Birthday Boy!

Today is Rufus, my youngest grandchild’s first birthday.  And here he is, riding his birthday tricycle, which looks rather like something you get in a gym.  He’s clearly very pleased with it, anyway.  We’ve got him some Duplo Lego and a rucksack – this is a cunning bit of kit that very much appeals to the child (I know because Weeza’s two had them) and they love wearing, but there is a strap that one can hold and keep the child under one’s control.  
We haven’t done a great deal today after our exertions in the early part of the week.  There will be about 24 of us for tea tomorrow, but the forecast is fine and we’re thinking to have it on the lawn.

And then it’ll be just a week to the blog party.  There are a couple of people who said they hope to come but haven’t confirmed, so I’ll get in touch with them, but otherwise, if you haven’t said yet, then you’ll be most welcome, whether you’ve been here before or not, just please let me know and I’ll send you the address.  And there’s still a spare room or two, if you’d like to stay over.

We had a treat this evening; the first bottle of our wine from the local vineyard.  It was exceptionally good.  I bought LT membership of their wine club, which includes a dozen bottles, six of which (three each of two varieties) are only available to members.  We are also offered tours of the vineyard, but we haven’t had time to take them up on that yet.  Once the party is over, we’ll have a bit of spare time.

Z skips

The porch is cleared and cleaned and is positively echoey with emptiness.  And the latest skip has been filled with the last lot of total junk from the big barn.

If you are one of those people who keeps everything that might possibly have a little bit of life in it, please ask yourself what you’re doing it for?  Let it go, darlings, let it go.  Among the things I hauled out (and then Rose and others shifted round to and into the skip) were two oil-filled electric radiators that might have been put in there when my mother-in-law moved into the annexe in 1985 – that is, if not then, it was earlier.  Why were they not disposed of?  I don’t know.   There was also a radiant and a convection electric fire, probably put there at the same time, but they’ve never been used since and they’d been long forgotten about.  There had been no need to keep them if they weren’t to be used and, through decades of neglect, they’d become unusable anyway.   I found a bag full of old clothes, some of them mine but some were my mother’s, obviously intended for a charity shop, but they never got there.   I suspect a certain amount of lethargy was involved – easier to store than arrange for disposal, but this can’t have been the situation in every case.

Never mind, it’s done and I think that’s the last skip we’ll need.  There’s a lot more to be sorted out, but much of that is wooden, destined to be used (stored for possible future use, that is!), sawn up for burning indoors or put on a bonfire.  But not yet, we will catch up with everyday life for a bit.  And we’ve got a First Birthday party to get ready for on Saturday and a Blog Party the next weekend.

Many thanks to Lovely Tim, Roses, Lawrence and Boy for all their help.  Rose and I ache today, don’t know if the men do, but their work is hugely appreciated.

 

Z gets dusty

This afternoon, we’ve been dismantling the indoor tortoise run.  If you’ve visited here in the past two and a half years, you’ll know that an eight foot by four foot section of the porch was taken over by it.  Indeed, my friend Jamie and I were just starting to construct it on the day that Russell died.  I went upstairs to see if he was getting up when we stopped for a coffee break, which he was, and minutes later he died on my lap.

But the tortoises were going to have to come indoors for the autumn and so, a week or so later, we had no option but to finish the job.  When I got Eloise cat, we had to make a cover for it, as it was just too tempting for a cat, both to lie under the sun lamps and – I’m sorry to say – to use as a litter tray.  We constructed it so that it would be possible to unscrew the structure during the summer, but it was actually just too much effort to rebuild it and I left it in place, just replacing topsoil.  Now, it’s gone and we have barrowed away about fifteen square yards of earth and gravel (which I’d put there in some of the plastic trays that Alex used to have strawberry punnets delivered in because, at the time, I thought about taking it out again) and, tomorrow, we’ll finish cleaning the whole room and rearrange furniture.  Porch isn’t really the word for it and nor is conservatory – my mother-in-law used to call it the sun room and that’s as good a name as any, but the back porch was removed when we built on the room that’s now the study, and I’ve got to have somewhere to keep my wellies.

