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Bird 'flu

♥Dec. 7th, 2016 // 01:25 pm
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It seems there's a bird 'flu outbreak in Europe, and Just In Case there are now restrictions on birds in England.

We can't practically keep the ducks indoors (the stable where they sleep is small and dark), so after a bit of a ponder we decided that they definitely have to stay out of the front garden, where there are far more wild birds. As (bad) luck would have it, this morning the horses had their annual dental check, so they were also in the stableyard for a while. As (good) luck would have it, we've been meaning to have a bonfire for a couple of weeks, so we rearranged the bonfire pile to make a barrier around the door to the duck's stable and just let them in the little patch of outside that resulted, with their food and water inside.

Magrat, in particular, complained loudly for the first couple of hours, but since then they seem to have just gone back to bed. They ate *most* of their breakfast, but it took them several hours to do so (they're not laying at the moment, so they're not so interested in food), which we can't really do: it won't be long before Stableyard Robin realises and starts popping over to finish it off.

After a couple of chats with Old Mother Farmer in the woods (she didn't have time for a long walk, so took a shorter route home, and then we met her again ten minutes later), I've decided that, although the guidance says that ducks should be treated as chickens and kept in, our ducks are so free range / wild that really more like geese / fancy wildfowl, which can't be kept indoors: I'm going to keep them out of the front garden but let them have the run of the stableyard, and I'm going to switch both of their meals to corn-in-the-stable in the hope that they'll eat more quickly.

I can't decide what to do about their pond, though. At the moment, it's in the stable and it's not been used all morning. I'd like to put it outside, but I know that if I do and (especially) if we have another cold snap then the birds will be drinking from it. Hmm.

Speaking of cold snaps, we had one: a week or so of frozen taps, riding arenas, and pretty much everything else. On the other hand, lovely sunny days and, best of all, hardly any mud!



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Pied Wagtails

♥Nov. 28th, 2016 // 01:51 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1188185.html]

As well as the robins, we've also got plenty of pied wagtails around the place: every year, some lucky pair (possibly the same one each year) manages to lay claim to our stableyard, after which they have no trouble raising a brood or two of chicks by the simple process of hanging around our muck heap all day.

Now that it's getting colder, there aren't so many tasty bugs to be found in there and they've mostly moved out to the field, where there's still food to be found.

Having been raised in our stableyard, they're not quite as afraid of people as they might otherwise be, so you can get fairly close to them before they fly away. This morning, though, I got to within a couple of meters of a pair of them while they were having an energetic, on-the-wing scrap at the top of the field: if I'd not been wearing rubber gloves covered in horse poo, I'd have grabbed my phone and tried to get a video. It was really quite lovely to see!
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Robins

♥Nov. 27th, 2016 // 04:35 pm
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We have several robins around the house. There's one who has the stableyard, one who has the front garden and one who has the back garden. I'm not sure if Back Garden Robin's territory extends in the field (or, more usefully for a robin, the field hedge) or not.

I've always felt that, whether he has the field hedge or not, Back Garden Robin has the worse deal. Stableyard Robin has it pretty good, with all the insects he can eat from the muck heap and occasional forays into the duck's stable and the barn to pick up bits of dropped feed. The clear winner at this time of year, though, is Front Garden Robin: the ducks are off lay, which means they're not very interested in their high fat, high protein chicken feed, so the tin just sits there waiting for someone else to have a go. Even when the ducks go back on lay (and Esk has been showing signs of interest in food the last few days), there are all the bits dropped from the bird feeders (although we've cracked down on those this year, and decided that two feeders of sunflower seeds per day is the absolute maximum. Even if I relent and re-fill them at lunch time when it gets very cold, we're hoping to keep it down to no more than one 20kg sack a month. Plus the peanuts and fat balls and niger seeds, obviously).

Yesterday, I was weeding the flowerbed next to the drive while Mike trimmed the hedge. I looked around at one point and saw two robins sitting watching me in that checking-for-worms way that they do.

Even given that the drive is probably the boundary between Stableyard and Front Garden, I was surprised to see two so close together. They weren't posturing at each other, just checking what I was doing and keeping half an eye on Jo.

We did have baby robins in the garden this year, so I wonder if they're related and still young enough to put up with each other.
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Experimental gardening

♥Nov. 23rd, 2016 // 04:05 pm
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I planted a load of hollyhocks this year, and a couple of them were a lovely very dark purple. I saved seed from one of those, and have several pots of seedlings in the conservatory, but I wasn't sure if they'd come true so on the advice of the internet I've just taken some root cuttings from one of them, as well.

It's only after doing so that I noticed that all the sites saying that root cuttings work really well for hollyhocks are American, all the UK sites just say to grow them from seed.

I'm now wondering if American hollyhocks are actually a completely different plant: anyone know?
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More free stuff

♥Nov. 20th, 2016 // 03:03 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1187425.html]

I have, I think, now finished tidying and rearranging, although I'm not sure what I'm going to go with the masses of stuff to go in the landfill and paper recycling bins, which were already full after yesterday's efforts. (Bizarre as it may seem from the stuff I'm trying to re-home, I've thrown away a huge amount of actual junk. I have no idea where some of these things came from.)

(Actually, I haven't finished: I started this because I wanted to get my fabric stash out of plastic boxes and onto a set of Expedit shelves. That part has happened, but not yet the part where I go through and neatly sort the fabrics by type and colour and so on. Maybe tomorrow.)

So, if anyone wants it...
Various crafty bits:

- silver and gold plastic stars
- various colours of star-shaped stickers
- stick-on diamante thingies
- stickers of fancy party frocks
- blue / purple die-cut flowers
- what the package says are 'fabric luggage tags'
- various colours of leaf skeletons
- blue paper tags
- lots of pairs of small hinges
- little glass test tubes with stoppers that have loops so you can put things in them and hang them on a piece of jewellery

Ditto:

- beige-ish pipe cleaners
- blue paper tags (again. oops)
- microscope slides and cardboard holders for them (some for one slide, some for two)

And less crafty stuff:

- three packs of raunchy wrapping paper (I have no idea who this was intended for...)
- red and gold beaded gift bag
- two white and silver angel gift decorations
- white and silver gift decoration stickers
- red and gold gift decoration stickers
- differently shaped gift decoration stickers

Hmm. In retrospect I should probably checked to see if anyone wanted an entire Really Useful Box full of those little shiny rosette things that you always get in packs of Christmas ribbons and that I hardly ever use because I don't like them. Oh well.
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Having a clear out

♥Nov. 19th, 2016 // 06:38 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1187260.html]

I'm rearranging and tidying my bits of the study, so here's some stuff that's free to a good home provided it can be hand delivered (I'll stick the small stuff in the post, as well, but not the bigger things).

Heart and star shaped brads, also some mini-rivets:


A load of beads, first dibs to Giulia:


Random stuff:

- clear plastic food-grade bags with snowflakes on them
- four tubes of metallic acrylic, almost entirely unused
- five small fake birds
- Jessica fusion base and 2x brilliance top coats
- some googly eyes
- most of a block of modelling clay (this is several years old but it has been in a sealed bag and is still squidgy when you poke it; I've no idea if it's still usable)
- a pack of sequins
- an egg dying kit

Various blank books:

(The pink one is about A4, for scale.)

Also half a dozen poster tubes, big and small.

Probably more in the next few days, when I start looking to see what's inside the boxes currently stacked up on the study sofa....
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Possibly not my greatest success

♥Nov. 19th, 2016 // 03:34 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1186699.html]

When I made the juice for the medlar jelly, we didn't have any apples in so I thought I'd just slosh in a bit of bottle pectin when I boiled it up today.

