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.

Wednesday 29 February 2012

Phew !

Never mind spring, it felt like summer today. There was a lot of blue sky and plenty of sunshine which made a welcome change from all the recent grey days. It fitted in perfectly with today's science plan which was to investigate shadows. As well as drawing around and photographing shadows the children made shadow puppet aliens. We also did the usual demonstrations of night & day and the phases of the moon using lights and different sized balls. We ended the day with several run-throughs of our dance. The children are doing really well which is a good thing as we only have one more week to practise. Perhaps now I'll stop stressing and dreaming about it.
I stopped along the drive on the way home to enjoy the sun and the views. The smell was a bit overpowering as the farmer had been out muck spreading. The field was full of rooks who were finding lots of bugs to eat in the slurry.

I doubt if there is much chance of this lovely weather lasting but it was nice even for a day.

Tuesday 28 February 2012

Sea Mist.

The conditions were mild, grey and damp this morning as drove to school for a full day's work and it seemed to stay overcast for the whole day. It was only as I was driving home that I saw any variation in the sky. When I stopped to take some photos I realised that there was a heavy bank of sea mist coming right up the estuary and blanketing the whole town.

Just before I turned into the top of our drive I stopped to talk to our neighbour Sarah. She had 2 children out riding on lead reins and I was taken aback for a moment when I saw that one of them was a girl I had in my class last year who I know to be a capable rider. Then Sarah pointed out who she was riding. It was Persy, one of the Dartmoor pony foals that was born here in 2008 and this was the first time Persy had been ridden out on the road. Sarah is a very gentle person and I'm sure that Persy will take to being ridden in a calm fashion. She has been used to being around people and being handled since the day she was born and Dartmoor ponies are known for their good temperaments.

Monday 27 February 2012

Cherry Blossom.

We lost the sun once more today but driving into town for a doctor's appointment I saw a number of pink and white cherry trees in full bloom which made it feel very spring-like.I taught a Year One class in the afternoon. Just the usual round of phonics, PE, drawing pictures of Mars and an end of day story. Instead of our normal after school staff-meeting we had a training session going back over some diagnostic tests we can use for children who are not progressing with their reading. It wasn't that exciting. Now I have to do some planning as I am teaching for nearly all of the week. So there won't be any time for gardening.

Sunday 26 February 2012

More Sun.

It was another lovely morning. So nice that when we went out for our walk I wore shorts and had bare arms. As long as my back is warm and my ears protected from the wind, which was the case today I am happy. Last week I got a bit too hot on the final hike back up the slope but today was just perfect. It felt like a spring day and we passed a number of young couples out having picnics in the sunshine. Ah to be young again! However we enjoyed our cup of coffee sitting right out at the Point and watching the sun on the waves. Still no sign of seals. This is the time of year they have their pups so perhaps they are in more secluded places. We watched a coastguard helicopter hovering over a container ship going up the channel but didn't see anyone being winched up or down.
On our way home it started to cloud over so we were pleased that we had manged to catch the sun. Out in the garden I gave the santolina bushes their annual trim. They now look like brown hedgehogs sitting on top of the stone wall by the house but they will soon be covered with silver blue foliage. Great plants which need minimal work. As I've been working round the garden I've been thinking how low maintenance the garden is and on the whole it is not too bad. It would be nice not to have so much to do but then I do like the garden. Hopefully if I can keep on top of all the weeding through the year and with my reduced teaching hours it shouldn't be such hard work next year. I keep thinking about what the ideal size/kind of garden would be for our next home but I know I would find it difficult to be closed in by other people's fences. We'll just have to win the lottery and then I could have someone else do the work.

Saturday 25 February 2012


The sun came out today and very welcome it was too. Last autumn I planted up a couple of the hanging baskets with some narcissi that had been in a big tub and now they are providing a cheery splash of colour by the front door.
I was even lucky enough to have the sun shinning on the part of the garden where I was working.

The brown strip, to the left of the pond, is the patch of the wild flower meadow I cleared yesterday. Today I was able to clear the rest of it, right back to the high bank. That's another job I can tick off my mental list. I disturbed a few frogs sheltering in the wet undergrowth but there is still plenty of foliage for them to hide under.