The new chickens are eating a lot, so they must be reasonably happy, though they keep treading earth into their water bowl.  This is just what chickens do, they are daft birds.  Russell used to change their water bowls several times a day, which doesn’t really seem to make much sense (he had endless patience and didn’t mind: I am patient but more practical) but when he wasn’t well enough and I started caring for the cooks, I went and bought a couple of drinkers so that the water stayed clean.  It’s no good in a coop though, there’s not enough room  and they manage to dirty the water whatever it’s in.  I grew early potatoes in two bags in the greenhouse, which was very successful and we’ve had all the potatoes we wanted for several weeks.  I emptied out the first bag today, taking the last few potatoes in it for a lunchtime salad, and picked up several slugs hiding underneath.  I left the woodlice as I’m fond of them, but took the slugs for a treat for the chickens.  The remaining original bantam tried a peck and was rather disconcerted (I’ve no idea why, they all used to love them) and the others wouldn’t go near.  So I gave them to the newcomers, who also looked nonplussed.  I expect they’ll have worked it out.  They’ll get used to my ways – they polished off the remains of last night’s cheese soufflé, anyway.

 

Mostly about chickens again…

I really should get around to posting pictures, but the internet is lamentably slow tonight, even more than usual, and I just can’t face it.  I’m thinking of using my old Blogger blog for photos, with a link from here, because it’s much quicker to load a number of them over there.

The new bantams are rather oversized for bantams, quite a bit bigger than any we’ve ever had and huge compared to the Seramas.  They’re in their own coop in the big run, I’ll give them a few days to feel at home.  The bigger of the two, who is brown, had her beak open and looked a bit stressed, but she’s eating and drinking so it can’t be that bad.  The other one, who is black, seemed quite composed.  They’re four months old, so not laying yet.

I went out to feed the chickens this morning and only two, the tiny black one and the cockerel, came to greet me.  The other Serama was in her box, where she usually is, and the last remaining of our old bantams was in a coop.  So I fed them and went to feed the chickens.  And then I went back, taking a dish of water ready for the newcomers, and some greens for the ones there, and three came to greet me.  So I looked in the coop and Mona, who’d been sitting, and Jet had laid eggs.  Mona was evidently recovering from her efforts when I’d been there a few minutes previously.  We had the eggs for breakfast, poached as I always do with truly new-laid eggs but no others.

I’ve been awake since 6 and am ready for bed.  So sorry not to be jolly evening company, but I can hardly stay awake.  Shameful, innit?

Z’s sandals are made for walking…

We arrived back in Norfolk yesterday, but I wasn’t here for long.  Weeza and family had spent the week on Corfu and I’d arranged to pick them up from Norwich airport, drive them back to their house and stay overnight.  And that’s what happened, only two and a half hours late.  Storms over southern England meant that their plane didn’t take off on time, lost its slot and had to wait.

However, they finally emerged from the airport at about quarter past eleven and the holiday itself had been a great success.  So had mine and Tim’s. He showed me a lot more of the lovely Pembrokeshire scenery, we walked a lot – and such a pleasure that is; to be able to do so.  When my consultant asked me, as they do, what I hoped for from my operation (I suppose it’s to gauge whether one’s expectations are realistic), I said that I wanted to walk without noticing each step.  And I reached that within a few weeks, but how I actively enjoy and appreciate the simple function of walking.

Not having had a lot of sleep last night, I don’t feel inclined to stay up much longer tonight.  We’ve done more gardening, started to fill the skip that was delivered yesterday (yes, another – I know!!) and walked down to the former Otter Trust to see its reincarnation as a Wetlife Centre and rare breed centre.  Still walking, you see.  Once you get into the way of noticing how far you walk, it becomes a bit of an obsession, if only for a week or two (10,329 steps by 22.11 this evening).

Tomorrow, we’re picking up two more chickens from a friend.  We’re quite excited.

Z is going offline

I won’t have wifi for the next few days, so this will be the last blog post until … well, until I’m back again.

The main thing in my thoughts at present is that I’ve given away the last of the tortoises.  They were never my pets but Russell’s, though I had to look after them once he wasn’t well enough and, once we had the babies; the Tots as I called them, he never did get to grips with their needs and I had to do so.  I’ve been conscientious and I was quite fond of them, but not enough.  I didn’t want them to go to strangers, but it’s been friends of friends who knew what they were doing – anyway, Natasha, the last of them, was picked up this afternoon and wee’ed on Roses as a parting salvo.  And now I can dismantle the run in the porch and get that space back.  There is a pang but I’d made up my mind.

Not as a secondary thing at all, but I saw him a couple of days ago so wished him all the wonderful wishes that a granny does: it’s Hadrian’s sixth birthday today.  His father made him, by request, a skull cake – we’re the Addams Family at heart.  I gave him Lego – it’s all themed nowadays, of course, and they are very much into Minecraft, so it was one of those sets and he was very pleased and has set about making it up today.