(Medlars do have some pectin, but not much.)

Today, though, I realised I'd finished the pectin when I made chilli jelly the other week and not bought any more. Hrm.

I stuck a bit of citric acid in, and the jars are currently in the fridge in the hopes that that will trigger a change from 'faintly gloopy' to 'very soft set', but I'm not hopeful.

And the first storm of the season has just arrived. With amber wind warnings overnight, I hope that the phone and power stay up!
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Things

♥Nov. 18th, 2016 // 06:36 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1186533.html]

Novacon was mostly nice, and fairly quiet, but involved late nights (as ever).

I decided that I wasn't enjoying my pilates class enough to make up for the driving there and back in the dark part of the experience, so I've swapped to a different class (daytime), with a different instructor but at the same place. I had the first session yesterday and, even though the people in the class were generally creakier and less good, it was a much better workout. Fingers crossed.

TWWOTV is having various building work done. GB is unimpressed: he can hear it but not see it, so he's a bit stressed by it all, poor lad.

The house Up The Hill has finally completed on the sale, so we now have new Mr and Mrs Up The Hill, and two small girl children ditto. I'd better put together a little welcome hamper, though it's a shame the ducks are off lay.

I continue to be impressed with Freddie's Flowers. I've still got about half of the bunch from two weeks ago, and this is today's selection:


I've finished the little table runner I was making using English Paper Piecing. I enjoyed the actual EPP part of it but found hand quilting to be very tedious, fiddly, and hard on my hands; it is very lightly quilted as a result. Still, I'm quite pleased with it even if I did realise about three days ago that I'd cocked it up right at the beginning and have bought another pattern that I'd been vaguely admiring for some time.


For about six weeks now, I've had a plate full of this year's medlar crop sitting on a plate in the hall, bletting. Bletting is a bit like rotting only less so, and you have to let it happen for a couple of weeks in order to make the fruit usable. Today, I decided that they must have had long enough and took them to the kitchen to make jelly from. When I cut the fruit up, about a third of it looked like it was actually rotten, so I stuck that in the compost and put the rest on to simmer. An hour or so later, they were all still rock hard and the liquid was mostly colourless, which rang alarm bells: when I looked online, I discovered that actually my rotten ones were correct and the rest should have had longer to blet. Fortunately, they were only in the indoor compost bin, so I rinsed them off and stuck them in the pan with the rest and stuck them back in the Aga for another hour. The juice is draining off now, we'll see whether the jelly is actually usable tomorrow....

(Many of the recipes call for a mix of bletted and fresh medlars, if in the reverse of the proportions I ended up with, so it's hopefully not too much of a problem!)

It's definitely getting wintery, now, and we very much appreciated the fire this afternoon. On the other hand, my parents had about six inches of snow this morning, so it could be worse!
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Agitated pooch

♥Nov. 7th, 2016 // 07:11 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1185687.html]

Mike's in London today, which always makes Jo a bit worried. What's worse, although she's only just starting to realise after I had dinner on my own, is that he's got a dinner meeting so he won't be back for a few more hours yet. It'll be interesting to see if she wants to go for a run in the field while I'm doing the boys or if she'll go and camp out by the drive to wait for him.

While I was eating, she jumped up and started barking at some nearer-than-usual owls.

Just as I was about to bring the boys in earlier, she suddenly started proper barking, of the 'there is a person on the property' variety* from the front garden. When I went over, I couldn't see anyone around but then, a few minutes later, a woman drove down the hill and got out to ask if I'd seen her lost sausage dog, which made me go 'aha', as Jo sometimes also barks when people walk past with dogs. I told her what had happened and she drove off down the road to look for him, but came back a couple of minutes later dogless. Hope she manages to track him down!

We're having a bit of a spate of lost dogs recently (I've had a couple of texts from Not-Very-Next-Door Neighbour, as well as the one Mike found), hopefully it won't last.

* This is pretty much the only thing that really gets her going, and she keeps it up until she's sure we know about the intruder. For a generally very quiet dog (other than this it's just an occasional woof when she's very excited), this is a remarkably good choice of things to complain about! It was slightly embarrassing the time when she decided that Mrs Up The Hill wasn't allowed in her own field without permission, though....
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It got a bit windy last night

♥Nov. 7th, 2016 // 03:52 pm
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Oops.
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Stuffed

♥Nov. 5th, 2016 // 09:18 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1184793.html]

I've just finished the stuffing that I bought for the Loncon Plokta pigeon. Finally!

Unfortunately, I didn't have enough for what I was doing, so I've had to order another, slightly smaller, sack of the same!
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Good / bad

♥Nov. 4th, 2016 // 04:22 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1184749.html]

Last night, we went to see The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppets Do Shakespear, the last of the Canterbury Festival events that we had tickets for. It was tremendously good fun, easily our favourite thing this year, and I thoroughly recommend going if you get the chance.

(I have a vague memory there was a SFSP show at a convention some time in the last few years, possibly even Loncon even though I'd have thought I'd be less vague about it if so. Does anyone know if I'm right?)

Today, it rained all afternoon and the boys went out with their raincoats on for the first time they really needed them (they'd had them on a couple of times because it was just a bit chilly). Unfortunately, when I brought them in and put their night-time rugs on I found that GB was fine but Bugs was utterly sodden. I've sent a slightly stroppy email to the woman who cleaned and (in theory) re-proofed them. Mistakes do happen, and at least their thin raincoats will dry out quickly, and I can just order a can of spray and fix this myself, but my real concern is that some of their padded raincoats haven't been re-proofed, in which case the boys will be very uncomfortable and cold standing around in them and they'll take days to dry out before they can be used again....

Bugsy's leg was again not right when I lunged him this morning, and GB was a bit wobbly in his rear legs. I'm hoping that Bugs is having problems when he's lunged a lot, and that they'll go away if we stop doing it and just ride him instead. This might be wishful thinking, but it does fit: last year, we started Mike lunging him to get his confidence back and a few weeks later our riding instructor noticed a problem, and then this year I only started lunging him few weeks ago, when they moved back down to our field.... Wait and see.
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Dilly Keen

♥Nov. 1st, 2016 // 03:09 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1184210.html]

Last night, we went to see Dilly Keen (from Fascinating Aida) at the King's School, part of the Canterbury Festival.

It was a good show, but a bit downbeat for our tastes (most of the songs seemed to be about failed love affairs!). As an encore ("Usually we'd do a song, but we've got this fabulous piano..."), she and her accompanist did a piano duet: I'd forgotten that she can actually play serious piano as well as just noodling along to the songs.

Today, I've been to little quilt club, where I did some folding of squares for the quilt I've been working on for months (it's going to be very pretty, I think, but it's quite tedious so I'm doing a bit at a time) and then started a couple of Christmas decorations. It was nice to see people, and have a natter.

Yesterday when I exercised the horses neither of them seemed quite right: GB's bad leg was bothering him a bit and, more worryingly, I think that Bugsy's leg, which we'd thought was better, might have been a bit not-right as well. I'm going to give him a couple of days off and then see how it looks.
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Character fail

♥Oct. 31st, 2016 // 11:16 am
[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1183758.html]

I'm almost out of correspondence cards, so I thought I'd order some new ones.

The last lot I had were nice, so I figured I'd go to the same people again. After I placed the order, I had a vague memory that there was a problem with a mangled em-dash last time I ordered from them, and a quick check of my email showed that (even though their website preview looked fine) I'd had an email from them afterwards asking if there was meant to be ' â€" ' between the phone number and the email address.

