Welcome to family, friends and visitors. Here you will find interesting (hopefully) pictures of my part of the world, news of our household and probably, long ramblings about anything that catches my interest.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Icy Winds.

It wasn't until I came back into the house that I realised I had spent 7 hours working up at the scree garden shelter. The day started with showers and icy winds so I was quite happy to be able to make a start on painting the beams. That took a long time as there were lots of edges, thank goodness for my handy paint edge guard tool thing, plus the black non-drip gloss paint had the consistency of treacle and was hard to spread. (I've now got a massive blister on the side of my middle finger.) The water pump men came in the morning. Peter dealt with them but from I could gather lightening had tripped a switch but the pressure tank was knackered anyway. They disconnected the old tank but didn't have a new one with them. In order to save time and money they suggested that Peter pick up the new tank from their depot and reconnect it himself. Off Peter went to a union meeting and returned a couple of hours later with the new tank. For some reason he decided that we should load the old tank and the very large tank it had replaced 11 years ago into his car first so he could get rid of them at the scrap metal place. Only then did he start the process of connecting the new tank. Oh blast, we saw that even though the pump was switched off water had been forced up from the bore hole and the outbuilding was several inches deep in water. Not only was it pitch dark but in the water floated the remains of a long (years) dead pheasant. And the easy connection was no such thing, horrible for Peter's arthritic hands and a bad influence on both our tempers. Eventually we got the pipe attached and hardly dripping. While Peter went down to phone for the chap to come and do the job properly I started bailing out the water. I had just got most of the water out when the chap reappeared. I did have a bit of a complain about him leaving us with water still coming out of the pipe but he couldn't get his head around the fact that water could still come up even if the pump was off. Anyway it's now all done and instead of a slow trickle the water is back to full force. The outbuildings need a major tidy up but it was late when I finished painting the beams and I had had enough.
I took myself off for a short walk up the hill to enjoy the evening sky. 
When I heard on the radio yesterday night that the Aurora Borealis  had been seen as far down as South Wales and Gloucestershire I ran to look out of the window but no luck. It was raining heavily and there was 100% cloud cover. Seeing the Aurora is one of the things on my bucket list so it would have been a real treat. I've had a look this evening but the sky is just dark.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Too Much Shopping.

It's been a busy day. Peter had taken today and tomorrow off so we didn't have to wake up so early which was good. He's taken the time off to deal with some of the things that need urgent work. Apart from the recent loss of the shed roof the pump that brings water up from the bore hole has stopped working (luckily we still get water but slowly), the air pump for the septic tank has also stopped working and we lost our terrestrial TV signal. So which gets done first? The TV of course. A man came and connected the kitchen TV to a second satellite dish (where the original one was under Romas' window). I wasn't that thrilled when I came home to find that Peter had chosen a black rather than a white cable to run across a white window sill and wall. We have got someone coming to fix/replace the bore hole pump tomorrow morning and the air pump is in hand. 
I left the house early today so that I could walk into town and stock up on seeds at the health food shop and also buy a pair of black leggings. It's hard to find proper thick ones rather than the almost see-through ones that the youngsters wear with shorts so when a friend at work told me where she had bought hers I went there to get some for myself. 
I had a good afternoon with one of the Year 2 classes. They did the final part of our kings and queens work and once again it was interesting to see what they had remembered from our earlier lessons. A good thing for me that the main focus of the lesson was writing a (spider) web chart as some of them were very vague while others remembered all sorts of things such as Queen Victoria was home schooled though I don't think she was married 6 times!
After the usual sticking in of work at school I then drove to the other side of town to shop at Lidl's, Tesco' s and B&Q. That's too much shopping for one day and I drove past the entrance to B&Q and had to turn around to go back to buy some paint that I need for tomorrow.
I didn't get around to taking any photos today so here are some from Peter's regatta last Sunday.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Lovely Evening.

