Wednesday, 31 July 2013

R.I.P. Stella

Our little grey stray, Stella (aka Grey Thing or Misery Guts - because she was) sadly had to be pts this morning.  She came into our lives a couple of years ago.  We saw her first, marching steadfastly along the lane from the A40, and in the way of cats, she kept turning left, and eventually found us.  A pretty cat - grey with a white bit, tummy and paws and hints of a tabby in her ancestry.  We thought that the grey tom who had been this way (and sired the boys) had been her dad, but with the benefit of hindsight (she was almost certainly much older than we thought, in her teens) she was more likely his mum or (g.g.g.) granny.

Anyway, she wasn't comfortable around the other cats, and swore and hissed a lot, and was not a happy cat.  She only purred a few times whilst she was with us, and liked to sleep on the dresser, away from the others.  She had been spayed, and knew all about cat flaps.

Over the winter she was even more scowling and unhappy, and just came in to eat and then went out over to the farm the rest of the time.  About two months ago she suddenly lost a lot of weight, and wasn't eating much.  When the weather improved, she disappeared altogether, although there were occasional sightings of her down by the bridge.  But she never came back to us.

On Monday, Next Door's tractor driver said that he had seen a grey cat which he thought was ours, by the Chapel, staggering around and looking very ill.  I went down with the cat box and found her patiently sitting (hunting) at the roadside.  She was in a bad way though.  We took her to the vet, who said her kidneys were very enlarged but without blood tests, they couldn't offer medication.  We couldn't go down that route, as we were pretty certain she wasn't going to stay around with us to HAVE any medication.  Anyway, we brought her home and for 24 hours she ate and perked up.  Then yesterday her kidneys had gone into overdrive, and the litter box had the evidence, and then we found her in her bed, with the paper saturated too, so she was incontinent.  Then she stopped eating, and we had a discussion with the vet, and took her down this morning to be pts.  I am sad that she had gone, but there was no real alternative, and I think her illness made her so defensive and unhappy to be around other cats.  We offered her shelter, food and love while she was with us, and compassion at the end.

Friday, 26 July 2013

(G)Widigada, where art thou?

As a researcher (it was something I excelled at - WHEN I had the time -  at Uni) I sometimes have a little prompt (thank you eldest daughter dear) and find I am following a deep line of research which keeps me occupied for hours.  She phoned around 5 p.m. and 3 hours later I am still researching.  What started me off were a couple of links to the previous occupants of our house - well, if I am honest, I think it was all probably flattened by Thomas Lewis, he who proudly put the plaque over the door "Built at the charge of Thomas Lewis 1718" . . .  but the building that was on this site in the mid to late Medieval periods.    I dived straight in and FINALLY have the name of the man who lived here in the 1400s and was made Esquire to the Body of Henry VII (after Bosworth, when Lord Dynevor supported Henry Tudor and raised an army locally from local gentlemen and their retainers.)  If you have been watching the White Queen on tv recently, you have no idea how exciting it feels to be part of that history unfolding as the weeks go on, from our little quiet spot of Carmarthenshire.  Here, the occupants had Friends in High Places and answered their call.

He was Gwilym ap John, born around 1430, and son of John ap Llywelyn "Ddu" (Ddu means dark), and Lleucu ferch Gwallier, who were both born around 1400. His occupation was given as "Gwilym Egwad the Poet".  His talents as a poet were cultured by Lewys Glyn Cothi, the Bardic poet , who addressed the eleventh Ode, in the fourth Dosparth of his poems, to this Gwillim ab Sion ab Llewelyn ddu, and calls his house (here on this site) Neuadd wen Llywelyn Ddu, "the white (or fair) mansion of Llewelyn ddu."

We always wanted to believe that the lower front portion of this house was the original Great Hall, but recent events point out to it being reinvented by Thomas Lewis.  The recent demolition of a plinth (built at the side of the house overlooking the yard and originally intended to support an oil tank for the central heating!), contained quantities of large lumps of building stone, including some dressed and rebated pieces which could well have belonged to the earlier dwelling here. We found several other pieces of high-status dressed stone and a piece of rebated stone window surround used as flooring in what used to be the old Dairy at the back of the house.

Anyway, I digress.  Then I got distracted by the mention of Llewelyn ddu ap John (Gwilym's elder brother) being born about 1430 at Gwidigada commote, Carmarthenshire, where his father's first wife Nest Philip hailed from.  I have finally tracked down the Manor of Widigada in Llanegwad to Cwmgwili, 2 miles N-N.East of Abergwili.  Job done!

Anyway, I expect by now you are all bored to death, because early Welsh history doesn't float your boat, but thank you for listening.  Sometimes I wonder if I will open the kitchen door when I go downstairs for medication or something in the night, and walk into the past, just like in Alison Uttley's wonderful children's book "Traveller in Time" . . .

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

It's finished

There we are - my first attempt at the rolled rag seagrass stool.  There's a couple of ra-ra skirts went into that one, and some cotton curtain remnants from the curtain shop in town . . .  I gradually got a lot more adept at covering the seagrass in fabric strips, with pins and Copydex to hand!  I have another stool to do as well as a vintage child's high chair.

