Monday 30 March 2020

Like 30 years ago - only without the energy!!

My OH and I were just talking, as I rubbed Ibruprofen gel on his sore back.  I said this hunker down time was like having the clock turned back 30 years, when money was extremely tight and our main luxury was having the time to do all the jobs which needed doing - and thereby saving money.  This year we will save a big chunk this year not having to have the paddock (sorry, "Side Lawn") cut - that was £80 a hit for half an hour's work!  Since no-one will be viewing any time soon, we can let it go feral.

Anyway, before and after photos of the wall which separates the main garden from the yard, where we grow veg.  Before, it was smothered in brambles, both dead and alive, which hung down in a long fringe.  What I wanted to see there was cut back Snowberries (which form a tatty "hedge" along the top - planted before our time, probably by the Dutchman who lived here when he milked for Next Door back in the early 80s) and a repositioned well-grown Clematis Montana rubens which had decided to leg it up the apple tree whilst my back was turned.  The green bit you can see below is the Elder tree which planted itself there and despite all my best efforts to eradicate it, has grown away and is now allowed to stay as Elder is Good Stuff.  As you can see, the swirly bits are the errant clematis, and the ladder in the background is what I climbed up, loppers in hand, to cut through some end branches it was entangled with.  Then we had no option but to literally pull it out of the tree - surprisingly, only two bits right at the top got broken off - the rest is now draped along the short-cut snowberries and should cover it all thickly in the fullness of time.  I am looking forward to it flowering soon - it's covered in buds.  That little job took me three days and we had a bonfire at the end of it!  The next bonfire will be all the brash we have left over from cutting the thicker branches for winter fuel.

Cloudier skies, looking across the yard, but still sunshine.  It was blowing fiercely yesterday though - a Northerly wind I think, brisk and chilly.  Tam and I kept our walk just to the top of the hill and back but I must be getting fitter as I managed to walk the steep bit without stopping to draw breath!

Here is a triptych of  photos of the scenery from left to right above the farm buildings.

Right, this won't do.  Nearly 10.30 and I've not had breakfast yet but I have started some dough in the breadmaker, and will make some muffins later on too.

Sunday 29 March 2020

Plenty to get on with here

The new rhythm of our days is now settling into a pattern.  Bread dough made in the breadmaker, then shaped and cooked in the oven, so we get a nice crusty loaf instead of the rather pallid (but tasty) loaf from the breadmaker.  This one had a quick plait, an egg wash and Sunflower seeds and salt and pepper sprinkled on top.

Tea the other night was a simple Beef Cobbler, made with cheesey scones on top.  No onions, as Keith doesn't like them.

There is absolutely no waste in the kitchen - trimmings from vegetables go into the freezer for a stock base for soups.  Some little plum tomatoes which were thinking about going over have just joined them.  Things which need using up go into stews, curries or stir fries.  Fruit wise, we still have LOADS of blackberries from last summer (and the one before I think!) and lots of other tubs of fruit grown here or bought as £1 trays from Abergwili, which were cooked up and still provide dessert.  I used to turn them into crumbles but Keith is always very careful of his waistline, so it's just ordinary stewed fruit for him.  I have started a pot of peas in the greenhouse to provide pea shoots for stir fries too and have also blown the dust off my seed sprouter and it has some mung beans sprouting beautifully in it - we will have chicken stir fry tomorrow or Tuesday.

We have well stocked freezers but when we need to replace any meat, we will be using our local butcher Dewi at Ffairfach - and sticking to him in the future.  Like many people I am sure we will remember who stepped up to the mark in their local community and boycott those who rackateered or took advantage of a dire situation - we won't ever darken the doors of Sports Direct again, that's for sure.  So many local businesses have been enterprising, and local shops offering deliveries.  Llanfynydd Young Farmers have offered to pick up prescriptions and do shopping for vulnerable people (we come into this group) in the area.

Rubbing this down is what made me ill the other day, so now I am just going to paint it as is!  We got this for our middle daughter Gabby last year (she asked us to look out for one) and it's been waiting for me to work on it.

