Monthly Archives: March 2021

Z is sociable.

Oh, what a good week it has been so far. Fabulous weather, saw Weeza and family, including five-month-old puppy Izzy, whom we hadn’t met before, Wink and I were able to get admin done in Norwich, I did a valuation and picked up china in Lowestoft and was given a lovely present by the vendors. I dressed in one of the Hobbs dresses I bought last summer at an absurdly cheap price, put on makeup and felt really back to normal. We have arranged visits from the rest of the family for Saturday and Monday, so I can do my favourite thing of feeding people (as well as LT and Wink, obvs) three extra times in a week.

English – Norfolk that is – asparagus can be found, but it’s forced, at this time of the year. My greengrocer doesn’t have it yet, so I was unfaithful and shopped at Norwich market, where they also had young broad beans.

There are two main birthday seasons in the family – late March to mid April and mid August to late September. Four birthdays fall outside those times, twelve within. Mid July is Tim’s birthday, of course. Is there any hope or likelihood of a blog party to celebrate, do you think?

Forward to the future

Now we’ve come through the worst of lockdown, we’ve started to fit in various jobs that we couldn’t do beforehand. I’ve got a visit to the bank in Norwich on Wednesday morning and a china valuation in Lowestoft on the same afternoon. More enjoyably, I’ve been happy to arrange visits from all the family – on different days, of course, because we’re not pushing it. Weeza and family are coming over tomorrow, Ronan and co on Saturday and Al and the gang next Monday. My hairdresser also has been in touch and Ive booked a haircut for the first day she’s open, on the 13th April. I thought I might have to wait a week or two, but she had a gap for a straightforward cut.

Over dinner tonight, we were mostly talking about films, notably those with Christopher Lloyd in, which took us on to various other actors because of co-stars. Remarkably, Wink doesn’t think she’s ever seen Back to the Future. She needs to put that right. Fabulous film.

Nature study

I haven’t mentioned Mary, the chicken who kept escaping from the henhouse. The reason I didn’t mention her was that I thought she’d been caught by a fox – I won’t keep you waiting for the good news: she hadn’t been.

After all those weeks of testing every inch, we thought, of the netting that replaces some of the greenhouse glass, I finally found a small area where it was a bit baggy. More so than a few days earlier; I had checked there. But I concluded that this was the only possible place and Wince nailed a strip of wood to hold it down. However, I couldn’t see Mary indoors or out. And Wince and I went to look at a tree that’s going to have a couple of branches removed and, as we watched, a fox ran out from a patch of nettles. I searched again for Mary and there was no sign, so drew the obvious conclusion.

This clearly was where she’d been getting out, but I didn’t see her again for a good fortnight. The other day, I was scattering treats for them and I spotted her. She’s got a distinctive bar on each wing and is bigger than nearly all the bantams, so how I’d missed her is a puzzle. But she’s alive, well and safe.

Sadder, though, the same day that Mary went missing (apparently), Wince was filling up the stacks of logs in our front porch and Wink’s back porch and he came to me – “are you good at identifying things?” I asked what, animal, plant or insect. An animal. He showed me a small, dead, floppy mammal that he’d found in the huge stack of wood in the barn. I stared at it and went through my animal knowledge in my mind. “It’s a puppy!” I said. We were horrified. It was small, black with a few white hairs on its chest and had floppy ears. We considered a fox but the ears were nothing like. Wince buried it and I searched for the mother but no luck.

The workshop (ex-workshop, it’s too full of logs for that use) has a chipboard ceiling that’s sagging in places and we could only think that the mother had had her pups in the roof space, which she’d reached from another outbuilding as the roof space runs the length of the barns. And then the poor pup had crawled along and dropped down and logs had fallen on him. Wince said he wished he hadn’t found him and I agreed. Today, he said that he’d been listening to a local radio podcast and, apparently newborn fox cubs are black, with floppy ears and can have white hairs on their chest. This makes altogether more sense, we just couldn’t understand a puppy. Any dog would come for help, even a timid one. Just as sad but – well, better than it being a domestic dog.

