Saturday 30 March 2013

The white Black Mountain, and bird-watching

Like everywhere else, spring is coming slowly to our valley.  There are a few Primroses out and Celandines, but they look rather tatty from being battered by this constant wind - I think it must be on holiday from the Falkland Islands where my husband tells me "the wind blows all the time."  The Dog's Mercury has been out for weeks, and now the Ramson (wild Garlic) leaves have just burrowed up through the earth and last week I was delighted to see the happy little faces of the Windflowers dancing on the bank by the junction.

I am trying to walk daily again now.  Not very far at present, but I need to stretch my legs as I keep getting twinges of Sciatica.  My back is definitely "out" but bearable.  The trip to the Chiropractor will have to wait for the moment.  Anyway, I took my camera with me when I walked up the hill yesterday, as I wanted to get a photo of Black Mountain still in her winter wraps.  She looks rather splendid and primeval against the monochrome foreground.

I was bird-watching yesterday and imagine my delight when I spotted a Goldcrest in the hedgerow.  It flew off, startled by my approach, but when I stood quietly, it returned and I was able to see it properly.  It is only the 4th I have ever seen.  One in Dorset, one down by the Mill last summer, and one last week - which one of those intrepid hunters (the boys) brought it into the kitchen, already dead . . . 

It looks just-fledged doesn't it?  A very early brood in that case.  Not sure if it could be a young Firecrest - they have bronzey shoulders, but this one is still too fluffy to tell.  They are apparently members of the kinglet family of birds . . . Old World Warblers according to Wikipedia.

Early-morning light across the paddock.  Our stream runs through this little copse, and the trees towards the back are ones that have grown in and around the old abandoned mill-pond. I wanted to capture this warm morning light, and the very special "March-light" which has such clarity later in the day.

This morning I was up at 6 and as I pulled the half-landing curtains, I could see Miffy on the trackway the far side of the lane, out hunting unsuspecting baby rabbits I will assume.  However, so was the dog fox I photographed last week.  They must have come face to face, as I saw the white of Miffy turn and run back across the lane, and then hurtle across the paddock with the fox - interested but not in hunting mode - following her.  She ran across the garden and into the hole in the corner where they all come and go, and he trotted up on the rockery, by which point I was at the front door and rapped on it.  he looked at me over his shoulder, totally unfazed, and then followed Miffy through the gap.  I called Miffy and she ran across the farmyard and back into the other end of the garden and the fox loped off down the trackway at the back of the slurry lagoon.  I wonder what happens under cover of darkness?  These two obviously have a stalemate.

As I opened the front door, two small flights of birds hurtled overhead, wings scything - no, cleaving is the word I wanted (thank you Robert Frost!)  the air with a very audible swoosh.    They were migrating Starlings, a bird we don't often see around here, but which are finding food locally at the moment.  As I write there are more going over - 6 to a dozen in each little group heading up the valley towards Jim's.  A couple of hundred more have settled in the big Ash trees above the farm.  They are making little flight-forays across the farmyard and back in a swooping loop to the tree.  Every now and then small groups break off and fly up the valley.  They are fascinating to watch.

 Last week when I opened the front door first thing, it was a party of male Blackbirds - one being pursued by 4 others, obviously in a territorial dispute. There are many Blackbirds locally and when I was out in the car on Thursday, it was Blackbirds, Thrushes, and Chaffinches I saw most of.  There are such gangs of Chaffinches about locally and yesterday we drove down the hill through a perfect storm of Chaffinches!  Magic : )

Saxifraga oppositifolia - well it was called that but they have recently changed its name, but I can't remember what to - in English it is Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage.  It grows by the acre in the wet woodlands round here, on banks, ditches - everywhere.  An insignificant little "flower" but a harbinger of spring.

Friday 29 March 2013

In Pursuit of Spring


The photo of the Germander Speedwells and  Yellow Archangel was taken in the beautiful woodland near Thomas's memorial.

