manhandle it onto the little home-made trolley we have, on its back - which meant clearing the way in advance, and much moving of stuff waiting until we do the next Tip Run.  Going downhill was easy with it, and we shot around the corner with me avoiding the nettles and shoving left so we didn't go off the end of the concrete yard.  Then it was up and over, and my OH got the chainsaw started (finally) and cut the huge 4" x 4" pine struts off the back for firewood this winter.  I did try to tell him he could have left the middle ones whole and maybe used them for something, but he couldn't hear me above the noise of the chainsaw and had cut the middle one up before he heard me.

Anyway, we had a big bonfire and got rid of some more useless bits too - stuff that couldn't be used for burning on the log stove.  I got lots done, with clearing up that end box ready for bins of useful wood to be moved round from the hay barn (where the swallows are at present, so I can't work in there long for fear of stopping them feeding their babies).

Then I did some heavy duty weeding in the shallow flower bed in the middle of the yard.  It always gets terribly overgrown with determined grasses and weeds, and rarely looks tidy, although it's pretty when all the dark-coloured Aquilegias are in bloom.

A bright patch of colour at the edge of the stoney garden.  Alchemilla mollis and a tiny red Pink - Fusilier?

Charles de Mills.

Cardinal Richelieu

Jude the Obscure.

Tess of the D'Urbervilles.

Paul's Himalayan Musk.

I've forgotten the name of this one - not a David Austin rose, just a yellow one I saw and bought.

Roserie de l'Hay.

Another rambler from David Austin, but so many years ago (nearly 30) that I've forgotten who she is - a French name, that's all I can recall.

Meanwhile, in the afternoon I did yet more painting (nearly reached the end now), this time sprucing up some cupboard doors in the kitchen, now all a very pretty light jade green.  That's lightened up a dark corner.

Have a good weekend.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

An old Midsummer custom

I subscribe to Dark Dorset  and have regular emails from them about superstitions and folklore of Dorset.  Here is an extract from the latest one, which I hope they will not mind me sharing:

Midsummer Fire Leaping
"Many of these ancient customs are still continued, and the fires are still lighted on St. John's Eve on every hill in Ireland. When the fire has burned down to a red glow the young men strip to the waist and leap over or through the flames; this is done backwards and forwards several times, and he who braves the greatest blaze is considered the victor over the powers of evil, and is greeted with tremendous applause. When the fire burns still lower, the young girls leap the flame, and those who leap clean over three times back and forward will be certain of a speedy marriage and good luck in after life, with many children. The married women then walk through the lines of the burning embers; and when the fire is nearly burnt and trampled down, the yearling cattle are driven through the hot ashes, and their back is singed with a lighted hazel twig. These hazel rods are kept safely afterwards, being considered of immense power to drive the cattle to and from the watering places. As the fire diminishes the shouting grows fainter, and the song and the dance commence; while professional story-tellers narrate tales of     fairy-land, or of the good old times long ago, when the kings and princes of Ireland dwelt amongst their own people, and there was food to eat and wine to drink for all corners to the feast at the king's house. When the crowd at length separate, every one carries home a brand from the fire, and great virtue is attached to the lighted brand which is safely carried to the house without breaking or falling to the ground. Many contests also arise amongst the young men; for whoever enters his house first with the sacred fire brings the good luck of the year with him."
Lady Francesca Speranza Wilde, Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland, 'The Baal Fires and Dances', 1887
This truly is an ancient custom, dating back to the Iron Age and the centuries which went before that time.  I am quite sure it wasn't just confined to Ireland either, but would have been throughout Britain.  I am intrigued by the imbueing of the hazel rods with magical powers by being lit from the fire.  There are strong links between this and  the Beltaine fires on 1st May.  Here is a link to Baal fires of the past, which were very similar and again, to protect the community against bad times and pestilence, but inherently linked to the worship of the Sun.  

Anyway, I am hoping that I got somewhere with you know who yesterday as I have to phone Sales today and take out my new contract, and a new home hub will come my way . . .  We shall see.  I worked off yesterday's angst in the garden, and cleared a barrow and a half of weeds from a stupidly small space.  In one cleared area I strewed pot marigold seeds saved from last year, which will keep company with the ones which have (slowly) grown from self-seeding.  Everything is SO behind this year.  I cleared another spot by the autumn raspberries, and put in three rows of vegetables - very belatedly, carrots, pak choi and some Italian lettuce.  These are covered over by a little plastic cloche thingy to keep off carrot fly and slugs and retain any heat.  Then it was back to painting and the shower room is now almost finished in a pale apple green (lighter than the grey-green we had in there before) - I just have 1/3 of a wall for a 2nd coat.  Then on the painting front there is just some touching up on the porch and I can begin the HUGE tidy up/put away which involves finishing clearing the barn out so that the less perishable things can go out there - even if just temporarily should we get a viewing this year as we are going back on the market next month.

