Posts Tagged ‘Country life’

My old friend J woke up with a stomach bug yesterday, so instead of having his company here for the weekend, I am alone with Nora the dog and the cats. Although this menagerie means I’m patently not alone, it does mean my time is being spent much more productively than it might have been.

man with book in pub

Instead of pub lunches where I point out the coincidence of J sitting in front of a book written by someone of the same name that then turns out to be actually written by him, or getting lost on scenic walks, the weekend’s entertainment consists of apparently never-ending hedge cutting and a homemade lunch of avocado on a bed of toast and houmous with poached eggs passé à travers un tamis (go on, Google Translate it).

wheelbarrow on the grass

Today’s hedging, always rather A Task, was enlivened briefly by the last flying Avro Vulcan, a cold war era bomber that was taking part in the Dawlish Airshow in Devon, flying earsplittingly low, directly overhead. Quite the unusual sight in these parts normally devoid of RAF practice sorties. The only planes we see here are tiny, silently cruising airliners and their contrails. It turns out that this was one of the last opportunities to see it, which I rather wish I’d known. So, since I haven’t a picture of the bomber, I’ll blather on about the hedge some more.

garden with long hedge

I’ve blogged about the hedge before, several times, which is because cutting it, or rather, them, takes a lot of effort. Trimming it looks quite manageable from these pictures but that’s because I’d already carted away about four wheelbarrows full of clippings when I took them and the whole of the hedge isn’t in the pictures.

Wheelbarrow, rake and garden

The trimmed section (garden side and top) took me about six hours today and I still have to do the side along the lane, which I can’t reach from the garden because it’s too wide in places, and for which I will need to deploy a stepladder, a lot of nerve (slurry and milk tankers heading down the lane to the farm) and some agility.

But I’ll be delighted to have it behind me, which is probably how you feel about this post. I promise to be more interesting in my next one, which should be coming to you from my adventure with Nora in Provence.

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Frayed around the edges and over-sensitive for no good reason. Always the paradox of wanting to leave one place and be in another, and then the fret about doing it and what I might find when I arrive.

Work over the road going on apace. Winters Barn, sold at the end of last year together with the field it stands in, has been completely pulled down. The field is full of heavy machinery and the radio goes all day. A flock of sheep is grazing and they appear to be charmingly right in amongst all this but they aren’t. Closer inspection reveals an electric fence.

They’ve renamed the place and I disapprove. The old name was good and the new one inappropriate. Like the doubling in size of the cowsheds down the road, these changes make me feel sad. I liked what I’d found here – the remoteness and the dark skies. Now there is orange light on all night in one direction (why, do cows crave streetlight?) and soon there will be people over the road plus the additional traffic all this creates. It’s already a local rat run. You NIMBY incomer, I chastise myself. What makes you the arbiter of how things should be?

Nice things: Sunshine, birdsong, lambs bleating in the distance. Leaf buds bursting everywhere: hazel, beech, hawthorn and rowan. Blackthorn blossom, tiny flowers nestling among brutal thorns. Gorse now fully out and wafting coconut after months of being only half in bloom. Delicate little short-lived wildflowers crouching close to the ground, easily missed. A new fern stalk standing proud of the crushed fronds of last year’s dry remains, unfurling slowly as if stretching after winter’s long sleep.

And lazy, bad-tempered me, who didn’t bother to take a proper camera because it’s only a walk.

a wood tree branches against a blue sky and clouds wild flowers

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When I first moved here, my neighbours had opened permissive paths and bridleways across their land as part of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme. We could do a circular walk across their land, over hills and past ponds right from the front door without driving anywhere first. Since then, their old age and the austerity of the last few years have meant that the Council-run scheme ended and the paths fell into disrepair and were closed.

On the positive side, the closure of our most walked local route has meant I’ve been trying to discover new ways across the land nearby. Being a bit more adventurous and going in new directions is always a good thing.

We found a lovely walk the other day through the wood on the brow of the hill that I can see from my kitchen window. I haven’t found a way through the trees to a spot from which I can see the cottage yet, so lots more scope for exploration here.


labrador retriever

path through woods with dog


winter sunshine through trees

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tree in sunshinefrosty leavesthawing frosty leavesdry oak treetiny hazel catkins

black labrador

dog drinking from trough

We woke to a freezing house this morning because I hadn’t set the heating properly but the brightening landscape, clear blue sky and frosty ground soon resolved my annoyance.