At present, I’m mostly giving away eggs. Three and a half dozen today, all laid in the last few days and I’ve still got plenty left. Thank goodness the chickens are all shut up still – I won’t let them out until they’re over their spring laying frenzy. I know we’ll get more chicks, but please not yet. The other morning, I went past the chickens’ shed and Polly was still on the perch. She’s an old girl and likes to be pampered. She sits on the food bin in the evening so that I can hand-feed her mealworms. On this occasion, I went to get a dish of corn for her, for breakfast in bed. A white chicken was squatting in one of the laying places. Not quite roosting, she was slightly raised from the ground. She gave a few chirps – not clucks or cries, chickenish gasps and raised her rear end a bit and I saw something white. Then she left the nest. There had already been three eggs there and the fourth was warm. I’m not sure that I’ve ever caught one of them laying an egg before.

Z is reliable, especially if you’re a cat

I always try to buoy myself up when I write here. Perhaps I’m a bit too Pollyanna-like. I haven’t found it helps to dwell on the downside, on the whole. I acknowledge it and think it through, but writing it all down isn’t a good thing, for me. I started a blog, at an unhappy time, thinking that it might be good to express that side of my thoughts, but it only lasted two posts and it was making me more miserable. It’s still there but not public and never has been.

Mehitabel is still about, coming for meals. I don’t know what she does in between times, she isn’t hanging about with her children. I haven’t ventured to stroke her yet as I don’t want to frighten her away – she used to be very affectionate but she hasn’t come to me yet. All the same, she isn’t wary. She’s certainly more feral than she used to be, so perhaps she has always been an outside cat in her new home. So strange that Zain, then she, have returned after a gap of years, back to their old home. I realise that I’m known as dependable. Whatever else happens, it’s known that cats, people, whatever, can rely on me. That seems odd to me because I know myself and I don’t entirely recognise that … but I do to an extent. I do know that there has been anger when i’ve shown myself as vulnerable or needy or whatever and I have to hide that side of myself. Odd. I don’t really understand. But never mind. Pretend enough and it becomes your truth. I do recognise that I step up when needed and am reassuring in a crisis.

That’s not what I meant to write, I didn’t know I was going to say it. It’s been a pretty good day. Nothing much – laundry, housework, a Zoom (actually Microsoft Teams, but I think that Zoom has become a generic term like hoover) meeting and Tim cooked dinner. I made lunch, but it was a very nice bean salad with hot-smoked salmon, no cooking involved. I think we can go another day without shopping, but after that I will need vegetables.

Return of Mama Cat

Spring has started well at the Zedery and I am very happy today. I went out this morning as usual, to feed the barn cats and cosset the chickens and I took with me some leftovers, including the remains of yesterday’s pasta and bolognese sauce. I thought the cats might appreciate the mince and they certainly did. While I watched them eat, I realised that, though there were the usual four, two had white paws instead of one. Betty Kitten has white paws, Barney and Freddie are black and Zain is a tabby. Joyously, I realised that their mother, Mehitabel, had returned, four years after I last saw her.

She so wanted to be a house pet and begged to come indoors, but Eloise cat wouldn’t hear of it. Eventually, Mehitabel found another home and only returned occasionally, for a few months, then not at all. I missed her, but was sure she was all right. But I always hoped she’d drop in again, not that I expected her to. She’s still the same girl, she wouldn’t eat the own-brand cat food I offered her, nor the bolognese. So I trotted up to the house and fetched a pouch of Eloise’s food and she was happy to eat that. I shared it between her and her daughter Betty. She was wary of the others and they of her, but there was no antagonism.

This afternoon, I couldn’t resist going to check if she was still there. No sign, so I fetched kale for the chickens and tidied up their henhouse. When I came out of the greenhouse, there was Mehitabel. So all the cats were given extra rations in celebration. M herself jumped on top of the shed next to the food bin and waited to be fed there. She’s a smart cat. I’ve been out again to put the chickens to bed and she hasn’t turned up – but she may well have gone back to her own home for the night. No idea if she’ll return, but I’m so pleased to see her again, looking glossy and healthy.

