Sunday 31 May 2020

Welcome to June

I managed to sleep through until just 3.30 a.m. again so it will be another loooooong day today.  The calendar turns a page and I wonder what the month holds for us.  Still more Lockdown here in Wales, where the devolved Government works to its own rules.  I am relieved that we are not suddenly "allowed to drive anywhere we want" as in England, as that seems a step too far, too soon, and judging by the madness and mayhem on beaches and at beauty spots, with no regard to the fact that Covid-19 is still out there and claiming more lives seems just madness.   It seems to me that the original plan of herd immunity is being implemented . . .

The news brings us coverage of several heath fires up and down the country  from discarded BBQ's (those cheap rubbishy things should be banned from sale) or a fag end chucked out of a car window with subsequent loss of habitat and wildlife.  

Who wants to drive to a beauty spots heaving with people?  After two months at home, I am quite content to wait until it is deemed safe to venture forth, and I am glad that we have lots of wonderful beaches here in Wales and far fewer people to share them with (though I think our closest beach at  Llansteffan is going to be busy this summer when Lockdown is lifted, so we shan't be going there for a while.)

There has been much coverage of idiotic young men leaping into the water from Durdle Door - 200 feet up for heaven's sake - it's like throwing themselves off a CLIFF - and then belly-flopping sickeningly into shallow water and having to be air lifted off to hospital and the prospect of life in a wheelchair makes me shake my head in dismay.  Have they NO sense whatsoever?  

Anyway, thank heavens I have a beautiful garden to enjoy.  The roses are just coming into bloom.  Here is Jacques Cartier - a David Austin English rose.

Hmmm - I've been trying to change photos and can only have the one-size-fits-all with the new Blogger set up. I can't centre it either.  How stupid is that?  Anyway, this is Litchfield Cathedral (David Austin New English rose).

This came labelled as Graham Thomas (but is the wrong colour) has never flowered so well - I gave them all a good feeding of blood, fish and bone at the back end of winter and it has paid off with him.

Tam cooked tea last night - a punchy chilli and garlic topping on a salmon fillet, with a noodle and stir fry accompaniment.  I drew whilst she worked . . .  There was much rubbing out and redrawing, but it came together in the end.  A shame there was so much shade to hide the detail in the original photo.  It is a Crabbet Arabian (my lovely lad Fahly was Crabbet/Old English bloodlines).  I miss him so.

So, yesterday ended up being a productive day as I did ten minutes here and there having a garden tidy-up, and cutting back the (many!) Weeping Widow Cranesbills which had gotten to their last flower and needed cutting back to flower again and provide the bees with sustenance.  These spread everywhere so every now and then I have to have a cull or they would be wall to wall!  I managed two wheel-barrowfulls anyway. Then I painted the pine bookcase Keith had made for Gabby using wood from his Useful Store.  I'll take a photo and add it later.  I was outside more than I ideally wanted to be, but with weather so beautiful, it is hard to stay indoors.

I have come to the end of a weeks' steroid course, so I hope that is sufficient.  I will find out in the next few days.

Today I will try and stay indoors more.  I will carry on with some decorating as there are a couple of windows which would benefit from a fresh coat of paint.  I touched up the bannister rail on the staircase yesterday, whilst I had that colour paint out for the bookcase.

Oh, and nearly forgot - we had an email from the estate agent last week, saying that someone wanted to come and view the house (and that there had been interest during lockdown, which is a positive.)  As I am shielding myself until infection rates and deaths are much much lower, I really do NOT want complete strangers in my house, especially as I can't see my other grown-up children as they are out of the 5 mile permitted meet up zone (although they have said people in the countryside could make their own decisions about this zone.)  I have mentioned viewing by video to the agent, but haven't heard anything back yet.  Anyway, in advance of this possibly happening, I need to get everything pristine again.  Hah!  I may be gone some time . . .

Right, back to bed in the hope of a few more zzzzzzzzzzzzzzs.

Saturday 30 May 2020

Going back to bed at birdsong . . .

A low-in-words Saturday post, as I am sleeping so badly.  I was up at 2 a.m. this morning, back to bed at 4.15, still awake an hour later and shattered now . . .

