Wednesday, 27 February 2013

It's nearly March . . .

I have been going back through my photos, saving them (VERY slowly) to Amazon Cloud drive, so that if my computer goes belly-up, I have them stored safely.  This is one of the photos which I love and takes me back to going to Badminton Horse Trials with my friend Jude, and then we took the scenic route home.  This is - I am pretty certain - a corner of Frocester Hill near Stroud in Gloucestershire, looking across the Severn Plain towards Wales - only Wales is hidden in the haze.

I feel in need of some warmer memories today!  I will be so glad when Friday brings us the month of March and of course it will be St David's Day here in Wales and the schoolchildren will be dressed up as little old-fashioned Welsh children and everyone will be sporting a daffodil.

And I just had re re-use this window (at Fiddleford Mill in Dorset) looking across the verdant water meadow.  You just don't get greener green that this!

K and I had a walk along the river today, and got some more firewood - a cut branch wedged in the fork of a tree some 15 feet above the current river level.  I found what I called a witch's stick - a length of river-polished hardened wood which may have been ivy once, as several twines of wood writhe sinuously together.  I am going to clean it up, and decorate it and then I will show you it on here.

I needed to get some baking done too, so we now have two Double-ginger Ginger Cakes in the fridge, and then it was back out to the top of the stable yard to carry on chopping up and clearing the smallest of the ivy trees felled on Sunday.  There is a good bit of wood there, but an awful lot of trash and ivy foliage to burn.

I slept very badly last night, but hope to catch up on my sleep tonight - I need to be on the ball tomorrow so hopefully I won't be awake until nearly 2 a.m. like last night.  I had a lot on my mind, and aching calf muscles, and I was trying to be happy for our eldest daughter on holiday in Morocco - rather than worrying about her!

This is one of the felled trees so you can see how thick the swarm of ivy around it -  a veritable cat's cradle .  We have a nice view of the opposite side of the valley now.

Keep warm everyone.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Winter Blues

Well, thank heavens I have the computer working again.  Scared by the possibility of it just going completely belly-up one day I am taking the precaution of loading my most important photos onto Amazon Cloud.  Two big files took nearly ALL DAY to load yesterday as this computer (10 years old now!) is soooooooo slow.  I have some backed up on disc, and some of the older ones on Photobucket, so I need to sit down for a day and sort out what is where . . .

Mind you, sitting down up here for a day is not really possible at the moment as the house is just so cold away from the woodburner, or the kitchen first thing in the morning when we have the Hergom on for an hour or so.  The temperature in most of the house is about 10 degrees C (50F) and we are low on oil and have no money to top up as we have a big electricity bill due.  I hope we have a long hot summer which starts in March!!!

 We have had plenty of time to gaze upon this view lately . . .

Anyway, since we have been without a phone line, and the distraction of broadband, I have been working on the research for my Edward Thomas talk and K and I have been busy harvesting wood for next winter's fuel.  Last summer was so dire and wet that we left it late to cut and split wood, and because of the rain it went away damp and has burned damp and cool all winter.  Only now are we getting some decent stuff on the fire, and that is from a couple of long-dead trees that the river brought our way.  K also felled 2 doddering old ivy-clad Ash trees at the top of our yard, and there is one more trunk to fell but the lean on it means it will go backwards over Next Door's fence so we need to check out with him if we can flatten his fence and then resurrect it again.  We have been enjoying Mountain Men on Sky (not seen the series before) and inasmuch as we have always been fairly self-reliant here, we can understand the way of life these men have chosen.  Definite shades of Mountain Men when we got the rope across the river from pole to pole for BT! The river bought us a wonderful seasoned oak trunk.  It was the very devil to chainsaw and kept blunting the blade, but we got it in three pieces.  The smallest we managed to get back to the car (a 50 yard carry).  The biggest is still there.  The middle piece we FINALLY, after much levering and struggling as the two ends kept falling in to the middle and trapping the piece we needed to remove, got the middle section moved.  K and I began to try and get wedges in to split it as he wanted some planking to make an oak coffer for our bedroom.  Anyway, at the end of 2 mornings' work with this, we gave ourselves the afternoon off.  Next day, some barsteward came and took it.  We were NOT AMUSED.  It was a two man carry and I was just not up to carrying it. It must have weighed well over a hundredweight and had to be got up a bank first . . .

I had a stroll up the lane yesterday whilst K cut wood, and saw the first wee Tenby daffodils out on a sunny bank.  Not as many as in the top picture, but things are going the right way.  We just need a bit of spring sunshine ahead of its time to come and cheer us up.

The cats are keeping warm (they're no fools) and are to be found near the fire and on our bed, depending on their dispositions.  Here are Miffy and her son Alfie (aka Wild Thing as he is a bit nervous and gets silly!) on the cart shed door.

