Thursday, 26 May 2022

Beyond Weary


Chocolate apple cake and Scotch rolls.  First baking I've done in ages.  Like a lot of things, his has gone by the wayside since moving here.  Last year was a real first for things I'd NOT made which I had made regularly in the past.  

Aquilegias which have grown since I pulled the weed membrane up - probably seeds dormant in the ground for 15 years or so as the membrane was totally perished.  I've never seen such large flowers - about 2 inches across.

    Yesterday we drove across two counties for K's appt. with the private specialist.  We got a diagnosis and one is not normally delighted to get the diagnosis we got, BUT there is treatment and we are no longer in the dark over what is happening. It was money well spent and I am grateful for being in a position to afford it. Watch this space.  My shoulders immediately dropped a foot (from around my ears) and I was letting out huge breaths from all the pent-up tensions of the last year and more.

    We came back via Ledbury so K could see the Titian painting (The Last Supper - guess who just wrote Breakfast! - I said I was tired) in St Michael and all Angels church.  He was tottering by then - all that time in the car not helpful - just looked for a minute or two at the painting and vowed to come back when he's walking better and can see round the entire church.  I popped into Hay wines to see if the Greek white wine Tam and I love was back in stock.  To my amazement, after a loooooong time with none, it had come in that very morning, and so a bottle certainly had my name on it!

    I stopped briefly at a garden centre on the way back, saying to Keith I probably wouldn't be long as last time I was there I came out empty-handed.  The same thing happened.  They had some lovely Clematis with huge flowers - for the best part of £27 each!!!  Trying it on came to mind.  Also a bronzey Foxglove I grew one year at our old home (before it died in the winter) and that was the only thing I might have bought, had it not been priced at £15.99.

    We had supper courtesy of the chippy and by the time I got there, it was 6 hours since anything had passed my lips and I was famished.  I can honestly say I have never drooled before, smelling food cooking, but I did last night!  There was nothing bar grease left on our plates by the time we'd eaten!

    I slept deeply until 2.45 and was then awake till gone 6 a.m.  Dropped back to sleep until 9 and got up and had breakfast, and then had to go back to bed as I was just so exhausted.  I am officially Doing as Little as Possible today.

Deeply grateful for:  A diagnosis; a beautiful garden; living in a beautiful place; an unending pile of books to read!


Friday, 20 May 2022

Breathtaking views! Craig y Cilau Nature Reserve

 Looking across to the Limestone escarpment.  The grassy hillocks you can see are spoil heaps from when it was a quarry.  

Well, clear blue skies yesterday lured me out.  Keith was tired and walking slower again, but still managed another half an hour woodworking, and between us we made the other shelf support.  I am getting better with the Jig-saw now, more accurate. I will be in his workshop today having a much needed sort out.  I have decided that a tidy hand is needed as you can't find anything in there.  He may know where he left something, but when he asks ME to find it, I can't.  I can remember seeing a house on Escape to the Country where the Man Cave was the most tidy and organized place I had ever seen.  A hook for everything around the walls, fitted work units and bench. (A bit obsessively tidy, to my mind!)

After lunch, I left him to rest and set off for Crickhowell again, determined to find Craig y Cilau Nature Reserve this time, although the directions were still somewhat vague. I knew I had to take the fork in the road which put the Chapel on my right side. Then keep driving uphill until I came to a right turn (it was quite a long way). Then carry on climbing and eventually I would see a car park on my left.

As you can see from the header photo, it was worth finding. Oh my.  I was hoping to find some really rare flowers, but I only explored the main part of it, so will go back and explore more, including the woodland which is included in the Reserve.

A somewhat better panorama than the last one I took.  That's Crickhowell in the centre.

And another.  I was amused by the will I/won't I flowering on the May tree on the right.

The walk was an easy pretty level one along the old tram way.  My legs appreciated having no steep hills to climb.

Inevitably, the quarry had a lime kiln, though you can't see it very clearly in the photo and the tree gets in the way rather.

Saxifrage, probably Meadow. I'd love to claim it is the rare Rue-Leaved Saxifrage, whose stems and leaves (hidden by moss here) turn red when it is stressed - e.g. dry.  You can see that the stems are reddish anyway, but as you can see there was a lot of it so more likely the common or garden sort! I can just see a Meadow Saxifrage leaf too (middle top).