Another day of sun and showers. As I was working in the afternoon I had some time to work outside in the morning, well sort of outside. I went up and scrubbed the cobwebs and algae from the beams and the ceiling of the shelter up by the scree garden. I was standing on my ladder when my hat caught on a nail sticking out of a rafter. I tried to catch it but no, down it fell straight into my bucket of water. Luckily the job was nearly done and I finished off without any of the mucky water +bleach dripping on my head. A normal school afternoon down in Reception followed a lunchtime staff meeting (which I had been told we weren't having any more) and then a long staff meeting after school to talk about how we are teaching literacy. 
Even though it was after 5.00 when I left school it was still light as I drove home.  
There was time to repair the dam on the road and add extra gravel dug out of the drainage ditch in the field. If we actually owned the road we would put in a rubber speed hump to act as a dam but the only ones I have found have to be bolted into the road surface and I think that Paul might take exception to us making holes in his road.  My makeshift dam does the job and is easy to repair, unlike the massive ruts we used too get in the drive when the water flowed straight down.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014


Not having to go to work this afternoon made today feel like a bonus day. Weather-wise it's been a mixture of sunshine and showers again but the sun was brighter and the showers heavier than yesterday.
I had a long gardening session outside and I cleared all the moss from the flag iris rhizomes. I had to use my bare fingers because the new iris leaves are quite delicate and every now and again I would hear a crunch as another leaf got broken when I was wearing gloves. During the brief showers I made a start on cleaning up the ceiling in the shelter. I have plans for that ceiling. I thought I had cleared all the rest of the scree garden but I still found a few bits that needed doing.  
Later in the afternoon I settled down to look at some DVDs that had been made from video footage we took about 15 years ago. I didn't find it as hard as I thought I might because it was so long ago and the boys were still children with short hair. It was mainly a couple of Christmases including a rare snowy one, when our friends were visiting. Most of the footage was shot by the youngsters and they were very harsh with their comments about the state of each other's rooms. And lots of footage of the cats and the dogs we had then. Romas was a real cutie and such a performer even at that age. There is a long tour around the garden shot by me which is nice to have as a record but I cringe when I hear my voice. Actually most of the voices are different to the reality so I hope that I don't sound like that. It was funny to see how some things have changed around the place and other things are just the same. 

Monday, 24 February 2014

Mixed Weather.

First thing this morning it was bright and sunny which made for a cheerful start to the week. Things had turned grey by the time I got outside but I enjoyed my hour spent clearing moss and leaves from a big clump of iris. All too soon it was time to get ready for work as I had been asked to work today instead of Tuesday this week. The sun was shining once more as I drove to work and at school the children were playing outside without their coats. Around the school grounds daffodils, narcissi and crocuses are welcome heralds of the spring which is not far off now. 
It stayed sunny for most of the afternoon until 5 minutes before hometime. when it started raining heavily. Not much fun for the parents waiting in the playground. Driving home I met Sarah at the top of the road leading 2 children out on ponies. All were rather wet. Sarah told me that Coral the Exmoor pony, is due to foal in the middle of March though as she has a tendency to hang on to her foals for a couple of weeks we might have to wait until April. It will be nice to have a foal around especially as Sarah's ponies are used to people and very friendly.

Sunday, 23 February 2014


Despite the grey sky the wind has been surprisingly warm today. Not that nasty icy blast that was blowing a few days ago. Peter went off early to a regatta and has just returned hours later than expected. The regatta was at Appledore and the strong wind slowed things down a lot. Not the rowing but the changeovers. This time instead of each of the 14 clubs bringing their own gigs there were 8 gigs from the local clubs to be used in every race. The gigs were all the same, lighter plastic ones not the heavy wooden gigs, but each club had their own oars and seats so the changeovers took a while. Especially as the wind was blowing the gigs against each other and the quay so that people were up to their waists in the water pushing the gigs apart. Peter rowed in the super-vets (over 50) crew and is happy that they came 4th in each of their heats. Many of the other crews had been rowing all their lives so 4th is a good result for a club that is only 4 years old.
After a spot of housework and a leisurely pot of coffee rather than my usual decaff instant I got to work on the shed panel. At first I thought that all I needed to do was nail the planks to a couple of battens before nailing the panel to the shed but I had to leave gaps for the shed supports. I made sure to measure and check a number of times before nailing all the bits together but now it is done. Not that it can be seen in the summer when the blackcurrant bushes are in leaf but the shed now has a respectable looking side. And all done with oddments we already had. I'll have to think about the back which is an equally dilapidated state. We will have to have the other shed's roof panels delivered as neither of us can fit 2.5m panels in our cars.
Now for a relaxing evening with a wood fire and ice dancing to watch.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Mostly Dry.