This time, I sent them a pre-emptive message through their 'contact us' form, saying that I'd had a problem previously and (if they hadn't fixed whatever was causing it at their end) please could they put the em-dash in.

I've just had an email saying 'please see your attached corrected proof', which features... two hyphens. I suspect that this is someone not realising that the autocorrect that they usually reply on doesn't happen in this particular bit of software....

It's annoying, but mostly because if it works on the website preview then it should bloody well work on the final version.
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Operation Fill The Freezer

♥Oct. 30th, 2016 // 03:06 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1183532.html]

Last weekend, we were given a bucket of cooking apples, and today I peeled and chopped and lightly cooked them before putting four big bags in the freezer, ready for making crumble latter in the year.

We've also put down a new section of heavy-duty grass matting (the kind of stuff they put down on when people will be parking on grass), on a patch that got very churned up last winter where we were leading the boys across it: hopefully it'll be less horrible this year, although I'm not sure what the boys will make of it tomorrow when they encounter it for the first time as it'll be rather slippery until the grass grows up through it!

It's probably just a coincidence of the weather and the clocks changing, but it's feeling very gosh-aren't-the-days-getting-short today. We're going to move the electric fence for the first time this evening, as well....
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Bye bye, craze horse

♥Oct. 29th, 2016 // 06:56 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1183239.html]

The Horse Next Door is gone, so I suspect that that means Mrs Next Door is gone as well.

This afternoon, I have mostly been making chilli jelly with the majority of the remaining home-grown chillis. Chopping the chillis took as long as the actual jelly making part, but I think it's going to be ok. The jars look pretty, at any rate.
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New freezer

♥Oct. 28th, 2016 // 11:59 am
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1183070.html]



Once the inch of faintly scary pale brown ice (studded with peas and the odd mini sausage roll) at the bottom has melted and been washed away, we'll be starting to fill it up. Whether we ever then empty it again is in the balance: Mrs Next Door said we should either keep or throw away what was in there, and we went for the latter when we saw the dates on things, as well as the fact that various of them were leftovers from our BBQ and, more worrying, Baby Next Door's christening party. Well, I hope they were from then, as the other alternative was Ex-Mr and Mrs Next Door's wedding reception!

This morning, while she and her dad loaded things into her car, I took down her electric fence because I'm nice like that she asked me to. Apparently, she and TWWOTV have been having full-on shouting matches, the most recent of which started last night after TWWOTV knocked on the door repeatedly, was ignored, and so let herself in anyway to demand to know why the move was happening so quickly, and then escalated from there.

Fortunately, I'd already told Mrs Next Door that we were going to be out last night, so felt safe in not returning the phone call she made just as we were leaving, or I'm sure I'd have had an earful about it.

We went out to see Marcus Brigstock, as part of the Canterbury Festival. The non-political bits were pretty good*, but a lot of the political stuff fell a bit flat and was what I'd class as the worst kind of left-wing nastiness-for-the-sake-of-it (about both left- and right- and neither-wing subjects and people).

* Except for the bit about gluten intolerance, which would have been both very funny and very true-to-life if it had only included the words "except for people who actually have coeliac".

An aside: I read an article a little while back about the differing attitudes of left to right and right to left, which boiled down to "the left are genuinely scarily angry at the right, but the right mostly go 'there there, you'll get over it' back at them", and thought it sounded accurate in my experience (and, indeed, it seems lately to be getting even worse with scary-angry behaviour towards slightly-different-left people). Then they discussed something similar on Thinking Allowed a couple of weeks back, initially in the context of the US (both sides loath each other, feeling worse about the other than they do about illegal immigrants) but then asking how it plays in the UK and the conclusion was pretty much the same: the left loath the right, the right are fairly indifferent to the left. Odd, and interesting.
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Out in the garden

♥Oct. 26th, 2016 // 04:24 pm
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We've not had a picture of the house for a while, so here you go:


You can definitely see where the boys have been grazing! We'll start moving the fence along in a couple of weeks.

This afternoon, we've been out in the garden. Mike managed to mow the front lawn, while I dug over the veg patch in preparation for dumping horse manure on it. I'm knackered, now.

Last summer, I planted a load of saffron crocuses in the herb bed. A couple of them put up the start of a leaf spike and then got nibbled off, and I assumed that the rest had all been eaten. This year, though, they all came up but without a flower to be seen between them:

I'm hoping that they just found last year very stressful and, having taken a year to recuperate, will finally do something useful next year!
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Lost doggie

♥Oct. 25th, 2016 // 03:34 pm
[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1181493.html]

Mike went out to run some errands, but phoned a minute after leaving the house (flukily, he had signal) to say that there was a dog on the road with a collar but no tag.

I walked out with a bit of baler twine, and said hello to a slightly nervous but basically friendly little chap who looked like a tan-and-white bull terrier but without the funny-shaped head (maybe a staffy, now that I look at pictures online). When we got him back to the house, I called the vet and they said to bring him in and they'd scan for a chip and take it from there, so we took him out to the car and he happily jumped into the boot. Then he climbed over the back seat, jumped between the front seats, and curled up on the passenger side seat.... After a short attempt to coax him at least onto the back seat, Mike decided to leave him where he was on the grounds he'd probably behave and headed off again with a new item at the start of his list of errands.

Mike reports that he does have a chip but isn't registered with our vet, so they're going to keep him and try to track down the owner through the chip company: hopefully, the database will have up-to-date information on it.

On the off chance, I rang one of the Joint Masters, but she said that none of them had had anything like that with them. (Initially she thought I meant one of the hounds, and said "Oh, no, I've just had a phone call from [local horse business] saying they've got one in their stables!")

I hope he finds his way home!

Edit: Mike also posted a picture of him to a local Facebook group, where someone recognised him and told the owners, so hopefully he's back at home again now.
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Where did the time go?

♥Oct. 25th, 2016 // 11:34 am
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I've been very crap at updating recently, probably a sign that I've not been doing anything very exciting!

There's been a fair bit of gardening going on, mostly weeding but also taking the finished plants out of the vegetable patch. There are still some tomatoes, peppers and aubergines in pots in the conservatory, but I don't think they'll be productive for much longer. Mike managed to mow the back lawn, for the first time since before our BBQ: it was in a bit of a state! I must get my sweetpeas started for next year, and think about the practicalities of my plan to turn the bee garden into a polytunnel for the tomatoes. The tomatoes did terribly this year, as in we've already finished the passata that I made (last year, it lasted until April!).

We've had our first, very slight, frost of the year, the elctric blanket's back on the bed, and the trees are starting to look very pretty. We've also had our first (and second, third and fourth) mice in the barn traps, which I'm treating as a good thing because we didn't get so many last autumn when the rat was in residence. Still to come: first fire of the year, which I'm looking forward to!

In the house, I continue to be impressed with Freddie's Flowers (my second batch was cabbages and white roses, but I also still have a vase with some of the first batch in!). I've been making jelly and sewing various things that are mostly going to be Christmas gifts for people who read this, so no pictures of those, or aren't yet finished (this isn't like me, but the Christmas stuff jumped the queue). Mike's been busy at work, so it's just been me and the pooch more than usual, but we did have a house full of visitors at the weekend, which included going to the beach, looking at old churches, and seeing the Oysterband in Canterbury.

We were expecting the hunt this morning, but didn't see any sign of them (we did hear the hounds, off in the distance). The boys seemed entirely unconcerned about the noise, but we were quite glad that we'd already finished riding by that time!

