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.

Sunday 31 January 2010

The Red Barn.

We finally got round to having the first of our meals out that were our Christmas presents to each other. We are simply not a family that goes out for meals. Initially due to the cost and now that there are only 2 of us not 5 we still prefer to cook a special meal at home or have a take away. (My favourite is a sandwich in the open air.) When we actually thought about it we could count the number of times we have eaten out together (not counting holidays or works outings) on the fingers of one hand. My colleagues do go out to eat but I don't think it is something we Brits do a lot. At least apart from young people. Perhaps it is the cost, locally a meal with a starter or a desert as well as drinks will probably cost £15+ per person or a fast food such as pizza or fried chicken would be £5+. Maybe I'm just old but when you multiply that by 5 for our family it seems to add up to a lot. What happens in your part of the world? How often do you eat out? What is your favourite cuisine? I'd love to hear your choices.
So it made it special for us to go for a walk and then have a meal at the Red Barn in Woolacombe. Not haute cuisine but a good selection and fair sized portions. Peter had roast beef with all the trimmings while I had a very good vegetable lasagna followed by a triple chocolate dessert with local ice cream. The meal came to £25 and we definitely do not need to eat again today. The only down point was when a couple of small children who were racing around the place like dervishes, managed to trip Peter up and he fell on his wrist, not good. Luckily he doesn't seem to have done any damage.

The Red Barn is a laid back surf themed place with great views over the beach. I can imagine that it gets very crowded in the holiday season.

This was our view as we ate our meal. Look, we even have palm trees.

Before our meal we went for a stroll along the beach. The tide was just turning and we were able to walk on the sand after jumping over the many fast flowing streams of rain water that were flowing down off the hills. We also picked up a few shells and I have started drilling holes and experimenting with different ways of combining the shells with beads to make some beach jewellery.

At home things were very different. We had more hail in the night and the ice was thicker on the pond. A couple more hail showers in the afternoon kept me indoors where I did some mending (sewing) in the kitchen. No severe weather predicted for us in the week but I'll keep an eye on the predicted temp each night so that we don't get trapped by black ice when we should be going to work.

Saturday 30 January 2010

Snow ?

We woke this morning to see the garden white with the hail that had fallen in the night but by the afternoon most of it had melted away.
Up in the hen run this little sparrow waited in one of the apples trees for me to leave so that he could share the corn I had thrown on the ground for the hens. It didn't feel too cold out as there was no wind at all and the sun was shining. It took me a while to get organised to work outside and then I kept getting diverted from my original task of finishing the pond and weeding the heather banks. First I went to put up a new fat ball for the wild birds. This hangs alongside the nut feeder over the stream to stop the squirrel from raiding all the birds' food. Each time I've been out there I've meant to remove some brambles that have appeared and today I finally got round to doing so. Then I carried on and cut back and cleared more brambles growing on the far side of the stream. It's not our land but as it's so close to the house I do have permission to cut back the trees and undergrowth there.

There are several clumps of daffodils there that began flowering at the end of Dec, I can see these ones through the window by my piano in the sitting room. Having cleared most of the brambles that were growing down to the stream I then cut down a 20ft branch of a cob nut tree that was growing picturesquely over the stream but almost reaching the house, (that was with my trusty bow saw).

As I walked around in the stream I was most surprised to see some frogspawn in the flowing water. I expect it had been washed down from one of the small pools higher up the valley. I released it from the stone where it had been caught and let it carry on its journey down to my neighbour's lake. That reminded me that I had planned to do more work at the pond, actually I took my camera to see if there was anything happening up there. No frog or toad spawn but looking down through the clear water there were suspicious movements and bubbles under the pond plants.

There was a thin film of ice over the pond and some clear reflections of the surrounding trees.

I finished off my outdoor work by bringing down and cutting up enough wood for a fire tonight and then doing a bit of weeding before the light started to fade.

Friday 29 January 2010

Much Colder Today.