Indeed, talking of Gabby, she did a shop for us (perishables) last week and delivered it.  Tam had got so anxious about shopping for us and inadvertently bringing the virus back, so Gabby offered to help out as she doesn't live under the same roof. It was surreal as we had to keep her 6 feet away, touching nothing (though she has new disposable gloves on) and didn't even let her touch one of the cats (though she was desperate for cat cuddles). It was lovely to see her.  Everything she brought has been in quarantine down in mum's kitchen.  Finally the elephant in the room down there - Gabby's big fridge freezer which we were storing for her - has come into its own and we have transferred all the frozen things across from the small freezer, and the fridge is the quarantine fridge . . .

Above and below:  Working on the brash from having those diseased ash trees dropped back in January.  Half way through it now - Tam in action dragging it down to Keith by the stables, who then saws it up and the top brash is in a huge pile for another bonfire.

Some of this has already gone in the woodshed, so we should be ok for firewood next winter.

Celendines in the top corner of what used to be the paddock.  It's meant to be the "side lawn" nowadays, but won't be cut much this year!

Finally a view from the paddock looking up towards the hill on the other side of the valley.  You might just make out a bit of a bank that was once an Iron Age camp - Dyffryn Camp - HERE is a link.

We are so glad to live where we do - it feels safe here and as long as we don't see too much of the news we can keep the horror of all this at bay. Keeping busy helps too, but every now and then I get a shaky moment and get emotional.  I'm pretty sure I'm not alone with that reaction.  Keep safe, my blogland friends.

Friday 27 March 2020

Apple Dappy Recipe and what we've been up to

APPLE DAPPY (Serves 6)

8 oz (225g) S-R flour
2 oz (50 g) margarine
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 pint (150 ml) milk
Pinch salt
1 tblspn Demerara sugar
1/2 level tsp. cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves or mixed spice
2 good-size apples (I use cookers, but dessert will do)


1 (washed) lemon or a little lemon essence
1 tblspn golden syrup
1/2 oz (15g) margarine
4 oz (100g) sugar
7 fl. oz (200 ml) water

Make syrup first.  Peel fine strips of lemon rind and squeeze lemon.  Put rind, juice and all other syrup ingredients into a pan and stir over a gentle heat until sugar is dissolved.  Leave to cool.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and rub in marg.  Mix to dough with milk.  Roll into 8" x 5" x 1/4" thick rectangle on floured board.  (20 x 13cm x 7 mm thick).

Peel, core and chop apples and spread on pastry.  Mix sugar and spice together and sprinkle over apple.  Roll up pastry and apple like a swiss roll.  Then cut into slices about 1" (2.5 cm) thick.

Grease an oven-proof dish  and lay slices flat on it.  Remove lemon rind from syrup and pour over the apple slices.  Bake in a moderately hot oven, Gas 6, 375 deg. F, 190 deg. C for about 30 mins.

Serve with cream or custard.

This is an old Devon recipe .

                                                                   *                 *              *

Now, update on what we've been doing.  Well, after REALLY enjoying the sunshine these past few days, I am now paying the price with an asthma as there must be some tree pollen about I am allergic too.  It could be Ash - half of Wales is covered in Ash trees! - and I was washing my hair at 11p.m. last night as the pollen settles in my hair and I take it to bed with me.  When the grass pollen's about, I have to wash my hair every evening, which is a PITA!  Anyway, I have thrown everything at it that I can and my peak flow has risen to take me out of needing steroids territory - biggest help was my antihistamine, rather than my inhalers . . .

Well, walks up the hill to get fitter and see the views, and forget about the scary world out there.  Who'd have ever thought that shopping for food could ever be a terrifying experience?  The Italianate tower of Pantglas (now a holiday village) is all that remains of the beautiful mansion.

Violets enjoying the spring sunshine too.

As we pause for breath on the steep bit of hill which merits a VV on the map, dreamy Dryslwyn Castle in the distance.

Looking East.  It's too hazy to see the mountains properly (on the left).

Looking across our valley on the way back down the hill.  You can see how far apart the farmsteads are here - think an average of 1/4 mile apart.