It was lovely and sunny this morning after the early showers had finished but that didn't stop Speedy sleeping as close as possible to the warm rayburn.
By the time I got myself outside it was bright but not so sunny. Today's job was to strip the rotten wood from the side of the shed and replace it with fresh boards. Part of the problem with the shed is due to the fact that after the previous owners put up the sheds they piled wet soil/clay over the bottom 12". I dug down and laid a row of blocks and bricks so that the new wood is above the soil. We don't use the sheds but when we do put the place on the market it will be better to have something that looks like a shed rather than a heap of rotten wood. I've used up all the planks that I had and there are still another 23" to go so maybe I can make a panel out of the off-cuts. As I sawed the wood by hand I remembered how, until I was about 4 or 5 if anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up my reply was always "A carpenter." I've no idea why and I'm not naturally good at measuring and cutting carefully. Perhaps it was to do with going to church and hearing how Jesus had been a carpenter. Later my ambition changed and I was going to become a vet. I even got a provisional place at veterinary college but didn't get the grades and studied biology instead.

Friday, 21 February 2014


We did have some bright spells today but there were a lot of icy showers too. (That's hail in the yard.) I did manage to get out in the afternoon and put back all the boards that had fallen off half the side of the shed. I used screws rather than nails as I thought the whole shed might collapse if I started hammering nails into it. Once I had done that job I did some weeding in the ornamental grasses. I sat out one brief shower in the shelter but then the showers got heavier so I ran for home.
I did some rainy day jobs in the kitchen including spring cleaning my earring trees. Everything got a wipe and the few silver earrings had a polish too. (My very best silver and moonstone jewellery lives in its own boxes.) I like fun earrings and luckily I can wear cheap metal without reacting. The cutlery drawer got a clean out too. For some reason it always seems to be full of crumbs.The tv in the kitchen is out of action since the last big storm did something fatal to the aerial in the hedge at the top of the hill at the back of the house. Being down in a valley the radio never had very good reception so I used to listen to the radio through the tv. The other day I brought down a little radio but somewhere along the line the wire aerial had been broken and I couldn't get anything. I thought I was being quite ingenious when I taped the end of a pair of headphones to the wire, fixed the other end of the headphones to the window and got a reasonable signal. Then Peter suggested using some kitchen foil. I folded the foil to about 6" square and taped the radio wire to it. The result was perfect reception and it didn't matter where I put the foil. You learn something new every day. Peter has decided that it is cheaper to have the kitchen tv linked to the satellite signal we have for the sitting room tv than to keep paying for the man to come and fix the aerial.

Thursday, 20 February 2014


I've been in a much better mood today. Firstly it has been a breezy and often bright day. It is also getting a bit warmer. Last night in Bude (Cornwall), the temp didn't drop below 10C. We have been grateful that our bedroom is now a tropical 12C. For the last few weeks it has been 8-10C which is a little on the chilly side. I've been working outside for most of the day but I didn't feel the 4.1 earthquake in the Bristol Channel.20k north of Ilfracombe that happened at about 1.00.
And I'm in a good mood because I've  GOT THINGS DONE. There was half a bag of cement left over from the work on the chimney. With the right amount of sand I had a full wheelbarrow load of cement to mix. I had just done the dry mixing and added the water to make a large amount of cement when down came the rain. Nothing to do except cover the barrow and carry on working. First I laid a course of bricks along the back wall as the wood that had been there was too rotten to re-use. Then I used the rest of the cement to bed in the 3 beams. No wonder the the front beam ripped off, the mortar in the stonework was crumbly, like sand. I brushed off all the shoddy mortar and fixed the beams as best as I could. I've never been too good at trowel work so it is a bit rough and ready but hopefully will keep the wood in place. The rain eased off so I didn't need to cover everything.
Then I tackled the next task on my list, cutting back the blackcurrant bushes on the side nearest the old wood shed. The side of the shed is  falling apart and that was the job I had planned to do this week. As well as the cutting I got all the branches cleared away too. I was nearly finished at that point but decided to pull up some grass that I had spotted growing in a bed by the yard. Walking up the drive with half a bucket of weeds I thought to pull any odd weeds that were growing in the ground cover plants on the slope by the drive. At first I thought there were only a few weeds but once I started looking I could see a lot of tiny weeds, mostly grass. So that job took a little longer than I thought. 
All in all it's been a good day. Peter has just arrived home but he is off out again for the gig club's AGM. That might go on for quite a while. 