Just as I was about to get changed for bed last night Linas called out that Metcheck were predicting low temps for the night. Despite the fact that only 2 hours previously the predicted temp for the night was 7C it was saying that there would be light sleet followed by the temp dropping to -1C at 6.00. Perfect conditions for black ice. So of course I jumped in my Micra and drove it to the top of the hill, just in case. Even though it was 100% cloud cover the night was so light there was no need to use a torch on the walk back down the hill. In the morning although it was wet and windy it wasn't cold enough for ice. I had a lift up the hill with Peter as he doesn't worry as much as I do and his car was still down by the house. It got a lot colder during the day and I drove home through a mixture of sleet showers and dramatic cloudscapes. It was strange driving home as the sudden drop in temp had left most of the road dry with the wet sections splashed and frozen into odd shaped splats across the road.
I've been teaching all day today. I was teaching my old class so it wasn't stressful though I did have to talk to a couple of parents about extremely poor behaviour by their children at playtime. Generally the behaviour in our school is very good and apart from a few children with specific problems we do not have children being hurt or any bad language. (Our school only has children from 4 - 7 years old). I do also enjoy the companionship of my colleagues as we all get on well and have a good laugh together while coping with the pressure we are under. At least, while I am part-time I have far fewer responsibilities and can relax once I get home, not worry about the latest batch of paperwork that needs updating.

Thursday 28 January 2010


This morning's weeding session saw the last bit of the pond path cleared of weeds. There is still some grass growing in the water to be pulled out but that will be it for now. In a few weeks I'll cut back the rest of last year's growth from the marginal plants. The alchemilla is a lovely plant but seeds easily so there have been quite a few seedlings to pull out. It always amazes me that a little plant only a cm across will have several inches of roots. I used to look around the local garden centres once in a while for unusual plants and I had to laugh once when I saw pots of alchemilla on sale at £4.50 each.2 eggs today, that's 100% increase in production. At least I should soon be able to stop buying eggs. I could never bring myself to buy battery eggs but free range eggs are not so expensive these days, probably due to increased demand. My hens are such gluttons. Even when their crops are full of corn they wait at the bottom corner of their run to see if I'm coming up with any scraps. When we first moved here I had a little flock that roamed free and they often hung around the front door waiting for us to come out. I have a photo of one hen happily laying an egg in a box just inside the porch.

Right now we are waging war on the jackdaws who plan on building nests in the chimney and loft. The first year it was only one nest, then some of them nested in the lofts (very noisy,) and this year there are at least 12 birds hanging around. One pair build a nest in this chimney (we'll have to warn future owners of this place to sweep the chimney if they plan on using the kitchen fireplace,) and the rest head into the loft. We will put some netting up to block the hole into the loft and we are also gaily taking potshots at them with the boys' air-rifles. We don't actually aim at the birds and it is only plastic pellets that ping off the trees but we hope that they will scare away the jackdaws. Jackdaws are quite clever and now they fly away as soon as we raise a gun to our shoulder. Hopefully they will get the message soon and find somewhere else.
On my way home from school this evening I had another frustrating time trying to get a good photo of a buzzard. I was taking photos through the car windscreen and trying to move a bit closer, first the buzzard flew down the fence and eventually it flew away.

So this was my final photo.

Wednesday 27 January 2010

Muddy Roads.