Having completed my gardening I was putting away my tools when I heard the hated sound of the hunt down in Paul's valley. By the time I had made myself a cup of tea it had all gone quiet but just as I started to read my book the noise of the dogs and horns started up again. It makes me too cross so I abandoned my relaxing moment sitting out in the sunshine and came indoors instead.

Friday 24 February 2012

Family Journal.

As I watched the bare branches of the trees blowing in the wind against grey misty backdrop this morning I listened with a little envy to reports of how warm and sunny it had been yesterday in the rest of the country. The temperature had been up to 18C and people in London were walking around in t-shirts and shorts. Then gloomily the weather man said that the cold weather is on its way back. It was another drizzly day so it wasn't until late morning that I was out in the garden. But finally I can say that the main winter weeding is all done. Lots of little bits to keep an eye on and I plan to do some hand weeding in the lawns too. There is one other job that I started today which is cutting the grass in the wild flower meadow. That's a posh name for a patch of ground that I leave to grow wild each year. It is amazing how effective having neatly mown paths around long grass looks. It is very low maintenance and so long as I clear most of the grass each winter, is full of flowering wild plants such as clover and vetches. It would be fairly easy just to strim it but I fear for all the small creatures living under the matted grass so instead I get down on my knees and cut it with a pair of hand shears. That way anything faster than a slug, which I don't mind chopping, can get out of the way and is not in danger of being sliced by the strimmer. I got half of it done today and there were many little runs and tunnels amongst the grass roots. I saw a couple of possible nests but they were empty apart from one. As I moved aside the dry grass lining the burrow I thought I had found an early nest of some small creature but it was only a small brown toad. I carefully covered him up again and marked the spot so that I wouldn't kneel on him on my next line of cutting.

To end my afternoon I made a cup of tea and took it and a book up to the scree garden where I sat under the shelter and enjoyed the peace of the garden. The mist/drizzle had filled the valley and I could hardly see the trees across the field or on top of Paul's hill. Noticeable was the lack of traffic sounds as the mist was absorbing the noise I usually hear from the roads that criss-cross the area. All I could hear was the rushing of the stream flowing down the hill behind me, the drip of water from the trees onto the dead leaves and several birds singing merrily. Unable to go out first thing this morning I occupied myself by looking back through my blog.
6 years ago I decided to use one of these lovely hobbit journals to keep a general record of our family life over the years. 3 or 4 times a year I wrote a summary of the things we all had been doing. But then I started working full-time and somehow I didn't keep it up. This morning I started going back through my blog so I can bring this family journal up to date. Even though it only goes back 6 years I find the journal fascinating to read as I find it hard to recall when events happened and skimming through the notes brings everything back. (I'm not one of those people with perfect memories.) It was also fun reading through the blog, I may look into printing the blog out in book form, anyone got any good tips for that?

Thursday 23 February 2012


We've had a whole day of low cloud and constant drizzle. Mindful of the physio's advice I didn't race to go out in the morning but waited until it was slightly less wet in the afternoon before doing some gardening. Instead my morning was spent doing housework and some paperwork.It may not be many people's idea of fun but I found kneeling on my foam mat, grubbing about in the sticky clay soil and removing grass roots while listening to the birds all around, quite relaxing. Even when the sun was hidden above the cloud layer and a gentle mist enveloped the valley.

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Rain Sets In.

I had the morning at home but even though I started with more gardening I only had an hour before the rain set in and it became too wet to stay outside. Still, even an hour is good. Instead I was forced to do some housework and I gave our bathroom a good clean up. Wednesdays we have a lunchtime staff meeting so I have to leave home a little earlier than usual. Today all the staff were asked to be there so we could be told the new classes & teaching assistants for September (the new school year). I teach several different classes each week so it doesn't affect me but I'm sure I would find it hard to be teaching one year group for years and then suddenly be moved to a new year group.

Coming home the rain was even worse and by the time I got to the top of the drive I could hardly see across to the other side of the field. Some parts of the country have had so little rainfall this winter that an official drought has been declared as rivers and reservoirs drop to low levels.