This is son of Spot, one of two male blackbirds who feed their offspring on left-over cat biscuits!  Spot (who is partly leucistic and has white spots) was in a dilemma this week as he has his well-grown daughter at one end of the porch (she is TWICE his size!) and his son at the other and both were calling for grub!  He didn't know who to feed first.

The cats have little cat couchets about the place.  This is by the drying-up wildlife pond.

Flat out cats . . .

I think this is Clematis "Niobe".  She would have been a £1.49 special from Morrisons.  I am missing getting my cheap summer plants from there.

My English rose "Graham Thomas" is blooming really well this year.

I have lots of Love in a Mist, and have sown more and will probably use the last of last year's seeds to sprinkle in tubs as I haven't any other plants to replace winter pansies etc with, not being able to get to the Garden Centre safely.

Papaver "Mrs Perry" I think.

The last three Pitta breads I made last week.  We had them with home-made burgers in the other evening.

The tall yellow standard rose by the gate, over Tara's grave.  I call it Golden Showers, but it probably isn't.  It flowers all summer long.

I was given half a very large red cabbage, so pickled this jar and have the other half cooked up and in the freezer.

Finally, trying my hand at drawing again.  Practice will make perfect.

Wednesday 27 May 2020

A recent walk

It was time to have a break from sewing last weekend, and on Saturday Tam and I had a circular 4 mile walk - up to Pantglas and turn left.  Next Door has been calving some of his milkers in the small field opposite our gateway.  Here is the last mama and her baby, who by the time we got back, had been taken off the field.  She has an impressive udder!

The rest of the calvers, plus Hereford bull, are now in our top field, which has a good crop of grass on it again.

Above and below: the river is really low - the scalloped slate riverbed exposed.

The first brambles are blooming.  This is the sort which has just half a dozen big globules on it passing as blackberries. The birds enjoy them anyway.

The walled garden at the back of The Hall - envious?  Moi?  You bet!

Looking across the valley with the walled garden just out of sight on the right.

Looking up the valley in the direction of Brechfa.

Above, the first of the Dog Roses is in bloom. So simple but so beautiful.  Below is a common plant around here, the Navelwort, which grows in walls and banks. We used to crush the leaves with a little boiled water as a treatment for earache (and it works.)

Looking back down the west-facing side of the valley.  These properties are either side of the steep lane up to Court Henry.

Above and below:  Foxgloves.  I have some "wild" ones colonizing my borders in the garden.  Sadly, the non-wild ones I paid good money for have snuffed it!

Looking across to the farm where neighbours Roy and Menna once lived.  Now their son has taken it over (after Roy died a few years back.)

Finally, incoming rain!  We had taken jackets (and carried them most of the way round) but needed them when this shower hit us.

Unfortunately, it was the wet weather on Friday which finally did for my asthma.  Peak flow levels have been low for a couple of weeks but I was coping. Then overnight I got bad - though pollen levels were meant to be LOW throughout the Bank Holiday weekend, they must have been higher than anticipated and rain breaks the pollen into tiny pieces in the air which - when walking up steep hills - I inhaled deep into my lungs and had a sudden 100 point drop overnight in my peak flow so it was a case of reach for the steroids.  I don't know how long I will be on them and have to speak to the Dr today as I will need more as the pollen levels will go to Very High and I may need a longer course of steroids.

So I am staying inside as much as possible.  I kept myself busy with sewing, reading and baking yesterday and made my first-ever Pitta breads using the recipe on Tracy's blog .  Oh my - they rose beautifully and are FAR removed from the dessicated things on offer at the supermarkets, which fall apart the minute you cut into them.   I ate one of these at 1.30 this morning (I was still wide awake) and they are FAB.  These are like a flat bread roll and I shall never go back to boughten again.  Next, I will try Naan bread I think.

I also made Frances' 6 egg Chocolate cake to mop up some of the egg mountain here (I used Goose and Duck eggs).  The recipe is on the side bar.

Today I shall take some seedlings (Nasturtium and Borage, self-seeded here) along to my friend N with the smallholding, and get Keith and Tam to bag up some more donkey and sheep muck-heap manure.  It's good stuff.

