Sunday, 31 August 2014

The Countdown

The last few days of the Summer holidays are upon us.  The last six weeks have gone by in a blur of activity; visits to the beach, baking cakes, sunbathing in the garden and reading books.  Perfect days that we will hold in our memories and keep us going over the coming Winter months.  I find the best way of dealing with the end of something good is to plan for more good things to look forward to.  Line dancing will feature heavily over the cold, dark nights and visits to the gym to use the treadmill while listening to Luke Bryan on Pea's borrowed mp3 player will all help.  H2 starts senior school in a few days' time so my evenings will be spent gently supporting him while he does homework he is not accustomed to doing and propping him up emotionally when things take a wrong turn.  On top of all that, I have applied for a job; my first in 20 years.  Oh how I hope I don't get it...

The job is for a catering assistant in a school on the island; dinner lady to you and me.  Only a few hours a day but the main thing is I would be home at weekends, school holidays and basically whenever the children are, which is what I need and want.  I love the holls and love the whole routine-out-of-the-window thing.  We go with the flow and the weather, doing different things as the season dictates.  Sometimes we do nothing at all, which is the best bit.  So the thought of not being home with them and going to work instead is too much to think of, to be honest.  I'd rather have less money.  Which is just as well as that's exactly what I would get.  Anyway, term starts in a few days and I've heard nothing, so I can probably relax again now and forget about it for a bit longer!  Having said that, I will miss the children dreadfully when they go back and after the first week, won't know how to fill the hours.  I won't be doing the school run again, so won't have the chance to talk to other mums at the school gate, or to sing along with Luke on the journey.  I will need some contact with human beings at some point and getting a job seems to be the best way of going about it.  Let fate decide!

The countdown to Autumn is underway too.  There is still plenty of beauty to be seen and admired, both in the garden and the countryside but it is a balancing act between the dead and decaying and the seeds of new life for the next generation.  Bees still bumble around the flowers and butterflies flit over the grass when the sun shines.  There are strawberries and tomatoes waiting to ripen in the late summer sun and the sweetcorn holds its tassells aloft hoping for an Indian summer to ripen the fruit within.

The end also heralds the beginning.  We are planning and planting for next Spring and Summer, the perfect antidote to the impending gloom of colourless days.  Nothing in nature really ends, it steps aside to make way for the next part of the cycle.  I love that and it helps me move ahead with a smile and a positive thought in my mind.  The trick to moving from the end of Summer's flirtatious smile and lazy attitude to the beginning of Winter's serious mood and deep frown is to do something.  Don't let it get the better of you, keep moving and keep Summer in your heart all year round.

There are still two more days of freedom and Summer and we fully intend to enjoy them in our individual ways.  Pea has gone to see Boyf; H2 is building things with Lego in his bedroom and H1 is rolling around on the floor with the dogs.  Boredom kicks in now and then and is a good indicator that they are ready for a new term to start.  I am taking the opportunity to read during the day, which is something I won't be able to justify in my heart when school starts again.  I will have to stave off the guilt by Being Busy.  Yuk.  The countdown has begun!

Enjoy the rest of your Summer and thank you for

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Peter Stone

Friends are important and never more so than when you live in a remote location and no one is passing your door on a regular basis.  They don't have to be human; indeed that is why many of us choose pets to be our companions.  Dogs, cats, horses and birds live lives of luxury next to their humans, just so we can feel the reassurance and comfort of another warm heartbeat next to ours.  On very rare and indeed odd occasions, some prefer an inanimate object to keep them company in the lonely hours.  Puppy is one such creature.  He has a best friend called Peter Stone.  Peter goes everywhere with Puppy but sometimes he craves his own company and the blessing of peace and quiet; at these times he goes for a lie down on the rug and reflects on life in solitude.  Not the most demanding of friends, he can leave Puppy feeling a little bemused, but somehow they muddle through and resolve their differences and get down to being good friends again.  Would you like to meet Peter Stone?

