Monday 29 November 2010

November Snow

It really is no joke having snow this early in a winter - well, still officially Autumn I suppose, until 1st December. The temperatures have been perishing too - at least minus 11 a couple of nights ago and quite possibly colder since. It began snowing on Friday morning, just as we were driving our son into town for work. In no time at all we were in the thick of a blizzard, and it carried on, unrelenting, whilst we dashed around Tesco's, stocking up on anything we thought we might get short on - though we do carry a good storecupboard.

It really DOESN'T take much snow to cause total upheaval here. On Friday for instance, it took us HALF AN HOUR just to get out of the Tesco car park. In fact, it took ten minutes to actually join the queue to GET out as for once we were parked where we would have to reverse out. It took us, in all, an hour and a half to get home as town was gridlocked. Crazy. Even then we had to abandon the car at the bottom of our hill as we couldn't get up it.

The side roads still aren't good - frozen compacted snow for long stretches where the winter sun never gets. Passable if you drive very carefully. Normally we would just shut the front gate and wait it out, but now we have to try and get our offspring into work. I sat up until 1 a.m. on Saturday morning waititng for our middle daughter to get home safely from her pub job. Our son is supposed to be going on a course in Bristol tomorrow and has to be in town for SIX A.M. to meet the chap who he's going with and will be driving them there and back . . . As there is supposed to be more snow tonight, that may not be possible . . .

As for how cold this house is, well, suffice it to say that unless you're by the wood burner, outside clothes are necessary (hat included) and life is rather miserable. The kitchen was 9 degrees Celcius this morning and the cats looked very disgruntled . . . We kidnapped the kittens last night and they spent the night in the shower room, and were SO happy to be in the relative warm (it has been at least minus 11 and below the last few nights). They were purring like grampusses . . .

Now we have a section of pipe frozen, which is causing problems, so my poor husband has to go and dig it up. It's a fresh junction he put in this year, so we are going to use the poorest fleece I was given for spinning this year (I had 6 in all) and use that in a bin liner to try and insulate the pipes.

The birds are desperate for food, and I am glad we got a sack each of seed and peanuts in just a few days before. Someone was writing somewhere about NOT feeding the birds as it encouraged rats, made them a target for cats and sparrowhawks, spread e-Coli and stopped the birds being good at foraging. I am sorry, but if we hadn't fed the birds last winter dozens would have died - I used to come down to up to 26 blackbirds each morning, plus countless Blue- and Great Tits, Chaffinches, Sparrows, Robins, Wrens et al.

I used to love the snow, but the last couple of winters have shown how difficult it makes life and right now, I would be happy to return to warmer and wetter winters . . .

Friday 26 November 2010

Dinefwr Park

Well, Newton House really, which is in Dinefwr Park. I had a stroll around the park on Wednesday, when we were in the area. The heavy mist made it all look quite magical.

Above and below: A fallen giant provides a home for countless invertebrates and those who feed on them . . .

The beautifully fissured bark of an ancient Sweet Chestnut tree.

And again . . .

Above and below: Despite there being lots of dead and damaged and fallen trees, this is actually managed woodland. It is managed with wildlife in mind, and because of the wonderful habitat, over 400 different species of beetles have been recorded here. As there are ponds and lakes in the grounds, their proximity to ancient woodland (some of the trees are a thousand years old and formed field boundaries initially) encourages bat species such as whiskered, noctules, Natterer's and Daubenton's bats.

A stand of trees near to where we were involved in the Dig for the Roman fort. As it happened, we found two - one pretty early - on this site.

I walked along this trackway to try and get nearer to the White Park Cattle that live here. From the driveway the herd had been barely visible in the mist - no, it was more like fog . . .

As you can see, I was successful as there were a few herd members on this side of the parkland. White cattle have been associated with Dinefwr since the days when the Laws of Hywel Dda, the 10th C leader of Deheubarth (Dinefwr Castle was at its centre) when fines and payments were recovered in white cattle.

This is a peek of the beautiful stable yard through the mist. On my way past it I had noticed a little tortoiseshell cat - what a wonderful place for a cat to live!

Thursday 25 November 2010

Back in the morning

Sorry, hectic here so galloping through. Here is a taster of tomorrow's post, as this misty scene was photographed in Dinefwr Park earlier this week, where I had a nice stroll whilst waiting for my daughter.

Sunday 21 November 2010

A quiet Sunday

The day started with a quick wander round the car boot sale, where £1.50 bought me these goodies. I find it hard to resist embroidery floss and the magazines have some great ideas.

After lunch my eldest daughter and I had a stroll up the valley.

The first catkins have been put out on branches now, though of course it is a couple of months before they will be flowering properly, but it cheers me up to think that the very first signs of spring can't be SO far away!

The larches on the hillside are still holding on to a few peach-coloured needles.

Looking across the fields towards Llanfynydd.

My neighbour was taking advantage of a quiet Sunday afternoon to fell a dangerously-leaning tree.

The low light levels meant that most of the photographs looked pretty washed-out, but I quite like the muted almost sepia tones of this photo.

