Sunday 26 February 2017

Apologies for absence

One of the dozen Siskins who were on our Damson tree feeders yesterday.

I have had a busy week.  We have been to auction, restocked the Unit, done a Tip run with 30 years' worth of plant pots, had the builders here, watched frogs, listened to the wild birds and kept them stocked up with seeds and nuts, read (currently 2/3 of the way through my first Val McDirmid which I'm enjoying) and I have been sleeping very poorly.  One night I was so tired, yet fell asleep for just 10 minutes, and then lay there awake for the next 5 hours . . .  Other nights I have slept until 2 or 3 and then been awake the rest of the night.  Or I got up and went downstairs for a couple of hours in the middle of the night. You get the picture.

Today I am off down to Hampshire.  One of my mum's sisters has died and I am attending her funeral tomorrow.  I shall be staying with Middle Daughter G, in Portsmouth.  She, however, is working, so I have to kill a few hours after arrival tonight and then we have to be back in Portsmouth so she can do the evening shift after the funeral so won't be able to linger.

I'll be back on Wednesday.  Play nicely.

Wednesday 22 February 2017

Walnut Streusel Top Banana Muffins

Well, we only bought two lots at the auction - the prices were sky high - being bought for more than we can sell around here, AND some.  Lots of stuff being bought (sight unseen I suspect) over the Internet.  Some pieces we knew were damaged, and yet they fetched silly money.  We just can't compete with collectors or London buyers. Ah well, our pieces didn't cost too much, so hopefully will attract buyers.  I still wish I'd got the items I was under-bidder on though.  Sigh.  I think we will have to go further afield for auctions at this rate, and keep haunting the car boot sales.  We bought several worthwhile things at the local car boot sale on Sunday, and we DO enjoy searching round for bargains.

We saw some friends arriving at the auction just as we were leaving, and invited them to come back for tea and cake afterwards.  We weren't sure if they would (as it happened, they didn't), so I had a quick hurtle round the kitchen and hall floors with the mop (MUCH needed after muddy Theo this morning) and in between dashing upstairs to bid on other items through (back at the same auction we were this morning), and tidying the kitchen, I eventually made a new-to-me recipe which I adapted slightly to include walnuts, as I know my husband likes them so much (though as you know he is not normally a cake eater).  These little Muffins smelt WONDERFUL when they came out of the oven, and I had one later with some ice cream, and OH MY, it tasted just as good as it smelt!  Here is the recipe:


200g (7 oz) plain flour
1 tspn baking powder
1 tspn bicarbonate of soda
sprinkle of salt
1 tspn cinnamon
1 beaten egg
3 medium size bananas, ripe, mashed with fork
75g sugar (2 1/2 oz)  
1 tspn vanilla extract
115 g (4 oz) butter, melted


75g (2 1/2 oz) brown sugar
2 tblspns plain flour
2       "     oats
2       "     butter (room temperature)
40g (1 1/2 oz) walnuts, chopped quite finely

Set the oven at 375 deg. F (that's 190 deg. C or Gas Mark 5 - a moderate oven).  Sift together the plain flour, sodas, cinnamon and salt in a mixing bowl.

In a second bowl, mash the bananas and add the sugar, egg, melted butter and vanilla.  Shake in the flour mix and combine (not too vigorously).  Place large spoonfuls of this mix into muffin cases in a 12 hole tin.

For the topping, combine the butter, sugar and flour until mixed (I cheated and melted my butter as it was hard from the fridge).  Stir in oats and chopped walnuts and divide this mixture between the 12 muffins.  Bake for approx. 20 minutes or until a knife blade comes out clean.  Cool on baking rack.

That blardy wall has been sorted at last

This wall was shoddily done when we had some building work done at the turn of the century (it sounds odd to be writing that!).  Concrete mortar and "modern" render - which around the window aperture was almost pure sand - when I was touching up the paint in a corner of that window, a chunk of "plaster" came away on the brush!  It did nothing to help the wall breath, despite my using clay paint on it and there were obvious (to me) damp patches, despite all my best efforts to cover them over with fresh clay paint on a regular (pre-viewing) basis.  Anyway, this was the beginning of removing the crap.  Our builder - and good friend - Steve Medland getting busy with the dustpan and brush . . .  No more nightmares about THIS wall, I hope.