I  apologise for pinching the title of Edward Thomas's book - his last one (published in 1913) before his beautiful prose flowered into stunning and evocative poetry..  Over the Easter weekend, Matthew Oates is on Radio 4 each afternoon, speaking of Edward Thomas's journey from London to Somerset (the Quantocks), a journey of some 130 miles by bicycle.  I was a little disappointed that this programme was only 10 minutes long (and not the half hour I was expecting!) but I am just listening to it again

Anyway, I was out and about yesterday and on my way back from the horse sale, the road over the mynydd was blocked by a tractor and a load of hay, and someone trying to fix it.  I backed up and reversed and came home the way least taken . . .  It was a regular route for us at one point, and I used to go that way every day when I was at Uni at Lampeter.  Until that is, we had a really icy spell and a car hit mine.  I had stopped, as I could see him coming towards me, but he was going too fast and hit an icy patch and did minor damage to my old car.  Remembering the awful rabbit-in-the-car-headlights feeling as the car shot towards me made me very disinclined to go that route that winter, and so I took the other way and have been going that way ever since.

Anyway, it was an absolute treat to go a different way.  The scenery is rather wild and woolly and there are plenty of pine trees planted amidst the peaty moorland, all covered with anthills or tussock grass.  Where the tussock grass is behind the sheepwire at the edge of the trees it has sprouted a shaggy top like a beige anemone. Where it is sheep-nibbled it is like stubble.  With the sun on the moor, it assumes, at this time of year, the hue of a slightly undercooked Digestive biscuit . . .

I may return to this tomorrow . . .

Wednesday 27 March 2013

Down by the river

I have spent a while looking at our river today.  At lunchtime I went for a walk to stretch my legs - and hopefully keep at bay the Sciatica which has been coming and going the past 3 weeks or so.  I leaned on the parapet of the bridge for a while and just watch the water glissading underneath it, and then as I walked across and up the lane, I caught sight of a Dipper on a rock, preening himself.  He seemed totally unaware of me - and there were a few trees between us - and so I was able to watch him for 5 minutes or so.

I only walked a mile or so up the valley but was lucky enough to have the sun come out and light up the maroon and bottle green of the ivy leaves, throw a golden glow on the hedge bottoms where the Dog's Mercury shelters, and show  tree-tops the colour of mercury against the darker clouds.

I was hoping to hear a Chiff-Chaff, but none have arrived here yet.  I heard and saw some Blue Tits and Great Tits, and a Robin followed me a few yards from curiosity.  Blackbirds turned over dead leaves and three small orange snail shells lay broken on the road's edge, where a Thrush had his workshop.

The Dipper was still on a rock when I got back, and he then flew up onto a branch which the river had captured and jammed against the central stanchion.  What a handsome bird, but no dipping or curtsying did he do today.

An hour ago my husband suggested that we go and bring back the excellent Ash log which the river had recently brought down.  It needed the chainsaw at it, and made 4 logs to heave back to the car.  I managed to carry one a short distance, but my back began to complain and I had to leave it for the strong one in our partnership.  As we worked, I noticed that there were huge fingers of ice on the slate rockface beside us, where we have had torrents of rain and then a return to colder temperatures.  It made me feel cold just to look at them!

I couldn't resist picking a bunch of pussy willow twigs which had been cut recently when the fishing guys were sorting out the river-edge, and these had now decided to flower anyway and the dove-grey and silver buds are now gracing the hall table in a simple earthenware jug.

This GREEN is what I would LIKE to see down by the river, but I don't think it's going to happen any time soon, as when we came back to the car it was attempting to snow, and little flurries of flakes were thrown into our faces.  According to my husband, the weather pundits reckon this cold spell could go on into April, and then be followed by another dismal wet summer.  I do hope not. . . it will wipe out certain Butterflies which are already critical (98% decrease in numbers of Black Hairstreaks for instance) and soon all we will see will be Cabbage Whites .  .  .  Bees are already suffering terribly and I think another summer could really decimate their numbers.  We will have to wish for a decent summer for 2013 . . .

Monday 25 March 2013

The view from here . . .