Me carrying back a branch of holly (with a few berries) which had been ripped off by a passing vehicle. We've put it in the barn and plan to use the berried bits for decorations in a few weeks' time. I am also hoping to make a hedgerow basket using some of the longer springy stems . . .

In the valley bottom, these big willows are still hanging on to their leaves. It is a good bit more sheltered down there.

A general view up the valley across land now left for wildlife.

Recent gales have stripped many trees of their leaves and for a few months we can admire their winter silhouettes.

A day at the auction

For the first time in a couple of years, we viewed and bid on something at an auction this weekend. Our eldest daughter was interested in learning how to buy at auction, and what to look for, and what prices were like. We were out of touch with prices too, so after viewing on Friday afternoon, we joined the scrum yesterday, and managed to get chairs at the back of the room. There were some familiar faces there amongst the dealers, but a lot of folk "off-the-street" so to speak, keen to get a bargain now times are hard.

It was the standard house-clearance type of sale - one or two nice pieces, one very nice piece, and the rest fairly standard china, glass, blankets, lamps, cupboards, tables, and the flotsam and jetsom of domestic life in the 20th Century. A flock of Royal Doulton figurines of ladies in period dress sold for between £20 and £60 a piece. Some gigantic stuffed toy animals sold for between £30 and £70 (this last for a gigantic teddy bear who would be guaranteed to frighten the wits out of any child under about 8!)

People bidding usually make notes on the back of their cards with lot numbers, shorthand descriptions and price (if successful with their bid). One couple I saw had their eye on the star piece of furniture, and prepared for a bidding war. The auctioneer named a starting bid of 4 figures, and the gentleman quickly scrubbed out the item on his card . . .

I spent £5, or rather £5 plus 10% buyer's premium, plus VAT, on a hanging electric lamp looking like a period one. OH will take out the electrical bits and we will stick a candle in and use it as a spare light in times of power cuts. It needs a bit of a polish yet though and I may change the orange chimney for a clear one . . .

Our main interest was in a carved camphorwood chest that our daughter and her boyfriend liked. We were successful with our bid and it will be their joint Christmas present, and will house their spare bed linen and some woollies.

Thursday 18 November 2010


A stream near Pontargothi in spate a couple of years ago - probably looks similar today, as we've had so much rain.

I was reading my West Country dialect book last night, and a certain term made me prick up my ears. It was the word udjia or udjiack, meaning a small bit of something (especially mechanical) - we might called it a thingummibob today. Udjiak is actually a technical term used in shipbuilding (it is a movable chock used in fitting the planks of a boat).

I recognized this as an expression which possibly lengthened into "oojamaflip" in our house by my Devon-bred father - as in something small and lost - "where did I put that oojamaflip?"

As I sat here, another expression - this time of my mum's - came back to me - "Fanny Fanakapan". As in "What are you doing Fanny Fanakapan". I've just looked on Google and there was a Fred Fanackerpan in a Gracie Fields song . . . I wonder if it came from that? Mum used to say I was walking around like Fanny by Gaslight too!

Oh, and before I go, my mum used to be called "Lizzy Tin-drawers" by her dad - this presumably when she was being a bit straight-laced or having what would be termed these days as a sense of humour failure . . . I don't know where it comes from, but there is actually someone called Lizzy Tindraws with a Facebook account!

Wednesday 17 November 2010

No motivation

I'm sorry, I have no motivation to blog at the moment due to family problems, which may not be resolved for some time. I will try and kick myself into action, but if the blog seems abandoned or just has photos, it's because I am struggling a bit. i shall be glad when this year ends and hope to God that 2011 may bring some improvement.

Photos are the sun setting as we returned from Hay-on-Wye last week.

Monday 15 November 2010

Clearly a Non-conformist . . .

Our travelling Library called this morning, and I took out a couple of books about the history of Wales in general and Carmarthenshire in particular.

I came across a page with some photographs of people committed to Carmarthen Gaol, with details of their offences. I always thought of Victorian Carmarthenshire folk as God-fearing hard-working people, many of them getting their living from the land. However, in the towns it would appear that life was sometimes more . . . colourful . . . for beside the 15 year old lad who stole a pair of boots worth 4 shillings (this was 1870) and a 64 year old man who had stabbed someone, was Daniel Griffiths, 74, born in Laugharne, 5'4" tall and with a healthy complexion, who, on May 12th 1870, was committed to Gaol. His offence? B*ggery with an ass (I presume it was a donkey . . .)

Sunday 14 November 2010

View from the top of the mynydd . . .

A few photos taken on a very short stroll on Saturday, camera in hand.

Carmarthen Fans (Black Mountain) - the last outpost of the Brecon Beacons.

An old trackway which I've walked a couple of times. It winds its way down to the valley bottom.

Modern take on a Clooty Tree.

The favourite fencing up here now there are so few who will rebuild the old walls.

You can just see the edge of one boundary of an Iron Age fort, far left.

There were four BIG Red Kites in this picture. They must have seen me lift my camera as all bar the speck in the distance quickly dropped altitude to lurk above the oak and ash woodland.