Tuesday 31 January 2017

Gardening in the rain

I am taking my lunch hour.  I've just had bread, Hereford Hop cheese, salad and some stonking home made pickled onions.  Somehow, I don't think my husband is going to be kissing me for a while!  I have the action of a live auction going on in the background, so I know where we are when it comes close to the items we plan to bid on.  Exciting stuff but gosh, Philip (auctioneer) has a very clear voice and I've had to turn the volume down.  I bid on a couple of things earlier, but was the underbidder on each.  Not items I had dealt in before, and neither had we gone all the way into England to view this, so I didn't want to go in too deeply.  The two items I am more interested in are up in a couple of hours.

The nut nets and feeders are still very busy, and now that the Jackdaws aren't coming to help themselves, the fat balls are lasting well - instead of me getting through 8 a day (I was only prepared to renew the two feeders once a day).  I assume that the thieving Jackdaws have now died and fortunately NOT passed on their habits to the young entry . . .  I have to say, now I have half a dozen Siskins almost permanently in attendance, they are quite the sassiest and brave little birds I've seen.  The Goldfinches are normally fairly bold, but the Siskins (even the wee females) see them off every time.  They only kow-tow to the Nuthatch, that Spiv of the garden with his impressive dagger-like beak.

So far today I have been gardening around the front gate area - the first thing the viewers will see when they arrive on Sunday.  I have bought several trays of bright Primulas and got some more this morning, as when we had taken an ancient 1960s Prestcold fridge (that was in working order until recently) to the dump and then dropped down the A48 into town and visited Wyevale briefly for yet MORE compost (another 300 litres) and 10 more Primulas as they had a deal on for their gardening club members.  I am one, but rarely do I visit Wyevale as it's so dear, and I think this is the first offer I have taken up.  At the checkout I noticed some half-price thermal gardening gloves at £2.99.  Well, since I am winter gardening, I decided they wouldn't go amiss!  I've worn them straight away and they really do make a difference.  I'm back out there in a minute.  I still haven't found the secateurs I tidied away somewhere, but the new ones are very good and I still hope to come across my original ones when I tidy up the Back Place.

If the rain gets worse then I am back in the kitchen, wielding my paintbrush as although I only painted it 6 weeks ago, the same bits are lifting so i will have to rub them back and repaint.  Attic bathroom ditto . . . the radiators need bleeding and haven't been working properly  so it's got damp in there. However, bleeding the rads isn't that straightforward as they lack something or other and if my OH takes the top off we could have an explosion of dirty rad water . . . or that's my understanding of the situation.

Right, I'd best check the auction out again . . .

P.S.  Ended up buying several things - sight unseen, which we would never normally do - but nothing expensive.  I am looking forward to the day out to go and collect our purchases.  Oh, and I can REALLY recommend the thermal gardening gloves (by Briers).  I had toasty hands whilst I worked out there and they also allow me to tackle the brambles which my other ones don't.

Monday 30 January 2017

RSPB Great Garden Bird Watch

There should be a photo of a Goldfinch here.  Only by the time I got my camera out, they had buzzed off.  My fault for topping up the feeders and then counting them for an hour, by which time they were stuffed to the gills and had gone to burp in a tree somewhere.  As I had counted 19 earlier, this was a severe avian V-sign!  Just spotted one out there, so here it is:

So, my RSPB Great Garden Birdcount got the following results:

It is Goldfinch and Siskin central (not that the RSPB were counting Siskins):

Goldfinches       19
Siskins                 6
Chaffinches         6
Robins                 3
Blackbirds           2
Sparrows (House)   3
Blue Tits              7
Great Tits             6
Nuthatch              1
Dunnock              1
Coal Tit                1
Willor or Marsh Tit    2
Magpie                 1

No sign of the Greater Spotted Woodpecker who regularly visits, or the Jay (ditto) or the pair of Nuthatches on the Damson Tree feeders - they arrived after the count, having visited singly before that.  

One of the Damson Tree Nuthatches.

Well, this won't do.  I must get on with some housework - there is a house viewing next Sunday . . .

