Posts Tagged ‘winter’

Just thought I’d try a bit of positivity today. I’ve dashed around for much of the day cleaning and basically making myself feel more in charge of what’s happening to the cottage. The rain has stopped and, while the water is still seeping through a bit across the whole of the south-west wall, it is starting to dry out.

flooded road in Somerset

Having improved my mood a bit, if not my now chapped hands, I took Nora for a walk. Intending to drive to the shops first, I had to turn back as the road to Bishop’s Lydeard was flooded. Even in a 4×4 I decided not to risk it as it looked quite deep. I’ve had enough disasters of late.

blue winter sky

moss covered tree

dog walking in woods

Here are some shots of my almost completely private walk with Nora – only once we had reached the top of Cothelstone Hill did we meet some people and their dogs. Lovely!

dog on the heath

Nora the labradora

old stone wall

trees in winter sun

Nora heading down the hill

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On the way home we met toothless Graham from the farm on the road. He said we’d had 30mm of rain last night, which would explain a few things.

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This is more by way of a log of my activity here for myself (the original purpose of this blog), so it’s not very interesting.

pondlife lowThe temperature didn’t rise above freezing all weekend. The pond was frozen so I kept breaking the ice for birds and other wildlife, and pulled sheets of it out together with whatever was attached. Quite an easy way of getting rid of the leaves that fill the water.

scaffoldingBen has been here to work on the chimney finally – the scaffolding’s only been up since about November last year. It hasn’t rained for about 10 days, so there’s no way to check if the new flashing has worked. Fingers crossed.

hedgeI intended to bring the logs down from the garage to the woodshed this weekend, but couldn’t get the big gate to stay open as the hedge was getting in the way so I spent Saturday afternoon hacking at it (the hedge) with shears, the trimmer and secateurs. I’ve actually managed to make it look miles better and am really pleased with the achievement because it’s always been the hardest part of the hedge to reach.

This weekend was hard work, what with grooming and mucking out the horse for Sunday’s ride as well but it’s such a relief, after all the rain in the last few months, to have been able to do something practical and worthwhile. I almost feel enthusiastic about all the other stuff that needs doing…

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So I was worrying about the trees in my last post. Well, I arrived at Spring Cottage to find things could have been worse. snowy landscape

A rapid thaw was happening, the temperature having shot up from minus three to about five degrees centigrade overnight. Where I’m told there had been knee-deep snow yesterday, patches of earth were now appearing.

snowy landscape

The house looked more or less intact. I’d remembered to turn off the water before I left, there was no burst pipe. On the other hand, the back door looked suspiciously wet and was hard to open. I put my shoulder to it and burst out into the soggy garden, shocking some birds into the sky. Above me, the gutter teetered at an unseemly angle and disgorged its melting contents straight at the door. In the garden, we’d lost a couple of tree branches here and there, nothing desperate and it will all make good kindling once it’s dried out.

hedge along a roadside

The weight of the now rapidly vanishing snow had done other things as well. Along the lane, bits of hedge were looming forwards in the manner of a drunk sharing a confidence. Lonicera Nitida, sometimes known as boxleaf honeysuckle, is easy to shape and trim but, being a relative of the climber, it hasn’t got any what you might call ‘integrity’. Rather, it leans up against itself like a teenager during that phase where they cling to doorframes to stay upright. Weigh it down with a lot of snow and it’s gone – teenager to drunk in a week.

trimmed hedge

I had to do something before the forecast rain arrived. So I swapped my idea of walking in the hills for sturdy yellow work gloves, reached through the hedge as far as I could from the garden side and hoicked the spindly stems inwards. Then from the roadside, more than ankle deep in thawing snow, I shoved it upwards with an upside down broom. But it wasn’t enough, it had lost its grip, and some of its top-heaviness just had to go if the next snowfall wasn’t going to see it lying stretched out across the lane.

