Friday, 26 December 2014

Christmas Walks, 3

Rain buggered up Plan A, which was Derwentwater followed by a small bit of supporting local businesses, ie: look at the sales in Keswick. 

Plan B: parking just off the Whinlatter road and a 5 mile there-and-back to Force Crag Mine to have a look at the new settlement ponds.  Got a bit wet on the way back but it was a smashing walk. 

A Small Canine Personage has decided that obeying the "sit" command, when doing so results in her bum connecting with cold wet ground, is very boring.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Christmas Walks, 2

A quiet day - dog walk, nice supper, bit of telly . . . The End.

The dialogue here will be along the lines of "you've had all the biscuits, if you're hungry you should have eaten your breakfast." This is not the first time the two of them have had that conversation, it won't be the last.

Home-made Beef Wellington, yum. 

Our version of 'Christmas Pudding' all home-grown apart from a handful of raspberries; Summer's Pudding with strawberries, blueberries and blackcurrants. 

What is it with dogs and pastry? Before anyone gets bent out of shape at this, no she is not allowed to beg at table and that was the only piece she got :} Yeah, real meanies, that's us :}

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas Walks, 1

We don’t have kids, we don’t have family or friends visiting and we don’t have spiritual beliefs which have anything to do with the Bible. Management, however, still enjoys a house with Winter Decorations to come home to when he finally escapes London; and a couple of boxes of chocolates and biscuits plus a big dinner on Thursday are things he likes, so we do what works for us and ignore everything else :}  “The Festivities” are quite easy to bear if you just decide to take no notice of media exhortations to Buy, Buy, Buy or Drink, Drink, Drink and Eat, Eat, Eat.

Not much happens here at Christmas - Daisy still needs a walk every day, and all the other chores and minutiae of normal living go on as usual. On Christmas Eve, with no shopping to do or presents to wrap we decided to take Daisy to the sand dunes at Mawbray. At least it was dry, but the wind was strong with 35mph gusts. We were all a little cold and tired when we got back to the car about 1.00pm and decided to get straight home for something to eat. But driving through Allonby the lure of the Fish & Chip shop was too much, and it didn’t take long for lunch to be cooked to order. We go to The Codfather so infrequently that it always feels like an indulgent treat, and one portion is more than enough for two of us in the middle of the day (OK, three of us - Daisy got a little fish).

We had a good giggle about the incongruity of our lunch as we sat with glass steaming up and the smell of salt and vinegar filling the car and making Daisy’s nose twitch very much in the way of “I see you have fish, I also like fish.” Management said “Fish and chip lunch at the seaside on Christmas Eve. I could go for that every year - want to start a new tradition of our own?” Sounds like a good plan to me :)

Tuesday, 23 December 2014


Popped into Keswick this morning and thanks to Edwin Booth and family, the fridge is now full to bursting and absolutely no more food needs to be purchased in this calendar year. When we left home it was dull, grey and wet.  When we got home two hours later it was still dully, grey and wet but the Derwent had burst its banks.

It wasn't until much later when Daisy and I went out that I realised that we must have had an absolute cloudburst.  It's a good thing there are already plans in place to improve our main path in 2015.

And when it is not chucking it down, I need to take a two inch layer of bark chip off these verbascum plants.  The bits that washed into the pond can stay there :{

Sunday, 21 December 2014


Theme?  Bandwagon?  Trend?  Zeitgeist?   Whatever the reason I've noticed a tendency over the last couple of years for people not to set the dreaded-and-doomed-to-fail New Year's Resolutions but instead to focus on a word which exemplifies their aims for the coming 12 months.  And that seems far more sensible - and achievable - and useful - than cutting down on the cookies, or going to the gym, or whatever other lifestyle choices seem like a good idea in the aftermath of the commercialised bun-fight which now surrounds Christmas and the holidays.  And it neatly dovetails into a feeling which has been growing in my head for the last few months and that is to SIMPLIFY.

The apparently rurally idyllic life which I enjoy contains far too much STUFF and not enough hours.  The first problem is the accumulation of possessions, the second problem is trying to do too much.  Neither is good for me.

The 'possessions' problem is one of habit.  Neither Management and I buy clothes or house stuff unless we absolutely have to, but we're both buggers for shopping related to our hobbies.  We're also particularly bad at getting rid of things, him more than me.  We have good reasons/excuses for that.  His parents lived and fought through WWII and raised their family without spare cash.  You didn't chuck stuff out because it really MIGHT be useful one day.  So quite rightly Management learned to hang onto items which weren't wanted/needed now but might be in the future.  My excuse is less clear cut but I put the blame on a less than ideal and insecure childhood.  I came to associate having 'stuff' around me with security, which is a load of tosh but it's taken me years to find that out.

When we packed up our Hampshire home to move 350 miles north we had a huge purge.  We cut down from over 30 bookcases to less than 20, I culled 15 years of textile and art magazines by half, and we still needed two removal trucks to shift our belongings to Bag End.   Seven years on I realise I haven't looked at more than half a dozen of the remaining magazines (there is an entire cupboard full of them) and I haven't worn any of the dresses or pretty clothes from a past life on more than a couple of occasions.  On the subject of hobbies - the shed is groaning with gardening stuff that I never use but cannot bear to throw out.  That's got to change.  But it's not just about physically having more room, after all this is a big house, but getting away from the oppressive feeling of having the weight of all this STUFF bearing down on me.

The 'trying to do too much' thing is more complicated.  I might blether about that some other time.

So on Solstice Day* I am looking forward to the New Year which for me begins tomorrow, and thinking about all that space which my decluttering is going to create.  That's my motivation - I do love space.  Not pared to the bone minimalist empty space, but tidy, organised, under control space where I've got room to breath and relax.