Friday 27 January 2017

Antiques Fair looming

We're all set up for the weekend's 2 day Antiques Fair at the Botanic Gardens near Carmarthen.  We are in the big glass Dome, where there are Australasian plants thriving.  It is NICE AND WARM in there!!!  Toilets very close by, and a little cafe where you can buy hot drinks if you so wish (and food, but we take our own).  We even have wildlife in the form of birds who have set up home in there - we had a Robin behind our stand today, and there are some very smug looking Sparrows too!

I quickly rustled up a batch of Blueberry Muffins this morning (to share with fellow dealer friends) and also tried out a new recipe for Chocolate Slices which are only 123 calories each and fat-free (you use apple sauce to bind them). They are not the least bit sweet, so even Keith will eat these.  

I have remembered to defrost the bread for sandwiches, and Keith got some sliced ham and pork for the fillings, and we are all organized.  

We need to set out the militaria tomorrow - and everything else is covered over, as there are folk just wandering around who are visiting because it is free for January (normally £7.50 a head I think).  People who come for the Fair just pay £4 a head, and can still look round the gardens inside and out.  I hope to get across to where they have exotic butterflies, camera in hand . . .

Thursday 26 January 2017

My brain's gone missing . . .

Above: a very blurred photo of the Torquay piece I found at Malvern last weekend.  It is a Daison Art Pottery piece.  I think it's painted by Harry Birbeck.  I'll get a better photo tomorrow.  It dates to the late 1920s.

Just when I need to keep my brain together, it has gone walkabout, courtesy of some bug which comes complete with a temperature -  I absolutely glowed in bed last night, having headed up there at 8.15 p.m., struggling to keep my eyes open.  I took myself out for a walk yesterday, up our hill and on for about a mile each way and I did NOT enjoy it, not ONE step.  When I got home and my brains turned to glue, I knew why.

Anyway, I have had a quiet day today, mending the little toy dog, and researching some things we have for sale, and writing up price tags, ready to set up our stall at the Botanic Gardens Antiques Fair tomorrow.  It's a two day one, so I cooked up a chicken today, which will provide us with meals for two or three days.  We had a tasty beef casserole for supper tonight, so I got two lots of cooking in the oven together to save money.

I've finished the first Vera Stanhope novel I got from the library (but not the first chronologically) - Harbour Street, which was very good.  Now I'm on the other library book, The Moth Catcher.

I struck lucky at the free book shop in town (you just give a donation) and found 6 Ann Cleeves novels (5 of them the first five Vera Stanhopes) so those will keep me quiet for a while.  The only trouble is,  I have had to sideline all the OTHER books which are piled up waiting my attention, but hey ho. . .

Another stupidly blurry photo of a little china cat who came home with me on Sunday.  He'll make someone smile.

I can't get to grips with my new camera yet as I haven't been able to download the right Microsoft connection for the photos to be put in.  I will try to sort it out next week, or get darling son over to do it for me . . .

Monday 23 January 2017

Frozen to the Marrow! . . . and a drive-by

The above photo shows Malvern in the sun.  Believe me, Malvern showground did NOT look like this yesterday, or feel remotely like the warm sunny summer day when I took this photo!!!  We set off at 5 a.m. and it was cold here.  The forecast had shown a couple of wee clouds over Wales, and then clear skies later and there was mention of it warming up and a couple of rain showers.  Hmmm,  Had we known it was going to be BITTERLY cold all day, and picking with snow all the way there, we might well have stayed in bed!!

I don't enjoy driving for the best part of 3 hours in total darkness for starters, but it is necessary for winter forays to Malvern.  Concentration levels were high, driving into the snow showers - just tiny snow pips - when we stopped briefly, it was hardly anything - but driving into it was quite distracting.

We made good time though and got there just as the gates had opened and were walking round the first stalls before it was even properly light.  Because of the light levels, we made an expensive mistake buying something which which purported to be something it turned out NOT to be.  Dodgy dealers all look the same in the half light . . .  A lesson learned and hopefully we can get it away at not too large a loss.  However, this was made up for later when we bought another thing which - if it is verified as being what we think it is from our research - will have been an excellent purchase. Swings and roundabouts - no-one knows everything, no-one can possibly be an expert in everything, and sometimes you have to take a chance.