Having quickly tired of the price and quality of the supermarket veg and fruit, I put an order in to Chris Thomas's greengrocery warehouse at Abergwili yesterday and Tam went out to collect it.  I went wild and bought a whole BOX of apples (about 150!!) so I shan't run out of those in a hurry. £10 well spent. 3 BIG cucumbers, some lovely big spring onions, more shallots for pickling (a kilo), two big fat courgettes, and fresh strawberries - English ones and SO sweet. They get their delivery on a Tuesday, so it's the best day to buy down there.  Tam was delighted to have a 6 week old donkey foal (one of twins!) canter over to her when she went around the back of the shed for the order. Quite made her day (wish I'd gone along for the ride!)

Have a good day all.

Monday 25 May 2020

Being creative

Lockdown has given me plenty of time to sew and here are a few of the things I've been working on.  This Autumn colours table runner has now grown and will be a lap quilt!  Quite a bit of this has been sewn in the middle of the night, if I can't sleep.

This is as far as I can get with the final borders on the Baltimore quilt.  Hand-quilted and a pleasure to work on.  Now I am waiting on an order from Doughty's at Hereford of wide sheeting for the back of the charity quilt, and to back the last two borders of this one.

This is the charity quilt nearly finished (Quilts for Care Leavers).  I need to cut some white hexagons and then it's half-hexagons to fill in and square off the edge.  I took out half a dozen blocks which weren't the pretties (a bit pale and wan) and have put other more decorative blocks in.  Hopefully the recipient will like it.  I found this unfinished quilt in a Charity Shop, so they also benefited from its sale.

Well, I had a lovely day in the garden yesterday - feeling confident to stay out there as pollen levels were apparently LOW on Friday - Monday, according to all the pollen recordings on line.  W.R.O.N.G.  At first when I measured my peak flow, it had actually gone up some 40 points, which was reassuring.  So I worked away weeding a very overgrown area in the side border, and made great progress (there is even bare soil to be seen there now!) and also dug over the last triangle in the veg plot, ready to receive "guests" from the Polytunnel, and finished off getting some of the grass out of the rhubarb patch.  However certain you are you have every root, the blardy stuff STILL grows back!

Then in the middle of the night my breathing was bad.  I came down and took my antihistamine early, had a cup of tea and read some of my book (though there is a big pile still to read!!)  If you like family history, then I can recommend this one, set in Hastings, Sussex.

I am wondering if the pollen has affected me because the rain we had broke the pollen down into tiny bits (which is does, particularly if we have had a thunderstorm and heavy rain) and these have gone deep into my lungs.  My GP has explained this to me in the past, but I was lulled into a false sense of security this weekend.  Ah well, time to do the indoor jobs then.

Thanks to Middle Daughter, I had a Shipton Mill flour delivery 10 days ago, so am well topped up with Organic plain and S-R flour, some 00 for pasta making, and some strong Canadian white bread flour too. 

I am off to get a loaf started now, and perhaps make a cake to mop up some of the egg mountain.  I would just LOVE to be outside - and Tam and I had planned a special longer walk as a nod to it being Bank Holiday Monday (Whitsun, as it used to be called).  I hope we can get back to walking together again soon.

Saturday 23 May 2020

Lockdown is a drain on finances

L D Braithwaite in full bloom. Love this deep red colour - it reminds me of the Ena Harkness rose mum used to have in the front garden.

The title of this post says it all.  When you can't get out to shop as you normally would - using Lidl or Aldi for the bulk of your shop, and in my case, the big greengrocers at Abergwili for fruit and veg, the shopping bill soon begins to go up.  Add to that the fact that supermarket online shopping doesn't seem to give you the same offers you would get if you went in person to the shop, there aren't many savings to be made. 

Patio rose Peachy.

Some items just aren't available at supermarkets either - particularly flour - and so I have just had to buy culinary flour from Shipton Mill at £1.30 per Kg bag.  It is organic, which I would prefer anyway, but if I was economising on a weekly shop, I would buy a cheaper bag to tide me over, and not 5 x 1 Kg bags because I don't know when I might next be able to buy it!  I have bought my bread flour in 10 Kg bags from Wessex Mill, but still can't get our favourite Oats and Bran flour from them at the minute.  