On Sunday we are off  to Malvern Antiques Fair (which has some outside stalls too) and I can't wait.  It's our treat . . .

BT . . . and Witchcraft!!!

Above: Calming picture, much needed.

I have been having terrible problems with BT again.  How a company can have such a user-hostile means of communication and level of unhelpfulness which just falls short of reaching the moon is beyond me.  It's a wonder its employees aren't queueing up to leave as job satisfaction levels must be so low they are underground.

We had problems with our internet last week.  I had been painting the staircase on Monday - Wednesday.  On Tuesday it was a little iffy and took ages to load some programmes, but on Wednesday it wouldn't load BBC iPlayer at all in the afternoon, so I couldn't listen to the smorgasbord of Radio 4 programmes I had previously enjoyed.  I thought perhaps some rain had got into the wires overnight, and wondered if it was anything to do with the hissing hum on our phone line which we had been suffering for some months.

On Thursday morning there was no internet at all - the orange light was on the Home Hub, meaning it wasn't connected at all.  I - wrongly it transpires - assumed that it was our line, and phoned BT to get an engineer to call out.  One was booked for the following morning.  I had spoken to a chap who sounded like he was in Belfast first of all (or from Belfast, I know not), then I got India.  India agreed with me I had no internet, hence the booking for we're-nothing-to-do-with-BT Openreach to come out.

Broadband was back the next morning and I discovered, through a neighbouring blogger's blog, that there had been a huge broadband outage all over our area the previous day.  But BT hadn't mentioned that to me.  Openreach found no fault on my line but said the router needed replacing - that was what was causing the hiss.  Having had everything unplugged and then plugged back to test the phone line - and you don't get the hissy crackle until you are speaking to someone - we thought we still had a valid problem before his arrival.

Since then I have been tearing my hair out trying to speak to the right person within BT to amalgamate phone line and broadband (long story), open another contract so we got a free router, and make sure I wasn't going to be charged £129.99 for wasting Openreach time.  On Friday, I phoned the broadband dept. and a recorded message said that there had been a broadband outage in my area . . . why couldn't it have said that the previous day as I wouldn't have done anything then?

Someone was supposed to phone me back yesterday - and didn't.  I then made 6 calls, repeating the problems each time, and getting nowhere.  I tried on line first thing this morning and they assured me they would phone at 8 a.m. and pass me on to someone who would help. Nice Indian lady phoned as agreed, and passed me to a person who heard my tale of woe, and said they would get in touch with the accounts department (again, as they were on Friday) and then after hanging on for quite a while, they hung up!  I was LIVID by then.  I finally got through to someone helpful, but we seem to be at the same state of affairs I have been three times so far, and now I have to phone in the morning again and sort out my new contract.  Well, I'm not holding my breath.  Ofcom next . . . or perhaps a little witchcraft may be in order ..................

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Catching my tail occasionally . . . and thoughts on things home-made.

Sometimes, if I run fast enough, I catch up.  Proof here that I have again found time for baking this week.  Necessary baking, as I promised all our antiques and Fleamarket friends a tray bake for tomorrow's big Fleamarket in town - here is my trademark Chocolate Blackberry Brownies, made with high cocoa chocolate (70%) with raspberries in it (from Lidl).  It goes well with the blackberries - picked from along the hedgerows here last autumn.  My OH and I had a piece for our dessert tonight and it is SO GOOD . . .

I'm hoping you can read the recipe and method from this page.  If not, shout out and I'll put it up for you.