But my golly gosh, was it COLD there.  Crisp with a hard frost underfoot, and because the showground is in a natural ampthitheatre, the cold stayed all the time we were there.  The only warm place was the Avon Hall, where we lingered to try and thaw out a little.  Folk were starting to pack up around 11 a.m. because of the cold, and not many buyers about (who can blame them?)  In the unheated sheds, the cold was intense, what with the concrete floors and doors open.  I had felt shaky when we first got up around 4 a.m., and having slept SO badly for two nights in a row (less than 5 hours sleep each night), it took a good while to feel half-human.  The cold was penetrating, and I could literally feel the marrow in my bones chilling as we walked around.  I couldn't feel my feet either, and was glad after the first round of the Fleamarket, to get back to the car and have hot tea.  We always get a big sausage roll from the excellent baker who has a stall there each time, and I felt it wouldn't be amiss to have a Hereford Bun to follow it down - imagine a Chelsea Bun stuffed with fruit, apple and cinnamon and a little Hereford Cider too.  Scrummy!  I've not had one for months because of trying to avoid temptations, but a chilled body calls for sustenance.

Thus fortified, and a change of footwear from walking trainers to walking boots (this time with wool socks), we went round again, and made a couple of small purchases.  One of these will probably go no further than me, or at any rate, I shall enjoy it for a little while.

We spotted this on the stall of our friend Simon and I was absolutely drawn to it.  When you think of the trench art which is normally on offer at fairs, it is usually of the ashtray, brass vase variety.  Pretty enough with a pattern chased into the brass, but I have NEVER (nor has Simon) seen anything which cried so loudly "HOME".  I can imagine the chap who made this, thinking of the fireside in his childhood or family home - the simplicity of this fireplace suggests a home of fairly humble origins in a city.  He must have felt a strong connection with home when he made this, and I hope it brought him comfort, rather than a desperate homesickness.  The recipient would have been his mum, or his sweetheart or his mother.  Simon called this a "Sweetheart piece".  As I said, this little piece drew me to it, but even so I was quite unprepared for what happened when I picked it up . . .

I have written before about being - well, let's call it a bit "fey".  I have had experiences with objects before.   I am empathic, and I pick up on emotions.  This had emotions by the bucketful and the moment I picked it up I was overwhelmed with sadness and my eyes filled with tears.  In fact, I had to turn away so no-one noticed my face crumpling!  I put it down, and we discussed price.  I picked it up again, with the same emotional result.  It just had to come home with me.  As I said, when I saw it originally I was thinking what a wonderful example of social history, and thinking of selling it on at an Antiques Fair.  Now I will just enjoy it for a while.  I don't know who made it, only when.  I can make up a story behind it, but I do have a feeling that the young man who made it never made it home and was killed in the horrors of WW1.

Now to cheer us up, a photo of  the ridiculous purchase (Keith said: What on earth possessed you to buy THAT?")

I just couldn't resist this tatty half-bald and much-loved little toy dawgy.  His tail is nearly off - just a few huge coarse stitches keeping it in place, but his glass eyes give him a slightly leary look and he is a poppet.  Someone will fall for him I'm sure.  I need to do some running repairs on him this afternoon.

Right, time to be off as we are going to our original Unit to start dismantling it as we are pulling out of there at the end of the month.  Sales have been going downhill for the last 6 months so we have called it a day there.

P.S.  I very nearly forgot.  We decided to come home via a village where there is a property for sale which would suit us down to the ground (half a dozen miles from Hereford).  Well, driving through the village, we couldn't see it at all.  Then, just a couple of miles out of the village, I spotted it.  Set back from the road, and in the most marvellous setting.  Two more ticks . . .  We'll not go to view until the next viewing has taken place.  Pointless getting excited over nothing . . .

Friday 20 January 2017

How healthily do we eat?

In these days of low light levels, I needed a summery photo or two to cheer me up.  So there you are . . .

I woke early (as ever) and ate my breakfast whilst I watched a programme I recorded from last night - Horizon: Clean Living - the Dirty Truth.  It was very interesting, and dealt with the present craze for fads in "clean eating" and dietary habits as influenced by food writers such as "Deliciously Ella" Mills, the Hemsley Sisters, Natasha Corrett  and other "gurus" of the healthy eating brigade, who propose that whole food groups should be excluded from our diets (think Gluten-free for starters even though only 1% or so of the population have Ceoliac disease and really mustn't have gluten), cutting out sugar, grains, meat, dairy, whatever, as they are unhealthy in one way or another.  