Then Nora and I headed out up the hill for our morning walk. Unsually, we met my neighbour Suzie and her spaniels and Nora was delighted to play with them for a while. One of the things about country walks is that while people say hello more than in town, dogs don’t stop to play and people often apologise about their dogs sniffing yours, which is strange if you’re used to town dog behaviour. Single dogs are unusual – because they need the company I suppose.

Then I went off to get a Christmas tree from farmer John Hardwick at Cobbs Cross Farm just down the road. I could hardly get up the lane to the farm for people coming the other way down the narrow road. Looks like they’re doing well. I wrote about them in more detail a couple of years ago but they’ve got much more going on now. Someone there has definitely got an eye for an opportunity.

I was supposed to go Christmas shopping in Taunton – there was free parking but with the weather so lovely, I did some pruning instead and made a wreath for the front door with some of the results. It ‘s pretty ropey (you try making wreath with your dog running off with everything you put down for more than a second) and probably won’t last very long in this windy spot but at least it’s unique in its combination of bay leaves, heather and a few other bits and pieces. There’s even a tiny bit of holly.

Quite pretty, I think.

wreath on front door


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It’s been a long time since I written a post. I’m not enjoying the changes that WordPress have made to the interface; they seem to have made it harder rather than easier to write posts. I think I was just used to the slightly more technical way of doing it and find the ‘improved experience’ trickier as I don’t post as frequently these days. I’m using the old-style ‘classic’ interface but it seems to have lost some of the functionality I was used to. Oh well, mustn’t grumble, eh?

grapes on the vine

I meant to write this post weeks ago when I had just made some jelly from the grapes that grow on the little vine in the back garden. This year they were so plentiful and big that I was determined not to let the birds have all of them.

bucket of picked grapes

So I picked a bucketful and made grape jelly. Well, I say jelly but it’s not quite jelly as it didn’t quite set. It’s more like grape gloop. But it tastes good and goes well with meats. We’ll be having some with the turkey at Christmas. (Shh, I’m not going to say more on that subject yet, it’s still too early.)

cooked grapes in muslin cloth

The process is similar to making jam and I found the recipe at The Cottage Smallholder, which is useful for all kinds of things.

grapes straining through muslin

Now all we have to do is eat it.

jar of homemade grape jelly

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Small things


Sometimes it’s the little things that make my day. Like the passionflower which I bought from Morrison’s for £3 flourishing on the side of the woodshed. I thought it would die during the winter, so buffeted did it get on our exposed hillside.

Like our wasps’ nest. They’re squatting in the bird box on the side of the garage. The hole you can see in this rather fuzzy picture (I was holding the phone above my head with rather shaky hands – see previous post) is where I poked the crepe bandage-like structure inside with the end of the shears because I was wondering what it was. I’d never seen one before.

I soon knew. They all came flying out to have a look at what was attacking them but they didn’t seem very aggressive. I left them to calm down and go back inside, which they did quite quickly. When I went back later to check, the hole I made seemed to have been mended or to have mended itself. I will have to do some research into wasps’ nests now to find out how.


Like my ‘exciting’ 15 minutes in the garden one night. While I was standing there waiting for the motion-activated outside light to go off so that I could well and truly lurk in the dusk, an owl turned up and sat on the telegraph wires. I could only see its outline but it was obviously an owl with its massive round head and silent, swooping flight. It’s my first owl sighting, although I hear them quite a lot from the woods nearby. From the calls I’d say it was a tawny.

rainbow over country scenery

And like the rainbow that was so complete and huge that I couldn’t fit both ends of it into the picture. There was a rainbow on the day I moved into the cottage and I’ve always thought of them as a good omen, although they usually signify an impending shower.

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flower trug hanging from nails


shed crop


The woodshed is one of my favourite places at Spring Cottage, although I like all the outhouses, of which there are three; there’s also a garage (used mainly to store gathered wood for kindling) and an ancient stone building known as the wash house.

I’ve worked out that the woodshed’s 1960’s windows used to be the kitchen windows before my predecessor ‘improved’ things with a wide span of double-glazed panes overlooking the fields. The trouble is that the double glazing has let moisture in between the panes, so the build-up of condensation often means you can’t see out as clearly as you might like to. But, that aside, at least the woodshed has some nice windows.

The light is lovely in there on a fine evening, and the building is warm and smells gorgeously woody. The floor is covered with wood-chips, fragments of bark and butterfly wings however much I sweep. I don’t know why so many butterflies seem to meet their ends in here; perhaps they find the log pile a good place to rest.

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