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 July 2016


I was woken up at 6.00 by golden sunlight streaming in through the window. For once I didn't go back to sleep but made myself a cup of tea (downstairs so the kettle didn't disturb Peter) and sat reading in bed. A lovely start to the day. Unlike yesterday the sun has been tempered by a brisk wind but it's always possible to find a sheltered corner in this garden.
It  was too nice a day not to do any gardening and it was also too nice not to simply enjoy so I did a couple of hours of gardening followed by a couple of hours sitting and reading. My main gardening job was to cut back all the alchemilla around the pond. It's a vigorous plant so I also pulled out at least half of the plants. While I was there I weeded the gravel path on that side of the pond. A follow on job was to clear all the weeds from the rill that flows into the pond. Every time I go up to the hens' run to take peelings to the compost heap or hang washing on the line I get diverted into weeding around all the new plants in the propagating beds and today was no different.
It was so pleasant sitting outside at the back of the house. The clouds were being blown at a brisk rate across the sky making it feel as if I was on a ship sailing along. This feeling was reinforced by the rhythmical swaying of the garden plants and the trees and the sound of the wind blowing through the branches.

Saturday 30 July 2016


We've had a whole day of summer today with lots of blue skies and hot sun. 
Part of  my day has been taken up with this Pipistrelle bat which we found on our bedroom carpet in the middle of the night. It probably flew in earlier as I didn't close the windows until 10.00. It wasn't making any effort to fly (I've since learnt they need to drop about 5 feet to get flying) so I gave it some water on a wet cotton bud which it drank and put it in a box in the spare room. This morning I gave it some more water, then found some useful advice on the internet and phoned our local 'Bat Lady'. Up till now she hasn't got back to me. I was worried that the bat had got cold so I put it in its box in the bathroom which is very warm and then moved it to the spare room. In the meantime I rang our local vet and the advice I got was to wait for the bat lady contacts me, I've just rung again but still only got her answer phone. My next plan is to wait until it starts to get a bit darker and see if it will fly then. The cats are already locked in the conservatory because they would try and catch it.
Earlier following the internet advice I took it outside and put the box on top of Peter's car. It crawled out of the box then then tried to take off but fell on the floor. I had put my jacket underneath so it had a soft landing. Update - I had a reply to my last message from a lady who told me I'd got the wrong number, my mistake I'd written one digit wrong but a shame the person hadn't phoned me earlier. I got the correct number and phone the Bat Lady and we arranged to meet in the car park of the Muddiford Inn in 10 minutes time which we duly did. Unfortunately the bat died on the journey, it was alive before I left but not looking very lively. Looking at it Samantha couldn't see any obvious cause, at least we tried.
Today's jobs have been more oiling of the garden furniture and an overdue mowing of the lawn. The flies were on me as soon as I started so I had to cover up from head to toe. That sorted out the flies but left me to melt. Once the mowing was done I had a welcome shower and had an hour of 'holiday' sitting outside in the sun with my book. 

Friday 29 July 2016


Peter is now officially retired, for the second time. He didn't even have to go to work today as his knee was playing up so he spoke to somebody in HR who said that he shouldn't come in to work. That's a new phase starting for him now though he has lots to do for the union as well as all his various interests which should keep him busy. 
This morning I went into town to have coffee with a friend at Lindsay's where we indulged in the delicious cheese cakes. It's always good to meet up with friends. 
I've just been distracted by the sight of a large bird landing in the field. I ran upstairs but couldn't see it until it flew up into a tree on our bank. It was a very large heron.

In town I had a gentle amble around the shops but the only things I bought were these 2 small bowls, 4" across, from a charity stall in the Pannier Market. 
Back home it kept threatening to rain but didn't in the end which gave me the opportunity to paint the garden table and chairs with a first coat of teak oil. I'll keep on oiling the furniture until I run out of teak oil.