We're having some issues with their hay this year, annoyingly: back when we first started using this year's batch, they refused to eat three of the first six bales, but then it didn't happen again so we thought maybe it was still a bit green. Over the weekend, though, they turned their noses up at two more bales, so I gave the hay lady a call. She says the culprit is false oat grass, which she's got in the corner of one of her fields (although though the internet seems to think it is palatable), so next year we'll be sure to take our hay from the other field (which is where we've previously had it from, which is why we've not had a problem before). She did say that later in the year (when there's less grass) they might be happier with it, which I'd also vaguely though, but I doubt GB will eat it.
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LJ spam

♥Oct. 9th, 2016 // 10:35 am
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1180725.html]

Is anyone else getting LJ spam that just repeats the first line of the post it's a comment on?
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WTF

♥Oct. 8th, 2016 // 08:10 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1180670.html]

This afternoon, while walking Jo, Mike and I came across a length of dark green cord, really quite hard to see in the grey, that someone had tied across the path at chest height.

We boggled slightly about why anyone would do that, untied it, and it was only as I was coiling it up to take away with us (annoyingly, or I'd have taken photos) that I made the connection to the fact that the hunt was out this morning (several miles away, as it happened, but I guess that the sabs had the wrong information).

It was just at the end of a lovely long canter - up a short hill and then a nice wide, open forestry road along the flat - and I dread to think what would have happened if someone had ridden into it.

Whether you agree with hunting or not, I really can't imagine the mindset that would do that. Lots of people ride, and cycle, in those woods, not just the hunt. A couple of years ago, I used to regularly bomb along there on GB.

I sent the hunt, and the Forestry lady, an email about it, and one of the masters just called to say he was going to speak to the police so that at least they'd have it logged. I'm seriously boggled.
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Here are some things

♥Oct. 7th, 2016 // 02:54 pm
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We're back from our holiday, where we climbed belfries, went to museums, bought lots of chocolate and pate and other tasty things, and generally had a nice time (other than Monday afternoon, which was stressful and yuck). We even had pretty good weather, just a little damp at the start and a little chilly at the end. Eurotunnel was pretty horrible going, pretty chilled coming back. We were surprised, in both Bruges and Ghent, by how tricky it was to find some breakfast (we tend not to bother with hotel breakfasts, because we don't eat enough breakfast for it to be good value).

Hotels )There are lots of wind turbines in Belgium, or at least it looked that way from the motorway. Most of them were just sitting there, looking like wind turbines, but there were a few that were cunningly camouflaged so that they blended seamlessly into the surrounding countryside:


I especially like the subtle gradient effect.

When we got back, Jo was very pleased to see us, as ever, and we were very pleased to see her. While we were away, as well as the stuff that she'd told me about by text message, GB smashed into the chain that goes across his stable door and pulled the fixing out of the wall. I'm really quite gobsmacked by this, and the only thing I can think of is that she left him on his own in there and took Bugsy away to be exercised. Because, you know, that wasn't just what I told her to never do. I've complained to the agency, and said that we don't want her back. I'm still not sure if she just didn't pay attention to the instructions (about this and about the riding) or if she decided that she knew better, but I'm leaning towards the latter given that when we got back she kept making 'helpful' suggestions about things we should do differently. Anyway. No harm done, other than to GB's doorframe. Girl Who Rides For NVNDN came and rode him for me in the week, and I jumped on for ten minutes last night: he seems to be ok.

(Oh, reply to my email to the agency: terribly bland "we're very sorry to hear about that, here, have someone different". I wonder if they'll actually say anything to her?)

At the Canterbury Food Festival a couple of weeks ago, I was intrigued enough by the stall for Freddie's Flowers that I signed up to give it a try. Every week, they do up boxes of flowers that will look nice together and send them out to their subscribers (I think in London they deliver them themselves, mine came via DPD), although they're very flexible about how often you have them (you can set it on a week-by-week basis up to six months in advance). The spiel is that their flowers last up to a fortnight, because they buy direct from the farm. Because we were away last week, my first box has just arrived and I'm quite impressed:

I do like having flowers in the house, and there's not much that's pickable in the garden at this time of year.
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This is not what I want when I go on holiday

♥Oct. 3rd, 2016 // 05:13 pm
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(AKA, notes for my shouty email to the pet sitter agency.)

GB's an old shite, and I warn sitters about that (usually with the words 'don't be afraid to smack him *when* he acts up): there really is no point in trying to win him over with kisses and cuddles, he's spent too long with gaggles of kids doing the same, honing his sneak attack biting skills. What he really appreciates is consistence and routine, you aren't going to get that in a couple of days.

(She's giving him 'lots of reassurance when grooming'. I have never known him be remotely concerned by who is grooming him, except for wondering if he'll be successful at nipping you when you do the ticklish spots. Either she's doing something very odd to make him nervous of her or she's misreading 'grumpy old shite' as 'timid and skittish', neither of which is reassuring. Or she's also ignored the verbal and written instruction to never take him out of sight of Bugs, which is worse.)

He's also got a bad leg, and he needs to be ridden regularly and in a specific way to keep him ticking over. It describes what to do in the notes we leave for the sitters, including the line "do not lunge him: if you can't / don't want to ride him, let us know and we'll get someone in". When the sitter came on Saturday morning, I explicitly checked that she was happy to ride and I didn't need to get someone else in to avoid her lunging him.

(As we drove away, I said to Mike "I hope she's not to heavy for him", and have now resolved to be less polite in future and ask people what they weigh.)

I asked the sitter to ride him on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. I texted her yesterday evening and said "how is everything? How was GB when you rode him?". She replied and said that he was a "work in progress" and that she was "working through his arrogance", which is a bit wtf.

This morning I replied and said "you're not going to change his personality and I don't want you to. How was he when you rode him yesterday?", and she eventually fessed up that she'd tried to ride him, decided she was too heavy, and lunged him instead which "wasn't very successful" but she'd try again tomorrow. If I'm lucky, "not very successful' means 'glared at me until I flailed around enough to him enough to make him take a few steps in walk'. If I'm not, he'll have a bad leg for the next couple of weeks at best.

There may have been some ALL CAPS in my reply when I told her not to try to exercise him again, and that I'd get back to her when I'd found someone else to ride him.

Mrs Next Door was my first try: working all day today and tomorrow. Did she think her mate who used to give me side saddle lessons (and so knows GB, even though she's never ridden him) might be able to? She's flat on her back at present.

Ok, what about the girl who rides for my not very next door neighbour? She's never ridden him, but I've seen her ride and she's good.... Fingers crossed.... Girl is riding for NVNDN on Wednesday, would that do? Yes if it's all she can manage but if Tuesday was possible, here have money and petrol money and more money, ok, that's sorted, phew. NVNDN even agreed to pay her and I can drop some money up to her at weekend. Sent epic text describing exactly what she should do when sitting on him.

And that's the best part of the afternoon gone, what with waiting for text messages to zip around the place, and I'm now horribly stressed and worried. And looking at the photo she sent of Jo and thinking "that's not a happy, chilled out pooch". I've asked Mrs Next Door to poke her head into the yard when she gets home to see how things look / the boys seem. Hopefully we won't be as delayed going home as we were coming out, and I'll be back in time to ride him myself.