Pantglas centre and Pantglas Home Farm to the left.

The Stitchworts have started to flower now too.

A longer view across the valley.

Today I shall have to stay indoors - such a pain when we get so little sunshine this early in the year, but needs must.  I have about a dozen different sewing UFOs I need to work on, and some good programmes recorded on telly to watch.  Then there's always housework . . .

P.S.  I've just found out that our local community shop is now gearing up to DO DELIVERIES!  You have no idea what a weight off my mind that is - we can get milk and fresh fruit/vegetables from there.  I have already arranged to get fresh eggs from my smallholding neighbour, so can do without the supermarkets completely thank heavens.  We will get our meat supplies from Dewi Roberts, the wonderful butcher at Ffairfach, Llandeilo.  He does home deliveries or you can place an order/pay and just have it brought out to your car . . .  

Tuesday 24 March 2020

The "new normal"

Two laid back cats, enjoying the Spring sunshine - black Sam and mum Miffy (mum to our boys Alfie and Little Whale that is).  

Well, I hope you are enjoying this wonderful spring weather.  I have been doing a little sewing (hand or machine) first thing when it's still a bit chilly outside, and then it's pottering around in the garden, weeding, digging over, cutting back, and getting the veg plot extended.  I am hoping it will be very productive this year.  So far we have started off 2 types of Chillis, pink Russian tomatoes, Scarlet Emperor runner beans, Hunter flat beans, some ??will they grow?? out of date yellow Courgettes, Radishes, Spring Onions and the garlic is growing really well.  This sun has made it shoot up.  I've got a handful of peas soaking which I will put in a pot in the greenhouse to give us Pea Shoots for stir-fries.  I've also got Mung Beans sprouting for stir-fries too.

Tam has dug over last year's Bean bed and the first early potatoes are planted in it.  

The other morning I finally pieced the last 3 wee blocks for the 4th side of a border on the quilt I'm working on.  This will now be hand quilted.  I have a big pile of hand-sewing - a couple of unfinished  hexagon patchwork quilts which I have found at Charity Shops or Fleamarkets and did some work on but then got distracted.  Of course, there are no patchwork group meetings for the foreseeable future, hence the working at home and of course I have more time on my hands as we don't go out anywhere.

Here is Tam planting the first earlies.  The area above that bed is about to be reclaimed and used for Kestrel spuds.  We resurrected the plastic greenhouse which ideally needs a new cover, but I have now decided will "do"f or this year.  In January she bought a bigger version - more of a polytunnel - but annoyingly when we finally came to assemble it at the weekend, the main spacer poles were missing.  We have contacted the company and had a reply so at least we are not being ignored and hopefully they may send them - otherwise we will have to buy another and claim our money back from Paypal.  We had been so looking forward to getting that up and running too.

The plastic cover is now off the main bed which is clay soil and waterlogged, but this sunshine is drying it out a treat and we are gradually digging it over and getting the sun into it. Peas, beans etc will go in here.

FINALLY Ghengis has come out of the house where he has spent the entire winter.  He tells me he doesn't do cold and wet!  In fact, all the four winter house cats have been out.  Alfie has been out and about much of the winter but the other 3 have decided East, West, indoors is best!

Normally I am lazy and just do our bread in the Panasonic, as it means I can ignore it once it's on and go and get on with other things.  I have to say though, it comes out a little pale and wan, so in future I think I shall do it to risen dough stage and bung it in the oven.  This went into a cake pan, and I sprinkled the top with salt and freshly ground pepper  - oh my, it is tasty.  It's my standard half and half loaf with tasty Oat and Bran flour and 2 oz extra of Oatmeal (which I have now run out of).

Apple Dappy, which has always been a firm family favourite.  I had 3 apples past their best to use up.

Last night's meal - a tasty Teriyaki noodle stir fry with flat green beans and broccoli, and a piece of salmon topped with fresh ginger, garlic and chilli.  Yum.

Right, as I've been awake since 3.30 a.m. and up since 4, I will go back to bed and see if I can't get a few more minutes kip.