Thursday 28 July 2016


It has rained on and off all day long. I made it outside a couple of times to do some weeding but each time it began to rain heavily sending me back inside. When I'm weeding I can't help putting the self-sown seedlings aside to plant in the propagating beds. Today I rescued some stachys (lambs' ears) seedlings or possibly they are foxglove seedlings, it's hard to tell when they only have 2 leaves. It was a day for quite a lot of piano practice which Squeaky didn't approve of. She spends her time following me around hoping to sit on my lap or begging for milk. I try not to give in because that only reinforces the behaviour. Her strategy when she thinks I've been playing the piano for too long is to jump up on the keys and then sit on top of the piano yelling at me. That makes it very hard to concentrate.
Having ordered the glasses yesterday I was surprised and pleased to have them delivered before 1.00 today. Excellent service.

Wednesday 27 July 2016


When I opened my eyes at 6.30 this morning it was wet, windy and cold so I drank my tea and went back to sleep for a couple of hours. The rain dried up some time mid-morning and this afternoon there have even been some sunny spells. 
My first garden job was to spray weed killer around the rest of the paving around the scree garden. Hopefully that will take care of the weeds for a while. Then to rest my back I carried on with mending the sheet after which I went back into the garden picking moss and leaves off the stones in the scree garden. The poor flag irises which like to have their rhizomes baking in the sun were sitting in a bed of spongy moss which I have carefully removed. To add insult to injury the moss created a perfect damp habitat for the snails which attack the irises. 
Now for the saga of the water glasses- When we were first married I bought some Dartington Crystal wine glasses from their sharon collection. (I've always loved good glass and ceramics.) We may even have used them once or twice but with a houseful of rowdy boys they have spent the last 20 years safely behind glass doors. Scroll forward to now and Peter's retirement. On retirement his firm lets the employee chose a retirement gift from Dartington Crystal. I spent a happy evening looking through the catalogue and settled on 4 sharon water glasses. They are similar to the wine glasses but have a shorter stem which I thought would make them stable enough for us to use on a more regular basis. Imagine my disappointment when Peter came home with the up to date catalogue and the news that they no longer make the water glasses. Instead I chose 4 tumblers which I thought would be useful. However I couldn't get the idea of the water glasses out of my mind even though they are very expensive, to my mind at least. I decided that if I could find them I would use the money I had made selling some of my mother's bits and pieces on eBay. That way I would have something to show rather than spending the money on every day things. I found a shop that was selling the water glasses, put in my order and waited for them to be delivered. But oh no, yesterday I got an email from them saying they didn't have them in stock. I contacted Dartington Crystal who confirmed they no longer made them so I cancelled my order. I had another look on the internet and found another shop that claimed to have them. This time I was taking no chances and rang the shop to check they still had them. I spoke to a very helpful lady who went trotting up some metal steps to the store room still chatting to me on the phone and she confirmed they had 6 of the glasses left. She put 4 aside for me and I made the purchase over the phone. As they were a little cheaper and had free post and packaging they were nearly £10 than my previous order so I'm feeling quite pleased.

Tuesday 26 July 2016


The forecast this morning was "overcast with sudden showers" and that is exactly what we got. It did mean that I didn't spend too long gardening on my knees at any one time and each time it rained I came inside and got on with my mending. I'm putting a large patch on a fitted sheet for our super king bed where it has torn yet again. This  might sound like excessive thriftiness but it's a good quality sheet and I think that it's Peter's rough heels wearing through the fabric. As I'm not likely to get him to moisturise his feet a patch seems like a reasonable solution. I'm sewing by hand which is quite relaxing and my sewing machine has a tendency to mess up the tension especially if I'm doing something other than a seam.
I've read/heard a couple of articles recently which put me at the forefront of the latest trends. First I read that digitally weary people are buying 'dumb phones'. I never moved on from my dumb phone which sits turned off in my bag in case of an emergency when I'm out in the car. It's not that I'm morally opposed to smart phones just that I really have no need of one. There isn't any time of day, except perhaps late at night when I would have the time to be looking at a smart phone. I much prefer accessing the internet on my extra large monitor. I can see how handy a smart phone would be for anyone who has a long and boring commute to work or a large group of friends who need to be constantly in touch but neither of those apply to me. Plus I don't like the idea of being constantly monitored 
In the same vein people are being advised to turn off all their technology once in a while and listen to the world around. That's me every day when I'm out gardening. I have an MP4 player but I prefer to listen to all the sounds around. Today there was the peaceful cooing of a wood pigeon and the chink-chink of a flock of coal tits. The wind sang through the trees and the leaves on the ash tree sounded like running water or a crackling fire. In the distance were the sounds of cars and planes, why was that one rumbling for so long? Then a new mechanical sound started up and led to wild flights of fancy- an almost rhythmical banging like Zulus thumping their shields with assegai , a very slow River Dance or enthusiastic clog dancers. Or was it merely one of those machines that harvest root crops? There were voices too, the sound of youngsters playing in the field and once in a while instructions to riders in the indoor school to bring back memories of teaching and being taught. That's more than enough for me to listen to.