I have found that all my photos from past postings now seem to have been saved to Picasa, which is handy . . .  At least I can be generous with the photos again.

Today our daughter T goes on holiday to Marrakesh with her best friend from work.  I am envious.  I hope she enjoys it and forgets all about work, as her job is hanging by the balance there and she faces the real threat of redundency as they are doing it on a best interview criteria and she has always struggled with interviews.  She has missed out on two posts she interviewed for - being offered a 12 hour contract yesterday - who can live on the wages of 12 hours' work - especially as it is spread over a week so she would have to be in two hours here and two hours there and not be able to look for a 2nd job?  She was on 30 hours before and this was topped up with Working Tax Credit to a living wage.  Say a prayer for her that she gets her Visitor Assistant position back and at decent hours . . .

Well, this is my Volunteering Day, so I had better sort myself out.  Here is the view across the Deer Park . . .

Saturday, 23 February 2013

I don't believe it!

I turned my computer  on this morning to find that lt wasn'tworking. this be ingwritten on our kindle and I have 't usedit before.back on Monday.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Sanity restored

I am incredibly relieved to say that we are now back on line and with a working phone.  Hopefully my blood pressure will now sink back to normal levels. 

A random photo - taken when walking up to Llyn-y-Fan-Fach one summer.  You can just see a wee birdy on the rock, but can't remember what it was - looks a bit like a Grey (Water) Wagtail.

I shall return . . . Meanwhile, thank you all for holding the faith.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

The Saturday Post - Let's Buy British

I am hoping that this is the last weekend without a phone line and broadband, although we have learned how to cope because it has taken so long.  Two months and counting.  The 19th (Tuesday) is the current "do by" date, so fingers crossed.  According to our local paper, the Western Mail, if you are a heavy internet user, you get withdrawal symptoms similar to withdrawal from regular Ecstasy use.  That is, when you have no internet access.  Whilst I've never taken Ecstasy, I did suffer without my internet for that first month!

Meanwhile, my husband and I (whenever I write that, I hear the Queen's voice in my head!!!) are continuing with logging for next winter, and if you have ever seen the Mountain Men programme on Sky (love it) we are beginning to feel just like them.  We are currently harvesting a well-seasoned fallen oak, the middle chunk of which my husband is planning to try and split today to build a coffer from, and the chunks either side, which are bent and damaged, are firewood.  Heavens, it weighs an absolute ton though, I can't manage to carry even a small slice!  The tannin in it smells just like Daddy's Sauce (Brown Sauce to the uninitiated) when you cut it.  Strange.  Now I have a note of how the old tanneries must have smelt, as they used oak bark for tanning leather (I can remember, in my youth, buying stirrup leathers which were oak bark tanned).

Well, the horsemeat furore carries on apace and it would seem that unless we are strict vegetarians or vegans, we have been eating it in all sorts of disguises down the years.  It doesn't surprise or disgust me (although I would NEVER choose to eat horse meat, having owned horses all my life) but I am hoping that something positive may come from this and that the return to supporting our local butchers instead of buying blindly at the supermarket (though personally I cook from scratch and have never had anything more ready-meal than a fish-finger or pizza).  I hope that the NFU's adverts in the National newspapers this weekend for fresh sourcable BRITISH meat will influence the British public.  After all, it ticks so many boxes and helps the British economy - particularly British farmers who have been struggling for years to keep their heads above water.  Eynon's, the superb butcher we use at St Clear's (far too infrequently, I will own) is an expert at accountability and advertises the name of the farm where the beef/lamb/pork etc came from.  The venison comes from the Queen's estates at Balmoral and is WONDERFUL.  All this meat has lived a good life, had a good death, been properly hung, prepared, and if you think lamb is lamb is lamb - try lamb raised on salt marshes - the flavour is out of this world.  Far better for us to eat less meat, but when we do get it, to go for top quality meat such at Eynon's and similar butchers sell.  Far better for people to learn to cook from scratch too, and I understand that Michael Gove is aiming to introduce cooking skills back into the school curriculum - and not as part of Design & Technology where the food had to be designed - one dish in various guises, rather than learning  how to cook a good soup, stew, cake or loaf of bread which was what we learned in "Cookery" lessons back in the 1960s.

Have a good weekend all.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

We have a POLE!

Quick update.  We found the pole-men at work down on our river bank yesterday.  On our return from town, the pole was up and we are now waiting for the line-men to come and do THEIR bit.  Progress and a little bit of hope.  Being ignored all the time is SO frustrating.

T has now gone back to Sheffield, and rounds of form-filling and interviews (including for her own job as hours are being reduced and people being made redundant) and she is also house-hunting, so keep all your fingers crossed for her please.