I've got the same sitter booked for Novacon, which I guess can stand (if I ride him the day we go then he'll have two days off), but I'm going to have to ask them to find me someone else for the bookings I want next summer. With a weight limit, this time.
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Holiday

♥Sep. 30th, 2016 // 08:28 pm
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We're going off to Belgium tomorrow ("Is it a convention?" asked Mrs Next Door. "No, we're having an actual *holiday*!") for a few days in Bruges and then a few more in Ghent. New sitter, so fingers crossed that she does ok!

Today, I went to the Kent Quilt Show, where I had a couple of small accidents to the tune of £60. Could have been worse: I wasn't buying for anything specific other than some Christmas bits!

Also, would anyone like to own up to sending me the WI's book of Home Made Wines, Syrups and Cordials from 1959? I'm not sure if the lack of a note / return address was deliberate or not, although I am currently looking in an Ilford direction! Whoever it was, thank you and I'll be having a proper look at it when we get back. (Six different recipes for metheglin! Two for hop beer: would that not just be 'beer'?)
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Flax attempts

♥Sep. 26th, 2016 // 06:05 pm
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This year, a big field near us was planted with flax. It looked very pretty when it was flowering, and then it was time for harvest.

They cut a bit of it it (and presumably stripped the seeds off at the same time), and then stopped for a few days. Then they cut a bit more. Then they finally decided that they'd got it right and cut the whole field.

A few days after that, they made square bales with some of the straw. The bales looked kinda crappy. A few more days, and they tried making round bales, half of which just immediately collapsed.

A few more days, and they went 'sod it', burnt the collapsed bales and harrowed the rest of the straw across the field to rot.

I really hope that it was the first time they'd grown flax....

ION, Jo is still doing really well, and pretty much officially better now. She even had a little run around with her boyfriend in the woods today, and she's been to the beach a couple of times as well. I had our first riding lesson in *ages* on Bugs, and he did very well (although by the end of it he was distinctly unimpressed with how much he was having to do). Ang's leg has started to get bad for the winter but, as ever, he's having good days and bad ones. We're going away for a few days (note to self: must decide where we're going and book hotels; ferry and sitter are both booked), so hopefully he'll continue to be fine while the sitter's looking after him.

We've gone straight from 'too hot to do anything in the garden' to 'succession of visitors', with added torrential rain for a couple of days: the garden is distinctly jungle-like, and I really must get out there and do some weeding....
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Hello moon!

♥Sep. 14th, 2016 // 08:12 pm
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We're back in that time of the year when I get to know what the moon is doing: the boys are going inside early enough that they need an extra haynet later in the evening, so Jo and I go out in the field at night.

Tonight it was a don't-need-the-torch evening: the getting-on-for-full moon was just rising over the side of the valley as I went up the hill.

I do like this time of year, current daytime temperatures apart.

(This morning, Mike had to walk Jo first thing because it's been such a hot day (although, at 27, six degrees cooler than yesterday). He reported that it was very odd to be driving through the usual autumn valley mist, a thin band about three feet off the ground, with his head above the clouds!)

As I'd expected after the damp and blight-inducing June, the tomatoes are very much not going to supply our year's passata needs. There's currently more tomatillo passata on the shelves than there is tomato, although that's partly because we've been using the latter more. As Mike often remarks, it is odd that no one grows tomatillos commercially in Kent, as they do do remarkably well. Not much market for them over here, I guess, although Mrs Formerly-Up-The-Hill was delighed when I gave her some last year and said she'd not had them since she moved over here from the US.

Firefox wants to correct 'tomatillo' to 'maillot', "a pair of tights worn for dancing or gymnastics". Then again, it wants to correct Firefox to Firebox, so what does it know?
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Serious question

♥Sep. 12th, 2016 // 09:47 pm
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What is the point of trying a 95-year-old doctor who spent several weeks treating the guards at Auschwitz?

I appreciate that carrying out an illegal order is illegal, but what does this trial possibly achieve? My understanding (World Service) is that there used to be a policy of only bringing charges against actual decision makers but that in recent years anyone possibly complicit in Nazi atrocities has been brought to trial: is it just that they're running out of cases, or is there an actual reason?

(I thought the same thing a previous case, of a guard who was sentenced, at the age of 93, to prison largely on the basis of interviews he had given to media organisations to counter Holocaust deniers, but this one seems -- as it involves a medic who is mentally ill -- to be even more unreasonable. I am happy to be explained to, but not to be shouted at.)
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Something is eating me....

♥Sep. 12th, 2016 // 08:12 pm
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I'm not sure what it is, but I'm waking up every morning with more bites. I would say it's mozzies, but we're a bit late in the season for them to suddenly appear and there's not much open water around here. I've been bug-spraying the bedroom each evening, and tonight I've gone to the extreme of closing the window before doing so. Fingers crossed....

Today, the vet called. She wanted to see how GB's eye was doing (fine) and let me know the result of his blood test (not fine). We've upped his medication, but I'm a little worried about it as he's now at the highest dose he's previously been on.

Later, the saddler came to check that the boys didn't need anything changing. They didn't, and she was pleased with how both of them looked when I rode them. "He's put weight on," she said of Bugs. Yep, that's why I've brought two girths over! "Ah, are we having to sometimes use fatty girth?" Yep! (Although he *has* just had a new saddle pad, so maybe it's fluffier than the old one...? No, ok, just fat!) I told her of recent vet annoyances, and she recounted a story about the same chap: an ex-racehorse who'd had spinal surgery years ago. When she went to fit a saddle for him, she tried everything in her stock and got angry face about all but one of them (this when they were just popped on his back, not ever a girth never mind a rider), so they went with that one and he was fine in it. He had a lameness, and when the vet came out he said it was because the saddle didn't fit and it was (drum roll) causing the horse to have the back problem that he always diagnoses. Not, you know, an issue because of the old surgery. So not having him back if Bugs shows problems again.

Later, I was sitting listening to PM when I noticed movement on the front patio and saw Esk wandering around. We've never before seen a duck on the front patio (they're not terribly good with steps), but a bit later Agnes joined her and they poked around in the pots going "ooh, this is tasty", interspersed with looking through the window at me and quacking loudly. It was nearly bedtime, but it did seem like odd behaviour and I wondered where Houdini Magrat was, so I went and poked my head out of the front door. No sign of her, but I could hear her quacking. Out on the road again? No, and I couldn't hear her any more. Went back inside, and heard the quacks again: in the back garden. No idea how she got there, and I'm pretty sure that we're going to have to go hunting for another hole under the fence fairly soon.... (The back garden is off limits, both because it's not duck-proof in the way that the front (allegedly) is (so they could get out to the field and / or road) but also because we don't want them trying to get in the fish pond in case they get tangled in the (heron-proof) cover.)

Archers spoiler: here )

I half decided not to go to and half forgot about B-Movie. Did anyone make it? How was it?
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Conversion fun

♥Sep. 12th, 2016 // 08:17 am
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I'm re-reading the Riverworld books, and occasionally giggling.

It looks like they were (being American) written in Imperial measurements, and then someone came along and said "shouldn't all these people speaking Esperanto in the Future be using metric?", so he went back and did some laborious conversions....

The bamboo was 31m, or over 100 feet, high.
One man stood about 5.08cm, or 2 inches, shorter than another.

And, of course, the grails themselves: “a grey metal cylinder, 45.72 centimeters across, 76.20 centimeters high, weighing empty about 0.55 kilogram.”
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Not sloe good

♥Sep. 11th, 2016 // 08:20 pm
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This afternoon, after yesterday's failure on the common, we went up to our most reliable blackthorn spot.

We did get about 700g of sloes, but I see from my diary that we got 3kg there on the same day last year.