Monday 25 July 2016

Mixed Weather.

The day has been a mixture of sunshine, greyness and the occasional shower. This morning I had an appointment at the doctor's to have a steroid injection into my hand to ease up the tendon that has been giving me trigger finger. I didn't have one last week because my doctor who is new and young, isn't qualified to give those injections. It was a little embarrassing this morning as the doctor I was seeing today used to be our regular GP but we switched to another doctor because 1- she was usually unavailable during school holidays and 2- because although she was pleasant and sympathetic nothing seemed to get done. However this morning went well and the injection which I had been expecting to hurt a bit only stung for a moment after the needle was taken out. Afterwards I went into town, visited the library etc and went to Tesco's and Lidl's. Now I can go back to being a country mouse in the peaceful countryside.
I felt quite worn out when I got home so after unpacking the shopping I settled down outside with some tea and a book only to be rained on. After a break I went outside and did some work in the scree garden before returning indoors. I've been spending a bit more time playing the piano, the doctor said it was fine to play straight away but to avoid manual work for a few days. Also it's been taking so long to put photos on the blog that I go off and do a bit of piano practice in between. I'm still at the plodding along stage as I learn In un'altra vita but the muscle memory is beginning. I think sight reading must be very good for the mind as you have to be so focused and use different parts of the brain. A lot of research into keeping your marbles, so to speak says you need to give your brain new challenges not just doing the same old Sudoku or crosswords. 
When I came out of Lidl's a Border collie-cross was tied up outside barking and howling for its owner. When it saw me it gave a plaintive half-howl as if to say You're not my owner are you? It sounded so sad.

Sunday 24 July 2016


It began to rain yesterday evening and continued on all through today. No chance to do any outdoor work but I had other things to do indoors. The mending I didn't get around to but my newly washed full-length winter dressing gown has been brushed back into fluffiness.  That's the only drawback with fluffy fleeces, the amount of time it takes to brush them after washing. Still it beats going out and buying a new dressing gown.
The orchids didn't do too well on the conservatory window sills as some of the leaves were scorched by the direct sunlight but they seem happier now that I've moved most of them down  onto a low table. One of them has begun flowering once more while the pink spotted one is still going strong.
Meanwhile the rain appears to have stopped and instead the wind is getting stronger. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? 

Saturday 23 July 2016


Lovely weather again today so much of my day has been spent outside. With only 2 big logs to saw I decided they could simply be stacked by the shed and instead I weeded and swept the concrete. There is a bit more moss to scrape up and a couple of corners to sweep but already it looks a lot better. 
In the afternoon I was back working on the scree garden pulling up big clumps of ornamental grasses and digging out bracken which had crept in while my back was turned. At the moment it looks a bit like a battlefield with dry stalks and leaves covering the stones but hopefully that can be cleared in a few afternoons. It was easy deciding which of the brown grass clumps had to go as only the new plants have the vivid almost red mahogany colour. At one point I lost my favourite weed grubber tool but after checking all the places I was likely to have left it I found it in the heap of discarded grass clumps. Luckily I didn't have to look too far. Yesterday I had thrown away one of my knee pads after the velcro had stuck to my glove when I was taking the last load to dump but I realised quickly where it had gone.
It was still warm  enough to make it relaxing to sit outside after I'd had a shower. Tea, a book, cats and a warm breeze make for a perfect end to the day.