All I need to do is to step outside the front door and I instantly know what it feels like to live in Siberia.  Somehow I don't think I shall be emigrating any time soon.  Yeesh - we just have the wind.  I feel really sorry for the people in Northern Ireland, North Wales and Cumbria who have snow drifts 10 - 20 feet deep.  Particularly the farmers who have had such a bad year weatherwise over the past 15 months or so, and now stand to suffer catastrophic losses with ewes about to lamb and buried in snow.  I hope the Government will do something to help them, but somehow I doubt it . . .  Countryfolk live outside the  circle of the M25 and somehow drop off the Downing Street radar.  All I can say is, come Peak Oil, we shall look after our own!

I thought I would share the SPRINGTIME view above, which was taken on my way from Somerset into Dorset a couple of years back - from memory, it is the back of Bulbarrow Hill, looking back towards the Somerset border.

I have ordered, and taken receipt of, 3 books so far for my birthday.  One is an absolute corker about Crochet (different shaped blocks) and my fingers are fair itching to try some out.

Then there are two books about Edward Thomas: one in-depth one on his poetry, and the other is a reprint of a book published about 1939, and a very readable biography of ET.  I have dragged myself away from this book just long enough to check out my eBay listings and write this post.  Then I shall be back by the f ire.

Just to leave you with another reminder that spring can't be TOO far away.  I hope!
This gorgeous cottage with its ancient Wisteria was - I think - in Childe Okeford, Dorset.

Friday 22 March 2013

Living in the past with Edward Thomas

      Above: the view from the hill above the memorial stone to Edward Thomas on Leg of Mutton Hill, Steep, Hampshire

I am spending what has been a very wet and windy and thoroughly miserable spring-that-still-feels-like-winter day up in my office, at the computer, looking up various poems of Edward Thomas, and printing them off (for my talk).  It is easier to do this than to photocopy them from the book I have of his annotated poems.  Needless to say, this sends me on a spiralling exploration of links via the internet - what a wonderful invention the search engine is! - and I am now thoroughly drawn into the past.  The First World War Poetry Digital Archive is the most delightful and helpful site and I have been endeavoring to read some of Edward's letters to his son Mervyn, but gosh, his writing was done in haste and takes some working out as a combination of pencilled writing and many words pretty well joined together needs much concentration.  The signature of "Daddy"  brought a pang to my heart.  He speaks of walking 20 miles on a Sunday afternoon with four pals.

I have read some of his letters to Helen, they start "Dearest".  One mentions sending her some more of his verses which "should make up pretty well, with those I put in the oak chest, the set Merfyn has."  This letter shows him concentrating on practical matters.  Saying he has got a good haversack, but if she gets a pipe, to get it at the Stores, a dark red French briar pipe costing no more than 5/- or 6/- (shillings to those younger than me!) . . . He ends it "Goodbye, Edwy".  No mention of love, or missing her or the children but the core of the letter is about getting sets of his poems together for publishing but not to send to Robert Frost until he (Edward) tells her the thing is settled.

Some of these letters are held in the Edward Thomas Collection in Cardiff and I would love to see them if I could.  Several of the notebooks containing the poems he wrote are held at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth, where I have a reading ticket.  I hesitate to write this next few lines, for fear that I will be thought completely stark raving bonkers, but I would SO love to handle one of those notebooks and see if I could get a sense of the man behind the words, because  I once had the most amazing and inexplicable experience in our local Records Office.  Those of you with long memories must forgive me for having written about this before.

I had ordered up a box of various notebooks, letters and unknown documents for some research I was doing.  The family was a notable Carmarthen one, although they also had land holdings in Scotland.  Amongst the documents I came across scribbled letters from Queen Victoria herself (gosh, but her writing was bad!) as one of the family had been one of her bridesmaids.  I became absorbed by the notebook kept by one of the family's sons (in Victorian times) when his Battalion was sent to the Zulu Wars.  At the time I was looking for mention of how horses were kept etc and there was some interesting stuff which I jotted down.  The son was overawed by the terrific thunderstorms with immense lightening out on the African plains.  He was, it would seem, being kept busy (and safe)  as Staff Officer and well away from the fighting, but he wanted to show his mettle and volunteered to be involved closer to the fray.  Sadly, it was is undoing, for when their small exploratory party came under fire from a Zulu force hiding in  cave, and in bravely offering to lead a small party of men against what was truly an impregnable position, he was mortally wounded.  HERE is a link to tell you more about it. 