Looks like we're going to be rationing the sloe gin next year, even if no one beats us to the patch that Mike spotted when he was walking with his mother a couple of weeks ago.
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Foraging fail

♥Sep. 10th, 2016 // 04:04 pm
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This afternoon, we took Jo over to the common, planning on a couple of bags of blackberries, ditto of sloes and a couple of carrier bags of apples.

Of the two good patches of sloes, one had been cleared away and we didn't manage to find the other (even though we were pretty sure of where it was: possibly also been cleared). Someone else had recently been through blackberrying, so there wasn't much ripe fruit.

We did get two big bags of apples, but it wasn't as easy as it usually it: evidently, it's not been a good year for them.

When we got home, we checked the blackthorn in our hedge and, after much searching, found two sloes, one of them manky. We already knew from looking in other spots that it wasn't a great year for them, but I'm now a little worried about the sloe gin supply! We're going to visit another good spot (which we checked on a few weeks ago) tomorrow, before anyone else gets in there.

There are blackberries on the lane near us, where very few other people go to pick them, so I'd better get up there with a bag and get some into the freezer!
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Adorable

♥Sep. 7th, 2016 // 07:52 pm
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I've just caught part of a programme on the World Service in which Peter White (a radio presenter who is blind) visits Kenya and, during his trip, gets to meet a giraffe.

"I know from stories that they're very tall, but what are they like? Are they furry?"

After a bit of shaking of food, Daisy comes over to say hello, and he gets very excited about her tongue, and her fur, and the shape of her head. It was absolutely lovely, thoroughly Pick Of The Week worthy, and well worth a listen.
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First, perplex your vet.

♥Sep. 5th, 2016 // 06:44 pm
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This afternoon, the vet was mostly perplexed.

She was perplexed because she wasn't visiting Bugs, on account of how he's not showing any signs of lameness (maybe, she said, his sore bones have already fused together unusually quickly?).

She was perplexed because (while we were here anyway, I had her take a blood sample from GB) a horse with such high (when unmedicated) levels of the-thing-they-test-for as he does has no symptoms, other than being very keen on his winter coat and a little slow to heal.

She was perplexed because, when she had a look at GB's eye, she was completely convinced that there would be a thorn or similar inside the lump, but actually she just found a lot of goo. (He should be fine, with antibacterial eyedrops and keeping his hat on while the hole closes up. As an added bonus, while she was checking to see he hadn't scratched the cornea she checked his cataracts, which are still barely there.)

And, finally, she was perplexed because she noticed the scabs on GB's face, and I said "he has them on his feet as well, but they're only there for about six weeks of the year". When she looked at his feet, she said "this looks just like mites, only that's not on the face and it's all year around". My theory is that there's some sort of small seasonal biting thing in the grass, and she agreed that it was as good as any.

Still, at least there wasn't anything particularly worrying that was perplexing her!
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Swallow news

♥Sep. 5th, 2016 // 10:52 am
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We were very pleased when we realised that swallows were nesting in one of our spare stables*. We were rather worried when we went to get ready for the hay delivery** and found, as well as a small pile of poo under the nest, half a dozen dead chicks, but the parents were still around, still going in and out of the stable, so we figured they'd had a disaster and started another clutch.

* When I saw some flying around, going in the barn and the duck's house, I opened the door of the stable the previous owner said they sometimes use and the swallows made themselves at home in there.

** We keep some of it in that stable so it's not such a squeeze in the barn. I've put a sheet of plastic on top of the hay that's under their nest!


It was indeed another clutch, and we've been seeing the whole family flying around the yard recently, as well as occasional heads poking out of the nest. This morning, the no-longer-babies were lined up on a rafter waiting for the drizzle to stop so that they could get some flying practice in:


I dare say they'll be off south soon!

GB has had what looks like a sty on his eye for the last week or so. I've been keeping an eye on it but not being terribly worried, but yesterday it had got bigger and gone an icky shade of yellow. The vet's coming this afternoon, hopefully it won't be a problem.... (He has a fairly poor immune system these days, as a result of age and his pituitary condition, so I'm always a bit nervous about infections, and it being near his eye is even more worrying.)
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So, pole dancing!

♥Sep. 2nd, 2016 // 01:59 pm
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Bruising aside (my shins have gone an interesting colour, too), the pole dancing class was quite interesting. About a dozen people, four of us there to try it out and the rest who'd been going for about a year. Lots of tattoos and piercings, one bloke who was terribly intense about it all and spent the whole session hogging a pole and much of it hogging one of the two instructors. (It was nominally two people per pole, but in reality there were two people with a pole each, the beginners with two between them, and everyone else in a very cooperative gaggle between the other two.)

We started with a fairly high-intensity warm up, and finished with stretches. In between, there were poles. It was quite interesting watching the more experienced people doing their moves (and occasionally failing spectacularly at them; one of the poles had a circular crash mat around it, which seemed sensible), but we got rather more time to do that than I would have liked: the instructor would show us a move a couple of times, watch us doing it for about thirty seconds, and then wander off to help other people for ten minutes while we practised it a bit more and then went "Ok, we can do that now, um".

I think that even without the bruising (and I noticed that the instructor was also covered in bruises, so I don't think it was just that we were crap!) it wouldn't be for me: not very structured and a mix of it being a solo thing but requiring cooperation (in sharing poles and in, eg, sticking your arms under someone's bum to support their weight while they try a new move) that I don't think I'd really get on with. Still, it was fun to try! I had thought about trying their aerial hoop class, on the grounds it might be less bruisy, but I think that the same would apply there.

Today, I'm a little sore in the shoulders but happily was able to get my boots on without too much agony.

Jo's been for her swimming lesson this afternoon. It was a different person in the tank with her, and she was a bit nervous about that, but it went well. On the way home, we had a short walk and met a very sweet spaniel. The owners asked if they should hold his collar, and I said it was fine as long as he didn't charge at her. What he actually did was walk up to her and then, when she ignored him, drop his ball in front of her to see if it would make her like him!
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Ow

♥Sep. 1st, 2016 // 08:58 pm
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This evening, I went to a try-out pole dancing class. It was really quite fun, if a bit noisy and disorganised.

I won't be going back, though: by the end of the class, my feet were already starting to turn purple, and I have a nasty feeling that I won't be able to get my boots on tomorrow morning....
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Here, have some pictures

♥Aug. 27th, 2016 // 06:31 pm
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We've got at least half a dozen chrysalises in our porch (the caterpillars seem to have climbed up the hop and in through the window*), and today one of them had split open and a comma butterfly was sitting nearby, drying out its wings. Comma caterpillars apparently like hop leaves, and this explains why we've rescued so many commas from the porch recently! (The front door is open during the day anyway, so they're not really in any danger.)


(The chrysalis is the thing that looks like a dead leaf hanging from the windowsill.)

* The hop *also* climbed in through the window, and we left it because it wasn't doing any harm. Then the flowers came out, and dropped incredibly sticky pollen on the coat rack. Oops.

One of the things that Mike gave me for my birthday was a kit for a many-pocketed bag. I made it up this afternoon, and now have something a lot more usable for taking my sewing bits to Quilt Club (and, in theory, keeping my desk a bit tidier: we shall see!)




Today I also made some courgette relish and passata. Sadly, that's the first passata I've made this year: the tomatoes did not like the wet June. I doubt I'll manage to make enough to see us through the year, which I very nearly managed to do last year.
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Things from the last ten days

♥Aug. 26th, 2016 // 07:37 am
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It's too hot. We had a thunderstorm last night, but not much actual rain: Jo was alternately terrified at being downstairs alone and then delighted when Mike went to fetch her up to our room. The trees are dropping leaves, it's been so dry.