I left the sourdough to rise overnight and it had trebled in bulk. I shaped it and left it to rise again, which it did very pleasingly. We’ll find out, when we cut it, how successful the crumb is. That’s now three loaves that have done much better than usual with the salt being added last, dissolved in the last of the water, and this is what I’ll do in future. Apparently, the Hairy Bikers, as well as Paul Hollywood, recommend putting the salt on the other side of the bowl from the yeast, but this seems to be even better. I really can’t see why it makes a great difference, but the dough this morning was spectacular and there’s nothing else to account for it.


I’m not sure why it’s been so long since I last baked any bread, as I usually make a loaf every week. I suppose I’d frozen quite a lot – anyway, I have made my usual multi-grain, seeded loaf today. Again, I added the salt at the last minute, with the final slosh of water and, again, it’s turned out better than usual. Although I can’t see why a couple of minutes without the inhibiting effect of salt would make an appreciable difference, I’ve done the same thing with the sourdough that is proving overnight (I dissolved the salt in the last 100ml or so of water) and I’ll find out how that does tomorrow. I could only prove it (haha) one way or the other by trying several different methods in controlled tests, several times and that certainly isn’t going to happen. But anything that might help is to be encouraged. Won’t harm and is no trouble, at any rate.

I’ve been shirking on the drawing front. But today I finally braved a quick sketch. Nothing to bother to post, but at least it’s got me started again. The Just Do It, is isn’t a competition thing wasn’t convincing me for a couple of weeks – actually, I think that’s more a general ennui than anything else. Days are drifting by and it’s hard to engage with anything much. However, a few things have taken place.

On Friday, the blood donor appointment was fine, uneventful. Later, I found a text from a friend, who’d been in the waiting room while I was drinking my lemon squash and eating my chocolate Club biscuit (indulgences I save for this specific occasion), but I didn’t find it until after I was home. She appreciated my red shoes! I didn’t feel faint, as has happened later a few times, but I came home and went to sleep. I had an early night and, the next day, slept heavily most of the afternoon. I don’t know if this is because of the blood loss or coincidence and I felt quite well – and am over it now anyway – but I think that the age of 70 is when you’re signed off from donating and I can see that, as you get older, it could have a greater effect.

On Saturday, it was Squiffany’s 16th birthday. She was a baby when I started blogging, not quite a year old. I threw caution and The Rules to the winds and visited with her presents. It’s a good ten miles away and not strictly a necessary journey, though I fitted in a necessary shopping trip on the way, so it wasn’t much further. It was, anyway, lovely to see her. She’s in the process of deciding on her A Level options and her brother is choosing GCSEs. He advised on the guitar playing – he is not a chatty boy but, if you pick a subject that he can engage with, he’s very interesting to talk to. He’s also kind and helpful. I’ve had three brief guitar sessions today, it’s still quite hard but I’m doing better and getting more focussed.

I also spent quite a long time caring for neglected houseplants today, soaking them in the kitchen sink, trimming off dead leaves and getting them ready for the spring. So, if Spring is springing, so is Z.

Travelling Tim

Tim took a flying visit down to his house in Reading this week. He hadn’t been there since December before lockdown and he’d had an unsafe tree felled in the garden and he knew he’d have a lot of post (including three Christmas cards and two window cleaner bills), plus some everyday maintenance, so off he went. While he was away, I mostly ate eggs. Luckily, Dilly and my friend Mimi have taken quite a lot off my hands, but I’ve still eaten them twice a day this week. Little rotters – the chooks, that is – will go off-lay soon enough and then I’ll be looking for eggs. And then, literally that when they start to lay away in the summer. I’m not quite sure why I keep chickens, really. But when you’re used to eating home-laid eggs, it spoils you for anything else. And chickens are lovely and each has her own personality, so I suppose I’ve answered my own ponder.

Next time there’s a visit to Reading, I hope to go with LT, leaving Wink in charge here. Thinking ahead and assuming the chickens still have to stay indoors, I need to scheme some way for stopping them from slipping past Wink and getting out. Once more than two or three do that, one might as well let them all out, because at least then they will go back in the evening. Otherwise, one has to inveigle them in individually without letting any others out, which I find quite hard enough and she’d find impossible. So we need an ‘airlock.’ I’ll talk to Wince when he comes next. He’s good at this sort of thing.