Music now.  LT has got out an LP 😀

Cabbages and kings

We were talking about food.  For two wondrously slender people, hem hem, we spend a lot of time thinking and talking about food.  And now, an hour or two later, I can’t quite remember how we got on to the subject.

I think it started with the gammon steaks, which we bought this morning, for tomorrow night’s dinner, at the butcher.  Tim said that there was nothing wrong with the traditional gammon, pineapple, sweetcorn and peas combo.  And I chuckled, as long as they weren’t on a pizza.  Because Tim is rather purist when it comes to his beloved Italian cookery (and there’s no hint of criticism there – his tagliatelle bolognese (never spaghetti which is WRONG) is a joy, just to take one of many examples) and the various pizza solecisms rather distress him.  Chicken Masala pizza, anyone?  Never mind Hawaiian, which is where we came in.

I went on, as one does during the course of a chatty dinnertime, to baked beans on toast.  I like baked beans and I like toast.  But toast that’s soggy with tomato sauce, not quite so much.  Tim was more forgiving – and then I asked him about scrambled eggs with smoked salmon.  We’d been on the subject of scrambled eggs with baked beans already.  He is okay with the combo as long as the salmon is added at the last minute and not actually cooked.  And, if it’s just scrambled eggs on toast, the toast has to be made and buttered and kept warm so that the butter has soaked into the toast – I’m fine with that, toast warm with butter is not at all the same as toast soggy with baked bean sauce – and then the eggs are added with extra black pepper and eaten while hot and lovely…but a thought came to me.  How about scrambled eggs on a slice of smoked salmon and no toast at all, unless it’s a slice of Melba toast on the side, just for the crunch?  Because texture is almost as vital in food as taste is.  Complementary, at least?  Any thoughts?

I’m crediting my daily Marmite on toast (I have a more regular breakfast than ever before, thanks to Lovely Tim) with my stronger than ever (we started from a low base) fingernails.  Every nail is fit to be seen at present.  It can’t last but it’s pretty good while it does.  I’m sure it’s the Marmite.

The first broad bean tops of the year.  Absolutely yum.

Sunshine!!(!)

The good thing about not having slept much was that I was up early enough to have planted out all the outdoor tomatoes and cucumbers, watered the greenhouse and fed the chickens and the cats and – and, darlings – started to turn out the study, all before breakfast.  I know it’s true that I didn’t sleep much, because I downloaded an app.  Yes indeed, sad woman that I am, I wanted to verify my insomniac nights by using an outside monitor.  Though it wasn’t for the purposes of whinge-bragging so much as to check whether I really wasn’t sleeping or whether I just thought I wasn’t.  The first two nights, of course, I slumbered peacefully for many happy hours.  Not so much last night – but enough of that.  Even I am almost dribbling with boredom.

After breakfast – I haven’t finished bragging, I’m afraid – I finished the study, sorted out the summer duvet for the bed, hung up some clothes and put others in the wash – sooner or later, you’re all going to work out that my monthly cleaners were due.  Aside from these domestic virtuousnesses, though, i bought wrapping paper and cards and wrapped two grandsons’ birthday presents; one two days early and one more than a fortnight.  I amaze myself sometimes, ’tis true.  And then I made chocolate brownies and naan bread.

Dilly and the boys called in and made inroads into the brownies, as well as strawberries they had brought.  Enormous ones, about the biggest I’d ever seen, in contrast to those that I bought yesterday from Simon the Greengrocer.  Both were local, both delicious and juicy.  After tea, I took them round the garden – various animals to see and a newt kindly basked on the surface of the water for them, and they were charmed by the Serama bantams.  I was pleased too – until now, Mona my remaining bantam has been rather hen-pecking the other two smaller hens.  But this afternoon, there was a change.  All three, plus the cock, were pecking at their food relaxedly and the little ones weren’t afraid and Mona wasn’t pushing in for the choicest bits.

All the same, I have been awake since half past five and I’m starting to flag.  I must leave post unopened until tomorrow and emails unanswered.  Except one, from someone coming to the blog party and asking what she might bring.  And another, from Kippy – I’m going to email from the bath.  Good job I’m not going to use Skype, innit.

 

Weeding and skiing

This week, we are mostly weeding.  It became imperative.  As usual, I’d been concentrating on the vegetable garden, but even that needed some attention.  Then, we finally had time to look at the flower beds and just about caught them before the weeds topped the intended plants.

I’ve always been pretty easy-going with weeds, if I like them.  I’ve got lots of forget-me-nots in the kitchen garden, for example, which I don’t root out because they’re pretty and not too invasive.  I like having daisies, coltsfoot, clover, plantain, buttercups and so on in the lawn.  I can admire a perfect lawn but there’s not a lot to love.  But when choking the flowers, they’re less welcome.