Mike is on his third migraine day in a row, which is not so good.

As part of Project Get Bugsy Fit, I've been not having a chance to / being to hot to / putting off cantering him when he's being ridden, but I did so this morning and he was pretty much perfect, which is a relief: I was worried we were going to be back to titting about.

Jodie's been discharged by the orthopaedic vet, who was very pleased with her x-rays. She's still having swimming lessons, and she can start to go off the lead at the end of her walk in a couple more weeks. Yesterday at the vet, another dog owner said how pretty she was and then asked if she was a crossbreed. I was confused, and the other dog owner explained that she looked like one because the hair was a different length on her back and one of her legs. Pretty sure that that's not how genetics works....

We had a barbecue, and the weather was much better than it might have been, and people came and seemed to have fun. On Sunday, we have more family invasion: Mike's mother and aunt-from-America are coming to stay.

I've spent far too much time curled up on the sofa with a book, and must instead get on with gardening, making passata, and making Christmas cards and presents. Just as soon as it's less hot....

Almost inevitably, I'm feeling under-challenged by my new Pilates class. I'm going to a pole dancing try-out session next week, and am seriously considering trying out Physique 57, which seems to be BarreCore on steroids and has a lot of online classes, with a week of free access. (There is a barre class that uses my current Pilates studio space, and I think a couple of people in the class have been: I might ask them how hard it is / where the instructor trained.)
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Some people! Grr!

♥Aug. 15th, 2016 // 01:33 pm
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I've just taken Jo out for her (far too short, far too sedate) walk.

Just as we got up to the top of the hill and went into Mrs Farmer's field, a man came up behind us with three spaniels. As it happens, I know the dogs: two of them are boisterous and friendly, and the third is just plan nasty and has gone for Jo several times before, so I did the extended version of the 'my dog is poorly' routine (she's just had major surgery, she's not allowed to run, she's very timid and will run if other dogs come too close to her) and said I'd do a slow wide loop through the field so that he could go down the path and get ahead of us.

Instead, he stopped dead and waited until we were about a hundred yards ahead before letting the two nice dogs off the lead, at which point they inevitably charged straight at us, while he occasionally called them back, after which they came charging straight towards us again.

I sped up, and we got out of the field and into the woods: still a bit of a way to go before the path split in two, slightly worrying, but I was half way there before I heard him come through the gate. The next time I looked back? All three of the dogs were off the lead and charging towards us. Fortunately I reached the point where the path splits then, and they stayed around it to see which way they were going.

I suppose I should just be glad that he had the sense to go the other way at the junction, but I'm bloody furious.
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Crispbread

♥Aug. 12th, 2016 // 01:56 pm
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None of our local Lidl shops have had Rivercote Crispbread in stock for the last few months, which is a shame as we like it quite a lot. (The plain ones in the orange box, not the rye ones.)

If anyone we're going to see next weekend is in Lidl and sees that they have it in stock, could they get us a few boxes?

(I am aware of the risk of ending up with 20 boxes. It is completely fine if that happens: when I buy it myself, I usually get eight or ten at once!)
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Oddments

♥Aug. 9th, 2016 // 01:15 pm
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GB stomped on my foot the other day, when I didn't have my boots on. At first, I just had a scraped patch of skin, but now I have Interesting Bruising as well:

(Fortunately, it's not all that sore, except when I'm putting my boots on or off.)

I was slightly disappointed when the Giant Thistle Of Doom that I had in the garden last year didn't self-seed anywhere. One seedling has finally appeared, but it's not really in an optimal place and I doubt I'll be able to move it:

(I have bought some more of the seeds, though. Must get them started, in fact.)

The Costco gladioli continue to all be pink. Oops. I now have two vases of the min the house, as I've been picking the ones that fall over.

I've read as far as the letter C, now, and yesterday read Clarke's A Fall Of Moondust, which I'd not come across before. As is so often the case with old SF, it's the oddest things that make you go 'yeah, right, as if': all the space ships are insured with Lloyds Of London. Bless!

Jo has her second swimming lesson this afternoon. I'll have to see if I can get a picture!
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Swimming lessons

♥Aug. 4th, 2016 // 08:27 pm
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Jodie had her first swimming lesson yesterday. Much to my relief, it involved her walking into a tank at floor level before the hydrotherapy nurse closed glass doors at either end and then slowly filled it with water: I'd gone dressed on the assumption that I'd have to persuade her to go down a ramp into a pool, probably by going in first! She was a bit bemused by it all, but took to it pretty well, and the nurse was pleased both with how she did and with the progress she's made since her op. (We also popped into the main reception area, to weigh her, and everyone was very pleased to see her and impressed with how neat the scar is. Everyone at the vet likes Jodie!)

I've finished making the rest of the quilt blocks that I started in my last class. I'm vaguely thinking a snake-like table runner....


Oddly, we had no eggs today. On the other hand, yesterday Mike reported that Esk was behaving oddly and, when I went clambering around behind the barn, I found her next to a little scrape in the ground with two of her eggs in it, neither of them just-laid. I've a vague memory that she went through a phase like this this time last year, as well, and the others copied her a bit. Guess I'd better check the front garden as well.
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Harvesting

♥Jul. 31st, 2016 // 10:25 am
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That, with the addition of a veg-box aubergine, a jar of passata, and some pasta looks a lot like dinner. (Sadly, our aubergines aren't yet doing more than flowering and I'm still at the 'look! a ripe tomato!' stage rather than the 'better make another batch of passata' one. There are no plans at all to make pasta any more from scratch than Mike already does!)

We had our first visit from the new farrier today (the old one having retired for the sake of his back). He is approximately twelve but seems to be competent. Bugs didn't have a hissy fit, and GB didn't bite him (although the last of those says more about GB's mood than the farrier!).

Speaking of, GB has (sigh) started growing his winter coat, so here's a picture of him in his three-weeks-of-the-year summer best:

Bit more white every year....

Jo's also growing her coat back, and now looks a lot less silly than she did.

She's doing really well, and has her first swimming lesson on Wednesday. However, I could almost suspect that she's been reading ahead on her aftercare notes, because she's not supposed to do the spinning around in circles on the spot exercise for at least another couple of weeks. She thinks she's better, poor thing. We are up to twenty minute walks, though, which she enjoys except when a squirrel crosses her path and she's unaccountably not allowed to go and chase it.
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That's why they were cheap

♥Jul. 30th, 2016 // 08:12 pm
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The glads from the enormous bag I bought at Costco have started flowering, which is good.

Less good is the fact that all of the ones out so far (only three, admittedly) are salmon pink. Hrm.

OTOH, the hollyhocks are also coming out, and looking very pretty. Other than the ones along the drive, which GB has developed a taste for. Note to self: next year, don't put anything tall along the drive....
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Bah

♥Jul. 30th, 2016 // 10:33 am
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I was wrong about the horse flies finishing for the year, they were just having a little rest. I'm on about four bites a day for the last few days. They seem particularly keen on my right elbow.
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Bits, also pieces

♥Jul. 27th, 2016 // 11:27 am
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Yesterday evening, we went to see an outdoor production of She Stoops To Conquer. I think we were about the only people who hadn't got there an hour early to have a picnic, but they still managed to find us a spot to put our rug. Fun performance, if rather silly! It got bloody chilly towards the end, though.