G very happy in her new job and D is talking of returning home to live so he can save more for travelling to Oz and the Far East.  Just when we were enjoying having the house to ourselves . . . though I have to say it will be nice to have him back again and help him with his plans.

I am busy working on a crochet throw, after "inheriting" a partly-worked large granny square in white with the suitcase of material I bought recently at the car boot sale.  It is wonderfully mindless to work on in the evenings and is slowly progressing.

I have seen the first signs of spring in a Celendine (which had gone over already, so others can't be too far behind), a bank of Primroses, and the first frog-spawn in the pond (the main one, rather than the wildlife pond.)  There were also three Robins in one of the apple trees, so it looks like we shall have some battles amongst them soon.

I am looking forward to being able to write up my blog properly AND add photos again.  I am afraid I feel like I am just treading water here at present.

Thank you all for all your letters - they are keeping me going!

Monday, 11 February 2013

ET - makes a change from BT . . .

They (BT) have renagued on Friday's date, and Saturday's date.  Only they didn't contact me, as they promised in the morning, instead they texted a friend of mine in Oxfordshire, who had been chasing them up as she was worried about me being so long without a phone. She had to forward the bad news to me. I am climbing the bloomin' walls here from frustration.  We have a new date - 19th February.  I am about to e-mail MP again, BT Parliamentary representative etc and then our local newspaper - they could do with a front page story - it doesn't take much to become one either, round here.

I assume all the neighbours who now also have no phone line, will also be off until the 19th.

Meanwhile, T is here so we are doing companionable things together and will be making bread, a lemon drizzle cake and then beef goulash for tea.  I have been working on my Edward Thomas notes, and found some research I did last year, which has helped me along a bit.

If you are one of the people in touch with me by letter only, keep them coming.  It saves my sanity!

Friday, 8 February 2013

What is the point?

No phone.  No computer.  No BT.  No promised phone call from BT to check if the work had started - although they did text me this morning to tell me they would be phoning.  What IS the point?

Looks like I will be on the internet cafe computer for the forseeable future.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

A Day Out

We had a lovely day out in Hay-on-Wye yesterday (husband, T and myself).  The weather was . . . brisk, I think you could say.  It kept trying to snow in the morning and the mountains and Hay Bluff were well sprinkled with white.  I only bought one book - a little Edwardian book called Beautiful Dartmoor, for £5.  Extracts in due course.  We had our usual bacon/sausage baps in the cafe in Backfold which kept us going all afternoon. It is always good to see some different countryside - although it is countryside we have come to know "off by heart" in the years we have been driving to and from Hay.

Monday was a lovely day too.  When we went shopping my husband suddenly presented me with a bunch of deep red Chrysanthemums and brought tears to my eyes.  When I got home, Sharon at Morning's Minion had sent me a copy of Robert Frost's poetry, which I had been longing for and this and the lovely dedication within it from Sharon, brought tears to my eyes again. Sharon - the most ENORMOUS THANK YOU.  I have dipped into it so far, but love his work - I just feel so sad that he lived such a long and productive life and Edward Thomass's was cut off so abruptly.

 Then T arrived!, and I managed to stem my tears, but gosh, it was good to see her again.

Driving here this morning to use the computer, we saw that last night's gales had brought down a tree across the phone line!  Which means that all our little hamlet is out now.  Perhaps that will bring BT along quicker, although I doubt we will get our phone pole up any earlier.  I dare say the neighbours will have to be cobbled onto OUR repair day.  Thank heavens it was taken out BEFORE ours was repaired.  You can imagine my swear-words had we just got the line back and next day it was taken out again!

I am away to clean my oven now.  The things a girl does for fun!  I have a roast planned for this afternoon and the clouds of smoke coming out when I used the main oven on Monday (for the first time in months as I have had to just use the small one, for reasons of economy) meant it had to be working with all the windows open!

Keep warm all and thank you for your patience, friendship, and kindness.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Happy Monday

The start of another week, and our eldest daughter arrives home today for a week's holiday, so that will be lovely.  Middle daughter has excitedly gone to her Good New Job and I am so pleased for her.  We saw our son at the weekend and they will all be here for the mass dental appt. on Wednesday.  Wish she DID come to the house, but T will want to go round allthe charity shops in Llandeilo, so that saves us a seperate trip. 

Possible snow is forecast for tonight.  Deep joy.  Yet it feels very mild out right now and room temps are up to a high of 15 degrees pre heating.  With heating they struggle to make an extra degree, but we have to ration the heating oil and have very little very dry wood - it is still trying to dry out from last summer . . .