Here he is...

  I know; he's a rock.  Poor dog is so deprived of stimulation he has to find things lying about in the garden to amuse him.  Peter Stone seems happy enough being part of our strange little house hold and doesn't make much noise or demand to be fed every five minutes.  Apart from almost treading on him during nocturnal trips to the loo, he is a pleasure to have around.  Soon after he moved in, he felt he also needed a companion of his own.  Puppy can be a bit much at times of great excitement, caused by events known only to him, and Peter Stone felt he needed someone a bit more like himself.  Some days later we woke to find Simon Slate had moved in.

Two bits of rock hanging about waiting for bare feet to become victims of excruciating pain is one thing, but then almost over night two became three and it began to get out of hand.  We think the third is Polly Pebble; Simon Slate's girlfriend.  Heaven help us if it gets serious between them...

The recent cool winds and cloudy skies have marked the end of Summer quite abruptly.  Not only are they responsible for sending bits of rock into the house in search of comfort, but they are gaily plucking leaves from their grasp on branches and sending me hunting in my wardrobe for cardigans and jumpers.  It feels like Autumn and it looks like Autumn.  I have a feeling that our Winter will be very cold and frosty but full of blue skies and sunshine.  I would be more than happy with that, but I'm not ready just yet.  I have noticed the hedgerows are tinted a deep red as the hawthorn proudly holds out her branches laden with ripe berries for the birds.  My mum told me today that that is a sign of a hard Winter to come.  Old fashioned hard Winters were usually very cold and very white, so we will see.

The damsons are ripening well on the trees and it will very soon be time to pick them and make jam, chutney and pies, something I enjoy doing once I have scrubbed a load of jars and got the labels off, which can take an age as some manufacturers stick them on so well that even if the label comes off, the glue doesn't.

Planning ahead for Winter stores inevitably makes me think of You-Know-What.  The cake and also the main event; You-Know-What dinner.  We usually buy a really nice chicken from the butcher and have that but this year I will be purchasing a turkey.  Not because I particularly want a massive amount of meat but because the people at the farm have got some rescued turkeys who have laid eggs and they asked me if I wanted one.  A bird reared and killed only yards from our home?  Yes please!  Buying any meat from a butcher means the experience is all fairly well removed from the living animal.  But this won't be the case.  We have met the birds we will eat.  Gulp!

Awww! Aren't they cute!  They make lovely little cheeping noises too!  Adorable.  They have been reared by a broody hen who has also taken a gosling under her wing.

Okay so I am quite good at growing vegetables to eat and foraging for fruit in the wild, but actually deciding to eat something that has a heartbeat, eyes and fluffy feathers is quite a Big Thing.  But, I keep saying I am a proper country girl, so now is the time to put my money where my mouth is.  I won't actually have to kill the turkey thank God, but I will have to gut and pluck it; cut it's head and feet off and bung it in the oven.  I feel a bit sick about all that and may have a nicely sanitised chicken in the freezer, just in case.  I have gutted ducks and pheasants before now so I'm going on the assumption that a turkey will be the same but bigger.  I reckon I will need three buckets:  one for the feathers, one for the innards and one for my tears...

For now they are fluffy chicks enjoying life in the sunshine with out a care in the world.  Let's leave them in peace.

I hope you are enjoying the sunshine, thank you for

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Take Your Partner By The Hand

I have been a single woman now for over four years.  It is not always easy, sometimes lonely but I do have the advantage of being free to please myself and do what I like whenever I like.  Granted this can wear a bit thin over time, but then I think back to the bit of my life when that was most definitely not the case, and it makes it all seem fresh and new and very much appreciated.  Finding someone to share life with is always tricky but it most certainly gets harder as you get older.  I am usually pretty good at reading people and picking up on their vibes - except when it comes to romance, or should I say any romance where I feature as the lead role.  Then I am useless.  I have no idea if someone is being nice to me because they like me or because they like me..if you see what I mean.  I am pre-disposed to warming to people a little too readily and always give the benefit of the doubt way beyond the point where I should have told the person in question to stick it and go and nurse my wounded heart with a huge bar of Dairy Milk.  So it would appear that I have a problem and one that I'm not entirely sure can be fixed.  I have an invisible sign that flashes above my head only detectable by morons and cretins.  Trouble is, I have no idea what it says.