Before that, I headed off to the hospital for a smear test, which has been bewilderingly hard to arrange: I got my letter about a month ago, but learnt when I called my GP that their nurse only has appointments (I exaggerate not) at 9am, 9:20am, 3pm and 3:20pm on Mondays, or 9am or 9:20am on Fridays. Mondays and Fridays being the days Mike is most often on London, and first thing being awkward with the boys, the second time I called to rearrange it (Mike having had to go to work on the first attempt) I asked if there was anywhere else I could go instead. The receptionist pointed me at the hospital sexual health clinic, so I called them and made an appointment. The actual appointment took three times longer than it should: the nurse spent the first third explaining that they didn't actually do smear tests there, because they didn't get paid for it, but she'd do it anyway but had to refamiliarise herself with the forms and the third third telling me in great detail what would happen next (understandable, as I suspect she spends most of her time dealing with nervous teenagers). I did learn (after I said 'I remember it hurting more than that') that they use a nifty little silicone brush these days, rather than a wooden scraper. I remain boggled that the sexual health clinic isn't supposed to do smear tests, and am becoming even more inclined to change GP to one with a non-ludicrous appointment system: even if the other one I can go to has a crappy system, it can't be worse than what I currently have to put up with. I also learnt that having had the HPV vaccination doesn't get you out of having smears, which is a shame and (IMO) something that's not been emphasised enough.

The cows are out in the valley, as of yesterday, which rather buggers up Jo's rehabilitation walks. When Mike's not at work, we'll be driving her up to the woods but with another week before she's allowed to do hills it's a problem if I haven't got the car. Mutter.
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Other things

♥Jul. 25th, 2016 // 05:17 pm
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My parents came to visit, but they've gone away again now. While they were here, we had the hay delivery, so that's all sorted for the winter now. They left on the day of quilt club, so the nautical quilt didn't get shown and told.

There was a wren in the kitchen the other day. Somewhat surprising, but I managed to catch it in a shawl and it flew away when I took it outside. Also a cricket sitting smack in the middle of our duvet.

Magrat The Duck was lame one day. Worryingly, the traditional treatment of Frantic Chase Around The Garden Then Being Cornered And Picked Up didn't provide the usual 100% cure, but she was fine the following day. ("I heard a tremendous amount of quacking this morning," said my mother, "and when I looked the white duck was standing on top of one of the brown ones in the pond, giving her a tremendous ducking!" No, mother, you have the wrong consonant there....) She's also been doing her Houdini tricks again. Several days of setting up the stop-motion camera in various places failed to catch her in the act, but then (when we'd narrowed it down to one corner of the garden) Mike spotted the hole under the fence that she's been using. It's now blocked with a log, which should be enough provided that the hole isn't part of an active badger run.

The hollyhocks and gladioli are just starting to flower, and looking very pretty (other than the one that the horses can reach, which looks rather sad). TWWOTV asked what the hollyhocks were, and explained that until the flowers started to come out she'd been worried that they were giant hogweed. Because, obviously, we wouldn't notice eight foot dangerous high weeds in our front garden.

Jodie is doing really well, and looks much less silly now that the hair is growing back: it's still short, but at least she's the right colour now! She's walking for about ten minutes, three times a day, and will probably be coming off the painkillers and starting hydrotherapy in the coming week (I don't know for sure, because the vet hasn't returned my call from Saturday, grr). As far as she's concerned, she's completely better, which means that she wants to go chasing bunnies and thinks nothing of spinning 360 degrees while simultaneously jumping up in the air when we get back from leaving her alone for ten minutes. We may have to start crating her when we go to take the boys up the hill (although the surgeon said that she could start doing that towards the end of this week, thankfully).

The boys are fat and lazy, and have done very little work in the last week or so: it's been too hot and too full of flies. The horseflies, at least, seem to be stopping for the year. I've only had two bites in the last four days!
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Quilt Club

♥Jul. 25th, 2016 // 04:28 pm
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Yesterday, I went to quilt class and (mostly: I did a bit of finishing this afternoon) made these:


It was an interesting class but (unfortunately for me) the first half of it was her teaching people the technique -- foundation paper piecing -- that I use all the time for doing things like animals and birds, so not very informative for me. (Except in the "wow, I'd never have imagined you could make the process seem so tediously rote" sense: the method she was using worked for this specific project but wouldn't help if any of the attendees then tried to apply it to a different design.) The second half was much more useful, though, and at least completely ignoring her instructions in the morning meant I had plenty of time to get stuff done.

It was also incredibly Buy My Stuff: you absolutely must have a special ruler, only £6, to use when you trim the excess fabric (er, or just eyeball it. Or use a normal ruler); you absolutely must have this particular brand of spray starch, only £5, to use when you're ironing your seams (y'know, the ones I did this afternoon worked just fine without it...); you absolutely must have this special glue, only £5, to use when you're sewing the bits together (ok, I did buy that one, although I am trying to figure out how to do without it!); you absolutely must have an open-toed sewing machine foot, only £20 (she really banged on about that one to me: she used my machine a couple of times to demo things, and there was much sighing and 'I think you'd find it much easier' and 'gosh, I can't see a thing I'm doing!'. Maybe I just have much better eyes than she does); you absolutely must have this type of needle, only £6 for five, the other kind are terrible (she'd said this the day before; I have a part-used box of 100 of the 'terrible' kind, I'll *consider* switching when I finish it); and on and on. It was a £20 class, and I would guess that half the women there spent twice that amount on buying stuff from her. I know she has to make a living, and I dare say that *she* finds it useful to use those things, but don't try and insist that they're vital when they clearly aren't!

The day before at quilt club, the same woman gave a talk about needles and threads, which was absolutely fascinating and taught me vast numbers of things that would be very tedious to recount here, but did finally explain to me why my new sewing machine (which has a horizontal thread reel holder, as most do these days) came with a little removable plastic stick to make a temporary vertical one (like they ones I learnt to sew on had), and when I should use it.

The quilt club newsletter mentioned, in passing, that a quarter of the members are now people who've joined in their own right, rather than as part of a smaller local club. It wasn't explicitly stated that this is a cause for concern, but it is on two levels: the local clubs aren't getting the few younger members who come in, and (perhaps more significantly) it makes the tea-and-tidying rota unfair: the local clubs take it in turns, so there are a quarter of the (generally more able to do so) members who never help out. When I Take Over Quilt Club, Which I Am Not Going To Do, I will fix these problems relatively simply: 1) put them on the rota (this will require some wrangling to make sure enough people will be there but is doable: they've been talking about it for a while, just not actually done it) and 2) actually tell them about the local clubs (they are occasionally mentioned in the newsletter, but only in the sense of "Twee Name Club last month donated ten quilts to a hospice"; there is a list of them on the website, but it is literally a series of twee names followed by a landline number you can call for each of them: no indication of where they are located other than dialling code (some of the twee names are geographically based, many are not), no indication of when they meet and what they do, no email address...). I'd vaguely like to join one, but not enough to phone random people and ask them where they live!

I shall stop ranting now.
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Jodie update

♥Jul. 16th, 2016 // 04:15 pm
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We've just got back from the vet, where Jo had a check up and her dressing removed. The vet's very pleased with the progress: she's walking well, and there's no swelling. When the nurse took the dressing off, we were amazed by how neat the incision looks already.

The only, very small, concern is that she's got a red splodge right where she had a little cancer removed a couple of years ago. The vet thinks it's probably just that the skin there is thinner so it's reacted badly to being clipped, but we'll keep an eye on it.
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