It has been another cold and grey day. There was no rain last night and subsequently no ice on the road, thank goodness, but at the moment the roads are in a dreadful state. Why ? Because the farmers have all been out at their favourite pastime - muck spreading. I can put up with the smell, after it is the country, but the problem is all the mud that the tractors are leaving on the roads. It's not just a little mud but great big slicks of mud. On the way home each time I applied the brakes (cautiously), I slid all over the road. That was after I'd pulled over with 2 wheels in the soft muddy verge to let the milk tanker past and then had my spinning tyre flick lumps of mud all across the windscreen. That was more funny than anything but I didn't like skidding through the mud. The rest of the day has been OK. I had the youngest class in the morning which is always fun. I do feel a little like Joyce Grenfell with my running commentary to the children which has a slightly manic feel (in a calm and controlled manner) , as I try to keep the proportion of positive comments high. It does work but anyone who wasn't familiar with this style of behaviour management would think I was absolutely bonkers. These little ones are only 4 years old and by next week they will be at school full-time and have to learn to interact /share/turn take & listen with 29 other children. Most of them have been to pre-school but it is a big step for them. I had to drive home at lunch time to collect Linas who had an appointment in town. But then I had to return to my class and see them home as this week they are staying for lunchtime and going home at the beginning of the afternoon session. I had an hour in town while waiting for Linas and wandered round looking at the last of the sales and yes, buying a few items. Some I needed and some not really (reading certain blogs and trying to sort what we have accumulated at home has made me think about buying 'stuff',) . However I didn't spend much, some earrings and a ring had been reduced to 25% of the original price and then made BOGOF so I paid just £2 for them. A bright pink shiny shoulder bag (I'm a sucker for shiny/sparkly/fluffy things,) had caught my eye some time ago in Primark but I wasn't going to pay £6 for an impulse buy. Today they were reduced to £2 so I treated myself to one. "Yuk" was Linas' comment. I also picked up a pack of brightly coloured socks in Primark. Being men's socks they're bigger and won't get holes at the heels which is what happens to my fun socks that I wear to work with my crocs. Not in sale but at £4 for 5 pairs good value. I did look at the Monsoon 70% off sale but resisted buying a black furry body warmer as even I might have to admit that I already have a good selection of body warmers. That's enough of my shopping tales. It'll be gardening and nature tomorrow I expect.

Tuesday 26 January 2010

Frosty Morning.

It was rather frosty this morning but as there wasn't any wind it didn't feel that cold. However I did don 2 pairs of joggers and a warm jumper under my gardening coat for my 2 hours of weeding around the pond. I'm pleased with my progress as I've got 3/4 of the way around weeding the path and the edging plants. I finished off by getting into the pond and pulling out a lot of the grass that was growing in the pond. Even with rubber gloves it was mighty cold. Also most of the pond is deeper than my boots so I have to be very careful. I was back at school this afternoon and will have to be in tomorrow morning so that will mean feeding the hens in the dark. The forecast this evening was for low temperatures overnight so being the worrier that I am, I left the car at the top of the hill just in case there is any rain and resultant black ice.
I had less than an hour of light left once I'd got back down the hill so I sawed up some wood so we can have a good wood fire in the sitting room tonight. The central heating is keeping the rest of the house nice and warm and I try not to think about the high cost of heating oil. Roll on some warmer weather.

Monday 25 January 2010

A Guide To The Pond.

As most of my gardening this week has been around the pond I thought I would set the scene and motivate myself by showing some pictures from last year. The pond was initially a rectangular hole dug into the clay that makes up 90% of my garden. Part of the challenge of this garden and one of the reasons I have given up trying to grow vegetables is that when we first moved here the garden had no top soil but was a series of terraces cut into the clay subsoil. I'm not too sure what happened to the top soil but I think it got buried under the large swimming pool on the highest terrace. I love garden design and it has been interesting creating a garden in these difficult circumstances. (Add in little funds, dodgy back and a family completely uninterested in gardening.)
May - The pond is a perfect circle with concentric rings of planting border, stone edging and gravel path. It sits about a foot below the level of the lawn and the wooden 'cushions' can be moved to take advantage of the sun/shade/views. The pond is filled naturally by water which flows out of the hill behind and enters through 2 stone lined rills. There is an overflow land-drain which takes water from the pond and down under the lower lawn into the stream which runs behind the house.

May, 3 weeks later - The plants are mainly white, yellow, orange or red (there is a blue iris which was too beautiful not to buy,) and attract all manner of darters, dragonflies and beetles. The water teems with life as well, toads, frogs, newts and many other mini-beasts. It is very easy to while away the hours on a 'tea-break' watching the wild-life.

Sept - The pond is almost hidden by the marginal plants.
So now I have given myself a reminder of the how the pond will look later in the year I'll be pushing ahead with clearing the weeds so that I can enjoy watching each variety of plant appear and flower. Gardening is very much my passion but there is also a purpose behind the work. We'll be selling this place one day and the state of the garden will be important especially as you drive through the garden to reach the house. So not only am I nourishing my soul by working outside but I am making a real contribution to our future.
Pond Plant List - white water lilies,
double marsh marigolds,
white skunk cabbage,
wild yellow flag iris,
white water iris,
white edged blue iris,
yellow lychnis,
creeping jenny,
day lillies,
typha minima,
and other pondy things.