A slightly blurry photo showing the wall hacked back.

Not very exciting photos, but if you were me, you would be delighted.  This wall has been a thorn in the flesh for years now.  It has been rendered using breathable lime and hemp plaster.  Good stuff.

No chance of a bath and the sink is currently languishing in the bedroom next door.  It's a bit brisk up there too as we have the two Velux windows open to allow a flow of (drying) air . . .

The 2nd coat should be going on on Friday.

I started the day off here with a flat Fitbit battery (that one didn't last long - it must have been old stock) and a bout of cat washing . . .  There is a Big Black Tom about the place (over at the farm) and he obviously met up with Theo in the yard, which is very muddy.  So was poor Theo and it was beyond a job for a towel, so he got dumped in the sink with the tap on warm, and me holding him by the scruff.  He was actually quite biddable about it, but golly gosh, there was an awful lot of mud to get off.  I towelled him off as best I could, but he's now gone outside to mull it over instead of tucking himself under a warm radiator as he normally does.

Frog Central is getting even busier, btw.  We are off to auction this morning, though each purchase will have 24% added to it (20% buyer's premium, plus VAT).  Greedy barstewards.  We try not to buy much here, for obvious reasons!  There are just a couple of things we've marked off, so we shall see.

Tuesday 21 February 2017

If you don't like frogs, look away now . . .

It's Frog Central here at the moment.  There are an awful lot of boy frogs, and a few girl frogs, the latter being outnumbered about 10 to 1!!  When a new girl frog appears, there is a lot of . . . activity. Keith said yesterday, those frogs are fighting out in the pond.  I had to put him right, it was love, not war!

Top and above - the main pond.  There must be 30 or 40 frogs in here.

Above: there were about 20 frogs in here yesterday.  The first frogspawn has already been laid.

Work continues - the paint just as it had been put onto the end gable wall overlooking the yard.  We need to get some scaffolding up on the section over the shed roof to the right to do the last bit.  Today, the attic bathroom wall has been hacked back to the stone and the first coat of lime & hemp will go on this afternoon.

BTW, we had very good feedback from last week's family, and all I can say is, watch this space.  They like it a lot, are doing research on schools etc, and we hope an offer will be forthcoming . . .

Sunday 19 February 2017

Enjoying what's on our doorstep . . .

Keith and I took advantage of a dry afternoon to take a walk across Dinefwr Castle Deer Park again today.  Words will be few - you will have to rely on the photos to amuse you, as I am being summoned.

A view of the castle in the distance as we walked across the parkland from the Rugby Club car park.

Snowdrops in full bloom in the paddock near the stable yard.

We called this tree the Polo Tree as it had a hole right through the middle of it!

The castle again from the track through the Deer Park.

Mossy fallen giants.

Out of the woods, and round by the big pond, where we found (see below) the first frogspawn of the season.  UPDATE: 20.2.17. Frogspawn in our wildlife pond this morning . . .

Above and below - it is very wet woodland, with this little stream permeating the area, and Yellow Flag Irises starting growth for the season ahead.

If you stand still long enough, you will get covered in moss!  An old wall at the side of another arm of the stream.

This looked rather like a sundial, with its dried out rays.

Above and below: some of the history of the Castle and the area.

Saturday 18 February 2017

After the Viewing . . .

Well, Thursday has happened (Viewing Day).  A lovely family, whose children would have moved in tomorrow.  They loved it and I think their parents did too. The house liked them and there was an amazingly happy atmosphere as the children were exploring and then munching my cake and cookies in the kitchen. They stayed quite a while, and we hope they will come back again for another viewing.  They have gone away to make enquiries about the Schools in the area, so that sounds a positive.  We shall see.  I daren't let myself get hopeful. Meanwhile, there is diddly squat on the market to go and view.  Still, March should see the usual influx of properties coming on.  I'm enjoying as that has some proeprties on it I've not seen before.  Mind you, the best of them are in the middle of nowhere in Shropshire or deepest Wales so just not practical.