Anyway, when I got home, from curiosity, I looked up a website which had photographs of the slain and when I reached Lord C's son's photograph I immediately felt what HE had experienced at the moment of his death.  His blood was up, he was totally unafraid, and completely surprized when he was hit (on his head I believe, from the notes added later in his personal notebook, by his surviving CO).  I scrolled down, and then up again and every time that night I did that, I felt the same thing all over again.  This ended when I had had a bath and presumably his . . . essence . . . or whatever from the notebook was washed from my hands.  I cannot, simply cannot explain it, but I guess it is part of my "feyness".

Oh my gosh - I have just checked, and one of the archivists has written this up in this link  to the journal.  It may take a while to read it though, but it's fascinating stuff.

Anyway, in a childish way, I am rather hoping I might have some sense of Edward Thomas if I handled documents he had written . . .  I shall report back in due course.

Tuesday 19 March 2013

Fox vs. cat - who won?

At teatime yesterday we had an unexpected visitor to the garden - a big dog fox - who looked like his mum had never taught him that Cleanliness was next to Godliness!  He was quite aware of us in the window, but not at all bothered.

He trotted round the garden, clambering up the water cascade and then around the edge of the pond, where he spotted . . . Miffy, the boys' mother, who had also spotted him and was cwtched behind a big planter, with her tail like a bottle brush . . .  We watched the scene unfold . . .

Hearts in mouths, we watched the fox get closer and then Miffy decided she had had enough of THIS and flew at him, and he scarpered - only to the back of the apple tree, and both parties considered their next move . . .

He decided that perhaps he would leave iffy in peace - thank heavens.  It was interesting to see their reactions.  He wasn't really bothered by her, but respectful enough perhaps to know that cats have claws.

Sorry for the quality of the photos, but in my excitement, I had knocked the camera setting onto Portrait, which isn't much good for getting close-ups long-distance!

Monday 18 March 2013

In which Theo goes missing . . .

I didn't sleep well last night.  My legs were aching again and my back was definitely feeling more like Richard III's than mine . . . mainly because I had picked up two stout hedgerow sticks on my walk and tried Nordic Walking.  It is EXACTLY those muscles (if I stretch my arms out today) that are complaining.

Yesterday afternoon I was back down in what had been mum's flat when she was alive, doing some re-decorating.  Theo (now called the Fisher King for reasons I shall shortly share with you) was down there with me, exploring and Having Fun.  He came in at one point absolutely shrouded in cobwebs, and I could only assume - with hindsight, later - that he had been in the cupboard.  Anyway, at around 4 p.m. I had finished, so I shut the doors down there and came upstairs.  Now, with 7 cats in the house you don't always have tabs where they all are at any one point in time.  They come and go as they please.  However, come bed-time, Theo was not asleep on a chair as he normally is.  We did a quick search, opening doors and calling him, but nothing.  Not a single chirrup or meow.  We went to bed.  My legs were aching again and my back complaining too, and I tossed and turned, until the pain made me reach for Paracetamol.  I continued to toss and turn, wondering where on earth Theo could be.  In the early hours of this morning, an idle thought on Theo covered in cobwebs trotted into my mind.  I bet he's in the cupboard down there I thought, but was too warm and by that time un-aching, to go down two floors with a torch and satisfy my curiosity.

So when I got up this morning, I went to check, and there he was, warm and snug as a bug in a rug and wondering why I had shut him in a cupboard for the night?!!!

As for his new title, The Fisher King? Well he has always been fascinated by the fish in the pond and for months has been trying to catch one.  A couple of weeks ago, I found he has been successful, as there was a very dead (and flat!) goldfish in his bed.  A week ago I didn't find a fish, but there were several strands of Canadian Pondweed on the kitchen floor, which is a bit of a give away - he had been at it again.  He is very clever.  The nearest we have ever had to a fishing cat was dear old Lucky, who used to flick the tadpoles out onto the patio with her paw : )

The photo at the top shows Himself playing in part of a jug and basin set in the hall.  He had his bit of rabbit skin there and had been chasing it around the jug, almost juggling with the latter (which is bulbous at the base) just like someone from the Moscow State Circus.  We removed the jug whilst it was still in one piece!  Isn't he a character?  And SO affectionate - when he comes on my lap, he makes a fuss of me like I am stuffed with cat nip!