This is a magazine I just can't resist when it appears on the magazine shelves.  There are so many scrumptious recipes inside it and it's like buying a book of recipes.  Sadly, I wouldn't be able to eat many of these because of the dairy ingredients (unless I managed to do some goaty substitutes!) but I can still make them for other people.  I just adore baking - it's so creative, and I love to bake for other people who appreciate home-made cakes.  Not everyone does, surprisingly.  Or home-made anything come to that.  In the past I have heard of people who were horrified at home-made chocolates made with love and the best ingredients by a daughter-in-law and BINNED THEM as they "didn't know what was in them"!  My Lord, when you think of the rubbish that can be in boughten sweets, cakes and food, it makes you wonder about the intellect of the person doesn't it?  Someone else I've heard about recently was scathing about receiving a basket of home made jams and chutneys as a Christmas gift "because they hadn't cost much" compared with the present they had bought in return.  (That REALLY shocked me - how shallow can you get?)  Years ago a friend spent many many hours on the most beautiful x-stitch picture as a birthday gift for a relative.  The recipient barely looked at it, said "yeah, nice" and chucked it on the sofa and carried on unwrapping presents in front of the stunned embroiderer.  In what seems like another lifetime I worked for a very prestigious city company, and was considered a hippy because I made my own bread.  When I made my own Elderflower hand cream and offered it to a temp who had very dry sore hands, I was taken on one side by one of the other secretaries, who promptly told me, "You can't give her that - you made it yourself" - as if I was some WITCH!  Hmm - hedgewitch in another life perhaps.

I just couldn't resist this lovely Fuschia when I was at the car boot sale today.  It was £2.50 and I considered that money well spent.

She's called "Blackie" and is just so OTT and gorgeous.

My David Austin roses are all starting to flower now.  Here is Tess of the D'Urbervilles.

The apple-tree clematis is putting on a good show this year.  I've lost her name-tag though.

My potted yellow Aquilegia is now flowering away and I am surprised to still have other Aquilegias in bloom - the cool weather has helped them flower longer this year.  When I was topping-up the wildlife pond this evening, I noticed a little refugee Aquilegia from the different seeds I'd bought from Carrie at Touchwood Plants down on the edge of Swansea and the Gower.  It's a spurred Aquilegia, like the one from her Pharoah's Treasure seeds above.  It's from Carrie's Harmony range.

More yellow - Mimulus growing beside the main pond.

The Lupins which survived.  Of course, the gorgeous blue and yellow ones DIDN'T!

Here's a project for next week - a little child's deckchair which is in need of complete refurbishment.

So, onwards and upwards.  More rose photos next week.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Walnut Loaf recipe

This is a breadmaker recipe, but what I did was to bring it to dough stage in the breadmaker and finish it by hand,. baked in the oven.

1 cup water, tepid
2 tablespoons walnut oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon czaster sugar
3 cups white bread flour
1 teaspoon yeast

To finish:

100g (3 1/2 oz) walnuts, roughly chopped

Place the first six ingredients in the baking pan.  Set the programme to Basic (or in my case, Dough).*

When the cycle indicates, add the walnuts.  At the end of the programme, transfer bread to a wire rack to cool.

*Remove dough from pan and put onto a lightly floured board.  Flatten a little and incorporate nuts, turning and kneading until all are incorporated.  Shape and put into a pre-warmed and well-oiled 2 lb loaf tin and leave to prove until well risen.  Brush with well-beaten egg and put in a hot oven (420 deg. Fan) with a dish of boiling water below it, which helps to give a crisp crust.

Ready in about 25/30 mins - check that the bottom is done and if not brisk to tap, turn loaf upside down and give it another 5 mins.

Yummy . . .

Garden, baking and Baby Yew Table

Welsh poppies, which have self-seeded themselves everywhere.

I was determined to get some baking done yesterday - I have almost been a stranger in my kitchen in recent weeks and have not had time to do more than throw together last minute scratch meals most evenings.  So, out came two of my well-used cookbooks:

And shortly afterwards, a batch of Blueberry Muffins (I may have had to eat one or two so these would fit on the plate . . .)

Blueberry Muffins were quickly followed by a Walnut Loaf, taken to risen dough stage in the Breadmaker, and then the chopped walnuts kneaded in and left to rise, before baking in a hot oven.  OH says it's nicer than a boughten one.  I should blardy well think so!!  I'll put up a fresh post with the recipe.

Pollen levels are ridiculously high, but the garden is getting so overgrown now and I just HAD to clear the Weeping Widow geraniums from one bed and then I could see where my Zepherine Drouhin rose was to stuff it through the plant support.

As you can see, the rose now just about fits in the plant-support (not meant for roses but a standard rose one wouldn't work) and I have some digging over to do.

A tad overgrown in the stoney garden, so I will have to wade in once the Aquilegias have set seed and have a good clear up.

Meanwhile my OH has been working on Son of Yew Table!!  This is a wee beastie we picked up for £2 at a car boot sale.  Someone had put a top and a shelf joined together on a hideous metal bracket shelf.  My OH saw potential in it, and the shelf is now made into supports.  I'll put up a photo when it's completed.