Meanwhile, I am resting up rather than lots of words, here are a few photos of the birds this afternoon, taken with my new camera.  I am still learning what it can do - and how to find the bit I want!

Female Siskin.

This was the male I think.  He has a dark head.

Goldfinches and male Siskin.

Male Siskin again.

Ever the Spiv - Mr Nuthatch.

Lotsa Chaffinches picking over the spillage from the feeders.

Redecorating the outside of the house is going well, and completely covering the bits which dried very slowly last time and concentrated the yellow ochre in the paint in those areas (it looked like terminal rising damp).

Painted on Tuesday, the front is nearly dry (we had rain on Wednesday and a bit yesterday too).  I think I need to scrub the porch roof though!

Wednesday 15 February 2017

A bit of history in photos from Monday's walk and finding old maps online.

Did I REALLY think I had that much time in hand, to do a two hour walk on Monday?  As I sit here wearily typing this, I know that I misled myself.  I cannot do another thing and before I start on the evening meal, I thought I would put up a few photos from Monday's walk.  Words will probably be sparse - be forewarned!

A few moments to stand and stare - I had been hoping for a view of the snow on Black Mountain, but it was far too misty.

I walked a few steps down the hill towards Felingwm Isaf (pictured here) to take a photo, and then thought, heck, I've not walked the long way round for a long time, so set off down the hill.

A little old cottage tucked away on the side of the road.  I have a vague memory, when I was checking out the census, of one of the cottages along here being home to a net maker, another was a ladder maker . . . humble abodes.

I turned left at the Sittim Chapel.  The graveyard here used to be God's Little Acre in May, just one MASS of Aquilegias.  Then it was decided that they made the place look untidy, so they were repeatedly mown year after year to eradicate them, and the area outside of the gravestones is just grass now . . .

Above, first leaves of Cuckoo Pint (the wild Arum lily).

All that remains of Nant-y-Pastai Woollen factory.  Nant is stream;  Pastai is Welsh for "pie". Which is obviously the Brythonic word across the Western (Celtic) region and we still have "pasty" today as a specialist tradition down in Cornwall (and Devon) though it's used countrywide for a similar blend of beef, potato and carrot or swede.  It made me smile to think it was called the stream of the pie!  On an earlier map, I have just found that the next farmstead along is also called Nant-y-Pastai and obviously gave its name to the Mill.  There was also a fulling mill on the other side of the stream, just below the chapel.  Today there is a sort of cottage on that site, which people have been doing up all the time we've been here.  I must walk that way some time and see if it ever got finished!  As for Nant-y-pastai, only the ruins of the bottom half of the main building can just about be made out. It was there in 1889 and 1906. Even in 1952, when it appeared to be much larger and 1964, but then by 1975 it was no longer named on the map and must have been becoming ruinous.

On the earliest map dated 1889 there is a small cottage nearly at the top of our hill on the left - only a flattish area in the field remains to show it was there.  It was called Pen-rhiw-foel which means top of the bare hill.  The footings of what I had always assumed was an outbuilding in the field opposite Felin Cothi, turn out to be those of a cottage, Plas Gwyn.  I've just spent a happy half hour relaxing and wandering these maps, putting names to what are barely even ruins now - just a course or two of tumbled grey stones.

Above and below, Plas Altyferin, with its Norman castle tump still surviving and overlieing an earlier Bronze Age promontory fort.

Finally, colourful leaves before the flowers on Shining Eyebright, which decorates the steep rocky "canyon" wall to the road as I came down the hill to home.

Monday 13 February 2017

Spring can't be too far away

I went out for a long walk today (a couple of hours), and found this Red Campion well in flower along the way.  There were a few Primroses just coming into flower too.

Finally, I've been playing with my new camera, and took a couple of close ups which are much better than my old camera could manage (though I have probably missed a trick with that as the instruction manual is on line - though this one is too of course).  I've just found out how to do close ups and will continue playing.