There was an interview with an American who proposes that he can cure cancer and has made millions from giving desperately ill people alkaline treatments intravenously (as well as writing books and doing lecture tours which propose people ditch meat and dairy (acidic) in favour of plant-based foods (alkaline). He is currently languishing in jail, having been proven to have purchased his PhD and been practicing "medicine" without a licence . . .  As Dr  Yeo said, pseudoscience at its worst. 

The Hemsley Sisters and Natasha Corrett all declined to take part, but at least Ella Mills had the courage to stand up and be counted and fight her corner.  I think the most interesting - and worrying - thing to come out of this programme was, as the presenter Dr Yeo said, that by these diet fads being put on social media (Ella Mills has something like a million followers) are incredibly influential and people buy into the mindset, and food is then seen as good (clean) and bad (dirty).  I am guessing chocolate (needless to say) is BAD!!!  No hope for me then . . . which gives me a link into what I am going to say about people then getting obsessive about food and feeling guilty for eating something "bad" (yup, been there, done that and still feel that way if I have chocolate or a (rare these days) cream bun, but that's mainly because I am needing to lose weight.

Just think, whole industries have sprung up from these mindsets - manufacturers of spiralizers, juicers, smoothie makers, and the chaps with coconut plantations must be doing very well now that anything coconut - oil, milk, flour, water, flakes now that coconut is a known superfood. . .  Or is it?!

After I had been so ill for three years with chest infection after chest infection, I bought into this healthy food mindset too, and was a devout follower of the Low Histamine Chef, and if you open my kitchen cupboard doors there are still lists of foods which are anti-inflammatory, and high - or low - in histamines and for a few months I truly believed that by keeping to the regime of all foods as fresh as possible, as little meat and dairy as possible, eating the "right" sort of fruits and vegetables oh and she was another one who eschewed grains (there's a recent post about wheat triggering an inflammatory response and even now, reading it, I could buy into that mindset again . . .)

I feel sorry for Eldest Daughter, who put up with the Guest from Hell when she had to ask in advance what I couldn't eat, and when we went out for the day into the Antiques Quarter of Sheffield and were looking for lunch, there was not ONE BLARDY THING ANYWHERE that I could have eaten without offending one element or another of my low-histamine anti-inflammatory regime.  You know what - in the end I just thought damn it and had a Bacon Butty !

What stopped me?  Hah - well, there had been no great improvement in my asthma, and I was having IBS symptoms, so I went to a Herbal Doctor, and was given a blend of herbs which would help to sort out my gut and boy DID IT - but perhaps not in the way the herbalist intended -  good grief, my body turned itself inside out to rid itself of everything recently ingested and I couldn't leave the house for 24 hours!  There's a lesson in a) self diagnosis and b) possibly misrepresenting my symptoms to a Herbal Doctor. Well, after that I thought damn it, my body was screaming for REAL cheese (I'd given up all bovine dairy, and had been sticking to goaty products, as soya was also apparently something I shouldn't go near) and I had eliminated all sorts of things which were apparently having an adverse affect.  Well, I just ate normally again and haven't looked back since.  

I eat all food groups, all mostly in moderation (I still eat lots of apples, as I do have an apple addiction), and always cook from scratch when I can.  I buy what is in season, but always have cucumbers on my shopping list as I eat them all year round - nothing freshens your mouth after something spicy, like cucumber. I try to grow some vegetables here, and have always had a good soft fruit patch and fruit trees.  I would like to buy all organic vegetables where possible, but round here, the choice is fairly limited.  I try to buy good meat from a good local butcher (though if I am in a rush, then Supermarket meat it has to be, but it has to be low fat quality steak mince if it's mince, and never EVER the cheapest quality of meat or fish on offer.)  I still get queasy thinking of a neighbour whose family "dined" on that truly awful pack of cheap "mince" which had to go in the oven on a tray to solidify into anything resembling "food" and ditto the dodgiest looking "sausages".  But then, her idea of a quick pizza for the kids was tomato puree spread on toast . . . so gourmet she was NOT!  I like to try new recipes, but I will confess to having a repertoire of meals which are regularly eaten, and new things only happen now and again - because of being so busy since having the Units etc.  I still bake, though not as much as I used to, and 2017 is going to be the year of all bread being made at home (unless I am manically busy).