I walked across the front field yesterday evening, to change the padlock on the gate.  I bought two new ones; one for the new gate and one for the other – identical, because the same farmer will use both and it’s simpler if they both have the same combination.  A couple of years ago, I bought one with a five-figure combination but those seem to be thin on the ground now, so I got two identical four-figure ones instead.  Anyway, walking over the field, I kept an eye out for ragwort, that poisonous weed that is so dangerous in hay – it’s bitter-tasting so grazing animals avoid it, but dried into hay or in haylage, they eat it before they realise.  There isn’t much ragwort and I now know where to go and fork it out before the hay crop is cut.  I also noted the range of grass varieties – I don’t know as much as I’d like to about grass,  My friend A told me that he wrote his university dissertation on grasses and – not that I told him, though I’m sure I sounded impressed – I was totally wowed.  On my way back across the field (back to last night, darlings, I digressed a bit and I hope you’re keeping up) I looked at the house and the trees and thought how lovely it all is.  I took a few photos, just because.  It’s the same every spring, I’m so sentimental about it.  I look about for the signs of each tree or hedgerow plant coming into leaf or flower and take such a keen enjoyment.  And now it’s all in full leaf and we’ve come through another year.

But I was talking about weeding.  We’re actually nearly there, which is remarkable.  I’ve not been so up together for years – possibly ever, because I’ve more flower beds than we ever used to have.  I’m not sure if proud is the word – not, probably – but I do feel satisfied with the result of our work.

I had another music lesson this evening.  LT never knows what time to expect me home as my teacher is also a friend from way back and we enjoy a chat.  I’ve decided that the time has come to give my old clarinet, that was my grandfather’s, an honourable retirement and to buy a better one.  It’s a decent one – a Boosey and Hawkes Regent from the early 1950s, it has a very good barrel but the keys are past their best and I would like something that rewards the work I put in, if that doesn’t sound too pretentious.  Or if it does.  Easier to play, if you like.  Anyway, that’s next on the list for ways to spend the kids’ inheritance.

There’s a blog party coming up…

Blogging isn’t coming easily to my fingertips at present, I’m not sure why.  But I’ll catch up with all of you soon and, perhaps, get my verve back together too.

The first thing to tell you about is that chicks have hatched.  It was quite dicey, in fact – actually, I do know why I didn’t blog on Thursday; we had four chicks, but three of them had to be helped out of their shells and we were very doubtful whether any of them would survive, and I didn’t want to leave that sort of cliffhanger.  As it turned out, the strongest one slipped out from mum in the night and was too chilled to save.  The other two are fine and thriving, as is the first one.  They are very tiny, because that’s their breed but they seem to be able to avoid clodhopping foster mum, who is very devoted.

The next thing is, it’s now less than four weeks to the Blog Party.  I’ve had some replies already, but I’d like to start getting more idea of who’s coming, please.  As ever, you don’t need to be a past or present blogger, there are no rules.  Rules aren’t in the spirit of the thing.  Just meeting, having lunch (absolutely all dietary needs are taken in our stride, from allergies to preferences to requirements, just let me know) and getting to know each other is all we aim to do.  I lay tables (lots of tables) so I do like to know the number, even if it’s just a day or two in advance – if you’ve already said you’re coming (or not), of course you don’t need to tell us again.  If anyone would like to offer a salad or pudding it would be gladly received (please let me know, I’ll obsessively over-cater otherwise) and if you’d like to stay for a night or more, you’re welcome.  We have four spare rooms, one is taken and another booked but not confirmed – again, let us know.  After the spare rooms are full, there’s a sofa, place for a camp bed and room for tents.  If you haven’t visited, we’re smack on the Norfolk/Suffolk border, half an hour from Norwich or the coast.

What has always been most fun is that people who’ve met here have later gone on to be friends and met up elsewhere.  And, from our point of view, it’s where Tim and I met: at the second blog party.  We’d become blog friends and he drove all 160 miles here, bringing another blog friend who lived near him but whom neither of us had met before and, though we saw each other only a couple of times more in the next few years, we would never have met otherwise.  I know that other couples have met through blogging or otherwise on the internet (two of my children met their wife on the internet) and that’s one reason why, with or without blogging mojo, it’s dear to my heart.

If you prefer not to put a comment saying you’ll be away from home, a Facebook message or an email will be fine.  Hope to see you, we look forward to it.  There are new faces every year – which is brilliant – and old friends come along too and will see yet more changes around here.

Tim and Zed xx