PS. This morning the country road was so wet that a couple of wild ducks were splashing in the puddles but they flew off quickly unlike the fat town duck.

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Traffic Hold Up.

Yesterday it was ducks, today geese. I was driving home through Burridge, a collection of 10 houses along one side of the road about a mile out of town, when my way was blocked by 2 fat farmyard geese, one white and one brown, waddling along the road. I didn't want to scare them onto the other side of the road which has a few bends in it at that point. Most people drive much faster than the 30mph limit there so we might have had squashed goose or someone swerving into me in panic. Instead I wound down my window and calling encouraging come along goose noises I slowly herded them up to a point where there was an opening in the hedge and they could get back into the field.

It is getting warmer but it is still very grey everywhere. I had an early appointment with the physiotherapist who suggested that I had done far too much gardening for the current state of my neck. 'Half an hour to an hour with a good break', was his gentle admonition, not several hours at a time! After a tough massage to loosen up my neck bones I went into town. I had several parcels to post but instead of going to the main Post Office in town which is always crowded, slow and smelly I drove out to the other side of town to one of the few local Post Offices left. There I had free parking, when I walked in I was the only customer and had a pleasant conversation with both of the counter staff while one of them weighed and stamped my parcels. After that it was back into town to meet up with 2 friends for coffee and cheesecake at our favourite place. They have started a card scheme there where they stamp a little card each time you buy a coffee or a cheesecake and when you have had 6 of either you then get a 7th free. While I was in town I had to hand in my camera once again because a speck of fluff has appeared inside the lens. The manager said if it was his he would unscrew the lens and clean it out but as I have it under warranty it has to be sent away and won't be back for a few weeks. Until then I shall have to use my baby Nikon for my daily snaps. The first Rosemary flowers, 6 days ago.

Back home there was a second egg. Considering how much corn those hens have eaten over the winter they work out to be very expensive eggs.

Monday 20 February 2012

Back To School.

It was frosty this morning and not good for gardening but that suited me as I needed to spend time working out the dance steps for our War of the Worlds dance. It has to be simple enough so that every child in the class can cope with it but still needs to make a good show as we will be dancing in front of other schools. So far I've worked out the steps for the first 2 mins but then it goes a bit more free-style with the children waving their arms in time to the music, hopefully. It warmed up considerably in the afternoon but as the evening drew in the sky became overcast and gloomy with a thin wind. I was not tempted to go out for an hour of gardening.
Before heading home tonight I went to get some petrol. While I was waiting at the traffic lights a fat duck wandered across from the stream by Pilton Park. It disappeared from view between the waiting cars but then turned and started crossing back to the park. Luckily the next car to turn the corner was not driving as fast as the previous car (which would have flattened the duck) and laughing, the driver stopped to let the silly duck cross. Actually it wasn't a duck it was a drake, are males generally dafter ?

Sunday 19 February 2012

A Breezy Walk.

It was a nice bright day today so we went to Morthoe for a good walk. I haven't been for a proper walk for a while so my legs felt a bit worn out. Now that I have made such good progress in the garden I can take time to walk up the hill more often to keep myself a bit fitter.. We timed our walk just right, between the before lunch and after lunch walkers so we had the place to ourselves. There was a chilly wind blowing but it was very refreshing to be out.
There was still time for some more weeding when we got home before an evening of watching Dancing on Ice, a tense programme tonight with a shock ending. At least it is the judges who make the final decision unlike Strictly where the competition is more about popularity and less about ability.

Saturday 18 February 2012

First Egg.

We had torrential rain this morning, lashing against the windows so our lie-in was a little longer than usual. The sun suddenly appeared mid-afternoon, blazing through the windows. That only lasted for about an hour followed by wind and clouds but no rain.Peter was off rowing this afternoon. Not so many people turned up today so they had to mix the crews instead of rowing in competition crews. There is a mixture of club members, some are very competitive while others are not out to beat any world records but just want to enjoy rowing. I took advantage of the dry weather to do yet more weeding. Right up on the top bank where I am having to dig out everything and will replant when it is warmer.

We had our first egg today, I had thought the Black Rock hen was looking in good condition. Both of the hens are quite old so any eggs are a bonus.