Teasing Georgia

Yesterday I had to make an order online for various woodworking stuff for Keith, and paid well over the odds for what he needed, as although there was "free delivery" it wasn't really, as delivery was definitely included on the price of what we were buying, so instead of one delivery cost, we ended up paying 5 lots of delivery charges!  In normal times we would go into town for it . . . I tried a click and collect order from Screwfix, but they didn't have half of what we wanted . . .

Clematis (originally £1.49 or similar price from Morrisons) now climbing the apple tree in the front garden.  Well worth the money!

One delivery I AM looking forward to is some material from Doughtys at Hereford - more fabric for quilt making.  I had to order the backing sheet for the quilt for charity, and needed a hot pink for the borders (hoping it will be near enough the pink used on the blocks).  Also a little treat for me in the form of a pot luck pack of fat quarters of floral print fabrics.  I don't know how long I will have to wait for it though, as their website says they are snowed under with orders and Royal Mail deliveries have up to 14 day delays! Hopefully the latter is resolved now!

 First bloom on the Paul's Himalayan Musk.

Anyway, until I get more fabric, the quilt for charity will be on hold, and I was hand-quilting the first of the 4 strips for the final border on the Baltimore quilt.  Photo will be added later, when I have wiped off the blue fabric marker pattern.  At this rate I shall be starting my William Morris heirloom quilt ahead of schedule!

Wednesday 20 May 2020

Saturday's walk Part II - and Time Management

Good evening everyone.  I can't justify spending half the day on the computer, waiting for photos to load, and then to write my post, so I have to do things in bits and pieces.  Here's the next bit of our lovely walk on Saturday, walking on the loop that takes us back within 3/4 mile of home.  The steep grass hill in the background is one I am sure is familiar to regular visitors here.

It's the time of year for the Hawthorn (May) to blossom.  I love the way the branches are like sprays of flowers in a vase.

Looking down on the back of a smallholding.  The steep fields would be a challenge for anything bar sheep really.  I wouldn't like to cut those for hay or silage as quite a steep slope on them.

The long view, looking up the river valley towards home.

The same view in close up between the fronds of bracken.

The little farmhouse and outbuildings which go with that photo of the distant smallholding a few photos back.

Looking across the valley.  To the right you can see the Forestry have been harvesting timber.  The speck of white to the left is a little hippy smallholding, see below for close up.

You can see how quickly the road disappears from sight, which is why we do the walk this way round - DOWN that steep hill!

Tam has a soft spot for this little house.  I think it must be a holiday home as I've never seen anyone there.

White Campion - I saw some on the walk we did past Lady P's stud a couple of weeks back.  Not seen it for MANY years before that.  It's rare round here.

A lovely big beech tree in our smallholding friend's field.

Finally, sheep and her lambs which had shot off up the field when we came into sight.

Well, I have been doing a lot of sewing on the quilt for charity, and am now waiting on backing fabric, and some hot pink to do the border with (with white).  I need to sort out the stencil pattern for the final border on my Baltimore quilt, so I can work on that in my spare time.

I still haven't worked out whether my asthma is taking a pollen hit.  I have a new peak flow meter, but it has a round mouthpiece (my good one that recently died had an oval one) and I can't get a proper seal on it. It doesn't seem to record anything over 400 so I don't know if it has a problem, or it's me!  With the main pollen season in the offing, I have ordered one which seems most like the one I had before.  It will be with me tomorrow.   I've kept out of the sun most of today (and the past couple of days) but whilst Tam was cooking tea (Enchiladas) sat on the patio with two bags of round shallots to turn into more pickled onions.

The birds were singing, and the sun had dropped behind the house so I wasn't roasting and all sorts of random memories were flowing through my head - stuff from childhood, and my Dorset Days, and friends who are no longer with us (you felt so close, Trish).  

I don't know how much longer Lockdown will be in place in Wales, but gosh, we could do with a nice drive out to get a change of scenery!