Now that it’s done, I’m thinking that the snow did me a favour, although I would have liked a walk instead of a sore elbow from wielding the shears. The hedge is now thinned out for a bit of fresh growth in the spring and should be all the stronger for it.

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From the silhouettes of Italian trees to the spectacular giants of Lydeard Hill in Somerset, they are under threat and I am worrying about them; capturing their beauty while I can.

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Pop your clogs on and go and have a look. All kinds of sculptural winter beauty and living things await.

clogs on doormat

lace cap hydrangea flowers dried in winter outdoors

clematis on a trellis

terracotta planter with ferns

terracotta planter with fern and slug close up

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It’s a place where people still cycle in sub zero temperatures.

Where it is still expected that you might wish to sit outside to eat when snow lies on the ground. (They give you blankets.)

Where the snow thawing in the sun on the roof freezes again before it reaches the ground.

Good morning!

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It probably doesn’t take a genius to work out that I’ve been away. Somewhere very much colder than the UK. Somewhere the recession hasn’t touched. Somewhere buzzing with confidence and style.

I have never happily tramped so many miles dressed in so many clothes.

Or been so surprised by so much wonderful, art nouveau architecture

or so many beautiful baroque buildings in a city that manages simultaneously to exist so vibrantly in the present day.

A place where people shovel snow from the roofs of buildings, so that it doesn’t spontaneously avalanche off and kill passers by.

Where can it be?

It’s Stockholm. I’ll be telling more stories about it soon. But now it’s time to catch up on some well-earned rest.

 

 

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I was in the woodshed filling up the bird feeder, when I gradually became aware of an unusual, gentle, repetitive sound. “Swish-swish. Swish-swish.” I tracked it down to the basket where I keep the kindling. “Swish-swish. Swish-swish.” And there, unexpectedly, on the basket’s underside, was a butterfly – a peacock – slowly opening and closing its wings.

I couldn’t get my DSLR camera to focus properly on it, while it was opening and shutting its wings. The camera’s mechanism felt as sluggish in the cold as the butterfly’s movements. I probably just had it on the wrong setting but, as so often, my wits desert me when I’m trying to take a picture where the subject is not inanimate.

It didn’t try to fly away when I moved the basket into the light to see it better, so I managed to get something slightly better with my phone camera.

As I’m writing this, I’m feeling guilty that I didn’t rescue it but I just hadn’t the faintest clue where to start. I don’t suppose it will have survived very long, poor, beautiful thing – I haven’t had the heart to check.

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The snow’s all gone now but for the brief day or so that we had it, it revealed new textures in the patchwork of the hills.

The garden was suddenly full of the evidence of the birds and animals that traverse it when I’m not looking.

Of the flowers, only the snowdrops seemed to be relishing the sub zero temperature. Everything else – primulas, hellebores, crocuses, euphorbias – all were bent to the ground, crushed by the frost.

And the frozen pond had claimed another frog; suspended in ice so thick that it will have to wait many days until the thaw.

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So it was all lovely when I arrived. I unpacked the car, let the cats out and went straight out to take some pictures of the lovely last bits of afternoon light.

There hasn’t been much snow but it’s very cold. The thermometer shows -5.(Shush, you folk who live in colder climes. This is cold for the south west of England. We’re used to mild air from the gulf stream.)

So I should have expected…frozen pipes. There’s no hot water and I can’t flush the loo. OK. I know how to flush the loo with a bowl of water when the cistern won’t fill. I can cope. But the thought of frozen pipes fills me with dread. We have history.

What’s particularly annoying is that I spent days and days, and wrecked my knees for months, lagging the damned loft after the last episode. Now, it turns out, there are mice who are making nests out of my lagging, which is why the pipes are frozen again.

Effing mice. That’s what I say.

Night, night.

Postscript: My remedy of leaving the loft hatch open and the central heating on all night defrosted the pipe and everything is now back in full working order.

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Robin’s song

Listening to you out there in the grey, you bring a touch of light to this dark day. Cheesy, but true.