Many years ago, when I was a young teenager, my sister and I would spend Saturday evenings attending the under 14's disco in the Scout Hut in our village.  I loved it and spent ages getting ready and feeling excited about dancing about in the semi dark, where no one knew or cared if you went a bit wrong now and then.  It was just nice to dance and have fun.  I'm too old for all that now and ballroom dancing requires a partner and I don't have one, so my dancing plans were put to the back of my mind where they languished and gathered an alarming amount of dust.  Until one Saturday at the end of May.  The children and I had gone to the beach, stopping off at the library on the way back to the car.  I noticed a poster in the window listing all the activities going on during the week at the village hall.  A few things looked interesting but nothing that I really wanted to do but then I reached the bottom of the list and saw two words that would start a minor addiction and change my Monday nights for ever...Line Dancing.

Strangely enough, line dancing is something I have wanted to try for the last 20 years but never had the chance.  And you don't need a partner.  I hopped about a bit wondering if I had the nerve to go.  Pea could see I really wanted to do it and like the good daughter she is, she volunteered to come with me.  We found a contact number and I rang up.  I made sure the lady who answered the phone knew that we were complete beginners and may not be much good.  She said 'Just turn up and have a go.'  So we did.  And boy am I glad!  We dance every Monday evening for three hours.  We have picked it up quickly, according to the people who have been attending the class for years, and are having so much fun doing it.  We have made new friends and have found that everyone has been delighted to have two new, enthusiastic people joining them.  The only problem I have found is that I can't sleep at night because I am going through the dances and music in my head.  It's exhausting!  When we learnt a dance to The Countdown by Lonestar, I hardly slept for three nights.  I spent the whole week dancing about in the kitchen, in the lanes and anywhere there was a space to practise my steps.  Eventually I cracked it and now I can really go for it when we do it as a class.  It's totally addictive and for that I am delighted.

The garden is a minor addiction too and just about as tiring!  We finally dug out all the weeds from this boarder a week ago and planted the Allium bulbs we bought at the show, some Linaria Purpurea that I grew from seed and a few things that I purchased in a sale.  It looks a lot better for it as the weeds and mess were getting me down.  Pea and H2 worked hard with me and eventually took over the planting and left me to carry weeds to the compost bin and do the donkey work.

The rest of the garden is balancing precariously between late Summer abundance and early Autumn sleepiness.  There have been signs of the next season knocking gently at the door for a good few weeks now.  We have already picked and frozen bags of blackberries, picked from the brambles pushing through the hedges in our garden.  Yellow leaves are littering the ground further up the track and the evenings are chilly and dark.  August is a transition:  Enjoy me while you can, she says, It's almost over.  September can be a final song of loveliness with hot days and blue skies, but the late afternoon chill and fading light reminds us that the dark half of the year is close on it's heels.

Tomorrow is a big day for H1;  the GCSE results are out.  He has completed his first year exams but the main bulk of them will be taken from Christmas onwards so he only has a few results to collect tomorrow.  He has actually worked really hard this time and I really hope his results reflect that, which will encourage him to do more next year.  Pea had her AS results last week.  She was disappointed but I have no idea why as she did incredibly well.  She received an A, two Bs and a C.  She couldn't have done anymore if she tried, there just weren't enough hours in the day.  Too much hard work and study is good for no one and so she will be whittling down her four A levels to a more manageable three. Thank goodness for that.