So the next time someone suggests making a pizza base with cauliflower, or shakes a finger when you have a piece of cake - tell them to go to hell!!

Thursday 19 January 2017

Moss Busting!

A little burst of very early flowers in a corner of my garden this morning.  It was cold first thing, and I wanted to get out and garden, but had to wait until the sun came out a little bit, so I sat at the kitchen table and reorganized my family history folders - or at any rate, made a start on it, as everything was higgledy-piggledy.  I'm a bit further on with that now anyway.

I intended to dig and weed along here - not much fun as there is a lot of clay in the soil here, and all it seems to grow well is a good crop of Creeping Buttercups!  I made a start and suddenly thought, I had intended to clear moss from the walls too - if I scraped the wall which is the back of the woodshed straight away, I could wash it down and once it had dried off sufficiently, get a coat of paint on.  So this border got abandoned for a couple of hours whilst I cracked on with the scraping, scrubbing and painting.

Before coming back to this spot I also cleared some of the gravel area in the yard, by the house, but when I wanted to cut back the clematis there, do you think I could find my (expensive) secateurs?  Nope.  We searched everywhere for them.  I am worried I was doing something with them, got called for a phone call, then distracted, and they are rusting somewhere in the garden, but as they have red handles, I should have found them when I searched out there . . .

Above and below, as you can see, the borders and beds got abandoned last autumn (it always happens) and so I have a LOT to clear before the next viewing.

The woodshed wall AFTER I had de-mossed it.  As you can see, a fresh lick of paint was called for.

Here it is after, but because I still couldn't find the secateurs, I couldn't deal with that tangle of ivy on the post which has the outside water tap.  So instead, I cleaned and prepared the side wall of the woodshed and got that painted.

The bottom of the front wall of the house was also growing a lot of moss, so I took the scraper to that, and below, a stretch of it is ready for when the builder comes to repaint the house.

Just for a change, here is a lovely old Ewenny dish I bought at Auction recently.  It will be on our stand at the Botanic Gardens Antiques Fair at the end of the month, along with some other lovely pieces of Ewenny.

Wednesday 18 January 2017

Fingers crossed - another viewing next month

I'm not holding my breath, but we have another viewing, in Early February.  I AM going to be beavering away to get the garden looking as neat and tidy as possible, and having the inside nice and smart and with as few things in the Junk Room as possible . . .  You can guess what I will be doing the rest of this week and next.

But at the weekend . . .

We have some time off for good behaviour  and will be going to . . . .


Keeping busy

I'm out of the door any minute, as we are minding the shop today.  I was awake in the night again for 2 hours - came down to read for one of them, and then fell back into another really dreamy sleep (must be processing stuff, as in one dream I was losing handfuls of hair and going bald!)  I have been dreaming so much this past week.

Perhaps it is to do with the family history I have been doing - I took out a month's Ancestry membership to try and find some missing persons, and have done very well actually, and finally found out that my Hobbs family, (grandad was a Hobbs) hailed from Cricklade in Wiltshire.

I also found out that two Hobbs brothers and two Wilson sisters were married together on the same day in mid Victorian times, and one marriage produced my family line with people leading ordinary hardworking lives, whilst the other one produced Sir Joseph John Talbot Hobbs, a superb architect and even more distinguished soldier.  He emigrated to Perth in Australia and there is a statue of him there!  I think he would be my 2nd cousin, once removed?

Briefly, here are the lovely casserole dish I bought in the summer, and then whilst in Ludlow I found the milk jug to accompany it (which is also going to be used as a gravy jug).  The jug was £8.99 but that's Oxfam for you!  Of course, I could hardly leave it in the shop once I'd seen it in the window . . .

Bird feeding - and Miffy had been sitting high up in the tree hoping a bird would fly into her mouth!  She had given up in disgust here and was making her way down.

Ah well, this won't do.  I need to find some stock to take in to have a change around on our Unit, so will wave goodbye for now.

P.S.  Do look up the Link for Sir Joseph, I'm rather proud of him!

Saturday 14 January 2017

The delights of Leominster

After lunch, in a lovely old pub called the Rose and Crown which was hidden away behind the main street in Ludlow - and which served sandwiches of such monumental proportions we didn't need to eat for a week afterwards! - we dropped back down to Leominster, where there are lots of antique shops.  Voiceover by David Attenborough:  Ah, the antique dealers in their natural habitat . . .