Friday 22 July 2016


A much nicer day today, blue skies, warmth and a welcome breeze. However some of the clouds looked very dark and I kept listening out for any thundery rumbles but they seem to have passed us by. 
On my jobs list was 'clear scree garden path' which has mostly been done with some of the weeds on either side also being  removed. I did get diverted into clearing away some of the ornamental grasses. I'm very fond of grasses and love the exuberant display of their flowering heads moving in the breeze but looking at the scree garden with an impartial eye I had to admit that it was possibly looking a bit overgrown. I've made a good start and the garden is looking a lot more open. The poor irises were completely hidden and it was hard to see the design features of the garden. As ever there is still more to do.
One other job I did today was to fix my lawn mower. It had developed the most awful screech to the point where it was painful to the ears. I had tried unsuccessfully before to remove the blade so I found the manual on-line which showed me how to do it. (I probably have the manual in the filing cabinet but it is easy to go on-line). I also used the whetstone to sharpen the blade while it was off, oiled everything and put it together again. On a quick test it worked perfectly and the noise was gone. Gold star for me.

Thursday 21 July 2016


Summer holidays bring to mind long, lazy sunny days but the reality is more like today, grey with intermittent showers. At least it has been warm and I was able to get some work done outside. There is plenty to be done here and so that I don't get too much into the holiday spirit I've gone back to writing a daily list of things that need to be done. Today I worked through my whole list which either means that I slaved away or that I kept my list manageable. A bit of both I think though I didn't stop all day until Peter came home. I'd rather keep working steadily than have to go into a mad rush when deadlines loom.
As well as the usual weeding and sawing I picked several pounds of blackcurrants as I will be making jam this year. This lot has gone into the freezer as there are still plenty more blackcurrants on the bush. There are a few raspberries ripening too but the birds tend to steal most of those so I look on them as a garden snack rather than a fruit crop.
Another of my tasks was to bake cakes for Peter to take to work tomorrow. This is the last lot I shall be making as he finishes next Friday and they usually have cake from the canteen when somebody retires. I made chocolate ganache for the chocolate cup cakes and used the left overs on some of my first batch of lemon cakes some of which sank in the middle and others overflowed which is why I made a second batch. I made fondant flowers to top the lemon drizzle cakes as I still had some fondant in the freezer.
Out in the garden I was very pleased to spot this darker double hardy geranium. I've got the paler one growing in the propagating beds but I thought this one was lost. I'll split this one once it has finished flowering. 

Wednesday 20 July 2016

School's Out For Summer.

It was much cooler this morning with hazy skies and strong winds blowing. By 7.30 I could see clouds/mist being blown across the garden. I did go and do some work, mainly sawing logs and although the air was full of water droplets I only got wet when big drops rolled off the leaves of the tree above me. I carried on until it began to rain lightly when I headed indoors and ironed most of yesterday's washing. It warmed up later in the day and by the afternoon there were longer spells of sunshine framed by fluffy but very grey clouds. Somebody's in for heavy rain.
At school the children had been allowed to bring in a toy to play with. I rescued a flip chart from the class bin for the children to draw on the backs of the extra large sheets of paper. I would much rather see the children occupying themselves in a creative fashion rather than relying on a dvd. Some of the children found other imaginative ways to use the paper rolling it up to make objects to play with (they had been warned that any fighting with swords or spears would result in the loss of their paper). One child spent a long time sweeping the classroom with his 'broom'. All that fun from something that had been thrown away. I also allowed them to play outside so long as they stayed in my view and didn't disappear behind the play house or the climbing wall. We went out for an early playtime and I opened up the field so they could all have a good run around. A much better incentive to run when there is a long space in front of you and soft grass to land on should you fall. Most falls on the playground itself result in scraped knees or hands which doesn't encourage the children to be really active.
After school I went over to the Co-Op to pick up some baking supplies and then home I came to celebrate the start of the holidays with a slice of cheesecake that had been in the reduced section. At home it was beginning to feel chilly but that didn't stop me from sawing up one more log with the bow saw.
A Silver Y moth.