Still longing for spring and warmer weather, so here is the lane on the way up to Llyn-y-Fan Fach (you can just see the cleft hills in the distance).  Take yourself back over a century and imagine Edward Thomas striding along here, as he did then . . .

Sunday 17 March 2013

There's still snow on the mountains

This is the photo for Em that I was searching for the other day, showing how the river nearly froze from bank to bank . . .  Makes today feel almost like mid-summer!

I took myself up the hill for a walk as the sun had come out.  Sod's law decrees that when I had got as far as I was going (just before old Isaac and Rosina's house), the sun slid from view and it began to pick with rain, which, by the time I had got to the top of our hill, had turned into small hailstones.  Ah well, I wanted to see if there were any Primroses finally out, and yes, up by Isaac and Rosina's there were flowers every few yards, but only one up our hill, though the celendines were more prolific, and there's plenty of Dog's Mercury all along the hedge bottoms. 

A view of the Brecon Beacons from the Hereford road (Hay-on-Wye behind us) near Brecon.  I love the dramatic winter clouds rolling across Pen-y-Fan.  I found this whilst searching for the snow photos, so thought I would give it another airing.

Frozen river again.  Reminds me of the Big Freeze in 1963 . . .

And I am longing for SPRING, to bring me scenes like this one on the way to Builth Wells.

Ah well, it was warm with the sun out today, and there is no end of frogspawn in our ponds, and the wild garlic leaves are poking through the soil, and the birds are nest-making - the Herons at the Heronry at Whitemill have been busy this past couple of weeks now, and on the farmbuildings opposite us here the Jackdaws are cramming beakfuls of twigs through the gaps beneath the roof.  As they do this every year I wonder there's any room left with years of previous nests jammed in a tight space.

 This was pretty much the view of Black Mountain today, except the snow faded away on the foothills - literally along the snowline - showing it was only the fact it was higher on the mountains that had turned the sleet to snow.  The two flat-capped tops of Pen-y-Fan were visible, some 40+ miles away, although by the time I had turned for home, the clouds had claimed them again.  The snow line went just beyond the line of hilltop Bronze Age cairns, and below them, the Iron Age hillfort of the Demetae at Garn Goch was dark from rain.  I could just make out the litter of large rocks which formed the defences.  Here are hundreds of photos, if you have the curiosity! 

A Robin was interested in me today, though he made sure he went higher up the hawthorn as I approached.  Two and a half brace of wild Mallards flew the pond as I appeared, and a Long Tailed Tit flew overhead as I strolled back down the hill, coat collar turned up against the hail.

Then it was back to painting.  I have to get the paint for the sitting room, ut then I will be almost up to date with it again for another year.

Saturday 16 March 2013

The love of a good book

Ever since I can remember, I have been a bookworm.  We didn't have many books at home when I was little, as there just wasn't the money for them.  As soon as I learned to read at school (and I can remember those  Janet and John books very well!  When it came to my childrens' turn to learn to read, my son refused point blank to learn to read them as they were boring!) I just had to have a book in my hand.  Even now, I panic if I am somewhere that I may have to wait around, and I have nothing to read.  Even the backs of sauce bottles and drinks cans will do if I am sufficiently desperate!

I made the decision in January to read my way through some of the classics I had been meaning to read for a good few years, but they always got sidelined in favour of a historical novel or something I couldn't put down.  I blew the dust of dear old Thomas Hardy's "The Trumpet-Major" - it was so long since I had read it before that I could scarcely remember the tale at all.  I have to say, it was not one of his best novels . . .  In fact, I got thoroughly exasperated with the characters.  It seems to me that Hardy didn't know a great deal about the way a woman's mind worked, but hell's teeth, he knew even LESS about men, if that is possible.  The "love interest" in the novel is Anne Garland, who is wooed by three men: "stupid, coarse Festus Derriman, a man with expectations; John Loveday, the quiet, thoughtful trumpet-major; and Bob his brother, a sailor whose heart isn't as faithful as it should have been."  Well, Festus Derriman came across as a Schizophrenic and not in the least attractive a character - whilst the two brothers seemed to treat the romance with kid gloves and the girl placed fox and geese with the lot and wasn't worth crossing the road for.  It had a very weak ending too, and it isn't a book I shall read again.