On Monday, I made a start on clearing the island bed in the yard.

I also got quite a bit of clearing up down on what was my mum's little patio.  I cut the rambler rose back to a more managable size, cleared all the rubble, swept up and cut limp leaves off spent plants.

The rubble mountain that was in the centre of the yard - NOT a good selling point!

A welcome sight . . .

We are slowly getting there.  We had rain last night, which has really freshened things up so I am off out to work in another overgrown part of the garden and also to clear more rubble from wall-bases.  We got my wanting-to-grow Clematis montana rubens planted yesterday.  Growing up the yard side of the house, and replacing the yellow winter flowering one which was murdered when the building work was done.

I took photos as I went along yesterday, so will try and do a how-to post on the little stool.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Hard work, mint and raspberries . . .

I got these two craft books from the bit car boot sale on Saturday, and look forward to settling down properly with them when I am not having to Do Things Outside . . .

This was one of my headlined jobs to do this morning - clearing up in the wake of the builders.  A job we couldn't tackle until the scaffolding came down last Friday.  Under all that rubble should be some gravel . . .

The general area.  I have cleared the bit just either side of the hose and was working my way upwards towards what's left of the Escallonia. The darker yellow on the walls is the damp still coming out.  There had been a big plinth here, apparently built to hold the oil tank . . .  It was not a pretty sight, and as you can see, held a lot of damp in that wall.

As you can see, I got the easy job, as here is my OH manhandling the stone (some of it dressed stone, possibly from an earlier incarnation on this site) which had been inside the plinth.

This used to be a raised bed area for growing veg in.  Needless to say, it was destroyed when the builders were at work, although I had removed most of the soil prior to them starting.  We now have to replace all that.

One of the next jobs.  This is the bed in the middle of the stable yard.  It has . . . "got away" . . .  from me this year.  That's what comes of being ill and unable to do anything outside since the end of March . . .

I had a rest from the hard work and went to pick raspberries.  I have an absolutely bumper crop but unfortunately they are the smallest raspberries ever -shrivelled by the heat as I just couldn't carry water over to them from the house. I shall freeze them anyway and use them in a cake or two.  As I was picking them, I could smell the Mint I was crushing underfoot - picking raspberries and smelling mint are synonymous with summer here.  I was also getting stung by nettles, and prickled by brambles, as needless to say the raspberry plot is completely out of control this year.

Finally, a corner of yesterday's car boot sale.  It is very hard to take photos at a boot sale, without impinging on people's privacy, and without having the stalls completely blocked by buyers . . .

Friday, 19 July 2013

Recipe for Gooseberry & Orange DrizzleCake



225g softened butter, plus extra for the tin (I used Stork . . .)
225g caster sugar
225g self-raisin flour
4 large eggs
grated zest and juice of one orange
225g gooseberries, topped and tailed
140g granulated sugar ( omitted this)

Heat oven to 180 deg C/160C Fan/Gas 4.  Butter and line a 20 x 30cm traybake tin with baking parchment.

2.  Put the butter, caster sugar, flour, eggs and orange zest in a bowl.  Beat thoroughly with an electric whisk until creamy and smooth. (Or do as I did, creaming butter and sugar, adding orane zest, then gradually adding eggs and ditto flour.)  Stir in the gooseberries, then spoon into the tin and level the surface.  Bake for 35 mins until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

3. Stir the orange juice and granulated sugar together (or omit extra sugar as I did), spoon over the surface of the warm cake and leave to cool and set.  Cut into squares.

213 calories per square (this makes 16-20 . . .)

I wish I could claim credit, but it came from the BBC Good Food site.  ( There are more good goosegog recipes on there, including Gooseberry and Elderflower Jellies (they've gone over here), Italian Rice Creams with Gooseberry and Elderflower Puree, Gooseberry andElderflower Preserve, A Very Easy One-crust Gooseberry Pie, Gooseberry Yoghurt Fool, etc).

Routine in a Heatwave . . .

This is the cats' routine - come in for food and then retire to a shady spot and spend the day there until hunger pangs strike again . . . or it is 3 p.m. (they eat at Naffi times!)  Here is Little Whale, relaxing, now he is back.  He seems to have had an agreement with Alfie about guarding the house, as Alfie has now gone walkabouts . . .


Our routine, whilst this heatwave lasts (and apparently the end of August has been mooted . . .) is to get up early, garden when everything is still cool.  As it warms up, we move elsewhere, me to paint in the attic (it is taking several coats of white to cover the Medieval blue) and OH to potter with his furniture repairs.  Then it is normal household tasks in the heat of the day, and as it cools, I can retired to a seat in the shade with some sewing.  Bliss . . .

I found this book in Oxfam this week, brand new, and only £2.99.  As it had been on my Amazon wish list, I was delighted and have made something from it already (can't show it yet until the recipient has received it.)

This is a little seagrass stool I am recovering with new seagrass wrapped in strips of fabric.  It takes a LONG time to wrap the seagrass.

Here's some I made earlier . . . (yesterday!) :

Needless to say, the fabric is cotton clothing I have bought cheaply at car boot sales.  This way even damaged skirts or whatever can be re-purposed.