Right, I must away - had a phone call tonight to say our builder is arriving tomorrow to start redecorating outside, and his minions will be up in the attic bathroom hacking off the plaster and replacing it with hemp plaster.  Oh, and we have our next viewing on Thursday!  This could be interesting . . .  I can see me and my vacuum doing a lot of overtime . . .

Thursday 9 February 2017

A Treereeper frozen in time

This Treecreeper was in the Damson tree yesterday.  It stayed absolutely still, just blinking, for about 5 minutes.  I see them feeding in the apple tree out in the front garden, but have never seen it so close to or still for so long before.  Such a pretty wee bird.

I began the evening meal after breakfast yesterday.  I had a red onion which needed using up, got a small bag of chopped peppers from the freezer, half a courgette which had definitely got USE ME on it, a tin of chopped tomatoes, freshly ground black pepper, and a pinch of basil, and voila, enough topping for two pizzas (which do me four meals, as Keith doesn't eat pizza) and some topping left over in a bowl in the freezer.  The stove was on all day, so perfect for bread dough rising in the late afternoon.

I had cooking bacon to use up too, so made a big pan of Minestrone soup which will do me for lunches for several days.  It was a nasty raw cold yesterday and didn't encourage any staying out of doors, so gardening was off, and I didn't fit in a walk as I was busy cooking and also painting the Back Place walls, which desperately needed it.

These were this week's bargains from the Free Book Shop (I donated £1 each).  I collect books about Hardy and his work so these leapt into my hands - I hadn't come across either of them before.  They are from the 1980s so I dare say the rhetoric has moved on a bit since then. The Charlotte Bronte book is . . . different . . . here she is cast as a murderess so this should be a bit of fun!

Right, I need to get back to checking out lots at the auction . . .

Cats and books

I have been playing around with my new camera, which was a very generous Christmas present from our kids.  I thought I'd wrecked it last night when I tried downloading photos and managed to get it stuck with Access and a zigzag line and nothing, not even removing the battery, would let me turn it OFF.  However, today I have managed to download the photos.  I think this will be a steep learning curve, getting to grips with this one (Panasonic Lumix TZ-70) but for the meantime, I have an Automatic setting . . .  Anyway, here is Theo - who is always difficult to take a photo of because he winds round your legs and doesn't stay still for a moment.

Little Whale (above and below) is a bit easier and will pose for you . . .

Alfie (Wild Thing, as he is still too handy with his claws) taking his ease on a kitchen chair.  He likes to be beside me on the sofa, but then, so does Ghengis (below).  Poor Ghengis has gone from being a Big Bully with B*lls to bottom of the pecking order without them . . .  He adores me though, and is never happier than when he is cwtched up beside me or on my lap (or more often under my left elbow, stopping me doing anything involving a pen and paper).

A bit of spring in the corner of the kitchen.  The Hyacinths smell so lovely and the little Tete-a-Tete daffodils have a delicate scent too.

A better photo of the Flamingo vase than the other one I took.  I'm not sure if he was painted by Harry Crute (famous for his birds) or Harry Birdbeck.

Incidentally, I have just found one of my Devon family history marriage certs. for the South Hams area was witnessed by a Richard Crute . . .

Finally, the current reading.  I'm within a couple of chapters of the end.  Not as enjoyable as her earlier Shetland books, perhaps because Perez isn't the main character, but DI Willow Reeves seems to have poll position.  

We have another viewing next Thursday (so, a week today).  Yesterday was sunny and I got out and painted the front porch and bay windows in masonry paint (I can use it there as it has concrete render), so that looks smart again. Mind you, a certain feline (I think it was Miffy or Ghengis) put paw prints all over the windowsills before they were even dry!!

Today it's a continuation of sorting out the Back Place, tidying up, putting out cans of paint which have dried up, are of no purpose any more, and then I will paint out there this afternoon.  It looks very shabby but of course Keith thinks it looks fine.  That's what he always says - I'd hate to think what constitutes looking bad in his books!  We don't seem to see things through the same viewpoint . . .