I have moved on to Waugh's "Brideshead Revisited" which I thoroughly enjoyed when it was made into a tv drama.  However, I am half way through the book and just want to give Sebastian a good slap and tell him to grow up, so I may end up abandoning the book before long.

I have a quartet of Eden Philpotts' novels to read: Orphan Dinah, The Three Brothers, Children of Men and The Whirlwind, all under the banner of his Dartmoor Omnibus.  I think I shall read one, and then return to the others when I am in the mood.  He writes so evocatively of Dartmoor, as my dad always said, and although he can be melodramatic, he captured the characters of the Moor so beautifully.

I would love to read/re-read my way through the entire works of Dickens too, but I think that would take me a loooooooooong time, at just a few pages a night. I will probably end up taking my favourite man to bed with me . . .

: )

Thursday 14 March 2013

A picture for Em

Annoyingly, I can't find the folder I want, but this is our river, nearly frozen from bank to bank, when it was Minus 17 in our valley (according to the AI chap who has a thermometer in his van cab . . .)

It's felt just as cold this past week!  Somewhere I have another folder with better - and icier! - photos.  Anyway Em, I promised you an icy photo, so here you are!

Tuesday 12 March 2013

Escape from reality

Family worries leave me with little of any positivity to write about, so I will share this with you, from Sean Street's "A Remembered Land" - recollections of life in the countryside 1880 - 1914.  Strangely, many (MANY!) years ago, I was once interviewed by Mr Street when he worked for Radio Solent, or was it Radio 2CR in Dorset?  A lovely man and one who shares my passion for social history.

"The shop had a fine, rich blend of smells, bacon and cheese predominating, with alluring undercurrents of tea, liquorice and peppermint.  There was a varied choice of biscuits to be had at popular prices.  (I specially remember 'butter creams', juicy and toothsome at three halfpence a quarter), and chocolate and sweets to suit all comers.  Fry's chocolate cream was on sale in big, thick bars at a penny apiece and penn'orth of sugared almonds, bulls' eyes, acid drops, fruit jellies and the like filled a sizeable bag.  There were comfits, too, in different shapes and colours, bearing romantic legends: 'Will you be my sweetheart?', I love you', 'Will you be mine?' . . . and jars full of mammoth peppermint humbugs.  Ha'porths were served just as willingly as were the larger amounts, and a fat bag of popcorn was sold for a farthing.  In fact, a penny spelt riches when spent at the shop."

Lilian Bond, Tyneham: A Lost Heritage

Sadly, Tyneham was the entire village (well, one of them probably) commandeered by the MoD just before Christmas 1943, so they could have their practice ranges there.  The village was never returned to its own folk and is still MoD land today.  Good for wildlife, not for its former inhabitants.  The buildings are now ruins and the shop just bare walls . . .  So sad.

Many thanks to my dear daughter T, for buying this book for me when she saw it in a charity shop, as she knew I would treasure it and enjoy it. 

Friday 8 March 2013

Hell's Bells and Buckets of Blood!

It's been one of those sort of weeks here.  Various - big - worries and seemingly insurmountable problems of the sort which keep you awake at nights.  We could do nothing to influence the outcome of one (though fortunately it seems to have resolved now) and the other, well, we will just say a nettle had to be firmly grasped and there was only the option of the drowning man to grasp it and haul out onto the shore . . .

In the meantime we made the most of the dry weather.  Do you remember the old saying: A peck of  March dust is worth a king's ransom ?  Well, we had the dust here and the cold to go with it, but a bit of sunshine too and on one afternoon I was down to my t-shirt when we were logging one of the old ivied ash trees we had felled.  Now it seems much milder and the kitchen was only down to 58 overnight.   It has been hovering around the 51 or 52 degrees C mark, which is not warm enough for cats, they tell me!