Wednesday, 19 February 2014


It drizzled all day long and this evening has settled into heavier rain. The forerunner of yet another weather front. While my mood was 'up' yesterday I realised that it would be helpful to write a list of rainy day jobs that I could work my way through on miserable grey days. Even though I did do some of those this morning I could feel myself beginning to slide into that grey hole where I have no energy to do anything while at the same time feel awful because nothing is getting done. So I put on my wet weather gardening gear and went out to tackle the shed roof. Although the screws were tricky to break off it wasn't an impossible task and eventually I got them all done. Then, most importantly I bagged up all the small bits of plastic and stacked the broken sheets ready to go to the dump. I really, really can't bear to see bits of plastic etc lying around on the ground or mixed in with leaves and brambles. It makes me feel ill which is why I have such a problem with my neighbour's dump overlooking the stream.  He's got stuff stacked in front of it on his side but it looks bad during the winter when the trees have no leaves to screen it. Hence my casual tossing of rampant weeds, grasses and anything else that might grow, up onto the side of his dump.
Although it still looks  messy I can see order beginning to return to the shed. I also cleared some of the stuff growing behind the shed, pulling up the last of the brambles and some stinging nettles that are just starting to grow. Some shoots of the Rambling Rector rose needed moving off the hen run fence and back into the trees. So that's another job done.
The winter heathers are starting to flower and brighten up the hillside.. 

Tuesday, 18 February 2014


The sun was back again today and it was much warmer. It was nice enough that I was able to open windows to let some fresh air in. I could never live in one of those eco houses where everything is sealed shut. I feel a good breeze blowing through the place freshens everything up, except when the farmers have been muck spreading. This morning I met up with 7 friends, and 2 babies, for coffee and chat at a big garden centre. We had a lovely catching time up with each other's news and laughing over some of our daft escapades. By nature I am someone who is happy with solitude but it is very easy to cross the line into loneliness especially as we get older and our families move on. (There has been quite of lot of research into how loneliness can be  a major factor affecting the quality of life for elderly people and I intend to make sure that I keep in contact with as many people as possible rather than just enjoying my own company.) Today was such a good time, I don't know about chaps but there is something special about a group of women friends. 
 Views from the car park looking across the estuary towards Barnstaple.
It was quite hot when I drove on into town. I nearly left my jacket in the car when I parked up at Lidl's but there were a few ominous clouds in the sky and I didn't take a chance. I paid my usual visits to the library and health food shop and had a quick browse around the other shops before buying fruit and veg at the supermarket and filling up with petrol. This car must have a bigger fuel tank than the micra because it cost me £35 to fill it up. Even with my short journey to work that only lasts about 2 weeks.
Coming home there were more and more grey clouds in the sky and when I stopped to pick up the recycling box I felt a few rain drops.  

Monday, 17 February 2014

Sunny Sunday, Wet Monday.

Yesterday (Sunday)
It was a lovely sunny day so when Peter returned from his early morning row we went off to the beach. It seemed that everyone in North Devon had the same idea. The place was simply teeming. Not only was it the first good day after weeks of storms it is also the beginning of the school half-term holiday. I was glad Peter was driving as he had to squeeze into the tiniest parking space. 
We strolled around on Barricane Beach enjoying the warmth !! of the sun and the sea air. 
I walked into the waves to take a photo of this starfish, not often seen on these beaches, and ended up with water over the top of one of my wellies. The rest of the day was a little disappointing. I couldn't shake a sinus headache and I didn't get much done. The shed roof is a little trickier than I thought and I got to the point where I wondered if it would be better to pay the £50 excess and claim on the insurance. But then they would only bump up the premium next year. I got one screw undone but then after that all the other screws have been burred (over enthusiastic use of the electric drill when the roof was repaired) and they simply won't undo. I have to break each screw by bending it back and forth. As none of the plastic is salvageable I resorted to smashing it away from the beam to make it easier to get to the screws. There are 3 beams, one is off and another is almost off so if I keep at it I'll get the job done. 

Today started with drizzle which got heavier as the day went on. I opened the front door to hear an incredible racket - hundreds or even thousands of starlings filled all the trees around the house. it was just like ......
 "The Birds". 
Unlike the film it took only one clap of the hands to send them on their way. I don't feel I have done much again today but I did fix the curtain rail back on the wall in our bedroom and made a good start on my school planning for next half-term. The only time I went outside was to drive the rubbish and the re-cycling up to the road for tomorrow's collection. Another 3 half sacks of plaster from the outbuildings went up in the general rubbish. 

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Happy Birthday Vytas.