Friday 17 February 2012

Still Weeding.

The day started grey and mistily damp, almost a fine drizzle. By the time I had my breakfast, checked emails etc and solved an online jigsaw it was at least dry. By the end of a day of digging up roots the weeding is almost done. It's too early in the year to clear last year's foliage so there may well be weeds still lurking but the garden looks so much better. I almost can't wait until I can get the mower out, at least for the first time. I do have the very top of the bank still left to do but that almost counts as a separate project because the soil is so full of weed roots. I shall have to dig up the London Pride that is growing there and then replant it when I have cleared the ground. I may have to do the same with some of the Golden Marjoram which has a fine grass growing through it. It wasn't until the end of the day when I was taking my tea break that some blue sky began to appear. The forecast is for colder weather to come in tomorrow. It has been very handy having this mild spell during the half-term holiday giving me the chance to spend so much time outside.
As I bent down to turn on my PC I glanced out of the window to see the sky on fire. I grabbed my camera to take some photos and 5 mins later the sunset had faded to a dull pink.

Thursday 16 February 2012

Happy Birthday Vytas.

It's Vytas' birthday today. He's 26, how the years fly by. He lives up in Leicester and is, hopefully, nearing the completion of his thesis for his PhD (physics). It's a long way from the little boy who told his nursery school teacher that he didn't draw people, only rockets. As can be seen from the picture of Vytas, Sally and friend there really was snow in other parts of the country. (I copy all the Facebook photos of the boys so I get to see what they are up to.)
Here the weather has slipped back to grey and nothingness. It was fine for gardening and my weeding is still on schedule. The first area tackled was the hardy geranium bed at the edge of the lawn. The grass had grown into the flower bed and some of the geraniums were making their escape across the lawn. I like an exuberant natural(ish) garden but the lawn was disappearing under some common pink geranium so I ruthlessly dug it all out. Combined with the mole tunnels there and the wet conditions at the bottom of the hill that bit of lawn now resembles a muddy battlefield. The rest of the day was spent hacking/stabbing/ pulling out the big bracken heads growing between the rocks. It's a hard horrible job which probably explains why it wasn't done last year. I have been working further away from the pond so the frogs have been croaking away and laying yet more frogspawn. Over on the lake there has been a lot of quacking from the ducks - today and splashing from the 10 Canada geese - yesterday.
After climbing about on the hillside I finished my day sitting by the scree garden with my book and a cup of tea until twilight and light drizzle sent me indoors.

Wednesday 15 February 2012

Back Again.

Yesterday's lack of post was down to my PC suddenly acting weirdly on Monday night. It went on a total go slow refusing to do anything I asked so in the end fearing a Trojan or similar nasty I had to pull the plug out of the wall because it wouldn't close down. Peter gave it a thorough check last night (so useful being married to an IT systems analyst), and he thinks it is just one of the parts of my PC playing up as there was no virus and no untoward processes running. Phew!

At times I felt at a bit of a loss being disconnected from the web but I did spend a lot of time in town yesterday. First I had an appointment with the physiotherapist, his really deep massage of my upper spine felt so good and then I went in to do some shopping. I managed to get 3 hours free parking by first parking in a local road where you can stay for an hour, that gave me time to get to the library and visit the shops at one end of the High st. Then I drove to the other side of town as I needed to go to BJ's where I parked in the Lidl's car park. (2 free hours.) A quick walk over the bridge, dropped 2 frame rucksacks into a charity shop and then some browsing in the shops. I bought 2 more vest t-shirts, a black one in sale and a blue one in a charity shop. (Peter doesn't understand there there are subtle but important differences between all the black vests I own.) I bought lots of other little things that we/I needed including a globe bird feeder to put seeds in. The first feeder I tried let too many seeds fall out when the birds were feeding and was empty in a couple of days. I also bought a camping cooker and some gas canisters for the grand camping trip. I did get some gardening done in the afternoon as well so I didn't miss my PC too much.