The summer holidays are coming to an end and it's hard to believe that five weeks have gone by in a heartbeat.  I will miss the children when they return to school but the house will benefit from a good scrub as I have been a bit too relaxed about cleaning over the summer.  There is a tell tale line of black dog hairs hugging the gap between the skirting boards and the carpet.  There are one or two dead blue bottles desiccating in corners and spiders have reared healthy broods in elaborate webs strung from the ceilings.  Soon be time for a pre-Autumn clean.  Sadly I cannot achieve the results I desire with a house full of teenagers and dogs, so it will just have to wait a bit longer.  What a shame.

I hope you have a lovely evening and thank you for reading. xxx

Sunday, 17 August 2014

An Owl Called Willow (and Other Animals)

On a breezy but sunny day, the children and I loaded the boot of the car with a substantial picnic, blankets, rain coats and sunhats and set off for the annual Anglesey County Show.  Pea's boyfriend came with us but we left the dogs at home.  We took them for a 3 mile walk the day before, so didn't feel too guilty about it.  Besides, they would have hated being dragged through thousands of pairs of legs anyway; much nicer for them to enjoy the peace and comfort of their own baskets at home.  The show ground was humming with activity and excitement when we arrived but there was plenty of room to look around and enjoy the atmosphere.  I love a country show and as we haven't been for quite a few years, I was all set for a grand day out.

I have a thing for owls; they are so elusive and hardly ever seen during daylight hours, which gives them an air of mystery.  We are so fortunate as to hear tawny owls in the trees at the back of the house, but as yet I haven't had the pleasure of seeing one.  Shows like this one give us all the chance to get up close with these gorgeous birds and even touch them.  Willow was one obliging young lady!  She is 7 months old and has a sister called Wendy.  Her mum was rescued and cared for by the falconry society who then reared the two eggs she laid.  Willow and Wendy are so used to people handling them, they took the whole thing in their stride and were very relaxed about being stroked and photographed.  She was so beautiful it made my day to be so close to her.  Thank you Willow!

Leaving Pea and Boyf to go their own way, the boys and I set off in search of more animal excitement!  I soon spotted the big shed that housed the cows waiting to be taken into the show ring.  Oh goody, I thought and mentioned it to the boys.  H1 looked at me aghast.  Are you mad woman?  It seemed to say.  'Now what?'  I asked.  'I am not going in there,'  he replied, waving a finger in the direction of the shed and the huge sign that read 'BULLS' in giant letters.  'Oh, it's fine,' I replied airily, 'Come with me, please.'  H2 joined in the protest and hoped to add weight to the argument against being flattened by rampaging bovines.  'You two are such cowards!', I said and headed for the shed.  This seemed to galvanise them into action. 'Wait!  We're coming with you!'  Presumably they had decided to throw themselves in the path of any bull intent on goring their mother.  Sweet.

H1 sagged with relief when he saw that all the bulls and indeed the cows and calves too, were in fact, tied securely to railings.  'Oh, I thought they'd be loose!'  he confessed.  Silly boy, as if I'd go in there if they were.  I breathed in the sweet, clean smell of fresh straw and bovine breath.  Lovely.  The animals all looked relaxed and content as if they did this every day of their lives.  The people milling around them did nothing to faze them and they just waited patiently for their turn to shine in the ring.

Some of these creatures were seriously huge...

  Others were just gorgeous..

And some were feeling a little uncomfortable...

It may be show day but cows still need to be milked!  I was thoroughly enjoying myself among the straw and animals, but the boys had seen enough, so we set off to appease H1 and find some cars.  I am not a car person at all, but seeing the delight on his face when he found a BMW i8 (or something) gave me as much pleasure as it did him.  He waited in the line for his turn to sit in said vehicle and then slunk down in the leather seats and held the wheel like a pro.  He beamed and said 'I'm going to save up for one of these!'  On the pocket money I give him, he'd have to live to be five hundred and two.