 

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Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve sensed such a pent-up longing for spring in the air but it’s just the early snowfall that’s made us think that this is what we’re now due. We’re clearly still thoroughly in the grip of winter. If anything, the strong winds of the last couple of weeks have robbed the trees of any last, lingering softness and their branches range starkly across the hill tops, linking their skeletal arms against the elements. It seems bleaker now than when snow lay on the ground a month ago.

cyclamen and snowdrop buds against bare earthWith the temperature hovering around freezing, I crunched over the stiff worm casts or other animals diggings on the grass to inspect the garden. Rabbits are carving new burrows into the bank and dislodging small rocks in the process, flattening the burgeoning snowdrop buds below. The hellebores, short and sparse, came up so early that they’ve been killed, no, murdered, by the fresh drop in temperature. There’s one tiny, wild cyclamen – a minuscule patch of brightness in the garden, which appears otherwise quite desaturated of colour.

frozen pond

The pond is frozen again – the little ball being too light to stop the water freezing beneath it. We broke the ice in the hope that any remaining pondlife would survive this time. “They’re cold blooded,” said the Boy. “Not that cold blooded,” I replied, hoping that amphibians ‘in aspic’ are not on the menu.

We stopped for lunch at the pub in Bicknoller, sharing a long table with an elderly one-eyed man and his wife. He was eating beef Wellington and muttering, “oh God, oh God, oh God,” into his food. “I just wish I didn’t hurt so much.” “Well, if you won’t take your pills,” replied his wife placidly, feeding their poodle crisps. I wondered how he’d lost his eye; it wasn’t a recent injury or the cause of his pain. Despite all appearances, he put away two pints and when they left, he was going to drive them home.

Watchet buildingIn Watchet, our destination, the winds blowing in from the sea were so cold that we only managed a brief walk around the streets, taking in a few junk shops on the way, for warmth, of course. Usually bustling, the town was pretty much closed for business with only pockets of life. A tiny chemist’s shop, the size of my living room, staffed by three women, surprisingly offered up the twenty-first century contact lens solution I was seeking. But the station shop was closed, when we went to buy the Boy a copy of the poster below, which I bought about 18 months ago, and we hurried back to the car to hear football reports and warm our noses.

I love this poster, which is made from an original screenprint by an unknown artist. Exaggerating the bright colours of high summer, it advertises the famous steam railway that runs from Bishop’s Lydeard to Minehead. The poster cost £1.00 and I’ve framed it to hang in the kitchen at Spring Cottage, where there is lots of other brightness. But first I have to remember to bring drill and bits, as these are not walls into which a nail can simply be hammered.

West Somerset Railway poster

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I bet one of the tabloids has already thought of my headline too… actually, I see that it was The Guardian yesterday. I’m busy with indoor pursuits at the moment and may say more later but here, for the moment, are some pictures of life down here this morning.

And then, there were a load of footprints in the back garden (above); I thought at first that these were a child’s footprints but on closer inspection they disappeared into the hedge between the garden and Higher Close (the field behind the cottage), so they must have been some kind of animal. But I wonder what – the prints were quite far apart, so something quite big, maybe a deer?  I’m about too go and Google animal footprints to see if I can find out.

Postscript: probably rabbit, although having just been for a freezing walk across the fields, rabbit tracks look quite different to this with all four pawprints being either quite close together or in pairs of two, depending on their gait.

It’s lovely seeing the very altered landscape that the snow has brought; the usually colourful patchwork of the fields has been turned almost black and white, with the brownish hue of the trees, now blown clear of snow, standing out against the various shades of white of the ground. The fields vary in the intensity of their whiteness depending on the texture of what is growing in them. From here, up in the hills, I can also see that there is no snow down on the Levels and, in fact, there’s only about two inches here but it has stayed all day and shows no sign of going. I saw that it’s freezing up again on my short walk over to Manor Farm just now but it looks like riding will be possible tomorrow, as the farm lies much lower than we do and the arena was quite clear of snow.

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