Sunday 24 January 2010

Back To The Beach.

It was grey at home today but once we had driven down to Woolacombe the sun was shining. From the hills overlooking the beach what seemed like a flock of exotic birds were on closer inspection people enjoying the sport of parascending. If there had been a microlight amongst that lot the chances were that it would have been a local man who flies with one of his golden eagles free-flying alongside him. No sign of him today. Peter and I have been taking every opportunity to get out for walk as once the Open University term starts Peter will be studying and having deadlines for assignments and that will take priority.

We parked above Barricane Beach. We can't wait until that tiny concrete hut opens again as the beach cafe and serves tea in china mugs, (I do dislike paper or plastic cups). In the distance is Morte Point where we walked yesterday.

We went down onto Barricane Beach and picked up a few more shells. The tide was about half-way in so we didn't get a chance to explore the rock pools.

Then we walked over to Combesgate. Right next door to Barricane but very different with pebbles instead of shells and a lot of ground water flowing down off the hills.
Back home I was out in the garden once more. As there is so much to do it is a matter of prioritising. I'd like to get the heather banks sorted as soon as possible. Most of the heathers are winter flowering ones which means that soon the banks will be a mass of colour and it would be a shame to have weeds poking through. But first I have to get the pond tidied up. I like my garden to be fairly natural but although a pond full of rotten last year's foliage might be an ideal habitat for the toads which have already started croaking I do like there to be some element of design and space for my garden plants to show off their flowers. So I had the nasty job of fishing out and cutting the slimy last year's flag iris leaves. And got 1/3 of the path weeded. Hopefully the pond will be done by the end of the week and I can leave it for the wild-life.
Finally, if you're interested in self-sufficiency check out http://www.justofftheonelaneroad.blogspot.com/ . Elora lives on a small farm in West Virginia and grows all her own food as well as making dairy products and has just started blogging.

Saturday 23 January 2010

Winter Sun.

Today's sunshine saw us heading off to Mortehoe for a walk on the clifftops. The car park was considerably less crowded than it had been in the holidays.
Our walk through the village takes us up the little lane between the church and the pub.

Once out on Morte Point we set off for our usual route along the cliff path. One of the joys of walking is the chance to have long conversations where we set our lives and the world to rights.

These sheep were having a comfortable snooze in the warm sunshine. We prefer to walk on the shaded side of the headland first and end by walking on the sheltered and sunny side.

Let's hope these blue skies continue tomorrow.

Friday 22 January 2010

Changeable Weather.

It was a rather misty morning when I headed out into the garden to do yet more weeding but as I was well wrapped up it really didn't matter. The problem with living in an old farmhouse is that the thick walls cut down the light inside and sometimes I have to give myself an extra push to get outside. Once I'm outside I'm so much happier even if I'm crouched in a muddy ditch pulling out weeds. I have thought about listening to books on my MP4 player as I work but I enjoy just listening to the birds and being alone with my thoughts.
Despite the wet and rather grey morning the day transformed into bright sunshine. It was a shame that I had to go into work but I still need to earn money.

On my way home the sun was casting a golden light on the fields and tops of the hedges. I toyed with the idea of spending a bit more time in the garden but with the whole garden being in shadow my enthusiasm faded and I opted for housework instead.

Linas' plans for his trip to Washington have had to be put on hold due to problems with the proposed accommodation. He had bought all his plane tickets and insurance but will hopefully be reimbursed and hopes to reschedule for later in the year. I do hope it works out for him as I know he was looking forward to going.

Thursday 21 January 2010

No Sunshine Today.

It has turned colder but no sign of snow. This morning I gave my poor little car a wash, it wasn't too dirty because I didn't drive much in the snow. Then as I drove past the Lewis' farm the road was covered in mud from the tractors and I could hear the mud splattering up against the car. Now it hardly looks as if it has been washed at all! I also managed to do some more weeding before going to see my lovely physiotherapist. My neck/shoulder is just about sorted and we spent a lot of time talking about my lower back. He gave me a whole set of graduated exercises that will help strengthen my abdominal and lower back muscles and gave me some tips on how to alleviate my pinched nerve while I am waiting for the spinal injections. This afternoon I taught my old class. No problems such as feet stuck in drainpipes today though we did have a workman drilling away in the cloakroom repairing a couple of holes in the outer wall that the children love to push pencils and small toys through. Too grey for photos today so here a couple from the last beach visit.