Vytas (or should I say Dr Masteika) is 28 today and I'm sure he is having a wonderful time somewhere in SE Asia. (Laos last time I heard.) 
I'm sure that for Vytas the most important event in the past year has been his engagement to Sally. Typically of Vytas he proposed half-way up a mountain.  
For most of the past year Vytas and Sally have been living and working in Auckland, NZ.  They have been able to visit the main LOTR location sites sending home plenty of photos for me to enjoy.
They seem to have embraced the NZ outdoor way of life with weekends spent hiking, camping, caving and trying out water sports.
As well as exploring the top of North Island they flew down to Wellington for a long week-end. Naturally the Weta Workshop was not to be missed. 

December 24th they flew down to South Island to start their travels. (In a proper plane.)
A surprise Christmas present from us was a helicopter flight up on to a spectacular glacier. 
Lots of hiking and other sporty activities around South Island before flying to SE Asia, Borneo, Thailand and Laos so far I think.
They've been jungle trekking to see the orang utangs, visiting temples, chilling out on beaches ....... 
 ....... Visiting more caves and communing with elephants in Thailand.

And they have another 2 months of adventures before returning to the UK. Keep on posting those photos Vytas.

Saturday, 15 February 2014


Last night's wind and rain continued on through the morning so we had a bit of a lie-in. My back doesn't let me sit up in the mornings so it literally was a lie-in listening to R4 and watching the trees lashing about in the wind. 
When we did finally get up it was to discover that last night's storm had blown the roof off the small shed by the yard. 
The whole roof had been flipped over and the force of the wind had even ripped out the concrete holding the beams in place. I was hoping that we would be able to simply flip the whole thing back again but unfortunately the roof came down over the corner fence post of the chickens' run and at least half of the plastic panels have been damaged. We do have insurance but the excess we would have to pay is more than the cost of a couple of new roof sheets so I guess I'll be roofing this week. Considering that once again 129,000 homes are without power today and so many people are still flooded I can't really complain.
Then one of the curtain poles in our bedroom which has always been wobbly came away from the wall. Luckily since my big DIY sort out I knew exactly where the wood glue and the NoNails were and Peter was able to securely fix the fitting back on to the wall. For most of the year our curtains are just ornamental as we don't bother to draw them but we've been keeping the bedroom curtains drawn to help keep out the cold.
It stayed dry all afternoon so after unhooking the baskets that had been hanging under the shed roof and thinking about how I am going to tackle the roof mending I got on with more weeding. Earlier I had found Speedy tucking into the carcass of a cock pheasant but then Patch stole it and took it under a tree. Short rations for those two tonight.

Friday, 14 February 2014


Fueled by Valentine's Day chocolates I was up and busy by 8.00 This was partly because I wanted to get the duvet cover into the washing machine nice and early. The hot wash takes 3 hours and though I have 2 covers for our super-king sized duvet one is better quality and I try to wash, dry over the rayburn and iron it in one day. Which I have managed to do.
Then I wanted to get out before the weather closed in and check that the dam was diverting water on to the field. I took the above photo a bit later in the day during a dry and almost sunny spell.
The stream has been fast flowing all day but the level hasn't risen. I wonder if the lake outflow was partially blocked the time it rose up and over the lawn up to the back door.
Once I had checked the dam and sorted out the run-off on the other side of the road I realised that with the ground so wet it was probably a good time to pull up the brambles that grow by the drive. That bit of rough ground belongs to our neighbour but he doesn't do anything with it and during the summer the brambles grow across the road. After I had a good tidy up of the sides of the road I thought I might as well carry on and clear the brambles from the wild bit of garden behind and alongside the hen run. The wind was howling through the trees and it had been raining steadily all this time so after a while I had to go and change into a dry coat and remove my fleeces because all that work was making me hot. Not only did I clear all the brambles but I dug out the drainage ditches that channel the water away from the hen house and onto the field next door. That wasn't vital work but winter is a good time to keep on top of the brambles that spring up as soon as your back is turned. I keep those bits of the garden as natural shady woodland but brambles and stinging nettles are not welcome. The rain got steadily heavier so after a good morning's work outside I rushed through the housework before having a long hot shower and a bit of a relax in the afternoon.. 
During a brief dry spell I took a walk around the garden to look for photo opportunities. Speedy came with me to the pond to look for and eat, frogspawn - Yuck! 
The weather is due to get worse overnight so no rowing again for Peter tomorrow.