Otherwise, nothing much to mention this week. Blood donor appointment tomorrow. My downstairs London tenant is leaving next month, after nearly 15 years in the flat. He’s a really great guy and I gave him a faultless reference. It’s lockdown that’s done it, he now wants more space around him, both in the garden and out on the street, which is understandable. I’ve often had a pipe dream of living in one of those flats, which I love, but I’m too used to the countryside and a garden. I’ll be glad when I can leave this garden for a few days, though, for a change of scene.

Man get out

Mother’s day, so all my children phoned me. And I had a card from Ro, drawn by Rufus with the caption “Love you Granny xxx” at which I melted, of course. We are all very much looking forward to seeing each other again, but it’ll be a fortnight yet before that’s okayed.

There’s a website/Facebook page called ‘overheard in Waitrose.’ A friend reposted a picture of a bag of mangetout from Tesco. The caption was “My mom called these ‘Man Get Out’ and I’ve been crying since.” I’ve been giggling ever since, I will never call them (snow peas, if you’re over the waters, and the joke doesn’t work) anything else ever again.

Tonight, we had a perfect roast chicken. I claim little credit, it was a free-range Suffolk bird (from Sutton Hoo), I covered the breast with rashers of local Tamworth bacon and just roasted it, with garlic, butter and lemon pushed inside, the potatoes were roasted in the fat from the (local) lamb chops from a couple of nights ago. It was fabulous, even though the cat rejected it. I ran out of her regular food last week and had to stock up at the supermarket (I’m sorry to say that Evil Amazon gets a bimonthly order) and she adores the food that I bought there. It’s just that she’s loving the change, I hope, or else I’ll have to cancel Amazon and pay for small quantities at double price.

Hair today

My hair is longer than it has been for decades. I’m quite happy with it, except it’s a lot more bother to look after than the short style I’ve had for some while. My hairdresser went on maternity leave about a year and a half ago and then moved house once the baby was born. Another woman was looking after me temporarily – but the former one has got a job nearer to her new house, so I still have the very nice girl, but she’s not quite as good with my hair. So I need to know what I want her to do to tell her, and I don’t.

This is me now, which you can compare to my wedding photo, four and a half years ago on the sidebar. I love having longer hair again and I don’t actually care if it’s age-appropriate, but I don’t want to look messy and it does blow around rather. I haven’t got an appointment yet anyway and it’ll be six weeks or so, which I hope will give me time for inspiration.

Pugsley has lent me his outgrown guitar, which suits me much better than Tim’s full size one and I’m starting to enjoy myself. I need to put in a week or two of hard work, as well as getting back to the drawing, so it’s as well that I’ve got a fairly free week coming up.

Bread and salt

Salt and yeast don’t go together, they say. Bread tastes better with salt, as do most things, but it inhibits the yeast. Paul Hollywood advocates putting the yeast on one side of the bowl and the salt on the other, so that they don’t mix until you add the water. However, I was looking up advice on sourdough the other day and landed up on an Australian website, run by someone who’s a sourdough expert and they (can’t remember whether male or female) advocated adding the salt as late as possible, after the mixing has started. So, with my ordinary dry-yeasted loaf, I tried that today.

It’s a multi-grain, multi-seed loaf, which is very tasty but the loaf is sometimes heavy, I have to admit. White, wholemeal and wholemeal rye flour, sesame/flax/poppy/sunflower/pumpkin/millet/whatever else I have seeds, about 100 grams to 500 grams of flour, usually five different seeds. Today, I started mixing the flour, black treacle and water and only added the teaspoon of salt with the last water. Two minutes difference at most, yet it rose better and quicker than any loaf I’ve baked.

If anyone has any experience they’d like to share, I’d be very interested. I’ll try again, and with the sourdough too, but I don’t know if this was chance or cause-and-effect.

Simple scrambled eggs and smoked salmon on freshly-baked, toasted bread, with an extra slice of smoked salmon, finished with a sprinkling of cayenne pepper, ground sumach and lemon juice on the side, for dinner tonight. It was delicious and just the light meal we wanted.