This is the scrummy Gooseberry and Orange Drizzle Cake I made yesterday (to take to friends).  I will put up the recipe over the weekend.

Meanwhile, we are off to view an auction shortly . . . when my husband has donned some clothes hopefully, as he is currently on the sun lounger in the buff . . . you can tell we live in a very quiet area here!  Let's hope that the Jehovah's Witnesses don't suddenly arrive!!!

Monday, 15 July 2013

Sewing in the shade . . .

The Christian work ethic is a hard one to ditch.  I find it very difficult, when I have a long list of jobs "still to do", to give myself time off to just sit out in the garden with a good book, much as I would like to.  Anyway, I justified some garden time yesterday once it got too hot to paint in the attic, and took out this old Welsh quilt to mend.  It has some missing quilting stitches, and a couple of bits needed darning, so I spent a couple of extremely pleasant hours outside with my needle.  Bliss . . .

I am trying to date the materials used.  Any suggestions?

A close-up of the quilting design (a very basic one, worked in green and red stitching.)  It has a well-worn blanket as the lining.

All SENSIBLE cats were in the shade.  Here's Alfie . . .

And his mum Miffy . . .

Fluff likes the sunshine though.  With her rusty coat, she is looking more like her mum every day . . .

And finally wee Banshee.  She is out all the time at the moment - she loves hot summer nights for hunting.  But sometimes you have to catch up on your sleep . . . This windowsill is one floor up - reached via the scaffolding, which is STILL HERE!!!  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

A Crafty Day in Hay . . .

The new header, by the way, is the view across the Carmarthenshire countryside from the top of Bannau Sir Gaer (Black Mountain).  You can see forever . . .

We had to go to Brecon again for more (hopefully the LAST tin) Clay Paint yesterday, so as is our wont, we drove onto Hay-on-Wye for a Day Out.  We'd only been a couple of weeks ago, so didn't expect to find any must-have books, although I did buy the one on Horse Brasses in the above photo, as I seem to have acquired quite a few in recent months . . .  The Kirstie's Vintage Home book I bought when we stopped at Trecastle on the way.  I wanted details of making on one of the items she had in there, and then I will pass it on.

This is part of the display in the wool/crafts shop next to the cafe in Backfold where we always stop for a bacon roll (sausage in my case) and to "wet our whistle" as mum would have said.  I sooooooo want to make a rag rug (amongst other craft projects).  Anyway, instead I bought sock wool . . .

And then some pre-dyed tops for felting. Wouldn't you know when I was having a tidy up this very WEEK, I THREW OUT the 1970s reed table mat I had put on one side for YEARS with this idea in mind.  Then I thought, nope, I'll never get around to it, and my OH burned it . . .   I shall have to think outside the box now . . .

Thursday is Market day in Hay, and there were a few stalls including this one selling various baskets and bags.  

A little corner of Hay - the building on the left of this extension is the Curry House.

You never know what turns up . . . this huge plaster ceiling boss must have weighed several hundredweight.

Shop windows . . .

Reflections . . . this is the Murder and Mayhem shop I think.

Now THERE'S a window display you don't see every day!  This stuffed Clydesdale head and shoulders was obviously a much-prized horse before his demise.  Perhaps a Brewery horse . . .

This tiny peaceful garden was at the back of one of the shops and I could have sat here all day, listening to the sound of water from a little fountain.

You can't quite see the really pointy ears . . . NOT Mr Spock, but actually the Duke of Wellington - well, the nose and chin are a bit of a give-away . . .

View from a book-shop window - the road to Clyro.

We had a really lovely day and came home to find the first part of the scaffolding had been taken down, and our top field is now baled (haylage) and much tidier.  Phew . . .

Wednesday, 10 July 2013


The roses in the Header are growing at Haddon Hall - I think I took this photo about 2 years back.  Unfortunately I couldn't really "choose" the photo because I transferred them all onto an external hard drive and I have dates but not the actual photo, so it's a shot in the dark when I click on one to load . . .

Zepherine Drouhin (a thornless  Bourbon rose).

A not too clear photo of Cardinal Richelieu  (a Gallica rose).

The undoubted star of the show - Paul's Himalayan Musk (Moschata).

She's climbed right to the top of the apple tree - and beyond.

This is the rambler The Garland, another vigorous Moschata climber.  Like the PHM, it is very fragrant.

This is supposed to be the David Austin rose, Graham Thomas.  However, he is the wrong colour!  GT is meant to be yellow.  Still, a very pretty rose, and he is a LOT happier to have some sunshine this year.  It could be Lady Emma Hamilton . . . or possibly Abraham Darby.

My beautiful golden rose whose name I have forgotten . . .

I thought this little one I bought for mum, was called "Yesterday", but it doesn't look like the photos I've found on line.

Our top field cut for hay.  They turned it yesterday, so should be along to bale it in the next day or so.

Finally, the house all newly-decorated.  Same yellow (only another coat of the limewash to tidy it up) and then Bay Leaf, which is a heritage colour grey-green. Once the scaffolding is down, it will be going back on the market and prayers are being offered it may attract a buyer . . .