I've already made a start - how many tatty gardening jackets does one girl need?  I'm now down to two - a much-loved and comfy 20 year-old Berghaus fleece and an old and no-longer-very-waterproof Vango jacket (also about 20 years old!)  Everything else went in the bin, they were way past being good enough for a charity shop :-{  and half a dozen gardening shirts were re-purposed last week.  This lot and an unphotographed pile that half filled the back of the car have all made it to the charity shop this month.

*  depending upon who you believe (but I'll go with Greenwich Observatory) this year Solstice is at 23.03 however many will mark the event at sunrise tomorrow (8.00am)

Saturday, 20 December 2014

In Turner's footsteps

Daisy's walk today was the same but different; the same because we went back to Crummock Water, and different because Management joined us and I suggested we take a route which was new to him.  A gentle climb from the car park (and a short steep section through what is probably an old quarry) and we were on the top of a lovely little hill, Brackenthwaite Hows, which is far too insignificant for Wainright to have paid it any attention.  Down to the boathouse, back to the car, only a couple of miles for us but Daisy seemed to think it was a good outing.

A slightly more famous Englishman did pay it some attention, and in 1797 JMW Turner painted "Cromackwater" from the same place. 

I'm glad Wainright ignored the location, means far less people have it on a 'tick list', even in May.  It's a quiet spot to rest a while on a hot summer afternoon, roll in the grass, and get covered in shrubbery :}

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Free fabric

Half a dozen old shirts that I used to wear in the garden plus an hour with a pair of scissors equals approximately six yards of checked fabric added to the stash . . .

Each shirt originally came from a charity shop for £2.99 or thereabouts and has been worn and washed and worn and washed and doesn't owe me a penny.  They've been my 'gardening uniform' for as long as I can remember but I've done over-sized and baggy for long enough.   

Monday, 15 December 2014

Assistance with an end-of-season sort out

I'm so very, very lucky, the weather allowed LP and I to get a full day in the garden today and there was a long list of odd jobs to get through.  First were some 'temporary' paving slabs to get us from the new balcony steps to the old path.  Temporary is an elastic term at Bag End and you know as well as I do that these slabs will probably still be in place in three years time :}  Hopefully the surrounding mess will be tidied up somewhat sooner :{

I took Daisy for a walk and when I came back the plastic 'cucumber greenhouse' was dismantled and put away for next year.  It was a resounding success in growing terms - shame the variety I chose was quite horrible and no-one liked the thick skin and burp-inducing flesh.

A spruce-up of the greenhouse beds comprised loosening the soil, giving it a good water, and then spreading a 3" thick layer of well rotted compost on the soil.  If I extract the digit and wash all the glass then we'll be nicely ready for next year.  I had hoped to be growing winter salads but for various reasons that never happened.  Thankfully in gardening there is (nearly) always "next year".

Small tasks such as folding up the roof net from the big fruit cage are much better with two (I managed to get the net off last week but putting it away was like wrangling cats so I gave up!), and LP also cheerfully moved 8 car wheels complete with tyres from the drive to their store behind the tractor.  Both Management and I now have our winter tyres on the cars, so that will make bad weather trips up Whinlatter a safer drive.

On his previous day here (still not written up . . . .) LP removed turf from the lawn near the Coppice so that I can extend our willow fedge.  Today I had him remove a bit more so I can get exactly the shape we need.  Eventually this will be edged and I find myself with a huge flower bed that was never planned.  Apart from the orchids, the planting is a dreadful mishmash as this bed doesn't really know what to do with itself.  Hopefully I'll get some inspiration before another summer is upon us :}

As light was fading we hammered four 3" posts into the fruit cage.  I'm going to move a couple of plums into the cage and these posts are the start of a frame to grow them as cordons.  Least said about the untidy strawberry plants the better . . .

Heck of a lot done given it was dark by 4.00.  In an ideal world most of this would have been done a couple of months ago.  It is not an ideal world . . .

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Today I have been mostly . . .

Moving furniture.

Management's study needed a complete reorganisation and overhaul and somewhere in the planning he offered to swap bookcases with me.  He got three Ikea Billy's and in return I acquired three much bigger, heavier units which I've coveted ever since we bought them!  That was the easy bit, getting them into my sewing room wasn't easy and by the time we'd finished both of us ached, were tired and had muscles complaining about mean and unreasonable treatment.   But oh, was it worth it!!

And because Hazel has waited years for this . . .  here's another picture of (most of) the stash!  I know fabric should be stored in dark cupboards where it cannot get light damaged or dusty.  I also know that if I can't see the fabric then I'm not inspired to use it, and in this house, once fabric has been made into a quilt then a bit of light and a bit of dust are the least of its problems :}

Daisy spent much of the day in her 'sewing room bed' under the table and was not particularly impressed with all the moving stuff around.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Autumn is over

Winter does not officially begin until next Sunday but the weather has turned and it feels like Autumn is well and truly over.  On Thursday we had a particularly cold and showery visit to Crummock, which might explain why the car park was deserted and we had the place to ourselves.  It was bliss :}

We disturbed a handful of Herdies who seem to have taken up residence in the woods, and also saw red squirrel and deer, neither of which hung around long enough for a picture.

Sheltering for a moment by the boathouse.

The wind comes barrelling down from Buttermere and the north end of the lake can be a blustery place :}

Whilst Daisy is no longer terrified of being near water, she's still not thrilled with the experience of the small bridges across the weir. 

On Saturday Management came to Whinlatter with us.  Despite her thick coat Daisy seemed to feel the cold, but the liberal consumption of mini biscuits and her breakfast kibble seemed to help.