By now H2 was looking slightly grey and not at all happy.  He isn't into cars, hates crowds and being dragged about looking at things he has no interest in.  So knowing that the only thing that would revive him was food, we went back to the car for the picnic.  Pea and Boyf found us near the horses so we walked back together.  We had planned to sit on the grass to eat, but it was too windy, so Pea and I sat in the boot with the door up and handed food and cups of dandelion and burdock to the boys.  Very Famous Five!  Having given up on enjoyment for the boys for the time being, Pea and I decided to hunt for the poultry tent and look at hens.  We trudged off, well fed and for some a little happier than before lunch, having gone from sullen silence to hysterical giggling in one chicken drumstick and a cheese cob.

The poultry tent is a peaceful place.  Hens are not prone to galloping about and being noisy.  H2 seemed to enjoy this experience a lot more than the bulls.  I long to keep hens again but it will have to wait until the small matter of getting a job is dealt with first.  Anyway, I could certainly take pleasure from looking at the bevvy of beauties on display here.  Typically, Pea spotted a cage with two pretty white Pekin bantams residing within and a For Sale card slotted into the bars.  She turned to me with a pleading expression and begging words on her lips, but I cut her short before she got into the flow.  I can be a hard woman at times!

Not sure what variety this little one is, but she looks surprised to find herself bedecked in such an alarming array of feathers.  After leaving the chickens and geese (reluctantly) behind, H1 noticed a peregrine falcon soaring about above the crowd.  We tracked down the handler in the countryside arena and went to watch and listen.   There was a tent nearby where the birds waited on their perches until it was time for them to work.

After a bit more falcon doting and some dog agility action, the afternoon was waning and everyone was getting tired and a bit peckish again.  Some just needed a nap...

But the little ones needed something a bit more substantial to keep them going...

The wind got up and the sun hid behind gathering clouds giving us our cue to think about leaving.  On the way back to the car we bought some allium bulbs;  fifty to be exact.  I could have bought lots more but remembered that I am trying to save up for roses for my garden, so restricted myself to the alliums.  Back at home we stood about in the kitchen and finished the picnic.  The dogs were excited to see us home but seemed none the worse for being left for the day.  Despite a few minor complaints from H2 about the crowds (can't blame him for that), it was a lovely day out and one we will certainly repeat next year.  Although I may leave any reluctant children at home to dog sit.

Thank you for reading and have a good

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Back In The Groove

Hello everyone!  After a three month wait for our Broadband and telephone connection to be fixed, we are finally back on line.  Technology is a wonderful thing, unless you live in a remote area then you may as well forget it!  Anyway, I have missed writing my blog and really cannot believe that I haven't been able to share my garden with you during what could argueably be the best two months of the year.  I am however, extremely grateful to have the Internet in our own home again, so won't complain any more about it.  It would take me hours to tell you all that has happened since I last wrote, and it would be dead boring for you to read, so instead I will show you some pics as you can easily glance over them and move on when you have had enough!

As the temperatures rose by the day, life in June was slow paced and idyllic...

The hot sun and simmering days continued into July; my garden grew, the farmers worked round the clock to bring in the hay and the children and I ate lazy meals of salad from the garden.  We wore shorts and floaty dresses, lay on the beach and read books in the garden.  The doors and windows were always open and our arms and legs grew more tanned.  We took long walks with the dogs late in the evenings when it was cooler; the lanes still dusty and hot from the blazing sun of the day.

Now August is here, the children are on their long Summer holiday from school and typically the temperatures have cooled down.  Rain waters the garden for me and we are beginning to harvest French beans, beetroot, potatoes and shallots from our plot.  We have made jam and our thoughts are turning to the preservation of our crops for the cold Winter months ahead.

So there we are; three months in pictures.  Quick and painless!  My children are beginning to look a little pale and drawn now so I had better go and make them some dinner.  Home made bread, gooseberry and apple mint jam and blackberry and apple crumble with ice cream.  It may be cool, but it's still Summer!

Thank you for reading and remembering me after all this time.  Next time I will be back to normal with the ramblings and musings of my life on a Windy Island in Wales. xxx