Today the weather has been a bit more dramatic. Warm but very windy with the occasional spot of sunshine. I spent the whole day working in the garden and now the heather banks are thoroughly weeded. When I came back from having lunch the frogs were all out croaking away in the pond but my presence sent them under the lily pads. So with me interrupting their froggy antics and both Elwen and Patch slurping up the frogspawn, the frogs were not having a good day.
I have also been messing about with a few thrifty projects. I've had this knitted mohair mix neck warmer/snood for a while. I didn't knit it myself and I'm not sure where it came from, possibly a jumble sale where I was helping out.

Recently I have been wearing it as a soft indoor hat which looked daft but was cosy. So I made a couple of pom-poms and threaded them through one end so that I can pull them tight or open them up to still wear it as a neck warmer, and crocheted a border at the other end.

And now I look like a hippy eco-warrior but I don't care because it is just what I need in these slightly colder days.

Yesterday my shopping consisted of a lot of checking out anything that was still in sale. Sales seem to be a permanent feature these days. I bought this necklace, was £10 reduced to £1. Not my style but I loved the beads.

It was a very easy job to remake them into a pair of long dangly earrings and there are still beads to spare.

It's good when a project turns out right, sometimes they don't or get left to one side. I'm not into following current fashion, but I have my own style and I love to make one thing out of another.

Monday 13 February 2012

A Weeding Day.

The same sort of weather again today, grey and threatening to rain. I spent the afternoon out in the garden weeding one of the heather beds. It's now had a thorough tidy up and I even managed to remove some of the more stubborn weeds, mainly brambles and bracken, which had eluded me last year. The hillside is now beginning to resemble a garden, albeit an untidy one, more than an overgrown bank with a few bushes poking out. I also removed all the blanket weed that was growing in the rill at the bottom of the rocky bank and at the same time did a general weeding so that is one more area done.

In case anyone was wondering what the anemones we were looking for yesterday are like here are some of them.

These are the Gem anemones (I think). They are quite inconspicuous almost looking like part of the rock.
I took photos of all the specimens that we found and it wasn't until I looked at the photos that I saw some of them did have their tentacles out, like this one.

This Strawberry anemone was on the side of a rock and was one of the biggest anemones I have seen. It must be enormous when the tentacles are extended.

Sunday 12 February 2012

Some Gems, Strawberries And A Gurnard.

It was rather grey and dreary today so for our walk we decided to go to Barricane beach. When we arrived the tide was out so we walked along the cliff to the next beach, Coombesgate and then had a rock pooling walk along the beach to Barricane. I love the way there seems to be a separate world in each pool as you look down through the crystal clear water.

As a result of my enquires about the Daisy anemone I had been told about a couple of other less common species of anemone so our time was spent looking for Gem and Dahlia anemones. Peter was the first to find some Gem anemones and we found about 10 in all as well as another Daisy anemone, some strawberry anemones one of which was 10cms across and some grey anemones. I've sent photos to the nice chap at the Marine Society and I'm sure he will be able to confirm what they all were. There were a lot of people around especially down at Woolacombe as it is the start of the half-term holiday and the surf was reasonably good.

These are the common Snakelocks anemones.

Hardly any of the rock pools have stones to hide under so when I found a large flat stone in a pool I lifted it off carefully and found this 12cm grey gurnard. When we were rock pooling on Lundy a member of our party found out that these fish bite. After taking a photo I put the stone back to keep it safe from the seagulls until the tide came in.

We dropped in at Tescos as it is on the way home and by the time we got home it was raining gently so no chance of any gardening. Supper tonight is ham & cheese tortellini for which Peter will be making a mushroom sauce.

Saturday 11 February 2012

Time To Garden.

It's been a bright day, fairly chilly but not so cold that I couldn't get outside for some gardening. Peter's day started much earlier than mine as he had to be at the boat shed by 7.30 to go rowing on the river. They are now training in earnest and by half-way through the session steam was gently rising from their bodies while the poor cox shivered in a bundle of coats. My first plan today was to begin weeding the heather banks as the winter flowering heathers are starting to be covered in their tiny flowers but I was getting cold in the shade so instead I chased the sun around the little pond as I weeded the circular path.
The effort I put into weeding the path at the end of the summer paid off and for the first time ever I managed to weed the whole circle in one day. I was also able to weed a lot of the planted margin apart from the side that was truly frozen and drag out the grass that was still growing in the water.