Wednesday 20 January 2010

A Satisfying Day.

The sun has been making a brave attempt to shine today, thank goodness. I've spent the morning working out in the garden. I start every year thinking that it will be the year I do actually manage to get the whole garden weeded before the spring flush of growth and flowers appears but somehow it never quite happens. Last year was especially hard as I was teaching full-time which left me with precious few 'leisure' hours. Today I got to grips with the brambles lurking in the hillside section. Horrible plants brambles, with their habit of rooting each time the shoots touch the ground. It's very satisfying when you pull out an extra long root. I also did some general weeding, raked down the 20 molehills that had appeared on a tiny patch of lawn and dug a ditch down the centre of the drive. Hopefully the rain water that comes down from the road will channel into the ditch and stop washing away the bits we need to drive on.
I thought I heard some clucking from the hen run and when Linas went up to clean out the old wood shavings and put down fresh, a 10 min job he bitterly complained about, he found the first egg of the season. My hens are terribly old and more pets than productive units. If I calculated the cost of all the corn they have eaten this winter this egg probably cost at least £10! Tempted as I was to carry on working outside this afternoon I thought it would be better for my back to do some boring housework and then some work on the pc with the last of the afternoon sun shining through the the full length window that looks out onto the garden.

Tuesday 19 January 2010

Not More Snow !

I'm feeling rather tired tonight. It's probably the shock of having the alarm going off at 5.45 (I'd rather got used to my lie-ins), and teaching all day. The morning class was 28, 4 year olds who only started a few weeks ago. A lot of them are the younger brothers and sisters of children in my year 1 class but it still takes a lot of concentration to be able to relate to all these new faces and to start learning their names. I can definitely see 1 or 2 'characters' who will take some time to settle down within the group. In the afternoon I had my Year 1 class, lovely to be back with them but we had a very packed schedule so I had to work hard at keeping them and me on task. Some of them have become a little lively over the holidays and haven't quite settled down to a work routine. The last of the snow can be seen in a few fields up here in the hills. It feels a bit cold tonight and snow is forecast in some areas to the east of us. I really could do without anymore snow causing driving problems.

Monday 18 January 2010

A Busy Day.

I've had quite a busy day today. I had to take Linas into town this morning and while he was at the Job Centre I had a wander around the shops. I finally found a large, but not enormous, stainless steel saucepan in the sales that I liked. When we sold those old chairs and other bits to the antiques shop last year I decided to use the money to buy some new s/steel saucepans. Apart from 2 small ones that I got in a car boot sale this is the first purchase from that money. On the way home we swung by the college and picked up 4 bags of wood shavings for the hens. It's great, they have the shavings all bagged up sitting outside and you just help yourself. I used to bed my friend's horse on wood shavings and many a happy hour was spent bagging up shavings in a joiner's workshop. Back home, despite the cloudy weather, Peter and I decided to have a walk down at Barricane Beach. The clouds were down really low over the hills but occasionally the sun did break through.
The tide was very low and it was possible to walk round from Barricane to Combesgate Beach.

If you would like a home overlooking the beach, the bungalow in the centre of the picture is for sale at £485,000. Hardly any garden but great views.

With the tide being so far out we were able to explore some of the lower parts of the beach.

The rocks themselves were full of life, these eggs belong to the dog whelk in the middle of the crevasse. Apart seaweeds and the the purple topshells there are barnacles and sponges here. Back home I got out into the garden and made a new compost bin in the hens' run as the one I had made 15 years ago has completely rotted away. This new one is also a bit of a Heath Robinson affair, just some pallets wired together but should do the job. Now Linas can clean out the hen house straight into the compost bin and the hens can have a lovely bed of clean wood shavings. And where did I get the pallets from? Let's just say that we no longer have a skateboard ramp, shame about that.