Tuesday 19 July 2016

What a Scorcher!

We've had another blisteringly hot day but things are already cooling down this evening. Taking advantage of the heat I got 3 loads of washing out on the line this morning and put our feather filled duvet outside for a good airing and dose of sunshine.
At school it was very warm in the classrooms and horribly hot in the playground. Things are already winding down towards the summer holidays and the reception classroom has had most things cleaned and put away so there wasn't anything for the children to do. I took the children outside with their drinks bottles to sit on the no-mow in the dappled shade of the cherry tree while I read them some of my favourite story books from home. Most of them were content to loll around in the shade but a few were constantly interrupting or taking themselves off to sit in the baking sun. At playtime I suggested we all went in the Secret Garden which was mostly shady. It seems to have got quite overgrown and neglected so I had to remind the children that they should not play with the bigger sticks (but how could I ban the collection of the many small sticks around?) and definitely not to put anything in their mouths. (Earlier in the term one child had to be taken to hospital following an allergic reaction caused by eating some berries). I think we were all glad when it was home time.
I came home determined to mow the main lawns before the weather changes but it was hard work in the heat. I had to stop half-way to get a drink and cover up from head to toe against the flies. I got it all done but the lawn mower is making a horrible screeching noise even though I sprayed lots of WD40 on to the rotor. I will have to try and take it apart or send it to the menders as the sound is awful and I'm sure something will self-destruct soon. After all that I was so ready for a shower.
 This fledgling blue tit has discovered where the good food is.
Some more birds of prey seen at the festival.
 A Lanner falcon.
 A Little Owl.
A Barn Owl and a Long Eared Owl.
I had hoped to post some photos of the cars Peter drove but he has yet to work out how to email them from his phone.

Monday 18 July 2016


Summer has arrived at last. We are in the middle of a mini (or even micro) heatwave which is due to last .... wait for it ......... 2 days! What excitement. It was lovely to step out of the house this morning into warmth even in the shade. I spent part of the morning working on the bed up by the scree garden, cutting back the London Pride and pulling up a few weeds. As it was a hot day I also did some hoeing in the propagating plots.
At school instead of the usual 2 lessons of RE we all went into the hall for a talk by our local children's librarian about the book reading scheme this summer, for which the children get 'smelly' book cards and if they read 6 books an invite to a disco. She also told the children about other activities that would be happening at the library. She was very good but every now and then she got the children over excited and myself and the teaching assistants who had been left in the hall for crowd control had to do some vigorous shushing and glaring.
The temperature at 6.30 in the garden. It was incredibly hot at school as well and I was glad to see that there is now a school sun hat with a neck flap which some of the children were wearing at playtime. Many had no hat at all and I encouraged them to stay in the shade.
After school I had a doctor's appointment. I had booked a double appointment for which I had saved up a number of small ailments. I had a long hot wait, 30 mins over my appointment time but came out with; a referral to the hospital for my twisting toe, an appointment for a steroid injection for my 'trigger' fingers and the reassurance that the nasal spray that the hospital doctors had been concerned about me taking all the time is in fact safe though I can go to a half dose when my sinuses are not so bad.
The Callistemon bush that I was given as a seedling about 15 years ago is blooming for the first time. 
Overheard in Lidl's- "I don't think I go to Lithuania this year." uttered not by one of the recent migrant workers but by an older lady with a Devonian accent. Bearing in mind this is not a very multi-cultural part of the country it was an unusual thing to hear. Vytas and Sally have spent the last 5 days in Lithuania with friends so I'm looking forward to hearing about their trip.