I was on such a roll that I then went on to weed the whole of the heather bank that is under the trees to the side of the pond. I cleared this bank some years ago and planted it with heathers. Unfortunately a couple of hot dry spells in the last few years (always during term time), caused about half of the heathers to die off. The bank is 100% clay and the heathers were competing with the mature trees at the top of the bank. I'll put in some more heathers this year and hope that they survive as the other heather banks look really colourful in late winter.

School moment from yesterday - small child telling 'news' to the rest of the class about her Daddy's birthday. "How old is he?" asked another child, " I think he's 98." came the reply. There was an indrawing of breath as most of the rest of the class of 7 year olds realised this was .... unusual. I gently enquired if the girl was sure and her reply was " I think he's actually 96." I wonder how old she thinks I am?

Friday 10 February 2012

No Snow.

After all the dire warnings all it did rain the whole night through. Things would have been very different if it had been 1 or 2 degrees colder. The child in me would have loved to have woken to a blanket of snow but the sensible adult was grateful that travel on the roads was safe. There is snow in the rest of the country and right up to East Devon but just cold rain here. My car did get flicked with salt as a gritter passed me on the way home. I'm now on our half-term holiday for the next 10 days so if it does get cold I can hide under the duvet.

I've been at school all day but the heater was a bit erratic and the classroom (hut) wasn't always that warm. I felt the teaching went well today as we went back and consolidated some of the work started yesterday and finished things off properly instead of a mad rush to get the next task started. I had to stay later than I was expecting to wait with a child whose mother didn't come to pick up her child even though everyone had been informed that there was no gymnastics club. Now I'm back home, wrapped up in fleece clothing and looking forward to a week of gardening and possibly sleeping.

Thursday 9 February 2012

Is Snow On Its Way?

It felt rather silly to be wrapping my car up and leaving it out on the road this evening when the temperature was not even 0C but there is a strong chance that the weather will get much worse tonight. The sky certainly looks like a snow sky so if the temperature drops by 2C we could be in for some snow. Metcheck has a red weather warning up with sleet & snow predicted for all night turning to snow tomorrow morning and continuing to snow all day. I have to be off early in the morning so I don't want to get up there to find that snow has blown across the fields into snow drifts on the road making the 100 yds from the usual gateway parking spot out to the road impossible for my little car.
Walking down the hill I saw that Paul has been thinning the trees on his boundary. I don't have to worry that he will chop them all down, as farmers round here tend to do, because he likes to keep trees around his fields. He has a wood burner in his house so no chance of free wood for us.

Wednesday 8 February 2012


We were back to low temperatures this morning and this evening it was -5C. It was such a lovely bright day that I couldn't bear to be stuck indoors so first I split another load of logs which got me nice and warm. Everywhere was too frozen to do any weeding but I was able to clear up the fallen leaves on the paving around the scree garden. The cold became my helper there as a lot of the leaves were frozen together and it was easy to pick them up.
Much as I would have liked to remain working in the garden paid work beckoned and I had to make my way to school for the Wednesday lunch-time staff meeting and an afternoon of teaching a Year 2 class. We had a long dance lesson in the hall and have finally started on our dance for the Dance Festival. I'm using the first track from War of The Worlds by Jeff Wayne which fits in well with the Space topic the children are doing. So far we have only learnt 1.45 mins of my choreography as I am hoping to use some of the children's own ideas for the dance moves. Some of them keep using Saturday Night Fever disco moves, (X-box ?), which don't fit either robots or wavy aliens so I had to reject those. One of the children did ask me if it was real so we had a talk about Jules Verne. He had an amazing imagination especially when you think that he wrote the book over 100 years ago when there was no TV, computers, radio telescopes or space travel.

On my way home the sun was a great golden globe in my mirror turning farmhouse windows and road signs orange. I stopped just after turning off the main road and was able to capture a few photos before it sank below a cloud bank. There are telegraph poles along that bit of road and there were 2 buzzards sitting on the first 2 and then a third on a pole where I parked. That one flew off and I saw it a bit later at the side of the road. Naturally it took off and flew away before I could aim my camera which I had ready on the seat next to me.