Now, with all the petals gone, no ID.  Is it just a common daisy?  I've never seen the seeds come up like this though. Update: yes, a common Daisy - found one like this in the yard today.

I thought this was Thyme, but it is surrounded by fleshier leaves, so not a clue. I am going through Roger Phillips' Wild Flowers of Britain, but think it will be Marjorie Blamey next - and then the stalwart copy of Keble which for many years was my main go-to botany book.

Lady's Bedstraw.

Maidenhair Spleenwort.  

The quarry face and grassed-over rubble heaps, and below, it's being used today in a totally different way.  There were two groups of young folk (gosh, that makes me sound old!) abseiling down the quarry face.  One mixed group, I briefly chatted to and said that was the worst bit over then.  A lass said, "Oh no, we have to go back UP again yet!"  The other group were all young men and I think from the Army.

The views - well, what can I say? Just amazing. This was the old camera, so some were not as sharp as they could be.

Since going there yesterday, I am reminded of something I read many years ago (Mrs Gaskell?) about certain loom weavers of Manchester and Lancashire as a whole, who could name every plant growing within a days' walk of their home.  They would sit weaving, with a botanical book open beside them. Amateur  Entomologists were just as keen. Others studied mathematics.  HERE is the paragraph in question.  The quest for knowledge.

Thursday, 19 May 2022

When your brain goes walkabouts!


Ranunculous "Picotee" - isn't it beautiful? From Tam's birthday present to me last year.

I am trying to pull together thoughts and happenings over the past week, but woke at 5 a.m. this morning and my brain is still on the pillow!  

My new camera has arrived and I am like a kid with a new toy!  I just need an hour or two to sit down and get my head around what button does what. Billy - getting an SD card was the first thing I thought of once it arrived, and that should be here today.

The garden here is proving interesting this year.  Because I went round yanking up the rotting weed membrane, it has allowed (very) old seed to germinate and grow.  I have an inkling of how the garden was in the past.  On the bank I have masses of deep purpley-blue wild Aquilegias with huge clematis-type petals.  They appear elsewhere in the garden too but on the bank they look stunning.  Unfortunately I can see cross-pollination may happen and all my pretty colours will probably revert to this one! In a similar colour-way I have a hardy Geranium "Weeping Widow" which I had by the acre at Ynyswen.  Gosh it spread.  I bet they were glad to cover it over here!  Yet, it has survived in the soil here and blow me down, pots I brought from the old house also have it springing up.  Can't get away from it!  Also Foxgloves are everywhere in the Lavender bed, and I shall transplant most of them to the bottom triangle of paddock before they take over.

First flower on my Tree Paeony. It goes well with the yellow Potentilla beside it.

However, before I can crack on with the garden, I have a Big Job to do.  In fact, TWO Big Jobs, as having spoken to our carpenter/builder who is fitting the kitchen, Keith's workshop (which as you can see is an unholy mess, made worse since arriving here as he's not been able to get out there since last summer) needs to be greatly tidied to make space for two work benches to go in so our chap can assemble the units in there. I was going to clear it BUT I thought that was where we would be storing the flat pack kitchen . . .  So now my other Big Job is:

One end of the stable which has not been touched since our arrival, except to throw in useful boxes . . .  This photo was taken after many of the not-so-useful boxes had been flat-packed and taken for recycling at facility at the Co-op.  The banana boxes are needed for when we eventually have a new carpet laid in the Library, but moving the 100s of books and big heavy furniture which lives in there is daunting.  That is a whole family job, in summer - as all the furniture will have to go into the yard whilst the carpet is laid.

So today I have to go back in there and sort out all Keith's useful bits of wood in the end stall to make room for the flatpack kitchen to be put in the alley behind the stalls.  

Self-sown (from 20 years? ago) wild Aquilegias.