We have had the predicted rain now, which the garden did actually need, and although it has stopped me working outside, there are plenty of jobs to do inside, so I am painting one of the spare bedrooms at the moment with the lovely breathable clay paint which covers so much better than limewash, which needs half a dozen coats to cover decently.

Oh yes, then there's Himself, in play mode as always . . .  He is in training to be the Fearless Hunter.  He has long been a Fishing Cat, hanging over the pond, dipping in his paw in an effort to grab one of the goldfish.  I came down the other morning to find he had been successful, and there was the evidence in his bed . . . one very dead goldfish.  Uneaten of course, as he hasn't made the connection with hunting and EATING!  He is incredibly loving, and sometimes when he is on my lap I wonder if I must smell of cat nip as he goes NUTSO making a fuss of me.  There is a lot of dear Tippy in him.  The other day one of the boys (probably Alfie) caught and ate most of a baby rabbit, leaving only the scut and a bit of skin and fur.  Well, that has been Theo's Best Toy EVER and he has been batting it all around the house . . .

I finally got around to some breadmaking yesterday, but a few weeks ago I had a sore index finger - it felt a bit like a thorn had been picked up on the top joint.  No thorn - instead it is Arthritis and that makes kneading bread very painful now - so I think next time I see a breadmaker on offer at the car boot sale, I shall get it for making the dough, though I will still prefer to shape by hand and bake in the oven.

Finally, I cheered myself up by buying some seeds yesterday.  Mostly from Lidl (and for pennies, especially compared with the ridiculous prices charged by seed companies in this country.  Lidls also had a good selection of rose bushes on offer and fruit trees too, the latter at £3.99 each.  One chap had put 2 apples, 2 pears, 2 plums in his trolley along with about a dozen roses.  I had to go to a well-known and VERY overpriced nursery chain for my Duchy Original seeds (flat beans).  There, just 20 seeds cost £2.99.  I know they are organic but heck, they should be covered in gold dust for that price!  I took myself by the scruff of the neck and walked past all the other over-priced plants although the double-flowered ruffly Pelargoniums in purples and deep reds were so gorgeous (but at £5.99 they were staying on the shelf!)  It was horrifying enough finding that a dozen small vegetable seeds were £3.99 a tray, and then, for SINGLE flower seedlings for the garden, £1.29 and - for Fuschias - £1.59!!!  Small soft fruit bushes were all £9.99 each.  There must be people who go and buy them but heck, car boot sales are far better places in season to stock up your garden. 

Sunday 3 March 2013

Winter Wood and Weariness


 This is the new view from the top of the yard after my OH and I got busy with the chainsaw earlier in the week and felled three of the old Ash trees.  There is a lot more light coming in now and we have more of a view too.  It is nice to be self-reliant but I can't help feeling if we relocate TOO near civilization when we do finally move, we will be considered the modern equivalent of the Beverly Hillbillies . . .

These ivy-covered Ash trees at the top of our yard were diseased and leaning and had to come down.  Fairly straightforward, but we had to rebuild part of our neighbour's fence . . .

There's a LOT of firewood there, but boy, there's a heck of a lot of ivy too and removing that is a job and a half.  My job and a half in fact, as my OH uses the chainsaw and I wield the axe to remove the ivy (some of it is as thick as my wrist). 


And here's some we did earlier!  This is some of our woodpile for next winter.  The orangey pile in the centre is an Alder tree which had been brought to us by the river, already seasoned, and just needing to be carried, split and dried.  Today, in advance of the rain promised for next week, we shifted most of that pile - over half a ton - into the woodshed.  Now we both feel like we could sleep on the head of a pin!  At the top of the yard are some  lengths from the dead tree which brought down our phone line - we thought it was only right it should pay the price for its untimely fall . . .

The Carmarthen Journal had a couple of paragraphs about our lack of phone line this week, but I think perhaps they didn't quite believe our tale that we had got a rope across from pole to pole for BT, so just to prove that we did - here is the photo.