Monday 23 March 2020

Dryslwyn Castle 2

You can just about make out (wooded hilltop, far right), the next castle in the Chain of Command from Carmarthen - this is Dinefwr, and I used to volunteer at Newton House, which are in the grounds.

Looking across the castle ruins to Paxman's Tower on the other side of the valley.

Looking down the Towy Valley in the direction of Carmarthen.

And again. . .

Not sure if this was a chimney or not (too small an aperture for a well anyway).

A big aperture for a huge beam (now around head height as the ground levels have changed so much), with a stone corbel to support it.

We've been keeping busy in the house and garden - this sunshine is wonderful.  However, it was frightening to see the selfish influx of visitors to Snowdon and (I hear) the Pembrokeshire coast last weekend, as if it didn't bring any risk of increasing Pandemic numbers down here.  (Cornwall with its many 2nd homes has been equally affected and anywhere with a beach looked like it was the middle of summer, with people packed in like Sardines).

It hasn't pleased us that the people who own the caravan at the bottom of the hill have just turned up from the town (Swansea I think) to sit out the Pandemic there . . .  We can do without this . . .

Tam had to go out to the PO this morning (NOT a nice experience she said, as the woman behind the counter was clearly terrified, and didn't get her postage right, overcharging her by £8 . . .  She must have been in such a panic.  They were only allowing one customer in at a time. 

Friday 20 March 2020

Some Fresh Air at Dryslwyn Castle (1)

I have had a pleasant day today.  I've done some hand-sewing and finished the 3rd edging strip for the muchly hand-sewn quilt I am making.  I'll put a reminder photo up tomorrow.  Now I need to finish piecing the three stars for the last border and I can get that stage finished.  I have also fossicked around for some different craft work and found some wool and a few pages of a piece-work crochet blanket so I have got my brain into gear on that too.  An hour or so on the sofa whilst watching Escape to the Chateau.  I couldn't help thinking, those families are going to really be struggling because their businesses will totally collapse during the Pandemic.  All they've worked so hard to achieve . . .

Late morning, Tam and I drove across to Dryslwyn Castle and climbed up to the top.  Good for my breathing as my peak flow was up to very nearly normal again after that.  The top photo is the view in the Carmarthen direction.

Then across towards Paxton's Tower.  I will try and add more historical details in the morning for this post.

Looking Northwards.

This straight Easterly trackway is, I believe, on an ancient boundary alignment.  When I was doing my degree, I was originally going to do my dissertation on the history of our house and in the documents I was going through, came to a Victorian reference to this.  I kept it noted down, so must see if I can tell you more about it.  

A little snow up on Bannau Sir Gar (Black Mountain, Carmarthen Fans).

We walked around through what used to be the Medieval village which was outside of the outer ward of the castle.  Here we looked across at the big old ash tree which stands beside the remains of the Gatehouse.

Looking towards the Black Mountains, with the wonderful meandering loops of the River Towy in the foreground.

This is presumably a very narrow doorway in the Gatehouse - land levels having changed of course - but there are steps leading down to it from the left.

One last view looking towards the Brecon Beacons/Black Mountains.  More photos tomorrow.

Thursday 19 March 2020

A lovely walk at Oxwich Bay

We met up with our son Danny on Saturday - it looked like we would be confined to barracks for a while due to my health issues.  The sun shone a little, people were well spread out, and we enjoyed some sea air.

Danny, sans beard.  We are so used to him with one!

Tam and Keith.  Sadly Gabby has been on secondment managing her company's outlet in Bristol so couldn't be with us.  She's had a miserable time down there as the hotel she's staying at has shut their restaurant, so no hot meal to come back to - last night it was a packet of Sandwiches from Sainsburys.

Looking along the coast.

Last year there was a landslip.  People have been told to keep away as it's still very unstable and there are rocks the size of houses over there . . .

Behind the main range of sand dunes are little ponds.

Penrice Castle and the abandoned remains of its earlier incarnation behind it.  Oxwich Bay is part of the Penrice Estate.

Keith, a windswept me, and Tam.

Back tomorrow with church and churchyard photos.