A lovely slow worm was sunbathing on the path yesterday.  I didn't know we had slow worms in the garden.  Unfortunately it must have been on the section of Primrose bank which I strimmed last week, as he was missing the end of his tail. I feel bad about that. I say it's a male as there was no obvious thin dorsal stripe which the females are meant to have.  Whilst I know they will "drop" the end of their tails if frightened/picked up, this looked a very even tail loss.  I will have to make lots of vibrations before I work up there again, or cut it with the shears (NOT ideal).

Red Campion on the bank.  I bought this as a garden plant last year from the Nursery that has a stand at Hay Market and also at Malvern.  It is Silene dioica, same as the wild plant.  I was heartened to see I have two or three small wild plants in the orchard too.  I need to get rid of the wild raspberries nestling up to it (relict plants again) and the constant encroaching GRASS!

The last couple of days Keith has decided he wants to try and do some woodwork again.  I was slightly perturbed, as I thought that the standing would exhaust him, but knew it would cheer him up to try. Day 1 - I found the right piece of wood for him, got the bench out, and various round tins for him to draw the pattern from.  He is making me a shelf to go in the kitchen.  (Though that will displace the Cecil Aldin horse print I have there currently, but I didn't have the heart to tell him that).

Yesterday, I got the work bench out for him, but imagine my absolute amazement when he walked - almost STRODE across the yard, using his walking stick.  I exaggerate a little, but compared with how he had been moving - I won't even call it walking as it was a shuffle at best.  My jaw hit the floor!  Together we cut out the first shelf support - and I had a lesson in using the Jig-saw. I went a bit off-piste with it but that was corrected when he took the sander to it.  OK, we were out there half an hour and he was tired and not walking very well after that BUT it is progress.  The only different thing is that about 10 weeks ago the GP told him to stop taking his daily dispersible Aspirin, as he had acid reflux.  She also gave him some Lansoprazole.  Anyway, for reasons best known to K, he decided to start with the Aspirin again and that was two days ago (well, 3 this morning).  He felt a little more energised too. We know he has circulation problems so perhaps these are accounting for some of the walking problems?  Having watched him just going downhill so rapidly, week on week since December, this is a positive.  I'm probably reading too much into it, but for whatever reason, he can walk better on occasion. We see the Neurologist next week, so will see what his thoughts are.

I am still hoping to get to Craig-y-Cilau nature reserve.  It's overcast/threatening rain today, but hoping it may clear up . . .

Monday, 16 May 2022

Officially house full with House Martins


Llangorse Lake in the distance.

After doing all sorts of research, I have just ordered myself another camera, which sounds most suited to my needs.  It was in the price range I preferred and is apparently really good for scenic photos.  We shall see.  It'll be heavier than my little point and shoot Panasonic, so I will need to get a suitable camera case if the couple I have here don't suit.  I've gone for another Panasonic Lumix - the DMC-FZ82, from the company that you recommended Billy. Many thanks.  Time will tell if I've made the right choice : )  Excited to take delivery so I have paid a fiver for next day delivery.  As an Aries I am impatient and once I have made my mind up on something, I want it yesterday!

Tam was here for 24 hours over the weekend, to help me at a small Militaria Fair we have done for a few years now, so lots of friends there.  Keith stayed home and rested.  We should have done the same as people were being careful with their pennies.  A few more of Tam's belongings have gone to her new home but next time a couple of bigger chunks are going and I will be able to move some of her boxes from the pink bedroom into her old bedroom, and tuck them out of the way.

We spent time at the Fair yesterday choosing the kitchen tiles - Wightwick Ceramic Ink , and a lovely aged copper glass splash back.  Trying to get excited about my new kitchen, but my mind is seeing work to empty cupboards and stack it wherever there is space!! This is not going to be a cheap month but the kitchen is the last big job here.

We have LOTS of House Martins this year - 5 families are setting up home on old sites under the eaves.  When I am putting my makeup on in the bathroom though, it's a bit discombobulating having them flying right up past the window on their nest-building flights!  Two Swallow families are now back in the old tack/feed room.  All is good.