I rather liked the soft dotty green of this dinner service, but it's Susie Coooper so not cheap . . .

This was more of a walk-through room as not a lot there to interest us, but it shows the diversity of what is on offer by various dealers.

Another mixed lot on offer. . .  I was trying to take photos where there weren't people in the same room, so didn't get to photograph some of the more winsome pieces.

BUT, I did get this one - these are absolutely SUPERB.  Not so much the fineness of the potting, but in the subdued movement of both foals playing.  The naughty bay and the chestnut about to retaliate!  Look at the price though . . . that won't even MAKE the same room as my Christmas list for 2017!!

This is a Keith piece - he loves old chests like this, preferably the Armada sort with lots of heavy iron strapping and needs moving with the help of a team of elephants . . .  "Try lifting one end" he invited me.  Well, it doesn't take much imagination to realize I couldn't shift it the minutest bit.

More goodies on offer here.  I loved the inlay on this Court Cupboard.

I have a soft spot for the rush-light holders shown at either end of this display case roof.  The price was a little prohibitive though.

I only realized after taking this photo of the skull (bronze) that the ivory figure beside it, draped in reptiles, looked . . . ahem . . . rather phallic.  Ignore that and concentrate on the skull!

Leominster too has it's narrow alleyways, like Cordwainers Lane, with its Elizabethan? overhang.

Above and below - examples of local craftsmanship.  The owl was particularly attractive.  The price tag reflected the artist's skill.

On the way home we took a loop around Weobley to find some water as we were both thirsty.  I have seen several properties for sale here down the years and wanted to check it out as a possible place to move to.

It is certainly a very attractive village, with a wonderful butchers, local shops, Doctors' surgery etc., and wonderful Magpie architecture.

One final picture through the windscreen of the sun setting over the Brecon Beacons.

Wednesday 11 January 2017

A much-needed Day Out

On Monday, despite the less than desirable weather (it rained all morning!) we had a day out to celebrate our wedding anniversary.  We set off for Ludlow, which is just over a two hour drive from here.  Unfortunately, I'd not done my homework, and hadn't realized that the castle would be shut during the week - it only opens on Winter weekends.  Ah well - I had to settle for taking a couple of photos through the fence, and one of those was distinctly wobbly (the 3rd).

The last time I had been to Ludlow castle was a few years ago when there was a Food Festival here.  That had been very enjoyable and I would love to go again when it is on, but I fear my dearly beloved would NOT enjoy it as he is not a foodie in any sense of the word, and really only eats to keep drawing breath!!

Ludlow is a beautiful and very historical town.  I am going to be a bit short on words tonight as I don't have time to get the research done to tell you about these buildings and do them justice, but hopefully I can find some extra descriptions to add tomorrow.

I love the little narrow Medieval streets, and there are some lovely shops to tempt you to part with some pennies.  I think the only shops we spent money in were charity shops though!  I bought his and hers jumpers (unworn ones, mine still had a label on) and a scarf, and in the Oxfam shop I found a lovely jug which matches the unused casserole dish of a pattern I drooled over in the 1990s - when we were skint and no way could I have afforded the £25 or so it cost in the shops.  I had been looking to replace our currently very elderly gravy boat, and this is it.  Not cheap - £8.99 in Oxfam - but it had my name on it.  I will try and get a photo of both pieces tomorrow.

A view of one end of the market stalls set out in the marketplace.

Now some window-shopping . ..

Grommit, take a bow.  Isn't he fun?!

I don't know how this lovely building got its name, but probably the blardy obvious one that it once sold fish!

The Parish Church of St Lawrence, which is lovely inside - we went in once before and took a pile of photos.  I must try and find them.  It soars above the town, when you see it from afar.  This LINK will give you some idea of its magnificence and history.  It dates from the 11th C and when Ludlow became very wealthy from the wool trade in the Medieval period, several extensions to St Laurence were carried out.

Self explanatory, but the wonderful carvings below were to the left and right of this blue plaque.  I presume they are Sir Henry Sidney and his Mrs.  He was related to just about everyone who it paid to be related to in late Tudor, and Elizabethan England and was, ahem, very well known in Ireland (and hated, I might add). 

Tomorrow - Leominster . . .