I spent several very happy hours reading and note-taking on Edward Thomas's walks and exploits.  Since my husband was busy watching rugby all Saturday afternoon, this was a pleasure even more gratefully taken.  Someone had written that he walked "on the edge of consciousness".  In my work on him, I would say that it was closer to the edge of sanity . . .  Thelma - your McFarlane book is a joy.  I will HAVE to get my own copy, though hardback rather than Kindle, which was my initial thought, as it's £9.99 on Kindle and £12.50 or so on Amazon in hardback.  I loved McFarlane's take on Thomas's emotional constipation and how Helen's selfless incorruptable love brought out the worst in him - seemingly tempting him to greater and greater emotional browbeating of her in an attempt to break her love - since the more she loved him, the deeper the guilt he felt.  Having personally seen this in action, I know it for its total negativity. 

I think spring cannot really be TOO far away now (always the optimist) as the catkins are out on the hazel, and just starting to relax on the Alders.  The river has brought us a perfectly-sized Alder tree to cut up for next winter too).  The Sparrows appeared to be mating in the rambling roses this morning and the Great Tits were calling to one another.  As I drove here, a Redwing eyed me from a hedgetop and there are flocks of them and their friends the Fieldfares in fields hereabouts, and joy of yous, even some Lapwings, which I think have to be one of my favourite wild birds (they remind me of Arab horses).  I can remember whole field-fulls of them from my youth and yet now they are scarce.

Celendine leaves out now, so hopefully flowers not too far behind.  With each passing winter, I long for spring to arrive - even the tiniest signs in the hedgerows.

Yesterday's car boot sale brought me a Henry Williamson book I had been looking for, a slightly damaged (inside lid) Torquay pottery jam jar and lid, and some hessian and fur fabric oddments.  £2.50 spent . . .

Right, I need to return and scrub a bath.  You would not believe the blue rings on the bath from the combination of high acidity in the water and high copper content too. 

BTW Pat, a hogget is a lamb approaching a year old - 10 mths or so - and stronger-tasting than lamb.  We love it.

We are off for the day in Hay-on-Wye tomorrow, so I shall be absent from on here.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

The Saturday post

Our new washing machine arrived today.  Which was nothing short of amazing really.  We had left directions that our phone line was down so we had to be contacted by text as for the delivery time.  We received a text which bid us to track our delivery - ON LINE . . .  Oh for heaven's sake!  Then the phone rang - 3 rings.  I sprinted to get it but they had stopped phoning, and so I went outside to catch a passing signal and phone the unknown number, hoping it might be the delivery men . It was.  They wanted directions.  I was halfway through giving them when they said they would phone later for the rest.  I quickly said, just keep turning left.  Fortunately they did so and we now have our replacement machine and the old one taken away for recycling, but it just shows - you pay peanuts, and you get monkeys . . .  Short term memory loss is obviously par for the course - I had only given two turn lefts and their eyes glazed over!

I have to say, I am glad for the replacement as washing by hand leaves a lot to be desired, and my OH is wearing his woollen winter socks and they take a lot of wringing out.

In the meantime, I have to report that little Theodorable was out of his brain on cat nip yesterday.  I had made some sachets using the cat nip grown and sent by my dear friend Sharon over at Morning's Minion blog.  Theo had unearthed one from a gloomy corner yesterday and I found him rolling his face on it, biting the sachet and generally on cloud 9.  It has different effects on different cats.  Fluff and Lucy are underwhelmed by it; the other two boys aren't bothered by it, Banshee considers herself above such things (well, spending the entire winter with a bed on top of the fridge-freezer means she is above everything!) and the grey tabby Stella (Misery Guts) gets comatose on it. But Theo went completely BONKERS!  He was hurtling up and down the long refectory table in the hall as if it were his personal gym, he chased a ball up and down the hall for as long as I was willing to bowl it, and then he went into the kitchen.  I went in to make a cup of tea and found him on top of the speakers (which are on top of the cupboard) trying to climb the holding rope up onto one of the Betty Maids (where we dry our clothing).  He was as high as a kite on cat nip!  I put him outside to try and catch the goldfish (his favourite outdoor pursuit), but he came in later and crashed out on my lap, purring like a grampus.  Bless him.  He has brought me such joy and in a way, makes up for losing poor Tippy so prematurely, as there is much of Tippy about him.

Well, just another week - WE HOPE - before BT finally get around to growing the tree which is to be the replacement pole for the line, and then I will be able to stay in contact with the outside world without having to drive out to go in search of it.

Meanwhile, my best friend Tricia's daughter is in labour, and I have to keep in touch by text.  You have NO IDEA how frustrating that is!

2 more days and T will be home from Sheffield for the week (we are off to Hay-on-Wye on the Tuesday), and on Tuesday night/Wednesday night most or all of my offspring will be in residence for a joint dental check-up.  We are having roast hoggett for tea on Wednesday.  I can't wait to have them all under our roof again.