Saturday, 14 May 2022

Walking into the Weekend

 A few photos from a walk up the lane will accompany this.  My camera has been "fainting" recently and not focusing properly, and I suspect I have worn it out with all the scenic photos I take!  I am going to take it to the Camera shop in Carmarthen and see if it's fixable (it still takes good close-ups), but I need to replace it with something that is spot on for scenery. It was never as good as my old Fujifilm S1000 in that respect. I am calling this my Christmas present in advance and will ask for "donations" nearer the time, instead of wrapped gifts this Xmas.

The patient, along with Best Buddy Little Whale.

Well, I have had a VERY expensive week or so.  My poor credit card doesn't know what's hit it.  Firstly Theo to the vet with his sinus problems again (bill of about £70), then two days later Ghengis (ditto), who then had to be booked in to have his teefs descaled.  He went in yesterday (Friday 13th!) and had to have his top fangs removed due to pus at the roots, and another back tooth, and a further back tooth came out with the tartar.  He is quite elderly - at least 14 and possibly more.  The removal of teeth, and being on a drip, and having a blood test first, of course added significantly to the bill, which was over £300. The pre-med and anaesthetic cost as much as the actual descaling. He goes back for a check-up on Wednesday and has to have another blood test for kidney function, so there will be another bill again.  Beans on toast for the foreseeable then!

Poor chap was a bit spaced out still when I picked him up last night, but he is stoical, and the vet said he was the best-behaved cat they had ever had.  They had offered him food but he'd turned his nose up.  When we got indoors, he went straight to his food bowl, so I opened a sachet of the Sheba Select Slices for him (nice and soft and hardly needing chewing). I just put a mouthful out but that didn't touch the sides, so he had more and then had to be dissuaded from going to the other bowls and hoovering any leftovers up!  He spent the night on the sofa - they all did I think, as doors were left open - and he's back there again now.

This time, after a steroid jab and more anti-biotics, Theo is a bit better, but they said if he wasn't completely cured, then the next step is an X-ray (another 3 figure bill). There may be something (grass seed?) in there. We will see how he gets on - he's just a bit snuffly still.

Meanwhile, K has an appt. to see a Neurologist privately, but we have to drive for 2 hrs to get there as he's not at Hereford now.  Once we had discovered he wasn't still at Hereford Hospital, we decided to bite the bullet and go further to see him, than start over with the Hereford bods.  The MRI scan has been put back another fortnight, despite being urgent, but they have just one scanner working, so we will just have to go with the flow.

Glad to report that we have 3 House Martin nests in varying states of construction. That makes up for us being bereft of Swallows this year. I can see them flying over and around us, but they aren't nesting.  The two males have thrown their lot in with the other stable Swallows, who nest on the slope in Barron's old stables.

Have a good weekend all.  Sunshine here, so I will get out in the garden.

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Round and about Crickhowell


I had set my heart on visiting a nature reserve in the Brecon Beacons called Craig y Cilau, but I made the mistake of writing down instructions.  Though I did look closely at the map - unfortunately the grid ref. wasn't any use on the version of the map I had which was Abergavenny and the Black Mountains, and the Brecon Beacons map was too far left.) Yes, I know, should have had it on my phone, but the signal here is not good and I tend to go down the old-fashioned route.  Next week I will put it on the phone, promise!

This particular reserve is a Limestone escarpment in part, with a superb range of unusual and some very rare Alpine plants.  So some lovely views (and few words as it's an evening post and I'm tired) and I will go back in the next week and find it.

A sort of very dwarf rush?  None of the normal wild flowers had any stems - they seemed to grow straight from the grass - sheep are to blame I suspect.

Lovely lichens on this limestone boulder.

Looking at the map, this hillock is Myarth, the other side of the Usk valley.

OK, my pathetic attempt at a panorama.  I obviously held the camera too low and got a good panorama of the car park!  You get the general idea anyway.  I will confess to stopping in Crickhowell and buying two bottles of Ty Gwyn cider (can't get it in town).  One is Kingstone Black and the other Dabinett. Yum!

After steady rain overnight and this morning (much needed in the garden) we have clear blue skies here now, and a blackbird is at the top of the golden fir tree opposite us, singing his heart out.  I saw the first Swift today.  Hurray - they're a couple of weeks earlier than last year, when it was still frosty almost until June.  Oh, and my Yellow Tree Paeony has buds on! Can't wait to see the flowers for the first time.